Science and technology

Don’t think twice, it’s all right

Lemme bang on about this some more. Ben Fulton, writing for the Salt Lake City Weekly, discusses the teaching of so-called intelligent design in public schools. He makes the same point that I’ve made: Shutting off scientific inquiry by saying God (or a god or gods or alien beings or pink unicorns) is harmful to the human mind. An excerpt:

Just imagine that, for every question you presented to someone in power, they answered with the words, “We don’t really know. It’s a mystery.” Now imagine if you or your child asked a question about the origin of the human species in a science class, only to have a learned instructor tell you, “We don’t really know. It’s a mystery.” Would anyone dare call that education?

Lest you think that Fulton’s “We don’t really know; it’s a mystery” is exaggerating the viewpoint of intelligent-design proponents, here’s a quote from the Newsweek article that Fulton references:

But I.D. has nothing to say on the identity of the designer or how he gets inside the cell to do his work. Does he create new species directly, or meddle with the DNA of living creatures? … Meyer’s view is simply that “we don’t know.” He declines even to offer an opinion on whether people are descended from apes, on the ground that it’s not his specialty. The diversity of life, in his view, is a “mystery” we may never solve.

“Meyer” is Stephen Meyer, director for the Center of Science and Culture at the Discovery Institute, an organization that funds the marketing, if you will, of intelligent design. So yes, Fulton is right. Intelligent design would teach kids that we don’t understand the diversity of life, and we may never understand it.

Let me reiterate a point I’ve made before, using my favorite analogy. Nicolas Copernicus demonstrated that Earth orbits the Sun, but it’s unlikely that Copernicus had much understanding of the nuclear forces that fuel stars such as our Sun. In the year 1500, it might have been reasonable to tell Nick that the source of the Sun’s energy was a mystery that we might never understand. But is that education?

However, this analogy is inaccurate, for it implies that we know little more, today, about the origins of life than Copernicus did, 500 years ago, about fusion reactions. This is untrue. Despite Meyer’s talk of “mysteries,” scientists today do understand the origins of the diversity of life. The unwillingness of IDers to accept Darwinian natural selection is no reason to deny students access to modern biology.

[via The Panda’s Thumb]

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