Rationality Now Rotating Header Image

Monarch Butterflies and creationism

I almost had a confrontation with someone I believe is a creationist today, but I refrained.

I was at the Pennsylvania Farm Show with my daughter and while we were walking through the exhibits, I heard a voice talking about monarch butterflies over a PA system. What I heard was interesting and I finally located the person behind the voice… an elderly gentleman with a white beard seated on a chair in front of one of the stages. He had a small audience of maybe ten people.

My daughter and I were headed a different direction to see other things, so I didn’t pay him much attention, but I did hear him talk about how Monarch Butterfly caterpillars eat the milkweed plant… and only the milkweed plant… that without it, they would starve.

He was just passing out of my attention sphere when I heard (something like), “If there are any evolutionists in the crowd, I’d like to hear an explanation about how the milkweed plant just happened to evolve right where the butterflies are. It doesn’t make much sense and doesn’t seem very likely.”

I froze. Oh, that seemed like a challenge… and a rather simple one at that. I looked back at him. He didn’t really wait for an answer, but went on talking about butterflies again, so perhaps he meant it as a rhetorical question… just a snarky aside that really didn’t have anything to do with his topic, but everything to do with his religious views (and his ignorance). I weighed my options, decided not to interrupt, and then laughed in his direction before continuing on with my daughter to other exhibits.

It bothered me to not respond, but I wasn’t in his audience and the presentation really was about butterflies, not evolution. In addition, my daughter and I were headed a different direction to find other things, so it would have been an interruption of our plans as well. But not responding was letting ignorance go unchallenged and letting it spread to others. I think that’s why it continued to bother me and has me mildly disappointed in myself.

It’s rare for me to encounter that type of behavior in person. I read about it happening a lot and hear stories of it happening, but when it happens to me, I’m always a bit stunned… like a deer in the headlights.

I think I need more practice.

Leave a Reply