Cheerio From London and Charles Darwin

I just returned from 4 days in London. Great monuments. Lousy food. Charming people. How do they stay so charming eating that lousy food?

Say what you will about the Brits (the food isn’t their only fault), they gave the world parliamentary democracy. Not to deny their imperialism and funny hats, but they have often been an island of sanity (literally) in a world gone mad. And every day of my visit last week, I had some of that sanity in my hand.

Their 10-pound ($20) bill features a picture of Charles Darwin on the back.

Can you imagine that in the U.S.?

Twenty-five years ago, people who were against sex education, abortion, pornography, and premarital sex were straightforward and honest about it: “it’s immoral,” they would say, “it’s just not right.” They might even add, “the whole thing makes me uncomfortable.”

Now people lie about these things: “Abortion causes sterility or cancer” (it doesn’t). “Sex education encourages kids to have sex” (it doesn’t). “Premarital sex leads to depression and divorce” (it doesn’t). “Pornography makes men rape women” (it doesn’t). Science has disproven each of these assertions. They’re opinions, not facts. Opinions that control U.S. public policy.

This is exactly as if the Defense Department were controlled by people who believe that the world is flat—and refused to sail our navy across the ocean to prevent our ships from falling off the edge of the Atlantic.

I call these opinions lies because when confronted with the evidence that they’re wrong, these people almost always say, “I don’t care about your so-called facts. I know what I know.” Worse, they spread these lies via government websites, “decency” campaigns, and TV shows.

One of the most tragic accomplishments of the Bush Administration is the cultural devaluation of knowledge. Facts are no longer seen as special. In a single decade, the scientific enterprise—the thought process that lifted human beings out of caves, cannibalism, and the fear of fire—has been nakedly politicized, reduced to the level of just another opinion.

As teacher Bob Riggins says, “Do you believe in evolution?” is the wrong question. It suggests that there is a choice. It implies that “believing” and “not believing” are, on some intellectual level, equivalent. But they aren’t.

Evolution’s history and contemporary processes have long been established as knowledge. In fact, you can see evolution easier than you can see intercourse causing pregnancy or the moon causing tides. The next time you get a drug-resistant flu or infection, you’re seeing evolution in action. And when you drop your pen, does it fall because of “gravity,” or the floor god Calvin? Does not believing in gravity make it any less real?

In England, people don’t discuss whether or not they “believe” in Darwin or Evolution. Millions of them are good Christians.

But in today’s America, more people believe in the reality of the Rapture than in the reality of Evolution. As Richard Kliman says in Philip Roth’s new novel, Exit Ghost, “these are people who don’t believe in knowledge.”

I love England for bragging that it’s the home of Charles Darwin. I cherish America for the vision of liberty that it offers the world. I would love America even more if the 100,000,000 of my neighbors who don’t “believe” in Evolution grew up and admitted that there’s an actual world out there, sex included.

Every day that America denies science we are one day closer to the barbaric, medieval society Al-Qaeda dreams of. Why are we going there voluntarily?


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