Alternative Theories

The recent national debate over teaching Creationism…now euphemistically called Intelligent Design…in public school science classes has gotten me thinking about other “alternative theories” that should also be presented in the nation’s classrooms.

I have always had a keen interest in astronomy, and took classes in that subject when I was in college.  But there is an “alternative theory” to explain the nature and significance of the “heavens.”   It’s called astrology.  Here is one definition of astrology:

Astrology (from Greek: αστρολογία = άστρον, astron, “star” + λόγος, logos, “word”) is any of several traditions or systems in which knowledge of the apparent positions of celestial bodies is held to be useful in understanding, interpreting, and organizing knowledge about reality and human existence on earth.

There is no scientific basis for astrology…like religious belief in Creationism, it is faith-based.  But many people believe in it and follow their horoscopes religiously.  So, why shouldn’t astrology be taught in astronomy classes?

To go one step further, there are a number of people in this country, and probably elsewhere in the world, who believe that the earth is flat.  In fact, there is an International Flat Earth Society.  The president of that organization, Charles K. Johnson, who lives in Lancaster, CA, has been quoted as saying that the “dome of Heaven is about 4000 miles away.”  He believes that the Apollo moon missions were a massive hoax perpetrated by the US government.  “You can’t orbit a flat earth,” says Mr. Johnson. “The Space Shuttle is a joke–and a very ludicrous joke.”  Again, science contradicts these ideas, but they do represent alternative explanations of our perceived reality, so shouldn’t they be given “equal time” in the classroom as well?

Now I must admit that this argument is a reductio ad absurdum, but the point is that none of these ideas…Astrology, Creationism or belief in a flat earth have the slightest scientific basis.  Science classes are supposed to teach science, not superstition or religious dogma.  People are free to study any wacko theory they want to at home or even at their local library.  They are even free to contaminate the minds of their children with such garbage.  It’s a free country, after all.  But when it comes to public, taxpayer-funded educational institutions, our constitution and the courts have made it clear that this stuff does not belong there…except maybe in a class on myths and fantasies.

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