Our rapidly increasing and accessible scientific knowledge is encroaching further upon religious claims about how our world works.
The recent flap in the Kentucky legislature over evolution being too highly represented in the questions on the ACT is but one example of the inevitable clash between religion and science. State Sen. Ben Waide (R-Madisonville) indignantly proclaimed “… the theory of evolution is not science, Darwin made it up … the theory of evolution has never stood up to scientific scrutiny.”
That may not be the dumbest thing a Republican politician has said in in the past year, but it’s close.
Being a good Baptist, he’s probably heard creationist speakers at his church brought in by his minister saying the same thing. The Heartland Baptist Church in Paducah hosted the absurd pseudoscientific interpretations of the Biblical creation account given by Ken Ham of Creation Museum fame just this past winter. But it’s kind of difficult to derive scientific knowledge from a collection of 2,000 year-old myths and oral traditions.
Heliocentric theory poses the sun and not the earth at the center of the solar system. It has been around for nearly 600 years since Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo and Newton. Though Copernicus “made it up” it has been confirmed thousand of times daily by astronomical observations, launching of satellites, space exploration, etc.
All the data collected from the heavens for hundreds of years has supported the theory and it has stood up so incredibly well to “scientific scrutiny” that it would be ludicrous not to believe it.
Yet that theory is in direct opposition to the first 17 verses of the Bible. The opening verses of Genesis describe a geocentric theory with the earth and not the sun being stationary and sitting at the center with the stars, sun, moon and planets in rotation around it, all being fixed in the “firmament” which separates the waters of the heavens from the waters of the earth. And that theory as described in the Bible, though an admirable and plausible early attempt to account for the appearance of the heavens is utterly wrong. The Bible is not a scientific document. There never was a firmament, and the sun never rotated around the earth.
Yes, Mr. Waide, that one was just “made up” and it has never been found to be true. Unlike the theory of gravity, the germ theory of disease, heliocentric theory, general and special relativity theory, plate tectonics theory and yes, evolutionary theory, Biblical claims about how the world works often don’t stand up to our accumulation of scientific knowledge.
A more recent example of human knowledge undermining a Bible story concerns modern genetics.
The genetic bottleneck of 70,000 years ago describes modern humans descending from 10-15,000 individuals at minimum. The Adam and Eve story is impossible in light of modern science.
The controversy of how to understand Adam and Eve in light of modern genetics is causing quite a stir in conservative Christian circles and we can now expect the denial of evolutionary theory to no longer be the sole battleground between extreme religionists scriptural interpretations and human knowledge.
Despite what Waide and many Americans have been told, evolutionary theory is becoming the most supported of all our scientific theories given the sheer volume of confirming data pouring in every day.
Waide and other Republican legislators should avail themselves of the excellent biology education available from their state universities here in the Commonwealth instead of repeating wholly incorrect sound bites that don’t stand up to scientific scrutiny and don’t make it into college entrance exams.
Column by William Zingrone, assistant professor of psychology.