This week we celebrate Charles Darwin’s 200th birthday, and the 150th anniversary of his world-redefining book On The Origin Of Species, the book that changed how almost every kind of scientist and philosopher looked at the world. Before his work, there were so many unknowns — for hard science, like genetics — but also for soft-sciences, like sociology and psychology. We finally had some idea of why we do things, and why we are what we are.
As the saying goes ‘you have to know where you’ve come from, before you know where you’re going’. That’s not say the social scientists really know what’s going on with us, psychologically, but perhaps they know a bit more about what makes us tick, empirically.
Darwinism was also a big finger-sticking to the Creationist types. ‘God didn’t actually make the Earth in 7 days,’ Darwin cleverly surmised. We’re actually descended down through many, many generations of other species. Early, monotheistic thought put the Earth at only 25,000 years old — something we now know to be completely false. The Earth is closer to 4.5 billion years old!
The controversy that followed fueled the distribution of Darwin’s books — how better to pique a world’s interest than to stick it to the man himself, God?
The thing is, most intelligent Bible-based believers (i.e. most of the popular religions on the planet today) acknowledge that evolution makes sense. I mean, you’d have to be crazy to deny evolution, there’s just too much evidence to support it. The problem is, teaching evolution in a school is as good as saying God/Allah doesn’t exist. A religion has a bit of a problem if it starts teaching its children that God didn’t really create the world. “It’s just a metaphor!” Like a lot of most religious canon.
Sadly, teaching evolution in some American schools is still outlawed. It’s crazy! It’s like denying the world is round, or that we orbit the Sun; science moves on, that’s the whole point of science. Science is all about what can be proven as fact, at a given time. As our tools improve, and our ability to analyze our world grows, the rules change. The known rules change. Gravity has always existed, we just didn’t know about it until Newton discovered it — just like evolution.
You can’t refuse to teach something because it doesn’t fit in with your world view. That’s not even education. That’s indoctrination…
Luckily, some religious types have found a lovely midground between evolution and creationism — Intelligent Design. It’s a theory with a lot going for it (and this page has a lot more information on the topic), and the current state of science and anthropology doesn’t really have a counter for it. That’s not to say it’s a viable theory, if you are in any way a scientist — it simply doesn’t work with science. Intelligent Design basically implies that someone had a helping hand in the ‘steps’ in evolution; going from a fish to a monkey to human is quite a large leap, without some kind of magic. The fact that we first ‘became human’ about 6 million years ago (not 6 thousand years ago) as we stepped out of the jungles of Africa and onto the great plains, probably puts rest to the fact that God (or some other supernatural being) was in any way involved.
Here’s a nice quote from the page I linked earlier:
Anti-evolution efforts in the United States are having a significant effect. A Harris poll in June 2005 found that 54 percent of Americans do not believe that humans developed from earlier species (up from 46 percent in March 1994).
I’ll leave you with one of my favourite YouTube videos of all time — An Atheist’s Nightmare:[youtube]http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=Y4yBvvGi_2A[/youtube]