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Evolution and the Electorate

By Jonathan B. Wight

Richard Dawkins rightly castigates Republican Presidential candidates for claiming that they don’t believe in evolution. Evolution

They’re lying, he believes, to pander to ignorance in the electorate.

What ever happened, I wonder, to the push for STEM—Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics?  Do we only claim to want to train students in STEM, except not really in science, only in pseudo-science?

Dawkins said it well—we don’t teach the old church doctrine that the sun revolves around the world because it is demonstrably false; it is not opinion that the earth revolves around the sun. 

Similarly, it is a fact that the earth and its various species appeared and evolved over billions of years, not six days.  Claiming a place for creationism is the public school curriculum is an ominous overstep of religion into the public sphere.

There is plenty of room for religion or spirituality in our lives, including in our public debates about policies.  Scientists do not have the answers to many pressing human issues, and it is depressing when scientists appear not to understand the richness of the human experience as reflected through the religious texts.

But our best and brightest young people should be led to uphold the values of truth in science. Miss America Beauty Pageant contestants should be disqualified for saying they aren’t sure about evolution, or aren’t sure it ought to be taught in schools.  These smart women should be leading through example.

We look with dismay and outrage at what we consider to be ignorant people “overseas” who for religious fervor trample on the accomplishments of previous civilizations—ISIS destroying ancient monuments in Palmyra, Syria, for example.

Where is our outrage toward so-called leaders today who destroy the accomplishments of science in evolution in order to appeal to religious fervor at home? 

We surely cannot push forward to create an economic development of innovation when our minds are firmly locked in the Old Testament.


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Jon, I think you may be constructing a straw man here. There may be a handful of conservative public figures who think we should teach "creationism" in public school science classes, but there aren't many. The idea that the earth and creation is about 5,000 years old is so ludicrous that you'll find very few defenders. The real issue is intelligent design -- the idea that evolution was guided by God. Intelligent design acknowledges that the universe is billions of years old, and that humans evolved from a primate ancestor but insists that creation is so extraordinarily complex that it could not have arisen from purely natural processes. Only the existence of an intelligent creator can account for the world and universe. That's a very different proposition from creationism, and it's a distinction that secularists often overlook.

I remember some 40-50 years ago listening to Edward Leakey (discoverer of "Lucy," the first identified australopithecine missing link) as he made the case that the Genesis account of creation was a metaphor for how the universe, life and humanity actually evolved. The seven "days" of creation were more like seven "epochs." No one would accuse Leakey of being an anti-scientific ignoramus.

As an atheist, I don't buy the intelligent design argument. But I don't dismiss it out of hand as anti-scientific ignorance as I do with creationism.

Thanks, Jim. As always your comments are lucid and spot on. Thanks! JW

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