Faith is Evolving, but Toward What?

February 11, 2011 | By | 3 Replies More

As Darwin Day approaches (February 12), it is obvious that times are changing. America may be getting ready to face the Enlightenment, only a few centuries after our founders tried to encapsulate its principles in our government.

On HuffPo, Paul Pardi recently wrote Religion is Evolving Before Our Eyes, about how American Fundamentalism and even Protestantism in general is suffering from ubiquitous communication. Few kids are exposed to only one point of view any more, so they are more likely to spot the discomforting inconsistencies of any given dogma. Small churches are closing their doors for lack of parishioners, and mega-churches pander to the basest prejudices just to pay the bills.

But on NPR, in the wake of Obama’s “Sputnik Moment” comment, Ursula Goodenough wrote It’s Time For A New Narrative; It’s Time For ‘Big History’ as a plea to create a more evocative narrative for science, to better win hearts to engage their minds. This is a real problem, as those best trained to understand an issue are rarely well equipped to explain it from the ground up. We need  Sagans and Tysons for every school district; those who can evoke the excitement of understanding the universe.

More and more people are turning away from their ancestral religions. Too many toward New Age woo, and some toward rationality. So the marketing arms of the churches work feverishly. They know that rational families tend to stay that way, but woo begets woo, and can be won back to the fold. They tirelessly try to pass laws to insert a religious wedge in science and history classes.

Several states currently have bills pending to make it harder to teach 19th and 20th century biology or geology by inserting stories from ancient texts that contradict every discovery of the last 200 years.

Here is a link with a list of current bills to establish anti-evolution state laws. Missouri, Kentucky, New Mexico, and other states all have at-risk public school syllabi. This may be a desperate last gasp of Fundamentalist anti-intellectualism. Or their fast grasp of schools could succeed, and leave America behind as other nations quickly accept the progressive mantle we are letting slide from our shoulders.

One could see this as the epic battle of the end times. But it is not the world ending, but an ancient and arguably obsolete world view. But the battle may be a messy one. The forces of ignorance are tireless and prolific. After all, an unreasoning populace is easier to lead.

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Category: American Culture, Communication, Current Events, Education, History, ignorance, Internet, Religion, Science

About the Author ()

A convoluted mind behind a curly face. A regular traveler, a science buff, and first generation American. Graying of hair, yet still verdant of mind. Lives in South St. Louis City. See his personal website for (too much) more.

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  1. TheThinkingMan says:

    From what I have read so far of the Senate Bills discussed, the language simply allows for more freedom of academic teaching and thought. Since when has that been seen as bad for education. Surely, many will try to use the bill as a benefit for teaching creationism in schools, but I truly don't think that is necessarily what they are meant for.

    Too many science teachers and school districts teach evolution in much the same way that religion is taught to young children. It is almost dogmatic in its delivery (I can remember my own biology teacher nearing religious ecstasy in her thoughts about Darwin and his theories). Though this is not true about all teachers, it is still very important to remember that Darwin's theory is just that: theory. Scientifically valid and constantly verified theory though it is. It is still only the framework by which so understand biological life in the universe SO FAR, and it by no means is the be all end all of understanding in that arena.

    The bills certainly do not call for NOT teaching evolution, but only that teachers can call out the STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES of specific scientific theories…which should be what they are doing ANYWAY. The bill only makes it so that they aren't then chastised by some in the scientific community for being too harsh on Darwinism, which, lets face it, has become a bit of a religion for many of these people as well…

  2. Dan Klarmann says:

    This round of "Academic Freedom" bills is equivalent to requiring teaching the strengths and weaknesses of the Round Earth theory (when the Bible clearly states that the world is flat), and the Diseases Are Caused By Parasites theory (when everyone knows they are caused by sin), and the Periodic Table theory (as opposed to the elements of Earth, Air, Fire, and Water known to be true into the 19th century), and all those other whacky ideas that scientists call "theories" that finally moved us forward from Aristotle's understanding of the world.

    These theories are not even as thoroughly proven as the theories of biological evolution and deep time, so maybe precious schoolroom time should be spent exploring their weaknesses.

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