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Rational Science or Intelligent Design?

Now that President Bush has shown his true colors by endorsing the teaching of "Intelligent Design," ID, in the nation's schools, we must take a look at it here for education is our future. ID bears fundamentally on terror and violence because the mentality of the ID extremists arise out of the same narrow mind-set as does Terrorism: Authoritarianism .

Preferring to be neutral and above the fray, The American Association for the Advancement of Science, AAAS, at last took a position on the conflict. In speaking of the ID concept, Alan Lashner, AAAS CEO, wrote:

"It misrepresents the state of knowledge about evolution and implies that a religious belief has a science base. And by referring students to a non-science text, the disclaimer surely will confuse them abut what is and is not science."

On national TV Leshner said:

I have no problem with people talking about religion as religion or belief as belief. It is extremely dangerous when we talk about religious belief as if it were science because people need to know the difference.

Fundamentalists of many faiths seem to fear science and technology, even as they partake of their fruits daily. Fundamentalists regardless of faith must be dismayed that poeple live longer, healthier, happier and more fruitful lives than did their grandparents -- things that prayer alone cannot bring about. Why else would they attack well-founded science--evolutionary biology primarily? Fundamentalists want to teach "Intelligent Design" in lieu of evolution--a consequence of biology. A school board in Pennsylvania voted to require a course that questions Evolution. One in Kansas did likewise. Never mind that ID does not even qualify as a science. Science is factual, descriptive, and predictive--it leads to new technologies. ID is faith, based on imagination and emotion. They belong in different spheres, and both are needed by most of us. For the time being at least, the good citizens of York,Pa. voted the entire school board out of office.

If fear of the unknown is the core issue, isn't that all the more reason to embrace science and logic, things that have eased the human condition, rolled back the unknowns of disease, tripled life expectancy, and made life easier and safer than ever before? Where is the integrity in attacking science and its fruits while enjoying the same?

There is little public Dialogue, too much argument.

We present our current position on this conflict elsewhere: Natural History and Evolution or Creationism." On this page we examine some motives beyond fear behind this extreme movement. We also offer a suggestion that both sides might find palatable.

Elements that motivate most people include

  • A need to belong
  • A need for security
  • A purpose in life

A need to belong may arise from the herding instinct that people show--along with thousands of species--those that live in colonies, schools, packs, flocks, herds, swarms, clusters, and coveys. In humans, the need is filled at several levels, family, friends, society, nation, humanity as a whole. Rituals differ the world over, but the effect of their observance is a common denominator. The mere observance of rituals is an act of bonding--"we are together." We want to be like others; we want to fit in. These are emotional qualities and religion is a natural extension.

A need for security amounts to a need for control. "If we can control my environment and everyone in it, we feel secure." But that is not really possible; flood and pestilence are just two things we cannot always control. We can deal with those and other fears by appealing to a higher power--in the realm of faith. Or, we can figure out defenses against flood and pestilence.

As for purpose, it comes naturally with an Internal Locus of Control. Many will argue that that is not true. But they do not explain the purpose so apparent in the lives of Plato, Aristotle, Avicenna, Columbus, Galileo, Kepler, Newton, Mendeleev, Einstein, Bohr, Watson and Krick, not to mention Shakespeare, the Curies, Gandhi, and Schweitzer, none of whom were primarily guided by the Old or New Testaments. In fact, only when humans are free to think for themselves can progress be made.

However we came to be, we have the power to figure out and control our environment within the natural limits of nature--science in effect.

Look at it this way: Faith that it would not happen led to the disaster known as Katrina. Faith led politicians to divert money appropriated for effective flood control to politically driven projects.

This controversy wastes much too much time in America. We get to that in a minute. First we note that this argument rages only in the good ole USA! The rest of the world knows Evolution is not religion and that Fundamentalism is not science. For some reason we do not. Each speaks to a different thing. To paraphrase Galileo, Evolution describes how species come and go; it is at the heart of biology with overlap into chemistry, geology and astronomy. It is self-consistent. No exceptions are known. However, it is not a finished story, in the sense that humankind can arbitrarily create life--starting with the 20 amino acids and puntuation mark that make up the whole of life. Humans have however come a long way toward that very goal. A polio virus has been recreated out of DNA fragments. Much of our food comes from genetically altered crops. Neither was even a dream just decades ago.

Now to our suggestion:
    • Let's be even handed in what we teach.
    • Let's teach citizenship in High School, 10th grade at latest. The course could have five elements.
      • one that questions, researches and teaches logos (science and technology in their several dimensions as a whole;)
      • one that questions, researches and teaches mythos (myths, philosophy, religion, and faith as a whole;)
      • one that researches the psychological origins and historical effects of extremism (in all its many purviews;)
      • one that enhances rational thinking (elements of logos and mythos) and moral judgment (elements of mythos and logos) early on;
      • one that enhances individual identity by reinforcing an internal Locus of Control, self esteem, creativity, responsibility and independence.

Each element could be taught in dialogic style for maximum participation and retention. This approach is apolitical and gives neither side an edge. It would, of course, still be subject to bias or even outright politicizing by teachers one way or the other. But students and administrators could handle that one and be accountable to the parents.

Such education has the advantage of being neutral in that it places Evolution and ID in their proper perspectives. With these features understood, young adults would be able to arrive at a life-script they are most comfortable with pursuing. They would be graded on their knowledge of the turf, not on their own belief system.

This approach addresses an issue critical to the American electorate: What to make of it all? For example, science benefits from mythos thinking styles, especially at innovation time. Mythos is one of the strongest of motivators--and that, in itself, may be part of the problem on each side. Certainly, mythos permeates all societies; it too has value and needs to be understood.

This approach to education for citizenship addresses terror at the grass-roots level. Such people would naturally be better able to win the hearts and minds of not only those involved in terror, but of those who set up the conditions that foment terror in the first place. Such people would be far more insightful in sensing who to elect and follow.

Finally, by providing education on the issues, a citizen course in high school would better prepare the electorate of voting citizens. It just might be that the very example we set could ultimately bring peace upon earth.

Humanity has been whip-sawed by its leaders for millennia. Maybe it is time for a grass-roots movement toward peace. Another feature of society must be the issue of Locus of Control. Do we want to be robots in a "paint-by-number" existence, or do we want to become thinking people as God (whether or not anthropomorphic) intended? We are endowed natually with super computers in our brains. Why not learn to better use them?

Blindness and disregard for the future are part of the human condition. What can we do about that?

Is it time to require a pledge of poverty as the price of holding a governing office? Not in plutopia!


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