Skip to comments.Evolution debate: State board should reject pseudoscience
Posted on 02/18/2002 4:59:53 AM PST by cracker
The Dispatch tries to verify the identity of those who submit letters to the editor, but this message presented some problems. It arrived on a postcard with no return address:
Dear Representative Linda Reidelbach: Evolution is one of my creations with which I am most pleased.
It was signed, God.
The Dispatch cannot confirm that this is a divine communication, but the newspaper does endorse the sentiment it expresses: that there is room in the world for science and religion, and the two need not be at war.
The newspaper also agrees that Reidelbach, a Republican state representative from Columbus, is among the lawmakers most in need of this revelation. She is the sponsor of House Bill 481, which says that when public schools teach evolution, they also must teach competing "theories'' about the origin of life.
Reidelbach says the bill would "encourage the presentation of scientific evidence regarding the origins of life and its diversity objectively and without religious, naturalistic or philosophic bias or assumption.''
What this appears to mean is that any idea about the origin of life would be designated, incorrectly, a scientific theory and would get equal time with the genuine scientific theory known as evolution.
Those who correctly object that the creation stories of various religions are not scientific would be guilty, in the language of this bill, "of religious, naturalistic or philosophic bias or assumption.''
Never mind that science is not a bias or an assumption but simply a rigorous and logical method for describing and explaining what is observed in nature.
What Reidelbach and her co-sponsors are attempting to do is to require that science classes also teach creationism, intelligent design and related unscientific notions about the origin of life that are derived from Christian belief.
So bent are they on getting Christianity's foot in the door of science classrooms that they apparently don't mind that this bill also appears to give the green light to the creation stories of competing religions, cults and any other manifestation of belief or unbelief. Apparently, even Satanists would have their say.
But the real problem is that Reidelbach's bill would undermine science education at the very moment when Ohio should be developing a scientifically literate generation of students who can help the state succeed in 21st-century technologies and compete economically around the globe.
The fact is that religious ideas, no matter how much they are dressed up in the language of science, are not science. And subjecting students to religious ideas in a science class simply would muddle their understanding of the scientific method and waste valuable time that ought to be used to learn genuine science.
The scientific method consists of observing the natural world and drawing conclusions about the causes of what is observed. These conclusions, or theories, are subject to testing and revision as additional facts are discovered that either bolster or undermine the conclusions and theories. Scientific truth, such as it is, is constantly evolving as new theories replace or modify old ones in the light of new facts.
Religious notions of creation work in the opposite fashion. They begin with a preconceived belief -- for example, that God created all the creatures on the Earth -- and then pick and choose among the observable facts in the natural world to find those that fit. Those that don't are ignored.
The scientific approach expands knowledge about the natural world; the religious approach impedes it.
The classic example of this occurred 369 years ago when the Catholic Church forced Galileo to recant the Copernican theory that the Earth revolves around the sun. That theory contradicted the religiously based idea that man and the Earth formed the center of God's creation. Had the church's creationist view of the solar system prevailed, Ohioan Neil Armstrong never would have set foot on the moon.
Today, Copernican theory is established and acknowledged fact.
When it comes to evolution, much confusion grows out of the understanding -- or misunderstanding -- of the words theory and fact. Evolution is a theory, but one that has become so thoroughly buttressed by physical evidence that, for all intents and purposes, it is a fact. No one outside of the willfully obstinate questions the idea that new life forms evolved from older ones, a process conclusively illustrated in biology and the fossil record.
Where disagreement still exists is over how the process of evolution occurs. Scientists argue about the mechanism by which change occurs and whether the process is gradual and constant or proceeds in fits in starts. But while they debate over how evolution occurs, they do not doubt that it does occur.
Another way to understand this is to consider gravity. Everyone accepts the existence of this force, but many questions remain about just what gravity is and how it works. That scientists argue about how gravity works doesn't change the fact that gravity exists. Or, as author Stephen Jay Gould has put it, "Einstein's theory of gravitation replaced Newton's in this century, but apples didn't suspend themselves in midair, pending the outcome.''
Just as with gravity, evolution is a fact.
Those who persist on questioning this fact are a tiny minority, even among people of faith. But they are a loud minority and, to those not well-grounded in science, their arguments can sound reasonable, even "scientific.'' But their arguments are little more than unfounded assertions dressed up in the language of science.
This minority also insists on creating conflict between religion and science where none needs to exist. Major faiths long since have reconciled themselves to a division of labor with science. Religion looks to humankind's spiritual and moral needs, while science attends to the material ones.
The Catholic Church, which once tried to hold back the progress of science, now admits that it was wrong to suppress Galileo. More than a billion Catholics draw sustenance from their faith untroubled by the knowledge that the planet is racing around the sun.
Religion, in turn, provides spiritual and moral guideposts to decide how best to use the awesome powers that science has unlocked and placed at humankind's disposal.
Nor are scientists themselves antagonistic to religion. Albert Einstein, one of the greatest scientific geniuses in history, was deeply reverent: "My comprehension of God comes from the deeply felt conviction of a superior intelligence that reveals itself in the knowable world,'' he once said.
Others have made similar observations. The more the scientific method reveals about the intricacies of the universe, the more awestruck many scientists become.
The simplest way to reconcile religion and evolution is to accept the view propounded early last century by prominent Congregationalist minister and editor Lyman Abbott, who regarded evolution as the means God uses to create and shape life.
This view eliminates conflict between evolution and religion. It allows scientists to investigate evolution as a natural process and lets people of faith give God the credit for setting that process in motion.
As for what to do about creationism and evolution in schools, the answer is easy. Evolution should be taught in science classes. Creationism and related religiously based ideas should be taught in comparative-religion, civics and history classes.
Religion was and remains central to the American identity. It has profoundly shaped American ideals and provided the basis for its highest aspirations, from the Declaration of Independence to the civil-rights movement. There is no question that religion is a vital force and a vital area of knowledge that must be included in any complete education.
But not in the science classroom, because religion is not science. There is no such thing as Buddhist chemistry, Jewish physics or Christian mathematics.
The Earth revolves around the sun regardless of the faiths of the people whom gravity carries along for the ride. Two plus two equals four whether that sum is calculated by a Muslim or a Zoroastrian.
Reidelbach and her supporters genuinely worry that a crucial element -- moral education and appreciation of religion's role in America -- is missing in education. But they will not correct that lack by injecting pseudoscience into Ohio's science curriculum.
And Reidelbach is not the only one making this mistake. Senate Bill 222, sponsored by state Sen. Jim Jordan, R-Urbana, is equally misguided. This bill would require that science standards adopted by the State Board of Education be approved by resolution in the General Assembly. This is a recipe for disaster, injecting not only religion, but also politics, into Ohio's science classes.
These two bills should be ignored by lawmakers.
In a few months, when the State Board of Education lays out the standards for science education in Ohio's public schools, it should strongly endorse the teaching of evolution and ignore the demands of those who purvey pseudoscience.
For the sake of argument, God does not exist just luck and nature. So now we are just left with the puzzle of how and science is the key. Once we have put the puzzle together, by way of science, we shall have understanding and control of nature.
Would man then become God?
How does that apple taste?
If only life were as simple as say, rocket science...
The other copies are not the same gene.
Nice political statement. No I don't, I'm not you.
All of these experiments were carried out using beams of individual photons, and there is no way in which the results can be explained by using classical physics. They lay bare the mysteriousness of quantum mechanics in all its glory, and in particular demonstrate its "non local" nature -- the way in which a photon starting out on its journey behaves in a different way for each experimental setup, as if it knew in advance what kind of experiment it was about to go through.
Don't worry if you don't understand this. Richard Feynman didn't, and he warned "do not keep saying to yourself, if you can possibly avoid it, 'But how can it be like that?' because you will go 'down the drain' into a blind alley from which nobody has yet escaped. Nobody knows how it can be like that."
A pre-biotic soup fits right in with that, however I don't believe that there is evidence for that condition. However, God made the waters produce certain types of life. Is there any evidence that the waters did not produce life?
There may be. Look at all the evidence of life deep in the subsurface and in space.
So you can stretch and squeeze Genesis to fit current evolution theory. But you still want to eliminate "random". Why?
It's an idea older than Darwin. Lamark, and others before him, promoted these type of transformation ideas.
For the same reason Dr. Shapiro does, it doesn't appear to be random.
Yes, and even Darwin had something to say on the subject in his 1859 revision.
...by the direct action of external conditions, and by variations which seem to us in our ignorance to arise spontaneously. It appears that I formerly underrated the frequency and value of these latter forms of variation, as leading to permanent modifications of structure independently of natural selection.
How would that negate waters producing it also? Occam is not evidence or proof only a principle. If it is used which one of the two you mentioned above do you knock out?
There is a lot that appears to be random and I'd be greatly surprised if Shapiro is blind to that. The question still remains, what bothers you about random? If God can't be in the random, there's a lot of the universe not under God's instruction.
The question may remain, but I answered it. The answer was essentially that random does not fit.
Bet you don't like quantum mechanics either.
It's still jumping the gun. Some mechanisms are less random than others. This does not eliminate random. And there is no overall "momentum" toward non-random.
Erratic particular behavior is subtly guided!
The Big Guy? Or Maxwell's Demon?
No.(to your bet Yes to liking QM) Random fits there.
The demon's in the details.
Is that like being less pregnant?
If only evolution researchers shared your intuition!
In that sense, there is no such thing as random in evolution and you've spent a considerable amount of effort arguing a straw man.
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