Wednesday, February 4, 2009

In honor of Charles Darwin

The latest issue of National Geographic (February 2009) includes a special tribute to the great Charles Darwin.

Creationists, those stone-heads whose "truth" is carved from ancient mythological rock hewn by ignorant and superstitious tribesmen, are busy these days conducting "anti-Darwin" festivities, where they applaud their godly delusions and thumb their noses at real science, insisting on a magical creation over six days which so exhausted their too-human deity he had to sit down and rest.

The problem with creationists is simple: they begin with a belief and then attempt to fit the evidence to conform to that belief. They operate in a manner exactly opposite of the scientific method. Creationism, in its several forms, is not science by any stretch of the imagination. It represents fundamentalist Christianity, and starts from a confession of faith: The Christian Bible is to be understood literally, is true in all its aspects, and contains no mistakes or errors. Everything must follow from that confession.

A scientific theory, on the other hand, "is an explanation of a set of related observations or events based upon proven hypotheses and verified multiple times by detached groups of researchers." One might say a scientific theory represents the best way to describe and/or understand some thing or some process in our world as it has been tested and found reliable.

The theory of evolution (as well as the theory of relativity, atomic theory and the quantum theory) has been thoroughly tested/documented and proven beyond any reasonable doubt. It has been shown, over and over again, to be the most trustworthy way to understand our world.

As new information comes to light, however, and as that information is put to the test and found reliable, the theory of evolution will be tweaked accordingly.

Darwin's theory of evolution has been modified on a number of occasions. How and why Darwin's theory has been modified is the subject of the National Geographic article. It's one hell of a lot more interesting than the magical machinations of a mythological deity creating the universe in six tiresome days.

National Geographic explains why it is important to honor Charles Darwin:

"This year marks the 150th anniversary of the most incendiary book in the history of science, and coincidentally, the 200th birthday of the mild-mannered Englishman who wrote it. Charles Darwin did not invent the idea of evolution, any more than Abraham Lincoln, who happens to share his birthday on February 12, invented the idea of freedom. What Darwin provided in The Origin of Species was a powerful theory for how evolution could occur through purely natural forces, liberating scientists to explore the glorious complexity of life, rather than merely accept it as an impenetrable mystery. 'Nothing in biology makes sense, except in the light of evolution,' the geneticist Theodosius Dobzhansky wrote 36 years ago. That light, which began as a glimmer in the mind of a young naturalist aboard H.M.S. Beagle, today casts a beam so bright we can read the very text of life by it. Darwin would be overjoyed to see how much he did not know, and how much we have yet to learn."

Maybe the creationists should say "Thank God!" for Darwin!

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