It's easy to swallow creationist attacks on a scientific level because evolution can't explain everything: for them, God is in the gaps. But their argument no longer concerns gaps and holes, but is an assault on my character, and that of scientists everywhere, as students of evolutionary theory. To say that evolution is a racist and sexist theory says that were peddling racism and sexism.
Unfortunately for creationists, their argument is poorly conceived. In the past evolution was a justification for racism. Natural selection and survival of the fittest were invoked to justify eugenics and compulsory sterilization in many countries. Many Victorians believed non-Caucasians to be less advanced than white people, but that is a product of their time and place, not of being devoted to science.
What evolution theory actually says is that from one population of Homo sapiens, the species spread geographically. As they spread across the globe, individual populations gained adaptations suited to their environment. People in northern climates became paler to absorb more sunlight, and people in sunnier areas became darker to absorb less and thus avoid skin cancer, for example. Evolution essentially says that every human is a Homo sapien, but that each race has developed adaptations to its homeland. The argument isn't that one race is better, rather that they're all the best in their own way.
Creationists, however, claim that evolutionists place African-Americans and other non-whites just above apes and elevate Europeans as perfect. Were evolution a continuous teleological climb with white men at the pinnacle, creationists would have a point. But it isnt, so they dont.
But for the sake of argument, lets take a look at creationists version of history: in the beginning God creates Adam and Eve. But after the Fall, Adam and Eve are thrown out of the Garden of Eden, and so all the races descended from one single couple after much inbreeding.
Whos racist again? The group that says all people descended from a single population, or the group that says that all people descended from a single population? Creationists claim that evolutionists are racist for making the exact same claim about the diversification of races they themselves are making.
Creationists also claim that evolution teaches female inferiority. Their manipulative creationist argument relies on the observation that females of many species are smaller, less muscular and less colorful than males of the same species. Creationists twist this around, saying that evolutionary biologists are pushing a sexist doctrine in which women are less advanced than males.
But saying that a female peacock doesn't have a large tail doesn't say that she is inferior, simply that her tail is smaller. And saying that a female peacock doesn't have a large tail, and therefore human females are inferior to human males, is a ridiculous leap into irrationality. Natural selection actually allows females a great deal of power. Because females often choose their mates based on which males have the most favorable characteristics, females often drive evolution.
In essence, creationists are trying to create sexism and strife where there isnt any, because creationism has always been about control. Creationists want to hold up Adam and Eve as an example of how life was meant to be. They want to exalt the heterosexual pairing in which woman is relegated to being a submissive baby-making machine in punishment for her mistake of eating off the wrong tree. They want to exalt a world without racial diversity or power for women. In short, they want a homogenous world controlled by men.
Science threatens this. Even if you are a woman, even if you're black, no matter what your background, you can do something important. Science gives people power, which hyper-conservative creationists resent, and so they're grasping at straws to stop it.
Variety Editor April Wright is a junior from Eagan, Minn. She majors in biology and in English.