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September 19th, 2011
05:31 AM ET

Talk Back: Why is evolution such a touchy subject?


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From CNN's Carol Costello:

Charles Darwin's theory of evolution was published in 1859, but the topic is as controversial today as it was then. Although the vast majority of scientists accept evolution as a fact, 41% of Americans think evolution is false, or likely to be false, according to the latest CNN/ORC poll.

As a result, American book publishers have shied away from the topic. According to Daniel Luxton, author of children"s book, "Evolution: How We and All Living Things Came to Be," no American publisher would print his book, fearing that the controversial topic would be a tough sell. However, the book is a hit in Canada, where it has been nominated for several literary prizes.

Courts have squashed efforts to have alternative theories - such as "intelligent design" - taught in schools, ruling that it has more to do with religion than science. Nevertheless, the subject remains a political hot topic.

Talk Back: Why is evolution such a touchy subject?

Let us know what you think. Your answer may be read on this morning's broadcast.

Filed under: AM Talk Back
soundoff (40 Responses)
  1. Rick Ramdon

    People are beginning to see that evolution is not science and that it does not stand up to reasonable, testable, observable science. It's something that happens only in the mind.

    September 21, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
  2. Elizabeth

    I personally believe that evolution is a touchy subject to many people because it takes away their "safe haven." To those individuals, if there is no "higher power" to save them, they have to look into ones own self, and for many this is a scary thing. Believing in God gives us hope, Believing in God gives us answers to crimes againest human kind (poor soul lost his way) Believing in God give some an absolution of their sins, for instance Catholics, without confession, they would still be burdened with their own guilt.
    I have studied Anthropology and the facts are there to support and prove evolution. No question about it!
    Yet I choose to believe in God because I have witnesses miracles that I know science had no part of... I feel comfort in the personal knowledge that Jesus is watching over me...I have choosen him as my savior and that is the difference between evolution and God. Evolution is easy to believe, facts are there. Whereas Faith is something you have to make a commitment to and are tested upon daily.

    September 19, 2011 at 8:47 am |
  3. Peter Ochs

    The reason why evolution is so touchy is because the religious right, in fear of being overuled by science, has promulgated a slew of half-truths, lies and misinformation to enforce religious dominance. One of those was repeated by your announcers on the program this morning not a half an hour ago. Man is not descended from apes. Rather, man and apes descended from a common ancestor. This is just nother mis-fact reiterated by the creationist side. Ironically, last week, when Rick Perry used the metaphor of a scientific fact not attaining general acceptance when he called up the case of Galileo, forgot to mention that Galileo's theories were repressed by the church for 500 years. Theories are facts. When the religious right says "It's just a theory," they treat theories like hyptheses. Theories are facts that describe natural phenomena in a new and diferent light. and the religious right only cloud the issue when they misinterpret scientific ideas.

    September 19, 2011 at 8:43 am |
  4. Shelby

    The media could make a convert out of me....therorizing that we came from apes. You have some catching up before you surpass the ape. I am going thru an evolutionary period myself. I find that a good fiction novel much more appealing than media opinions. Just give the news and hold your views. We don't want to hear them!!!

    September 19, 2011 at 8:36 am |
  5. DonnJose

    The question is: Why is evolution such a touchy subject in the USA? Only in the USA, to be precise. A part of the answer is that lots of Americans simply do no know the fundamentals of scientific reasoning.

    September 19, 2011 at 8:34 am |
  6. Robert Thomson

    The Bible was never intended to be a science textbook – its intent was as a spiritual guideline for peaceful living. If the evidence for evolution that we know today was know three thousand years ago the Bible would have been written in a different manner. The problem is one of literal interpretation of the Bible instead of using it as a spiritual guideling.

    September 19, 2011 at 8:34 am |
  7. chris haynes

    Maybe people take exception to it more than because of religious grounds, maybe they take exception because it doesn't make any sense. People say that religous people see what they want to see, but I think that evolutionists see what they want to see. I know that the "science" of evolution is very complicated, but so were all the maps that laid out the flat world. The maps were wrong and so are the "maps" of evolution. Even the simplest aspects of life are vastly complicated and involve many cooperating parts and when you look at something like eyesight which involves extreme complexity where each part relys on the other and cannot funciton without the whole evolution starts to unravel. Unless, or course you have on your "see what I want to see" goggles. It was one person's idea a long time ago and just because some church accepts it doesn't give it any kind of credence. Remember it was the same church that would kill you for saying that the earth was not the center of the universe and the sun revolved around it. Who cares what they say. I hardly think that man is the product of some advancement. The animals don't kill each other for fun or money or prestige. They don't destroy the environment for get the point. It does seem that some people are devolving into animals, but I hardly think that belief in God and practicing and believing the principles taught in the Scriptures is something to be scoffed at. The world would be alot better place if people felt a love for Christ and God and not devolved into the dog eat dog of the "evolved" world.

    September 19, 2011 at 8:16 am |
    • Robert Thomson

      You probablly also believe that global warming is not occuring and that its not caused by human activity such as burning fossil fuels. Wake up!!

      September 19, 2011 at 8:44 am |
    • Nick Valenti

      Just because evolution isn't happening to YOU, and that you are deevolving doesn't meant that it isn't real. If you think that evolution is just an idea and not real, go look at the viruses out there. They evolve and change into totally new forms all the time. As a scientist, I find your remarks and "logic" offensive and totally ridiculous. Science and evolution is a FACT–religion is just mythology and unprovable.

      September 20, 2011 at 7:52 am |
  8. Sherry Garner

    It says that people are the result of randomness; and most people think it says we're part monkey. God has been taken out of schools (although I fail to see how anyone can take God out of where He doesn't want to be!) - and this and global warming represent the only control some religious people have left. I say, let God and let go!

    September 19, 2011 at 8:03 am |

    If we evolve from apes, why are there still apes ???

    September 19, 2011 at 7:59 am |
    • Nick Valenti

      Humans and apes, along with lemurs and monkeys, all evolved from a common ancestor. Each branched off at different times in the ancient past into the forms they have now. Many of the branches of each died out and others evolved–the base remains the same. WE did not evolve FROM apes–each species evolved from a lower form. Humans share nearly 99 percent of their DNA with apes, specifically the chimp. Humans and apes are COUSINS, not "father" and "son", so to speak.

      September 20, 2011 at 7:59 am |
  10. prince osagie from toronto canada

    animals and plants have and is still going through the process of evolution including man. where science is wrong on this subject is to compare the human spcies to that of the apes ...they look very similar but are not the same. there is a missing gap in the evolution of man which could be explained by the invasion of aliens thousands of years ago which they played a part to alter our genetic codes. apes and monkeys existed thousands of yrs ago and they still look and act much the way they did then.

    September 19, 2011 at 7:55 am |
  11. David Pidcock

    For many people it's a matter of ego. They'll be quick to say that THEY'RE not decended from an ape or even an amoeba for that matter. For others it'a a literal interpretation of the bible. God created man in his own image (I wish someone would tell me what the image of god is) and they don't want to see him as an ape. The bible says that god created everything in six days. How long was a day to him? While I do not have a degree in physics, I DO know that there's no getting around it. everything takes time to develop. Even people (and I hate to say it but we're still evolving).

    September 19, 2011 at 7:46 am |
  12. Russ Breault

    All of life is characterized by complexity, order and design. It is inherent in all living organisms. Yet we are supposed to believe that such complexity arose spontaneously through nothing more than randomness, chance and natural selection. No guiding force...all a result of undirected randomness. And you wonder why there are those of us who don't accept it?

    September 19, 2011 at 7:45 am |
    • Phil

      "Yet we are supposed to believe that such complexity arose spontaneously through nothing more than randomness, chance and natural selection. No guiding force...all a result of undirected randomness."
      Natural selection is NOT a random process nor chance. While there is no guiding force, it follows this basic principle :

      Those which has what it takes to survive to their ecosystem long enough to reproduce will pass on their genes, passing their good traits which will help the descendant to survive.

      It is to be noted that with each new generations, a certain numbers of mutations occurs which do not come from any of the parents. In humans, it is around 175 (source : NCBI).

      So, again, it is NOT a random process. Please, learn about the subject before criticizing it.

      September 19, 2011 at 8:05 am |
    • Jamie Vee

      It is not about apes at all. It is about adapting to change.

      September 19, 2011 at 8:07 am |
    • Web Leslie

      Chemical evolution led to biological evolution, which, through natural selection, led to the world today. It is important to understand that "order," as you put it, is inherently better than disorder. The existence of order and complexity doesn't mean there must be an outside designer. Order exists because it is evolutionarily superior. Organisms with micro and macro-levels of order are more likely to survive than those that are disordered and therefore dysfunctional. Therefore, they pass on their genes. Order exists not because it was designed. It exists because it has to for life to continue. Once life started from organic compounds, it wouldn't just peter out. It will find ways to go on. Thus, the amazing complexity and order we see in life naturally developed for life to continue.

      September 19, 2011 at 8:19 am |
  13. Monty Gaither

    While many theists accept the fact of Evolution, the only "controversy" in this is among those whose critical thought processes are too corrupted to accept this fact.

    In response to "Muslim" there are Evolutionary explainations to why some are charitable. I would suggest that you go to a bookstore and get some books on the subject. A single and very brief reason for it, is it improves the chances of the species to survie during hard times. As for morality, the history of mankind shows that religion is immoral. The "jihad", the fighting and killings through out history between one religion and another and the history of the fighting and killings between sects in a religion.

    September 19, 2011 at 7:44 am |
  14. Judy Best

    It shouldn't be a touchy subject anywhere!...Evolution is fact, not fiction, and probably the most widely studied scientific topic on the planet (only 150+ years)...I have a better question for people like Mrs. Bachman and Mr. Perry, "Why don't you believe in the separation of church and state?"...Canadians also believe in climate change, gays, heart disease and cancer...We're such radicals!!!

    September 19, 2011 at 7:43 am |
  15. bettync

    The conflict comes when people take the Bible's seven days of creation as literal 24-hour days. Those who consider "day" as a symbolic measure of time can easily accept that God created man through the process of evolution.

    September 19, 2011 at 7:36 am |
  16. phil g.

    I just find it very difficult to imagine that either of you ladies are descendents of monkeys 😉

    September 19, 2011 at 7:36 am |
    • karen whiddon

      Common ancestor, Phil, common ancestor-good grief-the ignorance of my neighbors appalls me!

      September 20, 2011 at 7:49 am |
  17. drora kemp

    It's not that evolution is a touchy subject. The problem is that the angels around us don't like the concept of evolution.
    Magical thinking brings comfort to people. It also makes Americans a laughing stock in the rest of the civilized world. We would rather believe in what brings comfort to us than in what is in front of our noses – like trickle down economics.

    September 19, 2011 at 7:32 am |
  18. Jack Gilead

    Many Americans seem to be ruled by religious superstition rather than by intellect and logic. They are told what and how to think, as opposed to using their brains.

    September 19, 2011 at 7:23 am |
  19. Al Aldridge

    Maybe it is because most white Americans don't want to be related to African American. Remember Lucy confirms that we all came from Africa.?

    September 19, 2011 at 7:10 am |
    • Nick Valenti

      That is a totally ridiculous comment, implying that all human races descended from the black race because early human ancestors were in what is TODAY Africa! Back then, millions of years ago, it was simply an area of land–there WAS no "africa" as it is seen now. If your comments were true, then every human living today would have "black" DNA markers–which is totally false and proven as such. This is a very racist idea, claiming that the variation of human races today evolved from blacks. Your post hints of glaring smugness and racism against whites, amongst others.

      September 20, 2011 at 8:10 am |
  20. Steph

    I am a Christian, I believe God is amazing and will not limit what he can do. I believe God created man, plants, and animals who continues to evolve. What is exactly meant by "then there is light" is up to interpretation. Perhaps it meant then there were cognitive function began. I just know God is limitless, and those who believe evolution is against biblical teachings limit God. We know evolution is happening as we speak, to say that is not God is to limit God's abilities to create a world that changes as he wishes. I have no problem beliving that God was amazing enough to start evolution, that is how strong I believe in God.

    September 19, 2011 at 7:03 am |
    • Nick Valenti

      If your religion and "god" are true, then he must've really screwed up a number of times, considering the numerous mass extinctions throughout Earth's history. "Hmmm...that didn't turn out like I expected! Better wipe it all out and start over again!" Why "he" took 4.56 billion years or so to reach humans is baffling then–why not start with them in the first place? Humans are the "height of creation"? He must have very low standards, then.

      September 20, 2011 at 8:18 am |
  21. Pat

    @Muslim...We are eating one another, we just wait until we are born. I basically agree with Melvina's note. Religious institutions have used religion and fear to work hand in glove with the state to keep put people ignorant forever. The world's three monotheistic religions have been some of the worse culprits of all, and are still at it, and at each others throats. After all, the stakes are high, its all about power and wealth. Keeping people ignorant is a key factor in accomplishing those goals.

    September 19, 2011 at 7:00 am |
  22. mike

    Evolution isn't such a controversy anywhere except in the Unites States. Its just another form of American Exceptionalism which needs the comfort and justification that American's are innately special , deserving and are the focus of the sun. Beyond that they need know nothing. All this was cute when America was young and adolescent, but its time America grew up.

    September 19, 2011 at 6:58 am |
  23. Heath

    Evolution is only controversial with a portion of the general public. In the scientific community, the Theory of Evolution is overwhelmingly supported. In my 14 years as a biology teacher I've found that most students enter the classroom carrying the "baggage" of their conservative religious beliefs. We live a in society which disregards all scientific knowledge, if it flies in the face of a few literally interpreted passages of the Bible. It should be no secret why we lag behind many other countries in the sciences, considering teachers/professors continually fight to bring the willfully ignorant up to speed. Michelle Bachmann, in defending her recent comments on the HPV vaccine, stated that she is not a scientist. That's an important statement and one that should be echoed by the presidential candidates before they attempt to speak on ANY matters of science. Evolution has only been supported and strengthened in the 150 years since Darwin published his theory of Natural Selection. There isn't anything controversial about the topic within the community of folks who are educated on the topic.

    September 19, 2011 at 6:55 am |
    • ellis blake

      the hpv vaccine is where the whole truth was not told .I watched a program that talked about a meeting that The World Health Organization had a meeting on the subject .That there were over a hundred hpv virusus and it was so contagious that a person could catch hpv just by per say a male and female could catch it by just rubbing on each other from the bellybutton to their legs .when asked why they didnt tell the public The W.H.O. said the public could not handle the truth and it would cause mass panic . The person who reported this sent in his money and got the Report which if I remember correctly said This comment was buried about 700 pages deep .I believe the vaccine is a feable attempt because it covers so few of these strains and young people have died from it

      September 19, 2011 at 7:23 am |
    • Melvina

      That's because the right wing WANTS to dumb down the population. The more uneducated, the more labor available for minimum wage, no benefits jobs, and the less they would be inclined to fight for their rights.

      September 19, 2011 at 7:48 am |
  24. Sharon Barker

    Fundamentalist/Evangelical Christians take umbrage at the idea that people evolved from apes. They maintain that the Bible states that God made Man in His (God's) image. They say that that would mean that God is an Ape.

    September 19, 2011 at 6:36 am |
  25. Chris M

    Carol, if evolution were in the Bible, it would be heralded as fact. Unfortunately, it's difficult to "track" evolution, although with Global Warming, we may soon have the data available to show distinct changes in species as they evolve or perish to our changing environment. Because environmental change and evolution and topics such as these are slow and not easily observable, people doubt them. If American's had as much FAITH in science as they do in other things, the world would be a very different place.

    September 19, 2011 at 6:36 am |
  26. Melvina

    The religious extremists in this country, that are behind republican/tea party candidates like Bachmann and Perry, are using people's faith to manipulate them for political gain. People need to think about the message before blindly following anyone who calls themselves Christian. The actions and policies of these people are reminiscent of the Crusades and witch burning; shameful times in Christian history when unscrupulous religious leaders used faith to control the masses. Would Jesus really want to deny health insurance, food, housing and jobs with decent wages to people who need it the most, so that the top 1% can increase their profits?

    September 19, 2011 at 6:29 am |
  27. bob

    Evolution is a touchy subject because of the mountain of misinformation propagated by the religious opposition. Saying the theory of evolution is like saying the theory of gravity. Neither is a guess. Both are equally provable.

    September 19, 2011 at 6:25 am |
  28. Muslim

    Evolution is a problematic subject in what it connotes of the human being. If a human being is descended from an ape, that makes the human being a sophisticated ape, but and ape never the less. Monkey see, monkey do and your ancestors were monkeys, so see the monkeys and do what they do seems to be connotation of evolution. There is the matter of morality as how to establish conduct as well. If we were not made by God and given morality by God and what the evolutionists say is true, that morality developed from the natural kingdom and the fight for survival in it, it is to the natural kingdom we must look for guidance about morality; and shark babies eat one another in the womb, the strongest of which is given birth, having eaten the siblings. Should then human children imitate such behavior, as it seems to benefit the shark in terms of survival; then does sibling rivalry mean fights to the death? From the religious perspective it is devaluation of the human being and a precursor to bestiality. Why give in charity to the poor if in the natural kingdom only the strong survive? What kind of society shall be formed on the basis of the ideology of the evolutionists?

    September 19, 2011 at 6:16 am |
    • Phil

      Homo Sapiens ARE part of the great apes, whether you like it or not. Gods were invented to try to fill in the gap in knowledge of how something happened or came to be.
      Morality developted along societies to help the survival of the population. It IS part of evolution.
      Natural selection is not a fight to the death, so please, learn what evolution actually is before saying nonsense about a scientific theory.

      September 19, 2011 at 7:56 am |