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Would Newton be allowed to teach science in public schools?

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Sir Isaac Newton once said,

“In the absence of any other proof, the thumb alone would convince me of God’s existence.”

The USA’s Founders required the Bill of Rights in the Constitution, including:

make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;

Yet now we have US Senators coercing government officials of establishing atheistic materialism in public education, by accusing Education Secretary Betsy DeVos of supporting Intelligent Design in schools.
See:Trump’s Pick for Education Secretary Refuses to Disavow Teaching Intelligent Design in Public Schools

Billionaire heiress Betsy DeVos is a champion of the school privatization movement. . . .
she refused to disavow the teaching of intelligent design in public schools. . . .
(Senator Sheldon) Whitehouse (D. RI) said to DeVos: “You and your husband have contributed to Thomas More Law Center, touting itself as the sword and shield of people of faith, which has repeatedly promoted fake science, even going so far as to represent the Dover Area School District of Pennsylvania in a lawsuit over the adoption of a biology textbook including intelligent design.” . . .
DeVos demurred. “I think it’s pretty clear that the expectation is that science is taught in public schools, and I support the teaching of great science, and especially science that allows students to exercise critical thinking and to really discover and examine in new ways,” she said. “And science is to be supported at all levels.”

Should we not uphold the scientific method with Open Science of allowing all hypotheses and testing them against objective evidence – And unalienable rights both to believe or not?

12 Replies to “Would Newton be allowed to teach science in public schools?

  1. 1
    Seversky says:

    Should we not uphold the scientific method with Open Science of allowing all hypotheses and testing them against objective evidence…?

    Yes, we should. Does that mean we should teach flat Earth against round Earth or astrology alongside astronomy in the science class?

    And unalienable rights both to believe or not?

    So you agree there is an “unalienable” right to not believe?

  2. 2
    bornagain77 says:


    How exactly did consciousness become a problem? by Margaret Wertheim – Dec. 1, 2015
    Excerpt: Heaven and Earth were two separate yet intertwined domains of human action. Medieval cosmology was thus inherently dualistic: the physical domain of the body had a parallel in the spiritual domain of the soul; and for medieval thinkers, the latter was the primary domain of the Real.,,,
    But perhaps most surprisingly, just when the ‘stream of consciousness’ was entering our lexicon, physicists began to realise that consciousness might after all be critical to their own descriptions of the world. With the advent of quantum mechanics they found that, in order to make sense of what their theories were saying about the subatomic world, they had to posit that the scientist-observer was actively involved in constructing reality.,,,
    Such a view appalled many physicists,,,
    Just this April, Nature Physics reported on a set of experiments showing a similar effect using helium atoms. Andrew Truscott, the Australian scientist who spearheaded the helium work, noted in Physics Today that ‘99.999 per cent of physicists would say that the measurement… brings the observable into reality’. In other words, human subjectivity is drawing forth the world.,,,
    Not all physicists are willing to go down this path, however, and there is indeed now a growing backlash against subjectivity.,,,
    when I was a physics student the MWI (Many Worlds Interpretation was widely seen as a fringe concept. Today, it is becoming mainstream, in large part because the pesky problem of consciousness simply hasn’t gone away.,,,

  3. 3
    rvb8 says:

    Newton was a rare genious, but also a mild crackpot, busily searching the Bible for hidden code, and suggesting God occasionally interferred with planetary motion, to explain the anomalies his theories could not explain.

    Suggesting this genious found the thumb incontrovertable proof of God, is nothing more than suggesting the flagellum is also incontrovertable proof. And then you could also include the, inexplicable immune system, the inexplicable blood clotting physiology, the inexplicable complexity of the brain, the inexplicable etc, etc.

    This approach to science actually explains nothing, it almost takes pride in its ignorance, because you reach a point at which the inexplicability can be placed in God’s lap and no further study be necessary; sorry, I call this lazy.

    The question, ‘Would Newton be Allowed to Teach Science in Public Schools?’ On a very very limited basis I would say yes. He would be strictly told to exclude mention of God, or any divine motivation, or causes. He would be restricted to pure optics and kinematics. He would be denied any right to any even obtuse referance to any sphere of investigation outside this purview.

    He would also be allowed to comment on contemporary England, its economic (he was a collector of Royal thithes as Harbour Master for a while, very lucrative), and social condition, and maybe its political health; he was an MP I belive.

  4. 4
    bornagain77 says:

    rvb8 as to:

    “suggesting God occasionally interferred with planetary motion, to explain the anomalies his theories could not explain.”

    So do you agree with Leibniz that Newton’s view of God was too low?

    Perhaps the most spectacular early success of Isaac Newton’s theory of gravitation was its natural explanation for Johannes Kepler’s observation that the planets orbit the sun in elliptical orbits. But upon further reflection, some nagging problems emerge. The perfect elliptical orbits are only valid for an isolated planet orbiting around the sun. Gravity works on all objects, and so the other planets perturb the motion of the Earth, potentially leading to its ejection from the solar system. This problem vexed Sir Isaac, who postulated that God occasionally “reformed” the planets, perhaps by sending through a comet with just the right trajectory.
    In a famous exchange of letters, cut short only by his death in 1716, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, took Sir Isaac to task for his view. He objected that:
    “if God had to remedy the defects of His creation, this was surely to demean his craftsmanship.”1
    And moreover that:
    “..when God works miracles, he does it not to meet the needs of nature but the needs of grace. Anyone who thinks differently must have a very mean notion of the wisdom and power of God.”2
    In other words, the regular sustaining activity of God, as evidenced by natural laws, should be sufficient to explain the regular behavior of the solar system, without the need for additional ad-hoc interventions. Making it right the first time is more glorious than having to fix it later. Moreover, when God deviates from his regular sustaining activity to perform miracles, he does so for soteriological reasons, not to repair nature.,,,
    1. 1. John Hedley Brooke, Science and Religion, CUP, Cambridge (1991), p147.
    2. From letter 1 point 4 (Nov 1715). The full correspondence can be found online.

    Of supplemental note to God getting it right the first time:

    Of Gaps, Fine-Tuning and Newton’s Solar System – Cornelius Hunter – July 2011
    Excerpt: The new results indicate that the solar system could become unstable if diminutive Mercury, the inner most planet, enters into a dance with Jupiter, the fifth planet from the Sun and the largest of all. The resulting upheaval could leave several planets in rubble, including our own. Using Newton’s model of gravity, the chances of such a catastrophe were estimated to be greater than 50/50 over the next 5 billion years. But interestingly, accounting for Albert Einstein’s minor adjustments (according to his theory of relativity), reduces the chances to just 1%.

    “You might also think that these disparate bodies are scattered across the solar system without rhyme or reason. But move any piece of the solar system today, or try to add anything more, and the whole construction would be thrown fatally out of kilter. So how exactly did this delicate architecture come to be?”
    R. Webb – Unknown solar system 1: How was the solar system built? – New Scientist – 2009

    Is the Solar System Stable? By Scott Tremaine – 2011
    Excerpt: So what are the results? Most of the calculations agree that eight billion years from now, just before the Sun swallows the inner planets and incinerates the outer ones, all of the planets will still be in orbits very similar to their present ones. In this limited sense, the solar system is stable. However, a closer look at the orbit histories reveals that the story is more nuanced. After a few tens of millions of years, calculations using slightly different parameters (e.g., different planetary masses or initial positions within the small ranges allowed by current observations) or different numerical algorithms begin to diverge at an alarming rate. More precisely, the growth of small differences changes from linear to exponential:,,,
    As an example, shifting your pencil from one side of your desk to the other today could change the gravitational forces on Jupiter enough to shift its position from one side of the Sun to the other a billion years from now. The unpredictability of the solar system over very long times is of course ironic since this was the prototypical system that inspired Laplacian determinism.
    Fortunately, most of this unpredictability is in the orbital phases of the planets, not the shapes and sizes of their orbits, so the chaotic nature of the solar system does not normally lead to collisions between planets. However, the presence of chaos implies that we can only study the long-term fate of the solar system in a statistical sense, by launching in our computers an armada of solar systems with slightly different parameters at the present time—typically, each planet is shifted by a random amount of about a millimeter—and following their evolution. When this is done, it turns out that in about 1 percent of these systems, Mercury’s orbit becomes sufficiently eccentric so that it collides with Venus before the death of the Sun. Thus, the answer to the question of the stability of the solar system—more precisely, will all the planets survive until the death of the Sun—is neither “yes” nor “no” but “yes, with 99 percent probability.”

    Milankovitch Cycle Design – Hugh Ross – August 2011
    Excerpt: In all three cases, Waltham proved that the actual Earth/Moon/solar system manifests unusually low Milankovitch levels and frequencies compared to similar alternative systems. ,,, Waltham concluded, “It therefore appears that there has been anthropic selection for slow Milankovitch cycles.” That is, it appears Earth was purposely designed with slow, low-level Milankovitch cycles so as to allow humans to exist and thrive.

    Excerpt: Evidence from self-consistent solar system n-body simulations is presented to argue that the Earth- Moon system (EM) plays an important dynamical role in the inner solar system, stabilizing the orbits of Venus and Mercury by suppressing a strong secular resonance of period 8.1 Myr near Venus’s heliocentric distance. The EM thus appears to play a kind of “gravitational keystone” role in the terrestrial precinct, for without it, the orbits of Venus and Mercury become immediately destabilized. … First, we find that EM is performing an essential dynamical role by suppressing or “damping out” a secular resonance driven by the giant planets near the Venusian heliocentric distance. The source of the resonance is a libration of the Jovian longitude of perihelion with the Venusian perihelion longitude.


    Isaiah 45:18-19
    For thus says the Lord, who created the heavens, who is God, who formed the earth and made it, who established it, who did not create it in vain, who formed it to be inhabited: “I am the Lord, and there is no other. I have not spoken in secret, in a dark place of the earth; I did not say to the seed of Jacob, ‘seek me in vain’; I, the Lord speak righteousness, I declare things that are right.”

  5. 5
    Seversky says:

    Yes, of course Newton could teach science, so could any other believer, as long as all they taught was the science, not their beliefs.

  6. 6
    polistra says:

    An article in Christianity Today summarizes polls and data about pastors. Demographic changes, why they enter and why they leave, etc.

    This paragraph caught my attention:

    “Also, more Americans—particularly in evangelical and black Protestant congregations—enter the pastorate as a second career. They switch from a range of former career fields, with law, botany, physical therapy, public affairs, and music education ranking as most popular (and somewhat unusual) pathways to the pulpit, according to the State of Pastors results.”

    Law, PT, public affairs and music teaching make sense in terms of applying an existing skill set. Botany stands out as a complete shift of skills. Studying nature close-up leads to a desire to teach people about the source of nature. But why only botany? Why not biology? Maybe the culture and bias toward evolution is less powerful in academic botany, leaving more room for open thought?

  7. 7
    Marfin says:

    Seversky- life arising from not life, a universe arising from a singularity,RM and NS producing the great wealth of diversity we see in life today, these things are all beliefs, so why are these beliefs allowed to be taught in schools.
    Maybe these are not beliefs and you have the evidence to prove these beyond a reasonable doubt , I await the evidence.

  8. 8
    Phinehas says:

    I heard something about a March for Science in Austin. Does anyone know what that is about?

    More on topic, I wonder how many science textbooks have this quote from George Gaylord Simpson:

    “Man is the result of a purposeless and materialistic process that did not have him in mind.”

    Compare the above quote to the following:

    “Man is the result of a purposeful process that did have him in mind.”

    How can the former be more scientific or less religious than the latter?

    Was Simpson teaching science, not his beliefs?

  9. 9
    Seversky says:

    Marfin @ 7

    Seversky- life arising from not life, a universe arising from a singularity,RM and NS producing the great wealth of diversity we see in life today, these things are all beliefs, so why are these beliefs allowed to be taught in schools.
    Maybe these are not beliefs and you have the evidence to prove these beyond a reasonable doubt , I await the evidence.

    There are beliefs and there are beliefs. There are those that are well-founded, those that are unfounded and a whole spectrum in between. Science strives for well-founded beliefs or explanations and should be honest enough to not pretend to a higher degree of confidence that is warranted.

    I would hope that abiogenesis is not being taught in high school science classes as anything more than a possibility that is under investigation but which is far from being a well-established theory.

    The Big Bang theory in cosmology is a much stronger inference based on the available evidence from physics and astronomy.

    I would also hope that students are being taught that evolutionary theory is now a lot more than just RM+NS and is based on multiple lines of evidence from paleontology, geology, genetics, molecular biology, botany etc.

    None of them should be claimed to be absolute, complete and incontrovertible Truth but they are a lot more than just wild guesses.

  10. 10
    EvilSnack says:

    If God had to remedy the defects of His creation, this was surely to demean his craftsmanship.

    But there is one defect in creation which God did remedy: Our sin, remedied by His death on the cross.

  11. 11
    Querius says:

    Phinehas @ 8,

    Excellent point!

    I would add that Science is a rigorous method of study and experimentation. It is emphatically not a collection of immutable knowledge.

    Unfortunately, many people in various fields have become personally attached to their theories and ideas, defending them with unshakable tenacity alone. As Max Planck once famously wrote . . .

    A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.

    It was apparent to Dr. Planck that many people in scientific fields are as opinionated and close-minded as the most dogmatic of priests.


  12. 12
    Marfin says:

    Seversky- Seriously do you think that in the average classroom that students are being taught anything but abiogenesis when it comes to the origin of life.Do you think for a moment that the text books say that up to this point it has been shown that it is so improbable as to be realistically impossible that life could have arisen by chance from non living materials and the science does not support abiogenesis.You may say the science supports it but man has using the best minds, the best equipment, and vast sums of money have shown it cannot be done , but the text books say chance probably did it.So is aboigenesis a belief or well supported science .
    I said RM/NS are the mechanism as to how we got the great diversity of life , the other things you mentioned are not mechanism for evolution.Jerry Coyne in why evolution is true stated that ” the raw materials for evolutionary change come from RM , THATS ALL THE RAW MATERIALS” , so if RM can be shown not to produce these raw materials then evolution has nowhere to go as it has no raw materials to use to evolve with . So please show me how RM produces these raw materials as the millions of RM expiraments done in countless science labs around the world have never produced and NEW raw material to work with , fruit flies being a case in point.Now do you think these things are taught in classrooms. I think not.Beliefs are being taught, not the facts, the beliefs of materialist scientists, orthodoxy is being taught because if the teacher drift away from the orthodoxy of the text book they can get in serious trouble.
    Students are not encouraged to question evolution , big bang or all the other orthodoxy buy they should be as a quick google search will show you that these thing are being questioned in the real scientific world.

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