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Not even wrong

There’s a story in the Grauniad to day about the prevalence of Young Earth Creationism amongst undergraduates (link, via Stephen Law).

Such views are less unusual among UK students than you might think. In a survey last month, more than 12% questioned preferred creationism – the idea God created us within the past 10,000 years – to any other explanation of how we got here. Another 19% favoured the theory of intelligent design – that some features of living things are due to a supernatural being such as God. This means more than 30% believe our origins have more to do with God than with Darwin – evolution theory rang true for only 56%.

Whilst this is worrisome in itself (though you’re entitled to have whatever views of the origin of the Universe you may want to have), it’s not that big a deal. What is a big deal, though, is this:

In the Opinionpanel survey, nearly 20% said they had been taught creationism as fact by their main school. Most thought it would be best to teach a range of theories, but nearly 30% of those who supported creationism felt that pupils should learn about creationism alone.

That creationism is being taught as fact in school is utterly, utterly ludicrous. As Stephen says in his blog post:

Shouldn’t checking up on this – and doing something about it – now be priority for the Government and for OFSTED? For as I said elsewhere, teaching children that Young Earth Creationism is supported by the available empirical evidence involves teaching them to think in way that are, quite literally, close to lunacy.

Oddly enough, I was thumbing through a book of quotations earlier and came across the following apt remark, written on a student paper by Wolfgang Pauli:

[That theory]’s not right. It’s not even wrong.

The key here is the "not even wrong" bit. If is not possible for a theory cannot be proved false then it is not a valid scientific theory and can never be held to be true. Creationism falls into exactly that category.