Writing Assignment: Make Evolution Interesting

by James M. Kushiner

Tom Bartlett reports at the Chronicle of Higher Education that Dan McAdams, professor of psychology at Northwestern University, is pushing a new explanation for evolution’s lack of success in convincing many to become true believers: It has no story to tell.

McAdams’s research focus is narrative psychology—specifically, the development of a “life-story model of human identity.” As he writes in his book The Redemptive Self,“People create stories to make sense of their lives.” When you think about it, we tell stories to make sense of pretty much everything. The problem is that evolution doesn’t fit neatly into the narrative box. As McAdams puts it: “You can’t really feel anything for this character—natural selection.”

It may well turn out that the most-read story having anything at all to do with evolution isn’t really about evolution–Darwin’s The Voyage of the Beagle, which is much more interesting that On the Origin of Species.

At the very least, though, evolution’s weakness as a story creates a PR opportunity for creationists. For example, one Christian Web site tries to fit evolution into a standard fairy-tale narrative, telling the intentionally absurd tale of an amoeba’s transformation from salamander to monkey to man, all thanks to a character called Mutation who waves a magic wand. It doesn’t read like it was written by someone with a background in biology, but it’s hard to disagree with the conclusion that evolution is a “strange story.”

If you take these thoughts and transfer them over to human lives, you see something similar: who would want to tell the story of how a family came into being, meeting, courtship, marriage, and children, from a purely materialistic, biological point of view? Now unlike some, perhaps, I think I am willing to let the facts convince me of evolution. So far, the facts had their best shot at me a few decades ago, but since then, as I read what scientists are discovering about genetics, DNA, and organisms, the questions about the abilities of something called natural selection to drive amoebas to become novelists only multiply, while answers, such a Tree of Life, once thought solid are slowly fading to black.

One thought on “Writing Assignment: Make Evolution Interesting

  1. Facts are always unconvincing and worthless out of context. What is convincing is the context and the set of assumptions from which facts are selected, ordered, priortized and interpreted then developed into a narrative.

    All scientific evolutionary theory begins with: “Assume no God” It is false at its basis but then proposes to use a set of ‘facts’ that the proponents of the theory have selected (to the exclusion of all other facts) to prove the assumption.

    The so-called theistic evolution begins with the assumption: “Assume the facts the materialists put into play and add a deistic divinity somewhere “out there”.

    The narrative developed by both is essentially the same which denies the Incarnation and the eschatology of the Chrisitan revelation while replacing it with a linear (or cicular) teleology.

    Both types of evolution are illogical and refuse to look at the premises on which they rely, i.e. those ideas taken on faith. The proponents prefer instead to play-act some sort of characture of Jack Webb: “Its just the facts, dumbo”

    I was fascinated with evolutionary theory when I was a pre-teen. I’ve grown out of that childish infatuation with the idea that human beings are capable of knowing everything about everything and therefore controlling everything.

    It is not science, but a vain and greedy materialistc philosophy that destroys and demeans all life.

    All I can say to those who are adamant evolutionists is: “There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy…”

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