On page-2 of the October 12, 2009 edition of Newsweek magazine (hard-copy subscribers receive it a week in advance), a letter titled, The Angry Evolutionist, virtually leaped from the page, and hit me right between my eyes. The letter writer’s name was Shannon T Nutt from Pittsburgh, PA.
I want you to understand that this is not a criticism of Shannon. I don’t know her. However, I fully understand her frustrations and the point she was making. But, I think some people WILL get the wrong impression, so I simply want to add some clarity to the issue.
Normally, I would insert a hyperlink to Newsweek.com so you could read the letter from their site. However, Newsweek seems to go out of its way to maintain one of the most congested and confusing sites on the Internet.
Or, perhaps I’m just too stupid to find the item. Whatever! In the interest of clearness, it’s important for you to read it in its entire context. So, here it is.
“Here’s a proposal for people of faith and people of science alike: If one side concedes that evolution is a scientific fact, will the other side stop trying to suggest that it is somehow proof that a higher being can’t possibly exist? Just asking.”
The first point boils down to a matter of either implication or inference. Was Shannon implying (unintentionally) that “people of faith” couldn’t also be “people of science?” Or is it just the way I took it? I’ll assume the latter.
Let me cut to the chase. It’s immensely easy for many people to assume the former because a few loudmouths (NOT Shannon) on both sides of the issue are the only ones the media ever publishes.
The fact is that it only takes a few “experts” on either side of this business to bring things to a boil. And, the accommodating media stirs the pot all it can once these few loudmouths get rolling.
I’ve always found that people who BELIEVE tend to be more vocal about their beliefs then non-believers are about what they DON’T BELIEVE. But, even so, this only applies to a privileged few that sell huge volumes of books and magazine articles.
The rest of us, “people of science,” “people of faith,” AND “people of ‘who cares’” go quietly about the business of living our lives as best we can.
I’ve been a professional “person of science” for forty-five years. Truthfully, I have no clue if there is a God or not. And, if there is, I’m certainly no expert on His nature or at interpreting the many things He’s alleged to have said.
Among my list of colleagues and friends, I’ve counted many “people of science” that would not even THINK about beginning each day without some serious reflection on their religious foundations. They’d have literally cringed at the thought of science without religion.
It’s not the “believing” in a superior being (God by whichever name) that’s a problem for the multitudes; it’s the blind adherence to the stupid dogmatic rules that the various religious leaders say came from said “God” that cause all the problems.
For me, whenever I hear self-anointed “experts” on the WILL of God trying to tell others what GOD meant, I interpret it to mean what THEY would have meant, had THEY been God. Cut me a break; get out of town!
The second point is that legitimate scientists do NOT declare that evolution is a SCIENTIFIC FACT. They (me included) claim that evolution is the most robust theory to date capable of scientifically explaining far MORE about the origins life than it does NOT explain.
At a minimum, there is the possibility that a better theory will explain life’s origins more factually. This is a basic tenet of science in the making: that legitimate scientists can never prove their theories true. They simply stand on their scientific merits until something more substantial comes along.
The third point is the fact that the body of legitimate science does not take an “official” stand on the veracity of religious matters. Collectively, we look at religion as a matter of faith, not science. As such, there most certainly is a place for it in education, just not in a biology class.
Even more succinctly, matters of religious faith are well outside the limits of scientific rationalism. As such they warrant NEITHER attack nor defense.
I’ve spent many years in post-secondary classrooms teaching mathematics, and physics. Combining the full scope of my formal education with all that I’ve learned, renders what I KNOW about the Cosmos’s origins to a pinpoint floating on a huge and powerful tsunami of ignorance.
At best, I am completely unqualified to make factual declarations about the existence or non-existence of a Deity, let alone propose dogmatic rules on one’s behalf. And those that do display a degree of arrogance that is positively stunning.
But, in the interests of clarity and honesty, I do not buy the dogma associated with any of the religious beliefs. It is well beyond my ability to accept any notion of an omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, all-loving, and forgiving Deity creating imperfect beings and holding their imperfections against them.
And, I won’t even get into the REALLY silly stuff involving the consumption of meat on Fridays, the consumption of pork products, and a host of others. It’s bad enough scaring a child with going to hell because of some “impure” thoughts! But going there because of eating a hotdog on a Friday?
Anyway, this is the way I see the matter. And, I think that a majority of scientists agree. But, there are over 6-billion people on this rock we all call home; and from a seemingly ever-rising litany of vociferous babbling from a growing army of morons and troglodytes, mileages certainly DO seem to vary.
Finally, going back to Shannon’s original letter and taking it in the light in which I believe she meant it, the human race could do wonders with all the hot air we’d save by following her advice.
Joe Walther is a freelance writer and publisher of The True Facts. You may comment on his column by clicking here.