And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed--if all records told the same tale--then the lie passed into history and became truth. "Who controls the past" ran the Party slogan, "controls the future: who controls the present controls the past."1
America is a battleground. On a regular basis, newspapers, magazines, Internet blogs, and other information outlets trumpet the victories of "science over superstition" as yet another challenge to the scientific status quo is defeated in the educational and court systems. Journalists and commentators almost universally opine, "Religion has its place, but it's not in the lab or in the classroom."
How has this come to be accepted as true? Why would those who support evolution put up such a struggle to silence alternate viewpoints? How could a mere scientific theory come to dominate all aspects of life except for that narrow slice that is deemed "religious"?
The answer lies in the unquestioning acceptance by most people that what they've been told is true--especially if it falls in line with what they want to believe anyway. It lies in the unquestioning acceptance by those in authority that this is the public stance they need to take, even if they privately know better. And it lies in the fact that those who have power almost never give it up voluntarily, with the corollary that they will do whatever they have to in order to keep it.
He who controls the past controls the future.
Scientists, educators, government leaders, and everyday citizens who accept macroevolution (the development over time of complex life from simpler forms) as true will sometimes still call it a theory, but in the same sense that they would refer to the "theory" of gravity--as a self-evident fact. Those who deny evolution, therefore, are seen as having about the same mentality as people who believe they can jump off a roof and fly like Superman. Or sail to the end of the world and fall off the edge. Such people couldn't possibly be taken seriously, and are quite probably a danger to themselves and to those around them.
And with such simplistic reasoning, implicit ridicule, and dismissive elitism, the battle of origins is often won without the victors firing a shot. If they are seriously challenged, however, about the flaws in evolutionary theory and the evidence for intelligent design, their immediate fallback position is, "That's religion; it has no place in a discussion about science."
But this ignores the system of belief on which evolutionary theory itself is based. Despite those Christians who try to weld an evolutionary framework over the Genesis account of creation, the core element of Darwin's theory is atheistic naturalism. If God was involved at all in the origin of the universe, then the need for evolution goes right out the window--its only function is to demonstrate that we don't need a divine being in order to account for what we see.
The ultimate showdown between creationism (or intelligent design) and evolution won't--and can't--take place in the laboratory, because their foundational premises have nothing to do with empirical science. They offer contrasting, mutually exclusive accounts of the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe. If we get that wrong, we will get everything else wrong--who we are, why we are here, the meaning of what we observe, how we should live our lives. The battle for the past, ironically, is also the battle for the future.
He who controls the present controls the past.
The intensity with which scientists such as Eugenie Scott and Richard Dawkins oppose any attempts to undermine evolution in the schools indicates their understanding that more than science is at stake. If evolutionary standards are overturned, then society as a whole will be affected. It is not a lab experiment but an entire worldview that will be defeated.
The documentary Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed was criticized by many reviewers for using footage of totalitarian regimes, images of the Berlin Wall, and visits to the Dachau concentration camp and other vestiges of Nazi Germany in order to portray the consequences of a suppression of intellectual freedom. This was seen as heavy-handed extremism used to combat a non-issue: hasn't science proved that evolution is a fact? And who else but a lunatic or a religious fanatic (or is that redundant?) would deny facts?
But what these critics failed, or refused, to see is that the primary means used by these regimes to control their subjects are the same as those being used today to ensure the domination of evolutionary theory--not with guns, not with armies, but with ideas. The founders of these repressive states re-cast the past in a mold of their choosing, and then used that to shape the founding principles of their power. Hitler had his Master Race, Lenin had his proletariat revolution, and even dictators today will deny such recent historical events as the Holocaust in an effort to justify their policies.
It has been said that "history is written by the victors." An honest historian will always look to see what else there is to the story. And so will any seeker of truth, including scientists.
Does it matter?
A number of scientists, educators, and others are virulently committed to evolutionary theory, a smaller number are passionately opposed, but the vast majority of people haven't given it a great deal of thought. They learned about it in school, maybe they've actually paid some attention to arguments for or against it, but what impact, after all, does the issue have on everyday life? Why would anybody make such a fuss about it--trying to pass legislation in Florida, taking it to court in Kansas, applying to grant creation-based science degrees in Texas--when all it does is cause trouble?
It matters because it concerns the purpose of all that we are and see and do. The debate about origins is part of a much bigger picture. It is about what's true and what isn't. And it is about the freedom to ask questions. Religion tends to be portrayed in the secular world as a realm of intolerance, superstition, and institutionalized ignorance. This is often used as a decoy, an excuse to avoid taking a good, hard look at secular belief systems. Intolerance and ignorance are available to humans of all persuasions--they are certainly not exclusive to religion.
But they are indispensable tools for the suppression of truth, for the acceptance of a lie. This is why you should never stop seeking for what is true.
Demand the evidence. And never stop questioning.
1. Orwell, G. 1977. Nineteen Eighty-Four. New York: Signet Classics, 32.
* Ms. Mull is Managing Editor.
Cite this article: Mull, B. 2008. Never Stop Questioning. Acts & Facts. 37 (6): 4.