RE: [asa] The fight in Texas over evolution training in schools

From: Gregory Arago <>
Date: Wed Mar 25 2009 - 13:59:44 EDT

Hi Ted,
I'm wondering what you mean when you say 'clear secular purpose.' In the following paragraph you repeat this phrase 3 times, with just 'secular purpose' added another time:
"I realize of course that many public school science teachers are woefully unprepared to have those larger conversations--and this is not their fault, given the courses they are required to take in order to be certified.  But some teachers may be very well prepared for such conversations, and they IMO should not be barred from entering into them. The legal issue is, do they have a clear secular purpose (as vs a religious purpose) for doing so?  Prior to and during the Kitzmiller trial, legal expert Edward Larson held the view that aspects of ID could be discussed in public school classes, if a teacher had a clear secular purpose for doing so.  The judge's ruling in Kitzmiller might still allow for this, but it's not clear that it does.  *Teaching ID as an alternative to evolution* is quite different IMO from *discussing aspects of it* for secular purposes.  Probably, many teachers who would want to try that would be motivated by religion and not
 have a clear secular purpose, but IMO that would not be true in all cases." 

Are you suggesting that teachers (should) invoke a kind of 'value neutrality' in their classrooms? Or is this expression somewhere in a 'separation of Church and State' clause in some American legislation? Or is there another meaning to draw from this, that science (or in the case mentioned, ID) should never in any case overlap with religious thought?
Charles Taylor's recent book "A Secular Age" is poised to signficantly alter discussions about 'secular' and 'secularism' in our contemporary epoch. You seem to be implying one of the 'first two' definitions of 'secular' in Taylor's view; i.e. the common, but not necessarily contemporary ones. The third view Taylor presents is most important, and it may be that in confronting it, you will come to massage your language 'as if' either evolutionism or creationism could be taught with a 'clear secular purpose.' This may simply become an older way to speak about it sometime in the coming years.
p.s. I certainly agree with you, Ted, about finding a way to reach more HPSS, e.g. doing so would disabuse George Cooper of saying: "they should be treated as subjective views until they can demonstrate objective testability, which is science." We have moved beyond such a rigid and dichotomous perspective: science is objective and anything subjective is (meant pejoratively) 'not scientific.' Incidentally, I do think that one needs to move beyond the H and the P to the first S before 'of Science,' in order to discover a key to understanding what science 'means' to people, and thus not only to considering the epistemological or (as George repeats - what science is is) ontological approach to/in science. __________________________________________________________________ Yahoo! Canada Toolbar: Search from anywhere on the web, and bookmark your favourite sites. Download it now

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Received on Wed Mar 25 14:00:21 2009

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