A LIBERAL VIEW OF THINGS: The man who walked through time

The title of this piece is also the name of a book written by Colin Fletcher, a professional hiker who wrote it after walking almost the entire length of the Grand Canyon. Why this title?  He "got the memo" that scientists determined the age of the rocks at the bottom of the canyon to be more than 2 billion years old and that subsequent layers up to the rim were progressively younger.

Thus, Fletcher’s transit of the canyon caused him to visit various rock layers (strata) of different ages and allowed him to see differences in the type of material in each layer of rock and to observe fossils of plants and animals in the differently aged layers.

With the state school board of Texas attacking truth and fact in history and economics by replacing those inconveniences with their own personal agendas, I felt it was appropriate to speak out against their similar debasement of science in general, and biology in particular. The number that sticks out most amazingly is that 30 percent of Texans believe that humans and dinosaurs were contemporaries on Earth. Sorry.  Walt Disney did not write scientific treatises extolling the virtues of hoaxes perpetrated by Texans who doctored real discoveries in Glen Rose.

There, during the Great Depression, paleontologist Roland T. Bird came across someone trying to sell fossil human footprints. He recognized right away that they were fakes, but further investigation led him to the Glen Rose site where legitimate dinosaur fossil footprints and bones existed. Those other depressions in the rock had been "doctored" to look like giant human prints by somebody who tried to pass them off as the Giants of Genesis.

The story of dinosaur extinction from real scientists shows that the variation of species and numbers of fossil dinosaurs declines for more that a million years prior to their extinction from the fossil record, about 62 million years ago. Dr. David Archibald of San Diego State University, a contributor to the major defining summary of the dinosaurs, "The Dinosauria," states that the demise of the dinosaurs was a gradual process that may have been exacerbated by a catastrophic event like a large asteroid colliding with Earth.

Indeed, dinosaur fossils exist for many thousands of years after that collision took place, so their extinction was not exactly a sudden occurrence. So, for the 30 percent who still want to believe in Disney science there is plenty of company in Austin.  It’s called The State Board of Education.

I used to teach high school biology. My classes included everything from the very basic levels to Advanced Placement. These were the best, most enjoyable jobs I ever had. I just never knew when there would be a magical, teachable moment.  At the end of one particular school year, the students and I exchanged yearbooks for signing and messages.

One girl wrote, "Thanks for a great year.  I learned a lot more than I thought I would.  But don’t worry. Jesus loves you even if you don’t."

I was confused by this last sentence so I asked her to clarify.  She said, "Oh. I meant that he loves you even though you don’t love him."

I asked, "How do you know that?"

She replied, "Well, because you teach evolution."  Astounded, I asked her what evolution had to do with loving Jesus.

"Oh. Well, my minister said that all science teachers and scientists are devils and worship Satan."

I went on to assure her that I did no such thing and that, not being a Biblical scholar, I wasn’t sure whether or not Jesus talked about creation and/or evolution. She said she didn’t think so.

"So," I asked, "how does that mean that I don’t love Jesus?"  She frowned, started to say something, then just shrugged and walked away.

This wasn’t the first time, or the last, that a biology student questioned the teaching of evolution, or the big bang theory of creation. I presented science to my students as a topic based on facts and the scientific method for explaining hypotheses and theories.  When pressed, I told them that many scientists were very religious and spiritual.  These scientists thought that the processes of explaining creation through evolution and the facts supporting the big bang theory were so elegant and interesting that they heaped even more glory on their belief that God was/is the creator.

Any geologist or astronomer or biologist will tell you without hesitation that the creation is still happening; it’s an ongoing process to be held in wonder and awe. Furthermore, these scientists think that our greatest gift, the human brain, is the instrument through which we can truly appreciate the creation in all its fine detail and wonder.  With very few exceptions, the students and I progressed through the course without any need to visit a debate that is, not science, but rather an invention of men and certainly not a "creation" of God.

Turner is a retired industrial engineer and teacher who lives near Marble Falls.

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