William James

William James
We must get by on what truth we have today, and be willing to call it error tomorrow.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

On Darwin's Influence

The question was put in a poll:

"Darwin's Influence Is Darwinism the one true science? Rate Topic: Poll: Darwin's Influence (53 member(s) have cast votes)
Should alternatives to Darwinism be taught in the classroom?
Yes (23 votes [43.40%] - View)
Percentage of vote: 43.40%
No (30 votes [56.60%] - View)"

To which I responded:

I did not vote because I believe a simple "yes" or "no" would not do justice to my views on the subject. The subject of evolution is a hot-button topic among many groups. Some see it as a theory spawned by Satan, the goal of which is to make people stop believing in God. Some people believe evolution is completely bogus, while others see it as practically gospel. I think there are a few things most people would agree with, namely:

(1) There is very compelling evidence that evolution, at least on a micro-organism level, occurs as a matter of fact;
(2) There is evidence that evolution of species also occurs, but there are sufficient gaps in the fossil record to prevent us from proving beyond doubt that human beings evolved from apes, who in turn evolved from lower life forms, on down the line until everything, including humans, evolved from microorganisms.
(3) There are aspects about human nature, personality, and physiology which are sufficiently complex that it is difficult to provide a complete explanation for their existence based upon only the current evidence we have concerning evolution; many people believe that such evidence will be found as the science and technology to analyze organisms advances, and many people are satisfied with the current evidence being sufficient to show that humans were created through the evolutionary process, although some of the details have yet to be ironed out.
(4) Children in a classroom are likely to have their views influenced by the content of the materials presented to them by their teacher and the manner of the presentation.
(5) No one has provided objective, verifiable proof of God's existence to the rest of the world, although many people claim to have had subjective spiritual experiences witnessing to them that God exists.
(6) There is wide disagreement on whether observable conditions and phenomena in the universe support the view that God exists.
(7) Parents generally should have input on what children are taught, but this principle should not be applied so as to deny a child exposure to a range of ideas, even ideas with which the parent disagrees.

In light of the foregoing principles, I suggest that children in school (whether public or private) should be exposed, as objectively as possible, to both the theory of evolution and the theory of intelligent design. Teachers should be required, however, to present the material in a way which does not pressure students to disregard either theory or accept one over the other. For example, I would not be in favor of a curriculum where the teacher is allowed to tell its 10-year-olds something like, "Today, we're going to talk about evolution, a satanic theory which denies the existence of God and which has been thoroughly debunked by respected Christian scientists. We'll also talk about intelligent design, and learn how God created the world as described in the Book of Genesis." Likewise, I would not want a teacher teaching its fifth-graders, "Everyone but a few Christian wackos knows that evolution is true and that humans evolved from other species. The fossil record clearly shows that neither God nor anyone else had any guiding hand in how humans evolved. So-called 'intelligent design' is just an irrational theory designed by ignorant theists to cope with the unpleasant fact that they don't have a shred of evidence for God's existence and that all the science shows that humans are mere animals who were created through nature."

Any curriculum must acknowledge and explore the controversy between the two theories, fairly present the arguments on both sides of the debate, accurately and objectively acknowledge the majority consensus in the scientific community, make clear to the students that they are free to formulate their own opinions on the subject based upon the arguments and evidence put forth, and also clarify that the role of formal non-religious education is to focus on science and facts, not teach theology or advocate any set of religious beliefs.

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