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News You Don't Say

Maybe give sanity a try

It has been a fallow interval at the blog because of some hectic days at the paragraph factory, domestic exigencies, and the like, but I am back today to advocate, in my small way, sanity.

Immediately after the late election, the outbreaks of looniness came thick and fast. A gentleman wrote to The Baltimore Sun to say that he was halting all charitable donations and putting his resources into bottled water and ammo, presumably against the collapse of civil order that President Obama's re-election made inevitable. There was a Baptist divine who was kind enough to say that the president is probably not the Antichrist, but must certainly be his forerunner. And multitudes petitioned to secede from the Union. (Perhaps they should consider going to see Lincoln to be reminded how that turned out the last time.)

And the Hon. Marco Rubio, U.S. senator from Florida, questioned about the age of the planet, said that he was not a scientist and there are many explanations. Presumably he meant to indicate that the question is unsettled.

No, it is not. Alex Knapp, writing at Forbes, patiently explains that the age of the universe and the planet (the latter currently estimated at about 4.54 billion years) are fundamental to current physics. Not just the theoretical kind, but the applied kind that produces the DVDs and nuclear power plants and other technologies that support our societies.

Today is the anniversary of the publication in 1859 of Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. Darwinian evolution requires immense amounts of time, which geology obligingly supplied, and later research in genetics provided the mechanism. There is argument over aspects of Darwinian evolution, but in a century and a half of research it has not been shaken.

There is no controversy here, because physics, astronomy, geology, and biology are linked by shared observations, assumptions, and empirical tests. It does no service to evangelical Christians with a literalist reading of Scripture when public officials pander to them by pretending that the world is not as it is. It does no service to the public at large to encourage them to write their theological views into the public-school curriculum.* And it is at bottom not rational to seek to enjoy the benefits of science while denying its underpinnings.

So. The re-election of a moderate Democrat so willing to compromise with conservatives that he has repeatedly infuriated the progressive wing of his own party pretty clearly does not portend the establishment of a socialist Islamo-fascist Sharia-observing state. Everyone can come out of the bunker into the daylight.

Just so, while physics and biology have not offered complete explanations of everything, they have established many facts, empirical truths, about the world in which we operate. St. John said that the truth shall make us free. There are many kinds of truth, and one of them is the scientific, empirical one. If we are to know the truth, reconciling the varying kinds, it makes no sense to deny one of them. That is why many theologians have long since made peace with geology and biology.

Today, in view of Darwin's insight and achievement, looks like a good day to heed the sane people. They deserve more attention.

 

*Probably the Roman Catholic Church could remind them that the example of Galileo is not a favorable precedent for religion to dictate to science.

 

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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