I’ve begun using Newsvine.com again, for some of my longer writing. Here’s my first article.
Dear intelligent Christians of Newsvine.
As an atheist, I believe in one fewer God than you do. But this isn’t another of those ultimately pointless rant pieces about the difference between Zeus and Mithra; what you believe and what I believe. This is about something far more important than that.
This is an appeal to the doctors and software programmers, teachers and architects, bishops and policemen in the newsvine community and beyond, who are college educated, responsible, rationally minded people who just so happen to attend a Yahweh believing church on a regular basis.
On more than one occasion in the past, I’ve found myself talking with someone who is religious and I’ve caught myself in the curious position of feeling like I’m talking down to them; being patronising to someone who I had no intention of offending. If that’s how my words read, I can assure you that my thoughts did not sound that way when they were leaving my brain, causing the nerve endings in my finger tips to agitate and hit the corresponding keys on my keyboard.
Having said that, however good my intentions to simply talk with you as one adult to another, it’s an unfortunate fact that 50% of those reading this from within the United States, will be grossly offended by what I now have to say. Because there is no easy way to say, I’m sorry, but you’re fundamentally wrong to oppose the teaching of Darwin’s fact of evolution through natural selection in your schools.
I’m a Brit. But, given my passive aggressive mix of a moderately consolatory beginning, leaping immediately into a hardline insistence of fact, you’d probably already worked that out.
In my country, children are taught science in reverse order. Beginning with biology and ending with physics. Since I had a relatively good introduction to the sciences in my Catholic run school, the fact that my school has continued to do well in performance tables, many years after I left, is a good indicator that in the intervening years no group of militant parents have come along, hijacked the board and begun insisting that the teaching of the holy trinity myth in R.E. class, takes primacy over the teaching of chemistry and biology in the science class.
However, a movement which some of you reading this in certain States will be more familiar with than others, known as Intelligent Design, is intending to do just such a thing in your publicly funded schools, when it comes to the education of the next generation of voters, policemen, teachers and priests, who will be running your country when you’ve retired.
Intelligent Design says that because Darwin’s fact of evolution through natural selection does not require a supernatural explanation for how life on Earth originated, it is therefore false – because on page one, chapter one of the bible, it clearly states the opposite. Unfortunately for I.D. advocates, Charles Darwin’s fact of evolution through natural selection isn’t about the origins of life on Earth – it is about how life on Earth evolved once it had already appeared.
Advocates of I.D., nevertheless, rage on; building their argument based around the idea that being proven wrong time and time again, is merely proof that they are being discriminated against.
The cause celebré of the Intelligent Design movement, at the moment, is a filmmaker called Ben Stein and his ‘Expelled’ documentary, currently in theatres. Chief among the most offensive of the film’s many erroneous claims, are it’s staggeringly ignorant attempts to portray people who support Darwin’s fact of evolution through natural selection as being proponents of the Nazi pseudo-science, Eugenics.
Stein’s film does this by deliberately misquoting Charles Darwin’s writings, to make them seem as if he inspired Hitler, who’s attempts to prove that the human race would be better off without ‘Jewish blood’ in the gene pool, was in some way a justification to murder millions of doctors, teachers, policemen, lawyers, authors, scientists – all because they were non-Arian.
Ben Stein, himself Jewish, by deliberately altering select quotations from Darwin, in his film, in order to have Darwin appear to say something he equivocally did not, is offensive enough. But saying that this is proof that evolution is therefore evil and incompatible with the beliefs of those from any of the monotheistic faiths, is quite another.
The film is, in my opinion, nothing short of being one long hate-speech, aimed at anyone who has, in their own mind and for their own reasons, decided they are no-longer interested in bronze-age guess work about our place in the cosmos.
Stein and the pro-I.D. movement are effectively telling all religious American voters, that if you want to be on the side of God, you have to be against Charles Darwin and all of the science which has come from a greater understanding of natural selection, in the intervening 150 years since his work was first published.
Here is why Ben Stein is wrong and you should do all you can to tell as many people as you can he is wrong, next Sunday at your church of choice.
Place a tennis ball on an uneven surface and give it a gentle push. See how it wobbles along, before coming to a stop? Now pick up the ball and drop it from shoulder height. See how it bounces at first, maybe twice and then rolls away again, only this time further than before?
Why did that happen? Was it because you believed it would? Or was it because it was being acted upon by an invisible force, some people refer to as gravity? Well, there’s only one way to find out – and this may take several million years, so you might want to make a flask of coffee.
First, drop the ball from varying heights thirty or forty billion times and count how many times, instead of dropping to the floor, bouncing once or twice and then rolling away, the ball shoots off into the air, into the sky, though the clouds and into space.
Assuming the occurrences of this are low, how safe is it to assume that, more often than not, an object with mass, when in close proximity to an object of greater mass, will be attracted towards that greater mass, until the force of the smaller object’s energy is reduced so much, that it stops moving? Very safe? Moderately safe? Let’s agree it’s an almost infinitesimally large number ratio to one that this law of motion, as first observed, tested and proven by Isaac Newton, will ever be proven wrong.
You will note, we are not saying categorically this law will absolutely never ever be broken, just that it is so unlikely to be anything other than utterly reliable, that it may as well be referred to henceforth not as a theory, but as a fact.
So, what has the movement of objects in an electromagnetic force got to do with Charles Darwin’s ‘theory’ of evolution through natural selection?
Darwin observed, tested and proved that over millions of geological years on Earth, complex life could only have evolved from less complex organisms. At first, simple bacteria and later simple marine life – in the abundant oceans. He proved that all life on Earth, in fact, sprang forth from this primeval soup.
He didn’t do this by insisting that his belief that this was how life evolved was right, regardless of contradictory evidence. He proved that this was true precisely because of the evidence that he could not disprove. He searched all of his life for a possible mistake he may have made in his observations. As did his peers. As did thousands of successive generations of scientists from around the world for the past 150 years. None of them, not even once, unearthing a single shred of doubt that his work was anything other than the single greatest scientific achievement in the history of human kind.
Darwin was able, using his observations, to repeat the equivalent of the tennis ball dropping from a height experiment for hundreds of millions of years and make predictions about its outcome; that animals, which in his time he couldn’t have known anything about, nevertheless we have since discovered to exist, would show specific kinds of behaviour when living in certain temperate regions; the kinds of feeding environments they would most likely dwell within and what kind mating habits they would display; courting rituals, reciprocal altruism with other species. The list of predictions about the natural world which evolution makes, which have all been proven to be true, grows all the time and has never fallen short of explaining all of them.
Evolution dwarfs the achievement of space flight and many other areas of scientific endeavour – even Quantum electrodynamics is less understood than evolution – and if you doubt the findings of that field of science, what’s that thing with an Apple logo on it, sitting on the desk in front of you?
To deny Darwin’s legacy to our future selves, because a tiny minority of politically motivated religious elite want to say it represents something which it emphatically does not; about the only intelligent life forms in the whole of the universe, as far as we know, in a brighter more enlighten tomorrow, will be quite simply unfathomable to our grandchildren – but only if we do what it should be our sworn duty to do before it is too late; speak the truth, because the truth will set us free.