Monday, November 26, 2007

Creationism and science education

The New York Times magazine recently had an article about creationist geologies, whose mission is to prove that the physical history of the Earth exactly matches that of Genesis, using whatever means necessary to justify it. This reasoning involves construing scenarios where the great flood of Noah’s time created many of the rocks and fossils that otherwise would have taken millions of years to form, since those who take Genesis literally believe that the Earth is less than 10,000 years old.

The problem is that this analysis masquerade as a legitimize scientific method. The conclusions are already foregone, with absolutely no room for modification based on new evidence (as rewriting Genesis is hubristic blasphemy).

This kind of reasoning, whether about biology or geology, has serious ramification for our secondary school educational system. Believing something is true because G-d said so isn’t wrong or shameful. Teaching it in a secondary school science class that is supposed to be about reasoning and logic and objectivity is. Once we teach young students that they can hold fast to their conclusions by faith alone, and then selectively choose evidence that can support their beliefs, we’ve stopped teaching science, and started teaching religion. How can students develop the critical reasoning skills that they need to survive today’s competitive world if they’re taught dogma instead of science?

The most recent Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Schneerson, used to say that G-d put fossils on the Earth to test our faith. While faith in G-d has brought much strength and comfort to Americans, one must not get in the way of science education. The United States has already fallen too far behind its peers in science education. Religion should not make it worse.

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