Saturday, September 19, 2015

Recency Bias in Society

http://www.thetoptens.com/worst-us-presidents/

According to this poll, Barack Obama is the worst president in U.S. history.  The 2nd?  George W. Bush.  Obama's term hasn't even ended yet, and it still takes time before we can objectively assess the true effects of Bush's presidency.

Obama is clearly not the worst president in U.S. history.  There's a good chance that Bush isn't either, so why did their names get so many votes?  The answer could have something to do with recency bias.

Recency bias:  The tendency to think that trends and patterns from the recent past will continue in the future.  The term "bias" implies that it is not a fair, impartial evaluation of something, implying that a truly objective person would be led to think otherwise.

Another example:  What was the most powerful invention in the last 300 years?  Most people say the internet, since we all use it and can google search any question we may have.  It seems like a very tempting, powerful answer to give, but there have been a lot of inventions in the last 300 years, and we tend to forget the ones that occurred more than a few decades ago.

Ha-Joon Chang, a South Korean economist and professor at Cambridge, notes that the washing machine actually had a more historical impact than the internet (23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism).  People have a tendency to weight their opinions toward more recent events, forgetting about the long term events of the distant past.  So how was the washing machine more significant than the internet?

Before its invention in 1851, laundry used to be a full time job.  It was absolutely necessary that somebody stay home to scrub out stains, run through large rinse cycles through different temperatures of water.  Tough stains were scrubbed out sometimes with flat rocks, as one needed something strong enough to chip off tough stains.  Women, being assigned the gender role of homemaker, would toil for hours washing clothes.

After its invention, the possibility of women actually working outside the house existed.  Although still not popular, women were afforded the chance to work outside of home, producing textiles, or working at factories to support household income.  For women, the washing machine liberated them extensively in ways that we can't really understand, since we are so far removed from those times.

We are swayed to think that the internet is so much more powerful because of all the things we can now do.  However, most of those things were actually still doable; you could look up answers in almanacs and encyclopedias, which is more time consuming, but still doable.  Every online resource has a physical counterpart that although is not as efficient, can still get the job done.  It can be argued that people were really more productive before the internet caused tremendous distractions in the workplace and at the school, as surfing can cause hours of wasted work time.  

The washing machine is way more significant than the internet.

This is simply another form of recency bias.  We do this frequently in sports, too.
Fangraphs.com, a site that specializes in advanced baseball research performed a study on 2nd half records and playoff success.  Every year, there is at least one team that despite initial success and hoarding wins, struggles in the latter months in the season, barely making the playoffs.  There is also a team that can't do anything right in the first 2 months and finishes the season with a brilliant record looking like the best team in baseball.

The study performed last year confirmed that overall record is more indicative than 2nd half performance; teams that skidded through the last 2 months had just as much playoff success as teams that flourished in the 2nd half.  There has always been a lingering perception that 2nd half performance is more indicative of playoff success, when it clearly is not.

Recency bias is prevalent in the stock market; stocks that experience short-term growth streaks tend to attract more investors, followed by regression, in which the stock's true value is approached.  The converse can occur; a stock that struggles for a few weeks incites panic, motivating investors to sell off their shares, when there is no major reason to be alarmed.

Recency bias occurs in global warming.  A short term polar vortex causes many skeptics to fallaciously believe that there is no global warming, even though in the past 30 years, the average temperature has holistically risen steadily.  I found a visual graphic illustrating this fallacy by showing the Titanic sinking, and you could read this quote:  
                "How could this ship be sinking if we are further away from the water?"
While the stern part of the ship was out of the water at the moment, it would only be a matter of minutes until the entire ship would be entirely underwater, but people were fixated on the recent situation of the ship being leveraged above water level.

Global warming cannot be confirmed nor denied based on what is happened in the last 2 years; you have to look decades into the past in order to actually understand what exactly is occurring.

Last year, Ray Rice was heavily criticized for his domestic violence incident with his now wife in an elevator.  People were supporting a lifetime ban from the NFL, which was subsequently dropped.  Now, the general consensus seems to be a bit lighter, and more favorable about a return to professional football, arguing that it is in the past, and should be forgiven.

While domestic violence is no laughing matter, and not a good thing for him to do, last year's opinions are clearly a matter of recency bias, in a sense that people were shocked by something that just happened and wanted to believe that he could never be moral enough to be allowed back into the NFL.  Rice, like Michael Vick, and other former NFL stars, is deserving of a 2nd chance, as many of these individuals learned from their mistakes.

In short, don't get overly fixated on what is happening in today's world.  Just because something happens today or yesterday, does not mean it will happen forever.  Most of the time, today's popular new trend becomes a forgotten thing of the past in a few short years.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Q&A about extra-terrestrials

             Over break, I chatted with a cousin of mine and we reminisced about when we were kids and would read as well as watch Animorphs.  During my elementary days, I would spend my afternoons, summer days, summer evenings reading K.A. Applegate's series of books that reached 54 total volumes (not including the extra Megamorphs, chronicles...).  After reading my first book over a spring break in 5th grade, I was hooked for the next couple of years.

            The books are fascinating.  They involve common subjects, such as rebellion, destruction, fear, insanity, and offer a very dark dystopic image Earth, where 5 teenagers take on an entire race trying to take over the world infesting humans and controlling them with little slug-like Yeerks.  Over time, I started to use appeal to my literary side to recognize motifs and understand what these works of fiction say about ourselves.  Then my physics brain kicked back in, and questioned how realistic this scenario is.  Let's talk about that side.

First of all, do extra-terrestrials even exist?  
           I think so.  The Universe is so unbelievably large, and there are so many more planets than we really know about.  Consider this:  Each star has its own set of planets.  In order for life to exist, there needs to be a planet with an environment that can support living things.  One key ingredient comes to mind:  liquid water. 
           Since all living things depend on liquid water, it's only a matter of billions of years (not really a long time considering the life of the Universe) before life can form on its own.  All it takes is one star with a planet around 1 AU away, and voila!  We will have life.  In 1961, Frank Drake considered the projected number of stars, the likely number of planets for each star, and he constructed an equation depicting the probability of extra-terrestrial life, and it does not take an optimist to exceed 99%.  So yes, I think it is smart to say that extra-terrestrials exist.

So, where are these extraterrestrials, and why haven't they contacted us, yet?
           Enrico Fermi submitted this question in 1951 as the "Fermi Paradox" (which is not really a paradox), but it is an interesting question.  With so many possibilities for extraterrestrial life, one would expect some kind of contact with humans at some point, so where are they?
          There are a couple of answers to this question.  One answer is that they don't know about us, or don't have the technology to reach us.  Then you have to ask why they would even consider coming to Earth if they could.  Not only are we so far away from other stars in the galaxy, but what about Earth would entice anybody to visit us?  This planet might not have anything to offer that more local regions don't already have.  If aliens could visit this planet, they could probably access better resources elsewhere.

There has to be at least one extra-terrestrial species that could get to us easily, right?
          Conceptually, maybe.  This assumes that they are far more advanced than we are, but then you have to ask again why they would want to talk to us.  If you are outside listening to music, and you see a group of ants on a hill, do you rush over to the ants, and try to show them the wonders of your technology?  Probably not.  You don't care about ants because they can't learn anything from you, anyway.  You'd probably rather just smush them in the ground or spray them with Raid.  In the grand scheme of things, us humans might only be seen as ants in the universe.

What if they want to take over the world and enslave us?
          Not likely.  The problem is that in most movies, we portray aliens in our image.  Hollywood tells us that they walk upright on 2 legs, speak perfect English (and in the American accent), are power-hungry for dominance, and have the same psychological needs as us.  Talk about ego.  Think about the millions of species just on our own planet, and the differences between ourselves and the rest.  Cats don't think like us; nor do dogs.  There's nothing that says that aliens have to think like humans.  Imagine a mothership landing and out comes a furry 4-legged animal wanting to be petted and fed.  Not what Hollywood told you, but no less likely than a big-headed, bipedal sapient.
          More likely, an extra-terrestrial species will be something microscopic, like a bacteria or protist.  Very boring, and unexciting, but likely.  The evolution of animals and plants occurred only through some very lucky circumstances, and not all planets might have the temperate conditions for a large species to come about.

         It is overwhelmingly likely that aliens exist, and that they do not exist in ways that we might expect.  The reality of it is that we probably do not have to worry about a violent invasion.  When we do find extra-terrestrial life, many will probably be disappointed, as it will more likely be something small and insignificant, like a bacteria or algae, but it could pave the road for the future of humanity.  There's an entire ocean out there, and we're still stuck on the dock known as Earth.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Is it possible for you to live forever?

All of us have heard that life contains 2 inevitable occurrences:  annual taxes and death.  My first encounter with taxes came several years ago when I started working; my first encounter with the idea of death occurred when my maternal grandfather was sadly taken away on a stretcher on a sunny morning during the summer of 1994, when I had just eaten some pancakes at my grandparents house, at the age of 5.  I was not really sad when I found out about death, as I did not really comprehend it, nor did I believe it would happen to me.  It took years before the depressing thought that I do not last forever.

Let's talk about death.  We all know that anybody who has ever walked on this planet has a maximum of about 120 years before they become a part of history.  This seems to make great sense, as every president before Nixon has long since passed away, no veterans remain from the Civil War, living members from our family tree can only be found within the last 100 years or so, and logically, it makes sense that there are so many things that could end a life, yet there are very few that could preserve it.

What if all of that was false?

You might wonder how that could even be possible.  With the immaculate quality of today's record keeping, the world would be strongly publicizing anybody who manages to live 150+ years, and the probability of surviving diseases and medical conditions to which the elder are susceptible is beyond slim, and of course, there ought to be many more supercentenarians than we see around us, so what gives?

The answer requires knowledge of the structure of the multiverse (or the model of many parallel universes).  An episode of family guy depicts Brian and Chris traveling through several different parallel universes.  A notable example is where they travel to one in which dogs are legally obligated to walk humans on leashes. You might wonder as to how many parallel universes there are around us.  The answer is basically... infinite.

Every time you make a decision, your world plays out to follow through with that decision, but other worlds simultaneously play out in which you decided otherwise; you simply don't experience them.  When you were conceived, and your gender was chosen, another world simultaneously ran (and continues to run) to play out your alternative gender.  Other universes are also created, in combination of alternatives for others and yourself.  For example, if we consider two twins, we have 4 possible combinations of universes.  If we expand the scope to include all the babies conceived on the same day, we have an extremely large number of universes created.  We only experience one.

What this means is that when something tragic happens, such as the death of a loved one, another universe simultaneously plays out in which that person does not die.  When it's your turn for a major illness, car accident, failed parachute... in theory, your consciousness will lead you into the universes in which you survive.

This is the idea proposed by both Hans Moravec (1987) and Bruno Marchal (1988), who coincidentally, independently, constructed the idea of "quantum suicide."  If you fight in a heavy battle in war, you will simultaneously survive and get killed at the same time, so somebody will be reading the sad story of your demise, but fear not, you will only experience victory!

According to the theory of many universes, you will always be led into paths that lead to life, and will become the oldest person in the universe, but we all end up conscious in different universes...

All right, so it sounds too good to be true, and it probably is.  What if the engine in your flight fails, or you are  trapped underwater through some extreme misfortune?  At what point are you led away from the universe?  It seems like it would be too late in these situations to have any probability for survival.  Is there some sort of manipulation to ensure that you are led out of these situations in the first place?  It seems that it would be too manipulated of a universe for you to always escape the clutches of the grim reaper.

I would not put my money on the idea of living forever, but if I did, I wouldn't lose it until my tragic demise.

 In short, don't make dumb decisions and assume that this idea will work out.  I don't want to be cited as an inspiration for unsafe behavior.



Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Importance of Philosophy

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TD1vXSO-30I

This link will give you one of the most fascinating learning experiences for young 6-yr old children.  Children discuss very abstract thought that pertains to understanding big ideas about where feelings come from.  Perhaps the word choice is not yet developed, but as they grow and mature, it will certainly come.

We all learn philosophy, directly or indirectly.  We know that if it rains, you will get wet.  If you walked outside a building and did not get wet, then it is not raining.  We used a posteriori (experience driven) knowledge to draw this conclusion.

We know that the Sun will "rise" in the morning today, tomorrow, and every day for the rest of our lives.  We used a priori (rational) knowledge to predict this bold conclusion.

Every subject area follows rules of logic.  In math, you must know that when you add 2 objects to 2 other objects, you get 4 objects.  Of course, we know this is not always true.  If you add 1 raindrop to another, you get 1 bigger raindrop, but this is a relatively moot point.

Knowledge occurs either through experience or reason.  Everything you truly understand required one of those 2 conditions; often both.  You might think that you know that F= ma, but if you did not reason the meaning of the equation or experience a lab showing this, you do not really know it.

It amazes me that never in the pursuit of a high school diploma, does philosophy come up as an important subject area.  It is just as important as reading, writing and arithmetic.  Philosophy begs the question of why we take it for granted that 2+2 = 4, or that the Sun rises every morning.  Philosophy is the foundation for any real knowledge; it is also the common link for all Wikipedia articles.  Try clicking on the first link of any Wiki article, not including terms in parentheses or disambiguations.  Repeat this several times, and eventually you will find philosophy.

You cannot truly understand how we know that a scientific "fact" is true without understanding the roots behind it.  Everything you read in a science textbook was either derived mathematically (reason) or experimentally tested several times without failure (experience).  You must also understand that nothing you have learned in science is a true "fact."  The concept of force was created to make it easier to understand how to predict an object's motion.  Momentum was created to help predict collision results.  Energy was created to determine how fast an object could travel given certain parameters.

You cannot truly understand that 6 million Jews died in the Holocaust without understanding the writings of eyewitnesses who saw it happen (experience), or without understanding the mathematical analysis used to compute such number (reason).

You cannot truly understand that a sentence must contain a noun and a verb without understanding that a statement lacking such is useless (reason), or that writing would be difficult to understand without such components (experience and reason).  You also know that even with such parameters, a sentence can still be meaning less.  Ex:  Colorless green ideas sleep furiously (famously stated by Noam Chomsky).  Sure, there is a noun and verb but it is utterly meaningless.

Experience and reason are the key henchmen for philosophy; they enforce the creation of knowledge that we take for granted.  Any time you struggle to accomplish a learning goal, it is because you lack the appropriate knowledge or experience to fuel such knowledge.  Nothing you learn in school is "new" information; it is simply a reorganization of things you already understand.  You understand that waves exist because you hear them; you understand that the derivative of x^2 is 2x because you know what both equations look like and there was never a time in mathematics where the "correct" answer is not consistent with what you know (unless you are confused).

In order for more effective education, I firmly believe that philosophy should be of utmost importance to learners as young as Kindergarten and 1st grade.  It should be a core subject, for all real knowledge is built through understanding how knowledge is built.

Is the glass half empty or half full?  Neither.  It is twice the volume of the fluid inside.

The Insignificance of the Debate Between Bill Nye and Ken Ham

On February 4, 2014, Bill Nye [the Science Guy], formerly known for his television show that explains various principles of science, took part in a debate versus Ken Ham, the president of the Creation Museum. The questions pertained to whether or not our species was created by an intangible, abstract entity, or through a slow process that involved the natural selection of the environment's optimal species.  As expected, the scientist's views demonstrated stronger, more consistent, empirical and statistical evidence.

The question of how humanity started is ultimately a scientific question, not a religious one.  Here's why:

Science answers questions that we know we can answer.  The origin of humanity can be traced, and   although there may not be a perfectly determined "right" answer, there are clearly "wrong" answers.  Stating that we were created by falling out of a storm cloud is not supported through any experimental knowledge that scientists have generated.  Stating that it took millions of years is consistent with how other modern species developed, as well as the age of the fossils of our evolutionary ancestors.  Carbon dating has done wonders in showing a relatively accurate age of ancient rocks and fossils.  Our knowledge of plate tectonics shows that geological patterns occurred in the same time period as the species that correspond to the different parts of the planet.  Science has made amazing ground in answering a question that was once thought unanswerable.

Religion has no place in trying to trump the findings of science.  Religion, unlike science, cannot change and adapt views when a better theory is found.  Scientists, on the other hand, are eager to find a better explanation than they have already found.  Religious institutions generally fear such improvement.  Ham's argument seemed mostly focused on the idea that we are not capable of judging the interpretation of the data.  I feel like this is an evasive position that does not take charge of the consistency of found information.

Ham seemed to try to associate his faith within the realm of scientists.  He cited examples of notable scientists and inventors who believed in the 6,000 yr old planet.  I do not find this to be convincing because the world is a very large place, and there will always be a few PhD-caliber persons who believe something different than the majority of PhD caliber individuals.  My own physics advisor in college, I suspect, would side with Ham on this issue.  This does not mean that we as citizens cannot dispute such position.  Even peer reviewed journals will publish such ideas.  Although peer reviewed journals require an extensive process, it does not prevent any idea from being published (that would be censorship, to which I also oppose).  Of course, what about the solid majority of scientists who do not accept Creationism (99.9% according to Donald Prothero's Reality Check)?

Nye previously stated a couple of years before that "Creationism is not appropriate for children."  He is exactly right; the product is an instilled set of values that are not consistent with other worldly observations.  In 2nd grade, I looked at a world map and felt like I could put together all the continents like a jigsaw puzzle.  5 years later, I would find that this is one of the arguments for plate tectonics.  Kids should be focused on learning relatively factual information; information that is inductively/deductively proven.  They should be told the potential sources of error of such arguments.  The world is much safer when children learn self-consistent information that fosters future thinking about systems, and I think it is a generally fun process when what you learn is consistent with prior knowledge.

It may seem that I am trying to dismantle the entire institution of religion.  I do believe that religion has a place in society, but I think that place needs reformation.  Religion has every right to foster the development of interpersonal values.  In order for society to function cooperatively, social organization is of great necessity.

Religion should not focus on trying to concretely answer descriptive questions; it is instead the role of the institution to foster moral values, promote humanist, altruistic behavior, organize charities and promote love and peace.  There is no reason for the church to even have to answer a question that has been answered in a way upon which most scientists generally agree.

Ultimately, this debate does not close any gaps between science and religion.  It reminds us of the societal dysfunction that remains from furnishing descriptively inaccurate tales, and presenting them to young children, who in turn pass them along to future generations.  Ham will never concede his counter-factual claims, and generally, individuals who militantly defend the Bible will not open up to new information.  Science is what predicts and prevents natural disasters; science is what allows us to determine how increased carbon emissions affect global temperature.  Science is what makes up our bodies; science is what tells us how to live longer; science explains what we can confirm we know.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Roller Coaster Lab and Chaos Theory

Last week, I ran a lab with Honors and AP where they were to design a roller coaster track for a marble to travel down.  The coaster had to have a bunch of little things, such as a loop, a jump, a couple of hills, and it had to land in a cup.  I gave each group 3 tries to sink the marble.  Most groups made it at least once, but few made it more than once.  We may ask "How did we not obtain the same result each time?"

Scientists assume that each trial in an experiment was done in a manner that changed no more than 1 variable.  Otherwise, changing more than 1 variable could result in a change as a result of 2 changes, neither of which can be separated by itself.  The goal is to separate exactly 1 variable, so everything else must be done exactly the same.

Try doing this.  Try dropping a bouncy ball from the height of your head.  Record the location of the third bounce on the floor.  Now try doing the exact same thing to achieve the exact same result.  It's harder than you think.  The ball and floor have all kinds of hidden variables that we can't measure, such as irregularities in the surface of the ball, slight .001 degree tilt of the floor, or inconsistencies in the amount of air resistance encountered as it falls.

In our lab, we dropped the marble, and for the most part, nobody made any real changes in the design from trial to trial.  Some groups moved the cup; others tweaked the track a bit, but most, if not all, groups, experienced some variation from trial to trial, despite making no changes.  We may ask how this could have happened.

Suppose you dropped the marble a few millimeters away from the starting point.  This would slightly change the amount of initial potential energy, changing the kinetic energy at future points in the coaster.  At some points, that change can be enough to cause the marble to hit an uneven bump in the track, causing a variation in the amount of friction encountered.

Another possibility is that you put some sort of spin on the marble.  You will learn that a spinning object has "rotational kinetic energy," which adds to the total energy of the marble.  This slight change can create a major change later on in the coaster.

Chaos theory states that changing one tiny, seemingly insignificant detail can lead to a series of increasingly noticeable changes that eventually change a final result.  An example of this is in Ray Bradbury's short story, A Sound of Thunder.  A hunter who travels back in time accidentally steps on a butterfly, changing things, such as how words are spelled or how people support politicians.  Although we might find this example to be a bit of a stretch, the idea is quite sound.

Killing one butterfly means slightly less prey for a natural predator.  Maybe an animal needed that butterfly to make the difference between survival and death of itself.  Perhaps such animal would have given birth to more species, one of which could have had a necessary mutation to evolve into a modern species that we humans encounter.

Perhaps this species influences our culture or behavior by affecting our ecosystem, killing unwanted disease-ridden animals, or by controlling the population of a disliked animal.  Maybe the politician that a person would have supported had a position regarding how to handle the population of a species that no longer exists all because a guy stepped on a butterfly.  Hence, chaos theory (sometimes called the butterfly effect; Bradbury did not invent the term, he used a butterfly to make reference to the term).

I'm interested in hearing about other possible changes that could have caused the marble to behave differently.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

"Evolution is only a Theory" and misconceptions about science.

Her name is Amanda.  She is a wonderful character, with great moral values.  She and I always enjoyed talking at the dinner table in college; we'd laugh about whatever was going on around us, we were both forensic science majors (before I switched majors); both of us were taking biology, and she usually has a great deal of common sense.  Despite our friendship, we always differed on just about every debatable topic.  She is pro-life; I am pro-choice.  She was for capital punishment; I am vehemently opposed to it.  She puts an inordinate amount of faith in the Bible; I view it as a trivial work of fiction.  Needless to say, she believes in Creationism; I believe that we are products of evolution.

We always got into arguments at the dinner table.  We remained friends, but we always got into arguments.  The one thing that I could never get over was that she was a forensic science major and rejected any piece of science that conflicted with the old testament.  She always tells me that "Evolution is only a Theory;" this is what kills me.

"Evolution is only a theory."  Many fundamentalists chant that mantra when they want to protect their views. I find myself fuming on the inside when I hear this. You can believe in your religion and accept evolution simultaneously; they often do not conflict, but no scientifically literate individual would willingly state the above mantra.

Most of us, when we hear the word theory, think of a proposed idea with insufficient knowledge to be considered valid.   Dictionary.com defines a theory as:

Theory - a coherent group of tested general propositions, commonly regarded as correct, that can
 be used as principles of explanation and prediction for a class of phenomena:

A theory is actually a very high degree of confidence.  The reason why evolution is a theory and not a law is that there is no way to experimentally prove this.  Evolution takes too much time and depends on variables that cannot be independently manipulated.  Imagine trying to design an experiment to prove evolution; you can't!  This is why evolution is "only" a theory; the quotation marks parody the fact that all scientific theories are very well established.

This is in contrast to a law, which is an idea that has been thoroughly tested and found to have stood strong despite several attempts to "foil" such principle.  Scientists are really designing experiments in an effort to disprove their hypothesis.  This is why a law is the most powerful degree of certainty in science.

So, where do we have absolute truth in science?  We don't.  Well, sort of.  We could state that it is absolutely true that 3 is a prime number, or that adding 2 jelly beans to 3 jelly beans yields 5 jelly beans, but these are rules of mathematics, which is really science without the tangible world.  Once you add the physical universe, you can no longer state that you are "absolutely certain" about something; this concept doesn't exist.

Gravity, currently a law, was once a theory.  It remained a theory until Henry Cavendish created a device that could determine the universal Gravitational constant, G, which equals 6.67 x 10^-11 Nm^2/kg^2.  It is possible that one day, gravity will be replaced by an even better explanation.  Nobody currently knows why gravity exists; we only know how it exists.

On the scale of scientific certainty, the most basic level is a paradigm.  A paradigm is a proposed, highly uncertain model, or explanation of how something works.  Aristotle's explanation of how the universe worked was a paradigm; it had no real proof, other than a few inert, incomplete observations about how things always "seek rest."  He was absolutely wrong on that matter.

After a paradigm is a hypothesis, which is an announced, educated proposal.  Some call it an educated guess, but a hypothesis is better than this.  Evolution does not contain a real "hypothesis" because it cannot be tested.  A theory occurs when instead of directly testing a hypothesis, people make observations related to the idea, all of which seem to support it.  Not all scientists have to definitively agree on a theory; but most should.

Where does creationism or intelligent design fit on this spectrum?  Think for yourself on this one.  I don't think there will ever be true scientific support for creationism, since evolution can consistently explain what creationism cannot.  Evolution does not ever have to become a law; a theory remains valid until a better explanation is reached; the only way to "kill" an idea is with a better idea.

My conclusion:  Evolution may only be a theory, but on the same scale, creationism is not even that.  I am not telling people to drop their religion; I have many Jewish and Christian friends who accept evolution over creationism, so there is no reason why you cannot have your cake and eat it, too.