When I go on vacation, as I did last week, a curious tradition I have is to always bring a book by Professor Richard Dawkins with me. This time it was Climbing Mount Improbable. I have long enjoyed Dawkins’ elegant and easily accessible approach to the science of darwinian evolution and his prose often make me find a deeper appreciation for the new environments I find myself surrounded by while traveling. The ease with which he marries common ideas and presents them from an evolutionary perspective makes me wonder why Americans have such a hard time understanding this very simple, yet monumentally important concept.
I grew up in a very conservative evangelical family, so I am very aware of the religious arguments that anti-evolutionists have, but most (if not all) of these come from a supreme misunderstanding of the mechanics involved. That we have so crippled our educators’ abilities to teach actual science only gives credence to the “controversy” because people aren’t being allowed to understand something that is actually really simple. These arguments usually come from those who identify themselves as “creationists” and believe the Genesis myth of the creation of the world.
When big states like Texas control the text-book industry often the backwards standards of their state’s school boards decide the content of the rest of the country’s texts. This is only one of a myriad of attacks on our education system, more of which are well documented at various other sites. I take issue with evolution specifically because of my passion for the subject. Ever since first reading The Blind Watchmaker it is an issue I greatly care about and am embarrassed by the failure of our education system regarding subjects like this. I remember in public school science classes during high school teachers had to walk a virtual tight rope using the word “evolution” as infrequently as possible and when discussed it was always coupled with creationism in an equal setting.
Those that maintain our country’s status quo are more interested in keeping us uninformed and with regular cuts to education budgets in favor of expanded war budgets this is an inevitable product. So it should be no surprise when polls show that nearly a third of Texans (who again decide our text book content) believe that humans and dinosaurs lived concurrently in a quasi-Flintonian civilization. Indeed these very people are the very ones having been sufficiently withdrawn of education who now decide what children need to learn. People like Don McLeroy, who declare that “evolution is hooey” and that when deciding the content of students’ history textbooks, “first I see how they cover Christianity and Israel. Then I see how they treat Ronald Reagan—he needs to get credit for saving the world from communism and for the good economy over the last twenty years because he lowered taxes.” That this is a quote and not a caricature is astounding.
Those that would institute teaching creationism are only serving to separate humanity amongst itself as is frequently a goal of conservatism in general. Putting the creation myth of one religion above the similar myths of the many religions practiced by the world over (and the testable, verifiable facts of science) only serves a sectarian strategy. Recognizing the myths of Genesis for what they are (which certainly would not harm Christianity or undermine it), would require the recognition that all humanity (and indeed all life) are our brothers and sisters and that our survival and proliferation is a product of a truly beautiful process. Instead, a sectarian myth is treated as a fact of science and those that don’t believe in it be damned (literally).