Why Teaching “the Controversy” Means Teaching Christianity

Why Teaching “the Controversy” Means Teaching Christianity April 7, 2012

For decades there has been a quiet war against the teaching of evolution in American science classes, fueled largely by conservative Christians who think the theory is heretical and flawed. Ever since the 1987 Supreme Court case Edwards v. Aguillard, teaching creationism alongside evolution in a federally-funded science class has been outlawed. The justices ruled that  “creation science” is an inherently Christian religious construct and would violate the Establishment Clause.  Since then, Christian activists have sought to find a loophole, most notoriously with the theory of “Intelligent Design,” which was also exposed as an inherently religious invention. The past twenty years has been littered with lawmakers, school boards, advocacy groups, and concerned parents fighting this still-contentious issue out. Now, the latest flashpoint in this battle is in Tennessee, where a bill requiring schools to “teach the controversy” of evolution and global warming has passed the Republican-controlled state House and Senate, and awaits the signature of Republican Gov. Bill Haslam.


The teaching of some scientific subjects, including, but not limited to, biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning, can cause controversy . . . The state board of education, public elementary and secondary school governing authorities, directors of schools, school system administrators, and public elementary and secondary school principals and administrators shall endeavor to assist teachers to find effective ways to present the science curriculum as it addresses scientific controversies.”

The idea of “teaching the controversy” originates with a campaign by the Discovery Institute, and was seen as a way to undermine support for evolution by recasting it as merely a popular idea among a set of scientists, emphasizing and misapplying the word “theory” so as to place other creationist-backed theories on equal ground. This was the seeming “loophole” of Edwards v. Aguillard, that “scientific critiques of prevailing scientific theories” could be taught. But as the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District trial showed, these alternate theories don’t stand up to rigorous peer review, and often ignores mountains of published evidence undermining their claims. The simple fact is that “Intelligent Design” is a pseudo-scientific cloak over the old (Christian) creation science.


This bill, poised to be a law, is doubly bad for followers of Pagan, indigenous, and earth-centered religions. It not only seeks to insert explicitly Christian notions of creation and the origins of life into science classes, exposing non-Christian children to misinformation on the government’s dime, but it also seeks to undermine basic knowledge of increasingly dire issues like global warming. If signed, the law would open the door to hucksters who believe environmentalism is a “green dragon” that promotes Pagan religion (though a lot of opposition to climate change science is far more cynical). This is just another aspect of us being caught in another faith’s crisis, watching largely powerless as Christianity wars with itself over how to approach the origins of life or climate science.

Once, years ago, I  joked about the ramifications of “teaching the controversy.”

I think that since Bush has taken this brave step, all reasonable theories should be heard in public schools! Having said that, I demand that the TRUE answer to the beginning of all things be taught in schools. Because everyone knows that Danu the divine waters of heaven fell to the lifeless rock we now call earth and from her all life sprang including the first sacred oak who when conjoined with the sacred waters dropped two acorns that grew to become Dagda “The Good God” and Brigid “The Exalted One” who brought order to the land and built the first cities.

Oh and in fairness to our Asatru brothers and sisters we will also teach that the great cow Audumla licked away the ice to reveal the first gods who slayed the giant Ymir and created the earth, mountains, oceans, sky and trees from his dead body.

Finally, we should also teach the Faery creation story as recounted in Starhawk’s “The Spiral Dance” in which The Goddess apon seeing her own reflection created a companion from this reflection and made love to her which created a song from which all things sprung. This reflection then seperated from The Goddess eventually becomes masculine and the first God.

This of course is just the beginning! I have a more “scientific” version called “Polytheistic Design” that posits multiple intelligent designers, and “Matrifocal Design” which will settle the question of exactly what the gender of this intelligent designer was. Thanks again President Bush!

But as the poet Morrissey said, “the joke isn’t funny anymore.” While scoring a rhetorical point or two once might have been a fun idea, we now stare down inaction at rapid climate and weather changes, and are forced to re-fight battles waged at the beginning of the 20th century (also in Tennessee). For those of us who see the planet itself as sacred, we commit a blasphemy every day we waste re-litigating the Enlightenment. If Christians want religion in schools, it should be in a comparative religion class, a place I would happily endorse “teaching the controversy” by demanding the inclusion of Pagan faiths. It seems clear that once given  enough power, conservative Christians work tirelessly to roll back our secular, pluralistic, advances, endangering all that minority faiths have worked for. Teaching the controversy is all about teaching Christianity, all you have to do is ask for the name of the Intelligent Designer to be sure.


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102 responses to “Why Teaching “the Controversy” Means Teaching Christianity”

  1. I’m amazed (and appalled) that “intelligent design” has popped back into view.

  2. I was always curious about the teaching of “intelligent design/creationism”. Who’s creation myth will the teachers be teaching? Christian(which myth-humans were created twice)? Aboriginal? Shinto? Etc, etc.

  3. I hear mutterings of a “cultural war” from right leaning pundits and spokespeople, and what they refuse to acknowledge (that being part of the tactic) is that it isn’t the non-Christians who are engaged in it, but the backward-pedaling fundamental Right. 

    Every so often here in Texas we hear about “elective Bible classes” being injected into public school curricula; it’s the same thing. If people bring up the unconstitutionality of such classes, the argument goes that if there was interest in “other” classes, they would be offered– but how does one measure such interest? By the financial interest invested in school boards by activist Christian members, if the textbook fiasco of 2010 is any indicator. 

  4. I am a pagan and believe in teaching the controversy. Infact I teach it to my homeschooled child. For me it’s not about offering children the chance to choose religion over evolution so much as opening their minds to the real truth – that evolution is what scientists believe in, but many other people believe in something different, and if they want to learn more about this, here are the resources. Forcing children to learn only one world perspective, and deliberately blocking all other information, is as bad as forcing children to only learn Creationism.

  5. Evolution isn’t just what “scientists” believe in, it’s what anyone who has read the massive, overwhelming, amounts of evidence on the subject, believe in. To put creationism, or any religious belief, on the same plane, is to create a false equivalence. Religion is based on faith and personal experience, evolution is based on evidence.

  6. Further, creationism isn’t taught in science classes because it isn’t science! It’s as simple as that. Teaching someone evidence-based rigorously tested theories isn’t coercion. That’s like saying we should “teach the controversy” about geography by presenting the view that some believe the world’s flat, even though we have pictures from space proving otherwise.

  7. Yeah Yeah Yeah and what about the “Chariots of the Gods” theory, and Sitchin and Anunnaki being from Nibiru and colonizing Earth, cloning and mixing with humans….?  The “new gods” theory of the Whole Earth Catalog and the return of the Bird Tribes?  😉  Er, Dragons anyone!?

  8. More to the point in your headline, Jason, if you’re “teaching the contoversy” you’re teaching Christianity. Any neocreationism with the Creator fuzzed up enough to pass the latest Supreme Court test is still Christian because it arises in a Christian context.

    That being said, if you’re teaching evolution you’re teaching the Enlightenment, by the same logic. One is illegal under the First Amendment to teach in science class; the other isn’t.

  9. Charles Darwin’s grandfather, Erasmus, wrote about the evolution of species in his final major work, “The Temple of Nature” (published over half a century before his grandson came out with “The Origin of Species”). In that work, Erasmus Darwin specifically cited both Ovid and Vergil as major inspirations for the idea that all living things are related to one another, and that species can and do change over time. 

  10. “Further, creationism isn’t taught in science classes because it isn’t science! It’s as simple as that”. 
    Hello! You’d think this would be obvious to…absolutely everyone.

  11. There is no controversy, not in the SCIENCE of Evolution in Biology.

    There are only those who are trying to ignore science, refute science, and replace science with their particular interpretation of their particular religion pretending that their mythology is somehow Science.

    I don’t much care what religion anyone uses to explain to themselves or their children the Whys of the world, but Science is a METHOD. It is all about How.

    On no level does Christian creationism even approach the Scientific Method.

    I suggest you watch the Frontline episode on the Dover School case of Kitzmiller versus Dover School Board. The whole episode is available on PBS.org, and covered the whole issue, including the science quite thoroughly.

  12. Teach the controversy! 1+1=10.

    Teach the controversy! “Let’s eat Grandma.” is the same as “Let’s eat, Grandma.”

    Teach the controversy! Did Hitler really….. (I cannot bring myself to even type it)

    Teach the controversy! The Moon is made of cheese.

    Teach the controversy! Lilith was the first woman.

    Teach the controversy! This is a Christian nation.

    Teach the controversy! Gravity is (only) a theory.

    Jason already covered Geography. I know that there are more brilliant minds posting here than in my little household, how many more of these “controversies” can we come up with? 

  13.  not so much created twice as one is the adam/lilith story, and the other is adam/eve.

  14. As a biologist I am appalled that you say it’s “what we believe in”, as if it’s something we just chose for personal reasons like a religion.

    Evolution is a broad hypothesis that the community as a whole examined at every angle to try and break, yet it hasn’t been broken by any evidence we’ve produced up thus far. Because the idea has held it’s ground and fueled others for so long (over 100 years), it has earned the title of theory, which is a rare and big deal in the scientific world. No other hypothesis has come close to the stability and usefulness that evolution has provided.

    When it comes to new ideas many of us are some of the most conservative, skeptical people you’ll meet (I’m not using “conservative” in a political sense). Old ideas do not get erased very easily, or even modified without a lot of work and evidence by many different people to justify any changes.

    Without this “belief”, numerous advances in medicine, almost all of genetics, and much of conservation, just to name a few, would not have occurred. The entire broad field of biology would not exist as we know it, because the theory of evolution forms its base.

  15. So of course spouse thinks of another as soon as I posted.

    Teach the controversy! Space aliens built the pyramids, as well as the Nazca Lines. Maybe Stonehenge too?

    Teach the controversy! Dinosaurs and humans coexisted. They ate each other.

  16.  The key here is that *you* are teaching this to *your* child in *your* home on *your* dime.  You are not expecting me and everyone else who supports public school through taxes to require OUR children to sit in OUR taxpayer funded public schools and learn about some other religion’s views on the origins of the universe.

    Intelligent design and creationism should be taught in the home or in church.  It should not… EVER… be taught along side science in publicly funded schools unless you are willing to teach the creation theory of every religion of every tax payer who wants their views given equal treatment.  That includes Islam as well as all the different forms of Paganism.

  17. The problem with that approach is that there is actually no controversy, except among people who are ideologically invested in not following up on the subject.  All of the supposed criticisms of evolutionary theory have been thoroughly debunked by scientists in a number of public venues for years.  Moreover, the proponents of intelligent design have not advanced a single falsifiable prediction under their “hypothesis” – they’ve made no claims that could be tested and shown to be true or false.  Their position is simply that if they can raise sufficient doubt about evolution, then their “intelligent design” alternative *must* be true by default.  This is utterly counter to the way that science is supposed to work.  What you should do if you have data that does not fit the standard model is to (a) demonstrate that the results are repeatable and not simply a one-off experimental error, and (b) propose a new hypothesis that accounts for your new observations *and* for the observations that led to the old model, and which makes additional predictions that can be tested to verify the accuracy of your new hypothesis.  Intelligent design has failed to do this, despite repeated requests of various high-profile ID supporters that they even *propose* an experiment which could support their position.

    Evolutionary theory itself makes no religious claims.  There are plenty of biologists who are believers of various faiths, and reconcile that belief with evolutionary theory.  Many others are atheists, and point to evolutionary theory as one more demonstration that the “God hypothesis” is not necessary to explain the world.

  18. Nicely put, but I would make one change to your wording. Evolutionary theory “hasn’t been broken by any evidence we’ve” discovered. We’re not producing the evidence. The evidence is there, and we’re finding it.

  19. Ugh do we really have to beat the horse again? Not only is it dead, it’s fossilized! This is the most useless debate ever, and yet we still gotta get dragged into it because certain people have to fight about EVERYTHING that’s not like them. Even if they got their way they still wouldn’t be happy, because they thrive on fighting. It’s the only thing that gives them purpose.

  20. Heh, I could have used that table of elements last week to illustrate a point. Isn’t it wonderful, though, that Oklahoma at last has true rivals for “least informed student polpulation”? Between Tennessee, Texas and Utah, this could turn into a real contest.

  21. It never went away or popped out of view. Literal evangelical Christianity is 100% dependent on ID/ creationism. It long ago staked the entire credibility of its theology and enterprise on the concept that nothing can be allowed to contradict their account of “science.” Catholicism and other branches of Christianity long ago got out of that corner because they saw it was a losing game.
        From at least the Renaissance, theologians began to see that scripture could not survive as the sole source of inerrant truth about science. They developed more sophisticated theology which (more or less) gave science its due while reserving to religion the question of ultimate purpose. The fundamentalist painted themselves into a corner, as fundamentalists are wont to do. They have no place of retreat, no face-saving way out. They have no choice but to fight to the bitter, absurd end.    They never went away or even slowed down their crusade since the 20s. They simply tried to re-invent themselves in various guises, mostly to try to gain the veneer of credibility as an “alternative science.” They went under the term creation science, then ID, now as supposed advocates for “academic freedom.” You have to give them credit for political saavy, at the least. They know how to play American’s sympathy of an underdog and their ignorance of the scientific process to a hilt. They organized themselves as “research institutes” and created their own scientific-looking publications. They even managed to snooker major philanthropic organizations out of sizable grants. Look up the “Discovery Institute” sometime. Of course the ruse falls apart at some point because they are all lab coat and no science. But they press on with a new face and new spin….

  22. It’s all really one battle: that of fundamentalists against the rest of us. Fundamentalism celebrates ignorance and seeks to enforce it as public policy and a virtue. The rest, the particular issues, are just details and battlegrounds.

  23. Not only does creationism fail to follow the forms and conventions of science, it rejects the entire premise of science: that reality can be discerned by reason and observation. 

  24. We should roll over and let them shove their religion into the science classrooms?

  25. Wow, great post! I do encourage
    everyone to take the time and actually read the  “Kitzmiller
    vs Dover” decision. The judge hit’s it out of the ball park!

  26.  Sarah, there is no “controversy”. The controversy only exists in the heads of Creationists. It was once believed the world was flat, but we don’t today teach that history as an option to “believe in”. Or that “The Germ Theory” of disease is, well, only a theory! 

  27. What Ursyl said. There is no controversy involving evolution vs. creationism, as if the latter were supported by evidence of similar weight to the former. Evolution is science, and creationism is religious belief masquerading as science, full-stop. What the “teach-the-controversy” jokers are saying, effectively, that truth and falsehood are nothing more than opposing points of view that are equally worthy of consideration, which is nonsensical to anyone except a Biblical literalist.

    It occurs to me that this “teach the controversy” nonsense was what gave birth to a href=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flying_spaghetti_monster”>Pastafarianism. What more is there to say?

  28.  1 + 1 = 10 (base 2)

    Gravity is a theory — by which I mean that, yes, something we call gravity exists and behaves in a manner we can describe with much accuracy, but at this time we do not know why and how that occurs, though we have some hypotheses under investigation.

    Teach the controversy: teach what we know now, what we’re trying to figure out, and the history of how we got to where we are now.  What did our earlier generations think, and why?  Each had a picture of some of the essentials — everything since then is refinement.  At least they were asking the questions.

  29. I think that Pagans should avoid mocking unconventional ideas just because they are, well, unconventional. I am all in favor of mocking ideas that are genuinely stupid, such as young earth creationism. But I hold that idea to be stupid not because some panel of experts tells me so, but because I understand enough about geology and biology, etc, to realize, for myself, that young earth creationism is patently ridiculous.

    But I also believe in magic and divination and reincarnation and communication with the dead and the ability to travel outside one’s body into astral realms and stuff like that, all of which are considered to be patently absurd by many of those who want to get in line to kick the young earth creationists around. There is something admirable about a person who is willing to believe in things that are mocked by others. But there is nothing admirable about a person who blindly believes in stupid shit that is easily disproven by anyone with the slightest amount of intelligence.

  30. I grew up Catholic, and Catholics for some time have been cool with evolution, so I always thought the significance of evolution vs. creationism debates was “Oh, look how simple their spirituality was that evolution shook their faith” instead of “Science disproved their myth.”

    I really had no idea until I grew up that it was an actual faith vs. science argument. How disappointing you are, culture as a whole. Seriously, philosophy is taught in philosophy, math is taught in math, anthropology in anthropology, and the current state of scientific research and theory is taught in science! Simple as that.

    On the other hand, I don’t think a lot of people realize that just because something is taught or talked about in class doesn’t always mean it’s the ultimate truth. 

  31. After reading this post and the comments, I wonder why Christianity being in crisis might be considered surprising or even a revelation.  Everyone seems astounded at the ridiculous lack of credibility some Christians demonstrate, but this is fundamental to their crisis.  Sullivan wrote, “The ability to be faithful in a religious space and reasonable in a political one has atrophied before our eyes.”  Perhaps he should have added “to be credible in a scientific space.”

  32. In this, our final hour as a species, it seems so silly that we can consider ourselves “intelligent” when the entire planet’s fate seems held hostage to a contingent that can’t reason itself out of a paper bag.  Christianity, and it’s attendant grand finale’ via an apocalypse, would under a sterile examination be considered a self fulfilling suicide, and be dealt with accordingly.  Instead, we try and reason with the unreasonable while backing towards a cliff that they have in no simple terms have stated they are going to throw us all over, and we LET THEM.  Fine.  What the Jews allowed happen to them and what we have allowed to happen as a collective ever since applies equally to ALL of us and we have demonstrated over and over our ineptitude in our own self defense, thus we will suffer for it.  Me?  I just can’t care any more.

  33.  same here. The monotheists can burn through the world because they believe (for better or worse) that they will never come back again, so it’s not there problem once there gone, and they don’t stop to think of there decendants (are anyone else for that matter). They have pushed this belief with fire and sword  (and fire and brimbstone) torturing, terrifying and killing almost the entire planet into giving them power and now we can’t get out of it to save ourselves. The earth will survive, it hasn’t been damage enough not to, but at this point it can only recover if (most of us) are gone. At this point it is hard to feel anything but apathy, but that is why now more then ever we can’t give up hope and keep fighting. It is us against the monotheists trying to drag up back into the dark ages and we have to come out on top. 

  34.  Ah yes, you’re right. I didn’t take the time to proofread my post during my moment of passion 😛 My bad.

  35.  You misread my post. I never once said or implied that, and they can shove it over my dead body.

    I said that “we” have to get dragged into this debate because “they” have their panties in a bunch. We are the pagan minority getting little to no say in what they, the Christian majority, decide about the schools we all use.

    Or in other words, “I can’t believe we’re still protesting this shit!”

  36. “I am a pagan and believe in teaching the controversy”

    It’s dishonest to pretend there’s a controversy about the basic facts of evolution. Virtually 100% of the world’s biologists completely accept the massive powerful evidence for evolution, so where is your controversy? You believe in spreading lies about science and scientists.


  37.  I think that Sin meant that the creation of humans on the sixth day is told in Genesis, and THEN, also in Genesis, the Adam and Eve narrative is told.

  38. Since when did a basic fact of science like evolution become a “world perspective”. Would you call gravity a “world perspective”?

    The only thing to say about magical creationism is only retarded cowardly imbeciles believe in it.

  39. This article is great and makes an excellent point — but the pictures are definitely my favorite part.

  40. Why does the Christian war against science education never end? Why does evolution make Christian tards cry? There can be only one possible explanation (besides the fact that Christians are drooling morons). The religious implications of evolution couldn’t possibly be more obvious. Evolution kills every Christian fantasy ever invented, including heaven and the magic god fairy. Cowards need their invisible magical friend and cowards need their idiotic childish heaven fantasy. They know evolution makes heaven even more ridiculous than it already was, so they either completely deny evolution, or even worse they pollute evolution with “god invented or used or guided evolution”. Their fairy had absolutely nothing to do with the development of new species or anything else. God is a Dark Ages excuse to avoid reality.

    It’s right to defend science education but that’s not enough. The only possible way to end the Christian war against science education is to completely eradicate the Christian Death Cult from Idiot America. Christian imbeciles must be relentlessly ridiculed until they learn how to either grow up or shut up.


  41. So what are Pagans and others who don’t fall into the Abrahamic clique going to do about it? This isn’t exactly new to Hawaiians or ANY other indigenous peoples. Here we’re finally starting back up our own schools in our own languages. Providing numerous scholarships to get our kids through higher education so they can make a difference. What are Pagans prepared to do about this?


    …opening their minds to the real truth – that evolution is what
    scientists believe in, but many other people believe in something
    different, and if they want to learn more about this, here are the

    But it’s not just what “scientists” believe in.  I can *name you* Catholic priests who believe in it, and acknowledge that Catholic theology has evolved into something compatible with scientific fact.  I’m a traditional polytheist, and I see nothing in Hesiod’s Theogony that isn’t naturally compatible with evolutionary fact —Hesiod just made it far more poetic, if only because of necessity.

    Forcing children to learn only one world perspective, and deliberately
    blocking all other information, is as bad as forcing children to only
    learn Creationism.

    Not really.  The Creationists are performing a task of intellectual dishonesty, because frankly, evolution is fact and this has been proved time and time again.  The only “other information” you imply is there is mythology and theology, some of which simply isn’t compatible with fact. 

  43. As a seeker with an interest in science, I’m curious.  Which pagan traditions successfully incorporate modern scientific theory into their belief systems?

  44.  Hi, ErynneRose,
    As a Witch, I envision the God/dess as “All That Is.”  That is not divorced from Science, which is simply Knowledge of All-That-Is.  Here’s a webpage that speaks of specific ways that Wicca embraces science:


    Many Witches practice their craft as a Science.  My teacher Marion Weinstein used to say that Magic is simply Science that hasn’t yet been discovered.  Here’s another page that speaks of Science and Witchcraft:


  45. Two things:

    1. The tactics that Creationists use against evolution aren’t too far removed from that tactics that the tobacco industry used to discredit scientific research to showed how smoking leads to cancer, yet I’m sure that the Creationists are completely oblivious to this connections.

    2. While we’re busy paying attention to evangelical Creationists’ attacks on public education, Mormons are still supporting their “archaeologists” to prove the validity of the pre-Columbian history of the Americas as depicted in their holy book. Given all the coverage that Mormonism is getting in light of Mitt Romney’s presidential run, I wish that someone would shed some more light on this Mormon effort to re-write history before they become as influential as the Creationists.

  46. I can’t think of any modern pagan traditions I’ve had any direct experience that have a problem with science. Most trads I’ve seen in the heathen/Wicca/Western reconstruction worlds are full to the brim with people in the sciences. Lots of biologists, but also more than a few chemists, medical professionals and even a few serious physicists.  I think for most of us, science poses no threat to our beliefs or practices. Science is a wonderful system for quantifying the “how” questions in nature.Its tools are powerful enough to crack the mysteries of how we live, how worlds are born, all of the “process” questions. It’s next to useless for getting at the “why” questions in the big sense of the word or the questions of “who am I and where do I fit in?” Our religion helps us get at those questions by giving us a set of tools that lets us approach problems which cannot be reduced to testable data. The two systems run nicely in parallel and don’t conflict. 

  47. Creation legends SHOULD be taught in public school… in sociology classes or in literature classes.

  48. Indeed, I find the arguments of some of the traditionalists on this issue quite interesting, even if not entirely convincing. I believe it was John Michell who illustrated that the Big Bang really explains nothing by pointing out that it came down to “In the beginning there was nothing, not even nothing, except for a suspicious package.” He was also opposed to Darwinism, and while I am not convinced by what I can make out of his argument, it was hardly the stereotypical ignorant fundamentalist “the bible said so therefore it’s true” type argument that we are exposed to most often, and i think it is a mistake to tar all anti-Darwinists with the same brush.

  49.  It’s based on the individual, really. I’m a heathen (Central European-based), but I’m also a biologist specializing in ecology and arachnology. I haven’t had a problem; my studies have actually supported my beliefs and worldview quite nicely.

    Where I can see science and pagan traditions clashing is in the ethics of using what scientists have created. As in, what is the right and wrong way to use a particular technology. Medical and Genetic fields are ripe for ethics debates like that.

    But that’s not really science itself being targeted.

  50.  I was lucky enough to have something like that in my high school, I think it was called “Ancient Cultures” or “Ancient History”. Granted, it was overflowing with Greek and Roman stuff and little else (I was sick of Greek and Roman myths by then), but overall it was an enjoyable elective. A nice break from all the nose-grinding requirements.

  51. Second that last thought. The anti-Darwinists behind “intelligent design” have learned to use the language of science against science, eg arguing that it’s arbitrary to omit a creator as one of several possible scientific explanations.

  52. As a Pagan, I value evolutionary theory most because it addresses the many and mega or micro processes of CHANGE! 

  53. I don’t think anyone here is (actively) trying to mock their belief in unconventional ideas; the point is simply that it shouldn’t be taught in public school as they are religious, not scientific, ideas. It would be like you asking that reincarnation be taught in biology as part of the death process. It belongs elsewhere, not in a science curriculum.

  54. Apuleius, I do not *mock* “intelligent design.” I *fight* it, fight its inclusion in public school science classes, it or its idiot cousin, “teach the controversy.”

    I do so because it’s not a scientific theory. Once we posit an intelligent creator we lose the ability to make predictions based on the theory. And that’s what a theory must provide to be called scientific: Predictions that can be proved or disproved if the requisite evidence is collected. ID, by design, doesn’t meet that test.

    ID fans made predictions, that certain natural features such as the motility of mobile one-cells or the cascade of proteins that governs the clotting of blood, cannot be explained by evolution through natural selection. Real scientists did the IDiots the courtesy of checking this claim, and found natural-selection explanations in every case. ID has had its turn at bat and has struck out, about ten years ago. ID debates in state legislatures today are the result of politicians and preachers not having got the memo.

  55. I must wholeheartedly agree with Morrissey ,this joke isn’t funny anymore . Altho i believe more level heads will prevail and most if not all of these goofy laws will be overturned by SCOTUS.I still can’t believe this kind  of stuff is still being discussed and put forward in this day and time .I am going the paraphrase one of my favorite comedians , Loius Black . He carries a 2 million year old fossil in his pocket , when he comes across one of those ID folks he tosses it to them and says explain this . These people actualy believe the Flntstones cartoon was a documentary.Between the ID and Green dragon folks this stuff is truely laughable .      Kilm

  56. I don’t mock it because it is unconventional.  I mock it because it is demonstrably wrong.


    I think that Pagans should avoid mocking unconventional ideas just because they are, well, unconventional.

    In any other thread, this would be sage advice, but in the context of the topic, it really hasn’t much ground to stand on.  I don’t see a single person mocking Intelligent Design on the sole basis of unconventionality, even if their mockery is so vaguely-worded that it might seem as such.

    The ire that I.D. has justifiably earned in a majority of the pagan community is 1) it’s patently unscientific and thus has no place in school science courses funded by public moneys, and 2) it’s clearly a weasel-in for Christian indoctrination of youth.  In light of Item Two, I must say, I’m absolutely stupefied that you’re making this comment here, as usually every other thing out of your e-mouth is some sort of raving about (to put it in politest terms) the wrongness of Christianity in all its forms.  Seriously, Curt, sometimes you really stretch the news points to make it relevant to whatever unkind words you have for Christianity on that particular day —yet now you’re doing a 180° turn-around to apparently defend a Fundamentalist Christian demand for privilege by likening it to divination and reincarnation.  Why?

    Believe me, I wanted to play Devil’s Advocate on this thread just because I’m knowledgeable of certain mythology in my traditions that’s compatible with modern evolutionary theory, and so I can see how evolution can compliment my creation mythos.  Though I wouldn’t necessarily call that “Intelligent Design”, if only because I see the intelligence of the Theoi as something I can only brush up against, but not completely comprehend in this lifetime.  To call this resolution “intelligent” is to implicitly liken it to human intelligence, and that’s just not what’s going on, “omnipotent design” might be a better thing to call it, as it’s a word that implicitly puts this outside the realm of human intelligence into something far greater than mere mortals can full grasp onto.  And just because I can make that sort of resolution doesn’t mean that I agree with it being taught in schools, nor does it mean that I think that Fundamentalist Evangelical Young-Earth-Creationist Christians are anywhere near the same level I’m at on this subject.  TL; DR version:  There’s a BIG difference in my “unconventional beliefs” as a personal religious practise, shared in varying parts with others in my religious community, and the “unconventional beliefs” of those who not only lack the cognitive abilities to even attempt to resolve their theology with the mountains of scientific evidence staring them in the faces, but who dare to make their own flawed, literalistic theology into a requirement of state-school curriculum.

    It’s both bogus and sad that you’re defending them simply on grounds of “unconventionality”.

  58. I’m not sure what you mean by “incorporate modern scientific theory.”  I would say that every Pagan I know gives scientific theory and mythology their proper places.  I don’t know any Heathens who believe Chapter 1 of an Earth Science textbook should begin with “there was a void.  And then there was an ice floe with some salt sprinkled on it.  And then a big cow came along….” 

  59. The problems is not even that they hold unconventional ideas. It is that they are representing mythology as literal scientific truth, and not only is it wrong, it is demonstrably wrong, and dangerously wrong.
        No country which allows its populace to wallow in savage ignorance and scientific illiteracy will be able to compete in the new century. We are already rapidly falling behind. In terms of average student scores, Americans are as far behind the top performers like China as Albania is behind us. We produce relatively few new patents anymore. Increasingly more and more of the “big ideas” – are emerging Someplace Else.    The result of that, which we are already seeing, is that the younger generation is working twice as hard for half the standard of living as their parents had. If we don’t reverse that, in a big way, we are going to be a nation of minimum wage nobodies. Creationism isn’t the only factor in this of course, but it doesn’t help. They are pulling on the wrong side of the rope and they will drag us down with them. 

  60.  Hesiod’s Earth Science:

    “There was a void, we’ll call Her Khaos –and yes, Khaos is a Her, cos girls have cooties and stuff.  Somehow Eros, Gaia, and Tartaros happened.  Don’t ask me how, the Mousai neglected to tell me, just like how mortal women are all FMPPH’s.  Eventually, Nyx was born, and gave birth to all sorts of other entities….  Then other stuff happened.  War with Titans, Hekate’s still pretty cool, I guess, and then Aphrodite was born from a castration that fell in the sea, and this probably says something about how I feel about my mother…..”

    I’d go on, but now I can’t stop laughing.  I love Hesiod, but the man didn’t merely have issues, he had SUBSCRIPTIONS.

  61. I have the one with the triceratops pulling the plow. I teach biology at a community college, and keep wondering if it would be ok for me to wear it to class one day.

  62. I see only one battle:
    Reason and Reality versus Faith and Fantasy.
    Knowledge versus Ignorance.
    But it certainly does have a great many facets.
    How strange that ignorance should be so determined to persist.

  63.  Evolution is fact. Most people think this doesn’t mean there are no g-ds.
    Complex ideas don’t mean incompatible ones.

  64.  Besides, WHICH creation story? There’s so many it’s not funny.
    I like the short Irish one that a Deity made us out of clay because S/he got bored.
    And that one would take up less class time.

  65.   Teach the controversy! “Let’s eat Grandma.” is the same as “Let’s eat, Grandma.”
    That is controversial. Since it wasn’t “Let’s eat” it was “Lettuce eat.”

  66. But if I’m teaching science, it is not really then my job to tell them all about reincarnation.

  67. Thelema wants people for themselves to decide their truth, which can certainly include scientific theories. I think most are pagan.

  68. http://www.smbc-comics.com/?id=2376

    I believe this humor is salient to the topic at hand.

    But seriously, the problem with intelligent design as a “scientific” theory is that it is “not even wrong”. It can’t be disproved. Evolution can. Because a theory is a model to explain the information we have. If we discover other information (if, for example, complex lifeforms start spontaneously generating themselves), we have to formulate a new one. The value in a theory is 1)how well it matches the data and 2)how well it makes predictions. The theory of evolution does this very well.

    Sorry for scientific preaching, but I get upset when people misrepresent how science works. And I find that happening even here. Evolution isn’t a fact- the data used to formulate the theory of evolution are, however, facts. I think if people were better educated on these matters, we might never again hear the phrase “just a theory”, because we’d understand that there is no “just” in theory. “just a hypothesis”, now that is a statement that might have some validity in certain situations.

  69. ID and what it really is , Creationism can definitly by disproven by the fossil record . The 4k year time frame these people promote is rediculous , and easily proved false . Altho Evolution is technicaly a theory , the fossil record tends to back it up , and it’s commonly acepted by the scientiific community.ID is clearly an attempt by radical far right Christians to teach religion in our public schools . Tis not hard to understand who the Intelligent Designer is .I can’t dispute the fact both are theories , But ID is clearly religiously motivated , not at all scientific .ID is clearly thinly veiled Christian Radical Creationism .Tis even promoted by the same organisations , just renamed .Tis  just as absurd as taking the ACLJ serously, that too is a radical propaganda group.These people take the Bible literaly , it was never intented to be a factual work . The Bible is a book of parables and life leasons, not meant to be literal truth , ask a Jew , they will tell you .The Old Testament is actualy theirs  aka the Tora.    Kilm

  70. When criticizing something, it behooves us to represent it accurately. Intelligent design is not young earth creationism. It does not postulate a 4K time frame. Do many people who lobby for teaching intelligent design take the bible literally? Sure. However, many people who advocate for teaching of sound scientific theory are atheists, and this does not make the two the same thing.
    Intelligent design is not science, and it is not a theory in the scientific sense of the word. That is the problem with it being taught in science class. Claiming it can be proven wrong incorrectly gives it entirely too much scientific merit. A creator cannot be proven or disproven. A valid belief choice this may be, but scientific(or a theory) it is not.

  71. Some creationists are less overtly moronic and more sophisticated than others. Any way you slice it, ID is not a valid “alternative theory” because it is not science. If you have to resort to supernatural causes to explain a natural phenomenon, it ain’t science, and never will be. It can have a valid place as theology.
        To the extent it misrepresents itself as science, it can and has been proven wrong every time. Science does not purport to answer ultimate question of divine intent or existence of a god. ID likes to seize upon anatomical features, or anything in nature that is complex or uncertain and then asserts that its irreducibly complex and therefore it must have been handcrafted by God independently of evolution and therefore nothing is knowable and the Old Testament explains everything. 

  72. The IDiots did so about 13 years ago, during their last major push to get into public school curricula via state legislatures. Ohio was a target state and I was a small part of the resistance. They cleaned up ID as much as they could for a court case on the central point — Is it religion? — but a key ID document proved to have originally been a creationism document with a global replace of “creationism” by “intelligent design” in its text that left traces. ID lost the case (on a number of points, not just this), which I believe has been referenced in the discussion above.

    ID is itself a product of design, intended to craft a flavor of creationism that would fly under the radar of prior (as of 1999) SCOTUS decisions. Another failed silk purse from the irrepressible sow’s ear.

  73. If we’re trying to come up with a pagan tradition that is specifically rooted IN science, we might consider transhumanism and the variety of techno-pagans out there. TH is an interesting movement. It could be seen as hardcore humanist/atheistic in nature, but at the same time, it does have some interesting cross-currents with neo-gnostic philosophies, some of which figure into the modern forms of neo-paganism, or at least the esoteric movements like Theosophy which were part of that stew. In a sort of roundabout fashion, it is possible to say that there may be some offshoots of paganism where science itself is actually the theological foundation!

  74. Eh… not many. One, actually. It makes for a more interesting read than the more prosaic and likely explanations for things, but it sinks into the same hinky standards of evidence as conspiracy theorists everywhere. The absence of evidence is put forth as ironclad evidence itself. Don’t get me wrong, I love reading Fate magazine as much as the next person, and nothing is so crazy that it might not be true, but ancient aliens are more theory than science by far. 

  75. You’re right.  Once-upon-a-time, I would have made your comment, but I clearly have gotten too used to trying to explain to people that can’t understand certain nuances and technicalities.

  76. It’s hard for me to talk about Hesiod as a historical figure (as opposed to talking about his work) and not turn it into a caustic lampooning.  Serious, Hesiod’s got issues.

  77. Hi Ruadhán, I wrote my comment after taking a look at the “Teach the Controversy” t-shirts and graphics, many of which are targeted not at Christian fundamentalism, but at things like Hinduism, Astrology, Spiritualism, etc.

  78. Those shirts are on point insofar as one should not be teaching Hinduism, Astrology or Spiritualism in a science classroom any more than one should teach Christian mythology and present it as “science.”

  79. Right. Because there is a big problem with groups lobbying for the inclusion of Astrology classes as part of the public school science curriculum.

    For those who have studied it seriously (as Johannes Kepler, Isaac Newton, Robert Boyle, etc, did), Astrology is a coherent and rational field of study. A large number (probably the vast majority) of Pagans believe in some form of Astrology, and we should strongly object to any suggestion that it is irrational or in any way comparable to young earth creationism.

  80. Not that I agree with all of these, however:


    Also, claiming that astrology is rational and/or coherent is stretching those definitions past the limit of plausible suspension of disbelief.

  81. Astrology is not a science in the sense that biology, chemistry, physics, geology, etc. are sciences. Hence, it doesn’t belong in a science class.  That doesn’t mean it’s irrational or comparable to young earth creationism.  Astrology is an aesthetically pleasing, complex and coherent art form which can lead to some interesting insights into humanity.  But the same could be said of portrait painting — and it ain’t a science either.

    The point behind these shirts, which you obviously missed, is to present absurd examples in the hopes of showing the idiocy of including ID and other “controversies” in a science curriculum.  As you noticed, there is no influential lobby pushing for the inclusion of astrology in school curricula: neither is there a lobby pressing for Hindu accounts of creationism or for a chemistry based on the classical Five Elements of Greek philosophy.  Nobody is arguing that an oceanography class should explain how some people believe the seas are ruled by Poseidon, Agwe, Yemanja, etc.  The point of the metaphor is to show that Intelligent Design, like these examples, is more properly studied as mythology rather than hard science.

  82. a side yet related topic, A catholic priest, father lemaitre, astronomer and physicist contributed greatly to the formation of the ‘big bang’ theory, postulating the expansion of the universe a few years before Hubble verifed it and got the credit.

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