Happy Darwin Day!

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I had no idea.

Today is Darwin day, meaning Feb. 12 was the famed scientist’s birthday.

Darwin, author of Origin of the Species, is famous for the theory of evolution. I’m no expert on the subject, but my layperson’s understanding of it is that over successive generations of a species, genetic anomalies occur. Genetic anomalies that give survival benefits will be reproduced more successfully than anomalies that are detrimental. Over time, the cumulative effect changes the species; over millions, even billions of years, it creates life’s diversity which, on Earth, has resulted in very complex life forms.

This is accepted truth by an overwhelming majority of scientists. In fact, it’s a process that can be easily proven. Dog breeds range from tiny Chihuahuas to giant mastiffs because of selective breeding – harnessing the forces of evolution and using them to draw out desired traits. What was once a wolf is now a Lhasa Apso, but also a Dalmatian, a Yorkie and a Rottweiler.

Obvious it may be, but humanity’s ability to deceive itself knows no bounds. This Slate article claims almost half of Americans are “young Earthers” who believe the planet has existed for something less than 10,000 years: http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2013/02/ken_ham_s_books_and_museums_creationist_empire_starts_to_crumble_as_we_celebrate.2.html

Now, before you start bad-mouthing Americans, it’s important to recognize their beliefs are only the most patently absurd in a host of beliefs many mainstream theists around the world embrace. Remember, the claims of almost every religion are quite specific. Christians don’t believe in an unknown cause guiding the universe, they believe in a holy trinity and a savior who walked as man and whose sacrifice on a cross must be acknowledged in order to gain salvation. These are very specific views – just as specific as the opinion dinosaurs walked the Earth with humans and carbon dating of fossils is, what, a trick by God to test faith?

The same kinds of specific claims are made in other religions as well, so this is by no means a criticism of Christianity alone. I have little knowledge of Islam, but apparently a small number of adherents take the idea of paradise seriously enough they’ll martyr themselves to get there.

Even non-traditional spiritual beliefs put fanciful tales before scientific evidence. From astrology to healing crystals, ion bracelets to homeopathic cures, willingness to seek favour from the spiritual realm or “unknown forces” trumps rationality for a huge number of us. Am I the only person who has noticed the word ‘Believe’ is now used to sell about a million different made-in-China knick knacks? Believe what? Or should we just embrace a blanket statement, ‘Believe’? When did gullibility become a virtue?

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the non-existent ghost of Darwin for that man’s service to humanity, and applaud my fellow skeptics. Happy Darwin day, doubters!

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