Leaning to the Left

Writing from a liberal persuasion

Posts Tagged ‘evolution’

Evolution and America

Posted by Beau Winiger on May 20, 2009

Recently a 47  million year old fossil was found that has been tentatively described as the missing link.  This, so far, seems to be the oldest fossil found to date that has characteristics that can link it to humans, specifically opposable thumbs and fingernails.  Truly an amazing discovery, but why does it belong in a blog dedicated to politics?  Well, it caused me to start thinking about evolution, and the telling way in which evolution has illuminated what I see to be a fundamental problem in American politics, namely the way in which religion plays such a large part in how we go about our educational life in America.

During the 2008 Republican presidential primary the candidates were asked how many of them did not believe in evolution.  Three hands went up for that question.  The year was 2008, Darwin wrote The Origin of the Species in 1859, and here were three men, running for the privilege of leading the most powerful nation in the world, who said the scientific equivalent of “I do not believe in gravity”.  The fact that this happened should be shocking enough in its own right.  But the true insight into American politics, and the large role that religion does continue to play in it, is seen in how those that professed a disbelief in evolution were not seen as ignorant and uneducated by one and all.  Rather they were seen by some as men of strong religious faith, men that should be looked up to.  The fact that in American politics religion is an untouchable subject, guarding a politician from all questions, and gilding them in some unquestionable moral goodness, shows just how slowly America has evolved from earlier times (please forgive the cheap wordplay, but I could not resist).

A February Gallop poll found that only 39% of Americans believe in evolution.  To repeat my earlier analogy, that is the scientific equivalent of saying only 39% of Americans believe in gravity.  And those that do not believe in evolution wear the badge proudly, believing it to be a sign of their commitment to God.  They believe that to believe in evolution is heresy, it is to say that God does not exist (even though evolution makes no mention, for or against, the possibility that God exists), and they therefore push strongly to have evolution either stricken from high school textbooks, or at the very least to include arguments for intelligent design (no more than Creationism dressed in fancy clothes) included alongside arguments for evolution in textbooks. 

This sort of argument, that an unscientific theory deserves equal time in a science room, is akin to saying that the theory that 2+2=5 deserves equal time in a math classroom.  And yet the argument still persists, and if one tries to raise a voice against teaching unscientific claims as valid scientific theorem then he or she is shouted down as being anti-religion.  What the anti-evolutionist fails to realize, or chooses to ignore, is that those that wish intelligent design to be banned from science rooms are not anti-religion, they are simply anti-bad science, and one would hope that this country would push for more science teachers that are pro-good science.

This is a nation that prides itself on its Judeo-Christian heritage, and although the founding fathers were, for the most part, not Judeo-Christian themselves (despite some revisionist part time historian claims to the contrary), it was indeed built by many believers in God.  The vast majority of Americans still do believe in God, and the point of this essay is not to say that a belief in God is a bad thing.  A belief in God does become bad though when it muddies one’s thinking, when it clouds what is accepted scientific truth.  There are some who will honestly dismiss this latest discovery of a 47 million year old fossil as nothing more than a challenge put out by God, a test to their faith.  I knew a fellow philosopher in college who was extremely bright, a person whose intelligence I held in high regard, and he believed that the Earth was 6,000 years old.  His thinking on most every subject we discussed was very well thought out and rational, yet his belief in God told him to disregard all scientific evidence and follow a theory with zero reputable scientific support

If I have offended anyone in this essay I am sorry.  It was not my intent.  A belief in God has been a force for great good in this world.  Without it I do not believe that Gandhi or Martin Luther King, Jr. would have been able to gather the strength to bring about change and peace in their countries.  God makes many things possible for many people, but it also has a tendency to invade into areas where it has nothing to contribute.  We, as a people, must decide that a belief in God does not justify all.  There are many areas in life where religion has much to contribute, but the scientific classroom is not one of them.

add to del.icio.us : Add to Blinkslist : add to furl : Digg it : add to ma.gnolia : Stumble It! : add to simpy : seed the vine : : : TailRank : post to facebook


Posted in politics | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »