I have come to the conclusion that humanity’s biggest enemy isn’t some evil dictator or malevolent spirit. It’s our own ignorance. People have a maddening tendency to embrace their lack of basic knowledge on a given subject as if it were a badge of honor. They hide behind their erroneous presuppositions and then scoff at any bit of knowledge that disagrees with their misguided beliefs.
Nowhere is this more evident than with religious conservatives and science. It’s as if attaining new knowledge is somehow an immoral act if that knowledge happens to challenge their entrenched dogma. And that’s a shame, because it renders any kind of true scientific learning process nearly impossible for Christians. They regard their ignorance as a strength, and they scoff at the constant progress being made by the sciences.
The most glaring example of this deficiency is the constant denial of evolution by Christian fundamentalists. They blindly claim that there is no evidence for it even though it’s been observed, tested and documented nearly to the same degree as our orbit around the Sun. Their ignorance on the topic becomes even more obvious when they chant their favorite slogan, “it’s just a theory,” while they smile at you condescendingly as if you, not they, are a mindless rube. So for the benefit of those fundies who apparently have no clue what “theory” means as it applies to science, here is a brief explanation:
“The way that scientists use the word ‘theory’ is a little different than how it is commonly used in the lay public,” said Jaime Tanner, a professor of biology at Marlboro College. “Most people use the word ‘theory’ to mean an idea or hunch that someone has, but in science the word ‘theory’ refers to the way that we interpret facts.”
Start with a fact that you don’t fully understand. Isaac Newton sought to understand gravity. He knew it existed because of the obvious evidence. But how did it work? What caused it? Why did it always pull downward? Newton developed several hypotheses, and these led eventually to his theory of gravity. Gravity itself is a fact, not a theory. Gravitational theory is the body of work and evidence to understand and explain such a fact.
By the same token, evolution is an observed fact. The discovery of hundreds of transitional fossils, extensive DNA evidence and the observation of evolution in the wild irrefutably proves the fact of evolution. Denying it is a futile exercise. Evolutionary theory once again, is the process of studying it so we can all understand it.
Theories can change over time as new knowledge is acquired. But facts do not change. Einstein didn’t change gravity with his theory of relativity. Nor has evolution changed as science builds upon Darwin’s work. Facts are facts. Our understanding of them grows and changes, but not the facts themselves. We can be wrong about a fact, and adjust our definition of said fact to reflect it’s true nature. But once again the fact did not change. Our understanding of it changed.
Quite often Christian fundamentalists also misunderstand exactly what evolutionary theory explains. It does not explain how life began. It explains what happened after life began. The origins of life are dealt with via “abiogenesis.” As of this writing there is no established theory on the specifics of how life started though massive research efforts are underway. Abiogenesis is the concept of how nonliving matter gradually became living, self-replicating cells. Understanding will come in time.
But In The Meantime…
In several US states efforts are again underway to sneak Christian dogma into our public schools. This is nothing more or less than a blatant attempt to brainwash our children while they are at a vulnerable age. Sadly, they appear to be succeeding on some fronts.
This year, Bible literacy bills have been introduced in Florida, Indiana, Missouri, North Dakota, Virginia and West Virginia, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.
At least three Bible literacy bills were considered in 2018 – in Alabama, Iowa and West Virginia – but none passed, according to the ACLU. Tennessee passed a related but slightly different bill.
The year before, Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin signed into law a Bible studies bill. It created guidelines for public high schools to offer electives on the literature of the Bible and Hebrew Scriptures.
There is no reason for these – mostly Republican – legislators to push this except to influence young minds with religious dogma. It’s a greasy, disgusting and underhanded attempt to influence the minds of youngsters that might otherwise avoid the warped Christian mindset. We don’t need students being taught the Genesis Creation myth. Why? Because it’s not true. Nor should they be taught the myth of Noah’s flood. Why? Again, because it’s not true. And does anyone believe for a moment that Christian teachers won’t use these classes as an excuse to proselytize?
Thankfully, these courses are for the time being electives. Hopefully parents will not force their kids to sign up for them. As I have often said before, the cycle of ignorance must be broken. We can only do that by protecting our nation’s youth from the perverse lies of the religious right. We don’t need to “put God back in our schools.” We need to kick Him out completely and never allow Him to return.
- Live Science: What Is A Scientific Theory?
- USA Today: Bible Classes In Public Schools?
- Wikipedia: Abiogenesis Article
- Talk Origins: Abiogenesis FAQ
- Aron Ra: 15th Foundational Falsehood Of Creationism (Part 1)
- Aron Ra: 15th Foundational Falsehood Of Creationism (Part 2)
- Matt Dillahunty: Get Them While They’re Young