In today's post I will write a bit on what happens when 'creation science', 'intelligent design' etc. are allowed to be taught alongside the theory of evolution in public schools. To come to this, however, I'll have to explain some of these terms, though I'll keep it short since there is so much information on them all around the Internet that I don't feel the need to go into all the details. For those who are looking for deeper understanding of these topics, I'd recommend Google, Wikipedia or scientific journals and books.
Let's start with science itself. Here is a definition of science, as defined by the NSTA, which I consider one of the best and concise while in the same time simple and easily understood (to read the whole definition, click here):
Science is a method of explaining the natural world. It assumes that anything that can be observed or measured is amenable to scientific investigation. Science also assumes that the universe operates according to regularities that can be discovered and understood through scientific investigations. The testing of various explanations of natural phenomena for their consistency with empirical data is an essential part of the methodology of science. Explanations that are not consistent with empirical evidence or cannot be tested empirically are not a part of science. As a result, explanations of natural phenomena that are not based on evidence but on myths, personal beliefs, religious values, and superstitions are not scientific.
So, for any scientific theory to be accepted as credible and true, there are several criteria to be met: it must rely on experimentally verifiable evidence, be logically consistent with other principles, explain more than other proposed theories on the same matter, and have the potential to lead to new discoveries and knowledge. It also has to be disprovable, that is, if it claims something with absolute and complete certainty, chances are it will be proven wrong. Why is this important? Because this is the way science works - our understanding of different phenomena changes accordingly with the technological advance and additional data and knowledge acquired since the first proposition of a theory. If it is still standing after zealous scrutiny and testing, it is the best explanation of a given problem and it has earned the right to be called a scientific theory.
Moving on. Of theory of evolution I will write only this: it is the notion that all life is related, and all of today's life forms have a common ancestor. It works by the principle of natural selection, i.e. 'survival of the fittest'. As different genetic mutations affect an organism, from bacteria to humans, those mutations that are beneficial to it are propagated onward (along with the organism's offspring), while those that are debilitating tend to die out and disappear. I wish to emphasize how simplified what I have just written is. There is much more to evolution than this, but as I am not an evolutionary scientist, I don't want to misinform you. To learn more about evolution refer to Google, or simple read 'On the Origin of Species' by Charles Darwin, and subsequent works on this matter, which are innumerable. What is important is that there is no question as to whether the evolution had taken place - it did - as shown by the evidence from astronomy, physics, biochemistry, geochronology, geology, biology, anthropology, and other sciences. There is still much debate on how exactly it had happened (and happens still), but the fact is, it did. And, to end this topic with a quote by the NAS: “Few other ideas in science have had such a far-reaching impact on our thinking about ourselves and how we relate to the world.”
And finally something about the 'creation science'. It is a branch of creationism (a religious belief that everything, including the Earth, plants, animals and humans, is created by some form of a supernatural being, usually the Abrahamic God) that attempts to provide scientific proof for the Biblical creation, while disproving the generally accepted scientific facts, theories and paradigms about the history of the Earth, cosmology and evolution. While a credible personal belief and religious view, it is not, has never been and will never be a science. Why? Because it does not use the scientific method. The most notable assertions of special creationism are (also from the NSTA site linked to before):
- the Earth is very young;
- life was created by God;
- life appeared suddenly;
- kinds of organisms have not changed since the creation; and
- different life forms were designed to function in particular settings.
Now, the best way to propagate your ideas is, obviously, through public education, something that creationists know very well. That's why it has become a huge trend to try to force schools to reject evolution completely, or, since that doesn't work pretty much anywhere in the civilized world, to teach both the theory of evolution and 'creation science'. And, slowly (and surprisingly), it seems to be working, as cases like this and this clearly show. While I personally have nothing against teaching 'creation science' in mythology and religion classes, to allow it into science classes is preposterous, offensive to science and scientists, and, frankly, common sense and sound logic.
And why is that?
Because, as I have already said, 'creation science' is not a science, it's a religious belief. It does not, and in most cases can not use scientific method, i.e. systematic observation, measurement, and experiment, and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses. Most importantly, it doesn't even try to falsify its theories, which is the main way scientific theories are tested. As Sir Karl Popper put is: “Every genuine test of a theory is an attempt to falsify it, or to refute it.“ Creationists don't do that - they try to refute evolution without giving any proof for the alternative. It's just not how science works. To present 'creation science' as equal to biology, geology, or any other exact natural science allows the definition of science per se to be watered down, and its methods to be confused with the methods of religious inquiry, which mostly consist of 'believe what you are told'. Most of the 'scientific' background of 'creation science' comes from the Bible, a book written almost 2000 years ago with no credibility whatsoever in any scientific field except somewhat in ethnology. To rely on such a book, and on that one book alone, is clearly absurd. To equal natural sciences with 'creation science' means telling people it is okay to be satisfied with not knowing, to be proud of not accepting the evidence, however compelling it is, and to rely on dogmatic teaching of a group of elite string-holders known by the popular name of 'priests' instead of trying to understand the workings of nature and the universe for yourself. It sends a message that unreasonable faith and belief in unprovable is on par with the efforts of hundreds of thousands of hard-working scientists, who dedicate their entire lives to scientific research, who bring about such things as 'technological progress' and 'modern medicine', who save lives and make them easier, who explain natural phenomena and bring us closer to understanding how the universe came into being, how human life started and how things really work. It teaches that personal belief is as credible as objective scientific truth, and that ages-old anecdotes are as good evidence as repeated, documented and verifiable scientific experiments. Once you allow for such things as 'creation science' to be taught alongside evolution, it's just a matter of time before you have to equal astrology with astronomy, alchemy with chemistry, flat-earth theory with planetary science, homeopathy with pharmacology, etc., until you no longer have a society of knowledge, but a society of pseudoscience and religion. And I think any reasonably sane person can see why that would not be the best outcome for the human race.