on Philosophy of Ignorance


N&R July 9, 2016

on Philosophy of Ignorance

We may need to adjust our science curriculum, as Judy Palmer writes (“Teaching should include creationism”  Greensboro News &Record, July 9, 2016), but not in the way she recommends. It’s pretty clear that her science education is incomplete.

In common usage, “theory” might mean a belief or an opinion. But in science, theories explain Laws and facts.

If you hold out your pencil and let go, it falls to the floor. An unsupported object will fall. That’s a fact based on observation.

Until Galileo, many thought heavier objects would fall faster than lighter objects. Galileo’s experiments at the Leaning Tower of Pisa showed that all objects fall at a rate independent of weight. We can test this and confirm that Galileo’s “Law of Fall” is right.

Galileo influenced others like Einstein to conduct more experiments. Einstein hypothesized about the relationship of the moon, planets, and Sun. In 1905 he published his “General Theory of Relativity” explaining why gravity works the way it does.

This theory of gravity helps us understand how the planets orbit the Sun by bringing the facts together with the hypotheses and Laws. Scientific theories are not beliefs or opinions. Scientific theories are carefully crafted explanations about how the universe works.

In science, we have to be able to make observations that might prove a fact wrong. If there’s no way to prove something wrong then it’s not a scientific idea. Creationism cannot be proven wrong, so it’s not science.

Even though some today may think it’s true, let’s not have our schools teach that heavy objects fall faster than lighter objects.

Even more destructive than mistaken opinion, Creationism is based on the assumption that no one is smart enough to discover the answer to a mystery. To answer any mystery with “God did it” is not science.  In his book “Death by Black Hole”  Neil deGrasse Tyson calls it a “philosophy of ignorance.”

Let’s not have our schools mislead children about the theory of evolution. Evolution is testable and has been confirmed in geological and fossil records. Creationism is the belief that God created all life. Since the actions of a divine creator are outside the abilities of science to test, they don’t belong in the science classroom.

Some are passionate about Creationism, but it’s based in religion, not science. And I find it unproductive to teach children that there are some things they can’t and won’t ever figure out. Creationism doesn’t encourage discovery, Creationism encourages ignorance.

We should keep science in our science classes and we should keep religious beliefs out. Neither science nor religion benefit when the two get entangled.



One thought on “on Philosophy of Ignorance

  1. I teach evolution in my biology class from the first to the last day. I still find that highly educated parents still foist creationism as an alternate”theory” on their children which does little but confuse and cloud their learning of biology as well and single them out among their peers. These children have been raised in ignorance of science in favor of a 6,000 yr old earth where humans were created from mud and spit by magic. No wonder they are confused and lost in today’s society.


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