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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Let there be fights

    The National Park Service came under fire recently after it was discovered that its bookstores contain copies of “”The Grand Canyon: A Different View,”” which claims that the Grand Canyon was created 4,500 years ago during Noah’s flood. With creationism making the headlines in Pennsylvania, Kansas and even here at the UA, should creationism be taught alongside Darwin’s theory of evolution? Here’s what two Wildcat columnists think. Send us your thoughts at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

    Don’t count creationists out

    The Earth is the center of the universe: All the stars, suns and planets revolve around it – according to the Catholic Church and many scientists in the 16th century. Nicolaus Copernicus had to confront this ideology when he proposed that the earth revolves around the sun.

    Now the tables are turned. The majority of the power in ideas and learning is now in the scientific community instead of religious establishments.

    Scientists with unconventional ideas are being quashed by a mainstream media that dumbs down information to make it “”accessible”” to the public, and fellow scientists are trashing their credibility.

    Take the current controversy in the Grand Canyon. Since 2003, a book has been sold in the gift shop called “”The Grand Canyon: A Different View.”” It was compiled by Tom Vail, a river guide, and contains pictures of the Grand Canyon, along with essays explaining creationist theories about the origin of the Grand Canyon.

    More than 15 Ph.D-level scientists with degrees ranging from geology, geophysics, space physics, hydrogeology and biology contributed to this book.

    In 2004, an attempt was made to keep this book off the shelves by the presidents of seven prestigious geological societies. A letter they signed, said in part, “”The book is not about geology but, rather, advances a narrow religious view about the Earth. We urge you to remove the book from shelves where buyers are given the impression that the book is about Earth science and its content endorsed by the National Park Service.””

    They failed because the National Park Service never made a decision. However, the book was moved from the science section to the inspirational section.

    It is insulting that the research that these highly educated individuals have conducted is relegated to an inspirational section because the scientific majority disagrees.

    Now a group called Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility has issued a press release trying to force the Park Service into a decision regarding the book, hoping to get it banned. Incidentally, Vail’s book has been a bestseller since the last bout of controversy in 2004.

    The problem here is that science can get too full of itself. Mainstream thinking assumes that if people are religious, they reject modern science and are living as though the earth was still flat and the center of the universe.

    Because of the exclusive teaching of evolution in the majority of schools, most young Americans have been programmed into thinking the theory is infallible, and the only explanation of the origin of the universe.

    Under this indoctrination in schools, students are being denied compelling information that brings out legitimate questioning and inquiry into the study of the Earth’s origins.

    There are a lot of nutcases in the world with ideas that are indeed crazy and disturbing, and the media labels some of these with the c-word, “”creationist.”” However, it is close-minded and wrong to lump legitimate scientists into this crowd simply because an idea is out of fashion.

    To illustrate my point, consider the atom, the essential building block of the universe. The idea of the atom began as a philosophical idea in the 5th century B.C.

    It wasn’t until the end of the 19th century that the electron was actually discovered. Since then, there have been several models of the atom, including the plum pudding model, the discovery of the nucleus, which led to the Rutherford model, then the Bohr model and finally today’s current atomic orbital model.

    In just over 100 years, there have been huge leaps in this study that have changed the way that scientists think about the foundations of the universe.

    Ideas are always changing, theories are always changing, and we hope that science is indeed moving forward instead of backward. It is always wise to have an open mind about scientific study. To limit yourself to one viewpoint is similar to only getting your news on Fox; you just aren’t going to see the whole picture.

    Instead of yelling at the Mall preachers, try finding a book on creationism. Even if you don’t believe in a God or a higher power, at least examine the science. Maybe – just maybe – you will broaden your horizons.

    Joyanna Jones is a journalism senior. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu

    Creationism: A step backwards

    The controversy between creation and evolution continues to grow in this country. But is this simply an argument, or does it have more severe consequences?

    To believe God created the world, in whatever manner He chose, demands just one thing: faith. But to be a creationist – that is, to believe that scientific evidence suggests a recent creation of the world in six Earth days – demands another thing entirely.

    What is the difference? The former is a religious belief that demands respect like any other. The other is a malicious attack on American technological and scientific progress.

    The creationist effort is spearheaded by two groups: victimized, misguided citizens and politicians who have been fed faulty information, and phony “”scientists”” who present their equally phony arguments in opposition to the “”theory of evolution,”” a catch-all category that includes accepted scientific principles like common descent, abiogenesis and the Big Bang theory.

    The issue is closer to home than you think. Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas and Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas have both announced their intentions for the presidency, and like good old John McCain, they support the teaching of “”alternate theories of origin”” in science classes.

    If school boards in Ohio, Kansas, and Pennsylvania are any indicator, the so-called “”creation-evolution controversy”” will be in your backyard soon – provided that it’s not already.

    Let’s be up-front about one thing: There is not a single argument for creationism that does not rely on a severe misinterpretation of scientific evidence or, worse yet, of science itself. Ask any UA scientist and they’ll tell you the same.

    To circumvent this, creationists are fond of misrepresenting science and using cheap debate tactics. They know that their claims take much longer to refute than they do to set forth, which makes it appear as though they have a legitimate basis.

    Here’s an experiment you can perform yourself: Read aloud the common creationist claim that “”there is no direct evidence for the Big Bang.”” Then, go and look up the words “”cosmic background radiation”” in the search engine of your choice.

    Which one was easier and took less time? Which one is correct? Notice these two questions don’t have the same answer.

    The simple truth is that scientific theories adhere to principles such as testability, falsifiability, parsimony and naturalism. That last one is the most important: It’s what prevents scientists from invoking magic, gremlins or God as explanations for physical phenomena. Creationism has none of these principles. There shouldn’t even be a controversy; science clearly wins on its own grounds.

    But creationism isn’t just factually incorrect and mischievously dishonest. It’s a direct detriment to our country’s progress. That anyone can graduate from an American high school or university while still clinging to creationism suggests that students lack the critical thinking and research skills they need – not to mention the understanding of basic scientific concepts.

    If the value in a good scientific education isn’t self-evident, consider this. What does our scientific ignorance say about America’s continued status as the most technologically advanced nation in the world? According to a 2006 Gallup poll, roughly 46 percent of Americans accept strict creationism. Compare this to other Western countries, where the figure is in the single digits.

    It’s nothing short of embarrassing.

    Perhaps worse yet, creationism is an assault on faith itself. Theologians have long recognized, as Martin Luther did, the importance of faith, not evidence, as the guiding force behind belief – a sentiment that has been echoed in recent times by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Vatican, among others.

    The time is nigh to take action. Courts all over the country need to keep up their strict, no-tolerance policies regarding creationism and its lightweight cousin, intelligent design, in classrooms. Intelligent Americans have the same duty to be informed about science as they do about politics or history, and UA students in particular should take advantage of the many available origins-oriented science courses as a means to that end.

    And know that, should you choose to believe in God, your choice should be informed by faith and personal commitment – not by lies and faulty arguments.

    Either way, don’t be deceived by the crimes of creationism.

    Taylor Kessinger is a sophomore majoring in physics, math and philosophy. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu

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