Saturday, April 1, 2017

well, I'll be a monkey's uncle

The phrase shown above first surfaced in 1925, shortly after the ending of the trial officially known as the State of Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes, but more commonly known as “the monkey trial”. 

In 1925, Tennessee’s Butler Act made it illegal to teach human evolution in any state-funded school. Scopes deliberately incriminated himself so that the case could have a defendant, and eventually was found guilty and fined $100, a verdict that was overturned on a technicality. 

Eventually, the case went to trial, and it attracted some big name lawyers. William Jennings Bryan, a three time Presidential candidate, argued for the prosecution, and Clarence Darrow spoke for Scopes. Although the trial technically was a defeat for the fundamentalists and creation theory, anti-evolution legislation was not challenged again until 1965. Even today, 14 states, including Arizona, Texas, and Tennessee, use tax dollars to teach creationism in at least some of their schools. 

The monkey trial came to mind this week as I monitored a biology class at a local high school. The instructor had 3 different biology text books to choose from, and all of them covered evolution extensively, in articles that ran from 50 pages up to almost 100. 

Even today, there is not universal agreement on evolution. According to the latest Gallup poll, roughly 40% of our population simply does not believe in evolution. That may seem surprising, until you consider the fact that 20% of the population believes that the moon landing was faked, 30% of the population believes that the Bible is literally true, and more than 40% of the population believes that the earth is less than 10,000 years old. Additionally, more than half the population believes that global warming is a hoax, and was not caused by human activity. 

If you are in that group that believes that the Bible is literally true, I would invite you to take a short Bible quiz. Don’t panic. It is an open book quiz.

For centuries, there was a conflict between religion and science. In the 1400’s, Copernicus developed a philosophy called heliocentric, which states that the Earth revolved around the sun. In the mid-1550’s, Galileo also publicly proclaimed this philosophy, but was roundly criticized by the Catholic Church, who maintained that the sun revolved around the Earth. When Galileo refused to accept the Church’s teaching, he was condemned as a heretic, and was placed under house arrest for the rest of his life. It was not until 1922 that the Catholic Church admitted that they were wrong.  

Today, there apparently are few points of disagreement between science and the Church, as evidenced by the fact that Pope Francis stated last fall that global warming is a sin, and protecting creation is a work of mercy. In October, he also stated that science and faith are not at odds:

(Although the position held by the Catholic Church is similar to the position of other churches, there is not universal acceptance of the theory of evolution, and the most conservative sects are the least likely to believe in evolution):

Sadly, our politics have gone in the opposite direction. 

During the Nixon administration, legislators on both sides of the aisle approved the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act, and they also created the Environment Protection Agency. There is currently a bill pending in Congress to eliminate the EPA altogether, which makes no sense at all. 

Some of today’s politicians believe that global warming is a hoax, and some of them even believe that global warming is a hoax created by the Chinese, possibly due to the fact that the Chinese are now the world’s largest producer of solar panels (but still the world’s largest consumer of coal). 




In February of 2015, Senator Jim Inhofe (who was then the chair of the Environment and Public Works committee) brought a snowball to the Senate floor to support his theory that the Earth is actually getting colder, not warmer. 

On March 29 of this year, the Chair of the House Science Committee (Lamar Smith) declared that the journal “Science” was not objective. 

A few years ago, I had an opportunity to watch the BBC special titled “the incredible journey of man. If you click on the links in the article shown below, it is clear that the human race is a lot older than 10,000 years, and it clearly evolved from a lower life form. 

If you view the first video, you will notice that early man bore a striking resemblance to today’s chimpanzee, so it shouldn’t surprise to know that we share 96% or our DNA with chimpanzees. For what it’s worth, we also share 60% of our DNA with bananas, which I find extremely confusing.



For those who simply do not believe that evolution is a credible theory, it’s worthwhile to read the comment of Neil Degrasse Tyson, who said, “the good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it”. 

The debate over creationism versus evolution is likely to continue long after I’m gone from the Earth, but regardless of what your opinion is, it is important to remember the words of Mark Twain, who said, “ it ain’t what you don’t know that gets you in trouble, it’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so”.

 What do I believe in? Well, I certainly support the theory of evolution, but I am also troubled by the fact that all of Earth’s incredibly complex organisms didn’t simply just happen, so there is probably a bit of Intelligent Design at work here as well.




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