An example of a conflict between science teaching and religious beliefs

Wings In yesterday’s post, I explained how during my whole time as a physics student, I’ve never seen an example of a religious claim, positive or negative, creeping into the science teaching. It’s not that physical science is inconsequential to religious claims, it’s not. However, religion is off-topic in a science class, and there is only a conflict if someone brings religion into the classroom.

A religious student may feel his beliefs are threatened if the topic being exposed happens to be in conflict. It can happen in cosmology, but there’s probably no class where it will happen more than in biology. I didn’t study biology myself after high school, but I have lots of friends who did, and there’s one topic in there that I remember and that can’t leave any follower of an Abrahamic religion indifferent. That topic is the undirected nature of evolution, its total lack of an endgame.

This is of course not taught to annoy religious students, but because it’s extremely important in order to understand evolution. Also, it’s demonstrably true.

If there’s one thing that proponents of ID have understood, it’s that creation, old or young, makes predictions that are different from the predictions of evolution theory (too bad that they can’t recognize when their claims are falsified…). The prediction in this case is that if evolution was intentional, we would see mutations that would be temporarily deleterious, and that can only be explained because they are useful to an innovation that will appear many generations down. In other words, the mutations would not be selected out, because they will serve a role in the future.

Evolution theory predicts that this is very unlikely, because selection starts to exert its pressure as soon as the mutation appears. It turns out that there are no known examples of such mutations, and that every observation is consistent with the predictions of evolution theory.

In teaching those ideas, the biology teacher doesn’t have any intention to indoctrinate anyone: he’s just teaching the science. If there is a conflict, it has been deliberately brought in, and should be resolved outside of the science class.

This should clarify that conflicts do clearly exist between scientific and religious claims (and until now, science has been right every time there’s been a conflict). In the previous post, my goal was to show how there is no anti-theistic indoctrination in a science classroom because religious claims have no place there. In this post, I hope I’ve shown why the onus is on the religious student to take what he’s been taught in science class and resolve any conflicts outside, on his own or with his priest. If he’s intellectually honest and open-minded, some of his religious beliefs will have to be revised.