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Religion v. science, round N

A “businessman and civic leader who also teaches Sunday school” named Bill White has penned an editorial about science and religion in today’s Chron. I give him high marks for his attempt to distinguish between the two domains. I’m always happy to see a person of faith recognize the value of science, but I’ve still got a nit to pick:

Last week the Houston Chronicle reported remarks by U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Sugar Land, critical of Texas A&M and Baylor universities, as part of a debate concerning the teaching of evolution. Let’s not allow a false conflict between science and scripture to divide us. Many people of both science and faith have flourished at great Texas universities. And let’s respect the rights of DeLay and other public figures to express their own beliefs in a house of worship.

Unfortunately, this isn’t a false conflict, certainly not from DeLay’s point of view or the point of view of the person who complained that Texas universities aren’t teaching creationism. DeLay has followed his original remarks about Texas A&M and Baylor by expressing the firm conviction that Christianity is the only way to live. It’s certainly his right as an American to believe this, but it’s more than a bit distressing to hear a high-ranking government official speak with such utter disregard for Americans who don’t share his faith, never mind Americans who live quite happily without one. Private Citizen Tom DeLay can think and say what he wants, but Public Official Tom DeLay has a higher responsibility to the Constitution. The whole reason why this was news in the first place was because this was a powerful Congressman speaking.

Furthermore, the anti-science forces very surely see this as a real battle that must be fought fiercely. Creationists figure prominently in this group, but they’re far from the only ones. Leftist academics who think all truth is subjective and that science is just another worldview (one which is racist and sexist, naturally), pyschics and supernaturalists, Luddites of all stripes – they all reject science. I wish Bill White were correct and this were just a disagreement among friends, but it’s not. Those of us who do value science and want to keep it separate from matters of faith and belief need to take this battle seriously as well. Take a look at the Talk.Origins Archive, especially the Feedback section to see how vehement and uncompromising the opposition can be. Take a look at the James Randi Educational Foundation for even more depressing examples of ingrained ignorance and willful disbelief. Every time you turn your back, the other side is gaining ground.

For that reason, I disagree with White when he says we should accept DeLay’s apology and move on. Tom DeLay isn’t going to move on, he’s going to keep pushing the idea that religious dogma belongs alongside, or even in place of, science in the classroom. That’s one place where we can’t cut him any slack.

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One Comment

  1. edward p. tolley jr says:

    I am the author of “Beach Blanket Atheism,” published a few years ago, a philosophical discussion consisting mainly of jokes, cartoons and quotations. You are certainly right. My attitude for years has been that the spread of education will eliminate “anti-science,” which is what religion really is. But it looks like I was wrong. The American educational system has failed to teach our population the value of science. Politicians like Delay are the worst enemies of public education. Our high school graduates are woefully ignorant about how the world works compared to European counterparts. Our educational leaders have failed us big-time.