The Curriculum Battle Is Not Religion vs. Science; It’s Religion vs. Religion

Brian Boyko, a candidate for Texas state representative, recently posted an article on his website entitled “Why Are Some Hell-Bent On Teaching Intelligent Design?”. A self-described “geek,” Boyko criticizes people of “faith” for interfering with “science” instruction. He makes some interesting points that I believe represent the arguments of many people who believe the universe came into being without a Creator.

I interact with Boyko’s post as a fellow “geek,” with over two decades of software engineering experience. I affirm and share his desire to look at the world through a pragmatic lens informed by experience in the world of high technology.

We find these questions at the heart of the debate over the teaching of origins: Who has the power to define the vocabulary? Who gets to decide what certain words mean?

For example, see how Boyko uses the words “scientific,” “evolution,” and “evidence”:

The problem is, within any scientific body of merit, evolution is not under controversy. Certainly the methods by which evolution manifests can be; but to say that evolution isn’t real is to be blind to the mountains of evidence that support the theory; while “intelligent design,” or “creationism” isn’t supported by any scientific evidence at all.

The dictionary definition of “scientific” cites the word “empirical” as a synonym, which means “based on, concerned with, or verifiable by observation or experience rather than theory or pure logic.”

By that definition, any truly “scientific” evidence for “evolution” is limited to the micro-evolution we can observe in creatures who adapt to changes in their environment. Verifiable “mountains of evidence” do show that both plants and animals respond to significant environmental stresses by either producing offspring more suited to the different environment, or by dying off.

In contrast, Boyko’s use the word “evolution” asserts that everything in the universe came to be without a Creator’s involvement cannot be described with the same meaning of “scientific”, since nobody has observed that process, nor does any evidence for that exist. Instead, that theory of origins stems from a statement of faith like this: “Since micro-evolution is true, spontaneous generation of new species with no designer must also be true. There is no need for a Creator.”

I think a more appropriate synonym for the word “scientific” as it is used by Boyko is the word “orthodox”. While they often criticize organized religion, those who call their view of origins “scientific” actually behave as an organized religion themselves. They have statements of faith that define what is orthodox or heretical. They include a priesthood with ecclesiastical hierarchies like peer-reviewed journals and college tenure systems. While they ridicule theistic people for insisting that their faith inform how they teach their children about origins, their view is really a competing system of faith. It is a faith without a Creator.

The debate over the teaching of origins is not “religion vs. science.” It is “religion vs. religion.” It is a battle of priesthoods. The atheistic, secular humanistic priesthood is currently winning the day in most of public education. They have stolen the word “science” and redefined it according to their orthodoxy. Their statement of faith forbids mention of a Creator, since it is unorthodox to them. They fight heretics by insulting their intelligence (no intelligent person could look at the “evidence” and think there was a Designer, right?), ridiculing them as old-fashioned, out of touch, or not enlightened.

Imagine this: a PhD Astrophysicist who is also a Bible-believing Christian applies to be a professor at UCLA. She wants to teach her view that the organization of the galaxies points overwhelmingly to an Intelligent Designer. Will she be hired? No way! Why? While they’ll say she is “unscientific,” the truth is that she is unorthodox to them. Her views are heretical in their faith system. She will be rejected for exactly the same reason that an atheist would not be hired to teach a New Testament class at Liberty University—non-conformance to the statement of faith.

Further on, Boyko asserts:

Let’s be frank for a second: Faith is a powerful motivator. It is very hard to convince someone that they’re wrong on the facts when they believe it is a moral duty to insist their side is right.

I couldn’t agree more. The irony is that while those in the atheistic origins camp deny they are operating in faith, this statement applies directly to them. Their naturalistic faith insists that since we understand small things, the big things will be explained the same way. Since they have figured out many things about how life works, they believe they’ll eventually solve every other mystery without need of a Creator. What a leap of faith!

Boyko continues:

Because to a believer, faith is a virtue. Indeed, the highest virtue. And evolution may not challenge God’s throne, but it challenges a highly held belief that God created man as the apex of life on Earth. To suggest that man holds no special place amongst the beasts—that our rationality was not the spark of divine creation but the machinations of blind terrestrial navigation belies the idea that God places us first among all his creations.

Is it verifiable, with empirical, observable evidence that “man holds no special place amongst the beasts”? Of course not. This view is another article of atheistic faith. The place and value of mankind in the world are religious ideas, theistic or not.

This quote underscores the problem that creationists have with godless teaching of origins in public classrooms. A faith position is being advocated, one that makes a religious claim about mankind’s “place amongst the beasts.” No real observable science teaches this; it’s a doctrine of secular humanism. (Observable evidence actually leans towards mankind’s superiority. What other species is having this debate?) By capturing the language of the debate, calling their faith “science” and heretics “unintelligent,” they change the playing field and convince lawmakers to establish their religion under their redefined meaning of “science.”

Here’s how real science becomes secular humanistic faith. First, an actual fact is observed, such as the discovery of fossilized animal bones. These bones are brought to the PhD university priests—I mean, scientists—and their story of faith is overlaid on the discovery. They explain how these bones show that this animal evolved from other bones we’ve found that are millions of years older. Observable? Nope. Scientific? Not by the word’s real definition. Faith? Absolutely.

Boyko ended his post with the testimony he gave to the Texas State Board of Education. He argues that since theological concepts transcend human reason, they don’t belong in the science classroom. He invokes St. Aquinas to make a pious-sounding argument, that it is beneath us to assert there is a Creator in our teaching of origins:

And to attempt to force the Divine—which transcends reason—into the small confines of reason alone, not only makes a general mess of Science, but also diminishes the Divine. To lower the supernal to the study of the terrestrial is, well, blasphemous.

So, if you see evidence of design in creation and say there is a Creator, you are blaspheming? This is quite a stretch, one that has nothing to do with the teaching of origins. The idea that evidence of design in the world points to the existence of a Designer is not above human reason—it is actually very reasonable. It is only blasphemy to claim there is a Creator through the lens of an atheist’s statement of faith.

If you really are going to limit science to that which is observable, then you have to expunge the science curriculum of your religion too: no more hiding behind millions of years, no more contrived stories of unobserved spontaneous transformations of one species into another, no more assertions that men are no different than monkeys. Stop redefining words to make your religion sound secular. It’s faith, a godless faith, and it doesn’t belong in the classroom.

It’s time for the debate over origins to be honestly framed for what it is: a battle between religions. People who see evidence for the Designer must not surrender the vocabulary of words like “science,” “evolution,” and “evidence.” Let’s show the establishment of secular humanistic religion for what it is: an unconstitutional infringement on the freedom of every American for the purposes of indoctrinating the next generation into secular humanistic faith.

12 Replies to “The Curriculum Battle Is Not Religion vs. Science; It’s Religion vs. Religion”

  1. While I have no doubt that there are people such as those you describe that take science to the point of faith, you are taking a rather narrow definition of science and then painting a rather broad brush.

    First, you imply that if you can’t directly observe it, then it’s not science. That’s simply untrue. Science requires that a hypothesis be formed based on available data, then tested, and a theory formed based on that evidence and logical analysis. However, direct observation of an action is only one form of data. If only directly observable evidence in the now were acceptable, no knowledge before your own birth would be acceptable since you cannot observe, say, the Civil War directly and must rely on evidence left behind of it. If you deny “stuff dug up and analyzed” as useful to scientific analysis for evolutionary purposes then you must also discard it for historical and archeological purposes, which means almost everything we “know” that’s more than about 500 years old goes right out the window. (Assuming you will accept books whose pedigree we can identify with certainty, although by your logic here that is debatable.)

    Second, you are creating a strawman argument. Science can, and has, identified the mechanisms by which species evolve through evolutionary pressure. (And, in fact, we have observed it directly. Ask any animal breeder, whose job is to apply rather direct evolutionary pressure.) Science can, and has, identified an extensive family tree of species that have morphed into each other over time. (The observable evidence, empirical if you will, is found in the DNA of existing organisms and the fossilzed evidence of no longer existing organisms.)

    It is entirely true, however, that science cannot, at this time, identify what made the first proteins form a few billion years ago other than “chemistry does weird things at times.” There are various theories, none of which have been conclusively proven or disproven.

    That means that, yes, “some omnipotent being said so” (such as the Flying Spaghetti Monster, aliens, or a deity of whatever variety you prefer) has not been disproven. That does not, however, in any way diminish the ample evidence for the rest of the process and time line on which it happened. Nor does it imply that particular possibility has any special privileged place in the realm of possibilities. A proper scientist, in that situation, would simply say “we don’t know yet.” Science completely acknowledges that answer. Few religions do.

    If you insist that when a science classroom gets to the point of “so how did life start?” the answer is “well, Judeo-Christian tradition says God Did It”, then you must also acknowledge the hundreds of other creation myths that have just as much empirical evidence to back them up. A brief example:

    Norse: http://www.shmoop.com/norse-creation-myth/summary.html
    Cherokee: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cherokee_mythology
    Algonquin: http://www.indianlegend.com/algonquin/algonquin_001.htm
    Chinese: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_creation_myth
    Bantu (African): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bantu_mythology
    Tolkien: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ainulindal%C3%AB

    Why not present those as alternatives along side the Judeo-Christian version? If we are speaking of scientific requirements for validity, they all share the same level of supporting empirical evidence. (That is, none.) In the absence of the empirical evidence you ask for, they should not be introduced into a science curriculum.

    That’s not a religious statement, or statement of faith; it’s simply a statement that “proposals for which we have no evidence do not belong in a curriculum based on evidence.”

    Note: I am not calling you stupid, ignorant, or unintelligent. I am simply pointing out the flaws in your argument.

    1. Larry, I appreciate you taking the time to write such a thoughtful and productive reply. You are absolutely right, I did use a very narrow definition of the word “science” to make my point above.

      I didn’t mean to imply that direct observation was the only acceptable science to teach. I certainly love history, archaeology, and all of the sciences that observe things from the past in an attempt to discover truth.

      We don’t see my argument regarding evolution in the same way, however. Your example in your claim that I have made a strawman argument actually proves my point. Animal breeders intentionally use designed adaptability to their advantage, selecting for traits they want to propagate. These selections happen within a kind. No breeders that I’m aware of, except maybe genetic science labs, have bred a dog with a fish in order to make some positive change.

      The “extensive family tree of species that have morphed into each other over time” are not based on observable evidence. This is an example of an “article of faith.” It takes too much “faith” for me to accept this argument: given that dog breeding works, and that there are certain bones in certain layers of rocks, therefore, those bones “morphed” from one kind of creature to another. There is no evidence, only story upon story by the secular humanistic priesthood of believers who are cloaked in the elegance of what is accepted as “science.”

      The leap from the evidence of the DNA of existing organisms to the “scientific” description of how one organism became another is precisely what I am claiming to be entirely speculative. The argument, as I understand it, says that since there are similarities in the DNA encoding between various species, the differences over time mean that they “morphed” from one to the species to the next. Humans and monkeys have very similar DNA, so therefore, we spontaneously, through some “weird thing” of chemistry, evolved from them.

      I have never seen anything like scientific evidence for this claim. It is not enough to show the bones and tell a story. There are equally valid stories, ones that make a lot more sense, especially as a programmer.

      DNA is a code, like a computer code. On this, everyone agrees. It encodes information that forms the basis of what each creature will become. My view is: there has never been a code that was not written by an encoder. The fact of DNA is direct evidence for a Designer. The similar encodings indicates a similar Design. Just like there has never been a computer program that was not written by a programmer (or a program that a programmer wrote), there has never been DNA that was not designed by a Designer.

      My point is that the attempt to prove or disprove the existence of a Creator is the domain of religion. Naturalistic, creator-less evolution does actually have a “special privileged place” in the realm of possibilities, since it is the only acceptable teaching that is considered “scientific.” It assumes there is no creator, and is set on disproving his existence. It doesn’t altruistically say “we don’t know yet.” It says “we don’t know yet, but we will disprove the Creator eventually.” And that, in the science classroom, is the “orthodox religion” that I am saying should not be there.

      Your list of “creation myths” that you consider equal are actually not. Study them in depth and you will see. People like me accept the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ as fact based on historical evidence. Yes, his followers have completely botched the presentation over the years. That does not negate the fact that the resurrected Jesus has more credibility than any of these others. They are not peers, not even close. Look at the evidence. Look at the documentation. It’s there. The problem is that those who adhere with blind faith in what is claimed to be “science” have removed the possibility of a Creator, miracles, or resurrection from their statement of faith, and therefore, can’t even consider it. (Yes, just as those in various deity-based religions are also blind to the truth.)

      Again, I appreciate your intelligent and thoughtful reply to my article, and am grateful you took the time to articulate what many people feel. May our dialog continue to be productive.

      1. > so therefore, we spontaneously, through some “weird thing” of chemistry, evolved from them.
        > I have never seen anything like scientific evidence for this claim. It is not enough to show the bones and tell a story.

        As @Crell and Brian point out, the evidence is truly overwhelming. Though it’s certainly possible to disagree with where the evidence leads, your statement suggests you’re unaware of huge swaths of data that might help you make a better informed conclusion. For example, you could remove the entire fossil record yet still have enough enough evidence to come to the same conclusion (just as Darwin did).

        If you’re interested in better understanding what evolution is, how it works, and the empirical truth claims the theory makes, check out Why Evolution is True, by Jerry Coyne. That’d likely help you understand that nobody’s claiming it’s “spontaneously, through some ‘weird thing’ of chemistry.” I’ve read many books on both ID (including the Bible, multiple times) and science over the last 15 years, and Coyne’s book is one of the more interesting.

      2. Hi Brett, thank you for your comment and your excellent book recommendation. I will read Coyne’s book and review it on this blog. I definitely have a lot more learning to do. My desire has always been to follow the truth wherever it leads. That desire has led me to re-examine traditionally held Christian doctrines and form unpopular, but I believe more true, views on many matters. This blog is dedicated to some of those ideas. I seek to be as consistent as humanly possible, understanding the tendency towards confirmation bias and all other pride-driven frailties that we all struggle with. How can I ask others to reconsider their views if I am unwilling myself? It reminds me of this quote from one of my favorite theologians, Charles Finney:

        True Christian consistency does not consist in stereotyping our opinions and views, and in refusing to make any improvement lest we should be guilty of change, but it consists in holding our minds open to receive the rays of truth from every quarter and in changing our views and language and practice as often and as fast, as we can obtain further information. …

        I hold myself sacredly bound, not to defend these positions at all events, but on the contrary, to subject every one of them to the most thorough discussion, and to hold and treat them as I would the opinions of any one else; that is, if upon further discussion and investigation I see no cause to change, I hold them fast; but if I can see a flaw in any one of them, I shall amend or wholly reject it, as a further light shall demand. Should I refuse or fail to do this, I should need to blush for my folly and inconsistency, for I say again, that true Christian consistency implies progress in knowledge and holiness, and such changes in theory and in practice as are demanded by increasing light.

        I would ask all of my readers, wherever you stand on any of these subjects, to adopt this stance. None of us know everything perfectly. Many of us are blind and do not know it. I may very well be. But, I will continue to seek and then write about the truth as clearly and distinctly as I can humanly do, by the grace given to me.

      3. “My point is that the attempt to prove or disprove the existence of a Creator is the domain of religion. ”

        Yes. I agree entirely. That is the domain of a religious studies classroom. The domain of a science classroom is that which is based in logic, experimentation, observation, and empirical evidence. Whether some higher being, alien, or flying spaghetti monster is responsible for the original creation of a couple of proteins that then evolved into life forms (through a process that is well understood and we can even control at a chemical level now, think GMO crops) is… irrelevant. A science class room should not at any point say “some divine being set this up”, because that cannot be supported by empirical evidence. Nor should it say “we’re sure there is no divine being that set this up.”

        What it can say is “this is what we know and can deduce, and so far there is no reason to include a divine being in the model.” Because that’s entirely true. Or, in the words of Napolean’s chief scientist, “Sire, I have no need of this theory.”

        I went through 12 years of public science education and no one ever said “there is no god”. They simply described the world — including biochemistry, DNA, and evolution — in the manner that the available evidence supports.

        If the question of whether or not there is a divine being or beings, and what it’s nature is, is left to a religious studies classroom and not a science classroom (and vice versa), I think we’ll all be perfectly happy with that arrangement.

  2. Great work Doug. It is my belief that science proves the existence of God, the proof does not carry through to Jesus being the son….etc., and I think that is where the evolutionist looses the theist. Evolutionists say that origins came from random changes over millions of years ( some say “Billions” just to be safe). The main point in evolution is positive adaptation over time. This creates a huge problem in my logic because if you look around, everything is breaking down, getting worse, dying off, degenerating. Take those things, also look at irreducible complexity, then the organization of information in nature and my only conclusion is that there is a god. From the galaxies to the cell you will find purpose and order, then we learned about DNA. A written code, information is imbedded in everything. This is the one that really gets me too, Doug. I am a laymen, not a scientist, a writer , or skilled orator but I know that information comes from intelligence, as does organization.
    So, the theists take faith and history and come to one conclusion, evolutionists another. Evolution says that nothing evolved into something. It would take an enormous leap of blind faith for me to believe that nothing would turn into something even after millions of years. To my knowledge nothing like that has ever been observed.
    Richard Dawkins said that the building blocks of life started “on the backs of crystals”, and there are many equally,.. um, interesting beliefs in those of religious faiths. So, where did the crystals come from? It is better when we can look at facts without heaving piles of theology or ideologies on top of our facts. The job of science is to study the natural world.
    Just some thoughts.

    1. Well said, Aaron, thank you for your excellent feedback. I always appreciate your thinking on these things. The fact that information comes from intelligence is one of the main reasons that the evidence for design is everywhere.

  3. First, thank you for reading and crafting a well-written response to my article.

    I think your intentions are noble. We both want the best things for the schoolchildren of Texas; we want them to be fully-formed people able to make decisions informed both by the best of science and the best of morals, ethics, and spirituality.

    My testimony and blog post was my attempt to protect student’s understanding of science as the realm of study where we seek to understand *only* that what we can observe and have evidence for. Macroevolution does leave behind evidence of the process, and so, it “has been observed,” but that’s not really the issue. The issue is that the realm of science is a process by which we seek to understand and interpret evidence. Faith is a process by which we seek to understand and interpret God. Letting our faith influence our definition of science is similar to demanding God produce evidence of his work upon demand. God just doesn’t work that way.

    While it is true that natural selection posits a world in which humanity came to be what they are without the direct intervention of a creator, it says nothing about the existence of one. Indeed, there is room within evolution for “God the Watchmaker” who set the gears of evolution in motion, or “God the Guardian” who lets evolution take it’s course except in the smallest possible interventions, to guide life on Earth to a desired outcome. It allows for the possibility that our *bodies* may have developed from previous biological forms, perhaps under God’s guidance, but leaves room for the special creation of our souls

    We will never convince each other our respective positions are correct. But I do want to impress upon you that those who argue for strict separation of science and faith in our curriculum do so out of a respect both for science and theology, and do so not because we need our “faith” in Science to overpower “faith” in God, but because we feel that these are truly the best ways to find answers in our often baffling universe.

    I’m hoping you’ll keep in touch.

    — Brian Boyko

    1. Brian, thank you for your gracious and thoughtful reply. It is so important, and rare, for people to be able to have productive discussions about these important matters.

      I am not a biologist or archaeologist, so I certainly don’t claim to know even a fraction of the details. However, just as you don’t have to be a theologian to understand the basics of the gospel, you don’t have to be a scientist to understand the bottom line of macro-evolutionary thought. I have never seen anything like evidence that can account for the existence of DNA encoding, the complexity of the cell, or the symbiotic relationships between the smallest and biggest organisms, without a Designer. All I have seen is circular reasoning—powerful, brilliant, incredibly well documented and marketed structure of circular reasoning, but circular nonetheless.

      The evidence for design in creation is so overwhelming that it is unscientific to ignore it. That which is called “science” in our classrooms has decided that any thought around design is in the realm of “faith.” That very rejection is a religious, not a scientific argument. It biases the scientific community to only seek for answers and write their stories and build their theories to seek completely naturalistic ends, based on the “faith” that the answers can be found without accounting for the Designer.

      Certainly, identifying the Designer is outside the realm of science. However, ignoring the evidence for Design is as unscientific as anything any church has done to (shamefully) suppress science in the past. If you’re seeking *only* what is observable end evidential, then you have to stop ignoring the evidence of Design.

      Thank you for taking the time to read my article and kindly reply. I wish you all the best as you seek to make a difference in your community through your candidacy.

      1. Hey, just doin’ what I can. While we may disagree on this issue, I’m sure there’s others that we could discuss. Give me an e-mail at brianboyko@boykotx.org – things like campaign finance reform and election reform are something we could both work for in our communities. 🙂

  4. Atheism is a position that requires faith. To assert there is no God, or there can be no God is a statement of faith, not science.

    Science has its limitations and therefore is not competent to address all queries. Those who make science into a dogmatic religion and are fanatical in their “faith” might be correctly called followers of scientism.

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