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Evolution

Obnoxious and Rude? Definitely.

This month, the Freedom From Religion Foundation erected two new billboards in honor of Charles Darwin, one of them in Dover, Pennsylvania which is about 15 minutes away from where I live and where I grew up. Today, in our local paper, there was an opinion editorial by Larry Hicks, a regular contributor to the paper. In it, he accuses the FFRF of being a “gloating winner” and that by putting the billboard in Dover, they are being obnoxious and rude.

I responded via a letter to the editor and decided to post my letter here as well.

In the February 4th edition of The York Dispatch, Larry Hicks wrote a Viewpoint editorial concerning the newly erected “Praise Darwin” billboard in Dover. While I agree with Mr. Hicks that  both sides of the Evolution/Creationism(or Intelligent Design… same thing) debate tend to get a bit touchy about opposing views and freedom of speech, there are a number of common misconceptions perpetuated in his editorial that I would like to clarify.

First, the issue of “Evolution versus Creationism” is not a debate between Christians and atheists. It’s a debate between Creationists and Evolutionists. Framing it as a debate between Christians and atheists not only trivializes the issue by stereotyping each side, but it is inaccurate and dishonest. Not all those who accept the Theory of Evolution are atheists. Far from it (Biology professor Kenneth R. Miller, a key witness for the plaintiffs in the Dover trial, is a Roman Catholic). Nor are all those who do not accept it Christians. The sides consist of those who accept the scientific evidence with its resulting theory and those who do not.

In addition, though the “battle” was won in the Dover case (though not by the FFRF, which was not involved), it is absolutely not over, and the Creationism proponents have most assuredly not “accepted their loss” or “licked their wounds and moved on.” Since the Dover verdict, there have been multiple challenges throughout the country related to this exact issue, one just recently in Texas. The Creationist movement refuses to give up, instead continuing their attempts to corrupt the teaching of science by claiming that supernatural explanations should be placed on equal footing with exhaustively researched evidence.

So not letting “well enough alone” is an accusation that should be leveled against the Creationist movement. It is because they won’t “let well enough alone” that the scientific community has to continually spend an absurd amount of time defending science against the Creationists’ misinformation.

Though I agree with Mr. Hicks that the display of the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s billboard is a freedom of speech issue, the issue of Evolution versus Creationism in our classrooms is not. Nor is it an issue of separation of church and state. It is about education standards and intellectual honesty. Anyone who has followed this issue even passively has probably heard that the scientific community generally has no problems with Creationism being taught in schools in a philosophy class or a comparative religion class. It simply has no place in science class… because it is not science. That is the real issue.

I have no doubt that the Freedom From Religion Foundation chose Dover as one of the locations for their billboards because of the fame that Dover now has due to the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District trial. I’m sure it’s not personal. It’s not a matter of wanting to “rub salt in the wounds” of Christians in Dover. It’s a matter of effectiveness. Location. Location. Location.

Mr. Hicks says that placing the billboard in Dover is obnoxious and rude and that it has everything to do with respect. He says, “Isn’t that what the non-believers were accusing Dover Christians of five years ago? A lack of respect for their point of view.”

No. It wasn’t. Again Mr. Hicks perpetuates a common misconception. The “non-believers” were accusing the Dover school board of corrupting the science education of their children.

The Creationists continually peddle the idea that supernatural explanations are scientific.

And that is what’s obnoxious.

Bunk

I’ve been following the John Freshwater trial, mostly via the write-ups by Richard B. Hoppe over at The Panda’s Thumb, but also through following some other articles on the case. For those of you unfamiliar, John Freshwater is a 8th grade science teacher in Mount Vernon who is accused of teaching Creationism and burning crosses on students using a Tesla Coil. I’m a bit skeptical about the crosses after seeing pictures and reading about the trial, but the “teaching Creationism” accusation seems to be spot on based on the evidence so far. The trial isn’t over, though, so no jumping to conclusions.

What I found blog-worthy tonight was a writeup by Lee Duigon on The Chalcedon Foundation’s website. Mr. Duigon focuses mostly on the branding issue, which is fair since that is one of the accusations levied against Freshwater. He starts by showing some early reactions from a number of sources about the branding issue and they (as one would expect, sadly) over-react in a grand fashion based on little evidence. Assuming Mr. Duigon is disgusted by this type of “string him up” reaction, I share his disgust.

I don’t have all the facts of the case. Nobody does at this point and the case is still ongoing. However, based on Freshwater’s reputation, my guess would be that he’s a good guy and probably a good teacher and there isn’t really any kind of underhanded conspiracy that he’s heading up to delude students. I don’t agree with teaching creationism (or intelligent design… same thing) in a science class, but I doubt Freshwater is any kind of monster.

However, there is some side commentary in Mr. Duigon’s article that shows a lack of understanding about science and the scientific process.

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Hitchens Debates Boteach

Christopher Hitchens is great in this debate with Rabbi Boteach about the (non)existence of God. He argues his point while Boteach spends 98% of his time trying to discredit Hitchens and evolution rather than answering the questions or addressing the topic.