The Best of Our Knowledge # 874
Albany, NY – RELIGIOUS LITERACY: WHAT EVERY AMERICAN NEEDS TO KNOW - AND DOESN'T -
We've all heard of the three R's: Reading, Writing, and Rithmatic.
Well, now, there are four R's: Reading, Writing, Rithmatic, and Religion.
With globalization, the war on terror, and so many religious conflicts in the
world, people need a better understanding of the various world's religions. Indeed, this has provoked many groups to call for courses about religion
to be put back into public schools. So, we decided to return to this topic, investigate it, and bring our education listeners up to date on the present
state of religion in schools. This week and next, we'll hear from a number
of authors, researchers, and professors on this subject.
We've discovered that the number of educators who are restoring the study
of the bible in public schools is growing. Take for instance Georgia's schools.
In March, that state school board approved curriculum for teaching the bible
in high schools. Thus far, there has not be a rush of schools to start up the classes. But at last count, some 200 school districts have agreed to offer
the elective classes beginning next fall. The Georgia law states that classes must be taught in an objective and nondevotional manner, with no attempt to indoctrinate students. Supporters say fully understanding history, literature,
and political science from the writings of Martin Luther King, Jr. to the war in
Iraq, requires knowledge of the bible. Critics, on the other hand, fear that classes could easily turn into endorsements of Christianity. Charles Haynes
of the First Amendment Center in Washington, claims the chances of it being unconstitutional are pretty big. Nevertheless, other states are moving ahead
with plans. Lawmakers in Alabama, Missouri, Tennessee, and Texas have considered plans similar to Georgia this year. One proposal in Texas would require all high school students to take a bible class.
Our first guest agrees. His research reveals often forgotten history about
religion in public schools, Dr. Stephen Prothero is a Professor and Chair
in the Department of Religion at Boston University. His recent book,
Religious Literacy , has been on the New York Times best-seller list for
several weeks, and it was a Time magazine cover story.
Jim Horne reports. (11:06)
TEACHING OF EVOLUTION AND INTELLIGENT DESIGN -
Teaching about religion in schools often develops into a debate between
those who believe in evolution, and others who favor the theory of intelligent design. A key strategy of the intelligent design movement seems to be an
effort to convince the general public that there is a debate among scientists about whether life evolved. Proponents of intelligent design try to convince
the public and political leaders that schools should teach about the
controversy. But among the scientific community, no such debate exists.
There is general agreement that life did evolve. The use of the term
intelligent design' began in response to a 1987 U.S. Supreme Court ruling involving constitutional separation of church and state. Its first significant published use was in a 1989 textbook intended for high school biology
classes. The intelligent design movement grew increasingly visible in the
1990's and this decade, including the 2005 Dover Trial challenging its
intended use in public school science classes. And the Kansas State
Board of Education has also held extensive hearings to discuss the teaching about evolution and intelligent design in Kansas schools. We've carried
reports on this show about those stories. The consensus in the scientific community is that intelligent design is not a science. The U.S. National
Academy of Sciences has stated that intelligent design and other claims
of supernatural intervention in the origin of life are not science because
they cannot be tested by experiment, do not generate any predictions, and propose no new hypotheses of their own. The National Science Teachers Association and the American Association for the Advancement of Science
say it's pseudoscience. Others have termed it junk science. TBOOK speaks with Dr. Mike Heithaus, Professor of Marine Biology at Florida International University and a regular on National Geographic Channel's Everyday
Explorer. And we also talk with Dr. Simon Singh whose Ph.D. in Physics
is from Cambridge. He's directed the Emmy-nominated film, The Proof ,
and has written several best-selling books. His most recent being a New
York Times best-seller called Big Bang: The Origin of the Universe.
Dr. Singh lives in London and teaches and lectures widely.
Glenn Busby reports. (5:24)