Wednesday, November 14, 2007

On Cdesign proponentsists

So my junior high and high school taught me Creationism. Not Intelligent Design but pure, unadulterated Creationism. They at least had the sense to call a spade a spade. I'm sad to say that the biology teacher who taught me Creationism was a Poly Alum. Not that he was a bad guy, but to get a bio degree while discarding the evidence for the fundamental theory behind your area of study just shouldn't happen . It'd be like getting a CS degree while believing the mathematics behind lambda calculus or the Turing machine is wrong. Just thinking that shows you've missed the point.

So I believed Creationism. And it wasn't until one of my college biology classes when I realized that none of it made any sense without evolution being true. After that it still didn't make a whole hell of a lot of sense (I was never a savant when it came to biology, a fact I lament daily as I work in one of the few areas of my profession where it'd be a useful thing to know), but at least that bit did.

Yesterday there was just a flood of interesting stuff to read and watch on Creationism. First was an article on evolution's establishment of liberal religion. Apparently some cdesign proponentsists argue that a public school saying evolution is compatible with religion violates religious neutrality mandated by the Establishment Clause. For those unable to click the link, this is one of the controversial statements:

Can you accept evolution and still believe in religion? A: Yes. The common view that evolution is inherently antireligious is simply false.

I should note that the above hasn't actually been found to be said in a public school; it's just in material put together by PBS for teachers.

At first glance I agreed that it probably violated the Establishment Clause. Not that I thought evolution shouldn't be taught or that a similar sentiment couldn't be said legally; I just thought the statement as worded was strong enough that it might violate the Establishment Clause. But then I thought about how I'd reword it, and my rewording ended up meaning the same thing. I think the saving word is inherently, as there are religions for which evolution isn't an incompatible truth. If the sentence read ...evolution is antireligious... or ...evolution is anti-[specific religion]..., then I'd argue it would violate the Establishment Clause. I do sympathize with those people whose religion can be proven to be false. The most one can say against most religions is that they're improbable or implausible, which means there's still a remote possibility that the followers of those religions are correct. But to be shown to be a member of a false religion, that's gotta suck like I can't imagine.

Next up was a trip to the Creation Museum. I must say, the photos make me want to go. Unfortunately the museum's in Kentucky, so it's unlikely I'll be day-tripping over there anytime soon. The reasoning displayed in their museum is...interesting. They argue that because thorns only came to exist after the Fall of Man and because thorn fossils have been found with fossils of dinosaurs, dinosaurs lived alongside man. It's a valid argument, but its soundness leaves something to be desired. The writeup's good for a laugh or as a starting point to beat yourself up over once believing such things.

But the pièce de résistance was Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial. It chronicles the Dover, DE Intelligent Design trial, including re-enactments of the more humorous and informative bits of the trial itself. If you wondered what cdesign proponentsists are, it's explained in the documentary (hint: it's the transitional form between creationism and intelligent design). Like the rest of the evolution series, it's well-produced and a good introductory to the topic. PBS will host it in its entirety on their website starting on the 16th, but I imagine you can find it on other outlets if you look hard enough.

Good as it was, I found myself upset after watching it. Why? Because I remember hearing the same arguments in my biology class in high school, years after they were debunked. We had someone from the Institute for Creation Research speak in chapel, years after their arguments were shown to be false. Yet we still heard them. Irreducible complexity, arguments against transitional forms, arguments from improbability, arguments from the Bible, I remember them all, years after they were shown to be wrong. Yet I never saw the transitional forms (we have a fossil of a fish with arms, and you're going to argue that isn't transitional?), saw the complex reduced, or heard why evolution isn't blind chance. I was lied to, and I don't appreciate being lied to.

Every month I get a newsletter from my high school which in passing asks for a donation. And every month I seriously contemplate giving them money, because although I completely disagree with their mission, I loved my high school experience. It was the first time I actually enjoyed going to school. One of the major reasons why I don't donate is due to this dishonesty. It'd be one thing they were rejecting evolution because there was little evidence to support it. But rejecting it after we have evidence from genetics, medicine, paleontology, geology, chemistry, etc... is either dishonest or delusional. And it does a disservice to their students both academically and psychologically. To teach that one's religion depends on something provably false to be true, what do they think's going to happen when their students enter the real world and learn the truth? More importantly, what do they think's going to happen when their students want to study biology in college and professors have to un-teach these students? How behind are they going to be before their education has even started? And how are they going to contribute new ideas and discoveries in their field if they don't understand the fundamentals?

But I digress. Watch Judgment Day if you can. Hopefully you'll be able to do so without going on some long-winded rant.

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