Editorial: Creation vs. Evolution and the Fear That Drives Both

In 1859 Charles Darwin turned the world on its side by publishing the book On the Origin of Species. This book outlined his observations on evolution and introduced the concept known as natural selection. Darwin’s theories have since gained wide acceptance in the scientific community and have laid the foundation for evolutionary biology. His theories have also been used to drive a solid wedge between the religious and scientific communities. This unfortunate result can be seen playing out even today as my esteemed colleague, Debjyoti Bardhan, points out in his article “South Korea’s Scientists Strike Back At Creationism; Force Withdrawal of Omission of Evolution“. To me the fundamental problems at the heart of this debate are that of power, fear, and lack of mutual respect.

Origin of Species
(Courtesy Wikipedia)

He Didn’t Start the Fire

Contrary to the noise you hear on both sides of the creation vs. evolution debate, Darwin didn’t set out to stick it to Christians when he published his theories. Some may be surprised that early in Darwin’s life, he actually considered going into the clergy. As a matter of fact, Darwin struggled with his thoughts on God his entire life and in a letter to John Fordyce he proclaimed, “It seems to me absurd to doubt that a man may be an ardent Theist & an evolutionist.” But the fire that burned between science and the church started long before Darwin’s time. One could point to the debate between Galileo and the Roman Catholic Church. Galileo correctly observed that the earth was not the center of the universe. He supported the heliocentric view meaning the earth was just a planet that circled the sun. This view got him in a lot of heat with the Roman Catholic Church. His views were deemed heretical and didn’t agree with church authorities of that day. Unfortunately for him, he didn’t have the tools he needed to really prove his argument. On the flip side, Galileo wasn’t entirely correct either. The sun was the center of our solar system however, as we know now it was not the center of the universe.

All of this history reminds me of the saying “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” One of the things I observe in this whole debate is that both parties involved seem to get drunk with power. Nothing is more unbecoming of science than when scientists wield their power and influence to push a social or political agenda. How many studies have I seen lately funded by some special interest group with the “surprising” result that the “scientific” conclusion agrees with those of the group. In the same line of thought, nothing can be more opposite of the life that Jesus lived than these so called “Christians” who would threaten the very lives of scientists with whom they do not agree.

South Korea’s Scientists Strike Back At Creationism; Force Withdrawal of Omission of Evolution

It’s being called a ‘reconsideration’ by the conservative media, but it is actually no less than a big victory. Throughout most of the Christian world, creationism is increasingly making its presence felt in the school curriculum. And this worrying trend has spilled out of the United States and entered other countries, the latest victim being South Korea. However, this is one country that is recognising the evil and trying to nip it in the bud.

No longer there? Think again!

On the 5th of June, Nature reported here that creationism is getting strong support in the country and the movement was forcing publishers into removing evolution related content from the school textbooks. Of the most seminal expunging carried out, notable mention must be made of Archeopteryx and of the evolution of the horse. Apparently, the evolutionists were not consulted before this decision was taken.

“Deleting” an “error”

Principal player in this campaign of deleting the “error” of evolution in a bid to “correct” students was the Society of Textbook Revise (STR), an offshoot of the Korean Association for Creation Research. It also suggests major changes about known and proven theories of evolution of humans and other species.

Come July, and the evolutionists have scored a major victory. Nearly 50 prominent Korean scientists are presenting a petition to the government officials rejecting the proposed changes before they enter the textbooks. Leading the fightback is an insect taxonomist Byoung-Hoon Lee. What has been promoted as “atheist materialism” by the STR is nothing but hard scientific fact, argues the scientist side.

The Richard Dawkins of Korea

The Richard Dawkins of Korea, as he is popularly called, Jae Choe, an evolutionary biology, has been Darwin’s faithful bulldog in this peninsular nation. He is hopeful, – no, confident really – that this will yield a result.

When these things are done, I think it will turn out that after all Korean science will not surrender to religion, so to speak.

The problem was with the scientific community as well, as they allowed such nonsense to be propagated. But the situation hasn’t gone out of hand. Choe says:

After all this hoopla, it looks as if South Korea will not ‘surrender’ to creationist demands.

That is good news.

The creationist side will not go down without a fight, though. They promise to fight on till every example of evolution is wiped out. And they have God on their side, so a win is on the cards, right?

Well, Choe and other scientists differ. And at the moment, fortunately, they seem to be very correct.

American Fundamentalist Schools Seek To Disprove Evolution Using Loch Ness Monster

From the deep depths of human gullibility and intellectual lowliness, rises the great Loch Ness monster of stupidity.

A thumbnail to support a movement. Does the word ‘flimsy’ come to mind? (Courtesy: Wikimedia commons)

Lousiana is the new seat of utterly amazing inanity. Thousands of school children in the state will be handed over biology textbooks which will claim that the Loch Ness monster, aka Nessie, actually exists and this disproves the Darwinian theory of evolution. All of this at the expense of the public treasury.

Accelerated Christian Education

There are many private schools under the fundamentalist system of education Accelerated Christian Education (ACE) and these are funded by the state. Their agenda is very simple: providing a Bible-based system of education as an alternative to the accepted curriculum. The bad news is that these kind of schools are on the rise.

These schools give a large dose of Biblical ‘facts’ and are known for being intellectually dishonest. Noah’s Flood is taught to be literal, young Earth creationism finds its pride of place in this nook, after being denied entry into scientific circles and Darwinism is criticized with a zeal that can only be called fundamentalist. Their latest strategy: dig up an age-old mythical monster from the depths of a lake in Scotland.

The monster from Loch Ness …

The Loch Ness monster is a mythical creature residing in Loch Ness in the highlands of Scotland. There has been no definitive sighting of the creature and the evidence of its existence is minimal and highly controversial. The photographic evidence is blurry and the sonar readings conducted for many years on the lake have turned up zilch. Even dedicated expeditions have turned up nothing concrete. Loch Ness believers say that the monster is a living dinosaur, which has somehow escaped the great Cretaceous extinction 65 million years ago. The creature ought to be a plesiosaur, a species of long-necked dinosaurs.

… and lying to children

So now, ACE has picked up on this and has been trying to teach kids that since this monster might exist,Darwin is wrong! Here’s a sample:

Are dinosaurs alive today? Scientists are becoming more convinced of their existence. Have you heard of the ‘Loch Ness Monster’ in Scotland? ‘Nessie’ for short has been recorded on sonar from a small submarine, described by eyewitnesses, and photographed by others. Nessie appears to be a plesiosaur.

But, you’re confused. How does this ‘prove’ that creationism is right? Simple, it doesn’t! But let’s hear about it anyway. Jonny Scaramanga, who campaigns against Christian education system, explains:

[Nessis is] evidence that evolution couldn’t have happened. The reason for that is they’re saying if Noah’s flood only happened 4000 years ago, which they believe literally happened, then possibly a sea monster survived. If it was millions of years ago then that would be ridiculous. That’s their logic. It’s a common thing among creationists to believe in sea monsters.

Makes perfect sense, right?

Not even wrong

Ultimately, it’s more serious than just poking fun. You cannot afford to muck around with the heads of children and indoctrinate them with whatever fundamentalist logic that suits your taste. The scary part of all this is that this intense scientific opposition, being driven into fertile young minds, is funded by big money. The kind of money flowing into this creationist movement, often under the guise of necessary ‘funding’, being distributed to many organizations like the shrewdly named ‘Discovery Institute’, is much larger than the amounts flowing into science for all fields of research.

It is one thing that myths are taught in childhood, but it is completely another that myths are taught as reality, just to undermine actual science. A 2000 year old book cannot take precedence over the dedicated efforts of so many scientists over so many years.

It’s time we rise from the depths of inane stupidity.

Tennessee Passes “Monkey Bill”; Science At Risk

The amount of stupidity in this is just too high! Tennessee’s “Monkey Bill” has been passed by the Tennessee House of Representatives, although by the thinnest of margins possible – 73 for to 72 against. This has been a crucial and controversial bill for a long time. We had told you about the bill before: here and here.

Seemingly Harmless

On the face of it, the Bill seems so benign, even pro-science. It encourages teachers to present both sides of the argument, harking back to the very successful slogan adopted by the Creationist Discovery Institute, “Teach the Controversy”. The Bill “protects a teacher from discipline for teaching scientific subjects in an objective manner”. If you look at it carefully, this shields a teacher if he/she teaches creationism as science in biology classes, especially when there are creationist textbooks available in the market. The Bill, however, has been modified from the form it first originated in.

What it really says

The Bill asks you to doubt and measure the “scientific strengths and weaknesses” of topics like “biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning”. Why these specific topics have been singled out is another matter, of course. As a humble student of science, I ask, are the other subjects not worthy of being doubted? Or is there some underlying motivation for doubting these specific topics?

The Bill has been passed by the House and now rests with Governor Bill Haslam. He has ten days to pass it, withhold signature, in which case the Bill will become a Law without Governor’s approval, or veto it.

Fears or Reality

Many organisations have been up in arms against this bill. Out of the many such educational institutions, a few are the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Institute for Biological Sciences, the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee, the Knoxville News Sentinel, The National Earth Science Teachers Association, the Tennessee Science Teachers Association, and three distinguished Tennessee scientists and members of the National Academy of Sciences.

In 1925, there was conducted the famous “Scopes Trial”, in which a school teacher – John Scopes – was tried and found guilty of teaching evolution in classrooms. This violated an existing law. A huge uproar ensued and ended up reversing the statement of the law. Alluding to this incident, three scientists from Vanderbilt University wrote in a letter saying that the legislators are “doing the unbelievable: attempting to roll the clock back to 1925 by attempting to insert religious beliefs in the teaching of science.”

What Gov. Haslam decides will be crucial. The next few days should be interesting.

NYC Education Board Bans “Dinosaurs” And “Evolution” From Tests

The newest attack on Evolution comes from a very unlikely source – the New York City Department of Education. They have just passed a rule which bars the mention of the words “dinosaurs” and “evolution” in biology tests. This has been done to avoid offending the creationists who hold a lot of administrative power in the state.

"We have fossils, we win!"

Madness and more madness…

Just to remind you of what this means : this is not the Bible belt; this is not Kansas or Texas. New York City is not known for being creationist or anti-evolution. Exactly what offence precise scientific terms can cause is still unknown.
The only faint silver lining in the dark academic clouds: the words can still be used in classrooms for instruction and in school textbooks, just not in state-wide tests.

Part of a Bigger Scheme

This censorship is actually a part of a greater, more shameful, scheme. The NYC State Education Board has drawn up a list of 50 words which shouldn’t be mentioned in the test. These include everything from ‘parapsychology’ (good move) to ‘sex’ (debatable) to ‘rock-and-roll’ (senseless!). A few more words not allowed are ‘cancer’ (the disease, not the sun sign), ‘celebrities’ (are you out of your minds?) and ‘halloween’ (okay, ignore the previous parenthetical question – you obviously are).

The entire deal…

If you’re interested in finding more examples, the entire list is given below:

Abuse (physical, sexual, emotional, or psychological)
Alcohol (beer and liquor), tobacco, or drugs
Birthday celebrations (and birthdays)
Bodily functions
Cancer (and other diseases)
Catastrophes/disasters (tsunamis and hurricanes)
Celebrities
Children dealing with serious issues
Cigarettes (and other smoking paraphernalia)
Computers in the home (acceptable in a school or library setting)
Crime
Death and disease
Divorce
Evolution
Expensive gifts, vacations, and prizes
Gambling involving money
Halloween
Homelessness
Homes with swimming pools
Hunting
Junk food
In-depth discussions of sports that require prior knowledge
Loss of employment
Nuclear weapons
Occult topics (i.e. fortune-telling)
Parapsychology
Politics
Pornography
Poverty
Rap Music
Religion
Religious holidays and festivals (including but not limited to Christmas, Yom Kippur, and Ramadan)
Rock-and-Roll music
Running away
Sex
Slavery
Terrorism
Television and video games (excessive use)
Traumatic material (including material that may be particularly upsetting such as animal shelters)
Vermin (rats and roaches)
Violence
War and bloodshed
Weapons (guns, knives, etc.)
Witchcraft, sorcery, etc.

The madness with school textbooks and, now, state tests continues across various US state education boards. Evolution is still far away from being a very acceptable topic, even though it’s one of the most scientifically established subjects. Prof. Dawkins, your work is still not done!