I have separately discussed Science and Religion and whether they are opposed to one another. My conclusion was that science and belief are attempting very different things, but that scientists can readily hold intuitive beliefs about the world, such as they do when they hold Religious fundamentalist belief like Jesus being resurrected from the dead, or that God once flooded the entire earth (in the time of Noah).
Next, I wanted to briefly mention the two cases that arguably kept monotheistic Christian Religion origin stories out of science classrooms if anyone would be interested in them at all.
Pseudoscience and the Law
We have addressed some of the most important and widely discussed issues at the center of the science and Religion debate. Demarcation, however, does not originate and end in philosophy or history of science classrooms. This dilemma has been in the public eye for the past century for one additional reason:
Creationism has slipped in through the cracks of the educational system mainly in the United States.
Some parents have taken issue with the fact that an unscientific explanation for the Universe should become mandatory at public schools.
This resulted in the Supreme Court intervening and having to find an — at least — temporary solution to the demarcation question. Trials are important for discussing truth due to a number of reasons, as pointed out by Michael Shermer in his essay: Science and Pseudoscience: The Difference in Practice and the Difference It Makes:
(1) they are timewise often restricted,
(2) they, in Shermer’s words, “do not allow for the kind of highly technical debates” practiced by philosophers, and lastly
(3) they rely on empirical data, similar to science, discrediting both non-scientific and anti-scientific thinking (209).
I will further expand on two important cases that determined whether science would still be taught in classrooms and helped enact the conclusion that we have been discussing throughout this essay.
First, there was the case of the 1981 Arkansas trial over the constitutionality of Act 590, which demanded equal time in public school science classes for “creation science” and “evolution science.”
A lawsuit had been filed against the creationists from parents, biologists, and organizations that saw the Arkansas state law Act 590 as unconstitutional for violating the First Amendment of the United States, particularly the Establishment Clause which allows individuals personal freedom from government interference in private and public religious affairs. William R. Overton was appointed as Federal judge over this case and in the end ruled against the creationists. Overton explained that science is:
- Guided by natural law.
- Explanatory by reference to natural law.
- Testable against the empirical world.
- Conclusions are tentative.
- And lastly, falsifiable.
In all these cases he found Creationism to be in direct conflict with the scientific method.
Secondly, I would like to discuss the legal case in Dover, Pennsylvania in 2005. It is similar to the Arkansas trial different only in scale and publicity. Public schools in Dover, next to York, in Pennsylvania, were being introduced to Intelligent Design (ID) “science” as an alternative to evolutionary biology. This was done by promoting the use of the creationist textbook, Of Pandas and People. Eleven parents of children at the school filed lawsuits against the mandatory teaching of ID.
The suit was brought to the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. The appointed judge John E. Jones III, notably a Republican claimed that teaching Creationism in classrooms goes against the Establishment Clause in the First Amendment of the United States.
In this case, the judge consulted various authorities in their respective fields including Brown University molecular biologist Kennet Miller and the University of California at Berkeley paleontologist Kevin Padian both of which were brought in to rebut specific ID claims.
Further the philosopher Robert Pennock, from Michigan State University, and Barbara Forrest from Southeastern Louisiana University, testified at court against the ID movement by collecting histories of the movement and presenting evidence that “in the memorable phrase of one observer, [ID is] nothing more than ‘creationism in a cheap tuxedo’ ” (213).
What The Two Cases Had In Common
In both of these cases, we can observe that judges called in appropriate appeals to authority. This is crucial in formulating an opinion. This is how natural discourse works. We rely on the community of scientists for almost all objective knowledge.
The scientific community accepting a hypothesis and formulating a scientific theory (backed by evidence) is VERY significant and should not be overlooked since we readily accept many claims made by scientists and if we start cherry-picking we’d have to start taking every claim ever made separately and assessing them. This is obviously impossible.
It has been repeatedly proven that macroevolution is true. We would not even be able to understand medicine as we do today if it were not. I am, thus, thankful for these two court cases and for the judges’ resolution to keep teaching science in classrooms. We owe cases like these the freedom we will have in the future.
And we know that as long as men are free to ask what they must, free to say what they think, free to think what they will, freedom can never be lost. — J. Robert Oppenheimer, 1949.
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I write to keep you thinking and to keep me thankful and reflective. Cheers and until next time,