Tuesday, February 13, 2007

God, Darwin clash again in Kansas

Briefly, the Kansas Board of Ed is reconsidering the policies it adopted in 2005 that downplay the scientific value of evolution (and probably all science that doesn't support a superficial reading of Genesis).

The usual rationale is that evolution and whatnot is not without its gaps, to which I will say that the critics are correct.

The solution, however, is not to refrain from teaching it. If you want to point out the inconsistencies and the questions it hasn't been able to answer, great; it'll give future scientists some ideas of what to focus their research on next, and keep today's scientists modest and hopefully take the wind out of their politics (evolution as proof for atheism is no more valid than intelligent design is for theism). If you want to stop teaching all science that may be conditional or confusing, then you have to stop teaching all science.

In fact, to avoid confusion and muddying up the classroom with uncertain interpretations of things, you really would need to stop teaching everything. Obviously that option is ridiculous, because education is about removing ignorance, not keeping people from getting confused. Some students will get confused along the way; at some point, probably every student at least once. Educators, like scientists, are just human, so we can only hope to minimize confusion and work through it when it arises. Refusing to do their job to keep people from misunderstandings is plain old wrong. There's withholding knowledge to prevent scandal (which can be permissible), and then there's just preserving ignorance to keep people sedate.

Can science tell us everything? No. Can evolution tell us everything about the science that involves it? No. Evolution does, however, happen to be well demonstrated by more different fields of science than perhaps any other theory. The fossil record doesn't prove it, epidemiology doesn't prove it, DNA and morphological similarities between related species don't prove it, but take them all together and you've got something that isn't going to be displaced unless it can answer all these claims (or provide some unimaginably revolutionary breakthrough in one particular area or more).

What claims does "evolution can't be right" make? The chances of random atomic activity resulting in human life are distastefully low; a superficial reading of a religious text demand that the logic and observation that go into science are wrong--either lies or misinterpreted.

I'm sorry, but "It can't be A, so it must be not-A" isn't science. As simple logic, it's fine, but here, it's like dividing the universe up into bananas and non-bananas, and then implying that the only plausible non-banana is an apple, since the fruit in Genesis is usually thought of as an apple.

Whatever it is, it's not science. Are opponents of evolution even as a tentative (if robust) theory interested in having science taught at all?

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