Tuesday, November 09, 2004


Was Darwin Wrong?

Sunday while waiting for my son to finish Sunday school, I visited my local Borders to drink coffee and survey the current periodicals. I came upon an old friend, The National Geographic Magazine. I hadn't read the National G in years, but I remembered fondly having a subscription to it when I was in grade school. (when I returned home I almost immediately got a subscription via the internet for my son--it's a real bargain only $19.00). In an article entitled "Was Darwin Wrong?" (to end the suspense, he wasn't--at least about evolution by natural selection), the author, David Quammen, pointed out that in a Gallup poll conducted in the U.S. in February, 2001 no less than 45% of responding adults agreed that "God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so". Quammen further notes that such statistics have not really varied in polls conducted over the last twenty years.

What the hell is going on?

Evolution is a scientific theory. The use of the word theory by a scientist does not imply a "good guess". A theory is as close as a scientist can come to scientific "fact". A theory should only be discarded when a contrary conclusion is reached or the original theory is disproved by the use of demonstrable facts. The Copernican theory argued that the earth orbits the sun; the Ptolemaic theory argued the opposite. The Copernican theory triumphed because the facts as observed by Galileo and others demonstrated its validity. For some reason, because evolution uses the word theory the unenlightened feel free to reject it and accept creationism or lately "creation science", an undemonstrable article of religious belief.

Why is evolution so unaccepted? One reason is the lack of serious science education in our schools, but more importantly I think its due to the our country's leaders' patronizing attitude toward those who refuse to accept it.

Our president, a product of some of the finest private schools in the country (Andover, Yale, and Harvard Business school) does not seem to take a position on evolution, or at least he seems to (perish the thought) "flip-flop" on its validity: "He [Bush] believes both creationism and evolution ought to be taught," his spokeswoman Mindy Tucker elaborated to Reuters. "He believes it is a question for states and local school boards to decide but believes both ought to be taught." Before blue state liberals mock our beloved leader, they should remember that the sainted Al Gore in 2000 tried exactly the same cop-out position before he was reminded of the Supreme Court's ruling in EDWARDS v. AGUILLARD, 482 U.S. 578 (1987) which held that a Louisiana attempt to require creationism to be taught whenever evolution is taught to be unconstitutional. 482 U.S. 578 . This view by these politicians and others is deeply cynical. The typical pol thinks, so what if I cater to the creationists, who does it hurt? Another example of this catering is the sale of a creationist book at the National Park Service bookstore at the Grand Canyon. The book claims that the canyon was created by Noah's flood.

The problem with such catering is that it hurts us all. Creationism is inherently irrational or perhaps better anti-rational. Anti-rational solutions to questions are based on emotion and faith not reason. This country is faced with innumerable problems. An electorate which is ignorant of science or perhaps more accurately anti-science is probably not capable of making informed choices on global warming, AID's, or stem cell research.

I am not anti-religion or religious people. I would rather deal on a daily basis with people whose world view is shaped by the compassion of Jesus Christ than the rationalism and realpoltik of Karl Marx or Pol Pot. But just because a minority of Christianity accepts the creation myth of the Bible as a cosmological and geologic textbook doesn't mean that our schools and other institutions should bend over backwards not to offend them.

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