Sunday, June 18, 2006

Evolution and ID

Today we're taking an interlude into a real world debate that has really been frusterating me. As many of you know I am an anthropology major at the University of South FL. As such I've taken several classes exploring Darwin's theory of Evolution. Recently there has been a movement to allow "intelligent design" (ID) into the public school system in science classes. Now, the idea here is that ID is NOT creationism but a legitimate scientific theory - and I think that's wrong. I hate the idea that we'd allow a specific religous belief into our public scools as a scientific theory. It defeats the whole idea of America being a place of religous freedom. Sure, put ID in schools - but keep it in private schools and theology classes. I apologize for the lack of comic books today...

Over the ages there have been many different ideas on how the earth was created. From Brahma’s cosmic egg in Indian Mythology to the Earth and Sky’s birth of the world in Greek mythology, the beliefs on how the world came to be greatly vary. The question we have to ask ourselves is: what sets evolution apart from creation mythology? The answer to this question is that creationism is a belief based on religion while evolution is a theory based on scientific inquiry.

To better understand the differences between creationism and evolution one must first examine the definitions of belief and science. A belief is an idea taken on faith that cannot be scientifically tested. Science is a method of inquiry requiring the generation and testing of a hypothesis that has the chance of being rejected. Creationism cannot be tested and there is no physical evidence supporting its ideas, therefore it should be classified as a belief. Evolution can, and has been tested successfully by scientific method repeatedly. The amount of physical evidence and data gathered supporting evolution is overwhelming, while creationism often relies on religious doctrine over fact.

Another major difference between these perspectives is time. Creationism has been a part of the human species for as far back as we can trace. Humans have always sought to explain the world around them. Looking back on mankind’s varying creation stories, one can observe how much time and effort has been put into the tradition of creationism. It has had centuries to develop and become indoctrinated. Evolution, in contrast, is a relatively new concept. Despite the amount of evidence supporting evolution as a theory creationists hold fast to the comfort of beliefs that have, in one way or another, supported humanity through its "childhood." Because evolution challenges entrenched ideology and forces a resolution that does not cater to man’s ego, it will take time to be more widely accepted.

The irony here is that evolution and creationism can peacefully coexist. Yes, evolution can challenge the beliefs of a creationist, but if people can question their faith and open their minds to encompass a larger explanation of creation and still retain their beliefs it would only serve to make their faith stronger.

Unfortunately many creationists see evolution as an attack on their beliefs and values. They end up undermining their own cause with such cartoons as Creationwise, by Dan Lietha. They attempt to attack the validity of evolution as a science by claiming that scientists who use evolution as a working theory are faithless individuals who lack spirituality. This only serves to make creationists seem infantile and petty. Spirituality is something that should be encouraged and explored rather than taken on blind faith. From a scientific perspective I can only look at cartoons such as Creationwise as a sad example of how creationists see themselves.
Creationism and evolution as a belief and a scientific theory are both important parts of modern culture. Science and belief can both be used to explore the vast universe of which we are all a part of. However, one must still understand that a belief cannot be tested and therefore cannot fall within the realm of science. Science is a process that helps us develop our understanding of the physical world and evolution is a part of that. Creationism is best left within the range of theology and faith. As Joseph Campbell said, "When the story is in your mind, then you see its relevance to something happening in your own life. It gives you perspective on what’s happening to you." (The Power of Myth, pg 2). Both evolution and creationism can be a part of Campbell’s story once it is understood that they are not opposing ideas, but perspectives that can work together to encompass a greater whole.


Anonymous Jeff said...

First off, I strongly believe that there is no such thing as evolution. If you actually read Darwin's theory it is just that, theory. There is no proof of evolution. The skeletons they have found of Australopithicus and other supposed precursors to homo sapians can be explained away in other ways. Evolution has been given weight cuz people can look at a monkey and imagine that we might somehow have come from them. But science is hardly infallible. Throughout my lifetime science has been proven wrong time and again. After all, scientists are just human beings and we all make mistakes. For years they told us, through schoolbooks and Flintstones cartoons, what a Brontosaurus looks like. Now they tell us that they had the wrong head on this dinosaur and we've all been taught incorrectly. We were told by scientists that saccarin was better for us than sugar. Whoops! Turns out saccarin causes cancer. Seems like everyday we are told how wrong science has been. As far as evolution, we were told that we share most in common genetically with a chimpanzee. Then a couple of years ago they found out that we actually have more in common genetically with the common canine. That's right, dogs. So how does that jibe with Darwin's theory?
The honest truth is that we have no idea where we came from or how. Maybe it was creationism. Maybe it was evoluion(though I highly doubt it). Maybe aliens left us here after they were done building the pyramids and Stonehenge. We just don't know and I don't think we ever will. So why give evolution more time in the classroom than all the other theories? Why not toss them all out there as they are all equally valid?
Cshiana, as you grow older you will learn that science is a crock of crap. DNA is not the rock solid evidence we've been led to believe. There are people called chimeras who have more than one strand of DNA. Science is full of garbage. Take it from someone who has had several family members misdiagnosed by doctors and the best in the medical field. And look at NASA. They had 2.5 years to fix a tile problem and they couldn't even figure that out. Or how about when they lose unmanned craft? Given the choice between faith in man or faith in God, I'll choose God every time.
Oh, my oldest brother has Masters degrees in both anthropology and geology. He's a scientist of sorts and you should see how often I prove him wrong.

Sunday, June 18, 2006  
Anonymous Jim said...

Jeff- Reagrding your comment "There are people called chimeras who have more than one strand of DNA" - cool where can I read about them, that sounds really interesting.

As to the overall debate. I don't think intelligent design should be ignored 100% and I'm not sure what should or should not be taught in our schools. Too often science is taught as pure fact and if I rememeber correctly according to physics a bumble bee can't fly (now this maybe an old wives tale), but still evolution is and always has been a theory.

That is not to say that man hasn't changed over the years, but is that evoulution or genetic selection. The smarter you are the better chance you have to survive. Smarter people marry each other and the race progresses.

I believe that we have to be smart enough to understand we don't understand everything.

Remeber science has told us that global warming was going to bring an ice age years ago, now they are saying it will melt the ice caps. Of course this time they know they are right.

We still don't really know why dinosaurs disappeared.

While I prefer evolution over somebody just creating us, either could be true. Now did a god or godlike being start life - I doubt it, but life is abundant in our world and I hope there is more life out there and we find it one day. But if we believe science tha exist today has all the answers - we never will because we can't go faster then the speed of light and that means the closest star system is at least five years away.

Good discussion. We can debate, explore any topice.

Jeff - you should hook cshiana up with your brother as he could be a mentor for her.

Sunday, June 18, 2006  
Blogger Brainiac6 said...

Jeff - Yes, evolution is just a theory... as a long standing believer in things that science can't possibly explain (John Carter really DID go to Mars dammit!) I have never believed that evolution is fact - actually our teachers in college tell us that evolution is just a theory - but it can be supported by evidence and tested as a hypothesis (or a number of). Gravity isn't a fact either - just a theory. ID bothers me in public schools because it CAN'T be tested scientifically - it is a religious belief. ID should be taught as either a theology or in private religious schools... but in a religously free country I don't think it should be taught as a scientific theory. Some schools are teaching it as a debate topic in science classes which is where I learned about it. That could be a way of dealing with it as well.

Besides, why can't evolution and creationism work hand in hand? I know a lot of Christians who are also scientists and accept evolution as a work theory. Why doesn the bible have to be taken literally word for word?

Monday, June 19, 2006  
Anonymous Thomm said...

You noted the creationist painting of scientists as spiritually bankrupt. I prefer this to the other tack that Jeff above and some others take in painting science, and particularly evolutionary theory, as equivalent to religious faith. As you've noted, it's not, and for the very simple reason that science is an empirical process, not a pre-determined end result.

The reason so many "scientific facts" are later proved wrong is due to the very nature of science. It's always evolving as new information is learned. So, when scientists thought they had a creature called a brontosaurus, that was the current information available at the time. Later discoveries lead to the conclusion that the brontosaurus was actually another dinosaur that had a different name from other sites. Therefore, there's no point in having two names to one creature and the two were merged under the other name.

As far as the saccarine bit, as well as any drug marketed by corporate America, problems there are not the product of science so much as marketing and the profit motive. Too often drug companies bring drugs to market with inadequate testing, shaded and protected by the Bush FDA at this point, so that they're "wrong", in the sense that they have unintended side effects, should be no surprise. Scientifically speaking, they're not even wrong. They do what they're supposed to in treating something. They just have side effects that may be worse.

Monday, June 19, 2006  
Anonymous Jeff said...

Science as a whole is itself a religion. You believe what you're told by scientists cuz you have faith that they are correct in their findings. However, this is rarely true. You could fit all we know about ourselves, where we came from and why we're here on the head of a pin. The more doctors you see, the more you realize that they are nothing more than glorified plumbers and carpenters for the human body. But after all these years they are still baffled by God's greatest creation, the human body. In the case of the Chimera I was speaking of, the courts were trying to take a woman's children from her. Her DNA did not match her child's and the courts were convinced and science deemed she must have abducted the child sometime. No lawyer would help her out as DNA is considered rock solid. Luckily, the woman was pregnant while this was going on. Her children had already been taken from her and placed in foster homes and she was at her wits end. The judge sent a court appointed officer to witness the birth of this woman's newborn. As soon as it was born, the court officer took a sample of the baby's DNA from the umbilical or somesuch and rushed it off for testing. When the results came back they said that this new child could in no way have come from the distressed mother, according to DNA. Ain't that a kick in the pants. The woman was a chimera and DNA tests just aren't right with these people. She got her kids back, thank goodness.
Another case that was just on, a blind woman gets struck in the head and suddenly can see. Doctors are baffled. Point is, we know almost nothing for certain. Science is like a really good trick. They show you "proof" and you're supposed to believe wholehearedly. Feh.

Monday, June 19, 2006  
Blogger Brainiac6 said...

You're not supposed to believe whatever "facts" your given wholeheartedly as a scientist... if you do you've missed the point. Our teachers always tell us that EVERYTHING should be questioned. That's why Evolution is a theory, not a fact, because it's constantly being put to the test.

Monday, June 19, 2006  
Anonymous Jeff said...

The only true facts in science come from mathematics. Numbers are the only things that don't lie, yet they can be manipulated by statiticians and savvy tax accountants to cloud reality. In the end, it doesn't really matter where we come from or how we came to be. We should all just live our lives, treat each other with respect and kindness, allow everyone to have their own point of view and try to get as many smiles and laughs out of the short time we have on this little mudball called Earth.

Monday, June 19, 2006  

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