Coming Soon as Book, Summer/Fall 2006 from Insight Press
The Science of Evolution and the Myth of Creationism
Knowing What’s Real—And Why It Matters
by Ardea Skybreak
Revolution #28, December 26, 2005, posted at revcom.us
Excerpts from an open letter from Ardea Skybreak to the readers of the Revolutionary Worker (now Revolution), May 12, 2002 announcing her forthcoming series on the science of evolution.
Evolution is actually considered to be one of the very bestestablished facts in all of science, and as much of a sure thing as the fact that the earth is not flat or that it goes around the sun. A great many of the advances of modern science were accomplished on the basis of our understanding of evolution, and would not have been possible without it.
And yet, despite all the scientific consensus, the creationists and their anti-scientific rants will simply not go away. Why? And in countries like the United States some of the nuttier proponents of creationism even sit in the halls of power, influence legislation, and are welcomed advisers of presidents. Again, why is that? These are questions we all need to engage...
We live in a society where professional scientists and non-professionals, those with formal education and those who have been offered little or no such education, are usually kept apart and rarely get to interact and learn from each other. We don’t have to accept these divisions.
With its unusually diverse readership, this newspaper is in a position to play an important role in overcoming such divisions.
Grappling with the scientific evidence for evolution and the backwardness of religious fundamentalist creationism is very relevant:
If you are a prisoner in a penitentiary somewhere who is fighting not to be crushed by those conditions and to wrench out of all that madness some real understanding of the way things are (and the way they could be), and is determined to see through all the lies that have been told in order to jail the people’s minds.
If you are somewhere on the outside, bone-tired from just trying to get by, worrying about whether your kids are going to get brutalized or killed by the police, and sick and tired of being told that “things are the way they are because it’s god’s will and there’s nothing you can do about it.” If you are a professional scientist or anyone else who may already “know all about evolution” but who would like to “connect” this question with a much broader and more diverse popular audience, and perhaps also engage the intellectual debate on what is the proper relationship of science and religion from a more radical political and ideological perspective.
If you are a progressive-minded person who may hold some religious beliefs but also wishes to be scientifically informed, can’t stand fanatical fundamentalist zealotry, and wants to further explore the question of the relationship between the science of evolution and religious faith.
If you are one of the RW’s international readers who knows that what is at present a particularly American form of creationist craziness can easily spill its borders, and who recognizes as well that bringing genuine scientific understanding to the hundreds of millions of peasants and other oppressed around the world can help to throw off the burdens of centuries.
If you are anyone else who simply wants to know the truth about the way things are in nature and society.
And if you are a political activist striving to bring a better world into being, it is important to draw the connections between the outrages and abuses of today—including the promotion of religious fundamentalism and creationist attacks on science— and the underlying workings of the system we live under.
We need to help people to see the connections between, for instance, the Christian fundamentalist attacks on abortion clinics in the U.S. and everything that happens to women under Islamic religious fundamentalists like the Taliban; connections between why some people and whole countries are so rich, while hundreds of millions throughout the world are literally starving and billions barely survive in wretched conditions; connections between the ceaseless rush for corporate profits and both the brutal draining of human labor and the critical despoliation of the planet; connections between a system of global exploitation and the openended wars being launched by the U.S. government; connections between this system’s historical and present-day foundations in slavery and national oppression and the blatant aggression with which it sweeps the world to this day. The use of religion to launch broadsides against science in this period in the United States is part and parcel of an overall reactionary agenda designed to shore up and strengthen American imperialism, and this connection too needs to be further explored and popularized among the people.
The battle to defend the science of evolution against the attacks of creationists has been raging for some time in the United States. It is not going away, and it has big implications: not just for science and for religion, but also for the broader political and ideological arenas.
In other words, this stuff matters...
This series will try to speak both to people who have no background in science and to people who already know “the basics” but want to get into some of the more advanced scientific questions. But please don’t hesitate to get into this series even if you’ve “never been into science” or never had a chance to learn anything about evolution. No prior experience necessary! Science really isn’t so mysterious or complicated (though some people want to make it seem that way so they can lord it over other people), and in any case we’ll work on breaking it down as we go (and those who know more should help out those who may know less so we can all move forward).
And, as a matter of fact, those of you who have no scientific training and perhaps little formal education in general could play a particularly important role in this: by struggling to become knowledgeable about evolution and what the religious fundamentalists are up to when they seek to deny the people this wellestablished scientific knowledge, you could do a great deal to help spread a scientific outlook among the people. Many of you have been exposed to a lot of religion and have deep roots and close family and other personal ties within communities where a literal belief in religious scriptures continues to be deeply entrenched and greatly encouraged by the people who run society— whereas, among the masses of people, a scientific understanding of things is generally not promoted or encouraged by those same powers, for reasons that are not too difficult to figure out. You are in a very good position to help bring some light into this situation. Get the word out!