17 March 2009

 

Creationism: Why It Has No Place In Science Classes

Creationism: Is it ignorance or dishonesty?

Preachers who seek to teach Creationism as science are mistaken, or worse.

There was a time when everyone believed Earth was flat. Philosophers and mathematicians found this belief to be flawed. Initially, they were ridiculed or feared. Then, a few took notice, now everyone finds the evidence that the earth is spherical to be overwhelming. It took hundreds of years.

We fly to distant parts of the world, see images from space and accept time differences in various countries, all of which reassures us of the truth of claims that Earth is not flat. Could it all be a conspiracy by scientists to deceive the gullible masses? This seems unlikely, as knowledge of the shape of the earth underpins so much of what our understanding of the modern world is built upon.

There was a time when people believed that the creation stories in scriptures were historical fact. Scientists have found this belief to be flawed. Initially, they were ridiculed or feared. Then, a few took notice and now people find the evidence for both an ancient Earth and for evolution to be overwhelming. That the understanding of evolution underpins so much of what modern medicine and biology is built upon is, for most people, ample evidence that these scientists are right.

However, Creationists still deny the evidence for evolution. Why would they want to distort scientific understanding in order to support their doctrine? Is it ignorance or dishonesty?

Don’t they understand basic science? Is this why they fail to recognise that what they preach is not science and why it should not be taught in schools as science? When they claim evolution is “only a theory”, they appear not to understand what a ‘scientific theory’ is. A ‘scientific theory’ has a different meaning from the word ‘theory’ in general use and does not mean ‘conjecture’ or a ‘hunch’, as Creationist preachers imply. A scientific theory is a body of evidence that explains facts. It is a fact that people fall ill, the Germ Theory of Disease explains this. Gravity is a fact, the Theories of Gravity explain the fact of gravity. It is a fact that living things change over time (evolve) the Theory of Evolution explains how. They clearly don’t know this – or are they deliberately trying to mislead? To teach an ‘alternative theory’ in science, it would be necessary to have an alternative scientific theory to teach.

Do they know, in spite of feeling qualified to lecture on the subject, that their references are sometimes 150 years out of date and many of the ‘gaps’ they speak of have been filled for decades? Have Creationist preachers highlighted, for example, the discovery of tiktaalik rosae in 2004 (Google it. It is fascinating!) or have they denied its existence or played down its significance?

Should we give them the benefit of the doubt, assume their opposition to the Theory of Evolution is based on ignorance and place the blame firmly on our education system? They do not attempt to discredit Germ Theory with the same passion, even though it contradicts Biblical teachings of the causes of disease, so is it dishonesty that drives them? If their faith allows them to be dishonest, doesn’t that pose another question?

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Comments:
The idea that everyone believed the earth was flat in mediaeval times is something of a myth (though they did have difficulty in believing people could live in the antipodes). There's a good book on the subject that came out recently:

http://www.macmillanacademic.com/Academic/Book/BookDisplay.asp?BookKey=7898679

It might make a popular lecture if Christine Garwood could be persuaded to come to Secular Hall to promote her book.
 
I am currently reading Christine Garwood's book (it was probably what prompted me to use that as an example rather than, say demonic possession as an explanation of disease) and it is true that many of the intellectual "elite" understood that the earth was not flat. However, I was referring to the general understanding of the public who were not privy to the thoughts of "great minds" and their common sense, and preaching from the pulpit, informed them that the Earth was flat.

Good idea about inviting Ms. Garwood. I second it!
 

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