It seems to be decision time in the US for some school boards. Biology (and the scientific method) are under attack by the shrill fury of "intelligent design" advocates. And the decisions are going both ways, while a school board election in Dover, Pennsylvania kicked out the anti-science brigade, replacing them with supporters of evolution, http://villagevoice.com/news/0546,zeliger,69964,2.html other boards have shown far less wisdom. Such manifest stupidity should be a thing of the past, but http://http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory?id=1295774 shows a Kansas school board oust the scientists and reward the christian lobby by endorsing pro "intelligent design" dogma.
My favourite irony about any religious group is when they call themselves advocates of truth, or claim to be simply presenting both sides of the argument, or such nonsense. Rational appraisal of competing theories is what good scientists and philosophers do. Scientists also test their theories against the evidence. The best theories are falsifiable: they are posed in such a way that if the theory is incorrect, we will be able to tell. This is called being falsifiable. Note the -able part at the end of the word: being falsifiable doesnt mean that a theory is a false, it means that if it is false, there will be a way of telling. In this case, the theory is falsified.
Critics of evolutionary theory claim that it as it is "just a theory", it holds no more weight than any other theory. (Say, for example, an omnipotent omnipresent but never seen supernatural being that created humanity and loves us - but is quite willing to damn us to hell.) But they're SO WRONG!
Evolutionary theory is falsifiable. Because of the way fossilisation occurs - in layers mon - species throughout the fossil record will, if evolutionary theory is true, be preserved in a very specific way. The oldest species should be lower down in the rocks, while species that emerged more recently will be higher up. If a single fossil was found in the wrong level of rock, strong suspicion would be cast on evolutionary theory. Because this would mean that theories central to evolution - that early and late species did not co-exist - would be falsified.
By contrast, religion is notoriously non-falsifiable. It is often "faith-based": that is, we have no reasons, believe it because god(s) said it. (Though how anyone knows what god(s) said is beyond me.) I'd be fascinated to know any examples of religious people posing any arguments that they consider to be falsifiable; to my knowledge it has not occurred so far.
More on this soon.