Here's how author David Quammen starts this important article:
"Evolution by natural selection, the central concept of the life's work of Charles Darwin, is a theory. It's a theory about the origin of adaptation, complexity, and diversity among Earth's living creatures. If you are skeptical by nature, unfamiliar with the terminology of science, and unaware of the overwhelming evidence, you might even be tempted to say that it's "just" a theory. In the same sense, relativity as described by Albert Einstein is "just" a theory. The notion that Earth orbits around the sun rather than vice versa, offered by Copernicus in 1543, is a theory. Continental drift is a theory. The existence, structure, and dynamics of atoms? Atomic theory. Even electricity is a theoretical construct, involving electrons, which are tiny units of charged mass that no one has ever seen. Each of these theories is an explanation that has been confirmed to such a degree, by observation and experiment, that knowledgeable experts accept it as fact. That's what scientists mean when they talk about a theory: not a dreamy and unreliable speculation, but an explanatory statement that fits the evidence."(emphasis added)Unbelievably, a full 45% of Americans do not believe in evolution. This is an astounding -- and disheartening -- figure. This means that nearly half the readership of this blog (assuming it is a random sample of the American public, which it probably isn't) clings to some alternate notion of how the present world has come about, such as a biblically inspired theory of "creationism."
This speaks volumes on the dismal state of science education in this country. And of course, religious interference and resistance to evolution has a lot to do with why it isn't taught in the schools.
It may also reflect an unusual and pernicious tendency in this country toward a culture of subjectivism and relativism. Many persons -- otherwise educated persons -- hold to the idea that personal beliefs and opinions -- religious beliefs and opinions included -- are somehow unarguable -- that everyone can just go their merry way believing whatever they want to.
I certainly honor your right to hold any opinion or belief you choose, but I retain my right to criticize your belief as unreasonable and to argue strongly that you abandon it. I further see it as my duty to urge that such unreasonable and irrational beliefs (creationism being the pertinent example) not be allowed to unduly influence public policy.
Unreasonable and irrational beliefs and opinions, opinions that are uninformed, illogical and lacking in any sort of empirical supporting evidence, clearly have too much sway in the public sphere. Even now, in the twenty-first century, how and whether evolution should be taught in the public schools is the subject of continued debate.
Let's bring this madness to an end. Get the November issue of National Geographic. Read it. The evidence is overwhelming.