Tuesday, August 16, 2005
The United States of Almighty-God
For my fellow Americans deluded enough to believe that we live in a secular state with a free, objective press, take a sobering look at the cover of this week's Time Magazine, in which the editors--exploiting the religious fervor that continues to grip our nation--pose the question "Does God have a place in science class?"
Objection, Your Honor: the question assumes facts not in evidence. The question refers explicitly to God (presumably, the old, bearded white guy trying to poke the monkey), rather than referring to "God" in quotation marks or--more consistent with journalistic principles of detached objectivity--"the creator deity worshipped in monotheistic mythologies."
The bigger problem, though, is that by just asking the question, Time seemingly legitimizes the "school of thought" behind the "science" of intellectual design. This is precisely what churches love to see--Christian fable elevated to the same level of credibility as hard-earned scientifically proven theories.
Let's be clear. Science class is for science , defined as:
Reasoned investigation or study of nature, aimed at finding out the truth. Such an investigation is normally felt to be necessarily methodical, or according to scientific method – a process for evaluating empirical knowledge...scientific theories are objective, empirically testable, and "predictive" — they predict empirical results that can be checked and possibly contradicted. -- Wiki
This means that scientists must embark upon inquiry without any agenda other than finding the truth, whatever it may be. (What a coincidence, then, that intelligent design "research" is completely funded and staffed by Christian fundamentalists.) Further, theories are definitively NOT scientific unless they are conceivably falsifiable through observation. But superstitions that adapt to observation cannot be falsified no matter how false they are (e.g. "we are all brains in a vat" is not a scientific theory). Show me an empirical observation that can disprove intelligent design, and I'll show you a "test of Faith."
This isn't the first time this past year that our nation's esteemed pillars of journalism have stooped to exploiting mass ignorance in order to peddle more magazines and sell more ad pages. Here are some more evangelical cover stories from America's three major "news" magazines:
US News Dec 20, 2004: "The Power of Prayer"
US News, March 8, 2004: "The Real Jesus"
US News August 8, 2005: "God and Country"
Time, April 12, 2004: "Why did Jesus Have to Die?" Objection, Your Honor: assumes facts not in evidence--namely that there was a Jesus, and that he was the son of the creator deity in monotheistic mythologies, rather than a regular person who "has to die."
Time, Mar 21, 2005: "Hail, Mary"
Time, Dec 13, 2004: "Secrets of the Nativity"
Newsweek, Dec 24, 2004: "The Birth of Jesus"
Newsweek, March 28, 2005: "How Jesus Became Christ" (not even a pretense of journalistic integrity)
Apparently, at least one of Time's subscribers is on board with teaching intelligent design in the Kansas public school science classes: on August 2, our Chief Executive proclaimed that "both sides ought to be properly taught." (Aug 2, 2005) The President must not have heard that (according to the New York Times)...
Mr. Bush's science adviser, John H. Marburger 3rd, said in a telephone interview that "evolution is the cornerstone of modern biology" and "intelligent design is not a scientific concept."
It is also quite stunning that Bush refers to Biblical Creationism as "the other side." What about giving equal time to other Creation theories, such as deeply held beliefs you should read about here that all was created by the Flying Spaghetti Monster?
To appreciate the distinction between ID gobbledy-gook and clear thinking science, listen to this week's NPR debate on Evolution vs. Intelligent Design. You will hear George Gilder, ID advocate, throw out terms like "prodigality" and "codons," forecasting that the "theory of information will overthrow biology." You will also hear from my hero Richard Dawkins (author of The Selfish Gene and Devil's Chaplain). When a church-going caller challenges Dawkins to explain how he--such a complex individual--could have come from evolution, Dawkins responds in frustration: "All I can say is, Just go away and read a book... They are fascinating--you will love them." (Dawkins, a true scientist, then answers the question properly.)
I like to think that eventually education will prevail upon most human minds to exercise critical thought. So I was greatly heartened (and proud) to read this week that Harvard University is funding an ongoing study of the precise mechanisms behind evolution, clearly demonstrating the system by which stunning complexity arises from energy, carbon, and a morsel of luck.
Meanwhile, I've been crafting a plan to incubate a startup that sells subscriptions for fairy tales and immortality, but I'm finding the market to be both crowded and saturated.
Posted by David Cowan at 12:02 AM