Posted by degenerate RVI on August 18, 1999 at 16:23:12
I Wish We Weren't In Kansas Anymore, Toto
The Kansas Board of Education voted to remove mention of the theory of
evolution from science curricula last week, if anyone cares. And
everyone should care: the grounds on which evolution was dismissed were
as flimsy as cheap nightgown. As one school board member said,
"evolution is just a theory, not a fact." This sentence alone is
epitome of ignorance - not because evolution isn't a theory (it is) but
because ALL rational knowledge depends upon "mere" theory. If we
dismiss the teaching of an idea because it is theoretical in nature, our
schools will be left with nothing to impart except the dual wisdom of
metal shop and P.E.
Theories are constructed to explain data, to make sense of them. As
such, theories never, never, never present themselves as full reality;
they are foreshortened, abstract versions of reality, and as versions of
reality, they will eventually prove susceptible of revision.
Eventually, data will emerge which a theory cannot explain adequately
and a new theory will have to be created to replace the ruptured one.
In this manner, science progresses - science persists not by proving its
theories true (i.e. coextensive with reality) but by proving its
theories false, by replacing less complete theories with more complete
ones which will also be replaced later on. But obviously, unless one
learns about the presently ruling theories, one cannot hope to see where
the weaknesses in those theories lie. If evolutionary theory is
unsatisfactory in its present form, we will not progress beyond it by
ignoring it or by replacing a scientific theory with a mythological
story (e.g. "creation science"). Nor do we get anywhere by
"theory" with "fiction", as if scientific creativity
artistic in nature so that one theory is as good as any other.
Science, religion, and art all present and explain reality from
different perspectives and by different means. Each is legitimate in
its own sphere. But a great disservice is done to human life when one
sphere attempts to hijack another, such as when religion begins to see
itself as science, or when science proclaims itself to be a sort of
religion. Both extremes represent a gross misunderstanding of the
proper role of the vital impulse involved in either scientific reason or
religious belief. 44% of Americans believe that God created man & the
world inside the last 10,000 years even though our best scientific
evidence places the age of the world at around 4.5 billion years. The
scientific number was arrived at by a complex rational analysis of data,
such as strata positions, carbon dating, and so on. The 10,000 year
number was arrived at by someone counting generations backward in the
Bible and assuming that the Bible is to be taken literally. Obviously,
the two attitudes are incompatible, and the question for our generation
is which approach to reality will prevail.
This is not the place to go into this question in detail, but the focus
of the attack has to lie in whether the literalist, fundamentalist
approach to knowledge is going to be allowed to persist as a feature of
our culture. There is nothing inherent in religion per se which demands
an anti-rational attitude. The problem is not religion: it is the
irrational, ill-educated horde that uses religion as an excuse to remain
ignorant and fearful of reality. The problem is the mob that takes the
by-products of science for granted while attacking the scientific
attitude that makes their bourgeois paradise of a world possible. And,
dare I say, it is also the fault of the scientist - who has paid no
attention to philosophy, religion, history, or art which must be strong
and alive if science is to be allowed to thrive in a society; they are
the preconditions of science. Man cannot live by science alone and if
he tries to do so, he will not even have science in the end. Barbarism
is not too strong a word for what our nation is drifting into due to a
lack of attention to general learning.
We cannot count on a mystical tornado coming down to deliver us from
the Kansas-esque predisposition to idiocy that plagues the land. We
must, each as he is able, become cultured and politically active.
Otherwise, prepare to drown in a tide of drool, the high water mark of
which is presently Kansas City.