One of our clandestine operatives tipped us off to today’s letter-to-the-editor, which appears in the Akron Beacon Journal of Akron, Ohio. It’s untitled, but it’s the first letter under this headline: Letters to the editor – March 7.
You know about the seemingly endless John Freshwater case. He’s the 8th-grade science teacher in Ohio who was accused of burning a cross on a student with a Tesla coil, teaching religion in his science class, and failing to follow the school district’s orders. Freshwater claimed that the district wanted to fire him only because he refused to remove a bible from his desk. The last time we wrote about it was a couple of weeks ago Freshwater Oral Arguments Today. His dismissal was being argued before the Ohio Supreme Court.
This is the first time we’ve seen a letter-to-the-editor about the case, and it appears that Freshwater has a fan. It’s a long letter, with only a few interesting points worth discussing. We’ll give you some excerpts, enhanced with our Curmudgeonly commentary and some bold font for emphasis. As we usually do, we’ll omit the writer’s name and city. Okay, here we go:
Former Mount Vernon science teacher John Freshwater had his say last week before the Ohio Supreme Court. Freshwater was fired in 2009 for teaching biological evolution objectively and for discussing evidence pointing to teleology (intentional design or purpose) in the origin and diversity of life.
We know all that. Let’s get to the good stuff:
In my view, the court should reinstate Freshwater and vindicate his teaching approach, but not for the main reason offered in his defense.
Freshwater’s attorneys argued that his “academic freedom” had been violated, which is a dubious claim. Academic freedom is a concept best applied to postsecondary education, and it has little if any application to K-12 schools, where attendance is compulsory.
So far, so good. But why does the letter-writer think Freshwater should be reinstated? Let’s read on:
A much better claim would reside with the First Amendment principle that government (including public schools) must be neutral and objective with respect to different religious viewpoints.
Oh yeah — here it comes:
Religion, as defined in numerous U.S. court decisions, includes both theistic and atheistic belief systems. When biological evolution (unguided descent from a common ancestry) is taught as the only possible explanation for life and its diversity, this has the effect of indoctrinating students in atheistic/humanistic religion — and this is unconstitutional.
Creationist websites continue to spew the nonsense that the US Supreme court says atheism is a religion. We discussed that once before, here, where we said:
Only an imbecile would think that atheism is literally equivalent to religion. The sort of case he refers to, in all likelihood, is Kaufman v Mccaughtry, from the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, which holds that a prison inmate’s religious liberties include allowing atheists to conduct study groups, just as religious prisoners are allowed to do. That case mentions a few US Supreme Court opinions that give atheism the same protection as religion, so they may be regarded as equivalent with respect to an individual’s freedom — but of course that doesn’t mean atheism is religion.
Aside from that rather technical point, the scientific theory of evolution, although rejected by some denominations, is most definitely not the same thing as atheism. We used to discuss that often, for example, see Atheism, Science, and Darwin, but it’s so obvious that it got boring. Let’s continue with today’s letter:
Teachers should be allowed to present scientific evidence pointing to teleological alternatives — including evidence that is consistent with theistic beliefs.
The difficulty with that is that everything in nature — rain, drought, earthquake, disease, DNA, extinction, etc. — can be interpreted as the pre-ordained result of some deity’s grand design. Ah yes, it was intended to be so! That is not a scientific argument because there’s no evidence of the supernatural planner, and the concept of pre-ordained intent can’t be tested. It “explains” everything, and thus it offers no useful information about anything. That’s why it doesn’t belong in a science class. Theology class, sure, but not science. Here’s more:
Ohio’s current science standards do not provide clear guidance on what can and cannot be taught on the subject of biological origins. To be sure, the standards present an “evolution only” approach, but they do not prohibit a critique of evolution or inclusion of alternatives.
*Sigh* There are no scientific alternatives. That was Freshwater’s problem. And here’s the letter’s totally erroneous conclusion:
Constitutionally, it seems clear that First Amendment neutrality and objectivity call for the inclusion of multiple perspectives on the issue.
Sorry, letter-writer, but it takes more than a “perspective” to get into a science text. Much more.
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