April 18, 2006

Redefining Science

I want to wake up tomorrow not angry at Republican Conservative Christians.

I would be embarrassed to call myself conservative in 2006. Last November, the Kansas Board of Education redefined science in the elementary curriculum, leaving room, critics say, to insert creationist ideals. The definition was modified to exclude "natural explanations" of phenomena.

The six to four vote was a resounding Republican victory.

Decisions like these made under the influence of certain members of the Republican Party have been puzzling at the least to the rest of the world. In America, we have to debate whether or not to teach creationism or some facsimile (intelligent design) in the science classes of our public schools. In Europe, it is not even considered.

In fact, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Most Rev. Rowan Williams, seemed surprised that the question was even asked:

"Asked specifically whether creationism should be taught in schools, the archbishop responded, 'I don't think it should, actually.' But he added that opposing creationism in the curriculum was 'different from discussing, teaching about what creation means.'"*

The Archbishop is dead on; we are taking the risk of devaluing science and religion by trying to mix the two as substantial equals. They are not, and never have been, equal in this manner.

Let's clarify. Scientific theory is driven by evidence. Scientists do not, as Isaac Asimov sarcastically stated, wake up one morning after a night of drinking and say, "I have it!" without sufficient evidence to support the idea.

Take evolution. Evolution is a theory - a scientific idea supported by overwhelming evidence - that has been built from the original observations of Charles Darwin. In the 20th century, fossil evidence has shown, if nothing else, a move from less complex organisms to more complex, and even some clear transitional stages, such as the recent find of a prehistoric fish that showed a definite similarity to subsequent tetrapods. Finally, in the past few decades, genetics has supported evolution in the short run; the genes of the strongest survive, passing on to the next generation.

Evolution is a theory, not a path to righteousness.

Religion, on the other hand, is not based on hard evidence or fact; it is based on individual faith in a higher power or principle. Religion is a personal experience, reading the stories, identifying with scriptures, lifting the mind or spirit or soul or higher-self into a place where the world can be interpreted in spiritual terms.

When Christians pull on science to try to validate some of the physical claims in the Bible - Noah's Ark and the flood, Christian ancestry, "eyewitness accounts" of Christ's resurrection - they seek rebuttal and argument. Skeptics will never accept these ideas as fact, even if presented with "scientific evidence." Faith is the pillar supporting these events, not fact.

Does it really matter whether or not these events took place? If Jesus was not the Son of God, or even if he never existed, would it change the values of his teachings?

It seems to me politicians are preying upon the faithful, and painting the evolutionary scientist as heathen and blasphemer, just to snag the votes they need to stay in office. At the cost of advancement, they are willing to risk everything.

God says no abortion, and I agree. God says theology is science, and so do I. God says no gay marriage, and I'm with Him, aren't you?

Well, aren't you?

*From "Anglican Leader Says the Schools shouldn't teach Creationism" by Sarah Lyall, New York Times, March 22, 2006

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