Monday, 3 May 2010

No creationism means censorship?

I saw the headline today in the paper "School censorship danger" and my first thought was "What? Really?" Four words later and my thought was "my arse."

I haven't found an online copy of the article, but its in the today's Advertiser (3/5/10) on page 21 if you happen to be in a place with it. I'll try to find the (an?) online version.

Incidentally it's in "articles of faith". Technically it is the right place to put it, but the view put forward is wrong. Terribly terribly wrong.

Apparently the Association of Independent Schools who represent various types of schools, both secular and religious, are not happy about this ban.

This has been an issue that arose around last year when the Non-Government Schools Registration Board decided to ban the teaching of creationism and intelligent design in science class. The the pdf on their website is here and the relevant section is on page 4, under "Curriculum - Policy, guidelines and procedures (continued)" section B4:
The teaching of Science in relation to creationism and intelligent design

The Board requires the teaching of Science as an empirical discipline, focusing on inquiry, hypothesis, investigation, experimentation, observation and evidential analysis.

The Board does not accept as satisfactory a science curriculum in a non-government school which is based upon, espouses or reflects the literal interpretation of a religious text in its treatment of either creationism or intelligent design
It's really quite clear, you can't teach a religious view and call it "science". If you don't follow this guideline you may lose your registration.

Back in March (I seemed to miss this story though) it was reported by Lauren Zwaans (the same women who wrote this article) that independent schools are seeking legal advice because the government, who regulate all schools including independent schools, decided to actually regulate independent schools.

When the March article was published the Australian Christian Lobby SA/Vic chairman Rob Ward stated that such regulation would turn religious schools into "government schools with RE classes". Oh dear, how horrible. Can you imagine it, faith based schools being forced to teach the same things the government schools teach? Oh the humanity.

Today's article isn't any better, the executive director of AIS SA, Gary Le Duff stated that,
The overarching issue is where does regulation stop, it's not just about this debate.
Right. Clearly the problem is the Government telling independent schools, and remember this include non-religious schools as well, that they can't teach their kids shit and call it science.

He was also quoted as saying:
We have come to some arrangement where the schools communities can manage and govern their schools without excessive intrusion into the right of parents to have their children educated in a particular set of beliefs.
Which is irrelevant to the issue at hand. He also went on about "tolerance", which is also irrelevant. I'm starting to wonder whether the people who try and teach creationism in science classes here in Australia can actually grasp that. It's not about regulation or tolerance, it's about the science.

The Sydney Morning Herald picked up this story as well, with Stephen O'Doherty, the chief executive of Christian Schools Australia, telling us that they are banning the right to teach "biblical perspectives" in science classes.

Good. Seriously, it's a good thing that this is banned. Just like teaching from the perspective of the Koran, or the Vedas or the poetic edda, or even Dianetics. These are "perspectives" that aren't used in science, simply because they are simply rubbish. It doesn't help children understand evolution, in the same way as using these books to teach chemical principles or basic astronomy. Teaching it as true just confuses children, especially if you teach that your specific holy text is infallible.

The Advertiser's article also has a quote from Family First MP Dennis Hood, who said that it restricts parents wishes and that it's "dangerous ground" when you tell schools what they can and can't teach.

Well on parents wishes I think that they can go jump. One of the strengths of our school system is that the average parent doesn't determine the curriculum. The government employs competent individuals who determine what schools can and can't teach children. This ensures that we don't get situations here that we see in the US with creationists getting themselves elected to school boards and trying to force creationism into the curriculum.

And it's not "dangerous ground" at all. Year 12 topics are like that, there are a set number of choices in certain subjects that a school may choose to teach, but what they teach must come from those topics.

Yet we are supposed to see this as a bad thing? I guess it must be, since schools have to teach kids all of that dangerous actual science without being taught "Goddidit".

However, they are still allowed to teach creationism where it belongs, in RE.

7 comments:

Gerard Roberts said...

The Non-Government Schools Registration Board says:

"The teaching of Science in relation to creationism and intelligent design.

"The Board requires the teaching of Science as an empirical discipline, focusing on inquiry, hypothesis, investigation, experimentation, observation and evidential analysis.

"The Board does not accept as satisfactory a science curriculum in a non-government school which is based upon, espouses or reflects the literal interpretation of a religious text in its treatment of either creationism or intelligent design."

So the he Non-Government Schools Registration Board should not have a problem with Intelligent Design (ID) because ID is NOT based upon, nor does it espouse or reflect "the literal interpretation of a religious text."

As a layman, I found the New World Encyclopedia explanation quite helpful:

"Intelligent design (ID) is the view that it is possible to infer from empirical evidence that "certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection" [1] Intelligent design cannot be inferred from complexity alone, since complex patterns often happen by chance. ID focuses on just those sorts of complex patterns that in human experience are produced by a mind that conceives and executes a plan. According to adherents, intelligent design can be detected in the natural laws and structure of the cosmos; it also can be detected in at least some features of living things.

Greater clarity on the topic may be gained from a discussion of what ID is not considered to be by its leading theorists. Intelligent design generally is not defined the same as creationism, with proponents maintaining that ID relies on scientific evidence rather than on Scripture or religious doctrines. ID makes no claims about biblical chronology, and technically a person does not have to believe in God to infer intelligent design in nature. As a theory, ID also does not specify the identity or nature of the designer, so it is not the same as natural theology, which reasons from nature to the existence and attributes of God. ID does not claim that all species of living things were created in their present forms, and it does not claim to provide a complete account of the history of the universe or of living things.

ID also is not considered by its theorists to be an "argument from ignorance"; that is, intelligent design is not to be inferred simply on the basis that the cause of something is unknown (any more than a person accused of willful intent can be convicted without evidence). According to various adherents, ID does not claim that design must be optimal; something may be intelligently designed even if it is flawed (as are many objects made by humans).

ID may be considered to consist only of the minimal assertion that it is possible to infer from empirical evidence that some features of the natural world are best explained by an intelligent agent. It conflicts with views claiming that there is no real design in the cosmos (e.g., materialistic philosophy) or in living things (e.g., Darwinian evolution) or that design, though real, is undetectable (e.g., some forms of theistic evolution). Because of such conflicts, ID has generated considerable controversy."


Read the full article at Intelligent design. (2009, October 19). New World Encyclopedia. Retrieved 09:47, May 3, 2010 from http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Intelligent_design?oldid=945570.

Wildy said...

ID may not be based on the literal interpretation of a religious text but it is still not permitted because it does not meet the requirements in the first paragraph.

It was shown rather clearly in Kitzmiller v. Dover that ID is actually creationism with the religion stripped out of it, and the Wedge Document from DI also indicates that they wish to replace scientific methods with ones based on Christian views.

Gerard Roberts said...

Those who say "ID is actually creationism with the religion stripped out of it" are obviously winning the debate at this stage. I'm just saying that scientists should decide how evolution theory is taught in schools based on critical scientific evidence not some sacred dogma whether it be for or against Darwinism.

Fair dinkum ID proponents like the Discovery Institute oppose the mandatory inclusion of ID in school science curricula because it politicises the theory and “will hinder fair and open discussion of the merits of the theory among scholars and within the scientific community. Furthermore, most teachers at the present time do not know enough about intelligent design to teach about it accurately and objectively.”

The Discovery Institute opposed the Dover policy (mandating the availability of the reference book "Of Pandas and People" to students) from the start and urged the Dover school board to repeal it. [The truth about Kitzmiller v. Dover, http://www.discovery.org/scripts/viewDB/filesDB-download.php?command=download&id=1453]

Wildy said...

"I'm just saying that scientists should decide how evolution theory is taught in schools based on critical scientific evidence not some sacred dogma whether it be for or against Darwinism."

What does this even mean? Are you trying to say that we should just teach ID or Creationism just because it isn't evolution?

"Fair dinkum ID proponents like the Discovery Institute oppose the mandatory inclusion of ID in school science curricula because it politicises the theory and “will hinder fair and open discussion of the merits of the theory among scholars and within the scientific community. Furthermore, most teachers at the present time do not know enough about intelligent design to teach about it accurately and objectively.”"

Bahahahaha... What about the Wedge Document? Or their "Teach the controversy" campaign. DI want ID taught in classes. That's one of the goals of the organisation.

"The Discovery Institute opposed the Dover policy (mandating the availability of the reference book "Of Pandas and People" to students) from the start and urged the Dover school board to repeal it. [The truth about Kitzmiller v. Dover, http://www.discovery.org/scripts/viewDB/filesDB-download.php?command=download&id=1453]"

To be quite honest I don't trust that page at all.

DI contacted Buckinham after one of their people saw his comments in a newspaper. They sent him Icons of Evolution and they suggested that they call the Thomas Moore Law Center and many of their members were going to testify on behalf of the school board.

As far as I can tell DI were initially very happy to see Dover happen because they thought that they would win and it would open the door to teaching ID in schools. Then when ID was found to be creationism then they started backpedalling and attacking people like Judge Jones because they weren't happy with the result.

Caitlin said...

'Apparently the Association of Independent Schools who represent various types of schools, both secular and religious, are not happy about this ban.'

The AIS (Association of Independent Schools) is the board that made the decision to ban creationism. The Non-government Schools Registrations Board is run by the AIS, they are the board that decides if a school is running according to the AIS's protocol - if the school isn't and refuses to comply with the regulations they can be refused registration.
The faith-based schools disapproved of the decisions and caused quite a large debate within the media. Once the controversy began in early March 2010, the AIS sought legal advise concerning whether they had the power to restrict schools in this way. The article is saying that the AIS may not be able to impose this ban, not that they represent the schools and disapprove of the ban.

Wildy said...

Really Caitlin?

From what I understand the NGSRB is a government body, otherwise it would look rather strange to have the AIS complain that they banned themselves from teaching creationism.

Caitlin said...

Sorry - I did some research and I think you may be right. The AIS is just representing the faith-based schools.