2.24.2009

I Don't Know Why This Is So Hard To Understand....

...Science class is for science. I've never really posted about the whole creationism in classrooms thing before, but I'm big enough to admit when I've had my head in the sand and I'm pretty sure this was just such an occasion. I honestly didn't want to believe that there were that many people out there who not only don't believe in evolution (that's a funny way to put things- like believing in gravity, but there you go....), but believe that their philosophical extrapolation of a mythology should be treated as verifiable science.


There are a lot of reasons for this, but the biggest one is that people don't really understand science. I mean sure, you took a class or two in high school maybe college that involved some lab work, but for the most part the only real difference between the way you learned science and the way you learned history was that your science book had images of microscope slides and your history book had artistic renderings. Someone probably gave you a pop quiz or two on the steps involved in the scientific method, but none of that really translated into a general understanding of how science works. Seriously. For most people the word science conjures images of Bunsen burners, flasks, microscopes, eyedroppers, and lab coats the same way the word witch summons images of black kettles, hooded robes, and people doing dubious things in the woods. Sadly the similarity doesn't end there, because for many people science is just the newfangled hocus pocus.

Now I can't correct for the entirety of that unfortunate failing of our education system in one blog post, but I'm going to sling my little rock for all I'm worth at the Intelligent Design in schools Goliath. (Okay, so it's only a Goliath in the Republican party. Really, don't you people see how you're giving everyone a black eye here? No? Well, stick with me, and we'll see if we can't get the light of day to shine on this for you. See, that's the other reason I've stayed away from this topic. It makes me uncivil.)

Let's start with a basic premise that we can all agree on. When it comes to God (or gods or whatever) it's all faith. (We're not talking about the fence-sitters waiting around for proof, that's like the exact opposite of faith.) It doesn't matter if you believe or don't believe. It's faith; the position can't be proven one way or the other so coming down squarely on one side is entirely about faith. (If you want to argue that particular point I'll be happy to take it up via email.)
Hold onto that.

Now let's take a look at one of science's most important tools. The entire point of going through all of that is to generate reliable evidence in order to make a determination. Evidence is what separates science from philosophy and religion.

I know there are some (*sigh* more like many) people out there who are currently saying (or thinking) it says (insert whatever) in the bible, there's your proof. But what you fail to see is that that is your proof. And what's more, it's dependent upon your acceptance of a point of faith in order to even be considered as evidence. The argument boils down thus: God exists (and embodies/contains/engenders list of attributes). The Bible is the word of God (and as implied by list of attributes of God therefore true). Therefore the Bible is proof of God's existence and his works. All of that makes a very pretty circle and is exactly how half of the argument over the existence of God has gone since birth of monotheism (and further back if you change up the names of deities and holy texts). The other half is just as circular, but in the negative.)

So the difference between teaching evolution and teaching intelligent design is that I can give pages upon pages of evidence none of which require faith on your part. Where as in order for you to even get out of the gate with intelligent design, you have to have faith. And that has no place in a science class. What's so damn difficult to understand about that!?



*Update* Welcome fellow LGF readers! Feel free to look around. Hope you like the place.

*Update* This gentleman actually takes the time to patiently walk you through. (Courtesy of the LGF link posted at the beginning of this post.)

9 comments:

harpers said...

Thank you for the post --- you nailed it...

Fear is often more powerful than an obvious truth.

Marie S. said...

You absolutely did nail it. And if you really BELIEVE in God, aren't you supposed to be taking it all on faith and not hunting for proof? If there were such empirical proof, you would not need faigh, now would you? Evidence is evidence, the rest is opinion.

toaster lover said...

Thanks for dropping by. People have to stop treating their religion as a science. Frankly, I don't even know why a person would want to. If God was as self evident as gravity there would be no point in believing. It would just be knowledge. Treating religion as science manages to completely miss the entire point of both religion and science, and therein demeans both.

Rick said...

I don't think you did nail it. We have lots of religion masquerading as science. Two examples are the "science" of global warming and the "science" that Darwin actually explains the origin of life. It does not.

Rick

Johnv2 said...

Rick, evolution doesn't address the origin of life. It addresses the origin of species. please don't conflate the two.

There is science in GW (for example, C02 is a greenhouse gas is not in dispute). But the political hysteria dominates (for example, bad things will happen if the CO2 concentration goes up). And yes, people who are unable to separate the political from the scientific, including lots of scientists, argue way past what science tells us.

toaster lover said...

Rick,

Johnv2 pretty much summed it up. But the big picture here is if you disagree with either of the examples you mentioned there is evidence that you can examine and argue against (no guarantees on how convincingly you could do it, but you could do it). Whereas, intelligent design requires that you start at a point of faith in order to arrive at any "proof".

Furthermore, essentially trying to point your finger in a "but look what they're doing over there!" manner is no kind of way to make a point.

Genshed said...

I was glad to read your post. This approach to things needs to be encouraged and promoted. I've been consciously supporting my older son's interest in science and technology; all too often, it seems, science is being treated like music (screen out the people with obvious inherent talent, cultivate them and let the rest go graze in the fields) rather than like sports (get EVERYONE participating, in hopes it becomes part of their normal lives).

I still remember the day I explained how important math skills are to learning sciences, and he brightened up:"I'm GOOD at math!" he exclaimed, "that means I can do science!" Yes, my son, yes, you can.

toaster lover said...

It's ridiculous that the majority of people's science education is more like the history of scientific discoveries. You're absolutely right in that it should be far more participation oriented. The cumulative effect of our current method of "teaching" science is a general population with a view of science little better than that of medieval serfs. The press, also completely ignorant in that regard, politicizes bits of pop science which only serves to further mystify it.

Good on you for encouraging your son. Don't let the education system quell his thirst for discovery. It has the tendency to lose the brightest minds to boredom and frustration.

Anonymous said...

I agree that religion has no place in the science classroom. Honestly, I don't know many people who think otherwise.

I think the basic problem for some of us "religious" people is that we feel that sometimes science class is teaching more than science.

Bear with me here - I'm not talking about those people who are angry because some carbon dating or DNA factoid conflicts with their personal beliefs - though I'm not saying there aren't some people who get upset about that. But I don't think that's as common as you may suppose.

I think that many of us feel that there are suppositions/speculations which are presented (sometimes subtly, sometimes not) along with a report of what we can actually measure and document - and that these are allowed under the cover of teaching science.

Examples - no, honestly I can't think of one at the moment. I'm not trying to win an argument here. Maybe just convey a perceived sentiment that some of you could perhaps identify with. Whether the perception or sentiment is valid is another matter.

I personally don't want your child or mine having religion of any kind forced on them anywhere, anytime. In my mind at least, it would be wrong and self-defeating even to attempt it. Similarly, I'd prefer that my kid's science teacher (or the authors of the book he/she teaches from) stick to teaching science.

For the record, I'm not a young-earther or even anti-evolution; my personal faith doesn't depend on evolution being false (to me, faith is faith in God, not some sequence of events I've decided occurred in such and such way).

Anyway, I'll be looking out for your kid's right to learn science in a philosophy-free zone, and I hope you'll do the same for mine.