- Education and Science
Creationism and Evolution, "Teaching The Controversy," in Tennessee
A Scientific Heresy
The May Gallup pole for 2012 stated the proposition like this, "God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years ago or so." And 46% of Americans agreed with it. This is actually up from the 44% that agreed with this contention during the Gallup pole conducted during the year of my birth, 1982. And now with a second state, Tennessee, (the first was Ohio) passing a bill to give equal time to teaching the controversy between, "Intelligent Design," and Evolution, it would seem that public ignorance is increasing with my every birthday.
The problem of course is there is no scientific debate on the basic tenets of the theory; these include common descent of all organisms from an ancestral organism (something like a prokaryotic bacteria) and natural selection of traits based on survival and procreative advantage. This is not disputed by any reputable scientist. There has never been a peer reviewed article on Intelligent Design (excepting Engineering Journals, of course) and the evidence in support of Evolution has only continued to accumulate during the 19th and 20th centuries. The independent fields of physical science that have produced overlapping evidence all converging on the truth of evolution are numerous. From Embryology to Comparative Anatomy to Molecular Biochemistry to Paleontology to Anthropology to Radiometric Dating to Biogeography to Plate tonics, all these fields have individually produced facts that perfectly fit into Evolutionary Theory.
Now let's clarify the scientific use of the word theory. It is not used in science as it is used colloquially to refer to a tentative guess to explain some particular happenstance such as a crime. The National Academy of Science defines a theory thusly, "A scientific theory is a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world, based on a body of knowledge that has been repeated confirmed through observation and experiment." Evolution is as well-substantiated, perhaps better substantiated, as the theory of gravity and the theory of a heliocentric solar system.
Now there has been some scientific debate as to some of the more erudite points concerning evolution. The so-called "Cambrian Explosion," is a well known one and a hypothesis about unfavorable fossilization conditions has been posited as one explanation for the fossil gaps. There is also a debate over whether genetic variation within a species resulting from mutation and variation resulted in enough diversity to result in speciation. There is a hypothesis concerning Epigenetics (only a budding field) that is attempting to give a more complete account of organismic variance. Not withstanding, the premises of selection and common descent are in no way a scientific debate but rather a social debate stemming from ignorance.
Indeed, most "Creationists," don't actually know what it is that they don't believe. This is betrayed when they state firmly and with the conviction only belonging to the truly clueless that, "I am not the descendant of a monkey." Evolutionary theory never asserted anything of the sort. It merely posits that monkeys and human have a common, extinct ancestor (as we do with every form of life, even plants and bacteria).
If you are going to be persist in your disbelief in evolution, I say at least be consistent. This means no antibiotics, no anti-viral medications, no vaccinations, pretty much no western medicine of any kind. Evolution is the undergirding matrix of the life and healing sciences.
Often the objection is raised, "Well you can't see it how do you know it happened?" Actually this is not true. There have been numerous experiments done with bacteria, even schools of fish, in which their environment is altered and we see a dramatic shift in the genetic prevalence of traits conducive to survival in this new environment. Bacteria work well because they divide (or reproduce) so quickly that thousands of generations of change (Evolution) can be seen in a decade. I won't go into depth concerning these experiments but rather refer you to Richard Dawkins's "The Greatest Show On Earth." (Now wait, whatever you may think of him as a religious antagonist he is one of the, if not the most, preeminent Biologists alive.
Now I'd like to not take this topic to it's clichéd destination but there is just no avoiding it. What do I see as the biggest opposition to Evolution? Religion. And I have a theory on this, it's quite simple. If the Bible is wrong about where we came from it might be wrong about where we are going. The great Existential cravenness is denial of death and we will apparently hold onto our religious myths concerning, "veils of tears," and, "anterooms to paradise," despite all the evidence in the world.
And yet wait, the Anglican Church accepts evolution, Catholic Cardinals and Popes accept evolution...what gives? At what point does the communication break down between the, "sophisticated theologians," and the people filling the pews? I honestly don't know. I can't really even tell if the pseudo-scientists espousing, "intelligent design," actually believe it or not. They certainly profit off of the credulity of the general public.
I suppose the only thing that truly is of consequence is this. This ruling puts us one more giant leap toward total societal decay, not only do we a have a physically crumbling infrastructure, a diminishing social safety net, but now a educational matrix in a second state that will severely handicap the next generation in regards to Biological education. Should scientific truth all come down to democratic consensus? If a majority of people don't understand evolution and they elect representative that also don't understand it should we end up with, if you'll excuse the phrasing, a scientific heresy like this? But science isn't about lay consensus. If I went out on the street and asked 100 people do you think time would slow down if you accelerated to a adequate speed, 99 would say no, but those 99 people would still be wrong, they just don't understand the general theory of relativity. The purpose of science isn't to cater to ignorance but rather to ameliorate ignorance.
If you think the phrase, "giant leap toward total societal decay," is a bit hyperbolic consider this. Will the U.S. really be able to compete economically in the generation to come if we continue down the road of teaching myth in the place of evidence?