07/11/2004: "Creationism is to Science as Cancer is to Body"
Mandatory teaching of creationism in public school science classes is an issue with particular personal resonance for me. As a boy growing up in the South in the 1950s and 60s I had a consuming interest in science. My most treasured possessions were my telescope, chemistry set, and a huge encyclopedia of science. I took my science classes very seriously. I vividly recall my high school biology text. While it did a reasonable job of describing and categorizing the animal kingdom, it said virtually nothing on the important question of how the diversity of the different families of life occurred. Such explanations are the essence of science. Science is not merely an inventory of what is known, but also an identification of core principles by which the complexity of the world is made comprehensible. Description and categorization are at best only the beginning of science. It achieves its full potential and power when it explains. When we understand nature, when we see not only the complex patterns of everyday experience but also the more subtle and unexpected underlying order, we can create new patterns. This is the basis for technology, and it is technology more than any other factor that has made civilization possible. Letís spend the week thinking about why even the faithful should recognize that religious interference with science puts civilization itself at risk.