Friday, January 1, 2010

A new decade of evolution

Today begins a new year and, to most people, a new decade as well. I wish I could see it as a year, and a decade, in which progress will be made in opening people’s minds to the liberating insights of evolution.

But at least where I live, I do not anticipate that this will occur. Religious fundamentalist forces remain strong. In Oklahoma, we now have a Republican majority, and nearly all of them (and no small number of Democrats) support legislation that constricts the teaching of evolution. One of them, a John Birch Society speaker who believes that our society must be founded upon creationism, has announced his candidacy for governor in this year’s race.

Reason cannot reach most of these people. Many of my university students have been brainwashed before they even start primary school, much less college. A first-grade teacher here in rural Oklahoma told me that some of her colleagues—not just the parents, but her fellow teachers—say that Barack Obama is the Anti-Christ. I have had students in my evolution class who remain unconvinced by evidence that I present. I do not mean that they confront it and decide not to believe it; I mean that it slips right through their heads. Against such forces of brainwashing, what can any science educator do? It is not a problem of educating them, but of liberating their minds so that they can think.

All I can do for now is to continue teaching and writing books about evolution, not with any realistic hope of convincing creationists, but to provide encouragement to my fellow evolutionists. I realize what I just wrote does not sound much like encouragement. But the evolutionary view of the world is so beautiful and interesting that we should continue telling people about it for its own sake. Join with me this coming year and remember that the viewpoint we proclaim has been the greatest insight in the history of human thought, a viewpoint we are privileged to proclaim.

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