Not about Religion?

by TFN

Creationists on the Texas State Board of Education have repeatedly insisted that their attempts to dumb down the science curriculum on evolution have nothing to do with promoting their religious beliefs. But often their own words and actions betray them.

At the end of the Jan. 21 public hearing on the science standards, board members were given the opportunity to choose a handful of speakers to close out testimony. Among those chosen by the board’s creationist bloc was one David Muralt, whose affiliation he listed simply as “self.” Muralt put the lie to creationists’ claims that they aren’t trying to promote religion in science classrooms. We have transcribed his testimony (from the 4:26:44 mark on the Full Board Part A 1/21 archived audio file), which includes:

Why do we persist teaching students the religion of atheistic humanism, under the guise of scientific, factual evolution? Which is neither scientific nor factual, when you only present one point of view.

Teaching students that they evolved and are nothing more than animals degrades their quality of life, and robs them of meaning and purpose for life. The twisted reasoning of humanism in seeking to exalt man, reduces him to an animal devoid of will and the ability to choose the virtuous. The fruits of this God-denying teaching are: lying, cheating, stealing, promiscuity, chemical abuse, suicide, crime of all sorts, and a reduction in academic achievement.

There is no factual scientific proof that functional complex life has arisen from disorder by chance. Who are you going to believe — God that was there, or men that weren’t?

Mr. Muralt’s testimony reveals two special conceits of the those behind the creationist movement. First, they believe they know more about science than all the trained scientists who have been studying and researching evolution for more than a century. Second, creationists like Mr. Muralt and his allies on the state board believe only themselves to be truly people of faith. In their eyes, those of us who support giving students a science education that’s based actually on science are atheistic humanists who reject God.

Such arrogance is as astonishing as it is insulting to all people of faith. Swept up in their blanket condemnation are, for example, the Roman Catholic Church, countless mainline Protestants and the majority of Jews. Of course, many other faiths also pose no conflict between science and belief in God. (And enough with the implicit smear that atheists are somehow to blame for “lying, cheating, stealing, promiscuity, chemical abuse, suicide, crime of all sorts.”)

This shouldn’t be surprising, of course. Recall what state board Chairman Don McLeroy, R-College Station, told congregants in a church lecture in July 2005. McLeroy was recounting the debate over proposed biology textbooks two years earlier. He noted that he was one of only “four really conservative, orthodox Christians on the board … who were willing to stand up to the textbooks and say that they don’t present the weaknesses of evolution.” So the other board members weren’t real Christians?

The Texas Freedom Network has always supported the right of families and congregations to pass on their own teachings about faith to their children. But science classes are for teaching science, not religion. No one has right to use public schools to promote their own religious beliefs over everybody else’s.

UPDATE: Dr. McLeroy has asked that we include an additional passage from his church lecture in 2005, in which he discussed what happened during the state board’s debate over biology textbooks in 2003. We are glad to do so here:

(W)e weren’t about to convince any scientists, but we couldn’t convince fellow board members that these books should have evidence. And the more I look back on it, I believe if we would have challenged the naturalistic assumptions that nature is all there is with our fellow board members and challenged these people that were talking about it a little bit that brought up testimony, possibly we would have gotten a few more votes because a lot of these dear friends of mine on the State Board of Education are good, strong Christians that are active in Young Life and other activities. But they were able to totally not even worry about the fact that evolution’s assumption that nature is all there is is in total conflict with the way they live their life.

We appreciate Dr. McLeroy’s interest in an honest and fair dialogue.

Dr. McLeroy’s passage acknowledges what is essentially a larger doctrinal dispute involving differing interpretations of scripture and theology. We believe, however, that public school science classes are not the place to settle doctrinal disputes and disagreements among people of faith.

UPDATED UPDATE: Please note again the passage from Dr. McLeroy’s lecture that we added after our original post. Dr. McLeroy makes it clear that he voted against new biology textbooks in 2003, and wanted his fellow board members to do so, because he believed that those textbooks contradicted his and their religious beliefs. After all, why else would it matter whether his fellow board members are “good, strong Christians” and that evolution (as he characterizes it) “is in total conflict with the way they live their life.” That is clearly not an argument based on science. It’s an argument based on faith and religious doctrine, and public school science classrooms are not the place for such a debate.