Evolution, agnosticism and the O’Reilly factor

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Nearly every issue of the Birmingham News has at least one letter to the editor supporting or denying that evolution has occurred. Evolution is defined as change through time, and anyone remotely familiar with the fossil record realizes that the plants and animals existing today, with some notable exceptions, differ markedly from those that occurred in prehistoric times. It is pointless to argue to the contrary.

It is also pointless to emphatically deny that God or some other supernatural force had no influence on the origin of the universe, the earth, the origin of life, or did not direct the course of evolution following the origin of life. Atheists subscribe to such belief. They can argue that subatomic particles united to form atoms, that atoms united to form molecules, and molecules somehow got together in a primordial slime, and presto, living organisms were formed.

So far, so good. But prior to the origin of the universe, it seems reasonable to assume there was nothing, except for a supernatural power of some sort that created whatever was necessary to construct the universe, to get the ball rolling, as it were. The question no one has been able to answer is, “What was the supernatural power and how did it originate?”

All available scientific evidence proves without doubt that the Biblical explanation in Genesis as to how life on earth came into being is untrue. And the pain and suffering so many humans endure and the natural catastrophic events that occur lead me to believe that if there is a God, and if He rules the earth, He is not the loving God my Sunday School teachers told me He is. The Bible says the reason God told Adam and Eve not to eat the apple was because it would enable them to discern good from evil. Why, I wondered, would God desire that they be ignorant of such knowledge?

All of which caused me to become a Doubting Thomas early on, an agnostic, and I will remain one for the rest of my life. Agnostics, contrary to the belief of some, are not atheists. Agnostics do not deny the existence of God, or of heaven for that matter, but are convinced that they cannot know for certain whether or not either exists. Furthermore, they are of the opinion that their existence will not ever be proven one way or the other.

Personally, I hope there is a heaven. I’ve tried my best to live a good life and adhere to the Golden Rule, and if a heaven exists, I believe Saint Peter will let me in, despite the fact that I have not been “born again.”

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Phenology is the science dealing with the influence of climate on the recurrence of such annual phenomena such as budding, flowering, bird migration and the onset of breeding activity displayed by some animals. For quite a few yeas, I have kept phenological records on a number of species of plants and animals. This year has been exceptional. Several flowering plants began blooming two to three weeks earlier than usual. Pecan trees are among the latest to display leaves, in most years not before April, but this year some were breaking dormancy in mid-March. Fowler’s toads, the common toads in our area, were calling three weeks earlier than usual. People who deny that climate change is not occurring obviously pay scant attention to phenological phenomena.

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I frequently watch the O’Reilly Factor on Fox News. Lately O’Reilly has been debating and discussing the controversy regarding gasoline prices with guests on his program. Seldom, if ever, has the proposed Keystone EL pipeline and the environmental and economic consequences that could result from its construction been mentioned. None of the guests, to my knowledge, have been critics of the pipeline project. At the end of his program, O’Reilly points his pencils toward the camera and states, “Remember, I’m looking out for you.” If he desires to look out for me and others of my ilk, he would invite a spokesperson from the National Wildlife Federation, the Environmental Defense Fund, the Natural Resources Defense Council, or some other pro-environmental group to appear on his program.

Bob Mount is a Professor Emeritus with the Dept of Zoology and Entomology, Auburn Univ. He is also co-chairman of the Opelika Order of Geezers, well-known local think tank and political clearing house. He writes about birds, snakes, turtles, bugs and assorted conservation topics.

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