[crossposted at Daily Kos]

O.K. the title is a little odd and this is a little long but bear with me.

Over the last couple of days I have been reading  Against All Enemies: Inside America’s War on Terror by Richard A.Clarke. If you have not read it yet, I would highly recommend it.

I had an epiphany when I read this paragraph,

From the interactions I did have with Bush it was clear that the critique of him as a dumb, lazy rich kid were somewhat off the mark. When he focused, he asked the kind of questions that revealed a results-oriented mind, but he looked for the simple solution, the bumper sticker description of the problem. Once he had that, he could put energy behind a drive to achieve his goal. The problem was that many of the important issues, like terrorism, like Iraq, were laced with important subtlety and nuance. These issues needed analysis and Bush and his inner circle had no real interest in complicated analyses; on the issues that they cared about, they already knew the answers, it was received wisdom. (page 243 – emphasis mine)

With this paragraph came a sudden understanding of one reason why winning the Evolution battle in our schools is so important to me. This diary is not about Evolution or Creationism per se; rather it is about the thought process that perpetuates the Creationist’s side of the debate.  Opposing this mindset is at the heart of almost every issue that is important to me, and I suspect – many of you as well.

I am going to approach both sides of this issue as two opposing methods of problem solving.

More over the jump.
The first method is the ever-debated “Scientific Method.” Many other dKos members have covered this debate so, briefly, the process goes like this.

  • Someone notices an event or structure and they want to know what causes it.
  • An educated guess (hypothesis) is formed about what is being observed.
  • Experiments are set up to study the hypothesis. It is very important that these experiments be formed to disprove the hypothesis.
  • If the experiments do not disprove the hypothesis, the experimenter must submit their data to others to be carefully critiqued.
  • If the data appears solid when others run experiments – it moves one step closer to being accepted as a Theory.

Notice the direction: Observation ⇒ Experimentation ⇒ Explanation.

Science isn’t perfect, but it is the best way we have now to insure we are moving toward knowing the “truth” in our description of the Natural World.

The minds of humans are incredibly good at seeing patterns. From the time we are born, pattern recognition helps us survive. Infants focus on the patterns that are their parent’s faces. Hunter/gatherers learn to see patterns in the tracks of game, edible plants, dangerous animals and situations. We wouldn’t be here if our ancestors didn’t see patterns.

But – our perceptions and senses can be tricked. Click this Image Hosted by ImageShack.us. (The main page with many other optical illusions is here)

Are you back? Now you would swear the image is moving, right? Until you do an experiment by holding an instrument such as a straight edge up to the picture. Then you see that it is your false perceptions that are creating the movement. To survive – none of this matters. If I “imagine” a bush is moving and avoid it – even if it is free of danger – I survive.

When we reached a time in history where we could move beyond just basic survival, the game changed but our perceptions didn’t. Science is a way of overcoming the weakness of our senses. You can’t trust what you believe to be true. This is Skepticism. Without it, science could not happen. Do not confuse Skepticism with Pessimism they are not even closely related. Skeptics do not reject everything as untrue; they just need evidence before they accept a claim.

Skepticism is important in politics. Do any of you accept all claims made by politicians at face value? If you do, you are accepting a Argumentum ad Verecundiam or an Argument from Authority. This is never wise in a flourishing democracy. Those in authority may be telling the truth . . . just ask for evidence. If they are unwilling to provide it, then you can bring to their attention the odor of “masculine bovine fecal matter” that has suddenly wafted over from their general direction.

Now the “Creationist” direction of problem solving is this: Explanation ⇒ Ignore evidence that contradicts the Explanation ⇒ Explanation. I am hoping this sound familiar to most of you.

If you decide what the explanation is first – you have nowhere to go. In order to maintain your explanation you must reject evidence. This can be very difficult to do as can be seen by the arguments used by Creationists.

For example Creationists:

  • Know the speed of light is always 299,792,458 meters per second  (186,282 miles per second) in a vacuum (space). (O.K. they don’t know it, but they can look it up as a fact like I did)
  • Know that in one year, light travels 9.4605284 × 10<sup>15</sup&gt meters (5.87849981 × 10<sup>12</sup&gt miles – that is 5,878,499,810,000 miles!). This is a light year, notice this is a unit of distance and not speed.
  • Know that the most distant objects are about 13 billion light years away.

Creationists are not arguing these figures are wrong. They just have the “received wisdom” that the World is only around 6,000 years old and they don’t share any common DNA with any damn dirty ape. So when faced with the facts – you either must accept that the Universe is at least 13 Billion years old OR you could sidestep the issue by claiming something like, “God created the light “in transit” so it only took 6,000 years to get here”. This would allow you to maintain your “received wisdom.” And this is exactly what they do.

Spirituality is a very important part of our species. Science isn’t trying to get rid of that. We have had other conflicts where our Worldviews were shattered. We now know we are not the center of the Universe, on a flat Earth, with crystal spheres surrounding us. We all made it through these with our spirituality intact. We can make it through Evolution as well.

And this is where I finally get back to the point I was trying to make.

By teaching good science to our children – we increase their ability to face complex issues in other areas of their lives. They can find solutions that actually work. Learning how to think is not an automatic process. We need to be aware of where that process goes awry and consciously avoid errors and introducing muddled thinking into the classroom will not help. We need to teach them to ask for verification and not just accept something because someone in authority told them it was true.

Just looking back on one event – September 11, 2001 shows us where it is vitally important not to ignore evidence that goes against what you want to believe.

George Bush knew in his mind Iraq was involved in terrorist activities and the manufacture of WMD’s (that this was his main reason to invade is questionable) even though all evidence to the contrary said otherwise. This is the Creationist mindset.

If he had looked at the complexities of the issue by studying them, welcomed advice that questioned what he knew, demanded evidence instead of going on a “gut feeling” we would be in a very different place today. Osama bin Laden would probably not be free. We would not have squandered the goodwill of other countries to become one of the most hated Nations on the Earth with our “with us or against us” attitude.

Terrorist actions are increasing, and our military is spread thin. We will be hard pressed to respond to another threat. We are no longer taken seriously when we criticize other Nations for behaving badly – hypocrisy is never viewed well. And on, and on.

We owe it to the citizens of our Country and our children to be able to face complex issues. I know many here feel that one of our problems is we make things too complex. I also know that those that feel this way didn’t make it to this paragraph and hit the “back button” right after the optical illusion.

Having slogans, talking points, quick answers and responses that are easily remembered is important. But when people want to know why we support certain solutions we need to be able to back them up with answers that are complex. We need to learn how to walk and chew gum at the same time.

This is why we need to win the Evolution/Creation debate.

Another reason is given in this diary at Daily Kos: The Coming Christian Hate

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