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I was on a plane a number of years ago, and I was watching a video, minding my own business… have you ever tried to watch a movie or read a book on a plane and the person next to you is just intent on nosing in and finding out what’s going on?
Well, I was watching PBS’s “Evolution”; and as I finished and closed my laptop, the lady next to me turns to me and asked, “What did you think about that show?”
I replied, “Well, I thought it was interesting. It was definitely well done. But I think it was incredibly biased and one-sided.”
The moment that I started to show any sign of disagreement with the show – or evolution in general – this previously engaging and inviting woman became dismissive.
“Ohhh… you’re one of those ‘evolution haters’, aren’t you?”
I replied, “I don’t hate evolution. I don’t want to be a hater of anything, really. I just think that this was a very biased program. I would think that for a public show, it would be more open and fair to all sides of the argument.”
What I didn’t know at the time was that this woman on the plane was an agnostic (or some version of atheism) geologist with a Ph.D.
And I was just a recent college grad trying to figure out life, its origins, and my own worldview.
So, we went back and forth about fossil records and other evidence supporting evolution. Finally, I simply asked her, “Could you name any book that you’ve read, in all your studies, that offer the other side of your argument? What’s the best book you’ve read offering a critique of evolution?”
She couldn’t come up with a single one. In fact, she never studied the other side.
Which I found interesting, as I had read books by Dawkins, Shermer, Dennett and many others. Now, reading both sides of the argument doesn’t make me right; but I simply find it interesting that someone could go their whole education and receive one side of the story and not the other perspective.
There’s actually a Bible verse that speaks to this:
“The first to speak in court sounds right – until the cross-examination begins.” (Proverbs 18:17)
Yet, throughout our educational system today, it’s clear that when it comes to the origin of life, only one side gets to speak. No wonder people find evolution so compelling.
For instance, there are widely held beliefs that stem from quotes such as this from Richard Dawkins:
Then he said in a piece for the New York Times:
“Evolution is a fact. Beyond reasonable doubt, beyond serious doubt, beyond sane, informed, intelligent doubt, beyond doubt evolution is a fact. The evidence for evolution is at least as strong as the evidence for the Holocaust.”
“It is absolutely safe to say that if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid, or insane (or wicked, but I’d rather not consider that).”
Another famous quote along these lines comes from Michael Ruse:
“Evolution is fact, fact, FACT!”
At least National Geographic went against the grain to post a cover that asked the question, “Was Darwin Wrong?” (yet when you opened up the first page, the magazine answered right away, “No.”)
And this isn’t a phenomenon that strictly lives in academia. It’s actually worked its way down into pop culture. In fact, in an episode of the television show Friends, Ross finds out that Phoebe “doesn’t buy the whole evolution thing.” To which, he replies:
“Uh, excuse me. Evolution is not for you to buy, Phoebe. Evolution is scientific fact, like, like, like the air we breathe, like gravity.” (then she replied “Oh, don’t get me started on the whole ‘gravity’ thing!)
But, this all begs these questions: Is the evidence for evolution really as strong as the evidence for the Holocaust? For gravity? Are you stupid, ignorant, wicked, or insane for questioning it? Is the evidence really overwhelming?
Or is something else at stake here?
Ironically, I believe that we should follow the advice of Charles Darwin, himself:
“A fair result can only be obtained by balancing the facts and arguments on both sides of each question.”
You see, even Darwin realized that good education and thinking requires balancing both sides, looking at the evidence, and then freely deciding which explanation best accounts for the most evidence.
But before we dive into all this, we need to ask, “Why does this issue even matter?”
Shouldn’t we just – in an effort to find peace – say something like, “Maybe God used evolution” and stop fighting over this issue?
Well, the reason is because: Ideas have consequences. Also, ideas have “feet”, in that they carry themselves out into the world, thus bringing their consequences into our everyday lives.
For instance, in 2005 at the London Zoo, there was an exhibit called “Humans In Their Natural Habitat”. They had men and women wearing bathing suits on display, behaving like animals – even pretending to pull parasites out of one another’s hair, socially grooming each other like baboons.
This was an actual exhibit at the world famous London Zoo.
Well, sometimes it takes a child to ask the good question. A little girl was standing near a zoo spokesperson when she asked her mother, “Mommy… why are they in there?” (kind of an obvious question)
The spokesperson replied:
“Seeing people in a different environment, among other animals, teaches members of the public that the human is just another primate.”
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