Monday, September 26, 2005

Induction: Just a Theory and Still Being Tested


BBC NEWS | Americas | Parents in court over evolution:
Eleven parents in the US state of Pennsylvania are taking their local school board to court in an attempt to protect the teaching of evolution. The Dover Area School Board requires teachers to say evolution is a just a theory and is still being tested.

The Fundamentalists have now adopted the strategy of going for the intellectual high ground--accusing orthodox scientists and other normal human beings who take evolution to be a fact, as dogmatic.

Of course, when we're not doing philosophy, we're dogmatic--about such theories as the existence of other minds and an external world, and the legitimacy of induction itself. Science and common sense by their nature bracket those questions, operating on the assumption that there is an external world and that we can learn about it through induction, inferring from data about the way things have been to the way they're going to be and from characteristics of samples to characteristics of larger populations. That is the business of science and the operating assumption of scientific educationl.

I wonder if the parents in Dover Pennsylvania would be interested in financing philosophy classes in their high schools in which skepticism about other minds, the external world and induction could be discussed along with skepticism about evolution. A little open-minded skepticism is a dangerous thing--drink deep or taste not the Pyrrhian spring.

1 comment:

Andrew Brown said...

That's a marvellous slogan: equal time for David Hume!