From the Archives: Science is not a Popularity Contest

Last weekend there was an article in the Wichita Eagle on the situation with the Kansas BoE. Since creationists can't get their tripe published in real science journals, but instead have to rely on popularity contests elections in order to pass their shit off as reality to our kids, I thought I'd dig up one of my old posts.

Here's the a grand example of why science is not determined by consensus.

If you live in Kansas, The TruthTM which your children are taught in school is decided based upon the ideology of the current Board of Elections. This coming year, for example, Intelligent Design could be taught to your children, who would learn that life is supposedly Intelligently Designed, that evolution occurs to some extent, and that the earth is probably 4.55 billion years old (but not all IDers agree on that). The next year, Young Earth Creationists might want to tell your kids that the earth is actually 6,000 years old, and that evolution is impossible because all animals were created in their current forms. Following a backlash to the YEC crowd, a majority of Roman Catholics might be elected and tell your kids that that the earth is 4.55 billion years old again, there is nothing wrong with evolution, but God did put souls in human beings to separate them from other animals. The ensuing backlash to the RCC theistic evolutionists might be the election of members of the Flat Earth Society who instruct your kids that those evil scientists have not only lied to them about the mutability of forms and the age of the earth (it's now back to 6,000 years), but also that the earth is flat, has four corners and a lid. Maybe some year Hindu creationists would get elected and tell your kids that the universe is virtually infinite in age, due to its cyclical nature.

Now how must that fuck kids up when The TruthTM keeps changing without rhyme or reason? Religious ideologues teach kids what to know based upon getting a consensus of people who "believe" the same as they do in a position of power. To them, science is just a body of facts to be learned. Don't believe me? Pick up a Bob Jones University or Abeka Life Sciences book for elementary school students.

What is missing from this equation? Teaching kids how science is done. Teaching them how to draw accurate conclusions. Teaching them how to test and revise their knowledge. Teaching them to decide what to do when one set of "facts" conflicts with another set of "facts". Help them understand why scientific knowledge is tenative by nature, and when to reject explanations in favor of newer, better ones. In short, installing Bullshit detectors in your kids' minds.

The great thing about science is how we all can arrive at the same conclusions about the natural world irrespective of ideologically-driven consensus. Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, atheists, agnostics, Wiccans, etc. can all determine that the earth is 4.55 billion years old using the same methods (give or take a few million depending on the method employed). We can all determine that evolution occurs via observation and experimentation. We can do these things because science is not merely a body of knowledge, but a method for discerning truth via constant revision based upon weight of evidence. In short, science is the ultimate Bullshit Detector. The only time this cannot be done is when we supplant reason with superstition and demagoguery.


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well, you could always do what they did and just fucking CHANGE the definition of 'science'.... WFT? WFT?! that's all i can say to that. how does a group of people decide to change the definition of science?

i suppose i understand how religious idealogues could be blinded to the overwhelming evidence in support of evolution... but changing the definition of a whole branch of knowledge? even if god is on their side, i don't think "he" appreciated such hubris.

Well they change the definition of "kind", the def of "evolution", why should "science" be any different?