Saturday, February 07, 2004

I have a passing interest in evolution for several reasons.  I majored in Anthropology-Zoology in college, and evolutionary principles have contributed to my understand of human nature and psychopathology.  I confess to having been somewhat influenced by E. O. Wilson’s concept of sociobiology.  So, it is with some interest that I read the post on Three-Toed Sloth and the rejoinder on Lex Communis. 


Cosma Shalazi’s (author of three-toe) point that the study of evolution has contributed greatly to agriculture is an excellent point.  Peter Sean Bradley (author of Lex Cummunis) also has a valid point: “doesn't the agriculture subsidy defunding proposal suggest the very problem of class stereotyping I criticized. The proposal is based on the stereotype that creationists are redneck rubes, i.e., country folk, i.e., people dependent on agriculture and, therefore, cutting off agricultural subsidies would really hit those fundy yahoos where they lived.”  But he goes on to say: “my view is that we shouldn't pretend that the debate between evolution and creation has anything to do with normal science; (normal in the Kuhnian sense.)” [the link is mine; it does not appear in the original quotation.] “It's literally a cultural war and some evolutionists are like the Leninists drawing up their proscription lists.”


I know a lot of people who believe in evolution, “evolutionists,” and I haven’t seen any of them act like communist dictators.  Mostly, they view creationism as a minor and somewhat amusing nuisance.  Sometimes they do get upset when creationism influences public policy, but it is not fair to compare this to “Leninists drawing up their proscription lists.”  The fact is, it simply is neither practical nor justifiable to allow such an influence on public policy.  If you had the minority opinion in all scientific debates going to Congress, or school boards, insisting on equal time, pretty soon all educational systems in the country would be paralyzed by the demand to give equal weight to both sides.  This is true because all bodies of knowledge have controversies; indeed, all branches of human endeavor have controversies.  If this were allowed, we would spent all of our time looking at controversies and no time actually teaching or learning anything.