The epic at the center of life itself

As a scientist (in training…) I sometimes get pretty worried about the future of our society when I read about things like this, or this. But occasionally I come across people like Keith Miller, who can eloquently sum up the issue.

It is one thing to believe in whatever creation story you want, but entirely another to insist upon the teaching of creation stories in science class. Science is based on evidence; that is what sets apart the scientific explanation of creation via evolution from any religious creation story: evolution is supported by evidence that you can see and touch. This is a fundamental difference that separates science from religion, and from art or literature or other human endeavors. Science class then should be a place where we learn not only facts about the Earth and its inhabitants, but about the difference between evidence and stories. Demanding that we teach creation stories in science class undermines science by placing stories on the same level of evidence based truth.

Personally, I know that evolution is true because I have studied the evidence. I also believe that the Earth’s climate is currently undergoing change caused by anthropogenic actions. I know this to be true both because I believe in expert testimony, but also because I have enough knowledge of basic chemistry and physics that I can infer that the changes to the climate currently occurring are the same as those predicted from our activities (e.g. extracting and burning fossil fuels moves carbon from underground to the atmosphere, so we should expect to see an increase in atmospheric carbon over time. And what d’ya know, there it is). Without a fundamental understanding of science and evidence-based truth, I might be skeptical of scientific findings and reports, and thus less likely to believe in their predictions. As Neil DeGrasse Tyson states, science is a philosophy of discovery (click here for a most excellent article on the subject from Dr. Tyson). By equating science with faith, we reduce our impetus to discover, which will ultimately hurt us as a national level, but this also hurts us at a personal level by narrowing and constraining our view of life on Earth.

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