Creationists Whining About “Censorship”
Posted by mattusmaximus on December 1, 2011
You may have already seen it: the video of would-be Republican presidential candidate Michelle Bachmann commenting that not teaching creationism (or, “intelligent design”, as she calls it) in public school science classes is “government censorship.” Check it out…
Wow, there are so many things wrong with what she’s saying, it’s hard to know where to begin. While these arguments from creationists are nothing new, I’ll just hit some of the high points:
1. The “Teach All Views” Argument: I think this one bugs me more than any others, because it is a disingenuous attempt to play off the American sense of fairness. “Just teach all the theories” says Bachmann, but she makes a very interesting omission – what she omits in her argument is that creationists don’t actually want “all ideas on the table” as she states. What they really want is to insert their very narrow religious ideology (typically, the view of young-Earth creationism) into public school science classes.
If Bachmann and her ilk were really genuine in their argument, then they would have no problem with “equal time” for a large variety of creationist ideas: old-Earth creationism, day-age creationism, gap creationism, flat Earth creationism, geocentrism, Islamic creationism, various Native-American creation myths, Scientology, and even Raelianism. I especially like proposing “equal time” for Raelianism under Bachmann’s plan, because the Raelians are an atheistic UFO-cult which believes that humans were not created by God but aliens. You have to wonder how willing Bachmann and her pals would be to give “equal time” to the Raelians!
So, I say to Bachmann: go for it, but if you really mean “teach all views” then be prepared to open the door to every kind of creationist idea out there. And perhaps after all views have been equally represented, the science teachers in U.S. public schools just might have a couple of weeks at the end of the school year to teach actual science. Who cares if our students will be effectively scientifically illiterate and we start to have massive brain-drain as compared to China and India? At least we can all feel warm and fuzzy inside knowing that we “taught all views”. Gee whiz, thanks Ms. Bachmann!!!
2. The Whiny “Censorship” Argument: here again we have another facepalm moment. These creationists actually believe, or they try to make us believe, that just because the U.S. government doesn’t give their particular set of religious beliefs some kind of priviledged status in public schools that it means they are being “censored.” Purre rubbish, plain and simple. For one thing, there is this little thing in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which is called the separation of church and state. It basically means, in this particular context, that the public schools don’t get into the business of favoring one particular religion over another – that is, the government remains neutral on the question of the “correctness” of various religious beliefs in the public school classroom.
And that means specifically not giving any previledged status to a particular religious view in schools. So while it would be appropriate to have a class on, say, comparative religion where the topic of creationism is studied, it wouldn’t be appropriate to insert those views into a science class since that crosses the boundary between science and religion. Religious ideas are taught in religion class, and science is taught in science class!
3. “Scientists don’t agree on the origins of life”: while this is technically true, because the subject of abiogenesis (the study of life’s origins) is a subject of much discussion in the scientific community, Bachmann plays fast and loose with the facts by erroneously equating abiogenesis with the well understood and accepted theory of evolution. These are not the same thing, and it is a common tactic of creationists to equate the two in an effort to give the sense that the scientific community doesn’t support evolution. That’s just plain wrong, because – as these statistics point out – evolution is well-established in the scientific community.
4. Evolution is “just a theory”: this is another tried and true argument used by creationists to denegrate evolution. They try to make it sound like a “theory” in scientific terms is equivalent to a hunch or a guess, but this is incorrect. In science, a theory is a well-established and tested set of ideas that ties together a large set of observations and evidence into a coherent explanatory framework. An analogy in physics would be to talk about the theory of gravity – would Bachmann or her creationist ilk try to seriously argue that gravity is “just a theory”?
If so, I invite her and anyone who agrees with her to take a dive off the nearest tall building without a parachute :)
I jest, of course, but in my jest there is a note of seriousness: if these creationists truly believe that evolution is “just a theory” (that is, a guess) then why do so many of them continue to use modern vaccines and antibiotics which are made as a direct result of the application of evolutionary theory? If we didn’t understand evolution, we simply wouldn’t have those medicines. So to avoid being labeled as hypocrites, I think creationists need to at least acknowledge that evolution is more than just a simple guess.
But I won’t hold my breath. One thing’s for sure: creationists certainly are persistent, and as long as they’re up to their shenanigans we have to be equally vigilant.