“Today, the theory of evolution is an accepted fact for everyone but a fundamentalist minority, whose objections are based not on reasoning but on doctrinaire adherence to religious principles” – James D. Watson
I was approached the other day by an individual whom I’ve known for about a year. He asked me if I “believed” in evolution, to which I answered that the question is not whether one believes in evolution, but if they understand it. I explained that there is a vast amount of knowledge that validates evolution, and further explained the difference between the vernacular use of the word “theory,” and the definition according to the scientific community. He looked a little perplexed, and I could tell he was searching for some sort of reply. What he came up with initially made me cringe, “If we came from apes, why are there still apes.”
Now, mind you, I am used to getting these types of replies from the tried and true of the church – the adults, whose minds I refer to as being like cement – permanently set and all mixed up. But my conversation was not with an adult. I was talking to a teenager, and after the initial internal wincing upon hearing his query regarding the coexistence of apes along side of humans, I became angry. No, not at him – not by a long shot. I looked at it as a genuine teaching moment. My anger was directed toward his parents and the school for the immense level of fail that has been foisted upon him.
The Gift Of Ignorance…
It both saddens and angers me that so many parents and educators believe that the bible is a gift from God, that it is inerrant in its content and perfectly suitable for teaching from. They deem it perfectly acceptable to replace perfectly good science with bronze-age fairy tales that have been thoroughly debunked for many generations. It pains me to the very core of my being that creationism is even considered worthy of sharing the same dais as evolution. It angers me that Christian mythology, particularly the creation myth, is given any more credence than the Epic of Gilgamesh, or Santa Claus, or the Easter Bunny, or any other myth or fairy tale.
Creationism doesn’t belong as a comparative to anything even remotely connected to reality, and by passing it off as anything other than the myth that it is should be seen as nothing short of abusive and neglectful toward our children. Parents who teach their kids creationism instead of evolution fail in their duties to properly prepare their children for life outside of the nest, and educators who persist in neglecting their duties by insisting that creationism (in any of its forms) be taught either in place of or along side of evolution should have their professional licenses revoked.
Pot, Meet Kettle…
To add insult to injury, these parents and educators turn around and tell our children that we’re the ones who delusional, and we’re the ones who are being ignorant, and that we’re the ones who are insane, and the we’re the ones who are living a lie, and the we’re the ones who should not be trusted and we are actually “working for” another equally non-existent entity they call “Satan.”
They have the audacity to infer that our facts are fiction and their fiction is fact. They tell our children that we have “exchanged the truth for a lie,” when all along they are the ones who are living in a fantasy world filled with talking snakes, talking donkeys, magical trees, zombies walking the earth, a man living in the belly of a fish for three days, the “sun stopping,” and a whole host of other things that have no place in the real world. They are lying to our children, damaging their intellect and denying them much-needed critical thinking skills.
We Have A Responsibility…
As I was explaining to this young man about the basics of evolutionary theory, the thought occurred to me that his parents would quite likely be extremely pissed off at my meddling. For a brief moment I though that perhaps I should not get involved with breaking down the faith of someone else’s kid, and that by doing so I would be just as guilty as they are in trying to teach creationism to my kids. But it was a very brief moment, and I quickly remembered that, as unbelievers, we have a responsibility to the future of our species to do whatever we can to disseminate the science and eliminate the myth.
In this case, I was approached and was asked for my input. This is rare, indeed. Especially in the deep South. Many of you may be wondering if I am suggesting that we start handing out information pamphlets on evolution, or offering invitations to Secular events and Freethought Group meetings. If so, wouldn’t that be an invasion of privacy on the rights of a parent to indoctrinate their kids however they see fit, even if what they are teaching is total, complete bullshit?
Geese And Gander…
Well, yeah, that is exactly what I am suggesting. Getting little cards, pamphlets and fliers that serve in directing youth to information about the science and facts of evolution are not hard to find. As far as it being an invasion of privacy on the rights of parents, I say, “Tough Shit.” I don’t really care how much they might jump up and down and shout “How dare you approach MY kid?” For all I care, they can call the police. It’s not illegal to talk to a child.
They wouldn’t have a leg to stand on, anyway. How many Christian adults believe it is perfectly OK to hand out their tracts to our children? How many times do evangelists single out kids in the mall or at the state fair or a carnival and invite them to their churches and youth events? How many of them like to pass out cute little bibles with instructions on what to read and what to believe about what they have read? How many stories have you read or heard about that reveal the tactics of youth evangelism, including those done right on the campuses of our public schools?
Go Ye Therefore…
So, this is my challenge to my fellow atheists for 2012. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations… Do as you are able. If you don’t have a pile of unused cash lying around, you can always print out a one-page summary of evolution (preferably one that does not mock religion) with website addresses for more information, including one that has a good FAQ. Go to Wal-Mart and make 100 copies. Cost you like five bucks or so. Find a kid, ask them if they believe that God created the universe. If they say yes, put a copy in their hands and walk away. If you are wondering where to get these one-page summaries, well, Google is your friend.
If you have some extra cash, you can purchase pre-printed tracts, such as this one. This will cost a little more, but you can fit a lot more on a well-designed tri-fold pamphlet to hand out. You can spend fifteen bucks and buy 100 CD-R’s and spend a day downloading copies of Darwin’s book (they are free) and/or any one of a thousand other free resources available on the web and hand a CD to a kid. You can also just go out and buy copies of actual books to give away.
There is no shortage of information on evolution that is geared toward our youth, and most of it is free for the download.
Freethought Groups? Darwin Day is coming up in February, so now is a good time to start planning for and promoting an event with handouts, pamphlets, etc., and building up interest in your community by talking to the local youth.
There is much to be said for the old axiom, “You can’t teach and old dog new tricks.” Fully grown humans tend to be a tenacious lot, resistant to change, stuck in tradition and willing to blindly go where everyone else has gone before. This is why the church spends so much time and money on youth evangelism. Get ’em while they’re young, so they say. Common knowledge states that if a child is not indoctrinated by the time they are eighteen or so, they will likely not become so.
Our children are fair game according to the methods of the evangelist. Let’s give the church a run for its money and get out there with your photocopies, tracts, books, pamphlets and brochures and get them into the hands of those curious young minds.