Re: Letter published in reply to Teaching evolution as a religion?

From: Denyse O'Leary (oleary@sympatico.ca)
Date: Wed Mar 26 2003 - 09:08:18 EST

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    In response to Michael Ruse's commentary in Science,
    " Is Evolution a Secular Religion?"
    http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/299/5612/1523

    my letter was published at:

    http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/eletters/299/5612/1523

    Here is the letter appended:

    <P> Teaching any aspect of science as a religion is harmful to science
    -- not to religion. The science teacher does not expect most students to
    become professional scientists. Many will forget the details of snails
    and quasars. However, the teacher does hope that students will learn the
    scientist's way of thinking about nature. When science teaching
    succeeds, students continue to apply their thinking through life.

    <P> The last thing science teaching needs is to take the scientist's
    ways of thinking about nature (evolution, for example) and turn them
    into doctrines, to be believed in their own right. That is like staring
    at the light bulb, instead of using it to illuminate a page. Not only
    will you not see what you need to see, you will soon not see clearly at
    all. Evolution has great explanatory power, but only when applied to
    subjects it best explains, not when treated as a dogma into which all
    events in life must be fitted. Indeed, part of what makes evolution
    controversial is the persistent habit of some evolutionary biologists of
    using principles derived from Darwinism to pronounce on controversial
    topics such as religion. In these instances, their explanations often
    lack explanatory power, principally, I suspect, because they are
    oblivious to the fact that human culture is, as S.J. Gould pointed out,
    a Lamarckian, not a Darwinian inheritance. People purposefully adapt
    their religion and culture during their own lifetimes and pass them on.
    As a result, the evolutionary biologist probably doesn't even have an
    edge over the sociologist, especially if the sociologist knows the turf
    better.

    <P> Evangelists for traditional religions sense the weakness of
    evolution as a religion, and discredit it with little effort. That is
    part of the reason that so much of the American public, for example,
    does not "believe in" evolution. It was promoted as a religion to be
    believed in, failed to make as many converts as hoped, and generated
    hostility. However, thatoutcome should be no surprise; the evolutionists
    were amateurs matched against experts.

    <P> Science functions best and teaches best with the knowledge that all
    scientific hypotheses are provisional, and not a form of dogma or a rule
    of life.

    -- 
    To see what's new in faith and science issues, go to www.designorchance.com
    My next book, By Design or By Chance?: The Growing Controversy Over the
    Origin of Life in the Universe  (Castle Quay Books, Oakville) will be
    published Fall 2003.
    

    To order, call Castle Quay, 1-800-265-6397, fax 519-748-9835, or visit www.afcanada.com (CDN $19.95 or US$14.95).

    Denyse O'Leary 14 Latimer Avenue Toronto, Ontario, CANADA M5N 2L8 Tel: 416 485-2392/Fax: 416 485-9665 oleary@sympatico.ca www.denyseoleary.com



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