Friday, May 22, 2009

Do you think they teach evolution at Hogwarts?

Yesterday, I felt like a real patriot. I called my state senator to voice my opinion on an upcoming issue. The seating of Don McLeroy as Chairman on the Board of Education has come under some controversy and I told my senator to vote against him. I doubt he will because the senator for our area is Republican like McLeroy and I would imagine they would have each others backs.

If you haven't heard of McLeroy, he's the guy who fights tooth and nail for keeping evolution out of biology text books and putting Creationism in. Now, I'm a Deist, which to me just means that if I had to bet on it, I'd probably say there's a "god" who may or may not have sparked the big bang. Whether or not there was a plan or design that he/she/it/they guided, I have no idea. So that being said, the idea of a Divine involvement in the how and why we're here isn't entirely foreign to me. But that's philosophy, not science. Science is the study of things we know, not the things that some people in the class may or may not believe. Science is falsifiable or can be tested. Creationism and Intelligent Design (which is essentially the same thing) don't qualify, and therefore don't belong in biology text books. I'm not picking on believers, I have no problem with them discussing it in philosophy class, but saying its science is a falsehood. Its not a political issue, its just a matter of one thing not being another. Religion isn't science, doesn't try to be, has never been, possibly never will be.

(Please don't mistake me for qualifying religion and science as Non-Overlapping Magisteria. I don't. I agree with Dawkins that god's existence is a scientific matter and just because we currently have no way of testing it, doesn't mean that we never will.)

I was thinking about school this morning, as well, because I was listening to the Bobby Bones show on the way to work and Bobby was talking about how he gave a speech at a graduation ceremony yesterday. It got me thinking about what I would say if I were to be asked to give such a speech, for some unforeseeable reason. What would I want/need to hear? I don't know, honestly, other than to tell them that life is short and better spent filled with love and lived to the fullest. What I think I really needed to hear (assuming that Young Taylor would've listened), I needed to hear much earlier than graduation. I would've told me that education is less about learning facts and formulas(though they are immensely important) and more about learning how to think. Logic, reason, and creativity are the most important things being developed in our schools. Hopefully, those things are being taught in school, while at home kids learn kindness, humility, and responsibility. I wish I'd taken my education more seriously, now. I hope I can convince Harper how important it is, and how lucky she is to be able to go to the schools she'll go to. About a year of substituting in these schools has left me impressed. Compared to the school I went to, these are like Hogwarts.

So, personal rants aside, I just want my daughter to have as thorough an education as possible without anyone pushing their agendas on her. Our forefathers understood the need for separation of Church and State, so what could be more patriotic or American, than insisting that we keep the science in science class and the theology in church?


  1. You're probably going to hear the argument that there is more than one way to "know" something, ie, faith is an acceptable means of "knowing" something. And that scientists accept the Theory of Evolution on their own kind of faith, because a "theory" (when the word is used in the wrong context by creationists) is not proven.

    I wish that these debates were not so predictable, yet I can't seem to stay away from them.

  2. I agree that we should not teach religions ideas in schools. However, we should not teach theories as facts either and mislead students. Evolution is still a theory across the board according to scientists.

    I equate the word "theory" with the word "faith." So in a way, you could say that evolution is a religion based on the teachings of a scientist.

    You need to see Ben Stein's documentary on the teaching of Intelligent Design called Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. It's probably not what you think it is. It's very good.

  3. Wow. I think Teresa and I were posting at the same time and she beat me here. The reason you've heard it is because it's true! ;)

  4. In science, the word "theory" is not used to refer to something that is just an idea, like the common, everyday use of the word. Gravity is just a "theory", but does anyone actually think gravity is not a fact? Saying something is a "theory" in science is pretty much saying it's fact.

  5. Seth, the word "theory" in a scientific sense doesn't mean the same thing that it would mean if you and I said we had a theory about something.

    "Calling the theory of evolution 'only a theory' is, strictly speaking, true, but the idea it tries to convey is completely wrong. The argument rests on a confusion between what 'theory' means in informal usage and in a scientific context. A theory, in the scientific sense, is 'a coherent group of general propositions used as principles of explanation for a class of phenomena' [Random House American College Dictionary]. The term does not imply tentativeness or lack of certainty. Generally speaking, scientific theories differ from scientific laws only in that laws can be expressed more tersely. Being a theory implies self-consistency, agreement with observations, and usefulness. (Creationism fails to be a theory mainly because of the last point; it makes few or no specific claims about what we would expect to find, so it can't be used for anything. When it does make falsifiable predictions, they prove to be false.) " - From the archive.

    So when scientists say "the Theory of Evolution" they're not in anyway saying that they haven't proven it to be true. This is an incredibly common misinterpretation that Creationist extremist exploit. I propose they find a new word for the scientific definition of "theory" that's not so confusing.

    I've actually been meaning to see that documentary but I just can't bring myself to watch Ben Stein for that long.

  6. Ben Stein is a complete hack. I don't blame you.

  7. I always wish Hogwarts were real :(.

  8. A "proposition" is defined as a proposal;offer;suggestion;and ASSERTION either set forth to be demonstrated as in geometry or ASSUMED true as in the premises of syllogism"-not fact or law!

  9. theory - A system of ideas intended to explain something, esp. one based on general principles independent of the thing to be explained : Darwin's theory of evolution. OXFORD DICTIONARY

    Any serious biologist (and probably any other scientist) will tell you the same thing, evolution has continued to stand up because all the observations work with, not against, its principles.

    This is another example of science saying "Here are the facts, based on these, what conclusions, if any, can we draw?" and religion saying "The Bible is the conclusion, what information can we dig up to support it?"

    The world is not 6000 years old, humankind did not originate in the Mediterranean, no one could fit 2 of every species of animal on a boat of any size, and it took a lot longer than 6 days for life to become complex.

    Personally, I would much rather believe that we slowly diverged from the same family as the ape, than believe that we're all the product of inbreeding as the Bible implies.

  10. All the semantics games in the world aren't going to make the theory of evolution any less true and verifiable.