Tuesday, April 15, 2003


The battle for American science (courtesy of Medley)

One of the first signs that something was changing came in March last year in the suburbs of northern Atlanta, when people started talking, a little more frequently than might be expected, about mousetraps. It was hardly unprecedented in the US that a group of local parents should be lobbying for their children to be taught that evolution was a disputed theory, not a fact. But the way some of them were doing it was new, which is where the mousetraps came in. Unlike some of the openly evangelical Christian lobbies, they didn't want schools to teach creationism - the theory that God created the universe in seven days - they only wanted to air a theory known as Intelligent Design. ID holds that the living cell is "irreducibly complex", like a mousetrap. Remove the spring from a mousetrap and it isn't just an inferior mousetrap; it isn't a mousetrap at all. It had to have been created by an intelligent designer. It was the same, they said, for cells, and so life must have been designed by some kind of intelligence. Critics called this "stealth creationism" - religious dogma masquerading as science - but the ID proponents got their way, thanks partly to wording in President Bush's new education bill. Schools in Atlanta are now theoretically entitled to "teach the controversy" (though officials have urged teachers to stick to evolution for now, sparking a lawsuit) - and textbooks presenting Darwinism as fact have stickers inside, pointing out that it might not be.

OK. Because smaller components, i.e., atoms, can make up molecules, God must exist. (That's exactly the same as the mousetrap argument -- the reason we think in atoms at all is because they are 'irreducibly complex' -- the smallest chunk of a thing with the qualities of the thing -- iron, chlorine, oxygen. The only difference in the argument is that any 3-year-old can break a mousetrap. It takes a lot more effort on the part of Ph.d's to screw around at the atomic level.)

Can I prove that God exists, based on the statement above? Because smaller components, i.e., atoms, can make molecules, God must exist. Because the whole may be greater than the sum of its parts, God must exist.

Because, just to pin that sucker down where it can't move, because collaboration works, God must exist.

Interesting idea.

Can you prove God's existence based on that statement? Can you make predictions based on that statement that can then be tested, and used to validate that 'God' exists?

If you cannot, then you cannot teach this idea in a science class. You can teach it elsewhere, but you cannot call it science, no matter how much you want to.

Science is a method of asking questions based on observations, predicting behaviours, and testing if those behaviours occur. Science is not a thing, it is a process of analyzing the world we live in.

If you want to apply the scientific method to the question of God's existence, go ahead.

If you want to assert that God exists, well, that's not the scientific method. So, go do your asserting outside of science class.