By Dave, the WM
Evolution is a favorite target of Christians. Evolution, say Christians, is being accepted as fact when in truth evolutionary theory is nothing but a belief that has numerous holes in it. Christians will then focus exclusively on one or two of of these so-called holes, expand upon them, magnify them, and stretch the points beyond all reasonable recognition with the hope of rousing the average believer's emotions. Scientists, who are really just people trying to understand the world we live in, and who have given us modern medicine, amazing inventions, comforts not available to royalty in the past, and even men on the moon, are painted as demonically influenced conspirators bent on eradicating religion from the world in order to usher in a millennial reign of perversity and debauchery.
Let me be honest. I don't have the education to explain how electricity works. I can't rebuild a car engine. Nuclear fusion is beyond my ability to comprehend. I don't really know how my laptop works. I realize all these things have a science behind them. I have a general knowledge about “science,” but if push came to shove, without electricians, mechanics, nuclear scientists and MAC technicians, my lifestyle would be significantly more primitive than it is now.
My guess is that most people, if they were to be honest, are equally at a loss as how to build a light bulb from scratch, construct a dynamo, carve iron ore into a Volvo, or put together a PC out of materials found around the house. We are all mutually dependent on others to understand how most things work.
Few people would trust a mechanic to perform an appendectomy. Surgeons are generally not solicited to install circuit breakers in newly constructed homes. And people don't usually seek out shirtless road crew members to officiate at weddings or administer communion. Yet, when it comes to evolutionary science, a bible-school-educated religious philosopher's observations are touted as equally as valid as someone with, for example, a doctorate degree in molecular biology? How does that happen?
If a molecular biologist gave authoritative talks on the various unresolved differences of interpretation in Christian eschatology, eventually concluding that Jesus really returned in 1611 in the form of the KJV Bible, would he or she somehow now be rightfully promoted as an expert on the topic?
It just doesn't make sense to give authoritative attention to a preacher's rantings on scientific theories.
Christians are under no obligation to “believe” in evolution any more than they are under obligation to “believe” that the earth is round, that the earth orbits the sun, or that the sun is orbiting the center of the Milkyway Galaxy. They are not obligated to “believe” that in a vacuum a feather and a rock fall to the ground at exactly the same speed. They are not obligated to “believe” that new stars are being born in the universe all the time. They are not obligated to believe that people actually walked on the moon, that computers exist, or that men can fly at amazing speeds in giant ships made of metal. Christians are not obligated to believe that disease is caused by small little creatures called bacteria, or by strange non-living/living things called viruses, or by odd genetic mutations, or that no demons are involved. If the evidence for these sciences don't seem compelling to a Christian, then the Christian is certainly free to his or her non-belief.
But religious belief in regards to these sciences is immaterial. Science is not dependent on anyone's religious belief. Science is self-correcting, always testing, re-examining, re-assessing, continually exploring, accumulating new information, adjusting theories, adding evidence... etc., etc., etc., and eventually applying what it learns to the human experience.
Christianity, on the other hand, believes there is nothing more to add to our knowledge, and more to the point, nothing can be added to our knowledge. Evolutionary scientists are digging into the ancient past to piece together the history of life. Christians say we can never know our past, because god did it – it is a mystery – we will (maybe) know the answers in heaven – we should all just have faith – don't shake the applecart.
Since the days of Copernicus, if any sliver of scientific discovery contradicted a favorite Christian belief, the discovery was denigrated by religious leaders as a plot of the devil. And in all honesty, Copernicus' theory did have a hole. He thought the orbits of the planets were circular. Planetary orbits are elliptical and the theory was corrected when better information was obtained. In Galileo's day the Catholics mercilessly persecuted scientific inquiry. Today, fundamental Christians attempt to crucify scientific inquiry in the media, in educational institutions, and in the forum of public opinion.
But why should anyone pay heed to what a religious preacher has to say about science? As someone said to me recently, "I have never understood how a minister can even be in the same debate with a scientist. I equate it to a dentist having a debate with someone arguing that the tooth fairy is the one that takes a child's tooth away and leaves a dollar."
I have no way to absolutely verify the truth of evolutionary science. I have neither the education, training, or mental acuity to make authoritative claims one way or the other on this science or any science. But I can look around my own lower-middle-class home and see the miracles of science crowding the place. Jesus purportedly said that those who came after him would do greater things than he ever did. His words have come true. Humanity has far surpassed any of his reported miracles, but the credit for our modern miracles lies at the feet of inquiring minds that refused to simply have faith in Christian dogma.
That I accept the theory of evolution as the best explanation for the proliferation of life that we see around us in no way proves the science, any more than my rejection of the theory threatens the science. My opinion on the matter is worthless. I am not an expert. I am not a scientist. I am dependent on others for all my understanding. I benefit from what others are able to do. I am grateful for those who share their abilities in such a way that all of mankind is enhanced. As a member of the vast crowd of average humanity, my life is enlarged by the sacrifices, intelligence, and abilities of many, many others.
So, what about belief vs. non-belief?
Evolutionary scientists are making positive claims about life on planet earth – claims that need to be supported in order to be accepted. And it just so happens they have provided mountains of supporting evidence. And much of that evidence is freely available seemingly everywhere. There are some questions remaining, though, questions that seem confusing to the average Joe like me. Answering those questions might take some time and effort. However, Copernicus, even with the hole in his theory, was much closer to the truth than all the thousands of Christian leaders who maintained that the earth, based on numerous verses in the Bible, played a central role in the universe.
Scientists make positive claims about the world we live in. Faith is not required from me to accept these claims. Evidence supporting the claims is presented to me, and when better evidence is found, that is presented as well. In contrast, Christians make claims about the world – supernatural claims that a god magically popped adult life forms into existence. In support of those claims they offer no evidence. NONE. All they can and do offer is a Bible verse or two and a peek into some supposed holes in scientific theories.
Christians rant and rave about evolution, but rarely, if ever, do any of them actually do any significant study on the topic, outside perhaps reading an article or two by a Christian anti-evolutionary apologist. I know this, because I was once one of those Christians. I KNEW evolution was false, and yet had never read a single non-biased scientific book on the topic.
Because, all evolutionary scientists are in league, consciously or unconsciously, with the devil. Simple!
It's amazing to me that I was so easily duped. It's horrifically embarrassing to admit what a complete putz I was.
I'm still no expert on evolution, nor do I ever expect to be one. But at least now, when it comes to these kinds of topics, it's not about what I or anyone else believes that matters to me, what matters is the evidence available. And even if I personally find some small points of the evidence for evolution less than compelling, or more accurately, confusing, I've found NO evidence for the Christian supernatural alternative.
I guess I'll just have to stick with science.
What about you?
To monitor comments posted to this topic, use Commentful.
Online Reading List
- An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish by Bertrand Russell (1943)
- Bible Teaching and Religious Practice by Mark Twain
- God is Imaginary
- Is there an Artificial God? by Douglas Adams (1998)
- Skeptics Annotated Bible
- The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine (1795)
- Which Way? by Robert Ingersoll (1884).
- Why I Am Not A Christian by Bertrand Russell (1927)