By Peter Fredson

During one of my lectures to a class in the 1960’s I used the word “evolution” several times.  After the lecture two students told me that they were uncomfortable with the word, because their pastor considered it to be irreligious, satanic, and conflicting with all their religious views.  They did not believe that people ever “evolved” but that they were spontaneously created intact. They also said that classifying humans as “animals” was degrading humanity, because humans possessed souls while animals had no souls. They left my side, still indignant or offended by my cavalier use of words

I couldn’t show them that the word “evolution” merely meant a change in some thing or process through some period of time.  I could have shown that weapons had changed through time, from clubs, to spears, to bows and arrows, to blunderbusses and muskets, to the automatic fire of machine guns. I might have pointed out that our Cruise Missiles, battleships, and aircraft came about very gradually, and that this shows the evolution of military technology. I might have mentioned that many inventions changed our ways through time, such as using gas for street lights to electric light bulbs and air conditioning.  Transportation had changed from riding animals to chariots, to the Pony Express, Stage Coaches, railroads, automobiles, airplanes. Sailing ships have changed radically from canoes to the huge battle-ships and ocean liners of today. Communication has changed from message runners, to signal fires and flags, to semaphores, to telegraph, telephone, radio, television, computers and the ever-present cell phones.

I wish I could have told them that humans had passed through long periods of coping without any technology and only gradually acquired tools, weapons, fire and shelters. Even Lucretius knew that. I could have told them of the discovery of metallurgy leading to great advances in technology, including military weaponry, shields, swords, daggers, bayonets, helmets and body armor.

I could have shown them the first camps of hunting-gathering groups, to the first villages, and thence to the establishment of towns, and cities, or to the growing population of humans occupying this earth and the consequences to the earth itself. I might have shown the establishment and destruction of many empires.

I could have pointed out the first Neanderthal attempts to cope with death by sprinkling corpses with red powder and putting food and tools in the graves. I could have show the first primitive attempts to cope with ill fortune by shamans and witch-doctors, to the establishment of supernatural entities called gods, and thence to the rise of a professional trained priesthood with elaborate buildings, rituals, art, dogma, and writings.

I might have pointed out the natural processes of mountains erupting, rising and falling, the changing landscapes through time, the extinction of animal species such as the giant reptiles, or the mammoth, mastodon, dire wolf, sabertooth tiger, and other extinctions of the late Paleolithic period.  Or, the advance and retreat of successive glaciations of the earth.

I would have to admit that the exhortations of priests, the corruption of politicians, whimsical laws, the way of a man with a woman, murder, and theft may not have changed a great deal through time. But the young people would not have listened anyway.  Their minds were already set by indoctrination for their life-time, dogma had taken place of reason, and fiction had taken the place of facts for them. For them, some words are a kind of evil magic which could doom them to destruction, and they would have none of it.
For them, the stars and sun are unchanging, but paradoxically can be stopped or moved by supernatural whim to accommodate religious exigencies. 


10 thoughts on “TIME FOR A CHANGE

  1. Wow Pete, amazing and touching story as always.

    It’s interesting that some people get so upset by any use of the word “evolution” even if it has nothing to do with biological evolution/natural selection.

    I don’t think any other word has such an effect on people.

  2. It is a pity that these two minds have lost the joy of reasoning, of exploring, and seeking knowledge for the sake of comforting images and ideas.  They remind me of the films of the students chanting and rocking so they won’t hear or think of anything other than their religious beliefs.  How many more great minds have we lost or are we going to lose to these views?

  3. Excellent post. Modern day Xians can see evolution happening during their lifetime. Due to the advances of science etc the life expectancy of humans has increased. Human height has increased in just the past 100 years. There are many more examples but… would they see this as I.D. or evolution?

  4. IMPoe touches on why religious critics of Darwinistic evolutionary theory are so poorly regarded.

    The stunningly obvious fact of the matter is that evolution, as a mechanism of biological change, is not in dispute, nor has it ever been in dispute by anyone with even a moderate grasp of reality. Any animal breeder knows that evolution is a fact. Ask a cattle rancher why a Black Angus looks different then a Polled Herferd and he/she will tell you… “evolution.” Or at least that’s what the answer will boil down to.

    Sadly, many advocates of Creationism or ID are profoundly ignorant of what their chosen theory actually postulates.

    The controvery isn’t over whether “evolution” takes place. Rather it is over the scope and scale of what “evolution” can accomplish and/or is responsible for.

  5. I couldn’t agree more. Whenever I hear students preaching the dogma drilled into them by their parents and such I can’t help feeling pity for them. But ignorance is bliss, I suppose.

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