Dr. Eugenie Scott on “Hardball”

Dr. Eugenie Scott appeared on the MSNBC interview show “Hardball” on April 21st. There is a transcript available here. Along with host Chris Matthews, there was Reverend Terry Fox on the program. The topic was the push in Kansas to change public school science standards.

The transcript shows that the whole segment was just over 1600 words in length, about as much as two typical op-ed pieces in a newspaper. What the transcript also shows is that Matthews allotted himself about 700 words, Fox 560 words, and just 329 words for Scott. (I didn’t remove all the extra identifying words, so these numbers are on the high side.) What two op-ed pieces might have yielded in coherence was utterly lost in the chop-it-up, run-over-the-guest presentation style Matthews uses. I’m going to reconstruct Dr. Scott’s contribution here…

EUGENIE C. SCOTT, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, NATIONAL CENTER FOR SCIENCE EDUCATION: Well, I think you put your finger right on the problem, Chris.

You expressed one Christian position, which is called theistic evolution. That.s the view that God created through the process of evolution. There are many forms of theistic evolution. Reverend Fox expressed another Christian position, which is called special creation, which is, God created everything all at one time in its present form.

Now, Reverend Fox was talking about teaching both. There’s more than two. And we haven’t even exhausted Christianity, much less all the other possible religions of the world. And I think the question that we really ought to be asking is, what are we supposed to be teaching in high school science class? Because that’s what this issue is
really all about. And what we should be teaching in high school science class is the consensus view of science, which is that living things have common ancestors.

And we know some mechanisms that bring this about. And we have some ideas about the pattern, that this change through time took place. This is what we should be teaching.

Not religious views masquerading as science.

[Fox claims that there’s more than 1,000 views of evolution.]

SCOTT: Well, that’s actually not… [Matthews interrupts to query Fox.]

[Matthews asks what harm there is in teaching religious theory as well as science.]

SCOTT: I think there’s nothing wrong with teaching comparative religion. I think we should know more about religion, just as we should know more about science.

But what we’re talking about is, what do you teach in a science class? People on my side of this issue are perfectly happy to have religion described. But that’s not what is going on. They want to advocate a specific religious view and pretend that it’s science. That just simply is not good education.

[Matthews asks whether Scott believes that everything was an accident of development.]

SCOTT: Well, I’m talking about what we teach in the high school science class.

[Matthews presses Dr. Scott for her personal beliefs.]

SCOTT: Who cares? Who cares what Genie Scott believes? That’s, you know…

SCOTT: My own personal philosophy?

[Matthews asks Dr. Scott whether it was all “one big accident”.]

SCOTT: It is…

[Matthews doesn’t allow Dr. Scott to answer his question, but rather asserts that most people don’t believe that it was “one big accident”.]

SCOTT: And many Christians believe that God had a hand.

In summary, we have the following points.

  • Special creation is a sectarian religious viewpoint without scientific standing.
  • Evolutionary biology is compatible with the beliefs of many theists.
  • Religious views should be examined in a non-science comparative religions class.
  • In science classes, teach the consensus view. For biology, this means common descent.

Related article: Article by Demere and Walsh on the “fairness” argument.

Wesley R. Elsberry

Falconer. Interdisciplinary researcher: biology and computer science. Data scientist in real estate and econometrics. Blogger. Speaker. Photographer. Husband. Christian. Activist.

2 thoughts on “Dr. Eugenie Scott on “Hardball”

  • 2005/04/24 at 11:19 pm

    I didn’t watch, as I never watch Hardball. It’s a waste of time, with Mathews just posing, and not allowing anyone to answer, especially if he thinks it is a boring answer. MSNBC is as much a waste of time as Fox Entertainment…er… ‘News’ Channel. Unfortunately, ISTM that 99% of the middle-aged white males in Texas watch them, expecially Fox. It’s depressing.

  • 2005/04/25 at 1:25 pm

    I watched the archived segment on MSNBC and I thought it was cut short. It seemed like it broke off the conversation without finishing it. But according to the transcripts, that was it. And it nicely pointed out the WORST aspect of the current media. The idea that everything is a personal opinion. Proding Scott for her opinion on nature was totally irrelevent. She wasn’t there defending a personal position, she was defending mainstream science. Making it an issue of personal belief falls right into the religious right’s trap (you could hear the reverend in the background in that part interjecting that this was “exactly what it’s about”).

    It’s not an issue of opinion. Science is science. You can argue the opinion about whehter we want the best science taught in science class, fine, that’s a reasonable political issue. But you cannot argue as to WHAT they best science is. One is policy issue, the other is not.

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