Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Solution: Educating Yourself on the Basics

Upon seeing how many Americans and Britons don't understand evolution and even reject its existence, Richard Dawkins took it upon himself to write a book that would bring the discussion back to its foundation. In The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution, Dawkins strips the discussion to the basics and then shows what sorts of evidence would have to be present to show that evolution has taken place. From there he builds the indisputable case that evolution is a fact and that to deny otherwise requires a level of cognitive dissonance, not skepticism.

Dawkins would know about skepticism when it comes to evolution. He has been one of the central authors in changing the way the mechanisms of evolution have been understood. He, like many, identify that Darwin had a good start, but that Origin of Species is far from a complete accounting of the complexity that is evolution (nor was that Darwin's goals). At Utah State University, they offered a course in which you read Origin of Species and identified what things Darwin got right and other areas where he was off the mark.

Until people take the same intellectually curious approach that great scientists take to big issues, we will continue to have moral politics and biblical debates where policy discussions and mutual respect should be.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Problem: Debating an Issue You Don't Understand

Kirk Cameron, the actor turned wacky evangelical, is back peddling his overstated and horribly confused wares. A recent video release by himself and Ray Comfort, author of one of the most poorly written books I have ever read, have teamed up again to take their version of evangelism to a whole new level of absurdity. The video itself is hilarious. Kirk sitting backwards in a chair (what is this a 90s PSA?) making absurd statements about how evolution is the antithesis of Christianity and that Darwin's ideas played a key role in Nazi crimes against humanity. Now I can fathom how evolution makes people who believe the earth is 6,000-10,000 years old uncomfortable, but to make such blatantly untrue and egregious statements is just irresponsible.

Their awesome plan is to take Darwin's original treatise on evolution (which is now part of public domain) and put in a 50 page "special introduction." It appears to be special in the same way people call their dog that can't stop running into walls, "special." They will then hand these out at campuses across the U.S. in an attempt to debunk the "myth of evolution." Now handing out a free copy of Origin of Species is all well and good, but to put in 50 pages of conservative evangelical babble serves no one. People that would even CONSIDER reading the 50 page special introduction would NEVER read Origin of Species, and vice-versa. Cameron's and Comfort's narrow, ignorant, and inaccurate understanding of reality indicates clearly that neither have read the original text that they will be giving away, nor have they read any modern works on evolution. Anyone looking at the evidence, religious or non-religious, with an appreciation of rules of evidence and the scientific method cannot but identify the facts of evolution and how it has given rise to our current biodiversity. To claim otherwise is to simply ignore the vast historical literature and on-going scientific work in any field related to biology.