By Herb Silverman
February 12, 1809 must have seemed like an ordinary day to those alive at the time, but we now know it was the day that two giants of humanity were born: Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin. Lincoln ended slavery in the United States in the nineteenth century, and Darwin made one of the greatest scientific discoveries of the nineteenth century.
But the same people vilified both of these great men, often for the same reason: biblical literalists found scriptural reasons to promote slavery and denigrate the theory of evolution.
Lincoln is now revered for what he accomplished — the humanist principle that it is morally wrong for one person to own another is commonly accepted. But moral issues are more easily understood than scientific ones, which is why so many Americans today who reject slavery still cling to a creationist worldview.
When young Charles Darwin set sail on the Beagle in 1831, he was a firm creationist. But he was open to changing his mind when he observed evidence that proved the contrary. We wouldn’t have expected pre-scientific biblical writers who lived thousands of years ago in a small corner of the Mediterranean world to have described the theory of evolution (or DNA or any discovery of modern science), and, of course, they didn’t.
Creationism should no more be taught as an alternative to the theory of evolution by natural selection than “stork theory” should be taught as an alternative to sexual reproduction.
However, here’s a distressing statistic: even though we are living at a time of so many important scientific discoveries, 42 percent of Americans believe God created humans in their present form less than 10,000 years ago — a bit of Bible-based dogma promoted by scientifically ignorant biblical literalists who disparage Darwin.
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