Thursday, September 29, 2005

Its Time to Fight the Religious Right

DefCon, the Campaign to Defend the Constitution, officially launched today.

The campaign promises to aggressively challenge the religious right on the facts and the law. One defining characteristic of DefCon's approach -- is that it has apparently made a clean break with the dubious Inside-the-Beltway driven tactic of name calling. A failed effort over many years relied on focus-group derived labels such as "radical religious extremists" rather than clear, forceful arguments and messages. This is very good news and offers hope of the development of a far more productive strategy to persuade the American people that theocracy is not the direction we want to go.

Duke University Law Professor Erwin Chemerinsky writing at the DefCon Blog says its "Time To Fight the Religious Right"
"I believe that the greatest threat to liberty in the United States is posed by the religious right, largely comprised of Christian fundamentalists. Across a broad spectrum of issues they want to move the law in a radically more conservative direction, ultimately threatening our freedom."

DefCon (aka, Campaign to Defend the Constitution) released a report titled Islands of Ignorance, describing the threat to American science education in ten states and localities where "intelligent design" is being promoted by the religious right as an alternative to evolution. DefCon also released a letter, signed by leading scientists, clergy, Nobel Laureates and others, urging the governors of all 50 states to work to stop the erosion of American science education.

Specifically, we are concerned about efforts to supplement or replace the teaching of evolution in our public schools with religious dogma or unscientific speculation. Science classes should help provide our children with the tools and scientific literacy they need to succeed in a 21st century economy.

We are well aware of studies showing American children falling behind those of other nations in their knowledge and understanding of science. We certainly will not be able to close this gap if we substitute ideology for fact in our science classrooms – limiting students' understanding of a scientific concept as critical as evolution for ideological reasons.

We do not oppose exposing our children to philosophical and spiritual discussion around the origin and meaning of life. There are appropriate venues for such discussion – but not in the context of teaching science in a public school science classroom.

We have come together – people of science and people of faith – for the sake of our children and the competitiveness of our country, to urge you to ensure that:

· Science curricula, state science standards, and teachers emphasize evolution in a manner commensurate with its importance as a unifying concept in science and its overall explanatory power.

· Science teachers in your state are not advocating any religious interpretations of nature and are nonjudgmental about the personal beliefs of students.

· There are no requirements to teach "creation science" or related concepts such as "intelligent design," or to "teach the controversy" – implying that there is legitimate scientific debate about evolution when there is not. Teachers should not be pressured to promote nonscientific views or to diminish or eliminate the study of evolution.

· Publishers of science textbooks should not be required or volunteer to include disclaimers in textbooks that distort or misrepresent the methodology of science and the current body of knowledge concerning the nature and study of evolution.

Our nation's future rests, as always, in the hands of our children. We hope to have your commitment to ensure that our schools teach science, not ignorance, to our children as they prepare the next generation for the challenges of a new century.

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