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Friday, August 18, 2006

U.S. and Turkey, Partners In Ignorance

In a recent news article (link), it was stated that the United States ranks near the bottom of the list, only second lowest to Turkey among 34 nations, when it comes to acceptance of Evolution. As the cornerstone of all modern biological sciences, the Theory of Evolution is as well-founded and supported by overwhelming evidence as any of our most solid theories. There really is no serious 'controversy' to speak of regarding evolution.

This is why I have a personal rule about debating Evolution: I simply will not debate the validity of Evolution with anyone who has not read at least one book on Evolution, written by what they would call an 'Evolutionist'. Predictably, I have yet to encounter such a person. I made this rule for myself after countless debates which resulted in the discovery that the other person invariably had ideas about Evolution that were not, in fact, what Evolution was about. Rather, it was a 'straw man' version of Evolution as described in one of many various 'pop-sci' books by disingenuous creationist authors who knew better. Secondly, to give credence to the position against Evolution would be like wasting time seriously debating someone over whether or not the Earth was flat or whether we 'really went to the Moon'. There are people in the world who stand for seeking truth through reason, and those who covertly stand for their own comfortable positions. Any sensible debater is wise to identify the latter quickly so as to ignore them.

Were it not for a bizarre mismatch between evolution and one particular fundamentalist religious viewpoint, no rational person would have a problem with Evolution. That viewpoint is the bibliolatry of literalism. Dr. Conrad Hyers, professor of comparative mythology and religious history, has written an article for Christian Century magazine I highly recommend called, "Biblical Literalism: Constricting the Cosmic Dance"(link). In one very interesting point, he says:

"The problem is, no doubt, further amplified by the obviousness and banality of most of the television programming on which the present generation has been weaned and reared. Not only is imagination a strain; even to imagine what a symbolic world is like is difficult. Poetry is turned into prose, truth into statistics, understanding into facts, education into note-taking, art into criticism, symbols into signs, faith into beliefs. That which cannot be listed, out-lined, dated, keypunched, reduced to a formula, fed into a computer, or sold through commercials cannot be thought or experienced."

He then goes on to point out:

"One of the ironies of biblical literalism is that it shares so largely in the reductionist and literalist spirit of the age. It is not nearly as conservative as it supposes. It is modernistic, and it sells its symbolic birthright for a mess of tangible pottage. Biblical materials and affirmations -- in this case the symbolism of Creator and creation – are treated as though of the same order and the same literary genre as scientific and historical writing. “I believe in God the Father Almighty” becomes a chronological issue, and “Maker of heaven and earth” a technological problem."

Evolution shows us something magnificent, intricate, and beautiful about the universe we live in. I pity those who can't appreciate that wonder because they've been mislead by ideas that were authored by the ignorant and fearful. What is really sad about this whole thing is how unnecessary it is. Many religious people, perhaps most, have no problem with Evolution, and even see it as a part of God's creation.

I would suggest that we not ridicule those who have been mislead by claims there is some sort of conflict between religion and Evolution. At the same time, we shouldn't give undue credence to debating Evolution with someone who knows of it only through the eyes of biased detractors. Instead, we should act kindly toward these folks. We shouldn't be imposing or offensive, and instead gently guide them to more informed reading, answering any honest questions they may have.

For those who may be reading this who think Evolution is 'just a theory' or don't accept it on religious grounds, I would hope you may read the article by Dr. Hyers linked to above, and then perhaps explore the website below. If anyone else knows of good resources for such folks, please post them in the comments.

Information on Evolution:

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