Sometime between November 14th and November 29th, I thought this stuff was interesting. You might think so too!

What ever happened to concepts like tolerance and respect of others? Polite disagreement? Discussion as opposed to argument? Open minded acceptance of other people’s views, even if they differ from your own?

This may not be my most coherent or well-organized post, but a couple things popped up today that have been rumbling around in the back of my head, and I wanted to at least make a stab at getting some of them out.

Yesterday, I posted a link and excerpt from a story in the Seattle Times about a local Native American burial ground that has been uncovered due to construction on the Hood Canal bridge. The story caught my attention both for the archaeological significance of the find, and for the care and concern that the local tribes have for the spirituality of the site and their ancestors.

This morning, my post got a Trackback ping when Paul Myers of Pharyngula posted about the article. When I read his post, though, I was more than a little taken aback at what I felt to be the cavalier and rude tone he took in regard to the tribe’s religious beliefs.

There’s a fair bit of religious hokum in the article; goofy stuff such as the claim that pouring a concrete slab would trap the spirits forever (piling dirt and rocks on top of them doesn’t, apparently, nor does rotting into a smear), and spiritual advisors on site and ritual anointings to protect people from angry spirits. That’s all baloney….

The religious/spiritual crap cuts no ice with me….

It wasn’t that he didn’t agree with the spirituality of the tribe that bothered me (I don’t know Paul’s personal religious beliefs) — rather, it was the utter lack of respect in how he addressed it. It was the old stereotype of the scientist so convinced of the utter righteousness of the purely scientific world view that he’s utterly contemptuous of those fools who believe in any sort of higher power (see Ellie Arroway in Carl Sagan’s Contact, for example).

That bothered me, but I wasn’t quite sure how to start expressing it, so I just filed it away on the back burner to percolate for a little bit.

A couple of days ago, I’d posted a link on my linklog to a Gallup poll which showed that only one third of Americans believe that evidence supports Darwin’s theory of evolution, and had added the comment, “how depressing.” This morning, I got a comment on that post from Swami Prem that raised my eyebrows:

What’s depressing about this? There is no evidence that supports Darwin’s theories. No scientist has ever shown that there exists a link between humans and apes. Darwin’s theories are theories afterall.

Suddenly, I found myself coming dangerously close to stepping right into Paul’s shoes, and had to wait a while before responding to Prem’s comment. My first impulse was surprise and, quite honestly, a little bit of, “oh, here we go again…” — Prem and I have had strong disagreements in the past, and while I don’t believe that he’s at all unintelligent, his earlier espousal of viewpoints that are so diametrically opposed to my own strongly colored my initial reaction to this new comment.

After taking some time to let that roll around in my brain I did respond, and Prem’s responded to that. As yet, I haven’t taken it any further, both because I want to do my best to respond intelligently and because I’m somewhat stumped as to just how to start (I probably need to take some time to do a little research [this site looks like a good place to start] — as I’ve never progressed beyond attaining my high school diploma, and I was never that good in the sciences to begin with, I’m not entirely comfortable with trying to engage in a full-on creationism-vs.-Darwinism debate without a little brushing up [and actually, Paul would probably be far more qualified than I to tackle Prem’s question, judging by his obvious interest in both biology and evolution — just check out the links in his sidebar!]).

Anyway, both of these items have been bouncing around my head all day.

I think a lot of what’s been bothering me about the exchanges is that I try hard to be polite and respectful in my discussions with people, even when (and sometimes especially when) I disagree with them, and that seems to be a trait that has gone by the wayside far too often these days. Sure, I don’t always succeed — I’ll fly off the handle and rant and rave from time to time — but I do make an effort to keep those instances to a minimum.

Unfortunately, it seems that we’re living in a world where differences are all anybody sees anymore: us vs. them, me vs. you, religion vs. science, liberal vs. conservative, democrat vs. republican, urban vs. rural, red vs. blue, etc. Nobody’s actually listening to what anyone else has to say — we’re all so sure that we’re right and everyone else is wrong, too busy banging our shoes on the table to really listen to anyone else.

It’s a pretty sad state of affairs, all told.

Bouncing back a bit, but touching on both of the incidents that started all this rambling, I think the thing that frustrates me the most about the science vs. religion debate — and creationism vs. Darwinism in particular — is that in my mind, there is absolutely nothing that says that the two theories are incompatible. It’s never seemed to me as if it was an either/or equation — coming back to Carl Sagan’s book, and most pointedly the end of it (and if you haven’t read or don’t want to read the book, feel free to watch the movie — it’s one of the single most intelligent science-fiction films I’ve seen in my lifetime), why is it so hard for people to wrap their heads around the concept that it’s entirely possible that both Ellie Arroway and Palmer Joss are “right”?

I’ve always found it interesting that the most commonly known of the two creation stories in Genesis fairly accurately parallels the scientific view of the formation of the universe, our planet, and the life upon it. First space, then stars, then the earth, then oceans, then plants, then fish, then animals, then man. Two different ways of telling the same story — one measured in days and one measured in millennia, but the same story. Of course, this does hinge on the ability to accept the Bible without taking it literally (which is probably another subject for another time, but it’s probably fairly obvious that I don’t subscribe to a literal interpretation of the Bible), which trips up a lot of people.

Meh. I don’t know…and I think I’m starting to run out of steam. As I warned at the beginning of this, probably not the most coherent or well-organized post I’ve ever made here.

Had to get some of this out of my head, though.

Questions? Comments? Words of wisdom? Bring ’em on….