Project Sandwalk

Blog for Darwin

Looking back to my childhood, Texas in the late 1950’s and 1960’s seems downright progressive compared to Kansas, Louisiana, and other hotbeds of modern creationism. It’s not that Genesis wasn’t taught in the Baptist Sunday school I attended, but I don’t remember anyone teaching it as literal fact.

Likewise in school, where I already knew about Charles Darwin and natural selection before a classmate in ninth-grade biology brought the teacher a tract claiming that the archerfish disproves evolution. One wall of my bedroom was aquariums, and I had even kept an archerfish for a while. Encountering someone so ignorant of nature as to not see what to me were obvious relationships among living things was deeply disturbing.

merlinpreyOver time, I encountered more and more creationists, from my best friend in 12th grade (“fossils are just funny-shaped rocks made by the Devil”) to university classmates who tried to evangelize during Comparative Anatomy labs. Still, it’s difficult for me to understand how, in the 21st century, we are fighting escalating battles to keep religion – and willful ignorance – out of science classrooms.

As an environmental educator and lifelong outdoor enthusiast, I have to wonder if the rise in creationism and denial of evolution over the last few decades is related to “nature deficit disorder.” I had the privilege of growing up with both domestic and wild animals in the house and spending time outdoors birding, fishing, chasing lizards, and collecting fossils, all of which contributed to my understanding of the relationships among living things. Surely if we could give more children opportunities to experience nature first hand, many more might learn to think for themselves and come to appreciate that all organisms are members of our extended family.

To that end, I propose that each of us honor Charles Darwin’s memory by taking a child out into nature, to experience the exuberant diversity and interconnectedness of life. Let’s call it Project Sandwalk, after the “thinking path” behind Darwin’s home.

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2 thoughts on “Project Sandwalk

  1. Although having originally aired in November of 2007, currently PBS is airing a 2-hour “NOVA” production titled “Judgment Day: Intelligent Design On Trial”. Perhaps many have already seen this documentary but if not, I highly recommend it. If I may, here is a link to detailed information on the production from the PBS website (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/id/ ).

    I’m not sure that there has been a marked increase in the ‘creationist verses evolution’ over recent years, but rather a more media supported debate which brings it more often to our kitchen tables. However with regard to the past few weeks, I actually don’t recall, as a matter of fact, as much play and discussion that Charles Darwin has received ever in my life time, other than the fact that this year is a “milestone” date with regard to Mr. Darwin himself.

    With both scientific and medical technology becoming more and more focused and definitive on the specifics of evolution, much pressure has been brought to bear on religion, and particularly Christianity in the United States. Unlike the times surrounding and subsequent to the ‘Scopes Trial’ where it played out more as one belief verses an opposing belief, the creationist community is slowly being forced to come to terms with, if you will, facts that show that the earth is apparently not ‘flat’ and that is quite the fair analogy I believe.

    In my opinion, Christianity is “not” slowly being forced into a choice regarding whether their beliefs in a higher being are simply misplaced, but rather they are faced with looking at the ‘literal translations’ of the religious writings they have applied to those writings that form the premise for their beliefs. Perhaps God, in His infinite wisdom understood that His ‘creations’ were not capable of ever understanding the complexity of it all, so to that purpose He simply stated, “In the beginning…..”

    After all, if you know anything at all about Christianity you have to know it’s not about how you got to point “A”, but rather how you get from point “A” to point “Z”!

    I compliment your proposal and insightful title.

  2. Thanks for your thoughtful response, Alan. It’s perhaps not so much that more people subscribe to creationism now than when I was growing up (the Gallup poll doesn’t go back that far), rather that creationism has become more mainstream and conspicuous despite (or perhaps in response to) the overwhelming and ever-expanding scientific evidence verifying evolution. Certainly the media have helped by giving false legitimacy to the “debate,” which only serves to embolden the pushers of this brand of anti-intellectualism.

    Eugenie C. Scott and Glenn Branch have written an essay exposing the devious and deliberate demonization of Darwin aimed at keeping the debate at a Scopes-era dueling-ideologies level. This has obviously been a very successful strategy in the U.S., based on our position at the bottom of the developed world in acceptance (=understanding) of evolution.

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