Saturday, April 21, 2007

When Did I learn about Evolution?

I was talking about evolution with my father-in-law. Like many Americans he’d rather choose Genesis over what the scientists teach. He said, well we didn’t learn about that stuff when I was in school. That got me to thinking: Did we talk about evolution when I was in school? Now, I took biology in ninth grade, way back in 1972-1973. My biology teacher was beloved by the students. He got leeches and other wonderful delicacies out of the local canal for us to look at and I think dissect. But my teacher was also an Evangelical and the sponsor of our student-organized Bible club. I don’t remember talking about evolution, one way or another back then. So, maybe I didn’t learn anything about it. And perhaps, I shouldn’t be all that surprised, considering all the controversy that surrounds evolution. Most schools would probably rather steer clear of the controversy by not teaching evolution.

Now, after my high school days, I didn’t take any more biology classes after high school, but I did attend a debate between Duane Gish of the Creation Research Institute and a University of Oregon biology professor. I remember thinking that Dr. Gish sure got the better of his debating partner. Of course that poor old biology professor, he knew his stuff, he just wasn’t used to debating a guy who debates for a living. When you decide to debate a Creationist, whether it’s Dr. Dino, Duane Gish, or William Dembski, its probably a no win situation.

So, when did I learn about evolution? Well I probably learned most of what I know from watching the Discovery Channel or visiting museums. You know, I never remember reacting to those displays -- so somehow I must have compartmentalized things.

But, with all the polls saying that 50% or more of Americans reject evolution and choose creationism or Intelligent Design instead, then obviously we've not learned much -- despite what we see on TV or see in museums. I simply don't believe the reason why we believe this is that as a theory evolution is in trouble or full of holes. Scientists might be reluctant to change at times, but they're not stupid. And as for we religious teachers, we've not done a very good job of helping our congregations learn how to read the Bible critically as well as reverently.

Reading Edward Humes' Monkey Girl and Not in our Classrooms help explain why it is we as a nation know so little about the theory of evolution -- we simply haven't been taught the theory!

As Edward Humes points out there's a myth that evolution won the day at the first Scopes trial in 1925. Yes, William Jennings Bryan was humiliated but the court upheld the Butler Act, and after that references to Darwin were essentially removed from text books and they didn't reappear until the 1960s.
"The reappearance of evolution in America's textbooks led to the resurgence of the long-dormant anti-evolution crusade, and the conflict soon ended in the courts again." (Monkey Girl, p. 54).

And we've been fighting ever since!

4 comments:

Cicero said...

Hiya Bob,

Evolutionists unite! I'm gonna start a walk for evolution, to raise awareness! I'm gonna make a ribbon for it, too! I would take red (as in the color of "tooth and claw") but the heart people already have that one. How about black, like the color of our hearts? No, no, we're followers of the Christ philosophy, we don't want people to feel bad. I've got it. Purple, like the royalty we think we are..no, no, we are just a bundle of nitrogenous wastes and methane in waiting, there's not royalty in that. Although, if a royal being had created us...boy, am I ever glad that's not the case!
Let's see....

I know....Grass Green

Isaiah 40:8 the grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever.

TV and museums, Bob?

And you make fun of Bush?

Jason

Michael Westmoreland-White said...

I learned about evolution in my somewhat conservative Christian home and in my schools. I was in college before I realized that there were seemingly intelligent people today who didn't believe in evolution. 20+ years later and I am still not over the shock.

Of course, I am equally annoyed by the idiots like Richard Dawkins who think that evolution has disproved theism and that anyone who believes in God is suffering from a dangerous delusion! This kind of fundamentalism of the Left ticks me off just as much as Right wing fundamentalism.

Pastor Bob Cornwall said...

Jason,

I think you missed the point. I had to learn about evolution on TV and in museums and from reading books on my own because too often the education system either ran scared or the teachers had other agendas. I don't think the reason evolution is rejected is because the science is bad. It's rejected because we as a nation haven't been properly introduced to it.

As Ed Humes points out from the debate at Dover, the biggest fear that Creationists and ID people have is that word will leak out that there is this thing called a "theistic evolutionist." As long as they can point to Richard Dawkins and say -- see that's evolution -- atheism -- they've won. The reality is that from the very beginning there have been plenty of evolutionists who are people of faith -- and among those who accepted the theory was B.B. Warfield.

Jason said...

Hiya Bob,

You're right, I missed your point. I really thought you were saying that the information you received from these two sources was sufficient.

I still disagree, though, because to bring up theistic evolution is only to change the subject. The is idea is still statistically and chemically indefensible. The individual experiments aren't bad, it is the baseline fiction upon which the entire super structure of evolution that is the bad part. The subject is evolution, I thought, this is the first I have seen anything about theistic evolution. And try seling theistic evolution to evolution "scientists" who are actually doing the work and are the one's who should be performing the salesmenship you are hoping for.

You are not alone in your lack of understanding of evolution as a theory, but to suggest that people were scared to teach it has a little bit of the tin-foil-hat ring to it; people coming out schools right now can't explain it, either. Most people hear the basic idea and presume it must have been proven since at least one big hot has called it a fact (Sagan).

But the absolute dearth of transitional forms is the first problem. After that is the multiple, profoundly specific organic molecules necessary for just reproduction in the simplest of organisms. As well, these molecules do not last long if exposed to pure oxygen, light, infitesimal pH changes, heat, etc. There are huge organ system chasms in developement between millions of life forms that, geno- and phenotypically speaking are very similar, and no living or dead animals between them to expalin the gradual upward movement. This last part is not the opinio of a person who thinks that evolution is a crock, that was Stephen Jay Gould I paraphrased. And lastly, as I mentioned earlier, this would be the only known material exception to the second law of thermodynamics. Nowhere else do you see order increasing, but all life exists as is because of this unseen force adding complexity.

Evolution is a faith structure. No amount of reeducation will change this.

Jason