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Creative Research

My research explores multimodal creativity through print and digital stories. Please feel free to comment or contact me!

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Thursday, October 20, 2005

Once Upon a Time, the World Was Flat...

The Maker’s Diet - Diet is based on the Bible;
subtitle: "The 40-Day Health Experience That Will Change Your Life
Forever"
This book is number 132 on USA Today’s top 150 book list. I had to rub my eyes and refresh the page when I saw the description.

Seriously, how far are they going to reach for diets? I’m fairly positive a dozen suits in a boardroom came up with this one, and then found some penniless and desperate writer to shamefully pen it for them. “Let’s get all those fatties in the Bible belt! They’ll believe anything if we say it comes from the Bible!!!”

If I looked hard enough, I could probably find praise for McDonald’s in the Bible. Are we getting to the point were religious bookstores will now sell Bibles with web-site-like sidebars proclaiming Mark 3:21 as a God’s approval of spray-on hair? The saddest part about it is that people buy it. It’s like it’s gospel or something.

Here we are, in the infancy of the 21st century, 60-some-odd-years after discovering the nature of the blueprints for life, capable of cloning living beings and flying billionaires to the moon, and yet we still have all these folks who believe the whole Garden of Eden fiasco is an accurate, historical fact. In fact, according to a recent Gallup poll, the majority of Americans (read: those who made their mark next to GW…twice) believe Adam and Eve walked naked out of paradise 4000 years ago, and that the fossil record, the scientific experiments, and DNA itself are fabrications created by a liberal populace intent on forcing their children to learn about dirty apes. My comment to you majority? Apes are smarter than you are.

Okay, that’s a bit harsh. I take it back. Let’s take a deep breath here. Let’s consider first the age of our population. Baby Boomers make up something like one third of our population. Consider (as I must whenever I have this conversation with my mother) when this generation received their education: sometime in the 1960’s. Now consider that around 80% of the collective knowledge we have today was “discovered” since 1960, and think about how long it takes for new knowledge to actually trickle down to the educational system. These folks didn’t get the education I did; the double helix was still being published in scientific journals to the astonishment of scientists. No one was entirely sure how it all worked (and, okay, we’re still not), but back then Darwin was some old guy with a goofy idea and God was…well, God. Who were you going to believe? Who were you told to believe?

They hadn’t sequenced the human genome then. They didn’t know that we share 96% of our genetic material with chimps. They didn’t know that there are plants that can form new species in one single generation. They thought the Earth wasn’t old enough to generate the kind of intelligence we humans have (and, no, contrary to my personality, I am not using the term “intelligence” with my tongue in my cheek). Natural selection was pretty far-fetched – and we now speculate that it is only one of dozens of different mechanisms for change in life.

Consider the education of our population. How many attend college – even just freshman biology – versus how many finish high school? How many attend secular private versus religious private or public schools? The religious institutions won’t tell you about Mendelian genetics, I assure you, and we’ve all noted the degradation of public education in general. How many come from highly religious backgrounds? There are so many factors contributing to a person’s mindset about this idea it’s hard to even know where to begin to measure them.

The thing is, the theory of evolution has simply developed a bad rap. And I use the term “theory” so as not to piss you majority off: truth be told, if you look at the definition of the term evolution, you will find that it simply means change over time. I don’t see how anyone can possibly dispute that it exists. You can see it in your own lifetime! But evolution has become the poster child for evil, practically. The fundamentalists, the church-on-Sundays and even just the undereducated have managed to turn evolution into Satan. Evolution is not supported by a literal translation of the Bible, therefore it is blasphemous. If you ask them to “believe” (again, how can you believe or disbelieve fact? Can you disbelieve the dirt beneath your feet?) in mankind’s rise from a primordial soup, it seems you are asking them to renounce God, renounce morality. Shoot, you’re very nearly telling them that killing your neighbor is all right and honoring your mother and father was a retarded idea in the first place. People seem to inherit prejudice against evolution the same way they inherit racism or political affiliation.

The best thing we can do is educate people. Why do we have to get into endless arguments over a sticker in a textbook? Why do we have to fight endlessly over a simple statement in a biology class that some people don’t buy the evolution theory? What purpose does it serve other than to drive the camps farther apart? Does it tell anyone anything more about the science than they didn’t know before? Of course not. We just go back and forth in a legal version of “I’m right, you’re wrong.”

Much as with other controversial ideas, the best thing we can do is chill out and get all the facts. Be willing to admit you don’t know everything, that some things are as yet unexplained, and that it’s a possibility that you’ll die and discover all your ideas were wrong. I personally don’t see any facts in support of intelligent design, or creationism; as a naturalist, I’m convinced all we see has arisen out of a glorious chaos. But I grant the possibility that perhaps a more advanced being than we had a hand in life on Earth. I grant the possibility that I’m entirely wrong, although I wouldn’t hop on a plane to Vegas to bet my life savings on it. But I’ve come to recognize that ideas as revolutionary as evolution enter the realm of faith for many, and that for many, shaking their foundation of faith can bring it crumbling to the ground. They’ll do anything, including attack you, to keep themselves afloat. That’s okay – they can have their “beliefs” about scientific fact. As education progresses (don’t believe the headlines, it will progress), as minds open and a new generation succeeds the throne of the majority, the idea will slowly come into its own.

Once upon a time, the world was flat, and once upon a time the Sun circled the Earth. Find me a reasonable person now who would claim that is the case; and yet thousands of years before the idea took hold, men lost their lives for such a dangerous notion.

The world will come around. We just have to be patient, and wait for the change over time.

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