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Teach the Controversy « Plebian Design: Blog

Teach the Controversy

I know this to be true. I looked it up in my gut.

So the title of this post is in reference to the Kansas State board of education debacle from a few years back which prompted the Intelligent Design community to ask that the controversy between evolution and intelligent design be taught in schools. It was rejected pretty strongly by the scientific community. But maybe it should be reconsidered in a different light?

Maybe the root of the fight is that God and evolution are actually the same guy. All knowing. All at once. But also nothing, just a way. Thanking the personal God for blessing you and thanking the random chance of evolution are the same gesture. Its a simple admission of the larger forces at work. But which larger force is the problem we are stuck on. So why not teach that controversy? Why not talk about the reason that we disagree so strongly? How do we acquire such strong beliefs? This is certainly an important part of the story of evolution and should be more useful to most kids trying to make their way in the world than memorizing when the dinosaurs roamed. In a world of 6 billion, understanding strong beliefs of different peoples should be pretty high on our list of things to study.


So there are brains inside our skulls. Inside the skull it’s dark and there is electricity. From time to time, some chemical named Dopamine is passed around (or so they say). When this happens, you believe. Jogging, eating, having sex, going to church, working out, solving problems, participating in group action, helping someone, skateboarding, taking drugs, making money, whatever. A few of these things you really love. These are the things that give you a high. Maybe one in particular is the strongest truth. You just know that it is true. It couldn’t possibly be false. Rational brain be damned. This is the evidence that scientists always claim is lacking from religion. But evidence is not lacking. The high is the evidence. It is the only evidence we have.

They say that this feeling is Dopamine being passed around inside your head. The truth is defined by that feeling, that motion of chemicals and electrons. (it’s probably a little more complicated than that but lets not get bogged down on details here.)

So why does one belief exclude the other? And why don’t we believe each other? I think it relates to some of the oldest of wisdom. No one of us is in control of much of anything. Nobody likes to see others who get too big for your britches. This is really the heart of the controversy. This is religion vs science or right vs left or climate change vs no climate change. Everybody in these debates has experienced a high. Everyone has experienced their evidence. Everybody knows that humans are fallable and frequently wrong. So the wrongness of the other side is obvious.

This is why many rely on God, the entity who can’t be wrong. Scientists also really on a God, the God that is the scientific method and the God that is the process of evolution. It’s everywhere from particles to galaxies. Evolution can’t really be wrong either, it’s just moving forward.

So what would “Teach the Controversy” entail?
There is the discovery institute policy and there are some science lover t-shirts.
But the idea would be something like moving behavioral psychology into the course on evolution. Why is it that we disagree? Not so much the validity of one or the other of the beliefs but the paths of events in an evolutionary system that would lead us to such different viewpoints and why this is advantageous in the long run for the species. All of us, one way or another, are building some set of constraints for dealing with the modern world (which is really crazy and uncomfortable to a bunch of almost monkeys). In order to reduce the number of things you have to think about, you have to make some rules. God is often one of these rules. God and religion make things simpler. Science also simplifies and reduces. (I think the science establishment has plenty of problems too. More on that later.)

Further reading and viewing:
What the surveys say we believe.
The power struggle in wikipedia entries.

And from a business point of view, maybe this means we all should follow the same basic rules of drug dealers: If you are selling a proper high, you should be able to give away the first one. If it goes well, you can be sure they will be willing to pay it for the future?

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4 Responses to “Teach the Controversy”

  1. jose cheng o'brien brigiani says:

    SUGGESTION FOR TIME WARP:

    I need to see the three dimensional profile of a sneeze - swine flu be damned !!!!!!!

  2. dan says:

    http://www.newsweek.com/id/216551

    When a committed Christian says he believes in the Second Coming of Christ, he believes it the way he believes that Michael Jordan was a basketball player. When an avowed atheist says there is no such thing as God, she knows it the way that she knows that Elvis was a rock star. According to new research—published yesterday in the online science journal PLoS One—by Sam Harris (the neuroscientist and atheist author of The End of Faith) and colleagues, “belief is belief is belief,” as Harris puts it. “We seem to be doing the same thing when we accept a proposition about God or the virgin birth as we do about astronomy.”

  3. Great article, thanks for sharing and I’ve boomarked this page.

  4. You made some good points there. I did a search on the topic and found most people will agree with your blog.

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