Saturday, November 27, 2004

Public Reason

Reprinted here, at The Strawman, is a comment from Majikthise discussion on Creation myths, evolution, and public reason. I think it’s good. I think this because I wrote it. I’m not sure if that’s a Cartesian joke—I wonder.

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First of all, I don't think "kids should be taught all kinds of things", that would be far too silly and, also, needlessly accepting of the validity in the Creationists’ line: If your paradigm, then why not mine? (Sorry for rhyming) It’s also not about demarcation or clever, semantic elegance that elides our collective understanding of the ultimate nature of reality.

"What evidence has Creationism brought to bear on Quantum Mechanics?" Neils Bohr’s ghost would ask demandingly. What systemized theories, that lend themselves to falsifiability by the scientific method, have been offered to the naturalistic appendages of our (or a) cosmology?

While essentially enjoying the largess of the RD efforts made by Science in our long march 'forward' to progress, religion has offered only a meta-narrative of why we are, never thorough enough to get its hands dirty with the questions of what we are.(That is to say our physical constitution, temporally.) (Though, this is not to say that the Church as an historical institution hasn’t cultivated the pursuit of Science. There is no doubt it has; though only tendentiously.) (Semantic qualifiers, anyone?)

Granted Science is a language, and, thus, is spoken with different levels of comprehension among interlocutors; but, there are rules of syntax and grammar that make it intelligible as a coherent theory—and, more importantly, it doesn’t rely on a question begging thesis to underlie its foundation.

I’m not certain, though I’m open to be corrected and/or persuaded, that Creationism can give me an alternative system to Cellular Biology, to Organic Chemistry, to Physics. What I am certain of, however, is that Creationism and/or competing cosmologies aren’t trying very hard to—through their own paradigms of systemized empirical evidence and the explication of physical phenomena—refute naturalistic sciences. They accept the consequent, have no qualms with its operational necessity in everyday, practical life, but reject the antecedent.

This is why we have the soft “sciences” of ID, New Earth Creationism, Old Earth Creationism, Young World whatever—and what have you. They understand, and concede the fact, that their theories of cosmogony have to, at least in some persuasive, commonsense way, comport to the Scientific method--or some close approximation of it, or something like it, or close to it.(Make sense?) They understand that there must be a public reason—simply beyond belief and faith without evidence—for their theories to hold sway against and/or with Science.

This, then, necessarily compromises both the underlying epistemes of their respective theories of life and the fealty they ask of those who subscribe ultimately to these theories.

When we talk about what we want to teach in public schools, we’re talking about what the default position should be: why are we? This can’t be answered in any comprehensive or practicable way—and clearly can’t be answered, at this time, in any conclusively positive way competing theories of cosmologies contend.

Though it may have tried in it younger years, Science isn’t trying, now, to answer that question, "why are we?", definitively (Save maybe for String Theory)—and operates on the assumption that the method will, in the end, tease it out. Competing cosmologies, (Religion, Creationism so on and so forth) have answered the question; no further evidence is required, no further inquiry is necessary—which explains the woolly-headedness in their epistemologies, and, therefore, by extension, their theories of anything.

What type of practical education do we want our children to have? That is the vital question. Or, more apropos, and “the” philosophical question Bush would offer, “Is our children learning?”

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