10 February 2007

Teach the Revolution!

The state of dialog between evolutionists (Darwinists in the view of creationists) and creationists (IDiots in the view of evolutionists) is truly terrible, but perhaps that's the way it should be. Perhaps the entire ID schtick is as vapid as claimed, and they should be given no quarter whatsoever. They come on so reasonably with plausible sounding critiques of Darwinian natural selection, one is tempted to take them seriously, or at least I have been for about four years now. But my recent explorations have pretty much cleared up any doubts I may have had about whether ID critiques of natural selection need to be taken seriously. They don't. These are the quibbles of people with ulterior motives, and don't stand up to scrutiny at all. Even if they did, their source pretty much disqualifies them, since these folks have no serious interest in improving our understanding of life, only in tearing it down.

So it is fair to conclude that science and education simply cannot afford the indulgence of "teaching the controversy." But I would carry it a step farther than simply ejecting creationism and ID from our schools. In my view, we should be teaching the revolution in human thought that took us from creationism to natural selection. Our best physics curricula teach the revolution in astronomy that wrenched us from the geocentric Ptolemaic universe to the heliocentric Copernican revolution, forever changing our understanding of our own place in the universe. Similarly we should teach the revolution in biology that took us from creationism to the Darwinian revolution. The change has been even more transformative and religiously-disturbing in this case, and clearly we are still struggling with it, but the time has come to stop treading lightly and respectfully toward religion on this and to make a point of stating the case for science. So yes, by all means let us teach both creationism and natural selection in our schools, but let us put them in their proper perspective and say clearly and emphatically that creationism has been superseded in modern thought, with repercussions that religious believers must confront and reconcile with their dogmas.

There should no claim here that Darwinian evolution is the final story, but neither should there be a mistaken impression given that there is any possible return to the idea that a supernatural intelligence might help us explain our world and how we came to it. We can marvel at the incredible grandeur and exquisitely detailed complexity of the universe and life within it, and at the universal laws that so clearly regulate it throughout. But we will gain no useful wisdom for this world from the idea that we must eventually face a designer-creator in another.

So let's teach the revolution as the revolution that it truly is and not as a controversy. Still it is well to keep in mind Carl Sagan's Baloney Detection Kit, which includes: "Encourage substantive debate on the evidence by knowledgeable proponents of all points of view." Click the title or graphic of this post and then click: "Ideas"

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