Richard Nelson, executive director of the Commonwealth Policy Center based in Cadiz, Ky., wrote a letter to the editor in last week’s The Murray State News that included a number of Creationist claims including the following:
“Evolution has yet to explain where matter and energy come from and how living things spring from non-living matter.”
The sheer ignorance of that statement is breathtaking.
Before all my Christian friends and colleagues get their undies in a bunch that I just called Mr. Nelson ignorant, I didn’t. His statement is; he isn’t. He’s obviously an educated, articulate person. I did not denigrate his character, for all I know he’s a regular guy, good citizen and neighbor, family man, and might be a swell guy to go fishing with.
To lodge a complaint against evolution that it hasn’t explained matter and energy is like whining that the study of architecture has failed to explain the origin of feathers. Studying the genetic changes and relationships of living organisms can’t possibly enlighten us to the elementary particles of matter or why the vacuum energy of space isn’t zero. Evolutionary theory applies only to the changes through time of life as we find it on earth. The study of life’s origins is an entirely separate field; “abiogenesis” which addresses the transition from chemical self-organization to biological. Google it: fascinating progress is being made.
A few minutes in conversation, in person or by email with any of our University biologists or physicists would educate Mr. Nelson enough to know how absurd his statement really was. Or he could take an introductory class in biology or physics and see how the study of living things will never, could never explain the workings of any domain at a lower level of phenomena such as physics; matter, energy, elementary particles or their origins. He might just as easily spend a few hours on the Internet and educate himself to the ridiculousness of his complaint. Who convinced him to avoid or ignore knowledge he could easily access in less than a day?
He’s merely parroting absurd and ignorant Creationist sound bites like his additional claim that since Darwin “science has evolved into a worldview called scientism with evolution being a sacred tenet.” Evolutionary Theory is no more sacred than Gravitational Theory, the Germ Theory of Disease or Heliocentric Theory. They are all proven facts of modern science. It is absurd to deny them. More pointedly, Evolutionary Theory is no more “godless” or committed to a scientific worldview than those of gravity or germs. All scientific theories leave God out of the equations. God doesn’t enter into any of the mechanisms that explain our world any longer. Gravitational Theory and Heliocentric Theory, which place the sun at the center of our solar system attracting the planets in proportion to the inverse square of their distances, leave God out completely in explaining how the planets stay in their orbits.
People once thought that without God’s constant vigilance keeping the heavens running, the planets would come crashing down. No one gives that a thought nowadays, not even Creationists. I’ve yet to hear one diss “godless” gravity. Believers of all stripes assume their god is somehow behind it all without throwing out the science. Lastly, some reading of evolutionary psychology and comparative psychology and Mr. Nelson might discover how science is explaining the evolution of intelligence, morality and our “compassion and care for the sick and dying of total strangers” which he claims evolution is “completely silent” in explaining.
I personally invited Mr. Nelson to join my PSY 390 animal behavior class, in session now, which will expand into a comparative cognition and cognitive evolution seminar in April. He might discover a whole wealth of information that his Creationist teachers don’t want him to know, lest he become as educated as the majority of my Christian friends who have no more problem with evolution or the age of the earth than they do with germs, gravity, genetics or the shifting of the continents. Lastly, Mr. Nelson says science “cannot tell us what comprises the soul.” He’s probably got that right but won’t be too pleased with what modern knowledge has to say on that very old conjecture predating the Bible, going back to Greek, Egyptian, Eastern thought, for despite 3,000 years or more of wishful thinking and conjecture by religions and now 150 years of neuroscience there is absolutely no evidence of survival of any kind of mind, spirit, personality, essence, intelligence, what have you, beyond the death of the brain.
Creationism is the biggest lie ever perpetrated on the American public and you don’t have to give up one bit of your Christian faith to ignore its absurdities. Ken Ham and Ray Comfort’s extremist interpretations of scripture are nothing but pseudoscience. Mr. Nelson could learn that in less than a day.
Column by William Zingrone, Associate professor of psychology