The theory of evolution was challenged by religion when first publicly demonstrated by Charles Darwin in the mid-Nineteenth Century. The religiously fervent still rejects the idea of man evolving from ape but over the past 150 years opinions have certainly evolved and most religious persons today accept evolution to be true. Those who remain willfully ignorant believe there is a debate to be had regarding the age-old question of ‘how we got here.’
They insist the Biblical version and not the scientific theory of evolution holds the true answer. The emotion-charged debate generally centers on which version will be taught in the public schools. Ultimately, even those in the State of Kansas who has decided to teach both, all of society will accept that there is no debate but it will likely be a long time in coming because society itself evolves very slowly.
The religious point of view
Creationism, creation science, and the intelligent design theory are similar terms that religious factions have used to explain the origins of the universe that they want to be inserted into public education. Those that subscribe to creationism believe that God created the universe and then created man according to the explanation of creation offered in the Bible. Creation Science endeavors to provide evidence that the world was created by God using disproving the evolutionary theory and by provide ‘evidence’ that creation occurred as was told in the Bible.
Intelligent Design theorists argue that because modern science has no positive proof of evolution, this fact undoubtedly demonstrates that divine intervention is the only rational explanation. Intelligent design theorists also believe in divine creation but do not generally refer to the Bible, they instead try to confirm God’s part in the creation of the universe and man.
Creationists make much of their case around the claim that evolution has yet to be proven, yet it has been proven in the same way that scientists prove any other profoundly and commonly held scientific theory. Creationists are requiring a high level of verification from evolutionary theorists. Scientists must answer every question, whether reasonable or not, relating to the creation of life down to the tiniest detail to counteract the solid ‘proof’ the Bible provides.
Evolution, because of the serious religious implications, is held up to a higher standard of proof. Gravity is universally accepted as true although it is a theory no more positively proved than is the theory of evolution. Many religious people of the 15th century believed the earth was flat while scientists and intellectuals such as Aristotle 2000 years earlier knew that it wasn’t. The fact that there is no definite proof of evolution does not make the process any less true although its exact route is the debate of evolutionists. Scientists conduct experiments designed to disprove theories to determine credible empirical evidence.
The overwhelming evidence collected that supports the evolution of the universe, earth and everything on it is more than adequate to conclude that this theory is the only rational explanation for the origin of man appropriate for public schools. Science class is, after all, intended to teach what man knows of his surroundings, not what religion dictates. The exact method by which evolution occurred and continues to occur is argued among scientists. Some scientists suggest that mutations are responsible for evolution. An animal is born with a specialized new trait that happens to be beneficial for its survival such as a longer neck, larger teeth, thicker fur, higher developed senses, etc.
This animal thrives and produces offspring that carries the same inherited trait therefore lives longer and produces more offspring than others of its species. Eventually, the new type ‘wins out over the original species and a new species has born. Darwin proposed that animals adapt to a new environment over long periods, millions of years, which he named natural selection. On his famous trip to the Galapagos Islands in the mid-1800s, Darwin witnessed tangible evidence for his theory regarding the origin of all species.
The islands are relatively close in proximity but are vastly different geographically, some had desert-like conditions, others more tropical, some sandy, some rocky for example. Darwin noticed the variations of the same species which had adapted to the different conditions on different islands over time and eventually evolved into a new species. His conclusions were based on evidence and reason plus have been the subject of scientific scrutiny for more than a century and a half in a highly technological period in history. This gives the theory credibility unlike the mythical ‘evidence’ provided by creationists.
Scientific point of view
Science observes the forces of nature then processes and analyzes information based on evidence. It develops an initial hypothesis then attempts to disprove assumptions, a procedure that continues as new evidence is introduced.
Some might say the sky, earth, and everything on it is evidence of God’s creation but for evidence to be considered credible by scientific standards, it must be verifiable and offer more than simple conjecture and wishful thinking. Religion sets the bar for credible evidence to conform beliefs much lower. It is concerned only with belief and faith as its means to obtain knowledge, not with attempting to disprove its conclusions as science does but by blindly accepting as true the revelations as written in an ancient book ostensibly from one or more gods.
Most religious persons will defiantly assert that their particular religious beliefs are correct and that other religions and science are flawed which causes conflict between differing religions. There are few such conflicts in science. Scientists welcome debate on newly developing hypotheses and generally accept substantiated theories such as evolution.
In today’s modern society, we are often willing to give credit to science for providing us with the great knowledge we have regarding how things work and our position in the universe. It is a science that has led to the developments that make our lives easier and more productive, enabling us to reach even further in our pursuit of knowledge. Even those who consider themselves quite religious generally realize that there are specific scientific reasons why people become ill and acknowledge that God is not punishing someone by giving them a disease. They believe the Earth is round and revolves around the Sun as opposed to what the Bible teaches.
In the time of Christopher Columbus, enlightened people knew the Earth was round but dared not admit it from fear of being accused of heresy, a capital offense in medieval Europe. After the 1492 voyage, the Church could no longer suppress what had been scientific evidence because it was now an undeniable truth. Science is based on credible evidence therefore will triumph over religion eventually. The common-sense approach of science ultimately prevails over religion as the accepted truth.
For public policy to be dictated by religious belief is nonsensical according to most but what cannot be denied by any rational person is that this practice is un-American, un-patriotic, unlawful and against the essential principles of separation of church and state as set down by the Founders of the nation. Rational is the keyword when discussing evolution in a society where some still refuse to think critically, challenge their own beliefs or investigate the questions all of us have.
Evolution is a theory as is gravity.
No one knows for sure just how gravity works but all agree that is a fact of life, a truth, as is evolution.