Education

Teach Intelligent Design — No way! Teach the Bible — Sure, that’s okay.

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Did anyone happen to notice Time’s cover story for April 2? It seems there is a small movement to teach the Bible in public high schools as literature. Why, you ask would someone attempt to do something so silly? Isn’t this unconstitutional?

” “One can hardly respect the system of education that would leave the student wholly ignorant of the currents of religious thought that move the world society for … which he is being prepared,” Jackson wrote, and warned that putting all references to God off limits would leave public education “in shreds.” ” – Justice Robert Jackson, McCollum v. Board of Education, 1948

” “Nothing we have said here indicates that such study of the Bible or of religion, when presented objectively as part of a secular program of education, may not be effected consistently with the First Amendment…” ” – Justice Tom C. Clark, Abington Township School District v. Schempp, 1963

So it seems that, based on US Supreme Court precident, teaching the words of Holy Writ with a secular intent is completely kosher. Indeed, as the article goes on to suggest, one is at a significant disadvantage in understanding much of classic literature without first having at least a passing familiarity with the Bible. This sets it apart from other holy books such as the Koran as being foundational to Western Culture.

“The Bible so pervades Western culture… that it’s hard to call anyone educated who hasn’t at least given thought to its key passages.”

So why is all this of importance to Intelligent Design? Isn’t ID supposedly about following the data wherever it leads, even if it leads away from Darwin, naturalism and positivism? Absolutely. However, if it is indeed constitutional to teach the Bible for secular, cultural purposes in public high schools, it seems more than acceptable for academic researchers to pursue Intelligent Design research programs to similar secular purposes. Moreover, they should be able to pursue these research programs in good faith, without fear of reprisal. At least, that’s what Richard Sternberg thought.

22 Replies to “Teach Intelligent Design — No way! Teach the Bible — Sure, that’s okay.

  1. 1
    Phevans says:

    As an atheist, I think teaching the Bible in schools is essential, alongside teaching the Koran, the Vedas, and other major religious texts. Misunderstanding of one’s own and other’s religion is a major cause of strife in the world; the more we can understand about what others believe the better. The only problem is finding someone impartial to do the teaching (time for the atheists to step up to the plate here)

  2. 2
    Janice says:

    time for the atheists to step up to the plate here

    If you think being an atheist makes a person impartial enough to qualify him or her to teach the Bible as literature then I have a bridge I’d like to sell you.

  3. 3
    Acquiesce says:

    Phevans [1]

    “The only problem is finding someone impartial to do the teaching (time for the atheists to step up to the plate here)”

    Don’t u mean empiricists (or at least agnostics) rather than atheists? After all, atheists believe (without empirical evidence) that there is no god(s) a belief, that although might be correct, simply cannot be empirically demonstrated.

    Moreover, to be an intellectually fullfilled atheist you’re going to need a creation story of your own – and this just takes us back to the debate over gradualism (unless you believe complex systems just spontaneously generate?)

    Imho, get rid of all the religious and origins stuff and teach kids first aid and stuff that really matters when they get out into the real world.

  4. 4
    Smidlee says:

    “Imho, get rid of all the religious and origins stuff and teach kids first aid and stuff that really matters when they get out into the real world.”
    This is one reason I believe home schooling is better than public schools as a loving caring mother see religious and moral values just as important if not more important. It’s the small details a mother cares about where the rest of the world would care less.

  5. 5
    todd says:

    Smidlee, public schools are bad because they are required by law unless one has money or time to private or homeschool. They aren’t FREE. The burden to change a rotten curricula is years long and miles high. Parents empowered by consumer choice don’t have that problem, they just fire the bad school. School teachers empowered by consumer contract laws just fire bad families. Everyone who deserves to benefit, benefits.

  6. 6
    DaveScot says:

    I’ve always been in favor of this but as Phevans said there needs to be balance. Balance doesn’t require a separate class for every religious tome in the world. It should be a matter of making it elective, like foreign language courses, and teaching whatever finds sufficient enrollment. In my small high school decades ago three foreign languages were offered – French, Spanish, and Latin. I elected for two years each of Spanish and Latin. Third year Latin was not offered as there wasn’t sufficient enrollment but each of the others had 4 years available. I believe my 2nd year Latin class was the last year that was offered as enrollment was down to less than 10 students while the first year class still had 20. Studying religious texts as literature could be reasonably conducted in the same way. If the demand is there then teach it otherwise don’t. This might actually alarm some people who don’t want their children to have the option of studying the Koran or Talmud lest they start believing it. But unless and until these subjects become much less relevant in the world today they deserve to be elective courses of study just as much as Shakespeare’s theater (I took two years of the bard – one in high school and one in college but didn’t really appreciate it until I was much older).

  7. 7
    DanielJ says:

    Teaching the Bible as literature is what most colleges do. Most students who take classes on the Bible in college usually end up losing their faith. I think the only people that would want that done are non-Christians. If someone is a Christian, why would they want a class on the Bible taught by someone who possibly doesn’t understand it?

  8. 8
    Phevans says:

    The “step up to the plate” comment was very much tongue in cheek (as you could probably tell), but it makes more sense to me to have an atheist (or as Acquiesce mentioned, an agnostic) teach comparative religion than a follower of any one of the books being taught.

    Better to have them given fair and equal treatment (even if by someone who thinks they’re all mistaken) than by someone who thinks followers of the others are hell-bound infidels.

    I’m not going to respond to “why atheists don’t think there’s a God” or “atheists’ creation stories” here, it’s not the right thread.

  9. 9
    Joseph says:

    I went to a Catholic high school and we were taught many religions. Tsaoism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Islam and of course Christianty. It was mandatory. A Nun did the teaching and she didn’t hold back.

    Heck it was that class that I learned that Jesus was not born on Christmas day and the winter solstice was a pagan celebration.

    Reincarnation and karma were big topics. And I first learned of the aura- that is that the painted halo was the artist’s interpretation of the powerful aura that surrounded Jesus (for example).

    In college we made a Kirlian camera to “see” the aura. That is capture it on film.

  10. 10
    shaner74 says:

    “The “step up to the plate” comment was very much tongue in cheek (as you could probably tell), but it makes more sense to me to have an atheist (or as Acquiesce mentioned, an agnostic) teach comparative religion than a follower of any one of the books being taught.”

    I just don’t know who you could find to teach the stuff that wouldn’t be partial to one or the other (or none). An atheist is a terrible choice to teach it because: 1. They typically don’t know much about the religion in question (Richard Dawkins anyone?) 2. They’re opposed to the idea of God altogether, and I don’t think would be able to keep from slipping a few “sky daddy” comments into the mix, which would serve to discredit the holy book in question (at least in the students minds). It would be like having a YEC teach Origin of Species. I think if you’re going to do it at all, have a Christian teach Christianity, a Muslim teach Islam, and so on. The students would receive a much richer education because the Christian and Muslim are bound to know a lot more about their respective religions than any “secular” teacher.

  11. 11
    bork says:

    This is interesting… but i think futile.

    Problem here is that the bible is not taken as mere literature. Presented with a bias, or in a room with overzealous kids we could have some difficulties.

    An atheist may present as “this doesn’t make sense here and here” where as an overzealous christian may say “this is how this is reconciled”. Nothing is resolved in the manner. Young atheists and young christians may take it upon themselves to preach in class, and this could be devestating. A literalist and a dogmatic atheist would go round in circles for days if allowed. This could divide the class, and deter from class time. This is not something that can be prevented easily.

    I agree the bible has greatly affected our culture and is important, but the liklihood of misuse is too high. I’d rather not touch it at all in school, or see if there is a good plan to teach it. Atheists in my high school loved to be heard, just as much as the fundimentalists. Both were a scary group, but the atheists had a bit more fun 😛

  12. 12
    jaredl says:

    Why don’t we simply cease permitting state intervention in education, as it was in the beginning? Wouldn’t that solve all our problems?

  13. 13
    mike1962 says:

    phevans, “Misunderstanding of one’s own and other’s religion is a major cause of strife in the world”

    Teaching the Bible is a far cry from teaching “religion.” The Bible is used by a multitude of different “religions”, from Catholicism to Mormonism to Mooneyism. They are similar only on the face. Teaching the Bible as literature could never be the same as teaching “religion.”

  14. 14
    tribune7 says:

    I agree the bible has greatly affected our culture and is important, but the liklihood of misuse is too high.

    You can say that about any book.

    FWIW, just about every positive social movement in the U.S. was Biblically motivated (OK, Prohibition would be an exception) and every negative one was in opposition to it.

  15. 15
    A440Hz says:

    I’ve been mentally compiling a list of biblical quotes that are in common use. Some examples: “an eye for an eye,” “do unto others,” “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” The Byrds song “Turn, Turn, Turn” is from Ecclesiastes. There are numerous other quotes that I’m not really remembering at the moment…

    My point is that, in agreement with the OP, there is much of Western culture that is without context when the Bible is not part of one’s realm of knowledge. When most of the people who founded America were of some Christian persuasion (esp. Puritans), there’s inevitably a link between American history and the Bible.

    Jonathan Edwards taught at Yale; Harvard and Yale had divinity schools (that weren’t liberal by modern standards), etc. Even our nascent education system itself was tied into Christian belief and thus, the Bible. Reading [the Bible]: It’s Fundamental.

  16. 16
    jpark320 says:

    I’ve taken a Bible as lit class at Berkeley from a atheist (well non-Christian) Prof.

    It can be treated strictly as literature and the class really had nothing to do w/ Christianity, which made me kinda sad lol.

    I like the idea, but if you think you’re going to get any sound doctrine or theology from classes like this no way!

    Although I’m a die hard Evangelical, I wish I could’ve learned about other faiths too in high school instead of a whole bunch of other classes i took

  17. 17
    The Scubaredneck says:

    Folks,

    From the article:

     “Simply put, the Bible is the most influential book ever written…And Shakespeare would almost surely have agreed. According to one estimate, he alludes to Scripture some 1,300 times. As for the rest of literature, when your seventh-grader reads The Old Man and the Sea, a teacher could tick off the references to Christ’s Passion–the bleeding of the old man’s palms, his stumbles while carrying his mast over his shoulder, his hat cutting his head–but wouldn’t the thrill of recognition have been more satisfying on their/own?

    If literature doesn’t interest you, you also need the Bible to make sense of the ideas and rhetoric that have helped drive U.S. history. “The shining city on the hill”? That’s Puritan leader John Winthrop quoting Matthew to describe his settlement’s convenantal standing with God. In his Second Inaugural Address, Abraham Lincoln noted sadly that both sides in the Civil War “read the same Bible” to bolster their opposing claims. When Martin Luther King Jr. talked of “Justice rolling down like waters” in his “I Have a Dream” speech, he was consciously enlisting the Old Testament prophet Amos, who first spoke those words. The Bible provided the argot–and theological underpinnings–of women’s suffrage and prison-reform movements…”

    Neither the Koran nor the Vidas nor any other religious text can claim this. The point is not to teach the Bible and every other religious book qua religious books, the point is that the Bible is so influencial and foundational to Western Cultural that a person who is unfamiliar with it is only half literate, at best.

    Also from the article:

    “Justice Arthur Goldberg contributed a helpful distinction between “the teaching of religion” (bad) and “teaching about religion” (good). Citing these and subsequent cases, Marc Stern, general counsel for the American Jewish Congress, says, “It is beyond question that it is possible to teach a course about the Bible that is constitutional.” For over a decade, he says, any legal challenges to school Bible courses have focused not on the general principle but on whether the course in question was sufficiently neutral in its approach.”

    So the issue is not teaching Christianity or even Christian doctrine but merely teaching a book that is incontrovertibly significant to our history and culture.

    Heck, you can’t even watch Star Trek without Biblical allusion, and Gene Roddenbury was one of the arch-humanists of his day. Not only are the scripts from the series rife with Biblical allusions, let’s not forget Spock’s sacrificial death, burial and resurection to save his comrads (Star Trek II and III). 😉

  18. 18
    Fross says:

    yep, learning the Bible as literature is a must. There are so many references to it in our culture. My wife grew up without ever reading the Bible and before she met me, she couldn’t tell you the basic story about Jesus’s death on a cross. She’s constantly missing out on a lot of cultural references and I have a fun time explaining them to her.

    I wouldn’t trust public schools to do a good job of it though. Christian teachers would have to make darn sure they watched how they phrased everything in fear of looking like they’re pushing religion. Secular teachers would come under fire for not treating the Bible as a sacred text.

    Besides, public schools only teach to the tests nowadays. It’s really sad. 🙁 The school district my Dad taught in stopped teaching cursive because kids aren’t tested on it. (child left behind act and other state assessment tests)

  19. 19
    scordova says:

    Welcome The Scubaredneck,

    I realize this was about public schools, but on a related note at a state funded secular university, I pointed out the peculiar fact that it is acceptable to many Darwinists to proclaim Jesus as Lord at a Secular University, so long as Darwinism is protected. See: Francis Collins: “I greatly respect William Dembski…best wishes to Salvador Cordova and the IDEA club”

    I would not be surprised if the evolutionary community has been giving their whole-hearted blessings to such overtly Christian messages as long as Darwin’s theory is treated as fact. No kidding, I really think the AAAS, NCSE, and the evolutionary community are so desperate to fight ID they’d hire Christian pastors and Evangelists to spread the news that “Darwin loves you (and has a wonderful plan for your life)!”. Lest any one doubt my claim, see: NCSE faith project director. They would gladly concede a little ground to Christianity if it will keep Darwinism intact. I mean, look at the NCSE website and how much they try to promote themselves as Christ-friendly Darwinists of late. Eugenie gets her anti-ID book endorsed by a pastor. Remember, it was Eugenie who said that in the game of selling evolution, “One clergyman with a backward collar is worth two biologists”.

    Here is the irony. If someone from the Discovery Institute spoke, the talk would be characterized as an fundamentalist plot to spread the Christian faith. If a pro-Darwin scientist speaks about Jesus Christ, they are applauded for helping people of faith warm toward the “science” of Darwinism. Such speakers will be given a free-pass to share the Gospel.

    But at the public school level, notice, Christ is indirectly acceptable if it’s tied to a Darwin-friendly theology. See: Suit Claims UC Berkeley Evolution Web Site Endorses Religion.

  20. 20
    bork says:

    Maybe if they taught only some parts of the bible, as if some are off limits. (Song of Solomon in school, hehehe)

    I’d say Psalms, Ecclesiastes, and Proverbs would be great at a school. Alot of interesting conversations can be had without too much pro/anti religious context.

    Either way, looks like I should pick up a bible and read a bit more. Don’t want to be an uncultured dummy.

  21. 21
    late_model says:

    Van Biema notes in the article that the teacher in the story Jennifer Kendrick does a good job in presenting the curriculm and even adding to it (wait you can do that in a bible class but not science?) even though she is a conservative Protestant.

    Stephen Prothero acknowledges that “Bad courses will be taught. People will teach it as Sunday school. We’ll get a court to tell us what to do, and we’ll fix it.”

    It seems like there will be bumps in the road but could be taught by anyone as long as there is a solid curriculm .

  22. 22
    Mats says:

    Janice, naturally, atheists would not teach the Bible in a way that undermined their religious viewpoint. I would sugest that a Christian teaches the Bible, a Muslim teaches the Qur’an, and so on and so on.

    Like DanielJ said previously, why would people who don’t understand the Bible be given the previlege to teach it to others?
    Besides, I think it’s very hard to teach the Bible with “secular intent”. I mean, what do you do with passages like “Thus saith the Lord” ? And “This is the Word of the Lord” ?

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