This blog represents most of the newspaper columns (appearing in various Colorado Community Newspapers and Yourhub.com) written by me, James LaRue, during the time in which I was the director of the Douglas County Libraries in Douglas County, Colorado. (Some columns are missing, due to my own filing errors.) This blog covers the time period from April 11, 1990 to January 12, 2012.

Unless I say so, the views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They may be quoted elsewhere, so long as you give attribution. The dates are (at least according my records) the dates of publication in one of the above print newspapers.

The blog archive (web view) is in chronological order. The display of entries, below, seems to be in reverse order, new to old.

All of the mistakes are of course my own responsibility.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

March 3, 2011 - in the dark about what happens at night

After my granddad retired, he got tired of playing bridge and growing roses. Finally, my grandmother told him to go back to work. So he did, where he sold appliances for a big chain store. An astute human observer, he loved it.

One day he listened to a younger salesman lose a deal. A housewife was looking at freezers. The young salesman told her (correctly) that a special feature of this freezer was that it automatically defrosted.

"How does it do that?" asked the housewife.

The salesman gamely launched into an explanation. But since he really didn't know, it wasn't very convincing. The housewife grew more and more dubious, and finally walked out of the store without buying anything.

"What should I have done?" asked the salesman. "Next time," said granddad, "just tell her 'it happens at night.'"

When it comes right down to it, that's about how much understanding most of us have about the physical world.

Where does it go when you flush the toilet? It goes ... away. Possibly to a sewage treatment plant, however that works. Pipes are involved.

How come we don't fall off the planet? Gravity! How does that work? Um. Gravitons? I'm pretty sure it has something to do with mass, although it would be neat if there were invisible velcro particles.

It would be foolish to have big fights about whether or not there are sewage plants. Hardly anybody proclaims his fervent opposition to the longstanding Theory of Gravity.

It seems silly to argue about things we don't know much about. And you can't declare that nobody else should believe something just because you can't be bothered to understand it yourself.

Therefore, of course, we do it all the time. That's precisely the situation regarding the Theory of Evolution - an attempt to explain the development of our planet's rich biodiversity.

I'm reading a book called "Monkey Girl: evolution, education, religion, and the battle for America's soul," by Edward Humes. Parts of it make you shake your head. Other parts, you laugh out loud.

The book is about the 2005 trial called Kitmiller versus Dover (PA) Area School District, in which Judge John E. Jones III found the teaching of "Intelligent Design" (ID) unconstitutional.

It was painfully clear that the school board members who voted to introduce ID hadn't done their homework. When directly asked just what evolution asserted, they got it all wrong. They couldn't describe what ID was about, either. They were pretty sure, though, that "Darwinism" was atheistic, and ID was Christian. The judge decided that they were right about the latter.

But regarding the former, I've never understood the angry opposition to evolution, or why people feel it has to contradict religious faith.

Couldn't science be seen as an act of the most profound devotion and reverence? When, after experimentation, careful analysis, and much thinking, we uncover subtle natural laws, couldn't it be argued that we begin to get a glimmer of just how God does things?

Science takes work, though. I think for some folks, for a lot of us, it's just easier to guess God does it at night.

LaRue's Views are his own.


  1. My husband, a biologist, has always said that evolution and religion are not mutually exclusive. Thanks for putting this concept into very eloquent words.

    Now--as for science taking work: scientific research is in the same shape as our libraries--funding cuts. For folks like my husband who are not working on the magic diet pill or drugs that qualify for military weapons, the money is being slashed dramatically. Pharma has gotten a bad rap due to some sketchy approvals, but they are working on things to save the world. And isn't that what is at the heart of being human? Helping our fellow sentient beings?

  2. Yes, what we fund says a lot about our values.