Teaching religion as science devalues both

By Leonard Pitts: Syndicated Columnist

“And the Lord did look with discontent upon the town of Dover in the province of Pennsylvania. For Dover was a wicked and prideful place and had turned its back on God. Its people had voted out school board members who tried to introduce intelligent design into schools as an alternative to the theory of evolution.

“And the Lord was wrathful and said, I will smite them with burning coals from the sky. Their fields I will make barren, their rivers I will cause to rise in flood, their football teams will lose, their sewers will back up, no one who lives there shall hit the Powerball. And I will help them not.”

OK, so that’s not in my Bible, either. But apparently, it’s in the Rev. Pat Robertson’s. Incensed at Dover voters for insisting that science classes teach science, he issued a dire warning to the town last week on his TV show, “The 700 Club.”

“If there is a disaster in your area,” he said, “don’t turn to God — you just rejected him from your city. And don’t wonder why he hasn’t helped you when problems begin, if they begin. I’m not saying they will, but if they do, just remember, you just voted God out of your city. … Don’t ask for his help because he might not be there.”

Ah, Pat. Pat, Pat, Pat. Thank you, Pat. Whenever there’s a slow news day, we can always count on you to liven things up with your special wisdom.

I mean, wasn’t it just a few months ago that Rev. Ridiculous put out a hit on Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez? Two years ago that he asked viewers to pray for God to remove three justices from the Supreme Court? Four years ago that he linked the Sept. 11 attacks to the fact that organized prayer is not allowed in schools? Seven years ago that he warned Orlando of “terrorist bombs … earthquakes, tornadoes and possibly a meteor” for allowing a gay pride event?

He also said Mouse Town could get hit by a hurricane, which, if you ask me, was a really gutsy prediction. I mean, a hurricane, hitting Florida? What are the odds?

So this latest nonsense is right in line with what we’ve come to expect from our friend Pat. The only thing you can do is laugh — and try not to think about how many people lump you in with this fellow when you profess to be a Christian.

Point being, I believe there was a Designer. I also believe that’s a matter for the pulpit, the class in comparative religion or the class in philosophy. It doesn’t belong in science class because it’s not science. It’s faith.

And please spare me the thousand word-for-word e-mails arguing with eerie, “Stepford Wife” uniformity, that “the Theory of Evolution is just that, a theory.”

Your humble correspondent was only a “C” science student, but even I get the fact that scientific theory involves a bit more rigorous reasoning than my personal theory that I can make my team win by wearing my lucky shirt and yelling at the television. Scientific theory requires conclusions based on observable, replicable and predictable phenomena.

To put it another way: gravity is “just” a theory, but I don’t hear anyone arguing with Isaac Newton. Or suggesting students be taught the “alternative” theory that we are held to earth by invisible strips of Velcro.

Not that I want to give Kansas any ideas. At the same time voters in Dover were standing up for common sense, the Kansas State Board of Education was voting to adopt standards undermining the teaching of Darwin’s theory. This is the latest step in the state’s long, hard-fought campaign to turn out stupid kids.

See, the Pennsylvanians get what the Kansans do not: Teaching religion masked as science devalues both and ensures that children will be that much less prepared for college and the world beyond. I can’t believe God requires ignorance, that he gave us brains he doesn’t want us to use, or that intelligence and faith are mutually exclusive.

Of course, I’m forced to reconsider that position every time Rev. Ridiculous opens his mouth.

Leonard Pitts is a columnist for the Miami Herald. Readers may contact him at:
lpitts@herald.com