We were pleased to hear the Texas Freedom Network come up in Tuesday night’s “debate” between science advocate Bill Nye and creationist Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis. Ham brings TFN into the discussion in the clip above, but the full debate video is here. Here’s what Ham had to say about TFN:
“Kathy Miller is president of the Texas Freedom Network, and she’s vocally spoken out about this textbook battle there in Texas. And the mission statement of the organization she is president of says: ‘The Texas Freedom Network advances a mainstream agenda of religious freedom and individual liberties to counter the religious right.’ Religious freedom. Individual liberties. Hmmm…
And then she makes this statement: ‘Science education [what does she mean by science?] should be based on mainstream science education, not on personal ideological beliefs of unqualified reviewers.’
Wait a minute. They want religious liberty and not personal ideological beliefs? I assert this. Public school textbooks are using the same word ‘science’ for observational and historical science. They arbitrarily define ‘science’ as naturalism and outlaw the supernatural. They present molecules-to-man evolution as fact. And they are imposing the religion of naturalism/atheism on generations of students. They are imposing their ideology on the students, that everything is described by natural processes. That is a religion. What does she mean by religious liberty? They tolerate their religion.”
First, a minor quibble. Ham might be a biblical literalist, but he isn’t very good at transcribing. Houston television station KHOU, which aired the story to which Ham was referring, also didn’t get Kathy’s quote right in its transcription. Kathy actually says in the accompanying video: “Science education should be based on mainstream established science,” not “on mainstream science education.” As we said, just a quibble.
More importantly, let’s be clear about what Ham is saying. Ham thinks science should be redefined to include the supernatural. Former Texas State Board of Education chair Don “Somebody’s Gotta Stand Up to Experts” McLeroy made essentially the same argument during the state board’s debate over new science curriculum standards in 2009. He even suggested that supernatural explanations are “testable.”
But supernatural explanations are inherently untestable. That’s why we call beliefs about them “faith.” Science, on the other hand, is testable. That’s a critical distinction and certainly not “arbitrary.”
Ham repeatedly suggested Tuesday night that scientists are hostile to religious faith. Nye reminded him that many scientists are also deeply religious. Indeed, Francis Collins, currently the director of the National Institutes of Health and formerly head of the Human Genome Research Institute, is an evangelical Christian and one of the world’s most prominent scientists. Moreover, many Christian denominations and other religions have no problem with accepting the science of evolution.
Ham asks what TFN means by “religious liberty.” It’s pretty simple. Religious liberty is the freedom to believe as one chooses, to live according to those beliefs, and to teach them to one’s own children and to others. Using government and public schools to promote religious beliefs or to favor some religious beliefs over all others isn’t religious liberty. Neither is seeking to redefine science.