Friday, April 15, 2011

Tennessee rep. lies about Einstein

Tennessee is one of the dozen or so states where Republican legislatures have proposed bills this year to force creationism into public school science curricula. Some of these bills have already failed while others are on their way to almost certainly pass. Tennessee is one of the latter.

The Tennessee bill, which also takes aim at climate change, is of the "teach the controversy" variety. The bill passed their House last week in a three to one vote. During the debate, Rep. Frank Nicely (R-Strawberry Plains), made the ridiculous argument that Einstein would have supported teaching creationism.
I think that if there’s one thing that everyone in this room could agree on, and that would be that Albert Einstein was a critical thinker. He was a scientist. I think that we probably could agree that Albert Einstein was smarter than any of our science teachers in our high schools or colleges. And Albert Einstein said that a little knowledge would turn your head toward atheism, while a broader knowledge would turn your head toward Christianity.

This would Albert Einstein, the Jewish agnostic who frequently stated that he did not believe in a personal God, one of the prime tenets of Christianity. The quote that Nicely attributes to Einstein is, in fact, a paraphrase of something Francis Bacon wrote in the sixteenth century: "a little philosophy inclineth man’s mind to atheism; but depth in philosophy bringeth men’s minds about to religion." You will note that even Bacon, who was a Christian, didn't specify Christianity as the place that knowledge would lead one, only religion in general. I haven't been able to find out where Nicely picked up the idea that Einstein ever said such a thing. If anyone does know, I'd love to hear from you.

Nicely's confusion is, by itself, entertaining. It's something better informed people can laugh and point at. However, the far more important point in mentioning Nicely's statement is that he makes clear the real motive for pushing this "teach the controversy" bill. Nicely says "knowledge [will] turn your head toward Christianity." The bill has nothing to do with giving kids a better knowledge of science so that they might be more competitive in the job market, so that might produce advances that would benefit America and the world. For Nicely, that purpose of the bill is to turn kids toward Christianity. He wants to use the taxpayers' money and government institutions, in the form of public schools, for the purely sectarian religious purpose of converting kids to his religion. Nothing could be more unconstitutional than that.

No comments: