Most of my friends know the one group with the single issue which pushes all my buttons: the idiots, most of whom occupy seats on Texas school boards, who insist that “evolution is just a theory”.
Somehow or another, these logic-challenged Lone Star denizens, along with their myrmidons in other red parts of this great union, have come to regard the scientific method as some sort of judicial process, where those who bray and posture the loudest will prevail. Of course, there being no fools like old fools, it is impossible to disabuse these people of their prejudices. However, it is entirely possible, and it has become something of a personal mission for me, to quarantine their noxious thinking so as to keep it from infecting yet another generation of American underachievers.
Ninety years have passed since the Scopes trial and one hundred fifty years stand between us and Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, yet we are still being held back by the same people who championed Bishop Wilberforce and later vested William Jennings Bryan for his final tilt against the windmills. Meanwhile, the amount of supporting evidence for biological adaptation through natural selection accumulated in that span has been staggering.
There is no “alternative theory”, as the Texas creationists chant like dervishes. There is only one current model which has withstood all assaults against its validity, becoming refined and tempered to the point where we actually engineer things based on its precepts.
Engineers do not operate on theories. They design from scientific “laws”.
This obtains everywhere in the civilized world, save Texas. It rankles me beyond words to hear the endless sophistry coming from the ignorant mouths of deceitful snake oil salesmen who presume themselves to be morally superior enough to risk the genius of their children for generations to come.
And they accomplish this terrible purpose by positing one great lie: science is based on belief! Presumably anyone with a high school diploma knows that such an idea is, at best, a painted sepulchre. Yet it has gained these crusaders first a hearing, then ultimately a hijacking, of the entire public school apparatus in the second most populated state in the world’s only superpower.
This must stop. Parents are free to indoctrinate their children with whatever codswallop their unfortunate progeny may retain. However, it is in the interest of the state and of mankind to offer these same children the truth revealed through centuries of painstaking, rigorous, disciplined, reproducible investigative enquiry.
No legitimate scientist is going to tell your child WHY we are here. But that same scientist can and should teach your child how we came to be here. It is one of the underpinnings of our 21st century civilization. From this knowledge is springing the medicine and industry of mankind’s future.
There are days when I wake up, read these tales of internecine school board brawls and textbook bowdlerizing gambits, and I despair. Perhaps I lack imagination, not being gifted with great piety or blind faith; but I see unspeakable beauty in the elegance and expanse of the cosmos. It makes me feel both insignificantly small and ephemeral, yet unaccountably fortunate to have been afforded the relatively rare experience of temporary sentience in this material Universe.
The closest I have come to ecstatic vision was in the realization, first articulated popularly by Carl Sagan in the 70s, that “we are, in a sense, the way the Universe contemplates itself.”
This cosmic consciousness is not entirely unknown in the Christian tradition, as the words of the Psalmist have proclaimed for fifteen hundred years:
3 When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained;
4 What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? (Psalm viii)
But the literalism of the Texas creationists is, for me, something shabby, small and cheap. It lacks wonder and it denies joy. And it is all based on a lie.
If I remember my catechism correctly, such a credo smacks of the diabolical. And that’s why I choose science.