Monday, September 19, 2005

Evolution Schemvolution

Anyone who regularly watches the Daily Show knows that they ran a special last week on the renewed public interest in the century old debate between scientists and biblical literalists.

I won't even say between scientists and creationists or scientists and catholics. I wont' say this because I don't think this debate includes all creationists or all catholics or all christians for that matter. This is really a debate between the community of people who understand and accept evidence based, peer-reviewed scientific findings and those who prefer to believe that a literal translation of the Bible supercedes all other aspects of human knowledge.

Many very intellignet people understand and believe the most current and widely believed theories of cosmology, physics, astronomy, quantum theory, paleontology, archeology and other sciences. Many of these people are able to hold these theories as accurate explanations of their world and still believe in God. This is because science does not exclude God. Current theories do exclude the literal translation of myths written by ancient humans to express their wonder in the belief of an all powerful being, but they do not exclude belief in an all powerful being. It is very common for people who do believe in God and also believe in current scientific theories to find dialogue and commonality between science and religion.

You can believe in the Big Bang and in God. Physicists and cosmologist have no way to explain the singularity which would have existed before the Big Bang at T=0. This is a point where a theist could extrapolate a position for God. You can believe in evolution and in God. Nobody knows how many random mutations would have happened or the probability that those mutations would have created a viable new species. Again, a place where a theist can decide whether it was all chance probability or the work of intelligence.

I won't say that there is anything wrong with religious belief. I don't feel that it is my place to tell someone else whether or not they can or should believe in God. However, I do think it is dumb to exclude important human knowledge in order to maintain belief in a literal translation of an ancient myth. Many of those who want to believe literal translations of the Bible do not even understand the principal ideas of current biblical scholarship. How many Biblical Literalists would even believe that the first chapter of Genesis was written much later than many other parts of the same book after it was more important to fight pantheism, polytheism and the gods of nature than to impress the importance of the God of Israel? It is this lack of knowledge of either science or biblical scholarship that pisses me off. How can someone fight against the ideas of science when they don't understand the scholarship of their own ideas let alone science.

Finally, we now understand that many scientists (Copernicus, Newton, Galileo, Darwin) who were persecuted by the early church made important strides in the advancement of human knowledge. Why then in this day and age would we continue to make attacks on the education of our children based on an irrational fear of the inadequacy of the Bible to explain our world. The next generations must have a thorough understanding of science if we want to continue advancing this society. To allow faith teaching to be delivered as scientific undermines the point of education. Creationist myths have a place and parents who want their children to know them shoud teach them. However, they do not belong in a science class undermining the passing of current knowledge that explains the accumulation of evidence surrounding us.

Intelligent Design proponents would have us believe that science closes the door on religion. It does not. I think I've demonstrated this. However, Intelligent Design opens the door to wild theories. Intelligent Design is not science because it calls for a belief in the supernatural. It leads one to say that when faced with chance or a lack of evidence that chance is in fact the presence of a God or that evidence is not needed because the interaction of the divine takes over. If you accept this as science then a literal interpretation of Biblical events would also have to be taken as science. After all, you don't need evidence just God.

If this is what we want our children to learn about science by all means, allow Intelligent Design in schools. If, on the other hand, we desire for our children to be critical thinkers with an understanding of scientific theory, then teach science in science class and theology somewhere else. Then, they will decide what makes more sense in their lives. Even if we don't agree, at least they will have the tools to make thier own decisions.

If you have made it through my little rant. JB had a great post on her experience being taught about creation in her "cult" check it out.



Blogger JB said...

This is a truly fabulous post, Chuck, and I, of course, agree with you 100%. Can you imagine if religious teachings started infiltrating other subjects such as English and history?

Oh, wait! That’s happening, too, isn’t it? Can you say “book banning”?


9/20/2005 11:07 AM  

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