Monday, October 17, 2005

Some more 'West Wing' inspired ramblings

I just didn't feel like including this with my original post on the subject since it's not really a 'West Wing' issue, although it was a central part of last nights episode (which of course Jimmy Smits character managed to solve without taking into account any of the actual reasons behind the debate). I'm talking about the whole Intelligent Design vs. Evolution debate.

I personally don't care whether or not ID is ever taught in schools, but not being a parent, my 'vote' on the matter really doesn't count. My interest on this topic is more having to do with the debate itself than the actual subject.

Like I said, I don't care if ID is ever taught in school, but I do happen to disagree with most of the arguments made to prevent it from being taught.

The first being that since it is not a true scientific theory it should not be taught along side evolution. Of all the reasons not to allow ID in schools, this one is by far the strongest. While it's true that ID may not be considered a true scientific theory, Evolution, along with many other 'theories' are so poorly taught in schools these days that few students leaving the classes understand what the word theory means. Just try going on to any discussion board on the subject and you will find that to most people fighting on the Evolution Only side see the Theory of Evolution as close to fact as you can get. Critical thinking, which is suppose to be the main product of the education system, seems to be totally absent. This is what generally happens when only one alternative is offered up to explain something, not that we should be creating just random theories to add variety, but there should be more stressing of the fact that theories are only temporary placeholders and can evolve (pardon the pun) with time or be totally replaced with a better one at a later date. It is just this type of indoctrination that many parents are looking to avoid, and while they may truly agree with ID, they also see it as a useful tool to show that no 'theory' is the end all be all of the argument.

The second, is that ID violates the first amendments 'Separation of Church and State'. Now if one person can actually show me where this 'Separation" is stated in the US Constitution I may have to side with the Evolution Only crowd, as ID definitely has some major religious underpinnings, but as it doesn't I'll just have to go with the actual phrasing "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...". Now as education is the purview of the individual States, and the teaching of ID does not specifically favour one particular religion, I can't actually see where the US Constitution actually comes into all this. Even if a community, or for that matter an entire State, decided to adopt a specific religion as the official religion of the area, that would still not, in any way, violate the first amendment. The first amendment only prevents the Federal Government from creating an official religion (just think the Anglicans and England). So in effect, unless there is a Federal move to include ID in schools, the first amendment doesn't even enter the picture as a legal reason to exclude it.

Finally, there is the theory itself. ID essentially claims that all existence is the product of some higher power (the definition of higher power is pretty much left open). People who object to this notion of a higher power maintain that existence happened by chance. They contend that this uncertainty, and lack of a true unified model make ID unteachable. That is definitely true to some degree, but no one said you had to spend days teaching ID. In many, if not most cases, the people fighting for ID in the schools just want it mentioned as an alternative, or possibly supplementary explanation to evolution. Should the fact that it calls for the existence of a higher power, or deity, simply exclude it from being discussed as an alternative. Just look a the Big Bang theory. While we have some pretty conclusive evidence that the universe at some point had a shared starting point, can anyone answer exactly where this material came from? There are a lot of theories, but none that can clearly explain how this super condensed material came to be. If the basis for almost all our astronomical knowledge can have such an open ended question, is it not almost required that we allow students to question the possible sources of this material, even if it should include the possibility of a deity.

Without time travel or access to your own personal 'Q', we will probably never know for sure, while we're alive anyway, which answer is true, and by the time you could know the answer, it is either too late or you don't care (being dead can do that to you) but as I said earlier, the main product of the education system is meant to be people capable of critical thinking, not some parrots of useless fact and figures. As long as it helps students consider the possibilities I'm all for the teaching of ID, or some alternative, in schools, but if the courses were being taught the way I would like to see them done it would be almost redundant. Locking kids into one way of thinking, while possibly making the things appear more harmonious, does nothing to advance the knowledge base.


Blogger Paladiea said...

I'm not for the teaching of ID. First of all there is a difference between a Scientific Theory, and a layperson theory. A Scientific theory is; "A set of statements or principles devised to explain a group of facts or phenomena, especially one that has been repeatedly tested or is widely accepted and can be used to make predictions about natural phenomena." And I'm quoting from here. Whereas a layperson theory is; "A belief or principle that guides action or assists comprehension or judgment" OR "An assumption based on limited information or knowledge; a conjecture." Once again from I was once audience to an awesome quote about evolution from one of my professors. "In biology, nothing makes sense except in the light of evolution."

Secondly, evolution is also a fact as it has been ovserved that new species can come into beings, and old ones can change according to the environment.

Thirdly, if you're going to teach creation myths, you should teach the creation myths of ALL the religions... I would love to see how Christian parents would react to finding out that their kids learned that Rama created the world out of his thoughts.

ID should be taught in Religious studies OR a philosophy course, NOT a science class.

October 19, 2005 2:35 p.m.  
Blogger Paladiea said...

And since we don't know where life started from, why don't we just say that we don't know and let the students formulate their own informed opinions.

October 19, 2005 2:37 p.m.  
Blogger Paladiea said...

Here's the Wikpedia link to "Theory".

October 19, 2005 2:46 p.m.  
Blogger Bic said...

Your second point proves the very point of my post.

Evolution is not in fact 'a fact' as you like to claim. It is a theory and I would like to see your proof to the contrary. As far as I am aware there has never been any observed case of one species becoming a completely different species, merely a member of a specific group with a certain trait becoming dominant due to environmental conditions, but even in those cases the new dominant trait was pre-existing.

Even in the fossil records evolutionists can not clearly show any true transitions from species A to species B. It is all a best guess based on similarities between different animals.

October 19, 2005 10:21 p.m.  
Blogger Paladiea said...

Well, a species is an organism that can't produce fertile offspring with another species. It has been observed that through repeated mutation, a speciation event can occur. This has been documented through studies of artic birds and through plants.

Also, just because we do not know precisely how these speciation events occur, does not mean that they do not occur.

October 20, 2005 1:32 p.m.  
Blogger Paladiea said...

Now I'm not saying that a speciation event has been observed, just near speciation events, but it does nicely fit into the Scientific Theory of Evolution. Add to that genetic analysis of verious organisms and the argument for evolution becomes even more compelling.

Here's an article on speciation.

October 20, 2005 1:41 p.m.  
Blogger Paladiea said...

Oh and also, I think you're still confusing scientific theory with ordinary theories. It's one thing to say, yeah I think The Flying Spaghetti God of Oohlala made the world, and quite another to formulate a scientific theory that It did based on experimentation and observation

October 20, 2005 1:46 p.m.  
Blogger Paladiea said...

Sorry I can't help but post on this topic because I'm very passionate about it.

I'm not just deriding on ID because I'm blinded by evolution, in fact if another credible scientific theory came into being I would surely consider it. It's just that ID is NOT one of those. Here's a link to what the creator of ID said about his views on scientific theory.

October 20, 2005 2:05 p.m.  
Blogger Bic said...

Paladiea, as I mentioned in my post, I personally don't give a damn if ID is ever taught in schools, but I do hate a school system that creates mindless automatons who dismiss alternative explainations that just happen to conflict with the current popular thinking. Evolution just happens to be a modern example of this type of lock step thinking process.

Even from your own statement you claim it to be fact (and then later back away from that claim a little) based on what amounts to very limited observations. Essentially, I'm just saying that the absence of an alternative theory does not in fact make a current theory true.

The results of Evolution, by it's very nature, cannot be reproduced in a lab (i.e. you cannot take a modern day monkey and cause it's decendants to become more human) and as such should always be questioned.

I'm not saying that Evolution did not/does not occur, I personally have no problem with the general theory. My problem arises when teachers teach any theory as fact. Just think about how many centuries have been wasted in the more concrete sciences such as physics and math because people were heavily discouraged, and in many cases outright banned, from studying alternatives. I'm just looking for people to keep an open mind about these things.

October 20, 2005 3:24 p.m.  

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