We always seem to have fun with these – and the set-up asking Perry about evolution is an excellent place to start.
Perry answered the question well – no one knows how old the earth is, kid. Rather disgusting that you can hear mom trying to prompt the kid to ask gotcha questions. This is the level of the debate we’re going to have in 2012.
But, that aside, one of the more amusing aspects of the whole debate is the way the other side gets itself tied up in to knots. Demanding that unless hard, provable science, it just has no place in the debate. Missing is any understanding – any reasonable thought – about the fact that the person demanding that science be the measure of all things does not even begin to put the marvel of man in to the equation. As G K Chesterton put it in The Everlasting Man:
It is not natural to see man as a natural product. It is not common sense to call man a common object of the country or the seashore. It is not seeing straight to see him as an animal. It is not sane. It sins against the light; against that broad daylight of proportion which is the principle of all reality. It is reached by stretching a point, by making out a case, by artificially selecting a certain light and shade, by bringing into prominence the lesser or lower things which may happen to be similar. The solid thing standing in the sunlight, the thing we can walk round and see from all sides, is quite different. It is also quite extraordinary, and the more sides we see of it the more extraordinary it seems. It is emphatically not a thing that follows or flows naturally from anything else. If we imagine that an inhuman or impersonal intelligence could have felt from the first the general nature of the non-human world sufficiently to see that things would evolve in whatever way they did evolve, there would have been nothing whatever in all that natural world to prepare such a mind for such an unnatural novelty. To such a mind, man would most certainly not have seemed something like one herd out of a hundred herds finding richer pasture, or one swallow out of a hundred swallows making a summer under a strange sky. It would not be in the same scale and scarcely in the same dimension. We might as truly say that it would not be in the same universe. It would be more like seeing one cow out of a hundred cows suddenly jump over the moon or one pig out of a hundred pigs grow wings in a flash and fly. It would not be a question of the cattle finding their own grazing ground but of their building their own cattle-sheds, not a question of one swallow making a summer but of his making a summer house. For the very fact that birds do build nests is one of those similarities that sharpen the startling difference. The very fact that a bird can get as far as building a nest, and cannot get any farther, proves that he has not a mind as man has a mind; it proves it more completely than if he built nothing at all. If he built nothing at all, he might possibly be a philosopher of the Quietist or Buddhistic school, indifferent to all but the mind within. But when he builds as he does build and is satisfied and sings aloud with satisfaction, then we know there is really an invisible veil like a pane of glass between him and us, like the window on which a bird will beat in vain. But suppose our abstract onlooker saw one of the birds begin to build as men build. Suppose in an incredibly short space of time there were seven styles of architecture for one style of nest. Suppose the bird carefully selected forked twigs and pointed leaves to express the piercing piety of Gothic, but turned to broad foliage and black mud when he sought in a darker mood to call up the heavy columns of Bel and Ashtaroth; making his nest indeed one of the hanging gardens of Babylon. Suppose the bird made little clay statues of birds celebrated in letters or politics and stuck them up in front of the nest. Suppose that one bird out of a thousand birds began to do one of the thousand things that man had already done even in the morning of the world; and we can be quite certain that the onlooker would not regard such a bird as a mere evolutionary variety of the other birds; he would regard it as a very fearful wild-fowl indeed; possibly as a bird of ill-omen, certainly as an omen. That bird would tell the augurs, not of something that would happen, but of some thing that had happened. That something would be the appearance of a mind with a new dimension of depth; a mind like that of man. If there be no God, no other mind could conceivably have foreseen it.
Try as they might, the fundamentalists of evolution cannot get ’round the fact of man being what he is. We don’t naturally follow from what came before. We are similar to chimpanzees in a large number of ways except in those ways which make a man a man. Elsewhere, Chesterton notes that it isn’t a matter of a chimp doing something badly and man doing it better – man does things that no chimp ever did, or ever could do. Go back a million years and there is nothing in the simian species you can find which indicates that at some future date, quite by accident, one of them will randomly evolve a capability and a desire to decorate his body with paint or clothes…there is nothing in the animal world or the concept of evolution which prepares for the time when a creature will suddenly spend time and energy making art, that indelible signature of Mankind.
And as the evolutionists refuse to consider this – a plain fact – the debate grinds forward in a rather sterile manner, and ever more clearly becomes not a defense of science and truth, but a mere desire to suppress an uncomfortable thought: perhaps it isn’t all an accident? Maybe there is a design and a purpose in the universe? Maybe there is even a Designer who wants something of us?
My thinking on this subject is rapidly leading me to the conclusion that, at bottom, this rigid, hysterical demand that we turn away from what common sense proclaims is, in the end, no more than a fierce desire to defend adherence to a lie. As it turns out, the lie being adhered to is the first lie of hell – “you will be like gods”. Beings who evolved by accident from a senseless universe of no purpose owe nothing to anyone…they need not serve, and they are free to rule as far as their own power and inclination leads them. Introduce even the possibility of God and purpose in to the universe, and all of a sudden you become a debtor who owes someone every last thing you have. Some of us react with joy to this discovery and eagerly seek to thank our Benefactor…others furiously reject this and demand not only their right to believe differently, but further demand that no one else even bring up a question which casts doubt upon the evolutionist viewpoint.
To me it is a matter of perfect indifference whether the world is 6 billion or 6 thousand years old. It doesn’t alter in the least the actual facts I have to deal with every day. I don’t care if someone teaches about a 6 billion year old world and a slow, purely accidental evolutionary development. I also don’t care if someone teaches that the world sprang directly in to being as it is at the command of God in 6 literal days. Far more important, to me, than the mechanism of existence is the fact of my existence, and what I shall do with it. But regardless of what I think, the fact is that those who hold to a rigid, ideologically blinkered view of the creation of the universe are trying to advance a particular agenda – an agenda which doesn’t so much question God but seeks to ban His presence from the public square. My view is that the fight between Evolution and Design is not about the relative merits of the viewpoints, but about the right of people of different views to engage in the debate.
The gotcha questions to Perry are part of that larger design – that effort to de-legitimize a different view. The attempt was to try and trip Perry up and hold up Perry and the whole concept of a Divine order to ridicule. And, so, we have to fight this out – if for no other reason than to defend human reason and liberty. Reason because people who think can come to widely different views; liberty because if those widely different views cannot be brought in to the public square, then none of us are free.