A slightly modified but not necessarily better version. Crippled by all the f**king shivering. I did NOT know I had that much stage fright! I don’t! I don’t balk from going on stage, like the majority of people I know. In fact, I even particularly relish the idea of speaking out for something I already believe in, like I did last night. I was perfectly fine when i went on stage- aside from tripping on the judge’s suitcase but then come on, he kept it on the steps!!- but once I start to speak…my fingers were trembling and I just couldn’t force a smile. The speech wasn’t necessarily all that fabulous, but I can’t help thinking that if I delivered it a little better, we could easily have got something decent. Anyway, here’s the speech.
The distinguished philosopher Philip Kitcher once said that creationism was not so much a dead science or a pseudo science as it is a zombie science…even though it has effectively been disproved several decades ago, it continues to rear up its ugly head and drool blood over the scientific cornerstone of evolution. Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, my name is Nikhil Punnoose, and if my gory metaphors weren’t clear enough, I will be speaking against the motion*.
There are several parts to this topic that make it rather easy to refute. The foremost is that it refers to creationism, a term that is now reserved for the more outrageous theories with explicit-as opposed to thinly veiled-theistic motivations. Creationism can mean anything from God creating the earth in six days to the entire universe being sneezed out by the Great Green Arkleseisure. I will not take a swipe at the straw man that has been so conveniently set up for me, but instead look at it’s more “scientific”** cousin, intelligent design. Alas, here also we run into the obvious difficulty:
The U.S. National Academy of Sciences has stated that “creationism, intelligent design, and other claims of supernatural intervention in the origin of life or of species are not science because they are not testable by the methods of science.” In other words, “If ideas are based upon purported forces outside of nature, they cannot be tested using scientific methods.” The only leap of faith that needs to be made from this before we decide that creationism should not be given any sort of space in a class room is a rather obvious one: science classrooms should teach science, not the whims and fancies of men that happened to have been transmitted down the centuries through our respective scriptures.
This is not to say that what has not been proved yet can never be true. There are several examples that spring to mind, likeNewtonian vs. Einsteinian physics, or the then-obvious idea that the atom is indivisible. However, we can agree that any reasonable decision making procedure requires us to accept, however temporarily, that something that has an overwhelmingly high probability of being true IS true, unless fresh objections can be made for it. When the consensus shifts to creationism as a reasonable theory of origin, we can discuss it in classrooms. What will plan to teach is NOT ground breaking research, but the introduction of the already largely-discredited theory.
A friend of mine argued, “but why not simply take a few hours to teach it in a classroom? What’s the harm?” What’s the harm? The harm is, we are NOT talking about a couple of hours here. We are talking about clarity of concept, of making sure that the students get the right view of reality, not a distorted one, not one that weighs improbable theories at higher probabilities than they would be given in any real scientific institution.
I speak to you as a man who is truly afraid of the prevailing trends and climate of opinion in countries like the United States. Given the scientific consensus on evolution, the only reason we have to even consider introducing creationism in schools is based on superstition, not reason. I see this motion not simply as a clash of two scientific viewpoints, or some intellectual concern over the contents of high school textbooks. I see it as one of the last frontiers of the oldest battle ever fought, between the enlightening power of science and rationality and the false, if comforting, darkness of myth and superstition, and sincerely hope that we don’t let darkness carry the day. Thank you.
Ok, so the last paragraph is admittedly a bit over the top. I had all these plans for saying it,too: drop the paper, look up at everyone, pause, lower my voice(and bring the mike closer) and then slowly say it. I even practised! But when it got to the real thing, despite not being all THAT short of time, I ended up not pausing and not slowing down, just going full steam ahead, which clearly robs it of its impact. If that weren’t enough, I ended up fumbling: comforting, if false as opposed to false, if comforting, which totally screws up the meaning. Anyway, we placed 8th, which IS a position i.e. my hostel gets points in the larger inter-hostel tournament, so it wasn;t a total loss. Dammit, I’m going for Saarang, and I am NOT going to screw it up!
*Where the motion is: “The House believes that Creationism is a worldview that is steadfastly held by many to be true, and hence deserves to be taught in classrooms on an equal footing as Evolution, which is part of a different, scientific worldview.”
**I did/planned to do air quotes here 🙂