Why Are We Still Talking
By Hank Campbell
If someone in 2012 wants to criticize Henry Ford because he didn't know everything about automobiles a century ago, it's a little silly. He knew what he knew given the science and the technology of his day - he revolutionized his field. Freud got a lot wrong about psychology but he created the only unified theory of psychology recognized by people today. Criticizing him is as quaint and pointless and irrelevant as someone criticizing a 19th century analysis of Coleridge - any researcher doing it is likely to get a "someone paid for them to write this?" response.
In 2012, though, people are still trying to bash Darwin and their main argument is he didn't know everything. To biologists, he had perhaps the greatest idea anyone ever had, descent with modification, and that was that. His books are okay, he was not a great writer, you are really only reading them for historical context, but a 'culture war' exists over him that never happened about Einstein or Holmes.
Wait, Holmes? Who? Right, he is a nobody to most people in science. He pioneered a way to show the actual age of rocks, which led to the theory of continental drift. As a result, what Thomas Huxley meant when he said, ‘Biology takes its time from Geology’ became literally true. Quantifying geologic time did far more to harm the beliefs of Biblical literalists than evolution or relativity ever did. And yet only the kookiest of people today deny continental drift, just like only the kookiest people deny evolution. But it is made to seem like it is some huge number denying science and polls back that up. Far more than in most countries.
Why do we hear so much about a war between science and religion in America now? When I was in high school, it seemed like 'creationism' did not exist the way it does now. Sure, there were religious people but the so-called Scopes Monkey Trial had established that evolution was science and should be taught in science classes five decades earlier. I grew up in a town with one stop sign, five churches and no bars yet I never once heard that Darwin was wrong in a conservative, all-white, rural Pennsylvania town.
A few years after I graduated there was a rather silly effort to give religion some equal time in a school district in another state. As Dr. Eugenie Scott of the NCSE (they lead the fight to keep religion out of science classes) said of her experience working to keep science and religion separate then, on the side of science in that conflict were...religious people. They did not want have to spend their Saturdays and Sundays undoing one sectarian viewpoint that might be taught in schools during the week.
Today, religious people are terrific allies for science when not being attacked just as they historically have always been; there would be no science without religion, religion kept knowledge for society when governments wanted knowledge gone. Even in Darwin's time, religious people were still doing great science. Mendel was not an atheist, progressive, government-funded biologist, yet he won a race biologists didn't even know they were in until after he won it. The list of philosophical and scientific achievements by liturgical people is long.
Read more: Science 2.0