Friday, January 17, 2014

Monkey Business

Today, I read with interest an article decrying the teaching of creationism in a Texas charter school chain that educates 15,000 students. The columnist had actually gotten hold of the textbooks used and illustrated instances of inserting religion into the curriculum, as well as places that seemed to debunk evolutionary science. I just shook my head. And then, I got angry.

Creationists like to point out that evolution is only a theory. A theory that has been proven only hundreds and thousands of times all over the world, using many different organisms. It seems to be something that goes on in vertebrates such as mammals, birds, fish, amphibians, reptiles, and in invertebrates such as insects, arachnids and worms, and one-celled organisms. Evolution can be proven and has been countless times.

Kim Ann Zimmerman @ explains what a theory is in science –
“When used in non-scientific context, the word “theory” implies that something is unproven or speculative. As used in science, however, a theory is an explanation or model based on observation, experimentation, and reasoning, especially one that has been tested and confirmed as a general principle helping to explain and predict natural phenomena. Any scientific theory must be based on a careful and rational examination of the facts. In the scientific method, there is a clear distinction between facts, which can be observed and/or measured, and theories, which are scientists’ explanations and interpretations of the facts. Scientists can have various interpretations of the outcomes of experiments and observations, but the facts, which are the cornerstone of the scientific method, do not change.” - See more at:

Zimmerman went on to explain that many people believe that a scientific theory eventually becomes a law after a large mass of data has proven it to be true. That is not the case. A law is a mathematical description of a theory. They re directly related to each other. Branches of science that are heavy on mathematics have many laws because their results can be made into a mathematical formula. You won’t find many laws in Biology because there are many things going on there that cannot be broken down to a simple formula.

Hence the problem. People expounding that evolution is only a theory and not a law, have no understanding of scientific terminology. They are basing their whole reason to bash evolution on a misinterpretation of a word.  Some words have many definitions that don’t transfer from one instance to another – for example a bandage can be wound around a wound. The word wound has a different meaning depending how it is used, just like the word theory. The common use of the word theory and the scientific meaning are entirely different. The evolution detractors just need to realize the varying definitions. 

Evolution is not something that happened way back when. It is a process that goes on daily in this day and age. Organisms adapt to the environment or die out. They adapt via the process of evolution. Nowhere is this more obvious and more upsetting than looking at antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The evolution of these bacteria did not happen overnight but only since the use of antibiotics became widespread. Antibiotics in themselves are one of the most valuable discoveries of modern day.

You cannot pretend that evolution doesn’t exist, but it doesn’t have to exist in opposition to religious beliefs. I was raised Catholic, attending 12 years of Catholic schools before going on to university. I remember asking my mother as a child about the evolution of man as shown in Cro-Mangan man and others before him. Mom explained very simply to me then, and it’s just as easy to believe it now, that our predecessors became man when God breathed a soul into them. We also spoke about the seemingly oppositional view of the world being created in 6 days. I had this conversation with my parents and teachers throughout Catholic school. The question posed to me then, as now, is are we able to comprehend how long His day is, so when they explained the creation of the earth in the bible, who knows how long a day really is in God’s universe? A day for Him may be billions of years. How would we know, as we are only mere mortals? We may not be able to understand a day in His infinity.

That makes perfect sense to me as a believer. It might not for an agnostic or atheist, but that’s okay. They don’t believe in God the way I do. Nothing I have studied in science disproves what I believe in my religious beliefs. In Dan Brown’s books, he marries science and religion very well, in a comprehensible fashion. In fact I remember reading a section of The Lost Symbol and wishing that everyone could read the part about “marrying” religion and science.

I know there are people out there who also believe in both evolution and religion and don’t see that they need to be in conflict. Neither do they have to be necessarily connected to believe in either one. One of the comments on my Facebook page says it well, taking a different bend on the whole thing.

“I was taught about evolution in a Catholic school and had a professor of evolutionary biology at university who was also a church elder. Science and religion are just two separate spheres. Pitching them against each other is kind of like saying apples are a better fruit than hairbrushes, or that hairbrushes are better at straightening your hair out than apples.” - Caroline McPartland

No matter if you feel religion and science are connected at all is not the point. Teaching, or not teaching, evolution IS the point. It is an established fact, not one that has not been proven. If 15,000 kids don’t learn that, the world will have 15,000 more mis-educated kids. Our survival on this planet cannot afford ignorant people where science is concerned.

Still learning!

No comments:

Post a Comment