If I insisted the earth was flat, would you think I was crazy? You shouldn't. All the photos from outer space have clearly been doctored, says Susan Erasmus.
For centuries there were two groups of people – those who thought the earth was round, and those who thought the earth was flat. Proof, what proof, the latter group asked. These days the fans of the disc theory can mostly be found with nametags around their left wrists. Or they're overenthusiastic Terry Pratchett fans.
A century from now that will be the position of the creationists, I am afraid. The theory that scientists have been hoodwinking everyone with their fossil finds is just sad. Why on earth would they bother? What's in it for them? What's it to them what your religious beliefs are? They really are not out to get you. They actually don't care enough.
In fact, while they’re out there looking for fossilised body parts of Australopithecus Africanus, you and your beliefs are the furthest thing from their minds.
Next thing you'll be telling me someone has been following you for two days and you're hearing voices.
87 years behind the time
We're 87 years behind the times in SA. The teaching of evolution hit the US courts in 1925 with the Scopes Monkey Trial.
A science teacher was hounded for teaching evolution in a Cape private school. He was quoted on News24 as saying "What worries me is a whole mindset. There's nothing included in the curriculum that allows understanding of evidence; of how to weigh up evidence, of what counts as evidence".
No wonder our country is in such a mess. We've never been encouraged to think logically and consider the facts of the matter. You need only take a look at the news to see what happens in a country when most of the people are ruled by the Law of Knee-Jerk reactions, without considering evidence of any sort.
87 years ago John Scopes, a science teacher in Dayton, Tennessee, was taken to court for teaching the theory of evolution in the classroom. It was a very high-profile case, with defense attorney Clarence Darrow in action. The small town of Dayton was swamped by international media. Contrary to what most people believe, Scopes was in fact found guilty – but only fined $100, which was in essence a victory.
Science vs. religion
This battle between religion and science is nothing new – in fact it has been raging for centuries. Science describes, religion prescribes – and therein lies the conflict.
Ask Galileo Galilei – he was placed under house arrest and was forced to recant his theory on heliocentrism by the Church in 1615. If you know enough about science to reject the scientific findings of professors regarding evolution, you should know what that means. (OK, OK – it means the earth and the other planets revolve around the sun).
Granted – there is something clinical about laboratories and lab coats that lacks a certain ritual and romance. We all do need a bit of mystery in our lives. So it's yes to mystery, and no to blatant and wilful ignorance.
But at the same time I also have to say that if God is almighty, he certainly doesn't need to be prescribed human time constraints for what He can achieve in heaven or on earth.
Also, if the tenets of your faith can be dislodged and deeply disturbed by the finding of a few fossilised bones, it might be time for a rethink on what the essence of religion should be in anyone's life: love, forgiveness, charity, honesty. There's nothing in there about fossils and how they can or should upset everything.
In fact, there are many devoutly religious people who embrace science enthusiastically and have clearly found a way to combine their very sincere religious beliefs with laboratory findings. Personally I do not think these two viewpoints have to be mutually exclusive, but I know there are many who would disagree with me.
All or nothing
If you're reading this, there are many other scientific discoveries which you have clearly embraced, such as electricity and the wonder of mass communication. Then there are scientific marvels such as antibiotics, immunisation, transplants, modern transport and so forth. These are as much part of the scientific world as natural selection is. You can't just pick what suits you and reject what doesn't.
If you want to reject the theory of natural selection and be taken seriously, you have to go the road of the Amish of Pennsylvania. They do the wheel (mostly on buggies), but little else. They may be misguided, but at least they're consistent.
And no, I do not take verses from the Bible as proof that the Bible is true. That's like trying to prove gravity doesn't exist because you can't pull yourself up by your bootstraps.
Back to the flat earth. This belief does have a certain attraction – if only it means you can push some people off the edge. OK, so the earth is flat, Elvis is alive, and alien abductions are real. Because I say so. I feel better already.
(Susan Erasmus, Health24, March 2012)