Written by Kevin Hower Tuesday, 06 January 2009 13:40
Another holiday season has passed already, with all its joys and the usual fuss and bother over how it’s celebrated.
Not that I want to rush my way through another year—2008 passed quickly enough, thank you very much—but I’m looking forward to seeing what 2009 will bring. It’s a combination of genuine anticipation and morbid curiosity over what new ways people will find to either celebrate life or attempt to ruin it for others—or both.
I watched on the Web, both in blog posts and video clips, the unfolding of the controversy that occurred in Olympia, Wash., over holiday displays. For me, that whole mess just underscores my feeling that such displays should only be allowed on private property—residences, businesses and organizations such as churches—in the interest of fairness to everyone.
If someone wants to put up a nativity scene or other religious display on their property, then I have no problem with that, as long at it’s kept on private property. If I don’t want to look at that display, then I should simply avoid visiting that location.
Putting such things up on public property is like someone either coming onto my lawn and setting up a display there without my permission, or me going to their property and putting up a sign without their permission that represents beliefs they don’t share.
Similarly, I have a huge problem with the teaching of creationism in public schools. It has been determined by the courts to be a religious rather than a scientific viewpoint, and in the endless battle between science and faith, I’ll land on the side of science every time.
I think that what’s taught in public school science classrooms should be the best current knowledge that has been tested and confirmed repeatedly through experiments and can be backed up with data.
Can facts and evidence change? Of course they can, which is why the discoveries at the bleeding edge of science shouldn’t be taught as fact in public schools until they can be more thoroughly established and confirmed.
I recently watched a great video clip online with physicist Michio Kaku who stated that, because of new data gathered by our satellites, astrophysicists have had to throw out the old way of looking at the universe and replace it with new ways that better reflect the data.
Furthermore, if a satellite that will be launched in a few years sends back data that contradict their new model, they’ll have to throw it out also, or at least refine it to better fit that data.
Although I totally disagree with it being taught in public schools, I don’t have as much of a problem with creationism being taught in churches, as I believe that is where such opinions belong.
That doesn’t prevent me from experiencing a great sadness for those who’ve had science—and reality as a whole—distorted and misrepresented to them so thoroughly that they buy into claims of creationist groups like Answers in Genesis or the Discovery Institute.
I find myself amazed by both the awesome beauty—and coldly indifferent cruelty—of the natural world. I view both of those as qualities to be understood through science and represented in art, literature and music, rather than held up as excuses for giving in to superstition and fear.
Carl Sagan once said, “It is far better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.”
I strongly disagree with several of President-elect Obama’s economic plans and his views on gun ownership. However, I do hope he at least follows through on his stated intention to overturn President Bush’s ban on federal funding for research on new lines of embryonic stem cells. Also, I applaud his appointment of several actual scientists to his cabinet.
I don’t have any illusions that the issues I mentioned will get resolved anytime soon, but I believe it’s critical that we all talk about issues in a rational manner and get our viewpoints out there.
The alternative is sitting quietly while people with other agendas hope we keep our mouths shut and refrain from questioning their authority.