Science and education professionals are increasingly alarmed about the impact Donald Trump’s cabinet picks — many of them evangelical Christians — could have on science standards in public schools.
Candidate Trump repeatedly pledged to end the existing Common Core curricula standards for math and English. Critics worry that could open the door to rethinking science standards, and lead to the teaching of creationism and Intelligent Design, pseudo-scientific notions about Earth’s origins with little or no support from scientists.
Creationist Christian tourists may soon flock to the Ark Encounter, a literal vision of Noah’s story in Genesis come to life in July as a theology-packed tourist attraction in Williamstown, Ky.
In the past few months I have come to a rather substantial conclusion: I cannot slow down time. Try as I might, my oldest daughter is now four and a half and is practically sprinting her way to "big kid school." My wife and I have been discussing this next phase of our daughter’s life. Sadly, school districts are falling into massive debt, being subjected to low performance in the classroom and even apathy in educating the next generation. Schools have become too focused on state test scores and benchmarks and have removed the art of learning from many classrooms.
Now private schools are becoming more mainstream, offering alternatives to public education, more flexibility, and more opportunities to the students. For many private schools there is a common element: they are associated with a religious group or Christian denomination. These schools started out as an extension of the ministry of the church as a way to respond to the needs of the community. But over time many popped up as a rejection of the educational system and their "removal" of God or prayer the school. Many parents see disconnect between the mainstream educational system and their Christian households.
But I see a certain danger in some of these Christian alternatives. It might sound counterintuitive for an ordained Christian minister to say, but there are a few reasons I would not send my daughter to some Christian schools.
Pope Francis on Oct. 27 waded into the controversial debate over the origins of human life, saying the big bang theory did not contradict the role of a divine creator, but even required it.
The pope was addressing the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, which gathered at the Vatican to discuss “Evolving Concepts of Nature.”
“When we read about Creation in Genesis, we run the risk of imagining God was a magician, with a magic wand able to do everything. But that is not so,” Francis said.
“He created human beings and let them develop according to the internal laws that he gave to each one so they would reach their fulfillment.”
Francis said the beginning of the world was not “a work of chaos” but created from a principle of love. He said sometimes competing beliefs in creation and evolution could co-exist.
In just the latest evidence that a certain subset of conservative evangelical Christians really has no interest in occupying the real world with the rest of us, the trailer for a new movie called A Matter of Faith has hit the Internet.
The film follows the travails of a Christian father, who — horrified by the fact that his daughter’s college teaches the theory of evolution as a fact (gasp!) — challenges the villainous biology professor to a public debate that will no doubt settle the matter once and for all.
If this premise sounds strangely familiar, it could be that you’re remembering God’s Not Dead, a film released in March, in which a Christian student who — horrified by the fact that his philosophy professor is a committed atheist — challenges the dastardly nonbeliever to a debate on the existence of God that, no doubt, settled the matter once and for all.
(I’m told that the new movie was called Christians vs. the Straw Man II: This Time It’s Personal throughout production, before filmmakers decided to rename it A Matter of Faith.)
The similarities between the two pictures don’t stop there.
Every so often, the young-earth groups come up with an idea that is just so plainly, utterly, obviously wrong — in every sense of the word — that it demands a response from a larger subset of believers. To do otherwise would be to make a mockery of the Christ we claim to follow — a man who was hated by the religious establishment of the day precisely because he called them out for their hypocrisy and refused to let them claim divine fiat for their immoral actions.
I'm speaking of the so-called Ark Encounter. If you're not familiar with the project, it's the latest brainchild of Ken Ham (of recent "Ham on Nye" fame) and AiG, a planned "biblical" theme park centered around a scale, wooden replica of Noah's ark, constructed according to the instructions in Genesis (except this one will be built by teams of modern-day professionals rather than a single, unskilled old man, won’t be seaworthy, and won’t hold two of every unclean animal and 14 of every clean one).
Ham and his team have been discussing these plans for years, but few outside their devoted following paid them much heed till now, probably because the project’s well-publicized funding issues led us all to believe the thing would never be built. But, according to a statement by Ham last week, enough investors are on board to “start” construction on the 510-foot-long, boat-shaped building. The cost of completing the first phase of the theme park has been estimated at more than $70 million.
There was a moment during last week’s “debate” between Bill Nye the Science Guy and young-earth creationist Ken Ham that I think was more telling than any other.
During the Q&A session, Ham was asked what seemed to me to be a very simple question: “Hypothetically, if evidence existed that caused you to admit that the universe is older than 10,000 years and creation did not occur in six days, would you still believe in God, and the historical Jesus of Nazareth, and that Jesus was the son of God?”
What was most telling was not really what Ham said, as much as what he didn’t say, which was “Yes.”
In my mind, this question was a softball pitch. It couldn’t possibly be easier. And Ham was given two minutes to answer the thing? His response should have taken all of two seconds: “Yes.”
If you perused some of the headlines coming out of Slate the past couple weeks, you’ll find that, not only are Texas schools teaching creationism , schools all over the country are teaching creationism , and — even as we speak — lawmakers in South Dakota and elsewhere are introducing legislation that will let their schools teach creationism.
Such news leads me to one of two conclusions: Either the proponents of teaching creationism — a viewpoint I thought it was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1987 — have been very busy lately, or what passes for “creationism” in the eyes of the mainstream media these days has become pretty fuzzy.
I lean toward the latter.
Look, I’m a writer and a journalist, too. I get it. I understand the desire for a sexy, emotionally heavy word that “seems” to describe the given topic and will — of course — generates millions of clicks from the churning, polarized body politic that powers the Interwebs.
But this willy-nilly misapplication of the terms “creationist” and “creationism” simply has got to stop, and here’s why.
There’s a lot at stake here. By trying to turn the Jewish poetry of the Genesis story into a scientific-historical text that would stand against evolution, Creationism, as an ideology, serves to diminish the account of human dignity established in the Creation story that might, in fact, represent a worthy alternative to Darwinism. Says [Marilynne] Robinson: “People who insist that the sacredness of Scripture depends on belief in creation in a literal six days seem never to insist on a literal reading of ‘to him who asks, give,’ or ‘sell what you have and give the money to the poor.’ In fact, their politics and economics align themselves quite precisely with those of their adversaries, who yearn to disburden themselves of the weak, and to unshackle the great creative forces of competition. The defenders of ‘religion’ have made religion seem foolish while rendering it mute in the face of a prolonged and highly effective assault on the poor.”