Riker's Mailbox

Friday, March 16, 2007



In reference to post-previous, I'm working on an essay that is quickly growing into an exposition of my personal belief structure... an affirmation, more accurately. So, I've been in a philosophical mindset lately. The essay is far from complete, but I still have an urge to put something out there. I remembered writing an e-mail to myself (as I often do when I don't want to forget something; let Google sort 'em out) on a topic that is loosely related to the single thing that's been occupying my creative time over the last few months... not counting the band, of course*.

Anyway, I figured I'd post it here, as sort of a small sample of what I'm preparing. Like I said, it's not the same topic, but it's somewhat related; it's to whet the appetites of anyone curious to see what I'm concocting behind the scenes. Enjoy!

An Email To Myself

When the religious organizations lobby for teaching of intelligent design in schools, they often accompany this with a statement encouraging students to be cautionary in their thoughts toward evolution. They remind us that evolution is 'just a theory', and science should be approached with an open mind, leaving room for alternate theories**.

They're masking their weighted statements under the guise of skepticism, so as to appear more scientific. The truth is, however, that they are requesting a one-sided skepticism. To be truly scientific, they should request equal skepticism for both arguments. But they do not. They request skepticism on evolution's part, and implicitly request faith in intelligent design's merit to stand against evolution. It's asking for a fight, and asking evolution to tie one hand behind its back first.

This statement of theirs plays another trick as well: they request that the student approach evolution skeptically, as if to imply to the student that evolution has not yet been subject to such scrutiny. Their use of words would suggest to the reader that evolution hasn't been standing up to scrutiny and skepticism for over a hundred years. They are singlehandedly taking out of mind the fact that evolution was met with the fiercest of opposition in the scientific community upon its unveiling, and has withstood the tests of time and scrutiny by virtue of the mountain of evidence gathered in its support. Evolution has been subject to testing and skepticism for long enough, and has emerged in well enough condition, that for now, we are confident in the solidity of its foundations. It is by this series of trials over such a long period that it has earned the status of scientific theory, a weighty title indeed. Intelligent Design has passed none of these tests. It is treated so casually by the scientific community because it fails immediately under the most gentle questioning, and is therefore dismissed with relative ease.

* - Shelby Three and the Harmony are playing from 4pm to 8pm tomorrow, St. Patrick's Day at the Irish Mist. BE THERE!

** - equivocation at it's most blatant. They are banking on the fact that the general public may not be aware that there is a difference between the common-usage definition of the word 'theory' and the scientific definition. They want you to believe then, that when scientists refer to evolution as a theory, they do so because they are not yet sure of its validity. They want you to think 'theory' means 'unsubstantiated guess'. 'Hypothesis'. This is the colloquial definition of theory: "I lose my keys every Sunday; my theory is that I'm doing something different on Sunday that causes me to lose my keys."

In truth, the word 'theory' in the scientific community is a very powerful one, and the fact that evolution is considered a theory is a *very* strong argument in its support. A scientific theory is one step removed from scientific law: fundamental forces, gravity, magnetism, etc., are examples of ideas that have more support than evolution. They are universally observed, and for all intents and purposes, there is no deviation between observation whenever or wherever that observation takes place. Evolution is a theory because there is a massive amount of evidence gathered for it, to the extent that the scientific community regards it as fact that evolution has occurred; it is not a law, however, because there is still an incomplete understanding of the mechanisms behind the fact of evolution. In science, this room is left because of the revisionist and skeptical nature of science as a practice. We know that we do not know everything about evolution yet, therefore it is not a law. It is 'only a theory'. But not knowing 'everything about a subject' is far from enough to claim that one knows nothing about it. Not knowing everything does not exclude knowing a great deal. Evolution is on the same level of verification and refinement as is Einstein's theory of general relativity. If the proponents of ID want to be skeptical about evolution because it is just a 'theory', they should be raising as much opposition to relativity as well. But the religious community has no quarrel with relativity, because they do not believe support of relativity is equal to a renunciation of God.

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