(Issue #10 - 2003-10-29)
I keep seeing different numbers in the papers and magazines, but they all agree that at least 50% of Americans don’t “believe” in evolution. Once again, the Christians are responsible for this idiocy. Normal people still make fun of the Scopes “monkey trial,” but the same, equally ludicrous argument continues to come up in our country thanks to the religious extremists that occupy every corner of public life. Just a few years ago, the state of Oklahoma had a serious argument about allowing discussions of evolution in classes.
Let’s start with the facts. Evolution is a fact, incontrovertible and established. The fossil record proves it, carbon dating proves it, and we can see it happening in microcosm in the Petri dish in front of our eyes. DNA comparisons of living species confirm it. Every bit of serious science proves that man and apes share a common ancestor, and no serious scientist would undertake to prove otherwise.
However, just like Oprah, the atkins diet and tent-revival apocalypse preaching, the idea that there is another possible truth somehow persists. A friend of a friend once admitted that she didn’t believe in evolution, to which my friend responded, “so, God just put those dinosaur bones there?” From a fundamentalist Christian point of view, this is the crux of the issue.
If you are a fundamentalist Christian, and you believe everything in the bible is to be taken as literal truth, you are in trouble. You also, however, believe that the world was created some 7,000 years ago, that the first people were in the garden of Eden and that the world was saved from a flood by Noah. Unfortunately, there is no science to back up this claim, and plenty to disprove it. There are dinosaur bones in the rock. The dinosaur bones are millions of years old, and the rock is billions of years old. We know that for a fact.
This cognitive dystrophy would make an existentialist happy. The fundamentalist Christian can only believe two things. Either all of science is made up of liars who are in an astonishing conspiracy with one another, or God has made the world so that all physical evidence puts the lie to a literal reading of the bible. Amazingly, some people choose the first option, but I’d like to focus on the second.
If god has made a reality in which no scientific evidence can be believed, then we should give up teaching anything in school at all, which would solve the debate. PI would no longer be 3.141 (the bible puts it at exactly 3 anyway). All laws of physics would be void, since they are the laws used to prove the age of rocks and bones. If this is true, the world is simply an illusion, shadows on the wall of a cave, and the existentialists have won. The last thing any Christian would want would be to let the existentialists’ philosophy win out over Christian theology. That would be a catastrophe for them, yet the stubborn insistence on a literal reading of the bible guarantees it. In that case, we are nothing but the figments of our own imagination and all phenomena are illusions. We are plugged into the matrix, we are sleepers dreaming, pick your analogy. Far be it for me or any person to guess at the real nature of God, but a cynical person might find it difficult to accept such a capricious god.
All of this comes about logically, and we still have arguments about evolution. If the bible is right and evolution never happened, then neither did any of the other stuff that we teach in school. Why do we argue about it? Let the children be taught evolution, just as they are taught physics and math and history. By the fundamentalist reasoning, they are all equally untrue.
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