“To put it bluntly but fairly, anyone today who doubts that the variety of life on this planet was produced by a process of evolution is simply ignorant—inexcusably ignorant, in a world where three out of four people have learned to read and write.”
― Daniel C. Dennett, Darwin’s Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life
It is absolutely safe to say that if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid or insane (or wicked, but I’d rather not consider that). “Put Your Money on Evolution” The New York Times (April 9, 1989) section VII p.35
It feels like we learned everything in secondary school – from music, science, to foreign languages*. I took 15 subjects for the first three years, seventeen subjects in the fourth year and nine subjects for the last two years. I wrote three final exams (IGCSE, WASSCE and UME) and then I took the SAT and TOEFL. It wasn’t hard – I didn’t do anything but go to school.
Nigeria’s science curriculum is pretty rough. Between the three standardized exams, we covered everything from the definition of science to Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle. In chemistry we covered everything up till organic chemistry. Biology was the subject in which we had the least work but it was still pretty intense. “Draw and completely label the malpighian tubules of a cockroach” was a question on my final. So I can say I have a pretty solid background in science. I had it beaten into me (figuratively)
And then there’s evolution. I can’t remember if we covered it or not. I know we did punnet squares and Mendel’s laws of inheritance two or three times (in Integrated Science, Biology and Agricultural Science) but I have no recollection of studying Darwin’s theory of evolution. I did, however, have a basic knowledge of the theory. I knew who Darwin was and I was familiar with the most popular evidence for it. If it was in my textbook, I read it. My understanding of evolution up till I left high school went something like this:
Once upon a time there was a tiny single cell which made little baby single cells. Eventually, some of the newborn single cells joined together to form a multicellular organism. This multicellular organism then made babies of itself and eventually turned into a more complex organism and then organisms just kept slowly becoming more complex until us. Richard Dawkins has an illustration here: http://randalrauser.com/2012/07/the-interrelatedness-of-all-life-an-illustration-from-richard-dawkins/
I also had some of the basic evidence (fossil records, observed mutations and natural selection, vestigial organs, junk DNA, and those now-discredited drawings of embryos). So, I wouldn’t have won a debate on evolution, but I had the basic idea. More importantly, everyone took it for granted. Criticism of Darwin’s theory of evolution was unheard of in the schools I attended.
Enter college: As a freshman in college, I hear about people who didn’t believe in evolution for the first time. It was mind boggling. Evolution is supposed to be true. My biology textbook said so. My story is tragic from there onwards. I tried to look at the evidence for and against evolution. It could have gone better. Here I was being told by ‘creationists’ and ‘Intelligent Design advocates’ that the fossil record has gaps, microevolution has been proven but not macroevolution, there are limits to biological change, there really isn’t good evidence for macroevolution, microbiology pokes holes in Darwin’s theory, etc. etc. I also received the groundbreaking news that Hackel’s drawings of embryos were staged (!!!) and the Miller Urey experiment has been discredited. Oh, golly.
On the other side, supporters of the theory of evolution were telling me that there are gobs of evidence for evolution like evolved viruses, and the fossil record and evolution has been observed in the lab and anybody who doubts evolution is either stupid, ignorant, uninformed, insane or wicked, etc. (please fill in the other insults you’ve heard).
So I was completely turned off. The debate is too charged. One side is too rude and uninterested in discussion. I don’t even really care about it anymore. Whenever someone asks me what I think about evolution, I tell them that I don’t know. If they laugh at me, I get away from them. There’s no point talking with people who don’t want to talk. That’s my problem with evolution – the people who support it.
I don’t fancy myself inexcusably ignorant or stupid or insane or wicked. I’m just an eighteen year old who covered everything but evolution in high school. My knowledge of the theory isn’t worse than that of the trolls on Youtube who accept it. But I don’t believe in evolution. I won’t until I have good reason to. I don’t have another explanation for the complexity of life on earth, but I don’t have to.
Over the next few days I might try to work through some of the evidence for Darwin’s theory of evolution. Or I might just watch Ugly Betty and do homework. The show is disgusting, but good for passing time.
EDIT: After some thought, I believe we did cover evolution in Social Studies during my first three years of secondary school. That explains why the memory is so fuzzy.