11 May 2011

Land of the Lost, part 11

"ON THE BASIS OF THE VIEW THAT Genesis 1 is a discussion of functional origins," Walton writes, "we may now tackle the question of what is appropriate in the classroom" (p. 153). If you've been following along, you'll remember that Walton removes from the interpretation of Genesis 1 the possibility that it says anything about material origins (i.e., how the cosmos was created); it instead speaks of the world's functional origins (i.e., why the cosmos was created). As such, and as we saw in part 9 of this series, "whatever explanation scientists offer in their attempts to explain origins, we could theoretically adopt it as a description of God's handiwork" (p. 132). One important question thus remains for Walton: What is acceptable to teach regarding the purpose of the universe in a public school science class? Answer: nothing. Why? Because teleology is beyond the scope of science (see part 7, Prop. 13, for more on this).

Proposition 18: Public Science Education Should Be Neutral Regarding Purpose
  • Empirical science is, by definition, based on methodological naturalism (i.e., it necessarily brackets the metaphysical, because such is not verifiable one way or the other with the tools of empirical science).
  • Empirical science is focused on descriptions of the world's origins that are falsifiable, and thus their strengths and weaknesses are to be acknowledged (evolution, as well as any other origins theories, included).
  • Empirical science is, by definition, agnostic (i.e., neutral) regarding purpose. It is not designed to be able to define purpose (or no purpose), even though (theoretically) it may be able to deduce rationally that purpose is logically the best explanation. This therefore precludes Genesis 1, metaphysical naturalism (atheism), and design theories from empirical science classes.
According to Walton, the answer to the fact that many biology teachers (for example) teach as fact dysteleology (i.e., no purpose, metaphysical naturalism) is not to introduce metaphysical supernaturalism or a teleological description of origins into the science class. Young-earth, old-earth, and Intelligent Design theory posit precisely this, and are thus outside the scope of empirical science, which science is supposed to be taught in such classes.

The answer to the problem of science teachers overstepping their bounds is to call them and their administrators to the mat, by (1) demanding they maintain teleological neutrality to the best of their ability; (2) demanding that publishers of curricula maintain the same and that administrators select curricula based on this demand; (3) demanding that administrators introduce philosophical curricula—in which various metaphysical options can be considered—to the lineup.

Christian too have to come to terms with a few things, namely, (1) Quit trying to impose their own teleological views on public science education; and (2) thus quit pressing the Scriptures into service in public education (especially since it doesn't offer a description of how God created the material world).

This raises one final issue, which serves as a supplement to Walton's views here regarding the nature of science and what is or is not helpful to teach, by definition, in a classroom that purports to teach one of the empirical sciences. It has to do also with the nature of the kingdom of God, and whether or not it's to be construed as two kingdoms or one. If the latter, as theonomists are wont to do, then the first point in the above paragraph will be abhorrent (as is the very idea of public schools, of course). Imposing their particular beliefs on society at large is precisely what many of them advocate. If one holds to the former (a two-kingdoms construct), then these suggestions will come as no surprise; the kingdom of man, understood to be under the rule of the kingdom of God and his Christ, is nevertheless not equivalent to the kingdom of God. The two will remain at odds until the king's return (how much at odds, I believe, is up to the church and its commitment to God's mission, i.e., the Great Commission).

One more thought: if a person holds to both (1) a two-kingdoms model of this age and the Commission and (2) any kind of creationism that thinks the Bible teaches something about material origins isn't an inconsistency immediately brought to fore? I mean, if a two-kingdomite agrees that you got to keep 'em separated (church & state, and thus teleological theories & empirical science), what does that person do if she believes that the Bible mandates certain scientific views about material origins? Wouldn't said views therefore necessarily need to be included in any discussion regarding origins taking place in the public school science class?

Looking for a way out of this hell? Here's the series in a nutshell.


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