The evolution debate ist tot

Giant footprints in limestoneWe’re going to see the dinosaur tracks in Pinon Canyon this weekend. We’ll hike along the Pergatoire River which runs through southeastern Colorado and retrace a quarter mile long trail left by a brontosaurus.
At issue for my companions is what to make of theologians who would like us to believe that the Earth is only as old as The Bible says, something like 6,000 years. I’d like to contemplate that idea from the perspective of standing in a footprint made 150 million years ago. Supposedly.
Is carbon-dating flawed? Are scientists misleading mankind? It only matters if you want to believe that the christian bible is literally true. If the bible represents truth in the context of man’s understanding of the natural world at the time, then our new scientific understandings are not really suspect at all.

This is why Nietzsche wrote after Darwin’s theory, that God is dead. Is a discredited bible the Word of God or Man?

So who’s doing the arguing? Is it the Word-of-God people who want to refuse any contradictory evidence, or the scientists who couldn’t care a wit if their findings confirm or do not confirm church dogma? Bible adherents have chosen to take their stand against “evolutionary theory.” Because it can’t stand. Because it would make God’s word wrong.

“Theory” the Biblists decry, is as unreliable as it sounds. The inherent uncertainty of the scientific term insinuates that theory is more like wobbly fact. In Biblist lingo, theory becomes diametrically opposed to, and is perhaps the diabolical opposite of, fact. Hence the “debate.” Notice no one is scheduling debates over the theory of gravity or Pythagoras.

Thus Creationist Biblists have been challenging all comers to debate evolution in the court of public comprehension. There have been of course, science popularizers who’ve undertaken to educate the Biblists, perhaps hoping to create some middle ground. Pop-scientists such as Stephen Jay Gould engaged church dogma adherents to expand their understanding of the natural world. Meanwhile, actual scientists are laboring away, at science, working from the concepts of evolution into the further reaches. If these scientists look up at all, at the awkward “debate” conducted in their name, they wonder who gave those guys name tags? Who appointed them as apologists for scientific discovery and imbued them with authority to arbitrate and integrate scientific findings with church lore?

A debate between real scientists and creationists would look like an argument between a pediatrician and a fashion designer about what color pee should come out of the baby. It’s arguing apples and orange bowls. A debate about evolution is really between philosophers and theologians, because scientists aren’t debating anything. And the Biblists are the schoolchildren arguing they don’t want to learn their lessons, in fact they want to rewrite their lessons, and they want to debate their right to do so with linguists.

In trying to pick their fight, Biblists like to accuse scientists of arrogance. This is a false portrait, and comes perhaps from scientists not wanting to debate their findings with non-scientists. Why should they? You don’t argue football with someone that doesn’t know football from basketball. A scientist’s task is not to argue. A scientist makes a building block and moves on to the next. Where would we be if scientists only ever argued the validity of the single block. Build, concede its limitations, and move on. How can we build a two story house if someone on the committee perserverates on the first story being too speculative? Build the second story, if the first turns out to be flawed, we’ll start anew. Mankind still does not fully understand electricity. That doesn’t mean we can’t make telephones and phonographs and semiconductors and go to the moon in the meantime.

You might consider an architect full of excessive hubris for building towers higher than you yourself would ascend comfortably. You don’t understand the engineering, so he can’t build the skyscraper?

Intelligent Design
The theory of intelligent design offers a related illustration. I don’t have any doubt that many scientists would like to see our understanding of nature explained by an intelligent design. The problem is that science is not yet there, in fact it’s been pointing elsewhere. For now, we have to say, man’s knowledge through science cannot explain an intelligent design. Religious nuts are there, but for unscientific reasons. Intelligent Design may be true, but you can’t build anything with it. Scientists may want to build a 200 story building, but they don’t have the necessary blocks. Intelligent Design believers may be already want to dwell there, but you can’t start at the 200th floor and build downward.

There are a number of signs that evolution in practice is not as it appears. The GAIA concept offers to my mind a likely clue that there is a larger design at work. The idea that the fabric of nature on our planet might be governed by a cohesive unity, directly challenges the theory of random mutation by individuals. Could such scientific building blocks as proving GAIA lead to validating the biblical notion of Intelligent Design? Maybe that’s a possibility. Could it lead us to understand that Adam of Eden fashioned Eve from his own rib? Well, if you like, maybe that too. Right now I’d have to tell you that Adam’s rib is not my area of expertise and I’m certainly not prepared to debate it.

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Eric Verlo

About Eric Verlo

On sabbatical
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2 Responses to The evolution debate ist tot

  1. Avatar Tony says:

    I work in a division of society that ignored the reality of Evolution for decades, and now we are all going to probably pay the biggest price for that. I refer to the so called American Health System, which is full of doctors of the mentality and calibre of Colorado Springs’ most famous physician, Dr. James Dobson.

    You see, the American medical system and the American government itself just ignored the fact that viruses and bacteria evolve. Paid it all no heed. Instead, they had FAITH in an arms raise with microbes, splitting genes, pumping more and more antibiotics everywhere and into everything. Dr Moreau had nothing over the bigwigs of ‘health’ policy in the US. Technology was IT!

    These big cheeses more or less dissolved public health programs, and privatized everything. Their theories were that the US had nothing to be concerned about, even if the rest of the world sat in squalor. Too bad, too sad. For those others that is. Hey! They believed (and still do) their own nonsense that the US supposedly had the best system in the world. Not to worry, eh? They are so sure that they can get the greatest care, that they block it off from more and more even inside US borders.

    Meanwhile, all those bugs just kept evolving. They can do it over minutes and hours, not eons, too. Pump more ‘cure’ at them, and they just laugh it off and evolve. The world is paying the price for this now, and the tag will get bigger and bigger. All because of so many supposedly educated people who really didn’t believe all that much that evolution does occur. Go figure the power of religion and belief in ‘medical’ magic. Some basic sanitation on a world level was all, and still is, what is really needed. But if you admit the fact that microbes evolve, then you have to admit the need that poverty has to be eliminated to actually control disease. Worldwide. How many of the wealthy support that concept? It’s just so hard on their portfolios….

  2. Avatar Emma B says:

    If scientists are misleading mankind or carbon dating is flawed it only matters if one wants to believe that the Christian bible is literally true? An interesting perspective. I think I’m rather more interested in truth than that. And I don’t give a whit if the Christian bible is true.

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