Conversations: Civilization of Ignorance


Sappho
All complex life on earth has developed from simpler life forms over billions of years. This is a fact that no longer admits of intelligent dispute. If you doubt that human beings evolved from prior species, you may as well doubt that the sun is a star.

Galene
Well, not to be facetious, but the sun doesn’t look like any other star.

Sappho
Granted, the sun doesn’t seem like an ordinary star, but we know that it is a star that just happens to be relatively close to the earth.

Helena
The point is this: imagine your potential for embarrassment if your religious faith rested on the presumption that the sun was not a star at all. Imagine millions of Christians in the United States spending hundreds of millions of dollars each year to battle the godless astronomers and astrophysicists on this point. Imagine them working passionately to get their unfounded notions about the sun taught in our nation’s schools. This is exactly the situation Christians are now in with respect to evolution.

Sappho
Indeed, Christians who doubt the truth of evolution are apt to say things like “Evolution is just a theory, not a fact.” Such statements betray a serious misunderstanding of the way the term “theory” is used in scientific discourse. In science, facts must be explained with reference to other facts. These larger explanatory models are “theories.” Theories make predictions and can, in principle, be tested. The phrase “the theory of evolution” does not in the least suggest that evolution is not a fact. One can speak about “the germ theory of disease” or “the theory of gravitation” without casting doubt upon disease or gravity as facts of nature.

Helena
It is also worth noting that one can obtain a Ph.D. in any branch of science for no other purpose than to make cynical use of scientific language in an effort to rationalize the glaring inadequacies of the Bible. A handful of Christians appear to have done this; some have even obtained their degrees from reputable universities. No doubt, others will follow in their footsteps. While such people are technically “scientists,” they are not behaving like scientists.

Galene
Why not?

Helena
Because they simply are not engaged in an honest inquiry into the nature of the universe. And their proclamations about God and the failures of Darwinism do not in the least signify that there is a legitimate scientific controversy about evolution.

Sappho
In 2005, a survey was conducted in thirty four countries measuring the percentage of adults who accept evolution. The United States ranked thirty third, just above Turkey. Meanwhile, high school students in the United States test below those of every European and Asian nation in their understanding of science and math. These data are unequivocal: we are building a civilization of ignorance.

Galene
Hang on, just to divert from the point for a moment, the United States is a nation involved in spaceflight; this talk of a ‘civilization of ignorance’ might be a bit strong, don’t you think?

Sappho
The survey seems accurate enough. Very well, you mentioned spaceflight. Take a wider view and tell me how many children in US schools are being groomed for NASA? Generally speaking, what is their background? And more importantly, what kind of schools do they attend? Or if that is too cynical for you, consider the national school tests of other nations involved in spaceflight, such as China and Russia. Are these civilisations a bulwark of educational excellence for the majority of its children?

Helena
The achievements of the few are not necessarily representative of the many, we all know that. Let’s not lose track of the point. That is to say, in the field of education, there’s a lot to be improved upon. And in order to realize that, critics are needed.

(Based on: Harris. S. 2006. Letter To A Christian Nation p. 22-23)

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