Letters: Defining science

I would like to first apologize.

Apparently we, the scientific community, have failed you in your education. At some point, how to critically evaluate ideas was passed over. Maybe you were sick that day.

To claim that we will never know with certainty the origins of life is a fair point. However, to claim that all ideas hold equal merit as “opinions,” a claim made in the column “Let There Be Light” by Dan Mollison on Wednesday, is ridiculous.

Ignoring the redefinition by the Kansas Board of Education (a truly political move if one was ever seen), science still holds criteria to judge a theory. Namely a theory should be able to explain current data and make useful, testable predictions (among other criteria). Evolution is an excellent example of this; it explains the development of life, fits extremely well with our understanding of molecular biology, genetics, archaeology, etc., and is constantly verified (and refined) by new discoveries.

Intelligent design however is an idea that developed not from empirical evidence but rather out of creationism, a religious concept, and political necessity. It makes no testable predictions, it does not usefully explain observations, and at its worst, cannot be falsified. Under any accepted scientific definition of a theory, it will fail. Instead it is nothing more than a notion.

The current battle in our nation’s classrooms and courts is not one over which idea is right, but rather over what is and is not science. Evolution is a useful working theory, one that showcases how science progresses, through observation, hypothesis, testing, and refinement. It is understanding this method that is ultimately more important in education than knowing our origins. Otherwise, people such as the high school junior quoted will be inundated with opinions but left with no skills to judge them.

JC Gumbart

Graduate student