Monday, June 8, 2009

A strange kind of common sense

Don McLeory, our local dentist, evolution debunker, and ex-State School Board head, wrote a pretty nice article in our local paper, The Eagle (Sunday, June 7, 2009), on the virtues of keeping ideology out of the science classroom. On the surface, his argument appears very sound and echoes what the scientific community has been stating all along, that “science is the use of evidence to construct testable explanations and predictions of natural phenomenon as well as the knowledge generated through this process”. Where Dr. McLeroy and his followers find comfort is in the term “testable.”

“If it is not testable, it is not science” Dr. McLeory notes. The understanding here is that one cannot test in the laboratory or field the different hypothesis used to support the theory. This Dr. McLeory contends allows a student on “scientific grounds to challenge any untestable ideology being taught as dogma.”

The theory of evolution is not dogma, nor, for a scientist, is it an ideology. A scientific theory is:

“A plausible or scientifically acceptable, well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world; an organized system of accepted knowledge that applies in a variety of circumstances to explain a specific set of phenomena and predict the characteristics of as yet unobserved phenomena.”
It is based on the use of a Hypothesis:
“A tentative explanation for an observation, phenomenon, or scientific problem that can be tested by further investigation. Scientific hypotheses must be posed in a form that allows them to be rejected.”
So the new argument that the Intelligent Design folks are using is to try to use the definition against itself, as if it will get caught in an endless loop of if-then-else logic and completely self-destruct. They use the logic that because you can’t test what took place millions of years ago, then the hypothesis is not valid, which means you can’t use it to support the theory. This logic is also used to support the inclusion of a supernatural cause. Because the supernatural causation can’t be tested either, it is just as plausible a theory as the scientific one.

The constant battle over evolution by the ID folks have hurt science in the name of trying to hold onto their own dogma and ideology. Allowing guys like Dr. McLeory to dictate what our children should or should not be taught in a public setting does nothing but muddy the waters of logical thinking. We end up confusing kids who then grow up to be confused and ignorant adults, all in the name of perpetuating the belief that their holy book is somehow the absolute, accurate, and definitive explanation as to how their God works.

In their paper “The role of anomalous data in knowledge acquisition A theoretical framework and implications for Science Instruction” Chinn & Brewer (1993) noted:
“The 3-week instructional unit on evolution [given to a class consisting of 50% creationists] included a section on fossil evidence for evolution. Before instruction, only 1% of the students agreed with the statement “Fossils were intentionally put on earth to confuse humans.” After instruction, however, 7% of the students agreed with the same statement.”
“For the supernaturalist” Dr. McLeory argues, “the phrase “natural explanations” does not just undermine his view of science but actually excludes it by definition. If science is limited to only natural explanations but some natural phenomena are actually the result of supernatural causes then science would never be able to discover that truth—not a very good position for science. Defining science to allow for this possibility is just common sense.”In Science you cannot allow for the possibility of something that cannot be tested. Common sense should lead you to that conclusion, which is why Dr. McLeory will use whatever method he can to keep our kids in the dark.

Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves (Matt. 7:15)

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