McLeroy on Science and the Supernatural

by TFN

As the Texas State Board of Education nears a final vote on new public school science curriculum standards, board chairman Don McLeroy, R-Bryan, is arguing once again that science classes should include supernatural explanations. In a new op-ed from the Austin American-Statesman, McLeroy — a creationist who believes Earth is less than 10,000 years old — writes that the proposed science standards up for a final vote this week include a definition of science that he likes:

Using new wording from the National Academy of Sciences, Texas’ standards define science as “the use of evidence to construct testable explanations and predictions of natural phenomenon as well as the knowledge generated through this process.”

This definition replaces the academy’s 1999 language that was very controversial; it stated that science was “to provide plausible natural explanations for natural phenomena.” The change from “natural explanations” to “testable explanations” is very significant. The old definition was inferior in that it undermined both the philosophy of the naturalist and the supernaturalist. By circular reasoning, the naturalist was prevented from using science to prove that “nature is all there is,” and the supernaturalist was prevented from offering supernatural hypotheses. With the new definition, both the naturalist and the supernaturalist are free to make “testable” explanations. The debate can now shift from “Is it science?” to “Is it testable?”

We have to ask: how could supernatural explanations ever be testable? If any result of any test can be explained by “God did it,” then what honest test is possible? In fact, there’s no way to prove or disprove such an explanation. That’s because it’s based on faith, not science. It’s clearly a problem when the chairman of the state board of education can’t understand that distinction.

We’ll say it again: public schools should teach science in science classes, and matters of faith should be left to families and congregations. Public schools simply shouldn’t be deciding whose religious beliefs to teach in their science classrooms.

Chairman McLeroy also despairs about the “culture war” over evolution — and then he engages in culture warfare himself.

The controversy exists because evolutionists, led by academia’s far-left, along with the secular elite opinion-makers, have decreed that questioning of evolution is not allowed, that it is only an attempt to inject religion or creationism into the classroom.

See? It’s the radical secular leftists (but this isn’t about religion, right?) who are causing the problem, not evolution deniers who are trying to use public school science classes to promote their own religious views over everybody else’s.

Then he hopes people have short memories:

Even Texas’ 20-year-old requirement to teach the scientific strengths and weaknesses of hypotheses and theories has come under attack. Words that were uncontroversial and perfectly acceptable for nearly two decades are now considered “code words” for intelligent design and are deemed unscientific. The elite fear that “unscientific” weaknesses of evolution will be inserted into the textbooks, leaving students without a good science education and unprepared for the future, compelling businesses to shun “illiterate” Texas.

Well, we don’t have short memories The chairman should know himself just how controversial the “strengths and weaknesses” language has been over the years. He was one of four creationists who tried to derail the adoption of new biology textbooks in 2003 because the books didn’t include phony “weaknesses” of evolution. The creationist faction lost that vote, but Chairman McLeroy and his board allies think they will have the votes to prevail when publishers submit new biology textbooks in 2011.

You can read Chairman McLeroy’s whole column here.