Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The teaching of myths as scientific theories, done on our dime...

I read a recent Slate article about how Texas charter schools are teaching creationism.  While this doesn't surprise me, it does bother me that my tax money is going to this.  As a side topic, their take on American history is creative to say the least... It frightens the hell out of me that these kids will grow up to be voters, more on that later, I'm digressing.

Here's my major rub.  Creationism and the Theory of Evolution (TOE) are not equivalent.  Teaching them as if they're two equal theories, props up creationism.

We all agree that the Apache creation myth that the whole world was created by Tepeu and Gucumatz is a myth.  We're not sitting in biology classrooms arguing about feathered serpents or if the Tarantula god is responsible for just spiders, or spiders and insects.  Likewise we're not arguing about the validity of Roman or African creation myths.  

We see these as myths.  Things people made up to try to explain the world when we didn't have the slightest clue about what was going on.  Yet, somehow when it comes to Jewish creation myths, suddenly the rules change.  There is no better evidence for the Jewish creation myth than there is for the Apache.

Creationism is at best a weak hypothesis, a hypothesis that's created through a careful parsing of the book of Genesis. It's also a hypothesis that's not testable.  However, it's biggest hurdle is the fact that it's not adjustable.  Propose for a second that you're a creationist and you go out in the field and find a piece of evidence that fundamentally busts your hypothesis.  What do you do?  When you call up your pastor and say "We need to change some stuff in Genesis" you'll get a dial tone, end of argument. What's written in the holy books, is not malleable.  This is why creationists have had to engage in some Gordian contortions to make it fit.  Things like carbon dating, transitional fossils, DNA, etc all break their hypothesis.  What's even more amazing are some of the arguments that come out trying to reconcile all the contradictory evidence.   I need not belabor this point, google it, it's boggling.

Evolution on the other hand is very testable.  There is lots of evidence supporting it, both at the macro and micro level.  We have found many transitional fossils.  The discovery of DNA and it's subsequent sequencing has only helped to confirm evolution.  Furthermore over the last two hundred years, people have been actively attempting to disprove evolution, looking for scientific chinks in the armor. 

Just imagine how famous you would be if you came up with a competing scientific theory that fit all the evidence even better than evolution?  Scientists aren't tied to a theory.  If a better one comes along and it makes better sense of the evidence, they'll adopt it.  Ultimately we're all just trying to understand the world better.