The Dartmouth Observer
Friday, August 23, 2002
Clarification of Eisenman's Position
From Volume One of Jon Eisenman's Kama Sutra for Spicing Up Debate
First, I'd like to clarify something as regards Vijay Rao's understanding of my position. When I remarked "forced reading of [the New Testament] would cause uproar among atheists, ACLU members, and other unsavories," I noted that this would be the desired scenario for the groups making the charge that the Koran reading violated their First Amendment rights. While I may not be in a position to say what the ACLU, et. al. would, in fact, do were the New Testament to be assigned in the same fashion, I will remark that logical consistency would have them proceed as they have in this case. As I stated in my earlier piece (as I was hoping to keep Vijay off this hook): "I am not sure how adamantly Vijay supports the claim being made that having the Koran for assigned reading violates the First Amendment - reading excerpts from the Koran is not tantamount to being forced to practice Islam nor to acknowledge or refuse to acknowledge anything about the doctrine contained therein." It is not a question, as Vijay says, as to whether "some religious texts are more equal than others" but as to whether being made to read a text is tantamount to being forced to exercise the doctrine contained therein. Neither a New Testament reading nor a Koran reading is impeachable in this case.
Secondly, while I agree that debate in the classroom is a priori a good source of intellectual stimulation, I would suggest that the creation (or creation science, or Intelligent Design Theory, etc.) / evolution debate is about as sensible a classroom debate on whether or not 2 + 2 = 4. As I am currently researching a thesis requiring me to sort through mountains of material regarding both sides of the argument, I bring a somewhat informed opinion to the table when I say that creation science ain't no science. However, I would recommend, for those of you interested in epistemology, a perusal of the issue - study and debate of the issue itself most certainly has a great deal of academic merit (for my thesis's sake). The Intelligent Design Theorists certainly make a few points, but in the end the "option" they espouse for teaching in science classes is not a viable alternative for the same reason with which they seek to impeach Darwinism. To put it simply, the charge is made that evolution is not science, because it has no criteria by which it seems falsifiable. If no clear line at which the theory of evolution will cease to be accepted as "fact" may be drawn, the argument goes, then evolution is not good science. I would reply, however, that creationism (a rose by any other name, after all) has been under attack for centuries, and its proponents have still not yet decided upon a point at which to deem it errant. So, for the sake of limiting my response (and saving some material for my thesis), in addressing this charge only, I think it is demonstrable that at best, any victory these new creationists claim is logically pyrrhic. Of course, I would be completely uninstructive if I didn't suggest further reading, myself, and so I point you all to a book called Tower of Babel: The Evidence against the New Creationism by Robert Pennock, a philosopher of science at, I believe, the University of Texas. Bon apetite!