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Christopher Halliwell

Secondary Education Physics, Mississippi State University

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Should public schools be allowed to teach creation myths in science class?

Should christian political parties be allowed to circumvent the scientific method by using politics to put mythology in science textbooks?

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Closing Statement from Christopher Halliwell

This conversation contains strongly differing opinions about public education. However, those who commented in favor of introducing creation myths into science textbooks were always religiously motivated. This is no surprise. Instead of appealing to the validity or truth of their respective creation stories, theses people appealed to "teaching the controversy". My response:

There is no controversy concerning evolution in the scientific community. "Teaching the controversy" of creation stories vs evolution is equivalent to teaching astrology next to astronomy, or alchemy next to chemistry, or magic next to electromagnetism. Without any verifiable claims to test, creation stories are not scientific. Ergo they do not belong in a science textbook.

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    Feb 26 2013: Christopher, having a scientific mind as you seem to have, do you welcome opinions opposite to your own? You have linked this question to morality. Why?
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      Feb 26 2013: Arkady,



      My purpose in creating this thread is to get a feel for how people in the TED community feel about the political movements to "teach the controversy". I appreciate your input.
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        Feb 26 2013: Controversy is fundamental to our life. If we don't teach controversy in schools, what do we teach? Exposing children to controversies and challenging them to resolve them without giving "the right answer" appears to me even more important than teaching facts.
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          Feb 27 2013: I tend to agree in principle. I would throw in critical thinking is a good skill to develop in students. Developing debating skills etc All good in principle

          If you want to include a debatie on creationism versus science, fine. Do it in debating classes.

          It's just a bit disingenuous to use the principle of free speech, debate, critical thinking as an excuse to sneak teaching creationism alongside science in science classes.

          The school kids can come on TED, or Youtube etc or debate class, or the school yard to debate and discuss all they like.

          What you proposing is not a good excuse to teach some special interest view alongside the best science.
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          Feb 28 2013: "I know, I know, "but science continually reviews theories and replaces them with better ones!" - so does religion"

          Wow. Just, wow. What part of the bible was editted? Which part of gensis was changed to reflect what we now know about the universe? Are you so naive as to think that christianity CHOSE to change? Religions of any sort do not change unless socitey forces them to. Take christians for example. They used the bible to justify everything from war to slavery. Even today people use their respective "holy books" to persecute gay people.

          Seriously, wake up.
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          Feb 28 2013: RE: "I looked up Ota Benga. . . "
          Mr. Halliwell issued a call for examples of falsity being presented as scientific truth.
          I am awaiting his assessment of the eight stark examples of science teaching false information as though it were truth. Is your question about willingness to change my opinion directed to me or to Mr. Halliwell? If it is to me my answer is I always change my beliefs if they are falsified.
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        Feb 28 2013: RE: "I defy you to find one falsity. . . "OK. Let's take Paleontology. Bookshelves are full of textbooks which teach/taught young folks that the following are be trusted as scientific truth:1) Java Man2) Ota Benga3) Neanderthal Man4) Piltdown Man5) Nebraska Man6) Orce Man7) Brontosaurus8) Archaeoraptor Liaongensis
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          Feb 28 2013: I looked up Ota Benga. An interesting example of how science can be used to justify depravity. (Not to deny that religion caused atrocities for centuries).

          When I was a school boy, I was taught that Pluto is a planet.

          I know, I know, "but science continually reviews theories and replaces them with better ones!" - so does religion. After all, people do not stones adulterers and sabbath breakers and women are allowed to speak in churches. It's a fact, man, it's a fact. How open are YOU to change your opinion?
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          Feb 28 2013: What exactly are you claiming is false? All you've done is listed several humanoid fossils that have been found. Can you be more specific? I would love to answer your concerns.
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          Feb 28 2013: Re: "Is your question about willingness to change my opinion directed to me or to Mr. Halliwell? If it is to me my answer is I always change my beliefs if they are falsified."

          My question was addressed to Christopher.
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          Mar 1 2013: Not a particularly well informed challenge to make. Not one I would issue. There are shonks in science and all areas of academia and human endeavour I guess.

          I recall some exagerated cloning claims not so long ago.

          In my own personal experience doing post grad work I was nominated to build on some previous research into a stock price prediction model. Looked too good to be true. On closer examination it was. The previous student has been a bit selective with data.

          Hopefully any shonks eventually get found out through verification. Which is again the strength of science.

          I think the point that science comes back to evidence, repeatable, testable claims is still a strength of the process and helps it improve over time, albiet with a few bumps in the road.

          Compare this with personal revelation.
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        Feb 28 2013: Re: "What part of the bible was editted? Which part of gensis was changed to reflect what we now know about the universe? Are you so naive as to think that christianity CHOSE to change? Religions of any sort do not change unless socitey forces them to. Take christians for example. They used the bible to justify everything from war to slavery. Even today people use their respective "holy books" to persecute gay people."

        There is no need to edit the Bible. It's enough that history books are rewritten every decade. Bible is not written to reflect factual truth. It reflects who we are as humans. I find that all atrocities and absurdities in the Bible make us stop and think about them. This is the truth about humans. If you change them or sugar-coat them, you will deny the truth and it will be repeated. I understand that you don't like what is written there.

        These things repeat every time when we take pride in our achievements, pat ourselves on the back and tell ourselves that "this was then" or "this applies to the other people, not to us". Biblical teachings are hypocritical only when they are applied to "others" instead of ourselves.

        Evolution is not possible without both repeatability and random mutations. Religion, in my opinion, serves the purpose of cultural DNA replicated over generations. Other social factors drive the changes. But without DNA repeatability, there would be no social evolution.

        Gay persecutions will stop too, just as slavery, sexism, and antisemitism did. Just wait and see.
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          Mar 1 2013: "Bible is not written to reflect factual truth" - Every single christian I know would disagree with you. Everyone in my family believes the bible to be the literal truth and word of god.

          You cannot claim that evolution is impossible. You might as well claim that gravity is impossible. There is a huge difference between gravity and the Theory of Gravity. One is an observable fact (gravity), while the other is an explanation (theory) of that fact. Similarly, evolution itself is a fact and the Theory of Evolution is simply an attempt to explain how the fact of evolution occured. If you know anything about scientific theories, then you know that all theories are explanation of at least one observable fact. If you don't believe me, try to find out on your own exaclty what fact the Theory of Evolution attempts to explain. You will discover that the process of change over time (evolution) is not only a demonstrable and observable fact, but you were tricked and deluded by your fellow christians into believing otherwise.

          Good luck studying.
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        Feb 28 2013: RE: "What exactly are you claiming. . . "If you do the research (Bing is good)for any one of the 8 examples you will discover, apparently for the first time in your life, that not everything called Science is the result of pure, ethical investigation and presentation. Sometimes the so called evidence is fraudulent. Sometimes it is just wrong. Be careful about worshipping Science young man. Conduct your research with an open mind, do not manipulate the evidence to fit some pre-conceived notion. Let me know what you learn.
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          Mar 1 2013: Do not pretend to be an anthropologist. It seems like your entire argument is "scientists have been wrong before, so why should we put confidence in science?". If this is your position, then you are demonstrating your ignorance. Revision and change are purposefully built into the scientific method. Pointing out that people used to believe the world was flat does not help your argument any more than pointing out false humanoid discoveries. There are claims being made daily. It is your responsibility to weigh the evidence to the claim. Apparently the cornerstone of all biology has eluded your comprehension.





          Visit talkorigins.org to learn more about evolution and the Theory of Evolution. You would do well to learn the difference between the two.



          . People can misinterpret data, but facts are facts.
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          Mar 1 2013: Chris, I would suggest a refinement of your point.

          Science is subject to human failings and fraud, but being evidence based it is still perhaps the best process we have for understanding the universe reliably and consistently.

          I don't think Edward is suggesting the faults mean we should disregard all science. Just that we should be careful not to overstate the scientific method and the current state of science.

          E.g. I agree with Edward that the current scientific position on the origin of life is quite speculative. Whereas I perhaps differ in regards to how well tested evolution is. It is much less speculative than abiogenesis.

          We probably also disagree on the value of personal revelation and intuition is sufficient evidence for many claims or beliefs.
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        Mar 1 2013: RE: "Do not pretend. . . "Ooops! You have terminated what could have been mutually profitable exchange of polite collaboration and debate. The fallacy of ad hominem argument is amateurish and transparent in its weakness. You ignore the answer to your challege and instead accuse me personally of ignorance and pretense. Did you look up any of the eight examples (that's a rhetorical question)? Your search for Truth is not over. I admit I do not expect much of value from your last word on this, but, please, take it.
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        Mar 1 2013: Re: " "Bible is not written to reflect factual truth" - Every single christian I know would disagree with you. Everyone in my family believes the bible to be the literal truth and word of god."

        Generalizations are almost never true. "Literal interpretation" is a figure of speech. They may believe what they like. Just ask them why they do not stone adulterers and sabbath breakers and why they do not cut off their hands and pluck their eyes as recommended in Mark 9 or "become eunuchs for the kingdom of God" following a recommendation in Matthew 19:12. It's impossible to interpret the Bible literally. Most of what Jesus says are parables which, by definition, use metaphoric language.

        As you may have noticed, I am not opposed to evolution and I don't think creationism belongs in science class. So, I'm not sure why you are trying to teach me. Why do you think that your knowledge is better than mine?
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          Mar 1 2013: AG, I suggest its probably safe to say people who call themselves Christians or see the bible as source of divine wisdom interpret the bible in a lot of different ways.

          Perhaps understanding whether particular sections were meant literally or figuratively by the authors would provide some context, but in the end its a big collection of diverse books open to divergent interpretation.

          Unfortunately the so called instruction manual for life didn't come with an instruction manual or reliable instructor.
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          Mar 1 2013: Stoning adulterers in the bible and a lot of the nasty stuff is probably not always parable.
          Some stories may be mythicalised but people probably did suffer according to the old law. In the middle east some of these old religiously endorsed values still rule.

          Whereas becoming eunuchs for god is probably a figure or speech.

          I've heard lots of unsatisfactory explanations for the nasty stuff.
          Its a bit sad hearing a basically good person trying to explain why gods rules, commands, acts in the bible are moral. Why it was okay to commit genocide, treat women as chattel etc. I suggest the religion, gods, culture and life in general were more brutal backward and barbaric. And trying to connect an all loving god concept to it fails. Hell, is not all loving. Blood sacrifices are not all merciful.

          Seems the god of the Christian bible keeps changing the rules and his character.
          In the new testament you can read about them deciding whether or not to allow non jews to join the club and whether as adults they need to be circumcised.

          I agree with you that you can see how far we have or haven't come, how much improved our society is now compared to the one ruled by Yahweh's rules. From slavery to marrying your rapist. And also how in some ways our basic nature has not changed that much.

          I suggest part of the problem is Christianity is still connected to the old sexist, homophobic values in the bible.

          There are aspects of the bible about charity etc that still make sense post enlightenment, but a lot that doesn't.

          To be ruled by that book is a scary thought.
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        Mar 1 2013: Re: " It seems like your entire argument is "scientists have been wrong before, so why should we put confidence in science?".

        I can put my confidence in science proportional to the evidence. I would not put my faith in science. I do not put my faith in the Bible. I do not put my faith in the teachings of any church. That would be idolatry. I put my faith in "I AM WHO I AM".
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          Mar 1 2013: I thought we were the little I am's not the big I AM.

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