Saturday, January 29, 2011

Science vs Religion: an incomplete victory

Shocking revelation: In the United States, only 28 percent of teachers taught evolution "effectively", and that 13 percent of them advocated creationism. Unfortunate, considering that a US court had already previously held that the concept of "intelligent design" is not a science. In the landmark Kitzmiller v. Dover case, eleven parents sued a public school board in Pennsylvania for a policy that legitimised intelligent design and creationism. The outcome of the case was a triumph for science and a "defeat[...] of creationism in the courtroom"...
Local citizens wanted their religious values validated by the science curriculum; prominent academics testified to the scientific consensus on evolution; and creationists lost decisively. Intelligent design was not science, held the court, but rather an effort to advance a religious view via public schools, a violation of the U.S. Constitution's Establishment Clause. Many scientists cheered the decision, agreeing with the court that the school board displayed “breathtaking inanity”.

... but not in the classroom. The victory it seems now was "premature" and "incomplete", as the Scientific American article noted, even those US teachers who didn't hold strong beliefs in either side of the debate dithered...
The roughly 60 percent in the mushy middle steered around conflicts between evolution and creationism or taught both and let students draw their own conclusions. (Always such a good idea….)

The survey’s crucial insight was that how teachers taught depended far more on [...] their personal beliefs than on the community curriculum standards that have been the focus of battleground court cases, such as Kitzmiller v. Dover from five years ago.

And this is in America, the developed world's wealthiest and mightiest nation.

Perhaps I was lucky. I studied in a Catholic school and, as a high school sophomore there, was ironically educated about evolution and Darwinism by a brilliant balikbayan graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The fundamental theory of natural selection that underpins the concept of evolution is so elegantly simple yet it so comprehensively and robustly explains how complex life forms came to inhabit our planet. So simple and elegant it is, that we fail to imagine how groundbreaking and paradigm-shifting it was the first time Charles Darwin started connecting the dots in the mid-1800s.

This exceptional insight that Darwin contributed to human knowledge not only survived more than a century and a half but thrives even today in the 21st Century. Darwinian ideas underlie the terms that describe the dynamics of how information propagates itself over that uniquely 21st Century landscape -- social media. Terms like "going viral", "memes", and "memetic" are tacitly understood by the modern mind because of the contextual pillars provided by the theory of natural selection.

As we face an unprecedented opportunity to re-evaluate our legal framework and focus on reforms, perhaps there is a lesson to be applied from the experience of similarly reform-minded people in America. We need to make sure that any battle fought be in the context of a mission that describes a complete victory.

2 comments:

  1. Simple: Separation of Church and State.
    "Give to Cesar what's Cesar's and
    to God what's God's."
    If mixed they collide.

    ReplyDelete
  2. There is a chart somewhere that shows the United States has the lowest overall acceptance of evolution compared to virtually every European country except Islamic Turkey.

    On Wikipedia's article "Religion in Europe," they display a poll called the Eurobarometer indicating how religious Europeans are.

    When you superimpose the two charts together, you can inevitably see that when it comes to religion vs. science, only one can prevail in the enlightened mind. After all, science flew us to the moon. Religion flew us into the World Trade Center.

    ReplyDelete

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