Egnor Fisked: Le Vrai - Fundamentalism in Science Education?

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First, I actually agree with Egnor that “Creationism” and “Intelligent design” are ostensibly different things; however, the history behind the Intelligent Design movement puts the lie to the prima facie difference between the two.

So for Egnor to claim that “Intelligent design isn’t a religious belief” is the height of disingenuousness; an accusation he himself levels at Pigliucci.

Egnor made much of the fact that Pigliucci cited a survey result that showed that people with more education were less likely to agree with the statement that “heaven is a physical place”. While Egnor may still believe that Heaven is hiding above the firmament and that Hell is in the depths of the earth, it seems rather ignorant to claim that Heaven is a physical place rather than a spiritual place. In response Egnor exclaimed “Why is Dr. Pigliucci surprised that most people, even well-educated people, believe in Heaven?”, it is clear that the question was about Heaven as a real (physical) place. But Pigliucci’s argument was simply that “In fact, the connection between education (science education in particular) and belief in paranormal phenomena or explanations is an empirical matter”.

Now I understand that not too many people take the musings of Egnor too seriously but I do enjoy a good fisking. Saves me a lot of hard work. For those interested in the excellent and thought provoking essay by Pigliucci, it can be found here. Critical thinking can prevent scientifically vacuous concepts like Intelligent Design and other forms of Creationism from violating St Augustine’s position on science, a position I believe us Christians should take seriously.

Saint Augustine (A.D. 354-430) in his work The Literal Meaning of Genesis (De Genesi ad litteram libri duodecim) provided excellent advice for all Christians who are faced with the task of interpreting Scripture in the light of scientific knowledge. This translation is by J. H. Taylor in Ancient Christian Writers, Newman Press, 1982, volume 41.

Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he hold to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods and on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason? Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion. [1 Timothy 1.7]

As Christian, interested in solid science education, we should embrace Pigliucci’s proposals. It’s the Christian thing to do and makes for solid science education. But Pigliucci’s proposals make for good science no matter our philosophical backgrounds.

Methodological naturalism is no enemy of Christian faith and when Egnor ‘argues’ that “In point of fact, Dr. Pigliucci proposes to teach students philosophical naturalism veiled in scientific naturalism.” he is, in typical Intelligent Design fashion, confusing the concept of methodological naturalism with philosophical naturalism. Egnor’s response however does show that ‘teach the controversy’ has nothing to do with improving science education or improving the critical thinking skills of our children.

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Nearly fifty years ago now, in 1960, I was taught that Heaven (and Hell) was a state of being, not some physical location. I was in sixth grade, and the people who taught me that were Catholic nuns at St. Patrick’s elementary school in Toledo, OH.

Perhaps Dr. Egnor needs to review his catechism.

fusilier James 2:24

Heaven is over at my girlfriend’s place, at least when the cats are behaving themselves.

John Dos Passos once had an argument with his editor over whether to capitalize “Hell.” Dos Passos, advocating capitalization, insisted that: “Hell is a real place, like Scarsdale.” I don’t know who won the argument.

I don’t understand, are you saying the only problem with making blatantly false statements is because it drives away potential converts? In my opinion the problem with making false statements is that they are false. But by the perspective in that passage it should be okay to make false statements as long as they are not so clearly false that they drive people away from the religion. That is exactly what the IDers and other creationists do, make statements that seem plausible for the purpose of promoting their religious beliefs. From my reading of that passage it does not sound like St. Augustine would have a problem with that. Not once in that passage does he seem to have any fundamental problem with making false statements. All he talk about, so I would assume all he cares about, is the practical impact on his religion. So it would seem something that helps promote the religion, even if wrong, would be a good thing to him. If he thought making false statements were wrong because they were false then you would expect he would mention that at least briefly.

TheBlackCat:

I don’t understand, are you saying the only problem with making blatantly false statements is because it drives away potential converts? In my opinion the problem with making false statements is that they are false. But by the perspective in that passage it should be okay to make false statements as long as they are not so clearly false that they drive people away from the religion. That is exactly what the IDers and other creationists do, make statements that seem plausible for the purpose of promoting their religious beliefs. From my reading of that passage it does not sound like St. Augustine would have a problem with that. Not once in that passage does he seem to have any fundamental problem with making false statements. All he talk about, so I would assume all he cares about, is the practical impact on his religion. So it would seem something that helps promote the religion, even if wrong, would be a good thing to him. If he thought making false statements were wrong because they were false then you would expect he would mention that at least briefly.

That’s a lot to assume from just a single quoted paragraph, don’t you think?

If one were to interpret the Bible literally or figurtively, it is abundantly clear that the future home of humanity is not a new Heaven, but a New Earth. Sadly, this is often forgotten in modern Christianity, to the detriment of the environment, fostering a lack of care for the planet.

Christianity has also had an overwhelming and consistent message that the afterlife has a physical body, and is not merely spiritual. This fit with the idea that our home, according to Christianity, is the New Earth. Therefore, there is no reason to conceive of Heaven as a physical place- it is the abode of God, who is Spirit.

(To avoid flamers, yes, I am operating with the assumption here that Christianity is correct. Yes, of course, I have no evidence for this. My point is simply that, if you take the Bible literally or figurtively, it is a unneeded and ridiculous notion to think of Heaven as a physical place.)

CJColucci, if hell is considered a place, then it would be capitalized whether it was fictional or not, just like we capitalize Atlantis, Middle Earth, and Hogwarts. Real doesn’t enter into it.

I don’t understand, are you saying the only problem with making blatantly false statements is because it drives away potential converts?

Nope

H. Humbert: For what it’s worth, I agree with you. I’m just passing on what JDP said.

From the DI article on this topic: “Juno Walker at Letters from Vrai has responded to my post Dr. Pigliucci and Fundamentalism in Science Education. Dr Massimo Pigliucci published an essay in The McGill Journal of Education in which he made the absurd claim that effective science education would dissuade students from a belief in Heaven. I pointed out in my post that Heaven wasn’t exactly a proper subject for the scientific method and that the assertion that science education was even applicable to a belief in Heaven was fundamentalism — a kind of atheist fundamentalism. The conflation of methodological naturalism and philosophical naturalism — science and atheism — is no more acceptable pedagogy than the conflation of science and creationism.”

http://www.evolutionnews.org/2007/1[…]forrest.html

Is the DI finally admitting that ID doesn’t belong in the classroom? Gods, heaven, or little green elves, whenever we hold supernatural explanations for natural phenomena against the burning light of scientific scrutiny mythologies always fall. Keep religion out of science classrooms! The IDers are starting to see the light, eh?

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by PvM published on October 31, 2007 11:26 PM.

Johnson on Intelligent Design: ‘Flunked’ was the previous entry in this blog.

Intelligent Design ‘flunked’: Crowther and “Judgment Day” is the next entry in this blog.

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