Sunday, January 13, 2008

Give me some of that new-era science

After hearing about it on NPR's "Science Friday," I cast my vote of support for Science Debate 2008. Here's a short description of the project's goals:

Given the many urgent scientific and technological challenges facing America and the rest of the world, the increasing need for accurate scientific information in political decision making, and the vital role scientific innovation plays in spurring economic growth and competitiveness, we call for a public debate in which the U.S. presidential candidates share their views on the issues of The Environment, Health and Medicine, and Science and Technology Policy.

The web site features a long list of people who support the effort. It includes scientists, media people, politicians, and bloggers.

What's the likelihood of such a debate? Not bloody likely, as the Republican side has everything to lose and nothing to gain. A recent article in Reason Magazine revealed that all the Democratic candidates believe in evolution and most of the Republicans are on the side of the creationists and the so-called "Intelligent Design" curriculum. Reality-based vs. faith-based.

But hold on a minute. Reason also notes that all of the Democrats also believe in God, so they really fall into the category of "theistic evolutionists." In other words, Obama and Clinton and Edwards and Kucinich and all the candidates who've since dropped out believe that God plays a part in evolution.

That's the tack that the nuns and priests took at my Catholic school way back in the sixties. Evolution was a given, they said, but God's influence was in there somewhere. How much of a role did he/she/it play? After all, doesn't the Bible say that God created this whole mess in six days and rested on the seventh? My university-educated teachers all cautioned us not to take the Biblical account too literally. We should see it as a story, an illustration of the power of God the Creator. We should look at the term "day" as metaphorical. Who's to say what a day means to God? It could be a millisecond; it could be five billion years. This brings to mind the courtroom exchanged in "Inherit the Wind."

The contemporary Catholic Church has fallen into the clutches of its anti-abortion allies in the Religious Right. The Bible has crept back into everyday Catholic teachings, and that doesn't allow for any metaphors. Metaphors out, dogma in. Rigidity, too. That's why so many practicing Catholics have gone over to The Dark Side.

Let's have this 2008 science debate! Sing with me now. "Give me that new-era science, give me that new-era science...."

CAPTION: In the 17th century painting by Guido Reni (above), St. Michael (my namesake) is shown subduing science-loving Liberal Catholics, driving them out of Wyoming and into Denver, where they all become Democrats. This is metaphorical, of course.

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