True tolerance on Godbeat

Journalism 01Every reader of GetReligion should hurry over to the Columbia Journalism Review and read Tim Townsend’s comprehensive essay about the religion beat titled “Love Thy Neighbor.” I can think of no better window into the world of journalism in general and religion reporting in particular than this article.

Townsend is one of those religion reporters we write about frequently here. He covers big issues using local hooks and adds tremendous value to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. For instance, he has covered (and covered well) the issue of scandal during most of his tenure at the Post-Dispatch because Archbishop Raymond Burke is deeply concerned about the matter.

The piece for CJR is very smart and incredibly well-written. Here is how Townsend begins:

In the Gospel of Matthew, it doesn’t take long for the author to show his readers two different sides of Jesus Christ. One minute Jesus is sitting on a mountain, delivering a powerful sermon to a presumably rapt audience: “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth . . . Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” But just five chapters later, Jesus, again preaching to his apostles, changes his tune. “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword,” he says. “For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.” That’s quite a change from the sandal-wearing, peace-loving hippie we’ve come to expect.

If even Jesus could be divisive, what can be expected of the sinners who call themselves his followers?

Just a great beginning. The piece looks at two founding visions for the United States: Puritan intolerance of heresy versus the religious tolerance enshrined in the Bill of Rights. Townsend argues that the first stream of thought has surprising staying power and that it makes for some tense times on the religion beat. To make the point, he gives several examples including Lauri Lebo’s book The Devil in Dover, which Townsend describes as “an unapologetic indictment of intelligent design, fundamentalist Christianity, and American journalism’s insistence on objectivity in the face of clear untruths.”
religious wars
Much of Townsend’s piece reviews the book, written by the education reporter for the York Daily Record. Townsend says that the things you hear on the religion beat would make a veteran political reporter blush. I agree. But education reporting is probably the most vicious of all the beats. Townsend praises Lebo’s reporting in the book but says her subplots, such as her relationship with her evangelical father and her acquisition of a tattoo of the Flying Spaghetti Monster to symbolize her newfound stand against organized religion, are unnecessary:

Worse, they distract from Lebo’s more important story about the ugly rift that religion has created in America, and the responsibility of journalists covering that rift to write truthfully rather than just provide equal time to both sides (as if there are only two) in a misguided quest for objectivity.

Lebo’s point is one that newsrooms across the country struggle with when it comes to the religion beat. It’s impossible to say that one faith is right and that another–or no faith at all–is wrong. But it is possible, in the case of intelligent design, to decide between the overwhelming amount of scientific evidence in favor of evolution and a particular brand of Christianity whose fundamental belief in the inerrancy of the Bible is threatened by Darwin’s findings. For journalists covering this story, there are no sides to balance, writes Lebo. Like gravity, lightning, or tomato soup, evolution just is.

To give equal time to the creationist agenda, which challenges the foundation of all biological science, is to betray the journalist’s pledge to bring readers truth, however imperfect that truth may sometimes be.

So much here to chew on. Is it religion that has created an ugly rift in America? Is the quest for objectivity misguided? Particularly more than somehow ascertaining from the journalistic perch on high what is true and what is not? And what broad brush are we using to say that creationism equals Intelligent Design? That’s certainly what ID’s most ardent opponents say, but I don’t like my reporters to shill for anything. Someone who thinks that evolution is equivalent to tomato soup is probably not the right reporter to write about challenges to evolutionary theory. More than anything, though, this idea that journalists must not tolerate the heresy of Intelligent Design is straight out of the Puritan playbook, no?

Townsend notes that people who opposed the Dover decision had sent nasty emails or otherwise threatened the judge. Later in the piece he recounts how he himself has been threatened by people who didn’t appreciate what he’d written. it is true that writing about religion seems to anger people. That is why I’m so impressed by the wonderful community we have here at GetReligion. We may not agree on everything but we treat each other well.

Anyway, Townsend says that the religious battlegrounds are heating up, citing divisions in the Roman Catholic and Episcopal Churches. And then there are the culture wars. He gets quotes from Cathleen Falsani, a religion columnist at the Chicago Sun-Times who covered the beat as a reporter for several years; Neela Banerjee, who covers religion for The New York Times; and Religion News Service editor Kevin Eckstrom. Townsend also goes into great detail about an incident of his own with displeased readers.

Here’s how the piece ends:
newspaper

Many of us like to think that the principles embraced by James Madison and the rest of the founders are the bedrock upon which succeeding generations of Americans have built this nation. The fact remains that a large percentage of our countrymen prefer the message that Winthrop delivered to the passengers of the Arbella. At the conclusion of his sermon, Winthrop warned that if the Puritans failed to found New Jerusalem in the New World–if they didn’t remain true to their covenant–God would reject them in turn. “If our hearts shall turn away, so that we will not obey, but shall be seduced, and worship other gods, our pleasures and profits, and serve them,” Winthrop said, “it is propounded unto us this day, we shall surely perish out of the good land whither we pass over this vast sea to possess it; therefore let us choose life, that we, and our seed, may live by obeying His voice and cleaving to Him, for He is our life, and our prosperity.”

Reporters who cover the fractured, volatile, weighty world of religion have a responsibility to be equally respectful of all beliefs. Whether someone is a Roman Catholic, a Jew, or a Raelian, we are privileged to ask such people personal questions about their most profound thoughts and hopes. “As corny as this sounds,” says the Times’s Neela Banerjee, “I think I grow by talking to folks whose worldviews are deeply different from mine. My job is not to grab the quote that makes them sound silly, but the one that sheds light, perhaps new light, on what they believe.”

But again, journalists who cover religion also need to weigh that broad respect for belief against a larger truth. If a particular tenet of a particular faith has the potential to influence the public discourse outside the walls of the church, synagogue, or mosque, reporters are responsible for holding it up to the same scrutiny as any other idea tossed into the public square for debate. Which brings us back to The Devil in Dover. Toward the end of the book, Lebo sits down with Judge Jones and expresses her anxieties about the next round of “attacks on this country’s civil liberties.” Jones smiles reassuringly at the author and affirms his faith in the great American experiment. “Democracy is messy,” he tells her. “It’s supposed to be that way.”

It’s not just democracy that’s messy, so is journalism. Townsend’s piece reflects that with much insight and an embrace of the contradictions inherent to the trade.

And remember that not everything about religion and newspapers is hostile. Check out my new favorite site Praying for Papers.

Print Friendly

  • Dave

    Ah, Mollie, you’ve opened so many doors in this one…

    Is it religion that has created an ugly rift in America?

    No, it’s intolerance. Religious intolerance happens to be the flavor of the moment, propelled by some very cynical political manipulations. But ugly rifts can happen without religion.

    Is the quest for objectivity misguided?

    No. If a reporter works for a Murdoch paper, and Murdoch is in trouble over anti-trust (fictitious example), that reporter is under strain to maintain objectivity. To say that quest for objectivity is misguided would be to say that that reporter’s stress is for nothing.

    Particularly more than somehow ascertaining from the journalistic perch on high what is true and what is not? And what broad brush are we using to say that creationism equals Intelligent Design?

    Creationism come in many flavors that create a spectrum of ideas, and ID falls within that spectrum. It has supernatural intervention in creation as its core idea.

    Someone who thinks that evolution is equivalent to tomato soup is probably not the right reporter to write about challenges to evolutionary theory.

    This is cherry-picking, and beneath you. The reporter said evolution is like lighting, gravity or tomato soup; the latter is clearly intended as humor and it is unworthy of you to substitute it for the two serious examples that preceded it.

    That being said, I will concede that all the examples could have been better chosen. The theory of evolution is like the theory of gravitation; each is the best idea in its field so far, and attempts to replace either with inadequate substitutes are equally feckless. (And, yes, attempts arise from time to time to efface General Relativity, the best-going theory of gravity.)

    It’s clearer perhaps, to say that creationism is like flat-earth theory or the notion that the Sun goes around the Earth. Clearer because it illustrates the problem: the round Earth and the heliocentric Solar System have been around long enough to be absorbed into the culture; evolution hasn’t. And to understand evolution is hard, while understanding the round Earth and the heliocentric Solar System seem easy. (Actually they are hard, too, but they’ve been around longer and no one is trying to make a religious argument against either.)

    More than anything, though, this idea that journalists must not tolerate the heresy of Intelligent Design is straight out of the Puritan playbook, no?

    No. It is parallel to the same conventions that deal with flat-earth and geocentric-astronomy notions, supra.

  • Elise B

    From what I have read about ID, its proponents do not deny evolution, but they see it as the work of a superior being. Believers call this superior being God. Father Teilhard de Chardin, amongst others, dedicated his life to showing that a belief in God and a belief in evolution are not incompatible.
    Father Sertillanges wrote something of the kind in “Les grandes thèses de la philosophie thomiste” (1927)

  • William

    And what broad brush are we using to say that creationism equals Intelligent Design?

    No broad brush is needed.

    “Of Pandas and People”, the Intelligent Design textbook, had the phrase “cdesign proponentsists”. From this find and replace mistake, it should be obvious that Intelligent Design is a replacement for creationism.

    Can reporters not take sides on obvious facts? To be completely logical, I suppose you could be more narrow and just say that “for some creationists, ID is another word for their creationism”. But, with the Wedge document and all the other evidence, I think a reporter would be swallowing too much propaganda if they surrendered to false objectivity.

  • William

    From what I have read about ID, its proponents do not deny evolution but they see it as the work of a superior being.

    Those people are theistic evolutionists.

    Each ID proponent denies different parts of evolution but I think most deny speciation (i.e., new biological species arising).

  • Robert Ivy

    I don’t quite get it… I agree that the story is well written but doesn’t it ultimately succumb to the same heavy hand against intolerance that it throws against the Puritans and today’s ID advocates when it says,

    If a particular tenet of a particular faith has the potential to influence the public discourse outside the walls of the church, synagogue, or mosque, reporters are responsible for holding it up to the same scrutiny as any other idea tossed into the public square for debate.

    If a journalist sees it as his or her job to assess the ultimate truth of some particular truth-claim then it seems that even before the story hits the press it’s already been censored in some respect (like not allowing people to make up their own minds about whether ID is cloaked creationism or whether doubting evolution in school is an affront to civil liberties).

    Of course I realize that a journalist will and must make up his or her own mind about an issue, and if it’s a moral issue then I think he or she should do so as part of the piece. But it still seems possible that he or she can report the story as each side most generously presents itself.

    This is a difficult issue and there is certainly more to be said, I just don’t think that Tim Townsend has the right answer in this article.

  • http://www.InklingBooks.com/ Mike Perry

    Many thanks for an excellent article. Having seen the film Expelled, I’d say that it’s clearly the evolutionary side that’s picked up the Puritan tradition of persecuting those who disagree with their chosen dogma.

    Note too the previous poster “Dave,” whose comments reflect that same POV, particularly in this remark: “Creationism come in many flavors that create a spectrum of ideas, and ID falls within that spectrum. It has supernatural intervention in creation as its core idea.”

    One wonders just how many times ID proponents have to say that their challenge to the dogma of pure and unadulterated Darwinism merely argues that nature contains within it some strong indications of intelligent design without specifying that such a designer is necessarily the Judeo-Christian God.

    To give one example, our own science is reaching the point where we will soon be able to do the sorts of things this intelligent designer is credited with doing in the biological realm. Arguing that some trait of living creatures cannot be the result of Darwinian time plus chance, that it requires the application of intelligence, is not the same as arguing that God did it.

    The real problem with having that intelligent designer as a brilliant space alien is more philosophical. It’s difficult enough to create even creatures as limited in ability as we are by time plus chance. It’s immeasurably more difficult to create space aliens, perhaps two billion years ahead of us in evolving, who have also mastered the art of interstellar travel. Space aliens would serve quite adequately as intelligent designers for life on earth, as all the leading ID proponents will point out. The problem lies in ‘evolving’ those brilliant space aliens.

    To be fair to many in the scientific community, the ideological roots of “Dave” and those like him actually lie in the free thinkers of the late 19th century (such as H. G. Wells), rather that the sort of careful attention to detail required by intellectual professions such as science and history. The latter are perhaps the ones who’re now suggesting that the arguments for intelligent design, which involve some complex mathematics and an understanding of biological systems that did not even exist in Darwin’s day, may be beyond the understanding of most people. You have to be smart, they’re saying, to even understand ID arguments.

    ‘You see the former in ‘Dave’s’ talk about a “flat earth.” Smug little free thinkers, having picked up their dogmas from a previous generation of their sort, believe that science and Columbus championed a round earth against the dogmas of religion. H. G. Wells, the most famous of their kind, once claimed that before Columbus virtually every European believed in a flat earth.

    In actual fact, the roundness of the earth was widely known at the time of Columbus. It is true that Spanish theologians did tell Columbus that he couldn’t reach the Orient by sailing west, but they told him he couldn’t do it because the journey was too long to be practical. It was they who had the correct figures for the earth’s diameter, known since Greek times. It was Columbus who was distorting those figures to make his voyage seem more practical than it was.

    Keep in mind that we can often judge credibility in areas that are beyond our expertise by testing accuracy in areas we can understand. Those for whom evolution is a sort of upside down religion don’t seem to be able to even grasp what their opponents have said repeatedly. It makes little sense to take seriously any claims they might make equating evolution with a round earth.

    And this isn’t even getting into the social and political evils that evolution has spawned, once fashionable and progressive evils such as Eugenics and a Teutonism that mutated into the Nazi racism, leading to the bloodiest war in human history. G. K. Chesterton was a strong critic of both.

    –Michael W. Perry, Editor of Eugenics and Other Evils and Chesterton on War and Peace.

  • William

    Robert Ivy:

    But it still seems possible that he or she can report the story as each side most generously presents itself.

    That method can give too much attention to lies or other wrong information. If I’m reporting on the Pope, should I give equal time to cranks who say that the Pope is the Antichrist? Or, should I give more time to the side that seems sane?

    I think reputability of the source and the well-supported facts must be taken into account when deciding if one side should be even heard.

    Chris Mooney on objectivity:

    In its most simplistic version, journalistic objectivity means that both sides on an issue should be balanced out against one another. But this definition collapses when it comes to scientific issues. Science isn’t a democracy, and in practice, one side in a scientific debate is often much more reputable than another. Findings that have survived peer review, been published in leading journals, and replicated or confirmed by other scientists tend to have much stronger weight attached to them. The current consensus view of the climate science community – that humans are heating the planet through greenhouse gas emissions, though it’s debatable exactly how much – is a good example of a robust scientific conclusion. It arises from the highly rigorous global peer review process conducted under the auspices of the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and has been confirmed by the United States’ own National Academy of Sciences (NAS).

    By contrast, with a few exceptions, the views of conservative contrarians on the climate issue rarely find anything more than superficial support in the peer reviewed literature. However, the media allow these contrarians to get around this problem and keep debate alive through non-scientific channels. On newspaper op-ed pages and in he-said, she-said exchanges presented by news reporters, contrarians battle back against the scientific consensus. They’re entirely in their element: Newspaper op-ed pages don’t practice scientific quality control. And while career science writers may be well informed about the issues they cover, they may also feel compelled by journalistic canons to present the ‘other side’ even when scientists themselves have stopped taking that side seriously.

  • William

    Mike Perry:

    the social and political evils that evolution has spawned, once fashionable and progressive evils such as Eugenics and a Teutonism that mutated into the Nazi racism, leading to the bloodiest war in human history

    Your propaganda is the kind of thing that journalists need to avoid. I’m not going to respond to your lies since that would be getting away from the topic of GetReligion (i.e., journalism) but in the future please be more careful in avoiding a blood libel on Western Civilization.

  • Dave

    Mike Perry (#6) mistakes me for others that he has debated in the past. For example (and it’s only one example), I never made a reference to Columbus. I wrote of flat-earth theory, which still has some proponents today. They get about as much ink from the media as they deserve. My point is that the proponents of ID deserve no more.

    One wonders just how many times ID proponents have to say that their challenge to the dogma of pure and unadulterated Darwinism merely argues that nature contains within it some strong indications of intelligent design without specifying that such a designer is necessarily the Judeo-Christian God.

    The problem with this claim is that far too many supporters of ID do indeed insist that their intelligent designer is the Judeo-Christian God. The intellectual leaders of the ID movement are more cautious about this, but let the cat out of the bag in 1998 with the Wedge document, describing how ID was to be the opening wedge for an eventual return of God to the public schools.

  • Dave

    Elise B. writes:

    From what I have read about ID, its proponents do not deny evolution, but they see it as the work of a superior being.

    If this were all there was to ID, there would be no issue. Many who accept the scientific view of where the world came from, also believe in a creator God whose work the world is. I have personally spent many happy hours in the company of theists who accept evolution; we focus on our common ground and respect the insights provided by each others’ viewpoints on the matter.

    ID makes specific claims (refuted by scientists in the course of the debate over recent years) that certain aspects of the natural world cannot be explained by natural selection of random mutations. This is denying evolution where it counts, even if the same ID proponent accepts the obvious fact, for example, that diseases evolve resistance to antibiotic drugs.

  • Dave

    Robert Ivy wrote:

    If a journalist sees it as his or her job to assess the ultimate truth of some particular truth-claim then it seems that even before the story hits the press it’s already been censored in some respect [...]

    Incorrect use of the scare-word “censored.” A newpaper or network that decides what it will or will not cover is exercising its own First Amendment rights. Censorship occurs when some outside influence forces an omission.

    [...] like not allowing people to make up their own minds about whether ID is cloaked creationism or whether doubting evolution in school is an affront to civil liberties.

    Nobody has suggested that ID claims not to be creationism should be withheld from the public. But it needs to be put alongside a real-life definition of creationism and a clear exposition on why ID is included, or the journalist is failing his or her duty to the public.

    Simply doubting evolution in school is not an affront to anyone’s civil liberties. For example, discussing Lamarckism or Lysenkoism. But the Supreme Court has consistently held that introduction of creationist “alternatives” to scientific explanations in public schools — ie, run by the government — is a form of establishment of religion contrary to the First Amendment. That’s what ID was designed to try to get around.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    How is the Puritan fight against heresy different than the argument from the anti-ID journalist?

  • Jerry

    How is the Puritan fight against heresy different than the argument from the anti-ID journalist?

    Because one is based on theology which is unprovable and the other on science which is subject to proof. There’s no way of proving that if you engage in heresy you’ll go to hell. There is a way of proving or disproving evolution.

    Too many people don’t really understand how science works and operate at the “science says this; religion says that” level as if the “says” were the same thing. ID is theology not science.

  • Dave2

    Also, Puritans would torture and murder heretics, whereas the anti-ID journalist (at worst) sneers at IDers.

    That’s at least one important difference.

  • FW Ken

    I’m sorry, but Mr. Townsend’s incredibly hip, slick, and cool deconstruction of Christianity is, for me, an excellent example of not getting religion. The man ob

    Let’s start with the mock shock that even Jesus can be “divisive”. I guess divisive is a bad thing, not sure why. There are all sorts of things from which I would willingly be divided. Maybe this Jesus or this Jesus would be more acceptable.

    And then all of these anonymous Christians disparaging other Faiths. I have to tell you, the most vitriol I’m ever heard on a blog was Catholic on Catholic, but I suppose as a newspaper writer, Mr. Townsend is obligated to take a swipe at the internet. … sigh… heavy sigh… ok, no more cynicism…

    I thought the bit about ape penises was particularly hip.

    ok, now I mean it… no more cynicism.

    the ugly rift that religion has created in America, and the responsibility of journalists covering that rift to write truthfully rather than just provide equal time to both sides (as if there are only two) in a misguided quest for objectivity.

    Mollie took this one apart well, but I think rather too gently. For one thing, someone prattling on about how “Darwin’s findings” is about a century behind science.

    Let me be clear: the evolution/creationism/ID debate is of no real interest to me. My faith is that God created the heavens and the earth; the mechanisms by which He might have done so… well, I don’t really think we know nearly as much about them as we think we do and I don’t much care. I’m old enough to remember when the notion of catastrophic evolution was almost risque, partly because it could support a creationist sort of view. Then they found the KT boundary and the Yucatan crater – oops. Folks with some real scientific knowledge tell me that Darwinian evolution does have some holes in it. That’s fine, but it ill behooves those who criticize Christian fundamentalists to adopt a scientistic fundamentalism that’s every bit as absolutist and closed-minded.

    And that’s more than enough about human origins.

    No, it simply scares the hell out of me to hear a reporter claim that his job is “to write truthfully” about religion, assuming, I suppose that his truth is the true truth. Do reporters really have some secret knowledge us mere mortals lack?

    Unfortunately, Mr. Townsend’s truths, lacking, as noted, in science, are equally lacking in history. Am I supposed to credit him with truthfulness when he writes:

    In the wake of the clergy sex-abuse scandal, for instance, Catholics are deeply divided between traditionalists, who still believe in the authority of their bishops and the tenets of their church, and progressives, who prefer to live by the more liberal, post-Vatican II principles that they believe have come under assault by conservatives over the last generation.

    This is a risible distortion of the Catholic situation and recent history. In fact, for Catholics, “traditionalists” has a rather specific meaning; trads can, quite easily, be as far outside the Catholic Faith as can progressives. And that’s just the start of what’s wrong with that paragraph.

    Also, in the historical realm, Mr. Townsend seems to think the Puritans were some sort of special case and the youth of this country causes the purported intolerance. In fact, the Puritans came to America because they were outlawed in England, as were Catholics, and pretty much everyone else, all at the hands of the Church of England. State religion was the norm in those days, as it is in much of the world today. Is Mr. Townsend that ignorant of basic history and culture?

    I liked the quote about the Episcopalians:

    even those fights aren’t about sex, or even theology, but about power, and who gets to make the decisions that will tie the hands of everyone else.”

    Of course, that’s a claim with a particular point of view. It’s really about power. I suspect even the modernist Episcopalians might balk at that. They actually believe their doctrines.

    And so on. This is a terrible article, devoid of any understanding of history, science, or religion. Ok, there is not no understanding, but the viewpoints are very limited and limiting. Which would be ok, if Townsend showed the slightest concern for something other than his own terribly sophisticated truthfulness.

    I don’t really care that much about “objectivity”, as long as I know where the writer is coming from. I am a lot more concerned about the veracity and integrity of the author. If he gives me facts to work with, treats me (as a reader) with some respect, and shows respect towards his subjects, I can deal with a point of view.

    Unfortunately, the article is totally devoid for any understanding that religious people actually believe things and those beliefs emerge in a context of human longing and relationships. Mr. Townsend objectifies religious people – dehumanized us – then focuses on everything bad he can name. I don’t think that demonstrates respect for me or his readers.

    Well, except for the Muslims. They have his sympathy.

  • Stoo

    “How is the Puritan fight against heresy different than the argument from the anti-ID journalist?”

    One is competing unprovable worldviews. The other is deciding what does and doesn’t qualify under a process we ourselves have defined.

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt

    Jumping in with a quick comment or two.

    William continues his assault on the basic principles of journalism, including the need to get facts straight. Anyone who disagrees with him is unworthy of coverage.

    Note that the fundamentalists he would silence extends across the whole range of religious thought and the scientists who embrace the mechanism of evolution, but deny that it is the result of a process that is random and without meaning. Under William’s stance, one could not have quoted the late John Paul II and his views on the competing theories under the Darwinist tent.

    For more on that, including how the late pope was misquoted, see:

    http://tmatt.gospelcom.net/column/1996/11/06/

  • Dave

    How is the Puritan fight against heresy different than the argument from the anti-ID journalist?

    Most basically, in that religion and science are different.

    In a religion, top-down principles are supposed to regulate everyday behavior. It doesn’t matter how often the rules are violated on the practical level; the top-down rules remain the same.

    In science, the behavior of matter on the experimental level leads to the abstract-level principles. If the behavior of matter doesn’t obey the abstract-level principles, the latter must change. (For example, the change from Newton’s to Einstein’s descriptions of matter in motion.) The relationship between everyday behavior and abstract-level principles is bottom-up, not top-down.

    This gives a commentator the footing to say “This is incorret” in science that doesn’t exist in religion.

    A major problem: Too often, science is taught in secondary and primary schools as though it were top-down: “A guinea and a feather fall at the same rate in a vacuum because of Newton’s law of gravitation,” rather than “We have Newton’s law of gravitation because objects freed from air resistance fall at the same rate.” People exposed to this may never understand that a “science vs religion” conflict is not the clash of two top-down world views, which can lead to an incorrect parallel between Puritanism and Darwinism.

  • Pingback: Times & Seasons » Love Thy Neighbor … or Not

  • Martha

    From this side of the Atlantic, the kerfuffle over teaching “Creationism versus Evolution” in the schools is puzzling. I went to a convent school, our Biology teacher was a nun, and we learned about the theory of evolution and the theories of Darwin vs Lamarck – all without having to finish each lesson with a denunciation of Darwin as burning in Hell.

    I wish both sides (though I think there’s actually more like four sides involved) would take the long view and get a bit of historical perspective – this dispute didn’t suddenly spring into being right this minute, you know.

    “This argument from the order and systems to be found in Creation is not synonymous with the argument from design; the argument from design, in the narrow sense, is a department or application of the main thesis. Design implies the adaptation of means to ends; and it used to be confidently urged there was one end which the Creator clearly had in view, the preservation of species, and one plain proof of his purposive working, namely the nice proportion between the instincts and endowments of the various animal species and the environment in which they had to live.

    …The argument was a dangerous one so stated. It took no account of the animal species which have in fact become extinct; it presupposed, also, the fixity of animal types. God’s mercy, doubtless, is over all his works, but we are in no position to apply teleological criticism to its exercise and to decide on what principle the wart-hog has survived and the dod has become extinct.”

    That’s from 1927, Fr. Ronald Knox, “The Belief of Catholics”. In other words, don’t get hung up on Intelligent Design either pro- or contra- religious belief. IDers, don’t pin your whole case on poorly-understood science. And yes, atheists, we have actually heard these arguments before.

  • Dave

    Martha writes:

    And yes, atheists, we have actually heard these arguments before.

    First, not all opponent of ID are atheists.

    Secondly, the fact that an argument pops up again doesn’t make it unworthy of response. You may have heard the anti-ID/pro-evolution points before, but it’s quite clear that many of the participants have not.

  • MJBubba

    Mollie, it may seem at times that we are far away from the journalism issues, but on this topic you have hit a nerve because so many journalists are partisans. Several of your commenters above are drinking the Evolutionists’ Kool-aid.

    “ID is theology not science.” “Religion and science are different.”

    In fact, both ID and Evolution make claims that are both science and religion.

    ID says that the science behind Evolution leaves many points unexplained. In particular, at the basic beginning points of life, there are basic combinations of molecules and molecular processes in even the most primitive forms of life that are way more complex than can be reasonably assumed to have possibly come together through any combination of happenstance, and not even the most bizarre explanations of the Evolutionists cover these basic and essential matters. The complexity leads us to the theory that, in addition to the processes established by evolutionary science of natural selection and random mutation, etc., some supernatural process may be considered as necessary to complete the explanation of evolution. That is one of the basic science claims of ID. Then, ID makes the theological assertion that design implies intelligence, and supernatural means supernatural, and the implication of supernatural intelligence leads us to propose that there is a Creator who had a hand in evolution.

    Evolution makes the science claim that life evolved from simple forms to more complex, and that the simple forms could have been originated through natural processes, in which, with the right conditions and materials, primitive life could have sparked into being. Evolution makes the theological claim that, since we believe it may have been possible without supernatural forces, then we conclude that no supernatural forces were involved, and further we assert that no supernatural forces exist.

    My problem as a parent is with schools that teach that Evolutionists’ claims are science and have nothing to do with religion. My further problem is with journalism that adopts the Evolutionists’ religious claims without even recognizing them as religion.

  • Dave

    MJBubba writes:

    [...S]ome supernatural process may be considered as necessary to complete the explanation of evolution. That is one of the basic science claims of ID.

    That is not a science claim, because it does not lead to a theory that suggests further experiments to test it. ID explicitly goes off the rails of science at this point.

    Evolution makes the theological claim that, since we believe [biogenesis] may have been possible without supernatural forces, then we conclude that no supernatural forces were involved, and further we assert that no supernatural forces exist.

    This is flatly wrong. Evolution makes no theological claims whatsoever. It asserts that the naturalistic process of natural selection of random mutations leads from primitive forms of life to the array we see in nature today, including us.

    Some atheists bolster their case by pointing to evolution as an explanation of the world as we see it requiring no divine intervention. But that is not a necessary part of the theory of evolution. You’re not “doing it wrong” if you’re not an atheist.

  • Martha

    Dave, that was rather my point about there being something more like four sides in this dispute. Unfortunately, it is too often portrayed as either Noble Truth-Loving Scientific Rationalists versus Ignorant Mouth-breathers Who Want To Drag Us All Back Into The Middle Ages or Brave Persecuted Believers versus The Modern Day Roman Persecution (depending on which side of the line you take).

    And a lot of the recent popular atheist evangelising (I’m thinking of Hitchens et al. in this instance) does seem not to recognise that these arguments are not new ones. “Ha! I’ve got Science on my side, silly believers who up to five minutes ago thought you should treat mental illness by tickling the demons out of mad people!” is the attitude I get from the supporters and cheerleaders, if not the actual figure-heads.

    I have to admit, I don’t really understand the problem about ‘teaching evolution in school’. Unless the teacher and/or school ethos is that “And this PROVES gods of any description do not exist!”, then what is the difficulty? Why are certain religious believers objecting so strenuously? Okay, if you’re that worried, don’t let little Jimmy or Mary do biology as a subject! Perhaps little Jimmy or Mary is being raised as a Young Earth Creationist to believe in a literal seven-day (where a day is a period of twenty-four hours) creation, but even so – so what? How does what they learn at school affect that?

    I don’t think matters are helped by certain parties banging on about how the liddul childrens MUST be taught PROPER THINKING in school to overcome the brain-washing by religious propaganda their benighted parents are abusing them with; that’s only replacing one authoritarian viewpoint with another.

    I think this whole dispute is an unfortunate side-effect of the culture wars, but I don’t see what is going on here.

  • Martha

    And veering off at a tangent, I don’t mind the Flying Spaghetti Monster. It makes me laugh. Heck, I’d wear a t-shirt that declares “I believe in the Flying Spaghetti Monster!” complete with picture of same.

    If that’s the worst insult a non-believer could ever sling at me, I’d be pretty happy.

    And for all the “Get Religion” crew, I recommend this post from the “Ironic Catholic” (nota bene: this is a joke; it is not a real happening)

    http://ironiccatholic.blogspot.com/2008/05/college-reporter-confuses-catholic.html

    “Tuesday, May 13, 2008
    College Reporter Confuses Catholic Women for Chemo Patients

    Joliet, IL: A young college reporter thought he had his first break.

    “I was all set to be the next Bob Woodward,” University of Illinois student Matt Swain admitted sheepishly. “Our journalism professor warned us about writing on religion–he said you can’t win. This proves he’s right.”

    Can we get an “Amen”? ;-)

  • Dave

    Martha wrote:

    I have to admit, I don’t really understand the problem about ‘teaching evolution in school’. Unless the teacher and/or school ethos is that “And this PROVES gods of any description do not exist!”, then what is the difficulty? Why are certain religious believers objecting so strenuously? Okay, if you’re that worried, don’t let little Jimmy or Mary do biology as a subject! Perhaps little Jimmy or Mary is being raised as a Young Earth Creationist to believe in a literal seven-day (where a day is a period of twenty-four hours) creation, but even so – so what? How does what they learn at school affect that?

    Frankly, I don’t know what their problem is, either. School children are asked to learn what they are told well enough to pass tests on it. No school can demand that they take that information into their core beliefs. The embarassingly small percentage of classroom information that students retain after five years underscores this.

    The resistance to teaching Intelligent Design in science class is that it isn’t science. Setting aside your amusing caricatures of the two sides, I should think that’s not hard to understand.

    I think this whole dispute is an unfortunate side-effect of the culture wars, but I don’t see what is going on here.

    I think you’re right, and I agree with you that this particular issue is peculiar to America.

  • Dave2

    Martha,

    Lots of Americans believe in young-earth Biblical literalism/creationism. Like roughly 45%. Google it, it’s pretty a robust percentage.

    Naturally, parents don’t want schools telling their children that their religious views are false. So biology classes (and geology and astronomy, etc.) are urged to avoid certain topics (or else include material more congenial to their religious views, or at least a disclaimer on the textbook).

    I mean, don’t get me wrong, there’s culture war stuff here too. But in this case I think the most obvious explanation is the best one.

  • Julia

    I went to a convent school

    This is from a comment by Mollie and is not directly a reference to media coverage of ID.

    However, I’ve always wondered what Mollie and the media mean by a “convent school.” I always thought convent schools were where the students lived in the convent while going to school. I had some friends who did that at the motherhouse. Or does it just mean a Catholic girls’ school taught by nuns who live in an adjoining convent – like the one I attended?

    I see that term so often in the press and I’m always surprised at how many Catholic girls lived in convents back in the day. Or is the terminology different now that there aren’t many nuns or convents left?

  • MJBubba

    Once again, GetReligion identifies problem words that have different meanings for different people. Dave #23 says: “Evolution makes no theological claims whatsoever. It asserts that the naturalistic process of natural selection of random mutations leads from primitive forms of life to the array we see in nature today, including us.” Perhaps for Dave, that is all he means. For many opponents of ID, they mean that plus the assertion that life began unassisted, and that there is no supernatural and no creator. Journalists generally do a poor job of making the distinction of when the theological assertions are intended, probably because the Evolutionists don’t like to recognize that they often make theological claims. Dave, if you never mean to include those claims, then you are rare indeed.
    When you claim that ID is not science because it does not lead to any experiment design, then I can say the same about the macro-evolution assertion that no supernatural assistance is needed to explain the emergence of new species from predecessor species. Where is the experiment? Or, where is the example species transformation?
    In #10, you said science has refuted ID claims. These matters are still in dispute, on logical and scientific grounds, and just because you and other partisans want ID to go away because it proposes the supernatural, that does not negate the scientific arguments that ID makes to support this assertion.

  • Dave

    MJBubba writes:

    For many opponents of ID, they mean that plus the assertion that life began unassisted, and that there is no supernatural and no creator.

    Those folks are making a religion out of a science. That is their right under the First Amendment, but it doesn’t attach to evolution generally. Others, btw, find spiritual inspiration in the marvels of nature and find evolution to be the grand narrative that holds it all together, but that doesn’t make them militant atheists.

    Dave, if you never mean to include those [militant atheistic] claims, then you are rare indeed.

    No, I’m actually sort of ordinary. Of course, that self-opinion could be influenced by the kind of crowd I hang out with. But I’ve met many scientists of faith who believe in evolution and God.

    When you claim that ID is not science because it does not lead to any experiment design, then I can say the same about the macro-evolution assertion that no supernatural assistance is needed to explain the emergence of new species from predecessor species. Where is the experiment? Or, where is the example species transformation?

    That experiment can be done with microbes in the lab, where generations are measured in hours. I’m not saying this has been done, let alone successfully, but that is the experiment suggested by the claims of “macro”-evolution.

    In #10, you said science has refuted ID claims. These matters are still in dispute, on logical and scientific grounds, and just because you and other partisans want ID to go away because it proposes the supernatural, that does not negate the scientific arguments that ID makes to support this assertion.

    I didn’t want to get into this because it’s not my field, it’s long, and Mollie may shut us down, but here goes:

    Michael Behe made such claims in his book. I’ll deal with one of them — that the propulsion mechanism of motile bacteria is so complex that it could not have evolved by natural selection. Scientific investigation found that the mechanism, which involves rotation, duplicates many features of the portal mechanism that lets stuff across the cell wall. The portal operates with a rotary motion. A bacterium with a mutation that gave it two such portals — and genetic duplication is a common occurrence — would have a “spare” upon which further mutation could operate. The mutations that improved its mobility would let it go places those without the space could not, and natural selection would conserve further mobility-conferring mutations until the full mechanism emerged.

    This is an example of Behe’s claimed principle of Irreducible Complexity and shows it to be wrong. Behe proposed other examples, and they’ve been proved wrong too. They are still “in dispute” because the ID backers won’t admit their claims have been refuted.

    I’m willing to continue this dialogue as long as Mollie permits until the basic post moves off the front page of GR.

  • Robert Ivy

    While I am sure no one is reading this anymore, I would like to think through my defense, so I’ll write this anyways…

    William,

    I said that, “it still seems possible that he or she can report the story as each side most generously presents itself.” That means that in order to report fairly, one must understand how a side most generously presents itself.

    If you were writing a story about, “cranks who say that the Pope is the Antichrist.” Then your first question to them should be “why?” If they answer, “because he blows his nose all the time,” and that’s the best they have to offer then that’s what you report and you can either let everyone laugh at them after the fact or laugh at them yourself in your story. If they say, “because the Antichrist has properties XYZ and the Pope has properties XYZ,” then you would be obligated to weigh their claims and determine whether they had a fair definition of “antichrist” and whether they had a fair assessment of the Pope. I guarantee that they do not, but to not even ask the question is to make a judgement about them in complete ignorance.

    This is especially true with science (like global warming). If it is science then that means it must be falsifiable (the best concise definition for science that I know of). If it is, then one can clearly weigh competing arguments. If the skeptics are truly as messed up as everyone claims they are then it should be a simple task of showing how real science has debunked their lies. If science cannot do so, then it seems wrong to not give their positions some airtime since they could possibly be right. Remember, appealing to authority is not science… it’s religion.

    Dave,

    I don’t know why you have the impression that the word, “censored,” can only apply to violations of first amendment rights. I often practice “self-censorship” in determining which words I should let out of my mouth.

    My argument is not that newspapers that make determinations about ultimate truth in the articles they publish are somehow breaking the law or violating people’s rights. I’m only arguing that it is not wise for them to do so because then people cannot make up their own minds about the subject; the enabling of which I thought was a significant goal of journalism. There is a big difference between saying something should be legal but it’s wrong and saying that it should be illegal.

    Lastly, in the Dover case, it was decided that even the reading of a statement designed to open the theory of evolution to skepticism was against the law. And I would dispute the claim that ID was “designed” to get around the first amendment. ID was developed as a scientific theory years before anyone thought about putting into a classroom (yes you may dispute whether ID is actually scientific, but a scientific theory was at least the goal of the first developers of ID, not a school curriculum).

  • http://www.GetReligion.org Mollie

    Julia wrote that I said I went to a convent school. That was actually Martha who wrote that.

  • Dave

    Robert:

    I use the term “censorship” in a narrow sense because of repeated collisions with political types who want to use it for scare purposes when they talk about someone else’s editing of what that someone else will publish. YMMV.

    Lastly, in the Dover case, it was decided that even the reading of a statement designed to open the theory of evolution to skepticism was against the law.

    *sigh* I guess I need to find the Dover text to sort this out for myself.

    And I would dispute the claim that ID was “designed” to get around the first amendment.

    Perhaps I was too puckish in the use of “designed.” The big push to get ID into public school science instruction was a project of the Discovery Institute to ultimately get God back into public schools. They got outed when an email outlining the plan went viral on the Internet.

  • Dave2

    Robert wrote:

    ID was developed as a scientific theory years before anyone thought about putting into a classroom (yes you may dispute whether ID is actually scientific, but a scientific theory was at least the goal of the first developers of ID, not a school curriculum).

    I really doubt this. Isn’t the ID movement something that goes back to Phillip Johnson and people reacting to the Supreme Court’s verdict on creationism in public schools in the late ’80s?

    I mean, maybe you just mean the design argument, which goes back through Paley and Newton and Aquinas, all the way back to the Stoics. But as for the intelligent design movement, I’m pretty sure that started as a way to get creationism into public schools.

  • str1977

    Dave,

    MJBubba writes: For many opponents of ID, they mean that plus the assertion that life began unassisted, and that there is no supernatural and no creator.

    Those folks are making a religion out of a science. That is their right under the First Amendment, but it doesn’t attach to evolution generally.

    Would say the same about those that make a science out of a religion, be they Young Earth Creationists or Intelligent Designers?

    If yes, I am okay with that. If not, why are these not covered by the First Amendment, which basically says that the government shall prohibit the utterance even of blatant nonsense?

    Dave, if you never mean to include those [militant atheistic] claims, then you are rare indeed.

    No, I’m actually sort of ordinary.

    Being European, I obviously have no experience in the US, but might this be a case of a silent majority and a few loudmouthed cretins like Mr Dawkins?

  • str1977

    Robert,

    I must agree somewhat with Dave on the word censorship.

    It properly denotes a higher authority allowing or denying a text to be published and disallowing all or parts of it. Censorship always comes before the publication. Prosecuting someone for libel is not censorship.

    Of course this authority may sit within, say, a newspaper – in which it doesn’t affect the freedom of the press (because it is the freedom of the press, not of an editor).

    And of course, you may censor your own utterances. Contrary to some people, I think that is a basic virtue. But I don’t think it is censorship in the strict sense.

  • Dave

    str1977 (#35):

    The First Amendment guarantees freedom of religion. It doesn’t say anything about science. It does indeed permit the free utterance of such things as, “My science is that the Moon is made of green cheese,” but that permission does not make such an utterance science.

    Science is not a democracy. If someone tried to promote the green-cheese notion, astronmers and the geologists who have studied rocks retrieved from the Moon would label it nonsense and rule it out of the scientific canon, with no court of higher appeal. It’s not the way one would want civil society run, but it’s kept science on course for some time and does not include the right to keep the green-cheese person from continued utterance.

  • MJBubba

    Martha and Dave, there are a few textbooks in circulation that claim that the origins of life occurred naturally. There are a number of evolutionist schoolteachers that say that life evolved without supernatural assistance. Those are theological claims, but they get defended as “science.”
    Censorship happens when school boards refuse even to allow a statement to be given to the children that there are some who disagree with the claims of evolution, and that they have differing scientifically-based conclusions from looking at the research. It does not help if journalists report on such matters by likening the opponents of evolution to flat-earth or green cheese advocates.

  • Dave2

    MJBubba, I’d like to see a textbook that explicitly rules out supernatural involvement. That would trouble me.

    But if all a textbook does is describe it as a natural process, then that wouldn’t trouble me, not any more than when a textbook describes childbirth or continental drift as a natural process. After all, that’s not explicitly ruling out supernatural involvement, it’s just giving the scientific explanation and stopping at that.

  • Robert Ivy

    Well, what can I say? I defend my use of the word, “censored.” As str1977 says,

    It properly denotes a higher authority allowing or denying a text to be published and disallowing all or parts of it.

    What I am saying is that when a reporter feels that he/she has the ability to judge by him/herself the ultimate correctness of a certain position, that effectively makes the reporter into a “higher authority” than the rest of the public. The reporter determines what is “silly” and what is “right” and disallows publishing of what is “silly” and encourages publishing of what is “right.”

    The effect this has on the mind of the public is no different than that of censorship of any other sort. The public gets one point of view that is assumed to be the correct point of view and therefore sees anyone who might be going against the mainstream presentation as “disruptive” at a minimum and “dangerous” at a maximum. People who think in such ways have not been informed, they have been brainwashed. Why? Because they cannot argue against the “disruptive” or the “dangerous” all they can do is parrot the dismissive attitude about them that they see in the mainstream media.

    The end result is that the media themselves are the censors on what is “appropriate” for public consumption.

  • Dave

    Robert:

    Freedom of the press is freedom to print what you want, not freedom to read what you want. It is the former that censorship violates.

  • MJBubba

    Dave, my Dear Wife has admonished me for spouting old information. Evidently the sweeping statements that I recall from textbooks largely disappeared in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and since textbooks rarely circulate for more than ten or twelve years, that is no longer true. Regarding factual errors in textbooks that support evolution, the Discovery Institute and others presented evidence to the Texas Board of Education, since they are so influential regarding textbook use. The 2003 textbook circus is described by one of the ID proponents at http://www.probe.org/content/view/902/67/
    A summary of text errors that remained in 2004 is posted at the Discovery Institute
    http://www.discovery.org/scripts/viewDB/index.php?command=view&id=2075&program=News-CSC
    My own position is that the kids need to know all about natural selection and how random mutations occasionally may modify portions of a natural population (or a bred population). However, they ought to be advised that there is a controversy regarding macro-evolution, and that though they need to understand it since it is used as the basis for taxonomy, they do not necessarily need to believe that it occurred naturally over millions of years, as that has not been established scientifically. Macro-evolution is the consensus of the majority of the scientific community; however, there is a significant minority position that has serious science to support the rejection of macro-evolution, and the matter is in dispute and there is a religious dimension to the dispute.
    It is unfortunate that the evolutionists have convinced some judges that a simple statement recogizing controversy is a violation of the first amendment. It is obvious to me that the majority of mainstream journalism is similarly convinced. I think that to forbid such a statement is a violation of the first amendment itself, and is also anti-scientific method.
    Regarding flat earth and green cheese, both have been debunked and ought not be used if you want to be taken seriously.

  • Dave

    MJBubba wrote:

    My own position is that the kids [...] ought to be advised that there is a controversy regarding macro-evolution

    “Teach the controversy” is Intelligent Design Lite. It’s the ID fallback when they lose politically at the school board level. There is no controversy in science, so “teaching the controversy” in science class is improper.

    For that matter, there is no “macro-evolution” in science. Macro- and micro-evolution are terms ginned up by ID to distinguish evolution they believe in (diseases evolving resistance to antibiotics) and evolution they don’t.

    Regarding flat earth and green cheese, both have been debunked and ought not be used if you want to be taken seriously.

    Gee, really? (sarcasm off) I use those concepts to demonstrate that there is such a thing as garbage disguised as science universally recognized as such, and remind folks how it should be dealt with.

  • Robert Ivy

    Dave,

    We’re obviously operating on different wavelengths, so I don’t think we’ll settle this here. But briefly,

    I am aware that if the government were to censor someone that would violate the freedom of the press. I am aware that if a person is not able to read whatever she wants, that does not violate the freedom of the press.

    But join me in a thought experiment for a moment. Imagine that every news organization in America were to decide (for example), “Human-caused Global Warming is unquestionably proved by science. Therefore, any person who questions the idea of human-caused Global Warming is obviously wrong and, what is more, their message hinders efforts at avoiding this horrific catastrophe. Therefore, it is best for us, both scientifically and morally, to not give Global Warming skeptics any press.”

    The effect of this choice would be that the vast majority of the public could no longer hear any debate concerning Global Warming. As a result, they would unquestioningly accept it as truth (which is, of course, the goal of the press).

    But if this were to happen it would amount to or have the same effect as Government censoring publication of any anti-human-caused-Global-warming information. Thus, in my original post I wrote that it would already be, “censored in some respect.”

    In other words, it would be de facto censored, even though not actually censored. No one’s rights would be violated but I still don’t think it would be a desirable state of affairs.

    Therefore, I think that if there are two sides to a certain issue, and if both sides have some sort of logical argument, then both sides should be presented. If one side is refuted then it should be reported that they have been refuted, but it should not be entirely ignored as if there were only one side to the issue in the first place.

    In any case, that’s all I have to say about that. I’ll let you have the last word and I’ll take your comment “off the air.”

    Thanks for the dialogue,

    Robert

  • Dave

    Robert:

    Yes, if you re-define censorship you can use the word any way you want. Unfortunately this evacuates useful words of their meaning.

    Your scenario of a voluntary media blackout on human-caused global-warming doubters would fall apart as those doubters began publishing their own broadsides, a venerable American custom vastly enabled by the Internet. It would not have the effect of a government ban on discussion.

  • str1977

    Dave,

    Shouldn’t then people like Dawkins be pushed towards acknowledging that their viewpoint is a religious belief?

    Shouldn’t the outcry about them not doing so be at least as big as that about creation science?

    And of courses you ignore that ID is actually put out there by scientists. Claims that ID is not science are ridiculous – it might be bad science and it certainly is no scientific theory (but rather picking holes into the Theory of Evolution) but science it is nonetheless.

    And before you jump: I do not subscribe to ID.

  • str1977

    PS. This really isn’t about the First Amendment but about the actual intellectual merits of this or that position.

    All too often, the First Amendment is invoked to defend the indefensible. As long as no one tries to legally ban anyone from speaking out, legal texts are irrelevant.

  • str1977

    If someone tried to promote the green-cheese notion, astronmers (sic) and the geologists who have studied rocks retrieved from the Moon would label it nonsense and rule it out of the scientific canon, with no court of higher appeal.

    Actually, that’s not how science is supposed to run. Nothing is ruled out of science like this. Other experts surely would speak out and voice their (scientifically based) opinion and if the larger part does that or is convinced that the new thesis is wrong, this thesis will not go anywhere.

    And if doesn’t go anywhere, it will not enter the canons of institutions like schools and universities.

    But nothing keeps our green-cheese-scientist from continuing to scientifcally work on his thesis.

    Especially important if the new thesis is not as patently absurd a moon made out of green cheese. No thesis involved in this debate is that clearly absurd.

  • str1977

    Robert,

    … that effectively makes the reporter into a “higher authority” than the rest of the public. The reporter determines what is “silly” and what is “right” and disallows publishing of what is “silly” and encourages publishing of what is “right.”

    I agree with you about the effects and that such a behaviour on part of the reporter is detrimental to an open discussion but it is still not censorship. Censorship would be if the state intervened and told a reporter: “You cannot give equal time to IDers.”

    Ideally, a reader can get information lacking from any report from another report, books or his own experience. I agree that many reporter all toeing the same line makes this problematic, but censorship it is not.

    The difference to censorship is that no reporter is prevented from speaking out.

    But Dave,

    Freedom of the press is freedom to print what you want, not freedom to read what you want. It is the former that censorship violates.

    I guess this is a misunderstanding due to your ambigous wording but

    Freedom of the press is the freedom of the press to print not what YOU want but what the press wants.

    Freedom of anyone to read what you want should be obvious to anyone. (Of course, this presupposes that what you want to read has been written in the first place.)

  • str1977

    Dave,

    “Teach the controversy” is Intelligent Design Lite. It’s the ID fallback when they lose politically at the school board level. There is no controversy in science, so “teaching the controversy” in science class is improper.

    So what if is ID light? That’s not a serious argument.

    It is patently nonsense to say that “there is no controversy in science” – there is controversy and argument all the time.

    But I personally don’t think that school children should be bothered with it. Anyway, a ultradarwinistic teacher (by which I mean the “evolution disproves God crowd) would easily such a “teach the controversy” to his own advantage.

    Pupils should be taught the appropriate amount of knowledge of the theory but should be protected from atheist preachers hijacking science lessons. No more, no less.

    For that matter, there is no “macro-evolution” in science. Macro- and micro-evolution are terms ginned up by ID to distinguish evolution they believe in (diseases evolving resistance to antibiotics) and evolution they don’t.

    That doesn’t make the terms illegitimate though. In fact, the term exists in science since scientists subscribing to ID do use the term.

    Regarding flat earth and green cheese, both have been debunked and ought not be used if you want to be taken seriously.

    Actually not because these never were claims brought forth in the realm of science. Green cheese is a joke and no one ever believed in a flat earth until the 20th century. So it was never garbage masking as science.

  • Dave

    str1977 distorted:

    It is patently nonsense to say that “there is no controversy in science” – there is controversy and argument all the time.

    There’s no controversy over the validity of evolution. Quit trying to change the subject.

    Pupils should be taught the appropriate amount of knowledge of the theory but should be protected from atheist preachers hijacking science lessons. No more, no less.

    We could agree on that. Atheism has no more place in public school science class than creationism, for the same reason: the Establishment Clause.

    Green cheese is a joke and no one ever believed in a flat earth until the 20th century.

    Flat earth belief existed in the ancient world. An ancient Greek established the roundness of the earth by measuring its radius. You are correct that Columbus’s contemporaries understood the world to be round; Columbus insisted, erroneously, that it was small because land-life debris washed up on the shores of islands off Africa after storms, and he thought it came from the coast of Asia.

  • Maureen

    Nota bene: Ironic Catholic is a humor site. Like the Onion, except more Catholic.

    That didn’t really happen, in other words.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X