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Why you never heard one damn thing about evolution in school
I don’t know if it’s just because it’s a favorite subject of mine (it is), or that I’m just easily seduced into sticking up for it (I know …), but the muse need hardly apply, when tangling with an otherwise well-educated and intelligent individual, on the subject of evolution.
And I’m especially drawn in by anyone dismissive of Charles Darwin, and his groundbreaking work of singular genius On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection. Or – as voiced most recently, by someone responding to comments I made on another forum – propounding the scurrilous lie that “his theory of evolution … is nothing more than a theory, promulgated by an uneducated man.”
Yeah – and Einstein was just a slow learner who wasn’t expected to ever amount to anything.*
(* As prediction by one of his Grade School teachers.)
This gentleman went on to state – and I have no reason to doubt – that he was a retired physician. And that Darwin’s missive was required reading, by his Jesuit teachers, back in High School. Even though he went on to relate one of the most woefully inarticulate and specious takes, on the theory of evolution, I’ve possibly ever heard.
I’m sorry, but most Jesuit high school teachers – especially back in his day – were no different from many of today’s so-called Mormon Scholars, and Seminary Teachers (themselves contradictions in misnomers). Who, like so many others, routinely scan-to-misread for any real understanding. But rather to arm themselves with bits of knowledgeable-sounding terms, they can put to misuse, while mounting apologetic arguments in support of their own religious beliefs.
In any event, it was obvious that, if this ground breaking volume had indeed been required reading at his Jesuit HS, he either didn’t read it, or simply failed to gain a larger understanding of the subject.
The fact is, Darwin’s text is still as well written and excitingly relevant today, as any journey of modern scientific discovery. And stands as a testament to his painstaking scholarship and groundbreaking insights. They were light-years ahead of their time. And still as astounding to read today, as they were over 150 years ago.
I did challenge this individual to pick up another copy – and have another look at it (free eBooks here, here, and here). This time, through the eyes of a retired physician.
I also pointed out that, as most of us begin to see the world and many of its deepest mysteries, clues, and conundrums – unfolded for the first time, through the eyes of Darwin – you soon come to realize how incumbent it is, that you be willing to believe your own lying eyes. To not turn away from the truth. In simply acknowledging the overwhelming evidence for evolution.
Or he could, of course, just continue to live in a fantasy world, where life continues to be a bigger mystery than it already is.
But there’s something else I wished to point out here. Something we should all be aware of. And that is the gaping hole in our own understanding. A blind spot, if you will, that most people are completely unaware of. An induced ignorance on the whole subject of evolution, due to its intentional exclusion from any science class or schoolroom you most likely attended.
That, for the better part of the last 150 years, the subject of evolution wasn’t even allowed to be mentioned – let alone taught – in any of our public school systems, here in the United States. But you know what’s really spooky? Most folks assume that not much is really known about evolution – or they’d have heard more about it in school.
Subconsciously, this has relegated the whole idea of evolution – in the minds of many – to the level of some pseudo science. Like Homeopathy, Astrology, or a belief in the Law of Attraction (I know – I have a problem with that last one myself …)
The other thing to be aware of, is that this has all been brought about – and is a direct result of – the skunk-works employed by our own American Taliban. Those branches of fundamentalist Christian religions, everywhere, who have successfully worked – until quite recently – to keep the whole subject of evolution – much like sex education – out of the public schools. And who continue to work – for anyone paying attention – to have Evolution either removed from their schools curriculum, or require the teaching of religious Creationism right alongside it. As an equally viable, “scientific” explanation.
Greater parts of the population – in the United States today –
are as dumb and uneducated as the Taliban, when it comes
to having been denied an education about how long ago
life first arose, and has since evolved, on this planet.
To give you just some idea, as to how long this has been going on, lets have a look at the event that more or less cemented the fate of evolution, in this country’s school systems.
Some may be vaguely aware of the so-called Scopes Monkey Trial – from the movie Inherit the Wind. The one about famous defense attorney Clarence Darrow – who was a member of the American Civil Liberties Union, even back then. And who defended school teacher John T Scopes , against a charge of TEACHING EVOLUTION – in violation of the Butler Act – in Dayton, Tennessee, back in 1925. It was a show trial. Billed as The Trial of the Century. And one that gained national attention, and attracted interested parties, from all over the country.
As much as it was intended to show a spurious denial of reality, by the State of Tennessee, in outlawing the teaching of Charles Darwin’s scientifically valid Theory of Evolution – anywhere in its public schools system – the Scopes “Monkey” Trial became as much a show for demonstrating the powers of darkness, folk-lore, ignorance, and superstition – dressed up in robes of religious political influence – to beat back any advances in public secular, or scientific, education.
Few remember that, in spite of this courageous stand – against an all but lynch mob mentality – Stokes and Darrow lost the case. And but for the passage of time – and a secular government – there might well have been a fiery execution awaiting the young Mr Stokes. (A quick hanging, at best.)
As it was, Judge Rawlston – along with a good many others in attendance – was sufficiently enlightened by Clarence Darrow’s deft ability to take apart and expose the arbitrary and specious nature of Mr Bryan’s biblical arguments, that he effectively – and constructively – reduced the gravity of the offense, by imposing a fine – of a mere One Hundred Dollars – at sentencing.
William Jennings Bryan – three-time presidential candidate, renowned orator, and gasbag in a bow-tie, felt he had been made a fool of – and it broke his health. (He died a short time later.)
But the damage was done. And the message sent loud and clear. And the mere mention of evolution could still get a teacher fired, back when I was in school – during the ’50s and 60’s.
In fact, sans later studies at university, or self-education, greater parts of the population – in the United States today – are as dumb and uneducated as the Taliban, when it comes to having been denied an education about how long ago life first arose, and has since evolved, on this planet. (The biggest reason the US is still considered so ‘backward’ – compared to most European countries – in its acceptance of evolution, by the general public.)
Darwinian evolution has, from its introduction, been recognized by credible universities and scientists everywhere, as the gold standard, scientific explanation, for detailing the mechanism of how life has, in fact, evolved to it’s current levels of complexity and diversity. And from it’s most humble beginnings billions of years ago.
Modern science has not only failed to falsify Darwin’s overarching theory of evolution, but has gone on to fill-in and add support for many previously suspected holes in his theory.
And, unlike those specious Mormon religious claims, concerning the ancestry of indigenous native Americans – completely debunked by modern DNA, and the Genome Project – Darwin’s ideas have been demonstrated to hold up all the way down to the genetic level. And all the way back to the beginnings of life itself.
On the Origin of Species is not like the Bible – ambiguous, contradictory, and open to interpretation. It is a very concise detailed work of scientific discovery – with very little unsupported conjecture, I might add.
It need not be thought of as some obscure tome – completely beyond the average person’s ability to comprehend, let alone understand.
Here are just some of the things that scientists now know:
- We not only evolved from fish, but we still go through all of our evolutionary stages – during embryonic development – similar, in some ways, to how a caterpillar undergoes metamorphosis, inside its cocoon, to become a butterfly.
- At first, we appear indistinguishable from fish embryo – replete with gills, tail, and a spine attached directly to the back of our skull. We eventually ‘morph’ into a reptilian stage, including reptile-like jawbones, that will later move – and morph – to become our tiny inner ear bones.
- We are completely covered in downy hair, at another point, before eventually re-absorbing both the hair and our tail.
- And, along with changes to structures in our necks and hip joints, we are eventually delivered into this world of so-called naked apes. Who’s members walk upright and exhibit the unique ability to speak – thanks as well to an enlarged and highly evolved brain.
Darwin’s world-shaking observations, insights, and genius, continue to be honored at his Alma mater, Cambridge University. And by other universities and scientists throughout the world.
As I’ve had occasion to point out before, this whole subject of evolution, is more fascinating than anything you would have ever thought possible. And ultimately, more comforting than you could ever have imagined.
You’ll certainly never again acquiesce to that old worn-out lie,
“Well, nobody really knows anything for sure …”
While I still recommend that anyone who can, read Charles Darwin’s original work On The Origin Of Species, there is an absolute wealth of information on the subject of evolution these days. I can personally recommend Jerry A. Coyne’s modern eye-opener, Why Evolution is True – and his web site of the same name. And anyone can Google ‘evolution’ – or check out TED Talks – to find out about even more of what you – like the rest of us – were never taught in school.
Most importantly, keep an eye out for political leaders still trying to subvert 21st Century educational curriculum, with 16th Century biblical nonsense.
Note: This is another of my articles, first published last year – on another site – brought ‘home’ to ModernAtheist.org
5 thoughts on “Defending Darwinian Evolution”
People have no problem accepting things like gravity, etc. – but as soon as a scientific theory threatens their personal belief and/or faith, suddenly everyone becomes a huge skeptic and tries to argue that this is “just a theory”, as if it was a point against it. Nobody has a clue on which scientific principles computers are based and nobody would try to argue that they cannot, in fact, work, but after believing to know that evolution somehow has to do something with fossils, everyone feels capable of refuting it. It’s tedious. It’s stupid.
The problem is simply, that if you decide first what you want to believe, then you might end up having to fight reality, because it may not fit into your beliefs. But fortunately, science doesn’t give a damn about what people believe. Christians can try to cure illnesses by prayer, while scientists actually cure them. Christians can try to pray themselves up into heaven, while scientists actually send people to the moon. Christians can believe to have a deep connection to the universe, while scientists actually connect everyone in the world via networks. etc. In the end, fighting against reality is doomed to fail. Reality will not budge on inch to someone’s personal beliefs.
Thanks for taking the time to weigh in on the subject, ‘Mutant. You draw some interesting parallels. Ones that made me smile when I read them. I’m reminded, once again, that “No egoism is so insufferable as that of the Christian with regard to his soul.” (W. Somerset Maugham)
Great post, Donnie!
I hear so much these days about how schools are “indoctrinating” children with the “theory” of evolution, and that creation should be taught to balance things out, etc., that it is easy to forget that for a very long time evolution was not taught in schools. I recall that when I was in high school in the mid to late 1980s, evolution was taught, but not in that much depth. I knew enough to be scared of its implications, though. When I got to college, I was always on my guard to avoid being deceived by those rascally evolutionists.
As I’ve talked about before, I’m always baffled by the “there is no evidence for evolution” crowd. You listed a number of great references, and there are many more. They could say they do not agree with the evidence (but they should have a good reason), but to say there is no evidence is incomprehensible. It is especially incomprehensible given the low quality of the evidence for the existence of God. There are philosophical arguments for the existence of God, but is there any scientific evidence at all? There is so little (or none) that theists have to scramble and come up with philosophical arguments as to why we shouldn’t expect any evidence for God (as if that supports their view).
One thing that stands out to me as I read Darwin’s Origin of Species is how humble he was. He presented facts. He presented possible arguments against the conclusions he drew from those facts. He expressed his doubts about things were still unclear. He was clear on what he was guessing about and what he was sure about. I just read the 30th anniversary edition of Dawkins’ Selfish Gene and I found him surprisingly humble, as well. In the endnotes, he admits things he got wrong when he first wrote the book.
Thank you, Charles,
It’s interesting to me, that you were struck by Darwin’s humility. So was I. And along with his painstaking qualifications, his statements seemed almost monuments to intellectual honesty.
Embarrassed to say, I’ve never read Dawkin’s The Selfish Gene. But with the endorsement you just gave it, I’ll have to latch an anniversary edition.
BTW, I have to say I admire your own careful efforts, to accurately characterize – and intellectualize – your own discoveries, and POVs. It’s good to appreciate and fully savor the revelations, eh?
Absolutely. Truth will win out.