Mixed magisteria for science teachers

April 28, 2011 • 5:21 am

If you were a science teacher, wouldn’t you jump at the chance to attend this biology workshop in San Diego, all expenses paid?

This course will examine the incredible diversity of animal and plant life on our planet. We will investigate both (a) organisms that meet common challenges in similar ways, yet are not closely related; and (b) organisms that meet different challenges yet are closely related. Genetic diversity—the amount of genetic variation that occurs within and between populations—will guide our analysis of the relatedness of various plant and animal species. Finally we will consider why plant and animal diversity should be conserved. We will study these themes in an inquiry-based learning format that will take advantage of the wealth of biodiversity available in San Diego.

Sounds good, no?  And there are huge perks:

  • Participants will receive complimentary room and board at on [sic] the campus of Point Loma Nazarene University.
  • In addition, participants will receive a stipend of $1,000.
  • If desired, two units of graduate university credit will be given upon successful completion of the program.
  • Travel expenses will be reimbursed, with prior approval, for those coming from outside Southern California.

What a deal! Free room and board, free tuition, travel expenses reimbursed, and a $1K stipend on top of that! Too good to be true?

Yep, for the course is infused with Jesus; in fact, the whole point is to unite science and evangelical Christianity.  For “Biology by the Sea” is sponsored not only by Point Loma Nazarene University (a Christian college), but by BioLogos.  So those teachers are gonna get a dose of Jesus with their biology, including “theological discussions and scriptural reflections.”  And although BioLogos‘s official position is that the earth is old, and some sort of evolution happened, the course won’t criticize old-earth or young-earth creationists—or others who believe in insane “scientific” woo.  Note how many times this course description uses the word “respect” (my emphasis):

The course content has implications for how one views creation. The class will consider this in a manner that celebrates God as Creator and recognizes that Christians hold different views about how creation has actually taken place. Although BioLogos and Point Loma Nazarene University biology faculty hold the view that God created all of life through a gradual process over time, course faculty will respect the wide range of views held by Christians about Creation.

Point Loma Nazarene University (PLNU) is a fully accredited evangelical institution in the Wesleyan tradition. The faculty are deeply committed Christians. All hold Ph.D.’s and most have post-doctoral research experience. Importantly, all have considerable teaching experience with Christian young people holding diverse viewpoints about how God created, be it gradually over a long period of time, or suddenly in six 24 hour days. Although the Biology faculty hold to an old earth / gradual creation point of view and believe that there are not significant conflicts between mainstream science and biblical Christianity, they are respectful of all views.

The Biology by the Sea program exists for teachers to study animal and plant diversity in the context of a Christian university. It is heavily grounded in worship and Bible study which celebrates creation and God as Creator. Regular worship services are led by PLNU’s worship leader and its Bible studies are led by a pastor who is also a faculty member of PLNU. Although the program teaches from an evolutionary creation point of view, participants from other perspectives are welcome and are encouraged to attend. As with all PLNU biology courses, individuals of all creation viewpoints are respected.

“Respect” means, of course, “we won’t challenge your views, even though science shows that they’re dead, flat wrong.”

Young-earth creationism, or any sort of scientifically insupportable view of creation, is not worthy of “respect.”  It is worthy of contempt—particularly in a science course.  Of course, one needn’t shout forced laughter into the faces of those participants who think that the earth is 6,000 years old, or that all the fish they look at did not evolve but were created instantaneously at some time in the past, but these misguided folks should be politely informed that they’re wrong: that those fish have millions of years of common ancestry with other fishes, and that marine vertebrates began evolving over 500 million years ago.

And why are science teachers taking a course on biology anyway if they don’t accept evolution? It can’t be to learn about evolution, for the University and BioLogos apparently won’t challenge anti-evolution views. No, they will respect them. In fact, who can teach science properly if they don’t accept evolution in the first place?

This is a boondoggle, pure and simple—one designed to show the compatibility of science and faith: even a type of faith that is diametrically opposed to science.  I can only wonder if some of the money behind this course ultimately comes from a major donor to BioLogos—the Templeton Foundation, who gave them over two million dollars for their work.

The course also erodes any credibility BioLogos has in its stated mission to unite evanglical Christianity and good science:

BioLogos represents the harmony of science and faith. It addresses the central themes of science and religion and emphasizes the compatibility of Christian faith with scientific discoveries about the origins of the universe and life.

If the course must mix science and superstition, the least it can do is not enable creationism.  Yes, “Christians hold different views about how creation has actually taken place,” but most of them are wrong, can be proven wrong, and should, at least implicitly, be demonstrated to be wrong in a course like this.  Nothing in biology makes sense in light of creationism.

“Respect” my tuchus!

37 thoughts on “Mixed magisteria for science teachers

  1. I couldn’t help laughing out loud when I got to the bit about how Point Loma Nazarene University has staff who believe in old-earth creationism as well as young-earth creationism, but it’s all OK you know because they respect those different cockeyed substitutes for reality.

    1. “the Biology faculty hold to an old earth / gradual creation point of view”
      What exactly is “gradual creation”?
      Isn’t ‘sophisticated Christianity’ of the view that God created the Universe with all the laws fine tuned to allow life develop with the eventual evolution of man being intended? That is not gradual creation.
      The term “gradual creation” sounds much more like Intelligent Design which does posit God habitually intervening to create new species over the history of life on Earth.

      1. I think ‘gradual creation’ is probably the conventional evolutionary account, and it just isn’t called that because, you know, God has dominion over it.

    2. “Although the Point Loma Nazarene University astronomy department hold to a Copernican view of the cosmos, we respect those who believe in a geocentric model of Creation, as well as those who think the sky is just a dome over a flat earth.”

      1. Kevin

        That’s pretty much is what Ron Lindsay, president and CEO of Center for Inquiry, is saying:

        “Atheist and humanist groups should participate in ‘interfaith’coalitions only in exceptional circumstances.”

  2. I like the illustration in the newsletter pdf file you linked to. The caption should read “Members of the Faithful attempting to perceive god in microscopic gaps.”

  3. so now the creationists have to pay people to listen to them? And claim that they’ll respect, RESPECT, anyone who will come no matter how ridiculous?

    Nice to see how their lies have reaped such wonderful benefits!

    1. RESPECT, anyone who will come


      read again:

      faculty will respect the wide range of views held by Christians about Creation.

      nothing in there about repecting atheists, muslims, hindus, buddhists…


  4. “The course content has implications for how one views creation. The class will consider this in a manner that celebrates God as Creator and recognizes that Christians hold different views about how creation has actually taken place.”

    Different, but clearly incorrect views…

  5. WEIT said :

    “Respect” means, of course, “we won’t challenge your views, even though science shows that they’re dead, flat wrong.”

    Actually in this case I think “respect” means “Nobody will challenge your views even though everyone else *knows* you’re wrong and you’re going to burn in hellfire for all time.”

    1. Nice. I don’t know about the rest of y’all, but I’m stealing that one.

      Gotta go try it out somewhere …

  6. If there was any doubt that BioLogos and Templeton were benign organizations, this particular boondoggle ought to dispel those thoughts.

    While we’re at it, let’s have a course on astronomy that “respects” a static 6,000-year-old universe with the Earth at the center, placed on a firmament and covered by a dome.

    This is nothing more than god-botting at its worst. Of course, teachers (let’s be honest with ourselves, the majority of whom are believers and a goodly percentage of whom hold YEC views) will flock to this nonsense.

  7. I know a family whose son attends PLNU. Never having heard of the college myself I asked what attracted him to it and was given all sorts of reasons why it as was a good fit none of which struck me as good enough to justify $30,000 per year. The reason never given that seems most likely, though, after hearing of the young man’s experience is it’s the price evangelical parents who can afford it are willing to pay to have their children get a college diploma while ensuring their progeny never have their xtian world view challenged – at least not while in school.

  8. Why not apply, enjoy San Diego, take a spot away from someone who might believe it, and then write up the conference and tricks that they use when you’re done? If I were a teacher and I wanted some sun for free that’s what I would do. I think the skeptical community would consider this a great service.

  9. I find myself wanting to shout at them, “But how do you know that Jesus did or didn’t create the universe over a span of millions of millennia or several day?”

    Can’t they see how absurd it is to attempt to gain knowledge of the universe by creatively reinterpreting a Bronze Age anthology that opens with a story about talking animals in a magic garden tended by an angry giant?

    I…I just can’t imagine where one would begin.

    If you had students in a college class who still sincerely believed in Santa Claus and were afraid of the monsters under the bed…well, wouldn’t you kick them out of the class and refer them for psychiatric evaluation?

    The only reason we don’t do that for Christians of whatever variety is because there’re so damned many of them.

    That, and this blasted tradition of “respecting” such insanity.

    But, really. How is one supposed to reason with somebody who thinks that the part of the story about fondling a zombie’s intestines proves we should believe the whole thing, soup to nuts?

    Where do you even begin?



    1. According to a recent discussion with a religious idiot it’s not just what the bible says that makes her unwilling to accept evolution. No. It’s the fact that “no one was around back then to see it so how do we know the earth is billions of years old?” I tried explaining the beauty of many different branches of science all supporting each other – biology, geology, cosmology, archaeology, etc. I gently tried explaining to her how certain natural processes occur whether or not one is observing them, and that they often leave measurable evidence of it. “But Science has been wrong before. They aren’t perfect.” (because you know, “science” is one big cohesive single-minded entity). Unfortunately, this crushingly inept level of scientific knowledge in our country is exactly why we need not treat their agenda with “respect”. They are advocates for science like the klan is advocates for the naacp.

      1. The US is not unique – we have plenty of idiots this side of the North Atlantic. Alas for both lands…. That is why this stuff is so dangerous. They really do want us to enter a new Dark Age.
        Heavy sigh…

  10. I stopped reading this post after I read “Point Loma Nazarene University.” Note that any Christian institution that uses “Nazarene” is highly fundamentalist.

    It reminded me of a funny story involving my Ph. D. advisor. After my graduation, she would occasionally forward me job announcements. One was for a faculty position at that school. I guess she didn’t know what “Nazarene” meant, so I drove the point home by e-mailing her the university’s “Statement of Faith” requiring faculty members to profess a faith and be involved in the religious community of the university.

    BioLogos just kissed away the last scrap of credibility it may or may not have had.

    1. The Nazarenes are actually a funny mix. They are fundamentalist in some respects, especially the rules about gambling and drinking. However they follow the Wesleyan tradition when it comes to interpreting the Bible, and are thus open to theistic evolution.

      1. Are you sure about that? All of the “Nazarenes” I’ve ever met are adamant YECs with a literal view of Genesis. Save for the “micro-evolution” allowance made by AiG and all creationists intelligent enough to realize they have to “concede” at least that much.

      2. Alright, so a little quick checking on the Wesleyan tradition and PLNU… Yes, they appear committed to being open to scholarly ideas, but the Wesleyan church website also states this as an Article of Faith:

        “They [the holy scriptures] are the inspired and infallibly written Word of God, fully inerrant in their original manuscripts and superior to all human authority, and have been transmitted to the present without corruption of any essential doctrine.”

        When it comes down to it, this is not going to foster a lot of openness to theistic evolution.

  11. And why are science teachers taking a course on biology anyway if they don’t accept evolution? It can’t be to learn about evolution, for the University and BioLogos apparently won’t challenge anti-evolution views.

    I’m betting they will, in the most respectful way possible, of course. The mission of BioLogos it to guide evangelical Christians away from creationism. In a scripturally sound fashion, needless to say. In fact, I bet they’ve planned it as kind of an intervention for creationist science teachers.

  12. Now they are trying to buy truth or is it faith? It makes no difference they can’t buy or sell either of them.
    Templeton has been trying for years and all they get is people who “say” the are in agreement, take the money and run.

  13. This is how I think about it: Knowledge is that which is held to be true with supporting evidence. Belief is that which is held to be true without evidence. What do we call that which is held to be true in the face of contradictory evidence? Delusion? Insanity? I don’t feel disrespectful if I criticize delusions, and so have no problem calling creationism sheer and utter nonsense.

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