Apr. 14, 2010
When I was in seventh and eighth grades, I lived in Knoxville, Tennessee and attended Farragut Middle School. I loved it there and was eager to start life at Farragut High School, but my family moved to Chicago the week before high school started. I've mentioned before that the move was what initially got me questioning the existence of a god in the first place.
I clearly missed out on all the fun.
Kurt Zimmerman is the father of a Farragut High School student, and he's offended because the honors biology textbook they use, Asking About Life, has the following passage: "Creationism: the biblical myth that the universe was created by the Judeo-Christian God in 7 days."
Here's the full context of the quotation, from a slightly different edition of the book, in a section about the Scopes trial:
In the 1970s and 1980s, antievolutionists in Arkansas, Tennessee, and Louisiana passed identical bills calling for "equal time" for teaching evolution and creationism, the biblical myth that the universe was created by the Judeo-Christian God in six days [emphasis mine]. But a court ruled that the "equal time" bill was unconstitutional on the grounds that it violated the separation of church and state… Creationists argued that the account given in the Bible's book of Genesis was the basis for "creation science." But creation "science" is not science.
Of course, that's completely accurate. And the definition of "myth" isn't derogatory, either. It means something that "describe[s] a traditional or legendary story with or without a natural explanation."
The school board's reviewers agreed. According to Knoxnews.com:
One reviewer's first impression of creationism's definition was similar to Zimmermann's in that "the authors must be offensively biased against this Christian view of the world," the reviewer wrote.
"Upon further investigation, however, I quickly realized there is more than one definition of the word ‘myth.' In this case the word is used appropriately to describe a traditional or legendary story… with or without a natural explanation," the [school board] reviewer wrote.
Good for the reviewers for getting it right.
Whatever Creationism is, it's not science. Educated people know it's pure fiction. And Zimmerman's son would do well to do his own research on the subject so he realizes his father doesn't know what he's talking about.
I am really surprised this is taking place in Farragut. Of all the things to criticize in that community, lack of religious fervor is not one of them.
The same school made news over a decade ago because they wouldn't allow the Indigo Girls to play a free concert at the school. Administrators claimed it was because of the content of a particular song lyric, but students I knew at the time said it was really because the Indigo Girls were lesbians. Whatever the reason, the school is bent toward a conservative mindset. Another friend of mine took one of those Bible-as-literature classes there and told me the line between "as literature" and "this is absolutely true" was crossed repeatedly.
In any case, you can understand why I was surprised to read about the biology textbook story. For now, the motion to take a second look at the textbook has been postponed.
I hope they make the right decision and keep the book. Let the kids get an actual education.
Hemant Mehta is the Chair of the Secular Student Alliance (SSA) Board of Directors. He has worked with the Center for Inquiry and also is an SSA representative to the Secular Coalition for America. Hemant received national attention, including being featured on the front page of the Wall Street Journal, for his work as the "eBay Atheist." Hemant's blog can be read at FriendlyAtheist.com, and his book, I Sold My Soul on eBay, (WaterBrook Press) is now available on Amazon.com. He currently works as a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago.