1. We might say that science is simply one way of knowing, and that we can only include things in the course that imply that way of knowing, but empiricism, the idea that data or observation can directly prove something, that it is interpretation-free is a privileged idea that gets a lot more air time than any other way of knowing. Witness the kids in my first-year writing classes who all think they can prove abortion is bad with statistics.
2. We may say that publicaiton in leading journals is the sign of good science, but those who decide what gets published are often biased against certain ideas. Witness an associate who rejected an article without serious consideration because it was about a theory that was counter to what she saw as mainstream research in the are and that she saw as part of a “quack” field of inquiry. I think it would be much harder to be published as a researcher whose conclusions favored ID than as a researcher whose conclusions favored evolution.
3. At the same time, discourse in fields favors certain ideas. At times, it is hard to write about certain ideas/theories without sounding a bit less credible if only because the terms used to describe certain ideas in that field of inquiry label those ideas a less credible.
4. People do often decide to lobby for the inclusion of other ways of knowing in the high school curriculum, but things that question the primacy of empiricism get labeled as religious or radical. Back-to-basics political rallying cries like the no-child fiasco take the thrust out of programs to help kids think about what they are learning, and high school is increasingly a place where kids are expected to simply absorb “facts.”
5. My own take–I do believe that evolution is an operative force. I was lucky enough to be taught evolution in a department that was more than half LDS. They never taught ID, but they did keep our minds open on the implications of evolution. Thus I never became defensive about evolution and it wasn’t hard for me to believe in evolution and be a member of the church. I must point out that this left a host of possibilities open, and I still believe in a limited view of evolution. The frist presidency has been fairly clear in their statement on the origins of man that man did not evolve from lower forms of life. If I had been taught evolutionary ideas by someone whose agenda was to break down my faith in anything but materialism, I may have reacted very differently when comparing what I had been taught with such first-presidency statements.
There was a really good David O McKay lecture on the subject a little over a year ago at BYU Hawaii. The talk isn’t up on the web yet, but there is an article at:
“If irreducible complexist really is an issue then present the argument of irreducible complexity, not the idea that a Designer is the only other option.”
The problem is, however, that the argument of irreducible complexity isn’t very good. Ruse uses the example of those semi-circular stone bridges. It couldn’t have been built piece by piece because it would have collapsed. Therefore, God must have built all semi-circle stone bridges in the world. Not true, because there once were peices supporting the semi-circle and once the stone were all in place the under structure could be taken away, leaving us with what we have now.
The same is true for irreducible design. Organs don’t have to be used for the same function and therefore be subject to the same selective pressures forever. Selection works on whatever is available. Not only that, but some parts of an organ, or even an entire organ itself, can disappear if it serves no selective advantage, just like the bridges under structure.
Suddenly, complexity is actually quite reducible indeed. Of course actually saying that systems could have evolved bit by bit is something other than showing that it actually did evolve bit by bit. But this caveat simply reduces the matter to the typical creationist argument that until you show me how each and every thing has evolved gradually I won’t budge an inch. This is, as Paulsen has noted, an unstable appeal to ignorance, a Designer of the gaps if you will, who will only exist so long and inasmuch as there are gaps.]]>
I don’t actually want Creationism/ID/religious creation myths taught in school. Trust me folks, I’m very much on the other side of this issue. Completely. I was just trying to make the point that people who feel threatened by evolutionary theory should think about what “science” class is for, and not get caught up in the epistemological battles in the classroom.
I was probably uncharacteristically conciliatory in tone, which led some to think I was more sympathetic for the other team than I really am.
The more troubling aspect of ID is that it doesn’t answer who created the Designer. So really they’ve just shifted the question of where intelligence comes from. Since they didn’t like the answer that evolution came up with they’ve moved the target, but it still doesn’t work as scientific theory.
Of course Mormonism allows for an endless recursion of designers designing designers. Oddly enough, Mormonism also includes a form of natural selection in this process…]]>
Mormon kids get get seminary and institute. In college anyone can take philosophy. What more do you want?]]>
I also find his views regarding the theory/fact status of evolution to be very helpful. He separated evolution into 3 aspects: 1) evolution as fact, namely that it happened. This is undisputed among scientists and the evidence is simply overwhelming. To say that evolution happened is but a theory really is ridiculous. 2) mechanisms of evolution, as in how it happened. Right now the main mechanism is supposed to be natural selection, however other mechanisms are occasionally put forth and even accepted. It is possible that natural selection could be over thrown, but it seems really doubtful. 3) path of evolution, what path did a particular species follow in their evolutionary past? Obviously, since there are millions of species which need to be studied, this field is still largely theory. Of course there are holes here, which IDists love to exploit, but this is not because the idea of evolution is flawed. It’s only because we are humans who have little access to the past for obvious reasons, and to the present to the limited man-hours. It should be pointed out that Behe’s book is entirely based on exploiting this natural gap in our knowledge.
Thus in one sense evolution really is as factual as you could ever hope a science to be, but in other aspects it is theoretical, due to no fault of its own.
I do think that as long as the arguments against evolution go unmet, which is a big qualifier since most of their arguments have been met, these criticisms should be presented, but probably not to high schoolers. This is different from actually teaching Intelligent Design, which can hardly be considered science at all. If irreducible complexist really is an issue (and I personally don’t think it is) then present the argument of irreducible complexity, not the idea that a Designer is the only other option.
If the ID’s have science to offer, lets see it, but if all they have is a magical “designer” who does all the work, lets recognize it for what it is.]]>
I think many religious people feel comfortable writing off evolution because it is “just a theory.” But theory doesn’t mean the same thing to scientists that it means to lay people.
Here is some really good info explaining the difference, from http://wilstar.com/theories.htm
(Sorry this is so long, but this is such a pet peeve, that I have to post it. Delete it if you must…)
Three such terms that are often used interchangeably are “scientific law,” “hypothesis,” and “theory.”
In layman’s terms, if something is said to be “just a theory,” it usually means that it is a mere guess, or is unproved. It might even lack credibility. But in scientific terms, a theory implies that something has been proven and is generally accepted as being true.
Here is what each of these terms means to a scientist:
Scientific Law: This is a statement of fact meant to explain, in concise terms, an action or set of actions. It is generally accepted to be true and univseral, and can sometimes be expressed in terms of a single mathematical equation. Scientific laws are similar to mathematical postulates. They don’t really need any complex external proofs; they are accepted at face value based upon the fact that they have always been observed to be true.
Some scientific laws, or laws of nature, include the law of gravity, the law of thermodynamics, and Hook’s law of elasticity.
Hypothesis: This is an educated guess based upon observation. It is a rational explanation of a single event or phenomenon based upon what is observed, but which has not been proved. Most hypotheses can be supported or refuted by experimentation or continued observation.
Theory: A theory is more like a scientific law than a hypothesis. A theory is an explanation of a set of related observations or events based upon proven hypotheses and verified multiple times by detached groups of researchers. One scientist cannot create a theory; he can only create a hypothesis.
In general, both a scientific theory and a scientific law are accepted to be true by the scientific community as a whole. Both are used to make predictions of events. Both are used to advance technology.
The biggest difference between a law and a theory is that a theory is much more complex and dynamic. A law governs a single action, whereas a theory explains a whole series of related phenomena.
An analogy can be made using a slingshot and an automobile.
A scientific law is like a slingshot. A slingshot has but one moving part–the rubber band. If you put a rock in it and draw it back, the rock will fly out at a predictable speed, depending upon the distance the band is drawn back.
An automobile has many moving parts, all working in unison to perform the chore of transporting someone from one point to another point. An automobile is a complex piece of machinery. Sometimes, improvements are made to one or more component parts. A new set of spark plugs that are composed of a better alloy that can withstand heat better, for example, might replace the existing set. But the function of the automobile as a whole remains unchanged.
A theory is like the automobile. Components of it can be changed or improved upon, without changing the overall truth of the theory as a whole.
Some scientific theories include the theory of evolution, the theory of relativity, and the quantum theory. All of these theories are well documented and proved beyond reasonable doubt. Yet scientists continue to tinker with the component hypotheses of each theory in an attempt to make them more elegant and concise, or to make them more all-encompassing. Theories can be tweaked, but they are seldom, if ever, entirely replaced.]]>