Unfortunately, 90 years after the Scopes "Monkey Trial," we are still having the same debate. Many sincere people do not get it: academics are not all a bunch of "liberal atheists" out to destroy faith. Some think that things which are matters of faith such as creationism or "intelligent design" should be taught in the "hard" sciences as legitimate "alternative theories" — which they are not. These do not seem to understand the differences between true science, faith and philosophy.
In the Middle Ages, there were universities in Europe. "Scientific" subjects like medicine and astronomy were part of the curriculum but were not studied using the modern "scientific method". The universities were controlled by the Church and the Church had its models already constructed. These models were based not only on the Bible but on the writings of other Christian thinkers as well as Greco-Roman philosophers who had been made "honorary" Christians! Therefore, your data had to fit the Church's model including the idea that the sun orbited the earth (as Galileo found out when visited by the Inquisition). In modern science, you collect data and then create the model.
The scientific revolution of the 16th and 17th Centuries was not "anti-faith". In fact, these breakthroughs in science were, in large part, due to changes in thinking brought about by the Protestant Reformation. If you teach people to read the Scriptures for themselves, the logical conclusion is that people should think for themselves and reach their own conclusions. It is ironic that today, it is most often Protestants who criticize science but this really only began in with the Fundamentalist revivals of the early 20th Century.
Isaac Newton was a man of faith but also of science. He believed God governed the universe through demonstrable physical laws like gravity. If Newton were here today, he might say: "God may love you but if you jump off a building, guess what's going to happen?"
Some writers to The Sun claim that to teach evolution is tantamount to preaching atheism. They say "if you do not believe in the Bible literally, you must be an atheist." That is ridiculous since there are many who believe in both God and evolution. This is the official position of many denominations.
"Intelligent design" only emerged as an attempted end run around court decisions that teaching creation "science" was an unconstitutional intrusion of religion into taxpayer-funded schools. Science can only talk about what is observable, demonstrable, a verifiable. While God may exist, there is no way using the scientifically to verify His (or Her) existence in a laboratory. Thus, such a belief is a matter of faith or philosophy. The origins of the universe and life can be explained without God back to the "Big Bang". Before that it is a matter of faith or philosophy. An Army chaplain once told this writer (when confused by his own "doubts") that even the most religious person is to some degree, an "agnostic" because we are dealing with questions which cannot be empirically proven.
Does religion, religious scriptures, creation myths, or "intelligent design" belong in public schools and colleges? Of course they do. One cannot study history without understanding the role religion has played. One cannot discuss Western Civilization without understanding its Judeo-Christian roots. But, these should be taught in philosophy, humanities, social studies, and literature classes, not as "alternative theories" in biology or geology courses.
As for "intelligent design" this writer may believe there is an overall "plan" but cannot prove it. To use a non-religious analogy: while this writer may think there are intelligent civilizations elsewhere in the universe, he does not know of any "hard" evidence that extraterrestrials regularly visit and abduct people!
Finally there is a common myth that "liberal secularists" (with the collaboration of the U.S Supreme Court) have "banned God" from our public schools. What the courts actually said is that a public school teacher cannot preach a religious viewpoint. But, students retain their Constitutional right to "free exercise". Students are allowed to wear religious symbols, read religious texts, or pray on their own time. Of course, a math teacher may ask a student to close the Bible during math class and to open the math textbook!
(Scott Crafcraft is a citizen, a taxpayer, a veteran, and a resident of Gilford. He is not a theologian or a clergyman.)
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