A couple weeks ago, NPR’s This I Believe podcast presented a five minute essay from paleoanthropologist Holly Dunsworth titled I am evolution. As Dunsworth says, believing evolution is different from belief in something – as though one needs to believe that fossils exist. This is the sort of clear-headed thinking that more people need to hear about, to find some way of understanding that science is the antithesis of faith.
Of course I believe evolution.
But that is different from believing in evolution.
To believe in something takes faith, trust, effort, strength. I need none of these things to believe evolution. It just is. My health is better because of medical research based on evolution. My genetic code is practically the same as a chimpanzee’s. My bipedal feet walk on an earth full of fossil missing links. And when my feet tire, those fossils fuel my car.
To believe in something also implies hope. Hope of happiness, reward, forgiveness, eternal life. There is no hope wrapped up in my belief. Unless you count the hope that one day I’ll discover the most beautifully complete fossil human skeleton ever found, with a label attached saying exactly what species it belonged to, what food it ate, how much it hunted, if it could speak, if it could laugh, if it could love and if it could throw a curveball. But this fantasy is not why I believe evolution — as if evolution is something I hope comes true.
The correctness of these statements is reflected by the plain observations facts remain true whether you believe them or deny them, and that investigation and scrutiny are more akin to disbelief.