2005/01/14

Implicit recognition that agnosticism rewards the bad and punishs the good

I was surprised to read this article that my friend sent me because of the perceptive judge in this case. The Cobb County, Ga. Board of Education had put a sticker on textbooks in 2002 stating:
This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully and critically considered.
In declaring the stickers unconstitutional, U.S. District Judge Clarence Cooper gets close to naming the main issue:
His conclusion, he said, "is not that the school board should not have called evolution a theory or that the school board should have called evolution a fact."

"Rather, the distinction of evolution as a theory rather than a fact is the distinction that religiously motivated individuals have specifically asked school boards to make in the most recent anti-evolution movement, and that was exactly what parents in Cobb County did in this case," he wrote.

"By adopting this specific language, even if at the direction of counsel, the Cobb County School Board appears to have sided with these religiously motivated individuals."

The sticker, he said, sends "a message that the school board agrees with the beliefs of Christian fundamentalists and creationists."

"The school board has effectively improperly entangled itself with religion by appearing to take a position," Cooper wrote. "Therefore, the sticker must be removed from all of the textbooks into which it has been placed."
The more fundamental issue is hinted at by this sentence in the article:
The school system defended the warning stickers as a show of tolerance, not religious activism as some parents claimed.
"Tolerance," in this sense, is just another word for agnosticism: the idea that in a given category, any specific thing is just as good as any other. The worst part about agnosticism is that it lumps everything into a single evaluation; it gives the bad items an undeserved positive evaluation, and the good items are unjustly maligned or "smeared."

For example, what would happen if you decided to be "tolerant" of poison and decide that, for a given meal, it didn't make much difference if you sprinkled salt or cyanide on your mashed potatoes?

It's similar in this case. "Creatonism" has no chance if it is evaluated in accordance with the facts of reality. Its pushers realize that the strategy that they need is to say that there really is no difference between a scientific theory with mountains of backing evidence and a myth that is to be accepted in the absense of or in spite of evidence. They don't need schools to teach that "Creationism" is the only true version of history, they just need it to be given a false dignity by having it taught on an equal footing with valid science. This tells the students that they both are "taken on faith" and that both have "some evidence" for them, and that, ultimately, the student should pick whichever one they want to believe on a whim. Then they just use peer pressure to swing the students to the religious side.

Scientists' reactions are here.

For more on "Creationist" public school pushs, see Benjo Blog, here, here, here, and here.

Also, related humour here, here, here, here.

1 Comments:

At 9:45 PM, Blogger The General said...

Hey John,

Good entry. I too found the judge to be quite perceptive in this case, and agreed with his ruling. Thanks for all the links to my blog, and for obviously reading it.

 

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