Thursday, January 26, 2012

Senate Committee Makes State Look Bad

More than two decades ago when Louisiana passed legislation that would allow schools there to teach Creationism, I thought how foolish and uneducated those people are. When Kansas’ state board of education mandated equal treatment for Intelligent Design, I thought how sad it is that the people in that state who decide how their citizens are educated are so dim-witted. When Dover, Penn. Schools decided to sneak Intelligent Design into their science curriculum I thought it was underhanded and uninformed. I sat here as a science teacher in Indiana and bragged about how good our state science standards are, with their heavy emphasis on evolution theory.

Now, however, I don’t feel so confident in our state. This week, the Senate Education Committee, despite lots of expert testimony in opposition, passed a bill (SB 89) that would allow public schools in this state to teach Creationism in science classes. They didn’t even try to mask it as Intelligent Design. They want the biblical version of Creationism taught in science. And that passed out of committee, the education committee, by an 8 to 2 vote.

Now I feel ashamed that my state has taken a big giant leap backward in its science education policy. Although the bill has not passed into law yet, and hopefully never will, the passage out of the education committee highlights the increasing danger to science education in Indiana since Republicans took over the General Assembly. I’m embarrassed by the action of these legislators. Eight out of the 10 members of the state’s education committee apparently do not have enough education of their own.

It doesn’t matter what these people believe. That should be irrelevant. What matters is that they are trying to dictate that students be taught religion, their own personal religion, in science class. Why not just go ahead and teach Flat Earth hypothesis in geography class? It’s also supposedly based on biblical teachings. Why not also teach that insects have four legs, like the bible says, instead of the six that they actually have? They are free to believe whatever fairy tales they want, but to try to force those beliefs on the students of Indiana under the guise of science is inexcusable.

It sickens and saddens me that the people with power in this state are such dullards, and so incompetent and ignorant that they have used the state’s time to pass such idiotic legislation while being paid taxpayer money for it.

On behalf of the more rational people of the State of Indiana, I apologize for the idiots on our education committee for making us all look like uneducated yokels.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Science vs. God

People believe in God or they don't. Some say they don't know, but if they don't know or are not sure that God exists, then they don't really believe, do they? But if a person does have belief in God, it is not based on any kind of empirical evidence. It might be based on personal evidence, which is not allowed when doing science. It might be based on a trust in others who have told them that God exists. It is certainly, at the root, based on some authority (like the bible). But any belief in God can never, ever, be based on reason or data, because no empirical data exists in support of the God hypothesis.

Using the methods of science, there is no way to prove that God does or does not exist. The scientific method uses inductive reasoning, which means that even though most theories can never be proven 100 percent, one can collect so much evidence in support of a theory that it is treated, for all practical purposes, as a fact. In other words, it becomes useful at predicting things in the real world. When one hypothesizes the existence of God, and especially a specific god with certain personality traits, then the empirical evidence in support of this hypothesis is so scarce, even non-existent, that it can be completely ignored as a possibility.

So to compare, science does not always get the right answer, or what is closer to the truth, the complete answer. But, unlike religion, science corrects itself. That is the method of science. Science is unbiased, non-judgmental, data-driven, and most importantly, skeptical. A good scientist doubts everything until the evidence is so compelling that it can join the ranks of the most highly-respected theories, such as atomic theory, quantum theory, or the theory of evolution. On the other hand, religion, including Christianity, is based on authority texts (the bible, the Koran). They are driven by feelings and emotions. They are most certainly biased and agenda-based, and highly judgmental. More importantly, a religion cannot be skeptical of itself.

Now, in every aspect of daily life or business life, most people embrace the more rational, data-driven path to problem solving. Only in their religious life do they embrace faith - the blind, authority-driven, emotionally-charged path that defines their religion. Those who claim they are certain that God exists, especially the personal God of the bible, are certain only because they have decided to be. They have nothing external on which to base that certitude. On the other hand, science would never claim 100-percent certainty that God does not exist. It would claim only that the evidence in support of God's existence is so minuscule and rarefied that it need not be considered for practical purposes. The evidence in support of God's existence is exactly the same as the evidence in support of leprechauns and unicorns. Those creatures might exist, but nobody takes that possibility very seriously. Thus, although God has not been disproved, he is relegated to the extremely-unlikely-to-exist pile and forgotten about, that is until some fundamentalist waves him in your face again.