I have been a teacher for 32 years, teaching mostly biology along with other science classes. As a long-time NABT member and ABT author I realize that we look to ABT for ideas, guidance, education, and inspiration. Therefore, I feel compelled to write after reading an article in the April 2014 issue by Miller and Toth, “The Process of Scientific Inquiry as It Relates to the Creation/Evolution Controversy: 1. A Serious Social Problem.” I find it appalling, nonscientific, and certainly not pertaining to scientific inquiry as the authors claim. These authors are instigating this “Social Problem” and doing so with highly controversial claims that are nothing more than opinionated positions that should be in a secular humanist journal and not a scientific, peer-reviewed journal.
I was a participant in the initial Evolution and the Nature of Science workshop at Indiana University in 1989, which has led to a website with many great resources for teaching evolution. The workshop produced a useful acronym: science is CONPTT – Consistent, Observable, Natural (vs. Supernatural), Predictable, Testable, and Tentative. Religion, therefore, is outside the realm of science. I teach my students that spirits are neither predictable nor testable. This does not mean that they do not exist, but we will not study them in my science class. And I do believe in exposing students to evidence for evolution so that they can see this evidence for themselves and try to reconcile it with their own personal worldviews.
These authors are very negative and condescending toward Christian Fundamentalists. Of course, Christianity is not a science but a way of life, based on faith. Furthermore, not all Christians are fundamentalists, and many use science to explore how God created life – how He used His Laws of Nature, perhaps through evolution. For example, the Roman Catholic Church accepts evolution and encourages scientists and scientific study. The authors insult all Christians. They insinuate that because 92% of people in the United States are believers, compared to Europe’s much lower rate, we are a dysfunctional society and we score low on unnamed social well-being standards. How unscientific can this claim be? How can they reach such a conclusion?
Misusing quotes to attack those with religious beliefs does not prepare classroom teachers to teach the concepts of evolution. For instance, how did life begin? This is the biggest issue for my students, and one that biological evolution does not and cannot address. The authors use a quote from an evolution stalwart – Richard Dawkins. In an interview, he admitted that he could not explain how life on earth arose, and he thought perhaps it was placed here by aliens. But even that suggestion doesn’t explain the origin of this alien life. Even if science may someday explain life’s origin, it still cannot answer the question of why life formed and why we are here. These are religious or philosophical questions which I encourage students to reflect on but cannot teach them. That seems to be the crux of the issue for the authors and where they are out of line for a science journal.
Ultimately, religion and science can and do work together. Ask Dr. Francis Collins. I am sure he could much more eloquently write a letter to counter the suggestions of these authors than I. Perhaps ABT could publish a chapter of his book The Language of God.