Friday, June 6, 2008

Strengths and weaknesses

First they tried to undermine science education by teaching creationism in the science classrooms. That failed, so they repackaged the same bullshit and called it "Intelligent Design." That certainly sounded more science-y, but it failed in the courts, as it was obvious that they were pushing religion. Have they finally given up? Nope. Now, the new catchphrase is "strengths and weaknesses."

I read about this on the New York Times website. According to the article, there are several states where they're trying to pass legislation where science classes would be required to teach the strengths and weaknesses in the theory of evolution. Much like Intelligent Design, this probably sounds like a reasonable argument to the layperson. If there are problems with the theory, then why not teach them?

But that's just the thing - there are no weaknesses in the theory. It's been around for over 150 years, and ever since then people have been saying that its time was coming to an end. But what's happened? With further advances in science, Darwin's ideas are only strengthened. When they started analyzing human DNA, the theory could have been completely tossed out if the evidence didn't back it up. But what happened instead? DNA only backed up Darwin's ideas. (After all - Darwin didn't know that our genetic structure was nearly 99% the same as a chimpanzees, now did he?)

Of course, students should be taught that everything in science is open to question. As many scientists have pointed out, all you'd need to do is find a rabbit skeleton in the same strata as a T-Rex (or some other thing where you have two species that evolution teaches us have been separated by millions of years). A single discovery of something like that would toss evolution out the window, and we'd have to take another look at life's origins. Or, you could find a reptile with the genetic code for nipples - that would do it as well - but guess what? Nobody's finding anything to disprove evolution.

So, everything's open to question. If one day you drop a ball and it flies up in the air, there goes that whole gravity thing.

It really is amazing though when it comes to evolution. You meet people who are completely reasonable when it comes to most everything, but they simply have a brick wall in their brain when it comes to this. They can accept all of the advances of science, but they can't accept that the very same processes conclude that different sorts of animals have a common ancestor. The disinformation campaign is quite astounding. I even had a student once, who as far as I could tell wasn't religious in any way, say that he was mad that they taught evolution in his science class when it's a "bunch of crap." I was flabbergasted by this. I know that we have some great science teachers at my school, and I'm sure that they went over the scientific method and the evidence for evolution. Why else then would he say something so profoundly ignorant?

I guess that there's just something about it that threatens people. Part of me thinks that maybe it's just that some people are just too stupid to comprehend it, but lots of people accept things that they don't comprehend. I don't really understand how a 747 stays in the air, but I don't think that it's done through sorcery as a result. Perhaps it's because a lot of people mistakenly think that it negates their faith - a notion that many atheists have done a good job of promoting, although wrongfully so (I've mentioned how lame I think that the Darwin fishes are in a previous blog).

But there's the good news, this whole "strengths and weaknesses" is a good sign in my mind. While certainly it amounts to a waste of time, the creationists are learning that they can't win any sort of objective argument that relies on facts. They have to keep moving the goal post. Once this gets tossed out on its ear, they'll have to try an even weaker strategy. What will it be though? "At least mention things that are unreasonable."

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