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Bunk

I’ve been following the John Freshwater trial, mostly via the write-ups by Richard B. Hoppe over at The Panda’s Thumb, but also through following some other articles on the case. For those of you unfamiliar, John Freshwater is a 8th grade science teacher in Mount Vernon who is accused of teaching Creationism and burning crosses on students using a Tesla Coil. I’m a bit skeptical about the crosses after seeing pictures and reading about the trial, but the “teaching Creationism” accusation seems to be spot on based on the evidence so far. The trial isn’t over, though, so no jumping to conclusions.

What I found blog-worthy tonight was a writeup by Lee Duigon on The Chalcedon Foundation’s website. Mr. Duigon focuses mostly on the branding issue, which is fair since that is one of the accusations levied against Freshwater. He starts by showing some early reactions from a number of sources about the branding issue and they (as one would expect, sadly) over-react in a grand fashion based on little evidence. Assuming Mr. Duigon is disgusted by this type of “string him up” reaction, I share his disgust.

I don’t have all the facts of the case. Nobody does at this point and the case is still ongoing. However, based on Freshwater’s reputation, my guess would be that he’s a good guy and probably a good teacher and there isn’t really any kind of underhanded conspiracy that he’s heading up to delude students. I don’t agree with teaching creationism (or intelligent design… same thing) in a science class, but I doubt Freshwater is any kind of monster.

However, there is some side commentary in Mr. Duigon’s article that shows a lack of understanding about science and the scientific process.

The high school superintendent, Steve Short, said in a formal statement, “The Mount Vernon Schools has not taken this action because it opposes religion but because it has an obligation under the First Amendment to protect against the establishment of religion in the schools. As a public school system, the district cannot teach, promote, or favor any religion or religious beliefs.”

Mr. Duigon’s response?

But of course it does: it promotes the Godless religion of secular humanism, whose scriptures include the works of Charles Darwin. Steve Short—whose eldest son is a worship minister in Kentucky and whose youngest son is studying to be a pastor—knows this.

Asked if Darwin’s Origin of the Species is a religious text, Short answered, “Sure it is.”

That, if you’ll pardon the vernacular, is a load of bunk. Perhaps Mr. Duigon doesn’t understand what “secular humanism” is. Perhaps he doesn’t understand what “scripture” is. Perhaps he doesn’t understand what a “religious text” is. Perhaps he considers science to be anti-Christian. Perhaps he feels somewhat smug that Superintendent Short seems to misunderstand Darwin’s book. Perhaps he thinks that not teaching the Bible’s version of reality is equivalent to promoting the “Godless religion of secular humanism.”

He certainly has no concept of what constitutes a scientific theory or of what the scientific process is. If he did, he would understand his comments about Freshwater having “challenged the concept of evolution” is not a bad thing. The scientific community challenges it every day… as they do with most other scientific theories. That’s the whole purpose of the scientific process. Intelligently challenging existing theories is a good, commendable act and is encouraged by scientists (note “Intelligently”).

Now it’s true that Mr. Duigon is claiming that Freshwater was fired because he challenged the theory of evolution (which he continually refers to as the concept of evolution) and that his “Darwinist colleagues” couldn’t handle it. Again, the facts are not all in and the case is not finalized, but while I can easily see some teachers sighing with exasperation at another teacher’s failure to “stay within the lines,” my guess is that their real problem wouldn’t be the challenging of evolutionary theory. It would be the challenging of evolutionary theory by proposing that creationism/intelligent design is some sort of alternate scientific explanation.

It’s been pretty firmly established in both the courts and in reputable scientific circles (read “not the Discovery Institute”) that there is nothing scientific about intelligent design or creationism. Intelligent design has nothing to base itself on other than its weak and failed attempts to discredit the theory of evolution. There is no science backing up its premise. Add to that the fact that, even if evolutionary theory didn’t even exist, it wouldn’t mean that intelligent design is correct by default. It’s just nonsense.

Bunk, if you will.

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