Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Blog Agaisnt Theocracy: How the infusion of religion into education and the public hurts us scientifically

In this day an age with the line between Church and State being made dangerously thin, one of the biggest areas of danger with this is the injection of religion into the last place it belongs..science classes.
There is a push to include Creationism and Intelligent Design as competing "theories" with Evolution. One of the thing that religious fundamentalists don't seem to understand is the difference between a theory and a hypothesis. An hypothesis is an idea that is going to be tested by the scientific method to see if it is valid. A theory while it can apply to unproven data or ideas from time to time (often in an incorrect way) is an idea that has been tested by the scientific method and shown to have scientific validity. That doesn't mean its "the truth" and therefore unassailable, it means that the basic ideas in the theory have shown scientific validity, but theories also can be challenged with new data on the mechanisms of that.
Evolution is an accepted theory, it is not an unproven (and really unprovable) hypothesis like Intelligent Design or the BELIEF of creationism. Neither of these topics have a place in a science or data based/critical thinking arena.
The fundamentalists make the case that science is a "belief" that challenges religion. It is NOT a belief and is a totally separate realm from religious beliefs. Again it seems that many have forgotten the difference between opinion, belief and verifiable facts.
But it isn't just the classroom where religious beliefs hurt our science. Look at the valuable research into such topics as Stem Cells. We have the potential as the wealthiest country in the world to help fight and cure some truly awful diseases like Parkinson's as well as some horrible conditions like spinal paralysis. But because of the religious "beliefs" that a bunch of frozen cells in a petri dish are the equivalent of a human baby (read the scientific definition of life sometime to see how incorrect this "belief" really is), we are terribly hamstrung in this field. Breakthroughs are coming, but its the Europeans and other western countries who don't quite have the resources that we do.
If we can separate out the religious beliefs from the field of science there is so much we as a country can accomplish.

2 comments:

j said...

I am continually stunned by the shallowness exhibited in the debate over science and religion. This post is not the worst, but it is right up there. Is this what our schools are turning out? Do they teach history, philosophy or even thinking skills anymore? Here is a basic starting point: Name calling is not an appropriate component of rational discourse. But if you are inclined to indulge anyway, at least start from a factually defensible base.

sue said...

Have you heard of the saying "the pot is calling the kettle black?".
I don't believe that distinguiishing between a hypothesis and theory is "name" calling or saying that religion involves, gasp!, belief in the unprovable is an attack either.
As for critical thinking skills mine are just fine thank you, I could not be as successful in my career in places like NIH without them. And I can pretty much guaruntee that I know MUCH more history and philosophy than the average american. As for facts..I have a whole textbook of facts next to me called "Evolutionary Biology". Including some heavy mathematical models which illustrate the genetic process of evolution in such areas as genetic drift and mutation. Perhaps you have a way to disprove the Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium which predicts how population genetics changes and influences evolution :
where p2+q2= D2.
Since you seem familiar with the basic tenets of evolution based on your comments I am assuming you are familiar with these mathematical models and can disprove them mathematically as well.