In the years prior to my Coming To America, I’d heard odd rumblings about evolution (the biological kind) being a problem for some Americans, but it wasn’t until I came to marry, live and work here fifteen years ago that the full enormity of the problem became apparent to me.
No Gravity For Me, Thank You Very Much
It felt as if I’d encountered a planet where almost half the population disputed the existence of gravity.
Some denied its existence outright, some agreed that it exists but only in very special and highly restricted circumstances, some felt there might be something to the theory but they disputed some claims (almost all of which have never actually been made by gravity’s proponents), and only a small proportion actually understood it well enough to be able to accept it as a fundamental part of the universe.
And all of them were subject to the force of gravity even as they disputed its existence.
Gravity is nowhere near as well understood as aspects of biological evolution yet we accept that gravity does exist, probably because we can readily demonstrate its presence even though we can’t see, touch, smell or taste it. You can’t buy a truckload of it at the supermarket but you can predict its effects quite well, if you know the equations involved.
Its nature and origins are still the subject of much discussion and debate, and some of the proposed explanations involve esoteric concepts such as the requirement for additional dimensions – something that the average Joe or Jane has probably no inkling of and can’t see the need to understand since those ideas have no relevance in everyday life.
There are, of course, those who claim to be able to defy gravity, and it’s inevitable that at some point in the future we’ll discover a genuine way to artificially neutralize its effects and maybe even reverse them (so that instead of being attracted to a large mass by a hidden force, we will be pushed away by it), yogic fliers notwithstanding.
Fuzz, Thorns, Cars and Hoo-Hah
When it comes to biological evolution, things become incredibly fuzzy. And the subject is now so unbelievably thorny, the more so since various factions in opposition to it have extended the meaning of the word “evolution” to include the creation of Life and everything back to the Big Bang, none of which is even remotely relevant to the processes involved in biological evolution.
It’s as if someone is trying to say that in a race involving high performance automobiles, any description of the positions of the cars at any point in the race and how they got there must also include a description of the starting pistol that began the race and the paperwork the drivers and their teams had to complete in order to be allowed to participate.
No. Those are precursors to the race but they don’t explain any part of the race and are just not relevant, no matter how much anyone claims to the contrary.
So biological evolution is a complicated subject that is made all the more difficult to understand (whether or not one accepts it) by all the hoo-hah that obscures just about everything associated with it. It’s no longer a set of processes, it’s a political, social, philosophical and religious hot potato.
And it really shouldn’t be – and it need not be.
Doing The Crossword
I like doing crossword puzzles. I find they stretch me mentally – I really have to think hard, try to identify patterns in odd groups of disconnected letters, dredge up memories of things long forgotten, and always, always there’s the agenda of the puzzle setter to keep in mind: they want to mislead you in the clues by making them as ambiguous as possible, with seriously obscure interpretations of everyday expressions.
One of my favorite clues was “Extinct volcanoes win race together”. The answer was “DEAD HEAT”.
Another of the reasons I like such puzzles is that sometimes – frequently, in fact – it’s possible to fill in a bunch of squares with what I’m reasonably confident are the right answers, only to find that there’s one clue for which I absolutely positively know the right answer – and it doesn’t fit with the bunch of answers I’ve already got.
That’s when I really have to put my thinking cap on. I have multiple answers I’m sure make sense on the one hand, but a single answer that doesn’t fit on the other. How do I determine the correct solution? Should the greater number hold sway over the one? Should I just give up and chuck the puzzle away, never knowing what the real solution was (assuming it was given)?
Me being me, I worry away at it. Sometimes for weeks – even months. Literally. If I know there’s a published solution, I keep away from it. This is something I have to work out for myself. It’s a matter of personal pride. My ego tells me that my intellect must win the day. And most of the time, it does. It’s by no means an easy task, and occasionally I do experience a good deal of stress. The feeling that I’m banging my head against a brick wall can become overpowering.
But at the end of the day, if I do manage to resolve it, invariably it’s that one answer that I know makes sense that is the key. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, it turns out that all the other answers had alternatives that were less well known to me. Once I worked out what those were and started plugging some of them in, the one answer that I was absolutely convinced was right then slotted neatly into place. The “D’Oh!” moments are plentiful at those times.
The sense of satisfaction that arises from such success, even though it’s a drop in the ocean, provides much pleasure. I managed through dint of perserverance to get it right. I knew I’d got some bits wrong – even though I didn’t know specifically which bits – and I worked at it until I got them right.
So what does that have to do with the acceptance – or otherwise – of the existence and reality of biological evolution?
I’m getting to that…