Sunday, January 10, 2010

Darwin says no!

Religion is not the only place where you find mythology. Most people use the word “mythology” to refer to false stories, to lies; and since they deal with large subjects such as where the world came from and the meaning of life, myths are (to most people) really really big lies. But mythology consists of stories that provide a framework of meaning to our lives; their technical accuracy is wholly irrelevant. The Judeo-Christian myth of the Exodus provides a framework for liberation. Patriotism has a lot of myths, turning dead politicians into heroic statesmen. Even the patriotic stories we know to be wrong—like George Washington and the cherry tree—help make us more patriotic. There is also some really good evolutionary mythology. All species share a common ancestry, so all life on the planet is really our extended family: this is one really good evolutionary myth.

But some mythology is bad. This happens when the overarching idea is wrong. We all know examples of this, such as versions of religion that teach that God is going to burn the world up really soon and therefore we can go ahead and pollute and destroy the planet right now. This myth is not just technically inaccurate, as are all myths, but will lead us to destroy our planet and feel righteous while doing it.

In future entries, I will give what I consider to be some examples of bad evolutionary myths. (You can see Darwin shaking his head “No!” in the photo.) Before I do so, I invite you to send in comments about what you think might be some bad evolutionary myths.

Bad evolutionary myths not only mislead people into misunderstanding evolution, but also provide whipping boys for creationists to use.

1 comment:

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