So, yesterday I said “I have a very odd idea of what comprises an awesome dream–the one yesterday was distinctly unpleasant, but it was also very interesting and unusual…” I think I’ll write about that dream, today.
As it turns out, you can actually feel pain in dreams. I’ve had a few dreams where I’ve experienced pain, but I could count the number of them on the fingers of one hand. The most interesting of these was the one I had the day before yesterday. It started out as a fairly normal variation on the (oddly common) dream theme of having one’s teeth rot/fall out. I broke my two front teeth, somehow, and I was left holding the little bits that had been knocked out. I was worrying about what I would do, and if the bits of teeth in my hand could be put back in, if I didn’t lose them (so of course the bits kept crumbling or otherwise being on the verge of being lost). It didn’t hurt at first, but the dream kept going on with me worrying about my teeth and wondering how to get this fixed and trying to find a dentist. When it did start to hurt, it was this throbbing, sharp pain shooting through my two broken front teeth. Later it was more of a throbbing, dull pain. At some point, I was thinking about something I saw on tv a long time ago about a guy who fell (like off a short cliff/dropoff) and hit the ground face first and broke most of his teeth, and he was in so much pain from his broken teeth.
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No, don’t answer. It’s totally a trick question. It’s like asking “Do you believe in string theory?” or “Do you believe in photosynthesis?” or “Do you believe in the ideal gas laws?”. It would be silly, because we generally don’t talk about any of these things in terms of belief. They are scientific theories. They are either correct or they are not. Time and experiments and empirical evidence will show which. Whether or not people believe in them has absolutely no relevance to whether or not they correctly explain something useful about the way the world works. The only thing that makes evolution any different is that people who see it as conflicting with their religious beliefs have sought to discredit it and dragged it into the conversation about belief. And now people are so used to hearing evolution talked about in the realm of belief that they don’t think to question whether it even belongs in there or not.
Now, I’m not saying that anybody has to accept the theory of evolution (although “because it conflicts with my religious beliefs” is just as bad a reason not to accept evolution as it was for people not to accept that the Earth revolves around the sun*). There are plenty of reasons to accept a theory or not. Many theories are proven wrong, in whole or in part, by later scientific discoveries. If new data is found that contradicts a theory, scientists will adapt and develop a new theory or change the old one. That’s what science is all about. You fit the theories to the data, not the other way around. But just because we know that scientific theories might not be correct or complete is no reason to dismiss them. It just means that the scientific theories we have are the current best explanation we have for the way the world works. Perhaps we’ll improve upon those explanations some day, but for now they’re the best we’ve got (and for a scientific theory, that means that there is lots of evidence backing it up and it probably makes useful predictions that can be used in a variety of applications, so please don’t dismiss any scientific theory as “just a theory”, because there is nothing “just” about scientific theories).
So yea. Evolution. It’s a scientific theory. Let’s talk about it like we would talk about any other scientific theory. Whether or not you ‘believe’ in a scientific theory is a red herring.
That is my rant for the day about the way that evolution gets (mis)discussed.
* See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galileo#Controversy_over_heliocentrism for more information.