THE debate continues, with new posts at Panda’s Thumb and at PZ Myers’ site, as to whether the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), the premier organization in combating creationism in science education, has become too “accommodationist” in its approach to the controversy between evolution and religion. Part I of our humble commentary is here.
If we were asked to suggest a policy position for a science education group on the evolution-religion controversy, it would be something like this:
Virtually all scientists are in agreement on the validity of the theory of evolution [e.g., Statements from Scientific Organizations], as are many religious denominations [e.g., Statements from Religious Organizations], but some religious sects have rejected it. They are free to do so. Although their sincere statements of science-denial may be sprinkled with technical terms, they are inherently theological pronouncements, not scientific literature. The presence of such discordant positions among religious denominations does not constitute a scientific controversy; rather, it’s an example of sectarian disagreement.
Scientists must be free to pursue their work and to teach their subjects without political or ecclesiastical censorship. If our work requires input from theologians, we’ll ask for it; but we will not tolerate any sect’s forcing its doctrines into our classrooms — either directly, by legislating equal time for religious “theories” in science classes, or in the guise of what creationists misleadingly call “academic freedom” laws that require teaching evolution’s alleged “weaknesses.” All such laws impose state-mandated affirmative action for creationism.
As we insist upon our own freedom, we reciprocate by not imposing our opinions on religious institutions. Their practices and teachings are their own concern, with which we do not interfere. We are pleased if they agree with us about science (as are they if we agree with their theology), but we leave it to them to debate with their co-religionists who reject science on theological grounds. If they request information from us, we stand ready to provide it. Otherwise, scientists and science teachers should respect the freedom of theologians to resolve their religious controversies, including their disparate positions on evolution, without interference from us.
Commentary by individuals or organizations, whether favorable or unfavorable to science or religion, doesn’t constitute interference with anyone’s freedom. It’s a right, one which we vigorously support.
The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but we’re saying it anyway. It’s the Curmudgeonly way.
Update: See: Religion and Evolution: Part III.
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