Field of Science

Dutch Christians attack Darwin

Darwin's birthday is this coming Thursday, and it is going to be celebrated in various ways around the globe.

In the Netherlands 30 Christian organizations are financing a campaign whose aim is to point out that "the theory of evolution is really just an assumption, a theory that can be disregarded."

The theory of evolution really isn't Darwin's anymore, in the sense that it has been totally transformed since his death, but he did get us off to an amazingly good start. A good reason to celebrate a birthday, if there ever was one.

Anyway, evolution is a scientific theory as well as a scientific fact. The theory describes how evolution occurs, and that it occurs has been observed, directly as well as indirectly, so many times that evolution is regarded as fact also. Often people (creationists and others alike) get confused because the word 'evolution' is used for both the theory and the fact. Compare with the theory of relativity, which describes the fact of gravitation, or quantum field theory, which describes... well, something to with... elementary particles (phew, I think I got through that pretty well). But evolution describes evolution. Of course people get confused. This just to say that evolution is not an assumption, but a very well validated theory and observed fact, and it cannot be disregarded if you want to know anything about origins. But the Dutch Christians are of a different persuasion, it would seem.
However, not among pious Christians who watched Darwin bring down the Biblical story of the creation. These Christians will mark this Darwin year by launching a major counter-offensive, handing out flyers arguing that 'The theory of evolution is just another belief'.

The 'Creation Action Committee' has spared no effort. Nearly all Dutch households will find an eight-page folder on their doormats at the end of this month. Glossy paper, bright colours and flaming oratory are used to wipe the floor with Darwin and his evolutionary theory.
This is of course, to me, a Dutch embarrassment. According to the quotes in the article, some the Dutch are generally indifferent, though for good and bad reasons:
"I'm not really interested, I was not raised a Christian, let those people believe whatever they want"......"neither theory can be proved, so I don't understand what the excitement is all about"......"if you take the Bible literally there is much more scientific stuff that's unacceptable"..."I think it's a waste of all the effort that's put into this and I'm wondering what they intend to achieve".
The highlighted comment is great. I studied physics before biology, and at that time my objections with a literal reading of the Bible had to do with cosmology. I didn't really find much congruence between Genesis 1 and modern cosmological theory. However, the comment that 'neither can be proved' shows some serious lack of understanding.

Be that as it may, about seventy percent of the Dutch believe in evolution (Miller, Scott, Okamoto (2006), Science.), which is better than most countries, and I was also happy to read this one comment on the article:
First of all I am a citizen of The Netherlands and was raised a hard ass Calvinist. Secondly, the "theory" of evolution has been proven over and over again. Of course there are gaps in it but more and more evidence is being found to fill these gaps. The hardest things for christians to admit is that they have been duped for all these years. You cannot help who your parents are and what lies they have told you. These same lies have been passed down from generation to generation to generation. It is up to you to break these chains of lies. Stop letting church leaders tell you how to live your lives. It is your life and nobody elses.
I wonder if this person isn't touching on something very important in the struggle of creationists to accept evolution: Loss aversion causes them to hold on for dear life to the creation myth, just because they have invested so much in it. Simply giving up and admitting that it makes no sense to read Genesis literally is too taxing psychologically. The good news is that there is then reason to believe that creationism will diminish and eventually die as creationists die and the children become better educated than their parents.

The article ends with a box on Darwin's influence today:
Modern medicines against viruses and bacteria would not have existed without Darwin. We understand today that pathogens become immune to medicines as the result of evolution, allowing researches to stay one step ahead of that evolution. Without Darwin, would have become useless long before now.

'Intelligent computers' - installed in cars and equipment - increase their knowledge according to Darwinian principles. They sort data based on their importance and in time delete unused data. Just like the whale - originally a land mammal - lost its feet in the course of its evolution.

Thanks to Darwin, we are once again willing to admit that men and women are really different. From the 1970s, this was a taboo; commonly accepted theory dictated that male or female behaviour was acquired, not inherited. However, genetic research based on Darwinian principles has proved there are fundamental differences between the male and female bodies and brains.
The last point in particularly intriguing, because even among scientists and the non-religious, there is still a strong want (if not belief) that gender differences are purely cultural. For instance, the suggestion that I made recently that the male and female brain differences could probably influence how much men and women earn overall, wasn't quite acceptable to some people who would rather conclude that any difference in earnings are due to discrimination (you'll have to read the discussion there to see what I mean). This taboo of the seventies, that the differences are cultural, is still very much with us - it is one of the claims that the political left still adheres to despite the evidence, and I (though otherwise left-leaning) can't fathom they won't admit to themselves that it is based on a foregone conclusion, rather than on empirical data.

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