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Tuesday, 6 January 2009

In the beginning . . .

How do you define creatoinism? We know what most people understand by the term: they mean hard creationism, the world made literally in six days some six thousand years ago, and all that (even if they don't believe it literally).

Then we get so-called intelligent design. All this means, surely, is that the world did come about as a result of conscious creation, but has evolved the way our science tells us is the most likely scenario. It just had a guide, that’s all, a creator.

So far, so seemingly reasonable.

In today’s Guardian, however, Thomas Crowley seems to be making the case for teaching this in schools, although he does add that

it should still take only a small amount of total class time to discuss. And it is essential for any teacher to point out that, even if “soft creationism” and “intelligent design” are true, they cannot be considered science until they make predictions that can be falsified.

However, he ends thus:

But as long as science cannot explain how our universe evolved from nothing, scientists should not be so quick to dismiss the “soft form” of creationism. And the subject certainly does not warrant arrogance from those who seem to think that scientific materialism is the only logical option for the 21st century.

OK, so we can’t explain how the universe evolved from nothing (if it did), so let’s put forward another half-baked theory, and say that, since we can’t explain it, we'll allow this theory into our thinking. Why should creationism – even of the “soft” variety that would let in some of our current scientific explanations – trump the idea that the universe is just, say, a big thought in the brain of a turtle?

What Crowley doesn’t say is that scientists dismiss creationism not because they can’t prove there’s no god (no one can prove there’s no god), but because the theories we have make more sense, and over the centuries have methodically dismissed theories that preceded them – theories that would have seemed the only logical explanation at the time until knowledge filled the gaps.

By all means let’s cover in class the fact that many people believe in this stuff. That, after all, is part of studying belief. However, it’s worth repeating something we said last September:

So let’s talk about creationism in class. It’s an itch waiting to be scratched. It’s there. You can’t avoid it. It’s part of the “where did we come from?” question. But it should have been nipped in the bud in early schooling, like the existence of Santa Claus and fairies at the bottom of the garden and a moon made of green cheese and little green men on Mars.

It is a useful vehicle for exploring how early people probably formed models of the world and had to fill in the gaps. But let’s not waste too much time on it in science lessons that should be spent exploring science and the scientific method.


Baal's Bum said...

I cannot understand why this is even an issue It is simple
The Sciences should be taught in Science class why would anyone want it differently.
Creationism may be a theory but it is not a Scientific theory.

Anonymous said...

According to an article in the ‘New Scientist’ on 10th December 2008 our universe may not have started with the Big Bang but with a Big Bounce.

The theory of the recycled universe is based on something called loop quantum cosmology (LQC) apparently which manages to illustrate the birth of the universe. They say the theory is poised to make predictions which can be tested.

If this theory survives it may kill off the nonsense of Creationism.