Friday, December 15, 2006

Clueless Conservatives and Evolution

Ah, Creationism! That myth-based view of the creation of the world, wholly untestable and without reason. Who besides those irreligious, heathen scientists could possibly argue against the divine! Why, a poll conducted last year found that 42% of Americans believed in a Creationist view, while only 26% took the view of Evolution (yes, brothers and sisters, pronounce it "Evil-ution"). You know the prevailing Creationist belief, right? It goes like this:

In the beginning, Nareau walked alone in the oppressive darkness of Te-Po-ma-Te-Maki ("the Darkness of the Embrace") and from a mussel shell he created the world. Then from sand and water he created two beings: Na Atibu and Nei Teuke, man and woman. They created the sun and the moon from Nareau's eyes, the stars from his brain and from his flesh and bones they made the islands and trees. From the union of those first two beings came forth the other gods. Nareau still appears on earth, as a spider.

Oh, I'm sorry, were you expecting the Christian creation myth? My apologies. I thought you would first think of the ancient Kiribati creation myth, like I do. But really, can you disprove it any more than the Christian myth? Is this Micronesian story of Nareau and his children really any less silly than the thought of a god creating the cosmos and Earth from nothing, or of a little garden where lived a man made from clay and a woman made from one of the man's ribs, then they were kicked out because they were convinced by a snake to eat an apple, then they somehow parented the entire world?

The same poll found that 18% of Americans believe in evolution that is, somehow, guided by an intelligent force (namely, the Christian god, whose rather unimaginative name is "God"). Thus, we have "Intelligent Design". Rationally, though, Intelligent Design is no different from outright Creationism, since neither can be tested using the scientific method. You cannot prove the existence of an intelligent creator any more than you can a god. And who created the creator? The leading advocate of Intelligent Design is the Discovery Institute, a politically-created organization with obvious neoconservative ideologies, whose main purpose seems to be to convince the general public that scientists are debating Evolution versus Intelligent Design and that this debate should be extended to our school children, when in fact you would be hard-pressed to find any scientists who buy into the Intelligent Design mumbo jumbo, and teaching this in public schools violates the separation of church and state. Recently, the Discovery Institute has funded another institute, the Biologic Institute, whose purpose is to try to skew scientific reasoning toward their wholly unscientific assertions by pursuing actual bench science. Sorry, but saying there is empirical evidence for a creator is no more plausible than saying a priest is a scientist simply because he puts on a lab coat.

Every year there are thousands of scientific studies that reaffirm the principles of natural selection which are at the heart of Evolution. It is so widely embraced by biology that it has progressed beyond a scientific "theory" to, in my mind and the mind of many others, a scientific "law." There are many researchers who have dedicated their entire lives to understanding Evolution. Yet those 42% of Americans who distrust the theory, the vast majority of whom never actually learned anything about it from an approved science text, are unwilling to listen to the biological professionals. Do they likewise disbelieve physicists about quantum mechanics? Or mathematicians about fractal geometry? Or astronomers about solar formation? Are they proficient enough in these areas to question them? I'm not, except for Evolution. If they aren't willing or able to educate themselves, then I suggest they defer to those who do.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go worship Nareau by placing a shell by a block of coral and calling forth my guardian spirits….


Colleen said...

As a Catholic who believes very strongly in evolution, I'm insulted by your blog. It shows a real misunderstanding of religion and makes you no better than the Christian fundamentalists that enrage you.

Creationism, at least in the Catholic faith, is not a belief in Adam and Eve. It is a belief that God created the universe in some way. I like to believe it was through evolution.

Go ahead and knock down Intelligent Design. Plesae do. It's a philosophical argument that is misleadingly presented as science, and I hate its core. But your argument does little to help our cause. If someone is truly ignorant about evolution and intelligent design, they will not be converted by your abrasive sarcasm.

There is nothing wrong with faith. Even scientists must employ a little faith in their research. We have yet to explain leaps in evolution and yet believe that evolution is a driving force in our development.

If someone wants to believe in a higher being, I say let them have their faith. The soul is beyond the jurisdiction of science and may not be disproved. Believing in something like Nareau is harmless while people recognize that a comprimise between science and religion may exist. Who are you to take their belief away from them?

Curt Sampson said...

When it comes to making decisions with effects in the physical world, there is everything wrong with faith, and neither scientists nor anybody else should be relying on it. Working from a hypothesis without sufficient support from evidence is fine, if that's the best you've got for your particular situation, but that's certainly not faith. That's just what you do while you're working (or waiting) for a better theory to come along.

If you want a graphic example of what's wrong with faith, here's someone who, due to faith, died earlier and much more painfully than necessary:

Anonymous said...

Hey Angry Lab Rat,

A while ago I had this psychology professor who told me that if you want to know about something and there's no expert around to ask to, just ask the common folk, and believe the opposite to what they tell you; you're more likely to be right that way!

If most folks disbelieve in evolution, then evolution is in all likelihood true!

It was meant to be (slightly) humourous, of course, but there's still some truth in this...

BTW, excellent blog!

Amy Alkon said...

If someone wants to believe in a higher being, I say let them have their faith.

Look, I don't have a problem with the idiots who believe in astrology because they generally don't try to legislate what others can and can't do based on whether the moon is in Aquarius. Unfortunately, I can't say the same for those who believe, without evidence, in god.

Nice, clear write-up, AngryLabRat.

A pity so many people are such strangers to critical thinking.