Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Why I Don't Believe in Evolution

First, let me say that I know the theory of evolution applies to understanding the microscopic life that likes to inhabit my body, specifically my bladder.  The e-coli there have kept changing - evolving, we say - in order to survive.  That means the infections kept getting harder to treat once I was on immunosuppressants, until only an IV antibiotic would do last time.  I respect those smart bacteria, and work hard to make my bladder an inhospitable environment.

I said "the theory of evolution applies," though - not "I believe in evolution."  Science is not something you believe, as in have faith in.  I do have faith in constant change, because that's what I've seen happen in my life; that's different.  Change is not evolution.  Consider the climate change we're experiencing now [see image above].

I swim in the same water with many religious liberals; in fact, I have been a pledge-paying churchgoing Unitarian Universalist for three decades.  And what I hear there and elsewhere is that many religious liberals have pitched battle against the creationists who have fought to have their creation story taught side by side with evolution.

Now, I do think this:  the science classroom is for science.  Not religion.  Not creation stories or myths.

I taught in universities for years.  There I observed that even religious colleges tended to be highly secular in orientation.  So do our public schools.  I'm all for that.  Now, much more than when I grew up in the fifties, we are a diverse population with many faiths and lack-of-faiths.  That can be dealt with in specific classes at higher levels; the first time I encountered education that dealt with critical thinking around religion was in college, where it popped up in several required courses.  Personally, I'd like to see critical thinking taught much more at earlier levels.  But let's leave matters of faith out of it.

There's where I believe many religious liberals fall into a trap; they engage with creationists as if the opposite of creationism is evolution.  It's not.  Creationism is a matter of religious faith.  Evolution is a scientific theory that explains a lot of data in a way we find deeply satisfying right now.  I, for example, take those evolving bacteria in my bladder very seriously.  The data supports the idea that they have evolved.  But history tells us that the most glowing scientific theory eventually gives way to something better - more useful.

When people want their creation stories taught in the public schools, we should leap to adjust curricula to add courses that teach a variety of creation stories.  From what I've seen, we don't do that.  Instead, we try to convince people of that faith that they are thinking wrongly, that it's evolution that makes sense. So you have a battle.

You know I have to say something Buddhist, and here it is:  "Hatred is never solved by hatred, but by love alone."  We need to be listening compassionately to people who feel threatened by what is taught in the science classroom.  We need to respect them and give them their say.  Why not begin making comparative religious studies available in high schools as electives? If somebody doesn't want their kid in that, let them fight with their kid, not the school board.

I realize that creationists - as in the Texas textbook problems - have sometimes been political and aggressive.  That doesn't mean that a disrespectful or aggressive response is useful.  In general I'm against battles.  I've lived through one war after another, and I've seen that the characteristic of wars is that everyone loses. 

As for the Darwin wars, and bumper stickers that draw battle lines, the image with this post is meant to remind us that we have bigger fish to fry - and, sadly, that more fish are frying on the beaches in the new climate that is affecting us all, regardless of religious affiliation.

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