[Previously published in Humanist Voices]
Scientific American recently published a short e-book, Evolution vs. Creationism: Inside the Controversy. It relates to the perennial social controversy – creationism versus evolution. Where the substantive evidence supports the bottom-up theorisation around evolution rather than the top-down face value plus scriptural assertion from numerous religious sectors within the religious subpopulation, not all, by any stretch, but, many, many religious folks, especially in America and the Muslim-majority countries adhere to creationist or quasi-creationist perspectives on the development and speciation of species.
In the world at large, evolution remains the minority view. Creationism remains dominant. Why? In-built agency detection mechanisms, legacy of fundamentalist-literalist interpretation of holy scripture, indoctrination of youth reliant on inculcation of ignorance to keep congregations at a low cultural level, newness of On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life, many reasons exist. What’s the solution? It depends on what you want and how you define the problem.
From the experts in biological sciences with full comprehension of evolutionary theory, and who have encountered the counterarguments in continual barrages from minority sects of the religious population that claim to speak for the totality of religious believers, well-funded fundamentalist preachers and literalist doctrines argue for the young Earth and the top-down narrative provided by literalist readings of the Book of Genesis.
Also, time is a big one. If a philosophy exists for a long time, more than others, and more people happen to believe in it, then the truth might have a hard time overcoming the continual message of top-down design. We seem hardwired, or wet-wired, or evolved to perceive patterns without appropriate natural reality to the pattern, outside of the conceptualisation in our mind’s eye.
Back to this book that you should be reading instead of this, the controversy for evolution and creationism, among the majority of qualified professionals in the biological sciences — which can sound like argument from authority, but seems more akin to argument from authoritative authority, those with relevant expertise rather than irrelevant expertise or no expertise — amounts to ‘controversy’ because the unanimous vote is “for,” or “aye,” rather than “against,” or “nay,” regarding evolution.
We evolved. We remain evolved Great African apes from the Great Rift Valley. We can’t not have genetic relation in the beautiful phrase: the “Tree of Life.” It runs along Lebanon to Mozambique, and even makes for a good topic around Christmas and associated cultural celebrations. Evolution is like a random cousin from a faraway country, who barely speaks your language, hardly knows your culture, and stinks, but you come to grips with them because you realise, to them, you barely speak their language, hardly know their culture, and stink.
There’s a distant, yet deep, kinship in an evolutionary framework. It speaks to the commonality of everyone, but without reference to things outside of confirmed natural processes, except in idle speculation for fun. Humanism speaks to the same impulses. It describes, at least in its core values — not everyone agrees to the letter of the law, one common species — not ‘races,’ whatever that means — with common evolved cousins and common ancestors in a massive Tree of Life spanning up to 3.77 billion years ago. Wow. So yea, life is super old and evolved, not young and created all-at-once in an act of creation only a few thousand years ago. (I’m bad at endings.)
Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. Jacobsen works for science and human rights, especially women’s and children’s rights. He considers the modern scientific and technological world the foundation for the provision of the basics of human life throughout the world and advancement of human rights as the universal movement among peoples everywhere.