Ernest Dempsey — New theories and inventions, innovations, designs, and revisions—all must not fool you into believing that science is adding to its objectivity and credibility. Strategies operating outside the science realm can also determine how to present what science is and where its epistemological boundaries lie. As we speak of it, a proposed law in the state of Tennessee seeks to let teachers teach creationism as a viable theory of the origin of life on earth, as against the generally accepted Darwinian theory of evolution among scientists.
This law, which is said to be supported by the Republicans, has not been passed yet but is said to be close to approval, possibly making Tennessee the second state in US after Louisiana to teach “intelligent design” in classrooms in the state, implying to the young recipients of knowledge that a higher being was possibly the cause of the life we see on this planet. Scientists are obviously not happy with the Monkey Bill, as it is called, and are asking the state governor to veto it.
Whether creationism qualifies for being called a ‘theory’ is a separate question, and one very much open to discussion. The interesting point here is the way “scientific” is stretched to include things otherwise would have been filtered out. Instead of scientists deciding what is scientific, lawmakers are deciding it. As news have it, the proposed law is meant to encourage students to critically look at the current theory of life’s origin and persistence. This “reason” is but lame for more than one reason.
First, this simply falls outside of the domain of science. When you talk reason and critique, you are talking logic – in other words, the entire discussion should be in a philosophy class not in science where you study accepted facts based on scientific evidences, e.g., of Darwinian kind, satisfying physiochemical principles and supported by lab-testable materials and methods. Can we test the “higher being” in this way? Doesn’t sound very practicable, unless of course the definition of “testable” is also tailored—again not by science but by administrative authority—to serve the intended extension of meaning.
Adding to this, the move toward bringing creationism as life’s explanation in science by state law is akin to dividing science down administratively without any backing in the realm of knowledge. What would logically account for having different explanations of life on earth in two different states in a country? It sounds inconceivable that now the crown would decide what scientific is while the same won’t hold true a few miles away across the state boundary.
Science has been called a democratic system by scholars. But it certainly wasn’t in this political sense as the Monkey Bill proposes. Political democracy too has its own set of rules. It doesn’t remain democracy if by a state law you dictate that only those voting for Republicans can use ballots, for even though the voting system will remain intact, the basic principle of democracy is violated. Science is similar; you violate its “scientific” nature by riding the legal steed and dragging it behind by the rope of legislation in its neck.
Hopefully, Tennessee will not see the proposed Monkey Bill taking effect as a state law; instead, trash it as monkey business.