In 1633, Galileo Galilei was put on trial at Inquisition headquarters in Rome. He had been controversial for years, because he presented a “theory” that the Sun, not the Earth, was the center of our universe and the Earth went around the Sun. Somehow the idea of this famous scientist had been allowed to stand, so long as it was presented as a hypothetical and not as reality.
Galileo was the first astronomer to use a telescope to study the heavens. His brilliant thinking became much too clear in his book, “Dialogue on the Great World Systems, Ptolemaic and Copernican” in 1632. You might say he no longer felt the need to tell “both sides,” for those who still wanted to believe the Ptolemaic model that had Earth at the center, orbited by Sun and planets.
Flash forward to the 21st Century. On Tuesday, a federal judge in Topeka dismissed a lawsuit alleging that science standards for Kansas public schools promote atheism and violate the religious freedoms of students and parents. The suit came from Citizens for Objective Public Education, a group of taxpayers who feels threatened by the guidelines adopted by the State Board of Education that treat both evolution and climate change as key scientific concepts to be taught in grades K through 12.
As the Associated Press reported, U.S. District Judge Daniel Crabtree did not have to see proof that the science standards, developed by Kansas, 25 other states and the National Research Council, are irrefutable. He simply noted that the aggrieved group and individuals didn’t say how they were directly harmed by the standards. He added that local school boards will still directly control what’s taught in classrooms.
The group wants education to be neutral to religion, and believes the standards promote a “non-theistic” world view. However, any teaching may go against someone’s world view. If science teaches the world is about 4.5 billion years old, others will swear it is only 7,000 years old. Public schools don’t need to go that far.