Joined: Jan. 2006
|I have to admit that this bothers me.|
Please don't let it! Focus on the fact that I have acknowledged I might have the wrong end of the stick a couple of times ;-) Maybe I am picking up on one emphasis and you another. Hell, maybe I'm just plumb wrong!
First and foremost I think PZ is lamenting in part one thing you (and I) lament: the lack of legal protection of the accuracy of scientific content on school curricula.
Second, I think he is in part tilting his lance at the wrongness of theistic evolution as a set of ideas (he and I are atheists, of course we think it's wrong!.
Thirdly, I think PZ is envisioning a future court case where we have inadvertently provided a hiding place for "Whatever ID morphs into". Granted, if ID and "Whatever it morphs into" (hereafter: WIMI, pronounced "Why me?" ;-) ) continues down the same old road then as you rightly note the separation of church and state laws in the USA* will protect you, and as you also mention although the legal situation has changed a bit, this is still our best recourse. I think PZ is envisioning a future case in which ID and WIMI have not continued down the same old road.
This, I think, stems from the fact that PZ (and I) think that at their core the very processes of religious faith and science are mutually incompatible. Whilst I, and I would hope PZ, openly acknowledge that in previous court cases (and future ones if ID morphs into a WIMI that is of similar vein to old strains) the addition of religious pro science people has been a bonus, there are possible future circumstances under which they could be a disadvantage (this is the irony I mentioned earlier: strident atheists are chastised as being potential sources of disadvantage, now the accommodating theists are! Yes, I have a warped sense of humour, I know).
PZ is envisaging a future case where our convenient, perhaps only implicit, pretence (in his and my view) that religion and science are compatible shoots us pro science folk in the foot. This doesn't mean that Miller and you and all TEs or theist pro science people are promoting religion as science or anything like it btw. What it does mean is that PZ thinks the caricature "militant atheist vs pretty much everyone else" conflict may come to court over science class curricula and as the militant atheists have sided with religious people for (very successful) political reasons to date the pro science side might be shorn of its best (to date) defence, i.e. the separation of church and state.
So I agree with your "Legalities and TE" post at the Austringer to an extent. I agree that if things continue in a similar vein that the separation of church and state and related legal lines the NCSE has pursued, is pursuing and will pursue are the best way to proceed. I think PZ would agree with that too. I don't think this is incompatible with PZ's comment that should things diverge from that precedented vein that the SOCAS defence will be nullified and perhaps in certain circumstances the pro science case will be "harmed by association" with some of its supporters.
Your comments about the lack of legal regulation of the accuracy of material in science curricula play into this also. If a judge is faced with PZ's fictional two apparently equally godless textbooks and two sets of proponents who are both religious at least in part, if the judge examines intent, as has been done before, it could be argued (perhaps not very well) that the side with the **honest** religious participants is the "more religiously motivated" side. This is only the case of course if the accuracy of the content is not in anyway judged. Obviously the willingness of the IDCists, and possibly the future WIMIists, to be bloody dishonest is also part of this equation. I agree that if current IDC trends persist, we have nothing to worry about, however one trend down the "critical examination" line could have potential problems.
PZ (and I) fear a bowdlerised science curriculum. A pablum that appeases religious sensibilities by reducing the teaching of evolutionary biology and the scientific method to insignificance (the UK method I shamefacedly note), that allows room for religious interpretations to be tacitly or implicitly supported contrary to the evidence, and which arises in part precisely because we have pretended in court, either by association or implication, that religion and science are compatible.
One trend creationists have followed is this progressive watering down of their claims for nefarious purposes: once it was Noah's ark and 6000 year old earth, next it was god intervenes all over the shop and we can detect it, then it was the watchmaker arguments and anthropic principles, then it was "teach the controversy" and now it's "critical examination". At all stages before "critical examination" the SOCAS defence worked really well because it was so obvious that these things were religion or religiously inspired. As it becomes less and less obvious that these things are religiously inspired it obviously becomes more and more difficult to use that defence (LOL who am I telling!.
Having theists on the pro science side is great for protecting against the "they're all a bunch of god hating atheists" accusation, but that accusation is a red herring. The correct answer is "so what if they are atheists or not? This is about science not religion, right?". That religious diversity has served us well because it demonstrates the fact that one specific religious interpretation isn't required for science. However, it also sends the message that science has nothing to say about religious topics which in SOME cases isn't true.
We've wheeled out Ken Miller et al not only because they are bloody brilliant defenders of GREAT science (and they are) but also in part because they are figurehead theists that show (wrongly) science isn't anathema to religion. That insinuation can be used as a rod against us. We've tried to show the irrelevance of personal religious convictions to good science (true) by implying that religious claims/ideas are untouched by science (false).
The worry is that we'll have a court case which pits WIMIist against TEist, and since both sides are apparently promoting religion-free science books the religiosity and intent of the authors will be called into question, both are openly religious, both claim their faith is nothing to do with their science (as has been done before) and because the TEist is the more honest person the case is thrown out and the WIMIist is allowed to promote their crypto-teleological drivel in a bad textbook.
*Incidentally, whilst I am concerned bout my chums across the waters, I am more concerned about we Brits. We lack some of your protections. We have others, but that lack is still keenly felt.