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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 28 2013: I disagree that religion is not in a nearly constant state of flux; Ross Douthat's recent book Bad Religion shows the progression of "Christianity" in the U.S. from inception to date and how it has completely flipped on itself in a few hundred years. Take the editing of the Gnostic Gospels; a good deal of the feminine perspective was lost as repression of feminine archtypes of deity became a prime directive for the burgeoning religion...

    But the key difference between changing religion and changing science remains the reasons for so doing. Science changes in relation to new observations (in the most literal sense), and religion changes only in respect to new belief. As we have come to understand more of our world, we have found our religions in opposition to our science; this is hardly new. Socrates' grav est charge was turning againt the ancestral gods; penalty of death. Epicurus famously asked what need we had of the gods now that we had science? The answer came pretty quickly from the priesthoods of the myriad gods of the milieu ("Shut up or we will ruin you"). His student Titius Lucretius chronicled Epicurus' thinking in De Rerum Natura (also giving us our first look at the concept of atoms; at the time a leap of faith in its own right). It was of course Christianity that crushed this burgeoning era of reason, and the two have been in opposition ever since.

    As to the Designer issue, no, we do NOT need to lend ANY credit to this nonsensical syllogism, as Darwin has quite completely shattered the premise with SCIENCE. I have always found Intelligent Design to be completely misnamed; one needs to lack one to accept the other. ALL religions are human constructs and therefore should be taught as Anthropology; Intelligent Design is not science, has been disproven by science, and that is the only reference it has to science. It cannot be taught, it must be preached. And if this ain't Anthropology, then I don't want to hear it called science...
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      Mar 1 2013: I never said that religions remain the exact same over time. My point was that religions are forced to change by external societal pressures. Religions do not choose to change. In fact they actively fight any attempt to change (see crusades, see slavery, see holy wars, see homosexual persecution). Every single movement that we would consider "progress" was opposed by the church. Every. Single. One. (see history books)

      "concept of atoms; at the time a leap of faith in its own right" - Any belief without evidence is faith. Science has no use for faith. If you decide to believe in atoms without evidence, you are not being scientific. Moreover, you are warping the facts. These ancient people did not have any concept of atoms, nor of their size. They simply speculated about the possibility of an "uncuttable" unit of matter. Don't pretend like they knew anything about actual atoms.

      Anthropology is the study of human evolution. FYI
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        Mar 1 2013: Re: "Science has no use for faith."
        This does not mean that humans have no use for faith. Faith may not be appropriate in a science class, but it seems to be a necessary component of intelligent civilized society. E.g., most Americans believe in freedom and democracy.
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        Mar 1 2013: Re: "and being useful is not the same as being correct"
        How do you determine correctness of a non-scientific belief? Can you suggest a scientific experiment to verify the existence of God? Who is trying to drag religion into the realm of science here?
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          Mar 1 2013: That is the point isn't it.

          People believing in contradictory gods and goddesses, associated dogma, reincarnation etc with no reliable way too tell which if any is correct.

          Do you consider our inability to test a claim a strength?

          Contradictory beliefs can not all be true, even if they are useful in some ways.
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        Mar 1 2013: Re: "Do you consider our inability to test a claim a strength?"

        "Strength" usually refers to ability, not to inability. What often IS a strength is the ability to achieve goals DESPITE the difficulties and seeming evidence that the goal cannot be achieved. Such strength often comes from faith.

        Most questions we face in life do not have "correct" or "incorrect" answers: "should I marry?" "Should I marry this person or that?" "Should I focus on career before family or vice versa?" "Should I buy a house?" "Now or later?" "Should I buy stock A or stock B?" Science cannot answer these questions, but faith often can. Faith, as I said, is not about factual truth - it's about the principles we live by.
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          Mar 2 2013: You completely avoided his question. All supernatural claims are unverifiable. Do you consider our inability to test those claims to be a good thing? I would hope not.

          Faith cannot answer any question. I assume you've taken algebra so you know how to make a substitution. When you substitute the definition of faith into a sentence, you should realize how foolish you are to believe faith is a good thing. For example, the sentence "I [have faith] that god exists" is equivalent to "I [believe for no reason whatsoever] that god exists". If you have no evidence, you have faith.
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          Mar 2 2013: What does buying a house have to do with claims a god exists?

          Do you agree that the question whether a god or gods or goddesses exists, not as a concept or delusion, but independent of human conscious, does have an answer?

          Do we agree that science can not prove or disprove a generic immaterial god essentially outside time and space, neither matter or energy, but magically able to create and manipulate these?

          Do you agree that not being able to prove or disprove something of this nature is not evidence of it's existence or is of much value in arguing for its existence?

          Do you agree the burden of proof that gods exists is on those making the claim? Do you agree we should be skeptical of claims that can not be reasonably demonstrated.

          I think freedom of and from religion helps support a civilized society. However, I don't think religious faith is necessary to a civilized society.

          And we should distinguish between what is sometimes useful and what is likely to be true.

          I agree, Faith is not about demonstrable truths, or having sufficient evidence. I'm not particularly impressed if possible delusions are useful, but people are welcome to them or to debate them if they want.

          Tell me if I'm wrong, but we seem to be agreeing that religion should not be mixed up with science class, but you are suggesting faith based religious beliefs have some value in human society whether there is sufficient evidence to support them or not.

          Okay fine. But it's kind of bizarre that all these competing delusions are used to build world views and values and behaviour, and hardly anyone points out the emperor has no clothes.
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        Mar 2 2013: Christopher, you may be familiar with this quote: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal..." As you may see, this "truth" is not based on ANY evidence (self-evident). The founding fathers don't even attempt to rationalize it. This is a statement of faith. A valuable one. A whole nation is built on this statement.

        What you say applies to natural sciences. But even in math, you have to take certain things without proof (e.g. that "A straight line may be drawn from any given point to any other.")

        There is a number of beliefs without proof that we need in order to have a consistent worldview. E.g. "My life is worth living", "I have free will" (there is no evidence for that or even there is evidence to the contrary, but if I don't hold this belief, I cannot choose to do anything). "I believe that God exists" is not a statement of factual truth, but a pledge to adhere to certain principles. There is no rational reason to adhere to any moral rules, so, people come up with an irrational reason. No matter what, you need an irrational reason to justify a moral belief. The rules themselves still come from people.

        I'd say, in science, assumption that God exists is not useful. But in many other areas of our life, it is. I'm pragmatic in my faith.
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          Mar 2 2013: Not bad for the times. Pity they left out women being equal, and many didn't extend this to men of African descent.

          I suggest all these beliefs are open to debate on why they are reasonable to assume and what the outcomes are of this. It's not as clear cut as some fields of human endeavour, all but we don't need to assume all beliefs of this nature are equal and immune from examination.
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        Mar 3 2013: Obey,

        Re: "What does buying a house have to do with claims a god exists?" -- Both are irrational emotional choices. Reason only works to confirm an irrational belief.

        Re: "Do you agree that the question whether a god or gods or goddesses exists, not as a concept or delusion, but independent of human conscious, does have an answer?" -- it does not have a "correct" answer supported by evidence or reason. But everyone answers this question for himself.

        Re: "Do we agree that science can not prove or disprove a generic immaterial god essentially outside time and space, neither matter or energy, but magically able to create and manipulate these?" -- Yes. Whoever tries to find physical evidence for God does not understand science and does not have faith.

        Re: "Do you agree that not being able to prove or disprove something of this nature is not evidence of it's existence or is of much value in arguing for its existence?" Arguing for or against existence of God does not make sense at all. Science does not help, reason does not help. It's an irrational belief - period.

        Re: "Do you agree the burden of proof that gods exists is on those making the claim?" Generally, it depends on who is interested in proving or disproving the claim. E.g. when someone makes a bomb threat, security services make all effort to prove or disprove the claim, not the one who made it. I don't insist that you believe that God exists. If you insist that God does not exist, I would ask you for the proof.

        Re: "Do you agree we should be skeptical of claims that can not be reasonably demonstrated." We can choose to be skeptical about anything - even claims that can be reasonably demonstrated. Or we can choose to believe anything we like. I don't like when people tell me what I should believe. Do you?

        Have to continue in the next post.
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        Mar 3 2013: Re: "I think freedom of and from religion helps support a civilized society. However, I don't think religious faith is necessary to a civilized society." -- Can you support your statement with evidence? Name one civilization that developed without religion.

        Re: "And we should distinguish between what is sometimes useful and what is likely to be true." Yes, as Mark Meijer said in one of the conversations, "what is useful and what is true are completely different considerations". I love that statement.

        Re: "Tell me if I'm wrong, but we seem to be agreeing that religion should not be mixed up with science class, but you are suggesting faith based religious beliefs have some value in human society whether there is sufficient evidence to support them or not." -- yes. You have beliefs without evidence too. Just be honest with yourself.

        Re: "Okay fine. But it's kind of bizarre that all these competing delusions are used to build world views and values and behaviour, and hardly anyone points out the emperor has no clothes." -- there is no physical evidence that anything has any value. Values, by the way, are irrational beliefs too :-).

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