In Tennesse, USA, a bill has been passed requiring that state school science teachers teach the “strengths and weaknesses” of evolutionary theory (among other things). There’s a few days before the governor signs it into law, but it probably will be. It may sound inncocuous and even redundant, considering competent science curricula will always address “strengths and weaknesses” in anything being discussed, if it’s appropriate to do so.
However, American creationist fundamentalists have a problem with science as it’s normally taught: they don’t like that God doesn’t get a look-in. However, the US Constitution expressly forbids state endorsement or establishment of any religion, which would make the presentation of creationist viewpoints illegal in a public school. This creates a problem for creationists: how do we get our religious point of view into a classroom where it’s illegal (and unnecessary)?
The answer of course is not to do any science to support that viewpoint, present it and have it accepted by the scientific community (I think even science-hating creationists know that there’s no science that supports the Genesis narrative as factual – that could be why they hate science so much). No, the first step is to cosy up to sympathetic school board members (who are usually elected officials and not required to have any knowledge or expertise in education or any particular subject) and then to sympathetic legislators who can sponsor a bill talking about the aforementioned “strengths and weaknesses” of evolution (it’s always evolution, of course – never plate tectonics or the carbon cycle or star formation or anything in physics or chemistry). Of course, it helps to have the backing of a transparently creationist think-tank like the Discovery Institute, who have been behind numerous infamous creationist attempts to impose themselves on other peoples’ children, the most recent from 2004 in Pennsylvania and being known today simply, as “Dover“.
Over at Panda’s Thumb, this has generated (as usual) considerable debate and prompted to vent my frustration in the following comment (which was also reproduced in this thread), posted in response to another poster’s question:
I mean, seriously, why is it that these people can not explain why it is necessary to make legislation to force “discussion” of allegedly controversial topics in science education, even though the aforementioned controversial topics are not controversial in science to begin with?
You probably know all this, but for the creationist cultists, this kind of legislation is necessary precisely because it’s the only option they have left to wedge creationism into the learning time of other peoples’ children – especially after Dover ruled that even the milquetoast creationism of ID was an obvious and hasty, shoddy and failed attempt to de-deify creationism and therefore unconstitutional. However, all this cult learned from Dover is that they should couch their language a little better.
Convincing a bunch of gomer school board members and redneck-pandering legislators into introducing and supporting these bills is the only way they can get their cultish idiocy into classrooms. Painting evolution as a “scientific controversy” (when, as you implied, it’s the exact opposite) not only gives it a veneer of respectability in the first instance to those who might not be very knowledgable, it also appeals to peoples’ notions of fairness, gives the instigators plausible deniability when accusations of cultish sectarianism inevitably surface and even lets people like DI mouthpieces and their various trolls the opportunity to moan about censorship if and when their bills are quashed.
It’s just another front for these people in the Culture War that they started, along with sex ed, birth control and gay civil rights. They can’t stand that their religious hegemony is over and kids are being taught facts by educated people, instead of obedience by priests, and that facts lead kids away from their cult – even if those kids stay Christian. They don’t care that they already have their churches, homes, Bible camps, private Bible study groups, campus Christian groups (yes, they exist), US currency, the Pledge of Allegiance, the National Prayer Breakfasts and innumerable other venues and activities that worship and honour their god publicly and loudly – they want everything. That includes the entire apparatus of state, from the Oval Office to the humble public school up the street (in the shape of Dubya Bush, they had the OO for 8 years – look how that turned out for everyone). Their ignorance and foolishness and misplaced priorities are matched only by their hunger for power, their arrogance and their amazing ability to act persecuted and wounded by secular America, even as they hold the keys to the kingdom. They don’t care about education, precisely because they know education leads people away from ancient codes of absolute obedience and towards reason. They don’t care about fairness – the US is equally fair to all sorts of religions and sects and cults but creationist activists aren’t content to share the space. Finally, they don’t care about both sides because, to them, the only two sides are God’s and the wrong one. They, in their ridiculous, ignorant pride and their hubris, think they know what their God wants better than their fellow believers (and therefore better than their fellow Americans) and will do anything – including flat-out lie to the country they profess to love – to impose that will on everyone else.
The trolls here are simply too stupid and ignorant to realise that they live in probably the perfect country in which to belong to whatever sect they want (or had thrust upon them). However, they’re also too childish and greedy to realise they have all they need in order to worship freely and honour their gods as they wish. But freedom of religion isn’t enough; they want nothing less than to own the country, lock stock and barrel.
They’re also too shortsighted to realise that if their most fevered dreams of Christian fundamentalist theocracy came to fruition (and by some miracle didn’t wake Jefferson and Paine and Adams from their graves), it’d only be a matter of time before some other sect took the reins from them – in our lifetimes, for example, predominantly Catholic Hispanics are going to outnumber white Protestants in the US. And look out, kids, the more Arab countries you bomb and the more Arab monarchies you suck up to, the more Muslim escapees and refugees you’re going to get.
Best-case scenario: the trolls-for-Jesus realise they’ve got it as good as it gets in this world, suck it the hell up and enjoy their lives.
And that, in an admittedly large nutshell, is my problem with fundie evangelist anti-science creationists. They simply aren’t content to live and let live, to take advantage of the near-absolute religious freedom their country gives them, to worship using all the venues and methods currently available, to homeschool or privately school their kids, to keep their faith between them and their god and their families and fellow believers and have that all be sufficient. They want everyone to bow their knee to their version of their god – because they know what that god wants and will do whatever it takes to see his will done.
But they know, thanks to science’s clear preference for facts, evidence and plausibility and to the secular US Constitution, that they don’t have a look-in scientifically. So they try to outflank science and reason and come in sideways, via the courts and via legislators – wasting the time and resources of everyone concerned, just like Scopes in 1923, just like Dover in 2004 and just like every other time in between.
Why? With all the freedom US creationists have to teach their own children whatever they want, why do they then demand that their narrow sectarianism be imposed on other peoples’ children? What’s wrong with church, home, Bible study, Jesus camp, campus groups, public evangelism? I suppose they need a captive audience.
And they wonder why people laugh at America, when people that support measures like these are currently running for the highest office in the land.