“…Scientific research –not catchphrases– informs us that the evolution controversy in society is a cancerous zombie, difficult to eradicate. And outcomes of the last elections warn us that assaults on science will metastasize in the United States. Not because researchers ‘do not see’ or ‘do see’ a controversy in the science of evolution, or climate change, or the dark fate of our sun. They have no doubt these are realities. But because unrests resurface in communities whenever we have irreconcilable differences around fiction versus facts. And yes, there is a profound conflict between Faith and Science, intrinsic to their fundamental incompatibility…”
By Guillermo Paz-y-Miño-C & Avelina Espinosa
The new strategy among the pro-faith-in-evolution supporters (i.e. theistic evolution, creation science, evolutionary creation, BioLogos, or the Creator-Designer-and-Darwin-in -the-same-sleeping-bag) is to spread the slogan “there is no controversy about evolution” with the purpose to persuade the religious public that evolution is real, and that there is no scientific doubt about it, period. The latter is true.
It is also true that after a memorable judgment, in 2005, when Intelligent Design lost in court (Dover, Pennsylvania, Kitzmiller et al. versus Dover School District et al. 2005) for violating the rules of science by “invoking and permitting supernatural causation” in matters of evolution, and for “failing to gain acceptance in the scientific community,” the opportunistic idea to “teach the controversy” over evolution in the science class gained track.
The vested interest was to publicize that there was a “scientific disagreement” over evolution (note that this view was a fabrication, since most of today’s scientists take evolution for granted), and that students ought to be exposed to the “dispute” to secure good schooling. By “teaching the controversy,” designers aimed at injecting creationism into the mix.
“…The sinister drive was to keep the Creator-Designer in the classroom. Of course this was –still is– a controversy, political and ideological.”
Thus, the slogan “there is no controversy about evolution” emerged in response to the proposal to “teach the controversy,” which, in turn, insinuated that modern scientists questioned the authenticity of evolution. The sinister drive was to keep the Creator-Designer in the classroom. Of course this was –still is– a controversy, political and ideological (see facts about the debate).
The sensu stricto scientific controversy between evolution by means of natural selection, as per Charles Darwin, 1859, and the views of the religious-naturalists of his time (Richard Owen, Adam Sedgwick, John Stevens Henslow, among others) is a fact in history (see also the timeline of the creation-evolution controversy 1650s-2000s). By all epistemology principles, this was a confrontation between Darwin’s naturalistic explanations of how species originated and differentiated over time, versus the core conviction of the Victorian scientific establishment: God, the Creator of nature, its laws and mechanisms.
In consequence, the refurbished slogan “there is no controversy” is, for the most part, a wishful tactic to redirect the “rejection of evolution” back at the “rejectors” themselves, under the premise that –in their minds– the “notion of controversy” enhances the very dismissal of evolution. It is a circular, cosmetic reasoning, with little empirical support, but memed in the social media with enthusiasm.
Now, the contemporary academic topic “evolution controversy” (arguably traceable to the Twentieth Century, 1920s onwards) has never been about any sort of “hypothetical rejection” or “acceptance” of evolution by credible researchers (the spectacular majority of them know evolution happens, contrary to Darwin’s generation), rather, it has been –at least in the United States– about the phenomenon of societal dismissal of science/evolution on the grounds of religious beliefs and conservative political ideology. All sound conceptual studies demonstrate this (e.g. A, B, C, D).
The storm has been about, for example, the support to anti-evolution legislation by lawmakers and their constituents; the low acceptance of evolution by the misinformed general public, and by educators at all levels, who teach creationism because they fear embracing proper science (E, F); and, ultimately, the persistence of ignorance despite the extensive access to knowledge. “That” is –it has been as per chronology– “the controversy.”
“…Imagine asserting that there is no societal controversy concerning ‘alternative facts’ versus facts…”
Here is some food for thought. Imagine asserting that there is no –societal– controversy concerning: climate-change deniers and their opposition to data-based projections of extreme weather fluctuations; or about “alternative facts” versus facts; or homeopathic and chiropractic cures versus scientific medicine; or antivaxxers versus proven herd-immunity effects; or faith healing versus surgical oncology; or anti-GMOs versus no-negative-health-effects-scientifically-attributable-to-GMOs; or pray-sex-health/abstinence versus unwanted pregnancies and sexually-transmitted-diseases… just because –allegedly– no serious scientist gives a damn about the “beliefs in non-facts” by those who worship imagination.
In 2014, public educator Bill Nye debated creationist Ken Ham over the legitimacy of evolution. The encounter itself was controversial, it took place at the Creation Museum in Kentucky. Opponents to the match argued that, by debating, Nye would grant notoriety to Ham’s Museum and the Young-Earth-Creationism agenda. The ‘Science Guy’ defeated Ham at the debate, but it is true that private donations poured in to support the exhibits after the televised event. Currently, the Museum struggles financially and faces sharp criticism by the scientific community.
“…evolution, the ‘E’ word… and E-correctness…”
Since the sticky slogan proclaims “there is no controversy,” it is worth asking: are the science education surrogates expected to put aside the “yuge” societal clash between anti-science and science, or between superstition and empirical reality, and equate them to a minor disagreement, a stone in the shoe?
Like evolution, which continues to occur despite our level of understanding or acceptance of it, the societal controversies are factual and must be addressed as such under reason and science principles, not under the hope that, if we concur to post-like-and-share the catchphrase “there is no controversy about _blank_”, we will make the problem –or part of it– go away. And that is the fallacy of slogans coined to go viral regardless of their silliness. Self deception never pays.
“…any ‘acceptor’ of evolution who believes that God was involved –somehow– in the Creation of the universe, or its laws, is a creationist in principle…”
Is the next step to call evolution the “E-word” so that we rarely use it and, therefore, avoid offending someone? To be E-correct so that our students and public love us as educators, at the same time that we smuggle pseudo-science subliminally into their souls via “teaching techniques“? Or, worse, is the companion, accommodating agenda (to the catchphrase) to force-marry Darwin with Faith to secure that believers accept His message?
Creationism and its disciples come in a range of flavors, from Young Earth Biblical Creationists to Design Creationists, and to any position in which the Creator shows up, even vaguely, in the background of causality (i.e. theistic evolution, creation science, evolutionary creation, BioLogos; links above). In other words, any “acceptor” of evolution who believes that God was involved –somehow– in the Creation of the universe, or its laws, is a creationist in principle. And all morphs of creationism are destined to fail because they merge, deceptively, desire with veracity.
“…as for the fortune of the slogan, trash it…”
Scientific research –not mottos– informs us that the evolution controversy in society is a cancerous zombie, difficult to eradicate. And outcomes of the last elections warn us that assaults on science will metastasize in the United States. Not because researchers “do not see” or “do see” a controversy in the science of evolution, or climate change, or the dark fate of our sun. They have no doubt these are realities. But because unrests resurface in communities whenever we have irreconcilable differences around fiction versus facts. And yes, there is a profound conflict between Faith and Science, intrinsic to their fundamental incompatibility.
As for the fortune of the slogan, let us close by being both historically and E-correct: trash the slogan. — EvoLiteracy © 2017.
G. Paz-y-Miño-C and A. Espinosa are authors of Measuring the Evolution Controversy (2016), Evolution Controversy: A Phenomenon Prompted by the Incompatibility between Science and Religious Beliefs (2015), The Incompatibility Hypothesis: Evolution vs. Supernatural Causation (2014), The Everlasting Conflict Evolution-and-Science versus Religiosity (2013), Why People Do Not Accept Evolution (2012). For access to their studies (PDFs) go to GPC and AE.
PHOTO — Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan during the Scopes Trial (i.e. The State of Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes 1925) in Dayton, Tennessee. At the Scopes “Monkey” Trial, teacher John T. Scopes was accused of violating the TN’s Butler Act, which considered it illegal to teach human evolution in the state’s public schools. The Scopes Trial is iconic in the history of America’s evolution controversy.