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Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Why the Creationism fight matters

Here's a comment on the Minnetonka Creationism issue that I want to talk about because it's a good starting point for why this is important. No disrespect intended to Anonymous.

I worked for Dave and he's a good man.
He may very well be a good man. I don't know him, so I really can't agree or disagree with this statement. His approach to science standards, however, are wrong and harmful.

The need for applying logic to faith seems foolish. Let's each believe what we believe and not pick on each other.
I don't think anybody is trying to apply logic to faith. If anything, people want to apply faith to logic: they want to bring their particular faith into the realm of science, where logic reigns supreme. I agree that they should be separate. That's why people are fighting this Creationism nonsense.

Comparative religion yes.
Completely agree with you there. In fact, I would like to see comparative religion classes required in schools. However, this would not make most Creationists happy; in fact, it would do the opposite. A true comparative religion class would teach each religion not as a dogma, but as a subject to be pored over, discussed, argued over, picked apart, and put under the microscope to tease out the realities of religious histories. They would include discussions about inconsistencies, inaccuracies, misstatements, and the context that each religion was created in. Religious fundamentalists would have a heart attack if schools took this approach. They want their particular religion taught as fact, not as something that is open to debate.

I took a comparative religion course in high school and I found it to be very helpful.

Scientific process yes.
Can't say I argue with this one.

One scientific answer to every issue no.
Well, I do have a problem here. There really is one scientific answer to issues that can be addressed scientifically. The computer I am typing on works because all of its constituent parts conform to a group of specific scientific "answers": take any away, and the computer doesn't function. When I drop something, it falls to the ground because of one scientific answer: gravity. It doesn't fall because of gravity sometimes and invisible gnomes other times. Science is about finding the theory that best fits the observed data.

There are plenty of issues that science can't address. I think that Creationists are afraid that scientists are somehow trying to make these issues go away or something, but they aren't. They simply can't be answered by science because they are in the realm of metaphysics: by definition, they are beyond science. Thus, while science can tell us what happened in the first trillionth of a second after the Big Bang, science can't answer the question, "Why the Big Bang?" That is where faith comes into the picture. There is no need for conflict between faith and science if both sides realize the limits of their respective fields. Now, by and large, scientists do so; you never see any scientists going around trying to "disprove" God. But apparently lots of members of the faith community don't understand the limits of their field, since they are very openly trying to "disprove" science.

I'm sorry but all you "open minded" scientists have to let other people have their say without being indignant. Isn't being open minded what the process is about?
This issue has never been about not letting people have their say. It's about where people have the chance to do so.

Creationism is not science. People have every right to believe it, but they don't have the right to teach it to others as science, any more than I would have the right to teach that I have magical powers in a science class. Comparative religion, fine. Philosophy, fine. Creation stories around the world, fine. But it is not science.

Of course, scientific theories can change. An accepted theory is that which best adheres to observed data; there is always a chance that a better theory will be found one day. It does happen. However, science does not mean that you expose children to every crackpot theory out there because there's a slight chance that the currently accepted theory may not be the best one. If another theory is found one day that is better than evolution, it's not going to be found in grade school or high school classrooms, or even college classrooms in all likelihood. It's going to be found by experts using the scientific method. It does students a huge disservice to imply that scientific theories can be replaced at the drop of a hat, or that a classroom is the right way to determine which theory is best. Of course, since Creationism isn't a scientific theory, so it won't be included by default.

Also, "open-mindedness" is a good thing, but being open minded is not what science is all about. Being open to new hypotheses, yes. Being so open minded that you throw away the rules of science in order to advance your pet unscientific theory, no. I would be open minded about Creationism as science if somebody, anybody, could point out how it is science. Since nobody can, I'm not.

As a leap of faith, I'm not interested in Creationism, but that's just my personal choice. I have my own metaphysical beliefs. They don't include Creationism. They also aren't very interesting to anybody but me, and I'm not really bent on converting anybody to my cause. In the end, it's nothing more than a parlor game, something that you believe is that "gets you through the night." How I live my life can be pretty much summed up as the Golden Rule anyway.

Faith is something that is ultimately up to the individual, which is another reason why I really don't understand why fundamentalists are so hell-bent on injecting religion into schools. The only conclusion I can reach is that these people are so unsure of their own faith that they need the cloak of some kind of "official sanction" in terms of schools so that they can believe it. That's sad. The people whom I have known with real faith can handle even critical discussions of their faith and survive. Not the weak, though.

Can't we all just get along?
I think you should address that question to the Creationists. If people want to believe in Creationism, fine. As long as they know it's not science, who cares? Those who are fighting Creationism are not interested in getting people to repudiate Creationism as a faith belief. Hell, there are people who believe that the Earth is only 6,000 years old, and as long as they aren't geologists or people who are setting the curricula for schools, I guess it doesn't hurt me. But it's not science, and these beliefs don't help us understand the world around us, which is what science is for. It's the Creationists who want to elevate their faith beliefs to the level of science, though, and they are the ones who can't get along with those people who want to keep science and faith separate.

If people would just understand the differences between faith and science, we wouldn't have these problems.


At 11:31 PM, December 14, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

They are ignorant people who desire to control their image of god. They never bothered to learn anything about biology or geology. A magic wand by a god wizard is the most they can grasp. They are stupid people who choose to keep the candle of their faith covered. They refuse to understand the difference between flesh and soul. "when you start seeing people as souls-that changes everything." Robert Bly or Joseph Campbell or somebody else. It is only control over the flesh that is important to these idiots.


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