Texas won’t mess with facts on evolution

Do the laws of nature apply in Texas and should these children be exposed to theories of evolution?

church

(Carrie Lyle)

 

TEXAS– Things are heating up in Texas and not because of global warming. It’s the opposite: a fevered insistence among some anti-science zealots that the laws of nature do not apply in the Lone Star State. And even if they do, for God’s sake don’t tell the children.

The Texas Board of Education, whose members oversee the content of textbooks, has long been stacked with people who question evolution.
This year

they’re focusing on biology textbooks. Even if evolution stays, the proponents of creationism will likely try to make evolution die a death of a thousand qualifications. Apparently, these zealots believe that children’s innocent minds shouldn’t be stained with the messy, often unwieldy process we call the scientific method. For children, keep it simple.

In the process, the textbooks would teach the students to ignore what they see and hear in the world around them. When you teach children to ignore what their senses tell them, you deprive them of the critical knowledge they need to make good decisions about their lives.

The word senseless implies what it does for a reason. In fact, the ancient Romans had a word for having been struck senseless. The word is stupidus, and its translation into English is pretty obvious.

Based on overwhelming evidence, scientists have concluded the Earth evolved over the past 4.5 billion years as the result of the Big Bang, which originally formed our universe about 14 billion years ago. They’ve also concluded that humans evolved from very simple organisms into highly complex ones. The Bible, read literally, says that the Earth was created about 6,000 years ago by the command of a supernatural God, who made the Earth look old as a test of faith.

According to the creationists, scripture trumps the evidence. Which of these explanations will get a thumbs-up from Texas? And why should those of us who live outside of Texas care?

To be fair, you can find lots of creationists in every state in the Union. And you can find lots of people in Texas who disagree with creationism and are doing their best to combat this scourge. Yet decisions made in Texas disproportionately affect children throughout our nation. Publishers accept the dictates of their largest markets, and most other states suffer the consequences.

This year, the consequences are yet again stacked in favor of the creationists’ God, who, according to watchdog groups, will have six more champions among the so-called expert textbook reviewers in Texas. In this context, creationism represents a rejection of everything else we know, including our experience of the world around us.

My own conviction is that we need to revise our understanding of God, as we have continued to revise our understanding of the natural world. Until about 500 years ago, people thought the Earth was at the center of the solar system. But Copernicus looked into the night sky and discovered otherwise. People didn’t respond to Copernicus by saying that if the earth isn’t the center of the solar system, then the solar system doesn’t exist. Likewise with God.

The traditional belief in a supernatural God is longstanding. Ironically, it has evolutionary origins, springing from our desire to understand the world in terms of cause and effect. If our ancestors saw something happen, they assumed that someone or something caused it. They surmised that the biggest possible effect, the universe, must have had a biggest possible cause, which they called God.

The evidence now suggests otherwise. But just because God isn’t supernatural doesn’t mean that the experience of God is a fantasy and religion is a farce. We need to leave behind the traditional and outdated view of God that requires us to ignore what we know. And we need to take everything we experience into account in order to discover a God we can believe in.

Despite all we know, we still have a need to understand where we belong and why. Our deep spiritual connection to everything that is present in our lives and world, as well as all that is past and all that is possible, constitutes the experience I call God. This revised understanding of God isn’t an optional aspect of life today; it’s necessary—not to explain everything we don’t know, but to make meaningful sense of everything we do know. As people who care about our country and our kids, we need to make sure our children are given every opportunity to do the same. Any other approach would be, well, stupid.

 

Galen_GuengerichThe Rev. Dr. Galen Guengerich is senior minister of All Souls Unitarian Church in New York City, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and author of “God Revised: How Religion Must Evolve in a Scientific Age” (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013).

Galen Guengerich
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  • Hildy J

    You think we could give them back to Mexico?

  • oldwolf53

    Can’t imagine Mexico wanting them. Why don’t we just let them become their own republic again and put a big fence around them instead of on the Mexican border.

  • weidens

    Reminds me of the quip:
    “God created man in his own image. And man, being a gentleman, returned the favor.” (attributed to Mark Twain)
    Creationismists (those seeking to impose their version of creationism) inevitable seem unable to imagine God as having substantially different opinions than themselves, while the Bible repeatedly warns that God does not think like a human. Sort of like an ant being incapable of understanding the thoughts of a human, so humans are incapable of understanding the thoughts of God. The abundant evidence of evolution within creation makes it clear that either (1) God loves Evolution, or (2) God is a liar (for creating such evidence).

    To put it bluntly, Creationists are idolators: they have made their god in their own image.

  • Hildy J

    Those who compiled the torah understood that the creation stories were poetry. They had to understand that because the two stories were different. But to the jews telling and writing these stories, it wasn’t a problem because poetic imagery was used throughout the OT.

    Off the topic a bit, my vote for one of the funniest misunderstandings from Zechariah’s words:

    See, your king comes to you,
    righteous and victorious,
    lowly and riding on a donkey,
    on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

    Whoever wrote Matthew was a bit too Greek and he ends up having Jesus ride into Jerusalem on both like some sort of circus rider.

  • Secular1

    You will have to include Lousiana too.

  • ThomasBaum

    Galen Guengerich

    You wrote, “The Bible, read literally, says that the Earth was created about 6,000 years ago by the command of a supernatural God, who made the Earth look old as a test of faith.”

    Many who take, at least some of the bible, as quite literal do not come to the conclusion that you represent in the above statement.

    You wrote, “But just because God isn’t supernatural doesn’t mean that the experience of God is a fantasy and religion is a farce.”

    How do you “know” that God is not supernatural?

    Isn’t it something that many, believers and non-believers alike, like to put God in a “box”, God doesn’t fit into any of our “boxes”, no matter how exquisitely designed and built.

  • Catken1

    To be fair, didn’t they have them throwing their coats on the foal while Jesus rode on the grown-up donkey?
    But it’s still a basic misunderstanding of Hebrew parallelism, yes.

  • Catken1

    I dunno – might want to keep that one for the food, jazz, and Mardi Gras…

  • Hildy J

    To be fair rather than funny, while they put their cloaks on “them” (i.e. both) for Jesus to sit on. An uncomfortable position but not quite the circus rider standing on two horses.

  • Hildy J

    One can choose to take the history and dates of the bible as non-literal and discard the 6,000 year old date of creation. They can also choose to take the Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 stories as non-literal and accept deep time and evolution. However, Galen is correct that if you take the OT as literal, you can add up all the generations the bible catalogs (in excruciatingly boring detail) and you come down to approximately 4000 years from creation to christ.

    Furthermore, if you want to admit that science has a better dating system and the bible is not literal when it describes creation, why believe the bible is literal when it describes god?

  • leibowde84

    Yeah, I thought that according to you the Bible was not up to interpretation. You can’t claim that the 6000 years thing is not true, but the rest of the Bible must be taken literally. it is counterintuitive.

  • itsthedax

    So, do creationists and intelligent designistas want schools to teach the theory that the earth was created and terraformed by visiting extraterrestrials? After all, if they contend that it had to be created by an intelligence, wouldn’t that be more likely than a supernatural explanation?

  • james rogers

    To the slightly enlightened citizen this article is nothing more than common sense. Why would we want our young people saddled with a bronze age education in a modern world. The rest of the world is laughing at us. I also blame the publishers for knuckling down to the knuckle draggers.

  • SimonTemplar

    This article is a bit heavy on reactionary emotionalism and a bit light on (read starved of) any actual examples being debated. In other words, the article shows up here to preach to the choir.

    I do notice an interesting contradiction in the following statements by the author:

    “Apparently, these zealots believe that children’s innocent minds shouldn’t be stained with the messy, often unwieldy process we call the scientific method.”

    “…the textbooks would teach the students to ignore what they see and hear in the world around them.”

    contrasts with:

    “The traditional belief in a supernatural God is longstanding…springing from our desire to understand the world in terms of cause and effect. If our ancestors saw something happen, they assumed that someone or something caused it. They surmised that the biggest possible effect, the universe, must have had a biggest possible cause, which they called God.”

  • Catken1

    We have better observational tools and a larger store of knowledge than our ancestors. The scientific method, given our current tools and knowledge, no longer supports the idea that lightning is God smiting enemies, or that demons cause illness instead of germs.
    Our ancestors did in fact have no better explanation available to them, most times, but we do. Clinging to our ancestors’ explanation is, in fact, ignoring what we see and hear and know to be true.

  • ThomasBaum

    Hildy

    You wrote, “However, Galen is correct that if you take the OT as literal, you can add up all the generations the bible catalogs (in excruciatingly boring detail) and you come down to approximately 4000 years from creation to christ.”

    I don’t know what the yearage is if one takes literally the adding up of the generations but even that would be only from the first person mentioned to the time of Jesus plus up to the present and it doesn’t take into consideration how long each of the first five days lasted since the days mentioned in Genesis refer to a period of time.

    As I have said in other places, according to what it says in Genesis about the seventh day and what Jesus said about Dad then we are still in the sixth day and the seventh day has yet to arrive.

    You then asked, “Furthermore, if you want to admit that science has a better dating system and the bible is not literal when it describes creation, why believe the bible is literal when it describes god?”

    For the simple reason that I have met Who Is referred to as God the Father and I have met Who Is referred to as the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit has revealed to me that the Catholic Eucharist Is Jesus.

  • ThomasBaum

    leibowde84

    You wrote, “Yeah, I thought that according to you the Bible was not up to interpretation.”

    If you are speaking to me than I don’t know how you came up with this statement, I have said that there are some things in the bible that are quite literal and one of those that many of the “literalists” and many of those of Jesus’s day didn’t take literal is when Jesus said, “This Is My Body” and “This Is My Blood”.

    You also wrote, “You can’t claim that the 6000 years thing is not true, but the rest of the Bible must be taken literally. it is counterintuitive.”

    Again, if you are speaking to me, pretty much the only things that I take as literal, as indeed fact, are those things that I have learned thru personal revelation from God, such as that God Is Love, a Being of Love not that love is an attribute of God and that God Is a Trinity and that the Catholic Eucharist Is Jesus, as I have said many times before, I don’t know a lot but I do “know” a little.

    Many people seem to think that believe and know have one and the same meaning, I disagree with this, there are many things that I believe and there are some things that I know.

  • ThomasBaum

    I believe that God gave us our brain for more than to fill up that space in our head and that God created creation in such a way that at least some of it is discoverable by us and that this discoverability allows us to use our knowledge for good or bad, the free will thing.

    One of the interesting things about our universe that I have read about fairly recently on these blogs is the Planck thing, where we can go back so far in time, so to speak, with computer modeling and all of the laws of science seem to collapse.

    Back in the late 70′s, I took an astronomy course and I was taught that we could, with computers and mathematical formulas, go quite a ways back and I suppose that this part of science hasn’t changed a whole lot except for it being refined either somewhat or a lot.

  • SimonTemplar

    As far as “God smiting enemies with lightning” or “demons causing illness/.” you don’t find that in the Judeo/Christian scriptures. In fact, with regard to the latter, the people of Jesus’ time seemed quite aware of the differences between physical/psychological issues and demonic issues. (Matthew 4:24)

  • Catken1

    Nonsense. You find God smiting people with plagues and natural disasters all the time in the Bible.
    So what evidence do you have for your deity in the natural world, beyond “that’s too complicated for me to understand, and I’m too lazy to do the work to explain it, therefore it must be my magical superbeing doing it”?

  • SimonTemplar

    Actually, you do not find this happening “all the time” in scripture. In fact, if you total all of the instances of which you speak, and combine them with all of the miracles in the Bible, factor in the fact that the Biblical scriptures encompass a time frame of several thousand years, then it would seem that such supernatural acts of God are quite rare, even in the Bible.

  • persiflage

    ‘…………..all of the laws of science seem to collapse.’

    You wouldn’t say that if you lived on an advanced alien world with alien mathematics at your disposal. There must be one or two such civilizations in the 100 billion galaxies that we know about……….

  • Rongoklunk

    . “During the youthful period of mankind’s spiritual revolution, human fantasy created gods in man’s own image, who, by the operations of their will, were supposed to determine, or at any rate to influence the phenomenal world. Man sought to alter the disposition of these gods by the means of magic and prayer. The idea of god in the religions taught at present is a sublimation of that old conception of the gods. Its anthropomorphic character is shown, for instance, by the fact that men appeal to the Divine Being in prayers and plead for the fulfillment of their wishes. Nobody,certainly, will deny that the idea of the existence of an omnipotent, just, and omni-beneficient personal God, is able to accord man solace, help, and guidance; also, by virtue of its simplicity, it is accessible to the most undeveloped mind. But, on the other hand, there are decisive weaknesses attached to this idea in itself, which have been painfully felt since the beginning of history. That is, if this being is omnipotent then every occurrence, including every human action, every human thought, and every human feeling and aspiration is also his work; how is it possible to think of holding men responsible for their deeds and thoughts before such an almighty being? In giving out punishment and rewards, he would to a certain extent be passing judgement on himself. How can this be combined with the goodness and righteousness ascribed to him? The main source of the present day conflicts between the spheres of religion and science lies in this concept of a personal God. It is the aim of science to establish general rules which determine the reciprocal connection of objects and events in time and space. For these rules, or laws of nature, absolute general validity is required – not proven.”

    Albert Einstein. “Out Of My Later Years”. p27

  • Catken1

    Again, Simon, what non-supernatural evidence exists for your God?

  • leibowde84

    If you are going to teach Creationism in Schools, then you would legally have to teach all other religious teachings on creation as well, including Scientology, Buddhism, Islam, Hindu, etc. As our government, forefathers, and the majority of our citizens recognize, we, as Americans, 1. do not have a national religion, and 2. cannot use legislation or the public forum to legitimize or establish one. Picking one religious creation story and leaving out the rest would absolutely mean that we are endorsing Christianity and/or Judaism as our national system of faiths. This would be un-American and wrong, as we have said countless times that we are absolutely not affiliated with any religion.

  • leibowde84

    The Unites States, by its own restrictions, can never associate itself or endorse a specific religion or set of religions. We do not and cannot have a national religion. Thus, teaching religion in publicly funded schools, that most must send their kids to due to financial reasons, is inappropriate and illegal.

    If Creationism is taught, then all other religious creation stories must be taught as well.

  • SimonTemplar

    Evolutionists claim that all life on earth is descended from a common ancestor and exists in present form by virtue of natural processes unguided by intelligence. This central tenant of evolution is unproven by science and is open for debate. Why is this such a scandalous claim?

  • Catken1

    It is not proven, in the sense that it cannot be mathematically proven beyond an absolute doubt. But it is proven to the point where to doubt it, unless contrary evidence somehow arises, would be foolish.
    We have evidence from DNA relationships, morphological similarities, the fossil record, the existence of species in the visible process of speciation (see “ring species”, for example) and visible before-our-eyes adaptations. We SEE IT HAPPENING, in the DNA code, in the steady changes in the fossil record from, for example, a hippo-like creature to a modern whale, in actual, visible adaptations and changes we can see with our two eyes in creatures with smaller generational times than ours, in islands and archipelagos where similar species, separated by space and impassable boundaries, diverge in new and interesting directions. This is no more “open for debate” than the question of whether germs or demons or bad fairies cause disease, or the question of whether gravity pulls the Earth around the Sun or whether it’s God pushing us around in a circle with an invisible finger.
    As for guidance by intelligence, what intelligent being would allow such cruelty? Evolution is, while true, a bitterly cruel process that involves a great deal of parasitism, exploitation, pain, and death – what God would use that as a process for developing life, when better ones can be thought of by any engineer?
    Nor have you any substantial evidence for your “guiding intelligence,” either – no written messages in the DNA code, no tablets found in Cambrian rock giving an account of the creation of life, no visible or tangible appearances to anyone with recording methods on hand. These would be so easy for any sane God to provide – why would a God who views belief in him, and a true opinion as to his nature and personality, as so important that he will torture anyone who believes wrongly forever and ever, not provide such tangible evidence to everyone?

  • SimonTemplar

    What intelligent being would allow such cruelty? How about mankind. For us, tinkering with genetics is big business.

    DNA code IS evidence of intelligence. We have plenty of examples of codes. All of them required intelligence, especially when they need to be upgraded. When they are not upgraded, they eventually degrade (and our computers crash). Yet we are to just accept that DNA, the most remarkable code we have encountered which also produces the most remarkable results we’ve ever seen, is somehow just a happy accident. And all of the subsequent upgrades are supposedly provided by purely natural processes with no intelligence required.

  • persiflage

    ‘This central tenant of evolution is unproven by science and is open for debate. Why is this such a scandalous claim’

    Since science decries any form of absolutism, one might say that the final chapter on biological evolution has not been written. On the other hand, science has long since closed all doors to the spurious claims of supernaturalism as serving any explanatory functions for the natural, observable world.

    Religion has yet to produce one viable, testable theorem. Until that day arrives, theology can safely be ignored as having anything worthwhile to say about the processes of evolution and the origins of man.

  • DRJJJ

    So, we’re all a extremely complex machine the evolved by luck/chance, from a pond scum into monkey then man, with no designer or evidence to back it up?? I’d call that a false religion, perhaps the macro evolution faith movement and intellectually dishonest for sure!

    Secularization of church and state has done us no favors-turn on the news! In God we should trust! Einstein said we’re all like little children in a huge library with millions of books-someone must have written those books, huh? Loving God and loving others (essential Christian doctrine) what a horrible world view to promote huh?

  • jay2drummer

    “So, we’re all a extremely complex machine the evolved by luck/chance, from a pond scum into monkey then man, with no designer or evidence to back it up??” A) there is evidence to back it up, in the form of DNA markers and genetic studies, and luck had nothing to do with it. The strongest survived. That’s not luck, it’s success breeding success.

    “I’d call that a false religion, perhaps the macro evolution faith movement and intellectually dishonest for sure! ” Except that it’s not a religion at all, and it’s backed by reason, logic, and actual evidence, which is far more honest than any theory based on the bible, which has no scientific bases at all.

    “Secularization of church and state has done us no favors-turn on the news!” Other than protecting religious liberty for all and actually providing our next generation with facts and an education so they can survive in the world.

    ” In God we should trust!” Whose God? Yours? Mine? The guy down the street’s? Unless you’re willing to teach every religions’ creation stories and present them as equally valid, you don’t get to teach them alongside something that is based on real evidence.

    “Einstein said we’re all like little children in a huge library with millions of books-someone must have written those books, huh?” Yes, people. But that doesn’t make all books equally valid. Religion doesn’t belong in a science classroom because it’s based on faith, not science.

    “Loving God and loving others (essential Christian doctrine) what a horrible world view to promote huh?” And something ignored by many Christians. Christianity has also been used to justify more evil and suffering for more people throughout history than any other set of beliefs.

  • XVIIHailSkins

    The last thing the religionists will ever surrender is their claim to the minds of children (not just their own children, but yours and mine as well), and with good reason. They know well enough that in the 21st century, it is only through the malleability of the youth that the ancient fantasy can be sustained.