Friday, October 30, 2015

"Only a Theory" deals with assault on evolution

You may have thought that evolution was an accepted concept at least with the educated part of society. The author, Kenneth R Miller has battled in court rooms where evolution has been contested and fears the battles will be ongoing.  He subtitled the book  "Evolution and the Battle for America's Soul"

It is really a fight between natural and super natural.  Scientists are searching for natural explanations for phenomena while intelligent design advocates prefer a super natural explanation.  Creationist felt that evolution was a political concept for the benefit of elitists.

The author had a long history of debating Biblical fundamentalists on questions of evolution.  He found it easy and satisfying when his opponents relied on Biblical words as for example that the earth was created in six days or that scholars had calculated that the world was only about 6,000 years old.  However he found it different to deal with Intelligent Design.  Many of its advocates accept that the world is billions of years old.  Irreducible complexities are the modern weapon.  One example used is of blood clotting--we do not know every detail, but author investigated and proved that evolution is still the better explanation for blood clotting.

The first part of the book takes apart the contentions of the Intelligent Design movement which seem to boil down to an old argument that some things are far too complex to have evolved.  Over time scientists have discovered the likely evolutionary route of some complex body parts as the eye.  Two recent examples were blood clotting and flagellum.  In both cases it was realized that a number of different elements had to fall in place each of which was contingent on other elements.  This was considered impossible, but scientists working from different angles found that indeed not only was it possible, but was also logical.

Like most people I have been urged to get more Vitamin C and was surprised to learn its role in evolution.  Apparently we have a gene that is supposed to function so we don't require Vitamin C to improve collagen formation in our bodies.  But our gene is defective and the author traces this defect to our primate ancestors, most of whom also share this defect, but some don't.

What is the harm in not believing evolution?   It is also a criticism of science and slows down its acceptance.  Science requires free expression, should be open to all debate.  In practical terms it needs popular support.  Another concern is that creationists reject the notion of a common ancestry and the importance of biodiversity.

Miller appreciates that one of the blocks to acceptance of evolution is that it seems to take away the purpose of life.  Rick Santorum, former senator and Republican candidate for president once said if evolution is right then we are all mistakes.  Many evangelicals see a Biblical purpose in life and are suspicious of natural explanations for scripture.

Miller takes a longer view and uses "Desiderata" by Max Ehlmann as a model.  "You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars. you have a right to be here.  And whether or not it is clear to you no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should."   For some these words give a feeling of belonging.

An area of compatability  between the Bible and science is that in Genesis man was formed from dust.

Personally I believe we humans cannot really digest two fundamental things--eternity and infinity and perhaps we don't want to.  Inside those two incomprehensible concepts lies much else we do not know.  We all want to believe there is some sense of purpose underneath it all.  I take some comfort in the Desiderata as noted by Kenneth R. Miller

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