Society's sentiment towards evolution

Posted Oct 19, 2002
Last Updated Oct 30, 2011

Our culture has a lot of resistance to the evolutionary model science offers in explanation of human origins. In churches, preachers call evolution "evilution”. In homes, parents tend to repeat the sentiments of ministers, or hide from the topic altogether. Even in schools it is hard to get a good explanation of the exact nature of evolution. My high school biology teacher covered the topic like a stone skipping across a creek touches the water. There was a splash here and there, and the journey was quickly over. Then the teacher said we could accept or reject the idea however we saw fit, as if he were embarrassed to be discussing the topic. The attitude was as if there was no reason anyone should ever accept the notion that species evolve, especially not humans.

The mockery played on Darwin’s theory is a clue to the mental laziness of our culture. That people reject evolution as a valid course of history is not the problem with our culture. The problem is that so many people reject it without ever knowing anything fundamental about the theory. Most people were told that evolution means men came from apes, and that’s it. Most people also think that evolution means there is no God, and that, according to most, is the main reason to fear and reject Darwinism. No one takes the time to judge the real mechanics and implications of evolution.

As far as the fear of people that evolution means that humans came from apes, the idea is only partially true. If evolution is true, humans and apes shared common ancestors. Humans did not evolve from any ape now existent. While this does not deter from the Victorian revulsion to evolution, it contradicts the general idea that men came from chimpanzees. No chimpanzee is anyone’s grandfather.

The notion that evolution precludes God is erroneous, although it does have implications that contradict many religious beliefs. Evolution has nothing to say about God except that God did not create man and the other species during a week six thousand years ago. Evolution means that species gradually formed over time through the process of natural selection, sexual selection, and displacement, a process that requires millions of years. Evolution has nothing to say about God’s role in the process, which is the bane for many moralists. God could have set evolution on its way, but the theory stands equally well without any mention of God. This is the fear of many people.

Rejecting evolution out of fear is a poor reason to reject it. That evolution makes logical sense there is no doubt. Sometimes people try to argue that evolution is impossible, but they make these claims without any stable argument. People say that everything is too perfect to evolve randomly. The notion, though, shows ignorance of the theory. "How could a tree evolve?” people ask. The very question implies that they have never studied the theory, never gotten to know its remarkably stunning logic. The logic of evolution does not prove its truth in relation to reality, but understanding it is necessary to make a judgment concerning its value.

One thing that should be said is that evolution has a different set of conclusions concerning the impulses and nature of people from non-evolutionary views. Traditional views that assume man was specially created see humanity as a creation reflecting perfection; that all things have a higher purpose; that as bad as things might get, there is someone out there prepared to save us when we mess up. Evolution has no savior waiting to redeem us. Evolution does not say humans are more important than other life-forms. Evolution gives us no purpose.

In an evolutionary world, men find their own purposes. In an evolutionary world, humanity must live with its decisions without hope for salvation. If evolution is true, the existence of the race, and all our progresses, dreams and goals are our own responsibilities. No one, in that scheme, will make the world better for us. We have to. If evolution is true, it is dangerous to assume that everything is in good hands. As far as I can see, that is the only moral lesson of evolution.

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