Reader Feedback: Sarah Palin and Science

Thanks, Neil, for sending in the following comment re: McCain’s VP choice. Hmmm. You make some excellent (and courageous) points. What do the rest of you think about science in this election?



John McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin as his running mate changed the presidential campaign in a moment.  Issues like abortion and gun rights which had receded will now be in the front of the debate.  On science the Barack Obama and McCain hold different positions, but both accept the dangers of climate change as real and both know that science and science education is critical to our economy and our future.  Joe Biden agrees.  But Palin has said, “Teach the controversy” referring to the Intelligent Design and Young Earth Creationism.  To be fair, she has not pushed creationism in Alaska schools, but like the current President she sees a controversy where there is none.  The high technology that underpins the best of our economy is based on science as practiced by scientists, not untested science dreamed up in Seattle or on display in the Creation Museum in Kentucky

Evolutionary biology is the only biology used by practicing biologists.  Both Intelligent Design (ID) and Young Earth Creationism (YEC)) deny this.  Worse still for YEC to be true, Einstein has to be wrong about relativity and all who followed him would therefore be wrong about modern physics.   The most laughable consequence of this would be no solid state electronics.  The computers these folks use to spread there silly message depend on science which they say is wrong.  You can’t make integrated circuits withNewton’s physics.

I am saying all this as a very orthodox Christian believer.  On matters of faith, I am closer to Sarah Palin than any of the candidates.  But I also work at a library and museum of the history of science.  We keep the records of the people who pursued truth through the study of nature for more than two millennia.  Those records show how ardently these men and women pursued truth.  Their work has given us modern medicine, clean water, safe food and longer, healthier lives.  In my case I have three times escaped death, paralysis and blindness through modern medical care.  It is crazy to think that the science that lead to replacing the 7th vertebra in my neck with a cadaver bone (DNA bone matching—evolutionary biology) is false while saving my life and thousands of others, but that decorates the Creation Museum and saves no one is true.

Like Francis Collins, head of the Human Genome project, and author of the book “The Language of God” I believe that God created the universe in a way that neither atheists nor creationists can force their opponents to believe.  Creation is complicated, beautiful and beyond the full comprehension of any of us.  What we do know of the mechanics of creation, we know from the work of scientists—pursuing truth whether they are believers or not.