Evolution and Atheism Revisited

Ed Brayton has an interesting post on one of my favorite subjects. It is based on remarks made by two of Ed’s commenters. Let’s have a look.

Commenter Sastra begins with the following:

I suspect that ID advocates haven’t bothered to condemn Stein’s statement because they have all intuitively translated it into what Stein actually meant. They translate everything into their own idiom, because they are fighting a different war. It’s not about the science.

“Science leads to killing people” doesn’t really mean what it appears to say. Instead, it means:

“If you base your world view only on science — and leave out God — then you are an atheist. Atheism leads to killing people. Atheism is the real enemy. We’re going after atheism.”

Darwinism = atheism. Flat out. That’s why even educated cdesign proponentists don’t feel strange confusing evolution with abiogenesis. It’s why they can ask how “Darwinism” explains how the planets got here, or where the universe comes from, with a straight face, and get nods of approval from their listeners.

I think there is a lot of truth to this. The Young-Earthers, in particular, are quite unambiguous that this is how they see the matter. I don’t have a reference handy, but I recall one creationist book bluntly saying that it is a mistake to think that evolution was a scientific theory pioneered by Charles Darwin. Actually it is an idea that has always been with us in the form of nonbelief, according to this charming fellow.

But we ought to go a bit further. The fact that creationists so casually link evolution to atheism, and ask stupid questions like, “How does evolution explain abiogenesis?” is indicative of a pathology that afflicts many people in American society. Specifically, the unwillingness to do even a tiny bit of homework to understand the arguments made by people on the other side. The people I meet at creationist conferences are completely uncritical in accepting what their preachers tell them about evolution. The idea that they should read some books by scientists to learn about evolution never seems to enter their minds. They seem to have no interest at all in learning what scientists really think, or what evolution really says.

That is what leads to that blend of ignorance and arrogance that is so typical of creationist thought and writing. They know nothing about modern science, but pretend to know a great deal.

Sastra continues:

I think this is why those who defend the theory of evolution are somewhat polarized on this issue. The obvious rebuttal is to point out that evolution does NOT mean atheism. You need not follow it strictly all the way down: there are many theists who feel comfortable incorporating any and all scientific findings into their faith. Make this clear, and the ID tactic will fail. And you don’t get into the quagmire of defending atheism.

BUT — because the ID issue has been framed by its advocates as a full-scale attack on atheism — atheists feel required to fight back. What group wouldn’t, under the same circumstances? Otherwise, it feels as if the evolutionary side is conceding that yes, atheism is immoral, and atheism leads to immorality — but evolutionists aren’t all atheists, so that makes it okay.

Henry Neufeld then replies to Sastra, beginning with:

The problem I’ve found is that it is very easy to be misunderstood when defending evolution by making it clear that it is not atheism, which of course it isn’t. But it can easily sound like, “The ToE would be bad if it was atheism or fit well with atheism, but it isn’t, it doesn’t, so it’s OK.”

This might describe the way some atheists view the matter, but it certainly does not describe the way I view it. In listening to theistic evolutionists I have never had the feeling they were arguing that if evolution really did imply atheism, then it would be acceptable to reject it on that basis. I have always taken the arguments of theistic evolutionists at face value. In thier view there is no contradiction between evolution and a meaningful Christian faith.

My only beef with theistic evolution is that the arguments made on its behalf are very, very bad. I have yet to see a remotely plausible answer to the question of why a God of love and justice creates through four billion years of evolution by bloodsport. And there is no question that evolution makes it seem very unlikely that human beings are the purpose of creation. There is also the fact that evolution kills the argument from design in biology, thereby kicking the legs out from under the best argument ever devised for God’s existence.

Sure, if you are only interested in what is logically possible you can get around these points. But the fact remains that traditional theism becomes much harder to defend in the face of evolution than it was before evolution arrived on the scene.

More generally, I argue against the claims of ID folks not because of how they have framed the issue, but simply because I believe their claims are false and would be damaging to society were they included in science curricula. These are points that anyone who cares about science and science education ought to be able to agree on, regardless of their individual religious views.

I also argue on behalf of atheism first because I believe it to be true, and second because I don’t believe there can be any long-term solution to the evolution wars until the hold of religion on American culture is weakened. Science and religion are flatly at odds, the heroic efforts of theistic evolutionists to argue otherwise notwithstanding, and these battles will not cease until a significant number of people come to understand that learning your science from preachers and holy books is not a reasonable way of approaching things.

Replying to Ed’s post, commenter Brandon writes:

I’ve always felt that when angry atheists say that science leads to atheism, they’re playing right into the fundies’ hands.

It is not “angry atheists” who are playing into the hands of the fundamentalists, it is the facts that are doing that. I wouldn’t say science leads to atheism, but it is certainly true that atheism is vastly more popular among scientists than it is among the population at large. It’s not hard to figure out why that would be the case.

In the interests of ending this post on a point of agreement, let me note one more statement from Neufeld:

The only reason the theory of evolution is OK is that it is good science, and correct insofar as we know to date. Whether it helps me as a theist fill out my theological system, or whether it helps one be a fulfilled atheist as Dawkins noted is irrelevant.

Quite right. Well said!

Comments

  1. #1 _Arthur
    May 13, 2008

    Atheism and a confidence that scientific _naturalistic_ explanations are sufficient to explain Biology, or cosmogony, go hand-in-hand.

    After all, one could hardly be a practicing atheist while believing that all living creatures were once Created by one or several gods or djinns.

    The converse doesn’t hold at all; as many (most) scientists practice their various faiths without finding a conflict between Science and Religion.

    The real conflict is for fundamentalist Christian/Jews/Muslems to insist that (their interpretation of the translation of) their Holy Book ought to prime over reality, as established via scientific discovery.

    Since they cannot change reality, nor Scripture, and they can never come up with any worthwhile scientific argument, their shortcut to deny reality is to cast aspersions on biologists and scientist, by labelling them “atheists”, which apparently relieve the aforementioned Fundamentalists to have to deal with the conflict between Scripture and reality.

  2. #2 Tyler DiPietro
    May 13, 2008

    I would say that science does, in a limited fashion, lead to atheism. The modern scientific picture of the world, even if it doesn’t totally eradicate the case for religion, at least severely weakens it. Biological evolution is one of the best examples of a place where the reality revealed by science is almost at perfect contravariance with religion, though hardly the only one.

  3. #3 Russell
    May 13, 2008

    It seems to me that the orthodox varieties of Christianity draw a qualitative distinction between humans and animals. The entire temporal sphere has as its purpose a trial for human souls, whose eternal salvation is guided and enabled by the sacrifice of Jesus, and whose eternal destination is the matter of ultimate importance. Dogs and cats don’t have souls. Chimpanzees don’t have souls. Humans alone have immortal souls, and it is the ultimate destination of those souls that is important.

    If one takes that kind of theology at all seriously, evolution poses a severe problem: what, exactly, is human? If evolution is true, then we are all part of a great tree of life, the other primates our distant cousins who share some ancient common ancestor with us. How does one draw a boundary around some part of this tree, and say, here are the beings who have immortal souls, and just this other side are those who do not. Evolution says Adam had a father and mother. Christian theology requires that these are animals of no more moral importance than a dog.

    In short, orthodox Christian theology says that humans occupy a qualitatively different plane of existence than animals. Evolution says we are the same kind of thing as the rest of life, and that that similarity is more than just outward appearance. Our cognitive abilities evolved as a branch of primate cognitive abilities. Our emotional world is a derivation of the emotional world of our primate ancestors. We are different, but not wholly different. And I can see how someone who takes to heart the orthodox Christian metaphysics and soteriology would have a very difficult time with that. And yes, I realize that the Catholic Church, as one example, has painted a lot of nice words around that problem, trying to reconcile that problem. That means they recognize the problem. It doesn’t mean they actually have reconciled it.

  4. #4 KevinBBG
    May 13, 2008

    Russell: I have noticed the same kind of dichotomy even among atheists in creating a strict division between human and animal. They just do it with emotion, they say animals can’t love or feel altruism or a variety of other emotions. As if it’s a very human need to make us different from the rest of the animal world. Frankly, it doesn’t make sense, from an evolutionary perspective, that most of our human emotions bloomed out fully only when we came along and never existed before us.

    But when I argue evolution with a Christian I divide the concepts very carefully. Evolution is science, period. It has nothing to do with atheism and I argue from that perspective. And add in, how do they know that evolution isn’t god’s mechanism of creation? God could do it that way if he wanted to, right? They feel forced to agree with that little point, that God can do it any way he pleases. Few really think about just how bloodthirsty the evolutionary process has been since they really aren’t that familiar with it. I think that’s a point for a much later argument.

    First lead them where you want them to go, then close the trap.

    Science does indeed lead to atheism but people can get off at an earlier stop and not follow it to the last station.

  5. #5 Pseudonym
    May 13, 2008

    I also argue on behalf of atheism first because I believe it to be true, and second because I don’t believe there can be any long-term solution to the evolution wars until the hold of religion on American culture is weakened.

    Yet more proof, if we needed any, that the whole issue is pretty much Americo-centric. (And, arguably, not even all of America at that.)

    Other developed countries don’t have “evolution wars”. For some reason, only the USA goes for overusing the “war” metaphor to death.

  6. #6 Tyler DiPietro
    May 13, 2008

    “Other developed countries don’t have “evolution wars”. For some reason, only the USA goes for overusing the “war” metaphor to death.”

    Europe has it’s own cultural conflicts with rationalism, alty-med quackery is a good example of this.

  7. #7 Sastra
    May 13, 2008

    Nice post ;)

    I’d been trying to point out that efforts to undercut the creationist “slur tactic” of equating evolution with atheism sometimes ends up belittling atheism and atheists. Too heated a denial can seem as if there’s an implicit agreement that yes indeed, it’s a dirty rotten insult. But I think there’s also a tendency to put down atheists by arguing that using evolution as evidence against God is “just as foolish” and extremist as using evidence of a 6,000 year old earth to prove God. Evolution not only isn’t the same as atheism, it isn’t in any way rationally connected to naturalism as theory, either.

    Actually, there’s nothing foolish about trying to find empirical evidence for a 6,000 year old earth in order to support the God hypothesis, since, if you really could do that — because the earth really was 6,000 years old — it would be hard to explain without magic. The foolishness of the creationists isn’t that they tried. It’s that they won’t accept failure. In theory, our scientific discoveries could have supported just about any religion. The fact that they didn’t isn’t necessarily irrelevant to what we should then think about the God idea.

    I think the real conflict between evolution and religion isn’t so much with the particular question of human origins, but with the shift to a bottom-up approach to understanding not only our own origins, but the origins of our mind, consciousness, and intelligence. There are plenty of vague versions of “God” out there which have no particular story which can be refuted by evolution. They “work through” evolution in some unspecified manner, usually because they embody the ideals of Growth and Progress. But these vague Gods are supposed to be a kind of Primary and Uncreated Mind, or Value, or Feeling — existing like a Skyhook from Nowhere.

    That made a lot more sense when we all thought of our minds as disembodied essences. God’s relationship to the universe was simply a mirror image of how we viewed our relationship to our bodies, commanding their motion by thought. But once we become comfortable with the bottom-up scientific approach to understanding the evolutionary development of human attributes like mind and brain, then the top-down religious assumptions are jarring and inconsistent. They’re supposed to be intuitive and familiar. They used to be — and still are to those who still use their instincts and “common sense.”

    As Alan Cromer put it, science is “uncommon sense.” And once it becomes a habit, it replaces what used to seem plausible with a different way of thinking. Our understanding of what things are include how they got that way.

    Evolution is “consistent” with believing in God if you try to make them fit together, and then separate God itself from everything you learned from evolution.

    “I’ve always felt that when angry atheists say that science leads to atheism, they’re playing right into the fundies’ hands.”

    Funny, I’ve always thought that when angry creationists say that science leads to atheism, they’re playing right into our hands. Bwahaha.

  8. #8 cl
    May 14, 2008

    Good post. One paragraph stuck out, a three-piece argument:

    You wrote, “My only beef with theistic evolution is that the arguments made on its behalf are very, very bad. 1) I have yet to see a remotely plausible answer to the question of why a God of love and justice creates through four billion years of evolution by bloodsport. 2) And there is no question that evolution makes it seem very unlikely that human beings are the purpose of creation. 3) There is also the fact that evolution kills the argument from design in biology, thereby kicking the legs out from under the best argument ever devised for God’s existence.”

    For now I’ll skip #1 to streamline things.

    I’d like to address #2 where you say, “And there is no question that evolution makes it seem very unlikely that human beings are the purpose of creation.” I’m assuming you say such due to the fact that evolution would likely continue to produce new organisms until the sun runs out, some of which could very reasonably supercede humans in intelligence and form. Oddly enough, this is something I pondered at length today. I looked out the window and thought, “If allowed to proceed indefinitely what strange biological wonders might there be?” But when you suggest evolution can comment on purpose, I raise my hand.

    What I mean is, the process of evolution and indeed science itself remains silent on questions such as whether human beings are the purpose of creation, or whether there even is any purpose to creation. Evolution, however splendid or sinful we imagine it, is nothing more than a scientific narrative explaining how species change, and the degree of good or evil we assign to evolution is the result of indoctrination, inferences and assumptions about what we think it may or may not have done, or the result of indoctrination, inferences and assumptions about what we think God may or may not have done. At any rate, could go on more here, but want to move to #3 quickly.

    You say, “There is also the fact that evolution kills the argument from design in biology.” If you could briefly yet persuasively state your evidence via a link to another post or reply or something, I would be interested in reading it.

    Total side tangent note – find any pictures of Bush golfing yet?

  9. #9 RBH
    May 14, 2008

    cl asked

    You say, “There is also the fact that evolution kills the argument from design in biology.” If you could briefly yet persuasively state your evidence via a link to another post or reply or something, I would be interested in reading it.

    Try The Blind Watchmaker for a book-length answer to that question. Or, for that matter, read The Origin of Species (free online). Darwin did it pretty well, since he knew Paley’s argument very well and the ID creationists have added nothing new to Paley’s 1802 argument (also free online) very well.

  10. #10 SLC
    May 14, 2008

    “The Young-Earthers, in particular, are quite unambiguous that this is how they see the matter. I don’t have a reference handy, but I recall one creationist book bluntly saying that it is a mistake to think that evolution was a scientific theory pioneered by Charles Darwin. Actually it is an idea that has always been with us in the form of nonbelief, according to this charming fellow.”

    Prof. Rosenhouse doesn’t have to consult a book for insight into the thinking of YECs. On a number of previous threads on this blog, he can peruse the writings of a YEC calling himself Jon S where he will get chapter and verse on this type of mentality.

  11. #11 Mike
    May 14, 2008

    Atheism is indeed more popular among scientists than among the general public only in academia, and a scientist who works in the real world is more likely to have religious beliefs that parallel those of his neighbors. This I know because I am one, and my colleagues are as unlikely to be atheists as outrageous religious fanatics.

    I suspect scientists working in academia tend to be atheist for the same reason politicians tend to be effusively religious: they feel it’s expected of them. And in some environments it may indeed be expected of them, a professor who admits to going to church drawing the same raised eyebrow as a rural representative who admits to not doing so. But out here in the real world where people are judged by the tangible product of their work rather than their words and expressions, ideological tests are scarce.

    Minding the difference between the subjective and the objective along with the provable and unprovable is important for clear thinking. Even an atheist may have no problem with religion’s treatment of that which is both subjective and unprovable. But there may be things which are objective and unprovable. Just as the religious authorities had to swallow their pride and accept science’s dominion over the objective and provable, so may the atheist have to accept that there are hard realities that are outside of the scope of what we currently call science.

  12. #12 C. David Parsons
    May 14, 2008

    “The fact that creationists so casually link evolution to atheism…”

    The following text was taken from Volume 3 of The Quest for Right, a 7-book series on origins verses Darwinism based on physical science, the old science of cause and effect:

    Special note on obstructionism. In 1916, one thousand scientists were polled as to their belief in a deity (i.e., God). Of the ones responding, 60 percent had no religious belief.

    A follow-up study 80 years later revealed that the percentage of atheists, someone who does not believe in or denies the existence of God, among scientists remains shockingly high: 78 percent of physicists, 58 percent of biologists, and 55 percent of mathematicians are atheists. Sixty percent of those polled by the University of Georgia historian Edward Larson snubbed Judaism, Islam, and Christianity by equating “belief in a deity and an afterlife with superstition based on fear and wishful thinking.” Nature, 4-09-1997

    Even more disturbing, only 10 percent of those polled “expressed an intense desire for immortality” (that is, going to heaven), thus, signifying that on the average only 10 percent of physicists, biologists, and mathematicians are under covenant. The great majority (90 percent) have little or no regard for God but, rather, oppose Him, promoting the error that the earth and all that is in existence happened by chance. The mystical tenet governs every aspect of academic science. To the point, obstructionists: scientists, biologists, mathematicians, and the NEA, teach the innocents within the classroom that there is no God. The appalling statistics serve to add insight into the obstructionist stalwart confronted by the investigation on every hand.

    In continuing, in each instance in the great falling away of classical physics there has been a prop, real or imaginary, the basis of which was used to derail the true. Examples: The atomic shooting gallery in which Rutherford and others supposedly proved the atom to be mostly empty space; the construction of massive particle accelerators to flush out mythical particles promoted to be contemporaneous with the proton and electron; and, nonexistent photons, conjured up to explain the photoelectric effect.

    The deceptions, as infamous as they may be, do not compare in scope with the most hated of all props: the spectrograph and the contemptuous game of chance spawned from Fraunhofer’s “absorption” lines (see Index, spectrograph). The number of players and rules for the game are unprecedented in the annals of science. Regrettably, the numbers continue to mushroom as the investigation turns its attention to the isotopic charts, transuranium elements, and the so-called absolute dating systems….

  13. #13 SLC
    May 14, 2008

    Re C. David Parsons

    Amazingly enough, here is a person who is even dumber then Mr. Jon S. Photons don’t exist, transuranium elements don’t exist, spectral lines don’t exist, sigma particles don’t exist, etc., etc., etc. I guess that the plutonium bomb that was dropped on Nagasaki didn’t happen either since plutonium doesn’t exist. Somehow, I don’t think that Mr. Parsons would have much luck convincing the inhabitants of that city that the nuclear blast that destroyed it never happened.

  14. #14 Sastra
    May 14, 2008

    Huh? So, the “real battleground” is not evolution now, but physics? Evil, close-minded, practicing physicists with post-docs are trying to protect their discipline from being refuted by honest Christians, who are armed only with spunk, common sense, and the knowledge that God is on their side?

    Up to now, it’s been mostly New Agers mangling quantum. How fun to watch the arrival of a fresh battalion from a new direction. If they thought biologists were cranky and arrogant, wait till they get ahold of the physicists.

  15. #15 tabuhan
    May 14, 2008

    aSk Blogcu… En GünceL Blog…

  16. #16 windy
    May 14, 2008

    This I know because I am one, and my colleagues are as unlikely to be atheists as outrageous religious fanatics.

    How do you know how many are atheists? You have intimate knowledge of everyone’s metaphysical views? Or just visually inspected them for lack of fangs and horns?

    I suspect scientists working in academia tend to be atheist for the same reason politicians tend to be effusively religious: they feel it’s expected of them.

    Moron.

  17. #17 Lofcaudio
    May 14, 2008

    “The fact that creationists so casually link evolution to atheism…”

    And yet Dawkins’ main point in The God Delusion when arguing that there most certainly is not a God was that evolution provides all that is needed to explain everything. Creationists aren’t the only ones using this rhetorical device.

  18. #18 Caledonian
    May 14, 2008

    No, evolution is all you need to account for why life can be so complex when our experience teaches us that complex patterns tend to break down into simpler ones.

    Once you have that, there really aren’t any philosophical problems for which the existence of a designing, driving intelligence is a viable solution.

    You seem to have badly misunderstood Dawkins, Lofcaudio.

  19. #19 cl
    May 14, 2008

    @ windy,

    Whether I agree or disagree is inconsequential, but I often enjoy your comments, and at the risk of incurring your wrath, might I suggest you identify who you are addressing your comments to? Otherwise readers have to search for the originals…for example the two comments you address previously, did they come from the same comment? The same commenter? I didn’t look very long because I’m busy at work but I was curious whose words you were attacking (I know they’re not mine and I thought maybe JonS). I just wanted to read the opposing argument in it’s entirety – no harm meant, but in most cases (not necessarily this one) this would make understanding your arguments and wit much easier.

    Unless of course you don’t give a shit and that’s your deal too.

    Or maybe you’ll be offended and reply with something like, “Duh you lame ass idiot it’s so-and-so’s post pull your head out of your YEC ass…” Well that would contain many unjustified assumptions.

    Whichever way it goes is cool with me.

  20. #20 windy
    May 14, 2008

    cl: the comment was directed at Mike. sorry for the lack of substance, I was busy at work too :P

  21. #21 trrll
    May 14, 2008

    I suspect scientists working in academia tend to be atheist for the same reason politicians tend to be effusively religious: they feel it’s expected of them.

    As an academic scientist, I can’t think of any occasion in my entire career in which my own religious beliefs have even come up in discussion with other scientists. It is simply not a common topic of discussion. It certainly has never occurred to me that I am “expected” to have any particular level of religious belief. I do know from chance comments that some of my colleagues are at least religious enough to attend services or engage in prayer. Nobody seems to consider that particularly remarkable. I haven’t the faintest idea of what proportion has what level of belief.

  22. #22 JimCH
    May 14, 2008

    Mike…

    Atheism is indeed more popular among scientists than among the general public only in academia, and a scientist who works in the real world is more likely to have religious beliefs that parallel those of his neighbors.

    It appears to me that no one lately has conducted this statistical polling (not Gallup, not Pew, etc — if anyone finds something, I’d be interested) so I’m not sure how you can be so confident. Your research tool for this knowledge, you say, is that you are a non-academic scientist. Your over-reliance on anecdotal evidence as a scientific method aside, I could offer a counter example from past work experience. Assuming you do actually know the beliefs of a representative sample of your coworkers, perhaps you might consider that there are other variables; such as, the industry you work in or the region of the country you live in (you know, inconvenient stuff like that). This is merely giving you the benefit of the doubt though.

    But out here in the real world where people are judged by the tangible product of their work rather than their words and expressions, ideological tests are scarce.

    I’ll just ignore “the real world” comment because I don’t have any idea what MTV has to do with it, or even what “the non-real world” might entail. I would suggest that in the academic world where you have relatively unconstrained intellectual freedom you would have a better idea of a person’s true beliefs, whereas in industry you would more likely be apprehensive of your company administration’s, or board of director’s (or whomever’s) knowledge of such personal beliefs. To put a blunt point on it, it seems to me that the threat of being mocked by your peers over the test-tube rack pales to the threat of losing your job because your company’s vice-president of market research thinks that you’re an immoral puppy rapist.

    I’m not sure that the “subjective vs objective” clause deserves comment.

  23. #23 Tyler DiPietro
    May 14, 2008

    Pseudonym,

    Hopefully professor Rosenhouse will not mind that I make a personal request in one of his comment threads, but I’d appreciate it if you would drop me a line through email if you have a second. My email address is listed in the “Peripheral Links” of my blog-sidebar.

  24. #24 Jason Rosenhouse
    May 14, 2008

    Lufcaudio-

    There is a big difference between arguing that atheism becomes far more likely in the light of evolution, as Richard Dawkins does, and using the words evolution and atheism as if they were synonyms, which is what many creationists do.

    Mike-

    Do you have any data to back up your claim that it is only among academic scientists that atheism is far more common than among the public at large? I am not aware of any such studies. I am, however, aware of studies that religious belief tends to go down as a person’s level of education goes up.

    And your remarks about what is expected of academics are not correct. I know a great many academic scientists who hold perfectly conventional religious beliefs, and no one raises an eyebrow at them when they mention the fact. Indeed, the way I know they are conventionally religious is that they felt perfectly comfortable mentioning the fact in the course of casual conversation.

  25. #25 Mike
    May 14, 2008

    Whoa Jason I’m aware of all kinds of studies too. There are studies that show atheists are sociopaths and/or prone to mental illness, and I don’t believe any of it. Experimenter bias is too strong; even Einstein may have fudged some of his cosmological theory to avoid conflicting too hard with his lack of confidence in a Prime Mover. If he can be affected, so can you or I.

    In my observation education changes not the presence of religious belief but the nature of it. The way we believe (or disbelieve) is a reflection of us, and a simple man’s religion may be rustic or comparatively primitive, while the educated man’s faith is ethereal, perhaps so subtle that colloquially it might not even be perceived as religion.

    This I take from experience. My degree is in physics and nearly everyone I work with has a degree in physical science or engineering. No one is either a solid atheist, nor a fundamentalist nor extreme anything. The same I would say for the men I studied under, having beliefs that reflect their curiosity of the mysteries of the universe, nor fear or superstition.

    Likewise, a man may be an atheist as a conclusion of his reason, or he might be an atheist because he didn’t get that new bicycle he prayed for as a child. Thus I can induce anything else about him just because he’s an atheist. Hope I’ve been more clear.

  26. #26 Jon S
    May 15, 2008

    SLC says “Prof. Rosenhouse doesn’t have to consult a book for insight into the thinking of YECs. On a number of previous threads on this blog, he can peruse the writings of a YEC calling himself Jon S where he will get chapter and verse on this type of mentality.”

    I had a feeling you’d be calling for me. I’ll take your comment as a compliment.

    On another note, the only real problem I had with the main post is Jason’s comment “Science and religion are flatly at odds”, which is a common myth. Science and religion are not at odds. Many of the first scientists were either Christian, believe in God and the creation account, or were clearly religious. And today religious people still do good science. So it’s not that science and religion are at odds, it’s that secular science and religion are at odds.

  27. #27 SLC
    May 16, 2008

    Re Jon S

    I see that fucktard Jon S is still polluting this blog with his inane comments. The fact is that it’s the crackpot religious views of Mr. Jon S that are in conflict with science. Here’s an example of religious views that are not in conflict with science. But of course, I suspect that Mr. Jon S probably doesn’t consider the Catholic Church to be a Christian organization.

    http://www.badastronomy.com/bablog/2008/05/14/thats-the-vatican-do-attitude/

  28. #28 SLC
    May 16, 2008

    Re Jon S

    Apparently, my response to Mr. Jon Ss’ latest stupidity went into the moderation queue due to use of the f word. So I’ll clean it up.

    For the information of numbskull Jon S, it’s his crackpot religious views that are in conflict with science. Attached is a link to a religious scientist who religious views are not in conflict with science. Of course, I rather suspect that Mr. Jon S doesn’t consider the Catholic Church to be a true Christian organization. By the way, most Catholic schools teach evolutionary theory and use the biology textbook written by Ken Miller and Joe Levine.

    http://www.badastronomy.com/bablog/2008/05/14/thats-the-vatican-do-attitude/

  29. #29 JimCH
    May 16, 2008

    JonS…
    “secular science”
    This is nonsensical.

  30. #30 windy
    May 16, 2008

    Tyler:

    Europe has it’s own cultural conflicts with rationalism, alty-med quackery is a good example of this.

    QED: German universities bow to public pressure over GM crops (Nature News, may be paywalled)

  31. #31 aSk Blogcu
    May 19, 2008

    En GünceL Teknoloji ve Bilim Haberleri Sitesi… Mutlaka Girmelisiniz..

  32. #32 DC
    May 20, 2008

    @Jason: There is also the fact that evolution kills the argument from design in biology, thereby kicking the legs out from under the best argument ever devised for God’s existence.

    Please explain further how evolution kills the argument for design in biology. Does your use of the term evolution imply that the biological order that exists today occurred randomly??

  33. #33 JimCH
    May 21, 2008

    DC…
    By your use of “biological order” here I take it you’re referring to diversity of life? If so, then the answer to your question is “no” — not exactly.
    The extent of the differentiation between 2 populations is associated with barriers to dispersal: 2 subpopulations might be separated by a mountain range or other conditions inhospitable to the organisms & difficult to cross. This geographic speciation is the principal mechanism for the origin of new species. If only a few individuals become geographically isolated from the rest of the population, these few individuals will have only a sampling of the alleles of the entire population, so any new population that develops from these founders will differ from the original population & will diverge more quickly. The importance of this genetic drift is that it could produce a new genetic situation that is then subject to natural selection. In any event it is but part of the more general phenomenon of genetic change through geographic speciation. Once a portion of a population becomes isolated from the bulk of the population, or a population is greatly reduced in size, it must inevitably have a different gene pool. That new gene pool will continue to be molded by natural selection. Natural selection is continuous; genetic drift is rare & episodic. OK?

  34. #34 DC
    May 21, 2008

    @JimCH,
    Thanks for your post. No – My question is further back in that what set the evolutionary vehicle into place? Did something as complex as DNA always have some basis for existence or did it occur by chance? I have a hard time leaping from big bang to evolution based on probability theory.

    I see comments like “evolution kills design” as a cop out.

  35. #35 Eric
    May 21, 2008

    @JimCH,
    From your definition of geographic speciation, I can see how the genome becomes more narrow, i.e., offspring of each of the separated organisms have a lesser genome (you called it ‘only a sampling of the alleles of the entire population’). But how does this process that decreases variability add new information?

  36. #36 SLC
    May 21, 2008

    Re JimCH

    The process described by Mr. JimCH is known as allopatric speciation.

    Re DC

    The issue that Mr. DC is raising is the origin of life question which is generally defined as the appearance of the first replicators (probably RNA). It is independent of the issue of evolution which is the theory of how life evolved after the appearance of the first replicators. There are several hypotheses for how the replicators appeared but at the present time, there is insufficient evidence to draw any firm conclusions. This is an area of intense interest and research in the biological community and I suspect that answers will be forthcoming in the next few decades.

  37. #37 Eric
    May 21, 2008

    @ SLC,

    I’m certainly familiar with allopatric speciation, but nothing I’ve read answers my question. All indications are that even though the separated groups of organisms differ slightly, they are still basically the same, even though they may have diverged to the point they are unable or unwilling to interbreed. They seem to at least be different varieties or ‘races’ of the original species. But since I’ve read over a dozen different definitions of ‘species,’ I understand it’s difficult to really determine where one species stops and another ends.

    I have some ‘intelligent design’ friends who seem to have compelling arguments that there is no mechanism that can ever transcend the genus level, and I’m becoming swayed. They say there is no proof of any truly new species ever being created, but there are certainly examples where genetic information has been lost to the point that two groups will not, or maybe even cannot, interbreed. And if that is what happens, well, that’s going downhill, not uphill.

    So, maybe this is what I’m looking for and maybe you can help: what is the evidence, if any, of a new genus truly being created that has new organs or new features that show it to be truly removed from, and more highly evolved than, its ancestors? I’m really looking for a killer, knock-down argument based on strong evidence.

    Any idea?

  38. #38 SLC
    May 22, 2008

    Re Eric

    Not being either a biologist or knowledgeable about information theory, I am not in a position to answer the question as to the issue of information loss or gain. However, this issue has been addressed on this blog by Dr. Rosenhouse and on other blogs such as those of PZ Myers and Jeffrey Shallit. It is my understanding that this issue is considered a red herring for several reasons, one of which is that the intelligent design folks like Dr. Demski, never provide a consistent definition as to what they mean by information. Thus, when challenged, for instance as to whether they are talking about Shannon information, they move the goal posts. I suggest that if Mr. Eric is really interested in this issue, that he do some Google searches using information, and the names I provided (e.g. information, Shallit).

  39. #39 JimCH
    May 22, 2008

    SLC…
    Thanks for the better accepted nomenclative.

    Eric…
    I found this bit of information in the talkorigins archive which should be helpful:
    http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/speciation.html
    The jest seems to be that speciation has been witnessed to skeptical satisfaction (honest skeptical satisfaction, that is). There is a list of research articles listed at the bottom which can also be looked-up. If there isn’t enough there for your satisfaction it’s probable still a good place to begin. Also, as mentioned, the topic has been posted on this site as well.

  40. #40 Richard Simons
    May 22, 2008

    Eric,
    First of all, ask your friends exactly what they mean by ‘information’. Genome size is unlikely to serve their purpose, given that some Amoebas have larger genomes than humans. I do not know what else they might use.

    What do they mean by ‘new organs’ or ‘new features’? It sounds like they are asking for evidence that would be more supportive of creation as evolution works by modifying existing organs and features. As far as I am aware, humans have no organs that are not possessed by the vast majority of placental mammals. Both new features and new organs are exceedingly rare. One example might be the intestinal valves that rapidly developed in lizards introduced to a new island but in this case the lizards have not been elevated to a new species and certainly not a new genus.

    If your friends insist that information is always lost, never gained, ask them what happens when a piece of chromosome is duplicated then mutates.

    Regarding the evolution of new genera, the time scale normally involved makes that rather difficult but ask them if Sticker tumour will do. It is clearly descended from dogs, yet is equally clearly not dog. Among plants, Fatshedera is a genus that arose in cultivation from a cross between Fatsia and Hedera but they would probably consider that to be cheating.

    Do not forget to ask them what they have as an alternative. Most creationists/IDers back off fairly fast when asked to expand on their explanations!

  41. #41 Eric
    May 23, 2008

    Thanks for the feedback from all. It looks like I have a bit of homework and a lot of thinking to do during my long vacation starting this weekend.

    Eric

  42. #42 John A. Davison
    May 23, 2008

    Genome size to do with one thing only. That is the size of the cell which the genome is controlling. That is why Amoebae have a huge genome just as does Amphiuma, the animal with the largest known DNA per cell. In short – big cells have big genomes. Big cells are also sluggish cells and animals with big cells are sluggish animals.

    As for atheism and science, I know of not a single great scientist that ever was so weak minded as to categorically deny a first cause involving a Creator. Neither does anyone else.

    “A past evolution is undeniable, a present evolution undemonstrable.”

  43. #43 John A. Davison
    May 23, 2008

    Speaking of atheism, I recommend the following essay – just published.

    http://www.investigatingatheism.info/johnadavison.html

    “A past evolution is undeniable, a present evolution undemonstrable.”

    john.a.davison.free.fr/

  44. #44 badabing
    May 23, 2008

    Davidson,
    You allege in your article that Einstein said the universe was deterministic, when what he actually said was things were determined by forces over which we have no control. That’s much different from what you then go on to say was not only determinism but pre-determinism with a purpose. Basing your rather skewed philosophy on that sort of false premise and an appeal to an authority that would not have authorized that premie makes everything that follows mere prattle.

  45. #45 Chris Jones
    May 23, 2008

    Great post and interesting comments. I think the seeming trajectory towards atheism caused by science stems from the fact that the dominant religions predate modern science and the scientific method. When they arose there were few scientific explanations for many natural phenomena. Unsurprisingly, phenomena that were not readily associated with natural causes were often attributed to supernatural origins.
    Many supernatural explanations were grafted on to the religion by mere mortals long after the religion arose. Often these supernatural explanations had little or no bearing on the fundamental tenets of the religion. It is hard to see how Christ’s fundamental teachings are particularly undermined by Galileo’s observations. Still, as science has steadily whittled away at the list of things long presumed to have supernatural explanations, some people have decided that all aspects of religion must be wrong and others have become defensive as their deeply held beliefs seem to be under constant assault.
    Has evolution occurred? Without a doubt.
    Is evolution ongoing? Without a doubt.
    Is the Intelligent Design movement science or religion? Religion, without a doubt.
    Can the ultimate origin of life be proven by science? No, at least not yet.
    Does man have a higher purpose? I’d like to think so, but that is a question science seems ill equipped to answer.
    Is there a benevolent god? I hope so, but science cannot answer that.
    Would the Judeo/Christian god be sophisticated enough to employ things as elegant as DNA and natural selection? I’d certainly hope so.
    Does science inherently reject theism? No. Theism is simply outside the scope of science (God is un-testable in a scientific sense).
    Does science inherently accept atheism? No. Atheism too is outside the scope of science (we can no more disprove God than prove God).

  46. #46 badabing
    May 23, 2008

    Science only deals in probabilities. It can determine the comparative range of probabilities with reference to the existence or non-existence of a supreme being, and break those beings down into types, limitations of purpose, limitations of power, prescience, omnipotency, etc. Those are the elephants probably in the room.

  47. #47 John A. Davison
    May 23, 2008

    badabing, obviously a cowardly alias.

    It is Davison, not Davidson.

    I have taken Einstein literally and in his own words -

    “EVERYTHING is determined… by forces over which we have no control.” (my emphasis)

    My “philosophy” is exactly that of Spinoza and Einstein, one that does not involve a personal God. There is absolutely nothing “skewed” about it.

    You are also dead wrong about probabilities. Only in quantum mechanics does probability operate and quantum mechanics has had nothing to do with either ontogeny or phylogeny.

    There is no question that all of evolution was predetermined, scheduled to proceed as it did and is now finished. Both ontogeny and phylogeny are goal directed processes in which chance has played no role whatever.

    “Neither in the one nor in the other is there room for chance.”
    Leo Berg, Nomogenesis, page 134.

    “Evolution is in a great measure an unfolding of pre-existing rudiments.”
    Nomogenesis, page 406

    Incidentally, your comments contribute nothing of substance to the subject under consideration.

    Congratulations, whoever you are and I am sure I will never know. Anonymous blowhards are like that wherever they surface. The internet teems with the likes of you.

    “It is abhorrent to me whan a fine intelligence is paired with an unsavory character.”
    Albert Einstein

    I am not certain that you have a fine intelligence, but you leave no doubt that you have an unsavory character.

    “A past evolution is undeniable, a present evolution undemonstrable.”

  48. #48 John A. Davison
    May 23, 2008

    Jason,

    Would you please add my weblog to your webroll?

    Thanks.

  49. #49 badabing
    May 23, 2008

    Davison, science is not about certainty, so what is left to rely on except assessments of probability? Being anonymous offers some protection from those such as yourself whose only talent is to try to get a reputation as an iconoclast because you really have nothing positive or original to offer.
    You may have some papers on a wall somewhere that attest you have sat in on enough science classes to fake your way into wearing the cloak of legitimacy, but you are no scientist.
    I point out your mistaken view of Einstein’s philosophy for others to examine on their own, in case they were gullible enough to take you at your word.
    “A present evolution undemonstrable”? Why, because by the time it’s demonstrated it’s in the past? You really are a simple minded twit, aren’t you?
    Quoting some other twit like Leo Berg? Shame on you.
    And the uncertainty principle has everything to do with the question of determinism.
    And badabing means gotcha as expected.

  50. #50 James Jamison
    May 24, 2008

    Thanks for denying me any further commentary at your shabby little flame pit.

    John A. Davison

  51. #51 James Jamison
    May 24, 2008
  52. #52 George Metcalf
    May 24, 2008

    Jason,

    I read Davison’s essay and found it very persuasive. It is too bad that you have to have creeps like badabing denigrating every departure from the “politically correct” position, whatever that really is. badabing is bad news and you would be well served to be rid of him.

  53. #53 badabing
    May 24, 2008

    Metcalf, pass this on or I’ll freeze your salary:

    http://www.sounddogs.com/previews/2904/mp3/615844_SOUNDDOGS__gr.mp3

  54. #54 Groucho Marx
    May 25, 2008

    Groucho thinks badabing and Jason Rosenhouse are the same person.

  55. #55 okey oyna
    January 24, 2009

    thanks

  56. #56 adana çiçek
    January 13, 2010

    thanks admins

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