If you haven’t guessed by now, I’m not a big fan of organized religion. Religion does not change with the discovery of new facts or the disproving of cherished tenets. That’s one good thing about science, it’s constantly changing, constantly seeking new truths, and hence why I tend to trust what reputable scientists say over what religious fanatics yell at me on the street or what some evangelical groups try to sell me on while I’m waiting for public transportation.
What is really, really dangerous about religion is the potential for fundamentalism. There is a long history of violence associated with religious fundamentalism. Wars have been fought because of it, genocide has been justified by it. It is aggressive, demanding, and narrow-minded. Fundamentalism creates terrorists, religious warriors, intolerant governments, and an oppressed populace, as you can see in many of the Mideast countries that are run by Islamic fundamentalists. We have battles here in the US over the separation of church and state, which vexes Christian fundamentalists. We fight over what should be included in our schoolbooks as far as scientific facts go because they might cause children to be confused as to who created the Universe. Evolution, we’re constantly reminded, is a theory. As an American, I’m pretty used to the constant debate over Creationism being taught in schools. But now, fundamentalists in Russia are pushing the same tired “it’s a theory” argument and advocating for Creationism to be taught in their schools. People, this is why we can’t have nice things.
The Soviet Union was an atheist state. Say what you will about Communism, I’m not trying to say it’s great and everyone should have some, but at least the USSR had the idea to constitutionally keep religion out of politics and not cover every national monument and piece of currency with quotes from the Bible and “In God We Trust”. (Unfortunately, they enforced the anti-religion laws in some pretty violent and unnecessarily brutal ways under Stalin.) During the Cold War the US naturally assumed the Judeo-Christian god was on their side, and that the Soviets were godless heathens. Personally, I’d rather be governed by godless heathens than religious fundamentalists. At least heathens can throw a good dance party. But, I digress. The Soviet Union collapsed, a clear sign that their godlessness had been punished by the divine and the US had been ordained as The Only Superpower, police force to the world. (See “American Exceptionalism”)
Now the Orthodox Christian church, the dominant church in the years before the Soviet Union was formed, is having a revival of sorts in Russia. And of course the first thing any fundamentalist religion wants to do is indoctrinate their children. Well, the Orthodox Church isn’t the only game in town anymore, and Muslims, who make up 20 million of the 141 million Russian citizens, have been expressing their concerns over what they see as the privileged position of the Orthodox Christian Church. Surely Russia, with it’s sparkling human right record, wouldn’t think to install the teachings of the Church into Russia’s textbooks without mentioning any other religions!
What really burns me, as a science nerd, is that the Christian fundamentalists who want to teach intelligent design either alongside or without teaching evolution, state that intelligent design is also a theory just like evolution, so it should be taught so that children know their options. But intelligent design is NOT a theory.
In the sciences, a scientific theory (also called an empirical theory) comprises a collection of concepts, including abstractions of observable phenomena expressed as quantifiable properties, together with rules (called scientific laws) that express relationships between observations of such concepts. A scientific theory is constructed to conform to available empirical data about such observations, and is put forth as a principle or body of principles for explaining a class of phenomena.
Do you see how intelligent design meets basically none of those criteria? How can you scientifically prove a theory that by its essence is unprovable? Intelligent design is one of the laziest pseudoscientific “theories” out there. Basically it says “well, this shit is here on earth and in the sky… and it seems like it would be hard to make all this stuff because it’s so complex, so someone really smart must have put this stuff here!” Intelligent design makes the most sense when you have a Bible in your hand. Then when your brain (hopefully) leads you to the question “Well who the hell created this crap and how long did it take?”, you take the Bible and look it up. Never mind that science has proven that the Universe is billions of years old as is the Earth, and any rational person could believe that over what, 8 billion years or so, nature could evolve complex creatures like us.
Not all Christians think intelligent design should be taught in schools, and that’s great. Now I just wish they’d talk some reason into their fundamental friends.