A Word about TV and Evolution

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“Evolution is a fact.”

So spoke Sheldon, the ultra-intelligent uber-nerd (but I’m redundant) on the CBS comedy, “Big Bang Theory.”

The audience didn’t laugh at this crack, for crack it was. You see, Sheldon wouldn’t say something like, “Turn on that lamp.” Sheldon would use confusing and precise language and say something like, “Engage the electromagnetic field which casts off particles that travel at a semi-constant speed of … “ You get the picture.

It is unlikely, then, that Sheldon would use such an imprecise term as “evolution”, especially in the context in which he used it.
In this instance, Sheldon was arguing with his mother, a fundamentalist Christian woman from a Pentecostal background who was, in retrospect, portrayed fairly sympathetically. While a little over the top, she wasn’t depicted as a fool, for which I am thankful.

Sheldon, who is a young man with a doctorate in a discipline most of us couldn’t even spell, let alone understand, had been shamed by a falsified report, quit his job, and moved back home to Texas to teach evolution to the creationists there. Now, Sheldon is a somewhat insulated character, rarely aware of (or concerned with) the feelings of those around him. Still, it was out of character for him to use such a blanket term as evolution when—as a character depicted as knowing everything—he’s bound to be aware of the weaknesses in the THEORY of evolution.

Note: I do not say evolution is false. There are aspects of the theory (for it is a “big tent”) which even we creationists agree with. What we argue about—to put it in such broad terms that even Sheldon would object to my gross generalization—is whether the limited processes we see evidences of now can be extrapolated backwards all the way to the beginning (whenever the beginning was) to explain all that we see now.
The reality, though sometimes we don’t like to admit it, is that in the field of “evolution” we all have the same facts and hints, but we don’t all interpret these signs in the same way. Where I see the hand of God, another man sees only the touch of chance, and neither of us thinks we have enough faith to believe the other’s position. For faith is required in both cases because we were not there (for the beginning) and so we must fill in some gaps.

And that’s a fact.

Another note or two: television is good at throwing broadsides such as Sheldon’s comment and then moving on without addressing the underlying meaning. Of course, an informed discussion of the merits of various scientific theories wouldn’t really fit in to a fictional TV show, and a comedy at that. As interesting as it might be in retrospect, it would be boring theater.

And then there’s the opening credits, which declare that the cosmos first came into being 16 billion years ago. I find that interesting for I have been reading a book from 1966 recently which states that the universe “is generally believed to be 2 billion years old”. How did the universe get to be 14 billion years older in the last 43 years? No one knows, for sure. In the software biz we would have called it “feature creep”, for it’s just a slow and undirected process by which numbers get thrown out with little or no consequence, rhyme or reason. In another twenty years, the age of the universe will have changed again, as more unfounded suppositions are piled on other unfounded suppositions to arrive at a conclusive supposition of another number of years.