First Person Life

2006-04-30

Making Evolutionists "Go Ape"

A recent discussion I've been having regarding evolution in the classroom has wound down.

In the process of the discussion, I seemed to have worked a couple of zealots into a frenzy trying to defend the existence of evolution in the science curriculum of our public schools. The argument is simple and has been stated before on this site.

Below is a repost of my latest comment. There are two definitions under discussion. Both are definitions that have been formulated by the National Academy of Sciences in their materials for the National Science Education Standards that they are trying to get every state to use as the basis of their science curriculums in the public schools.

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These are the two definitions:

(1) Science: "Science is a particular way of knowing about the world. In science, explanations are restricted to those that can be inferred from confirmable data - the results obtained through observation and experiments that can be substantiated by other scientists. Anything that can be observed or measured is amenable to scientific investigation. Explanations that cannot be based on empirical evidence ARE NOT PART OF SCIENCE" (emphasis mine - quoted from: Teaching About Evolution and the Nature of Science, by the National Academy of Sciences, page 27).

(2) Evolution: Evolution is a series of changes, some gradual and some sporadic, that accounts for the present form and function of objects, organisms, and natural and designed systems. The general idea of evolution is that the present arises from materials and forms of the past. Although evolution is most commonly associated with the biological theory explaining the process of descent with modification of organisms from common ancestors, evolution also describes changes in the universe. (quoted from: National Science Education Standards, National Committee on Science Education Standards and Assessment, National Research Council, p.119 (available at: http://www.nap.edu/catalog/4962.html)

These two definitions interact in such a way that evolution is either declared unscientific or is based on a religious presupposition about the eternal existence of matter. Either way, the result is that it has no place in the science curriculum of our public schools.

You can read the whole discussion on First Person Life (Posts: But Isn't Science Unbiased?, and Faith in Science. See also: the December 2005 and January 2006 Archives for my discussion of the Kitzmiller v. Dover decision)as well as Axinar's (Posts: Science and Religion, The Thumpers are Attacking, And God Said, "Let there be cow.", Finding Our Boy Tiktaalik Roseae In Genesis, And Stir, and Separation of Education and State) .

You'll see we ran the gambit in the discussion, but I think I've finally got the underlying issue stated clearly.


=-=-Repost of Comments-=-=
"Evolution is change" and that change "accounts for" the present form of everything we see around us. Furthermore, "evolution also describes changes in the universe."

While we can quibble about shades of meaning, the fact is that under this definition evolution says "there was a previous form yesterday" and "there is a new form today." "Hopeful monsters" are not excluded because of the "sporadic" nature of some of the changes.

One may argue that the Big Bang could be classified as a "sporadic change"... however, from what I understand, all of the laws governing the behavior of matter were fundamentally (unobservably, untestably, and therefore, "unscientifically") different in the first few microseconds of the existence of the universe under the Big Bang theory.

You are correct, the phrase, "accounts for" is a bit difficult because it does carry with it a connotation of "explains how" or "explains why." But even removing that phrase and replacing it with "describes" does not avoid the underlying presupposition that there was something there at moment N-1 which formed the bases of what is there at moment N.

"...never intended to answer the metaphysical question..."

There is no "metaphyscial" question -- and that's my point. By the definition of evolution as it is taught in our schools, things are assumed to always have changed, "sometimes gradual[ly] and sometimes sporadic[ally]."

Change, by definition, requires a preceding state and a consequent state. For each "present," there must be a "before." Otherwise, there is no "change" there is simply "was not" and "is now."

Science, by the definition I've quoted earlier, does not allow for such a statement as, "it wasn't there, now it is there." Evolution posits that what appears to have been not there before but there now is the result of a change of what was there before into what is there now.

Therefore, based on the two definitions we have been discussing, there are only two possible conclusions.

(1) Matter has eternally existed and the materials and forms of moment N-1 are the materials and building blocks for the forms of moment N. Taking N to (-infinity)+1 still means there was something at (-infinity) that changed.

or

(2) Evolution is unscientific according to the definition of science that is promulgated by the National Academy of Sciences and was codified into judicial precedent in the Kitzmiller case.

Statement (1) is a religious statement and is therefore (arguably) barred under the First Amendment of the Constitution for the United States of America. Statement (2) means that evolution has no place in a "science" curriculum because it does not fit the definition of "science".

Either way, evolution should not be taught in our nations public schools in the science curriculum.

I'm happy to entertain discussion regarding how this analysis is wrong, but I simply do not see any alternative except (1) and (2) above based upon the definitions we've been discussing.

If you disagree with the definitions, you disagree with the National Academy of Sciences - a group of the most prestigious scientists in the nation that advise the government on matters of science and policy. You are free to disagree with them, but I submit such disagreement would put you outside of "mainstream science."

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