No, I won’t back down

21 12 2006

Most people I meet quickly discover my fascination with evolution; if I’m not wearing my Darwin exhibition t-shirt that day, there is usually some new book, study, or idea that sends me off into an excited discourse of how marvelous evolution is. Some people, like my wife, listen with interest and patiently let me explain what has my attention that moment, but I usually try to control myself when I meet someone new. In such a case, I typically ask “What do you think about evolution?”, with the response typically both surprising and disappointing.

Although evolution and intelligent design seem to be getting a bit of fair play in the media these days, many people I speak to don’t seem to have an opinion, or if they do its aligned with their belief system for lack of research into the topic. The most common response, in fact, seems to be “I don’t want to discuss it” or “It’s not important to me.” In the past I’ve let this slide, not wanting to come off as a raving lunatic, but such statements seem to fly in the face of what it is to be a living, thinking human being. Surely, some people are more deep and philosophical than others, but aren’t some of the great questions (i.e. “Where did I come from?”) that many people ask themselves at some point or another related to our evolutionary past? It seems that many people turn to religion to find their identity, to be comforted in the belief that they were planned for and made by a loving deity who has a plan for them, but readily reject science (which makes no claim on morality) because it threatens the basis of questions at the core of faith. Hence, science dealing with origins or changes in life is not to be entertained: such is seen as inviting the devil into your own house, seemingly following the axiom of “ignorance is bliss.” Who doesn’t want to know where their origins lie, why we are formed as we are and why (hard as we may try) we can not escape the “original sins” inherited from our evolutionary past? Such thoughts are dangerous, even heretical, to those who hold to a dogmatic view of the world, and it frustrates me to no end that creationists blind themselves so that they cannot see that they too are products of evolution.

In Christian apologetics, there is often a theme of “Remember God loves atheists/homosexuals/single mothers/etc too,” which can be a good thing (making the person more understanding and accepting) or a bad thing (increasing condescension and the mindset of “Poor sinner, I’ll pray that they’ll be more righteous like me.”). While some may agree or disagree with this tactic, it is one that works both ways, as even when I am being blasted by an intelligent design advocate I can’t help but smile that they’re using their tetrapod limbs, derived from ancient Sarcopterygian fish, to physically express the words being formed by their jaws, first appearing well over 400 million years ago in fish. Is there a designer? Possibly, possibly not; such proof or disproof is not the aim of this entry. Rather, I can’t understand how anyone can look at the fossil record and even our own bodies and not see the beautiful construction evolution has provided every organism. As separate as we may believe we are from nature, we are not the crowning achievement of all nature, but rather part of the unity and diversity that is life on this planet, irrevocably connected to it not only through our bodies and history, but through our actions. I can no longer say in conversation that evolution is not important or that we shouldn’t be arguing about it; there are few things that have such huge implications and importance as our own history and place on this planet as evolution. No, it is time to stop making allowances for people to live in their own little protective cocoons, complete with any reality they see fit to create for themselves, and instead speak the truth plainly and honestly so that everyone can understand. What good could possibly ever come from remaining ignorant?


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