Tuesday, May 08, 2007

evolution, science, & politics

if this is your view of the world, then you're probably not going to like this:

(the theoretical model of the atom shown left was abandoned in 1908, in case you're wondering what's wrong with it.)

you’d think that as we edge towards the end of the first decade of the 21st century (reads like something out of a science fiction novel written 30 years ago, doesn’t it?), that we might have actually intellectually advanced as well as gain greater insight into all manner of things scientific, from unraveling DNA sequences to probing ever deeper into particle physics that examine the tiniest constituent components that make up everything in the known universe

yet amazingly, as we without thinking employ scientific principles in our daily lives without even thinking about them every single time we use a computer, there still seems to be a missing link when it comes to peoples' perception of evolution and religion.

out of the 34 developed countries polled by national geographic, the united states is second to last on the list that believes evolution is a fact, with only 14 % believing it to be how modern man originated. this worrying statistic reared its political head last week when the republicans’ party’s 10 candidates for president were asked during their first debate whether they believed in evolution.

senator sam brownback of kansas

mike huckabee, former governor of arkansas

and representative tom tancredo of colorado — indicated they did not.

not believing in the second most successful scientific theory of all time (evolution) is simply not an option, anymore than not believing in its most successful, quantum mechanics – which upon reading, makes no sense at all (go ahead - google/wikipedia it)

it may be uncomfortable for us to accept that that our most successful scientific theory of all time makes absolutely no sense, yet this astonishing science underlies our entire modern mechanical, electronics, and computer civilsation.

science isn’t about giving us comforting answers, it’s about asking any and all questions of the world we see around us and finding ways in which to answer them, and is always willing to adapt and accept new theories when a better explanation comes along.

generally, when a successful scientific theory has withstood the test of time, that theory is rarely overturned but is instead built upon (newton’s theory of gravity still works perfectly well for NASA, but it is einstein’s we use in explaining the grand workings of the cosmos).


the two images i chose represent established truths held by society. the first needs no introduction, so well-known is michaelangelo's painting of 'creation' on the ceiling of the sistine chapel.

the second is the 'planetary model' of the atom, developed in 1904 by hantaro hagaoka, a japanese physicist, but later abandoned in 1908, yet amazingly even today, some 100 years later, this is how nearly everyone imagines an atom because that is how they were taught it in school.

apart from the scale being completely inaccurate and misleading, we now know that in order to understand the atom, we have to view it as having three distinct models:

see: (copy and paste in browser)


our modern world relies on technology. we as individuals living in cities don't hunt or grow our food anymore, nor do we gather herbs for medicine, chop down trees and burn wood for heat, ride horses for transport or undertake long voyages to trade goods. technology enables us as individuals to be isolated and removed from these tasks (and live a lot longer doing so...)

almost everything we do relies on science and its principles. yet when it comes to the question "where did we come from", only 14 people out of 100 in the richest, most powerful nation on earth believe that science can provide the answer. for everything else, from cradle to grave, including posturing in politics, it appears that the other 86 live in isolated denial, quite content in using and abusing it.



sunchaser said...

One of the things that I remember most from the Darwin exhibit at the Museum of Natl History in NYC last year was the US textbook (circa 2000 something) they had on display as the last display (after showing all of the proof that Darwin collected throught his life) which said "evolution is still only considered theoretical" (or something to that effect).
Pretty sad state of affairs, IMHO.

nutty said...

have to agree.

by the way, the country that beat out the united states in national geographic's poll of developed nations was turkey.