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Wednesday, May 06, 2009



Agreed. I still feel I have to give Mr. Corbett the benefit of the doubt, at least until I see some more contextual commentary straight from him. But his case demonstrates what every teacher knows: in 5-7 lectures a day, 180+ days a year, any instructor is going to say a basket full of sentences that, excised from context, can be turned by a student or parent with an axe to grind into a big fracas. Looks like we might as well just play a filmstrip.

David N. Campbell

The judgment about teaching Creationism has been made in Dover. A teacher should be obliged to cite that case, that it is not science but a way to evade being called a religious argument. In our public schools students seldom hear anything that even suggests that the Bible is not fact; teachers are too intimidated and too afraid. The student's free speech was certainly not violated but only his ignorance.


"Mr. Corbett's many statements suggest that he is an anti-Christian bigot."

I'm an anti-Christian bigot. I'm also an anti-Muslim-terrorist bigot. I'm against religious insanity.

All religious people are idiots and morons. So what's wrong with being against that? If Christians and other god-soaked scum had any intelligence at all they would be atheists.


Wow, you just wrote a post I agree with 100%. What fun is that?

I might add that Mr. Corbett's student also appears to be an ass and an anti-science bigot. That does not excuse Corbett's "assiness", but it may explain his frustrations with the student.

And, perhaps I'm being a bit obtuse or need another cup of coffee, but I must ask the rhetorical question: How do Corbett's statements rise to the level of being "law" and thus violating the establishment clause?


A.I. brings up a point that I have often considered when the shoe has been on the other foot. How does what a teacher says rise to the level of being a law? Or, for that matter, how does another student's prayer become such? These things seem to fall under the establishment clause, simply because a court decided they should.

But if courts have ruled against even a moment of silence in schools
(http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,481427,00.htm), merely because they might make a student "contemplate religion", and says that such a thing violates
the establishment clause, certainly this falls under the same umbrella.

I agree that the court is wrong here, but it does seem to be following its own precedent.

I disagree with you, Dr. Blanchard, on the issue of the lemon test.
The word "Creationism" dates back to the 1800s. It's meaning, according to The Random House Dictionary, is, "The doctrine that matter and all things were created, substantially as they now exist, by an omnipotent Creator, and not gradually evolved or developed." A doctrine is merely a teaching. The word often has religious connotation. But the definition says nothing of creationism being a "scientific theory." Creationism itself might not be a religion, but it is PART of a religion. Attacking it is like attacking someone for praying, or washing their feet. And if there is any doubt over whether or not Mr. Corbett was attacking the religion or what he saw as a scientific theory, one has only to look at his comment about the "Jesus glasses." Jesus has nothing (at least nothing obvious) to do with the Creation story.

Still, the court really has no business here.


bobxxxx: My wife is seriously religious. She's going to be a Lutheran pastor. She is neither an idiot nor a moron. The only thing that might call her wisdom into question is her stubborn determination to live with me for the rest of her life. Please revise your hasty generalization.

P. Chirry

If Mr. Corbett was truly teaching science, he shouldn't be trying to "convince his students that the theory of evolution was true", because, frankly, we don't know whether it's true or not: none of us have been alive for billions of years. What Corbett should be trying to convince his students is that the theory of evolution consistently explains much of the fossil record and is a useful tool for understanding the organization of life at present--and if evidence comes up that is inconsistent with the theory of evolution, the theory will be modified or rejected in favor of something that does. That is science.

He might try and convince them that creationism is not scientifically useful and so there is no scientific reason to believe it, but he has no business calling it 'superstitious nonsense' or attacking it as anything other than unscientific.

That is, as long as you're going to prevent creationism from being taught. I personally think that individual schools and teachers should be able to decide what they want to teach and courts have no business in interfering. As A.I. and Miranda bring up "Congress shall make no law regarding" is hardly "public school teachers shall not teach anything regarding".


I have reproduced and responded to most of these comments in today's post. For some of the others: I said in my post that some of my fellow Darwinians are among the most pig-headed people I have met. Thanks to bobxxxx for stepping up and proving my point. But Cory handles this one quite well.

To David Campbell: This case is not at all about teaching creationism. It's about bad-mouthing creationism in a secular class.

To P. Chirry: We know or don't know that evolution is true in the same way that we know or don't know that the world is round or that matter is composed of molecules. Evolution is he central teaching of modern biology as much as the theory of atoms and molecules is the central teaching in Chemistry. Individual schools and teachers should not be allowed to decide whether to present the central teachings to their students. But I agree that the Courts are not the place to work this out.

P. Chirry

I don't agree that we know evolution (or at least macroevolution) is true in the same way that we know the world is round: Evolution attempts to explain the unknowable past while the belief that the world is round is only an observation of the knowable present. We can observe the Earth in the present and see that is is round. When we observe the fossil record, there are many possibilities of what could have produced it--God could have created the fossils like that, macroevolution probably could have created the fossils like that, even the Flying Spaghetti Monster--but unless you are 1 billion years old, you cannot say any possibility is truer than any other. You can call the others unscientific or useless to believe in, but you have no way of knowing the truth.


P. Chirry:

You must post from a very exalted perch if you can observe that the world is round. Most human beings who have ever lived had no clue that it was round. It looks pretty darn flat. Yet centuries before it was circumnavigated by land rational thinkers determined it was round. They did so by piecing together certain clues: you can see farther from a mountaintop than from the ground, though the mountaintop is more distant, you can see a ship's mast first as it rolls up over the horizon. Even from space, it always looks disk-like. Only by reflecting on the fact that you can orbit it can you conclude that it is round. Thus the unknowable and unobservable becomes known: by perceiving with the mind how all the observations fit together around something that is very true but can never be physically seen or grasped.

Likewise, atoms and molecules can never been seen. But the whole of modern chemistry and physics confirms it.

The truth of evolution is verified in the same way: the whole of modern biology points to it, and it in turn makes sense of biological observations. For example: chimpanzees and human beings are more similar in anatomy than either is to any other species (well, bonobos excepted); their blood chemistry is so similar that antibodies produced to seize on one will seize with equal strength on the other; and the DNA is more than 95% identical. The most elegant and useful scientific explanation is that we and the chimps share a common ancestor.

Of course God may have planted all this evidence to fool us, but that kind of thinking undermines all science. Maybe the earth is a flat disc in a fish bowl, as some ancient thinkers supposed. He strung very clever Christmas lights in the sky to fool us into imagining great distances. But what kind of God would that be? A divine con man?

I humbly submit that there is nothing to be gained by being afraid of evolution. But don't misunderstand me: I am not the least bit contemptuous of your reflections. They are food for thought, and I am grateful for them.

P. Chirry

Agreed. But my point is that scientific truth and spiritual truth need to remain separate. Sure, it is much more scientifically useful to believe in evolution, but I would contend that a more useful explanation isn't necessarily the most likely. Science should be the tool of humanity, not its spiritual guide. While you are correct that there is nothing to be gained by being afraid of evolution, we do need to be afraid of those who use evolution to attack religion, which is often and has been the case all the way back to Darwin.

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