Recently, while driving on Interstate 5 through Oregon, I saw a billboard that gave me pause. "Are They Making a Monkey Out Of You?" ran above four panels that displayed a disturbing transformation of a startled looking fellow with a van dyke (panel #1). He acquired an ape-like mouth and nose (#2), developed a major brow ridge and strange resemblance to a Beagle Boy in Disney comics (#3), and, lastly, morphed fully into a baby chimpanzee (#4). Below was the URL WhoIsYourCreator.com.
Was I having a flashback to the Ken Russell film Altered States, in which William Hurt devolves into a rampaging primal man? Was it photographic evidence from a University of Oregon kegger? A wry commentary on the declining rationality of the American populace?
Inadvertently, it was number three: it was the Creationists at work again! The billboards (I saw another the same day) were paid for by a Christian group based in Minnesota. Their web site states, "Who Is Your Creator uses media, including display advertising, to raise awareness of the serious misrepresentations and lack of scientific proof for the theory of Evolution, Naturalism and Darwinism."
Lack of scientific proof? Are they inhabiting an alternate universe? Have we somehow misplaced several million fossils? Have we once and for all proven that radiometric dating is a secular smokescreen? Shall we relegate astronomy and biology and geology to the dustbin of science? Perhaps we should expunge Galileo's name from textbooks and go back to believing that the earth is the center of the universe.
For God's sake (and I mean: for the sake of a God unrelated to Pat Robertson), I was in Oregon, a relatively progressive "blue" state. It wasn't Kansas, a recent battleground over the teaching of evolution in private schools. The year was 2007, not 1925 (when the Scopes trial took place). Yet, faith continues to trump reason in the USA. Some 48% of Americans reject the theory of evolution, according to a recent Newsweek poll. Other recent polls have shown that about half the country believes that God created man "pretty much in his present form" at one time in the last 10,000 years. This is more than faith. It's ignorance.
If the earth was created that recently, it means that either a whole lot of prehistoric life came into being and then died off in a heartbeat, or it means that trilobites, dinosaurs, Neanderthals and modern man all co-existed in a very short time frame. Perhaps Noah made a pro-active decision not to let Tyrannosaurus Rex board the Ark.
Should we teach creationism (or "intelligent design") in science classes in our public schools? No, we should not. Neither creationism nor intelligent design is a theory that has been scientifically tested and at least partially verified. They are beliefs. There are people who theorize that extraterrestrials built the pyramids, but it isn't necessary to include such speculations in our children's history books for "balance."
The Christian Genesis chapter and creation stories from other cultures belong in religion, anthropology or mythology classrooms. There's no excuse for including religious explanations of the universe in science textbooks or classes. Evolutionary theory, on the other hand, is a theory supported by an overwhelming amount of evidence. Of course, theories are not forever; they must be tested and discarded if disproved. If evolutionary theory is replaced by something better some day, so be it. But that something better should not be a matter of faith.
Evolutionists are not making chimps (or, more correctly, primate ancestors) out of you. Rather, Creationists are making monkeys out of Americans. Our international reputation, our science education and research, our health care, and our government are suffering for it. We are electing politicians on the basis of their medieval mindsets. Look at the three Republican presidential candidates in 2007 who said they didn't believe in evolution: Mike Huckabee, Sam Brownback and Tom Tancredo. Look at Dubya. De-evolution has become a requirement for higher office.
In his book The Universe in a Single Atom, the Dalai Lama calls for a dialogue between religion and science. He writes, "Certainly some specific aspects of Buddhist thought - such as old cosmological theories and its rudimentary physics--will have to be modified in the light of new scientific insights." I also know an Episcopalian minister who accepts current theories of modern physics and cosmology, and professes that "I have no problem with evolution. It's a beautiful thing." Would that our fundamentalist preachers were so enlightened.
We need a separation of church and state. Fundamentalists are making monkeys out of Americans, and it's a national disgrace.