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Correct, before the evidence could have been in….

One of the things I’ve always liked about science is that it does not care whether you BELIEVE the evidence or NOT!

This was perhaps one of the reasons that I started my education down a scientific path. Too many folks have opinions about things that they have not spent adequate time to reason through. In fact, some personality types are KNOWN for being opinionated and judgmental, and for jumping to conclusions. It is a shame that they are not penalized in American society (probably because it is they who hand out the penalties). :-) Sadly, some of these (Myers-Briggs) types also tend to require scapegoats.

This week marks the 200th birthday (February 12, like Abraham Lincoln) of the man who drew correct inferences from his observations LONG before the genetic and molecular tools existed to prove him right. His name was, of course, Charles Darwin. In 1859, his revolutionary work, “On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or, the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life” (long titles weren’t penalized back then :-) ) is available for free in several forms (including audio) and several editions, only in English, on Project Gutenberg, along with a number of his other works.

Amazingly, a Gallup poll released this week shows that only 39% of Americans say they “believe in the theory of evolution,” while 25% say that they do not believe in the theory, and another 36% do not have an opinion either way. A high school science teacher I know has a chart that ranks Americans below most other Western (and a large number of other) nations in terms of belief in evolution. But, as I said above, science does not CARE what you believe.

There was an even scarier Gallup poll in May of 2008 which found that only 14% of Americans believe that humans developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, 44% believe that God created human beings almost overnight within the past 10,000 years, and 36% believe that God guided the evolution of humans from animals over a much longer period of time. In case you are interested in the chronology, the last glacial period (Ice Age) ended about 10,000 years ago. About 9000 years ago, agriculture spread from the Fertile Crescent of the Middle East to Egypt.

Some of these folks must have a hard time figuring out what sort of creatures painted the beautiful art in the Lascaux caves 16,000 years ago!

Oh well, we in the American colonies used to burn witches, too, but we have become much more “evolved” since then. :-)

If America continues to treat (and more importantly, PAY) its scientists so poorly, it will continue to be a place where the other countries of the world send their future scientists to be educated. The graduates can then return home to positions more fitting for the amount of time and money expended on a scientific education. American kids will continue to take easier courses where the rewards are better!

As I relearned again this week, Darwin was not the first to propose a theory of evolution, but he was the first to propose a “mechanism” (Natural Selection) by which evolution happens.

The results of Gallup polls, in spite of the years of scientific evidence, suggest that education is the solution. So long as the rewards for having rapid, strong (and often wrong!) opinions are greater than the rewards for study, experimentation, and attempts at objective reasoning, we will continue to crawl slowly out of the mud.

-Bill at Cheshire Cat Photo™

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