“The mysterious dark matter that fills the universe could be made of the same particles that put the ‘big’ in the big bang, explaining both inflation and dark matter in a single stroke.”
Archive for September, 2007
The revolution will not be Facebooked.
This was graffiti I saw on the side of a Queen’s building as I was walking home today. Figuring out what it means is left as an exercise for the reader.
There’s a provincial election in the air here in Ontario, and the stink of religious politics is permeating it. According to ctv.ca, Conservative leader John Tory has suggested that creationism could be taught alongside evolution should private schools be brought into the public system. He then suggested that they might not be treated equally in a science class. While it annoys me to see this nonsense make its way here from south of the border where this asinine debate has been raging for years, Tory’s words betray the same fundamental misunderstanding of how science works as seen in proponents of creationism (and its dolled-up evil twin, intelligent design):
“It’s still called the theory of evolution,” Tory said. “They teach evolution in the Ontario curriculum, but they also could teach the fact to the children that there are other theories that people have out there that are part of some Christian beliefs.”
Of course the word ‘theory’ here does not mean what he thinks it means. A theory in science is a broad framework that provides an explanation for a variety of observed phenomena. It is not an idea that has a yet to be verified – a theory is the highest honour that can be given to a scientific principle, and the moniker is only applied to ideas that have considerable experimental scrutiny. There is no such a thing as an absolute truth in science because everything is verified by empirical evidence, and therefore, in principle, a single contradictory observation suffices to disprove a theory (in practice the process of rejecting a full theory is more complicated and generally involves a paradigm shift). If Tory wants to claim that creationism is a scientific theory capable of explaining the same broad range of phenomena that evolution can explain, I invite him to demonstrate how creationism is scientific and how it explains everything that evolution also does. Then we may speculate on whether it is appropriate to include in school curricula.