America's Christian right relentlessly attempts to bring religion into public school science classrooms.
Senate Bill 1213 was just introduced by several of Arizona's faith-driven legislators. The bill states, "The teaching of some scientific subjects, including biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming and human cloning, can cause controversy." Students need to "respond appropriately and respectfully to differences of opinion about controversial issues."
While controversies surely exist about teaching techniques in science education, there are no controversies among mainstream scientists that religion has no place in the science classroom.
The strength of science is that its method to gain knowledge of our reality is based on reason: Observations generate hypotheses that can be tested objectively and verified. Surviving the severest criticisms, conclusions are then formed that rationally explain the original observations. But even solid conclusions are still subject to change or even rejection as new information is received.
This method has proved to be a valid and reliable pathway to gain an accurate understanding of our world. It has been highly successful at bringing us into the modern age and merits instruction to our children.
The major weakness of religion's method to gain such knowledge is that it is based on revelation. Scripture tells believers their deity made inerrant and infallible pronouncements about the way the world works. Accordingly, these pronouncements (read: conclusions) are not subject to testing, examination, criticism or modification. Additionally, they are not explanatory. Other major flaws of faith-based approaches to gain knowledge are their lack of mechanisms to discern justified from unjustified beliefs and to self-correct. Belief systems, whose immutable presuppositions are that all worldly events are divinely guided, are out of place in science classrooms.
The proposed legislation would allow for faith-based viewpoints on "controversial (scientific) issues" to be given equal weight to scientific ones. This is preposterous.
Consider: Based on this bill's wording, a teacher or student could not be challenged if he or she maintained, after completing a section on evolution, that man was an instant creation by God less than 10,000 years ago. This would be unacceptable because it is flat-out wrong.
As for truly controversial scientific issues, the data are still being analyzed. Its strengths and weaknesses will be resolved by science, not religion.
Attempts to bring religion into public schools will fail. The law on this is clear. At least 10 major court decisions have rejected the teaching of creationism/intelligent design in public schools.
In 2005, in Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District, U.S. District Judge John E. Jones wrote a 139-page stinging attack against teaching intelligent design/creationism in public schools, stating, "(It) singles out the theory of evolution for special treatment, misrepresents its status in the scientific community, causes students to doubt its validity without scientific justification, presents students with a religious alternative masquerading as a scientific theory (and) directs them to consult a creationist text as though it were a science resource."
The introduction of religion into a science classroom would open a Pandora's box of competing, conflicting and confusing religious viewpoints. It would take away precious time from our children's proper science education.
FreeThought Arizona and Secular Coalition for Arizona urge all thoughtful people to contact legislators to prevent this anti-science bill from becoming law.
Gil Shapiro, a Tucson podiatrist, is the spokesman for FreeThought Arizona and a member of the board of advisers of the Secular Coalition for Arizona.