Connectedness

Lawrence Krauss has commentary in the NY Times about the recent Kansas State Board of Education elections:

But perhaps more worrisome than a political movement against science is plain old ignorance. The people determining the curriculum of our children in many states remain scientifically illiterate. And Kansas is a good case in point.
The chairman of the school board, Dr. Steve Abrams, a veterinarian, is not merely a strict creationist. He has openly stated that he believes that God created the universe 6,500 years ago, although he was quoted in The New York Times this month as saying that his personal faith "doesn't have anything to do with science."
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A key concern should not be whether Dr. Abrams's religious views have a place in the classroom, but rather how someone whose religious views require a denial of essentially all modern scientific knowledge can be chairman of a state school board.

Krauss points out that the origins of the earth and other "contentious" scientific problems are connected in a web of theory and results with the way the world works everyday:

To maintain a belief in a 6,000-year-old earth requires a denial of essentially all the results of modern physics, chemistry, astronomy, biology and geology. It is to imply that airplanes and automobiles work by divine magic, rather than by empirically testable laws.

Although Krauss refers to the problem as "illiteracy", I think it is not so simple. Sure, everyday believers in creationism have little idea of the scientific evidence for the antiquity of the world, the record of evolutionary history, or the scope of biological diversity. But making it to elected office as an evolution-skeptic requires quite another level of knowledge about science. These folks have one thing down cold -- they know that scientific "facts" are often contingent, subject to revision or overturning, and open to challenges. Many of them probably have spent time thinking about the value of the scientific method, and may frankly prefer a philosophy of certainty, with tenets not subject to overthrow. You can teach an illiterate person to read. No one can teach Steve Abrams to abandon young-earth creationism.

What most people lack, and what these evolution-skeptics depend on, is a lack of deep understanding of the connectedness of scientific ideas. It is one thing to propose that the earth is 6000 years old. It is quite another to understand the full magnitude of physical and geological results that would have to be overturned to accept the young-earth theory. It is one thing for a scientist to say that young-earth creationism is akin to "airplanes and automobiles work[ing] by divine magic", and another to know what that even means.

Science works because it uncovers hidden connections in nature. Evolution is one of the richest sources of those connections. This is why Dobzhansky famously wrote that "nothing in biology makes any sense except in the light of evolution." The shame is that today people are so obsessed with the idea of hidden secrets in everyday life, but don't look to the real world of science that is uncovering those secrets every day.