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Was That Really A Reasonable Proposal?

Craig Svensson's view (The Scientist, January 26, p. 12) that one particular version of the sacred writings of one of the world's many religions is the sole arbiter of truth, and thus that the truth of any observation, logical deduction, or integrating hypothesis can be assessed only by comparison with those particular writings, must seem to most of us to be intellectually parochial. Nevertheless, I have no doubt that Svensson is sincere in believing himself to be reasonable and open-minded when

By | March 23, 1987

Craig Svensson's view (The Scientist, January 26, p. 12) that one particular version of the sacred writings of one of the world's many religions is the sole arbiter of truth, and thus that the truth of any observation, logical deduction, or integrating hypothesis can be assessed only by comparison with those particular writings, must seem to most of us to be intellectually parochial. Nevertheless, I have no doubt that Svensson is sincere in believing himself to be reasonable and open-minded when he proposes that any aspect of science with which he disagrees on religious grounds should be excised from the public school curriculum. That is evenhanded, he implies; don't teach my kids your science and I won't teach your kids my religion. It doesn't matter how few people feel as he does, he says; no matter how small a minority he may be, he has a right to make that demand.

If Svensson and his fellow biblical literalists are as open-minded as he would have us believe, why are they so exercised over the possibility that their children might be exposed to a rational scientific treatment of natural phenomena? I believe that all supernatural belief systems, whether primitive shamanism or monotheistic religion, are imaginative constructs of the human mind with no basis in reality. Nevertheless, religion is a feature of our society, as it has been of most others, and has influenced many aspects of our culture. My children attended Sunday school, and I hope that experience helped them to develop a tolerant understanding of the motivations and beliefs of members of religious groups. I do not think that my beliefs should preclude their exposure to important aspects of our society.

—Daniel E. Atkinson
Dept. of Chemistry and Biochemistry
University of California, Los Angeles
Los Angeles, CA 90024

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