the controversy that texas forgot
While Barbara Cargill and the rest of the Texas Board of Education are busy dismantling science in the state’s public schools in favor of debate, I was wondering if they had any plans to include the ancient astronaut theory in their discussions about human evolution. Why? Because lots of people out there are really busy debating whether humans arose as a result of alien intervention and if you’re going to debate observable and documented facts like mutations, genetic drift, the age of the universe and CMBR, and put them on equal footing with magic and ancient tomes of metaphor heavy religious punditry, you may as well include other popular ideas. After all, isn’t that Cargill’s stated mission? To question all dogmas and expand the students’ minds in science classes?
The idea of ancient astronauts doesn’t violate any law of physics or biology. In fact, there’s nothing we know of that prevents an alien species from evolving intelligence and building a civilization. There are restrictions on how fast they could get to Earth of course, and they’d have to be somewhere in our stellar neighborhood to get here in less than a few thousand years. But if they were able to find our planet and decided to invest the time, the resources and the energy to travel here in a generational ship or by some advanced warp drive they built or discovered by serendipity, there’s nothing in nature that would stop them. Then, if they decided to play with the genomes of early hominids and make the crucial break in our MYH16 gene that gave us our modern brains, there was also nothing to stop them from doing so provided they had the right technology.
This is why so many people believe the ancient astronaut mythology. It doesn’t violate any laws of nature and while the odds of something like this happening are one in whatever astronomical number you’d like to use, it’s actually scientifically plausible. Funny enough, in Discovery Institute’s/Ben Stein’s sham of a documentary Expelled, Richard Dawkins is presented as believing in this legend after replying that it was the only way he’d imagine a plausible version of intelligent design and was swiftly ridiculed for it by creationists. Whose theory needs a magical, eternal, hyper-intellect able to magically manipulate space, time and genes and who’s existence can only be perceived philosophically rather than empirically… Ironic, isn’t it?
So why aren’t scientists scouring the Earth for fossilized flying saucers? Because we don’t have any physical evidence that we’ve been visited by extraterrestrial intelligence. All the pretty pictures of what we think must’ve been ancient astronauts aren’t anywhere as convincing as an alien computer impregnated with isotopes we would expect an extraterrestrial artifact to carry. While this hypothesis (to call it what it really is from a scientific method) is conceivable, it’s so highly unlikely and there’s so little physical proof for it, we don’t teach it as an alternative to evolution in science class. And creationists agree for the same reasons! Then, they turn around to insert magic into some grossly misunderstood version of science to which they’ve latched on and say that we have to teach it in order to promote debate and “teach the controversy” while 99% of experts in the subject matter say the there’s nothing to debate.
So I say that if we’re going to insist on giving a view based on philosophical leanings equal time with serious, evidence-backed science because a lot of people believe it, we should teach the ancient astronaut theory and let students make up their minds. I mean we do want to challenge conventional dogmas, don’t we?