Religious Fundamentalism: 1, Science: 0.
September 16, 2002 8:38 AM   Subscribe

Religious Fundamentalism: 1, Science: 0. In a stunning knock-out blow to rational thought, the United States tells Darwin, "Not so fast, bud. We better check with God before naming you the head honcho of evolution." Read the article carefully-on first read the new law sounds benign enough. Legislators claim the law will only require that the "debate" between creationism-evolution be discussed. Sounds simple, right? Think again. Once again, the Ohio mentality begs me to flee this state...
posted by tgrundke (100 comments total)
 
Well crap. Everytime that I think that Bush has pretty much revealed exactly how much damage his administration is capable of, I'm proven wrong. Maybe if we just round up all the smart people and gas them now, the dunderheads that are running things can finally be happy.
posted by shagoth at 8:41 AM on September 16, 2002


mmmmm. sweeeeeeet gas...
posted by quonsar at 8:44 AM on September 16, 2002


Yet another state falls into the creationism category. Joyous. I really should consider moving to Canada, shouldn't I...

What the hell kind of theory is "Intelligent Design" anyway? "Beings are too complex to have been created without some kind of guidance"... Ummm.. am I the only one who fails to see any small semblance of logic in this statement?

What a load of crapola.
posted by twiggy at 8:47 AM on September 16, 2002


So, you're actually afraid that if students hear that some people don't agree with the currently accepted Scientific model, that they'll suffer developmental harm? Be converted to some religion?

If they'd been instructed to teach Intelligent Design, or Creationism, or any other alternative theory, I could understand being upset about it.

I happen to agree that students should be at least told that there are alternative viewpoints. Science is about trying to understand our universe better. This means that you look at the evidence, experiment (if possible), and develop your conclusions. Often choosing between many different options or theories of what "may" have happened. If you're only showing one option, the student may be totally unprepared to weigh the relative values of the different theories, which they will most certainly encounter later (if not earlier) in life.

Students should be encouraged to question everything. Especially currently accepted beliefs. Otherwise we might not develop any more Copernicuses, or his ilk.
posted by Lafe at 8:50 AM on September 16, 2002


Here's the thing, it doesn't say that they have to say that the other theories are valid, just to acknowledge that they exist
posted by Raichle at 8:50 AM on September 16, 2002


What really gets me is the line where they say, "we just want the debate to be mentioned." Now here's an informal poll: how many of you, when taking high school biology, et al., were exposed to the debate? I know that I was and many of my friends were. In university when I studied geology we spent a large amount of time discussing the issue-in a scientific manner.

My point being: if they just wanted "the debate discussed", why not then order EVERY ideological debate to be discussed? The epistemological debates between natural sciences/social sciences/humanities, etc.? This appears a sneaky way of providing cover for those who wish to push this medieval crap upon us. These are the moments when I wish Ayn Rand were still alive...
posted by tgrundke at 8:51 AM on September 16, 2002


The language suggested that when teaching "controversial" scientific topics, schools should help students "understand the full range of scientific views." The only "controversial topic" the language identified was biological evolution

Controversial!? Controversial!!? Oh, Darwin!

This is making me physically ill. (and that is not empty rhetoric.)
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 8:53 AM on September 16, 2002


Take a look at the world around you....


"Intelligent" Design my ass
posted by rosswald at 8:53 AM on September 16, 2002


Raichle and Lafe, I agree with you on both of your points-that these issues should at least be discussed. My big gripe is that I don't think there is a need to LEGISLATE that. This whole bill appears to be more of an attempt to provide legal cover to those who wish to teach creationism as the ONLY viable theory.
posted by tgrundke at 8:54 AM on September 16, 2002


the United States tells Darwin, "Not so fast, bud. We better check with God before naming you the head honcho of evolution." Read the article carefully...

Perhaps you should read the article carefully. The controversial amendment did not become law (although there are those who are trying to say that it did), only part of a non-binding commentary on the law.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:59 AM on September 16, 2002


So, you're actually afraid that if students hear that some people don't agree with the currently accepted Scientific model, that they'll suffer developmental harm?

Ummm, no. What I'm afraid of is that if we take valuable classroom time, and have the instructor (voice of authority in the classroom) announce that people don't necessarily believe in the scientific theory of evolution, I am afraid that some students can seize on this excuse to dismiss the scientific approach entirely. "Yawn. Why do I need to bother learn this boring crap when it might not be true?"
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 8:59 AM on September 16, 2002


My husband nearly died recently due to a ruptured appendix. Intelligent design, indeed.

I was raised a Christian, but was also taught evolution. I never had a problem with it, and have a hard time understanding those that do.
posted by JoanArkham at 9:01 AM on September 16, 2002


"Class, there are a number of alternative theories to evolution of life on Earth. These theories have been consistently disproved, or shown to be based on a faulty understanding of science and reactionary religious beliefs. They do not merit much discussion. The existence of god cannot be proven, is a question of faith, and, as such, has no place in our discussion of biological fact. Evolutionary theory, despite its detractors, has consistently held up to scientific scrutiny. I am sorry if this upsets or contradicts anyone's firmly held beliefs or world views, but that is often precisely what education is for. Now if you'll open your textbooks..."

We need more discussion than that?
posted by UnReality at 9:02 AM on September 16, 2002


tgrundke, I agree with you, and I do see how this law could be easily abused. However, I think that for the sake of some children who are being raised in a fire and brimstone type of religion, it is necessary for the schools to recognize that such theories like creationism exist and maybe to discuss how they might be interpreted as allegory instead of fact. I don't know enough about other theories of evolution to argue for them.
posted by Raichle at 9:02 AM on September 16, 2002


I happen to agree that students should be at least told that there are alternative viewpoints.

What, in modern science classes, do you point to that doesn't promote this? If I recall correctly, everything I learned in the public school system about science was a measure of deduction based on observation and experimentation. At no point was I given facts and told to accept them without merit -- in fact, the merit process was the root goal of all scientific learning for me throughout my public school life. The conclusions and theories came secondary.

Without alternative viewpoints, there wouldn't be any point to the proceedings. However, I will admit that the alternative viewpoints expressed to me were those that the instructors or the curriculum felt were worth my time in comparing. Because we were speaking of science, these viewpoints were commonly prefaced with: "Now, some scientists think..."

I was never given the opportunity to examine what my pastor thought of when he pondered the creation of the universe. It simply didn't have a place in public school. The closest I ever came to this sort of comparison was when my High School English class read Inherit The Wind, and later discussed how it related to the actual Scopes trial.
posted by thanotopsis at 9:05 AM on September 16, 2002


Those of you insisting that the existence of other theories needs to be discussed and examined are missing the point.

There is only ONE scientific theory that - using the scientific method - explains where humans came from and how we relate to other earthly species and how we fit into the ecology. Evolution. Everything else are just NON-SCIENTIFIC MYTHS.

Fine, discuss them all you want, but NOT in science class. We don't teach english in math class. We don't teach Vietnam in history class (oops, how'd that sneak in there?). We don't teach music in english class. So why should we teach mythology in science class?!

Teach alternate creation myths in history class, where they belong. Science is about hypotheses, inspection, deduction, reproducability, and proof. Faith-based unprovable stories (no matter how true they may be) have no place in a scientific education. Period.
posted by hurkle at 9:11 AM on September 16, 2002


It represented a consensus that this was a strong recommendation to schools," said Bruce Chapman, president of Seattle's Discovery Institute, the leading national proponent of intelligent design. "The language is not meant to dictate. The key to us is that scientific arguments against Darwin's theory should be heard as well as scientific arguments for it. Our position is to teach the controversy

Scientific arguments against? What, the argument that the human body was "too" complicated to have evolved over millions of years even though this evolution is substantiated by fossil records? The scientific argument that going by the generations documented in the Bible, the earth is obviously only 6000 years old so all those dinosaur bones that have been discovered are either a.) hoaxes perpetuated by "scientists" over the years or b.) one big practical joke by the Great Creator to test our faith in him?

~flames shoot out from nostrils and melt keyboard~
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 9:16 AM on September 16, 2002


I fully agree students should be taught other scientific theories. There are many other theories out there not getting their due, such as caloric, phlogiston, and alchemy. All these nutters going on about a spherical Earth really piss me off - haven't they heard about the flat earth? And we all know there are only four elements - it's common sense. I mean, have you even SEEN an atom or molecule? And don't get me started on this heliocentric orbit business...

Seriously, I'm all for teaching different theories, as long as it's made clear why those different theories (such as creation) are total crap. If we never moved beyond our primitive belief system, we would still think spirits caused illnesses, angry dieties tossed thunderbolts, and our leaders were divinely inspired. Can't our thinking ever mature?

Scientific theory doesn't start out with the theory and work backwards to the facts. Darwin noted a great variety in bird species in a geographically isolated region and connected the dots to evolution. Creationists start with their beliefs and try to make the facts fit. It's not rational and it shouldn't be taught in schools. I pity the poor kids who are fed all this creation crap and will spend the rest of their lives trying to catch up to the rest of the world.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 9:21 AM on September 16, 2002


JoanArkham: My husband nearly died recently due to a ruptured appendix. Intelligent design, indeed.

The idea behind intelligent design / evolution is that it is a work in progress. You're assuming that our species have achieved perfection. Granted, being the egotistical species that we are, it's an easy assumption to make :).
posted by freakystyley at 9:22 AM on September 16, 2002


I think students should also be taught the "green-cheese theory" of the moon. Or at least they should be aware that there is a controversy.
posted by Ty Webb at 9:23 AM on September 16, 2002


here's an informal poll: how many of you, when taking high school biology, et al., were exposed to the debate?
Funny thing is, I went to a private Catholic high school, where they taught evolution in science class. Students and teachers alike didn't raise any objections. The school pretty much taught that evolution happens, but God is like a guiding hand in the process of evolution (is that something like what the intelligent design theory is?)
posted by jmd82 at 9:26 AM on September 16, 2002


freakystyley- Yes, evolution means we are a work in progress. But why would an infallible/omniscient/omnipotent god give us a vestigial organ (on purpose) that does nothing but occasionally get infected and kill you?
posted by JoanArkham at 9:33 AM on September 16, 2002


Religion has no place in science class. I don't have a problem talking about creationism, which is all intelligent design theory really is, in a philosophy class but to imply that it is a scientific theory on par with evolution is ludicrous.
posted by batboy at 9:34 AM on September 16, 2002


Regardless of how the Santorum language is construed, it bolsters the arguments of those who would "teach the controversy" surrounding biological evolution, giving states and local school boards who wish to do so a considerable peg on which to hang their hat.

"The Santorum language should make it more difficult for groups like the ACLU and the NEA to threaten districts or teachers who choose to adopt a teach-the-controversy approach,"


Ok, so here is a scenario for you to contemplate:

Mr. Brown, a high school teacher and an atheist who lives in...oh say the great state of North Carolina, is told to spend one day in Intro to Biology on the "theory" of Creationism. He is fired for refusing. No ACLU for him.

or conversely:

Mr. Grey, a high school basketball coach and fundamentalist Christian, is teaching Intro to Biology and spends three days discussing the merits of Creationism and Intelligent Design. Little Johnny's parents, who are atheists and firm believers in separation of church and state, are horrified. But again, no ACLU for them.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 9:37 AM on September 16, 2002


Why not teach the numerous debates within evolutionary theory itself? Wouldn't that be exposing students to different ideas? Do the instructors have to teach all the debates within creationism as well? (Old-earth vs. young-earth, for example.) It's not as though there's a monolithic group of evolutionists vs. a monolithic group of creationists and ID theorists.

Although not a Christian, I tend to agree with at least the spirit of J. H. Newman's observation that he looked out at the world and saw a mess; he could only believe in design because he believed in God first (thereby putting his boot through natural theology). Of course, Newman had no problem with Darwin.
posted by thomas j wise at 9:37 AM on September 16, 2002


Well put, UnReality. Besides, by the time students are old enough to learn theories of evolution, chances are they will have already been taught an alternative viewpoint by their parents. I encountered God way before I encountered Darwin, and considering the significant amount of attention God received, I'd say Darwin was the 'alternative' viewpoint. That's not to say I don't understand the reasoning behind the amendment; I think it's important to look at all sides of the issue, and that's why we have philosophy class.
posted by Zulujines at 9:42 AM on September 16, 2002


Every high school and college class I've had that covered evolution began by acknowledging there were competing hypotheses (not theories) to explain what we were about to study. Just as anytime a biology, psychology, or sex ed class studied human reproduction, before diving into explanations of birth control and means to control human population explosions, it was acknowledged that there were various schools of thought on the issue before diving into the biology and psychology of such controls.

I have a masters where I studied environmental chemistry after years of studying environmental and biological science, and I can't recall any point at which science subjects were presented as absolute fact not to be questioned. The pillars on which science is built on are scientific methods that can be disproved (not that you can absolutely prove anything, mind you) through data collection and observation, as every scientist knows (the whole point of graduate scientific research is to go out and try to explain something previously unexplained, or to disprove something previously explained).

To make a law mandating that other points be mentioned seems wholly unnecessary.
posted by mathowie at 9:43 AM on September 16, 2002


Forgive me for sounding snarky here, but haven't any of the Christain fundies considered that the quickest and easiest way for them to turn as many children off of God as possible is to try and force them to learn about it?

Colleges offer classes in religion because students have an interest in it and want to study it. Look at the college that is getting flamed for "forcing" students to learn Islam (yes, I know that's not really what's happening, but that's what people are claiming.)

The very foundation of a person who is religious is their decision to independently learn about it. It's ridiculous to imply a school HAS to be able to tell a child they can do this. When you try to mandate the "option" of teaching religion, you get a bunch of people so devoted to their religion they start refusing to take no for an answer. That's how cults are formed. Hell, that's how the Spanish Inquisition started.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 9:44 AM on September 16, 2002


This pisses me off. They're such liars. They want theocracy, but they try to sneak it in as an alternative "theory", and when you try to tell them they're talking about philosophy, not science, you're accused of censorship. Well, if they have to talk about creationism, they better tell the whole story.
posted by RylandDotNet at 9:45 AM on September 16, 2002


But why would an infallible/omniscient/omnipotent god give us a vestigial organ (on purpose) that does nothing but occasionally get infected and kill you?

Because he's just a Prime Mover, setting things in motion?
Because he takes a "hands-off" approach to individual health?
Because the appendix is not a bug, but a feature?
Because he's got a black sense of humor?
Because such hardships "build character"?
Because he's not responsible, because demons causes such illness?
Because he's not really omnibenevolent?
Because he's not really omnipotent?
Because he's not real?

Hmm.
posted by moonbiter at 9:50 AM on September 16, 2002


Why not teach the numerous debates within evolutionary theory itself?

Exactly. Darwin's original formulation has been challenged and modified by the scientific community, and it's important for students to realize that "Darwinism" is not an unassailable scientific monolith. But as Gravy implied, they won't have time to cover the finer points of the actual controversies over evolution if they're spending that time on contrasting it with mythological explanations (and by the by, is the Norse version of creation also going to be considered as a possibility?). And that seems to be the idea: Keep "Darwinism" basic and monolithic, like a religion, and then boost religious ideas up to the level of logical possibilities. Keep students from seeing any distinction between these two modes of examining the world.
posted by soyjoy at 9:50 AM on September 16, 2002


It seems to me that Intelligent Design is a catch-all designed to get round the fact that most people aren't daft enough to fall for creationism these days.

It has nothing whatsoever to do with science, and anyone believing it has got to have at least some monkey in their genes (and probably some f**kwit),
posted by devon at 9:50 AM on September 16, 2002


The whole apples/oranges thing make me crazy. Evolution, as well as physics, chemistry, and all the other sciences, are part of a distinct practice: science. And science hods its own internally consistent rules, which may or may not be "true." Any science teacher worth his or her salt teaches it that way. We all learn the scientific method: hypothesis, experimentation, controls, etc.

Creationism, on the other hand, is theology. No one attempts to apply the scientific method to it, nor should they. It is an entirely different construct.

It is as if philosophers decided that evolution should be filtered through Existentialism. "While Darwin teaches that species evolved, there is an equally valid theory that nothing exists but yourself."
posted by rtimmel at 9:56 AM on September 16, 2002


I don't think there are any American children over the age of 14 who haven't heard of the evolution vs. creationism debate, and probably participated in one at one time or other. There's no need for a law to guarantee it.

Science classes should teach evolution, at some point after teaching the scientific method. If a teacher wants to mention creationism, that's fine... so long as it is understood that evolution is a generally accepted scientific theory that has not been disproven, and creationism of the Adam and Eve sort is the religious doctrine of one particular religion out of many in the world.

Personally I don't think creationism vs. evolution should even be a debate. If faith doesn't try to be literal, it does not conflict with science. If science isn't dogmatically unwelcoming to alternative ideas, it does not conflict with religion.
posted by Foosnark at 9:56 AM on September 16, 2002


I think all of these should be considered too. That'll keep those young budding scientists busy.
posted by moonbiter at 9:58 AM on September 16, 2002


Unrelated question: has any university ever offered a Freethought course?

I've seen all kinds of religion courses, ranging from Judeo-Christian studies to religions of the East, and other related fields like Mennonite studies, etc. Has any school ever offered "Freethought 101"?
posted by Succa at 10:01 AM on September 16, 2002


No, Succa, and I'm calling TIPS right now to report you for making such an un-American suggestion.
posted by RylandDotNet at 10:11 AM on September 16, 2002


It's a good thing I'm a Canuck!

Did you know that Canada has no equivalent to the Establishment Clause in our Constitution? Theocracy is just a political campaign away! Fortunately I don't see it ever happening, but it's possible at least.
posted by Succa at 10:17 AM on September 16, 2002


All this will bring is intellectual apathy, which there is enough of already. Now, I think i can speak for mefi when I say no one here is like that, but didja ever notice the ones who are intellectually apathetic tend to get the political power, at least at the present times? That's my concern.
posted by spungfoo at 10:33 AM on September 16, 2002


UnReality and hurkle, THANKS! Uhhh...what they said...[goes back to his Bible reading]
posted by nofundy at 10:35 AM on September 16, 2002


Here's another article on the subject. This one includes the full text of the Santorum Amendment.
posted by Nicolae Carpathia at 10:47 AM on September 16, 2002


I think spungfoo makes an excellent point about intellectual apathy. While I have no real issues with 'spirituality', it is the establishment of religion that tends to make peoples' minds go to mush. Religion has the ability to utilize the "just because theorem" and get people to buy it: "The bible says so, therefore you need not trouble yourself thinking about it any longer."

Aren't we, collectively, numb enough as it is?
posted by tgrundke at 10:55 AM on September 16, 2002


Finally, we can now teach Intellient Grappling without interference from those pesky gravitationalists.
posted by electro at 10:55 AM on September 16, 2002


Secret Life of Gravy:
Scientific arguments against? What, the argument that the human body was "too" complicated to have evolved over millions of years even though this evolution is substantiated by fossil records?

That's excellent! So you've found the missing link? The irrefutable proof that we descended from apes?

How about just irrefutable proof that apes descended from something else?

No? Birds from dinosaurs? Anything?

I think you'll find that we've got proof of survival of the fittest, and mutation. But true and actual species change is something that has yet to be proven. We postulate that it happens, that it must have happened, but we can't show that it did.

I agree that evolution is currently the leading scientific theory of our origins, but that's not to say that it doesn't have its problems.

My personal favorite theory is that we were genetically engineered by aliens. ;)
posted by Lafe at 10:58 AM on September 16, 2002


I have no use for Christian fundamentalism nor, for that matter any sort of religious fundamentalism. But as I think of it there are also some wide-spread brands of scientific fundamentalism -- reductionism, materialism, for example -- that cannot be questioned within many academic establishments. And as I think further I can't help but notice that we are all fundamentalists to some extent because we have a fundamental belief that if we don't jump out of the way of that bus it will run us down and we will be killed or injured. We believe that the world out there is as we see it and experience it or we believe that it is fundamentally organized in the way that our chosen authorities say it is, and that those weirdos or evil-ones who don't see it our way are fundamentally wrong. And I think the creationists see it that way too. For them its the way the world is and we objectors are the weirdos and evil ones. So. that being the case, where do we go from there?
posted by donfactor at 11:08 AM on September 16, 2002


Good point Lafe - people on both(all?) sides of this debate need to bear in mind that selection doesn't create new forms, it just removes forms that don't perform. There's a world of controversy in the scientific community over the thing that Darwin never actually explained: the origin of species. As of reading Lynn Margulis' new book "Acquiring Genomes", I'm pretty sold on symbiogenesis as a primary engine of speciation. It's a nice Object Oriented approach, so maybe I'm a little biased, or at least more easily convinced.
posted by badstone at 11:12 AM on September 16, 2002


15 Answers to Creationist Nonsense. I was spawned from Darwin's virgin wife.
posted by pallid at 11:17 AM on September 16, 2002


But true and actual species change is something that has yet to be proven. We postulate that it happens, that it must have happened, but we can't show that it did.

Er, actually that's not true. Speciation events have been observed and documented extensively. Examples. Speciation definitely happens. The big questions have to do with the actual process. Mutation won't cut it - mutations are generally such that they are selected against, they usually make you sick, not Spider Man. Drift from sexual reproduction leads to very gradual speciation (if at all) and doesn't explain the observed pattern of punctuated equilibrium. Symbiogenesis, on the other hand, has been observed and would explain the punctuated equilibrium data pretty well. (But, I'm no biologist - what am I missing?)
posted by badstone at 11:24 AM on September 16, 2002


That's excellent! So you've found the missing link? The irrefutable proof that we descended from apes?

There's no such thing as irrefutable proof in science, but there's quite good evidence that humans descended from an ape-like primate. Here is a montage of fossil skulls that show a nice, clear progression from ape-like australopithecines to human-like hominids. There's lots of evidence if you're willing to look for it.

Evolution provides a nice, succinct framework for understanding the world of biology. As we've learned more (and we've learned a *lot* more since Darwin's time), the hypothesis has gotten stronger. It also makes predictions that are testable and are tested. What more can you ask of a scientific theory?

Evolution is mainstream. Intelligent design is not. Mainstream scientific ideas belong in a science class. Fringe ones don't. Otherwise, how do you avoid having to appease the flat earthers, the young earthers, the hollow earthers, and innumerable other fringe groups?
posted by ptermit at 11:29 AM on September 16, 2002


Who was it that said it's not a fact unless it can be disproven? If evolution is going to be treated as a scientific fact, then there must be some imaginible evidence that would disprove it. If it's not possible to even imagine such evidence, then evolution is very much a religious belief, and as such is not much different than scientific creationism. Both presuppose a particular conclusion, find supporting evidence, and ignore dis-supporting evidence. Evolution is only "scientific" because so many scientists have faith that it's true.
posted by greengirl at 11:31 AM on September 16, 2002


And as I think further I can't help but notice that we are all fundamentalists to some extent because we have a fundamental belief that if we don't jump out of the way of that bus it will run us down and we will be killed or injured.

I'm not sure that that's a good analogy to fundamentalism--after all, fundamentalists would hardly disagree with this particular statement of cause and effect (encounter with bus=ouch).
posted by thomas j wise at 11:34 AM on September 16, 2002


i have problems with depression. occasionally i become so depressed that i just want to die so that i can hawk a big loogie in jesus face and kick him in the balls. but then i remember that there is no jesus, and all the fun goes out of the idea of dieing, and soon i'm no longer depressed. see, jesus does save.
posted by quonsar at 11:38 AM on September 16, 2002


Of course evolution is not "proven." Neither is gravity, nor relativity, nor quantum mechanics. Science never "proves" anything. At best, you can obtain results that are consistent with observation and that have some predictive outcome.

However, that evolution is not proven does not open the door to theology. They are two totally different things. "There is an attractive force between masses called gravity" and "God wanted the apple to fall" are not answers to the same question.
posted by rtimmel at 11:40 AM on September 16, 2002


Did you know that Canada has no equivalent to the Establishment Clause in our Constitution? Theocracy is just a political campaign away! Fortunately I don't see it ever happening, but it's possible at least.

Not all evils can be legislated against. Laws can be changed or re-interpreted. Education (crucially) is the key.
posted by Summer at 11:40 AM on September 16, 2002


Who was it that said it's not a fact unless it can be disproven? If evolution is going to be treated as a scientific fact, then there must be some imaginible evidence that would disprove it.

Yawn. A cow giving birth to a frog (without any sort of artificial manipulation) would disprove evolution pretty conclusively, because no theory of evolution predicts that evolutionary change happens that radically in a single generation.

Sorry if I sound bored, it's just that that argument is so easily shot down, it's amazing that anyone still persists in using it.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 11:43 AM on September 16, 2002


More to the point, ptermit, scientific theories belong in a science class, not hypotheses. (Except for the hypotheses of students performing experiments in order to learn the scientific method.)

Oh, and Day One of every science class should be entire spent explaining that a scientifc theory [defintion 1] is what counts. Anything else, is a definition 6 theory.

Greengirl - "facts" aren't what this is about. "Facts" are uninterpreted observations. Their truth value by definition is not debatable. (Though they should have associated estimates of experimental error.) This is about theories - interpretations of observations. What makes or breaks a theory are whether the predictions it makes prove correct. The predictions of natural selection are very well observed.
posted by badstone at 11:44 AM on September 16, 2002


[blech - that came out really badly. hopefully it's legible anyway.]
posted by badstone at 11:47 AM on September 16, 2002


Why oh why oh why oh WHY do we keep having this same discussion??
posted by shylock at 11:49 AM on September 16, 2002


Both presuppose a particular conclusion, find supporting evidence, and ignore dis-supporting evidence.

Not so. If that were actually the case, the theory of evolution would be precisely the same today as it was in Darwin's day, when in fact it has been refined quite a bit since then. For example, Darwin suspected that whales were descended from bears; today, with more evidence, we know that this is not the case. If scientists accepted evolution purely on faith, as you assert, and simply ignored any evidence which did not fit with their preconceived notions, we would still believe today that whales were descended from bears.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 11:50 AM on September 16, 2002


You're right, shylock, we had this same discussion almost a year ago. And since I'm sure everyone on MeFi read that, and no new members have joined MeFi in the past year (or if they have, they've religiously gone back and read the entire MeFi archive) there's no point in repeating it.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 11:53 AM on September 16, 2002


http://gerhard.n.tripod.con/tiger/amusement/evolutionchimp.jpg
posted by Corky at 12:11 PM on September 16, 2002


Two comments:

1. There's a lot of evidence for evolution. There's also some evidence against it. Yes, the link is from a creationist site, but it raises interesting points which can be checked for scientific accuracy ( I haven't done so yet, but will), and does an excllent job of not preaching "because God said so, that's why". My own personal theory, while hardly newsworthy, falls much closer to the concept of "Intelligent design" - evolution rings true for me, but so do my own beliefs in God. Somewhere in the middle, I think is probably where the truth lies. Evolution is a theory, not a law - it's not complete yet.

2. Regardless of what I believe personally, I would have a huge fit should any teacher attempt to present to my child a religious viewpoint in school, and I certainly don't like the idea of the government attempting to mandate it. There is a separation of church and state in the US for a reason, and while I hold my own beliefs very strongly, I see no reason for those beliefs to be forced on, for example, the child of a Buddhist family (insert preferred religion or lack thereof here.) I certainly think that any information of a scientific nature that runs counter to evolution should be taught - if we want our kids to think, we need to give them good information. But religious debates need to stay out of public schools.

Long comments, but hey - it's a complex subject.
posted by ctartchick at 12:18 PM on September 16, 2002


Shylock: Why oh why oh why oh WHY do we keep having this same discussion??

Amen, Brother Shylock. Here's another example of state-sponsored child abuse and all MeFi can muster is to spout more dull Epistemology 101: "Oh, but how do we really know anything? [wank wank wank]" Disgusting and ineffectual. I'm ashamed of MeFi.

Look, people, this is not an epistemological issue. This is not a scientific issue.

This is an economic issue, a human rights issue, and arguably a national security issue. Teach a kid Creation Science and he'll flip burgers for life. He'll sure as hell be useless in fighting bioterrorism.

Government run schools do a bad job of teaching US children the basic skills they'll need to compete in the world (and, post-9/11, arguably to survive in the world). The Santorum language and the whole ID Trojan Horse are just one more hole in the dike.

Get off your asses and oppose it. (Oh, the last time I suggested MeFiers actually do something constructive about this, the reply I got was more wanking.)
posted by Hieronymous Coward at 12:36 PM on September 16, 2002


More to the point, ptermit, scientific theories belong in a science class, not hypotheses.

Scientific theories are hypotheses. If you're basing your distinction on the difference between dictionary.com's definition 1 and definition 6 (every definition 1 theory has to be a definition 6 theory), evolution definitely falls under definition 1. It's a set of statements that explains biological phenomena; it's widely accepted and it makes predictions about the biological world. ID fails that test (it is neither widely accepted nor has it been repeatedly tested). Ergo, from your statements, evolution should be taught in a science classroom and ID should not. (In which case, we agree.)
posted by ptermit at 12:36 PM on September 16, 2002


I wouldnt be so angry if the Creationists also wanted to legislate the discussion of other alternate viewpoints...such as those groups who disagree with the Church's position on abortion, homosexuality, genital mutilation, seperation of church and state, the existence of god, the existence of other gods, the creation myths from other religions (particularly the one in HHGTTG that says we were sneezed out of the nose of some being I cant recall right now), the validity of other religions, etc.

I mean, if they want our kids to see other theories, why shoot down all attempts at other people at explaining them!?

It's funny how the one hand never sees what the other is doing.
posted by Dantien at 12:38 PM on September 16, 2002


ctartchick, please just read the link provided by pallid, which answers the most serious arguments in the site you link to, and clears up the misconception you have regarding the scientific use of the words theory and law. The site you link to is basically nonsense: 80's era young-earth creationist arguments that have long been abandoned by even the creationists (the geophysical arguments are particularly sad, and betray a total lack of scientific understanding). As for the site doing "an excellent job of not preaching 'because God said so, that's why'", did you read argument #17?:

Lastly, and most importantly, the Bible says that God created the universe and every living thing, so the world must have been created. In denying this we call God a liar. And so you can see how evolution theory undermines the omniscience and even the existence of God. And if there is no God, why not do our own thing? Or if God is not all-knowing, indeed, a liar, why put our trust in Him? Evolution theory logically leads to these humanistic ideas. Christians must take a stand for the Word of God, or be accountable on that judgment day for the souls of those whom we did not warn.

I guess God says so, and that's why.
posted by mr_roboto at 12:43 PM on September 16, 2002


ctarchick's evidence against:

1. moon dust: Taking the amount of nickel in the oceans and the supply from meteoritic dust yields an age figure for the earth of just several thousand years, not the millions (or billions) expressed by evolutionists.

this is disputed by the process of carbon dating: how could we carbon-date anything beyond more than one or two half-lives?

2. magnetic field: The earth's magnetic field is decaying rapidly, at a constant (if not decreasing) rate. At this rate, 8000 years ago the earth's magnetism would have equaled that of a magnetic star, a highly unlikely occurrence.

wait: the author refers to a "constant (if not decreasing)" rate, and yet refers to "at this rate...": how can the rate be applied if the author itself is unclear of it?

3. fossil record: Out of the millions of fossils in the world, not one transitional form has been found. All known species show up abruptly in the fossil record, without intermediate forms, thus contributing to the fact of special creation.

darwin believed in a process of evolution known as phyletic evolution. phyletic evolution is known as gradual (and thus transitional) change over time, and most serious anthropologists would probably discount the notion for precisely the same reason that creationists disdain it. regarding phyletic evolution (read it for the context of the quote here): "What Stanley is saying is that the fossil record doesn't contain an instance of a major morphological change occurring *within the same species* over time. That's what 'phyletic evolution' is. What Stanley is *not* saying is anything like what Morris says before the quote. Transitional sequences can be, and mostly are, sequences across species."

5. probability: The science of probability has not been favorable to evolutionary theory, even with the theory's loose time restraints.

i never understood argument against evolution with respect to probability. we're here: the argument is rather pointless. if you want to explain that we are here because of god, then that is fine: for evolution does not explain why we are here, simply that we are and how we are.

6. second law of thermodynamics: If the natural trend is toward degeneration, then evolution is impossible, for it demands the betterment of organisms through mutation.

incorrect: mutation does not imply betterment: simply adaptation to current environmental (that is selective) pressure. it is bizarre to me how it is postulated that evolution is massively accumulative. nor should it be assumed that mutation is necessary for the process of evolution to take place. if the only animals left from a deadly plague happened to have the right genetic sequence to resist it, and only they reproduce, then evolution has taken place. yet no mutation has occurred.

i could go on.
posted by moz at 12:51 PM on September 16, 2002


I am enrolled in a pseudoscience class this semester and was recently qoted some pretty horrifying statistics. Now, I dont know how recent these numbers are (judging by my professor they may be ancient), but he gave us this juicy morsel today:

50% of all high school science teachers in America have never taken a college level science course.

63% of high school science teachers in this great state of TX (Im at UT in Austin) have never taken a college level science course.

No, this is not law, and as such leaves much of the presentation of the material up to the teachers. It is nice to imagine reasonable, articulate, qualified teachers presenting creationism in much the way UnReality referred to near the beginning of this thread, but thats just not the case. Rather, it is superstitious, uneducated teachers, half the time holding world-views less mature than that of their 15 year old students, attempting to lecture on subject matter they have a loose, at best, understanding of.

If we dont educate our teachers, how can we expect them to educate our children?
posted by jono at 12:53 PM on September 16, 2002


(In which case, we agree.)

Yes, that was pretty much my intent, ptermit. I absolutley would not, however, equate theories and hypotheses. Any conjecture, e.g. ID, can be a hypothesis. Only those that agree with data and demonstrate predictive power graduate to being theories.
posted by badstone at 12:57 PM on September 16, 2002


6. second law of thermodynamics: If the natural trend is toward degeneration, then evolution is impossible, for it demands the betterment of organisms through mutation.

incorrect: mutation does not imply betterment


Actually there's a better refutation of any creationist argument that invokes the laws of thermodynamics, and that is that they suppose a closed system. The earth is not a closed system, not even close. You see, there's this rather large ball of flaming gas getting simpler by the second, that's constantly pumping energy into our little bit of the big picture. It's called the sun. It's hot, we get hot. Transfer of energy into the system. Which is demonstrably not closed. Quite unlike the minds of these creationist fuckwits.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 1:04 PM on September 16, 2002


When I say theories are hypotheses, that's not equating theories with hypotheses. It's saying that theories are a subset of hypotheses -- just like saying dogs are animals. I was objecting to the statement "scientific theories belong in a science class, not hypotheses," which had the same logical trouble as "dogs belong in a home, but not animals."

[/hairsplitting]
posted by ptermit at 1:06 PM on September 16, 2002


17. THE BIBLE
Lastly, and most importantly, the Bible says that God created the universe and every living thing, so the world must have been created.


...and nothing else matters. Which is why we will troll round this stupid fucking loop until the sun finally does quit spoiling their fundie-mentalist arguments.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 1:11 PM on September 16, 2002


While the majority of peeps here rag of the fundies, is it the fact someone is a fundie in their own eyes, or that they proclaim their views. For example, I believe in Intelligent Design to an extent, yet i would not consider myself a fundamentalist. I sometimes get the picture that anytime a religious link is made that goes against society's norms or something that the poster merely disagrees with, the person is automatically labeled a fundamentalist. For example, take
Lastly, and most importantly, the Bible says that God created the universe and every living thing, so the world must have been created.
...and nothing else matters. Which is why we will troll round this stupid fucking loop until the sun finally does quit spoiling their fundie-mentalist arguments.

This implies that anyone who thinks that God created the universe and every living thing (which does NOT mean creationism), makes them a fundamentalist. Or is it the "...and nothing else matters" part that makes them a fundi?
posted by jmd82 at 1:37 PM on September 16, 2002


Actually there's a better refutation...

In fact, you can go further and demonstrate that living things and life-like systems (such as weather patterns) are "selected for" by thermodynamics because they are extremely efficient mechanisms for converting all that low entropy energy (sunlight) into high entropy energy (heat, random air/water movement, etc...)
posted by badstone at 1:48 PM on September 16, 2002


Yawn. A cow giving birth to a frog (without any sort of artificial manipulation) would disprove evolution pretty conclusively, because no theory of evolution predicts that evolutionary change happens that radically in a single generation.

So if that actually happened, most evolutionists would change their minds? No, they'd find some other explanation for the phenonenon, in order to hold onto their beliefs. *Nothing* that occurs today could disprove that evolution happened a long time ago. BTW, calling the strange birth "evolutionary change" is cheating.
posted by greengirl at 2:13 PM on September 16, 2002


greengirl, a few things:

1. Popper's criterion of falsifiability is no longer in currency among philosophers of science. Contemporary thought tends to allow for more flexibility than did Popper's theories. You might want to consider, in particular, the work of Imre Lakatos. Here's something interesting.

2. These scientists you imagine, who do no reevaluate their theories upon observing contradictory evidence, are strange men indeed. In fact, they appear to be made of straw.

3. So what observations would overthrow the theory of evolution by natural selection? I can think of a few things off of the top of my head: a modern human skeleton found in the Jurassic strata. Aliens (or god(s), if you prefer) coming down from space and telling us that they created life on earth. A detailed research program in which theoretical rates of mutation are compared to changes in the fossil record and it is revealed that DNA could not have possibly changed fast enough to account for observed morphological changes. Spontaneous evolution (i.e. not by natural selection) of a novel species. If, in the early days of molecular biology, the mechanism of transmission of genetic information had been found to be incompatible with evolution by natural selection, that would have been a major blow against the theory. However, it turns out that the mechanism of molecular inheritance is beautifully compatible with Darwin's theory (so there!). So, you're wrong, I'm afraid. The current theory is quite falsifiable.
posted by mr_roboto at 2:57 PM on September 16, 2002


So if that actually happened, most evolutionists would change their minds? No, they'd find some other explanation for the phenonenon, in order to hold onto their beliefs.

Just like when they found evidence that whales were not descended from bears, and found some other explanation so that they could hold on to their beliefs that whales were descended from bears?

Just like when observations of the orbit of the planet Mercury were ever so slightly off from the predictions made by Newtonian theory--rather than accept Einstein's theory of relativity, which accurately predicted Mercury's orbit, they just found another explanation so they could hold on to their Newtonian beliefs, and ignore Einstein's theory?

*Nothing* that occurs today could disprove that evolution happened a long time ago.

Strictly speaking, no. But the strange birth would call evolution into serious question, because no one suggests that evolution is the driving force behind life up to a certain point, and at some future point strange frog-from-cow births would take over. Theories are tested by their predictions. Evolution predicts that a cow will not give birth to a frog. If we see a cow give birth to a frog (and we are certain there is no outside interference), it doesn't absolutely disprove that evolution happened in the past, but it does call it into serious question.

As an analogy, consider the following: an object is described as "grue" if it is green until midnight, January 1, 2003, and blue thereafter.

Consider the following two statements: "All emeralds are green," or "all emeralds are grue." Up to this point, the evidence is equally good for either of these two statements. Yet, very few people believe that all emeralds are grue. Why? Chemical theory, backed up by lots of evidence, predicts that emeralds should be green, and very definitely predicts that emeralds are not grue. To say that no conceivable evidence can absolutely prove that evidence took place in the past may be strictly true, but it is equally true to say that no conceivable evidence prior to January 1 2003 could prove that emeralds are green and not grue.

Since the two statements are equally supported by evidence, will you bet me even money that emeralds are grue?

BTW, calling the strange birth "evolutionary change" is cheating.

That, at least, is accurate. Since the strange birth would be entirely inconsistent with evolution, it would be improper to call it evolutionary change. But that was my point. Thank you for emphasizing it.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 3:01 PM on September 16, 2002


*sigh*. Did I say I agreed with it? No. In fact, I did state what I, personally, thought (which isn't creationism), and that I, personally, found a lot of worthwhile ideas in the theory of evolution. I also stated that I had not yet checked the scientific validity of the site, but that I was impressed that it gave arguments that *could* be checked. Yes, argument 17 says "god created . . .etc, etc.". One argument - the rest are presented in a concise and objective manner, with no religion intruding. Considering some of the sites out there that are nothing but "god says", I still think this site does a pretty good job of not preaching. Why did I post it? Because what I see in this thread is an awful lot of "oh, that's all bullshit" and NO links to back that idea up. If you're going to trash an idea, be even-handed - give that idea it's equal time. Let people read it and see for themselves, instead of just taking *your* word for it that it's baloney.


Whether folks on MeFi like it or not, evolution is not the only idea out there. As I said in my earlier post, I do not support the teaching of religious concepts in public schools, but that doesn't mean I think there's only one option.

There are people in the world who believe in God, and also manage to listen to other viewpoints. There are a few of us who do not insist that everyone bow to our beliefs. It's called keeping an open mind, but I have to say that the more I hear my beliefs called "nonsense" by people who expect me to take them seriously and believe what they tell me to, the less inclined I am to bother.
posted by ctartchick at 3:06 PM on September 16, 2002


To say that no conceivable evidence can absolutely prove that evidence took place...

Sorry, the second "evidence" in that sentence should be "evolution."
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 3:09 PM on September 16, 2002


What we really need is a mandatory class that explains the difference between the natural sciences (and their methodology) and metaphysics.

Really, there need be no conflict between science and religion... if only each knew its place. Instead, science assumes it can affect faith with reason, and religion assumes it can use science's own Method to prove its tenets and render them law. Both are insufficient to the task. Teach them... but in different classrooms.
posted by UncleFes at 3:15 PM on September 16, 2002


Whether folks on MeFi like it or not, evolution is not the only idea out there.

Whether some Christians like it or not, there are many Christians who find young-earth creationism just as absurd as non-Christians find it, and who do not want their children being taught that the earth was created 6000 years ago, or that the earth is flat, or that the moon is made of green cheese.

...I hear my beliefs called "nonsense" by people who expect me to take them seriously and believe what they tell me to, the less inclined I am to bother.

When someone tells me they believe the earth is flat, I tend to call that belief "nonsense." If I even bother to argue that the earth is not flat, I expect them to take me seriously and believe what I say--not because I am saying it, not because their mind is so "open" they should be willing to believe anything anyone tells them, but because there is a wealth of evidence to support my position, and none to support theirs.

To suggest that one is either entirely close-minded and unwilling to consider any unconventional ideas, or entirely open-minded and must therefore accept as possible any hypothesis anyone has, regardless of the evidence, is a false dichotomy.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 3:18 PM on September 16, 2002


Whether we like it or not, evolution is the only plausible idea out there. ctartchick, or anyone else, if you'd like me to debunk those 17 points of erroneous attacks on evolution, email me. I'd be glad to explain why they are invalid.

I study evolution as an archaeology/physical anthropology student. I've studied creationist models and objections, and I can truthfully say that I've never found one that holds water. There's even no credible evidence for intelligent design. If there were (subjunctive!) another valid theory for evolution, I'd study it, but there simply are none. Lately there's been a lot of talk on MeFi about equal time and consideration for other viewpoints (Liberal vs Conservative, etc etc), and I hate to say it, but very often one side is right and the other is dead wrong. Like this topic (I'll refrain from pushing my hysterical liberal views right now). Evolution is right, or as right as we can tell, and creation is wrong. It's as right as the theory of gravity, or atomic theory, or cellular theory, and so on and so forth. All evidence is for it. If there's suddenly evidence against, then that will be considered, but not until then.

This bill is rediculous, and will only make the US more of a laughing stock to the rest of the world than it already is (and I'm just talking evolution-wise).
posted by The Michael The at 3:42 PM on September 16, 2002


By the way, I apologize to everyone for Pennsylvania's role in all of this. I interned for Sen. Santorum when I was in high school... I didn't know. I'm so sorry. I didn't know. I feel sick now.
posted by The Michael The at 3:44 PM on September 16, 2002


I just don't trust "intelligent design" theory. Not that it's not valid to say "there's a guiding hand in creation", but I still don't trust this to be anything other than an inroads to teach creationist crap.
posted by tgrundke at 4:07 PM on September 16, 2002


Whether some Christians like it or not, there are many Christians who find young-earth creationism just as absurd as non-Christians find it,

Hear hear!
posted by inpHilltr8r at 4:21 PM on September 16, 2002


One of the interesting things about this debate is there are more complenmentary lines of evidence to support evolution as a mechanism for explaining life on earth than there are lines of evidence for the existence of galaxies beyond our own, the existence of moons around Jupiter, or the linkage between electromagnetism and the weak force.

Perhaps more importantly, evolution is only one line of evidence that disproves genesis. And yet only a few crazies seriously attack plate techtonics, redshift as a measurement of relative intergalactic speed, or theories of stellar eveloution and atomic fusion. So if the issue is simply introducing doubt, then why pick evolution above any of these much less-well supported theories?
posted by KirkJobSluder at 4:26 PM on September 16, 2002


Intelligent Design, by definition, can never qualify as a theory. Theories must be able to make predictions about the world - that's why we bother to look for them, that's the goal of science. For Intelligent Design to be able to make useful predictions, we'd have to have a complete model of the underlying intelligent mind that's doing the designing. If that underlying intelligent mind happens to be the judeo-christian-muslim god, then the hypothesis is particularly screwed, because we know that that god allows good people to get cancer and bad people to win the lottery, owing to his "mysterious ways." (Furthermore, he specifically dictated that his flock not test him. Therefore, the minute you submit god as a hypothesis of something you become un-christian|jewish|muslim as a hypothesis must be tested in order to move on to become a theory.)

Science doesn't want "mysterious ways." Science wants something it can use. Christians can chuckle when science tries to comprehend things that they know happen due to "mysterious ways", but science isn't going to mind. Science has already blown a whole slew of mysterious ways out of the water. So christians can chuckle all they want, but what they can't do is pretend they're doing science. They can do magic or brainwashing or whatever it is they think they're doing, but they can't call it science.
posted by badstone at 4:29 PM on September 16, 2002


How come you never hear about scientists asking for equal time in churches?
posted by turaho at 4:46 PM on September 16, 2002


Well put, UnReality. Besides, by the time students are old enough to learn theories of evolution, chances are they will have already been taught an alternative viewpoint by their parents
Thank Darwin my parents weren't that stupid. Ever notice how Christians always assume everyone was raised Christian?
posted by sixdifferentways at 9:39 PM on September 16, 2002




So if the issue is simply introducing doubt, then why pick evolution above any of these much less-well supported theories?

Just to take this and run with it, it's because evolution specifically attacks religion at the root. It says that humans, no matter how developed we are, are at the root biologically no different from any other living thing on earth. We are related to roaches, trees, panthers, bacterium, and so forth, and often closer than one would think as well (I know the "humans and chimpanzees share 98% of genes" stat was given on MeFi a few weeks ago). For religion to work, it has the premise that humans are fundamentally different, that we have a soul (to use the Christian example), and evolution denies this. On top of that, ignorant people are afraid and incensed at the idea of being related to "mere" animals. You know, the "Like hell I came from a monkey" schtick.
posted by The Michael The at 5:45 AM on September 17, 2002


"Philosophy students are fed fundamentalist pap,
While science departments excrete that creationist crap,
And liberals can't find their testicles without a map..."

- Existo
posted by tpoh.org at 7:42 AM on September 17, 2002


Re: The Michael The - does evolution attack religion at the root? Or does it merely challenge literal interpretations of creation myth/narrative? I can (and do) construct religious narratives consistent both with Evolutionary Theory and also with modern scientific theory as a whole. It's not that hard, really. Theologians, Christian and otherwise, used to get around the contradiction between Biblical (or other religious) narrative and emergent scientific theory by just dispensing with literal interpretation. This was more workable in the Catholic Church because of the existance of the Pope - who is defined as God's voice and arbitrer on Earth. Because the Pope is defined as, essentially, a divinely inspired agent of God who has ultimate, unquestioned authority to interpret Biblical text, he has the right to, by executive fiat, declare that "despite the Biblical description, we now know that the Earth revolves around the Sun". But when the Catholic Church finally accepted the Copernican model of the Solar System (Heliocentric rather than Earth-centric) this did not result in Catholics running morally rampant for the lack of Biblical certainty. Why not? Because the Pope was there to assure the faithfull that, while the Bible was NOT to be taken literally concerning the question of whether the Earth revolved around the sun or vice versa, the Ten Commandments still stood as God's word to be taken quite literally. Presto! ~ No moral dilemna!

Protestants, on the other hand, have much more at stake in the question of Biblical literalism. They have no Pope. And this can lead in weird directions, such as to the refutation of the Copernican Model. In an interview with New Scientist magazine (April 22, 2000 issue), Tom Willis, who " is one of American creation science's movers and shakers. He heads the Creation Science Association for Mid-America and masterminded the recent school science curriculum controversy in Kansas", Willis comes out, at the end of the interview to say that he does not believe that the Earth revolves around the Sun: (Interviewer) -"Just for the record, do you believe the Sun goes around the Earth or the Earth goes around the Sun?" (Willis) - "I'm sure your readers will love this, but I don't know. Every physicist who's looked at it seriously has realised that we don't know for sure."

I'm curious about which "phycists" Willis is talking to! Maybe he defines "physicists" differently from the rest of us. I imagine that the Round Earth Hypothesis will be next.......and maybe the earth rests on the back of a Turtle. Maybe it's turtles all the way down! ......Sigh
posted by troutfishing at 7:59 AM on September 17, 2002


Jack Chick has all your answers here, here, and here.

(too late in the game to get any thoughts off, so here's something to lighten the mood.)
posted by mikrophon at 8:25 AM on September 17, 2002


troutfishing: actually, the pope affirmed in 1996 (I think the year's right) that evolution is true and to be believed as the truth by Catholics the world over. The catch is that the official Catholic line says that somewhere along the evolutionary process, humans were given a soul by God. Thus we can have grace, etc etc. Evolution denies that humans were given a soul, as I doubt a scientist could prove its existence (or even make a case for its existence), and the problem still remains.

There's still in-debate on this question in the evolution community. Steven Jay Gould believed more or less in what you were saying. Richard Dawkins, on the other hand, wrote this article in response to Gould, more or less saying what I just said and then some. I find Dawkins' argment to be much more convincing and correct from both personal and scientific standpoints.

Protestants also require humans to have souls and be different from all other lifeforms, so there's that problem with evolution, along with the already problematic literal biblical interpretation nonsense.

So I stick to my guns that evolution attacks religion. Neither String nor Twistor theory (competing "Theories of Everything" in physics) change who human beings are, so they're safe from religion, but say we share common ancestors with other animals and watch out. Oh, and I've read that chick tract before. Hilarious.
posted by The Michael The at 10:59 AM on September 17, 2002


Evolution denies that humans were given a soul...

Actually, evolution (and science in general) had absolutely nothing to say one way or the other about the existence and nature of the soul. Nada. Zip. It shrugs it's shoulders and says "I dunno". It is a metaphysical question, not a scientific question. Dawkins' (uncompromisingly rabid) view is in a definite minority here, I think. Most scientists would probably prefer not to comment on the issue, but Dawkins has his ugly atheistic axe to grind...
posted by mr_roboto at 11:45 AM on September 17, 2002


I happen to agree that students should be at least told that there are alternative viewpoints

That's what parents are for. Let them teach their little rugrats such mythology.
posted by terrapin at 12:42 PM on September 17, 2002


but Dawkins has his ugly atheistic axe to grind

I don't find it that ugly but it does get in the way. Whether you agree with him or not, Dawkins' books are opinion based on scientific discovery, not science itself. There's a place for that, but I don't think it's in a discussion about the validity of evolution.
posted by Summer at 1:29 PM on September 17, 2002


Robert Pennock, author of
Tower of Babel
and editor of Intelligent Design Creationism and Its Critics: Philosophical, Theological, and Scientific Perspectives has a lot to say about "intelligent design" and other theories of creationism. Dawkins and others posit that belief in a "blind watchmaker", i.e. evolution, precludes the existence of God. Perhaps for them, biological complexity is the sole basis of their faith. Most theists I know have a more robust belief in God(s).

Anything can be explained by "intelligent design." Data doesn't make sense to you? Say "God made it that way, so there's nothing to explain!" Pennock says it better than I can:
"... the "theory" has no good explanatory resources to offer. Intelligent-design creationism is a one-trick pony... Although [Michael] Behe derides Darwinists for not having given specific explanations for the visual cascade or the bacterial flagellum, his own "explanation" of each complexity he describes is the same -- an (unidentified) Intelligence designed it that way. Such an explanation is vacuous. Intelligent-design theorists have no way to identify the intended function for biological organisms, and without this the design inference can't get off the ground."
I recommend both books to anyone who is interested in this issue.


posted by CommaTheWaterseller at 6:40 PM on September 19, 2002


I don't really mind much about what may have happened millions or even thousands of years ago. What I do mind is that the same creationists also believe that we are now in the end times, that christ is about to return and that the great apocolypse is about to happen. They want this and there are those who would do whatever is necessary to help hurry it up. Some of them are actually in our government. Read the popular literature (eg. Hal Lindsay) if you don't believe me.
posted by donfactor at 2:29 AM on September 26, 2002


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