Although I quickly add that I’ve not been reading much on the Internet this morning, but stilll ….. There is this item in HuffPo … Jesus and the Evolution of the Species by Stanley Knick, PhD:

This is not about whether you believe in God, or whether you believe in evolution. It is not about whether you believe that Jesus is the Son of God. If you believe in God, fine. If not, fine. If you believe evolution is real, fine. If not, fine. This is not about what you believe, or what I believe. It is about the idea of Jesus, and the idea of evolution, and what these two ideas might have to say about each other and about us.

Yes it is about whether you believe in evolution or not, Stanley. First off, if you accept the scientific facts, models, theories, and other constructs that make up evolutionary biology, that’s good, and it shows that you know some stuff and are not biased against science or otherwise stupid. But if you believe in that stuff then you are not thinking critically. If, on the other hand, you don’t accept these things as valid (as far as we can tell, with a very high likelihood, etc. etc) than you are not paying attention. If, at the same time that you pretty much accept evolution for what it is (valid) but don’t “believe” in it, then you are doing just fine.

But I think these not so subtle distinctions have been lost on Mr. Knick.

Stanley is actually trying to do something that he sees as worthwhile and that could be useful: A sort of accommodation designed to help fundies be less wrong than they currently are. But in so doing he accidentally strips Evolution of any real meaning:

If we strip evolution of all the baggage added to it by detractors and adherents, it is a very simple philosophical idea: Things Change.

Ah … no. If you strip that “baggage” added by evolutionary biologists and other scientists, then you strip the scientific theory of evolution of its power, and its validity. Evolutionary theory is not that “Things change” but rather, that things change in a limited way and by virtue of a specific set of processes. These processes are very important in understanding that that change is.

Like for example, if one understand the nature of these processes, than one could not possibly write the following paragraph….

The idea of evolution does not necessarily assume any particular First Cause for things. Evolution also does not necessarily assume a need for random causes — it allows for them, because often things seem to happen randomly, but it doesn’t demand randomness because change can be caused by all sorts of things (genetic drift, sexual selection, etc.).

… because, for instance, “genetic drift” is … well …. random. That’s the random part.

But I don’t really want to be too hard on Stanley. He’s got his heart and mind in the right place, even if he could use some training.

Evolution does not hold that humans evolved from monkeys, as it has been accused of doing. Monkeys and humans, …. have been changing through time. The idea of evolution merely tries to embrace all the known scientific evidence in an effort to understand the process of change. …

Fossils found all over the world are the nuts and bolts of the evidence. The idea of evolution is a way to explain them. Evolution is [not] “Just A Theory” (as some detractors say) … Evolution is a process, an apparently on-going body of changes. Almost anyone who has been alive for very long will attest that, surely enough, things do seem to change.

And, when Stanly asks, “But does evolution have anything to say about the idea of Jesus?” I’ll assume he means “no” and “no, and visa versa.”

The original post is here.


  1. #1 Matthew Putman
    July 6, 2010

    yes, this kind of framing is absurd. Enough people with individual ignorance, and then you have a society with mass ignorance.

  2. #2 Birger Johansson
    July 6, 2010

    I am in two minds about this. On one hand, I want to cut the Knick fellow some slack, since he wants to drag the fundies closer towards, if not twenty-first century thinking, at least the nineteenth century level of understanding.
    On the other hand, wrong is wrong.

  3. #3 Phillip IV
    July 6, 2010

    If we strip evolution of all the baggage added to it by detractors and adherents, it is a very simple philosophical idea: Things Change.

    A bizarre oversimplification – and the real sad thing is, he has nevertheless already lost the fundies at that very point. They don’t believe in change – on any of several levels.

  4. #4 Russell
    July 6, 2010

    No doubt, Laden is feeling some degree of collegial embarrassment: Knick has his Ph.D. in anthropology. 😉

  5. #5 Tony Sidaway
    July 6, 2010

    People are still trying to educate the fundies, but the obvious way to do that is to teach evolution as part of biology in school, with proper teachers and no nonsense. They fight against that like wildcats. It doesn’t take a genius to work out why.

  6. #6 Dan J
    July 6, 2010

    Education for the fundies has its place, but I prefer scorn, derision, ridicule, and marginalization. They’re much more fun.

  7. #7 Bill James
    July 6, 2010

    “Why should it be so hard to believe that biological change over time is also God’s process, God’s creation? God is the source, the “author and finisher,” of all life, and He used and is still using the processes of change to achieve His plan and purpose: biological change as well as spiritual change.”

    So the beatings will continue, until morale improves.

  8. #8 Charles Evo
    July 6, 2010

    It seems that Knick has confused Darwin with Heraclitus.

  9. #9 Greg Laden
    July 6, 2010

    Russell: I assure you that my colleagues in anthropology have provided ample opportunity for embarrassment at levels far exceeding those represented in the present discussion!

  10. #10 qzl
    July 6, 2010

    I’ve never been comfortable with the concept of believing “in” something. I’d much rather believe “that” something. When someone says they believe “in” something it seems to mean that they believe that:
    – it exists
    – it is “good”
    – i have chosen this belief on no evidence, but will defend it to death
    – if you don’t believe “in” it you are bad

  11. #11 mercurianferret
    July 7, 2010

    Having grown up around Asia, I am always tempted to take on fundamentalist Christians not on their arguments against evolution, but rather with competing religious Truths from other places in the world. I imagine pummeling them with the Truth that all of existence is merely a dream of Brahma, including their faith in a Christian God, or something.

    Once you shatter their belief in their paltry little dreamed up god, you might be able to work on evolution.

    Or entrench the fundies even further.