I'm James Maxey, the author of numerous novels of fantasy and science fiction. I use this site to discuss a wide range of topics, with a heavy emphasis on cranky, uninformed rants about politics and religion and other topics that polite people attempt to avoid. For anyone just wanting to read about my books, I maintain a second blog, The Prophet and the Dragon, where I keep the focus solely on my fiction. I also have a webpage where both blogs stream, with more information about all my books, at jamesmaxey.net.


Monday, December 13, 2004

Was Darwin Wrong?

Last month's National Geographic had as their cover the question, in large type, "Was Darwin Wrong?" You turn to the article, and in even larger type, the answer is "No." Sadly, I am certain not one person will be swayed by this article. A century of ever building evidence hasn't convinced most people, so this one article certainly won't do the trick.

As mentioned in my Jack Chick posts, there are a lot of people in this world who find the whole notion of evolution to be absurd. The strange thing is that these people aren't some tiny minority, as rare and easily dismissed as flat-Earthers. I've seen polls showing as many as half of all Americans believe in creationism. (If you want, you can dig through this article for the relevant numbers--sorry I couldn't find an easy table for reference http://www.secularhumanism.org/library/fi/bishop_19_3.html ) President Bush doesn't believe in evolution (this may be apocryphal, I don't have an actual quote on tape of him saying Darwin was a fraud). Local school boards all around the country are infested with people who want to do away with teaching evolution. This isn't some red state/blue state thing either--the latest case of a school board voting to teach "intelligent design" is out of Pennsyvania, blue for the last two election cycles.

Having grown up among fundamentalist, I can assure you no scientific theory has ever been more subject to ridicule than evolution. The whole idea that our "grandparents were monkeys" just leaves these folks slapping thier knees and laughing so hard they vomit. They fight tooth and nail against evolution for one simple reason--evolution punctures big gaping holes in Genesis. To people who believe that the Bible is infallible--and there are many, many people out there with this belief--evolution is the most dangerous lie the devil has ever implanted in society.

So, they ignore fossil evidence. They ignore genetic evidence. The ignore the microbial evolution unfolding within human lifespans as diseases adapt and evolve in response to mankind's attempts to eradicate them. They ignore the evidence of their own eyes, claiming to see absolutely no similarity between a man and a chimpanzee. Why, it's as crazy as comparing a fish to a pineapple to them.

When I went to college, we had a "rap session" where all the freshmen were invited to sit in a circle with twenty other freshmen and talk about thier values and life experiences. I was the only atheist in the room. I still recall the absolute horror and panic that my opinions stirred up for one girl in the circle. To her, I was a potential serial killer. She said that if I had no foundation in God, I had no morality. If there was no fear of the punishment of Hell hanging over my head, no hope of a Heaven, then at any moment I was likely to pull out a knife and start stabbing people. I didn't, of course, although I admit I withheld from slaughter mainly just to spite her. But, I think her fear is the central fear of all people who cling to belief in God. They feel the universe simply must have a higher authority to ensure that the world and society runs in an orderly fashion. Absent God, we are left with anarchy and despair.

Actually, reading the papers, it's not to difficult to find that the world has its share of anarchy and despair, but maybe God is just busy. After all, in American, he has to ensure our "inalienable rights," life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Curiously, have you ever noticed how easily alienated we are from these rights? We don't recognize any fundamental right to life. As a society, we agree that life can be terminated for any number of good reasons--you might be a convicted killer, or an enemy soldier, or even just an innocent civilian standing too close to someone who might be a soldier. Or maybe you are a fetus only devoloped a few months. We can and do allow people to take the lives of other people all the time. The right to liberty? Again, we yank that away from people at the drop of a hat. We throw people in prison with depressing ease, often for pursuing happiness--just try smoking a little pot or walking naked down a city street. You can pursue happiness only within certain broadly defined boundaries. So, actually, God doesn't seem to be too busy keeping our rights intact. So, really, what is he up to? He rested on the seventh day, but does the Bible mention whether he ever bothered to clock back in on the eigth?

The notion that we owe our existence to chance rather than to intelligent design strikes a dark pit of terror into the hearts of many people. To me, I look at it as winning a lottery. If you win a million dollars in a lottery, its due to chance. Does that make the money any less fun to spin? Being alive means you've won the only lottery that really matters. Spend your life here and now, don't save it for a rainy day.

Years ago, I was pretty frustrated with my fellow human beings for their rejection of reality. But, as I've matured, I find that it really doesn't get me down as much as it used to. There's even a kind of beauty in it, a Don Quixote nobility of clinging to fantasy. The one sad thing is, Don Quixote attacked the windmill, believing it to be a monster. But windmills can actually be kind of beautiful. By keeping their eyes fixed firmly on Paradise, fundamentists are blind to the wonder of the living world that surrounds them. Still, I'm a sucker for people who throw their whole hearts into absurd and lost causes.

After all, I'm trying to make a living writing fiction.

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