Croker Sack

"Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard." — Henry Louis Mencken (1880-1956)

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Leave origins for after-school discussion

It took a while to get from the York Daily Record to the Associated Press wire service, but now the word has spread; and the sophisticates can laugh at the rubes of Dover, Pennsylvania, who insisted that "intelligent design" be taught alongside the standard Darwinian theory of evolution through natural selection.

The school board in Dover decided not to include teaching the origin of life as part of the curriculum. They adopted this language to define that part of the curriculum:

"Students will be made aware of gaps/problems in Darwin's Theory and of other theories of evolution including, but not limited to, intelligent design. Note: Origins of life will not be taught."

Since the theory of evolution through natural selection is offered as a scientific explanation for the origin of species, but has absolutely nothing to say about the origin of life, the school board perhaps thought it wouldn't be fair to lay bare the pet ideas of the sophisticates by including a discussion of the origin of life.

Why pull their punches? Why not require a simple exposition of the two viewpoints?

On one side is cosmology--the study of the origin of the universe. On the other is the belief that the universe was created by God.

On one side is evolution through natural selection, which offers an explanation for the development of different life forms once life came into existence. On the other is the belief that life was created by God.

The generally accepted theory about the origin of the universe among those studying cosmology is commonly called "the big bang." There is nothing in the theory to explain what went bang, or what existed before that bang. Indeed, there is nothing in the theory to explain the beginning.

We naturally think in terms of cause and effect, and so do scientists. We also think in terms of a beginning and an end, but that part about the beginning is a touchy issue among many scientists. They may toy with ideas about what caused a big bang, but they have some difficulty in guessing whether the universe began from nothing at all, or has eternally existed in one form or another.

Having no natural theory to explain how the universe could have existed eternally, or could have appeared out of nowhere, they hope eventually to come up with an idea about the cause of the effect, that is, the cause of the beginning of the universe.

Much the same problem faces scientists regarding the origin of life. The theory of evolution through natural selection is a pretty good explanation for the survival of, and variations among, life forms. But it doesn't include an explanation for the beginning of life itself.

Consider how things look to the sophisticates:

  • It is sophisticated to believe that the universe either always existed or appeared out of nowhere, and that life appeared through some rare combination of circumstances which we can neither figure out nor replicate. But, it is silly superstition to believe that the missing parts of the natural explanation are missing because no supernatural cause is permissible as part of the explanation.

  • Those who believe in an effect which had no cause are scientists, while those who believe that the cause was a Creator whom we cannot fathom are ignorant rubes.

  • Those who believe that life just happened are enlightened scientists, despite the fact that the beginning of life defied the laws of physics by introducing, maintaining, and increasing order rather than allowing a continued descent into a disordered and homogenized puddle of energy and matter. But, those who believe that such a complex assembly of parts is evidence of an intelligent design by a Creator are superstitious buffoons.

  • Having faith in a big bang is enlightened science. Having faith in the Creator who caused that bang is superstition.

  • Having faith in the spontaneous appearance of life through random interaction of matter and energy is enlightened science. Having faith in the existence of the Creator who made life is superstition.

Both viewpoints involve faith, but they aren't equal. One is laughable when its limitations are ignored, while the other involves mankind's earnest efforts to fathom the unfathomable and to discern the meaning of life itself.

It's really not a fair contest.

The school board was correct to show mercy by not including the origin of life in the curriculum.

Science has its uses and its limits--and it would do no good to have the children laugh at science.


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