The Wrong Message

There is a small article on the Scientific American of May talking about the proposal by biologist E. Barnes concerning the teaching of evolution: showing to students that it does not conflict with their religious beliefs. The argument is that, if religious students do not perceive any clashes between their religions and evolution, then the acceptance of evolution in society may increase.

For most people that makes a lot of sense. That is because most people are religious. It might also seem to make sense as a marketing strategy. One might argue that it is better to guarantee that religious people accept evolution because it does not contradict any of their beliefs than having them rejecting it completely. Given that most world rulers are (or at least want people to believe) that they are religious, that would at least guarantee that they don’t act stupidly as Turkey’s government and stop teaching it.

The only problem is that this is wrong. It is the wrong long term strategy, because it sends a totally wrong message. It tells people that there is no problem in believing evolution because it is not against their religion. But the correct message, as inconvenient as it may be, is that the only reason to believe in evolution is because there is overwhelming evidence in its favour. There is no other reason whatsoever.

The idea of religious-friendly science is, to be euphemistic, bullshit. There is always some science that will contradict some religious belief. That doesn’t disqualify it as a teaching subject. It is never enough to repeat that nature cares very little about people’s beliefs. Evolution was as real in the last Dark Ages as it is going to be in the approaching one. Even if religion wipes out its knowledge from Earth, it will still be there for someone (or something) to rediscovers it. Maybe the machines.

It also  suggests that scientists have to learn how to explain the non-contradictions. That’s perverse, misleading and dishonest. Tailoring a story to adapt evolution to religion has nothing to do with science. And suggesting that scientists have now to learn religion to teach evolution is like forcing historians to read Marvel comics to be able to teach about the Greek philosophers. In other words, nonsensical and with no real connection.

It is already bad enough that religion is once again taking the world with violence and repression. Tell the lie that science does not contradict religion will not help science, but actually undermine it in the long run. In a time when we are losing everything that we had achieved through the Renascence and the Enlightenment, it is important to take a stand for reason. That is the only thing that can save our future, if there is still time for that.

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