I am an agnostic when it comes to explaining the origin of life. I don't believe yet in evolution, creationism or intelligent design. I can see flaws in all three. I just simply don't know and frankly don't think it matters whether we know or not.
My main conflict with the evolutionists is that they wish to assert their theory as fact and to employ government power to ban discussion of creationism and intelligent design on the grounds that they are unscientific or, worse from their point of view, religious. I am against banning any idea, theory, speculation or body of guesses. Human history shows us to be far too error-prone to go around eliminating dissent by majority vote of one of the more ignorant classes in our society, namely politicians.
Science has been itching to replace religion in Western culture for some time. You can see for yourself how science assumes the characteristics of religion. There is the priesthood (scientists, or at least those who call themselves scientists) and laity, which is the rest of us. Theory becomes dogma. Dissenters are persecuted. The high priests of science want the government not only to fund them, but to enforce their dogmas with the power of the law.
I believe in the separation of church and state. I also believe in the separation of science and state. In fact, I believe in the separation of practically all aspects of life from the state, which should basically tote the mail and guard the coast.
We, as mortals with short life spans, would not even be concerned about the origins of life, except the evolutionists wish to use their theory to destroy religion, and religious people want to use their theory to defend religion.
True science means simply the search for truth, but a search conducted with an open mind and tolerance for dissent. There is nothing wrong with a person believing that a dinosaur evolved into a canary, but there is also nothing wrong with someone believing that God created the first man and woman. I've never seen any physical evidence to support either belief, and one is no more improbable than the other. The only fact is that some beliefs have to be accepted on the basis of faith, and that goes for evolution as well as creationism.
The trouble is that both science and religion provide a person with a worldview, and unconsciously the person begins to evaluate everything he or she sees or hears or thinks up in accordance with the worldview. I see no reason to include any discussion of evolution or creationism in secondary schools. There is a large volume of facts biology students need to learn without wasting their time on theories that have no practical value. It's like teaching molecular physics to students studying auto mechanics.
There is always more to learn than there is time to learn it, so we should be more practical in designing our school curricula. Not every student needs to read Shakespeare or learn calculus. I've had no occasion to solve a quadratic equation since I left high school. Students should be taught only what will be useful to them. Survey courses — giving them a taste of what is on the large menu of learning — are useful. Practical courses, such as personal finance or typing, are useful. Teaching all children a second language would be extremely useful, as would be music and drawing.
We should try to keep ideological and political disputes out of the public schools. We have to recognize that fanatics and ideologues will try to inject their materials into the public schools, and we should guard against that. I truly despise people who try to use children in adult conflicts. We should also guard against the state imposing its views on the students. The best way to do that is to abolish public education, a great idea whose time I hope will come one day.
In the meantime, just remember that facts are scarcer than theories, speculation, assumptions and guesses.
May 5, 2008
Charley Reese [send him mail] has been a journalist for 49 years.
© 2008 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.