So I'm going to use the theory of evolution to show what I mean. Bet you weren't expecting that.
Here's my core point: as taught in "public" (government) schools, evolution serves as a non-theistic creation myth to compete with theistic creation myths, specifically that which is believed by the progressives’ domestic enemies – the Trinitarians or Revelationists.
Scientific theories must be testable by experiments or a systematic course of real-time observation designed to falsify them. Can anyone design an experiment that would falsify evolution, in, say, the way that Lavoisier's gravimetric experiment on the combustion of mercury falsified Becher's phlogiston theory? Evolution fits the facts better than other creation myths, but we still only have an n/N-size of 1.
It's funny how people seldom feel the need to actually read Darwin, assuming his formula for natural selection (which can be stated in a sentence) is all there is to him. But he wrote shelves and shelves, and he recognised no line between science and society – worth remembering.
Evolution, for the first several decades after Darwin, served a different purpose – explaining and justifying the inequalities of different races and nationalities, and within national populations. Darwin's cousin Sir Francis Galton used it to construct the idea of eugenics, which let people think superior qualities had somehow arisen amongst the British upper and middle classes by natural selection and which could be controlled by artificial selection – people could be bred like hogs or cattle.
Jack Lindsay wrote about how the origins of Darwinism could be found in the sociological and economic thought of Darwin's time:
"...Darwin was stimulated into constructing his evolutionary theory by the work of Malthus on the pressure of population, which had behind it the advent of the industrial proletariat and the question of its wages. Marx commented at the time: 'It is remarkable how Darwin recognises among beasts and plants his English society with its division of labour, competition, opening up of new markets, inventions, and the Malthusian struggle for existence.'" (Blast Power and Ballistics: Concepts of Force and Energy in the Ancient World, p. 123.)Darwin's ideas of natural selection and survival of the fittest make an obvious reference to Adam Smith's "invisible hand" which achieves a similar function as a description of open markets, rewarding those participants who innovate, adapt and persevere, while eliminating those who are obsolescent, ill-adapted or lacking in strength.
|Sir Francis Galton|
I think evolution is a plausible hypothesis to explain the change in allelic frequencies leading to the development of different species (Darwin's original goal), but much of what is associated with this in evolution as it is commonly taught – particularly the claim that life's origin was purely a random event, undirected by any prime mover – is not science, but philosophy. It is a sort of Epicureanism for popular consumption, just as "intelligent design" is Platonism for popular consumption.
While "intelligent design" is in practice a Christian project, it really antedates Christianity. Its paternity is the Platonic architect-god of the Republic and the Timæus. But the most concise statement of "intelligent design" is, in my opinion, found in the late Platonism of the Corpus Hermeticum, libellus v.
After rhapsodic descriptions of the heavenly bodies, the earth, man, and nature, the argument concludes with this speech:
"See how many skills have been applied to the same, single material, how many labors within the compass of single work, all of them exquisite things, all finely measured, yet all different. Who made them all? What sort of mother or what sort of father if not the invisible god, who crafted them all by his own will? No one claims that a statue or a picture has been produced unless there is a sculptor or painter. Has this craftwork been produced without a craftsman, then? Oh, how full of blindness, how full of irreverence, how full of ignorance? Tat, my child, never deprive the craftworks of their craftsman..." (Copenhaver's translation).The designer of "intelligent design" proves ultimately not to be the God of Genesis, but the Freemasons' Great Architect of the Universe.
I think of evolution as a deductive conclusion, not an inductive one. It is not a theory or a fact, but a theorem. Heritable variation in a competitive environment will produce descent with modification, regardless of any evidence to the contrary. I don’t see why the theory is interesting though. It’s silly, light on numbers, and doesn’t really say anything. To say that species evolve over time to adapt to their environment is like saying the ground is wet because it rained. Duh. Colour me unimpressed.
Bear in mind that the importance assigned to evolution in government schools refers not only to the curriculum given to the inmates but to the fame of the topic in the public debate over school curricula (which is more of a problem in America and Turkey than in New Zealand). The government's involvement with education makes everything – from curriculum to discipline to sports – the subject of political debate, and not infrequently of legal dispute.
Another way you can tell evolution is a component of religious power warfare is that the teaching of what is called science in government schools is considerably obstructed by the failure to provide adequate instruction in mathematics.
It is just about impossible to make much headway in basic mechanical physics without knowing at least how to do differential and integral calculus in one variable. Yet these subjects are typically not part of public secondary education – the student will encounter them first in the first year of university, if then. Chemistry can be learnt without higher mathematics, but you'll need excellent memorisation skills which are usually beyond the average high school student. Kids also need laboratory work, but for liability reasons, this is often scrubbed from curricula as well.
School boards don't like it when a kid drops a thermometer on the lab floor and the whole school has to be evacuated until a haz-mat removal contractor can clean up, at horrendous cost, a few cc's of spilt mercury. But to really understand biology requires knowledge of chemistry, for example, the metabolic cycles of plants and animals, much less the complexities of DNA.
Teaching "science" in government schools is about indoctrinating the kiddies in a sort of lowest-common-denominator environmentalism so that they go home to hector their parents about recycling or global warming with a dumbed-down Epicureanism disguised as evolution. The only purpose is to contradict whatever religious instruction they may have received at home and capture them as energetic troops for the real political war.
(The proposition that (for example) environmentalism is in the same category as intelligent design is not one that liberals have an automatic answer for. Sure, I could tell them to go and read Clyde Wilson or Kuehnelt-Leddihn. But, trust me, they have very strong anti-Trinitarian antibodies.)
Frankly, given their level of mathematics instruction and fear of lab work, the best that secondary schools could do would be to teach old-fashioned taxonomic botany and zoology, so that students might at least be able to identify common garden plants, wildflowers or birds.
Given my interaction with peers and younger people today, it’s a safe bet even this sort of simple, interesting and potentially useful knowledge isn’t being taught. And it won’t while evolution serves as a central tenet in the progressive creed.