Thursday, May 12, 2005

On the Origin of Origin

I've decided to try something new today because, well, this is my first week and everything I try is new. However, I will from time to time clear the air about something driving me nuts that is actually serious. This is one of those times.

For those of you who don't know, there has been a "trial" of sorts going on in Kansas, where proponents of Intelligent Design Theory have been allowed before the schoolboard to argue their case. Their desire is that they should alter the Biology curriculum to suggest that evolution is a flawed theory and that Intelligent Design is a viable alternative; they believe that both should be weighed judiciously by the students. Intelligent Design, for those never hearing it before, is the theory that the world was created by a supernatural being and things are the way they are because somebody made it so. Who this greater being is, they won't say (and they won't say it with a smile), but it is pretty clear that they mean God and really are just hoodwinking people by putting a more secular name to Creationism. This is essentially an appeal of the Scopes monkey trial a few decades late. And personally, I am furious.

If this were just a town or a county, I might not be mad. But this is an entire state, and this is coming on the heels of similar attempts being made in more than a dozen other states. Texas is even drafting a law mandating that the two be taught side-by-side. IMAX theaters in the south aren't carrying an educational film on volcanoes because it mentions evolution. This is unacceptable, and moreso than just because we seem to be regressing as a country. I am mad as hell about this, and I'll tell you why:

1. You may want your kid to learn about the bible, but school (and especially biology) is not the place. Look, if you want your kid to be exposed to Creationistic theories, more power to you. But taking time and resources away from other peoples children is malacious. If you want a school that teaches creationism, put them in a private school that does, but don't waste other peoples' tax money to further your own agenda. If you can't afford it, then teach them yourself. You have the right to raise your kids believing whatever you want, but fouling up other kids isn't part of the deal, at least not in public school.

2. Creationism is lazy; it runs counter to the very tenets that science breeds. With creationist views, everything was laid out with some master plan in mind, and things are the way they are and we should just accept that. There is no hidden mechanism that brought things about, and the rules of the world are static and unchanging. Science, on the other hand, is the pursuit of truth and knowledge. At its very core, the very impetus of sciences is to ask question and find the deeper meaning of why things are the way they are. Accepting an assumption as fact without testing is counter to everything science is based on, and the inability to revise or reinterpret data is atrophic to the scientific mind. Where science views a phenomena and tries to move their theory to fit with testable results, creationism tries find evidence that supports their assertion and stuff that doesn't is explained away by the "well, God just made it that way" argument. Meanwhile, science is inductive; a good scientist tries to find a flaw in their hypothesis to make it better stand up to scrutiny. For creationism, scrutiny and questioning are viewed as assaults, and are not tolerated.

3. As touched on above, the arguments made are not scientific. There is a strong to push to emphasize that evolution is nothing more than a theory, and it is not proven, thus making a natural argument that creationism has a place alongside it. Well, I will concede that evolution is a theory. Then again, so is gravity, the rotation of the earth around the sun, electro-magnetism, and the physical principals used in nuclear reactors. We have not "proven" these things, but we have a billion pieces of evidence that suggest they are right. Biology is a science, based on the hypothesis-test model of learning. Everything that we find in the fossil record, genetics, selective breeding, and natural interaction, when viewed through the scientific method, supports natural selection. If the creationists want to debate the value of the scientific method, I say go for it; just not in the biology classroom. This is an ethical and moral issue, not a scientific one. Don't confuse these kids by suggesting that all science is based on these rules, except in this one matter; if you want to have them consider the value of the methodology on which all knowledge is based, get the schoolboard to make an ethics class. Because creationism is not founded on the rules of science, it has no place in a science class.

4. The Earth is 6000 years old, not 4.5 billion. The Grand Canyon was formed in a 40 day flood underneath a floating managerie. Creatures do not evolve from a common origin. Nature is static. The world is too complex to have been selected from random chance. These are all beliefs of the Creationists. Yet they drive cars powered by fossil fuel, they buy dogs from breeders, and they get upset when their wife has a hispanic kid that looks like the cable guy. Their belief structure, and their denial of evolution, would suggest that genetics is faulty; yet they will readily acknowledge that we can breed in and breed out certain traits in plant and animal life(that is, we can SELECT them). Yet take it into nature, where we find that the weak and the sick die before they can breed? It's too complicated; everything is too complex and couldn't be so involved without somebody planning it (so they say). In point of fact, complex systems of symbiosis really are, when looked at critically, the common-sense product of natural selection; those things that lacked complexity or harmony did not survive, and the systems became more refined over time. Yet, without this axiom, there is no genetics or heredity. And if genetics were not viable, then really two blonde people have just as much chance of spawning a black baby (or a puppy, for that matter) as they do a blonde child. Yet we know this isn't the case, in terms of physical as well as susceptibility to diseases, personality traits, and intelligence. We know, almost intuitively, that all the assertions and tenets of creationism are suspect.

In conclusion, I understand that they feel it is their constitutional right to have their kids taught what they want them to be taught, and I agree they should be allowed to do so. And they should be able to believe whatever it is they want to believe (and they remind us of this often). Yet, this isn't the issue. The issue is that they want to control over what everyone is taught, and they want to ensure that it matches their views and their views only; and they want to do it with tax dollars. Though they may be saying they are trying to get creationism back into schools in the interests of academic debate, make no mistake that they are just enforcing some whacked out agenda that runs counter to true academia. Hopefully the school board realizes these people are not in fact making erudite arguments, and that caving to public pressure over a ludicrous proposition will only hurt their children in the long run. Yet it still steams me that the Creationists use the guise of intellectual advancement while pushing their agenda of mental stagnation and religion into a secular setting, trying to deconstruct an ethos built on logic and reason. I guess God didn't give them a sense of irony.


At 11:27 AM, May 17, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

They are also wanting to change the definition of the word science in the schools: (at the bottom)

At 9:32 AM, May 18, 2005, Blogger Fletcher Austin McGuffin said...

Interesting article. This is great because they are admitting that the very definition of sciences runs counter to their argument, so they want to change the semantics to allow their reasoning. Seriously, we should prevent these people from breeding.


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