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Utah Senate Pans Unguided Origins

The Utah Senate passed a bill yesterday requiring teachers to tell students that there are several theories on the origin of life.

Read all about it.

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15 Responses to Utah Senate Pans Unguided Origins

  1. This one is bound for trouble. I smell a lawsuit.

  2. Well, it -is- true, there -are- multiple theories about the origin of life. There’s “RNA world hypothesis”, “Metabolism-first hypothesis”, and many others. I would be very surprised to learn that only one of them was being taught as the single correct theory. The thing is, that’s not what this bill is about. Once again, it’s about these legislators trying to set up their religion in schools.

  3. Religion is already set up in schools under the guise of unguided evolution. Science has not one single shred of empirical evidence to support the notion that evolution is an unguided, unplanned process. This affirmatively denies God which is something that is forbidden in science (science is agnostic) and is a clear violation of the establishment clause in that it discriminates against a religion. Government can neither promote nor demote religion. It must remain neutral on the subject.

  4. The theory of evolution does not deny God; it denies that God is necessary to explain evolution. That certainly is not forbidden in science, and is not a violation of the establishment clause.

    38 Nobel Laureates who sent a letter to the Kansas Board of Education beg to differ with you. They said

    “Logically derived from confirmable evidence, evolution is understood to be the result of an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection.”

    Consider this your first warning to do your homework before commenting here. You are now being moderated. -ds

  5. The science=religion argument just isn’t going to fly outside of the choir. It is undeniably true that some, possibly many scientists, especially those in the Academy,are atheists and to be an atheist requires faith. One can however be an atheist and still be a good scientist just as one can be a Christian and still be a good scientist. ET itself does not promote atheism. Science in general promotes a naturalistic worldview, but that does not at all necessarily rule out supernatural events. It just makes them unnecessary. It is difficult to argue that the preponderance of evidence suggests we live in a universe governed by natural law. We can not call someone unreasonable or atheistic for believing that. Its simply where the information points. We can choose to believe otherwise but those views are inherantly outside of science. That is my problem with putting religious ideas in science class. I’m not lumping ID in there, but the plan out of Utah seems to be doing just that.

  6. Typo: It is difficult to argue against the notion that the preponderance of evidence suggests we live in a universe governed by natural law.

  7. The Utah Legislature is reacting to real problems in some public school biology classes for kids.

    From the editorial
    “To listen to some senators in the Utah Legislature, schoolchildren are being indoctrinated in a strange religion. It is called science….”

    Kids often face either unchecked battering by RD Darwinists (Richard Dawkins Darwinists) or a subtle condescension from ES Darwinists (Eugenie Scott Darwinists) both of which are consciously or unconsciously, intelligently or unintelligently “designed” to undermine the faith parents teach their kids at home.

    SIDEBAR….
    Definitions of Darwinist types from Dr. Dembski’s article titled, “The Vise Strategy” at http://www.designinference.com.....rategy.pdf

    “The Richard Dawkins Darwinist (abbreviated RD Darwinist), is virulently against religion of any stripe and uses evolution as a club to beat religious believers. Richard Dawkins Darwinists despise religious belief and regard religious believers as having to check their brains at the door if they are want to maintain both their faith and evolutionary theory.”

    “The Eugenie Scott Darwinist (abbreviated ES Darwinist), is not religious in any traditional sense. In particular, this type of Darwinist does not think God does or can act in any way that makes a difference in the natural world. [The ES Darwinist condescends] to placate religious believers by assuring them that they can be good followers of their faith as well as good Darwinists.”
    END SIDEBAR….

    According to the Herald editorial, one of the Utah legislators, Sen. Curtis Bramble, suggests “…that the body of scientific ideas concerning the origin of life and the nature of humanity represents a religion of its own, unsupported by fact….”

    I think the Legislators are correct to recognize that there is a problem. The Herald editorial, of course, doesn’t think so, but on “theoretical” not empirical grounds:
    “…the public schools couldn’t discuss an actual theory of the origins of life if they wanted to. None seem to exist. The chemical composition of living things is well established, but what makes them come to life remains a mystery.”
    ….
    That’s part of the problem: this is exactly what the Senators are saying. But the Herald says there CAN’T be a problem because because there isn’t a theory of how life arises from non-life. Oh really? The Herald editors haven’t heard or read of evolutionist Fr. George Coyne’s theory at http://www.thetablet.co.uk/cgi.....blet-01063
    ….
    “Take one simple example: two hydrogen atoms meet in the early universe. …they become a hydrogen molecule. …they wander through the universe until they finally combine. …many hydrogen molecules are formed and eventually many of them combine with oxygen to make water, and so on, until we have…the human brain.” (Er, poof?)
    ….
    Fr. Coyne is an ES Darwinist: In this article, he actually was trying to reassure believers that it is OK to believe in God and believe in evolution. According to Fr. Coyne, this is how God did it! This is a kind of just-so story that Darwinists tell kids! It is a huge problem for parents and kids alike.

    Myself, I don’t see any problem with some sort of legislation like Utah S.B. 96 that orders the public schools to “stress that not all scientists agree on which theory regarding the origins of life … is correct.”

    Sen. Curtis Bramble went on to say, “In weighing unprovable concepts, why should our children be fed only secular views that are no more valid than faith?”

    The Herald, having completely missed the point, wants the Legislature to prove that there is some theory out there that suggests how life started: “We therefore invite our senators to elaborate on any of the genuine “theories” to which this bill refers….Please list in detail the scientific observations and measurements that support any, or all, of the theories to which your bill makes reference. We’re ready to be enlightened.”

    But the senators have already said there ISN’T a theory like that, just a lot of different ideas a lot of different scientists like Fr. Coyne have. They simply want schools to tell the kids this fact.

    For their bill to be a valid correction to an actual problem, the legislature need not show there are *any* theories, hypotheses or conjectures that *scientists* have or don’t have. No, they need only bring students to testify to what the students THINK they heard in biology class.

    My hope is that most biology teachers really are NOT rabid RD Darwinists or stealth ES Darwinists. My hope is that most of them really do respect the faiths of parents and kids. My belief is that biology teachers who respect kids would not be unwilling to “stress that not all scientists agree on which theory regarding the origins of life is correct.”

    If the other biology teachers don’t respect the kids, well, that’s the problem.

  8. I live in Utah. I have a B.S. in Biology and an M.D..
    Evolution has been an intermittently hot topic in this state in which I have participated for years (columns & letters to editor, message boards, etc.). This bill has heated it up again. An early version, proposed last year before the legislature went into session, as I recall, referred specifically to ID, (Sen Buttars wanted it taught) but was changed after the Dover case.

    Sen. Buttars & his allies has & is taking a lot of heat over this, much of it along religious lines. I attended a talk by historian & author Will Bagley last Monday night on a totally unrelated topic during which Bagley gratuitously said that “all scientists agree that Sen. Buttars is a low grade moron.” (Somewhat ironically, I had to correct Bagley on a fact specific to his topic.)

    There seems to be a feeling among the enlightened that because Sen. Buttars is a Mormon, he and those who agree with him do not understand science and seek to impose their religious beliefs in the schools. Of course this is one of the familiar “poisoning the well” tactics used often against those who would dare criticize Darwinian Dogma.

    I would like to provide the following link for anyone who may be of the opinion that Mormons tend to be ignorant-of-science backwoods types:
    http://www.angelfire.com/az2/saintsci/
    Utah produces, per capita, far more scientists than any other state, and has done so consisently for decades. Also, these scientists are disproportionately Mormon. And they do not all agree with the Darwinian paradigm (though admittedly a lot of them do).

    My personal opinion is that I would love to see provision made for an elective course in high schools entitled “An Overview and Analysis of the Leading Theories of the Origin and Development of Life” in which ID, Darwinism, Panspermia, and even Creationism could all get equal hearing and criticism. I predict it would be very popular.

  9. ftrp

    “ET itself does not promote atheism.”

    Understanding it to be an unguided, unplanned process, as the Wiesel 38 wrote for posterity to the Kansas BoE, certainly DOES promote atheism. Is there some part of unguided/unplanned that you don’t understand specifically excludes guidance/planning and specifically excluding guidance/planning specifically excludes a guider/planner?

    You’re treading on thin ice. Answer correctly or I’m tossing you out.

  10. dacook

    Not only does Utah produce far more than its fair share of scientists, it’s the reddest state in the Union. It’s redder than my beloved Texas even! What a magnificent state!

  11. I too am from Utah. The Utah Office of Education and other groups are threatening to sue because,

    “Even though the Buttars bill mentions neither intelligent design nor the Bible, some observers think it was motivated by religious concerns.”

    I pointed out in the Deseret Morning News forum that Isaac Newton attributed his religious beliefs as being the motivation for all his work. Does that make science class unconstitutional?

    Also, as I point out in my paper ( http://www.livejournal.com/users/ryguyjay )

    The Constitution itself was motivated by religious beliefs of our founders. Is it unconstitutional as well?

    St Patrick’s Day is celebrated in public schools, despite the obvious religious motives of St. Patrick.

    Thanksgiving is not only motivated by religion, it is officially designated as a day for offering thanks to Almighty God. Around the country, children are taught about Pilgrims and Natives sharing the harvest, which is part of the tradition, but the holiday is officially about God. Days of Thanksgiving to God had been proposed in Pilgrim days and Colonial days, but origins of this rich national tradition extend to 1776, soon after our nation’s independence had been declared, when Washington and his troops stopped and held a Thanksgiving near Valley Forge. Thanksgiving was first an official U.S. holiday when the first Congress, immediately after drafting the amendments, resolved to declare it. It was proposed by Elias Boudinot. The following is from the annals of Congress Sept. 25 1789:

    “Mr. Boudinot said, he could not think of letting the session pass over without offering an opportunity to all the citizens of the United States of joining, with one voice, in returning to Almighty God their sincere thanks for the many blessings he had poured down upon them.”

    Embracing the idea, Washington proclaimed, “It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the Providence of Almighty God” and officially assigned Nov. 26 “to be devoted by the people of these states to the service of that great and glorious being.”

    This was the first official proclamation of any U.S. President.

    From time to time, other days of Thanksgiving were celebrated, but it did not become an annual event until Abraham Lincoln set it apart as “a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens”.

    Then there is Thomas Jefferson, who coined the phrase “separation between Church and State.”
    The Supreme Court cited him as the authority because he wrote the Virginia Statue for Religious Freedom, which the Court regarded as the conceptual basis for the first amendment. Jefferson wanted most of all to be remembered for having written the statute, with special mention of it made on his gravestone.

    But the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom was not only motivated by religious belief, but Jefferson wrote his religious reasons for it into the law itself! The statute starts out:

    “Whereas Almighty God hath created the mind free; that all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments or burthens, or by civil incapacitations, tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness, and are a departure from the plan of the Holy author of our religion, who being Lord both of body and mind, yet chose not to propagate it by coercions on either, as it was in his Almighty power to do…”

    These religious ideas, which Jefferson put into law here, are still on the books in Virginia. Did Jefferson not understand his own idea of “separation between church and state” or is it more likely that his idea has been misunderstood by others?

    In consideration of all this information, the legal effort to suppress discussion of ID appears quite rude and even duplicitous.

  12. Ryan

    I’m in complete agreement with you that religious “motivation” should never enter into the equation in legal or gov’t related issues. The issue should be judged solely on its merits and that judgement should never be prejudiced by the faith of the author.

    In all the meeting rooms at Dell a sign was posted “Attack ideas, not the people who hold them.” That ought to be tatooed on the foreheads of all the federal judges who’ve ruled against something merely because of religious motivation while blithely ignoring the lack of religion in the actual item being judged. Do you hear me Judge Jones and Judge Cooper you unAmerican swine?!

  13. Dave,

    Thanks. Is it just me or do I have a good point about Newton? If it’s just me, don’t be shy about letting me know. I just find it to be analogous. Newton was motivated because he thought that by demonstrating order in the universe he would be evidencing God. As the years went by, people took the order of the universe as evidence that there is no need for a God, which is the opposite of what Newton was trying to show.

    Bottom line: if something can’t be discussed in school because it was motivated by religious beliefs, then Newton’s work is unconstitutional in the classroom. Is it not?

  14. Ryan

    I think the Newton analogy raises a good point for public understanding of the issues but it won’t help much in a courtroom. The basic problem is that a prior supreme court ruled that in deciding what’s permissable to teach in public the motivation of those wanting it taught bears on the constitutionality of it. That is simply wrongheaded. Ideas should be judged, not the people who hold them.

    For instance, say someone declares “We should teach children that murder is wrong because the bible says ‘Thou shalt not murder’.” Does that mean teaching the murder is wrong is unconstitutional? Of course not. The idea that murder is wrong should be judged apart from the personal motivation of the person who held out the idea.

    Attack ideas, not the people who hold them. The supreme court needs review the vaunted Lemon Test with this in mind.

  15. Thanks. I agree 100%. That is a problem, especially coming down from the high court. However I have a thought that I have never heard anyone express before and would be interested in your opinion.

    There is a legal protocol that dictates that something done in a legislative session must be considered in light of other things done in that same session. I don’t remember the name of it, but a legal expert would know and it is quite solid and established. Anyway, the first session of Congress drafted the amendments and also declared a day of Thanksgiving to God, for all citizens to have an opportunity to join voices together in Thanks to God. Therefore, the day of Thanksgiving must be considered alongside the amendments in the interpretation thereof. I don’t think this argument had been brought before the court during relevant proceedings and I don’t know if anyone has previously thought of applying it. You’d be surprised what people–even lawyers– don’t think of.

    The blatant religious motives behind declaring a day of Thanksgiving to God far overshadow the religious motives of a few who find ID to be in keeping with their belief that a God exists. One is a straight-forward proclamation of Deity while the other is locked in the privacy of a mind. Assuming I’m right about this, and I’m very sure on this one, what say ye?

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