Why is Darwin still controversial?

I’m just sitting here, minding my own business, peacefully surfing through the local news tonight, when I see this story in the Knoxville News Sentinel.  It’s titled “Knox schools say they don’t teach human evolution, but how the process relates to all life”.

The story starts out with this:

“We have the purpose of preventing bigots and ignoramuses from controlling the education of the United States.”

- Clarence Darrow, defense attorney during the Scopes trial in Dayton, Tenn., 1925

About 84 years ago, Tennessee was thrust into the international spotlight when biology teacher John Scopes went to trial in Rhea County and was found guilty of violating a state law that banned the teaching of human evolution in public schools.

While the state law was finally repealed in 1968, the teaching of evolution based on the theories of Charles Darwin is still a contentious subject.

Why is this “still a contentious subject” in Tennessee?  Why haven’t people in Tennessee learned from the debacle of the Scopes trial over 80 years ago?  Has anyone – anyone at all – produced a better explanation to explain how we developed?  Not that I’ve seen.  Note:  “God did it” isn’t an explanation anymore than “because I said so” explains something to a child.

“The fact that this debate continues is a sign that we missed our target to educate people about the scientific process,” said Becky Ashe, science supervisor for Knox County Schools.

“Scientific process” is simply another way to say “scientific theory”, but Ms Ashe wants to avoid that word because it’ll offend someone.  Since most of what I write offends someone, I don’t have that restriction.  Check out the definition of “scientific method” on webster.com and you’ll see this: principles and procedures for the systematic pursuit of knowledge involving the recognition and formulation of a problem, the collection of data through observation and experiment, and the formulation and testing of hypotheses.

Scientists would have abandoned evolution long ago if it didn’t meet the above requirements – especially regarding the “formulation and testing of hypotheses.”  That’s the true test of any theory – does it correctly predict what will happen in a given set of circumstances.  Just like the theory of relativity, which predicted the atomic bomb, the bending of light by gravity, and the relative slowdown in time experienced at high speeds.  All of which have been tested and confirmed by numerous experiments.  If you need evidence, simply look at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Darwin’s theory of evolution is in the same class as Einstein’s theory of relativity.  It’s been confirmed by numerous experiments and observations.  There’s not a single bit of evidence that contradicts it.  But yet it’s still controversial in Tennessee – and Kansas, and wherever else ignorant people congregate in sufficient numbers.

The KnoxNews.com story I referenced in the first sentence of this posts also contains this paragraph: “A theory, to a scientist, is not just a guess. A theory is an overarching, unifying concept that is supported by, and explains, relationships between many different types of data and observations from different fields of inquiry. Thus, the theory of gravity explains why an apple falls from a tree, why the earth circles the sun, and why we don’t all go flying off the earth as it spins. So yes, we should teach the theory of gravity, atomic theory, cell theory, the theory of relativity and the theory of evolution by natural selection. … I know of no scientific alternatives to this theory. I am aware of a number of mythologies that address the creation of Earth and mankind, but they are not science and should not be taught in science classes,” Wellman said.”

Read that last line again – “I am aware of a number of mythologies that address the creation of Earth and mankind, but they are not science and should not be taught in science classes.Amen to that!

Biblical creation myths fall into the same class as Hindu creation myths.  And African tribal creation myths.  And Japanese Shinto creation myths.  None of them have A SINGLE SHRED OF EVIDENCE to back up their claims.  Yet they all claim to be the whole truth, nothing but the truth, so help me god.  And they want it taught in public schools.  And they wonder why they’re thought of as backwards hicks.

This is coming from a guy who grew up in a town of less than 100 in rural Missouri – I know all about hicks – I are one.  :-)  But that doesn’t mean I can’t learn and grow out of it.  Eventually.

And yet Tennessee allows ignorant parents to opt out of having evolution taught to their kids if they sign a waiver – which produces yet another generation of people ignorant of science.  Future scientists would do well to avoid this state if they’d like to learn anything that would actually help them learn to be scientists.

Hmmm….  This turned into a rant.  Oh well, deal with it.

Darwin’s 200th birthday is coming up on Feb 12th.  Read all about him here.  You can read his book “On the Origin of Species” online (or download it) in PDF format here.  Project Gutenberg has a plain text version available here.  Enjoy!

gk

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  1. [...] on a wide variety of topics here, and I have talked about Darwin in the past.  As in here, and here, and here.  I don’t remember talking about relativity, but I guess it’s possible, [...]

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