The Guardian 26 October, 2005


Defending science and science teaching

Major Australian science and science teacher organisations made an extremely important contribution to science and truth when they issued a statement last week upholding the scientific method and particularly the theory of evolution. They rebutted the latest attempt of the religious creationists to have their notions called "intelligent design" (ID) included as part of school science classes.

The scientists gave a valuable definition of science, saying that "For a theory to be considered scientific it must be testable — either directly or indirectly by experiment or observation. The results of such test should be able to be reproduced by others to check their accuracy … Finally a scientific theory should explain more than what is already known. It should be able to predict outcomes in novel situations. Evolution meets all of these criteria but ID meets none of them: it is not science."

The scientific organisations went on to call on "Australian governments and educators not to permit the teaching or promulgation of it [ID] as science. To do so would make a mockery of Australian science teaching and throw open the door of science classes to similarly unscientific world views". They gave as examples astrology, flat-earth cosmology and alien abductions which would "crowd out the teaching of science."

The struggle between the various creationist theories, which are all based on a god of some denomination, and scientific explanations has been going on for millennia. At first slowly and now rapidly science is explaining the world around us. Science has provided explanations where previously there was ignorance and superstition. Darwin’s theory of evolution gave this struggle a tremendous boost in favour of science.

Religious creeds have fought strenuously against evolution and the knowledge brought by science but they are being forced more and more into a corner. That’s why the advocates of "intelligent design" (ID) seem to have limited their arguments to the more complex aspects of nature and are attempting to create some sort of marriage between science and creationist mythology. Some seem willing to admit that the less complex aspects of nature could be the work of evolution. But such equivocation is nonsense.

Darwin’s theory of evolution and Marx’s dialectical materialism (which gives a general explanation of the processes going on in the world around us) and historical materialism (which relates these principles to society) originated in the 19th century in the intellectual and scientific foment going on at that time as the industrial revolution gathered pace. (Darwin’s Origin of Species was published in 1859 and the Communist Manifesto was first published in English in 1848).

Taken together they were a logical development arising out of the totality of knowledge thus far accumulated and were a tremendous leap forward in the understanding of the world as a whole. These theories qualify to be regarded as science and are testable by experiment and observation.

Because dialectical materialism became the ideological outlook of the worldwide revolutionary movement, it also suffered the attacks of the creationists and the ruling class of the capitalist countries as they fought to preserve their power and privileges and the domination of superstition as their preferred explanation of the origin of life on earth. They attempted to banish dialectical materialism (Marxism), first by ferocious assault and more recently by more subtle methods.

Human society is just as much a part of nature and just as much the subject of science as everything else and the attempts to banish dialectical materialism cannot succeed any more than the current and future attempts by creationists to undermine the theory of evolution.

New knowledge is continually being added to the pool of scientific understanding and this will inevitably overwhelm the creationists and the conservative anti-communists.

On the home front, Brendan Nelson Minister for Education tried to open the door to ID by talking about "choice". President Bush — a born-again Christian — was more direct. He said at the time of his second inauguration that "we are guided by a larger power than ourselves who creates us equal in his image". He went on to threaten the "enemies of liberty" with dire warnings, revealing the chilling truth behind all the fundamentalists’ talk of "choice" and "liberty".

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