Weird Science?

In a recent cover story, Time magazine told the story of the Cambrian explosion, when virtually all the blueprints for animal life burst into being. During the Cambrian period, the anatomical designs for animal life suddenly appeared within what amounts to an instant in geological time. As one paleontologist put it, "there . . . seems to be a non-Darwinian kind of evolution that functions over extremely short time periods--and that's where all the action is." But don't expect to see your kids learning about the Cambrian explosion anytime soon. This crucial stage in life's history has in effect been censored from public school classrooms. Why is that? Perhaps it's because the sudden appearance of vast biological diversity within an instant of geological time directly contradicts Darwin's theory of slow, gradual change. Problems with Darwinism are debated freely in professional journals and even in Time magazine. But in the classroom, biology is sanitized of any facts contrary to Darwinist assumptions. The scientific establishment is committed to the philosophy of naturalism--the notion that natural causes alone explain everything that exists--and Darwin's naturalistic mechanism for evolution provides crucial support for that philosophy. It's a philosophy more and more parents are resisting--despite the contempt of critics. In a recent Washington Post article, Jessica Mathews of the Council on Foreign Relations dismissed the controversy over Darwin as being basically about religion. She's right--but not in the way she imagines. Parents who argue for teaching creation aren't illegitimately "mixing" science and religion, as Mathews charges. What they want is an open discussion of the philosophical or religious message Darwinism already injects into the classroom. Darwinists begin with trivial changes in the color of moths and the size of finch beaks, which no one contests. But then they leap to the grand metaphysical conclusion that life is the product of completely natural, impersonal, purposeless causes--which is highly contestable. In short, naturalistic or atheistic implications are already being pressed upon students through the teaching of Darwinism. The creation controversy signals that parents want students exposed to all the facts--including those hostile to Darwinism and favorable to alternatives . . . such as design theory. Today, that evidence includes not only the Cambrian explosion but also the irreducible complexity of living things, which precludes slow, step-by-step formation. Mike Behe, the author of Darwin's Black Box, argues that complex structures such as proteins cannot be assembled piecemeal, with gradual improvement of function. Instead, like a mousetrap, all the parts--catch, spring, hammer, and so forth--must be assembled simultaneously or the protein doesn't work. The Supreme Court has ruled against teaching creation. But many Americans are convinced that the idea of a mind or intelligence responsible for living things is neither more nor less religious than the insistence of Darwinists that no mind is responsible. When our local school boards make decisions about biology textbooks, you and I have to make the case for allowing students to grapple with the whole range of facts--along with their philosophical or religious implications. It would train students in critical thinking--and thaw the icy grip of dogmatism on the biology classroom.  


Chuck Colson


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