Field of Science

What controversy?

"Tis the season where newly elected representatives try to impress their supporters and actually deliver on campaign promises by proposing dopey legislation. So New Mexico hearlds what may be a bevy of similar bills in other states for the purpose of protecting teachers who "teach the controversy". Now of course, while their bill makes some attempt to suggest other controversies, anyone who's been in the biology business for some time knows that this is the latest way to allow biology teachers to teach creationism. When last the Phactor was asked if he could "teach the controversy", my initial reply was "What controversy?" Please to under stand, controversies are great things to teach and diversity is full of competing hypotheses, some quite controversial, and some of which get falsified and some of which still complete with each other, but what is not a controversy is whether evolution is a scientific theory paramount to explaining and studying biology. If creationism were just wrong, it wouldn't bother me so much, but it's a useless idea. It doesn't lead to any new understandings. It explains everything the same non-testable way. Saying so annoys creationists who then carp about how "materialistic science" is done, suggesting it would be so much better if we just believed certain things or held them to be true no matter what the data show, and in the process totally ignoring the fact that science as a way of knowing has been the most successful one ever invented, and if you're going to propose some other way of doing science, you'd better have some damned good examples showing how much better it is. So what about the "controversy"? It's an invention, a religious invention. And this can be pretty easily documented. Science knows nothing of this controversy, which is to say that the thousands of research articles published each year in biology are all in one way or another evolutionary and make not one wit of acknowledgement to any such controversy, but the general public and its elected officials are easy to fool and mislead. Was it the head of the Texas state's education board who said he was tired of academic experts telling him what was true. Evidence be damned. Why, just tell everyone there's no evidence of evolution at all! It's a wonder this country can do anything right at all. Of course those of us on the front lines know all about the controversy because we get students so taught in our classes. And it's why we try to explain how things are. So for all you teachers out there who may be confronted by such legislative nonsense here's a useful document, the statement on evolution from the Botanical Society of America.


Eric said...

Sometime in the 1970's I remember reading (possibly in Scientific American) that asking whether one believed in evolution was like asking whether one believed in Toledo. Back then, by some arcane and unexplainable twist, the existence of eyeballs somehow disproved evolution. The true creationism is in the way every decade has its own stupidity about the topic.

We're involved in plants of all types, and breed irises and daylilies, and now and then other genera. It's at once maddening and disheartening when you go to an awards banquet and some creationist gives a prayer (oh, yes, gotta have that prayer) that thanks God for all these beautiful flowers that He (never She) created. But wait, what about those hybridizers? I suppose we're awarding them for standing around watching all that intelligent design happening in their seedling beds. Urk.

The Phytophactor said...

Eric, you further may wonder why those flowers created for our enjoyment and appreciation are only pollinated by birds, bees, or butterfies, as opposed to those pollinated by flies or beetles? Actually it's a good evolutionary question too.