Google’s low-key homepage might seem like a surprising place to stoke controversy. It’s usually just the Google logo, a search bar and a few small buttons below. However, Google’s decision to continuously change its logo into beautifully rendered homages to important events, famous or noteworthy people, and recognition of holidays often mean inflaming the ire of people who don’t like what these so-called “Google Doodles” represent.
For a perfect example, look no further than Google’s decision to honor the discovery of “Lucy,” a 3.2 million year old human ancestor that became one of the most important discoveries in the field of anthropology. This year, October 23 marks the 41st anniversary of her discovery.
In 2014, the BBC wrote about the power of Lucy’s discovery on humanity’s understanding of itself.
Lucy’s discovery marked a turning point in our understanding of human evolution. Even today scientists are still learning from her. Paleoanthropologists can visit her in Ethiopia’s National Museum in Addis Ababa, to run further analyses using new technologies. “She’ll keep on giving,” says Harcourt-Smith.
According to Johanson, perhaps her most important contribution was to “spark” a wave of research that has led to the discovery of many new species, like Ardipithecus and A. sediba. The number of known species has more than doubled since Lucy, but many parts of the story still need to be filled in, says Johanson. “I know there are several others [species] lurking on the horizon.”
Google created a beautiful tribute to Lucy.
However, showing Lucy striding next to a human counterpart will be deemed downright scandalous to a certain segment of the American public who still maintain that the theory of evolution is a lie. And creationists make up a surprisingly large proportion of Americans.
In a recent poll of Americans’ views on science, Pew found that while most people understood that scientists almost unanimously endorse evolution, only a fraction of them (around 35%) report that they fully accept evolution. And while many admit evolution played a role in human history, a full third reject evolution entirely. More specifically, conservative Americans lag further behind still. One half say they do not believe in evolution at all. It may explain why Republican politicians are downright eager to demonstrate that they reject natural selection.
Like clockwork, the anti-evolution crowd began slamming Google for its choice of Google Doodle on social media.
If there is a silver lining in all of this anti-scientific nonsense, it’s that young people don’t seem to be having the same problem understanding evolution as their parents and grandparents do. Three quarters of Americans 30 years and younger express a belief in evolution.
It’s yet another sign that America’s cultural sands are shifting from under the feet of conservatives who desperately hope they can forestall the inevitable. Throughout the United States there are campaigns underway to get evolution stricken from high school textbooks. Ben Carson, an avowed creationist, has recently called upon universities to stop teaching “liberal” ideas (presumably including evolution) or else get their federal funding pulled from them. Endless Christian movies are being made to promote the idea that evolution is a lie meant to undermine faith in God.
And despite all of that energy, cultural progress has been made. Don’t believe me? Just google it.
Feature image Google