Friday, November 21, 2008

Arguments XV -- Strengths and Weaknesses

This is something that has gotten a lot of press lately. Rather than mandating Intelligent Design the current tactic from those less-than-stalwart fellows over at the Discovery Institute is to push for examining the strengths and weaknesses of evolutionary theory. In Louisiana they've put this into law, and Texas is doing the same thing. So on the surface, is this a bad thing?

Here is my thinking.

First of all I have no problem covering the strengths and weaknesses of any theory -- even ALL theories. But why only point to one, or even a handful. I do enjoy how Evolution is usually teamed up with Climate Change and Stem Cell Research as a controversial theory. But more on controversy later. Right now I wanted to discuss the strengths and weaknesses issue.

OK, Let's start with an allegory, a simple math problem. say 2(squared), that is 2 raised to the second power. The result is 4? Is there any problem with that? No, OK time to move on.

A much more interesting problem is the square root of -1 raised to the power of the square root of -1. In Math terms this is also known as 'i' raised to the 'i'th power. Do you know the answer? well I don't either. Now the real question is "is this a weakness"?

Here is my point. Just because we may not know all the answers, does that indicate a weakness in basic math? No! It is an indicator that we don't know something. It in no way invalidates what we do know. You see where I am going. There is the Theory of Evolution and it is filled with many things that have been observed over and again, confirmed by experimentation, evidence, and other scientific disciplines. it makes no pretense at being perfect, but right now, today, given the state of our understanding, it is the best explanation for how life has changed from generation to generation and over many generations.

Are there things we do not know? Yes! No one in science will claim that it is absolute 100% perfect. But that is not a weakness! It is not a weakness to admit to things you do not know. the readily agree that it's not perfection. That there is more to learn. In fact if you go back to Darwin's day he admitted a number of things that he didn't know and he wasn't sure we would ever know. But the work went on and many of the things Darwin didn't understand are well understood today. In the process we uncovered other things we do not know. And the work keeps going. Each new thing discovered has supported the things we previously understood and added to them. we know so much more than Charles Darwin did!

Now when I talk to one of these people who are pushing 'strengths and weaknesses' or I read their books and articles, they see anything that is not explained as 100% perfection a weakness. in other words there really isn't anything in the Theory of Evolution they accept.

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