Est. May 2008

21 June, 2013

Alternative Viewpoints Need Not Apply

Back in the mists of time, when I was in high school, one of the courses that were required for graduation was a semester of Debate.  If memory serves, the reason given for the requirement was to ‘provide students with the ability to choose a side in a debate and to present their viewpoint in a clear, concise, and persuasive way.’

A class like that today would never fly, would it?  I mean, the concept of having an opinion differing from the 'common view’ of most any topic these days is met by stunned silence (the mild response), ad hominem attacks (the extreme response) and everything in between.

One of those ‘in between’ responses has been gaining a lot of ground lately: outright censorship.  And there are plenty of examples of this, but one recent one that caught my eye was this: White House Petition Calls for Ban of Creation Science, Intelligent Design From Schools.

Considering that schools were once places where students learned the arts of rhetoric and debate and persuasive speaking, it might come as a shock that people would demand that schools refuse to offer alternate viewpoints on anything; it’s additionally shocking that, since Intelligent Design and evolution are both alleged to be scientific disciplines, and since science is allegedly based on testing hypotheses and taking into consideration all* possible variables in a situation, people would demand that only one ‘scientific’ point of view be considered as the only authorized point of view.

Censorship is the tool of people who don’t want opposing viewpoints voiced or written.  It can come in various forms: speech laws, book-burnings, imprisonment, petitions, and the like.  And the reason (it seems) that censorship raises its ugly head is because the authorized point of view cannot stand to scrutiny: it has holes and gaps in it which can be assaulted by reasoned alternate opinions.  And we’ve seen this just in the past few years when it comes to the creation/evolution debate, haven’t we?  More and more scientists have begun to question – even in the face of sometimes-virulent opposition – the basic ‘facts’ of evolutionary theory, particularly when it comes to origins.

When I was in college, I had a professor of Cellular Biology who gave me a term to use when it came to things which biological science had a hard time explaining fully – it was called a SWAG, or ‘scientific wild-a$$ guess’.  Granted, there are plenty of ‘scientific’ WAGs which make sense – they’re at least grounded in some analytically-derived evidences which though they don’t directly point to your question, at least do so indirectly.  But SWAGs in evolutionary biology?  Particularly evolutionary biology dealing with things that cannot be scientifically tested in a laboratory situation (which is one of the defining factors of calling something ‘scientific’)?  After my years of college biology (in which I have a degree) I came up with my own acronym for evolutionary biological ‘explanations’: SSWAG (I simply added ‘sometimes’ to SWAG).

In the study of origins, though, there’s another acronym which is applicable: NSWAG (‘non-scientific wild-a$$ guess’); there are an awful lot of origin ‘theories’ out there which have little or no evidential basis, so scientists have actually offered some pretty bizarre hypotheses for how our planet came to have life – many of them involve some sort of extra-terrestrial, intergalactic, alien ‘planet-seeding’ scenario that (IMO) better belongs on the SyFy network than in reasoned scientific debate.

One of the other debates is over why this planet seems so perfect for life as we know it.  So far nobody in the astrophysical disciplines has discovered another planet with our unique combination of distance-from-the-sun, water-earth percentages, and the like – our little blue and white ball looks to be unique in the entire universe, and it bothers some scientists as to why we got lucky.

Of course, Judeo-Christians, Muslims, and other religious believers will say that we’re unique because God (however He is designated) made our planet this way; scientists, of course, who can’t find any evidence of God, have to come up with some other ‘reasonable’ explanation for our planetary uniqueness.

One of those is the Multiverse Theory - we’re only one of uncountable other parallel universes out there.  Of course, they can’t prove this theory – they can’t even gather evidence for it – but, to them, it makes sense.  Or at least more sense than a Creator God forming the planet, the solar system, and the rest of the universe out of nothing.

And how often have we seen this ‘theory’ put forth in science fiction novels and television shows and movies?  That’s probably because it’s more ‘fiction’ than ‘science’ (IMO), but since it doesn’t demand a Creator God Who, it’s ‘good science’.

And ‘good science’, since it’s so ‘good’, can’t possibly allow any other type of argument through; therefore, censorship.  Granted, there are scientists out there who probably wouldn’t mind a little healthy debate over the topic, but strangely…we don’t hear from them.  At least, not as much as those who brook no arguments against their scientific truths dogma.

(* all as in ‘as many as humanly possible’)

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