February 3, 2004 -- Unfortunately, the assault on science that I discussed in my January 30th commentary is not confined to bookstores at the Grand Canyon.
Proposed curriculum guidelines for Georgia schools suggest that the word “evolution” not be used. It would be replaced with “biological changes over time.” The Georgia Education Department already omits much material referring to the Earth’s age and the relationship of various living organisms to one another. (Yes, if governments didn’t own and run schools, bad ideas might be better confined. But unfortunately that’s not the case.)
State Superintendent of Schools Kathy Cox maintains that the basic ideas of evolution can still be discussed but that the curriculum revision removes a “buzzword” that causes controversy. Of course, this is a “buzzword” only to those creationist crusaders who—nearly 80 years after the Scopes trial—are still obsessed by an urge to censor the study of the origin of species.
What are they scared of? Why does this truth frighten them so much? Some seem to believe that if we do not acknowledge that humans are special because God created us, then there is no basis for ethics and moral anarchy will rule. As Dostoevsky wrote, “If God is dead, all things are permitted.” This belief, of course, reflects a profound misunderstanding of the nature of ethics. As philosopher Ayn Rand
shows, the need for an ethical code arises from the fact that our survival and flourishing require us to exercise our free will and rational capacity, to focus our minds, to choose to think. And it is just the creationists’ failure to do this—their refusal to seek and acknowledge the truth—that leads them both to reject evolution and the mountain of evidence that confirms it, and to reject rational self-interest as a basis of morality.
Sometimes profoundly irrational ideas lie dormant, confined to some obscure corner of a culture. But since ideas have consequences, they are apt to break out like a virus with terrible results. It is thus necessary that we continue to fight to establish a rational culture, or its irrational opposite could be our lot.