Friday, May 06, 2005

Kansas or Texas?

I can't decide who is the bigger laughingstock -- Kansas or Texas?

TOPEKA, Kan. (Reuters) - A six-day courtroom-style debate opened on Thursday in Kansas over what children should be taught in schools about the origin of life -- was it natural evolution or did God create the world?

That's the lead. WOW. Where to start? Man, where is HL Mencken when you need him? I guess we should start at the beginning. HAHAHAHA! The beginning -- get it? Okay, I need some sleep.

There is obviously an important misconception about the theory of evolution. Notice what I just wrote -- "the THEORY of evolution." It IS just a theory, and whether or not you agree with it is bascially determined by whether or not you believe millions of years of fossil records (for example:, or if you believe that a white guy with a white beard made the Earth in 7 days. I report, you decide.

Charles Darwin may have laid out the particulars of evolution in THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES, but the first critical debate about "the origin of life" can be found in the works of the pre-Socratic philosopher Anaximander and, of course, THE Philosopher, Aristotle. It is interesting to note that Aristotle rejected the central tenants of evolution that Anaximander layed out. A fascinating overview of Aristotle's views can be found here: Conservatives -- do not be afraid. There are lots of big colorful pictures to get you past the two + syllable words. It is also interesting to note that Aristotle thought the brain was a cooling system for the blood. The point: even geniuses can be wrong, and in this case over two thousands years of scientific advances support Anaximander.

Anaximander lived c. 610-546 Before the Christian Era, which means the foundations of the theory of evolution were built years before Christianity came along. Thus, "creationism," which is little more than a theory built on faith rather than measurable evidence, was built long after a vigorous debate about evolution had already taken place. The idea coming out of Kansas -- and thus conservative religious circles -- is that there is a bias against religion in the schools and creationism and/or intelligent design should have an equal place in our curriculum. This is absurd. Religion is, by definition, an article of faith. Faith can be defined as an absence of evidence which disqualifies it from ever rising to the level of a scientific theory, evidence being something which, I hope we all agree, is necessary to support a theory.

If you put stickers on science books that say EVOLUTION IS A THEORY, then we should be prepared to put stickers in the front of Bibles that says CREATIONISM IS FAITH. The silliest part about what is going on in Kansas is the naive belief that if somehow evolution is demoted to faith, or faith is promoted to scientific theory, then the Christian origin of life somehow becomes fact. If that were possible religion would be science, not an article of faith.

Regardless of what is taught in our schools, one thing will remain unchanged: in 2005 After the Death of Christ, neither the theory of evolution nor creationism can be proven beyond doubt. As the saying goes: only the dead have the answers. So, should we expunge everything we've learned from Anaximander to Darwin just so a bunch of religious fanatics in Kansas can feel better on their deathbeds? Should we tear down the wall that seperates church and state, religion and science, faith and theory? I say YES if our goal is to create a system of American madrassas that rival anything you would find in Pakistan. I say NO if our goal is to produce well educated, critical thinking, citizens whose knowledge and skills put to shame the best the rest of the world has to offer.

That is the goal, isn't it?

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