Tuesday, January 31, 2006

 

A layman's view

Upate: My sister gently reminded me that she was stationed in Kuwait, not Saudi Arabia.

My sister was kind enough to share this essay with me, and to give me permission to upload it to the blog. She's currently part way through an undergrad degree, and is taking an anthropology class. She brings a very different perspective to the table than I do since our lives have diverged since we moved away from home. As you'll see if you read the essay she spent five years in the Air Force, and she's raising a family (I'll be there one day, but not just yet). During her time in the Air Force she was stationed in Turkey and Kuwait (and also more mundane places like New Mexico). She took classes when she could, and through a lot of hard work earned an associate's degree last year. I'm really proud of her for that.

I was thrilled when she sent this to me. I didn't know that she was taking an anthro class, let alone discussing creationism. We haven't talked much about it over the years (I'm pretty bad at keeping in touch), so I was very curious about what she thought about the issue. I really like her essay, especially the first sentence. It's really gratifying to see that the relationship between creationism and intelligent design is so transparent.

Without further ado, here's her essay:

Apparently, Intelligent Design is Ridiculous

Being a newcomer into the evolution vs. intelligent design (when did we stop calling it ‘creationism’?!) debate, I must apologize if my remarks in this essay come across as ignorant or presumptuous. After all, I’ve only seen a tiny amount of literature addressing this debate, and I am, after all, still a very green student.

However, the few articles I have read on this subject all seem to point out a glaring fact: intelligent design is nonsense; at least the argument to have it on the curriculum of every science teacher in America is. It doesn’t help things that the argument its supporters are making for its defense doesn’t hold much weight either. Just as an average layman, I would have to support those in favor of evolutionism. Let me tell you why.

The two articles assigned were very much on the side of the evolutionists, and I was aware of that while reading them. However, I did not find anything different from the creationist’s opposing viewpoints to change my mind when doing further research online. Skipping right through where most scientist-evolutionists seem to begin in their arguments, which is the definition and difference of facts and theories, I’ll go to the point I see as the most important one here: that creationists cannot make a solid argument. I picked up a pamphlet in the hallway outside the sociology department today that made its argument by listing various fossils, organisms, and such, and showing how each is missing the link to get from point A to point B, therefore evolution cannot possibly have occurred because scientists have found no evidence of those missing links yet. Naturally, there is no mention of the fact that science is ever-changing, or that it took probably a good deal of time just to collect the fossil samples mentioned. Of course, all this was supported by many important quotes from many important people with lots of credentials. I could not help but wonder if some of these people were being taken out of context, such as Gould described happening to him in his article; how maybe some of these people were making an entirely different point, before they were nabbed by a creationist and stuck in a pamphlet. Anyhow.

Creationists are in favor of pushing our society back into the past by putting religion above all else; and that’s a dangerous way of thinking. The city of Rome was believed, by its inhabitants, to have been founded by two brothers named Romulus and Remus, who were born from a goddess and raised by a she-wolf. For centuries, that is what the leading global power believed. But Rome, whether run by a Caesar or a Republic, had some huge societal flaws. Remember Caligula? Giving power all to one MORTAL person who stands up and declares himself divine is nothing but a recipe for human suffering. (I don’t favor any modern ideas to elevate Graham or Hinckley to divine status; but nor would I support building a shrine to Darwin or Einstein.) How is the concept of the Garden of Eden less far-fetched to those today than the she-wolf tale to the inhabitants of ancient Rome? The details have changed, but the believers are still basing their lives on completely unseen, unverified stories. I understand that religion needs faith to operate correctly, which does not need any evidence for its supporters. I also support the belief that people in society DO need religion- as a guidance system to help society from plunging into anarchy, to help teach its children morals, and as a source of strength and comfort. And that’s not wrong. But no one can deny that man (as in the male of the species) does distort and twist religion for selfish power reasons. A pope once had more power than a king. WWII was barely more than half a century ago. Tying this into the debate at hand, why would we want to start down that old, trodden path where mankind may have progressed but suffered just as much? Bringing intelligent design into the classrooms is like admitting to those religious leaders that we don’t need to continue on with modern scientific study or research (goodbye, cure for the big ‘C’; goodbye solution to global warming). Few leaders, even religious ones, could stand up to the moral promises they’d make to get to the top; even the president is kept in check by congress. There are no leaders among evolutionists who would benefit from elevated status if their side “won” this debate; science would just continue to quietly progress.

And that’s the bottom line I see the creationists’ argument heading toward: a kind of pre-rational, pre-modern thought. The unexamined life and so on. The comparison in one of the articles was really thought-provoking with raising the question of why do these same people kick science to the curb when it comes to evolution, yet if they’re sick, they seek out the most specialized scientist in the field of medicine for answers to their illnesses?
In my archaeology class, we recently watched a video on a 9,000 year-old skeleton that had been found; this man could not be linked definitely to any group of known persons. Yet four days after the archaeologist began his research on this skeleton, a group of American Indians claimed the remains under an act called NAGPRA (Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act) and tried to bury the prehistoric man in an undisclosed grave. No matter to them that this was one of the oldest known human remains found in North America, or more importantly, that no scientist could confirm that this man had been, in fact, even remotely related to them. This argument, like evolutionism vs. creationism, seems ridiculous. Another minority among the population is acting selfishly with hasty, half-baked reasons.

I mention this example because in both instances of the archaeologists with the prehistoric man and the scientists struggling to keep evolutionism on the teaching agenda both have a common, and noble goal in mind: to learn the answers to questions not just for them, the scientists, but for ALL of mankind. It was very selfish of the American Indians to take that man for themselves and deny the entire world the answers he could provide. And it’s selfish for the creationists to send a message to the world (the majority of which, like voting for a presidential candidate, does a minimal amount of research into the subject outside of a few hours of TV) that it’s blasphemy to believe in evolution. Those creationists with the background and the education are not being very responsible leaders to the unlearned, trusting (albeit lazy) masses by ignoring or misinterpreting the evidence given by the evolutionists.

This argument falls in with all the other political correctness sweeping America today and it’s really gotten out of hand (to get on my soapbox for another minute here). I completely agree with the statement that America is losing its place as a world leader because of the growth and acceptance of ignorance today. As a five-year active duty Air Force vet, I can honestly say it’s weakening our military. Our wishy-washiness to defend our borders or oppose those that threaten our country is shameful. Everyone is so scared of offending someone, anyone, that you can’t even chew gum in public anymore without looking over your shoulder. The idea of intelligent design should be in church, just as the Ten Commandments should be kept off the courthouse lawn or we risk returning to the days of the Inquisition.

Yet getting into these scientific debates as of late for me has been kind of reassuring: the archaeologists in the prehistoric man’s case ended up suing the American Indians for the right to study the skeleton, and the scientists defending the evolution theory don’t seem to show signs of backing down. That’s definitely out of step with America’s current fad of quickly backing down and apologizing to anyone who claims they were offended by something; no matter how obviously outrageous their claims. Perhaps there is hope for America after all if we can just continue to weather the storm!

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