Objecting to science education

So now that I have a workable, if simplistic, outline for what evolution is, let’s talk a bit about some of the groups and people out there opposing it as a scientific theory, especially those who are trying to have the teaching of it banned from public schools.

The most common objections I’ve seen to the theory of evolution are on religious grounds. The more honest ones are open about that, but you also get the occasional liar for Jesus. Perhaps the most famous example is “Intelligent Design”, which was a poorly executed attempt to camouflage religion as science and sneak it into classrooms. The resulting trial is the subject of a NOVA documentary which is well worth checking out. It also gave us the term “cdesign proponentsists”, possibly the clearest indicator of the dishonesty of the ID movement, certainly the funniest.

The Intelligent Design advocates are still out there, but they seem to be much diminished now. In recent years, they have apparently given up trying to pretend that they’re promoting a scientific theory without a religious agenda and openly refer to Jesus & the Bible on their websites. Since I’ve already written about their hypothesis here, I’ll move on to more typical (even generic) creationism.

Most creationists in North America today are authoritarian Christians. Some of them are young Earth creationists, who believe the world, and the entire universe, to be 6,000 to 12,000 years old. Quite a few of those also believe that Noah’s flood happened about 4,500 years ago. Others are old Earth creationists, who are okay with the concept of millions of years, but still maintain that the Bible is an accurate, if metaphorical, account of the creation of the universe.

There are also Muslim and Hindu creationists, though I don’t know of any who are active in the United States. I’ve never heard of, say, a Wicca creationist, but given the glorious mad variety of humanity, there must be at least one such person out there.

The defining trait of a creationist is believing that everything was deliberately created by someone or something, and that evolution is false, or at least flawed badly enough that we can’t use it for broad statements about the relationship of the various forms of life on Earth. Quite a few of the old Earth variety accept evolution in the small scale, but reject it in the large, which always felt to me like saying that moving inches at a time can never add up to miles.

Now that I think of it, I wonder how they would answer if you asked them whether they believe that the various breeds of dogs come from a common ancestor. And if so, what about dogs and wolves? What about coyotes, foxes and jackals? Do dogs share a common ancestor with bears? How far back do you have to go before common ancestry stops? I’ll have to try to remember to ask the next creationist I encounter.

I’ve occasionally heard people talk about “creation theory”, and there’s simply no way I can see that as an honest term, for much the same reasons as intelligent design. It’s not a theory. It’s not science, it’s religion. It doesn’t behave like science, where disparate ideas are culled and modified into ever-narrowing branches of study which get more accurate & specific over time. It behaves like religion, with multiple interpretations that conflict with each other, and never get refined or modified to incorporate new data. Indeed some creationists explicitly state that information must be viewed through “biblical glasses”, so that they aren’t trying to understand new information, but just to figure out how to make it fit with what they’ve already decided is true.

Creationism isn’t promoted like science, either. It isn’t researched or studied the way science is, it’s sold, marketed like just another product. Creationists don’t make their claims in respectable peer-reviewed journals, they make them in books and videos and seminars. They don’t try to demonstrate that what they say is true, they try to legislate it into the school systems so that they can simply teach kids that it’s true. They don’t think these issues should be discussed by graduate students, but by high school students.

Many of them don’t make any case for creationism at all, but instead merely attack evolution and then declare their personal brand of religion true. At risk of sounding like a broken record, science doesn’t work that way. You can’t win by default, your theories have to stand on their own merits.

This has taken much longer than I expected, so I’m going to stop here and post it. I have more to say on this issue, but it will wait til tomorrow at least.

About Leo Tarvi

Mostly fictional.

Posted on February 28, 2012, in Daily Post and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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