Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Evolving under our noses

In 1925 a teacher named Thomas Scopes was put on trial in the U.S. for teaching the scientific theory of Evolution in class in Tennessee. From all accounts of the trial the people who opposed Mr. Scopes demonstrated a level of understanding of science about on par with what one might expect from a monkey. From what I gather, the opponents held a rather simple view: if a theory of the origin of life was not fully compatible with the account of the origin of life as stated in the Christian Bible, then it was incorrect. Darwin’s theory of Evolution was a form of heresy.

Eighty years later (i.e., the present time), the Kansas State Board of Education has apparently decided that the most rational way to reconcile science with theology is to redefine science itself so that it is not explicitly limited to natural explanations. In other words, in Kansas a theory can invoke supernatural explanations of phenomena and still be considered “science” and therefore can be included in the curriculum of science education in that state. So the strategy of Creationists has changed: if they can’t force people to accept that theology trumps science, then the solution is to ignore the essential differences between the two and then insist that the two world views they represent get equal time in the classroom when the pupils are being taught about science. It is, in other words, a denial of one of the elements that makes science a science. Whatever claims the advocates of Intelligent Design make to legitimize their paradigm, they still fall short of being scientific because there is no way to test their theories. “Intelligent Design” is a black box that has to be accepted on faith if it’s accepted at all, and sheds about as much light on the mechanics of the origin of life as discussions of how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

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