Evolution and Religious Creation Myths: How Scientists Respond

Evolution and Religious Creation Myths: How Scientists Respond

Evolution and Religious Creation Myths: How Scientists Respond

Evolution and Religious Creation Myths: How Scientists Respond

Excerpt

America is becoming more and more isolated from the rest of the world. This statement is true enough politically and ideologically, with the faulty intelligence used to justify the 2003 war in Iraq, now known worldwide, and the increased influence of religious thinking in the conduct of government affairs, starting at the presidential level with George W. Bush. There is fear that our nation's separation of church and state is now threatened, considering further that some politicians are using an anti-evolutionary, creationist stance to sway their constituencies. But for a scientist, it is not just politics that is of the essence. For a person practicing and teaching science, there is now serious concern that the traditional division between science and religion is coming to an end among a growing portion of the American public, which is further promoting our international isolation. And scientific isolation from the rest of the world is a frightening, dangerous prospect.

This state of affairs is not exactly new in the United States. Many will recall the Scopes trial (also called the Scopes monkey trial) of 1925, in which John T. Scopes, a high school science teacher, was sentenced for teaching evolution to his students. Back in those days, the State of Tennessee had banned evolution from its science curriculum, a law that Scopes—who had been recruited by the American Civil Liberties Union—had evidently violated. Later, another court overturned the verdict. Regardless of this outcome, it is disturbing that a state had at that time taken the ill-inspired initiative to enact legislation regarding the teaching of science, particularly in an area perceived as questioning the validity of a literal interpretation of the Bible.

The consequences of this legislation—and the trial—were that, for a time, America was seen as a scientifically backward country, particularly in Europe. There, the issue of science potentially clashing with certain religious beliefs had been settled earlier (although not quite completely) and was certainly not expected to be legislated upon. In essence, science and faith had arrived at a state of modus vivendi in Europe, with the United States more or less following suit shortly after the Scopes trial. And this is indeed the way it should be, because science and religion represent very different modes of knowledge and understanding. Even though both can address similar questions (What is the origin of the universe? What is the origin of life?), they tackle these questions from very different perspectives and on completely different levels. In brief, science does not need religion, and religion does not need science. When they try to encompass one another, both become self-destructive.

Unfortunately, a renewed antiscience movement appeared in America in the 1990s, and it is becoming more and more vocal. It is also spreading to other parts of the world. This movement includes some scientists, particularly life . . .

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