I.D. as cultural anthropology


Published: Saturday, January 21, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 20, 2006 at 11:44 p.m.
Teaching the Judeo-Christian creation story or intelligent design in public schools belongs in the discipline of cultural anthropology, and not in science classes.
Virtually every culture has its own creation story, ranging from creating the universe by rape with an obsidian knife (Aztec) to cracking a giant black egg with an ax (Chinese).
Creation and other spiritual myths developed over time, thousands of years ago, in order to reinforce social stability and give credibility and legitimacy to those who sought power or were in power.
Until the Greek philosophers of 600 to 350 BC, humans had little experience with systematically observing the natural world and formulating experiments to explain their observations. Instead, people attributed natural phenomena to the work of supernatural beings.
Over the centuries since the Greek philosophers, religion has continued to be used for social control and to legitimize those in power and at the same time to persecute early scientists whose findings threatened the status of the powerful.
The fact-based methodologies of science have developed slowly and intermittently in different regions of the world over the last 2,500 years.
In the 21st Century, we have a huge library of phenomena that have been scientifically observed, tested, analyzed, published and debated over centuries.
Our technology enables us to conduct experiments in the disciplines of science, including biology and its dependent disciplines such as medicine, that are highly reliable and reproducible and to formulate scientific theories and laws. We are, or should be, beyond attributing natural phenomena to supernatural beings, yet that is what some people still want to do.
The scientific theory of evolution developed and published by Charles Darwin in the mid-1800's has been tested and retested. In its modified form it has been confirmed through so many different scientific disciplines, such as medicine and genetics, paleontology, animal husbandry, and even geology, that scientists accept it as a law of biological science just as the modern concept of thermodynamics is a law of physics.
In a democratic, nonsectarian society such as ours, spiritual belief is a personal and private matter.
Spiritual beliefs do not belong in taxpayer-supported public or private schools under the pretense of being science.
If America is to continue as a world leader in medicine and other science-based fields, biological evolution must be taught as the scientific law that it is.
Phyllis Park Saarinen is a retired natural resource economist who lives in Gainesville.

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