Ardipithecus ramidus, or “Ardi” lived 4.4 million years ago in what is now Ethiopia and is the oldest proto-human skeleton ever discovered. After 17 years of study, Tim D. White, professor of integrative biology at the University of California, and his team unveiled the finding in Science magazine last month.
The discovery has brought renewed criticism from creationists, who disregard evolution in favor of the Bible’s account of creation in Genesis. Intelligent design lacks empirical evidence even though many people accept its validity.
To debate evolution is self-defeating, and though religions may have a factual base in some areas, they should reconsider their belief in creationism. Overwhelming physical evidence has led many open-minded people to question not only creationism but religion itself.
In 2008, the Brunswick County School Board of North Carolina considered teaching creationism alongside evolution. County school board member Jimmy Hobbs favored it.
“It’s really a disgrace for the state school board to impose evolution on our students without teaching creationism,” Hobbs said at a school board meeting. “The law says we can’t have Bibles in schools, but we can have evolution, of the atheists.”
His comments reflect the idea that evolution is directly opposed to religion and that accepting it is potentially blasphemous.
Locally, St. Petersburg mayoral candidate Bill Foster has generated controversy over his belief in intelligent design. According to the St. Petersburg Times, Foster said, “Dinosaurs are mentioned in Job, so I don’t have any problem believing that dinosaurs roamed the earth.”
He believes they lived alongside humans, while scientists believe there is a gap of at least 60 million years between the two. He also complained when his son was taught Darwinism in school because he believes the world was created in six days.
“If you look at all the data that are out there … they all support the theory of evolution,” said Peter Harries, USF professor of paleontology, to the Times. “The only way the theory of evolution is not likely to be true is if you don’t believe in the scientific method.”
Not all religious bodies are totally rejecting the theory of evolution, however. In 1996, Pope John Paul II spoke at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in favor of evolution.
“My predecessor Pius XII had already stated that there was no opposition between evolution and the doctrine of the faith about man and his vocation,” he said.
Opponents of evolution often argue that it is merely a theory. There is an important difference between a theory and a hypothesis, a concept that is often misunderstood.
The theory of evolution is not just a guess but a hypothesis that has been tested and understood to be true by an overwhelming majority of academics. Evolution cannot be considered a law because it is impossible to physically go back in time and verify its accuracy. Should Einstein’s theory of relativity be considered a guess because it is still a theory?
Continuing to oppose the theory of evolution will cause religious organizations to lose their significance. Religions should accept evolution as they have other scientific discoveries.
Justin Rivera is a senior majoring in history.