08/01/2013 11:13 am ET Updated Oct 01, 2013

Religion and Science -- Again

At this time the Kentucky State Board of Education is considering a new curriculum for the state public education of high school students. Officials from 26 states developed new standards for science education. The effort was made in order to make science education more uniform across the country and to encourage the best science education possible. The "Next Generation Science Standards" treat evolution as a fact and attribute human responsibility for climate change.

Kentucky State Board of Education was a part of the group of states that developed the curriculum and public hearings were held recently on adopting the standards for the state. The major opposition to the adoption of these standards came from religious groups. The state board was called Fascist and Communist. The charge was made that the state was trying to make everybody believe the same thing. That is, the preachers claimed, what totalitarian governments do. They adopt a "party line" and make everybody believe it. How dare the state teach a version of creation and origin of life that was contrary to their faith position!

This is an old and fundamental debate. One that this nation is going to be having more and more of in the foreseeable future. Do we let one small group of people prevent society as a whole from teaching what is considered the best science available? Does a minority get to determine what the majority will learn? It is a fundamental debate of democracy and the desire to protect the rights of the minority.

In this particular case do we allow a religious position of some determine the science that will be taught in the public schools? From a pragmatic position, the evidence concerning the Christian faith's track record on science is pretty mixed. At best the evidence from history is that the Christian faith and science have had about an even split.

On the one hand the Christian faith has encouraged and supported scientific exploration and research. It has promoted education and science primarily by its affirmation that creation is good. The earth and the universe are God's good gifts to humanity and humanity is invited to explore and become good stewards of creation. Even Darwin believed that he was engaged in the discovery of God's good ways with creation. Newton was a believer in the goodness of creation and it was to the glory of God that he explored and sought answers to the mysteries of creation.

On the other hand, the Christian church has not always been very receptive to the findings of science. They have been vigorous in opposition to discoveries that run counter to their beliefs. Science could explore the causes of diseases as the Christian faith had no position on that issue. But when scientists like Galileo suggested that the earth was not the center of the universe, then the Church condemned him. The Roman Catholic Church is still apologizing for that. When science published research which suggests that blacks are equal with whites in intelligence and talents, well, then lots of southern Christians had some reservations about the quality and methods of research.

We are going to be seeing more and more of these conflicts as our nation moves more and more in the direction of a multi-faith society. Our nation can no longer be dominated by one faith the way the Christian faith has been allowed to dominate the lives of communities in the past. Christian faith communities are going to have to follow the example of so many other faiths. The Jewish community has been able to survive and teach their children their faith despite being subjected to the Christian message in the culture. The Mormons have been able to teach and educate their children. Other faiths have had strong vibrant communities even as they have lived in the shadow of the Americanized Christian faith. The Christian community is going to have to accept that there will be one common curriculum of science taught in the public schools for the good of the society. We will teach the best science that is available as that science is established by the scientific community. If religious communities want to teach their own understanding of creation and history, they will have to do it in their own place on their own time.

The future of our whole society depends upon our children learning the absolute latest and best science that is available and being encouraged to explore beyond those limits. The greatness of God is not made smaller by the more his people know about creation and how it has evolved.