Okay, I know this blog is going to be pretty controversial, but – never having been one to shy away from controversy – I'm going to write and be damned. Then the CFZ can publish and be damned, and I'll take all the flak, I promise.
Recently, in one of my local newspapers, as on the CFZ site, there has been a furious debate over Creationism. A close perusal of the correspondence led me to some interesting conclusions. Those who believe Creationism do not believe in Evolution. And - get ready for this – those who believe in Evolutionism do not believe in Creationism. Once the full magnitude of this revelation embraced me, everything became clear and I could see what all the fighting is about.
The platform that underpins this debate has nothing to do with what is true, and everything to do with a) what people believe, and b) how far they'd be prepared to go to deny others the right to teach anything different.
Many people have attempted to draw a neat line between the two parties: happy-clappy Fundamentalist tub-thumpers on one side; arrogant, toffee-nosed intellectuals on the other. Oh, that it was that easy. The truth is that there are myriad shades of grey in between both extremist positions and it's not nearly so easy to determine where Evolution ends and Creationism begins.
In strict terms, neither Evolutionism or Creationism can be called an absolute fact, as we weren't around to see what really went on back then. I know, I know; scientists say that we can still see "evolution in action", but this is a red herring, really. Finding a hair on the floor does not prove that you're standing in a barber shop. You can't simply take a small chemical process that takes place in an incredibly short space of time and say that because you've seen it happen it must prove the veracity of the entire context you decided to put it in. Even ardent Creationists accept that there is change within species over time. The point the Creationists argue – rightly or wrongly – is not that change doesn't happen, but the extent to which it does happen. Evolutionists are comfortable with the notion that, given enough time, an ape can evolve into a man. Creationists accept that the ape may change, but say it will never be anything other than an ape. To the Evolutionist, change has no boundaries or limits other than those set by Grandfather Time. To the Creationist, one species cannot change into another and therefore the change is limited.
The first question should be, "Which theory is true?" We're never going to agree on that, of course, so let's pass that one by.
The next question, then, should perhaps be, "Who has the right to believe and promote whichever of the two theories they cleave to?" The simple answer to that is, everybody. We live in a country where free speech is still available, although it is being diluted at an alarming rate. The Evolutionist can still say he believes in Evolution, and the Creationist can still say he believes in Creation. Neither is a hanging offence, despite the fact that a disturbing number of zealots out there think that teaching Evolution/Creation should be.
Having established that both sides have a legal and/or moral right to put forward their own viewpoint – no matter how daft the other side thinks it is – we now have to dip our toe into the murky waters of human nature and ask just why it is that Creationists get so hot under the collar with Evolutionists, and vice versa.
Whether or not one agrees with Creationism, it's easy to see why Creationists don't like the theory of evolution or, indeed, those who promote it. Rightly or wrongly, they are convinced that life on earth was brought about by an omnipotent Creator. Therefore, any other explanation for the origin of life must be wrong, and detracts human beings from paying due homage to God for his handiwork.
Evolutionists are also convinced that they are right, of course; not because of Biblical proof-texts, but because they sincerely believe that science overwhelmingly proves their case. Creationism is dangerous, they say, not just because it is wrong but because it coerces people into denying the plain facts of the matter.
Whatever stance we may take personally, the plain fact is that there are always going to be both Evolutionists and Creationists around to fight about the issue. Intriguingly, both camps take an astonishingly high-handed view of the matter and can be downright arrogant when it comes to debating with "the enemy".
Creationists are so convinced they have God on their side that they argue with an almost papal-like conviction. If many of them had their way, the teaching of Evolution would be banned because its proponents are arguing against God himself. If God is the Supreme Being, all-knowing, all-seeing, then who the hell are Evolutionists to front Him up?
To Evolutionists, Creationists are incredibly conceited to think that they can call God in as the captain of their team. Who the hell do they think they are? The problem is that many ardent Evolutionists are just as arrogant themselves. I have heard it argued by academics – seriously - that anyone who possesses anything less than a degree in one or other of the sciences should not be allowed to publish anything opinionated on the argument and – further – that it should be a criminal offence to do so. Bloody amazing. So, what happened to freedom of speech? The truth is that the heads of some academics are stuck so far up their own bloody arses that they are blinded to anything resembling fair play or democracy. How dare those religious nutters disagree with the theory of Evolution! I'm a scientist!
The bottom line is that both sides have a right to express their opinion, and the other side has the right to disagree, even robustly. Bible-believing Christians are going to have to accept that they can bleat as much as they want about having God on their side, but no one has to believe them. Scientists and academics are also going to have to climb down from their ivory tower and grasp one salient fact; their academic brilliance and lofty sense of conviction may impress those within their own community, but we lesser mortals still have a right to say that they're talking complete and utter bollocks.
Back in the 60s, Erich von Daniken wrote his best-selling Chariots of the Gods? in which he essentially argued that, many millennia ago, the earth was visited by beings from a far-distant planet in our galaxy. We now know that von Daniken got some things wrong, and he has candidly admitted that not everything he said in Chariots of the Gods? and subsequent books was perfect. However, von Daniken's greatest achievement was not that he successfully marketed a radically new idea to explain how we got here, oh no. Von Daniken proved for the first time that the general public could, en masse, stick their fingers up at the scientific community and get away with it. Chariots of the Gods? marked a change; people were no longer scared to question the status quo.
The knotty problem comes when we ask ourselves whether both camps have a right to promote their theory as factual. The answer is yes, they do. Every human being has the right to believe – and say – that he or she is right. Others may not like it, but that's just tough. Ah, but does either side have the right to a monopoly on which theory is taught in our schools, colleges and universities? Personally I don't think they should have. Scientific evolutionists pretty much argue, "Look – you can't have this bloody Creationist rubbish taught in our classrooms. It's not scientific, and I know it's not scientific because I'm a scientist. It's also wrong, because it's stupid. I also know it's stupid, because being a scientist, I'm clever and know better than that lot what stupid is".
And the Creationists? "Ban evolution! It's wrong because God says it is, and I know because he told me in the Bible!" But couldn't the Bible be wrong? "Of course it isn't wrong. You heathen! The Bible is true because the Bible says it is!"
Neither side deserves any Brownie points, I'm afraid. Personally I have no problem with Creationism being taught in academic establishments. The academics might think we are putting our students in peril of being deluded by religious clap-trap, but I value freedom of speech more than orthodox scientific dogma. The history of the world is made up of people being taught things that were coloured by the social, spiritual, scientific and political environment in which they found themselves. Did the sky fall in? No. Let the Creationists put their view forward as a scientifically legitimate one if they wish. Just because others disagree, does that give them the right to stop them? Imagine if only one line of thought was ever put forward in any scientific or academic discipline – we wouldn't get very far.
Do I believe in Creationism? Well, I'm not a Christian or Bible believer, but my North American spiritual heritage teaches me that there is a Creator, and I do believe that he initiated life in some way. However, I also believe that the theory of evolution is essentially true in terms of how life developed – just not in terms of how it got started.
If we're to get anywhere in this debate, Bible-believing Christians are going to have to stop being so po-faced and sanctimonious; just because someone doesn't believe in Biblical creationism it doesn't mean that they're the Devil incarnate. As for Evolutionists, they need to chill out and stop talking to Creationists as if they're idiots. They're not – they just see things differently. Whatever stance we take, we can be civil in our approach, recognise the right of the other bunch to enjoy free speech and refrain from insulting them. We may think they're crazy, but that isn't a criminal offence either.
Of course, I'm not tarring all scientists and creationists with the same brush; I've been speaking in generalities here. The CFZ is scientific in its approach, bit one would hardly call them anally-retentive or orthodox in their approach! Likewise, Creationists aren't all religious loonies, either. So, if the cap doesn't fit, please don't wear it.
Well, I'm off to create myself a glass of beer, for this I do know; it certainly won't bloody well evolve.
Erm…and that's about it, really.