If you were to say what the theory of evolution is, would you describe it as a religion?
Well, according to the Kansas City Star, the Kansas Board of Education is being sued by an anti-evolution group that claims that it is. The group is mostly comprised of parents who claim that, as Christians, they want their children to be raised with the notion that life is a creation and that it has a purpose. The attorney representing them, John Calvert, is making the case that the State of Kansas should be teaching schoolchildren that life’s origins are mysterious and that there are a number of competing scientific theories as to how it came about.
He is right, of course, but not in the way that he thinks he is.
There is scientific debate about how life came to be on planet Earth, but evolution has nothing to do with that debate. Abiogenesis would be the theory to target, and it is subdivided into a variety of different hypotheses that are being actively debated. These subcategories range from the “primordial soup” hypothesis to the theory that life originated elsewhere in the galaxy and hitched a ride to Earth on an asteroid.
But, as I said, this has nothing to do with evolution, which is neither a religion nor subject to a scientific debate.
The rough definition of evolution is: the changes that occur within successive generations of living organisms, which resulted in the diversity of life that we see today. In plain people’s terms, it explains why we have so many different kinds of animals and plants, but not where they came from. There isn’t a scientific debate over this because biological evolution is the best theory we have that explains the biological diversity of Earth. Not its origins, its diversity.
Not that the kind folks in Kansas would care, seeing as how they are arguing that evolution is a religion. I imagine that they are trying to utilize the legal tactic used by secular groups in the debate over Intelligent Design, i.e. the theory is dressed up to look like science but at its heart is a religious idea.
It isn’t an argument that translates well. The problem with the Intelligent Design Theory is that it claims the presence of an “intelligent designer,” some mystery being that was able to put the pieces of life into place. That assumption brings up the question of who that Intelligent Designer is, which inevitably brings you back to the subject of whether that Intelligent Designer is the God of the Bible or the Flying Spaghetti Monster.
Intelligent Design fails as a scientific idea because it supposes the intervention of a religious deity, which is something that you need faith (the belief in something when there is no evidence to support its existence) to explain the presence of.
Evolution makes no such assumption in its claim, which is why it falls outside the purview of a religion.
The reason why these parents in Kansas think that it is a religion is (likely) because they don’t think that there is any evidence for evolution, and consequently you must rely on faith to explain it.
Which is incorrect. The difference between faith and science is the matter of physical evidence. I could debate with this group of parents until the end of time about the existence of God because there isn’t any physical proof of his existence.
Evolution is another matter entirely. The physical evidence is overwhelming, from the fossil record, to DNA similarities between species, to radiometric and carbon dating and to the differences that we can see with our own two eyes.
There is a difference between denying something’s existence and being in denial about something’s existence. I can deny the existence of Thor all I want because there is no physical evidence of a hammer-wielding Norse man who commanded lightning. I cannot deny the pile of fossils that says that humans and chimpanzees had a common ancestor millions of years ago.
I don’t need faith to think that evolution is an accurate scientific theory. I do need faith to say that God created the universe in seven days. One has something I can see, touch and measure; the other does not.
That’s the difference between saying something is a science versus saying something is a religion.
And until Creationists stop trying to falsely conflate the two, they’re going to continue to be the biggest comedy act in the nation.
Editorial Editor Caleb Hendrich is a senior journalism and political science major, who is the product of millions of years of natural biological evolution, just like everyone else. Letters and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.