Thursday, March 03, 2005

Letters About Dembski

The Louisville Courier-Journal, a Kentucky newspaper, recently ran this article about William Dembski's arrival at the Southern Baptist Theological Assembly.

They have now run three excellent letters to the editor on the subject. You can find them here.

In the first one we find this worthy sentiment:

Puleeze! With all of the things we have to be embarrassed about, it was entirely unnecessary for you to headline the coming of William Dembski to Louisville. Your quote of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary president R. Albert Mohler Jr., without immediate qualification, saying that Dembski is “one of the most skilled philosophers of science in this generation” was a brief affront to the truth. Dembski is a scientist like Elmer Fudd is a hunter.

Well said. I also liked this excerpt from the second letter:

The bad news is that William Dembski, a clever creationist, is coming to town. The good news is at least he landed a job where he belongs, at a Bible school instead of a real university.

And from later in the same letter:

Why are so many U.S citizens scientifically illiterate? First, religious fundamentalists constantly agitate to insert anti-evolution propaganda in textbooks and school curricula. Second, teachers practice self-censorship. Cornelia Dean, writing in the Feb. 5 New York Times, documented that teachers fail to teach evolution in order to avoid the wrath of anti-evolution zealots. The battle to keep religion out of our public schools is never-ending.

Go read the rest of these letters, and the third one as well. They are definitely worth the few minutes it will take you to read them.


At 9:21 PM, Anonymous "Rev Dr" Lenny Flank said...

Second, teachers practice self-censorship. Cornelia Dean, writing in the Feb. 5 New York Times, documented that teachers fail to teach evolution in order to avoid the wrath of anti-evolution zealots. "


A modest proposal to deal with this problem:

Most states in the US have, in the past years, either srengthened or added in their state curriculum standards a requirement that evolution be taught as a part of a good science education. While some
states have very strong detailed standards and others have brief ambiguous ones, the fact remains
that they have decided that evolution is an important
part of biology and must be taught as part of any good science education.

Creationists, on the other hand, have still been able to intimidate many local schools into dropping mention of evolution as "too controversial", and this local base of support is the only thing holding the creationists up right now.

So I propose we kill it.

I propose we find a state which has very strong detailed standards requiring evolution, find a district
within that state which is NOT teaching evolution (either because the local school board "doesn't
believe in it" or because they "don't want to offend parents" or because the subject is too controversial"), and then sue them on the grounds that they are not meeting the state's educational
standards and are therefore, by the state's own definition, providing a sub-standard science education to its students.

Here is why I think it's a good tactic to take:

(1) we can't lose. The district has no defense to offer ---- they must meet the state standards, and they are not. Case closed.

(2) It will accomplish what we all have said for years that we want -- it will get evolution into all our
schools and textbooks, and it will make it impossible for creationists to intimidate or pressure anyone into keeping it out.

(3) it will establish the legal precedent that evolution is standard part of any good science education and that any school which does not teach evolution (for whatever reason) is not meeting its obligation to teach good science.

(4) it will negate the fundie's power in local school board elections by making those elections irrelevant to the issue -- state school standards apply to every
school in the state, and those districts MUST comply, no matter WHAT their local school board
wants to do. Even if the fundies capture the entire local school board and they ALL vote to drop
evolution, they can't do it -- they *must* comply with the state education standards.

(5) Winning in one district will establish the legal precedent, and force every school district in the state to comply. It will also send the message to all the other districts in other states, sicne they will all be equally vulnerable to such a lawsuit. At that point,
the fundies will have a choice; they can either choose to contest us in each and every state, which will lead into a long drawn out legal fight for them which will drain their resources and disrupt their own plans, all for a fight that they cannot possibly win anyway; or they can choose to not waste their
resources and to cede the field to us, giving up their influence in local districts. Either choice makes me happy. We win either way, they lose either way.

(6) such a strategy disrupts the fundies' coherent national strategy. For too long, the fundies have
been calling all the shots, free to pick and choose fights when and where they want, and the anti-
creationist movement has just been following behind them, reacting to what they do. It's time we stop
being defensive with them and go on the attack, forcing them to react to *us*.

The fundies are in retreat everywhere. The local school board is their last remaining power base. So let's take that power base away from them.


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