Re: Fwd: Alvin Plantinga's paper

Moorad Alexanian (
Sat, 16 Jan 1999 12:53:01 -0500 (EST)

At 03:35 PM 1/15/99 -0500, Ed Brayton wrote:
>Before responding to Dr. Plantinga's paper, let me make a couple of statements
>that stake out my position.
>First, I respect Dr. Plantinga enormously. I am not a Christian myself, but I
>regard him as probably the single finest thinker in modern Christian
>apologetics. As such, his opinions are not to be taken lightly and should be
>given all due consideration.
>Second, the issue of whether evolution or creationism should be taught in
>schools is ultimately a moot point for me because I favor the phasing out of
>public schools entirely.
>Having said that, however, I do think Dr. Plantinga's paper raises several
>problems. I wonder how consistently he would apply his own criteria. He offers
>the following justification for eliminating the teaching of evolution in public
>"(BR) Each of the citizens party to the contract has the right not to have
>comprehensive beliefs taught to her children that contradict her own
>comprehensive beliefs."
>The major problem I see with this is that it can be applied to any number of
>situations with more or less equal merit. The teaching of evolution is not the
>only instance in which a school curriculum can contradict the deeply held
>beliefs of a portion of the parents whose children attend public schools. When
>public schools teach that the earth is a sphere, is it a violation of the basic
>rights of those parents who believe that the earth is flat? By the same
>that Dr. Plantinga advances, flat earthism is, for those parents, an integral
>part of their comprehensive religious beliefs and their beliefs are based upon
>an interpretation of the bible that they feel is absolutely a part of the
>bible's teachings about the world. When we teach the heliocentric model of the
>universe in public schools, do we violate the basic rights of those parents
>along with John Calvin and Martin Luther, believer fervently that the earth is
>the center of the universe and that acceptance of the bible demands that
this be
>true? When we teach about the Holocaust, do we violate the basic rights of that
>group of white supremacists who deny that it occured? When we teach the germ
>theory of disease, do we violate the basic rights of Christian Scientists? When
>we teach standard meteorology, do we violate the basic rights of those who
>believe that bad weather is sent by God to punish the wicked?
>Any thoughts?
>Ed Brayton

The teaching of evolution in public schools gives rise to questions about
the way it is taught, the philosophical assumptions being made, etc. I will
use the teaching of the Big Bang theory in physics classes to illustrate my
point. It would be totally absurd to say that when teaching physics to all
who need it, it is essential that we teach the Big Bang theory of the origin
of the physical universe for otherwise none of the physics would make sense.
I believe the same can be said when teaching biology, zoology, etc. I ask
you, how essential is it for the true understanding of such disciplines that
evolution be taught at all? What would happen if the theory of evolution
would be totally barred from our school systems? I believe that nothing
would happen, science would continue to proposer, technology would be
unhindered, medicine would flourish, etc.