9.30.2009

Who Cares!?

“Why does it matter? Does it really make any difference in our daily lives whether evolution is true or not? With all the troubles in the world is this debate really important at all?”

These are the exasperated questions that I was asked recently during a discussion about science education. I suspect that this person was using this approach to try and make me seem shrill and out of touch to the rest of the people talking, but I know he wasn’t prepared for my answer -

I'm curious as to how you might answer that question. I'll share mine in a later post.

16 comments:

Jared said...

Hmm, evolution is VERY important to the medical field. It is also extremely pivotal in our understanding and investigations of sociology, ecology, agriculture, biotechnology (let evolution do the work for you, just apply selective pressure!) and so forth. As for the average individual's everyday life, he or she is greatly affected by this model even without knowing it from the food products, medicines, infections, potential for biofuel production, and even software modeled after organic processes.

Those are my examples of how evolution impacts people on a daily basis.

Harvey said...

Pliny:

You bet this discussion is important!! The continued insistance of religious fundamentalists on either removing what is thus far known about how life has evolved upon our Earth from science curricula and/or adding to/replacing that knowledge with Biblical accounts is what is really at issue. Why is this so important to the religionists? Because young people all over the world are "falling away" from organized religions (of all types, not just Christianity), many of them because they have been taught to think for themselves and to question things (like religion) that do not make sense to them. This questioning, so critical to the scientific method, is anathema to fundamentalists of every stripe. If one is permitted to learn that the scientific record and all of Man's knowledge acquired to the present time raises great doubt about the accuracy of Biblical accounts, it is only a short step further to begin to question the rest of any religious dogma. If fundamentalists did not see fit to keep trying to insert religious beliefs into school curricula that have nothing to do with religion (or, conversely, to try to modify or remove scientific knowledge from those curricula) "it wouldn't matter" either and there would be much more time for us to disuss "all the toubles in the world". That's why it "matters".

GearHedEd said...

Here's a perspective from the visceral...

Lots of people, and not all of them are even Christians, would deny evolution solely on the grounds that it places us squarely in the same category as monkeys(and even claims that our closest relations in the animal kingdom are chimpanzees).

What did the Elephant Man say?

"I am not...an animal!!!"

Shounen A said...

Tell that to those foaming at the mouth trying to replace good science with wishful thinking in the classroom. :/

(Agreeing with everyone else that the teaching of good or bad science will affect our daily lives eventually, and even the way of thinking will affect daily lives right now.)

Harvey said...

Gear:

It continues to surprise me that most people simply cannot accept the fact that we are all members of the Animal Kingdom and, as such, our only "purpose" on this earth is to survive long enough to reproduce and to nurture at least enough of our offspring to the point where they, in turn, can reproduce to perpetuate our species a little longer. It is this unwillingness to accept reality that leads mankind to "need" to create a Deity and to try to influence it through worship and sacrifice. Since science, in many ways, challenges this non-acceptance of reality, believers are essentially forced to refuse to accept this accumulated knowledge as well. This issue is obviously much broader than just the "fight" against evolution.

Jared said...

"our only "purpose" on this earth is to survive long enough to reproduce and to nurture at least enough of our offspring to the point where they, in turn, can reproduce to perpetuate our species a little longer."

I think the scare quotes are significant here, am I right?

Michael Lockridge said...

The value of something, especially intellectual concepts, is often a matter of perspective.

I did not value algebra and trigonometry until I worked for a time in engineering. Housewives and shoe salesmen don't "need" these things, and can look on them with disdain because the do not appear to touch on their own real lives.

My brother in law, a CPA and very highly educated tax law specialist, once said "I don't see the value of history." In the context, he did not see the value of history as a significant element of general education.

A CPA is a historian. Accounting is writing a fiscal history, but he failed to see the corelation with his own life and by extension the value of history as a field of study and training.

Does an idea, such as evolution, impact our individual lives? Of course, but not so directly that the association will be clearly embraced by peons and paupers, winos and whores. Or even shoe salesmen and housewives.

What are the merits of compassion and charity in the context of evolution? Why mitigate avarice and violence? Are they not tools of evolution? Why protect the widow or the orphan?

Being human is complex, is it not? Whether evolved or created, we are an interesting muddle, capable of beauty and ugliness, wisdom and foolishness.

There is always Bergson.

Mike

JefFlyingV said...

I would like to think most people care. Many of our problems in the world stem from an ignorance of science and ignoring science. Evolution is a piece of the scientific pie that shouldn't be ignored. Without evolution can one understand ecosystems and our place within it?

Presently we have a legal battle that is being waged in the courts over the teaching of evolution in many of our states, which in the long term can affect skepticism and general science knowledge of the public if the IDers win.

Waiting for miracles has never advanced humanity.

Harvey said...

Jared:

I'm not sure what you refer to as "scare quotes". I used them because it is my experience that people who choose to see Humans as "higher" or better than all other animals in some way do so because they wish to believe that we have some higher "purpose" on the Earth than any so-called lower animals. In most cases, this belief seems to boil down to the belief that we have souls and that other members of the Animal Kingdom do not. So, I suppose, if this is what you mean by "scare quotes", yes, they do have significance.

GearHedEd said...

Harvey:

"It is this unwillingness to accept reality that leads mankind to "need" to create a Deity and to try to influence it through worship and sacrifice."

I'll call that and raise you a "need" to create a deity (who conveniently looks JUST LIKE US) to inform us that we're "special" and superior to the other living things on Earth.

The proof that this thinking is faulty is evidenced by what white European settlers (invaders) did to the Native Americans when we "discovered" North America.

GearHedEd said...

...and then proceeded to cram Christianity down their throats and called that a "good" thing.

oneblood said...

Pliny,

I agree sort of with Michael. Of course it matters; and I hope you said that.

But there are different forms of importance.

If it's intellectual discourse then yes it's very important. If it's enjoying the smile on your child's face, then it's not too important, and at that moment relativity isn't too important either.

Pliny-the-in-Between said...

One thing I can't seem to figure out is how to leave commnets on OneBlood sor Mac's sites, I get this menu of options none of which seems to work.

oneblood said...

Good question, like I said before, other than Mac's and mine technological ineptitude in setting up our blogs I don't know what to say.

You, Asylum, Brian, pboy, all have your comment "section" if you will, show up on the right hand side of already posted comments. Sometimes I have to put in a password, or verification sometimes not.

On both mac and my blogs however, there's just a measley little box at the 'bottom' of each main post.
Everytime someone posts, the measley little box moves below that and so on.

I don't know why.

That's the only info from our side that I can see as possibly being applicable.

oneblood said...

Scratch all that Pliny.

It's fairies.

Stacy S. said...

Hi Pliny,

I don't have anything much to add everything seems to have been covered by everyone else. :-) ...except that I was able to comment over at oneblood's place. Maybe there was a glitch and it's fixed now.