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Archive for Tuesday, June 15, 1999

MORE THAN THEORY

June 15, 1999

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To the editor:

While visiting my beloved home town of Lawrence, I learned with some dismay that the Kansas Board of Education may be on the brink of adopting science education standards drafted by the Missouri Creation Research Assn. and sponsored by Steve Abrams (see Leonard Krishtalka's column, June 8). Their main target, one presumes, is still the theory of evolution, but they also claim that anthropology, geology, paleontology and astronomy are less trustworthy or reliable than other sciences, evidently on the grounds that these sciences deal with events in the past.

The kernel of truth behind the creationists' critique is that science cannot conclusively prove or verify claims about the distant past. But it would be a tremendous mistake to infer from this that historical science is less well-grounded or less worthy of belief than other science. No scientific claim, historical or not, can be conclusively proved. That is simply not the way science works, except within the rarefied realm of pure mathematics and logic.

Nonetheless, certain scientific theories (both historical and non-historical) work so well and explain so much that they rationally compel our belief. Other theories are obviously deficient, and any well-informed rational person ought to reject them as false. There are, for example, those who still claim that the earth is flat. One cannot absolutely and conclusively prove the flat-earth theory wrong, but we all know that the flat-earth theory is not worthy of serious credence and has no place in the public school's science curriculum.

Similarly, I assert, along with Krishtalka and every educated person I know, that creationist opposition to the theory of evolution reflects manifestly terrible science, and is no more worthy of serious credence than the flat-earth theory. Even Pope John Paul II officially recognized in 1996 that "the theory of evolution is no longer a mere hypothesis."

I received an excellent education in the public school system in Lawrence. However, should the Abrams-sponsored creationist proposal become educational policy, I will certainly be relieved that my own children are being educated far from Kansas.

Scott Sehon,

Brunswick, Maine.

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