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Is science democratic?
Posted By -NO AUTHOR- On 06/01/2002 @ 1:00 am In Commentary | Comments Disabled
A recent Zogby International poll found that 65 percent of Ohioans believe “Biology teachers should teach Darwin’s theory of evolution, but also the scientific evidence against it.” Only 19 percent favored biology teachers teaching just Darwin’s theory and only that evidence which supports it.
What do these numbers mean?
On the most obvious level, for every one Ohioan who wants just half the story taught, there are three that believe students should hear the whole thing. That speaks well for the people of Ohio. They are rightly applying a solid rule of practical wisdom: There are two sides to almost every story. In science, there is often evidence both for and against particular theories. Darwin’s theory of evolution is no exception.
“But this is about science,” I can hear the other side saying, “and science is not democratic. It doesn’t matter what the majority thinks. What matters is the truth.”
Well now, let’s think about that. In one sense, that’s right. Science isn’t democratic insofar as the truth is not something we can vote for. The truth is the truth. Nature is what it is, and science struggles to uncover its order.
So if indeed nature is exactly the way that Darwinism says it is, then it doesn’t matter whether the whole state of Ohio is dead set against it. Darwinism pure and simple ought to be taught.
The difficulty is, however, that all the evidence does not support Darwinism. In fact, a growing body of scientific evidence directly contradicts it.
What do the 19 percent say about this? Suddenly, it seems, they become passionately democratic. “But a majority of scientists support Darwinism,” they say.
Well now, let’s think about that too. Should what is taught as science be determined by the majority, even the majority of scientists?
Yes and no.
Yes. As both sides agree, Darwinism should be taught because many scientists do accept it. No, insofar as it is quite clear from the history of science that every successful scientific theory started out being championed by a minority within the scientific community.
To allow a tyranny of the majority in science, would lead to the death of science. Silencing scientific evidence contrary to Darwinism might save Darwinism, but it will surely not save science.
The truth of the matter, is that the 65 percent of Ohioans who want both Darwin’s theory of evolution and the scientific evidence against it taught to our students are not subverting science through a misuse of democracy. They are using democracy to try to save science education from a peculiar kind of tyranny of the majority.
And just for the record, a significant number of Ohio’s scientists are right in line with that 65 percent. Fifty two Ohio scientists have signed a petition affirming that both Darwinian evolution and the scientific evidence against it should be taught to our students. The whole truth should be taught, not just half.
So, to quote the 19 percent against themselves, “science is not democratic. It doesn’t matter what the majority thinks. What matters is the truth.” That is precisely why “Biology teachers should teach Darwin’s theory of evolution, but also the scientific evidence against it.”
Benjamin Wiker, Ph.D., is a lecturer in the philosophy and history of science at Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio and a Fellow of Discovery Insitute. His book “Moral Darwinism: How We Became Hedonists” hits shelves this month.
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