Flavin's Corner
9-3-99

Science and Sensibilities

     I'm aghast at Vice President Gore's recent equivocation regarding the
teaching of "creationism" in public schools.  Gore, as someone I've looked up to
as potentially hip and concerned with global issues, has erred with his nod to the
"religious-Right" and has turned his back on science.  President Clinton
responded to Gore's vacillation by citing a 1987 Supreme Court ruling which
forbade the teaching of "creationism" in public schools.

     As a democrat against the Republican-machine of Bush, I'm profoundly
troubled by Gore's betrayal of the future.  I feel as if my science and sensibilities
have been insulted!  Damn!

     We can have "God" and "Country," ...but it's zealous arrogance to pretend to
be privy to one religious "truth" over another and teach a God-game in public
schools.  Freedom "for" religion is also freedom "from" religion, and this latest
bout of "creationism" is globally embarrassing and potentially dangerous.

     Most are familiar with the notorious 1925 trial of John Thomas Scopes in
which he was convicted of violating Tennessee law and teaching the theory of
evolution to his public school students.  Many have seen either the play, the
1960 Spencer Tracy film, or the 1988 tv-movie version of Inherit The Wind, a
thinly disguised retelling of the "Monkey" trial as a metaphor for 1950's
McCarthyism.  Few, unfortunately, are able to remember that the verdict was
overturned in 1927 on technicalities.  Scopes and his famous defense attorney,
Clarence Darrow, in fact, won their case involving the teaching of the theory of
evolution in a public school.

 
John Scopes, biology teacher and evolutionist.

     In his majority opinion, Chief Justice Green, of the Supreme Court of
Tennessee, wrote:

But it is urged that chapter 27 of the Acts of 1925 conflicts with section 12 of
article 11, the Educational clause, and section 3 of article 1, the Religious
Preference clause, of the Tennessee Constitution. It is to be doubted if the
plaintiff in error, before us only as the state's employee, is sufficiently protected
by these constitutional provisions to justify him in raising such questions.
Nevertheless, as the State appears to concede that these objections are properly
here made, the court will consider them.

The relevant portion of section 12 of article 11 of the Constitution is in these
words:

" . . . It shall be the duty of the General Assembly in all future periods of this
government, to cherish Literature and Science."

The argument is that the theory of the descent of man from a lower order of
animals is now established by the preponderance of scientific thought and that
the prohibition of the teaching of such theory is a violation of the legislative duty
to cherish Science.  [Click  here  for a full transcript.]

     Green ruled that it was not within the State's right to restrict the teaching of
the scientific theory of evolution.  Will the recent actions of the Kansas Board of
Education and their attempt to suppress "evolution" by simply not requiring it in
a student's curriculum succeed?  Probably not, but it seems destined to waste
more court-time...

     Nearly all of the major presidential candidates publicly declare The Hebrew
Bible (as well as the Christian New Testament) to be the "inspired words of
God," believe in the literal translation of such fantastic Old Testament episodes
as the creation of the universe in six days, all humanity descending from Adam
and Eve, and much which may be viewed in certain films of Charlton Heston.
None of the major presidential candidates belong to Reformed Judaism or
Roman Catholicism, groups which regard The Hebrew Bible as containing its
share of metaphor and allegory.  It's a shame politicians of today forget that
many of our "Founding Fathers" were not comfortable with Christian arrogance.
[Click  here  for more.]

     The allegory of Hagar, the Egyptian handmaid of Abram and Sarai, begins in
Gen. 16, weaves through such episodes as Abram and Sarai's name-change to
Abraham and Sarah, the wickedness of Sodom and Gomorrah, the covenantal
(read: political) final years of the patriarch, and culminates in Gen. 26:23, "And
the Lord said unto her, Two nations are in thy womb, and the two manner of
people shall be separated from thy bowels: and the one people shall be stronger
than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger."

     Paul of Tarsus, in a letter believed to have been written c.50-60 C.E.,
allegorically interprets the Hagar episode, together with the Isaac and Ishmael
relationship, as Sinai/[H]Agar/"elder" Jewish law/first covenant and
Jerusalem/"Mother of us all"/"younger" Christian law/second covenant (Gal.
4:21-31).  I, for one, do not believe the ancient propaganda that claims a
traceable lineage for one Semitic people in relationship to another.  Hebrew
Semites may reasonably assume descent from a core-grouping of believers, but
despite the awkward acceptance of the Hagar episode in The Koran, shouldn't
be too quick to defend Genesis and its etiologic regard for other Semitic people,
notably the South Semitic family, which was later broadened to include all Arab
peoples.  Paul advises against the elitist racism of Genesis and offers believers a
chance to become "heir[s] of God through Christ" (Gal. 4:7).  Those that play
the God-game often use allegory and metaphor.

     Christian Fundamentalists in America have challenged evolution with cult
archaeology, anti-scientific hysteria, conspiracy theories, and extreme disregard
for other life-forms.  The Second Vatican Council allowed Catholics to regard
the evolutionary process as possibly arising from a "higher design."  A sad and
ongoing fact pertaining to America's leading "Creationists" is their ugly
association with racist hate-groups. [Click  here  for more.]

     Biblical allegory may be just another toy for those who play the God-game,
yet those toys are often transformed into tools and used to build hatred.

     It is currently a federal crime to teach "creationism" in public schools.
Private violence-academies may legally raise "Stepford" children who distrust
science, but the vast majority of schools in America will continue to honor the
1987 ruling of the Supreme Court, teach the children what science they can, and
empower our youth of tomorrow with the ability to reason between the rights of
an individual and those of  the public.

     Oh, I would wager, the "Creationists" will continue to annoy science and
sensibilities.  And desperate politicians will recklessly follow...  Is this a great
(though occasionally stupid) country or what?

replacing my Tipper poster with a pic of Jane Austin,
Rick

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