Sunday, January 2, 2005

It's Just A Theory

I am becoming increasingly concerned with the Christian wingnuts who want to ban so-called "liberal" teachings from schools and universities. Their level of knowledge is made laughably clear to me [and to everyone else who knows anything about science] when they start putting stickers on books saying that Evolution is "Just A Theory". They might as well put stickers on their foreheads saying "I don't know the meaning of the word theory".

If you are wondering what I mean by the word "Theory", please keep reading. There's no shame in not knowing, provided that you don't force your ignorance on others, especially through trying to control institutions of higher education.

A hypothesis is a questionable assumption that is ready and able to be tested. Real scientists learn by developing hypotheses and designing experiments to test them. The TV cartoon scientist who runs around exclaiming "I have a theory" really means "I have a hypothesis". And the people who claim that "evolution is just a theory" seem to have learned their science by watching cartoons on TV. But meanwhile ...

A theory is a connected set of insights into how the world works, insights strong enough to have considerable 'predictive value'. For example, Newton's Theory of Gravitation predicts that if you lift an object and then release it, it will fall. Have you seen examples of this Theory at work? Of course you have. Have you ever seen any exceptions? No? Good! Now you are in a position to understand why it's called a Theory, and not a Hypothesis.

Darwin's Theory of Evolution is called a Theory because it has similar predictive power. So please don't be deceived by those who say "Evolution is just a theory." If they don't know the difference between a theory and a hypothesis then they have no business dictating what gets taught in nursery schools, let alone high schools, and certainly not colleges and universities.

And yet here they are, at the gates of the Enlightment, those Christian wingnuts who want to control every aspect of our society in the name of their religion. Their position, and the danger it poses, are aptly summarized here.

Unfortunately, if I want to say this at all, I have to say it privately [anonymously] in public [on my blog]. Because I cannot say it publicly [aloud] in private [in my home].

I am the only one in my family who is entirely reality-based. Everyone else on both sides of my extended family would be perfectly happy to begin each meal with a prayer in which they say "Thank You" to God "for Faith in a world where many walk in Fear".

Not me. I can no longer even mouth the words. I prefer to give thanks "for Fear in a world where many walk in Faith".

FDR used to say "We have nothing to Fear but Fear itself." And maybe that was true in his day. But it's not true anymore.

Fear will not hurt us. Fear will keep us alert, and it may even keep us alive. But in the current political climate, all this blind Faith will surely lead us into eternal darkness.

Faith is not a Theory. It's not even a Hypothesis. It is simply a willingness to believe things for which there is no visible evidence.

I used to feel inadequate, or sorry for myself, because I could not take things on faith. Now I feel sorry for the rest of my family, even as I feel increasingly alienated from them.

I believe in freedom of choice. I do not force my beliefs on others. But I will not allow others to force their beliefs on me. In other words, they can walk in Faith all they want. But they cannot prevent me from walking in Fear.

How is that for twisted?

Speaking of twisted, I feel like quoting Alice Cooper:

Well, we got no class
And we got no principles
And we got no intelligence
We can’t even think of a word that rhymes

Well, we can't salute ya
Can’t find a flag
If that don’t suit ya
That’s a drag

School's out for the summer