and on the seventh day

Everyone seems to be blogging about this piece of news (NY Times, free reg required) from Georgia, where they have stricken the word evolution from the curriculum, and toned down references to the age of the Earth. Full decision is here. I’m sure these people are pissed off. The original article is at Creative Loafing, which has some other juicy tidbits. The Georgia Superintendent of Schools, Kathy Cox, said people associate evolution with “that monkeys-to-man sort of thing.” Here’s a good one:

Cox has already caught flak for a history curriculum that, in high school U.S. history classes, starts in 1876, ignoring biggies like the Civil War. In world history courses, students won’t cover anything earlier than 1500 — you know, material like Socrates and Roman civilization.

After reading Roger Pennock‘s book, Tower of Babel, I am even more horrified than before. Young Earth Creationism, as he calls it, is about the most backwards form of creationism there is. These people not only deny evolution, but probably believe that dinosaurs were a big joke of God’s, or that they represent species who didn’t make it on the Ark.

Intelligent Design Creationism, a second “alternative” is a philosophically poor alternative to the methodology of science. It succumbs to the fallacy of “if I can’t explain it, it must be magical,” thus drawing an imaginary line between the inexplicable and the understood. Because we cannot exhibit the immense complexity of biological systems through natural selection and random mutation, they must have been designed by an intelligent creator. Many people don’t have a problem with this intellectually impoverished logic. If you stop and think about it, it’s just what the Raelians think, but everyone regards them as nutcases.

The biggest problem with intelligent design creationists is the attitude towards science that they propose. The line that they draw is akin to the line funding agencies are starting to draw between “sexy research” and “pointless research.” Rather than investigating a combination of fundamental principles and applied programs, the trend is increasingly to fund those proposals which will have an immediate application. But to really understand how to cure a disease, you need to know how it works, and for that you need a fundamental understanding of biological processes. Advocates like Christopher Reeve and Michael J. Fox use their celebrity status to help fund scientific research, but also promote their own agenda — Parkinsons becomes “more important to cure” than Alzheimers. By allowing those with little scientific knowledge to control the direction of scientific research, we run the risk of derailing scientific progress here.