Saturday, January 28, 2012

My letter to the State Senators of Indiana

Today, I have emailed every State Senator in Indiana, including my own Senator Vi Simpson, a democrat serving us in Bloomington. On Monday, SB 89 will be on the agenda. Here is what I wrote.

As a concerned, life-long citizen of Indiana, I am driven to write to you today to express my opposition to SB 89, which provides "that the governing body of a school corporation may require the teaching of various theories concerning the origin of life, including creation science, within the school corporation."

One of the defining qualities of our country is the separation of church and state. The founding of the United States of America was largely rooted in the intellectual revolution of the Enlightenment; modern science is as well. When properly put to use, our government and science both provide a common ground from which people with dramatically different beliefs can coexist, participate in a common society, and communicate effectively for the betterment of all.

This is a precious thing. It is threatened by SB 89. We gain our values from the traditions we were raised in, and those we've explored as we've grown. Living in a country like the United States allows this flexibility. We can test our ideas against those of our fellow citizens. Bills like this are often couched in language which espouses "freedom of choice." And I do believe that we all are free to choose what we believe. But we also have a duty to change our minds in the face of new evidence.

The evidence is firmly in favor, for example, of evolution as a means of explaining the incredible diversity of life on Earth (a fine starting point for this is provided by the National Center for Science Education's evolution page located at http://ncse.com/evolution). The vast majority of the scientific community recognizes this, though it will always be possible to find a minority who disagree, for whatever their reasons. These reasons needn't be because of religious dogma; it's well beyond the ability of scientists to be experts in all fields of science. Of course, SB 89 pertains to the "origin of life," which is quite a different topic than evolution. It is an open question in science. But it is not one that is beyond its purview, and as knowledge progresses, I for one think it is likely that a purely natural theory of abiogenesis, as strongly supported as evolution, will be reached in my lifetime. To invoke a supernatural creator, as creationism, creation "science," and intelligent design do is the opposite of science. It is to quit in the face of a difficult challenge. It is, in my opinion, un-American.

The traditions of the religions of the world, the multitude of creation stories devised by humans, is a fascinating topic worthy of exploration in an educational setting, though I doubt it's one for the K-12 curriculum. But as the espousing of one religion's views is far beyond the purview of the United States government, no creation stories belong in our classrooms as a counterpoint to scientific hypotheses on the origin of life. I believe that allowing the teaching of material that is firmly religious in nature in our schools erodes the integrity of our country, and I cannot stay silent when this is proposed for the state I'm proud to call my home, a state built by fields of science including biology, chemistry, geology, and physics which have provided the knowledge to power its industries.

Rectangular web graphic

I appreciate your patience as I take this little detour into the broader topic of science education. And I sincerely thank everyone who has been so kind as to link to our posts and spread the word otherwise. Feel free to distribute this as you wish as well, and of course any fellow Hoosiers can use my set of graphics opposing SB 89, shared via Flickr. For more, also check out Reba Boyd Wooden's blog post for the Center of Inquiry for Indiana.

10 comments:

  1. Very well done. In science we trust.

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  2. Excellent, strong letter. Fight the good fight.

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  3. Appreciate the support, everyone. No illusions that it will make a big difference, but at least I'll be heard!

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  4. Beautiful letter. I know it can be an uphill battle sometimes, and I salute you for fighting it.

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  5. @David Orr

    "No illusions that it will make a big difference,"

    Will you let us know if it makes any difference (big or otherwise) or gets a reply or something?

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  6. Thanks for the additional words of encouragement since my last display of gratitude!

    @Hadiaz I'll keep you informed of the bill's (hopefully short) progress through the legislative progress. So far, I've received 40 odd auto-replies. I am lucky to live in a liberal district, which is represented by a senator who will oppose this bill, Sen. Simpson. At least the rest of them know where I stand!

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  7. I'm lucky not to have this issue in my state or country. But good on you for standing up against it in yours.

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  8. well done - it just won't do any good. The sole part of the US that still functions (halfway, that is) is the courts.

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