Today (Feb 26) the Lethbridge Herald reported on the South Western Alberta Teachers Convention held Feb 24 and 25 at the University of Lethbridge. This is not the cause of the huge amounts of profanity, all caps and bolded text in what will follow. That the article, written by Caroline Zentner, only reported on one speaker’s contribution to the convention says something non-profanity worthy about either her reporting or the quality of the convention, or both. That the content of that contribution was about the compatibility of Catholicism and evolution is politely noteworthy: perhaps it a slow news day, or the Herald was deliberately pandering to the anti-intellectuals amongst its readership). No, what worth swearing about is that the Teachers Association tolerated such a talk at their convention in the first place. It is (irony intended) God-damn absurd. Moreover, the speaker’s ideas as reported in the article are totally FUCKED! What a load pure unadulterated bullshit. There, that felt good.
Here is the dissection.
Zentner writes about the presentation by Carl Fakeley, “an English and Religious Studies teacher at Notre Dame High School”, a Catholic school in Red Deer.
So, the convention organizers couldn’t even find a science teacher to talk about science? What a bunch of morons! Why is it that so many people think that being religious gives one credentials to talk about science? Or is it FAKEley’s English qualifications that let him talk about evolution? Hell, that’s more likely to do the trick than theology. Fuck, (oh crap, there I go again) I probably know more about science than he does.
Friday he gave a presentation at the annual teachers’ convention which outlined the discussion. The big bang theory and evolution and the biblical story of creation in Genesis are not mutually exclusive topics. Can a Catholic believe in evolution? Fakeley’s answer is yes.
“Creation tells us where matter came from and evolution tells us how it developed to become what it is today,” he said. “Evolution is a theory about how things perhaps evolved once the creation took place. Evolutionary theories can’t tell us the origin of matter, just how matter developed after it was created.”
Wrongo. Evolution does not say a thing about what happened to matter after “creation”. Evolution is about speciation, not physics, cosmology or anything like that. And it does not imply creation as Fakeley construes it. He can’t get his sciences in order and imposes his own religious world view to define the limits of said misunderstood science. Pathetic. And remember, this took place in a university. What would happen if one of Fakely’s unfortunate students got admitted to the U. of L., enrolled in an astrophysics class, and then wondered aloud about why the text book didn’t have any pictures of dinosaurs? Let’s get one thing straight:
“CAMBRIAN EXPLOSION” IS NOT A SYNONYM FOR “BIG BANG”!
Hell, I’m in the humanities and at least I know that much!
The article observes how students learn about evolution just when they are beginning their teenage rebellions against their parents. There is a quick solution: begin to teach evolution in the first grade when telling the kids about dinosaurs. And keep telling them, even if their parents’ heads explode. And get rid of that bullshit Bill 44 which lets parents pull their kids out of school classes on religious grounds. Parents who object to the content should be forced to attend and then fined if they interrupt the proceedings.
Students sometimes become automatic skeptics in religion class, saying science has proof but religion doesn’t. Fakeley asks students what belief is.
“Most of what we believe we believe on faith,” he said. “In that realm of what we say we know, there are very few things that we know firsthand.”
And besides, kids SHOULD become skeptics in school. That is what an education is for. Sure, there is a subjectivity to the production of knowledge, but the kind of knowledge attained through scientific means is of a fundamentally different order than that generated by religious belief. And there ISN’T any proof for the essential doctrines of religions but proof is the essence of what a scientific approach to reality is all about. Fakeley also BADLY oversimplifies the issue of science and religion.
There are two sides to the argument, with the one side starting from the premise that God doesn’t exist and the other (literal creation theory) starting from the premise that God does exist.
Unless he was misquoted here, I would like to remind him that besides agnosticism, there are countless different religious views that humans have invented, besides the myriad of invented Christian theologies. Fakely’s false dichotomy ignores all of these other religious explanations for the cause of the universe and the development of life and badly misrepresents the empiricism behind science as simply an alternative to his own religious beliefs. Good thing he doesn’t teach science. Or philosophy.
“The creationists will find all of the evidence that can point in their direction. The evolutionists find the evidence that points in their direction,” he said. “And so, in a sense, both are really practising bad science. Good science says, ‘Hey, let’s look at the data. What does the data tell us?'”
WHAT THE FUCK? What data is Fakeley even talking about, here? And how does Fakeley propose to analyze what “the data tells us” after he has called into question any epistemology? He simply assumes a “common sense” one. But why were biblical creation myths abandoned as reasonable positions if people didn’t start looking at data from observations of the natural world? What of the “evidence” found by creationists (young or old earth varieties). Where is it?
Too bad Fakeley claims to be a “religious studies” teacher. He seems to ignore most religions ever invented. About the only sensible thing he was quoted as saying is this:
The Bible was never intended to be used as a science textbook and a science text is not meant to be used as the Bible.
So why bother even giving the Bible ANY kind of credence when trying to understand how the universe works? He goes on:
“We can glean things from them but that isn’t their express purpose,” he said.
If the big bang and evolution theories are both true, that still doesn’t affect a Catholic’s faith.
“Neither theory comments one way or another about God’s existence,” Fakeley said. “Our faith is based on the life, the death and the resurrection of Christ.”
The Big Bang and Evolution (here he seems to recognize these two different fields of scientific research), actually DO imply a lot about the Christian god since neither theory actually need that deity (or any other) to work. And what of this Christ? How the hell can faith be based on the resurrection of some executed Jewish carpenter’s kid? The resurrection is part of the content of faith, not what makes faith reasonable or viable. Many fields of critical research can and do call much of the Bible’s Jesus into question. Did the guy even exist to die in the first place? And if so, what were the events of his life? How like or unlike the biblical accounts was he? Biblical scholarship has many unanswered questions about these issues but there sure seems to have been a lot of fallible human input into the creation of the myth of this Christ and the production of the world’s many bibles. And the biological sciences might have a lot to say about the reality of the resurrection!
The texts that tell us of such miracles have their own histories as do the ideological institutions that claim these texts were written or inspired by some god. The timeless truths of the Catholic Church have a sordid history of invention and reinvention that can be fully explained by human creativity in response to changing intellectual and political circumstances. Hell, that’s the way we explain the shifting (and often self-serving) histories of other religions.
Moreover, when creationists see a debate between Genesis 1 and science, they are turning a blind eye to inconsistencies in their own body of data by ignoring more of the Bible than they are willing to deal with. The Bible itself has MULTIPLE creation myths:
1) The Creation Week in Gen. 1:1-2:4, in which humanity was created last
2) The Garden of Eden story that follows immediately on the previous. Here humanity is created BEFORE the plants and animals. Any attempt to harmonize the two goes against the natural reading of the Hebrew.
3) God’s primeval battles with Chaos & the defeat of the Sea (e.g., Psalm 74, 89)
4) Creation through wisdom (Proverbs 8)
5) Creation through Christ (John 1).
Can these ALL be true in any reasonable sense of the word “true”? To make them all work requires such a process of book-cooking rationalization that, in a manner of speaking one is just inventing up a NEW revelation about creation, and, metaphorically speaking, a new Bible. If one is to give one or more of the myths up, which ones, and why? Human reason is behind the interpretation of the Bible as well as its production. None of it requires a god. Why should critical thinkers cut it any slack at all?
The Bible’s mythical worlds are as much products of fantasy and imagination as are those of the Greeks, Hindus, Norsemen andScientologists. If the Bible has some “hidden” truths behind its depiction of a flat earth with pillars hold up a 6000 year old heavens, then how can people know they have uncovered them successfully? Where does the allegories stop and the Bible start talking plainly? Is there a sure-fire formula for knowing this that does not rely on further claims of revelation or other esoteric knowledge? Allegorical and selective biblical interpretation to allow for science is simply an after-the-fact special pleading to preserve a special status for a human invention.
What place can science have for revelation? And if there is to be an allowance for revelation, why must it be CHRISTIAN revelation? More special pleading in protection of Christianity’s priviledged social position in western world. That is pretty much all there is to support of sectarian schools allowing “teachers” like Fakeley to spew his nonsense. Let the Church fund the Church. Education taxes should be spent on Sunday Schools.
Fakeley seems to rely on some version of Gould’s bullshit notion of “non-overlapping magisteria”, NOMA, in which science and religion talk about completely different things (science the empirical world; religion, the non-empirical) so there is no fundamental contradiction between them. It seems to be totally deficient in its understanding of religion which is very often deeply concerned with describing the empirical world. More than just ascribing a spiritual value, religion often describes empirical reality, and its to ignore such claims is simple book-cooking to arrive at a favourable conclusion. To say religion’s claims about the empirical world are inconsequential to the core of what religion is amounts to saying that literally MILLIONS if not BILLIONS of religious people have totally missed the point of their own tradition.
Moreover, even if we allow that ,as Fakeley claims, evolution and the big bang theories (or all the other sciences and critical disciplines, for that matter) do not affect faith then what we have is not a protected space for faith but a question of human psychology and the dissonance of holding mutually exclusive beliefs. NOr do we have a protected space for scientific thought. We can compartmentalize to some extent, but there is a lot overlap that should not be denied when it comes to science and the content of Christianity or other religions.
Dead people do not resurrect. Water cannot instantaneously be turned into water. The sun cannot stand still in the sky. Demons do not cause diseases, axes don’t float in water, snakes and donkeys don’t talk. Miracles that depend on God requires suspension of the natural laws. These things have no place in a rational world. Yet, this is the content of many Christian’s beliefs as descriptions of the history of the real, lived world. By holding them apart NOMA denies the religious reality of many people and, what is worse, supposes to know best about what religious people SHOULD believe.
NOMA is just Gould’s way of saying Gould doesn’t think too critically about religion. It is his adaptation of an ad hoc Christian apologetic position (indeed, he borrowed much of it from the Pope) that pays lip-service to critical thought while protecting itself from such criticism.
And religion itself is a valid topic for critical research. Rather than have ill-educated teachers pontificate about science in a fit of Christian apologetics, students should be taught to examine religion in the same way they are taught to pull apart other historically contingent ideologies. Its high time REAL Religious Studies courses were mandatory in schools, dammit.
Why MUST part of the universe be regarded as off limits to rational, scientific exploration? Science can carve out a space for religious myth only by sacrificing part of itself. Christians only know of “creation” through doctrines derived from reading the Bible, which itself can be demonstrated to be a product of its own cultural setting in the ancient Near East. This is hardly an excuse for explaining away its inconsistencies and non-scientific conceptions as is often done.
Public schools should not include any sectarian religious instruction. Students should learn about religions, but not their “truths” and doctrines as alternatives to science. Rather, religion should be taught as the product of human culture. It’s time to abolish sectarian schools and unqualified
tpreachers bullshitting students on the public purse.