Sunday, April 19, 2009

the christian mans evolution

Scientific American | After some 30 years of proselytizing about evolution to Christian believers, the esteemed evolutionary biologist at the University of California, Irvine, has honed his arguments to a fine point. He has stories and examples at the ready, even a shock tactic or two at his fingertips. One out of five pregnancies ends in spontaneous miscarriage, he often reminds audiences. Next he will pointedly ask, as in an interview with U.S. Catholic magazine last year, “If God explicitly designed the human reproductive system, is God the biggest abortionist of them all?” Through such examples, he explains, “I want to turn around their arguments.”

The 74-year-old Ayala is preparing for an exceptionally busy 2009. The year marks the bicentennial of Charles Darwin’s birthday and the sesquicentennial of the publication of On the Origin of Species, and the battle over the teaching of evolution is sure to heat up. Ayala says the need is especially great for scientists to engage religious people in dialogue. As evidence, he lugs over the 11-by-17-inch, 12-pound Atlas of Creation mailed out by Muslim creationist Adnan Oktar in Turkey to scientists and museums across the U.S. and France. This richly illustrated tome not only attacks evolution but also links Darwin’s theory to horrors, including fascism and even Satan himself.

In the U.S. the intelligent design–promoting Discovery Institute in Seattle has published biology textbooks questioning evolution and has promoted the 2008 film Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed to make the case that anti-Darwinist scientists are persecuted. (For a rebuttal, see “Ben Stein’s Expelled: No Integrity Displayed,” by John Rennie, and related articles.) Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin has said she believes that creationism should be taught alongside evolution in schools. One in eight high school biology teachers already treat creationism as a valid alternative, according to a Pennsylvania State University poll.

Despite outreach efforts by scientists and constitutional rulings against them, creationists and intelligent design advocates “are not getting weaker,” Ayala says. “If anything, they’re more visible.”