Hitchens on the Texas evolution battles

I’m referring not to the evolution of Texas itself, of course–there’s little evidence that this brand of evolution actually occurs, be it naturally or by dint of human intervention–but to the ongoing efforts to poison the public-school science-teaching standards there.
Christopher Hitchens has written a piece for Newsweek addressing the issue.

Perhaps dimly aware that they don’t want a total victory, either, [Don] McLeroy and his allies now say that they ask for evolution to be taught only with all its “strengths and weaknesses.” But in this, they are surely being somewhat disingenuous. When their faction was strong enough to demand an outright ban on the teaching of what they call “Darwinism,” they had such a ban written into law in several states. Since the defeat and discredit of that policy, they have passed through several stages of what I am going to have to call evolution. First, they tried to get “secular humanism” classified as a “religion,” so that it would meet the First Amendment’s disqualification for being taught with taxpayers’ money. (That bright idea was Pat Robertson’s.) Then they came up with the formulation of “creation science,” picking up on anomalies and gaps in evolution and on differences between scientific Darwinists like Richard Dawkins and Stephen Jay Gould. Next came the ingratiating plea for “equal time”–what could be more American than that?–and now we have the rebranded new coinage of “intelligent design” and the fresh complaint that its brave advocates are, so goes the title of a recent self-pitying documentary, simply “expelled” from the discourse.
It’s not just that the overwhelming majority of scientists are now convinced that evolution is inscribed in the fossil record and in the lineaments of molecular biology. It is more that evolutionists will say in advance which evidence, if found, would refute them and force them to reconsider. (“Rabbit fossils in the pre-Cambrian layer” was, I seem to remember, the response of Prof. J.B.S. Haldane.) Try asking an “intelligent design” advocate to stipulate upfront what would constitute refutation of his world view and you will easily see the difference between the scientific method and the pseudoscientific one.
But that is just my opinion. And I certainly do not want it said that my side denies a hearing to the opposing one. In the spirit of compromise, then, I propose the following. First, let the school debating societies restage the wonderful set-piece real-life dramas of Oxford and Dayton, Tenn. Let time also be set aside, in our increasingly multiethnic and multicultural school system, for children to be taught the huge variety of creation stories, from the Hindu to the Muslim to the Australian Aboriginal. This is always interesting (and it can’t be, can it, that the Texas board holdouts think that only Genesis ought to be so honored?). Second, we can surely demand that the principle of “strengths and weaknesses” will be applied evenly. If any church in Texas receives a tax exemption, or if any religious institution is the beneficiary of any subvention from the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, we must be assured that it will devote a portion of its time to laying bare the “strengths and weaknesses” of the religious world view, and also to teaching the works of Voltaire, David Hume, Benedict de Spinoza, Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson. This is America. Let a hundred flowers bloom, and a thousand schools of thought contend. We may one day have cause to be grateful to the Texas Board of Education for lighting a candle that cannot be put out.

So what say the creationist readers of this blog (if any?) Does this sound like a fair deal? Or, as I suspect is the case, does the Christ myth not admit of any “weaknesses”?

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  1. #1 by Mystyk on March 29, 2009 - 5:34 pm

    It’s a fair deal in so much as you know religion won’t admit weaknesses. They can’t, because they live in a house of cards. Therefore, this clearly exposes their anti-science arguments for what they are.
    Generally, though, actual acceptance of such a policy would be disasterous. It would befuddle the minds of so many with such incredible volumes of nonsense that actually teaching them would become difficult. We would go from a first-world nation harboring a dangerous flirtation with second-world status, to a third-world nation with even more serious delusions of grandeur, in only one generation.

  2. #2 by tbell1 on March 29, 2009 - 7:24 pm

    @mystyk…
    I think comparative mythology is quite useful. It makes it very difficult to believe that the religion one might have grown up with is anything different than a form of mythology. And I think it might make for a nation of better critical thinkers, not worse. However, I’m willing to test out the idea in some experimental classrooms…in case I’m wrong.

  3. #3 by melior on March 29, 2009 - 9:01 pm

    Great minds think alike! This echoes the more radical proposal by Daniel Dennett in his recent book.
    In my recent book, Breaking the Spell, I argued for compulsory education about world religions in all schools, public, private and home schoolers.

  4. #4 by Cannonball Jones on March 30, 2009 - 6:44 am

    I’ve had my problems with some of Hitchens’ views in the past but that last paragraph was just beautiful :-)

  5. #5 by El Guerrero del Interfaz on March 30, 2009 - 6:56 am

    Forget my language but I really cannot find anything more adequate. As we say down here, “Hitchens es el puto amo”.
    It’s a shame that due to his politically incorrectness, his solutions will never be implemented.

  6. #6 by hopper3011 on March 30, 2009 - 7:40 am

    It seems bizarre to me that you don’t have this sort of comparative religion study in the US.
    We used to call it RE (Religious Education) and it was available at O-Level (16 plus) and in more depth at A-Level (18 plus). I see that it is now called RS (Religious Studies) – this is the BBC Education O-Level website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/gcsebitesize/rs/
    I understand about the 1st Amendment, but if you educate students about all religions surely then you aren’t promoting any one of them above another?

  7. #7 by Lofcaudio on March 30, 2009 - 10:34 am

    So what say the creationist readers of this blog (if any?) Does this sound like a fair deal? Or, as I suspect is the case, does the Christ myth not admit of any “weaknesses”?
    What does the “Christ myth” have to do with what you call “creationism”?

  8. #8 by Sigmund on March 30, 2009 - 11:31 am

    “What does the “Christ myth” have to do with what you call “creationism”?”
    Isn’t the death of Jesus on the cross done for the reason of expunging the original sin of Adam and Eve that led to the Fall?

  9. #9 by Kevin Beck on March 30, 2009 - 1:17 pm

    @Lofcaudio

    What does the “Christ myth” have to do with what you call “creationism”?

    This is actually a good point–from a literary perspective, Genesis and the entire NT have nothing to do with each other; six-day creationism never mentions Jesus (well, that kind of depends, I suppose) and vice-versa. But as Sigmund noted, there’s an implied connection in contemporary Christianity, and the creationists I’m thinking about are those who treat all parts of the Bible as equally, and wholly true.
    But referring to creationism itself as “the Christ myth” is incorrect.

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