Which One Is Right? I Know This! Why Don’t You?

I heard this on the radio yes­ter­day morn­ing, but by the time I got home I could not remem­ber what it was I had heard and want­ed to blog about. Well, I fig­ured some­one else would men­tion it to jog my mem­o­ry. And some­one else did!

Steve Benen at the Wash­ing­ton Month­ly post­ed today with the same thought (but bet­ter expressed) as I blogged yes­ter­day. At the end, he postscripts

Just as an aside, Per­ry also believes pub­lic-school sci­ence class­es should present stu­dents with both sci­ence and reli­gion, assum­ing young peo­ple are “smart enough to fig­ure out which one is right.” Here’s a rad­i­cal idea: maybe Per­ry should con­sid­er a sim­i­lar approach to sex-ed?

Well, yes, maybe he should con­sid­er a sim­i­lar approach to sex-ed. That would be refresh­ing. But my thought is that Per­ry assumes young peo­ple are smart enough to fig­ure out which one is right despite the fact that he him­self is not smart enough to do so. But of course, he is smart enough. He “knows” that cre­ation­ism is right! So he fig­ures kids are smart enough to always choose cre­ation­ism? He fig­ures that some kids will choose cre­ation­ism and some sci­ence and he’s OK with that?

Of course, it is not a mat­ter of choice. Too bad Per­ry isn’t smart enough to fig­ure that out.

Not a Matter of Choice

A few days ago a school teacher told me that she tells her stu­dents that the state requires her to teach evo­lu­tion but it was up to them to decide if they believed it or cre­ation­ism. I am sure she is not the only teacher to make such a statement.

The prob­lem here is a mis­un­der­stand­ing of what is the goal of science.

Sci­ence seeks an under­stand­ing of the phys­i­cal uni­verse we live in. It seeks to explain how a giv­en event comes to pass. It seeks an abil­i­ty to be able to pre­dict what will hap­pen giv­en a par­tic­u­lar set of circumstances.

Evo­lu­tion is the under­ly­ing frame­work for biol­o­gy. If one stud­ies biol­o­gy, one is study­ing evo­lu­tion. Evo­lu­tion as a con­cept explains biol­o­gy. It explains how a giv­en bio­log­i­cal event comes to pass. It is capa­ble of pre­dict­ing future bio­log­i­cal events (even if the future event is an as yet undis­cov­ered past event).

Is our present under­stand­ing of evo­lu­tion com­plete? No, there are still unan­swered ques­tions. Are there details in our present under­stand­ing that will turn out to be wrong? Yes, in all like­ly­hood. But the over­all frame­work of evo­lu­tion is quite sol­id at this point. It is extreme­ly unlike­ly that it will some­day be shown to not apply.

When one stud­ies evo­lu­tion one gains an under­stand­ing of how the world works.

When one stud­ies cre­ation­ism, one gains an under­stand­ing of how God works (or an under­stand­ing of how some long ago (or present day) “prophet” thinks God works.) There is no pre­dic­tive pow­er when one invokes the will of God. Noth­ing about the phys­i­cal uni­verse is explained when one invokes the will of God.

The choice the teacher gives the stu­dents is wrong. There is no choice between believ­ing in evo­lu­tion or cre­ation­ism. Evo­lu­tion is the way the phys­i­cal bio­log­i­cal world works. But this does NOT mean that cre­ation­ism can­not be true.

If God cre­at­ed the world, she cre­at­ed a world in which evo­lu­tion is the frame­work biol­o­gy oper­ates on. The evi­dence of past evo­lu­tion is in our phys­i­cal uni­verse. If God cre­at­ed the uni­verse recent­ly, then God put that evi­dence there.

Cre­ation­ism is not sci­ence, it is reli­gion. It does not explain the phys­i­cal uni­verse we live in, it explains some­thing about God.

No “choice” needs to be made.

Would it not be nice if our teach­ers under­stood that?