A reader named Ray Storer makes a popular yet pertinent point over at the BBC NEWS Have Your Say pages:
Our common values are; We’re all human: All living on the same floating ball in the cosmos and if we don’t learn to get along with one another then the consequences will be our own doing or undoing.
Whenever a news programme brings us tidings from elsewhere in the world, they invariably begin with a map showing where they are reporting. The BBC uses a globe, which spins around from the Greenwhich Meridian, then zooms in on the flash-point of the moment (sometimes it spins the wrong way, but we can forgive that). During the Lebanon crisis, I felt there was something very disconcerting, about being reminded that we are marooned on ball of rock, immediately before watching images of the house-by-house destruction. Watching the tragic images of war in close-up, one gets lost in the complexity of the situation, and the grievances of both sides. However, the image of the globe, in all its enormous, lonely glory, streches our perspective, and we begin to look like a bunch of Liliputians. Douglas Adams and his Hitch-hikers Guide to the Galaxy trilogy. Terry Pratchett and his Discworld series. I think that these guys have a better conception of our world and the humans on it, compared with the Holy Books of the God in whose name we maim and kill.
I am not sure whether I am more scared of a British Police State, or an American Religious one. In the same five minute bulletin, I also heard that eleven parents in Pennsylvania USA are suing their school board, which has decreed that since evolution is just a “theory” it must be taught as such in schools, and only presented alongside alternative theories such as “intelligent design”, a form of creationism. I continue to be both annoyed and puzzled by the shallowness of the “intelligent design” lobbyists, for a number of reasons. Why do they find evolution so offensive? What is wrong with being descended from monkeys anyway? I think it is demeaning to suggest that we simply appeared, perfectly formed, from the dust. I am not a clay model like Morph. The evolutionary struggle gives us a nobility, a triumph against ridiculous odds. How fantastic it is to believe in a theory which says that over the millenia, my ancestors evolved slowly from the trees, to the point where I can now be talking to the world from a laptop computer… And what rapture when I realise that despite the arbitrary and unjust nature of evolution, my genes and I have had the good fortune to succeed! Why God cannot be described as a force of nature, or indeed the architect of the laws of Physics, has never been fully explained to me. For an omnipotent God, that should be a bagatelle! If one persists in beleiving in a God of the Abrahamic (i.e. Jewish/Christian/Islamic) ilk, then surely She would have the power to kick-start evolution at the beginning of the Earth. Since God is outside of time, She would presumably have the foresight of everything and everyone, including you, me, and Charles Darwin. Why undermine the science that has introduced us to the idea of adaption, and therefore why species may become ‘endangered’? Why undermine the science that allows us to understand and cure genetic diseases? Geologists deny that the earth created in six days. They say it is 4.55 billion years old. Are their theories criticised too? And if so, should we listen to what they have to say about volcanos, earthquakes, and tsunami? Even if evolution is a theory, it is by the far the most rigorous we have. While we know we have not described the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about evolution, there is huge intellectual gulf between a few paragraphs in Genesis, and the mountains of peer reviewed experiments and tests that together make up the cannon of evolutionary theory. Let Genesis into science labs, and you may as well let in the Spaggeti Monster, and the Fundamentalist Aesopians. Its enough to make you tune in to MC Hawking.
I take a jealous pride in my Simian ancestry. I like to think that I was once a magnificent hairy fellow living in the trees and that my frame has come down through geological time via sea jelly and worms and Amphioux, Fish, Dinosaurs and Apes. Who would exchange these for the pallid couple in the Garden of Eden?