(c) by Mary Griggs

Representative Paul Broun (R-GA) gave a speech at the Liberty Baptist Church Sportsman’s Banquet last month in which he said:

All that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and the Big Bang Theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of Hell,” Broun said. “And it’s lies to try to keep me and all the folks who were taught that from understanding that they need a savior.

“You see, there are a lot of scientific data that I’ve found out as a scientist that actually show that this is really a young Earth,” he said. “I don’t believe that the Earth’s but about 9,000 years old. I believe it was created in six days as we know them. That’s what the Bible says.

Broun is a physician, with an M.D. and a B.S. in chemistry and he serves on the House Science Committee, which came under scrutiny recently after another one of its Republican members, Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO), suggested that victims of “legitimate rape” have unnamed biological defenses against pregnancy.

Why is it okay to have at least two people on the United States House Science committee who either don’t understand science or are utterly opposed to its understanding of the way the world, or indeed, universe, works?

Would we have this discussion about a member of the Armed Services Committee who is utterly opposed to the use of military intervention anywhere, anytime?

There is such a thing as truth. Truth is not relative. It’s not subjective. It may be elusive or hidden. People may wish to disregard it. But there is such a thing as truth and the pursuit of truth: trying to figure out what has really happened, trying to figure out how things really are.

To believe in a 6 to 9,000 year old earth, means ignoring evidence from nearly every corner of the sciences. As Theodosuis Dobzhansky stated: “Nothing in biology makes sense without evolution.”

A few thousand years simply is not enough time, for example, to explain the amount of sediment at the bottoms of rivers. Even stronger evidence for an older earth is available today from continental drift and radioactive decay rates. Essentially all the earth’s helium, for instance, comes from the radioactive decay of heavy elements with half-lives of millions of years; if the earth was only thousands of years old, then virtually none of these atoms would have decayed yet. In biology, the great age of the earth is demonstrated by rates of change of DNA. Historical linguistics shows that many modern languages evolved from a smaller number of parent languages, and the rate at which languages change is too slow to allow this linguistic evolution to have occurred within 6000 years. There is also a great deal of astronomical evidence. Measurements of the rate of cratering in our solar system show that the moon must be billions of years old.

Evolution can be easily observed in the laboratory, for instance when bacteria evolve resistance to a particular antibiotic or plants evolve due to selective breeding (see corn). The fossil record shows, for example, how birds evolved from dinosaurs. The hypothesis that present-day forms evolved from a common ancestor or ancestors is corroborated by DNA studies.

The word “theory” doesn’t just mean “what some person thinks.” The word is generally used in science to mean a powerful, rigorous framework that is based on a large body of evidence, has made many predictions that have been verified, and has withstood vigorous and skeptical examination.

Even the Catholic Church recognizes the scientific basis for evolution. In 1996, Pope John Paul II wrote:

Today, almost half a century after the publication of [Pius XII’s] Encyclical, fresh knowledge has led to the recognition that evolution is more than a hypothesis. It is indeed remarkable that this theory has been progressively accepted by researchers, following a series of discoveries in various fields of knowledge. The convergence, neither sought nor fabricated, of the results of work that was conducted independently is in itself a significant argument in favor of this theory.

Belief is for faith and for religions. Scientists accept that a particular theory adequately explains the facts and evidence acquired so far, and look for other tests that will either confirm or refute the theory.

Too bad politicians aren’t so rigorous when they are contradicted by the facts.