The Monkey Test
Evolutionary Chimps Or Creationist Chumps?
- by David Matthews 2
"No one ever heard of the truth being enforced by law. Whenever the secular arm is called in to sustain an idea, whether new or old, it is always a bad idea, and not infrequently it is downright idiotic." - H.L. Menchen
Back in the 1920’s America heard an unusual court case being concluded live on a new medium of communication called radio.
The fact that the conclusion of the court case was being broadcast wasn’t as important as the case itself. The case was the infamous "Scopes Monkey Trial" - the confrontation between creationism versus evolution that led a schoolteacher by the name of John T. Scopes to be charged with violating Tennessee law simply for teaching Darwin’s theory of evolution.
Now before Charles Darwin published his theory on evolution in the 1800’s, there was only one commonly accepted theory of the universe being created, and that’s the one established in the Old Testament in the Bible.. namely that God created the Universe and everything in it in six days. Of course, many people didn’t even call it a theory. To them, it was as plain as day. They took it literally as gospel, and damn to hell anyone who even remotely thought differently.
But over the centuries, science began to question that imperial notion, one piece at a time. They first questioned the notion that the Earth was the center of the universe and that everything revolved around it. A device called the telescope proved that notion to be false. Then the notion that the universe was only six or seven thousand years old, in accordance to "recognized" Biblical scholars, was soon dispelled by a scientific process called carbon dating. It was only a matter of time before someone like Charles Darwin would come up with the idea that creatures evolved over a large period of time over countless generations.
Of course Darwin was first to clarify his theory of the evolution of plants and animals by asserting that he still believed that God created man exclusively, and that his theory of evolution applied only to "lesser creations." But by then the proverbial genie had been let out of the bottle, and soon his theory was combined with others to form a theory of the creation of the universe that did not match the literal translation of the Book of Genesis.
How that dragged scientists into conflict with religious leaders has nothing to do with the progress of science as it did with human arrogance and religious doctrine.
To ensure that nobody questioned their authority, the Catholic Church had canonized the Holy Bible, declaring it to be absolute and unquestionable. To the Christian world, the Bible is the absolute word of God. If it said in the Bible that the Earth was created in six days, then by God no scientist was going to question that!
That arrogance soon bled itself into politics, as politicians eager to appease the church began to draft and enforce laws that reflected the dominant religious beliefs. That led states like Tennessee to ban the teaching of the theory of evolution on the simple basis that it challenged the established theology. And that led to what would be considered one of the most memorable legal battles in the 20th Century - the State of Tennessee Versus John T. Scopes.
Now folks I don’t want to bore you with the details about the Scopes Monkey Trial. If you’ve ever read the book "Inherit The Wind" you’d know how it went. Scopes lost his court battle, but the decision was eventually overturned on appeal.
Since then, the battle over who’s version of the creation of the universe is correct has been a highly contested one, with the evolution theorists gaining ground after creationist theory was declared a religious belief and thus barred from public schools as a part of the separation of church and state.
The religious moralists have tried just about every tactic possible to force schools to abandon the theory of evolution. Perhaps the most ludicrous of tactics was to convince people that the absence of religion was itself a religion. I kid you not! The theocrats called it "secular humanism" and have been trying to convince people that either their creationist theory be included in all classrooms, or you can’t teach the creation of the universe at all! A nice zero-sum attitude reminiscent of spoiled little children. "If we can’t play by MY rules, then NOBODY can play!"
The latest twist of this battle of egos and theories was played out in the state of Kansas, as members of that state’s board of education decided to remove the theory of evolution as part of the mandatory core curriculum. This would supposedly let local schools bring back creationism, if they so desire.
Supporters of evolution, of course, went bananas! "How could they do this?" they screamed. "What were they thinking?"
Well we know what the members of the Kansas Board of Education were thinking! They were thinking that they could score some serious points with the religious wrong if they would just find some way to sneak in creationism. After all, it’s not hard for the religious wrong to get their supporters in less-than-noteworthy levels of government, such as the state’s Board of Education.
But what has not been helping has been the attitudes of those supporters of evolution. They’ve treated creationist supporters like societal throwbacks. One editorial cartoonist went so far as to draw the evolution of man, from monkey to man, then painting members of the Kansas School Board as going back to the caveman stage. That kind of insulting attitude has only fueled the fire over this issue and forced many conservatives to go on the defensive.
Now folks, I understand the desire to see the self-righteous be fed back their own arrogance after the centuries of dishing it out. That falls under the old adage of you reap what you sow. But let’s get brutally honest here.. this issue will not be settled if both sides mock each other.
My personal position on the situation of evolution is simple: The theory of evolution does not contradict the story of the creation of the universe as spelled out in the Bible as long as one does not take the Bible literally.
Science and religion should be working together instead of against each other.
Science provides the "how" in the universe. How do things work? What makes them tick? That’s the job of a scientist. They tell you how it works.
And no, science is not a perfect process. It’s guesswork in many instances, working with the material at hand and their own empirical knowledge. As advances are made in technology, and as new evidence is uncovered, the theories are subject to change. A scientist cannot say with 100% certainty that "X" would be true in every instance and in every time. That kind of certainty is not possible for someone who has to possess a certain degree of skepticism in their field.
Scientists can tell you how the universe works --- to the best of their ability --- but what they cannot do is tell you why it works. That’s the role of religion.
Religion operates under different rules than science. Religion operates on blind faith. There is no room for error in religious doctrine; you either believe or you don’t. That’s why religious believers are the hardest to change. It’s pretty much a zero-sum argument for many a believer, and it is that level of certainty that has led many a believer down the path of arrogance.
Now folks, this whole issue of creation versus evolution could have been settled a long time ago if not for the arrogance on both sides. Even Pope John Paul II has said that there is room for both theories here, and even suggesting a few years ago that the church MIGHT have been wrong about persecuting Copernicus and Galileo. Granted, they’re just four hundred years too little too late, but at least they said it.
And let’s face it - BOTH the theory of evolution and creationism are just that, theories. Man wasn’t there when the Earth was formed, either by stellar clouds of gas or by the waive of a hand by the almighty. Nobody held a stopwatch on God and said "yup, that’s six days!" And what is six days to a deity? Or one day for that matter? 24 hours measured by a creature he hadn’t even created yet? The only difference between the two sides is that one side believes blindly, while the other seeks proof.
It’s sort of like two sides watching a magician saw a woman in half. The believers will marvel at the seemingly mystical quality of being able to separate a woman in a magical box and then reassemble her without any problems. The skeptics would simply wonder if the woman was really cut in half, and would search the lower end of the box for some prosthetic feet and a false bottom. It doesn’t take away from the fact that the illusion was performed, and even the skeptic would probably tell you it was a good illusion even if they knew how it was done.
The best way to deal with this thorny issue in public schools is the way I was taught when I was in school. The teacher simply explained that there are two theories, one of which is evolution, the other is creationism. Evolution was taught, creationism mentioned, and if we wanted to know more about creationism we’d have to go to church. No judgments passed on which subject was better, simply that there were two theories, and left it up to us to determine privately which ones we thought best applied. Granted, not every teacher would have the intellectual or philosophical security to entrust students that way, but at least the option was open for the students to accept or reject either theory.
You may not accept the theory that we all came from the same common ancestor that also brought forth simians, but certainly this endless debate between evolution versus creationism is making monkeys out of a lot of us. Both sides need to put aside their intellectual egos and their self-righteous attitudes before we can bring this issue to the end it so rightly deserves.