Saturday, May 07, 2005

Evolution Debate: "This isn't Kansas!"

In 1939 the Wizard of Oz was released and Judy Garland starred as Dorothy who, upon arriving in this strange world states, "This isn't Kansas Toto!"

Photo from The Wizard of Oz

Well, unfortunately, it is Kansas Dorothy!

Kansas is now 'ground zero' for the fight against Science in our public schools. The place where scientific theory is being challenged and religious dogma substituted for honest curriculum.

As reported, the Kansas State Board of Education has concluded three days of hearing on the issue of Evolution vs. what is called "Intelligent Design", a creationism lightly-disguised philosophy.

According to the news story:
The minority group wants the state board to endorse a more critical approach to evolution and expect teachers to explain some of the holes in the central theory of biology. They also want to change the way science is defined as a search for "natural explanations," because they say that represents an endorsement of naturalism and atheism.
The goals of the Intelligent Design (ID) group were explained:
"We're not asking for it to be taught, only permitted," retired attorney John Calvert said in his closing testimony. "If you outlaw it, you're endorsing an ideology."

Calvert, who runs the Intelligent Design Network out of Lenexa, Kan., has helped spread the arguments for intelligent design nationwide, and he presented the case challenging Kansas' proposed standards. Proponents of the intelligent design theory say the universe is so complex it must have been created by a higher power.

Now that makes sense! We cannot understand how evolution could explain our biologic life forms, so we can invoke a supernatural being that is invisible and everywhere who created things in seven days.

But of course that isn't religious. It is "intelligent" design. Right.

Painting of Galileo

In 1609 Galileo Galilei developed a "spyglass" with two lenses that could magnify objects nine times; later he developed a 30 power telescope! He studied the sky with his new telescope and in 1610 observed that Jupiter had four moons and that they were moving around the planet.

At that time, it was accepted dogma that the Earth was at the center of the Universe and that the moon, the planets, and the stars rotated around the Earth. This was first challenged in 1530 by Copernicus who suggested that it was the Sun which was at the center of celestial bodies. With his telescope, Galileo could see that Copernicus was right:
First, the old rule was that heavenly bodies only revolve around the fixed earth. But Jupiter's moons clearly move around Jupiter. The phases of Venus could only really be explained if Venus revolved around not the earth, but the Sun, and if it was lit up like the moon rather than glowing like a star.
Galileo ran right into religious objections. Science was seen as threatening the religious order. Galileo tried to fight back:
He was denounced in a sermon in Florence. His crime was to make the earth move, which apparently went against Holy Scripture. Galileo countered that theology was the business of the church, investigation of nature was the business of the scientist, and that he had merely been accounting for his observations.
Galileo tried to reconcile the views of his time with a book called the "Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems." But that wasn't enough. Galileo's challenge was a "threat" and need to be "dealt with".

As summarized:
He completed the Dialogue in 1630, and tried to get it published in Rome, but couldn't get a license. It was finally printed in Florence in March 1632.

A few copies were circulated, and then the printer received an instruction to halt all further printing or sale of the book. Galileo was to appear before the Inquisition in October. Galileo was not well enough to travel, but the Pope insisted he make the journey.

The result of the trial was, of course, never in doubt. The Vatican showed that Galileo was 'suspect of heresy' having held a view that went against holy scripture. His specific crime was believing that 'the Sun is the centre of the world and does not move from east to west'. He was sentenced to life imprisonment, though this was reduced to permanent house-arrest at his villa in Arcetri. Perhaps worse Galileo was forced to Abjure, in other words to confess his views and to condemn them:

'I, Galileo, son of the late Vincenzo Galilei of Florence, being 70 years old [...], swear that I have always believed, believe now and, with God's help, will in the future believe all that the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church doth hold, preach and teach. But since, after having been admonished by this Holy Office entirely to abandon the false opinion that the sun is the centre of the Universe and immovable, and that the Earth is not the centre of the same and that it moves, and that I was neither to hold, defend, nor teach in any manner whatsoever, either orally or in writing, the said false doctrine; and after having received a notification that the said doctrine is contrary to Holy Writ, I wrote and published a book in which I treat this condemned doctrine and bring forward very persuasive arguments in its favour without answering them: I have been judged vehemently suspected of heresy, that is of having held and believed that the Sun is at the centre of the Universe and immovable, and that the Earth is not at the centre and that it moves. Therefore, wishing to remove from the minds of your Eminencies and all faithful Christians this vehement suspicion reasonably conceived against me, I abjure with a sincere heart and unfeigned faith these errors and heresies, and I curse and detest them as well as any other error, heresy or sect contrary to the Holy Catholic Church and I swear that for the future I shall neither say nor assert orally or in writing such things as may bring upon me similar suspicions; and if I know any heretic, or one suspected of heresy, I will denounce him to this Holy Office, or to the Inquisitor or Ordinary of the place in which I may be.'

In other words, under a life sentence, the suffering Galileo was forced to deny what his eyes told him was the truth, because "religious" people, analogous to today's fundamentalists, felt threatened.

And President Bush? He hasn't made up his mind on evolution.

Darwin, himself said it best:
Man in his arrogance thinks himself a great work. worthy the interposition of a deity, more humble & I believe true to consider him created from animals.
As for the State of Kansas Board of Education, one can only hope, that they, like Dorothy and the Scarecrow would just travel to the Emerald City to see the Wizard, that they too might "get a brain". As the Scarecrow sang:
I could while away the hours, conferrin' with the flowers
Consultin' with the rain.
And my head I'd be scratchin' while
my thoughts were busy hatchin'
If I only had a brain.
I'd unravel every riddle for any individ'le,
In trouble or in pain.
With the thoughts you'll be thinkin'
you could be another Lincoln
If you only had a brain.
Oh, I could tell you why The ocean's near the shore.
I could think of things I never thunk before.
And then I'd sit, and think some more.
I would not be just a nothin' my head all full of stuffin'
My heart all full of pain.
I would dance and be merry, life would be a ding-a-derry,
If I only had a brain.
Wouldn't it be nice if more people had brains that they used! Wouldn't it be nice if we had a President who respected Science! And Americans who could tell the difference between science and religious dogma!

America Deserves Better!



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