Jay Lake (jaylake) wrote,
Jay Lake

[politics] Back on my evolution soap box

Evolution is not an article of faith. No more than gravity is. They're both theories, and you can choose not to believe in them, but your lack of belief in gravity won't save you if you fall off a building. Your lack of belief in evolution won't stop drug-resistant staph from killing you, either.

I rail a lot on this blog about the pernicious influence of religion on public discourse and the quality of thinking in American society in general, and in the world at large. The so-called evolution "debate" is the perfect example of this. There is no debate. A person can take a literal seven-day Creation as an article of faith, or a more benign God-as-first-cause perspective, or the intellectual fraud of Intelligent Design. (At least the first two are honest positions.) That article of faith doesn't obviate natural processes.

ellameena (who is a very good sport about this) has argued with me, among other things, that most people can't derive evolution from first principles. I take her to mean that it seems reasonable to the average person that a debate between evolution and Creationism, or evolution and Intelligent Design, should take place.

While very few scientific theories can be independently derived from first principles — that's the whole point of the scientific method and the peer-reviewed literature which supports it, after all — I find it odd that she characterizes evolution so. The entire history of human civilization has been about the direct, deliberate harnessing of evolution. What else is selective breeding of crops and livestock but evolution in action?

Farmers in the Kansas heartland ought to be among the people with the clearest understanding of evolution, not the vanguards of deliberate intellectual stunting which the Kansas GOP has been lo these many years.

A wide swathe of American Christians have long since seized on evolution as the gate through which the secular enemy must be repelled. While there are many legitimate questions of spiritual importance in our society, this simply isn't one of them. Evolution denial is pure anti-intellectualism without any religious justification. It's a mightily impoverished spiritual framework which can be so upset by ordinary, everyday reality. Either that or it's a mightily impoverished God who can be so upset by His children using the senses and intellect with which He endowed them.

What the widespread embrace of evolution denial accomplishes is a substantial lowering of the standards of discourse and thought required in our political dialog. If a presidential candidate like Mike Huckabee can say on national television that he doesn't believe in evolution, and not be laughed off the stage, then the door is open for all manner of other counterfactual nonsense.

Just because you believe it doesn't mean it's true. Conversely, just because you don't believe in it doesn't mean it will go away. The universe doesn't bend its rules to anyone's spiritual revelation.
Tags: politics, religion

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