Monday, September 26, 2005

evolution and intelligent design

I suspect that this soon-to-start trial in Pennsylvania will soon come to dominate the news, assuming we don't get bitch-smacked by Hurricane Zelda or something. One lady in the school district where they've decided to teach "intelligent design" said, "I think we as Americans, regardless of our beliefs, should be able to freely access information, because people fought and died for our freedoms."

Dammit lady, nobody is limiting the access to information. We want to be free from religious instruction in schools, but we are all free to continue religious instruction outside the public schools. Where do you draw the line? I'll bet this lady would oppose demonstrations of how to put a condom on in the schools, but don't high school kids have the right to freely access THAT information? In any case, this theory is just about as good as "intelligent design" -- it is equally unscientific, equally untestable, and equally a tenet of (perhaps less than sincere) faith that better belongs in a philosophy class.

This Washington Post article has a long, interesting look at new analyses that reinforce the scientific basis for the theory* of evolution. It also helps dispell various lame "intelligent-design" points, like the one that the fact that all animals and plants on the planet are well-suited to live in an oxygen-rich atmosphere. No duh -- anything that was NOT well-suited has died off, leaving us oxygen-breathers to flourish. If Earth's atmosphere consisted of a soupy mixture of ginger ale, ginger-ale breathers would have flourished instead!

* A theory isn't just some lame supposition like, "Well, my theory is that Bobby-Sue dumped Bubba because the oxycontin ran out." A theory, to quote from Houghton-Mifflin's dictionary, is
A set of statements or principles devised to explain a group of facts or phenomena, especially one that has been repeatedly tested or is widely accepted and can be used to make predictions about natural phenomena.
Put that in your theoretical pipe and smoke it. The theory of evolution qualifies. "Intelligent design" is no more rigorous than the oxycontin idea above.