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Barbarians? What Barbarians?

Mark Olson responded to my post Why the Creation-Evolution Controvery is Important with a post of his own, Barbarians at the Gate. It appears that was his gentle way of telling me that I’m a bit over the top, at least about my comment on the assault on the integrity of science. Kudos to Mark for method! I don’t see any barbarians, or at least I see only barbarians acting in a very civilized way, but I do see some danger.

I would first like to point out that I said what I said in the context of the case of Dr. Richard Colling at Olivet Nazarene University (start with Where Teaching the Controversy is Prohibited). I didn’t specify that in my own post, because I was responding to some of the responses I received to my posting on that issue. Where precisely is this “assault on integrity” going on? I believe it is happening in Christian churches.

I’m not, however, talking about the dearth of Biblical knowledge, though I do think that is a problem. I’m talking about the way in which some Christians try to pressure other Christians into accepting a war between religion an science–a war which is quite unnecessary. The most guilty parties are advocates of young earth creationism, but old earth creationists join in when the target is theistic evolutionists, and the ID crowd joins right in.

I’ve already expressed by view on this a few times before and particularly in more recent discussions of the situation at Olivet Nazarene University. But I lived this in my own life. There was certainly no effort to “teach the controversy” in my Seventh-day Adventist education. The entire effort was to indoctrinate me as a young earth creationist. I had very little idea what evolutionary theory actually was even after I received my graduate degree.

But there is something faintly amusing to me about getting painting as one proclaiming there are barbarians at the gates. The ID movement is one of the noisiest “suppressed” movements out there. They are truly claiming that the barbarians are at the gates–in this case “Darwinist” barbarians. But is that cry justified?

I think it is not. First, of course, they seem to have an abundance of ways in which to make themselves heard. Second, they are not taking the appropriate road to scientific recognition, which is the production of science.

There are two ways to obscure truth. On the one can attempt to suppress those who speak it. But on the other hand we can present so many untested things as truth that it’s hard to determine what is valid and what is not. In order to prevent the second of these, we have peer-reviewed journals and we have results that can be replicated by other scientists. Those are the proper gateways through which thing should pass to become part of the general body of science.

As a counter to that restriction we have free flow of information generally. The ID advocates who feel that they are being suppressed can write and publish books, they can write blogs, and everyone who wants can read. They can assault the gates of science all they want. That is freedom of speech. But it is essentially also freedom of speech for those scientists who peer-review the literature and who try to replicate results to say, “No, this doesn’t meet the standard.” The rest of us get to decide who we will believe.

Someone is bound to ask then why I don’t think Olivet Nazarene University is within their rights to suppress Dr. Richard Colling? Of course they are within their rights. They are a privately funded university, and they can set their own standards. They might fall afoul of accreditation committees, but that has not proven too much of a problem for many, many schools who would not allow the teaching of evolution as valid.

But this is the church. You see, I care more about the church than I do about the rest of the world. I’m a Bible teacher. That’s where I live and work. It’s important to me. When I see there’s a problem with integrity in the world, I am concerned. When I see it in the church, that’s striking close to home.

People who have gone to secular universities rarely understand my point on this. They feel that they spent their lives fighting for recognition, and that any religious ideas are suppressed in that atmosphere. Personally I suspect them of being a bit over the top, but I can’t be sure. You see, I never spent a day in a public school classroom. I’m part home schooled, part private schooled, and all Christian schooled.

I would like Christian education to be ahead of everyone else, and to represent the very best that there is to offer. I’d like to see better training in all fields, but especially in science. If there is any place where Christians should demonstrate a sound education, rather than a thorough indoctrination it is in our church educational systems, from Sunday School to church sponsored universities.

To do that we need to model free inquiry. Exploration not indoctrination.

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