This morning I read in the Bend, Oregon, Bulletin that today commemorated the 150th anniversary of the the publication of Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species. in which Darwin concluded that natural selection was the key factor in an evolutionary process which has been going on for millions of years, a position which has been vastly strengthened through the study of genetics and the discovery of DNA which show how traits are passed on.
Today, according to a Gallup poll, 44% of Americans believe God created man in his present form within the last 10,000 years and 42% of Americans believe all life on earth has existed in its present form since the beginning of time. This attitude not only reflects the well-documented fact that average American adult lacks even basic scientific literacy, but like primitive peoples, he chooses religious answers for questions he fails to understand. This dependence on supernatural explanations retards human growth and has been unproductive in advancing civilization with respect to gathering knowledge and understanding nature.
Darwin's contribution was to take the explanation of life down a different path and to look at it not from the perspective developed by severely limited, ancient desert people, but through honest, measurable inquiry.
I know that much scientific theory today will be modified or debunked tomorrow. I still feel the mystery of nature and am amazed by it. I don't know what to think about the prima causa or about magical coincidences. Yet, there is one thing of which I am certain: namely, I am frightened by those who may come to power who wish to de-legitimize science in order to preserve ignorance and superstition. Darwin may have set in motion serious investigation into the origin of life, but it is up to us to protect and foster the process he eloquently endorsed.