Pharyngula

Evolution Sunday?

Today is Evolution Sunday. It’s that day when participating ministers will say a few supportive words about evolution from their pulpits, or as I prefer to think of it, when a few people whose training and day-to-day practice are antithetical to science will attempt to legitimize their invalid beliefs and expand their pretense to intellectual authority by co-opting a few slogans.

As you might guess, I’m not exactly against the event, but I definitely do not support it. I’m sure a few readers are going to complain that I should be praising these efforts to get people to take baby steps in the right direction, but I just can’t do it.

I’m sorry, but when I see people in chains shuffle a few steps at the behest of their jailer, my heart isn’t in to shouting, “Hooray! You’re free!” You have a choice. You can go to church today, and among the hymns and prayers and magic rituals and chants to nonexistent beings, you can hear a few words in support of science; or you can refuse to support the whole rotten edifice of religion and stay home and read a good book. Which alternative do you think I would support?

Instead, I’m going to encourage you all to participate in my Enlightenment Sunday project. Skip church every week. Ignore the pleas of your priests. Donate money and time to charities of your choice directly, rather than through the intermediary of the church bureaucracy. Improve your brain with books and videos and conversations about science. Think skeptically. I’m sure the participants in Evolution Sunday mean well and are sincere in their wish to reconcile faith with science, but we’ll do far more to promote reason in this country if we withdraw from all participation in the church and let religion wither away from disuse, than we will by encouraging these modern day witch-doctors to spread their delusions.

Comments

  1. #1 The Commissar
    February 11, 2007

    You and Dawkins are right. Not only regarding atheism per se, but about the essential conflict between science and religion. The concept of God, in the face of scientific fact and continuing lack of evidence in His existence, while never wholly disprovable, can be (and slowly is being) shrunken to a notion that there while may be some omniscient Creator, He has never been shown to interfere in astronomical, biological, or human affairs. Believers who rightly grasp that this means “No One Up There Likes Me” surely will resist. But they can’t hold out forever.

    All this might take a thousand years. “Only” 150 years since Darwin is a fairly short time for the “God meme” to lose its vitality. But it will.

    Whether the blow-torch, table-pounding, frequently mocking rhetoric that you and (to a lesser extent) Dawkins employ has is a net positive or negative on that development is debatable. But it’s surely inconsequential. So, by all means, have fun with it. Not a problem.

    And, not that you need validation from me, but you and Dawkins may both go to your graves secure in the knowledge that you were right, and that the change you look for will someday occur.

  2. #2 Colugo
    February 11, 2007

    Regarding the comments on the incompatibility of God and religion: Victor Stenger has an entry in the ‘New Atheist’ book genre (Dennett, Dawkins, Harris): ‘God: The Failed Hypothesis.’

    http://www.colorado.edu/philosophy/vstenger/godless.html

    Richard Dawkins: “Darwin chased God out of his old haunts in biology, and he scurried for safety down the rabbit hole of physics. The laws and constants of the universe, we were told, are too good to be true: a setup, carefully tuned to allow the eventual evolution of life. It needed a good physicist to show us the fallacy, and Victor Stenger lucidly does so. The faithful won’t change their minds, of course (that is what faith means), but Victor Stenger drives a pack of energetic ferrets down the last major bolt hole and God is running out of refuges in which to hide.”

    Stenger’s book appears to be a ratcheting up the rhetoric; not only does he discuss how there is no evidence for God (and absence of evidence is not proof of absence, which leads to the invisible pink unicorn / cosmic teacup / FSM-style arguments), but that he asserts there is positive evidence against God’s existence.

    Stenger: “Not only does the universe show no evidence for God, it looks exactly as it would be expected to look if there is no God.”

    If physicists accept Stenger’s hypothesis, then godlessness will formally become part of science. No more Evolution Sunday. And the main front in the war between faith and science will be cosmology, not evolutionary biology. And the “stealth creationism” (God fined tuned the universe) believed in by theists who accept evolution will be confronted head on.

    But I doubt that any of those things will happen, however. Religion and belief in God are not going away; certainly not anytime soon. So I applaud Evolution Sunday. Put me down in the category that some call “appeasement” atheism.

  3. #3 David Marjanovi?
    February 11, 2007

    In other words, “for heaven’s sake, don’t argue with them, you will LOSE! Just keep reading the Bible!”

    Well, it could simply be a repetition of “the Bible teaches the way to go to heaven, not the way the heavens go”. Maybe the good man believes it’s outright blasphemy to abuse the Bible as a science textbook. There are such people, even though they seem to be surprisingly rare in the USA.

    Catholic theology, for example, has long ago given up on the God of the Gaps, and has found that the untestability of God’s existence dovetails very, very nicely with the whole Free Will issue.

    Of course, that logic still hangs in mid-air, and can be considered needless baggage… but I can’t see how it really conflicts with science.

  4. #4 David Marjanovi?
    February 11, 2007

    In other words, “for heaven’s sake, don’t argue with them, you will LOSE! Just keep reading the Bible!”

    Well, it could simply be a repetition of “the Bible teaches the way to go to heaven, not the way the heavens go”. Maybe the good man believes it’s outright blasphemy to abuse the Bible as a science textbook. There are such people, even though they seem to be surprisingly rare in the USA.

    Catholic theology, for example, has long ago given up on the God of the Gaps, and has found that the untestability of God’s existence dovetails very, very nicely with the whole Free Will issue.

    Of course, that logic still hangs in mid-air, and can be considered needless baggage… but I can’t see how it really conflicts with science.

  5. #5 Colugo
    February 11, 2007

    Blake Stacey:

    Thanks for reminding me of the other major God “bolt hole” (as Dawkins would put it) besides cosmology: the “soul”/mind. I recall our discussion about that.

    I differ with Dawkins, however: God doesn’t just find bolt holes; He creates them. Also, from time to time believers have to redefine God in order to make the fit happen. God the Father becomes God the Fine-Tuner or the God of Historical Contingency. Still, God persists.

  6. #6 Ichthyic
    February 11, 2007

    That’s the problem with you (and PZ). You can’t appreciate that other people may feel differently to you.

    and perhaps others have not considered the possibility that all they are doing is simple compartmentalization?

  7. #7 Colugo
    February 11, 2007

    Like responses to the Blasphemy Challenge and theistic evolutionists (Collins, Conway Morris), Evolution Sunday is a great example of how the goals and strategies of New Atheists (Dawkins, Harris, Stenger, PZ…) and Theist-Friendly Atheists (Brayton, Konner, Atran…) diverge.

    Perhaps that topic could be a follow-up to the Dover case books.

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