The Personal Blog of Stephen Sekula

Kansas: wrap day 3

Well, it appears to be the end of not only day 3 of the Kansas state board of education hearings, but also of the arguments by those who adhere to the hypothesis of intelligent design and the religious doctrine of Biblical creationism. I “just noticed the Kansas City Star article wrapping up this day’s insanity.”:

Oh, you know me. I love precious stones. *sigh*. Here are a few gems:

“We’re not asking for it [intelligent design] to be taught, only permitted,” retired attorney John Calvert said in his closing testimony. “If you outlaw it, you’re endorsing an ideology.”

The “dictionary defines ‘ideology'”: as

1 The body of ideas reflecting the social needs and aspirations of an individual, group, class, or culture.

2 A set of doctrines or beliefs that form the basis of a political, economic, or other system.

“Doctrine” and “belief” are features best left to religion, not to science. Science is not a body of ideas reflecting any social need or aspiration of any individual, group, class, or structure. Science is system of rational inquiry by which a hypothesis is made, an experiment is designed to test that hypothesis, data is gathered from experiment, and the hypothesis is observed to either be upheld or falsified by the data. Data are not beholden to the whims or any person, or culture, nor to the needs of the rich or the poor. Any data so interpreted are deemed, by careful review and study, **bad science**.

The theory of evolution was not what Darwin set out to find. The data he uncovered in the Galapagos and in all his subsequent studies forced the rational conclusion: nature adapts to maximize survivability in any given environment by a process of either slow or rapid evolution to meet those needs. Got hard nuts to crack? Over time, the birds with hard beaks will eat and the rest will starve. Got a flower whose nectar lies deep inside, inaccessible to average moths? Only the moth with the longest proboscis will survive on that nectar.

When applied to natural systems, evolution is an irrefutable principle. The data upholds the theory. That makes it not an ideology that some will accept and others will not; that makes it a working theory of nature that gives those who understand its truth a deeper understanding into the order and beauty of nature, a structure that goes from the most elegant moth, to the biggest galactic supercluster, to the jiggling of the lightest quark.

More precious stones:

The minority group wants the state board to endorse a more critical approach to evolution and expect teachers to explain some of the holes in the central theory of biology. They also want to change the way science is defined as a search for “natural explanations,” because they say that represents an endorsement of naturalism and atheism.

First, nobody can explain holes in a theory. That’s why they’re holes. I don’t expect the most seasoned evolutionary biologist to explain the Cambrian explosion, so I certainly don’t expect a passionate high-school biology teacher to have to explain it. Teaching science isn’t about explaining the gaps; it’s about asking a question about the gap, constructing an experiment to test the question, and gathering and interpreting the data from that experiment. Only by that can the gaps be scientifically filled. No God, no intelligent designer, no mystic force can be proffered by a science teacher or a scientist to fill such a gap. At that moment, the act takes you outside the rational inquiry, into philosophy or even comparitive religion.

One of the other witnesses was a Turkish newspaper columnist with no science background but a nearly 10-year-old interest in intelligent design. Mustafa Akyol testified that the naturalistic bias in Kansas’ science standards contributes to the ill will between the Muslim world and the United States.

Wowsers. I thought it was the years of U.S. government ignorance, neglect, and antogonism of Middle Eastern political and social needs. I thought it was the daemonization of the Muslim by radical interpreters of different religions and racist organizations. I guess all that time it was science. My bad.

Hey, I wonder what scientists from the Middle East, engaged in the same inquiry and learning about the same principles of nature as their African, European, American, or Asian counterparts have to say about this! I’ll bet they’ll be shocked to be told that maybe by studying evolution they’re unpatriotic or unbelievers! That’ll go over great! Just great. *sigh*.

“This is not the only reason for anti-Westernism, but it is an important one,” he said.

Oh, hey, good to know. Thanks!

Philosophy professor Angus Menuge said that bias in favor of naturalism would rule out any scientific evidence that would support a theistic religion, making the standards like a religion.

When Irigonegaray asked him about the thousands of scientists who accept evolution and are religious, the Concordia University professor angered many of the mainstream scientists in the room.

“It might be that some of these people are confused,” he said.

I sense a great disturbance in the force. Oh, no, wait. That was the collective alienation of thousands of religious colleagues from their beliefs, beliefs they cherish while also adhering to the principles of sound scientific study. How do we balance these things? According to this guy, we’re confused. All I’m confused about is why this guy is speaking for me. I don’t take God into the lab, and I don’t take the lab to church. They’re orthogonal. No confusion there.

Later, some of the religious evolution supporters in the crowd started wearing name tags with the word “confused” on them.

Heh heh. Well, that cheered me up.