Anne here. I’m telling you up front and in advance that it’s me, emphasizing that the “by” thingie up there doesn’t lie, so you won’t get mad at JT for not believing in evolution. Maybe he’ll thank me for that. Maybe he won’t. Maybe he’ll come out of his evolution belief closet, too, after he reads this post. I’m very persuasive, or so I’m told.
Person A, usually one of those fundamentalist Christian-type people, says “I don’t believe in evolution.” Our eyes cross, our heads spin around, and we throw up a little in our mouths.
Person B is us. We are science defenders. We are proponents of the separation of church and state. We are atheists, agnostics, Catholics, deists, progressive protestants, Reformed Jews, Buddhists, pagans, Wiccans, or from any number of science-accepting traditions or persuasions. Our first reaction is to retort, “Well, I do believe in evolution.”
We don’t believe in evolution. At least, I don’t.
There. I said it: I don’t believe in evolution.
I don’t believe that the sky is blue because of sunlight refracting in a unique way due to the composition of the atmosphere. I don’t believe that there is a universal force which attracts all objects with mass toward one another. I don’t believe that air pressure differentials on an airfoil moving through the atmosphere produces lift. I don’t believe that a screw is an inclined plane wrapped around a sharpened dowel, that fish extract oxygen from water using semi-external gas exchanging mechanisms known otherwise as “gills,” or that giraffes have necks.
I accept evolution as an observable natural phenomenon driven by genetic mutation during cell division and advanced through natural selection. I know why the sky is blue, why gravity happens (until you start getting into advanced Einsteinian space-time warping, but let’s not go there). I know why wings and screws work, how fish breathe. And I – personally, and without exception – have seen a neck on every single giraffe I have ever met.
These things aren’t beliefs. They are facts. Proven, unfalsifiable, reliable, demonstrable, unequivocal bits of empirical truth. They are not beliefs.
The things we have firmly established through the use of science aren’t a matter of belief or opinion. They are. As the inestimable Penn Jillette says in his book, God, No!, “If every trace of any single religion were wiped out and nothing were passed on, it would never be created exactly that way again. There might be some other nonsense in its place, but not that exact nonsense. If all of science were wiped out, it would still be true and someone would find a way to figure it all out again.”
If we disbelieve well-established facts, we mark ourselves as idiots. If we “believe” them, we’re admitting there might be some wiggle room, and we might, with enough effort expended by our worthy opponents, be persuaded of our error. Every time someone says he believes in evolution, gravity, light, flight, or necks, he leaves a little crack where someone else can jam some asinine theological “solution” in like a wedge and hammer it through.
When Ms. Loud Atheist says “I don’t believe in evolution,” it gets the attention of the creationists long enough for her to hit them over the head with “You don’t ‘believe in’ facts. Facts are facts and they don’t give a rat’s ass what you believe.”
Now if you’d like to know what I do believe in, I’ll tell you.
I believe in friendship’s power to make us feel happy.
I believe honesty is generally the best policy, but that sometimes white lies are preferable.
I believe in doing my best, because when I get the job done I can be pleased with my effort and not fret over what I might have done better.
I believe in the innate goodness of people, and that, whether we agree with each other or not, we all genuinely want to do what is right in any given situation.
I believe that exceptions to the above are rare, and I am glad of that.
I believe I should credit Marc Hemond with the genesis of this post, and for significant chunks of its wording. (Thanks, Marc!)
I believe that “What if…?” is the doorway to imagination and discovery.
I believe that this world is amazing all by itself, and that there is no need to embellish it to marvel at it. Except that this one is, once again, a fact and not a belief.
But I don’t believe in evolution. I know it’s a fact.
Got a legal question? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m a lawyer, but there’s only a 2% chance I’m licensed in your state. Whether I answer your question or not, sending me an email or reading this blog post does not create an attorney-client relationship between us. I’m on Twitter as @aramink, and you can see my regular blog at www.aramink.com, where I write book reviews, ruminate on Life, the Universe, and Everything, and occasionally – frequently – rant about Stuff.