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Religion In Science Classes

December 5, 2013

Religion does not belong in a science classroom.  Recently a young student went on Reddit to share a quiz his Florida schoolteacher gave their third grade class.

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Take a look at the last two questions.  Einstein’s general relativity explains gravity beautifully as an effect from the bending of the fabric of space-time.  Our descriptions only break down in extreme conditions, like within the center of a black hole, where bizarre quantum effects come into play, and we haven’t been able to unite the two theories.

Why does it break down?  What’s the big deal?  Why is it so difficult to solve this problem?  Well, many physicists believe that black holes collapse into new universes.  The big bang which originated our universe may well have been initiated by the collapse of a black hole in some sort “other” universe.   Naturally, trying to figure out something of that complexity is a monumental task.  To connect the two theories, us physicists may well have to devise a mathematical framework which unites our universe into a pantheon of other universes, all with their own distinct laws — laws which themselves probably evolve within each universe’s distinct flow of time.

The physicist Lee Smolin wrote a book called The Life Of The Cosmos in 1992, advocating the fecund universes theory.  Basically he argues that natural selection and mutation may well be going on at the grandest scales of the cosmos.  There are all these universes being born and universes are developing within universes, within universes.  Leonard Susskind of Stanford has taken similar positions with his string theory landscape model.

Considering we haven’t figured all of that out yet, I guess you can just say, “God did it.”  But you know, that further begs the question, “What is God?”  Explain to me what God is?  Why does God do these things?  How do you know this being exists?  Why are you so certain?  Maybe the universe came into existence some other way?  Maybe we’re all part of a much larger scheme of things and there is no plan or design?

I’m an agnostic.  I don’t claim to know everything about this universe.  The more I look into it, the more complex it is.  I find it hard to believe people who claim to have answers to questions like these.  I’ve been spending the last eight years of my life studying physics, and I look at how religious folks get their answers and wonder why anyone should believe them.

Take the last question.  Christians do not “know” that gravity was designed by God.  What sort of proof do they have?  They have blind faith which isn’t based on anything.  We physicists build giant particle accelerators and do careful experiments to confirm carefully tested theories.  Any single violation of our theory, just a single experiment where the elementary particles of the universe violate our mathematical laws, and we’d all throw our hands in the air and say, “Back to the drawing board.  We’ve been wrong all along.”  They’re the complete opposite.  No experiments, no way to ever prove them wrong.  They just pull magical beings out of their butt and say, “He did it!”, and if we don’t believe that, we’re condemned to eternal damnation.  Ask them who “He” is and they babble incoherently.  It’s more likely that the laws of physics evolve and change within different universes, and there isn’t even a set ultimate law to begin with.

Science is about what we do know, as little as that may be, and we do know that Einstein’s theory can explain the motion of things through space-time in all but the most extreme circumstances.  Teach that to our students.  Keep religion out of the classroom.

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