Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Human monkeys and talking snakes have it out

Thanks to the inexplicable rise of the religious right, the Creationism-versus-evolution argument is raging more furiously than ever. Continuing efforts by religious conservatives have resulted in censored science books and a renewed debate on why science curricula need to be revised to accommodate the perceived spiritual beliefs of U.S. students.

This increasing Kansasization of our classrooms is blurring the line between science and theology for generations of post-9/11 students, who already have the deck stacked against them in so many pathetic ways.

Religious arguments do not belong in a science classroom. Notice that I am not prefacing that statement with "I think..." or "I believe..." - it's a fact. Why? Because Creationism is science in the same way that the Book of Daniel is a workplace-safety manual for furnace workers. Which is to say, it isn't. Introducing biblical stories into science class diminishes the credibility of education.

"But, Ian, Creationism has been the prevailing view of a billion followers for centuries! Excluding it from the classroom is intellectually dishonest, because not everyone believes we came from monkeys. Equal time is all we're asking for."

If we are going to equate theology with science, especially on the premise of “fairness,” then we have a duty to lend credence to all religious creation theories. Which begs the inevitable question: do we teach them all, or do we pick and choose? And, if so, which ones?

"We obviously don't have to teach them all, Ian. There are too many to contain in one curriculum; anyway, most of them are the ignorant, unfounded myths propagated by illiterate nomads thousands of years ago who needed a reason to explain why the sun came up in the morning."

Yes, I agree. And no scientific parameters point to Creationism being any different.

"Evolution isn't so great, you know. There are plenty of gaps in the knowledge and much has already been found to be wrong about the theory."

That's precisely the beauty of evolution: today's major discovery might be thrown in doubt by tomorrow's find. Which is exactly why the evolution investigation is true science: it holds up under the hypothesis-data-conclusion mold of the scientific method. Every finding brings us one step closer to understanding evolution as a whole. And while we're far from knowing everything about evolution, the data scientists have compiled over the decades makes a strong case that they're on the right track.

"That may be so, but evolution is still just another theory, and should be treated as such."

Yes, evolution is a theory. It is something that can be empirically proven (or disproven) as the data-collection process endures. Compare this to the Book of Genesis, or any other theological creation story, which cannot be proven or disproven. Adherents have to take them on faith, a fact that disqualifies them as theories. Conversely, it also disqualifies evolution as a belief.

I don’t believe in evolution, just like I don’t believe gas powers a car. I know gas powers a car, even if I don’t know all the mechanics involved. But the engineers who do understand it have applied that knowledge in improving motor efficiency. Some innovations have worked, and some haven’t. That’s research. And it must continue, because we need fossils out of our fuels and in our rocks, so scientists can further strengthen the theory of evolution.

"But students' faith in the Bible will be shaken to the core if exposed to evolution!"

So what if it is? All that proves is that the student’s faith is built on a very weak foundation. Education is all about introducing knowledge to students, a process that is sometimes painful. But, in the end, the lessons are always worth it. Even many devoutly religious people understand that school is about engaging in ideas that might otherwise have never been considered, even if one ultimately disagrees. After all, a belief not worth questioning is not worth having.

And such is the difference between Creationism and evolution; the former demands no questioning, while the latter welcomes it. And that’s why evolution alone belongs to the realm of science teachings.


Bridget said...

I actually work with a lady who has her degree in biology and is a creationist to the core. She's a friend of mine, so I try not to think about that too often, but some days I just have to avoid her because she hurts my head.

Cajun Tiger said...

I challenge you to read the book "Case for a Creator" by Lee Strobel who was an athiest who set out to prove Christianity wrong and in the process became a Christian due to all the historical, archeological and scientific evidences he discovered.

gambitch said...

Which, Tiger, could be because the evidence was written in English.

Try reading texts written in Asian or Arabic languages, and Strobel might have found himself turning into a Muslim, or worse, a citizen of the world.

Huck said...

"we need fossils out of our fuels and in our rocks, so scientists can further strengthen the theory of evolution."

That is a great line. I'll have to remember it.

Cajun Tiger - Ian clearly wasn't talking about theism versus atheism. He wasn't disputing the existence of God. In fact, he wasn't even challenging the idea of God as Creator. The fact that Lee Strobal became a "believer" doesn't diminish at all the validity of evolution. Who said anything about evolution being at odds with belief in God as the Creator? Ian didn't. So what's your point?

Evolution is a scientific theory. In fact, it doesn't propose to either prove or disprove the existence of God. Evolution only seeks to understand how the natural world changes over time. And it does so, as Ian said, through the scientific method. Creationism ultimately boils down to a leap of faith. As such, it belongs in a theology or philosophy classroom.

Here's the difference: if the scientific data proves a part or all of the theory of evolution as wrong, then biologists will embrace this and move forward. Evolution, as theory, is at least open to the possibility of being wrong or being modified. Creationism has no such openness to evidence or the scientific method. People who believe that snakes can talk and that men can live in the belly of whales do so on faith, not on science. And people who are creationists will persist in their belief no matter any scientific evidence to the contrary because it is a matter of faith.

Ian McGibboney said...

Most debate about government endorsement of religion is not about whether or not the beliefs have merit. That fact is probably the most overlooked thing about all of this.

I am all for teaching religion in schools, because it is a vital lesson in how prevailing beliefs have gotten the world to where it is today. But then, I support a comparative and unbiased study (and not in science class), which probably doesn't earn me any points among the fundamentalists.

But that isn't what the Christian Right cares about. They approach the debate the way they do because they feel (nay, know) that they are right and must indoctrinate accordingly. Just like another fundamentalist sect on the other side of the world that's ready to blow itself up over its own self-proclaimed righteousness.

Cajun Tiger said...

Huck...the problem with your argument is that evolution can been proved wrong on at least three fronts that I know of, yet it is still clung to as fact. I have not used any argument in these comments or on my blog that you just have to have faith. I've used scientific, historical and anthropological (I think that is the proper form of that work) arguments to prove my points. Yet, the evolutionist still claim to their beliefs despite the facts, which takes way more "faith" if you ask me.

Ian McGibboney said...

Intelligent Design research is approached with the certainty that ID is true, and the findings are shaped to fit that declaration as necessary. This is exactly the opposite of the evolution approach, in which hypotheses are proven right or wrong with unbiased empirical research. The latter method ensures the integrity of evolution research, because it shows a flexibility that ID does not have among creationists.

Cajun Tiger said...

If that were true, you'd have a point.

Ian McGibboney said...

Simply saying it's not true doesn't make it so. Try again.

Cajun Tiger said...

I've already made my point in other comments of how despite evidence to the contrary, evolution is still taught as fact not as a theory with holes in it. I've never once on here or on my blog gave evidence of, "you just have to have faith" or "the Bible says it so that's all I need to know." I've used scientific, historical and archeological evidence to support my arguements. I have minors in biology and zoology so I'm not just spouting right wing talking points but have actually studied these topics on my own.

Again I challenge you to read the book I mentioned above as he also does the same thing of hard evidence. Also he is a former journalist and writes in an investigative journalist style that you might appreciate being you are in that arena.

Ian McGibboney said...

Evolution is a fact that we don't yet understand 100 percent. But continued research makes it stronger with every finding. That's what makes it a teachable theory as opposed to a belief.

I haven't yet read the book you mention (though I may check it out tomorrow if my public library has it). But I have read articles and similar passages along those lines, and I have yet to see any that rely on pure science without some leap of faith. For example, the supposed finding that expansion of the universe supposedly slowed after the equivalent of seven days. Given that even Biblical scholars can't agree on what constitutes one day in the Book of Genesis, why should anyone take seriously such a finding?

Anyway, as Huck pointed out, I'm not trying to dissuade anyone's beliefs, just that they shouldn't be taught in a scientific realm. And what I oppose is people trying to equate religious theories with the scientific method, and telling our children that belief is part of obtaining empirical evidence.

Cajun Tiger said...

It's been over 100 years since evolution theory has been proposed and it is no closer to being proved today than it was then. The biggest gap are the missing link fossils. Darwin dismissed not being able to find them saying that in time with more research and better technology they would be found. I'd say we have used every ounce of research and technology today and they still are NONE. There are millions of fossils on both sides of the "link" fossils, but not 1 fossil of the one thing that would prove evolution. How many more years do we have to wait?

Again I ask what religious theory have I used as proof. Again above I've used nothing but science and history.

And if you want to throw out crazy hypothesis on how it all started, how about the theory that a giant "computer" continuously spits out universes and after billions and billions of years it got one right with ours in order to support life. Just as that is "proved" wrong, so will the slowing either be "proved" or not with time. Main thing is we have no idea how it was done in the beginning, but as soon as you get to a beginning, you will always have the question, and where did that come from?

If your library doesn't have a copy email me and I'll send you a copy if you promise to read it. shanecomeaux at msn dot com

Ian McGibboney said...

At least with evolution, you have scientists researching the missing information, with promising leads.

Creationists want to put a biblical story on par with that in schools, and I oppose that. This whole argument is about what constitutes science, and religion does not. Critics of evolution, such as yourself, seize on any inconsistencies in the theory to dismiss the entire thing out of hand. That, to me, shows a certain contempt for science. If you really wanted to get the right answer, you'd support continued research.

You seem to think that incorrect hypotheses and missing links have no value in evolution, when in fact they are as valuable as any findings. That in itself is worth teaching. On the other hand, any "scientific" case that leads one to conclude God did it violates the empirical tenet of science. "Case for a Creator" may have a place in theological discussions, but it would take a lot to convince me that it belongs on a par with the theory that virtually unites the entire legit scientific community.

Cajun Tiger said...

If you were right and they taught the incorrect and false findings of evolution then I may a little more agreeable on the subject. They are still teaching that all embyos go through the same development cycle whether they be a shark, a lizard, an ape or a human. That has been proven wrong decades ago, yet it is still in the "science" books.

You keep bashing religious arguments. Please show me one time I've used a religious arguement as proof for any of my arguments?

Ian McGibboney said...

If outdated evolution methods are being taught, then maybe we need new teaching materials. Oh, right, education funding's been gutted repeatedly, because we need money for the war.

Hell, I'll go further. Most of the books in my middle school library didn't date past 1973, and most were far older than that. I found out years later that the reason for it was that Nixon axed the annual budget for public schools that replenished their libraries since the 1950s, and that such a sight is common in libraries all over the country.

But back to evolution: I ask you, if evolution is so flawed and thus shouldn't be taught, what should be? It is the most documented, empirically proven and scientifically agreed method out there. What is the scientific alternative to that?

Incidentally, I'm reading "Case for a Creator." This thing is full of faithful conclusions. It's compelling, but it does require leaps of logic into theology. It also takes repeated cracks at atheists (apparently meaning anyone who disagrees), which a supposed empirical study isn't supposed to do. But I'll press on.

Cajun Tiger said...

Federal government should have no hand in education as I've argued in previous comments.

Find me one empirically proven fact of evolution. I'll save you time b/c you won't be able to.

There is no other alternative for two reasons in my opinion. One b/c evolution is clung to strongly despite the evidence no one other than the ID crowd looks for other possibilities. Second evolution is really the only other possible alternative to an intelligent creator which again is why it is held to so strongly b/c the alternative can't be true without rocking the foundations of their beliefs.

It has been a couple of years since I read "Case" so if you want to argue a point he makes in the book you'll have to remind me of it as my copy is back in the states.