Myth, science, and “discrimination”

It isn’t “relgious discrimination” when an academic institution refuses to treat superstition as science.

The University of California requires that its applicants have taken high school courses that prepare them for college. UC officials have decided that a course labeled “biology” using an anti-Darwinian textbook published by Bob Jones University doesn’t qualify.

Seems right to me, but Prof. Bainbridge disapproves.

I wonder why? No one is telling these schools they can’t fill the heads of their students with whatever preposterous mumbo-jumbo they like. And no one is telling the students they need to believe that evolution is the correct account of the origin of species.

But a biology course that teaches Genesis instead of biology isn’t a biology course. Presumably an “astronomy course” using Ptolemy’s Almagest as its primary text would also be rejected.

It isn’t “relgious discrimination” when an academic institution refuses to treat mythology as science.

Update Two defend the great scientist Claudius Ptolemaeus, whose work withstood a millennium and a half of peer review, against my implied slur on his work.

One writes:

Ptolemy was a great real astronomer, whose framework was disproved by his successors Copernicus, Galileo and Kepler. As a matter of fact, geocentric astronomy still provides a lot of the toolkit for navigation; if you are sailing a ship or flying a plane or a space shuttle, it makes computational sense to assume the earth is a globe at the centre of a very large rigid sphere dotted with the fixed stars. And because Ptolemy’s system was real science in its day, you could lead pupils from its difficulties into a better understanding of the achievement of Newton.

Another adds:

A high school that made its students work though the Almagest would turn out students better prepared for college math and science than all but the very best products of current high schools.

My readers are correct, and I apologize to Prof. Ptolemaeus.

I was imaging a course designed to convince students that the Earth stands still and the Sun moves around it, as clearly implied in the Book of Joshua. (Heliocentrism is also virtually impossible to reconcile with Genesis, since in both of the Genesis creation stories the Earth pre-exists the Sun.)

A third writes in to remind me that teaching nonsense to schoolchildren isn’t a victimless activity:

When I arrived at Caltech in 1983, fresh out of public school in Houston, I actually believed that evolution was very controversial in the scientific community. Fortunately, I don’t think I ever said anything to embarrass myself.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: