Saturday, November 3, 2012

Evolutionary Crazy-Talk: Acceptable Discourse?

On This Week with George Stephanopoulos James Carville implied that people who do not believe in Evolution are crazy [1]. That same month (also on This Week), Andrew Sullivan made the charge much more clearly [2]. Bill Nye, The Science Guy, claimed that people who deny evolution harm young people and hamper scientific progress [3]. An ad hominem attack is not the most elegant rhetorical device and is usually associated with those who argue from a weaker position, but I don’t think this a harmless difference of opinions.

I am not in the least bit disquieted by people ridiculing me for believing that God created heaven and earth, for believing that mankind was created in the image of God, for believing that the Holy Bible is the Word of God, but I am convinced that there is something darker going on here.

What if there really is a segment of the population that refuses to listen to reason, that is actually harming young people and is hampering scientific progress? The most serious charge is that this group is doing harm to young people, but if they are hampering scientific progress then they are also preventing technological advancement and so are hurting the economy. That threatens everyone’s well-being. The obvious conclusion is that these people are a danger to society.

When we say that people are crazy we’re saying that they will not respond to conventional means of persuasion. That’s what we thought of the kamikazes of World War II. That’s what we think about Al Qaeda, the Taliban and the Ayatollahs. This is how we convince people that radical action is required.

I don’t think for a second that James Carville, Andrew Sullivan or Bill Nye harbor such heinous designs. I’m a big fan of each of them, but I would advise them to refrain from demonizing the 46% of Americans who believe in Creationism [4] because of the collateral damage that can be caused by this sort of rhetoric.

Is it really so crazy to not believe in Evolution? Let’s say that your brother and his wife are expecting. Is it unreasonable for them to expect a Homo sapien? Personally, I don’t think anyone really believes in Evolution. What we truly believe affects our actions. If the most strident advocates of Evolution really believed in the almost miraculous power of the survival of the fittest they would never advocate for the weak, give to the poor or work to strengthen any social safety net.

I remember when the press was reporting an unusually high number of mutations among frogs in Minnesota. Scientists were worried. Something must be terribly wrong with the ecosystem. No one seemed to be suggesting that such mutation was just part of the evolutionary process, that we should just stand by and see what awesome new species would result.

Bill Nye claims that if we don’t believe in Evolution, the foundation of all life sciences, that we’ll never come to the right conclusion in matters relating to biology. Really? That’s odd, because a blind faith in Evolution lead scientists to the conclusion that most of our genetic information is useless junk, left over from the all the mutations we’ve gone through. Now it’s clear that they were wrong [5].

What makes Bill Nye an expert on biology any way? He’s an engineer, not trained in the life sciences. How did evolution inform his career as an aviation engineer? Did he make random changes in plane design to see which ones would provide the greatest benefit? There’s nothing wrong with testing different implementations but those changes should be based on some precedent, logic or intuition.

I’m a software developer, but no information system comes close to the genetic information systems that regulate the many species that exist on this planet. The one thing I know for sure is that the more complex the system the more careful one has to be developing and maintaining it. It would be crazy for me to make random changes to the system and put them into production to see which ones succeeded. Intelligent design is a much more reasonable approach.

Unlike some Evangelical Christians I have no problem with brothers who hold to Theistic Evolution. I can’t see it myself, from either a scientific or scriptural standpoint, but I don’t think it’s an essential of the faith and I’m convinced that we should extend liberty to one another in this area.

I’m not afraid of Evolution. I’m not the one trying to stifle the debate. Believing that God created heaven and earth, made mankind in His own image and spoke to us through His Holy Word does not make me crazy or a danger to society. Those who say that I am should ask themselves if there is a better way to make their points.

[2] This Week With George Stephanopoulos, 10/28/2012

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