Monday, 27 November 2006

It's evolution, baby

'A New York Times survey last year showed that 55 percent of Americans believed that "God created us in our present form," while only 13 percent believed that "we evolved from less-advanced life-forms over millions of years, and God did not directly guide this process." A similar Gallup poll in 1997 placed those numbers at 44-10; in 1991, the numbers were 47-9.'

In the first place, my stance on evolution is that it is not something you should qualify as a belief or a theory, just as the fact that the earth is round shouldn't.

For those of you who have read the previous post - this is a new one, just with the same title. I decided that the last one was too much about parental choice in education rather than about the evolution vs. intelligent design issue, which is what I wanted to write about in the first place.

So why is it exactly that evolution's popularity is so low these days? The fact that most scientists worldwide would agree that it is a scientific fact vital to the understanding of the human history, human behaviour, and the natural environment does not seem to matter very much, even today. The right side of the political spectrum has been infected with the theory of intelligent design, or creationism, which is what intelligent design could easily stand for. In the U.S. the creationists have enough leverage in education to have course books emphasize that evolution is just a theory and to always provide the alternative of intelligent design. Well, fair enough, but we're talking biology courses here.

So why do people find the idea of evolution so unattractive? Are we humans too great to even think about primates as our ancestors - is it our pride that stands in the way? Or, does the fact that evolution contradicts the bible really matter that much today? I mean how many people out there really believe in all the stories and miracles? Another thing that really strikes me is that evolution is such a recent discovery - you would think that with all the great minds that we had in our past, at least one of them would have thought of this solution to our existence.

Also, before Darwin, being atheist must have been a lot less intellectually satisfying. If all everyone knew was that God created us, then well - I guess the only option was to think 'this can't be right, but I can't really do anything but sit and wait until someone comes up with a better explanation'. And then boom, it happened, but things haven't changed all that much since. I personally find it a little disturbing that people all over the world don't embrace evolution more. I think if they did, a lot more problematic issues starting with animal treatment to sexuality would be understood and treated in a different manner.


mark said...

2 things:

1. Biological evolution as an idea long pre-dates Darwin (or Wallace). Eg "The idea of biological evolution has existed since ancient times, notably among Greek philosophers such as Anaximander and Epicurus and Indian philosophers such as PataƱjali. However, scientific theories of evolution were not proposed until the 18th and 19th centuries, by scientists such as Jean-Baptiste Lamarck and Charles Darwin."

2. The Theory of Evolution per Darwin is science (and I am persuaded). Intelligent Design is a plausible idea that the universe displays features of having been designed (of which I am agnostic) which the T.of E. simply does not address and vice versa. The science and the idea are in no way exclusive to each other. Most of the discussion is lost in category error deliberately perpetuated by Atheists and Theists to attack the other side.

paulina said...

Thank for you for no.1.

As for no. 2, as far as I know, opinions vary. The more liberal Christians say that indeed ID does not exclude evolution. ID does say that the complexity of life cannot be explained solely by evolution (the 'irreducible complexity' idea). 'Intelligent design advocates assert that natural selection could not create irreducibly complex systems, because the selectable function is present only when all parts are assembled.' Natural selection is a major element of evolution, so to me denying it sounds like denying evolution to a large extent. Also, ID does not only say that the world has features of being designed, but also that there was a creator. In evolution the design is driven by natural selection, not a creator, which may not exclude it, but following the logic of it, why not ask 'who or what created the designer?' ID does not explain the design, it just shifts one's attention to a step behind.