Thursday, February 12, 2009

On Darwin's 200th birthday

According to Gallup, only 39% of Americans 'believe in the theory of evolution."


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What's really going on here are two things that are important to me. The first is that this questions is meant to pit evolution vs. creationism. But here's the thing: they aren't in conflict.

Creationism proposes the untestable theory that life began when something (they never say god) popped life into existence. Some creationists think that happened billions of years ago, some think it happened 6,000 years ago.

But the theory of evolution has nothing to say about that 'pop' moment. That's a whole different branch of science called physics. The theory of evolution doesn't address the creation of life. That's important to understand, because when you do, you'll see there isn't actual conflict between evolution and creationism.

To say one doesn't believe in evolution merely shows how uninformed, and dogmatic a person can be. With millions of species, and billions more to be discovered, it seems very simple minded to suggest that a creator is responsible for all of them. And yes, that's sort of a strawman too, because a creationist can say God created fish, but then some fish evolved, but that's personal opinion, not science. Once one goes down the creator road, they are on a one-way street to religion.

Interestingly, the theory of evolution doesn't comment on where life came from, but it does comment on how we came to be us. And that, really is the crux. The bible says that man was created in his image.

The Theory of Natural selection proves we weren't.

There's a substantial fossil record (one doesn't here the term missing link anymore) that shows that we indeed evolved from somewhere else. The evidence is fairly hard to ignore, which is why some creationist concede the earth is billions of years old. But in doing so, they attempt an end around of the debate.

If they can get people to think it's possible that someone (like god), popped the universe into being 14 billion years ago, then it's possible to take them down what road I referenced earlier.

Once someone thinks the big bang was helped by a force called god, then it isn't hard to begin suggesting that after a few billion years (what the bible helpfully calls days), God popped out man and planted fossils to help us with our curiosity. I made that last part up, but my point is this: when you add the God end-run, the discourse in this debate is purposely dumbed down.

And I think that's on purpose.

I don't want to Dumb down learning.

The answer, "Because God did it" is an end to the argument. It can't be refuted or explored. And this brings me back to the original premise of my problem. I want my kids to explore. I want my kids to ask questions, to wonder why. If the answer is 'God did it', then there's no incentive to ask why any more.

I've often thought that I will have way more fun with my kids than a fundamental religious dad will. When his kids ask: "Dad, how does a tree manage to 'pump' water from the roots to the very top against the force of gravity?" The religious dad will just say, "that's how god designed it."

I'll start by making a whole pile of shit up, then my kids and I together will explore the nature world to figure it out.

Whose kids will be in a better place to succeed? Now, one could argue, and they will, that the God-fearing kids will be more moral. But that's a straw man argument. Morality doesn't depend on God, Allah or Yaweh.

Ironically, morality has been hardwired into us thanks to Natural Selection.

There's a real sense of a need for educational changes in the US. And when I see things like this Gallup poll, I'm set off. I'm set off because being open to new ideas and new possibilities is what learning is all about.

"God did it" isn't learning. It's a cop out. And this learning cop out trickles down to the point where we get un-curious kids. And moving forward, that's a massive problem.

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