On February 12, 2010, I attended a dinner commemorating the 201st
birthday of Charles Darwin. This led me to write this article, which is meant to
be science for the nonscientist. Note that I use the strawman technique
popularized by C.S. Lewis in his fantastical book of Christian apologetics, “Mere
Christianity.” Lewis sets up several alternative explanations for something,
then shows how the ones he doesn’t like are false, so that the remaining
choice, the one he likes, must be true. I found this technique annoying and intellectually dishonest when Lewis used it ... of course when I do
it, I like it just fine.
This article brought a flood of reaction, including an
from a religious fanatic who regular writes to the newspaper, a
from a spiritual sort who also regularly writes letters to the
two scientifically minded letters. The first dealt with the
for evolution, the second dealt with the nonsensical criticism that
fundamentalists always make that evolution is “just a
theory.” I’ve never really met a creationist who knows what the term
Evolutionary Biology for
Mistake or Conspiracy?
“... be on guard against giving interpretations
of Scripture that are far-fetched or
opposed to science, and so exposing the Word of God to the ridicule of
wouldn’t think a dinner marking the birthday of one of history’s greatest
scientists would cause anyone to react with disgust. Yet, in a country where
half the population rejects the basic tenets of biology, Charles Darwin is often
viewed with contempt.
I wrote that evolution is “an established fact”
(echoing a 1996 statement from Pope John Paul II), one fundamentalist friend
challenged me to debate evolution vs. creationism. I declined, because, when it
comes to religion, it’s better to argue with strangers than friends. And this
certainly would have been a religious argument.
A debate on evolutionary
biology between an English teacher and a self-described evangelist is
ridiculous anyway. We’re as qualified for such a discussion as two
pastry chefs who can’t do the math arguing Einstein’s Theory of
Because she’d once taken a
creationism course from Ken Ham — a religious fanatic considered a quack
and a hack by the scientific community — my friend claimed she was qualified and demanded to know why, if I
“can’t do the math,” I’m convinced evolution is fact and
creationism isn’t. This is actually a valid point that merits an answer.
a nonscientist, I can’t and won’t argue the science. I leave that to evolutionary
biologists, like Richard Dawkins. Like most people, I believe the Earth goes
around the sun, but I don’t think I could prove it. Nonetheless, I believe in
evolution, and consider creationism nonsense, for reasons that don’t involve
has been the prevailing scientific wisdom worldwide for
more than 100 years. Every major university — from MIT, Yale and Stanford to
Oxford and the University of Tokyo — teaches it as the sole rational
explanation for the development of life on Earth.
to the televangelists, you’d think evolution vs. creationism is being
vigorously debated by the scientific community, but, at places like Caltech and
Princeton, this isn’t happening, because the issue was settled many decades
ago. The mechanics of evolution are
being investigated, but creationism isn’t even part of the discussion, because
it isn’t science, it’s primitive religious dogma.
science” is propounded only at fundamentalist Christian (and Muslim) schools.
From such institutions, peer-reviewed biological research is absent, because
creationism is a dead-end of scriptural mythology, without data. Christian
colleges also teach the Noah’s Ark tale as literal history, and their
psychology departments view demon spirits as causes of mental illness — beliefs
also not taken seriously by serious researchers.
all creationism advocates are fundamentalist Christians. Few, if any, prominent
or credible nonfundamentalist scholars deny evolution or support creationism.
The impetus behind creation science is religious, rather than scientific —
faith, not facts.
Earth Creationists believe that Genesis mandates the universe must be between
6,000 and 7,000 years old. If this is true, almost all modern science, including
geology, astronomy, anthropology and paleontology, is wrong, because these
disciplines are contradicted by scripture. So, what do fundamentalists believe
about the scientific establishment, which, according to a 2009 Pew Research
poll, supports evolution by a margin of 97% to 3%? I’ve asked creationists,
and there are only two answers.
believe the 97% of scientists who believe in evolution are simply wrong. This
includes the astronomers and cosmologists, who estimate the ages of stars in the
billions of years; the paleontologists, who use carbon
dating developed by equally mistaken physicists to analyze the age of fossils; the anthropologists, who trace
mankind’s development; and the geneticists, who map DNA from primitive
life-forms to today’s human genome. It’s hard to imagine that nearly every
scientist in every field is mistaken.
Others think scientists know
evolution is a lie, but are conducting a massive cover-up that crosses all the
major disciplines. This conspiracy, aimed at destroying people’s faith,
includes atheistic evolutionary biologists, as well as the marine
biologists, who are lying about the age of coral deposits that took
millions of years to form Pacific atolls, and the misguided and/or satanic
geologists who’ve determined that it took millions of years for the Colorado River to
carve out the Grand Canyon. Such a widespread plot, in fields in which a
scientist could gain instant fame by convincingly disproving evolution, is
Just one science example to
back up my point: Astronomers observe stars billions of light years away.
A light year is the distance light travels in one year; hence, the light
from these stars must have traveled for billions of years to be visible
here on Earth. Are astronomers lying about the distances to these stars or
have the physicists, such as Einstein, knowingly lied about the speed of light, just to make
the Young Earth Creationists look dumb?
choice is between the overwhelming majority of the scientific community and the
creation scientists, who also believe Noah’s homemade boat once held two each
of the millions of animal species now living. And, by the way, how did the koala
bears swim from Australia to the Ark and then back again?
not ready to jettison Einstein, Darwin and natural law in favor of mythologies
written by primitives just out of the Bronze Age. It’s not that evolution
should be taught in the public schools just because it’s been so completely
established as scientific fact. It’s also that the alternative proposed by its
opponents is so totally and embarrassingly absurd.
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