As a disclaimer:

First, I didn’t write the headline. Second, I was only seventeen when I wrote this– more than thirteen years ago, and my understanding of these issues has, well, “evolved.” And third, again, I was just seventeen, writing for a conservative audience in a conservative newspaper; I wasn’t trying to be unnecessarily provocative, though I remember thinking I’d pulled off a coup by getting The Town Talk to publish something that referred to God as female.

I’ve referenced this article before in my posts about the Louisiana Science Education Act and my friend Zack Kopplin, who was seventeen when he began his campaign against Louisiana’s creationism law.

It’s stunning that we’re still debating this stuff.

Theory of evolution, God coexist in harmony

Youth Commentary

By Lamar White Town Talk Youth Council

FEBRUARY 4, 2000:

Greek philosopher Heraclitus believed that the only thing constant in our world is change. “You can’t step into a river at the same place twice,” he writes.

Change can heal, hurt, create, and kill.

We live now in a society of unlimited knowledge. Information can be relayed to us in a period of milliseconds via the Internet.

This decade has produced more knowledge than all of human history combined. As a whole, people are more aware, more active and more ambitious than ever before.

Americans are blessed with the privilege of free public education. Thomas Jefferson wrote, “Only the educated are free.” Our freedom, therefore, is directly related to the knowledge we possess.

Not in Kansas

It is surprising to me that anyone in our age of change and intelligence would willfully oppose the teaching of evolution, one of biology’s principal theories. However, in Kansas this year, students will not be taught evolution due to an unprecedented ruling by the state school board.

Their school board will not “require” the education of evolution because it deems the theory to be baseless and inaccurate.

Many people believe that if one accepts the theory of evolution as being correct, then one denies the existence of a soul and God. Their contention is that evolution blasphemously opposes the Biblical translation of creationism, which states that the world was created in six days.

Creationism is a theory that has been debated tremendously throughout our century. When Darwin presented his theory of evolution, humankind felt somewhat less divine.

Creationism, which adheres to the ideas presented by Aristotle and Plato, states every form of life was created separately. It also adopts the idea that life is immutable, which evolution directly opposes.

Essentially, the theory of evolution states that all of the world’s life holds a common ancestor, that all life evolves slowly over time to adapt to changes in its environment, and that life on earth is in the constant process of perfecting itself.

Evolution, unlike most scientific theories, cannot be tested in a laboratory. Life evolves much too slowly for changes to be noted during one generation.

However, many experiments have noted small evolutionary changes in various species of insects in a period of only a few years.

Although the theory of evolution is not infallible, it is fairly well substantiated. The evidence lives all around us.

I believe that evolution is true. I also believe in God. In my opinion, the two things can simultaneously exist with no conflict.

I feel that evolution is a beautiful theory. It presents the idea that God is constantly improving Her or His creation, that life is eternally in the pursuit of perfection.

The Kansas School Board acted out of ignorance. Unfortunately, it did not understand the complexities of evolution and, as a result, denied students the opportunity to learn about it.

After thorough research, it is apparently obvious that the theory of evolution is well substantiated in fossil records and other botanical and zoological findings.

It’s disrespectful

In my opinion, the view that evolution and religion cannot simultaneously exist is disrespectful. There are many religious scholars who vehemently believe in the theory of evolution.

The story of Genesis can also be viewed as a metaphorical tale of creation. Before the world was created, time had no meaning.

After all, the sun was not even created until “day” four. Therefore, a “day,” as referred to in Genesis, might very well be millions of years.

Genesis also clearly states that Adam, the first human being, “was created out of the dirt of the earth.” This is, in a sense, a very evolutionary concept.

Hopefully, the incident in Kansas will prove to be isolated. As our knowledge of our history increases, one can only wish that respect for other beliefs will also increase.

It is important that both sides respect one another.

Harvard professor Steven Jay Gould, one of the country’s leading evolutionary scientists, believes in keeping science and religion in two distinct “magisterium.”

He adopts a theory of non-interference where science only deals with aspects relating to the earth and religion focuses primarily on the heavens.

He is right.

The reason that religion and science have conflicted so much in the past one hundred years is because both sides do not respect one another. Science won’t stop pestering religion about God, and religion won’t stop persisting creationism’s right to be taught in the public classroom.

The argument culminated with the Scopes Trial in 1925. John Scopes, a substitute teacher from Tennessee, was charged and convicted of teaching evolution in the classroom.

His trial, although partially rigged, shed light on evolution and paved the way for future educators to teach the theory.

I respect an individual’s right to believe in whatever he or she chooses.

However, I also feel that the basics of evolution are essential to any person’s knowledge of the past 150 years.

Charles Darwin’s revolutionary idea changed the path of science forever.

In his book On the Origins of Species, Darwin, a believer in God, writes, “There is a grandeur in this view of life (evolution), with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been and are being evolved.”

Scientific hero

Darwin, once considered the most dangerous man in England, is now heralded as a modern day scientific hero. Things change with knowledge.

In 1996, Pope John Paul II, spiritual leader of Catholicism, adopted evolution. He states, “New knowledge has lead to the recognition of the theory of evolution as more than a hypothesis. The convergence, neither sought nor fabricated, of the results of work that was conducted independently is in itself a significant argument in favor for the theory (of evolution).”

Before stubbornly and ignorantly rejecting an alternate view on life, society must thoroughly understand it.

I believe that if the Kansas School Board truly comprehended the theory of evolution, then the theory would still be taught.

In the end, evolution will always be a theory.

Although there is some proof in fossil remains, notably the australopithecus africanus and the Neanderthal man, scientists and archeologists can’t go back in time and research; they can only speculate using what our past has provided us with.

Lamar White is a student at Alexandria Senior High School.

####

As a postscript: My last two paragraphs were stupidly and dishonestly worded, and I knew it at the time. Evolution is science, and I should have made it clear that there is a fundamental difference between scientific theories and stuff people believe in because they choose to read the book of Genesis literally. But again, I was seventeen.

Creationism is not a “theory;” it’s a willfully and blindly ignorant myth. Sure, science is always, existentially, “speculative,” insofar as no one will ever possess a complete and total understanding of the nature and purpose of life and the universe. But creationism is just absurd, ridiculous bombast.

If you’re a Christian and you believe in creationism, then you believe in a dumb and deceitful God, a God who purposely attempts to fool human beings by planting evidence of a structured but beautifully complicated universe– fossils, stars, quantum mechanics, physics, carbon dating, relativity, dinosaurs.

It’s all just one enormous ruse, a trick that the creationist God has played on all of human existence in order to test their “faith” in the literal interpretation of Genesis. What kind of God is that? A dumb and deceitful God, a God that shuns knowledge, a God that hates humankind, a God that corrupts the physical world to ensure that only the most blindly ignorant are granted eternal salvation.

It’s perfectly cool with me if folks want to believe in this hogwash, but when they start attempting to infect public schools with their poisonously ignorant mythology, I have and have always had a problem.

PS: I had also claimed Charles Darwin believed in God, and for a great part of his life, he did. But by the end of his life, Darwin was an outspoken agnostic.

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