Apples, oranges, creation, evolution

Published December 9, 2007

Hey, do you mind if we take a whack at this business about "intelligent design" vs. "evolution"? The debate flared up again in Florida last week.

Here's my fix.

They're not opposite things. They are entirely separate matters. Let's deal with them separately.

So if you say you want to "teach intelligent design" in the public schools, hey, that's fine by me, up to a point.

I would address it in a few paragraphs early on about the kinds of things that people believe. I would say that lots of people believe that our universe has a creator, and a purpose.

For further info, I would say, check out the religion of your choice, if you choose one. And if you don't, and don't believe that, that's fine too - this is a public school, and we are not taking sides here.

You want more than that? Okeydoke.

We could also throw in the part about how some people believe the universe is too complicated to have occurred by accident. Eyeballs, brains, cell nuclei, all of that kind of stuff.

That's perfectly true, too. I mean, it's true that lots of people make that argument. As to whether we can ever settle the argument, beats me.

Now we come to the unrelated "evolution" part of the science curriculum, and here is what I would teach:

No matter how the world came into being, as best we can tell, life here on Earth has changed over long periods of time.

It's a fact. We know it. We have dug it up. We have taken a good gander at it. Lots of guys who looked kind of like us, but who weren't us, used to walk around. Lots of old stuff is gone. Lots of new stuff is here.

Saying this is not an attack on religion. It has nothing to say about whether God created the universe. Nothing. Zippo. It's just as silly to use science to deny God as it is to use faith to deny science.

And yet, if you are still determined to have a fight, you could say:

"The book of Genesis tells me that God fashioned man out of clay and made the world in six days. But evolution says that man came about gradually. So there's a conflict."

Nah. I still don't think there is a conflict.

I am figuring that God could have made the world any way that he wanted.

But if you have a different inside scoop, and you are certain that a blink of God's eye is not a million years to us, or 10- million, or a 100-million, then you are an expert, and you need to get on TV and charge good money for it.

Here is my favorite part of the Old Testament: the part where Job demands to know God's ways, and God rebukes him for his presumption. Canst thou draw out Leviathan with a hook?

Hoo boy! Sorry. Let's get back to the schoolroom.

If this lesson plan is still not good enough for you, then at the end we could always throw in this warning:

"Look, evolution does not have anything to do with what people believe about God. All this theory does is try to explain the changes that we have observed."

Now, for the last objection:

"How can you prove, Mr. Smarty Pants, that God didn't create the world just a few thousand years ago, complete with fossils and all?"

I can't. But neither can I prove that God didn't create the world 10 seconds ago. In the end, see, you still gotta go with the measuring sticks that you have.