October 1999
s m u g
by Steve Hawley

On the Origin of Stupidity

Congratulations are in order for the decision of the State School Board of Kansas to take one more step to remove Darwin's theory of Evolution from the curriculum of it's schools. This is an important step and the fallout from it should be quite astounding.

To understand this, one needs to understand some of the surrounding details. To date, all attempts to add Creationism to state-sanctioned curricula have failed. Creationism is, typically, a religious belief and as such cannot be taught in a government run school as it crosses the line of separation of Church and State. The wiley Creationists adopted another tack: remove the testing of Darwinism from state achievement exams as a discouragement from teaching the material.

In other words, if it ain't on the test, why should we spend precious time covering the material?

In addition, virtually all mention of evolution has been removed from the state-suggested standard curriculum. The justifications--and they are nothing more than that, because if they were reasons we would see some sign of reasoning--that I have read and heard in interviews are all rely on the fact that evolution is theoretical and cannot be proven.

This is precisely the kind of stupidity that is spontaneously generated by groups of people. It is astounding and it is strong evidence to corroborate something I've been thinking about.

You see, I have a theory. Actually, I have a great number of theories, like the one about any given person's basis set of characteristics that fully describe "the best pizza" are founded upon the most-consumed pizza of their youth rather than some set of higher, inconvtravertible standards, but this particular theory is not important. What is important is the process of theory and the basis of the scientific method. Because I have such a deep-rooted love for the process of theory, I find myself deeply angered at this Kansasian affront.

I come up with theories all the time. It is an outlet for my imagination. Most of my theories are incorrect and trivially so. I find the process of disproving my more fanciful theories to be highly amusing. Just think about the phrase "if you would entertain this idea" and you will find one of my prime motivations.

A theory is a germ of an idea that is the basis for an answer to a question, most commonly 'why' and 'how'. Within the scientific method, a theory is just a hyposthesis until it is proven or disproven. Very careful experiments are designed to do just that, and proof is rarely proof, but instead corroborating evidence. From time to time, a hypothesis will make it into the realm of accepted theory. Very few theories actually make it into fact, and many accepted theories have been shot down. Science, as a process, is self-regulating and continually revising as we continue to learn more about all that surrounds us.

Evolution is an accepted theory on a small scale (ie, something that is observable within a handful of lifetimes). The problem arises when evolution is applied to the question "how did people come to be?" or more generally, "how did life come to be on Earth?" We have corroborating evidence, but there are no experiments that can be applied to time already past. Therefore evolution on a macro scale is neither provable nor disprovable.

Is this alone justification enough for its expurgation?

If it is, then I demand that the following topics and all associated materials be removed from the Kansas curriculum as well:

   Quantum mechanics
   Lightwave theory
   Plate tectonics
   Planetary core composition
   Atomic theory
   Nearly everything
   Nearly everything

Kansas already removed the Big Bang theory, and while they're at it I think they should also see about stripping Arno Penzias of his Nobel Prize for finding corroborating evidence of the Big Bang.

Because something is unknown or unknowable doesn't make it inappropriate to present to students. The actions of the state of Kansas have more to do with the conflict of religious teachings with scientific thought. Work should be done to resolve that conflict amicably. Stunting the development of our children is hardly a reasonable resolution.

Gregor Mendel, a monk and, one would expect, a strong believer in God, was able to resolve this conflict and was able to produce work that supports Darwin's models as well as to be the basis for later work by Watson and Crick. If you believe that this is insignificant, remember that Watson and Crick figured out DNA structure which will be the basis for disease treatment heretofore unseen on this planet.

Parents in Kansas, irrespective of your beliefs, if you do not work to change this, you may very well be depriving the world of the person who will remove diabetes, Multiple Sclerosis, Down's Syndrome, Spina Bifida, and many other cruel and possibly fatal afflictions from the human animal.

As I said earlier, I have a theory. It has to do with subatomic particles. I think there is a subatomic particle of stupidity which is inherently attracted to people. The force of attraction is proportional to the square of the number of people involved. This explains why a group of individually intelligent people are incapable of deciding as group where to go for lunch and why the ultimate decision comes more often from a single person standing off from the group.

This theory also explains why a state board of education has been duped by a minority interest and why parents are milling around doing nothing to change this.

There is nothing I would prefer than to have this theory disproved. Therefore, I leave it to you, Kansas: show me that I'm wrong for the sake of the future.

Steve Hawley is software engineer, blinded early on by Science.


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