Monday, March 15, 2010

This Too Shall Pass

Imagine as you watch this OK Go video that you were told that the system designed for the video had somehow been erected by mindless forces acting by chance and you'll get some idea why so many people just feel intuitively that life is the work of an intelligent Engineer. After all, a single cell in your body is far more sophisticated and carries far more information than this amazing contraption:

Remarkable, no? But I suppose that given a couple million years the parts and the precise arrangement of this system could have accidentally been constructed. I mean, it's possible - in the same way that a bullet fired at random into outer space could possibly hit a dime-sized target on the other side of the universe - and according to a lot of Darwinians, as long as something's possible that's the same as being inevitable.


Texas Textbooks

Conservatives won a skirmish in the culture wars last week when the Texas school board adopted standards for all public school social studies textbooks used in the state. According to a New York Times report by James McKinley the new standards stress "the superiority of American capitalism, question the Founding Fathers' commitment to a purely secular government and present Republican political philosophies in a more positive light."

The vote was 10 to 5 along party lines, with all the Republicans on the board voting for it which makes wonder if the five Democrats think capitalism is not a superior economic system and that the Founders really were thoroughgoing secularists.

McKinley, who seems to be barely able to conceal his own disappointment with the success of the conservative faction on the board, goes on to note that the new standards include a change in "the teaching of the civil rights movement to ensure that students study the violent philosophy of the Black Panthers in addition to the nonviolent approach of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It also made sure that textbooks would mention the votes in Congress on civil rights legislation, which Republicans supported."

The Board also approved an amendment saying students should study "the unintended consequences" of the Great Society legislation, affirmative action and Title IX legislation. The new standards will also mention that Germans and Italians as well as Japanese were interned in the United States during World War II, to counter the idea that the internment of Japanese was motivated by racism.

The new standards also cut Thomas Jefferson from a list of figures whose writings inspired revolutions in the late 18th century and 19th century, replacing him with St. Thomas Aquinas, John Calvin and William Blackstone.

I don't know whether Aquinas deserves more notice than Jefferson, but I do think John Locke does. Jefferson's thinking on revolution was largely influenced by Locke whose Second Treatise on Government provided the philosophical framework for Jefferson's Declaration of Independence.

At any rate, it's a consolation to read that there's at least one influential state determined to do what it can to insure that high school students aren't simply fed a fetid porridge of half truths and untruths about the history of their country. Perhaps other states will be emboldened to follow Texas' example.

Thanks go to Jason, who happens to teach history in Texas, for the link.