When to teach which controversies

It has been a year since George Bush the second was given his marching orders; yet one of the lies he and his cronies propagated still echoes in the world and – what prompts this (hopefully short) essay – my head. Where it came to the story of intelligent design and the teaching of evolution in schools, these political animals insisted that schools should teach the controversy. Their position is dishonest, deceptive and delinquent.

I grant that, in any given subject within which there is a meaningful controversy, those teaching the subject should teach it. The case of intelligent design, however, is not a case where there is any controversy in science. There is a real political controversy – should we allow the school system to lead pupils astray because those democratically elected to control it are obliged to answer to those, among the electorate, who refuse to listen to what science has to say ? That is a very real question to address, in classes addressing the question of what democracy should be and how it should work. There is a real religious controversy over whether we should take a literalist reading – of an ancient text that any philologist would immediately recognise as the collected folk-tales of a tribal culture – even when that text says things manifestly contradicted by the evidence available in the world around us. Should we accept the world we inhabit as a decisive source of information from any deity in which we chose to believe ? Should we accept the evidence of that world above the sacred text that has been handed down to us from a long tradition of authority ? In schools that do teach pupils about religion, this is a legitimate controversy and should be taught as such. So, by all means, talk about ID in civics classes and any religious education you provide: but, as there is no scientific controversy, do not make science teachers waste their time over it.

The proponents of intelligent design demand that schools teach their propaganda, as a matter of teaching the controversy. Do they take the time to invite those, who understand both their theology and the science, to come and teach the controversy in their Sunday schools ? Where I grew up, those who taught me christianity also taught me – honestly and, to the best of their ability, faithfully – what science had to say about the matter; but, then, they didn't feel that there was any substantial conflict between the two. Are those who do see a conflict willing to turn over their religious education classes to someone who can faithfully teach the controversy ?

Wow ! I did manage to keep it short.


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