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Tuesday
Dec232014

Why expect people to *know* evolution? A question that deserves a good answer

Below is a thoughtful essay form Prajwal Kulkarni, a reflective physicist who is concerned about the societal controversy over teaching evolutionary science.  In it, he asks a question that I think deserves a good answer: why do we oblige citizens to learn evolution?

I am interested in the societal controversy over evolution, too.

As Praj notes, my main concern is with how to teach evolution effectively in a polluted science communication environment.  In particular, I am concerned that certain students—mainly secondary school ones but college ones too—will be deterred from understanding the modern synthesis by their apprehension that engaging the theory and evidence supporting it will betray their cultural identities.

Great research exists showing that it is possible to disentangle identity from knowledge in the pedagogy of evolution (by recognizing, e.g., the utter pointlessness of extracting professions of "belief" in what is being taught).  Good teachers know how to free curious students from the choice between knowing what’s known by science and being who they are as members of communities with diverse understandings of the meaning of life. 

Science educators ought to do that, I’m convinced, because in a liberal pluralistic society all individuals, regardless of their identity, are entitled to the opportunity to acquire the insights of science as a basic or primary good.  They ought to do it, too, because the state in a liberal pluralistic society is obliged not to condition access to primary goods on free citizens’ acceptance of a partisan moral or political orthodoxy.

But this account takes as a given that it is right to teach students the rudiments of evolutionary science.  Indeed, that it is right to expect them to learn it—just as it is right to expect them to learn to read or do math. 

Students who don’t learn to read or do math, or to reason well, will not only be disadvantaged but disadvantaged through the agency of the state, which certifies their low educational attainment.

Praj is asking, I think, why we make learning the rudiments of evolutionary science bear this consequence.  Why, in particular, when we know that understanding evolution, unlike being able to read and being able to do math, is bundled with identity-threatening cultural significance and, he believes, is not as essential for success in life as either of those or myriad other forms of knowledge.

I do in fact disagree—unequivocally—with Praj’s suggestion that we don’t “need” evolution, as he puts it.

That means, necessarily, that I think there is an answer to his question.

But the one I am inclined to give him is, by my own lights, simply not as good as it should be.  The problem with it, in my view, is not that it is “wrong” or missing some quality of analytical coherence or cogency.

It’s that it doesn’t give him, or at least those whom he speaks for, something they morally deserve: a satisfying account of why in fact it is justified to visit this particular obligation on them; an account that is satisfying, in particular, because it recognizes rather than evades the profound moral difficulty and complexity of the issue at hand.  

For it truly is the case, I believe, that when we oblige people to learn—oblige in the sense of making the consequence of failing to do so a stigma that indisputably and by design constrains their prospects in life—we are coercing them.  Coercing them, moreover, to do something that, even if we succeed in the form of disentanglement I favor in the teaching of evolution, will reasonably be understood by some of them (many fewer, I’m sure, if edcuators and others observe the disentanglement principle, but still some) as incompatible with being who they are.

So I think Praj deserves not only an answer but one of a particular sort.

An aporetic one: a response that, while unequivocal in its conclusion, openly acknowledges the ineradicable complexity of the question and resists effacing the same by resort to bluster and posturing, a style that betrays a regrettable defect of intellectual character.

I am convinced that it is indeed legitimate for the state to oblige citizens to learn evolutionary science. But being able to give an aporetic answer to Praj’s question is, in my view, a condition of the legitimacy of doing so, for only an aporetic response is capable of evincing on our part respect for the freedom and reason of the individual whom we are forcing to bear this restriction on liberty. 

What's the answer, then, to Praj's question? We should all be just as impelled as Praj to know what it is.

 --Dan M. Kahan

Why should everyone learn evolution?

Prajwal Kulkarni

Hello 14 billion readers of Cultural Cognition. I'm honored to be guest-blogging. This site is a big leap from my own blog, which has a paltry 7 billion readers. 

Today I'd like to expand on Dan's post from a few weeks ago: "What I believe about teaching "belief in" evolution and climate change." This passage in particular struck me: 

It makes me sad to think that some curious student might not get the benefit of knowing what is known to science about the natural history of our (and other) species because his or her teacher made the understandable mistake of tying that benefit to a gesture the only meaning of which for that student in that setting would be a renunciation of his or her identity.  

It makes me angry to think that some curious person might be denied the benefit of knowing what's known by science precisely because an "educator" or "science communicator" who does recognize that affirmation of "belief in" evolution signifies identity & not knowledge nevertheless feels that he or she is entitled to exactract this gesture of self-denigration as an appropriate fee for assisting someone else to learn. 

Such a stance is itself a form of sectarianism that is both illiberal and inimical to dissemination of scientific knowledge.

 I strongly agree with Dan on these points. But I'm going to take his last sentence one step further. Not only is it illiberal to insist students profess "belief in" evolution, it may be illiberal to force them to learn it in the first place. It's not obvious--to me at least--why learning evolution is mandatory. To see why, it might help to step back and look at science education more broadly. 

Imagine a world where the theory of evolution was not the lightning rod that it is. Even in that world, we could ask some general questions about science education and public science literacy: Who needs science education? What does it mean to be scientifically literate? Are there different definitions for scientists and non-scientists? 

While I’m not an expert, I have read a fair amount of the research on public understanding of science. Much of what I've read divides children into two groups: future scientists and engineers, and everyone else. Obviously these are not hard boundaries, and academics disagree if and where to draw lines. But it’s widely agreed that these groups are distinct and it’s tricky to balance both of their needs. Science literacy has a different meaning for physicists than for those in sales or marketing. 

So given that the overwhelming majority of students will not pursue careers in science and engineering, why should everyone be forced to learn natural selection if they’ll never use it after high-school? Before answering this question, it might be helpful to first reflect on what we want non-scientists to do with their scientific knowledge. What purposes do public science literacy serve?

You can spend a lifetime reading the scholarship on just this one question. My personal favorite is a 1975 article by astrophysicist Benjamin Shen. Shen outlines three categories of science literacy: practical, civic, and cultural. Science in the first category helps people in their daily lives, and includes topics like nutrition, health, and agriculture. The second would help people make informed civic decisions, while the third is in the same spirit as Shakespeare or Greek mythology.

To Shen’s categories I’ll add my own three-legged stool. Science education should leave non-scientists with some content knowledge (i.e. scientific facts), some understanding of scientific methods, and some sort of appreciation for and engagement with science. But I’m not sure specifically what content, how much process, and how to best cultivate appreciation. As far as I know, the experts aren’t sure either.

We’re now ready to return to evolution. Let’s adopt Shen’s framework, and remember that we’re focusing on non-scientists. I’ll repeat my question: why teach the theory of evolution in the first place? It has very little, if any, practical value. (Quick: when’s the last time you used the theory of evolution to help you decide anything?) It has almost no relevance to public policy. (Quick: when’s the last time the press covered the theory of evolution outside of creationism or intelligent design?) We’re left with the cultural value of evolution, admittedly a powerful justification.

Education is important for more than utilitarian reasons like economic growth. It helps promote civic virtues, patriotism, a sense of national identity, and a common culture (see Chapter 8 here). Science education can align with these goals.

But there are limits to how far we can push this argument, and cultural cohesion does not automatically trump individual rights. The landmark West Virginia v. Barnette, for example, declared that children cannot be forced salute the flag if doing so violates their–or their parents’–conscience. What if learning or believing evolution violates some parents’ conscience? Is there really a compelling state interest that everyone must learn it? If we grant exemptions to the Pledge of Allegiance, then why can't we grant exemptions to certain types of knowledge?

I would think educators and scientists would be open to different ways of teaching biology, especially since cultivating “scientific thinking” is often viewed as much more important than any specific content. It’s almost a truism: facts are less important than understanding the process of science and its ways of thinking. So if it’s scientific thinking we’re really after, why not spend an entire year studying human anatomy? Or maybe substitute evolution for a unit on bioengineering or a more in-depth look at organic chemistry. Unless the theory of evolution and nothing else in science teaches people to “think scientifically”, surely there are many ways to get there. A survey course in biology (what I and most people I know had) is not the only possible approach.

My goal in this post wasn't to convince you that evolution can safely be dropped from the science curriculum. I do hope, however, I've convinced you that there can be legitimate disagreement on whether it should be mandatory for all students. I do hope I've convinced you that there are tradeoffs--between freedom of conscience and public education, between science education for future scientists and non-scientists, and among different educational and pedagogical goals. I do hope I've convinced you that maybe there's much more to biology education than the theory of evolution.

References

Shen, Benjamin. Science literacy and the public understanding of science. Communication of Scientific Information, 44 – 52 (1975).

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Reader Comments (9)

First, it is not legitimate for the state on its own behalf to oblige citizens to learn anything, let alone evolutionary science. Education is for the citizen's benefit, not the state's or society's. (Although the state and society do benefit.)

Education enables the citizen to be productive enough to create goods or services they can trade for the requisites of a comfortable life. Natural justice requires that people should not be forced to work for no return, and so if people are to receive the output of others' labour, skill, knowledge, etc., it is only fair that they should return good value for it. Free and honest trade is always for mutual benefit; neither participant enslaves the other. And education is a treasure that multiplies what an individual can provide for their neighbours, that they trade for more of what their similarly enhanced neighbours can achieve.

Education is something that - in most circumstances - we should all, if we are sensible, freely want to acquire. But it for our benefit, and our choice. It is not the state's affair; and if we, knowing what we are doing and understanding the consequences, choose not to, then the state has no business coercing us. It will render us poor, and unable to produce more than a tiny fraction of what our neighbours do, and therefore able to trade for very little in return, but that's our choice. It might be the right decision for some.

(For an example, I recall the case of a child with a terminal illness, who was going to die as a teenager. The government required him to go to school, and spend difficult and painful hours in class, because of the law on compulsory education. His parents wanted him to spend what few years he had on Earth happy and experiencing as much of life as possible, and therefore wanted to take him out of school. It was in the newspapers because the government was threatening to prosecute the parents if they did.)

For adults, this is straightforward. Adults cannot be compelled to learn anything: it is their own choice whether to do so. And their own responsibility to purchase it. Children, on the other hand, do not fully understand the long-term consequences of what they do (and usually cannot pay), and so their parents or guardians take those decisions on their behalf and in their interests. Given the immense value of education, and the extremity of the circumstances in which one legitimately wouldn't want it, one has to question whether any parent deciding against it is acting in their children's best interests. This is the only reason it is compulsory: because the state is defending the interests of children who cannot defend themselves, and is acting to prevent permanent harm being done to them by leaving them uneducated and unable to produce enough to support themselves.

That the state provides and pays for that education is justified in a similar way. Their parents bear the consequences of their own economic decisions. But if a parent makes decisions that render them unable to afford a good education for their children, it is unfair for the child to bear the permanent consequences as well. However, the state is only supporting the parents in their duty, providing a service, it is not taking it over. If the parents can do better, they must be allowed to. And you cannot entirely isolate people from the consequences of others' actions. A high bar should be set for the state to be able to override their freedom - as high as for an adult to be taken into care for mental health reasons, for example.

Now regarding qualifications and the "stigma" of the state certifying a poor understanding, the idea behind this is to enable a citizen to quickly prove their ability to produce to prospective employers (trading partners). (There are other reasons for wanting education - those civic and cultural ones mentioned above for a start - but the primary reason for qualifications is economic.) Again, it is a service and benefit to the citizen. And it only has value if it is accurate.

Thus, the decision on whether to include a certification of understanding or belief in evolutionary science depends on what would be most valuable to the citizens to who it is being provided in certifying their ability to do a job. This is not entirely straightforward. On the one hand, it seems obvious that if a person lacks skills then it isn't helpful to have the qualification say so. On the other hand, if the prospective employers are interested in that skill, then they will devalue the qualification accordingly anyway. Everyone's best interests are probably served by telling the whole truth and letting people decide for themselves whether it's important or not, but that may be uncertain.

As for the question of 'why evolution in particular?', it's as true of evolution as it is of most other scientific conclusions that the vast majority of people can manage quite well without it. There are relatively few jobs requiring it, although it does certainly have applications outside of biology. But given a choice of what ideas to teach, it is a particularly powerful one in that it is a unifying concept, linking and explaining many disparate phenomena, even outside biology - for example, the evolution of and relationships between different human languages. It also forms the basis of a powerful technique for problem-solving, and for understanding organisations.

Personally, I'd regard it as useful but far from critical, and I wouldn't be bothered if it was dropped from the curriculum entirely (and that's speaking as an atheist believer in evolution). Far more important are the principles of the scientific method and how to tell good science from rubbish, which unfortunately I don't think they teach enough. It would be far more useful for people to understand how science works, that you shouldn't trust experts blindly, that science needs to be challenged, and that the justification of our belief and trust in science depends on it.

Indeed, an understanding of evolutionary theory is useful for this too: science produces its wonders through bad science being killed off by criticism, just as organisms produce wondrous designs through predators and parasites killing the weakest. It doesn't always work that way - if you exclude predators for long enough you get dodos. In my view, understanding how science works is probably an even more important application of evolutionary theory than the biological application. But science education not necessary for everyone, and therefore should not be compulsory. History demonstrates that society still works very well without.

December 24, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

I disagree with NiV in that having a good general sense of science is a good; and that in biology, not having evolution included, removes the underlying structure of the science. The structure is needed as an example of needed critical thinking that can be applied in other areas as a public good.

The teaching of critical thinking and other goods also need to be seen in the context of our social, and historical evolution. There is an inertia in education in one sense, yet it is also a binding together in another. Including science, history, math, etc is useful in a cultural context. It may be the arguments raised by evolution are likewise useful. My belief is that they are, if for no other reason than to allow expression. One should not forget that in teaching allowing students expression is necessary.

My point is that a "cultural war" about evolution that had a forced solution by the state would be a dis-service. An open civil discussion is necessary, and a bit a uncivility may be the price, but should be paid.

I am reminded of a poster "My God is powerful enough to have created evolution." It is the poisonous atmosphere that detracts from teaching evolution, not necessarily religion itself.

December 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJohn F Pittman

John,

I'm curious. In what sense do you think is evolution "the underlying structure" of biology? I agree it is important to a lot of different aspects, but I'd guess 90% of it could be explained or understood without understanding evolution.

Because of the political thing, I think its importance to biology tends to be exaggerated. How things work is a matter of mechanics and chemistry, and applies however it came about. A lot of the 'why' can be understood on the basis of function - survival and reproduction. I agree modern taxonomy would be impossible without it, but there's a lot where it isn't. Or am I wrong?

December 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

I disagree that knowledge of evolution has no practical or civic value. It is very important for everybody to understand how viruses and bacteria can rapidly evolve in years or months. People need to know that a bird flu virus can evolve to infect humans, for example, and that excessive use of antibiotics causes bacteria to evolve resistance to those antibiotics.

December 27, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterEric J. Fielding

NiV, at college level, that is the way it is taught. Not only in the way that Eric indicates, but in a more basic way. How an organism fits with in its niche, reproduction, and development are linked to the evolutionary process. The competition that fuels evolution is the competition that the organism endures.

This is not to claim that all useful information or knowledge is dependent on it. But without it, the understanding and the explanation would be of a more shallow basis. Fundamental aspects of the dependency of organisms wrt to each other and the environment would be difficult to formulate in a useful way that would be usable in critical thinking without a very cumbersome system, as far as I know.

Perhaps others do not see this as useful. I may not be the best to answer this. One of my degrees is a BS in biology. Could be a form of cognitive bias rearing its head.

December 27, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJohn F Pittman

"I disagree that knowledge of evolution has no practical or civic value."

I didn't say it had no value, I said it wasn't essential. That's different.

"It is very important for everybody to understand how viruses and bacteria can rapidly evolve in years or months. People need to know that a bird flu virus can evolve to infect humans, for example, and that excessive use of antibiotics causes bacteria to evolve resistance to those antibiotics."

What they need to know is that viruses and bacteria can change the way they behave in years or months. They don't need to know the mechanism, and you can explain the mechanism without mentioning evolution (or at least, not directly). There are a lot of minor variations of bacteria already in existence: most of them are susceptible to antibiotics, but a few aren't. If you kill all those that are susceptible, the populations of the others have less competition and they expand and spread. The antibiotics therefore have a finite lifetime for which they'll work, and the more you use them the faster you'll use that time up.

Oh, and the issue with bird flu isn't evolution, in the normal sense. The influenza virus consists of 7 or 8 separate pieces of RNA all wrapped up in one package. Two of these pieces code for two separate important proteins on the outer envelope, which we can call "H" and "N" (hemagglutinin and neuraminidase are the scientific names). Each protein comes in lots of different varieties, each combination of these requiring a different immune response. (H5N1 means the 5th version to be identified of H and the 1st version of N, for example.) So by mixing and matching there are lots of different combinations the virus can come up with, which is why the virus keeps coming back every year. You can get a switch if a cell is infected with two different varieties at once. For example, if a cell is infected with H1N1 (Spanish flu) and H2N2 (Asian flu) simultaneously, then it generates lots of H1, H2, N1, and N2 RNA pieces inside it, and then packages them up in pairs at random, so you get H1N1, H2N2, H1N2, and H2N1 viruses all being generated. H5N1 (bird flu) was a particularly lethal strain, but only really affected birds. It wasn't very transmissible to humans. The concern was that if it managed to infect someone with a human flu at the same time, you could get a mix of the bird flu's lethality with the human flu's transmissibility. However, the main mechanism doesn't involve evolution, as all the components already exist.

And in any case, most creationists accept what they call 'micro-evolution' in which a species can evolve useful traits - what they generally reject is 'macro-evolution' where one species turns into another. So the bacterial/virus evolution of resistance doesn't pose any issues for them.

But all that is besides the point. There are lots of individual bits of science that are useful, and lots of individual applications of them. It is useful to know, for example, how detergents work - these being the basis of the many health benefits of improved hygiene. It's useful to know about electricity jumping across air gaps in sparks - for electrical safety. It's useful to know about levers - they enable us to magnify the force we can apply moving things. But none of these is regarded as constituting "the underlying structure" of the relevant science - whether chemistry, electronics, or physics. They all have value, but they're none of them essential. Why do people think evolution is any more essential than any other bit of science?

"NiV, at college level, that is the way it is taught."

Maybe it is. But does it have to be?

"Fundamental aspects of the dependency of organisms wrt to each other and the environment would be difficult to formulate in a useful way that would be usable in critical thinking without a very cumbersome system, as far as I know."

Such as?

"I may not be the best to answer this. One of my degrees is a BS in biology."

You're probably as qualified as any to answer. You just need to consider the right question.

Imagine you are talking to your hairdresser, or taxi-driver, or the till assistant in your local grocery store. "Why do I need to know about evolution?" they ask you. "I don't need it to do my job. I've got by quite well for the past ten years without knowing it. Just as I've never needed to know that the Earth goes round the sun, or what an electron is, or that gravity obeys an inverse square law (whatever that is), or that in quantum mechanics particles can be in two places at once, or that in relativity time slows down for moving clocks by a factor of the square root of one minus the clock's speed divided by the speed of light, squared."

I mean, seriously - quantum mechanics is the foundation of modern technology: every modern computer, transistor, light-emitting diode, disk drive, laser, gadget and gizmo depends on it. Not just new technology, either. Even photosynthesis depends on it, and that's the fundamental basis of almost all life on Earth! But many scientists seem actually perversely proud of its incomprehensibility and unbelievability - and I quite frequently come across people who are highly sceptical of all this 'nonsense' about ghostly particles in two places at once and dead-alive cats in boxes and so on. Nobody says the general public absolutely must understand and believe in quantum mechanics. A lot of them don't. So why the difference? Why does nobody criticise people who are sceptical about multiverses as unacceptably ignorant physics-philistines, but are outraged if they don't accept evolution of species by natural selection without first themselves understanding it?

If you really, seriously cannot understand anything in biology without it, then fair enough. But I don't think that's true, is it?

December 28, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

"However, the main mechanism doesn't involve evolution, as all the components already exist."
This is a very odd view. The example actually illustrates an aspect of gene recombination (assortment) which is an important mechanism of evolution. The generation of New combinations of functions IS evolution.

But my main comment is that unbiased discussion of evolution is part of the scientific method applied to a central theme in biology, and it's essential to use the scientific method correctly in teaching biology because if we don't its dishonest and bad science, and that's even more essential to keep out of science teaching. The *ethics* are central to a liberal education

December 30, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Tribe

"The example actually illustrates an aspect of gene recombination (assortment) which is an important mechanism of evolution."

But not the important one. Things like "reproduction" and "survival" are also important mechanisms in evolution, but nobody would claim that a belief in "reproduction" is necessarily equivalent to belief in evolution.

"The generation of New combinations of functions IS evolution."

Any form of sexual reproduction or cross-breeding will do that. Again, that's not equivalent to evolution.

"Evolution" is about the origin of species by natural selection, and constitutes an explanation of both the appearance of sophisticated design in complex organisms and their separation into species by natural means, without the necessity for intelligent design, planning, or an infeasible concatenation of unlikely coincidences. The basics of inheritance, mutation, and deliberate artificial cross-breeding to enhance desirable characteristics have been known and understood since the dawn of agriculture. People bred dogs in just this way. Darwin's critical insight was in figuring out a way this process could be guided by purely natural means, without the intelligence of a breeder making decisions about what characteristics to select for. The guide for natural as opposed to artificial selection was the selective survival/reproduction of those organisms best adapted to their environment. Nobody had to decide what organisms to breed next - the world did that by killing off all the others before they could. And it was thus that the organisms that survived were supremely suited to survival in that world.

Evolution works like topiary (the cutting of hedges into decorative shapes). It is not the growth of the shrubs that is the important part, but the cutting. A hostile environment acts like a gardener trimming the branches that grow outside certain boundaries, causing what is left to conform precisely to the shape of those boundaries, however complex they might be. It is not the mutation or recombination of genes that matters - that can be (and to a great extent is) entirely random and undirected - it is the selective death of those forms that cross the line. This is what creates the information, and the appearance of deliberate design. This is the essence of evolution.

"But my main comment is that unbiased discussion of evolution is part of the scientific method applied to a central theme in biology, and it's essential to use the scientific method correctly in teaching biology because if we don't its dishonest and bad science, and that's even more essential to keep out of science teaching. The *ethics* are central to a liberal education"

I quite agree. Unfortunately, the scientific method is not how it is taught to the vast majority of people. The scientific method is based on the sceptical challenge of even well-established ideas, their demonstration beyond reasonable doubt by empirical evidence, and the refusal to accept any conclusion that has not been so demonstrated, and that has continually survived public challenge by well-informed and motivated sceptics.

The vast majority of people have not seen the empirical evidence, and often don't even know what it is. The majority usually don't even know what the theory of evolution by natural selection actually is - they have some muddled idea that complexity arose by the concatenation of a long chain of random mutations that are somehow guided by a principle of 'survival of the fittest', although how "fitness" is defined or how the mutating genes know is a mystery. Only the huge spans of time required for evolution account for the unlikeliness of the outcome - the idea apparently being that even very unlikely things will happen if you wait long enough. The commonest argument for believing evolution is "because thousands of scientists say so" - the argument from authority. People believe because their teachers said so, because the textbooks said so, because the 'experts' said so, and it would be arrogance to imagine that you might know better than an expert. They don't know the theory, or the evidence for it, and are not required to. All that is required of them is that they believe, and not question.

The scientific method requires that one 'teach the controversy', because science works through controversy. If the scientific method was being properly applied, teaching the theory and the alternatives and subjecting them all to critical scientific scrutiny would destroy the challengers. Creationists would be begging science teachers not to discuss creationism in science class. They would know that their ideas and beliefs would stand as much chance as a moth in a blow torch. That creationists think teaching the controversy is a good idea is testament to the dire state of scientific education. The scientific method has been replaced by 'scientific authority' - if that is not a contradiction in terms - and that of course is vulnerable to being usurped by alternative forms of authority.

There is indeed a lot of dishonest and bad science around - and those who push anti-scientific concepts like 'scientific authority' and 'scientific consensus' on the public are among the worst for it. I agree it is a matter of ethics, as well as a very practical issue. But there are a lot of people - even professional scientists - who hold the opposite view. It's very difficult for the two sides to even understand one another, let alone come to any agreement.

December 30, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

"why do we oblige citizens to learn evolution?"

I am answering this question before reading the essay and reader comments so as to lay out my speculation untainted, then I will read the essays to see what others think of it.

I can think of no practical reason for it. As with most people (I assume) of my generation, a widespread weak belief in the "7 days of creation" or is it six? Anyway, not much reason existed to think about it, dispute it and so on.

Back then, the United States was the land of the free and home of the brave; not so many people telling you what to do and what not to do, but retail stores were closed on Sunday by law, so "the church" had considerable social influence.

"No man can serve two masters" says an ancient tradition; and while in fact I serve many masters, only one can be supreme.

All social systems compete for dominance. Those that do not are not a "system" if they exist at all. They compete by seeking subscribers but also by attacking competitors.

You attack Catholicism at its foundation, evolution being one of the clubs to whack at the belief in a six day creation.

I suspect many people that participate in these schemes are not deliberately scheming; they are subscribers doing what they suppose is a good and noble thing.

Meanwhile, a few people that might not be Catholics do sense some danger in succeeding too well -- if there is no "creation" then men were not created equal and there goes the foundation of humanism. What is left? Not much. No social glue, hence no society.

March 23, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterMichael 2

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