Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Defending Evolution

Apologies for not posting in over a week, despite such interesting developments as the Kansas show trials. In fact, I was defending evolutionary biology in other ways: from the students in my class. The final, it turned out, was very tough. But now it's all over so I have the time to write again.

This weekend I bought a copy of a book called Science and Creationism, a collection of essays edited by Ashley Montague and published in 1984 (a nice Orwellian coincidence), two years after the trial which reversed Arkansas' decision to give equal time to evolution and "creation science" in the state's classrooms. The book contains some excellent essays by the likes of SJ Gould, Isaac Asimov, Gunter Stent and Sidney Fox. However, it makes for depressing reading because it shows that the debate has not progressed in over 20 years. Sure, Dembski and Behe are marginally more sophisticated (emphasis on sophistic) than Gish, Whitcomb and Morris, but that is no consolation. To borrow the World Wide Rant's beautiful turn of phrase, the trials have been like concentrated stupid people. To see that I'm not exagerating, check out the posts from last week here and here (avoid CNN at all costs). Here's what Gould had to say back then (he's alluding to the Scopes trial of 1925):

When I think that we are enmeshed again in the same struggle for one of the best documented, most compelling and exciting concepts in all of science, I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

I couldn't agree more.

As another antidote to the stupidity and lies peddled by creationists, I recommend PZ Myers' wonderful essay about the Niobrara Chalk, the famous Kansas geological formation.