Saturday, September 10, 2011


As we have seen recently many politicians, especially those on the far fundamentalist right are inclined to interpret all they see within their domain in Biblical terms. That especially includes evolution which is consistent with their mostly literal interpretation of the Bible and Genesis. Like GOP presidential candidate, Governor Rick Perry of Texas recently opined to a youngster in Manchester, NH, "I know your mom is asking about evolution. It's a theory that's out there and it's got some gaps in it.”

So Perry is either incredibly naïve about science and the differences between scientific laws, hypotheses and theories or he’ll just say anything for votes. Either option is a sad indictment and certainly not qualities we want to see in a world leader in the 21st century. It would appear that Perry will continue to blur the lines of distinction between Science and Religion as, "a firm believer in intelligent design (creationism) as a matter of faith and intellect."

We understand the “faith” part of his statement, but the “intellect” component scares us. Everybody has a right to embrace their own belief systems but when they try and shove it down our throats under the guise of credible, mandatory education (even public policy), we have a problem. Perry and the Republicans have been trying to do that in Texas, witness the scary logic and machinations of former chairman of the Texas State Board of Education, Don McLeroy, a Perry appointee.

But let’s get back to basics and put this issue in perspective by acknowledging that it is to the obvious advantage of those with a literalist, far right agenda to discredit science and evolution. In order to justify their thoughts, words and deeds they borrow credible and seemingly scientific terms like “intelligent”, “design”, “creation” and even “scientific” to denote a belief system that incorporates none of these aspects.

So, we need to define what the scientific method is and the not so subtle differences in scientific Laws, hypotheses and theories. During our research we came across several great articles/posts but none were as clear and understandable as and their post Scientific Laws, Hypotheses, and Theories. We can do no better and heartily recommend.

Confusing this whole issue are individuals who don’t understand or won’t credit the concepts, protocols, disciplines and the attendant vocabulary and terms scientists use. That includes use of the term theory which conveniently for some can also mean that based on limited knowledge, a conjecture or assumption - a mere guess or something that hasn’t yet been proved. Again, it has a whole different meaning in science and that’s the Perry Blur.

Theories including the Theory of Evolution are based on the application of the scientific method where scientists propose one or more hypotheses or explanations for the process and then test them for accuracy and correctness. Evolution has passed thousands of such tests and is accepted to be true by the scientific community and most of the rest of the world, including this writer.

Here’s the kicker and perhaps why we retain the term theory. Scientists will always assume that there may be an opportunity to refine, fine tune and perfect all theories as new evidence is discovered. Simply put, they can build on an existing and proven truth. Scientists are always willing to alter any theory when and if new evidence is discovered, presented, tested and found to be valid. This scientific method allows any theory to ultimately become more and more accurate as research progresses. Ultimately, there is no agenda, no right or wrong in science – rather just what the record reflects.

A great example would be the discovery and analysis of DNA evidence that from the mainstream perspective squarely puts the origins of modern man in that part of the world we now call Africa. We know that to be true because of the distribution of archaic DNA material in Homo sapiens sapiens around the world today.

Will that theory be tweaked? Absolutely! As new evidence is discovered we will add to our already credible body of knowledge. That same tested, tried and proven “Out of Africa” theory is also irrefutable evidence for evolution. The question now remains, rather, the extent of regional interbreeding and exchange between modern humans and archaic forms in Africa, not whether evolution is a viable theory. That debate has been over for some time.

So, when you see the word theory used to describe a scientific conclusion that may include Relativity, Plate Tectonics, Quantum Mechanics, Thermodynamics, Evolution, etc. think in terms of science and find comfort that these theories have passed incredible scrutiny.

So, don’t sell yourself short by believing the nonsense and irresponsible statements you hear from politicians like Perry and Bachmann. The next time Perry tries to lump science and, frankly, all that doesn’t fit into his very, very small universe as nothing more than conjecture, call him on it and judge him accordingly. Questions? Refer to the non-partisan or to see where the truth lies.

Sometimes being a “straight talker” isn’t enough especially if that talk is all palaver. If enough of us don’t hold radicalized public officials like Perry and Bachmann accountable for their outrageous perspectives and judge them honestly on their beliefs and attitudes then go and pick out your club for evolution or not we are all going back to the Stone Age. But, irony of ironies, Perry doesn’t believe the earth is older than 6,000 years old…


Ned Buxton

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