When I reported earlier about Muslim students boycotting evolution lectures at University College London, some readers doubted that story. Now my good friend Steve Jones, who gave some of those evolution lectures, confirms in the Telegraph that the story is true. Go have a look at his essay, “Islam, Charles Darwin, and the denial of science.”
I have tried asking students at quite what point they find my lectures unacceptable: is it the laws of inheritance, mutation, the genes that protect against malaria or cancer, the global shifts in human skin colour, Neanderthal DNA, or the inherited differences between apes and men? Each point is, they say, very interesting – but when I point out that they have just accepted the whole truth of Darwin’s theory they deny that frightful thought. Some take instant umbrage, although a few, thank goodness, do leave the room with a pensive look.
The problem is not with any particular belief system but with belief itself. Sir Francis Bacon once said that: “If a man will begin with certainties, he shall end in doubts; but if he will be content to begin with doubts, he shall end in certainties.” In other words, if you are absolutely sure that you are right whatever the evidence, you will end up in trouble; but if you are always willing to change your mind when the facts change you will emerge with a robust view of how the world works.
I sometimes wonder how many of those who pour their inane opinions about creationism into their young pupils’ ears ever consider the damage they are doing; not to my science, but to their religion. Why, when a student begins to learn the simple and convincing facts, rather than the fantasies, about how life emerged, should he believe anything else that his pastor, his rabbi or his imam has told him? Why build a philosophy based on fixed untruths, when we have so many truths, and so many things still to find out?
There is no creationism, no anti-evolutionism, that doesn’t sprout from religious roots.