17 Sep 2011

Talking About the E-Word

Well my goodness. Didn't that mention of evolution get things ramped up on this blog and over at the Globe and Mail? (As of today, 805 comments on that story.)

I'm not surprised and I doubt any of us who work in science journalism are. There is no winning the argument, so I generally don't engage. Of course then the "other side" will jump on that — as Daniel Loxton is now being engaged via a comment on Helaine's post. If you don't engage, you are thusly seen as unable to prove your thesis. It's all too exhausting, but it did get me thinking (yet again; I've written about evolution a fair bit) on how we do explain it. (Or not, as my next paragraph will attest.)

It is challenging science and needs some basic understanding of biology, genetics, adaption and such, but it needs to be discussed. I had a little wake-up call in the fall out from this story, in a carpenter's-house-is-never-built sort of way. When I asked my 14 year old what she understood about evolution she asked if that was something to do with humans and apes and added that her Grade 7 teacher didn't teach it, saying that everyone said it was too boring. Okay then. I have some work to do.

Perhaps I can use this as a starting point?

Isn't it a beauty? Yes, it is The Origin of Species as a BOARD BOOK! I found this little gem in a thrift store years ago (along with Shakespeare's All The World's a Stage and Beethoven's Symphony No. 9, all in board book form.)

So, in this book, the very brave author (Harry Karlinsky) and illustrator (Brock Irwin) attempted to summarize Darwin's thesis in five wordless pages. The first one looks like this:

I just wonder what the publisher was thinking? Do you think that cover would engage your two-month-old baby? And, wow, I would just love to hear how the stories unfolded. Yet, it's a brave idea and somehow refreshing that back in 1991 someone thought evolution was an important enough idea to make it available to babies.

So, in my house, I think we will start opening up this discussion, a discussion I wrongly assumed was being covered elsewhere. I might just start with the board book, but I will also start with the idea of magic. Not magic in a woo-woo sort of way. Nor in a way that — poof, everything was created, perfectly formed in six days. But magic in a sense of evolution being such a logical, beautiful, ever-interesting, and always awe-inspiring explanation of life on Earth.

1 comment:

David said...

Adrienne wrote: "When I asked my 14year old what she understood about evolution she asked if that was something to do with humans and apes and added that her Grade 7 teacher didn't teach it, saying that everyone said it was too boring. Okay then. I have some work to do."

Phillip Johnson writes: "If somebody asks, 'Do you believe in evolution?' the right reply is not 'Yes' or 'No.' It is: 'Precisely what do you mean by evolution?' My experience has been that the first definition I get will be so broad as to be indisputable--like 'There has been change in the course of life's history.' Later on a much more precise and controversial definition will be substituted without notice. That one word evolution can mean something so tiny it hardly matters, or so big it explains the whole history of the universe. Keep your baloney detector trained on that word. If it moves, zap it!" ("Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds", 1997)

Johnson says naturalists define words like "evolution" and "science" in such a way that naturalism is true by definition. He said in World magazine: "Evolutionary science is based on naturalism and draws philosophical conclusions to that base. That's why any theistic evolution is inherently superficial. It leads people into naturalistic thinking, and they don't realize it." (Nov. 22, 1997, p.13)



ATHEISTIC NATURALISM God does not exist. There is no real design (only apparent design) and nature is all there is. eg. Carl Sagan: ”The Cosmos is all that is, or ever was, or ever will be.”; Richard Dawkins: “…although atheism might have been logically tenable before Darwin, Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.” (in The Blind Watchmaker”, p. 6)

AGNOSTIC NATURALISM One is unsure whether God exists. Though nature may not be all there is, nature is all that matters.

THEISTIC NATURALISM God exists. He designed the natural laws. There is no design in the strict sense, and although _in principle_ nature is not all that matters, _in effect_ it is.

THEISTIC EVOLUTION God designed the natural laws so that their ordinary operation would result in the intended outcome.