Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Teach science in school, not superstition

After that last one about my senator, I have to write about the President now.

In case you missed it, the President feels that intelligent design should be taught beside evolution in schools. I cannot begin to tell you the problems with this. I whole-heartedly respect the office of the president. I hate talking about politics because it can be so divisive. I must, however, offer an opinion on this intelligent design debate.

Firstly, others have covered this ground far better than I and in more detail (see Slacktivist post 1, 2, 3, 4). However, I will not stand quietly while wrongheaded thinking occurs around me. Be warned that intelligent design is just a new package for creationism. The creationists can be very clever in their marketing of their ideas.

Aside from the fact that creationism is wrong it also poses the wrong question. Nothing I say in this post prevents the existence of a Creator. But in science that isn't the right question. I thought that we are teaching our children things in school that will allow them to grow up and be productive members of society. The scientific method outlines a process for finding out things and generates models of our world that are good enough for us to act on them and depend on them.

Propose a hypothesis, test it by performing some experiments, check to see if the data support the hypothesis, if not alter the hypothesis, if the data supports the hypothesis come up with some more experiments. Wash, rinse, repeat. This is how we do science. Nothing is sacred, we test the theory to see if it holds up. The ones that hold up we keep testing and a body of evidence builds as we do this. The ones that don't hold up to scrutiny we throw out. The tested theory provides a model we can use to predict and understand the world. We have built the greatest civilization that has ever existed in human history using this process.

Evolution is just one of many theories that has withstood the process and is supported by evidence piled on evidence. Your cell phone works because Maxwell wrote some equations down and others tested them. Every call you make tests them. Your car engine follows the laws of thermodynamics as Gibbs wrote them, every mile you drive confirms the rightness of the theory and of the scientific method as a way of discovering a true model of how the world works. Intelligent design and creationism is more about ignoring uncomfortable data and a hypothesis that is untestable and so useless for relating to the world around me.

This is all becoming more important as humanity wrestles with how our actions affect the planet and the ecosystem we depend on to live. It is very important that we have the correct models so that we can do the right things to improve our lives and others, not wrong ones that may lead us to ruin.

How the world came to be is a topic that science and religion can both address. Science does not preclude a Creator, but incorrect models of the world prevent us from understanding the world and thriving in it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Did you vote for him?