Scientific Ideas Can Be Wrong

Craig K. Svensson's "A Creationist Responds" (The Scientist, January 26, p. 12) asks a central question: "Who has the right to control which view my child is taught in a public school classroom?"

By | March 23, 1987

Craig K. Svensson's "A Creationist Responds" (The Scientist, January 26, p. 12) asks a central question: "Who has the right to control which view my child is taught in a public school classroom?" He then answers his question from two viewpoints—parent and professor.

Svensson's answer as a parent is clear. Parental religious beliefs should control exposure to ideas. Young people should never be exposed at public expense to ideas in conflict with those of their parents. He alleges constitutional protection for his right to have his children exposed only to one flavor among a competing menu of ideas. His answer elicits some understanding, for all parents wish, at some level, to protect their children. How easily, however, protection becomes imprisonment.

Svensson's answer as a professor leaves one incredulous. That he should define education as protection from competing ideas exposes both his perversion of education as thought control and the sham of creationism as science or religion. As science, creationism fails since its evidential base is written authority, not tested experience, and its processes are singular and miraculous. As religion, creationism fails except as fossilized biblical interpretation; modern understandings of Genesis are as dangerous to creationism as are modern understandings of evolution.

The danger to current evolutionary models comes from scientists, not creationists, for it is scientists who are constantly challenging current conceptions with new ones. It is precisely that danger that makes science fruitful. Unlike creationism, scientific ideas can be wrong.

—Charles W. Barnes
Dept. of Geology
Northern Arizona University
Flagstaff, AZ 86011

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