I'm listening to an interview on KPCC with Chris Mooney, one of the co-authors of the new book UNSCIENTIFIC AMERICA: HOW SCIENTIFIC ILLITERACY THREATENS OUR FUTURE. In the book, Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum make a plea for enhanced scientific literacy and reintegrating science into the public discourse.
I tuned in mid-interview just as Mooney and the host (not sure who it is - someone who's in for Pat Morrison - apologies - will add his name later if I find out) were talking about science and religion. In the book, Mooney and Kirshenbaum posit that religion and science do not have to be in conflict. He criticizes the group he calls the "new atheists," anti-religionists who include Sam Harris, author of THE END OF FAITH, and Richard Dawkins, author of THE GOD SOLUTION: A REPLY TO THE GOD DELUSION.
Mooney says that he doesn't think that it helps the cause of science literacy to pit science against religion, with fundamentalists on one side and atheism the only choice on the other. Says Mooney, "The point in the chapter [in our book] is what does this have to do with science? Does it help unify us, or perpetuate a culture war? It's important to understand the creationists and what motivates them. It's tough to convince anyone to change their minds, but attacking all that they believe in isn't going to do the trick."
As an example, he mentions those working in the trenches who are trying to teach evolution in places like Kansas. He says that their experiences show that you don't win your point by taking the discussion all the way to atheism. Instead, he urges science as common ground. Says Mooney, "We all have to agree about a reality. We're not going to agree about the supernatural. So we should agree about science."
Of course, this is much easier when the other side plays nice, which creationists are not always in the habit of doing. Mooney credits the Intelligent Design supporters with the brilliant maneuver of pushing for parity in the classroom for their beliefs. Rather than trying to have evolution omitted from the lesson plan, they instead insist that their theories be included in the discussion.
Regardless of my personal spiritual beliefs, I am an ardent believer in separation of Church and State. And in my book, that includes the classroom. If you want your kids to learn about your religion's views on the origins of the Universe, send 'em to Hebrew school or CCD or the mosque. And take the responsibility to be around to answer questions they may have about the differences between what they learn in religious classes and school. The school system isn't supposed to address those questions - parents are.