Saturday, October 22, 2005

Its not EVILution

Regardless of what circles you find yourself in, the controversy surrounding the teaching of Evolution in schools is bound to surface. Currently in Pennsylvania, Kansas and other states it is being proposed that intelligent Design be taught alongside Evolution as an alternative. And when Evolution is taught a disclaimer must be read stating that Evolution is a theory and not inconclusive in its findings. In fact, according to the Economist 65% of Americans feel that Creationism should be taught alongside Evolution in our public school systems. This however is erroneous and is placing our children at a disadvantage academically. Simply put, the theory of Evolution along with Cell Theory is the foundation of modern Biology.

First, yes Evolution is a Scientific Theory. But it is a Scientific Theory not theory as we colloquially use the word. The dictionary defines Scientific Theory as a set of statements or principles devised to explain a group of facts or phenomena, especially one that has been repeatedly tested or is widely accepted and can be used to make predictions about natural phenomena. Versus meaning a conjecture as we use it in everyday speech. Most of Science is 'Theory', Einstein Theory of Special Relativity, Quantum Theory and so forth. To say we cannot teach Evolution because of a misunderstanding of a word sets a dangerous precedent that threatens all of science.

Secondly, science is based upon the scientific method. Intelligent Design is not. To teach Intelligent Design in a science classroom defies the principles necessary to maintain that discipline. In fact every major and esteemed American Scientific Institute rejects its teaching. Not because they are crazy atheists trying to debunk God. No, they are scientists and require things to be based in observation, experimentation, and reproducible results. Let science teach science, and if you want to debate origins reserve that for a literature or philosophy course.

And finally, I see no reason as a Christian that the two ideas are incompatible. Religion relies upon faith, Science on the scientific method. I enjoy the analogy of Mr. Haught, a Theologian, on the issue of evolution. He asks the question, "What causes a kettle to boil?" One could answer, he said that it is the rapid vibration of water molecules. Or that it is because one has asked one's spouse to switch on the stove. Or that it is "because I want a cup of tea." None of these explanations conflict with one another. In the same way, belief in evolution is compatible with religious faith: an omnipotent God could have very easily created a universe in which life subsequently evolved.


At 5:48 PM, Blogger Bryan said...

Stats and info from: "Life is a Cup of Tea." The Economist 8 Oct. 2005: 38.

At 9:01 PM, Blogger That one guy said...

Okay, so I'm going to take a shot in the dark and post on this. We'll see if anyone is going to read and respond to it (besides possibly Bryan), but history is against me. Regardless, thoughtful and intelligent disucssion--or, simply writing out an argument--is positive and healthy. Maybe this will be evidence of previous thought; or, maybe it will provoke more thought on my part. In any case, it should be fun.

I'm going to try to agree with Bryan, and hope that people will criticize my arguments, just as I will criticize other arguments (even if I agree with them).

You are correct, Bryan, in pointing out that much of science is a theory. That, as you point out, is a difference in definition. Heck, gravity is, technically, a theory. Is anyone going to argue that gravity doesn't exist? I am going to doubt it and be skeptical of anyone who does. The problem with pointing this out is that it is primarily the uninformed who argue that because it is merely a theory evolution should be rejected. The intelligent design (ID) movement--different from the creationism movement--doesn't always argue as such; a wise move.

Your argument that science is based on the scientific method, and anything based on said method should be taught in science class, is probably the best argument in this debate.

Where we run into trouble is when we combine creationism with ID. It is a fantastic strategy for those trying to scuttle ID, but it isn't academically honest; there is a difference in the two. Jonah Avriel Cohen--who rejects ID--notes the difference in an article why a theory he disagrees with (ID) should be taught in schools.

Your point about the two being compatible is commendible and correct. It is called "theistic evolution"; a belief I personally hold. I would recommend "Finding Darwin's God," by Kennith Miller (ironically, the first witness called in the recent evolution v. ID case; called to show evolution is scientifically sound). At one point, Miller writes: "There is therefore no reason for believers to draw a line in the sand between God and Darwin. The opponents of evolution have put their money on the wrong horse, and they fail to see that betting so consistently against science is a losing proposition--not for science, but certainly for religion."

He continues: "Each and every increase in our understanding of the natural world should be a step towards God, and not, as many people assume, a step away."

I would note, as well, that Darwin, in his "Origin of the Species," left open the possibility that there was a creator behind all of what he proposed. Just a note.

Before I sign off, I want to give some additional comments for discussion. At this point, we seem to be on the same page, and I want to create some controversy. Note: I don't endorse all that I am going to propose.


If evolution is what happened and how it happened--which I would argue it is--and ID/creation is why (and, to some degree) how it happened, what is wrong with teaching our children about that? Are we trying to hide something from our children? Now, I'm not arguing that we say, "In seven days God created the earth. And he called it good." But, what is wrong with saying that everything is extremely complex, and evidence seems to point to there being a designer--whoever it is. We wouldn't be advocating any one religion over another, thereby not violating the Supreme Court's interpretation of the "separation of church and state." To keep this knowledge (of fact or, if one disagrees with it, culture) hinders our children. We should, therefore, teach our children as much about the subject as is possible.


Why can't we teach our children the several theories of creation? We could teach creationism, Greek and Roman mythology, etc.

Anyway, just my two cents.

At 11:36 AM, Blogger humble_groove said...

I'm reading a book right now titled "The Story We Find Ourselves In" by Brian D. McLaren. It's an interesting read, and a very welcome new perspective on being a "christian" and various beliefs/theories, including the topic of this post. Definitely worth your time if you have any to spare - pretty freeing.

At 9:40 PM, Blogger bombasticbeats said...

McLaren has written some good stuff. I read A New Kind of Christian which I enjoyed. He is definately on the cusp of some new and freeing ideas about what it means to live and think as a Christian in today's society. And I agree that we need not be afraid of the theory of evolution.

At 5:41 PM, Blogger Bryan said...

In response to Tom, ragarding the two counter-points: First, the problem is that we possess no proof that ID is the why. The evidence is our being and the mere complexity of life, yet scientificaly we dont see the signiture of God persay. It remains a matter of faith. Yet most people would indeed argue that they do believe in God and that he was the creator. But where and how do you teach that in a public academic setting remains tricky as I am sure you are aware. Secondly at least at KU we are taught several creations stories from a variety of sects. However, they are taught as that, merely stories--myth as you will. Anyhow thats my thoughts, sorry I have been busy and have had a hard time getting on to respond. Keep it real Tom.

At 2:13 PM, Blogger RahX said...

It also takes faith to believe in theory.

At 9:54 AM, Blogger Heather said...

Check out this discussion my really smart friend posted... think it is related A Pet Peeve: Intelligent Design as a Scientific Theory
I can't even get in the discussion, but Nolan definitely can.


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