Today’s letter-to-the-editor (actually it’s a column) appears in the Rocky Mountain Collegian, the student newspaper of Colorado State University. It’s titled We don’t have all the answers, evolution is a theory. We’ll give you a few excerpts, enhanced with our Curmudgeonly commentary, and some bold font for emphasis.
As we usually do, we’ll omit the writer’s name and city; however, she is described as “a sophomore psychology major.” Okay, here we go:
According to my man Webster, theory is defined as “a proposed explanation whose status is still conjectural and subject to experimentation.” Basically, a theory may be regarded as correct, but it is not given as fact. It has not yet been proven true. So why is it, then, that in collegiate programs, where we are supposed to be receiving the best education possible, theory is presented as fact?
This student has made it all the way to her second year of college and has absolutely no idea what a scientific theory is. She apparently consulted this online dictionary, and discovered that their definition of “theory” has five sections. She skipped number one — which is the only definition applicable to a scientific theory:
a coherent group of tested general propositions, commonly regarded as correct, that can be used as principles of explanation and prediction for a class of phenomena
Instead, the psychology major chose the second definition, which more appropriately a definition of “hypothesis,” and therefore she gives the impression that the enterprise of science is a wild shot in the dark. From that start, which isn’t very promising, the column continues:
Like many of you, as a freshman I had to take LIFE 102 as an Introduction to Biology course. When we began discussing evolution, what struck me was that this information was never presented as the theory it is. Instead, I was told that this was fact: evolution is the only response we have to the question of where the human species came from.
Oh, how horrible! Let’s read on:
The problem I had with the system was that I was told that evolution was fact, and yet I didn’t believe in evolution. I came from a private high school, where we were obviously on the whole Intelligent Design bandwagon. All of my science courses at my Lutheran high school were from an evolutionary standpoint, but it was always presented as theory.
The problem here is that although this young woman was well-prepared to study college-level science, that preparation was for science in the Tenth Century. She continues:
Evolution is a theory, just as Intelligent Design is a theory. I cannot prove to you that God exists, but you cannot prove to me that He doesn’t. Hence why these two theories have existed fairly peacefully for years.
Aaaargh!! She can’t prove the positive, you can’t prove the negative. So both propositions are logically equal. Here’s more:
I am not asking for Intelligent Design to be offered as a course. I am fully aware of the separation of church and state. Being that this is a public university, I expect evolution to be taught.
The change that I would like to see is for professors to admit that they don’t have all the answers. The theory that they are presenting does not house all of the answers to our questions, it is simply the theory that isn’t supposed to step on people’s toes.
Oh dear, her professors stepped on her little toesies. Moving along:
So at least make mention of the fact that the theory of evolution is not proven true and is open to experimentation. At least make mention of the fact that there are at least two different tracks one can take in answering the question “where do we come from?”
I don’t have all the answers to that question. But Charles Darwin didn’t either. Since neither of us can prove that God does or does not exist, why don’t we just count our losses and admit that we don’t know?
Let’s treat these theories equally. Let’s admit that there are things that we don’t know. Let’s make the little private school kid feel included in the conversation.
The column goes on a bit, but we can’t take it any more. This young lady wants her Oogity Boogity and she wants it now! Oh … wait! You’ve got to see this from her final paragraph:
I would like my faith, my practiced theology, my belief system to be acknowledged and regarded as a valid theory. Just as I promise to regard evolution as a valid theory.
What can we say? It would be polite and gentlemanly to wish the young lady good luck with her education, but we’re not in the mood for that. If we think any more about this, we’re going to get all depressed about the future of our civilization. Well, let’s wrap it up by looking on the bright side — she’s a psychology major, so what difference does it make?
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