Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Solving the World's Problems, One at a Time

I've heard several reports covering the heated debates currently taking place in different parts of the country regarding what science class curriculums may include; the choices being intelligent design, creationism, and evolution. Lawsuits against school boards have been brought, school textbooks changed again and again, disclaimers added to texts to occlude one form of thought or another, and so on. All of this hubbub brought about by passionate people who feel strongly about the topic and their own personal beliefs.

It occurs to me that maybe this is an impressive amount of energy being spent for naught. After all, we don't have any definitive answers to offer in answer to this question, do we? Creationism requires faith, and while there is some physical evidence to support this theory, it isn't conclusive. Faith requires belief even when conclusive physical evidence does not exist. Neither does conclusive evidence exist, at least not in the quantities to have widespread definitive support from the science community, to support Evolution. Intelligent Design is a sort of hybrid of the two, allowing for possibilities, but is rather nebulous for practical purposes.

There are two things that each of these ideas have in common: 1) None have been proven to the point of being universally accepted, and 2) People have strong, visceral reactions to the one they don't espouse being taught to their children.

I offer a solution. This is a debate about what to teach in science class, right? It seems to me that in science class, what should be taught is all that we know about science. It does not mean that we teach that science has all the answers, nor does it mean that we exclude other possibilities. I think we should be very frank in saying this to children. The Big Bang theory is widely accepted, but it isn't a perfect theory. That doesn’t mean that it should be ignored, nor should it exclude Creationist belief. In fact, I boldly argue that the two can stand alongside one another.

Science by its very nature has always evolved. We know more today than we did yesterday, and so on. As technology advances, theories and ideas can be proven or disproven, while adding new to the list. More people enter the field professionally each year, thereby adding their own curiosity and research to the body of knowledge already obtained. It makes sense to revise what we know to remain current with what we know to be proven. In other words, we should teach children exactly what we have discovered up to now of our scientific body of knowledge.

As for Creationism and Intelligent Design? Talk about them, too. It doesn’t mean that faith will be undermined. In fact, I think it can foster even more desire in children to espouse their faith. Besides, you can have faith in G-d and also believe in science, because the science is not conclusive. Teach what is provable. Teach what is theory. Talk about aspects of each that make sense, and where we still have questions. It is science class, after all; why wouldn't we expose children to all the reasonable knowledge and theories available? It might inspire more than one or two of them to follow a path to become a scientist or theologian, which would only add to our body of knowledge and further us down the path toward The Answer. Let it be a question for them, with many possible answers, which is the way it exists for us as adults.

Knowledge and faith are two very different belief systems we have to explain our existence. The question we share as humans tend to promote interest and curiosity in us to keep exploring and expanding what we know. We all exist in the natural world, which we can touch, feel, smell, and experience in a physical way. Many espouse spiritual beliefs as well, which are just as real, not to mention an important and mystical aspect of the human experience. Science class can be an opportunity to stop fighting over this, and simply acknowledge our attempts at reconciling the two as being unfinished.

In other words, teaching can be inclusive rather than exclusive. I think it's okay to say that we just don't know yet.

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