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Wednesday, February 20

Florida Calls Evolution "Scientific Theory" - Hundreds of Monkeys at Silver Springs Prepare to Leave State

In a way, it's hard to believe that Florida should be kicking up such a fuss over the teaching of evolution.

Honestly, think about it.

You have our largest space port on the Atlantic coast, several nuclear power plants, aerospace firms and at least two oceanic biology institutes. Our universities are generally first-rate (okay, okay, I'm being generous regarding Florida State, but sometimes you have to generalize).

The State School Board of Florida accepted the new science standards by which local schoolkids will get themselves educated (hopefully) by a small margin, but not before the board members bluffed by a tiny addition of three words.

Instead of calling it "evolution," the Board called it the "scientific theory of evolution." Reaction from both sides of the specious debate that has enraged the Irrational and embarrassed the Rational was understandably muted, as the decision doesn't really satisfy anyone.

But in a way, couching the term in that manner enables teachers to explain what "science" really means, and let kids know what a "theory" actually entails (because we have to remind others that gravity and atoms are also just theories).

Think Progress reports that the bluff was inserted mainly to mollify the people I referred to in an earlier post as The Stupid, the legions of pig-ignorant people who can get whipped into a frenzy of irrationality by their shamans or right-wing politicians.

Typical of The Stupid is the Panhandle resident Think Progress highlights in the bit of video they have in their article (I caution all of you to make sure your stomachs are empty before you watch, as it'll make you retch). Which got me thinking of the earliest Evolution/Creation debates shortly after Darwin published his findings and conclusions.

In 1860 at Oxford, England, a debate was held about the merits of the work (Darwin wasn't present, being a shy and retiring person). He was ably represented, however, by biologist Thomas Huxley; the opposing viewpoint was presented by the Lord Bishop of Oxford, Samuel Wilberforce. The topic was what the theory did to Humanity's place in the Universe.

At one point, Bishop Wilberforce decided to tweak Huxley by inquiring whether it was Huxley's grandfather or grandmother who was the ape.

Bear in mind, now, that in Victorian England the very idea that a man, let alone an Englishman, might be related to any other man let alone an inferior form of life was anathema. Wilberforce thought he could fluster Huxley and score some points.

He failed.

The story is apocryphal but it is related that Huxley leaned over to a friend and whispered, "The Lord hath delivered him into my hands." He then stood and delivered the following response to Wilberforce:

"If the question is put to me would I rather have a miserable ape for a grandfather or a man highly endowed by nature and possessed of great means of influence and yet who employs these faculties and that influence for the mere purpose of introducing ridicule into a grave scientific discussion, I unhesitatingly affirm my preference for the ape."

Both sides thought they had managed to get their point across, and all went off to dinner together.

Now, if someone had pointed out to the wonderful rube from Florida's Backwoods that the orange WAS related, on an atomic and molecular level, and shared some similar processes in common with our own cells, I'm afraid the idea would be totally lost on him. Irrationality is at times a wonderful thing, as ignorance is bliss.

I'd much rather be rational, and know that in the depths of my own ignorance about quite a few things I can at least think, reason, acquire knowledge and reduce that level of ignorance.

But, to quote the movie Cool Hand Luke, "Some people you just can't reach."


But what about the monkeys? I hear you ask.

Glad you brought it up.

Way back in the 30s a troupe of rhesus monkeys were brought over from Africa and deposited in the Silver Springs area to give a bit of color to the old Tarzan flicks. They stayed, went feral and are now protected within the boundaries of the park.

I heard that after they heard that guy from the Panhandle speak, many of them have decided to emigrate back to Africa. A spokesape said, "We're moving back to a smarter country."

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