Saturday, August 20, 2005

I live in New York state, and receive Newsday at home. Religion is usually relegated to a couple of pages in the feature section, including a column called God Squad, a joint effort by Rabbi Gellman and Msgr. Hartman. Here's the good news. When asked about creationism they said,

Darwin's theory cannot be false just because it doesn't agree with the Book of Genesis. Genesis is a religious book, which includes the science of 4,000 years ago.

The Bible is definitely true in what it tells us about how God wants us to live, but some scientific statements in the Bible (like the idea that the Earth sits on poles in a pool of water and that there's a hard shell above the Earth with gates that open for the rain to come down) are not good science.

Unfortunately the devil is in the details.

We agree that Darwin had a good theory, but it is a theory, which means it might or might not be true.

Anyone who follows creationism has heard that one before. I think we had better skip the philosophical definitions of theory - even if someone understands it, they may not be clear on it a few months later, and merely carry away the impression that evolutionists get upset when someone says this, maybe because creationists are hitting a sore point.

I remember telling someone merely that theory didn't mean what he thought it did. There was no group of scientists waiting to rename the theory of relativity when more evidence accumulated. The laws of probability hadn't started by being called the theory of probability until they were confirmed. Number theory would never be renamed number fact no matter how many mathematicians published papers. Newton's Laws were never referred to as Newton's theories even when they were still being debated.

I don't think he shifted his view from considering creationism a subject of legitimate discussion to a pseudoscience, but I seem to recall he said 'oh' and didn't use the phrase 'only a theory' anymore. A small victory, but most are. Surely the result would not have been as good if I quoted philosophical definitions of theory and hypothesis - fortunately I didn't remember them.

Maybe Darwin's theory is good science, but some scientists don't think so. They point to the cell, for example, saying that all the parts of a cell had to work correctly from the beginning for cells to exist, and that if each part of a cell had to evolve, there never would be cells at all. These scientists say Darwin did not know about DNA or about the parts of a cell, so he didn't understand how everything had to be in place all at once and not over time. They say some intelligent power had to design life on Earth.

Think of a watch. If you look at one, you know there had to be a watchmaker because only a smart designer could have made something with so many parts that works so well. Scientists who differ with Darwin point to the world, noting that it has even more parts and works even better than a watch. Their logic says that just as we know watches are designed by watchmakers, it's clear that a world maker created the Earth. Some of these scientists call the world maker God, while others refer to Intelligent Design.

We do not think the biblical story of Creation should be taught in school, but we do agree with President George W. Bush that the concept of Intelligent Design should be taught in science class as another scientific theory on how life came to be.

Maybe Darwin's theory will win out over the theory of Intelligent Design, or maybe ID will win. In any case, we don't think science teachers should keep you from hearing both sides of the argument.

Ah - good news - he considers Frist unworthy of mention. Apart from everything else, how much can you teach about ID - apart from errors? I suppose you could say something like this:

"There are many things whose evolution we don't know much about. There are even some which people claim could not have evolved because they see no way that the whole system could have evolved by gradual mutation from something simpler or with a different function. There have been times when it seemed unimaginable something had evolved this way - until a plausible route was found. We're going to teach you about a few interesting examples of these - along with some examples which still seem quite hard to begin to model. The fact that many seemingly inexplicable things have been explained by these methods doesn't prove all have or can be, but we can teach you about some of the ways evolutionists create and test ideas - and some of the older ideas which all living scientists agree are disproved. If evolution is 'only' a theory, Intelligent Design isn't even a theory - it doesn't generate any meaningful testable predictions. Short of explaining the evolution of everything that seems hard to imagine evolving, there is no meaningful sense in which Darwinism could 'win' over Intelligent Design that it hasn't already. There isn't anything else we can teach you about ID, it mostly consists of descriptions why we can't imagine how some things could have evolved and other attacks on Darwinism. It doesn't try and deduce characteristics of the Designer, or suggest that observations had changed anyones ideas about said designer."

That may seem a short lesson, but something about how hemoglobin worked and how proton motors worked and why saying they 'could not' have evolved was different from merely saying we didn't know how they had evolved might flesh it out.

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