Column: The Importance of Teaching Reality

“We are surrounded by endless forms, most beautiful and most wonderful, and it is no accident, but the direct consequence of evolution by non-random natural selection - the only game in town, the greatest show on Earth.”

        -Richard Dawkins


Today is Darwin Day. describes it as “an international celebration of science and humanity held on ... the day that Charles Darwin was born ... it celebrates the discoveries and life of  ... the man who first described biological evolution via natural selection with scientific rigor,” and “expresses gratitude for the enormous benefits that scientific knowledge, acquired through human curiosity and ingenuity, has contributed to the advancement of humanity.”


This is something we need in the nation - and especially in the Panhandle.


I am not writing a defense of the theory of evolution; because, the theory of evolution needs no defense. I am writing about the damage caused by the tendency for people to deny young people knowledge - which makes a defense of the theory of evolution seem necessary. “...a defense,” says evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, “against an ignorant prejudice that would make you weep if you weren’t too busy fighting it.”


Chances are, if you grew up here, you never learned about evolution in school. I remember my high school biology teachers prefacing the year’s only half-hour evolution lesson with, “Guys, I have to teach this because of state requirements, but you don’t have to believe it. I don’t believe it myself.”


“ don’t have to believe it...”


The strength of humanity is curiosity; questioning. Brains. Humans survive because we are smart; because we adapt and overcome. You cannot adapt by pretending reality doesn’t exist. You can’t get your way by denying cold fact to its face. 


You can’t build a healthy generation of critical thinkers, explorers, or leaders if you teach kids that they can just ignore whatever challenges their beliefs. That approach is unAmerican. That approach is inhuman.


Beliefs are a basic facet of human life. We search the stars for meaning and guidance, and we always have. You can’t take that away from people, but religion and a recognition of evolutionary biology are not mutually exclusive. Many modern Christians understand how evolution played a part in the development of life on Earth and are still faithful. Pope Pius XII deemed the theory of evolution compatible with Catholic dogma in August of 1950. A quarter of Protestants acknowledge the facts of evolution. Beliefs do not exempt you from living in the real world. When you have observable, undeniable fact, you cannot present it as anything but. 


If you do choose to say “Well, I see that this is clearly true, but I choose not to accept that truth,” that is your right. It is not your right to impose your willful ignorance on other people


If you deny evolution; if you don’t understand evolution - look it up. Look up Abiogenesis. Radiocarbon dating. Convergent evolution. Look up the fossil record, anatomic maps, and genetic analyses and see how they all produce the same predictable diagrams of life. If you believe that the Earth is only 10,000 years old, look up basic cosmology and geology and try to understand the age and scope of our universe. Look up the actual evidence because this is what we are telling our kids it’s allowable to pretend doesn’t exist. 


There is all of the evidence and answers you could possibly want, just a bit of research away; and, it is obvious that some people just aren’t interested in the truth. The tendency is destructive, and the rest of the world laughs at us.


Our kids are more important than our pride or our fears. We cannot have so little faith in our gods or our children that we have to lie to them, hide facts, and bully educators in attempts to shield them from reality. We shouldn’t be stifling them, we should be encouraging them and enriching them.


What kind of generation are we creating by telling children “you don’t have to believe it,”?


As long as people are asking questions as insane as “if we evolved from monkeys then why are there still monkeys?” or making statements like “evolution is ONLY a theory,” we will be losing credibility and respect. 


As long as kids go off to college without an understanding of basic scientific fact, they will be laughed at, derided, and dismissed.


As long as we let them run away from what they don’t wish to recognize, we will be damaging them.