Wednesday, February 02, 2005

And this is only mild irritation! Don't get me really riled!

Okay, this is a rant – fair warning has been given. Every once in a while something pushes my buttons, and this has accomplished that with a vengeance. You don’t have to agree with me, but at least listen to me!

How can anyone possibly look at any article on archeology, paleontology, geology, or physics and deny evolution? A New York Times article of February 1, 2005, offers the following statement in an article by Cordelia Dean titled Evolution Takes a Back Seat in U.S. Classes: “"The most common remark I've heard from teachers was that the chapter on evolution was assigned as reading but that virtually no discussion in class was taken," said Dr. John R. Christy, a climatologist at the University of Alabama at Huntsville, an evangelical Christian and a member of Alabama's curriculum review board who advocates the teaching of evolution. Teachers are afraid to raise the issue, he said in an e-mail message, and they are afraid to discuss the issue in public.”

I’m not rabidly scientific; I inhabit a house with an entity that, for lack of a better term, I call a ghost, and sometimes know things before they happen. Neither of those phenomena is scientifically provable, but they’re a part of my life – I believe in them, if you will, just as I do in Christianity. Evolution, on the other hand, offers factual scientific proof. How can any rational human deny the concept? Didn’t you evolve yourself, from babyhood to adulthood? Granted, that is a microcosm, but it’s a valid statement. If an individual evolves in such a dramatic fashion, how can you deny the evolution of a species?

Why do people insist that religion offers all the answers to all questions? These same people wouldn’t go to a restaurant to get their auto repaired – that would be silly! So why do they go to church to learn science? One has little to do with the other – nor should they, since they encompass completely different spheres of human enterprise. Each endeavor is worthy in itself, but they are different things.

Granted, I grew up in a scientific environment – in the Southeastern United States, no less - but in a town that held a major national laboratory. Throughout most of my teens you could find only a handful of places open on a Sunday in Knoxville, which was even then a fairly good-sized city. Blue laws were largely unspoken, but definitely in force. You simply didn’t work on Sunday (unless you were a member of a profession that had to maintain a 24/7 schedule), and you didn’t shop on Sunday. Decent people didn’t do housework on Sunday, and they mostly spent the morning and early evening at church services. Sundays were a “day of rest”, and were spent with family or friends, even among young adults. The Bible was a blueprint for society, and, even if you didn’t really believe in what it said, you nevertheless lived by its rules, because if you didn’t you were ostracized by all the neighbors. But nobody used it as a science textbook!

My religious teachers took a common-sense approach to fundamentalism that appears to have been forgotten. The Bible was a book of theology, history and sociology. It offered principles for a workable, responsible society - along with examples of some of the possible results of ignoring those precepts. It explained the world of approximately 5,000 (or 2,000) years ago according to the understanding of the people who lived in that world. Just as we offer explanations of the world around us according to our present scientific understanding. According to my teachers, God created Man to study and learn about the world in order to become more like Man’s Creator. In other words, Man was a work in progress – an evolutionary process!

Perhaps that approach hasn’t been forgotten. Perhaps it has merely been overshadowed by the clamor of those few who have realized that the loudest squeak gets the most attention. Our media groups and legal system tend to reinforce this ill-mannered behavior by giving it all the attention it desires.

But the silent majority is still here, and we still believe in a separation of church and state mandated by good manners and common sense. We still go to church on Sunday, work at our scientific jobs through the week, and try to raise our children to respect secular and religious authority – even if that authority isn’t really worthy of much respect. So why doesn’t anyone listen to us?


Rebecca said...

What a coincidence! I just had this discussion today with two of my students who told me that there is no empirical proof for natural selection. Where is the missing link, they admonished me and my silly thoughts on evolution. Why are 17 year olds so conservative and closed minded? These two are very bright and very good students but so defensive about their "christian" beliefs. Like you, I don't get what has happened over the last few years where religion and politics have blended in the public forum.

Kristine said...

Only two words are needed to respond to those kids-
"Galapagos Islands"

loved the post by the way... my grade school teacher actually really engaged us in this topic- but I'm from a suburb of Chicago that isn't predominately Christian.