Today’s letter-to-the-editor (like the last one) appears at the website TC Palm, which hosts several Florida newspapers and doesn’t bother to identify any of them, but their weather reports are for places like Vero Beach, Fort Pierce, and Stuart, Florida. It’s titled Whatever proponents say, evolution remains speculative science. 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. Okay, here we go:
Robert Haskins’ Dec. 13 letter quoted Pat Robertson as saying, “If you fight science, you are going to lose your children, because giant reptiles were on the Earth and it was before the time of the Bible.”
This is the letter he’s talking about: Pat Robertson’s statements about the age of the Earth are a victory for science , and it refers to something we’ve discussed before (see Pat Robertson: Earth Older Than 6,000 Years). Today’s letter continues:
Haskins called these comments “a major triumph for science education in America … ” But, what kind of science education?
How many kinds are there? The letter-writer tells us:
When we think of science, we typically think of observational science, where you do experiments and observe the results and come to conclusions. If the experiment can be repeated multiple times with the same results, then you know that the conclusions are true. Historical science, dealing with the age of dinosaurs, is not that way.
Scientists make observations about things such as dinosaur footprints and make theories about how old the dinosaurs are based on assumptions, such as the composition of rocks over long periods of time. But, there is no way to go back in time and use observational science to prove these assumptions are correct.
In a way, there is — by looking at the evidence to see if it fits in with what we’ve predicted based on everything else we know. See The Lessons of Tiktaalik. We continue:
These assumptions may be plausible, but that doesn’t mean they’re true. When it comes to discussing dinosaurs, science education in America is just the promotion of a belief system based on unproven assumptions.
“Unproven”? Of course. Unlike geometric theorems, scientific theories (and the propositions upon which they rely) are never literally proven. But they’re constantly being tested by experiments and observations; and those that fail are rejected (see Superseded scientific theories). Accepted theories are supported by all the available evidence, and contradicted by none.
Further, the different branches of science don’t exist in independent bubbles. Biology is consistent with geology and chemistry, and those — along with astronomy and cosmology — are consistent with physics. The strongest theories are cross-confirmed by independent lines of evidence, and they don’t contradict other branches of science; therefore we can be confident that all of science is describing the same reality.
Science is the only globally consistent view of reality. In contrast, the doctrines of one religion irreconcilably conflict with those of competing religions — and there are denominational conflicts within religions too. Were there no such unresolvable conflicts, then there would be only one religion, and it would have no long-lasting denominational disputes. The great variety of religious beliefs compared to the consistency of science is perhaps the most compelling argument of all.
Here’s the end of the letter:
This is hardly a major victory. If Pat Robertson did say what Robert Haskins said he did, then Robertson has swapped one belief system for another.
Is reality — the natural, observable world — just a belief system? Maybe so, but it’s the only game in town that plays by a dependable set of rules we can understand and use, so that’s where to place your bets.
Copyright © 2013. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.