Suppose we agree to the conflict thesis throughout, and that if you accept modern science then religion—pretty much all religion, certainly pretty much all religion that Americans want to accept—is false. Is it then constitutional to teach science?My diagnosis: no need for decapitation, but this isn't convincing. Here's Ruse's argument, step by step...
The first amendment of the U.S. Constitution separates science and religion. (Don’t get into arguments about wording. That is how it has been interpreted.) You cannot legally teach religion in state schools, at least not in biology and other science classes. That was the issue in Arkansas and Dover. (I am not talking about current affairs or like courses.) But now ask yourself. If “God exists” is a religious claim (and it surely is), why then is “God does not exist” not a religious claim? And if Creationism implies God exists and cannot therefore be taught, why then should science which implies God does not exist be taught?
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want science removed from schools. I want an answer to my question, one which comes up because of the dictates of the Constitution.
(1) Assume science is incompatible with religion in the sense that they make inconsistent claims about the same domain (e.g. "God made humans"/"Unguided evolution made humans").
(2) Then science implies that God does not exist.
(3) "God exists" is a religion claim, and so is "God does not exist." Neither can be taught in public schools, under the first amendment.
(4) Creationism implies that God exists and therefore can't be taught in public schools.
(5) Science implies that God doesn't exist in the same way that creationism implies that God exists.
(6) Science can't be taught in public schools.
Moral of the story (according to Ruse)--think twice before assuming that religion and science are incompatible, because it leads to a very unwelcome conclusion. (Of course, this isn't proof of compatibility. It's just supposed to be a nudge in that direction.)
Ruse is asking science-religion "incompatibilists" to worry about conservative religious folk who might try to drive science out of schools, if (1) is assumed. But I don't think these folks are going to reason from (1) to (6)...at least, not if they're consistent. This sort of reasoning would lead them places they don't want to go. To wit...
Just as some secularists believe in science-religion incompatibility, many conservative religious folk believe in values-irreligion incompatibility. So similar reasoning would force them them to think all the values have to be drained out of public education. There goes teachers being able to talk about virtues like honesty and integrity, the value of literature and art, and good or bad historical events or people.
Reasoning from things like (1) to things like (6) gets you in hot water, pretty fast. But never fear, nobody really should reason from (1) to (6), even if (1) is true. That's because (5) is false. "God exists" is a proposition right there in the body of Creationism. By contrast, "God does not exist" is not a proposition in the body of any science. To get to it from science, you need to add philosophical premises, and you have to deliberately direct attention away from normal science topics and to clearly religious topics.
Teaching X, where X may indirectly and covertly (and only via philosophical premises) lead to a religious claim, (whether "God exists" or "God doesn't exist") is surely not prohibited under the first amendment. Secularists and religious people have reason to agree to that--the first because they care so much about science education, and may think science implies "God doesn't exist. The second because they care so much about values education, and may think values imply "God exists."
Bottom line...Science-religion incompatibility may be false, but it doesn't have to be false to ensure that public schools keep covering what they ought to cover.