Old ideas fighting older ideas February 9, 2005
I had the opportunity to watch some of the National Film Board of Canada’s 1971 animated short “Evolution” recently. It is a very cute, childlike explanation of concepts such as survival of the fittest and genetic mutation as adaptation to changing surroundings. Watching it, I found myself thinking - how odd; almost 35 years after the film was made, the very concepts being illustrated have somehow become controversial.
The seeming regression of some people to ideas that, for many critics, are more appropriate to the dark ages than the 21st century, is something that I have lately found fascinating. I wonder why it is that in an age of unprecedented scientific knowledge and technological advances, so many people all around the world have turned to fundamentalist religions and a spurning of science.
Perhaps it is because of the primacy of science and technology in many aspects of modern life that so many people are turning away from the lessons of science and embracing ideas first conceived thousands of years ago as ways of explaining the unknown. Perhaps it is a longing for the simplicity and comfort that creation stories provide that draws some people to them. In an era where physical personal contact become more infrequent in favour of asynchronous telecommunication, maybe stories that assert the special nature of humanity help people feel less isolated.
Most people are afraid of change to some degree or another. Technological change can be particularly frightening, and not necessarily without reason. By outright denial of science, perhaps some people are trying to fight change by refusing to acknowledge its source.
It will be an interesting footnote in history: The age which is ushering in a reality mediated by gadgets, where individuals’ lives are becoming more entangled by technology and science is hosting a renaissance of religious beliefs that haven’t been mainstream since Medieval times. This may be merely a strange short-lived side effect of our current times or the beginning of a serious philosophical schism between fundamentalists and everyone else.