Be vigilant on how they intersect in our schools

Be vigilant on how they intersect in our schools
Science and Faith
Dallas Morning News, Editorial - 12/27/2007 - original
Creationism institute should stay out of science education

Did God create the universe? Did he do so according to the six-day schedule set out in the Book of Genesis?

On the first question, science must be agnostic; the scientific method of knowing cannot answer a question like that any more than theology can discover the specific gravity of mercury. On the second question, science is rather definitive: No. A literal reading of Genesis is scientifically unsupportable. If one wishes to believe the Genesis version over the scientific account, one may. But it's not science.

It's troubling, then, that the Dallas-based Institute for Creation Research, which professes Genesis as scientifically reliable, recently won a state advisory panel's approval for its online master's degree program in science education. Investigators found that despite its creationism component which is not the same thing as "intelligent design" the institute's graduate program offered enough real science to pass academic muster. The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board will vote on the recommendation in January.

We hate to second-guess the three academic investigators including Gloria White, managing director of the University of Texas at Austin's Dana Research Center for Mathematics and Science Education but, still, the coordinating board had better give this case a long, hard look.

The board's job is to certify institutions as competent to teach science in Texas schools. Despite the institute including mainstream science in its programs, it's hard to see how a school that rejects so many fundamental principles of science can be trusted to produce teachers who faithfully teach the state's curriculum.

Faith is, by nature, based on the unprovable

Some people regard science as a religion, finding comfort in what's provable and undeniable. For others, the only true source of religion is faith in God. Faith is based on the unprovable, and because it's a personal conviction, it is equally undeniable. These two absolutes increasingly are at odds in Texas schools, where evolution is the basis for science instruction. The theory of evolution holds that humans resulted from billions of years of adaptation and refinement.

Many devout Christians and Jews are offended that, to study science, students must disregard the biblical account of God creating all existence in six days. Some demand the teaching of faith as a science, called "intelligent design," to counter the notion that evolution is the only answer.

Faith maintains its unique quality because it is based on things we cannot prove in this life. By reducing it to an empirical science, it ceases to be faith. Yet, no matter how many linkages scientists uncover to show that man evolved from pond slime, they will never do better than those who rely on faith in answering the ultimate question about a greater being behind our existence.

As the debate rages, it's worth noting that the world's great religions agree on the need for science. And even the agnostic Albert Einstein conceded that science can't answer everything: "My religiosity consists in a humble admiration of the infinitely superior spirit that reveals itself in the little that we, with our weak and transitory understanding, can comprehend of reality."

It's demeaning for the faithful to tout belief as science. But equally so, the advocates of science should be respectful enough to admit that faith is all that remains when science fails to provide the answers we seek.