Can we leave the science versus religion controversy dead and buried already? It seems it is impossible to utter Charles Darwin at the dinner table without broiling a proverbial storm of frigid discourse. Yet ever since the double-helix was unraveled, the validity of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution is as widely accepted by scientists as the fact that the Earth revolves around the sun. As the birthday of the infamous scientist approaches in February, the legacy of Charles Darwin continues to spark unnecessary controversy, but why?
It is often reported that the reason Charles Darwin continues to spark unnecessary controversy is that many Christians, particularly in the United States, hold to a literal view of the creation account in Genesis. However, as in all aspects of life, their exist many shades of gray. Can scientists, and in particular those with an atheistic bent, share at least some of the blame for sparking a debate where none need be?
Nearly everyone who has ever taken high-school biology has been taught the theory of evolution as developed by Charles Darwin. If asked in an oral exam if evolution is guided, many students are prone to answer, “no.” The problem with this query is that it masquerades under the guise of being a scientific, rather than metaphysical, question. Yet too often, evolution is taught in public schools as if it were unguided; so it should be no surprise that the mere mention of Charles Darwin sparks a controversy among folks who believe in a God that intentionally brought humanity into being.
On the other side of the coin, evolution and atheism tend to be presented as two sides of the same coin by the mainstream media that seemingly role into each other in a very natural and intellectually appealing way. This is most noted by the widely acclaimed evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, who also happens to be the world’s most notorious atheist.
Dawkins represents a brand of atheism commonly dubbed “the New Atheists” that is equivalent to a school yard bully who is proud that he is smart and eager to inform everyone that Santa Claus does not exist. The term atheist used to have the connotation of a gravitas professor wearing a crisp, tailored sport coat smoking a pipe. Now it has the connotation of a smug redditor masturbating to his own cleverness behind a keyboard. Yet the pretentiousness that accompanies the New Atheists doesn’t do the movement any favors whose goal, among many others, is to educate a largely religious population about the merits of evolutionary theory.
As a public educator, Dawkins rightly refuses to debate creationists. Such hesitation is met on the grounds that sharing a public platform with a creationist gives the false impression that legitimate doubt regarding the merits of evolutionary theory—namely, that all living organisms are related— exist within the scientific community. It is therefore unfortunate that Bill Nye, who needs no introduction, plans to debate with Ken Ham at the Creation-Museum on February 4th which, appropriately enough, is the birthday of Charles Darwin.
The legacy of Charles Darwin continues to spark unnecessary debate so long as scientists purport a theory of evolution that is inherently naturalistic and Christians hold to a literal interpretation of Genesis. Rather than one sect outfitting the other, Christians and Atheists will simply have to co-evolve.
Opinion By Nathan Cranford