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from The Textbook Letter, March-April 2000

Analyzing crank literature aimed at educators

Taking Religion Seriously Across the Curriculum
1998. 221 pages. ISBN: 0-87120-318-9.
Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development,
1703 North Beauregard Street, Alexandria, Virginia 22311.

Warren A. Nord and Charles C. Haynes have developed a scheme for overhauling American education: Our public schools must renounce rationality, must promote and endorse popular religious beliefs, must present religious myths as "history," and must make the world safe for superstition by abolishing instruction in natural science. The Nord-and-Haynes scheme is set forth in Taking Religion Seriously Across the Curriculum -- a malevolent and dishonest book that may seem to be respectable, at first glance, because it has been published by the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. The ASCD has shamed itself.

Stealth Evangelism

Brant Abrahamson

During my years as a high-school teacher, I constructed a sequence of four world-history courses that spanned eight semesters. In those courses I sought to give straightforward treatment to the influence of religion upon social structures and on historical events -- especially when I dealt with societies (such as those of medieval Europe or of 20th-century Nepal, Thailand, or Saudi Arabia) in which religion has colored most aspects of life. With that work as a foundation, I have since developed a high-school curriculum unit called Thinking About Religion from a Global Perspective, which is used in various school districts. The unit is distributed by The Teachers' Press, an organization that I founded in 1986.

I have recounted these parts of my own professional history so that you will know that I have long been interested in teaching about religion, and so that you will understand why I am concerned about the book Taking Religion Seriously Across the Curriculum.

Issued in 1998 by the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (Alexandria, Virginia), Taking Religion Seriously is an attempt by Warren A. Nord and Charles C. Haynes to tell us how religion must be presented in our public schools, and how the most popular religious beliefs and doctrines must be endorsed and promoted at public expense.

Nord is the director of the Program in Humanities and Human Values at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Haynes is a scholar at the First Amendment Center, a unit of the Freedom Forum (Arlington, Virginia). Both men have written before about how public schools should handle matters of religion, and some parts of Taking Religion Seriously seem to be softened and popularized restatements of passages from Nord's book Religion and American Education: Rethinking a National Dilemma (1995).

Consensus? What Consensus?

A sales-promotion blurb printed on the back cover of Taking Religion Seriously declares:

In Taking Religion Seriously Across the Curriculum, Warren A. Nord and Charles C. Haynes chart a middle course in our culture wars over religion and public education -- one that builds on a developing consensus among educational and religious leaders.

Inside the book, the alleged consensus gains a formal-looking title with some capital letters: It becomes the "New Consensus," and it figures prominently in Nord and Haynes's efforts to justify their program.

These efforts begin on pages 9 and 10. In a section headlined "The New Consensus," the authors claim that "a fairly broad consensus about the role of religion in public schools" has emerged "at the national level among the leadership of many religious and educational organizations," and that this New Consensus rests on three major principles:

First, as the Supreme Court has made clear, the study of religion in public schools is constitutional. Second, the study of religion is tremendously important if students are to be educated about our history and culture. Third, public schools must teach about religion objectively or neutrally; their purpose must be to educate students about a variety of religious traditions, not to indoctrinate them into any particular tradition.

On pages 36 and 37 the authors offer another section labeled "The New Consensus." Here they allege that the New Consensus exists in multiple versions, although they choose to quote only one version at length. It is a declaration -- entitled "Religion in the Public School Curriculum: Questions and Answers" -- that appeared in 1988:

Because religion plays significant roles in history and society, study about religion is essential to understanding both the nation and the world. Omission of facts about religion can give students the false impression that the religious life of humankind is insignificant or unimportant. Failure to understand even the basic symbols, practices, and concepts of the various religions makes much of history, literature, art, and contemporary life unintelligible.

Study about religion is also important if students are to value religious liberty, the first freedom guaranteed in the Bill of Rights. Moreover, knowledge of the roles of religion in the past and present promotes crosscultural understanding essential to democracy and world peace.

That 1988 text, Nord and Haynes say, was endorsed by a number of organizations, including the American Jewish Congress, the Islamic Society of North America, the National Association of Evangelicals, the National Council of Churches, the American Association of School Administrators, the National School Boards Association, and the American Federation of Teachers.

If the declaration that Nord and Haynes have cited is supposed to represent the New Consensus, then I reject Nord and Haynes's claim that the so-called consensus is "fairly broad." I notice that the religious organizations which have endorsed the declaration represent only the three Abrahamic religions -- Judaism, Christianity and Islam. I observe that the declaration has not been endorsed by any scientific organization, even though some of the deepest disputes about how America's public schools should deal with religion are disputes over science curricula. I conclude that the "New Consensus," far from being broad, is narrow and thin.

However, I find little reason to disagree with the statements put forth in the declaration, because they are statements of the obvious. Yes, religion should be discussed and illuminated, not obscured or trivialized, when it bears on important events and themes in history, geography, literature, music, art and other subjects. Yes, such illumination is indispensable in any serious program of instruction. And yes, students must see that religion remains a potent force in contemporary life and in world affairs. In particular, students must know that there still are societies in which most facets of life are viewed through religious lenses, and students must recognize that religion still is used to lend justification and impetus to political demands and political actions.

Nord and Haynes, however, have not composed their book merely to make claims about a New Consensus and to quote declarations. They purport to examine the underlying principles of the New Consensus and to "draw out," from those principles, some "implications for the curriculum." The implications, they say, are "sometimes surprising."

I agree. It is truly surprising to see these authors "draw out" the implication that history teachers must present religious myths alongside historical scholarship and must depict these as equivalent paths to knowledge about the past! It is indeed surprising to watch the authors "draw out" the implication that science teachers in public schools must negate their own teaching of science by telling students that prescientific world-views, magical beliefs and miraculous happenings deserve serious consideration as explanations of nature!

I must wonder whether the organizations which endorsed the 1988 declaration knew that it carried such "implications."

Nord and Haynes's feats of drawing-out appear even more surprising when I recall the promotional blurb on the back of the book. The blurb asserts that Nord and Haynes are charting some sort of "middle course." In truth, these authors want us to follow a course that would lead to a drastic restructuring of American public education, with particularly pernicious consequences for the teaching of science. If Nord and Haynes were to get their way, our public schools wouldn't be able to offer any science instruction worthy of the name.

Giving Themselves Away

The major units in Taking Religion Seriously are an introduction, Part I, Part II, and a statement of conclusions. Part I and Part II are divided into numbered chapters. Part I comprises chapters 1 and 2 -- "The Civic and Constitutional Frameworks" and "The Educational Framework" -- in which Nord and Haynes put forth some principles that supposedly will inform their prescriptions for infusing religion into the teaching of particular subjects in public schools. The prescriptions themselves are in Part II, which comprises chapters 3 through 9: "Elementary Education," "History," "Civics and Economics," "Literature and the Arts," "The Sciences," "The Bible and World Religions," and "Moral Education."

The introduction merits close attention because here, at the very start of their book, Nord and Haynes give themselves away. In a three-page section called "What Is Religion?" they skim across some contradictory definitions, and then they write:

It isn't always clear when religious claims are being made, and we must keep in mind the richness and relevance of a spectrum of possibilities. Ordinarily, however, when we talk about religion in the chapters that follow, we mean the traditional major world religions -- Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Taoism, for example.

We will not attempt any further effort at defining religion here -- other than to suggest three generalizations about these major world religions that will be relevant to our discussion.

1. Each of them discerns a richer reality than does modern science. Ultimate Reality (be it God or Brahman or Nirvana or the Tao) can't be grasped in scientific categories, expressed in scientific language, or analyzed in scientific laboratories.

2. From within each tradition, religion can't be compartmentalized; it isn't simply a matter of what one affirms or does on Friday evening or Sunday morning. The implications of God's existence extend to all life -- to how we act the rest of the week, and to how we make sense of the world.

3. And, of course, religion is important. Religion deals, as Tillich argued, with matters of ultimate concern. People are not free to ignore God. Religion is a matter of concern not just to scholars and antiquarians.

So these authors of a book about "taking religion seriously" say that "religious claims" span a "spectrum of possibilities," but then they immediately dump most of the possibilities by announcing that "religion" means only the "major" religious systems -- the ones which are most popular. Next they pit the "major" religions against a world-view circumscribed by natural science, and then they quickly narrow the "major" religions down to the Abrahamic religions. Notice how Brahman, Nirvana and the Tao appear in the first of the authors' generalizations but then vanish. In the second and third generalizations, only the Abrahamic "God" survives.

The authors' introduction faithfully foretells what we will see in the rest of the book. In the rest of the book, Nord and Haynes align themselves with Christianity, with the supremacy of the Christians' Holy Bible among sacred books, and with using the Bible in classrooms. They devote an entire chapter to "The Bible and World Religions" (as I noted above), and elsewhere they provide sections on "The Bible as Literature" and "Moral Education and the Bible" -- but they don't offer any comparable material about other scriptures or myth-books. The index in Taking Religion Seriously has fifteen entries pertaining to the Bible but only one entry pertaining to the Hindu Bhagavad Gita, and it doesn't mention the Koran anywhere! Nor does it mention The Book of Mormon -- even though Mormonism is an endemic American religion with millions of adherents, and even though we know more about the origins of Mormonism and of Mormon scripture than we ever shall know about the origins of Christianity and of Christian scripture.

According to my reading, the Nord-and-Haynes scheme for turning public schools into centers for the propagation of Christianity revolves around two overlapping principles:

Please don't imagine that you will be able to pick up a copy of Taking Religion Seriously and find two paragraphs in which those two principles are stated clearly and explicitly. Very few things in Taking Religion Seriously are stated clearly and explicitly, and the book is hard to read because it is packed with slippery phrasing, weasel-wording, equivocation, and internal contradictions. To figure out what Nord and Haynes are really proposing, I have had to work hard. I have had to piece together a lot of incomplete statements, hints, and circumlocutions from various pages of their tract, along with dogmatic assertions that appear without explanation or context. To infer the first of Nord and Haynes's two principles, for example, I have had to assemble fragments like this line from page 18:

When the public disagrees deeply, public schools should not promote, much less institutionalize, one view and remain silent about others.

Why not? Nord and Haynes don't support their assertion, and they don't provide any context. They don't tell that they are simply restating an assertion that fundamentalists have been using, for many years, to promote the injection of creationism and "creation-science" into science curricula.

The same assertion reappears later, in a somewhat different form, when the authors write:

If public schools are to be built on common civic ground, they must be neutral when we disagree; they must take everyone seriously.

Why? Nord and Haynes don't say. Why, for example, must a public school "take seriously" the advocates of views that were discredited long ago or that never made any sense to begin with? Nord and Haynes don't say. And they never resolve the contradiction between their assertion that "everyone" must be taken seriously and their claim that only the most popular "major" religions deserve notice.

Nord and Haynes are advocating that public education must be recast as a huge argumentum ad populum -- a huge appeal to the mob. Schools would continually endorse the fallacious notion that an idea must have merit if it is accepted by a lot of people, and courses would be larded with popular beliefs and delusions simply because those beliefs and delusions were popular.

Nord and Haynes are aware that some people will denounce the idea that a public-school curriculum should be shaped by popularity polls. Members of "minority traditions," the authors say, will object that

it is dangerous to include religion in the curriculum because teachers, no matter how well intentioned, will inevitably display their ignorance and prejudices. In a predominantly Christian culture, alternatives to Christianity won't receive knowledgeable or fair treatment, and teachers will end up advocating Christianity, even if subtly or indirectly. [page 55]

The authors sanctimoniously label this a "justifiable concern," but they don't take it seriously. They seem to view it as an unfortunate but acceptable side-effect of their program -- a side-effect that members of "minority traditions" will just have to endure. "In any case," they ask rhetorically, "what is the alternative?" They evidently expect us to agree that there is no alternative and that we must not fret when teachers "end up advocating Christianity, even if subtly or indirectly."

Nord and Haynes thus scuttle the third principle of their so-called New Consensus -- the principle that "public schools must teach about religion objectively or neutrally" without trying to indoctrinate students into any particular tradition. Injecting a Christian world-view into course after course, year after year -- from the elementary grades through high school -- would constitute a protracted program of psychological manipulation, and there would be nothing subtle or indirect about it. Students would be subjected to a classic indoctrination technique that is particularly effective on young people.

Nord and Haynes's overt rejection of the New Consensus -- the consensus that they invoked and pretended to embrace in some earlier sections of their book -- exemplifies the internal contradictions that run through Taking Religion Seriously from beginning to end. Here is another example: The authors say that "It is not proper for public schools to take sides on religiously contested questions" (page 8) -- but later they declare that teachers must not convey to students the idea that "all religious traditions are equally true or equally false." How would a teacher avoid taking sides while, at the same time, telling students that one religion is more true or more false than another? Nord and Haynes don't say.

Where overt self-contradiction won't do the trick, the authors resort to deep weaseling. For instance:

What style of Christianity are the public schools supposed to promote? Nord and Haynes evade this question, and they obfuscate the theological diversity and doctrinal conflicts that exist among Christians. In particular, they refuse to examine the great spectrum of Christian opinion about whether, and to what extent, the Bible may have any merit as an account of actual events. Instead, and in contravention of what we observe in real life, they simplistically divide Christianity into two forms called "conservative religion" and "liberal religion." (Nord and Haynes regularly say "religion" when, quite clearly, they are referring to Christianity.) As far as I can tell, "conservative religion" means a miracle-laden variety of Christianity based on literal readings of scripture, while "liberal religion" means a more relaxed kind of Christianity that involves less supernaturalism (although it does retain belief in a few miracles). Both kinds are teleological, but liberal religion -- which allows the Abrahamic god to work through nature -- is generally compatible with natural science.

Abolishing Science Education

Throughout their book, Nord and Haynes espouse a simplistic dualism in which human affairs are contests between secularism and religion. Such dualistic thinking seldom suffices for the analysis of complex issues, and it often yields fallacious results, but these authors like it. I've already called attention to one of its early manifestations: In the introduction to Taking Religion Seriously, Nord and Haynes pit religion -- or at least the "major" religions -- against science.

Divine Right of KingsIn chapter 7, the longest chapter in the book, Nord and Haynes unveil their plan for remaking science education. The plan seems to revolve around requiring science teachers in public schools to present both "conservative religion" and "liberal religion" as alternatives to science, depicting both as if they were equivalent to scientific constructs as explanations of nature. In other words, science teachers would have to deceive students, would have to teach things that aren't science, and would have to endorse things that have no standing in science. Meaningful education in science would be abolished.

In advancing their plan, Nord and Haynes do not shrink from employing misrepresentations and word-tricks. On page 137, for instance, they list some "positions" that "individuals" allegedly take with respect to the relationship between science and religion, and they give these descriptions of the first two positions:  "1. Conflict: Religion Trumps Science. Science and religion sometimes make conflicting claims about reality; when there is conflict, only religion provides reliable knowledge.  2. Conflict: Science Trumps Religion. Science and religion sometimes make conflicting claims about reality, but only science provides reliable knowledge."

Those descriptions, which promote Nord and Haynes's notion that science and religion constitute equivalent and interchangeable alternatives, are simplistic and deceptive. Science offers a coherent world-view which transcends all cultural boundaries, but religion does not. For people who subscribe to the scientific world-view, science trumps all religious perceptions of the universe -- but the reverse isn't true. Do you know any Christian who says that Hindu legends or Navajo creation stories trump all scientific findings?

Here are some more samples of Nord and Haynes's work, with my comments:


To summarize: Taking Religion Seriously Across the Curriculum is rich in weaseling, obfuscation, equivocation, and internal contradictions. If one musters the patience to sort through these, one finds that Nord and Haynes have a scheme by which most of our public schools would become centers for promoting Christianity. Public education would become a huge argumentum ad populum, religious myths would be disguised as history, and science education would be effectively abolished. In my judgment, Nord and Haynes's book can correctly be described as stealth evangelism.


A Pair of Common Tricksters

William J. Bennetta

The canonical Gospels exist as sequences of narrative and
dramatic scenes. This is not surprising: how else would
one tell the "story" of Jesus? What is surprising is the great
differences among the stories, even though they share, for
the most part, similar sources. For example: According to
Matthew and Mark, the dying words of Jesus were, "My God,
my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" According to Luke,
Jesus' dying words were, "Father, into your hands I commit my
spirit." But according to John, they were, "It is accomplished."
To put it another way, we cannot know what the dying words
of Jesus were, or even whether he uttered any; it is not that we
have too little information, but that we have too much. Each
narrative implicitly argues that the others are fictional.

         Randel Helms in his book Gospel Fictions (1988)

When the word history entered our language, some 600 years ago, it meant a narrative -- any narrative. It was applied to any account of events, whether the events were real or imaginary. With the passing of time, however, that original way of using history faded, and history acquired a narrower meaning: It came to denote a narrative that was professedly a true account of real happenings (as distinct from a narrative that was acknowledged to be fictitious).

Later, history gained a second major meaning: It became the English name for a traditional intellectual enterprise that encompassed information about the past, popular beliefs and hearsay about the past, reverence for the past, and the use of stories about the past to promote social, religious or political undertakings. In time, that traditional enterprise evolved into something new. It retained the name history, but it evolved into an academic discipline based on research, documentation and analysis. It became the academic discipline that bears the name history today -- the discipline devoted to reconstructing the past through the use of evidence and reason, and to explaining the past in terms of causes and effects.

Warren A. Nord and Charles C. Haynes view this newfangled brand of history as an abomination. They despise its reliance upon evidence and reason, and they seek to expel it from public schools. They want the schools to shun the analytical history developed by modern historians and to purvey instead -- as "history" -- a kind of rubbish that will accommodate and promote popular religious beliefs. They hold that classroom teachers must present popular religious myths as if these were reports of real persons and events, must endorse popular superstitions derived from religious tales, and must avoid presenting "history" in any way that might invite inquiry, analysis or reasoned judgments.

You can learn about Nord and Haynes's plans for history education, and about other things that they have cooked up, by reading their book Taking Religion Seriously Across the Curriculum. I must warn you, though, that reading it is no easy task. If Nord and Haynes had written a straightforward statement of their proposals, they could have issued that statement as a 40-page pamphlet. Instead they have produced Taking Religion Seriously, a 221-page book in which their essential points are deeply hidden behind rhetorical baffles, decoys and smoke-screens. To infer what Nord and Haynes really want, a reader must continually dig his way through double-talk, fog-chatter, contradictions and misleading pieties. For me, this has been a frustrating, tiring experience -- the more so because I eventually had to make a chart to keep track of Nord and Haynes's self-contradictions. (I used red ink to make a note of each passage in which Nord and Haynes have invoked the First Amendment, and I used violet ink to record each passage in which they have put forth a notion or scheme that contravenes one of their own claims about First Amendment law. I used blue ink to record each passage in which they have promoted creationism [see note 1, below], and I used violet ink to record each passage in which they have sought to distance themselves from creationism. And so forth.)

I said earlier that these authors want to expel history from our public schools, that they want to replace history with a kind of rubbish which will accommodate and promote popular religious beliefs, and that they want to compel teachers to endorse popular superstitions derived from religious tales. Those statements about Nord and Haynes's goals reflect inferences that I made while I struggled through chapter 4 of Taking Religion Seriously -- the chapter called "History" -- and sought to discern what lay behind all the decoys and the shrouds of verbal camouflage that I found there. I shall make more statements about Nord and Haynes's goals, and these too will reflect inferences that I made as I strove to penetrate the authors' obscurantism. Nord and Haynes themselves have seldom described any of their goals in any comprehensible way, so I continually have had to form my own deductions about their objectives and about the program that they are trying to promote.


Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when
they do it from religious conviction.

         Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) in his Pensées

Nord and Haynes want to turn America's public schools into agencies for propagating and promoting the religion of "the Bible." Sometimes it is difficult to tell what they mean when they refer to "the Bible," but they seem generally to mean the Christian Bible -- i.e., the Hebrew Bible and the Christian New Testament, taken together.

In Taking Religion Seriously, Nord and Haynes try to provide rationalizations for converting the public schools into religious-indoctrination shops, and they try to convince their readers that this conversion can be accomplished in spite of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment -- the clause that forbids the erection of any official religion by any unit of government or any public agency. What the schools should do, Nord and Haynes suggest, is to set up programs of education "about religion" and to rig these programs in favor of whatever religions are deemed to be the "major" ones or the most "influential" ones. Then the schools can do what Nord and Haynes themselves do in their book: Cast Christianity as the only religion that is sufficiently "major" and sufficiently "influential" to merit sustained consideration, and cast the Christian Bible as the only religious scripture that merits any serious study. Nord and Haynes evidently imagine that this ruse will fool any court in the land.

It's amusing, in a way, to watch Nord and Haynes perform their major-religions number and to notice they never present any criteria for deciding just which religions have enough voltage to qualify as "major." On page 4 they say that "when we talk about religion in the chapters that follow, we mean the traditional major world religions -- Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and Taoism, for example." A list of examples, however, explains nothing. Who said those were the "traditional major world religions"? On what grounds? And why should one care about this "traditional" taxonomy? [note 2]   It is hard to see why, in the context of American education, one should give attention to Taoism but should entirely ignore -- as Nord and Haynes do -- various world religions that are far more conspicuous and more significant in America than Taoism has ever been. In almost any American telephone book, the advertising section carries more ads for chiropractors than for savants of the Tao, but there is no entry for chiropractic in the index of Nord and Haynes's book [note 3]. Nor is there any entry for Mormonism [note 4] or for Scientology [note 5 and note 6].

As it turns out, Nord and Haynes do not have much use for Taoism either. After declaring on page 4 that Taoism is one of the major religions, they mention it once more (on page 50), and then they dump it. So much for their major-religions sham.

Here is something else that I noticed when I looked through the index: There is no entry for myth or mythology or comparative mythology. If students are to appreciate religion, they must gain some understanding of why religious myths are created, of why myths are valuable, and of what can happen when myths break down and lose their credibility. Students must also understand that mythic events, gods and heroes often reflect local environments and economies, and students must grasp that certain important ideas have recurred again and again (in more or less recognizable forms) in myths revered by different peoples from different times and places. Nord and Haynes, however, are oblivious to all these matters, and they want the schools to teach "about religion" without providing instruction in mythology. So much for the pretense that Taking Religion Seriously is a serious book.

Despite its length, Taking Religion Seriously offers little that can be regarded as novel. The view that American public schools must serve as centers of religious indoctrination certainly isn't new, nor is the view that our schools must specifically endorse and promote religious beliefs that have been derived from "the Bible." These notions have been advanced many times before, by fundamentalists, in manifestoes and political campaigns. During the 1970s and the early 1980s, for example, fundamentalists tried to force public schools to tell students that biblical myths, dressed up as "creation-science," furnished rational explanations of nature. More recently, fundamentalists in a number of jurisdictions have sought to force public schools to promote religious prescriptions that the fundamentalists call "the Ten Commandments" [note 7].

The only discernible innovation in Taking Religion Seriously is Nord and Haynes's effort to fuse the customary anti-intellectualism of the religious right with the "postmodern" anti-intellectualism of the academic left [note 8]. As we shall see, Nord and Haynes advance the postmodern notion that any invocation of knowledge or experience or judgment is an exercise in prejudice!


Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of
religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging
the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people
peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a
redress of grievances.

         the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States

Taking Religion Seriously comprises an introduction, a chapter about civic and legal matters, a chapter about the authors' vision of public education, seven chapters containing the authors' designs for introducing religion into the public-school curriculum, and a four-page recapitulation titled "Conclusions."

In their introduction, on page 8, Nord and Haynes refer to "the religious liberty clauses of the First Amendment to the Constitution," and then they write:

For more than 50 years, ever since it first applied the First Amendment to the states, the Supreme Court has held that government, and therefore public schools, must be neutral in matters of religion -- neutral among religions, and neutral between religion and nonreligion. It is not proper for public schools to take sides on religiously contested questions.

What does that mean? When Nord and Haynes say that "It is not proper for public schools to take sides on religiously contested questions," they seem to be stating a grand principle -- yet they don't explain what they mean by "religiously contested questions," and they don't provide any examples. I suppose they have in mind such questions as How many ribs does a man have? or Was Jesus of Nazareth killed by crucifixion? or How many legs does an insect have? or Why are ancient plesiosaurs still living in the deep oceans? Let me elaborate:

The cases that I have imagined are not ones that immediately leap to mind when we think of religious controversies. The cases that I have imagined are extreme, bizarre and even ridiculous -- and that's why I have proffered them. If we are to grasp the full import of Nord and Haynes's dictum that "It is not proper for public schools to take sides on religiously contested questions," we must recognize that people who follow eccentric forms of religion can find religious issues almost anywhere. If we are to envision what would happen in schools that adopted Nord and Haynes's dictum, we must recognize that people who follow eccentric forms of religion can generate "religiously contested questions" in almost any context. With those points in mind, let us turn from Nord and Haynes's introduction to their first chapter.


The application and content of First Amendment principles are
not determined by public opinion polls or by a majority vote. . . .
No group, no matter how large or small, may use the organs of
government, of which the public schools are the most conspicuous
and influential, to foist its religious beliefs on others.

         Judge William R. Overton in the opinion that he issued
         when he decided the case of McLean v. Arkansas Board of
         Education
and ruled that the Arkansas "creation-science"
         law of 1981 was unconstitutional

Chapter 1 of Taking Religion Seriously is titled "The Civic and Constitutional Frameworks." Nord and Haynes show us their civic framework first, introducing it with this pious piffle: "[W]e believe that justice requires that the curriculum of public schools be neutral in a pluralistic democracy. When the public disagrees deeply, public schools should not promote, much less institutionalize, one view and remain silent about the others."

That's another item that looks like a grand principle -- until we notice the word "deeply." What does "deeply" signify here? Why should "justice" operate only when a disagreement is deep? Why is it permissible for a public school to boost one view ("and remain silent about the others") if public disagreement over those views doesn't pass a depth test? And how should that test be carried out? Do Nord and Haynes possess some formula for determining how deep a disagreement is, or for discovering whether a disagreement is deep enough to affect a public-school curriculum? Perhaps, but they never tell what that formula may be. Instead, they rush ahead to write:

[B]ecause we disagree deeply about which political party has the better policies, it would violate our sense of justice for public schools to take sides, teaching only the policies and values of one party, leaving the other out of the discussion. We also disagree deeply, often on religious grounds, about how to make sense of our lives and the world; hence public schools should not promote, much less institutionalize, any particular way of making sense of the world be it religious or secular. If public schools are to be built on common civic ground, they must be neutral when we disagree; they must take everyone seriously. [page 19]

The analogy involving political parties is fog-chatter. Though it would apply to a discussion of an upcoming election, it is plainly irrelevant to discussions of faits accomplis or of matters that already have been settled. Is your "sense of justice" violated if a biology teacher fails to discuss the view that fossils aren't vestiges of organisms but rather are objects which were secreted by rocks when the rocks experienced a cosmic "molding force"? [note 13]  Is your "sense of justice" violated if a teacher of 20th-century history doesn't take seriously the cranks who deny that the Nazis killed millions of people in extermination camps? Is your "sense of justice" violated if a chemistry teacher declines to dignify the notion that the formation of an organic molecule requires the action of a preternatural "life force"? Is your "sense of justice" violated if a geography teacher doesn't discuss the claim that a land-bridge enabled kangaroos to hop to Australia after they hopped out of Noah's ark?

Though Nord and Haynes have repeated their stuff about disagreeing "deeply," they still haven't explained it. They still haven't said, nor will they ever say, why "justice" is required only when a disagreement is deep. They still haven't answered, nor will they ever answer, any of the other questions suggested by their prating about "justice." We'll see similar performances as we read farther in Taking Religion Seriously, for Nord and Haynes routinely refuse to acknowledge obvious questions engendered by their own statements. Indeed, the practice of ignoring obvious questions, as if those questions did not even exist, figures prominently in many of Nord and Haynes's attempts to misdirect and bamboozle their readers.

Nord and Haynes's invocations of "justice" and of "pluralistic democracy" ring false but familiar. Fundamentalists used the same tactics, years ago, during their "creation-science" campaigns: They appealed to fairness and democracy and egalitarianism, and they insisted that a public school should subordinate scientific scholarship to the fancies and imaginings of the local population. Consider, for example, this passage from Dorothy Nelkin's book Science Textbook Controversies and the Politics of Equal Time [note 14]. Nelkin recounts what happened in California in 1972, after the California State Board of Education accorded to creationists some concessions which the creationists regarded as inadequate:

[The creationists] began to gather survey material to prove the extent of public support for their views. The Seventh Day Adventist Church of Crescent City, California, polled 1,500 adults, about 57 percent of whom attended church. [The Adventists] claimed that 91 percent of church attenders and 85 percent of [those who didn't attend] favored teaching creation in the public schools. Fifty-four percent of church attenders and 65 percent of nonattenders also favored the teaching of evolution. [The Adventists] respectfully submitted their findings in support of "equal time" to the board of education as a form of "public service" in order to help the board "represent our community."

Yes, they did -- but ideas about nature do not gain scientific respectability by winning "public support," and scientific knowledge is not dependent upon surveys or elections [note 15]. Creationists have always been free to bring forth evidence that might bolster their claims and might make those claims seem persuasive, but they have no such evidence -- so they produce public-opinion polls and other political claptrap instead. Sometimes they even produce claptrap like Taking Religion Seriously Across the Curriculum.

Having exhibited their feeble civic framework, rigged around the claim that "justice" and "democracy" require public schools to dignify any notion about anything, Nord and Haynes now invite us to view their constitutional framework. This one is stronger than the civic framework, because this one is built around decisions issued by the Supreme Court of the United States. Nord and Haynes say, correctly, that public schools may require students to "learn about religion" and that "including the academic study of religion [in a public-school curriculum] does not violate the Establishment clause." Then they tell us this:

In a series of decisions in the 1960s striking down state-sponsored religious exercises in public schools, the [Supreme Court] reaffirmed that "no establishment" prohibits the government not only from preferring one religion over another but also from preferring religion over nonreligion. Writing for the majority in Abington v. Schempp, Justice Tom Clark argued that required religious exercises in public schools are a "breach of neutrality" barred by the First Amendment. He was careful, however, to make clear that government neutrality cannot result in hostility to religion. That is, government cannot prefer nonreligion over religion either.

Now, that is important stuff -- especially the principle that the Establishment Clause "prohibits the government not only from preferring one religion over another but also from preferring religion over nonreligion." We later shall see that the unconstitutional practice of "preferring religion over nonreligion" is an essential part of Nord and Haynes's scheme for destroying science education.


The next to be placed among the regiment of fools are such as
make a trade of telling or enquiring after incredible stories of
miracles and prodigies . . . .

         Desiderius Erasmus (1466?-1536) in his Praise of Folly

Chapter 2 of Nord and Haynes's book is titled "The Educational Framework." The authors begin by telling us that this framework reflects a "New Consensus" about how religion should be presented in public schools -- but it turns out that this alleged consensus is embraced only by some "major religious and educational organizations." No civil-liberties organizations or historical societies or scientific societies need apply. Some consensus!

A few pages later, in a section titled "Worldviews," Nord and Haynes unveil their attitudes toward natural science: They regard science with disgust and hostility, and they resent the intellectual revolution that science has wrought. They begin their "Worldviews" section by writing:

The astronomer Arthur Eddington once told a parable about a fisherman who used a net with a three-inch mesh. After a lifetime of fishing he concluded there were no fish shorter than three inches. Eddington's moral is that just as one's fishing net determines what one catches, so it is with conceptual nets: what we find in the ocean of reality depends on the conceptual net we bring to our investigation.

For example, the modern scientific conceptual net -- or scientific method -- allows scientists to catch only replicable events; the results of any experiment that cannot be replicated are not allowed to stand. This means that miracles, which are by definition singular events, can't be caught; scientists cannot ask God to replicate the miracle for the sake of a controlled experiment.
[page 40]

"God"? We can already perceive that Nord and Haynes think about religion in terms of God-with-a-capital-G -- i.e., the miracle-working God of "the Bible" -- and that they have little interest in religions that don't offer such a figure.

It seems odd that these two fanciers of biblical miracles don't seem to know much about them. Where did they get the idea that miracles "are by definition singular events"? I have checked the entries for miracle in several unabridged dictionaries, and I have read articles about miracles in three encyclopedias [note 16], but I have not found any suggestion that a miracle must be a unique event or that the biblical God can't perform a given miracle more than once. Moreover, I can point to a miracle which the deity in question has performed on hundreds of occasions in the past, and which he still repeats regularly: During rituals conducted annually at Naples, a vial containing some dried, solidified blood of the martyr St. Januarius is displayed to the faithful -- and almost always, the biblical God causes the dried blood to become a liquid. Then, after a priest has announced "Il miracolo é fatto [The miracle is done]," and after some of the faithful have been allowed to kiss the vessel in which the vial is housed, the blood becomes solid again. This recurrent Neapolitan spectacle is surely impressive, but it isn't unique. Similar miracles, each involving the dried blood of a saint, recur every year at other places in southern Italy, where blood-magic is a regional specialty. If Nord and Haynes really are unaware of these marvels, let them consult the article "'Miraculous' Phenomena" in The Encyclopedia of the Paranormal, issued in 1996 by Prometheus Books (Amherst, New York).

As for the claim that scientists can't ask the biblical God to replicate a miracle for the sake of a controlled experiment: Why can't scientists do that, and why shouldn't God comply? Have Nord and Haynes forgotten that God likes to show off? Then they must read the Book of Exodus and see how God delays the liberation of the Israelites while he devises opportunities to display his supernatural powers [note 17]. Have Nord and Haynes forgotten that God already has exhibited his willingness to deliver miracles on request? Then they should consult the Book of Judges and see how Gideon not only solicits miracles, successfully, but does this in a rather scientific way. First he requests and obtains a miracle in which God causes dew to condense on a fleece but not on the adjacent ground. Then Gideon verifies his procedure, so to say, by requesting and getting a second miracle that is the reciprocal of the first: This time, God causes dew to form on the ground but not on the fleece [note 18].

That's enough merriment. Now let's get serious and consider Nord and Haynes's claim that "the modern scientific conceptual net -- or scientific method -- allows scientists to catch only replicable events; the results of any experiment that cannot be replicated are not allowed to stand."

Nord and Haynes are seeking to exploit three popular beliefs about science -- the notion that scientific knowledge comes exclusively from laboratory work, the notion that all scientific investigations revolve around a cookbook formula for conducting controlled experiments, and the notion that scientists call this procedure "the scientific method." All three beliefs are absurd. None of them has any foundation in fact, and there are many scientific disciplines -- such as astronomy, meteorology, paleontology, oceanography and biogeography -- in which controlled experiments are seldom, if ever, performed.

The reason why those absurd notions about science enjoy great popularity is that they are promoted continually by creationists and by schoolbook-writers:

Nord and Haynes continue by serving up a red herring:

Theologians, by contrast [with scientists], have constructed different kinds of conceptual nets for catching dimensions of reality that, they claim, escape scientific nets. People within all religious traditions believe moral and religious experiences provide knowledge of a transcendent dimension of reality -- of God. [page 40]

So what? That theologians and scientists make use of different "conceptual nets" isn't remarkable at all, since scientists and theologians have different purposes and goals. Religion and natural science aren't equivalent endeavors, science isn't a defective imitation of theology, and scientists aren't cut-rate theologians who use faulty "conceptual nets" because they can't devise better ones.

Nord and Haynes, however, want their readers to imagine that religion and natural science are equivalent endeavors -- i.e., that science and religion are inimical but equivalent approaches to accomplishing the same things. They have introduced that notion here, and they will promote it repeatedly, because it will be useful to them during their attack on science education.

One fundamental reason why religion and natural science are not equivalent, or even comparable, becomes quite clear if we consider the scope of each. Religion -- by which I mean Nord and Haynes's style of religion, taken from "the Bible" -- has no limits. Its products include (among other things) doctrines about nature, doctrines about supernatural forces and characters, doctrines about relations between supernatural characters and humans, and doctrines (allegedly derived from supernatural sources) about how humans should lead their lives. Science, however, deals only with nature and seeks only to describe and explain the universe that we can apprehend with our senses. Science doesn't try to do anything else, or claim to do anything else, and it certainly doesn't purport to divine how we should conduct our lives: At most, science tells us what results we can expect if we decide to manipulate some natural system in some specified way.


[U]ntil the year 1500 any attempt to get power from nature had
inherent in it the idea that you could only do this if you forced
nature to provide it against her will. Nature had to be subjugated,
and magic was a form of words, actions, and pictures which forced
nature to do something which she wouldn't of herself do.

         Jacob Bronowski in Magic, Science, and Civilization (1978)

As if to reinforce the misconception that religion and science are equivalent in scope and purpose, Nord and Haynes go on to depict religion and science as the sources of alternative "worldviews":

For most of history, the governing worldviews of civilization have been religious; but over the course of the last several centuries in the West, modern science has come to provide the dominant worldview of our civilization and, as a result, shape our educational system. In the process, what counts as reasonable (and what counts as a matter of faith) has changed. True, if we assume the adequacy of the modern scientific worldview, religion is likely to appear as a matter of faith or even superstition. But why should we assume it?

Let me reject the authors' nebulous and misleading stuff about "worldviews," and let me restate their question in a way that makes some sense: Why should we assume that natural science, by itself and without any help from religion, is adequate for explaining the natural world?

The answer is: Because that assumption is supported by the entire record of human experience, and it gains more support every day. Science, by itself, has enabled us to acquire verifiable knowledge of nature, to build a unified picture of nature, to make reliable predictions about nature, and to use such predictions in developing effective technology. Religion, on the other hand, has failed to generate any coherent conception of the natural world, and the technology that religion offers -- i.e., magic -- has been a monumental flop. Over the centuries, men have made innumerable attempts to call forth, by magic, supernatural forces that would override the laws of nature, but all those efforts have failed. Over the centuries, men have tried to manipulate nature by reciting magical incantations, worshiping magical objects, building magical structures, performing magical dances, drawing magical symbols and swallowing magical potions, but they haven't achieved anything. They haven't been able to demonstrate that supernatural forces can be invoked to alter nature, and they haven't even been able to demonstrate that supernatural forces exist.

The record of human experience, then, testifies compellingly to the adequacy of science, and to the irrelevance of religion and supernaturalism, in dealing with the natural world. But not to worry -- Nord and Haynes have a solution to this difficulty:

... neutrality requires both fairness and refraining from judgment. When we disagree on religious grounds, we can achieve neutrality only by including everyone in the discussion. On this reading, "objectivity" means being fair rather than being prejudiced -- rather than prejudging conclusions by not taking everyone seriously. [page 47]

Did you get that? We must flatly ignore experience and accumulated knowledge, and we must shun the temptation to make such judgments as experience and knowledge may engender, because anyone who makes judgments is guilty of "being prejudiced"!

Nord and Haynes's attempt to equate judgment with prejudice will warm the hearts of postmodern ignoramuses everywhere, but it is unadulterated codswallop. Consider again the record of human experience: It shows that we have discarded countless religious claims not because we have prejudged them but because we have done the opposite -- we have taken the claims seriously, we have studied and investigated them, and we have found them to be false or absurd. We have taken seriously the religious claim that Earth is only 6,000 years old [note 19], and we have discarded it because it failed to explain what we saw when we looked at Earth herself. We have taken seriously the claims put forth by various faith healers, we have studied the faith healers themselves while they practiced their craft, and we have found that the claims were empty and the healers were merely showmen. We have taken seriously the claims made by the exhibitors of various religious statues that allegedly dripped blood or tears, we have studied the statues and the substances that they allegedly secreted, and we have found that the exhibitors' claims were fraudulent. We have taken seriously the religious claim that "it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed" [note 20] -- and after studying it in the light of history, we have discarded it as a fiction. We have taken seriously the claim that the famous image of the Virgin of Guadalupe was formed supernaturally, we have studied the image itself, and we have found it to be an ordinary painting [note 21]. And so on, and so on, and so on.

Cranks, con men and true believers may persist in promoting religious claims that have been studied and discredited, but persistence can't make the claims respectable. Cranks, con men and true believers may charge that we are "being prejudiced" when we ignore claims that have been found to be worthless, but we needn't let such rhetoric intimidate us. Nord and Haynes may bray that, for the sake of "fairness" we must abandon rationality and must pretend to see intellectual merit in any claim that is promoted under a banner of religion, but we can laugh at Nord and Haynes's insults. I wonder: Does their "fairness" nonsense echo the New Consensus that they mentioned at the start of the chapter? Maybe, but that nonsense certainly isn't new. It embodies an attitude that H.L. Mencken observed some 75 years ago and that he noted in "Aftermath" [note 22], one of his articles about the Scopes trial:

The meaning of religious freedom, I fear, is sometimes greatly misapprehended. It is taken to be a sort of immunity, not merely from governmental control but also from public opinion. A dunderhead gets himself a long-tailed coat, rises behind the sacred desk, and emits such bilge as would gag a Hottentot. Is it to pass unchallenged? If so, then what we have is not religious freedom at all, but the most intolerable and outrageous variety of religious despotism. . . .

What should be a civilized man's attitude toward such superstitions? It seems to me that the only attitude possible to him is one of contempt. If he admits that they have any intellectual dignity whatever, he admits that he himself has none. If he pretends to a respect for those who believe in them, he pretends falsely, and sinks almost to their level. . . .

Having informed us that public schools must take everyone seriously, and that "we" too must take everyone seriously and must include everyone in "the discussion," Nord and Haynes now change their minds:

But, of course, not all religions can be included in the discussion; after all the school day consists of limited hours, and texts have only so many pages. We obviously cannot use the truth of a religion as our criterion for whether to include it, for we cannot assume judgments about truth if we are to be neutral. A more plausible, and less controversial, criterion is influence; indeed, in virtually all courses it is the influential ideas and ideals, theories and movements, that are considered. Almost inevitably the major religious traditions will make the greatest claim for inclusion because of their influence. [page 48]

Ah, yes -- those "major religious traditions." You will recall that Nord and Haynes began to prate about "major" religions back on page 4, but they refused to say how or why, or in what context, a religion might qualify as "major." Well, they still haven't elucidated those matters, and they now have made things even murkier by suggesting that a "major" religion is one that has a lot of "influence." What sort of "influence" do they have in mind? Do they mean political influence? Do they mean commercial or economic influence? Do they mean the influence that is manifested when true believers kill infidels in religious wars or religious assassinations? Maybe they mean some combination of all those forms of influence -- but if that is the case, we'll need some standards or some conversion factors that will enable us to make comparisons. How many deaths in a religious war are equivalent to, say, a million dollars in gross revenues? Nord and Haynes don't suggest any answers.

On pages 48 and 49 the authors make their first reference to "creation-science":

In the early 1980s, . . . several states passed "balanced treatment" laws requiring that "creation-science" be taught whenever evolution is taught. It is important for students to learn that there are diverse ways of thinking about the origins of life and humankind -- religious as well as scientific. It is also important for students to learn that the vast majority of biologists and paleontologists reject creation-science as unscientific.

Here Nord and Haynes are attempting to distance themselves from creationism by whacking "creation-science," but this is just a rhetorical diversion. "Creation-science" has already been so thoroughly whacked, by scientists and by the federal courts, that it is moribund and is no longer of much use to the creationists in their efforts to undermine science education. Today the creationists' most virulent campaigns are based not on "creation-science" but on a pseudoscientific absurdity called "intelligent design."

As it happens, the creationists' "intelligent design" hokum has been whacked and rejected by natural scientists, just as "creation-science" was, but Nord and Haynes don't mention this. I'll return to "intelligent design" later, when I describe Nord and Haynes's efforts to whitewash and promote it.

One more item in chapter 2 demands our attention. On page 49 Nord and Haynes declare: "We do not propose the quixotic position that science courses cease to be science courses." In fact, however, that is what Nord and Haynes do propose -- not here in chapter 2 but in chapter 7. Let us skip to that chapter right now.


Teachers should let kids think world is flat, lobbyist says

PHOENIX, Ariz. (AP) -- Gov. Evan Mecham's educational
lobbyist told lawmakers Wednesday that teachers should not try
to dissuade students who want to believe that the world is flat.

Former state Rep. Jim Cooper testified before the House
Education Committee on a bill that would require schools that
each evolution to present it as a theory, not as a fact.

Cooper said teachers should not disagree with students who
want to believe in the biblical theory [
sic] instead of evolution
as an explanation for the origin of humans.

Rep. Peter Goudinoff asked Cooper what should happen if a
student told his geography teacher that his parents said the
world was flat.

"If that student wants to say the world is flat, the teacher doesn't
have the right to try to prove otherwise," Cooper answered. "The
schools don't have any business telling people what to believe."

         from the San Jose Mercury News, 5 February 1987

Chapter 7, "The Sciences," is devoted to Nord and Haynes's plan for getting rid of science education. The chapter is relentlessly obscure, and it is heavily laden with unexplained statements, supernaturalistic fantasies and misleading half-truths. After reading it several times and trying to figure out what Nord and Haynes really are proposing, I have deduced that their plan has four major features:

This last feature of Nord and Haynes's plan seems to render the entire plan unconstitutional. By Nord and Haynes's own account (in chapter 1 of Taking Religion Seriously), the Supreme Court has affirmed that the Establishment Clause prohibits agencies of government "from preferring religion over nonreligion" -- yet these authors want public schools to do exactly that during the operation of fake science courses.

Now let me describe how their chapter about "The Sciences" is constructed.

Nord and Haynes begin by repeating the fishing-net analogy that they introduced in chapter 2, and then they iterate their resentment of the scientific revolution. First they remind us of how good everything was before science came along:

All cultures other than modern Western culture have conceived of reality as having a spiritual dimension that could be known through religious experience. In the Western religions, God was understood to be the creator of the world, and believers could understand nature only by seeing it as God's handiwork, designed to fulfill God's purposes. Because nature was the creation of God, it was good; indeed it was infused by the spirit of God. Reality was understood to have the structure of a cosmic drama, and as actors in that drama, persons were responsible agents. [page 135]

(That, I must concede, is poignant prose. As I was reading it, I could almost smell the aroma of a witch roasting on a pyre -- and I could almost hear the sacred chants of the responsible agents who knew that the cosmic playwright had ordained them to find and kill witches.)

Next, our two connoisseurs of goodness lament that the old biblical view of nature and "reality" has been blasted by science. Science, they say, assumes that "God is irrelevant to understanding nature." Science, they say, assumes that there isn't any need to enlist miracles, divine purposes, religious experience or religious scripture in explaining how nature works -- and "science has become the arbiter of intellectual respectability."

Are we supposed to see this as a problem? Why? Can Nord and Haynes demonstrate that there is a need to enlist miracles or other religious inventions in explaining how nature works? If they can demonstrate such a reason, why don't they do so? Can they point to any case in which a religious invention produced a scientifically useful explanation of some aspect of nature? -- some aspect of nature that couldn't be explained by evidence and reason alone? If they know of such a case, why don't they cite it?

Nord and Haynes now start a new section of text titled "The Relationship of Science and Religion." They make some misleading assertions regarding "different positions on the relationship of science and religion," then they promote again the notion that science and religion are equivalent endeavors, and then (on page 139) they announce:

Roughly a third of Americans believe that the Bible is inerrant and would presumably adopt the view (if asked) that religion trumps science.

Is that true? Maybe it is. Some 52% of our countrymen believe in astrology [note 24], so maybe it's true that a third of them believe in the inerrancy of a book which says that insects have four feet. Some 42% of our fellow citizens believe that living persons can communicate with dead ones [note 24], and 33% believe that the mythical continent of Atlantis actually existed [note 24], so perhaps it's true that a third of them believe that the canonical gospels are all perfectly accurate, even when those gospels contradict each other. However, I can't understand why Nord and Haynes have drawn attention to the embarrassing persistence of the doctrine of biblical inerrancy, because they don't say any more about it. They mutter that "very few" scientists take the position that religion trumps science -- but then, just when we expect them to tell about those aberrant scientists, they dash away and introduce a new topic. They allege that in recent decades, there has been "a shift" toward an "integrationist position" which favors a fusion of science and religion, and then they assert that

At the same time, many theologians have argued that (liberal) theology can be "rational" or "objective" in some sense; theological claims can be testable -- though not in quite the same way as scientific claims. That is, theology and science are not nearly so different as has often been believed, and integration has become a possibility.

Predictably, Nord and Haynes refuse to explain any of those statements. They don't explain or illustrate how theological claims can be "testable" (even by theological standards), they don't explain how the "integration" of science with theology would work, and they don't cite any article that might elucidate such things.

In truth, their whole passage about "integration" is airy-fairy nonsense that can serve only to bewilder and mislead the ignorant: Theology deals entirely with supernaturalism, but natural science doesn't deal with supernaturalism at all -- and the notion of fusing the two is absurd. So is the notion of integrating scientific findings with supernaturalistic claims that can't be tested "in quite the same way as scientific claims." If claims can't be tested scientifically, by recourse to evidence and reason alone, then science has nothing to say about them.

Of course, when religionists stray beyond supernaturalism and promulgate claims about the world that we can apprehend with our senses, those claims can be tested by recourse to evidence and reason alone. Such testing has gone on for centuries, and it continues still. Bible-thumpers claim that a rotten carcass is a relic of a plesiosaur, but scientists show that it isn't. A faith healer says that he has reversed the course of this or that disease, but scientists show that his claim is bogus. A miracle-monger produces a blood-dripping statue of Jesus, but scientists show that the miraculous blood formerly belonged to a chicken or a rabbit or a cat. And so on, and so on, and so on. In such cases, religion and science already enjoy a sort of "integration," but Nord and Haynes say nothing about this.

Now Nord and Haynes turn their attention to schoolbooks. They say that they have "reviewed" five high-school biology books, four high-school earth-science books and three high-school physics books, looking for material about the relationship of science and religion, and they claim that they made these observations: Ten of the books had no such material at all; the 1996 version of Heath's Biological Science: A Molecular Approach [note 25] had some unsatisfactory stuff that filled three pages; and the 1992 version of Addison-Wesley's Conceptual Physics [note 26] had two paragraphs that "[did] little to discourage shallow thinking." Curiously, our two deep thinkers make no comment about another textbook that they allegedly "reviewed" -- the 1994 version of Glencoe's Biology: Living Systems -- even though it is a sort of religious tract and is riddled with religious notions derived from natural theology [note 27 and note 28]. Have Nord and Haynes failed to notice this? Or have they just decided that they shouldn't mention it?

Nord and Haynes conclude their passage about textbooks by telling us that

. . . the nature of [the relationship between science and religion] is deeply controversial, but that would seem to be a reason for discussing rather than ignoring it. Indeed, by ignoring the controversy, and by ignoring religion, science education implicitly takes sides, teaching students uncritically to believe either that science always trumps religion or that they are independent endeavors. [page 141]

What do Nord and Haynes mean when they declare that science education proceeds "uncritically"? I don't know. Do Nord and Haynes know? If so, why don't they tell us what "uncritically" is supposed to convey? And why do they object to students' learning that religion and science are independent endeavors? Haven't Nord and Haynes themselves advanced that very point? Haven't they themselves said that science excludes religious inventions? Haven't they themselves told us that science finds no need to enlist miracles, divine purposes, religious experience or religious scripture in explaining how nature works? Yes, that is what they have told us. So why are they now pretending otherwise? We must also wonder why Nord and Haynes object to students' learning that "science always trumps religion"? Can Nord and Haynes point to any counterexample? Can they point to any case in which religion has trumped science as a way of explicating the natural world? If they know of such a case, why don't they describe it to us?

Alas, we shall never know. Instead of explaining themselves, they drop the subject and turn to new things.


Do whatever steps you want if
You have cleared them with the Pontiff.

         from Tom Lehrer's comical song The Vatican Rag (1965)

Nord and Haynes now bring forth three sections of text that are titled "Evolution and Biology," "The Big Bang and Cosmology," and "Nature and Ecology." Though these sections occupy nearly eleven pages, their purpose is never stated explicitly. They seem to be summaries of religious doctrines that will be presented to students in Nord and Haynes's fake science courses.

"Evolution and Biology"       Reading the "Evolution and Biology" section, we find some material that evidently will be featured in the Nord-and-Haynes biology curriculum:

There are a variety of ways of integrating religion and evolution. Catholicism, for example, accepts evolution but claims that, as the Catechism of the Church puts it, "the universe was created 'in a state of journeying' toward an ultimate perfection yet to be attained, to which God has destined it. We call 'divine providence' the dispositions by which God guides his creation toward this perfection" . . . . Evolution is purposeful, though God has chosen to work through the "secondary" causes of nature. Moreover, God is a personal God who, on occasion, intervenes in the affairs of this world by way of miracles. And, as Pope John Paul II recently affirmed, God directly intervened in evolution to create a break between animals and humankind: Adam and Eve were real people; God created them and their descendants -- unlike animals -- with immortal souls.

At last, Nord and Haynes have given us an idea of what they mean by "integration." They mean nothing but naked religious preaching -- in this case, the preaching of doctrines that they ascribe to a Roman Catholic publication and to the current Pope. I cannot resist imagining how the teacher in a Nord-and-Haynes biology course might convey the Pope's affirmations to students:

MR. SMITH, THE TEACHER:  Listen up, class. The quiz on Friday
will be about the major groups of mammals. Learn the names of all
the groups that we covered, and learn their important features,
and remember what the Pope says: God directly intervened in
evolution to create a break between animals and humankind.
The first man and woman were named Adam and Eve, and God
gave them immortal souls -- unlike animals.

SALLY, A STUDENT:  Is that really true?

MR. SMITH:  Aren't you forgetting something? In biology, we
never take sides and we never say that anything is true or false.

SALLY:  How does the Pope know the first people's names?

MR. SMITH:  Their names are in the Bible.

CARL, A STUDENT:  Does the Pope know the names of other things
too, like the first clams or the first worms or the first frogs?

MR. SMITH:  I don't know whether he does or not.

BARBARA, A STUDENT:  Does the Pope know the names of the major
groups of mammals?

MR. SMITH:  I guess he does. I really couldn't say.

ANNE, A STUDENT:  When I was in Florida I saw a religious comic
book, and it said that the Pope is the Antichrist. Is that right?

MR. SMITH:  How many times do I have to remind you people?
In science, we never take sides and we never say that anything
is right or wrong.

ANNE:  But if the Pope is the Antichrist, maybe what he says
about animals is wrong and he is trying to trick us.

MR. SMITH:  Maybe, but I really couldn't say. The important thing now
is to make sure you're ready for the quiz about mammals -- and
please don't forget that whales breathe air, like all the other mammals.

STEVEN, A STUDENT:  Remember when you told us that Noah's ark
had all the kinds of animals that breathe air? Does that mean
that the ark had whales too?

MR. SMITH:  Gee, I don't know. Maybe there were whales on the
ark, or maybe the whales just swam around in the Flood until it
was over, the way the fishes did.

STEVEN:  Was the Flood made of salt water or fresh water?

MR. SMITH:  Fresh water. God made it rain for forty days and
forty nights, and the rainwater covered the whole Earth.

STEVEN:  Okay, but check this out. I watched a nature program
on television, and it said that whales have to live in salt water
or else their skin gets diseased and they die. So how could
they live in the Flood?

MR. SMITH:  Well, maybe they were special whales -- or maybe
the Flood was actually salt water. God could have made salty
rain if he wanted to, I guess.

STEVEN:  Okay, but then what happened to all the fish that
need fresh water? When my brother used to work at the aquarium
store, he put some really expensive goldfish in a saltwater tank by
mistake, and they all died. The owner was really mad.

MR. SMITH:  Yes, I suppose he was -- but whether fish live in
fresh water or salt water doesn't have anything to do with
biology. Now settle down, please. In the rest of the period,
I want to start teaching you the names of some birds.

BARBARA:  Birds don't have souls, right?

Later in their "Evolution and Biology" section Nord and Haynes return to the five biology textbooks that they allegedly "reviewed," and they tell us that

No text mentions any scientific arguments against evolution or discusses the possibility of design in nature. [page 144]

Oh, what a familiar routine! Creationist charlatans have been using it for decades in their performances before ignorant, gullible audiences: They casually refer to "scientific arguments against evolution," but they don't say what those arguments may be. In this way, they trick their listeners into making two false inferences -- that "scientific arguments against evolution" exist, and that the arguments are so well known that there is no need to state them.

Look here: Organic evolution is the grand organizing principle that informs and unites all of modern biology. If Nord and Haynes know of any "scientific arguments against evolution," why don't they present those arguments to us? For that matter, why don't they present their revolutionary insights to the world's biologists, who surely would respond by showering Nord and Haynes with praise and honors -- if the arguments were valid. Why have Nord and Haynes devoted their time to writing a sleazy screed if they could have revolutionized all of modern biology at a single stroke?

"The Big Bang and Cosmology"       In the section titled "The Big Bang and Cosmology," we find some stuff that apparently will be taught in a typical Nord-and-Haynes physics course. Here is a sample:

Over the past decade some scientists, philosophers, and theologians have argued that there is cosmological evidence that the universe was fine-tuned to produce life, for the odds against life in the wake of a big bang are almost infintesimal [sic] . . . . (Such claims often go under the label the "Anthropic Principle.") [page 145]

Our two shammers have confused the words infinitesimal and infinite [note 29], have misspelled infinitesimal, and have flashed a highfalutin term (Anthropic Principle) that they don't understand. Nord and Haynes obviously imagine that there is a single thing called the Anthropic Principle, but they are mistaken. There are at least four Anthropic Principles, all of which are propositions about the presence of intelligent observers in the universe -- and at least two of those propositions, called the Weak Anthropic Principle and the Strong Anthropic Principle, were well known at the time when Nord and Haynes concocted Taking Religion Seriously. The Weak Anthropic Principle states that because we are here, observing the universe, we can deduce (first) that the universe has properties conducive to the evolution of observers, and (second) that the universe is old enough for such evolution to have occurred. The Strong Anthropic Principle, which is a teleological speculation, states that if a universe is to exist at all, it must have properties which will foster the eventual generation of intelligent observers. (We can imagine a universe that could not give rise to life or intelligence -- but according to the Strong Anthropic Principle, such a universe could not actually come into being.)

Neither the Weak Anthropic Principle nor the Strong Anthropic Principle constitutes "cosmological evidence that the universe was fine-tuned to produce life."

Nord and Haynes next enumerate some of the cosmological phenomena or "coincidences" that seem to have made life possible in our universe, and then they say:

What is the most reasonable explanation for such coincidences? Arguably, that the universe was designed to support life.

You can see where they are going. They reach their destination on page 147, where they write:

. . . for an increasing number of theologians and scientists, the big bang does have theological relevance. If the big bang does not confirm creation ex nihilo, it is at least consonant with it, and the evidence from cosmology of a "fine-tuned" universe may be evidence for a creator God. Needless to say, the God of the big bang is not obviously the personal God of much traditional religion. What is important for those who take the integrationist position is the apparent convergence of science and (liberal) theology, each providing evidence [sic] for the role of God in creating the universe.

Rubbish! The big bang may be "consonant" with a creation myth in the Bible, but it is equally consonant with the Hindu myth in which the universe springs from "golden seed" spilled by the god Prajpati, or with the central-African myth in which the Sun and the Moon and the stars are vomited up by the god Mobombo, or with any other creation story in which the universe is suddenly brought into being through the actions of some supernatural character or characters. Nord and Haynes's suggestion that the big bang has some particular relevance to the biblical "God" -- that the big bang specifically supports "the role of God in creating the universe" -- is worthless, false and misleading.

"Nature and Ecology"       In their section headlined "Nature and Ecology," our authors return to presenting material that presumably will be included in their fake biology curriculum. This section is a romp along the frontiers where biblical religion meets environmentalism, radical feminism and animism.

Nord and Haynes call attention to "our environmental crisis," and they acknowledge the often-heard charge that certain items in the Bible have supported the view that nature is simply something for humans to exploit:

By emphasizing a single, transcendent creator-God [separate from nature], the Bible began to secularize nature. . . . People often argue that the Bible is anthropocentric in the sense that God gave humankind dominion over nature (Genesis 1:26-29, Genesis 9:1-3, Psalms 8:5-8): the plants and animals are to serve our purposes. [page 148]

But "over the past several decades," Nord and Haynes say, the practitioners of an art called "eco-theology" have discovered that the Bible also supports kinder, gentler views:

. . . after the flood, God covenanted not just with Noah and his human family, but with every living thing never to destroy the world again (Genesis 9:8-17); God declared that the Sabbath is for animals (as well as for people) to rest, and even the land shall rest by lying fallow every seventh year (Exodus 23:10-12, Leviticus 25:1-5); the Psalms celebrate the beauty and goodness of nature (e.g., Psalm 104); and in the New Testament, Jesus affirmed God's care for the sparrows and the lilies of the field (Matthew 6:26-29). Of course, in the first chapter of Genesis, God declares creation to be good before the creation of Adam and Eve; nature is good in and of itself, not simply in serving human purposes.

None of that strikes me as remarkable, for it seems merely to illustrate a point that already is well established: Somewhere in the Bible there is a passage that provides support for almost any moral proposition that one may articulate, and somewhere else in the Bible there is a passage that contradicts the same proposition.

Nord and Haynes, though, evidently see the eco-theologians' material as important stuff that students in a fake biology course will have to learn. Then, apparently, the students will ponder such propositions as transubstantiation and the Trinity, which are to be presented in this context:

Some Christian theologians have recently resurrected an incarnational or sacramental theology in which the idea of God as trinity bridges the gulf between the transcendent Creator and nature. Christ was the incarnation of God in human flesh. Moreover, through Christ as "Logos" all things were created (John 1), and through Christ all things in heaven and on earth are redeemed (Colossians 1:15-20) that, in the end, "God may be all in all" (I Corinthians 15:25). As God is present in the wine and bread, so God is present in the working of the world: nature isn't inert but is animated by the spirit of God. [page 149]

Presumably, any student who declines to accept the Christian doctrine of the Trinity, or who doubts that God is present in the wine and bread, will be rewarded with an F. And presumably, any parent who walks into the principal's office with a copy of the First Amendment will get the boot.

Reading on, we discover that the eco-theologians include some specialists called the "ecofeminist theologians." Here is what students will learn about these worthies:

Ecofeminist theologians have argued that the transcendent creator-God of the Bible, who is disembodied mind and who speaks with power and authority, is conceived in narrowly masculine terms, and they would replace this male God with an immanent God who speaks to us from within and, and in Rosemary Radford Ruether's words "beckons us into communion" with all of nature. [page 150]

That's hip, to be sure, but I don't know where the ecofeminists acquired the notion that the biblical God "is disembodied mind." Yahweh's properties were established and fixed by the ancient Hebrews, and the ancient Hebrews conceived of Yahweh as an anthropomorphic, masculine character whose anatomy included a face, a back and at least one hand (Exodus 33:22-23). In any case, Nord and Haynes fail to demonstrate how our comprehension of "Nature and Ecology" will be advanced by efforts to turn Yahweh into a hermaphroditic ether.

After they dispose of "Nature and Ecology" Nord and Haynes offer a three-paragraph section called "Other Issues." In the paragraph labeled "Health and healing," they bray about "holistic medicine," but they refuse to tell what that phrase signifies [note 30]. Then they say that "there are now some efforts under way to test scientifically the efficacy of prayer and other spiritual practices in healing" -- but they refuse to say how or where those "efforts" are being conducted, or by whom. Then they announce: "What does seem clear is that traditional scientific accounts of health and healing can no longer be assumed to be adequate."

Why does that "seem clear"? Because some nameless wraiths are allegedly testing prayer "scientifically"? Shouldn't we wait to learn about their procedures and the results of their "efforts" before we conclude that "scientific accounts of health and healing can no longer be assumed to be adequate"? And by the way: If it is already clear that "scientific accounts" can't be assumed to be adequate, then why are those wraiths testing prayer "scientifically"? Don't they know that their undertakings are doomed to inadequacy?

Nord and Haynes's rubbish about health is another exercise in charlatanry. This time they have used a trick that is commonly seen in television advertisements for patent medicines and bogus weight-control schemes: A huckster claims that his product is being tested "scientifically" or "by scientists" (perhaps at a "leading" but nameless university), and he relies upon his gullible audience to infer that this nebulous association between the product and "scientists" means that the product must be legitimate.


The great mysticete whales use baleen plates as sieves to
catch huge quantities of small organisms. They neither need
nor have teeth. As foetuses, however, they develop a full
set of teeth. . . . If foetal baleen whale teeth were designed
by an omnipotent Creator, just what was He thinking of?
They never erupt through the gums and they are completely
resorbed before birth. They certainly are never used for
chewing. The creationists owe it to the rest of the world
to tell us just what it is that these teeth do, so that we might
appreciate the intelligence and purposefulness of this design.

         William Thwaites in his essay "Design: Can We See
         the Hand of Evolution in the Things It Has Wrought"
         in Evolutionists Confront Creationists (1984)
Our two hucksters conclude chapter 7 of Taking Religion Seriously by offering a list of "Suggested Readings and Resources." I'm familiar with several of the items that they recommend, including the two books that they describe thus:

In Darwin's Black Box (1997), the biochemist Michael Behe provides a sophisticated argument for intelligent design in dealing with evolution. Pandas and People (1989) is a short, low-key, but controversial textbook supplement designed to inform students about intelligent design theory as an alternative to conventional evolutionary theory. [page 162]

Nord and Haynes have made some small mistakes here. The first book, Darwin's Black Box, was issued in 1996 (not 1997), and the title of the second book is Of Pandas and People (not Pandas and People).

Nord and Haynes have also undertaken some big deceptions. They haven't disclosed that Darwin's Black Box and Of Pandas and People are pseudoscientific screeds promoted by creationists, and they haven't cited any of the publications in which Darwin's Black Box and Of Pandas and People have been exposed and demolished.

Now, what do they mean when they announce that Darwin's Black Box and Of Pandas and People deal with "intelligent design" or "intelligent design theory"? What is "intelligent design"?

"Intelligent design" (or ID, for short) is the political successor to "creation-science." Among today's creationists, ID has replaced "creation-science" as the hoax of choice for bamboozling ignorant politicians and bureaucrats and educators. If we compare ID with "creation-science," we discover some central similarities and some radical differences -- and to appreciate those similarities and differences we must recall some history.

"Creation-science" was an elaborate body of hokum by which fundamentalists purported to show "scientifically" that the stories in the Book of Genesis were accounts of real events, that Earth and Earth's organisms had been fashioned directly by Yahweh (only a few thousand years ago), that the concept of organic evolution was false, and that humans were not connected genealogically to any other species. Much of "creation-science" consisted of lies, and many of the lies were so crude and transparent that they seemed risible to people who understood science -- but "creation-science" hadn't been contrived to impress people who understood science. It was intended to impress members of state legislatures, state education agencies, and local school boards. It was intended to persuade them that they should exclude modern astronomy, geology, paleontology and biology from science curricula, or (as an alternative) that they should inject biblical myths into science curricula as explanations of astronomical, geological, paleontological and biological observations.

In their writings and their public appearances, the "creation-scientists" demonstrated that biblical narratives explained a great array of natural phenomena; they also demonstrated that the prevailing scientific explanations for those phenomena were wrong. They were able to perform these mighty feats, easily, because they didn't have to deal with real phenomena or with real science. Their chosen audiences were predictably ignorant of nature and science alike, so the "creation-scientists" could simply make things up -- which is what they did. They showed, for example, that the great Flood described in Genesis accounted for the stratigraphic distribution of fossils and thus explained the fossil record -- not the real fossil record but a fake fossil record that they themselves had invented. They showed that organic evolution couldn't occur because it was precluded by a law of thermodynamics -- not a real law of thermodynamics but a law that they themselves had cooked up. To bolster their claim that Earth was only a few thousand years old, they showed that the established scientific techniques for measuring the ages of ancient rocks were incompatible with some rules of nuclear physics -- not the nuclear physics that scientists studied but a kind of nuclear physics that was known only to creationists. And so on, ad nauseam [note 31].

In the 1970s and the early 1980s, the purveyors of "creation-science" achieved numerous political victories. They succeeded in stifling the teaching of science in many local schools; they induced many school districts to stick biblical creation myths into science classes; they persuaded crooked schoolbook-publishers to print "science" books larded with creationistic double-talk; and in Arkansas and Louisiana they secured the enactment of state laws which fostered the teaching of "creation-science" in public schools.

Eventually, however, their fortunes deteriorated. Scientific organizations, individual scientists, and competent educators exposed "creation-science" for the trash that it was, civil-liberties organizations undertook lawsuits to reverse some of the creationists' most conspicuous political successes, and the "creation-science" hoax started to fall apart. The Arkansas "creation-science" law and the Louisiana "creation-science" law were declared unconstitutional by federal judges who found that the concept of creation was supernaturalistic and religious, not scientific [note 32] -- and by 1987, when the Supreme Court of the United States affirmed the voiding of the Louisiana statute, shrewd creationists were busily overhauling and sanitizing their enterprise and their vocabulary. They stopped their overt promotion of biblical miracle-stories as explanations of nature, they dumped the term creation-science, and they even dumped the word creation. Instead of saying that organisms had been fashioned by Yahweh, they now claimed that organisms were products of "intelligent design," conceived by a nameless "intelligent agent" -- and instead of saying that organisms had been divinely created, they said that organisms had "appeared abruptly" or had "suddenly appeared."

The first major exhibition of the creationists' new lexicon of double-talk was Of Pandas and People. That book had been developed by a fundamentalist organization called the Foundation for Thought and Ethics (FTE), but it was printed and sold by Haughton Publishing Company, an outfit whose principal business seemed to be the printing of agricultural labels and catalogues. In 1989, Haughton began promoting Pandas as "a supplemental high school text."

Pandas was rather narrow in scope. The FTE writers [note 33] dwelt on biology, the science that creationists hate most intensely, and they purported to examine "two different concepts of the origins of living things." One of these concepts, they said, was held by "evolutionists," the other by "proponents of intelligent design."

Pandas was meant to convince dupes that the "evolutionists" were wrong and that the "proponents of intelligent design" had the right explanation for the existence and diversity of living things.

Though the writers referred to Yahweh by such code-names as "intelligent agent" and "intelligent cause" and "primeval intellect," the material in Pandas was readily recognizable. It was a collection of old "creation-science" stuff, replete with the usual devices -- false claims, false analogies, false dichotomies, and ringing refutations of scientific constructs that were unknown to science. (I especially liked the passage, on page 144, in which the writers cited eight organisms -- a plant, a pig, a duck, a turtle, a bullfrog, a carp, a moth and a yeast -- and announced that "None of [these] species is ancestral to any other." Right, but no scientist had ever claimed otherwise. No biologist had ever claimed that a duck was the ancestor of a pig, or that a pig was the ancestor of a yeast, or that a yeast was the ancestor of a duck.)

Those displays of deceit were complemented by many items that seemed to bespeak plain, ordinary ignorance -- for instance, the FTE writers imagined that the terms species and variety were synonyms, that pterosaurs were "flying dinosaurs," that all marsupials had pouches, and that there were honeycreepers "on the North American mainland" [note 34]. Then, to top things off, the writers offered claims that had no meaning whatever -- claims that were merely displays of pseudoscientific gibberish, devised to dazzle the dunces. (Example: "Evolution requires the expansion of the gene pool, the addition of new genetic information, whereas speciation represents the loss of genetic information." Go ahead and laugh.)

When they were not lying or slaying straw men or inventing "flying dinosaurs" or dispensing gibberish, the writers of Pandas told of marvelous organic adaptations, and they produced almost-English passages like these:

[P]roponents of intelligent design maintain that only a consummate engineer could anticipate so effectively to meet the total engineering requirements of an organism like the giraffe. . . . [Certain plants] are so sophisticated in their design that the same set of traits is used to accomplish two completely different purposes. The existence of such a sophisticated adaptational package is taken as evidence by the proponents of intelligent design of their theory. In our experience only an intelligent designer has the ability to coordinate the design requirements of multifunctional adaptational packages. [page 71]

"In our experience"? The FTE writers didn't say where they had gained their experience in meeting "the design requirements of multifunctional adaptational packages" (whatever that was supposed to mean), and they entirely ignored a question that is well known to anyone who has had real experience in studying the living world. The question is: Why are organisms so clunky?

Living things certainly exhibit countless adaptations that are marvelous, even stupendous, to behold -- but living things also exhibit countless structural, physiological, developmental and behavioral features that are clumsy, maladaptive, wasteful, or plainly useless. Think of the cave-dwelling fishes that bear puny, useless eyes, incapable of responding to light. Think of the island-dwelling insects that sport wretched little wings, incapable of lifting the insects into the air. Think of the ground-nesting marine birds that pack themselves so tightly into their rookeries that they trample their own eggs and young. Consider how a halibut acquires its lopsided anatomy, with both of its eyes on the same side of its head: First the halibut develops a head that is quite symmetrical, with an eye on each side, but then it resorbs and rebuilds some of its bones in a way that allows one eye to migrate through its skull. Recall that a baleen whale builds and then resorbs a useless set of teeth. Recall that a woman produces and stores hundreds of thousands of oocytes, though only a few hundred will ever become eggs and enter her fallopian tubes. Recall that a man develops nipples! Recall that the channel which carries air to your lungs intersects the channel which carries food to your stomach -- an arrangement so awkward that it literally can make you choke.

Why? Why do organisms so often seem absurd, and why do they do things that, by rational technological standards, seem foolish and wasteful?

Biologists offer cogent answers: Nature isn't rational, organisms aren't technological devices, and organisms needn't be ideal or even efficient. They merely need to be workable -- workable enough to survive and leave some descendants. They make do with mediocre mechanisms that they have inherited from their ancestors, and they still carry the relics of structures, systems, developmental programs, and behavioral scripts that once enabled their ancestors to achieve workability.

The writers of Pandas offered no answer at all. They didn't even try. They prattled (as creationists always had prattled) about the wonderful traits that some living things display, but they ignored (as creationists always had ignored) the innumerable features that make living things look like bungled contraptions. The FTE writers declined to tell why their "consummate engineer" had done so much third-rate work, or why their "intelligent designer" had designed so many kludges, or why their "intelligent agent" had not invented a more intelligent way to get both of a halibut's eyes onto the same side of its head. They even declined to reveal why the "primeval intellect" had decided that frigate-birds, which never swim, should have webbed feet.

ExplcitThere was something else that the FTE bunch didn't explain: How had the designs conceived by the "intelligent designer" been turned into organisms? How had the imaginings of the "primeval intellect" been turned into material creatures? How had the plans developed by the "consummate engineer" been turned into finished goods? In short, how had organisms come into existence?

The old "creation-scientists" had had a ready answer to that question: Yahweh was both a designer and a manufacturer -- a figure who not only designed organisms but also used his supernatural powers to bring them into being and to send them scurrying, loping, flying or swimming into the Garden of Eden. The writers of Pandas, on the other hand, gave no answer whatever. They refused to consider the question of how designs had become living organisms, and the reason for their refusal was obvious: Any answer that the writers might have given would have been supernaturalistic and would have shown that ID was just fundamentalist woo-woo in disguise.

Pandas was a sitting duck (or pig or yeast) for reviewers who knew something about science, and several such reviewers soon shot it to bits. For example: The paleontologist Kevin Padian, of the University of California at Berkeley, called Pandas a "wholesale distortion of modern biology," and he demonstrated that the FTE writers had mauled and misrepresented such topics as the Cambrian explosion, the history of birds, and the concept of homology. The treatment of homology in Pandas was "shameful," Padian said, and he described one of the FTE writers' tricks:

[The writers] pretend that the Tasmanian wolf, a marsupial, would be [classified] with the placental wolf if evolutionists weren't so hung up on the single character of their reproductive mode . . . . This is a complete falsehood, as anyone with access to the evidence knows. It is not a matter of a single reproductive character, but dozens of characters in the skull, teeth, post-cranial bones (including the marsupial pelvic bones), soft anatomy, and biochemistry, to say nothing of their respective fossil records, that separate the two mammals.

Padian ended his review by remarking that it was hard to say what was worst in Pandas -- its religious sub-text, its intolerance for honest science, or the FTE writers' incompetence [note 35].

So much for Pandas -- the hoax that Nord and Haynes now are recommending as a book "designed to inform students about intelligent design theory." Pandas wasn't meant to inform anyone about anything, and it surely didn't present any "theory." A scientific theory is a structure of ideas, supported by preponderant evidence, that explains a body of observations and thus explains some aspect of nature. The ID rubbish in Pandas was evidence-free, and it explained exactly nothing [note 36 and note 37].

The other ID book promoted by Nord and Haynes, Michael Behe's Darwin's Black Box, was another travesty and shared some essential features with Pandas. Like Pandas, it was full of disinformation about biological topics. Like Pandas, it was rigged to look like a scientific book. Like Pandas, it was a book of pseudoscience, aimed at naive readers. And like Pandas, it explained nothing.

Even so, Darwin's Black Box differed markedly from Pandas because Behe didn't vilify and flatly reject the concept of organic evolution. He accepted it, and he accepted some central principles of evolutionary biology, e.g., the inference that living things have been shaped by natural selection, and the inference that modern species, now quite distinct, are descendants of a common ancestor. But, Behe wrote, the principles of evolutionary biology couldn't account for certain phenomena that have been observed in the living world: Certain biochemical systems -- such as those involved in the movement of a bacterium's flagellum or in the clotting of a vertebrate's blood -- couldn't have arisen by evolution, Behe said, because they were "irreducibly complex."

Behe employed the phrase "irreducibly complex" to describe a system which couldn't function at all, and couldn't produce any effect, unless all of its components were present and properly integrated. Such a system couldn't have evolved in discrete stages by the successive addition of new components, Behe asserted, because the preliminary stages would have been useless: The preliminary stages wouldn't have been able to function, wouldn't have had any adaptive value, and wouldn't have been preserved and propagated by natural selection. If a system was "irreducibly complex," Behe said, it must have originated all at once, with all its components in place and ready to perform -- and this implied that the system must have been designed.

Like the writers of Pandas, Behe was unwilling to identify any putative designer -- but creationists immediately discerned that Behe's "irreducibly complex" systems had been designed by old Yahweh, and they soon began to use Darwin's Black Box in their attacks on science education. They saw Behe's book as a new "scientific" endorsement of biblical myths, as a new "scientific" demonstration that evolutionary biology was fallacious at best, and as a new "scientific" justification for injecting miracles and woo-woo into public-school science classes.

Scientists, on the other hand, recognized that Darwin's Black Box was a hoax, and commentators who understood biology soon began to demolish Behe's pseudoscience. Knowledgeable refutations of Behe's claims and pretenses appeared in print or on the Web during the second half of 1996 and throughout 1997, and Behe's book lay in shreds by the time when Nord and Haynes undertook to glorify it.

Many more responses to Darwin's Black Box have been issued since then, and we now have a weighty body of literature devoted to showing that Behe's ID stuff is just another effort to gull the ignorant and to make magic seem plausible. For a survey of that literature, go to http://dlindsay.best.vwh.net/creation/behe.html -- a Web site maintained by Donald Lindsay. Please be sure to read Lindsay's section headlined "Rebuttal: [Behe's] Ignorance of His Own Subject Area," and please use the links Lindsay offers in that section and in his "Further Reading" list. You should also give attention to the sections titled "Rebuttal of Example: Cilia and Flagella" and "Rebuttal of Example: Clotting." You will learn that, contrary to Behe's claims, neither a bacterial flagellum nor a vertebrate's blood-clotting system is "irreducibly complex."

So much for Darwin's Black Box, and so much for the woo-woo that Nord and Haynes have described as a "sophisticated argument for intelligent design." Behe's argument was about as sophisticated as a pratfall.

This concludes my analysis of Nord and Haynes's chapter 7 and their scheme for destroying science education. I regard their chapter as a heavy dose of malevolent hokum, and I wonder how the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development -- the outfit that has published Taking Religion Seriously -- decided that Nord and Haynes's hokum deserved to be printed. Did anyone at the ASCD look at what Nord and Haynes had written? Did anyone at the ASCD actually read Nord and Haynes's typescript? Why didn't anyone at the ASCD arrange for that typescript to be reviewed by persons who knew something about science? And why didn't anyone at the ASCD arrange for that typescript to be examined by persons who knew something about religion?

The ASCD, on its Web site, describes itself as an organization "committed to the mission of forging covenants in teaching and learning for the success of all learners." In the case at hand, the ASCD has forged a covenant with a pair of common tricksters, and the ASCD has shamed itself. I'll describe some more of Nord and Haynes's tricks as I consider their chapter about history education.


Slight Inconsistency Found In Bible

STILLWATER, OK -- The world's theological community is in an
uproar following Monday's discovery of a slight inconsistency in
the Bible. "I was reading Jeremiah 17:4, in which God says, 'Ye
have kindled a fire in mine anger, which shall burn forever,' " said
Pastor Theodore Strait of First Lutheran Church in Stillwater.
"And I immediately recalled Jeremiah 3:12, which says, 'For I
am merciful, saith the Lord, and I will not keep anger forever.'
I thought, how can this possibly be? The Bible, contradicting
itself?" Biblical scholars are scrambling to explain the strange
paradox, believed to be the first time a passage in the Bible has
been found to contain flaws in logic.

         from The Onion, 3 March 1999

Chapter 4 of Taking Religion Seriously is titled "History," and it purports to deal with history education in the middle-school and high-school grades. In many ways, it resembles Nord and Haynes's chapter about science education: In chapter 4, as in chapter 7, Nord and Haynes advocate fake instruction and the bamboozling of students, and they again load their prose with double-talk, unexplained words and phrases, and unsupported assertions. Among the words that they conspicuously refuse to explain is history -- and as we shall see, a substantial portion of their chapter involves an attempt to render that word meaningless.

The chapter seems to have three major parts.

The first part begins with the assertion that "Few educators dispute the importance of study about religion in history." But how did Nord and Haynes determine this? Did they conduct a poll? If so, what questions did they pose? To whom? And how did they explain or exemplify, to prospective respondents, the meaning of the phrase "study about religion"? Our two evangelists provide no information about these matters, so their pseudostatistical claim about educators' attitudes is worthless.

Nord and Haynes now direct their attention to textbooks, and they declare, correctly, that textbooks govern most teachers' decisions about what to teach in history courses. Then they say that the handling of religion in textbooks is "woefully inadequate," and they offer some comments about textbooks that they allegedly have inspected:

World history texts do provide brief accounts of the basic teachings and practices of the major religions as they appear in history, but, in our view, the texts do not give enough space to the topics to enable students to make sense of these traditions. In the texts we examined, religion virtually disappears after 1750. The authors say nothing about the various religious ways of interpreting history and give no attention to the major theological developments in the last two centuries.

United States history texts are no better. They mention religion occasionally, especially in relation to political and social developments. . . . In accounts of American history after the Civil War, religion disappears almost entirely. If we exclude their treatment of the Holocaust, each of four texts we examined devotes more space to railroads than to religion for the entire post-Civil War history of the United States. Again, the texts discuss no religious interpretations of history, and with the exception of short accounts of what was at issue in the Scopes trial, the texts include no discussion of theology after the Civil War.

Nord and Haynes don't tell what they mean by "the major theological developments in the last two centuries," nor do they tell why they imagine that some sort of "theology" was at issue in the Scopes trial -- but never mind. They have bigger fish to fry.


Literalism [in reading the Hebrew Bible] involves a fundamental
misconception of the mental processes of biblical man and
ignorance of his modes of self-expression. It thus misrepresents the
purport of the narrative, obscures the meaningful and enduring in
it and destroys its relevancy.

         Nahum M. Sarna in his book Understanding Genesis:
         The Heritage of Biblical Israel
(1970)

I must now attempt to describe the second major part of Nord and Haynes's "History" chapter. Let me begin by asking you to recall the opening passage of this review, in which I told a little about the English word history. Some 600 years ago, I wrote, history was a broad term that simply meant a narrative. Later, however, the meaning of history was narrowed considerably, and history came to denote a narrative that was professedly a true account of real events. Still later, history acquired a second major meaning as the name of an intellectual enterprise, and that enterprise eventually evolved into a scholarly discipline devoted to reconstructing the past through the use of evidence and reason.

Today history can mean a narrative of real events, or it can mean the events themselves, or it can mean the scholarly discipline to which I've just referred. But no matter which meaning applies in a given case, the word history -- today -- always implies attention to evidence and reason. If someone writes an account of events and then presents his account as a work of history, he implicitly claims that it is supported by demonstrable facts and rational analysis. If a lecturer enumerates a series of events and says that those events constitute history, he implicitly claims to possess evidence that the events really occurred, and he implicitly asserts that his enumeration is free of anachronisms, internal contradictions, and other violations of logic. If a person claims to be a practitioner of history, he implicitly claims that his narratives of the past are based on research, documentation, analysis, and the separation of facts from speculations, rumors, myths, falsehoods and distortions.

All of this is straightforward, and it may even seem mundane. Nowadays we take it for granted that history must be a rational, analytical endeavor, and we find it difficult to imagine that anyone could hope to reconstruct and understand the past without gathering evidence, tracing primary sources, appraising the authenticity and reliability of records and other documents, attempting to resolve contradictions, discarding claims that cannot be corroborated, discarding claims that clearly are groundless, and assessing explanatory ideas.

So far, so good. But things don't end there. While most of us comprehend and endorse the principle that history must be founded on evidence and reason, Bible-fanciers like Nord and Haynes reject that principle. They reject it because they want Bible stories to be categorized as "history" and taught as "history" in public schools, even if those stories can't withstand rational examination, and they want public-school teachers to present the Bible as a "history" book.

Accordingly, Nord and Haynes want public schools to revive and adopt the 14th-century meaning of history -- or so I infer from reading what Nord and Haynes fellows have written. I infer that they want the schools to declare that history merely means a narrative -- any narrative at all -- so that any story in the Bible will qualify for the label "history" and will qualify for inclusion in history courses. I can't be sure that this is their goal, because their writing is so obscure, evasive and equivocal, but I can say this with certainty: They want to wrap the concept of history in clouds of confusion, and they have mounted an effort to mangle the word history, to muddle its meanings, and to leave it with no meaning at all. I assume that this is their first step in a program to re-establish the meaning that history carried 600 years ago.

Nord and Haynes's effort to make history meaningless rules the "History" chapter's second part, which opens with a section titled "Religious Interpretations of History." Our two obscurantists remark that there is more than one way to conceptualize history, and then they write:

True, history has become a secular discipline and most contemporary historians use secular categories to construct their narratives. But surely a liberally educated person ought to know that there are claims for religious meaning in history that a secular approach cannot convey. [page 80]

Like what? Do you know of any "claims for religious meaning in history that a secular approach cannot convey"? I don't. Today's historians, practicing their "secular discipline," can and do demonstrate how views of the past have figured in religious movements, in the evolution of religious doctrines and claims, and in the forming of new religions. Today's historians, practicing their "secular discipline," can and do analyze how religious beliefs about the past have affected individuals, have animated entire societies, and have figured in historical phenomena of many kinds -- territorial disputes, migrations, wars, genocides, political alliances, artistic practices, and so forth. Nord and Haynes want us to believe that "a secular approach" is tantamount to ignoring religion and ignoring the power of religion in human affairs, but what Nord and Haynes want us to believe is false.

Next, our two tricksters warn us that "The educational implications of ignoring religious views of history are considerable." Then, after cudgeling their brains, they discover a way to show us what they mean: "We may illustrate our point by looking briefly at the Bible, a religious account of history of central importance to millions of people throughout the world."

What a surprise! With all of the world's religious writings to choose from, they have chosen the Bible!

Nord and Haynes casually describe the Bible as "a religious account of history," but they don't say what that phrase means. Is a "religious" account of history different from some other account of history? Why? And what does "history" mean here? It certainly can't mean a scholarly reconstruction of the past, based upon evidence and reason, because neither the Hebrew Bible nor the Christian Bible provides any such thing.

Now Nord and Haynes write:

We can, of course, learn a great deal about history from the Bible, but what we take to be historical in the Bible will depend on how we interpret it, and the criteria we use to assess the validity of historical claims -- both of which are matters of much controversy. [page 81]

Again, what does "history" mean? And what does "historical" mean? If (as Nord and Haynes have declared) the Bible is an account of history, then its contents must be historical -- yet Nord and Haynes now say that "what we take to be historical in the Bible will depend on how we interpret it." Is that so? If it is, then there is no foundation for their categorical claim that "We can, of course, learn a great deal about history from the Bible." Suppose we interpret the Bible to be an aggregation of legends, unencumbered by any mandatory or reliably detectable connections to the real world. Can we then expect to "learn a great deal about history" from its verses? Of course not -- not if "history" carries its modern meaning and denotes a body of supportable inferences about real persons, real events, real causes and real effects.

If "history" carries its modern meaning, then Nord and Haynes's categorical claim not only is false but is the very opposite of the truth. We don't learn about history from the Bible -- we learn about the Bible from history. To the extent that we have identified Bible tales which may have some basis in fact (as distinct from the tales which are wholly fanciful), we have done this by using the methods of modern historians. To the extent that we have learned how and where the Bible's tales originated, and when they were written down, we have learned these things by invoking evidence and reason. See "It's About Time" on page 3 of this issue.

If "history" doesn't carry its modern meaning, then Nord and Haynes's categorical claim doesn't even qualify as a falsehood. It is merely drivel.

For their next trick, Nord and Haynes ask their readers to compare two snippets of material derived from myths in the Book of Exodus. Here is the first snippet, which Nord and Haynes attribute to a nameless "high school world history book":

Because the Egyptians feared the Hebrews, they made them slaves. The Hebrew leader Moses led the Hebrews from Egypt to Palestine.

And here is the second, which Nord and Haynes attribute to The New English Bible:

When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not guide them by the road towards the Philistines. . . .  God made them go round by way of the wilderness towards the Red Sea. . . .  And all the time the Lord went before them, by day a pillar of cloud to guide them on their journey, by night a pillar of fire.  [ellipses inserted by Nord and Haynes] [note 38]

Nord and Haynes don't explain what those two items, or the comparing of those two items, may have to do with learning history. I can only guess that, for some reason, they want their readers to notice that the passage from the mysterious high-school book doesn't mention the biblical God while the passage from The New English Bible does. What strikes me as much more significant is Nord and Haynes's confidence in their readers' ignorance. They clearly assume that their readers will be too backward to know that the story of the Israelites' flight from Egypt isn't supported by evidence and isn't "history" in any modern sense of that word. And likewise, they assume that their readers won't recognize that the nameless high-school book, because it presents mythical fancies as matters of fact, belongs in the trash-can.

To generate more confusion, and to advance the process of making the word history meaningless, our authors now declare:

The Bible provides what is often called sacred history. It makes sense of history in terms of God's purposes and actions. [page 81]

"Sacred history"? What is that? Is "sacred history" the same as "a religious account of history," or is it something different? Is it real history? If it is real history, why does it have an odd name? Nord and Haynes don't explain, so I shall give the essential explanation here. The phrase "sacred history" is a euphemism -- a foggy name for a religious myth or a religious myth-book. Sacred history is history in the same way that "creation-science" is science, or carnal knowledge is knowledge, or French letters are letters [note 39].

Lest any of their readers remain unbefuddled, our two fakers now say that "Many religious conservatives believe that the Bible can be read literally as history -- and, no doubt many of the historical claims made in the Bible are accepted by secular scholars." Though their statement howls for support, Nord and Haynes refuse to provide even one example of the "many" biblical claims that are "accepted by secular scholars." Instead, they dash ahead and write this:

But using the methods of secular historical scholarship scholars are unable to discern miracles, divine causality, or religious meaning in history. At best, secular history must remain silent about the actions of God in history.

That sounds familiar because it is just a variation on the duet that Nord and Haynes sang in chapter 2, where they warbled that scientists couldn't catch miracles because scientists' "conceptual nets" were faulty. Now they are claiming that historians can't discern miracles because historians, like scientists, use defective methods.

Do our two woo-woo artists make any attempt to substantiate that claim? Do they cite any miracles which really have occurred but which have remained unnoticed by the practitioners of "the methods of historical scholarship"? No, they do not. Nor do they provide any examples of "the actions of God in history." Nor do they say what they mean by "history."


petitio principii . . . a logical fallacy in which a premise is
assumed to be true without warrant or in which what is to
be proved is implicitly taken for granted.

         Webster's Third New International Dictionary

Nord and Haynes keep the baffle-gab coming, with hardly any respite. Look at this:

Sorting out what is historical is complicated and controversial, and teachers who teach the Bible as history need to be sensitive to the differences between conventional secular history, and the varieties of sacred history.

Whoa! Before we consider whether "teachers who teach the Bible as history" must be sensitive, we require answers to two pivotal questions: Why would teachers undertake to "teach the Bible as history" in the first place, and why would teachers ever imagine that such teaching would be acceptable? Nord and Haynes, however, are pretending that those questions don't exist. When they glibly refer to "teachers who teach the Bible as history," they are enlisting the fallacious form of argument called petitio principii. They are pretending that they already have established that the Bible is history (and that teaching the Bible as history is therefore justifiable and acceptable).

In truth, Nord and Haynes have not established that the Bible is history, in any modern sense. They have not even come close. They have merely established that they are writing for readers who are dumb enough to be fooled by unexplained claims, slick evasions, and fog-talk -- like the use of "sacred history" as a euphemistic name for myths. Sacred history is history in the same way that Cape Cod turkey is turkey, prairie oysters are oysters, or hempen neckties are neckties.

Look again at Nord and Haynes's dictum that teachers "need to be sensitive to the differences between conventional secular history, and the varieties of sacred history." What does that mean? Do biblical myths occur in discrete "varieties"? If so, what are the names or properties of those "varieties"? Nord and Haynes don't tell. They are simply trying to create more confusion.

Now comes the finale, or at least the finale to the second part of the chapter. All the stunts that we've seen heretofore -- Nord and Haynes's abuse of the word history, their contradictory statements, their murky claims -- have been the preliminaries to this concluding number:

Our position is that if students are to be educated about the Bible, and if it is to be studied neutrally, they must learn something about the contending ways of assessing the Bible as history. They cannot be uncritically taught to accept the Bible as literally true, as history. Nor should they be uncritically taught to accept as historical only what secular historians find true in the Bible.

Two assertions about what students shouldn't be taught -- that is Nord and Haynes's big finish. It is disappointing, but it is consistent with their tactic of refusing to answer questions engendered by their own claims. It is also consistent with their desire to create as much confusion as they can. Look again at those last two sentences. The statement that public-school students "cannot be uncritically taught to accept the Bible as literally true, as history" seems to imply that Nord and Haynes are taking account of the First Amendment. But in their next sentence, they say that public-school students should not be taught "to accept as historical only what secular historians find true in the Bible," and I can only interpret this to mean that students should be taught to accept biblical claims which historians don't regard as true. I interpret it to mean that Nord and Haynes want our teachers and schools to engage in fraud and to spurn the First Amendment outright. Let me explain:

When a public school offers a course in any intellectual discipline, the students who enroll in that course expect their teacher to present up-to-date subject matter and to convey a true picture of the discipline's scope, premises and processes. These are reasonable expectations, and they are shared by the students' parents and by the taxpayers who support the school. If your daughter enrolls in a course called "Astronomy," you infer and expect that she will learn the empirical astronomy of the present century, not the metaphysical astronomy that Aristotle presented in the 4th century BC. If your son enrolls in a health-education course, you expect that he will study modern concepts of human anatomy and physiology and pathology. You don't expect that he will study the pathogenic influences of planetary conjunctions and unlucky numbers, or that he will learn to answer questions like "From what part proceeded the water which flowed from the side of the dead Christ when pierced by the spear?" [note 40]

Now consider, specifically, a course in history. When a public school offers a course in history, the students and parents and taxpayers reasonably expect -- and the school implicitly warrants -- that the teacher who gives the course will present up-to-date historical information, will present interpretations and syntheses that reflect today's historical scholarship, and will convey a valid picture of the premises and processes which underlie the work of today's historians. To fulfill those expectations, the teacher must present history in secular terms, and only in secular terms, because history today is a wholly secular discipline: Today's historians seek to reconstruct and explain the past without invoking metaphysics and without ascribing historical events to the whims of gods, devils or sorcerers. If the teacher were to tell students otherwise, the teacher would be lying. If the teacher were to present supernaturalistic Bible stories as "history," the teacher and the school would be engaging in fraud. Nord and Haynes, I must infer, are advocating this sort of fraud when they say that students shouldn't be taught "to accept as historical only what secular historians find true in the Bible."

Such deceitful teaching could not help students to learn history, nor could it advance any other educational process. Its only purpose would be a religious purpose, and its only effect would be religious indoctrination -- and for these reasons, it would contravene the First Amendment.

Nord and Haynes now offer an entr'acte, "The Puritan View of History," in which they again say something about schoolbooks. They set forth a valid observation, but they don't provide the context that would make it meaningful. Here is their observation:

Puritans generally get more space in U.S. history textbooks than any other religious group. Unfortunately, most of these accounts of Puritans are superficial, largely negative, and, in many cases, simply wrong. . . .  Few texts attempt to explain theological issues important to Puritans, and none deal [sic] fully with the Puritans' conception of history. By most accounts, therefore, Puritans are important for how they influenced (mostly negatively) early colonial history, but what they actually believed and how they viewed the world are largely irrelevant. [page 83]

Nord and Haynes might well have added that American-history texts treat other religious groups in the same sterile way: The textbooks say something about this or that group, but they don't describe the group's theological tenets, essential beliefs, or religious goals. Consider, for example, how these textbooks dispose of the Shakers: They say something pleasant about Shaker furniture, but they never explicate the Shakers' millenarian beliefs. And look at how these books treat the Mormons: They present the Mormons as a religious group founded by Joseph Smith, but they don't describe Smith's career as a fancier of mysticism and magic, they don't describe the myths that Smith put forth in The Book of Mormon, they don't explain the genealogical or mythological connections between Mormonism and Christianity, and they don't say anything about Mormon theology. If you read McDougal Littell's America's Past and Promise, for instance, you will find that Smith's new religion had only two distinctive features -- polygamy and economic communalism. If you read Glencoe's History of a Free Nation, you will learn the same thing. And if you read Glencoe's The American Journey, you will find that "the Mormons' religion" (though it somehow aroused hostility in "unsympathetic neighbors") had no features at all.

My point is that the sterile, inane accounts of the Puritans in American-history books are merely particular manifestations of a general condition: The writers of American-history textbooks want nothing to do with religious beliefs or with the theological aspects of religious movements, and they continually exclude such matters from their books. It's no accident that American-history books do not elucidate the Puritans' desire to establish Christ's true church in preparation for the Second Coming, nor is it an accident that the books don't recount Joseph Smith's tale about travelers who sail in magical boats that have perforated bottoms and are illuminated by glowing stones [note 41]. These omissions (and many others like them) are obviously deliberate, for they conform to an obvious, rigid pattern. Haven't Nord and Haynes detected this? Haven't they tried to uncover the reasons for it? Haven't they tried to find out whether and how it may be related to rules promulgated by state education agencies? Apparently not.


Mention may be made of a Chaetodont or Butterfly-fish
(Holocanthus semicirculatus), in which the dark ground
colour of the head and body is broken up by a series
of narrow curved white stripes, the caudal fin being
ornamented with markings of a similar nature (Fig. 83C).
In a specimen which made its appearance in the fish-market
at Zanzibar these markings on the fin bore a remarkable
resemblance to old Arabic characters (Fig. 84), reading
on one side of the tail "Laillaha Illaha" (There is no God
but Allah) and on the other side "Shani-Allah" (A warning
sent from Allah). This caused considerable excitement, and
the fish, which was originally sold for a penny, eventually
fetched five thousand rupees!

         J.R. Norman in his book A History of Fishes (1949)

The third part of chapter 4 is called "Religion in History," and it is utterly giddy. Our two spiritual advisors return to considering textbooks of world history, and they say:

Beyond attention to religious ways of interpreting history, what should the teaching of history include about religion? The answer is not merely to mention religion more often -- a common tactic in the textbook world. Coverage, though significant, is not sufficient. How religion is discussed is as important as the number of pages devoted to it. [page 85]

Nord and Haynes next assert that religion must be discussed from the inside. They put up a new headline -- "Getting Inside Religion" -- and then they write: ". . . it is not enough for textbooks and teachers to briefly summarize major beliefs and practices. Students need to explore the religious experiences and convictions at the heart of the major world religions." Then they elaborate by devoting a two-paragraph passage to -- of all things -- Islam and the Koran! This seems to be the only place in Taking Religion Seriously where the Koran is even mentioned [note 42]. Nord and Haynes evidently hope that a two-paragraph trifle will convince us that they care about some religion other than Christianity, but their effort is lame and fatuous. They give no indication that they themselves have ever looked at the Koran, and they write stuff like this:

In the study of Islam, to take one significant example, students need to know something about key theological conceptions such as the meaning of the word Islam, the strong emphasis on the absolute transcendence and oneness of Allah, and the way in which the Qur'an is understood as immediate revelation. [page 85]

"Absolute transcendence and oneness"? What are those? (Do they have anything to do with inscribing messages on the tails of fishes?) Nord and Haynes don't explain what "absolute transcendence and oneness" may be, nor do they suggest how textbooks and teachers may convey those features of Allah to students, nor do they say what "immediate revelation" may mean. (Is there some other sort of revelation?) I suspect that Nord and Haynes have simply parroted some phrases that they found in a handout issued by a Muslim pressure group.

Although they allegedly have read some world-history textbooks and have declared that the books "do provide brief accounts of the basic teachings and practices of the major religions," Nord and Haynes say exactly nothing about how such books present Islam. Yet the "history" of Islam that appears in most schoolbooks is pernicious claptrap produced by Muslim propagandists -- and any informed reader will recognize immediately that it has been contrived not to inform students but to dupe them and indoctrinate them. In typical cases, Muslim myths are promoted as accounts of real events, Muslim superstitions are presented as matters of fact, the origin and content of the Koran are cloaked in lies, and Islam is falsely depicted as a friendly religion that is similar to, and compatible with, Judaism and Christianity [note 43] and [note 44].

Haven't Nord and Haynes seen this? Haven't these experts in First Amendment matters noticed that in one world-history book after another, Muslim preaching is peddled as history and Muslim woo-woo is promoted as factual information? If they have noticed it, why haven't they said anything about it?

Now we get some comic relief. Nord and Haynes provide it, unintentionally, as they launch a section titled "Multiculturalism." Here is what they say in the section's opening paragraph:

Our suggestion that the study of history include efforts to "get inside" religious perspectives parallels the call for a more multicultural curriculum. Many advocates of multicultural education advance arguments similar to ours about the need for an empathetic understanding of the many cultures and ethnic groups that have shaped both world and U.S. history. And, much like our position, their stance pleads for a curriculum that is both fair and reflective of a truly liberal education. [page 86]

These two fakers have learned a buzz-word, multiculturalism, and they have stuck it into their book -- but they have neglected to find out what multiculturalism means in the context of American education, and they have guessed that it has something to do with "cultures." It doesn't. In the jargon of our educational establishment, the term multiculturalism denotes a body of far-left ideology that revolves around racism, anti-intellectualism, Victimism and the invention of fake "history" in which certain Victim groups are sanitized and glorified beyond recognition. If Nord and Haynes ever conceive a desire to learn what multiculturalism means to American educators (and also to American schoolbook-publishers), they will profit from reading these articles that have appeared in The Textbook Letter: "A Book of Far-Left Propaganda That Fosters Anti-Intellectualism" in TTL for January-February 1997; "McDougal Littell's Baadassss Song" in TTL for September-October 1997; "More Fake 'History' from Glencoe" in TTL for July-August 1998; "An Insightful Examination of Perverted Schoolbooks" and "Losing Our Science" in TTL for March-April 1999; and "Meet Deaf Kitty" in TTL for July-August 1999.


Christianity was born out of a meditation on disillusion.
In the first centuries B.C. and A.D., the whole Jewish race
was excited about the end of the world. The Dead Sea scrolls
tell us all about this. . . . Christianity was born out of this.
And then every thousand years the Christians think the world
is going to end again. In the year 1000 there were people in
France who gave their property to the church, to gain merit
just before the end of the world. Some of their descendants are
still in the courts, I understand, trying to get the land back.

         from chapter 7 of Joseph Campbell's book
         Transformations of Myth Through Time (1990)

Under a new headline, "Coverage," Nord and Haynes entreat schoolbook companies and teachers to pay more attention to religion, even if this will require an overhauling of "the curriculum." They declare that "different choices may need to be made," and then they write:

To cite a particularly egregious example, when one text gives Jesus less than half the space devoted to Eleanor of Aquitaine or, in another, to Joseph Stalin, then someone is making poor educational decisions about what is important for students to learn. In the space Jesus is given, most texts say something about love and forgiveness, but little or nothing about the fact that Christians see Jesus as God incarnate. There is little discussion of the nature of sin and salvation, . . . .

I haven't been able to see those "particularly egregious" cases because Nord and Haynes haven't identified the books in question, but I've checked the treatment of Jesus in four world-history textbooks that were being sold to high schools at the time when Taking Religion Seriously was written. In each of the four, Jesus commands much more space than Eleanor of Aquitaine does -- and in each of them, the material about Jesus is pseudohistorical rubbish that serves only to promote fundamentalist doctrines. See the article "Fostering Fundamentalism," accompanying this review.

How about Nord and Haynes's objection to history textbooks which don't acknowledge "that Christians see Jesus as God incarnate"? Nord and Haynes again have refused to cite any titles, but I have found some recent high-school books that say nothing whatever about the doctrine of Jesus's divinity [note 45]. This omission is quite unacceptable: If students are to acquire any valid appreciation of Christianity, they surely need to know that, today, nearly all Christians believe that Jesus was divine and was a manifestation of the god of the Hebrews. In a history textbook, however, a mere exposition of what nearly all Christians believe today would be inadequate and highly misleading, and would itself be unacceptable. If students are to gain a valid historical appreciation of Christianity, they need to know why today's Christians regard Jesus as divine. The students must learn how the doctrine of Jesus's divinity originated and evolved, and why it eventually became a widespread dogma [note 46]. Yet Nord and Haynes -- who supposedly want textbooks to get "inside" religion -- ignore these matters completely.


I have described here only four of the nine chapters that Taking Religion Seriously contains. Some of the other chapters are as vicious as these four, some are not. I have chosen to write about the chapters that, in my judgment, most vividly illustrate Nord and Haynes's tactics, their loathing of rationality, and their contempt for their audience.

Sophisticated readers, I'm sure, will quickly recognize Taking Religion Seriously for what it is, and will dismiss it accordingly. The audience that Nord and Haynes have in mind, however, is not composed of sophisticated readers. Manifestly, Taking Religion Seriously is aimed at naive teachers, administrators and school-board officials who don't know much about intellectual endeavors, who can't distinguish an argument from a political slogan, who can't detect (or won't even try to detect) bogus claims, and who will believe almost anything.


I thank The Textbook League's manager of research, Earl Hautala, for his help in gathering information that I have used in this review.

Notes

  1. Creationism is a fundamentalist political movement. The creationists reject the scientific concept of organic evolution, and they seek to impose onto our entire population, by political means, a religion that revolves around literal readings of the stories in the Book of Genesis. They want ultimately to abolish natural science and to replace it with a system of pseudoscience that will affirm biblical narratives. Readers must recognize that "creationist" is not a general term for anyone who believes that the universe originated in a divine act. Millions of people hold that belief without concluding that it requires the eradication of natural science. [return to text]

  2. A religion is usually called a "world religion" if it has a significant number of followers outside of the region where it originated, but this facile use the term "world religion" can create inconsistencies and misimpressions. Consider Hinduism, a religion that flourished originally in India. Hinduism now occurs in many other places, but it is largely confined to local populations of Indian emigrants or the descendants of such emigrants. Hinduism has not propagated itself through the world by gaining a lot of converts -- and for this reason, the practice of lumping Hinduism with such "world religions" as Christianity and Islam is misleading. [return to text]

  3. In most educational settings, teachers and students need only understand that chiropractic is a pernicious and dangerous form of quackery. In our present context, however, we must recognize that there is more to it than that. At bottom, chiropractic is a religion, invented in the 1890s by the American spiritualist Daniel D. Palmer. It is based on vitalism, and it involves notions about supernatural forces and about imaginary derangements that interfere with the human body's expression of a universal Innate Intelligence. (For a historical note about vitalism, see "Leading Students into the Clutches of Quacks" in TTL for July-August 1994.) [return to text]

  4. Mormonism was invented during the late 1820s by Joseph Smith, an American devotee of mysticism and magic. Mormonism's primary scripture, The Book of Mormon, was issued by Smith in 1830. In its style and diction, it resembles the King James Version of the Christian Bible, and it incorporates some passages from the 1769 edition of the latter book. To learn about the history of Mormonism, see Mormon America: The Power and the Promise, by Richard N. Ostling and Joan K. Ostling, published in 1999 by HarperSanFrancisco. [return to text]

  5. Scientology is a world religion devised by L. Ron Hubbard, an American who worked as a writer of science fiction until he cooked up some pseudopsychiatric claptrap that he named "dianetics." Hubbard turned dianetics into a money-making enterprise by developing and franchising a kind of psychoquackery called "auditing." Then, in 1954, he proclaimed this enterprise to be a religion -- the Church of Scientology. Scientology's paramount scripture is Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health, a book that Hubbard issued in 1950. (When the physicist I.I. Rabi reviewed Dianetics for the January 1951 issue of Scientific American, he said: "This volume probably contains more promises and less evidence per page than has any publication since the invention of printing.") The Church of Scientology's operations still revolve around auditing and related scams, and the Church's agents work diligently to intimidate persons who try to expose or oppose its depredations. The Church runs many front organizations, and at least one of these -- Applied Scholastics -- has attempted to inject Church-sponsored books into public schools. [return to text]

  6. Educators who teach about world religions can acquire information about the Church of Scientology from these publications:

    "L. Ron Hubbard Dies of Stroke; Founder of Church of Scientology" (obituary notice) in The New York Times, 29 January 1986;

    "The prophet and profits of Scientology" in Forbes, 27 October 1986;

    John Atack's book A Piece of Blue Sky, issued in 1990 by the Carol Publishing Group;

    "The Thriving Cult of Greed and Power" in Time, 6 May 1991;

    "An Ultra-Aggressive Use of Investigators and the Courts" in The New York Times, 9 March 1997;

    "The Shadowy Story Behind Scientology's Tax-Exempt Status" in The New York Times, 9 March 1997;

    "Educators Should Be Wary Of Scientology Claims" (letter to the editor) in Education Week, 8 October 1997;

    "Death of a Scientologist Heightens Suspicions in a Florida Town" in The New York Times, 1 December 1997;

    "Boston Man Wages Costly Fight With Scientology" in The New York Times, 21 December 1997;

    "Church of Scientology Reached Agreement with I.R.S." in The New York Times, 31 December 1997;

    "Inside the Church of Scientology" in the Boston Sunday Herald for 1 March 1998. [return to text]

  7. Fundamentalists use the phrase "the Ten Commandments" to designate any of various sets of religious rules which smack of the Hebrew Bible but which are, in fact, Christian inventions. These Christian "Ten Commandments" exist in different combinations, most of which seem to be abbreviated, sanitized versions of material taken from chapter 5 of the Hebrew Bible's Book of Deuteronomy. The matter of nomenclature is all the more confusing because the Hebrew Bible contains at least three different sets of rules which have been called "the Ten Commandments" in one context or another. For a good introduction to this vexed subject, see the article "Decalogue" in the Encyclopaedia Judaica, issued by Keter Publishing House Jerusalem Ltd. [return to text]

  8. The term academic left is the common (but rather unsatisfactory) name for a political faction that has become prominent in many American universities and that is fiercely inimical to the traditional intellectual disciplines -- especially to history and to science. The luminaries of this movement say that the traditional disciplines are merely instruments of oppression, and that traditional scholarship is just a bunch of notions that have been invented to promote the interests and exploitative habits of male Westerners. They deny the concept of objectivity, they deny that any assertion can be any more valid than any other assertion, they despise the concepts of evidence and reason, they reject the Enlightenment as a hoax, and they revere ignorance. (One of these luminaries has even declared that the laws of nature, as elucidated by science, don't really exist and are imaginary. We can assume that she is stupefied with surprise when the Sun makes its appearance each morning.) For an introduction to the academic left and its "postmodern" pretensions, see Paul R. Gross and Norman Levitt's witty book Higher Superstition, published in 1994 by The Johns Hopkins University Press. [return to text]

  9. See Genesis 2:21. [return to text]

  10. In Islamic lore, Jesus is cast as a prophet -- one in a succession of prophets that culminated in Muhammad. Muslims deny the existence of a Trinity, reject the concept that Jesus was divine, and reject Christian assertions that he was killed by crucifixion and then was restored to life. These irresolvable differences between Islamic doctrines and the doctrines embraced by most Christian sects are obviously important, but they never are set forth in the history textbooks or the "world cultures" textbooks that are used in our schools. The depiction of Islam in American schoolbooks is controlled by Muslim pressure groups, so Islam is sanitized and whitewashed. [return to text]

  11. The Creationist Movement in Modern America, by Raymond A. Eve and Francis B. Harrold, issued in 1991 by Twayne Publishers (Boston). [return to text]

  12. For a good account of the "plesiosaur" affair and of how creationists have misrepresented it and have sought to use it in religious propaganda, see Glen Kuban's article "Sea-monster or Shark?" in the May-June 1997 issue of Reports of the National Center for Science Education. [return to text]

  13. This explanation for the existence of fossils was influential in Renaissance times. See Martin J.S. Rudwick's The Meaning of Fossils, second edition, issued in 1985 by the University of Chicago Press. [return to text]

  14. Science Textbook Controversies and the Politics of Equal Time was issued in 1977 by the MIT Press (Cambridge, Massachusetts). The second edition of this book was titled The Creation Controversy and was published in 1984 by Beacon Press (Boston). [return to text]

  15. Teachers who need to explain these matters to students can get help and inspiration from the short essay "Voting in Science: Raise Your Hand If You Want Humans To Have 48 Chromosomes," by Joseph D. McInerney and Randy Moore. It appeared in the March 1993 issue of The American Biology Teacher. [return to text]

  16. I consulted the current editions of the New Catholic Encyclopedia (published by the McGraw-Hill Book Company), The Encyclopedia of Religion (Macmillan Publishing Company) and The New Encyclopaedia Britannica. [return to text]

  17. See, for example, Exodus 7:3 and 10:1. [return to text]

  18. See Judges 6:36-40. [return to text]

  19. This claim, derived from passages in the Book of Genesis, gained wide acceptance in the 17th century and is still promoted by many fundamentalists. See "Wrong Again" in TTL, March-April 1997, page 10. [return to text]

  20. This is a quotation from chapter 2 of the Gospel of St. Luke in the King James Version. [return to text]

  21. See "The Image of Guadalupe: A Folkloristic and Iconographic Investigation," by Joe Nickell and John F. Fischer, in the Spring 1985 issue of Skeptical Inquirer. [return to text]

  22. "Aftermath" was printed in the Baltimore Evening Sun on 14 September 1925. [return to text]

  23. Even so, astrology might get some attention in a Nord-and-Haynes physics course because a famous Christian legend -- the story of the Christmas Star, or the Star of Bethlehem -- is an invocation of astrology. That story comes from the Gospel of St. Matthew, which was written at a time when some forms of astrology included the notion that the nighttime sky was a sort of celestial bulletin board, and that celestial objects appeared, rearranged themselves or disappeared to signal the births, deaths, triumphs and catastrophes of great men. [return to text]

  24. See "Belief in Paranormal Phenomena Among Adult Americans," by George H. Gallup, Jr., and Frank Newport, in the Winter 1991 issue of Skeptical Inquirer. [return to text]

  25. A review of the 1996 version ran in TTL, July-August 1995. [return to text]

  26. A review of the 1992 version ran in TTL, November-December 1993. [return to text]

  27. For a review of the 1994 Biology: Living Systems, see "Smiling Jack's Religious Tract" in TTL, January-February 1996. [return to text]

  28. Natural theology is a corpus of religious doctrine, dating from the early 1800s, which rests upon the notion that nature is purposeful, rational and benign. See "When the Shark Bites with His Teeth, Dear, Remember That It's All for the Best" in TTL, November-December 1991, and "Old Paley Strikes Again" in TTL for September-October 1992. [return to text]

  29. Infinitesimal means immeasurably small. Infinite means immeasurably large. [return to text]

  30. From David R. Stronck's review of the high-school book Glencoe Health in TTL, March-April 1995: "The word holistic became popular in the 1960s, as a quasimedical term, but it never has had a reliable meaning. Now it serves prominently as a commercial buzz-word: It is used for dignifying a host of quackish 'health' practices and 'beauty' treatments, including many that involve spiritism or 'Oriental medicine' or other kinds of magic." (See also "Leading Students into the Clutches of Quacks" in TTL, July-August 1994.) [return to text]

  31. For some detailed information about the structure and content of "creation-science," see the essays in Crusade of the Credulous, issued in 1986 by the California Academy of Sciences Press. [return to text]

  32. For short accounts of both the Arkansas case and the Louisiana case, see "Alabama Will Use Schoolbooks to Spread Lies and Foster Creationism" in TTL for November-December 1995. For a detailed explication of the Louisiana case, see my two-part article "The Rise and Fall of the Louisiana Creationism Law" in Terra for July-August and September-October 1988. (Terra is published by the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.) [return to text]

  33. The FTE writers were mystery-men. The opening pages of Pandas listed two authors (Percival Davis and Dean H. Kenyon) as well as an "academic editor" (Charles B. Thaxton), eight "editors and contributors" and thirty-five "critical reviewers," but none of these luminaries was identified in any way. They were just naked names, with nothing to suggest their professions or their affiliations: See "Fundamentalists Launch Bogus 'Supplemental Text' " in TTL for March-April 1990 (or go to http://www.textbookleague.org/53panda.htm on The Textbook League's Web site). For information about Davis, Kenyon and Thaxton, see my article "Creationists issue a phony schoolbook" in the April 1990 issue of BASIS, the bulletin of the Bay Area Skeptics. [return to text]

  34. The honeycreepers, or drepanidids, are small birds that constitute a family by themselves. The entire family (Drepanididae) is endemic to the Hawaiian Islands. It includes more than 50 species, all descended from some sparrow-like ancestors that evidently reached one of the islands about 5 million years ago. Passages about the drepanidids appear in many introductory books about evolutionary biology because the diversification of these birds provides a spectacular example of adaptive radiation. The FTE writers apparently encountered such a passage but failed to grasp the fundamental point that all the drepanidids are endemics and occur only in the Hawaiian Archipelago. [return to text]

  35. Padian's review appeared (with two other analyses of Pandas) in Volume 2, Number 11 of Bookwatch Reviews, published in 1989 by the National Center for Science Education. [return to text]

  36. For a detailed discussion of what the word theory means in the vocabulary of science, see "The Treatment of Theory in Textbooks," by Lawrence S. Lerner and William J. Bennetta, in the April 1988 issue of The Science Teacher. [return to text]

  37. A second version of Pandas was issued in 1993, but Nord and Haynes evidently don't know this. Haughton Publishing's advertisements for the 1993 version described it as "new" and "even more helpful," but it differed little from the 1989 book. See "Panda Poop" in TTL for July-August 1994 (or at http://www.textbookleague.org/53panda.htm on The Textbook League's Web site). [return to text]

  38. The New English Bible (1970) is a version of the Christian Bible, so it reflects the Christian habit of claiming that the Israelites fled from Egypt toward "the Red Sea." The Hebrew Bible says otherwise. In the Hebrew Bible, Yahweh makes the Israelites follow a route that leads them not to the Red Sea but to the Reed Sea, or Sea of Reeds. See the explanatory comments on page 327 of The Five Books of Moses, Everett Fox's analytical translation of the Torah. The Five Books of Moses is the first volume of The Schocken Bible, published by Schocken Books (New York City). [return to text]

  39. I have encountered the term "sacred history" in several publications besides Taking Religion Seriously. I haven't been able to find out when or where this term originated. [return to text]

  40. This question was posed to medical students in Paris in the late 1600s. Besides comprehending the hydraulic anatomy of Jesus, the students had to know "Whether the cure of Tobias by a fish's gall was natural," "Whether the ninth day be critical" and whether a woman was an imperfect work of nature. See chapter VIII of W.H. Lewis's splendid book The Splendid Century: Life in the France of Louis XIV, published in 1957 by Doubleday Anchor Books (Garden City, New York). [return to text]

  41. See Ether 2 in The Book of Mormon. [return to text]

  42. Neither Koran nor Qur'an appears in the book's index. [return to text]

  43. See, for example, these books that publishers were selling to schools when Taking Religion Seriously was written: Prentice Hall World History: Connections to Today or Prentice Hall's World Cultures: A Global Mosaic or Houghton Mifflin's Across the Centuries. See also "Religious preaching makes these books unfit for use in public schools" at http://www.textbookleague.org/sp-nogo.htm on the Web site of The Textbook League. [return to text]

  44. Islam, Christianity and Judaism together are called the Abrahamic religions because all three of them include legends about a patriarch named Abraham. Muslim propagandists in America often publicize this point in specious ways, and they even publicize the absurd claim that Muslims, Christians and Jews worship the same god. The propagandists never tell that Islam's paramount scripture, the Koran, explicitly directs Muslims to fight Jews and Christians, to subjugate them, and to force them to accept the political dominion of Islam. (See the Koran 9:29.) Nor do these propagandists disclose that the Koran explicitly warns Muslims against taking Jews or Christians as friends or allies. (See the Koran 5:51.) Nor do they disclose that the Koran explicitly rejects and denounces important doctrines that are held by most of today's Christians, such as the doctrine of the divinity of Jesus. (See the Koran 9:31.) For information about how Jews and Christians have fared under some Muslim regimes, see these two books written by the historian Bat Ye'or and published by the Fairleigh Dickinson University Press: The Dhimmi: Jews and Christians Under Islam (1985) and The Decline of Eastern Christianity Under Islam: From Jihad to Dhimmitude (1996). [return to text]

  45. Examples: the 1994 and 1999 versions of Glencoe's World History: The Human Experience, the 1995 and 1999 versions of Glencoe's Human Heritage: A World History, and the 1997 and 1999 versions of Prentice Hall World History: Connections to Today. [return to text]

  46. During the first few centuries after Jesus died, Christians tried to explain him in various ways. Some saw him as a god. Some saw him as a man -- a man who had enjoyed divine connections but had not been divine in his own right. Some saw him as a man who had become a god. And some saw him as a hybrid, half divine and half human. (In time, each of these views came to be associated with particular Christian communities. For example: The idea that Jesus had been a god, and nothing else, prevailed among the Christians of Alexandria, while the view that Jesus had possessed two natures, as a god and as a man, prevailed among the Christians of Constantinople.) The doctrinal disputes engendered by these divergent concepts of Jesus were resolved at the Council of Chalcedon, in 451. After the dust settled, the winners promulgated the doctrine which endures today: Jesus had been fully human, and he also had been fully divine. He had been not a half-and-half but a whole-and-whole, possessing two complete and perfect natures, neither of which had been changed or diminished by the other. (To lock things up, the winners also declared that any persons who erected, promoted or even contemplated any alternative doctrine could expect trouble: "if they be bishops or clerics, the bishops are to be deposed from the episcopacy and the clerics from the clergy; if they be monks or layfolk, they are to be anathematized.") [return to text]


Brant Abrahamson, of Brookfield, Illinois, has retired after teaching history and social studies for 32 years at the Riverside-Brookfield High School. Since 1986 he has been the president of The Teachers' Press, which develops and distributes instructional materials for use in social-studies courses. The newest publication from The Teachers' Press is Calendars and Thinking Logically. It describes the origins of our modern calendar, and it seeks to dispel numerological superstitions linked to the year 2000.

William J. Bennetta is a professional editor, a fellow of the California Academy of Sciences, the president of The Textbook League, and the editor of The Textbook Letter. He writes often about the propagation of quackery, false "science" and false "history" in schoolbooks.


Credits for cartoons

"Once you get past the divine right of kings, I'm not much into theology."
        Cartoon by Charles Barsotti. Copyright: The New Yorker Collection,
        1998, from cartoonbank.com. All rights reserved.

"I think you should be more explicit here in step two."
        Cartoon drawn and copyrighted (1977) by Sidney Harris. Reprinted in
        The Textbook Letter with permission from Sidney Harris.


The material about "intelligent design" in the review by William J. Bennetta
has been reprinted as an excerpt, under the title "The 'Intelligent Design' Hoax,"
at http://www.textbookleague.org/id-hx-1.htm on this Web site.

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