Field of Science

New Hampster devolving

This is a new twist on the usual state legislative attempts to limit the teaching of evolution. Jerry Bergevin's (R - 17th district) bill would "[r]equire evolution to be taught in the public schools of this state as a theory, including the theorists' political and ideological viewpoints and their position on the concept of atheism". The first reaction is, huh? But then Jerry explains, "I want the full portrait of evolution and the people who came up with the ideas to be presented. It's a worldview and it's godless." Oh, those darned atheistic biologists; let's expose them all! What a mind thought of this! What's going on here, other than blithering ignorance, is that Jerry is projecting his approach for understanding the world onto science, specifically evolution. Jerry thinks you start with an ideology and then make everything fit. Science is operationally materialistic because no one has ever figured out how to do science unless you simply ignore the possibility of supernatural influences. One, this doesn't mean the supernatural doesn't exist, although the success of science in explaining things does create doubts. Two, just because science operates materialistically, it doesn't mean scientists themselves are atheists. Good old Jerry thinks you start with an atheistic world view and then fit all the facts and all the explanations to come out the way you want them to be. The real problem is that science takes all the facts and then constructs explanations for them, and unlike politicians, scientists cannot ignore the facts. Evolution is a far-reaching explanatory theory for the observed natural world. So if people like Jerry don't like evolution, or any science for that matter (why only evolution?), because it offends their delicate religious sensibilities, all they have to do is come up with a better explanation. That isn't so easy because not only do such explanations have to make sense out of all the facts, but the explanation has to be useful, it has to be capable of generating predictions that allow you to do science. HT to the National Center for Science Education.

1 comment:

Bend said...

A very sensible position on all counts, PP. Science and religion are not mutually exclusive, though a scientific temperament often discourages belief in the unproven. While this legislation certainly raises questions about the First Amendment vis a vis both freedom of speech and freedom of (from) religion, the government's dictating what is taught in public schools is not new. It's enough to make one support the wholesale privatization of education; then, at least, any religious education would be overt voluntarily received rather than compulsory.