Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Faith-based reality

The circus down in Kansas continues. The antievolutionists now want to change the definition of science on offer to school children. At present science is defined in the Kansas curriculum as "seeking natural explanations for what we observe around us." Christian fundamentalists want to replace this with "continuing investigation that uses observation, hypothesis testing, measurement, experimentation, logical argument and theory building to lead to more adequate explanations of natural phenomena."

What's wrong with this? Nothing, on the face of it. But notice the new definition omits the one word that is utterly fundamental to science and utterly anathema to the fundamentalists.

How about "continuing investigation that uses observation, hypothesis testing, measurement, experimentation, logical argument and theory building to lead to more adequate natural explanations of natural phenomena?"

Michael Behe and his ilk say: "The cell is too complicated to have a natural cause, therefore the cause must be supernatural." So now incredulity constitutes scientific proof? By this standard, we would have learned nothing over the centuries. "I don't understand comets, therefore they must be signs from God." "I don't understand why thousands of people get sick and die at the same time, therefore God must be punishing us."

Thank goodness for the curious thinkers who pushed beyond ignorance and discovered the laws of celestial mechanics and the biological causes of disease.

The origin of the universe, the origin of life, the details of cellular evolution: Yes, they still await fully adequate natural explanations. Maybe we will find such explanations, maybe not. But to throw up our hands and say "God did it" is not science. Leave the supernatural in the churches where it belongs.

The school board in Kansas can't change what scientists do. They can only turn Kansas school children into unquestioning citizens of their much sought for theocratic Christian America, in the same fashion as the Holy Book schools of radical Islam seek to buttress theocratic governments. And that, my friends, is the real agenda.