I was just involved in a lengthy Facebook debate involving the presence of religion in the science classroom.  As I understood it, my debate partner was arguing that a teacher should not be able to disagree with a student's religious beliefs if the religious beliefs contradicted science.  One of his final responses to me was:

"It’s unconstitutional for a public institution to tell someone their religion is untrue. Period."

I asked what passage in the Constitution contained this prohibition, but received no answer.  What passage could this be referencing?  Any ideas?  I am fairly certain that it is mostly likely a perversion of the establishment clause, but I fully admit that I am no expert on the Constitution. 

Tags: Constitution, belief, legal, public, religion, school, science, teacher

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The First Amendment of the Constitution was about the government and for freedom of worship. Nothing about anybody else or any other institution for having an opinion about somebody else's religion. If people didn't stand up when religion contradicted science, we'd never be able to even fly kites, let alone fly to the moon.
As a Canadian, there's a limit to how much I care.

Quit trying to make me jealous with your health care and lack of evangelicals! Just kidding. ;)

I agree, I think it was some sort of reference to the establishment clause. But I was having a hard time understanding how talking about scientific evidence which just happened to contradict a religious belief could seriously be considered as religious discrimination.
The same people who so often bemoan that their Constitutional rights are being violated are usually the same people who know the least about the Constitution or Constitutional rights.
If people didn't stand up when religion contradicted science, we'd never be able to even fly kites, let alone fly to the moon.

Excellent point. I kept trying to raise the geocentric/heliocentric divide of astronomy to illustrate my point that when truth contradicts religion, the truth will eventually prevail. Or, at least, hopefully... :/
It is a popular battle cry for idiots these days to claim all sorts of things as being un-Constitutional. These people are simply ignorant and don't understand the Constitution, science, or law in any shape or form.
It just irritates me when someone cites a document and refuses to provide an exact quote. I mean, it's the friggin Constitution, there are a million copies online; it would take thirty seconds to copy-paste whatever clause is being cited. I get super frustrated because I am no expert in Constitutional law, and I genuinely start to question myself and wonder if I am just outstandingly ignorant of some huge statement in the document. Then I realize that the person I'm arguing with is even more ignorant than I am and I get even more frustrated for letting them make me question myself. Does that make sense? Lol.

I honestly think that the basic rules of logic, debate, and rhetoric need to be incorporated into the public school elementary curriculum. We need to reinstate some of the basic tenets of a Classical education. Not in hopes of spawning a generation of Sophists, but simply in an endeavor to graduate students who can actually hold a logical debate and support their own statements.
As an educator, I damn sure wouldn't go telling a kid any such thing. I would phrase it as non-confrontational as I possibly could. Something like "I'm not talking about your beliefs or anything like that, I'm only telling you what is scientific fact. I can't change that. Sorry."
The debate honestly confused me. Originally, I thought that the poster was arguing that religious beliefs should not be disproved by scientific evidence in the classroom;I thought that he was basically arguing for the suppression of science in order to avoid possibly contradicting a student's beliefs.

But I totally agree with you, that it need not be a confrontational exchange. If the student asks a question like, "My Bible says that the world was created in six days. Is this true?" then the teacher does not necessarily need to respond, "ABSOLUTELY NOT!! THAT'S A LIIIIIIIEEEE!!" Instead, the teacher can provide the scientific evidence--which just happens to prove that this is not possible--and let the student make up their own mind. Like you said, only talk about the scientific facts and not even address the religious belief. If the child (hopefully) concludes that their belief is in error in light of the scientific fact, then that is not the fault of the educator. In the FB debate, it seemed like the guy wanted teachers to say something like, "Well, anything is possible! So sure, the world could have been created in six days, even though we have a ton of evidence against that fact!"

If anything, the guy wanted the belief to be directly addressed and indirectly affirmed.
I think that the science teacher has every right to disagree with religious beliefs. Afterall the teacher is employed to teach science not myth. The science classroom should not promote religion.

In December 2009 religion & science classes were in the headlines and the concept of Intelligent Design (ID) was said to be "creationism in disguise" -
"Judge rules against ‘intelligent design’
‘Religious alternative’ to evolution barred from public-school science classes
‘ID is not science’
In his ruling, Jones said that while intelligent design, or ID, arguments “may be true, a proposition on which the court takes no position, ID is not science.” Among other things, he said intelligent design “violates the centuries-old ground rules of science by invoking and permitting supernatural causation”; it relies on “flawed and illogical” arguments; and its attacks on evolution “have been refuted by the scientific community.”

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/10545387/


The entire "intelligent design" thing really irritates me, and especially how ID proponents try to argue that they are not really creationists. But if you ever get to the ultimate root of their assertions, it always inevitably devolves into a supernatural force and uncaused cause as the ultimate source of life. All that they have done is give God the stage name of "The Designer."

But the worst part is that nothing in intelligent design is even testable! I remember watching that documentary which Ben Stein put out last year, Expelled. I mean, all of these people at the Discovery Institute are crying that the scientific community is barring them from conducting research and exploring the tenets of intelligent design. But there is no experiment that they could hold to even conduct research! It is the unfalsifiability of their statements that prevent them from conducting research, yet they want to claim that it is discrimination and lack of funding. Such complete bullshit!
For clarity, it probably would have helped if I had included the context of the entire conversation.

Here is a link:

Facebook Debate
Yay, thanks Jen! I was hoping that you would pop in with your legal expertise. :D The establishment clause was the only thing that I could think of which he might possibly be referencing.

Therefore, I do not understand how teaching science, a religion free subject, would violate the First Amendment.


Exactly, it seemed like the guy actually WANTED the teacher to directly reference religion and incorporate it into the curriculum by saying "Yes, that is possible." He kept mentioning that atheists/secularists were trying to "deny religion's place in empirical science" or something to that effect; I'm still not sure what the rationale is behind asserting that religion has any place in "empirical science," but oh well...

All I ever advocated was that the teacher be completely unhindered in presenting scientific material. If this material then contradicted a religious belief and led a student to conclude that their belief was wrong, the teacher still cannot be accused of "denying religion." My mind is still boggled that he tried to paint this as a violation of the Constitution.

From what I could gleam of his argument, he was actually promoting something which violated the establishment clause in that he wanted teachers to be forced to respond a certain way in accordance with religious beliefs.

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