Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The late Jerry Falwell on evolution

Jerry Falwell, who died today at age 73, said in a 2004 interview with CNN about evolution, "[T]here is a total blackout of creation instruction in the public schools of America, and in most of the colleges and universities, because I think the scientists who, under the guise that this is not true science, are afraid to expose their theory, their model to the creation model. And to me, that is a violation of academic freedom."

The problem with this "academic freedom" argument is a basic misunderstanding of science. In just about any other field - history, sociology, cultural studies, literature studies - you could discuss any and every fringe idea or ideas that, once fringe, have become common belief. However, in science, you want to teach students about scientific facts, scientific reality. We want to teach students how the world actually works (whether physics, biology, chemistry)- not just all the random ideas people think might be true (no matter what the source - the Bible, one's mind, etc.). Hence, not teaching creationism is not about restraining academic freedom.

If you want well-educated students and ultimately an intelligent citizenry, in the science classroom, you want teachers to discuss studies that have been designed with scientific rigor, that have passed through the scientific peer-review system and that are generally accepted in the scientific community. Debates can and do exist within science, but such alternative hypotheses are still published in scientific peer-reviewed journals before they make it into textbooks. For example, evolutionary biologists debate the role of chance events (a volcanic explosion destroying an entire small population of some rare species but leaving 2 or 3 individuals to carry on the species' genes) versus natural selection driving the long-term evolution of species. But biologists don't argue over whether natural selection occurs -- any more than physicists argue about whether gravity occurs. Even intelligent design proponents agree that natural selection occurs - it drives antibiotic resistance of bacteria...

The scientific method was developed to separate out scientific facts from "beliefs" many years ago. Scientists begin with an educated guess (a hypothesis - which is essentially a belief) but then rigorously test that idea by designing a study that prevents bias, using statistics to analyze the data collected, and then analyzing the results.

However, creation "science" is not a scientific idea - let alone a consensus or even a real opposing scientific idea - because it begins with an answer rather than a question: Creation must follow the 7 literal days of Genesis. If you begin with a preconceived answer that you are unwilling to discard if the science shows the opposite - then that is not science. If Jerry Falwell - or anyone for that matter - could discard the idea of a 7-day creation after looking at the data, then that would be science. In fact, early scientists did believe in a 7-day creation, but even before Darwin, the hypothesis of a 7-day creation was rejected by geologist Charles Lyell and others, and has since been soundly and absolutely destroyed by the scientific data, with thousands of radio-isotope dating and evolutionary studies.

Clinging blindly and stubbornly to this belief in a 7-day creation then, throws science out the window and remains clearly in the realm of faith. Blind dogmatic faith. If that's what one chooses to believe in, well, ok, but this is what psychiatrist Scott Peck writes in the bestselling book, The Road Less Traveled, about clinging to beliefs:

“We may denounce the new information as false, dangerous, heretical, the work of the devil. We may actually crusade against it, and even attempt to manipulate the world so as to make it conform to our view of reality.… Sadly, such a person may expend much more energy ultimately in defending an outmoded view of the world than would have been required to revise and correct it in the first place.”


Anonymous said...

cosmic microwave background
cold quiet fact
ever-present in shades of green

matter and energy expanding
now reversed by mathmatics
human mind and science operating

matter and energy pressed
infinitely dense
everything and nothing

in the beginning

Melody S. said...

Wow, I like that poem that was posted. Awesome.

It's incredible that so many people have the audacity to compare God to human beings by deciding that 7 days to God must be the same as 7 days to us!

I completely agree that it takes much more energy to fight science & new information than it would to just think about it and incorporate it into your belief system. I'm sure people argued "til the cows came home" that the world was flat & there was just no changing their minds. Whatever....