Faith can be a wonderful thing. Blind faith, however, is pretty scary to me. When I read that 2/3 of the people in the U.S. want creationism (now marketed as “intelligent design”) given equal time in schools, it concerned me. The Scopes Monkey Trials was decided (in favor of science) in 1925. In the years since, the country has made tremendous strides in both science and culture. Now, even as we deride theocratic governments that impede the modernization of their societies, it seems like we’re taking a step back.
It’s critical that we recognize what it means when we discuss the Theory of Evolution. To a layperson, a theory is an idea; someone comes up with a theory and then tries to prove it (or, as in the case of the creationist camp, takes it on faith and feels no strong compulsion to prove anything. In science, however, we substitute these words with hypothesis and theory. A hypothesis is a testable educated guess. If the hypothesis is confirmed by rigorous testing, it becomes scientific theory. Scientific theories are not speculation or conjecture, but rather something much closer to fact. For an excellent example of what keeps creationism from being a scientific theory, take a look at Professor Daniel C. Dennett’s excellent piece on the “science of creationism.”
In the early 1600s, Galileo was rebuked by the Church and its disciples for writing that our solar system was heliocentric. This finding was at odds with the religious dogma of the day, which supported a geocentric universe. (This thinking apparently came from an interpretation of Joshua (10,12): “Then spake Joshua to the Lord in the day when the Lord delivered up the Amorites before the children of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel, ‘Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon; and thou, Moon, in the valley of Ajalon'”). 400 years later, some religious establishments are once again trying to decide what positions scientists can hold and defend. Two steps forward….one unfortunate step back.