I never understood why theories of evolution (Darwin’s theory in particular) are politically explosive. I would have thought that physics presents a far more radical challenge to Creationism. After all, it is:
(a) Far more reductive, claiming that we are nothing but a bunch of moving particles.
(b) Moves the center of the universe as far away from human beings as can be imagined.
So why do creationists get into a tizzy about Darwin and not about Einstein?
Perhaps it’s because evolution introduces a different conception of time and history into our self understanding, while physics is decidedly a-temporal. Physics does not deal with the question of origins, notwithstanding big bang cosmology and other theories of the birth of the universe. Questions of origins really do not play an important conceptual role in physics, because the laws of physics are the same today as they were when the universe was created. By getting rid of special moments, moments that mean more than others, physical theories sweep “why” questions under the rug. Which, unfortunately, also means that physics does not say much about value and meaning.
If I am right, disciplines such as history and evolutionary biology are contentious because they still frame their theories around “why” questions, questions that go to the heart of human nature, which cares about meaning deeply. The good news is that people debate Darwinian theories of evolution not just because they are blinded by faith, but because they instinctively know the importance of “original” thinking, if by original, one means thinking about origins. Disagreements about our evolutionary history have less to do with faith and reason and more to do with embodied notions of the roots of knowledge.