Thursday, November 15, 2007

2 irritations

1. To get better idea of our audience, we looked at facts and figures in seminar yesterday. Apparently, right at or a little more than half of the U.S. population believes evolution is real, as opposed to 45 percent who identified themselves as creationists in the Gallup Poll. So pat yourself on the back, America, but lightly. With the margin of error, the real number of evolution-accepters could be just less than 50 percent. But that's not what catches me.

Three-quarters of the evolution group are "theological evolutionists." It's a nice-sounding term for thinking that God created the process of natural selection, and somehow has a hand in it. On the surface, I don't have a problem with this. The Big Bang and the beginning of life are sufficiently murky that I don't really care how you want to interpret the finer details. If God lit the spark, OK.

The problem, as has been elegantly pointed out by Stephen Jay Gould, is that God-driven evolution gives you a distorted view of the truth. It's understandable; the bare facts aren't terribly romantic, at least not compared to the idea of a benevolent creator crafting you in his own image. DNA mutates. It that mutation help an organism survive longer or produce more offspring, it stays around. If it's not beneficial, it doesn't. Prolong that over a few billion years, and you get our current biodiversity, of which humans are part.

Personally, I find it considerably cooler that humans were never "meant to be;" we are but one of an infinite number of possibilities. But it's hard to get over the feeling of human specialness -- we are, after all, the only ones who talk and build bridges and play baseball -- so only about one-eight of the American population believes in "secular evolution." It's kind of a stupid way to talk about it, just like referring to atheism as an "-ism." To people in the group it's no different than believing in gravity or atoms, but you don't call them "gravitists."

Ignorance isn't the worst thing in the world. I'm ignorant of so much myself. To quote Einstein, "We don't know a millionth of one percent about anything." No, my main problem with half-hearted acceptance of evolution is that it reeks of the same logic Intelligent Design folks use. Scientists dismiss it, as they should, and so do science writers. But I think there's a missing of something important there -- how strongly the idea of feeling special and planned as a species rather than random and unnecessary pulls on the collective conscience.

2. The Catholic bishops declared this week that their flock absolutely must consider the problem of abortion above everything else while voting during the coming elections. I won't waste too much time on this, but let me just say this, because it can't be said enough. I don't blame people for having bad feelings about abortion. The anti position is one of the few conservative positions I think it would be easy to sympathize with. I don't.

But that's not what I wanted to say. This is: if you want the country to continue deteriorating into a sad shell, become a one-issue voter. Really. You get the chance to cast a vote for the man who has more influence than any other in this world of 6 and a half billion, and you're only going to take one thing into account. You don't care about the war or the environment or the economy or employment or anything at all, except whether proto-people make it the full nine months or not?

I have no political contempt like the contempt I feel for one-issue voters.

As for the good today: I downloaded a few of the great "Peanuts" songs yesterday, which, when you seperate them out from the mess of nostalgia around Charlie Brown, are strikingly elegant and moving pieces of music. Oh, and I'm listening to "Let's Go Get Stoned" by Ray Charles right now.

And my 3,000-word article is going well. It's about a guy from New York who is trying to start up a a national network and database where people can get info about computer security. He's one of those people so driven in one direction that you can't tell if they're maybe a little obsesssed, but they're ceratinly brilliant. It's raining today, which is sad, but I'm still in a good mood. I'm taking a train to Philly in five days.


Chris said...

I find the idea of Theological Evolution much more troubling. Who wants to worship a God whose best idea for biodiversity necessitates the premature death of ill-adapted creatures? I mean, besides the Norse. But really: do Christians consider what they're asserting? That God intended for nature to be such a violent and compassionless place (red in tooth and claw, as Tennyson put it)?

If I were God, I would naturally deselect one-issue voters. A loving God would have a better plan, no doubt.

Anonymous said...

i was fine with what you wrote, until you used the word 'infor'. such jargon is an obvious sign you've become an east-coast liberal elitist.

which is good, because now i can write off everything you have to say. phew. i was worried i'd have to think critically about something.

go back to your shiraz and backgammon, pansy!

Elissa said...

What's in Philly?

Madison is full of one-issue voters of a variety of stripes. Environmentalists, gay rights advocates, union supporters... But the variety of one-issues makes it interesting to watch.

I have to admit to being a "theological evolutionist" if such a thing exists. There are manifold logical problems with this, but at the heart I think it works for me because it allows me to leave some of the murkiest things unexplained. I'm interested in scientific knowledge, but I'm interested in mystery too.