From what I understand, science seeks measurable truth. By “measurable” I mean something that is verifiable. Logical proofs are verifiable (as are mathematical proofs), and so are things we can touch, see, etc. Anything beyond measure is of no interest to scientists.
There will always be a point where things become “unmeasurable” and “unknown.” It’s sort of like how you run out of answers to a 7-year old’s rigorous adherence to the Socratic method: if you keep asking why something is the way it is, you will eventually run out of answers. You will eventually run up against that boundary of measurable truth.
So this is the reason why I don’t understand why some people think that science can’t coexist with religion. Religion steps in exactly at the point where you cross into the unmeasurable truths. Religion answers questions like, “What happened before the Big Bang?” or “Why did the Big Bang occur?” where science cannot (at least currently). Science and religion, as far as I can see, are our eyes in the realms of measurable and unmeasurable truths, respectively. Interestingly, the study of philosophy sits right on the border, between what is measurable and not measurable, but what is still “true” in some sense of the word.
The problem with Creationism is that it tries (to comedic effect) to claim a huge chunk of science (evolution) as “unmeasurable.” It says that the human eye is so complicated yet so perfectly tuned that it must have had an intelligent creator behind its design. It says that the reason behind the existence of complex, inter-dependent organs is “unmeasurable” — unexplainable — by any scientific means. Of course, they have to blatantly ignore the mountains of evidence in support for the theory of evolution in doing so, as well as the beautiful consistency of it all.
I think the Creationists fear that the teaching of evolution will somehow destroy one’s belief in their Judeo-Christian God. But once you see that the realms of science and religion are *completely* separate, you quickly realize that such fear is unfounded. Rather, the Creationists should be concerned about the teaching of philosophy, as it asks questions that touch on religious teachings more directly.
Alas, unfortunately for the Christians, their Holy Book is embarrasingly wrong (this is the Word of God we are talking about!) on a lot of things because, like Creationism, it makes lots of utterly false statements that fall into what is measurable, into the domain of science. The story of Noah’s Ark is probably the best example. The “Earth is less than 10,000 years old” inference drawn from gathering the ages and lives of those described in the Bible is another one (it’s just plain wrong if you accept that fossils are real; and I’m not talking dinosaur bones — google “stromatolites” for some really ancient fossils). The whole thing about miracles is also problematic, because what was a miracle 2,000 years ago is not a miracle today. And for some reason all the miracles that happen today are limited to those that can be scientifically explained (but this is getting a bit off topic…).
Hmm, I guess teaching scientific knowledge in general will point to a lot of holes in the Bible, or any other Holy Book that dares to come under genuine scientific inquiry. Maybe the Bible should be rewritten. It could be that Noah’s Ark and the other accounts (some guy lived for 500+ years, IIRC) were just falsely written by some crazy guys in 100 BCE. You could just re-write the Bible and get all the good parts, like “love your enemies.” But this will never happen.
Indeed, the problem with pretty much all the world’s religions are that they have a “creation” story about how the Universe began, and end up with wonderfully confusing and comic descriptions that clash against modern scientific knowledge. I guess this is one reason why there has been an increasing rise in Atheism recently — the traditional religions have too many flaws!
Me, I just follow 1 simple code: “do good stuff, and don’t do bad stuff.” Simple, direct, and always correct. Plus, seeing the world this way, the vast majority of people I meet are also adherents of my code, at least from judging how they treat me. I don’t care enough about atheism or agnosticism to identify myself with one or the other.
EDIT: Grammar fix and clarify the title.
EDIT January 3, 2012: Minor wording tweak.