It's Not Obdurate Stupidity (Response to "Common Science")
This T.W.O. Cents Column is in response to“It’s a Theory That’s Out There” – from Common Science, by Jeff Danner.
You ask what people, and especially politicians, mean when they say “no” to science, and particularly evolution. I believe it is because people compartmentalize their understanding.
Science is perceived to be the first step toward engineering, toward control. That’s great for cell phones and rockets. Evolution is about sex and death. The perception of science’s connection to engineering means that evolution is the first step to controlling who has sex and who dies, and that it’s not going to be the way our parents did it. This perception is not wholly without foundation: eugenics was a “scientific” idea – and now we’re trying to figure out reparations. Birth control and abortion have shaped behavior in a way that horrifies traditional communities. You’re probably not familiar with the details of nuclear weapon detonation. For similar reasons, many think that teaching human evolution is a questionable idea.
Human evolution is on the wrong time scale for the 24 hour news cycle.
A six thousand year time scale fits better with most people’s imagination than a 13.7 billion year history. It is disturbing to many that human beings (the ones that matter, anyway) might be importantly different from the ones described in sacred texts.
Philosophy and religion are not studied in our schools, and therefore when most people seek capital T Truth, they look to sacred traditions that have often become quite parochial, and many of those traditions have no trouble believing creation to have been so polluted by Satan that false evidence (e.g., fossils) permeates the world the way evil desires permeate the soul.
If you, as I, think that capital T Truth includes evolution, then we must first talk about Truth, and then we have to connect evolution to what people value – even if they think they value something more than Truth, which may sometimes be safety, sometimes compassion, and in a few sad cases, simple comfort or fleeting power.
It might be quite a departure for a “science” column.