Wednesday, June 22, 2005

It's just a word, right?

This morning's Gazette (6/22/05) has really punctuated its ignorance. It used to be that j-schools required an understanding of science to graduate. It was part of the curriculum. Obviously it isn't enforced today. What we have on the front page of today's paper is a blatant rejection of science on behalf of a deliberately ignorant part of our population: those who believe in creationism and "intelligent" design.

First: There is no scientific controversy regarding evolution. That's a fact. Those who want to call it a controversy are not scientists, but like the Discovery Institute spokesperson in the article who is a political scientist, they are from other professions, including engineers (who are not scientists in the pure sense of the word). The scientists who stayed out of the Kansas controversy were correct. It is not their argument or controversy. It is the controversy by people who "believe" something different but have no justification for that belief. The item cited in the article concerns an effort to disprove something by claiming (a belief) that it is too complicated to have arrived by itself. Yet it is here and no one can disprove that it didn't occur by itself. Intelligent design is belief that propagates itself by raising false issues in the hope of selling them to people who haven't studied the science. It relies on superstition and myth and deliberate ignorance.

Second: Evolution is a scientific theory. Let's be plain about that. A scientific "theory" is a well-established concept supported by innumerable discoveries that have been dated again and again along a well-determined path that leads, for instance, from light sensitive cells in some types of primitive worms to human eyes, dogs' eyes, cats eyes and even bee's eyes, all of which have adapted to serve the specific function of the animal. A scientific theory begins with a realization that something is unknown. The observer then studies the unknown and comes up with some ideas that can tested. These are considered hypotheses. Since they can be tested, the observer can run experiments to indicate whether the ideas have some validity or don't have validity. The observer then discards those which show no validity and retests those that seem to have some until he has enough results that he sees a connnection. He will then publish a paper that is reviewed by other scientists who have knowledge about the problem. They may also run experiments to see how correctly done his were. If they see the same results enough times, the connection becomes a scientific theory. This process is what led to the downfall of cold fusion claims made a few years ago by scientists in Utah. A scientist is not infallible, but science tends to be self correcting because of the peer review and repetition of experiments.

The creationists and id people say we can see no such changes today. But we see evolution in action in our world every time a disease becomes resistant to the current drugs being used against it. The immunity derives from the survival of those few members of the disease bacteria that can resist the drug long enough to propagate descendants who are also immune. Neither creationism nor intelligent design fall into this category of "theory." Rather they belong to the common usage definition of theory as "pie in the sky" with no factual context behind it. This is a whole different ball game from scientific theory. A scientist would absolutely refuse to remain in the vicinity of a nuclear bomb about to go off because he would have an understanding that something real underlies the "theory" of relativity. But I should be able to talk someone who believes a theory is "pie in the sky" into sitting on Fat Boy while I detonate it (from miles and miles away). The caption writer on the front page of today's Gazette doesn't seem to understand the difference in the words and newsmen are supposed to understand word meanings, are they not? He is using apples and oranges.

Third: Harvest Church may be committing child abuse. When two high school seniors, who have spent 12 years in the system, are apparently told by church leaders that creationism is a valid scientific belief that deserves respect from scientists for whom it has been discredited often and completely and that as a result the student's opinions deserve "respect" and attention from teachers, the church is committing child abuse. It is encouraging the children in ways that will make them less able to live in our world. Since I have to believe that any other teachings it puts out may also demean science, it is also abusing me since I must live in the same world with its congregation who are deliberately ignorant concerning science which dominates the world in which we live.

2 Comments:

Blogger KarbonKountyMoos said...

Chuck, I couldn't even read it - went right to the funnies.

2:50 PM  
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