BioLogos: Teaching Evolution to Students of Faith

#1

I was trying to bring in the Scientific American article on teaching science in public school but @Kathryn_Applegate did it first so please look at what she writes about it. The article is accurate but fails to mention the major reason why faith issues are not addressed by facility at secular universities: 1st amendment Church and State separation issues.

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(Theman8469) #2

Linked article from the Biologos page:

https://www.lifescied.org/doi/10.1187/cbe.17-04-0062

A quick look at the figures.

56.25% of the instructors raised as religious are now atheist/agnostic.
A full 40.25% of the total sample from religious backgrounds are now full atheist.
Only 3.125% went from agnostic to ‘other’ (what ever that means).

No one moved from agnostic/atheist to religious.

Only 21.875% how were brought up religious remain religious. Nearly 4 in 5 are dropping their faith.

Even Sara, one of the interviewees said she moved from a religious to non-religious background continuing the pattern.

I have no idea how Biologos can see this as nothing except a complete disaster for religious faith. I remember Deborah Haarsma called this poll (https://biologos.org/blogs/deborah-haarsma-the-presidents-notebook/new-gallup-poll-shows-significant-gains-for-biologos-view) a triumph for TE/EC. The problem is that the guided evolution view would include ID’ers, progressive creationists and a majority of OEC. The percentage accepting this view is even lower than it was 20 years ago and the same as 36 years ago, despite the millions poured into the ‘Biologos view’. Even worse the unguided evolution view has more than doubled over 36 years with a smaller drop in YEC.

But Biologos is only really interested in the promotion of evolution, as Jeffrey Scholls (sp) told me in Oxford years ago. The aim of Biologos is to promote evolution to believers and not to engage in a defence or promotion of faith (Harris Manchester College Oxford when he gave a lecture with Michael Murray - forgot the year).

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(S. Joshua Swamidass) #3

Great article @Patrick.

That is a really striking oversight. It think it is because most scholars working with BioLogos have no professional experience in secular organizations or public institutions. That certainly seems to be true of 100% of their staff. What do you think?

There is subtly here. Most the loss is from Mainline churches not Evangelical churches, which have been growing.

That appears to be true, at least descriptively. I suppose this is where I differ from them too. This is why I left. Have you read my explanation of why I left BioLogos?

I am reminded of the dual confession, the self-reinforcing witness of the confessing scientist. I confess the One who rose from the dead is Lord of all things, and I also confess what I have seen in science. Of these two confessions, which one is greater?

If I had to choose one, I would confess that Jesus is Risen. The beauty I find in Him is greater than the beauty I find in science. I see the injustice of this world in the segregated city of Saint Louis. Science, however, can neither name nor end injustice. I hope, instead, for the Kingdom of God to come to Earth as it is in Heaven, ushered in by the Risen One. This Kingdom is the beloved community of which Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. dreamed, and it is a dream that cannot be found by science.

This answer is driving my separation from BioLogos, more than any other conflict or disagreement. They have been faithful to their founding mission, and have rightfully focused their message on the Church. This mission, however, is no longer enough for me. I am being reordered by an encounter, and I am no longer content with only one part of Collins’s confession.
http://peacefulscience.org/confessing-scientist/

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#4

Yes, it is striking. I first ran into this about two years ago when I pointed out that Biologos was advertising the current Director of the National Institute of Health was coming to give the keynote address at Biologos’ Christ and Creation Conference". Biologos just brushed it off and didn’t have a clue that this was a blatant violation of the First Amendment of the US Constitution. Staff members at Biologos seem confused about the strict lines of church and state separation issues. And this is after Dover which Biologos staffers know a lot about. For @Kathryn_Applegate to not even mention the primary reason why religion can’t be discussed by any (Christian or non-Christian) faculty member of a secular university in biology class shows a tremendous lack of understanding of the law that secular educational institutions must operate under.

Even Ken Ham learned this the hard way after 1000s of letters to public school principals reminding them that a school visit to Ark Encounter would be a constitutional issue that could result in lawsuits against the local Board of Educations if violated. Ken Ham was arguing that a trip to Ark Encounter would be educational. The Dover verdict affirmed that Creationism in all its forms (YEC, OEC, TE/EC, ID) is religion and can’t be brought into the public secular science education system in the United States.

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(Guy Coe) #5

Nice red herring, @Patrick. We all know that such threats would not exist if not for overzealous self-appointed “watchdog” organizations. The notion that school principals “suddenly” needed to be informed of the constitutionality of such trips is laughably ludicrous.
That the people of that tax district should have been reminded, first and foremost, is obvious. But, did you guys do that?
The pattern is clear: let the money be spent, then get the whole effort “blacklisted” publicly, so you can create an artificial crisis. Not truly public-minded humanitarian work, but a nice ploy from which to plead “victim” status. And I agree with you that it would have been better never built, at least not as an inland theme park. It’ll go the way of the dinosaurs soon enough.

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#6

Here is where we disagree. It is public minded humanitarian work. We are pro-choice, pro-immigration, pro-LGBQT, pro-everything else that the Church is against but really should be for if they really cared about human beings. Right now we are battling the Catholic Church over institutionalization of child rape. How can any human not be applauded at this? And if you are a member of the Catholic Church, why not just leave the institution?

#7

Ken Ham was offering discounts for bus loads of public school children. Don’t you think that Ken Ham was pressuring Pastors who were pressuring the public school principals and teachers who are overwhelmingly Christian? Even Congressmen and the Governor of Kentucky were putting the pressure on school boards to allocate funds to visit the Ark Encounter. So the letters from FFRF came as a relief to some of the principals because they could bump it to the school attorney and get out of the line of fire from the Evangelical Christian Right.

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #8

@Guy_Coe this is a real thing. A lot of people are not careful about the rules, especially when they think they can get away with breaking them.

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(Guy Coe) #9

Of course it’s a real thing. But, constitutionally there are provisions for “non-establishment” AND for not preventing “the free exercise thereof.” There are TWO paradoxical requirements to be met.
Did you guys, @Patrick , go to these same lengths to educate the voters in the affected tax districts prior to them approving and spending public funds? That’s work you could be more proud of.
The vague threat of legal action at every turn is far too effective a “chilling” tool when private citizens are involved, and local jurisdictions are allowed some discretion as to how they see their actions relating to state and federal requirements. It’s a more of a “how much versus how little” question than the FFRF would prefer it to be.

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#10

we do do that. see below:

Action Alert

Meeting today! Tell this praying, proselytizing school board not to appeal to the Supreme Court

August 1, 2018

The Chino Valley School Board prayed, proselytized, and read the bible at school board meetings. No more! It has lost in federal court to FFRF and 22 brave plaintiffs. Twice. The Board just scheduled a closed meeting for TODAY, AUGUST 1, at 5:00 P.M. WE NEED YOU TO CONTACT THE BOARD RIGHT NOW.

The meeting is closed so there is no need to show up in person but please email and call the board. We think they intend to vote on whether or not to appeal the case to the Supreme Court. Tell them NO APPEAL!

CONTACT

Chino Valley School Board

Pamela Feix (909) 306-8259 Pamela_Feix@chino.k12.ca.us

James Na (909) 315-1344 James_Na@chino.k12.ca.us

Irene Hernandez-Blair (909) 731-2597 Irene_Hernandezblair@chino.k12.ca.us

Andrew Cruz (909) 472-7863 Andrew_Cruz@chino.k12.ca.us

Sylvia Orozco (909) 721-1361 Sylvia_Orozco@chino.k12.ca.us

BACKGROUND

The school district lost more than $200,000 at the lower court and the total will likely tick up to $300,000 or even $400,000. How many textbooks or computers or teachers’ salaries were lost? Instead, these board members are intent on using public offices to promote their personal religion.

A fight to the Supreme Court could double or even triple that price tag. The school board will make much of the fact that they have pro bono representation. But don’t be taken in by this misleading talking point. FFRF debunks this fallacy time and again. Most recently, in an op-ed for Religion New Service. It has cost some local governments more than a million dollars.

Three of the board members belong to the local mega-church, Calvary Chapel Chino Hills: Sylvia Orozco, James Na, and Andrew Cruz. They need to hear from you NOW!

Please call if you are able. Email too.

MESSAGE

Feel free to copy and paste the sample text for an email that we’ve provided.

Please do not appeal the case brought by FFRF and 22 other plaintiffs. We’ve already wasted hundreds of thousands of dollars on this case. I understand that you have pro bono representation, but we’ll still have to pay all the costs and fees for the other side. Plenty of local governments have spent far more than our school district fighting these losing cases. The Dover School District in Pennsylvania spent more than $1 million on a losing fight to preach creationism in the public schools.

Get back to teaching our children. Please don’t waste time and energy on this appeal. We have better things to do.

Note that we never go after private citizens. Usually we sue for private citizens against the Government who brings religion or religious beliefs INTO Government affairs like education.

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#11

Here is another blunder by Biologo. In this piece a science teacher who happens to be a Chrisitian muses over how to teach Theistic Evolution or Evolutionary Creationism to school children. Does he not realize that this would be a Constitutional violation by any public school teachers to do this? Does he realize that teachers can be fired for injecting ANY creationism into the classroom? And yes TE and EC are creationism. They many not be as egregious as YEC, OEC or ID but they are still creationism which by the Dover decision is religion and not science and not allowed in public education. Biologos should understand the law in the United States and stop thinking that they have a better, more subtle way of getting God back into the classroom.

(Herculean Skeptic) #12

How is the line maintained between teaching “about religion” and “teaching religion?” I understand the purpose and language of the establishment clause. Clearly, though, this has not in the past, nor is it now, being applied in such a way that students are not allowed to be taught “about religion.” I’m not referring to history, either, but schools are currently, in light of this issue, teaching children about Islam, for instance.

There must be some litmus test in order to determine what sort of mention of religion can occur, and what cannot. I’m just curious how they (teachers and administrators) walk this line.

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(Kathryn Applegate) #13

Hi Patrick, thanks for your concern about this. The author of this piece heads up Novare Science and Math. He writes Christian textbooks which are used by Christian private schools. His advice is to be understood in that context. That said, I think the actual advice he gives at the end works in the public school context too:

The right way for a Christian teacher to proceed is to accommodate questions, foster inquiry, and encourage students to think and engage with the issues. She should teach in such a way that does not give away her own opinion, but clearly explain the details of the science with a goal to enabling students to enter the ongoing conversation thoughtfully, not merely armed with polemics.

What about that is advocating creationism (and I have no problem putting EC in that category)? This is sound advice for any teacher, Christian or not.

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(S. Joshua Swamidass) #14

That is an important point. Thanks for clarifying it because it does make a difference.

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(Kathryn Applegate) #15

@Patrick, Liz Barnes did address this explicitly in the interview:

Additionally, there is a common misconception among both high school and college instructors that it is against the rules to have any discussion about religion in a public education setting, and often I hear instructors refer to the “separation of church and state” when they say this. However, the fact that we teach entire courses on world religions in public colleges shows how this is not true. Further, to properly teach the nature of science we often have to discuss other methods of knowledge acquisition, such as religion and philosophy, in order to distinguish what is and what is not science. With regard to using culturally competent practices, teaching about the different stances that religions have about evolution and showing examples of religious individuals with diverse opinions about evolution is certainly not in violation of the separation of church and state as long as the instructor is teaching evolution as a valid and well supported scientific theory.

I’m certainly no legal scholar and have more to learn about what teachers and professors can and can’t say in science class in public institutions. It is clear they should not be teaching creationism (evolutionary or otherwise) or intelligent design. But simply affirming that there are religious scientists is not the same as promoting religion, nor is making space for students to reflect on where a particular idea like evolution rubs up against their personal religious beliefs. These are practices which have been shown to be effective for science teaching in both public and private institutions.

Here’s a helpful article on this topic by an AZ policy center, and a more general one from the Washington Post, for those who may be interested in this topic.

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#16

Kathryn,
What the author is advocating is absolutely the wrong way and clearly the illegal way. Public schools are no place for discussing religion in any way. And creationism in all its forms is religion. Teachers in most public schools in the United States have been (or supposed to be) trained to deflect and certainly not answer questions or inquiries that touch faith/belief issues. They are required to adhere to the State curriculum without any embellishments. Public schools and by extension all employees (teachers, administrators, Boards of Education) are required by many court decisions to adhere to complete and strict neutrality with regard to ALL religions (theism) and non-religion (atheism). What is being advocating in your article is a blatant violation of that neutrality and ANY public school teacher or administrator who took this advice and actually does it in a public school setting (even after school, or during tutoring, or as part of individual “help”) is breaking the law and could subjecting the school district to lawsuits.

#17

Liz Barnes is wrong on the law here. FFRF sees about 1000 violations per year all these line. Most violations are settled out of court but for those who do go to court, the FFRF win rate is over 97%. The Courts are very clear on this . The public schools and all employees (teachers, administrators, Boards of Educations, janitors, bus drivers) must be completely neutral on all matter pertaining to religion.

Here are some of the recent court cases won:

  1. Board of Education prayer before meeting
  2. Kindergarten teacher with a cross and bible on her desk plus sign “Jesus loves you”
  3. Bus Driver playing religious music on school bus.

I can go on and on. Bottom line: public schools must be kept neutral with regard to all faiths and no faith.

#18

I was always under the impression that there was much more leeway at public universities. For example, UC Berkeley has a religious studies program and it’s not exactly the bastion of conservative ideals.

Yes, it is going to be a more secular slant on studying world religions, but I don’t think religion is completely verboten on any public university campus. I could be completely wrong about this, but it doesn’t seem as draconian as some may think.

Of course, things are a bit touchier at the elementary and secondary education levels because children are viewed as being more impressionable and below the age of consent. However, adults go to universities so it tends to be a bit more relaxed when it comes to the separation of church and state, at least from what I have seen.

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#19

Huge difference between adults at secular universities and children at the elementary or high school level. Very different set of laws.

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(Herculean Skeptic) #20

@Patrick

Here’s a hot lead for you then… From the state of California, my former home and the bastion of conservatism, we have the following:

https://www.cde.ca.gov/be/st/ss/index.asp

About halfway down, you find a link to this PDF:

Wherein it contains the following:

Grade Six

In the middle grades, students study a wide range of history from ancient civilizations to the early history of the United States. These grades include challenging topics like religion, slavery, war, and human oppression. But those topics are also necessary for understanding the world that we live in today. The framework places a great deal of emphasis on students learning through exposure to primary sources, studying history through the words of the people who lived it. The grade six course description suggests lesson activities that have students use a wide diversity of sources, such as Hammurabi’s Code, selections from the Torah, the writings of Greek historians and playwrights, the Analects of Confucius and Ban Zhao’s Admonitions for Women, the Vedas and the Ramayana, writings on Roman law and citizenship, and works of art and literature from around the world.

Potentially the real issue is “neutrality” but not utter absence. That would make more sense… In that case, having a discussion, with neutrality in mind, seems quite reasonable. I just can’t imagine that the State of California is somehow unknowingly in violation of the first amendment. Moreover, they certainly would not be knowingly defiant regarding that same issue.

I think that this is the point that @Kathryn_Applegate was making in the “Liz Barnes” quote… that without letting on about a teacher’s own personal belief, other methods such as religion and philosophy might enter the discussion.

Thoughts?

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