The wonder of geology, to me, is that it’s so much more than a study of inanimate rocks and stones. It’s a history of our planet, of life on Earth, and even of time itself.
The landscapes and seas around us, our climate, the plants and animals we depend upon to live, the resources we use whenever we go anywhere or make anything – geology is a route towards the understanding of all those things.
Every historian and foreign correspondent knows that in order truly to know the present and to predict the future, we have to understand the past.
And that is what geology gives us. Geology is a unifying discipline, which borrows so much from other science, and puts it all together to reveal the history of our planet and of life both past and present.
It’s so much of what we know about our world, and about ourselves as well.
But there’s a debate going on, right now, in the most developed country in the world, about whether any of it is true.
Education is so important in all our lives. I hope that today’s children will learn as much as they can about science and philosophy and art and history and literature and languages, and about all there is to know. And yet, in so much of America today, they really don’t want that to happen.
The astonishing map below featured on strange maps recently, and it shows how the subject of evolution is taught in schools within the United States. As well as how it isn’t.
Because in much of the most advanced nation on Earth, evolution is a dirty word. To the education authorities in one third of states, it seems that evolution is not to be taught as part of the enlightenment of science. Instead, it is to be presented as an uncorroborated theory, a parallel alternative to the religious doctrine of Intelligent Design, or worse, as a blasphemous denial of the truth which stands in the Bible.
Different people have different views, about many things. Some will encourage the rich to make more money to lift society as a whole, whilst others would focus on the poor and those least able to help themselves. Some people are sternly religious, whether they are Christians or Buddhists, Muslims or Jews, Hindus or Sikhs, whilst others are not believers at all.
And it’s always been my view that the more we learn and understand about those different points of view, the more easily we can all live together. But, at a certain level, scientific discoveries are just not opinions, any more.
You can debate the very finest detail of the process, but to deny the existence of evolution today, you might as well protest that the world is flat, or debate why Newton’s apple fell.
And there’s just no reason for censorship or moral indignation – because an acceptance of evolution isn’t contradictory with religion.
Evolution is nothing more or less amazing than the simple and yet devastatingly effective mechanism which has resulted in all the biological and palaeontological diversity which has ever existed on our planet.
So much of what we know today reflects the advances made by scientists all around the globe, over the last two hundred years or more. America has been at the forefront of scientific progress, for nearly all that time.
You might reasonably think that in America, more than anywhere, people would want to look at and understand the evidence, all of the evidence, and make up their own minds accordingly.
And yet, a huge section of that country would now deny all this wonderfully enlightening and unifying knowledge. To pretend that it has never been discovered, to purport that this understanding, which dates back to Darwin and beyond and has so long been tested and refined by all the geneticists before and ever since, is somehow now the subject of realistic debate or contention. And to declare that for some reason it might be unsafe to share with our children.
It just doesn’t make sense.
43. A sense of time – Earth history and the London Marathon
129. Tenerife – 1: the light at the end of the world
140. The Great Global Warming Swindle
110. The hands that built America – Houston skylines
41. A Lincolnshire legend – Sir Isaac Newton