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We've Moved

Secondary Religion has moved to www.secondaryreligion.com.

Location: New Haven, Connecticut, United States

28 February, 2006

We've Moved!

Secondary Religion can now be found at:


Thanks for stopping by.


09 January, 2006


Please bear with me. I'm in the process of building a better blog at www.secondaryreligion.com. It's not there yet, but while you're waiting for your regular dose of Secondary Religion, you can look forward to a regularly updated news slate, email-the-editor capabilities, snappier design, WordPress simplicity, an ed and religion blogroll, and of course, more of the same insightful posts.

23 December, 2005

ID Isn't Just Creationism Lite

In this month's First Things Cardinal Schonborn responds to critics accusing him of muddling the Church's position on evolution and design. The self-proclaimed purpose of his controversial article in the Times, and of the addendum just published, "was to awaken Catholics from their dogmatic slumber about positivism in general and evolutionism in particular." The article is a fascinating analysis of the relationship between evolution and design--positivism and fideism in philosophical terms.

He's dead right to say that there is a spiritual/material dualism in our culture today. Folks are obliged to accept propositions either on the basis of pure science or blind faith. Think sympathetically for a moment about what the ID debate tells us. One side wants us to believe that ID is non-science, a Trojan Horse in public school classrooms, because it includes what can't be described in natural terms--it relies on "faith." The other side wants us to believe that modern science is incomplete and over-reaching--it relies strictly on materialism. Schonborn says, "In science, the discipline and methods are such that design—more precisely, formal and final causes in natural beings—is purposefully excluded from its reductionist conception of nature."

Judge Jones recently ruled in Harrisburg that ID is not science. Well, sure, we all knew that was coming, but what does it mean that it's not science? Does it render non-scientific (read non-naturalistic) theories of origins meaningless? Of course not. It merely renders them legally unteachable in a public school science classroom, and rightfully so. Yet Schonborn has a deeply valid point. Philosophy, and other extra-naturalistic methodologies, add something to the scientific picture that is meaningful, historical, and culturally important. Polls show, and experience supports the claim, that people acknowledge that the world is more than just the randomness of metaphysical neo-Darwinism.

This whole episode has something excellent to teach us as educators. Whether you're a classroom teacher, an armchair metaphysician or a fundamentalist Darwinian, it behooves you to know what's at stake in the debate over origins of life--and it's not your cosmology, believe that or not. It is nothing less than the future. It is on us to create an opportunity for secondary schools to introduce students to the possibility of seeing their world through something other than the blindered vision of materialism or faith unfettered by reason. Inviting them into our classes is the first chance we have to help students navigate that increasingly unexplored terrain between the fortress of scientific rigor and the forest of fideistic belief.

Yale Music to Train Teachers

It doesn't look like Yale School of Music is going to be using their $100m donation to buy powdered wigs and opera glasses after all. The school's dean, Thomas Duffy, interviewed in this New Haven Independent article, talks about how he is planning on making that money talk.

"I would like to see that $100 million change the world," Duffy said in an interview Thursday in his first-floor office inside the music school's renovated College Street HQ. "If it didn't, wouldn't that be a mistake?"

"He'd like to see Yale add an extra one-year post-masters program for students to learn how not just to play music, but to teach it, in an urban setting. They'd volunteer in the public schools. And they'd work under a Yale music school staffer who would help them figure out how to improve urban public school music education in general."

[full article]

17 December, 2005

Are you a religious fanatic?

Take this weekly media quiz to find out. The quiz is courtesy of Beliefnet.com.

15 December, 2005

DaVinci Code

Check out the newly released trailer for the DaVinci Code movie [here]. An excellent "resource" for teaching about the formation of the New Testament and the Catholic Church.

13 December, 2005

Mirecki Tossed

Paul Mirecki, the University of Kansas professor who was recently beaten for his comments about religious "fundies," has resigned from his chair of the Religious Studies department.


Donation to Improve Muslim Understanding

A Saudi prince has just donated $20M each to Georgetown and Harvard for expansion of their Islamic Studies programs. The businessman, 5th on the list of world billionaires, wants to foster a better understanding of Muslim culture.

[NY Times]

11 December, 2005

Global Warming

You'll have to forgive me. This has nothing to do with education, and only a little to do with religion, but you've got to check out George "Will Ferrell" Bush on global warming.


06 December, 2005

Religious Cimes Against People Against Religion

This just in: Being a bigot is a dangerous job. Except in Kansas, where you have to strategically choose what kind of bigot. This one chose poorly.

U. of K. professor Paul Mirecki was beaten on Monday morning by a couple of thugs who were mad that he wanted to give them a "nice slap" in their "big fat faces." He has recently caused quite a stir in proposing a course in the "mythologies" of life, including creationism and intelligent design theories.

[Read More]

05 December, 2005

Separated Schools

The Civil Rights Project at Harvard has a load of data exposing the de facto segregation of U.S. schools. This article at The Nation today reacts to the most recent round of findings. It's hard to believe how alive separate schooling still is, 30 years after Brown.

[Read More]

04 December, 2005

Teaching the ID Controversy?

If you've been following the Intelligent Design debate recently you've got plenty to read. The New Yorker had a long and interesting piece on the Dover trial last week. The Pope went on record in favor of an "intelligent project" interpretation--unknowingly entering a predominately American debate. Our President thinks that "both sides" of the issue should be taught. U. of Kansas promoted and then withdrew a course on popular "mythologies" of life, including ID, just after their state school board stretched the rules of science to include that mythology. Cardinal Schoenborn mixed things up in a piece challenging Darwinianism. It seems to never end.

But what are we really arguing about? Well, it depends on who you ask. If you look at the Dover trial, the high-stakes challenge to the theory of an intelligent designer, you'll find two arguments that intersect in one question--Should we teach ID in public school science classrooms?

For many proponents of ID, this is precisely the wrong question to ask because the answer is no. These folks are the ones running experiments and collecting data to bolster the theory, a theory they would argue is purely scientific. Michael Behe, author of Darwin's Black Box and the expert witness for the defense at the Dover trial, told reporters that he doesn't think the theory should be taught in high school classrooms. Not yet, at least--it's too young and immature. The Discovery Institute in Seattle--leading the ID charge--came down against the Dover school board's actions long before the trial ever began. Reason: too much politicking in a scientific debate. I even heard Charles Townes--crazy old man that he seems to be, but nonetheless recipient of the Templeton Prize and a Nobel for co-inventing the laser--hesitating to state his appreciation for the theory because of its political nature.

The Dover case has done nothing but exacerbate that issue. In trying to wedge ID into the public school science curriculum they hijacked the rules. If you kept up with the trial, you remember the media reporting centered on the creationism of school board leaders, comments made that "someone died on a cross," and the word-for-word substitution of "Intelligent Design" for "creationism" in the textbook Of Pandas and People. You probably didn't catch much about the impossibility of bacterial flagellum popping up through natural selection and other such supporting evidence. That's because in the popular mind the scientific question has been outstripped by the politics.

But if the trial came too soon for ID to put up a solid front, Judge John Raulston has at least allowed its supporters to play by their own rules. For months in Harrisburg he gave both sides the chance to provide expert scientific testimony and even vowed to deliver a verdict in the case despite the ousting of the entire pro-ID school board.

His decision, expected in January, will have one of three possible outcomes. First, he could rule in favor of the school board, greasing the wheel for school boards around the country to let ID in. Second, he could rule against the board on the grounds that they violated the establishment clause in the way that they acted. This would be a local solution, a warning to other schools. Finally, he might rule against the theory qua theory, deciding it is religious in nature and not to be taught as science. This would really stack the odds against schools doing anything with ID.

Let's assume he rules against the board for reason number two, the only negative decision that would leave the issue ambiguous. If a school takes the idea of "teaching the controversy" seriously, how are they to include ID in the curriculum. Well, a philosophy/worldviews class perhaps? Perhaps. But you have to remember the Michael Behes and Discovery Institutes of the world. Relegating their theory to a philosophy class would paralyze the very assumptions that support it. You would, in effect, be saying to a group of scientists, "This is not science."

Is this fair? I think so. As yet, the idea of ID is far too contentious to consider scientifically. There is very little evidence supporting it and very few scientists attempting to come up with more. While I don't think religion and science are "non-overlapping magisterium," I do think that right now, there is far too little science to balance far too much religion in this issue. Maybe the world will eventually come around to let a modern-day Galileo off the hook, but for the moment I'm sticking with Darwin.

03 December, 2005

Smut for Smut Campaign

A student group at UTSA has lent new meaning to the term attention whore. On Wednesday, the atheist group Atheist Agenda, set up shop to exchange sacred texts for copies of porno mags. Students--sadly, only five so far--bring their Gitas and Bibles and Books of Mormon in exchange for their Playboys and Hustlers. Don't jump to conclusion, says one member of the group: "If you feel we did this for attention or because we are immature, you are completely wrong. Assumptions make an ass out of you and me." Yeah, well, um...

The group is apparently operating under the assumption that the Bible--and they do pinpoint the Bible, while offering the exchange for any religious text--contains just as much smut as your monthly skin subscription. "We find that morality should not be derived from these religious texts," one students says. Apparently, in exchanging one form of vacuous literature for another they make that point crystal clear.

While this seems utterly ridiculous, don't be discouraged. There are more creative projects in the Bible-as-smut genre. Check out the Brick Testament for instance--it's got biblical smut and pictures!--or this German youth group's calendar effort, depicting erotic biblical scenes in photographs [article].

[WOAI article]
[AA website]
[event flyer]

01 December, 2005

Rhodes Scholar Jeremy Robinson

One of the men who walked across the stage with me to receive a Wabash diploma has just walked into a whole new kind of reward. Jeremy Robinson is one of 32 Rhodes Scholars from the U.S. this year. He will spend two years at Oxford studying English and search for answers to the education problems this country faces.

What an honor. Godspeed, Jeremy.

[Read More]

30 November, 2005

Borden's Back

Remember Marcus Borden, the high school coach who resigned after being told by his school board that he could not initiate prayers with his football team? Ten days after resignation he rescinded to press the issue. Now he has gathered his strength and is pursuing a lawsuit with strong language:

"The prohibition against Coach Borden demonstrating respect for his team and the team prayers undermines his credibility as head coach, is a sign of disrespect and irreverence for his players and the team prayers, forces Coach Borden to ... discriminate against the team prayers and his players, interferes with his academic freedom, interferes with his freedom of association, interferes with his freedom of speech, interferes with his liberty of movement, invades his privacy and violates all that it means, and has ever meant to him, to be a high school football coach in America."

All that it has ever meant? The plaintiff is essentially suing for the right to stand in the corner of the room while his players hold a student-led prayer!

Borden's lawyer complained that "For [the board] to put his livelihood on the line without telling him specifically what he can and cannot do is extremely unfair." As I recall, the board asked him to stop praying and, much to their surprise, he resigned. They invited him back, took him when he came, and never intended to jeopardize his livelihood.

Much of the language in Borden's complaint indicates that praying with students is the end-all of his mission as a teacher and coach. The use of stats that show 50% of all U.S. high school football coaches praying with their teams supports this kind of scary presumption. I mentioned in my last post that the situation only made news because of the novelty of a Catholic coach doing something tastelessly evangelical like quitting over school prayer. I must have been channeling because the way Borden is talking now, you'd think he was fighting off evolution or running for the school board.

[Read More]