01 Dec / Why Evolution Is True by Jerry A. Coyne
Here’s the assertion: “Human beings, as we know them, developed from earlier species of animals.” In a 2006 poll given to adults in 32 countries, the resulting U.S. statistics were just plain staggering to me … only 40% of Americans deemed this statement true, a whopping 39% said it false, and 21% answered they were unsure. Is that possible? Six out of 10 Americans do not believe in or are unsure of the science of evolution! Which means, at the very least, that six out of 10 Americans clearly need to read this book.
Even more shocking, creationism – repackaged (rather ironically) as “intelligent design” – is gathering support. Since 1985, 5% fewer Americans are sure of evolution. Some UK schools now offer creationism as an alternative to evolution, which officially would be illegal in U.S. public schools (the Constitution still insists on the separation of church and state). Both evangelical Christianity in Europe and fundamental Islam in the Middle East, Jerry Coyne reports, are expanding the numbers of contemporary followers of creationism. “And – the ultimate irony – creationism has even established a foothold in the Galápagos archipelago. There on the very land that symbolizes evolution, the iconic islands that inspired Darwin, a Seventh-day Adventist school dispenses undiluted creationist biology to children of all faiths.”
Go ahead and call me simplistic, but any belief in creationism ended for me when my 4th grade CCD (Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, otherwise known as Catholic Sunday School) teacher couldn’t answer what seemed an incredibly obvious question: if all of humankind (what a misnomer!) was descended from Adam and Eve, where did Cain’s wife come from as the disobedient first couple only had two sons with one murdering the other? … Rather disturbing to think we started off so dysfunctional right from the very beginning!
Evolution, if nothing else, is thankfully less messy. The modern theory of evolution “is easy to grasp,” Coyne offers, consisting of six components: “evolution, gradualism, speciation, common ancestry, natural selection, and nonselective mechanisms of evolutionary change.” If you’re already one of the believers (like me), you might find his almost-300 pages of careful research and irrefutable scientific evidence that follow a little too much of good thing. But make it through and you’ll have some great little party gems … I can’t, for example, look at those shivering, wide-eyed, worrying chihuahuas anymore without thinking about the Toltec Indians who probably bred them as a food source. Eee-yew … oh, humanity!