Academic freedom: should religous students learn other religions?

The Discovery Institute is all up in arms about an editorial that appeared in American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Today. The writing in question is by Gregory A. Petsko, the president of ASBMB, on the state of evolution denial. He discusses the propaganda film Expelled and the Trojan horse legislative activities given the label “academic freedom.”

One interesting point that Petsko makes is drawing a parallel between having “academic freedom” to teach competing ideas on the evolution of man and on having “academic freedom” in religious institutions. He argues that if teaching competing views is such a good idea when teaching evolution, then it should be helpful for students in religious institutions to learn about other religious ideas, including the idea of no religion.

It has been the mantra of Intelligent Design(ID) proponents that students should be exposed to differing ideas and opinions. They say that his will only improve student’s understanding and critical thinking skills. Based on their logic, you would have thought that they would support such a move in religious schools. The fact that they got so offended by Petsko suggestion implies that they are not really interested in student’s overall education. The Discovery Institute is just interested in pushing ID on students.

I do not think that we should force students at religious schools to learn about other religions no more than I think a evidence-less theory like intelligent design should be forced on kids. The fact is that the ID proponents are cherry picking a few ideas that they want to promote. Nearly every subject in school could be taught in the guise of “academic freedom.” For example, holocaust denial should be brought up as well as the “faked” moon landings. Astrology, alchemy, and numerology would also need to be taught. Such ideas are ridiculous and like ID should be ignored. Students have enough to learn as it is.

Angela Hvitved, in another editorial in ASBMB Today, summarizes what is really at the heart of these “academic freedom” bills:

at best, these bills are unnecessary and do not provide any additional legitimate protection and, at worst, provide cover for introducing intelligent design and other nonscientific topics into the science classroom

They bring up the old argument that there are quite a few scientists who do not accept evolution. It is clear that these scientists are in such a minority that bringing them up is ridiculous. I wonder if they has ever heard of ‘project steve’? This idea shows that there are so many more scientists that accept evolution that the number of scientists with just the name Steve (or Stephanie) will outnumber all the scientists that reject it. Well, the count is now up to 958 (as of September 25th), compared to their 700+. Besides, only a small percentage of these scientists have anything to do with biology.

To end, I am going to quote Petsko’s editorial, where he gives a nice summary of why intelligent design (and creation) should not be given any credence:

The fact that some people believe nonsense does not give that nonsense scientific credibility. A challenge to existing scientific principles must be based on evidence, not on belief, and there isn’t a shred of evidence to support either creationism or intelligent design.

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One Response

  1. Yes, I agree. Religion students should be urged to study other religions. The world’s political situations nowadays is deteriorating because of religious in-sensitiveness towards each other. Many a times, students are molded to base feelings on their religion and these causes a marginality towards other people.

    study of world religion should be encouraged to be taken up by everyone.

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