Gravity is a “theory” but you had best not disregard it when you stand on the parapet of a tall building. To call evolution a “theory” simply means that it is tested, refined and buttressed; that nothing in science is ever definitive, which we have known since Hume’s famous critique of induction. People who disclaim evolution have the same intellectual status as flat earthers, but are more dangerous.
We are no longer living in a world in which manual skill determines the success of nations. We have moved from a better mousetrap to a better mouse -- that is not just the one on your computer, but the one genetically engineered. The scientists who do such work, who innovate, who win Nobel prizes, who create drugs and treatments, without exception -- these scientists understand and subscribe to the theory of evolution. It is the basis of their work. Evolution is a foundation of modern biology. That a majority of Americans do not “accept” it is not a reflection of national character. It is an intellectual mudslide of gargantuan proportions.
Evolution is inconsistent with religion only if you believe that religion must be based on antiquated, disproven ideas. But if you believe, as the Talmud puts it, that “God’s seal is truth” then faith has nothing to fear from what is true. Science describes the mechanism by which God created and creates the natural world. Religion is the view that charges the world, in its wonders, with meaning, with significance, with the promise of transcendence. None of this is threatened or diminished by understanding modern science.
Faith should not be afraid of science; rather it should fear the rampant, gross materialism that denies the reality of spirit on the one hand, or the thoughtless terror that something my ancestors did not know happens to be true on the other. Surely we have come farther than this tired screed on both sides of the science/religion divide? You need not believe that the world has corners or that space is shaped like a dome or that people sprung fully formed in Eden to be a person of faith. Governor Perry was incorrect; the Texas board of education actually repudiated teaching creationism in schools. To which one can only say, hallelujah.
David Wolpe | Aug 24, 2011 12:01 PM