Saturday, 21 February 2009

Teaching the Flat Earth Theory?

One of the curious requests from religious folks seem to revolve around teaching Intelligent Design alongside Evolution, as a form of "alternative", as if ID (short for Intelligent Design) has any form of legitimacy in the realms of proper Science.

A reader, possum papa, has these pearls of wisdom to expound:

"In the interest of free thought we have to show all perspectives, and let them decide on their own. We don't say the world is 6000 years old, and you have to believe it. We say some people believe this, and some people believe that, and you think about these different views, and decide what you think is correct."

Ah, free thought. Ben Stein, in his firm, "Expelled", suggested that academia should include controversial, non-factual branches of pseudoscience, such as ID, in science classrooms in order to foster open-mindedness in the field of scientific learning. Since then, many Christians have parroted Ben Stein, and religious folks have seized upon this propaganda film to infuse ID into mainstream Science and hopefully set it up as a legitimate form of scientific learning.

Yes, it all seems very dainty at first. But let's see.......will Christians be able to stomach this????

Excepts from the BBC article, "Do They really think the earth is flat???"

The Flat Earth?

Flat earth theory is still around. On the internet and in small meeting rooms in Britain and the US, flat earth believers get together to challenge the "conspiracy" that the Earth is round.

"People are definitely prejudiced against flat-earthers," says John Davis, a flat earth theorist based in Tennessee, reacting to the new Microsoft commercial.

"Many use the term 'flat-earther' as a term of abuse, and with connotations that imply blind faith, ignorance or even anti-intellectualism."

Mr Davis, a 25-year-old computer scientist originally from Canada, first became interested in flat earth theory after "coming across some literature from the Flat Earth Society a few years ago".

"I came to realise how much we take at face value," he says. "We humans seem to be pleased with just accepting what we are told, no matter how much it goes against our senses."

Mr Davis now believes "the Earth is flat and horizontally infinite - it stretches horizontally forever".

"And it is at least 9,000 kilometres deep", he adds.

James McIntyre, a British-based moderator of a Flat Earth Society discussion website, has a slightly different take. "The Earth is, more or less, a disc," he states. "Obviously it isn't perfectly flat thanks to geological phenomena like hills and valleys. It is around 24,900 miles in diameter."

Mr McIntyre, who describes himself as having been "raised a globularist in the British state school system", says the reactions of his friends and family to his new beliefs vary from "sheer incredulity to the conviction that it's all just an elaborate joke".

Why Flat Earthers Are Ridiculed, & Why Flat Earth Theory Ain't Science

Before you start guffawing and laugh yourselves to death, let us perhaps study the similarities between people who believe in ID and the people who believe the Earth is flat:

1. Both theories do not have any standing and credibility in the realm of Science.

The idea of the flat earth, in particular, is thoroughly debunked based on tons of images of a global planet from the vast plethora of satellites currently revolving around our blue planet, compelling evidence for and not against a global planet. Besides, one can easily circumvent the globe without falling off the edge of the planet, hence, proof that earth isn't flat.

Intelligent Design, the idea that an intelligent being has to exist to create existence as we know it, tends to follow a peculiar train of thought: For example: A frog's elbow is complicated. Such a complicated elbow has to be a product of design. Hence, the conclusion is that, God exists.

IDers often focus on the term "irreducible complexity", a term coined by Michael Behe, which assumes that a certain complex organ or part, say, the eye, wouldn't work at all if one part of a component does not exist or doesn't work properly will cause the whole "design" to fail, and hence cannot be reduced. He likens such complexities to a "mousetrap". Such ludicrous theories can be easily debunked: Professor Dawkins used examples of various developmental stages of the eye using a computer program, plus examples gleaned from various creatures in Mother Nature, to prove that "1% of an eye is better than no eye at all".

2. Both proponents face ridicule for their beliefs.

It is no surprise, then, when a belief cannot be validated by evidence, that it should be subjected to derision and ridicule. Ben Stein has highlighted it as a form of prejudice and persecution, while Flat Earthers are more or less resigned to such negative comments from the general public.

Intelligent Design: A Dangerous Political Movement

Having said that, there are some marked differences between the two: Flat-Earthers do not have the political clout to bring about a concerted effort to smuggle their bullshit as valid Science. Creationists who attempt to mask and make Creationism more broad-based by terming it "Intelligent Design" do have a lot of support from the powerful Religious Right, and herein lies the danger.

If Intelligent Design is taught in a classroom as legitimate Science, imagine the scores of ancient learning that kids will be allowed to grapple and confuse themselves with: Alchemy vs Chemistry & Astronomy vs Astrology. Or worst, Holocaust deniers teaching that the horrible events associated with antisemitism never existed. Education, as we know it, will be so hopelessly screwed!

Opening a Can of Worms

Science deals with empirical evidence and cold, hard facts, not incredulous, unfounded claims.

If Intelligent Design is allowed to be taught as legitimate Science, myths, legends, and many forms of religious beliefs will be infiltrated into secular classrooms, hence obfuscating Science with pseudoscience. Are Christians really willing to forsake education to propagate their own bullshit beliefs, and in the process opening a can of worms and allow all manner of charlatans and tricksters to peddle their beliefs in secular education institutions?

-"...when two opposite points of view are expressed with equal intensity, the truth does not necessarily lie exactly halfway between them. It is possible for one side to be simply wrong."

Richard Dawkins