Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Bazell is wrong about I.D.

Robert Bazell, the Chief Science and Health Correspondent for MSNBC writes an article titled Stop whining about intelligent design . Here are a few choice quotes from his editorial, and my response to each point.

Bazell writes:
Scientists should stop whining about threats to the teaching of evolution and spend more time discussing values. The thought occurred to me recently when I was attending my son's medical school commencement.

Following the well-trod path of a graduation speech, the dean, a highly regarded physician and scientist, told the new MDs they would face many challenges. These included, he said, a world where science endured constant assault as evidenced by the recent attempts to bring "intelligent design" into the curricula of Dover, Pa., and other high school districts.

Young physicians will indeed have a tough time of it. For example, what are the life-saving limits of expensive high-technology treatments? When have they accepted too many promotional gifts from pharmaceutical companies? Should an experiment be done on humans just because researchers have the tools to try it?

Teaching evolution properly in secondary school will have little impact on these difficult issues.
Fine then... if Mr. Bazell wants to frame this debate in terms of values, what kind of value is it to teach our children religious dogma in science class? Does Bazell seriously contend that it is some sort of value for future generations to be raised in scientific confusion and/or ingnorance? Science is science. I'm all for a healthy discourse of all sides of the issues in our schools, but if there is no scientific validity to a given cause then there is no "side" to legitimately teach in science class. The best "value" we can give to future generations is to give them the best education we can without letting the dogmatics throw them into confusion. Let the science be science, the religion be religion, and keep our focus on what is what.

How would the dogmatics feel if there were a sudden drive to start teaching evolution in sunday school. After all we want our children exposed to all sides of the issue right? I suppose what is good for the goose would not be good for the gander from the theologians point of view, or from mine for that matter. I just happen to be consistent on the matter.

Bazell continues:
Science is something very specific. It is a means of understanding the world around us by posing hypotheses that can be tested with experiments or observations. But science can never help us make moral or value judgments like those the new physicians will face.

Serious efforts in biology and medicine can no more ignore evolution than airplane designers can ignore gravity.
So if future dogmatics propose that the law of gravity ought to be replaced by the law of 'divine attraction between objects' with a thesis based upon Gods will on all objects equaling gravity, we can rest assured that Bazell would think that rocket scientists et al ought to just keep quiet about the controversy. Let that crowd concern themselves with such matters as the values of the day, not whether or not future generations have the most rudimentary understanding of a basic scientific precept. Bazell himself affirms the basic scientific validity and value to medicine of evolution. Yet he appears to be more concerned about a debate on values than science standing up for itself in the classroom. Which stand I would reiterate, I consider to be a value of itself that ought to be defended.

Finally, who is to say that we can't have both debates at the same time. Must we be so preoccupied with values in science that we crumble and surrender to the dogmatics when they demand equal time in science class lest we lose our focus on values? We can and should do both in my opinion. This post on my blog affirming my belief that science class ought to teach science does not somehow mean I am suddenly forgetting about the ethics of mad scientists conducting human experiments. I can concurrently be for science and against mad scientists, much the same as I can actually walk and chew gum at the same time.

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