Sunday, January 06, 2008

Science, Evolution, and Creationism

The US National Academy of Sciences and Institute of Medicine has just published Science, Evolution, and Creationism -- a book "designed to give the public a comprehensive and up-to-date picture of the current scientific understanding of evolution and its importance in the science classroom." In the book, the Academy makes it quite clear that evolution is central to modern biology, yet continues to be challenged in the classroom by proponents of creationism and intelligent design. The Academy states in the book that science and religion can coexist, and present different ways of understanding the world.

This book is an update from previous versions published in 1984 and 1999. The Academy is trying to appeal to religious moderates in the face of rising religious fundamentalism in the US and educate the masses of uneducated in the US (aka: the general public).
In science, explanations must be based on evidence drawn from examining the natural world. Scientifically based observations or experiments that conflict with an explanation eventually must lead to modification or even abandonment of that explanation. Religious faith, in contrast, does not depend only on empirical evidence, is not necessarily modified in the face of conflicting evidence, and typically involves supernatural forces or entities. Because they are not a part of nature, supernatural entities cannot be investigated by science. In this sense, science and religion are separate and address aspects of human understanding in different ways. Attempts to pit science and religion against each other create controversy where none needs to exist.
Whether this education of America will actually work is up for debate. I'm not going to be an optimist on this one. Those that believe have no reason to want the education. They already have their belief that religion is correct, and science is the work of the devil. And on that score, they're already preparing for the battle.

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