Do You Fear What Might Happen If The World Believed In Evolution?
Long For A Return to "The Good Old Days?"
Some conservative religious believers fear that teaching evolution breeds immorality and also invites "God's judgment" to fall upon society as a whole. But what were the morals of society like in the "good old days" before Darwin? And did the Creator refrain from smiting believers in creationism with horrific diseases? The answer in both cases is, "No." Simply rent the DVD, The Gangs of New York, or read the books, Moll Flanders, Tom Jones, Les Miserables, Candide, or just about anything by Charles Dickens to get a taste of the immorality and diseases that ran amuck in the "good old days."
Imagine yourself in a world where most people are poor, desperate and uneducated, where epidemic disease and famine are regular occurrences. There is no (or next to no) police protection, and as a consequence every man is armed and carries a chip on his shoulder called "honor." Criminal organizations will provide protection--at a price. States and cities are run by men who rely more on terror than votes.
Imagine beer or wine are the drink of choice for all ages. (Better a permanent drunkenness than chronic diarrhea from drinking impure water--and you wouldn't believe the amount of alcohol that was consumed per man at America's first Constitutional Convention, amazing they could stand, let alone think.)
Imagine alcohol and narcotics are freely available to anyone of any age.
Dosing your child with laudanum was deemed laudable (laudanum was a form of opium).
Imagine prostitution is the only way for many young single women to support themselves and their children.
Imagine women and children working 16 hours a day, 6 days a week, at jobs we would not now give to any man, and getting paid far less than men.
Sometimes the children were not paid anything at all, but simply wards of "workhouses."
Imagine men, women, and children working without health insurance, unemployment compensation, safety in the workplace, and with a status a notch above slavery.
Imagine half of all children dying before they have reached their eighth birthday. (The French naturalist, Buffon, who lived prior to Darwin's day lamented, "Half the children born never reach the age of eight.")
Imagine children crippled by (or dying from) the simplest untreated infections, not to mention tuberculosis, small pox, chicken pox, polio, strep throat, diphtheria, typhoid, measles, mumps, scarlet fever, yellow fever, the flu, pneumonia, cholera, meningitis, tetanus and staphylococcus infections. (Before smallpox was eradicated in the latter half of the 20th century it had disfigured, blinded, and killed hundreds of millions, most of them children.)
Imagine unwanted children regularly abandoned--some mercifully to poor houses and orphanages, others left exposed to die. Infant abandonment is rare enough these days to make the front page--back then it was an everyday occurrence. Even if the child was wanted, there would be a good chance that it would not have a mother as she may have died in childbirth or from subsequent bleeding, injuries or infections.
Imagine abortion being practiced with little if any government regulation, and what few anti-abortion laws there are being largely unenforced. Imagine due to lack of birth control many women suffering on a yearly basis both the risks of childbirth and its pains (without anaesthesia, antiseptics, nor surgical intervention) until either their ability to bear children fails, or they do. And, due to her "place in society" she has no say on getting pregnant in the first place.
Imagine wife-beating an acceptable practice. Not until 1891 was it illegal for a British man to beat and imprison his wife. [Maeve E. Doggett, Marriage, Wife- Beating and the Law in Victorian England,1993]
Imagine fathers simply deserting their families, an act far more common then than now. ["Lower divorce rates in previous generations are misleading. 'Lots of marriages in the 19th Century ended in desertion, not divorce,' Grooms said."--Greg Garrison, "Baptist Lead in Divorce," The Birmingham News, 12/30/1999]
Imagine living in a world where smallpox, malaria and yellow fever are not eradicated, or the ills of third world countries, but a yearly visitation. Imagine there are no treatments outside of superstition and barbaric procedures such as bleeding.
Imagine dying from septicemia because of the infection of a tiny wound.
Imagine disease or accident maiming you, or having the (common) ill luck to be born defective.
Imagine the only way to survive is to beg or sell oneself off as a freak; being spit upon or kicked is as likely as being pitied.
Imagine freezing in the winter because there is no really good way of heating a home even if you can afford and obtain the fuel or even have a roof over your head to heat. For such little heat, the air is choked with the fumes of coal and wood.
Imagine dreading the summer even more because of the stench of garbage, human waste and animal (even human) corpses decomposing in the street.
Imagine early dentistry.
Imagine that most of the food that you will eat is half rotten, the water you drink totally polluted and a vector of typhoid, cholera and dysentery.
Imagine lice in your clothing and bed-bugs in your bed - if you are lucky enough to have a bed.
Imagine that if you were born poor, poor is all you would probably ever manage to be due to class barriers. Imagine a world of 9 year old admirals and infant cardinals (of the church), simply because of whom their parents were.
Imagine the elite are so distanced from the starving masses that "let them eat cake" is indicative of the world view of their entire class. Where the poor rise through bloody bread riots to bloodier revolution; revolutions that are even more sanguine in their repression.
Imagine a world where prejudice was a good thing that you taught to your children. And that it wasn't just black, white, Asian, but rather anyone who talked, acted, even looked different from you. Where pagans were burned, homosexuals boiled in oil, theft punished by mutilation and aboriginal people simply exterminated; Imagine "the only good Indian is a dead Indian" as official U.S. government policy.
Imagine this former world. Imagine the fear, despondency, hatred. Those were the good old days. I'll take this age with all its warts anytime.
What does this have to do with the creation/evolution controversy? Plenty.
First, one must keep in mind that nature alone, via diseases, earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis, etc., has prematurely ended the lives of far more people than have died in all the wars, genocides and murders than have ever been. In fact diseases killed more soldiers in World War 1 (the influenza epidemic of 1916), and killed more soldiers during the Civil War (dysentery), than were killed by their fellow humans (and more American soldiers lost their lives in the Civil War than in all of America's other conflicts combined--from the Revolutionary War to the Gulf War--yet the majority of those lives lost were due to not being able to cope with the diseases that attended the war). One disease alone, malaria, carried by mosquitoes, has ended more lives prematurely than all the wars, genocides and murders in human history. And the mosquito can transmit other diseases as well. While the common housefly is known to transmit over thirty different diseases and parasites to humans, including leprosy, dysentery, diphtheria, smallpox, typhoid, cholera, and scarlet fever. Some epidemiologists regard the housefly as potentially the most dangerous insect in the world. The tse-tse fly of Africa spreads "sleeping sickness." While the screw worm fly lays its microscopic eggs in any tiny opening it can find in the skin of either man or other large mammal, and the eggs hatch into hungry larva with razor sharp mouth parts that often burrow into the animal's lungs or brain, often killing their host. Flies also spread trachoma, a disease that afflicts may children today, causing their eyes to itch, swell and scar. "It keeps striking over and over again, until the eyelids are burned and scarred so many times they grow disfigured and the eyelashes turn inward, scratching the delicate surface of the eye. By the time the victim is in their forties they will have agonizingly slowly, agonizingly painfully, gone blind. Six million people in the developing world are blind because of trachoma. 146 million more, three quarters of them children, are carrying the infection. 540 million people--10% of the world's population--are at risk of developing the disease. But there's hope, in the form of tetracycline, if it is administered to the children in adequate doses early in life." [Sight Savers International, "Blinking Hell," booklet] Tetracycline is being distributed by the Royal Commonwealth Society for the Blind in Africa and Asia where trachoma is widespread. For the folks distributing it, it's a race not merely against time, but also against flies that help spread the disease.
So the teaching of evolution is nowhere near as fearsome or frightening an "enemy" when compared to the number of lives crippled or ended by disease, year in, year out, all over the earth.
A speaking of the teaching of evolution emphasizing anti-social "beastly" behaviors, that is not what a prolonged look at nature is about. Nature includes many plant-eating species. Neither is it common for members of the same species to duel to the death with each other--though it sometimes happens that groups of gorillas, chimpanzees, or even dolphins, have a "rumble" with other groups, and some animals may be wounded, even mortally so. But generally speaking, such species live together in relatively peaceful groups, the bonobo chimpanzee being one of the most peaceful primate species on earth. There are even species that do not hunt nor kill other organisms but merely devour the carcasses of animals that have died (for whatever reason), and species that merely eat the dung other animals leave behind (beetles, worms, insect larva, etc.). Darwin also noted the harmless co-existence of many species that parasitize one another, all parasites are not equally harmful. Scientists today know that the many microscopic parasites and bacteria that live on the surface of our skin, inside our mouths and in our intestines, help keep more aggressive and harmful parasites and microorganisms from taking up residence in those same areas. Darwin was also aware of symbiotic relationships in nature, and of the benefits that cooperation provides social species. (Another evolutionist who lived a little after Darwin's day, named Kropotkin, emphasized to a greater degree than Darwin, the role that "mutual aid" played in evolution.) Neither was Darwin any more prejudiced concerning "racial differences" or the "lower classes" than other aristocratic scientists of his day, creationist or not. (Neither should be forget that creationist Christians remained on both sides of "racial" issues themselves, right up till the later half of the 20th century.) And speaking of human violence, it has been around a lot longer than Darwin. Even during the time when Christian emperors ruled the Roman Empire, Christians moved to outlaw, coerce, persecute, riot, burn things down, destroy artwork, and kill pagans, as well as each other,over differing religious interpretations. Later, the Reformation brought more of the same. There were riots, revolts, destruction of books, art and statues, coercion, persecution, torture, and wars. Catholic and Protestant creationists even fought a series of wars for thirty years that left central Europe in shambles with millions dead. Considering Europe's far smaller population back then, some historians have suggested the "Thirty Years' War" may have been the worst, percentage-wise, in Europe's history:
"By the division of Christianity at the Reformation, religious authority itself became the cause of conflict. The Protestant states thereafter rejected the right of the Universal Church to judge their actions, while the Catholic states took that rejection as grounds to make war against them in clear conscience. The outcome was the Thirty Years' War, the worst thus far in European history, which may have killed a third of the German-speaking peoples and left Central Europe devastated for much of the seventeenth century." [John Keegan, War and Our World, The Reith Lectures, 1998, broadcast on the BBC, recorded at the Royal Institution, the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, King's College, London]
Creationist Christian kings, princes and popes (along with their theological cohorts) believed for centuries that Christian rulers had a duty to coerce, persecute, torture, and wage wars for God's glory and to triumph over "pagans, blasphemers, heretics, witches, Satan, and sin." (Imagine if such rulers had also been in possession of more soldiers, rapid-fire arms, morters, canons, seemingly unlimited ammunition, armored vehicles, and airplanes--instead of mere swords, pikes, horses, and the odd single-shot pistol and canon employed back then--and if cities were just as populated then as now?)
Having said all of the above, about the "good old days," "diseases," and Christianity, one final question: Who or what is the foremost "enemy" of humanity?
Is "it pagans, blasphemers, heretics, witches, Satan and sin?" No.
Is it the teaching of evolution? No.
Is it Christianity? No, again.
Humanity's foremost "enemy" has always been the outrageous slings and arrows that nature hurls our way, from earthquakes to near-asteroid collisions, from poxes to parasites, and, from birth defects to Alzheimer's.
Sadly, humanity has not only endured nature's whippings for millennia upon millennia, but now humanity is starting to whip nature back. Which is worse? We'll see. It would appear that we are over-stuffing our little life-boat in space. It was only as late as the middle of the 1800s that humanity reached its first billion mark, but a mere 150 years later we have now reached six billion...and counting. We are slashing and burning rain forests into oblivion, depleting the land of all the most easily mined minerals, overfarming the soil and depleting it of important trace minerals, and this century we will probably use up the world's finite supply of petroleum as the demand for oil outpaces discoveries of fresh new oil deposits. Not to mention that in many highly populated areas we are using more of the earth's clean river, lake and ground water faster than the earth can filter that water back to its original state of cleanliness. (And our superfund toxic waste dump sites are leaking to the tune of a trillion dollars in repairs.)
Isn't it time for both evolutionists and creationists (at least those creationists who do not rely on a "rapture escape plan") to join in discovering ways to:
1) Stop humanity from continuing to fill every inviting nook and cranny on earth simply to suit ourselves (like the rain forests and marshlands).
2) Preserve large regions where plenty of other land-species may live unhindered. (The latest reports published in science journals agree that growing numbers of species are becoming extinct around the world, including amphibians, birds, lions, tigers, bears, big fish (tuna, swordfish, etc.), and, gorillas and chimps in Africa. The wild bonobo chimpanzee, the species of chimp that most resembles human beings genetically, may already be extinct. No bonobos have been sited in the jungle as of 2005. Chimps and gorillas in in Africa are being hunted as "bush meat" to fill the pots of poor hungry Africans. While the big fish in the world's oceans have no place to hide from the radar and nets of modern fishing fleets. So, the grow of the world's human population and its hunger is the culprit in both cases. Furthermore, as the rain forests of the world vanish, so do the most highly concentrated and diverse species of plants, insects and other animals ever found on any other square mile of land on earth. That is a great loss indeed. We will never be able to study such species to learn what amazing molecules they contain or how such knowledge could have provided answers to questions in genetics, animal behavior, human pharmacology, even new engineering ideas.)
3) Develop more efficient means of recycling wood, metals, precious minerals, and petroleum products (oil, plastics, synthetics, pesticides). (Speaking of recycling, many scientists have pointed out, we could boost our economy, our health and that of the environment, if America allowed farmers to legally grow hemp, a plant that George Washington himself both raised and praised, a plant that neither depletes the soil of minerals, nor does its cultivation require massive amounts of pesticides as does cotton; and hemp grows much faster than trees. While the many products from hemp include paper and clothing [more durable than cotton fabrics] and its oil can be used to make plastics and synthetic fibers, and its seeds are rich in protein and omega-3 oils--very good for one's health. Neither does all hemp have to be the THC-laden variety that gets marijuana smokers high. There are THC-free varieties of hemp that farmers can grow.)
4) Develop renewable sources of energy that produce less waste (solar, wind, geothermal, tidal, etc.--though, sadly, we may be forced to switch to nuclear fussion for a while after the oil runs out)
5) Develop new means of manufacturing items that are less wasteful and less polluting. (Barring such developments, or complimenting them, we should also consider ways to discourage population growth and even encourage slow rates of population decline, so that nature is able to filter wastes out by herself given enough time and space of her own in which to dilute and deal with humanity's wastes. We could even help nature filter such wastes faster by discovering which bacteria and plants suck up the greatest quantities of dangerous chemicals or minerals, or bioengineer such organisms to suck up even more wastes of various types, as has been reported in recent scientific journals.)
Over the centuries doctors, medical researchers, city planners and plumbers have discovered new ways to fight disease. (Yes, I said "plumbers," because plumbing has played an enormous role in decreasing numbers of illnesses since it provides clean, relatively parasite and microbe-free water to homes, via pipes.) Neither did it matter whether the doctors, researchers (or plumbers) of each new generation were creationists or evolutionists. What mattered was that they joined in acknowledging that disease was their common "enemy." So why can't we join together today to fight the natural propensity of human beings to spread blindly like a disease or parasite all over the earth? Especially before we begin dying like a disease or parasite, having mortally wounded our host? We must find ways to work together to solve our common problem, fight this common enemy, or die like the simplest of parasitical organisms and for the same blind reasons.
FURTHER INFORMATION ON DISEASES OF THE WORLD
So far, the tuberculosis bacterium holds the record for "the world's deadliest contagion." In the last two hundred years it has killed an estimated two billion people and disfigured, crippled, and blinded billions more. During the late nineteenth century it killed more people in the United States than any other disease. Most commonly, it eats away lung tissue, forming abscesses that discharge a cheesy foul-smelling pus. It can eat its way through the chest, forming large ulcerations on the body. The patient becomes pale, weak and emaciated, coughing up blood and unable to breathe. Or the germs that are coughed up get swallowed and infect the digestive tract, causing ulcers in the throat, making it difficult to speak or swallow. Or it infects the stomach and bowels, causing vomiting, bloody diarrhea, and acute pain. Or it infects the urinary tract, causing unbearable pain upon urination. It can also eat holes in various bones in the body, crippling limbs, or leading to a hunchback appearance. Or it hardens the face and causes it to turn red, leading to a wolf like appearance. Or it eats away the nose, ears and eyes. In The Forgotten Plague, Dr. Frank Ryan describes the condition of one such victim: "Her face had suffered thirty years of destructive ulceration, leading to grotesque deformity. Her nose had been eaten away by degrees until there was nothing there except two gibbous caverns. Her left eye had been destroyed. Freida now looked out upon the world from a monstrously scarred mask, created with festering sores that teemed with tuberculosis germs. Even the comfort of plastic surgery had been denied her since every graft that had been attempted had itself become infected and ultimately destroyed by invading germs."
TB presently infects one third of all the people on earth (though most are merely latent carriers), and kills nearly three million people each year. New strains of TB are resistant to multiple antibiotics and in the last ten years the number of TB cases reported in Britain has risen 100%.
Neither are diseases the only problem! Many human defects and illnesses are simply caused by lack of nutrients, not by invasive outside bacteria or viruses. Many people on earth live in regions were some of the nutrients they need to grow into the best possible shape, physically and mentally, are not readily available. We know for instance, that lack of vitamin D causes rickets, lack of vitamin C causes scurvy, lack of niacin causes pellagra, lack of vitamin A causes blindness in children, lack of vitamins C, E, B-6, B-12 and/or iron, causes anemia, lack of vitamin B-12 is linked to fibro-cystic breast condition, and insufficient calcium, iodine, or other minerals also cause diseases as does the lack of necessary quantities of protein in the diet. Furthermore, if we could shrink the Earth's population to precisely 100 people with all existing human ratios remaining the same, 50 of those people would be malnourished.
Such deficiencies are especially hard on babies and children where a deficiency's effects are magnified and lead to lifelong physical and mental problems. As many as 30% of the children in China (a country with the world's highest population) are believed to suffer stunted growth (and sexual maturation problems) due to zinc deficiency. And there is a "goiter belt" along the Atlantic coast from west to central Africa, where many people lack enough iodine in their system. The worst area for this deficiency is in the Republic of Guinea where 70% of all adults have goiter. "Thyroid swelling was sometimes present at birth and affected 55% of school children...Endemic cretinism. was found in about 2% of goitrous patients...other children, especially those affected by the most severe neurological symptoms, suffer early and high mortality rates." ("Goitrous Endemic in Guinea," The Lancet, Dec. 17, 1994)
- CHRISTIAN THEISTIC EVOLUTIONARY RESOURCES
- Darwin's Forgotten Christian Defenders
- Three Cheers For Christian Evolutionists
- From Abandoning Geocentrism To Accepting Evolution: A "Liberal Trend" Among Evangelical Christians?
Dr. Colling (fundamentalist Christian and chair of Biology at a fundamentalist Christian college) is O.K. with Darwinian evolution and has even composed a book on the subject titled, Random Designer: Created From Chaos To Connect With Creator. "It pains me to suggest that my religious brothers are telling falsehoods" when they say evolutionary theory is "in crisis" and claim that there is widespread skepticism about it among scientists. "Such statements are blatantly untrue," he argues. "Evolution has stood the test of time and considerable scrutiny...What the designer designed is the random-design process," or Darwinian evolution, Colling says. "God devised these natural laws, and uses evolution to accomplish his goals." "Random Designer" or "Divine Tinkerer?" Either way, Darwinism and God could be viewed as overlapping hypotheses. For the full story see, "Teaching Evolution at Christian College" by Sharon Begley, The Wall Street Journal (December 31, 2004)
Chance From a Theistic Perspective (The Perspectives of Evangelical Christian Evolutionists: Donald MacKay and John Polkinghorne)
Francis Collins, Director of the Human Genome Project, is a Christian who accepts evolution. He stated: "I am unaware of any irreconcilable conflict between scientific knowledge about evolution and the idea of a creator God; why couldn't God have used the mechanism of evolution to create?...In my field, biology, because of the creationists the standard assumption is that anyone who has faith has gone soft in the head. When scientists like me admit they are believers, the reaction from colleagues is 'How did this guy get tenure?'"--Gregg Easterbrook, "Science and God: A Warming Trend?" Science, Vol. 277, No. 5328, Aug. 15 1997, p. 890-893
Perspectives on an Evolving Creation, ed. Keith B. Miller
(William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2003)--Essays by theistic evolutionist Christians:
Terry Gray (Colorado State)
James Hurd (Bethel College)
Ted Davis (Messiah College)
Robin Collins (Messiah College)
David Wilcox (Eastern College)
Mark Noll (Wheaton College)
Jeff Greenberg (Wheaton College)
Laurie Braaten (Judson College)
John Munday, Jr. (Regent Univ.)
Loren Haarsma (Calvin College)
Howard Van Till (Calvin College)
Deborah Haarsma (Calvin College)
Warren Brown (Fuller Theological)
David Campbell (University of Alabama)
Jennifer Wiseman (Johns Hopkins Univ.)
Conrad Hyers (Gustavus Adolphus College)
George Murphy (Trinity Lutheran Seminary)
Bob Russell (Center for Theology and Natural Sciences)
God and Evolution (Nov. 2004) by David L. Wilcox (Ph.D. in Population Genetics, Professor of Biology, Eastern College, St. David's, PA.)
Darwinism Defeated? A debate between Phillip E. Johnson (I.D.ist) and Denis O. Lamoureux (Ph.D. biologist/evolutionist and Evangelical Christian
Apparently Johnson does not offer copies of this debate book for sale at his website.
Finding Darwin's God: A Scientist's Search for Common Ground Between God and Evolution by Kenneth R. Miller (Ph.D. biologist and Catholic Christian)
ASA Theistic Evolution