It’s bad enough that anti-science extremists are now calling the shots on the Texas State Board of Education. It’s true parody, however, when the state board’s chairman — a dentist — pretends to be an evolutionary biologist. Don McLeroy, R-Bryan, whom Gov. Rick Perry named as state board chairman last year, has written an opinion piece in which he argues that science should include supernatural explanations. By this, of course, McLeroy — a creationist — means that science should include the study of how God created life.
If science is limited to only natural explanations but some natural phenomena are actually the result of supernatural causes then science would never be able to discover that truth — not a very good position for science. Defining science to allow for this possibility is just common sense.
Science must limit itself to testable explanations not natural explanations. Then the supernaturalist will be just as free as the naturalist to make testable explanations of natural phenomena. The view with the best explanation of the empirical evidence should prevail.
One hardly knows where to begin.
Simply put, supernatural explanations are not testable, as Genie Scott of the National Center for Science Eduaction points out. If one believes in an omnipotent God, then the results of any test of supernatural phenomena can be explained simply as, “Well, God did it.” Scott writes:
Where would this get me? How can I establish general explanatory principles … if I can explain away my results by invoking a capricious Creator? If I am to understand the natural world, I have to conduct my science as if only natural forces affected my subject.
This is not to say that we must believe everything is the result of natural forces. Moreover, scientists will be the first to admit they don’t have all the answers. Science, however, is limited to natural phenomena and natural causes that can be proved or disproved by testing and observation. Supernatural phenomena cannot be tested. That means supernautral explanations are not science. They’re faith.
To point this out is not an attack on faith. Many people of faith see no conflict between their belief in God and accepting that science is one way to learn about our natural world. Yet, in essence, McLeroy would have public schools teach students that science should include matters of faith. When that happens, public schools would have to decide something they should not: whose religious beliefs to teach in science classrooms. Is that what we really want our public schools doing — especially as countries like China and India move ahead by ensuring that their young people get a 21st-century science education?