Dear Tucker Carlson,

I was saddened to watch your April 19 interview on the "Joe Rogan Experience", #2138. Your assertion that "there's no evidence at all that... you know, people you know evolved seamlessly from a single cell amoeba ... there's no chain in the fossil record of that at all" was truly breathtaking. It is not easy to overlook the voluminous documentation we have of countless fossils from thousands of sites that have shown that single-celled animals evolved first into small invertebrates, then larger vertebrates, then larger warm-blooded creatures, mammals, hominids, and then, finally, a smiling checkered-shirt guest on a podcast!

In this same podcast, however, you observe that there exists, "a massive corpus of evidence" for the existence of UFOs, residing in endless reports of lights appearing in the night sky, reported by well-meaning but imaginative citizens. Unfortunately, the host interviewing you, Joe Rogan, has a history of accepting fanciful claims in spite of the evidence. How does this happen? How does an intelligent mind (you are clearly an intelligent man, Tucker) dismiss rock-solid evidence in one matter and embrace unreliable and fanciful reports in another? Well, there are two sources that I can think of. First, given your recent unemployment, it may be of benefit to you to embrace the constituency of evolution deniers. I will assume, however, that your non-acceptance of evolution is sincere and you are allowing your feelings to dictate your reason.  

There are two problems here, the inability to accept a clearly documented piece of knowledge and the acceptance of something rather specious. The first problem arises in the way we formulate ideas. We start with a deep feeling, an intuition, and then we sculpt a supporting argument, bending logic, overlooking data that refutes our idea, and inflating the importance of data that supports it. Anger is one feeling that leads to some dramatic alterations of reason and I can understand why you might be angry. The seat of wisdom is in universities that proclaim--and sometimes even enforce--ideas that are politically anathema to conservatives. To tell you a little secret, I too am concerned about the challenges the First Amendment of the United States faces on college campuses today. It makes you reluctant to surrender to universities and scientists the power of determining what is true and what is not, eh?

Emotions other than anger tend to bend thinking, too, Tucker. Jonathan Haidt, a social psychologist at NYU and author of The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion has succinctly said, “Intuitions come first, strategic reasoning second,” and “Our moral thinking is much more like a politician searching for votes than a scientist searching for truth.” 

It's the way your and other people's brains work, Tucker. We all do it to some extent, but the more we do this, the less we see what truly exists outside of our expectations. When we do this at the national level we formulate public policy that is based on nonsense and, ultimately, the people suffer. To combat this we need to look at ourselves, to follow the advice of my favorite bumper sticker that reads, "Don't Believe Everything You Think." That is true especially if there is a strong emotion behind it, because twisted logic generally follows a strong emotion. Feel free to ask yourself, "Am I sure?" Remember that sounding certain and proud isn't worth much; having and operating with the facts is.

Evolution isn't about a lot of fossils and dinosaurs. We meet it in everyday life. Have you ever wondered why, when you visit the doctor with a bacterial infection, he doesn't give you penicillin anymore? In 1950, penicillin was a miracle drug, wiping out virtually any bacteria it came in contact with. But, in the subsequent years, it was massively overused. As with all creatures, bacteria suffer regular genetic changes from sub-atomic particles and mistakes in replication. Those bacteria that had changes that gave them some resistance against penicillin won. They survived and their less fortunate cousins did not. Pretty soon the population became more and more resistant to penicillin. Thus, our continuous and frantic look for new antibiotics. The old ones won't last forever because of evolution in action.

And there need be no conflict between religion and evolutionary science. I went to a Roman Catholic high school where I was taught that Darwin was right, that we had slowly evolved from populations of single-celled creatures to apes over a very long period of time and finally to humans. We were taught that at some point in this process, God decided that we had evolved enough, breathed souls into us, and henceforth everything was different for human beings. Some may quibble with that final assumption. But if the Roman Catholic church can accept the basic tenets of Darwinism, it would appear that no conflict fundamentally exists between religion and science.

I will give you the benefit of the doubt. I will assume that you are not intentionally misrepresenting the truth for your own benefit. I will assume that you are merely the victim of some very vicious cognitive biases (there are over 200 of them, ways that your brain alters reality to meet your desires and fears) and I hope you can free yourself from them. Only if we embrace the truth of reality as it exists, and reflect that in our public policy, will this country survive and prosper.

Nevertheless, I have hope for you, Tucker. Someplace in this podcast, you state, "What I object to is the absence of reason," and "The lack of reason freaks me out." You understand how critical the truth is! The one thing you have to grasp is just how fragile reason can be when there's strong emotion involved. Let's stop leading a lot of good young people astray concerning established science.


Kenneth Teixeira

Header Image: "Tucker Carlson - Charred Tree" by Justus Hayes via Flickr