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Why Evolution is True - Comments

rod-the-farmer's Avatar Comment 1 by rod-the-farmer

Perhaps rational-minded people (like us !) can take time out of their otherwise busy day, and attend these school board meetings, to get the point across that many of us do believe in evolution, yet are not wild-eyed radicals. We can even encourage out neighbours to come along and provide support, helping to keep the intolerant and ignorant fundies at bay. I am reminded of the town meeting scene in the movie "Field of Dreams" I think it was.....

Tue, 24 Mar 2009 16:02:00 UTC | #338963

crusader234's Avatar Comment 2 by crusader234

Tue, 24 Mar 2009 16:08:00 UTC | #338966

Stafford Gordon's Avatar Comment 3 by Stafford Gordon

I've just finished reading the AC Grayling criticism of Questions of Truth by John Polkinghorne and Nicholas Beale, and now I see this contribution to the debate; except that it doesn't seem to be a debate, because one contributor keeps being rude and leaving the room or changing the subject in mid stream.

If people of faith are going to continue making things up as they go along, what is the point of continuing to debate them?

Tue, 24 Mar 2009 16:10:00 UTC | #338968

aquilacane's Avatar Comment 4 by aquilacane

"Science investigates the natural world, while religion deals with the spiritual and supernatural"

I see evidence of the natural world; however, the spiritual and supernatural worlds are merely labels for desired realities and not actually something that can be studied. There is no evidence that either should even be considered as any more real than the Easter Bunny.

"one certainly doesn’t have to be an atheist in order to become a scientist"

No, but they must be able to lie to themselves

Prove to me there is a spirit and I will study it. Prove to me that the supernatural can occur and I will study it. Until then, these names are just wind in the teeth.

Put up or shut up

Tue, 24 Mar 2009 16:16:00 UTC | #338970

jshuey's Avatar Comment 5 by jshuey

I just finished Dr. Coyne's book and, except for the final chapter, it was a delightful read.

As far as his last sentence above, I suspect the US will begin becoming less religious just as soon as our schools start doing a far better job of teaching our children, especially in the areas of science and critical thinking. There is an inverse correlation between educational attainment and religious belief, so that is where the battle will be won or lost.

Tue, 24 Mar 2009 16:17:00 UTC | #338971

humaninstinct's Avatar Comment 6 by humaninstinct

From what I've seen and read,it seems that it is the religious groups that are always attacking the scientists ,they're the aggressors.They invite them to a debate,(which they're good at,because thats all they do) with a 90% faithful audience and fire a trillion questions at scientists on every subject and expect them to answer in a few sentences,and if they cant answer them ,well thats proof that god exists.

Tue, 24 Mar 2009 16:37:00 UTC | #338977

humaninstinct's Avatar Comment 8 by humaninstinct

Evolution,you either accept it ,or you don't.Its not a belief system.

Tue, 24 Mar 2009 16:41:00 UTC | #338981

Shobu's Avatar Comment 7 by Shobu

If people of faith are going to continue making things up as they go along, what is the point of continuing to debate them?

There is no point in debating them. In fact, it's not even properly called a debate when one side has fuck-all insofar as actual facts go.

Tue, 24 Mar 2009 16:41:00 UTC | #338979

SRWB's Avatar Comment 9 by SRWB

except that it doesn't seem to be a debate, because one contributor keeps being rude and leaving the room or changing the subject in mid stream.

If people of faith are going to continue making things up as they go along, what is the point of continuing to debate them?

This is an excellent point.

Allow me to illustrate. Recently the issue of god's existence and the atheist bus ads have been very prevalent in my city (Ottawa). The resistance to the ads has been predictable - from the ravings of the nutbars espousing barely concealed hatred against us nasty atheists, to the softer, ostensibly more cerebral approach taken by certain clergy who would have us believe that there is no conflict between evolution and the Bible. They use wishy-washy terms to describe Christianity's understanding of "god" as "wide and deep and real" and "something more". An example - one suggested that "God is shorthand for our awe-inspiring personal experiences of a mystery that is generative of beauty and works creatively through us and with us, towards unity, justice and peace." Really! What the fuck does that mean, reverend?

The point - how does one argue with that kind of mental gymnastics and contortion? It's like nailing jello to a wall!

Tue, 24 Mar 2009 16:46:00 UTC | #338985

Shobu's Avatar Comment 10 by Shobu

It's like nailing jello to a wall!

I am stealing this line and using as my own. Often.

Tue, 24 Mar 2009 17:02:00 UTC | #338991

Ignorant Amos's Avatar Comment 11 by Ignorant Amos


That gibberish reminds me of Alistair McGrath.

I can never make out what balls he talks either....I wonder is it a language in tongues learnt at Theology school?

Tue, 24 Mar 2009 17:10:00 UTC | #338995

Dune010's Avatar Comment 12 by Dune010

While I would agree that science and faith are incompatible, I have to disagree with the implication that the same is true of evolution and religion.

The statement that learning evolution does not influence one’s religious belief is palpably false. There are plenty of statistics that show otherwise, including the negative correlation of scientific achievement with religious belief and the negative correlation among nations in degree of belief in God with degree of acceptance of evolution.

It could be argued that this negative correlation is caused by the perception that religion and evolution are at odds, the very thing that is being addressed by the scientists whom Coyne is criticising. If people were of the opinion that evolution can be accommodated by their religion, surely we would see greater acceptance of evolution among the religious.

The fact is that evolution is in conflict with Genesis (and similar sections of other religious texts), and we are all well aware of the extent to which many Christians are happy to pick and choose when it comes to the Bible. We could even suggest a religion that had belief in evolution as a central dogma.

I think that it is a mistake to set up evolution in opposition to religion. For many people their religion does not include explicit ideas about the development of life on Earth. Our understanding of the anatomy of snails, for example, like evolution, is based on evidence rather than faith. Most Christians would see no incompatibility between the scholarly consensus on snail anatomy and their own personal religious beliefs.

Obviously, that is not to say that religion and evolution are not in conflict. This is a serious issue. But surely it is profitable to emphasise that Christians can believe in God and accept evolution. Hopefully such an approach can help to isolate the literalist Christians.

While I agree entirely that science and religion are methodologically incompatible, it seems to me that more progress would be made if the issue of evolution was kept separate from such debates.

Tue, 24 Mar 2009 17:32:00 UTC | #339000

Ignorant Amos's Avatar Comment 13 by Ignorant Amos

I can't see how one can debate or discuss evolution without reference to religion.

From the O of S was published it has been religion of various guises that has sought to censor it and been the main obstacle to the teaching of evolution.

Tue, 24 Mar 2009 17:40:00 UTC | #339003

madamX's Avatar Comment 14 by madamX

Only from the top of the mountain can one see the bounty of the valley that lies on the other side. Looking back, one is no longer afraid to leave behind the shabby existence of the past. We wish to run back down the mountain and get the others, but we will only be met with harsh critisism and doubt stemming from fear. They will not pack their things and leave with you – the old confines are all they have known, their safety is threatened. But if instead you ask them to take a stroll with you on a beautiful path up the mountain, they will see for themselves the beauty and grandeur that they have been missing, their fear will disappear. We cannot scare those who have been unfairly indoctrinated. Their faith makes them feel safe and telling them faith and science are incompatible will scare them and prevent them from learning the truth. Remember, they are victims of indoctrination. Let them learn of the beauty of evolution and they will come to understand. Give them a chance at climbing the mountain. Of course, it is also important that we do not lie about the squalor they live in; no – there is no comparison, what lies over the mountain is far grander, but it must be seen to be believed. And to be seen, one must do the work and climb the mountain.

Tue, 24 Mar 2009 17:41:00 UTC | #339005

Ignorant Amos's Avatar Comment 15 by Ignorant Amos

Comment #355150 by madamX

That's a fine piece...I like it.

Tue, 24 Mar 2009 17:44:00 UTC | #339006

rodentfuel's Avatar Comment 16 by rodentfuel

"Why not just show that evolution is TRUE and its alternatives are not'" - Good question Jerry.

I don't really know why people have to try to merge their irrational views with that other part of their brain. You know... the part of the brain that includes very rational views developed and made available after hundreds of years of inquiry into the materialistic processes that drive the real world. Perhaps they feel obligated to their parent's views but at the same time feel the need to accept some parts of reality (if not all of it).

Ken Miller, who totally rejects Intelligent Design, has found an audience out there who want to make the attempt at merging their silly notions born of religion and tradition with the obvious and available truth made clear in our science. I personally think it is somewhat dishonest to insist on a "supreme being" and at the same time embrace reason in all other areas. Very strange indeed.

On the Coyne book - it's an excellent and very accessible read that lays out the evidence in a very logical way. The problem is that for the dogmatic fundies out there - any book that claims we came from monkeys - will always be laughed at. It's an inside joke between fundies... we evolved from monkeys.. he he ... yeah right...

Anyway.. bravo to Jerry, Richard, PZ and the rest for keeping reason and reality at the forefront of this never ending discussion. No matter how futile it is to argue with a fundie, it's a job we must accept for the sake of their children and our science classrooms! And for god's sake Texas - WTF are you doing'

Tue, 24 Mar 2009 17:58:00 UTC | #339010

Border Collie's Avatar Comment 17 by Border Collie

Unfortunately, I think that religion is a ball-and-chain we'll be dragging around for a very long time.

Tue, 24 Mar 2009 18:07:00 UTC | #339013

jaytee_555's Avatar Comment 18 by jaytee_555

The None Overlapping Magesteria 'compromise' is not really about compatability between religion and science. It is more truthfully about religion attempting a damage limitation exercise. It reminds me of something I read in one of Ingersol's lectures about the bargain the cockerel wished to make with the horse: 'Let us agree not to step on each other's feet.'

Tue, 24 Mar 2009 18:44:00 UTC | #339020

NewEnglandBob's Avatar Comment 19 by NewEnglandBob

It seems to me that we can defend evolution without having to cater to the faithful at the same time. Why not just show that evolution is TRUE and its alternatives are not? Why kowtow to those whose beliefs many of us find unpalatable, just to sell our discipline?

A strong call to clear, decisive action by Jerry Coyne. I like it.

Sorry, MadameX @14, most of them do not want to learn. They will not stroll with you. They would rather pillage and burn and run you over with their giant SUVs. They are beyond the ability to learn to think at all, let alone critical thinking. Not all, but many.

Tue, 24 Mar 2009 19:30:00 UTC | #339030

CShepGuy's Avatar Comment 20 by CShepGuy

While debating with my biblical literalist co-worker, I felt like I had to start out by saying that god and evolution could both be true. I didn't believe this, but I was basically trying to gently work him toward a basic understanding of evolution, without having to let go of his god delusion. I failed, and eventually said something like "look, man, we are so far apart, it's pointless to even talk about this." It was upsetting, though, to realize that I couldn't get to this guy. It made me realize that there are a lot of decent but brainwashed people we are going to have to live with for the rest of our lives.

Tue, 24 Mar 2009 19:49:00 UTC | #339036

Styrer-'s Avatar Comment 21 by Styrer-

2. The statement that learning evolution does not influence one’s religious belief is palpably false. There are plenty of statistics that show otherwise, including the negative correlation of scientific achievement with religious belief and the negative correlation among nations in degree of belief in God with degree of acceptance of evolution. All of us know this, but we pretend otherwise. (In my book I note that “enlightened” religion can be compatible with science, but by “englightened” I meant a complete, hands-off deism.) I think it is hypocrisy to pretend that learning evolution will not affect either the nature or degree of one’s faith. It doesn’t always, but it does more often than we admit, and there are obvious reasons why (I won’t belabor these). I hate to see my colleagues pretending that faith and science live in nonoverlapping magisteria. They know better.

Great. You've got it. Science has the ultimate word on the existence of any deity. Show the evidence, show the deity. Nice.

Because of this, I think that organizations promoting the teaching of evolution should do that, and do that alone. Leave religion and its compatibility with faith to the theologians. That’s not our job. Our job is to show that evolution is true and creationism and ID aren’t. End of story.

Ooh sir. You've just made a tit of yourself.

What the fuck just happened? It couldn't, could it, be just a touch of that ever spreadable 'I'm an atheist buttery', now, could it?

Yep. So it is.

Twats like Coyne never, ever get it, though Dawkins has said it enough times to bore the pants off any listener. A universe with a god is scientifically different from one without, and so the god question is ultimately a scientific question. The NOMA notion evaporates before the intense heat of science, of rational thought, but no-one seems to get it. The 'debate' rages on, and it is surely only through ignorance, wishful thinking, horror of death and concomitant ideas of grandiose, father-replacing religions that this can possibly happen.

Grow up, Coyne, you appeasing gobshite. And I repeat that the title 'Why Evolution is True' sucks. So there. Yah boo.

Quite how such a clever man as yourself can be a simultaneous dickhead is beyond me.


Tue, 24 Mar 2009 20:28:00 UTC | #339051

itopal63's Avatar Comment 22 by itopal63

Religion is hands-off, compromise, non-overlapping magisterium, etc, etc, etc... It's all bogus; mere childish appeals to emotion. A host of utter fallacies (an Elohim of fallacies). Duplicitous veiled lies--in which honesty, integrity and the real love of truth has to hide behind false-sincerity. It's contemptible.

God is an idea, existing in the minds of men. It matters not that one believes or does not believe one can apprehend transcendence, transcendent realms or a transcendent god; nonetheless it is existing as an idea; a metaphor; as a reference point (or set of reference points/metaphors) to a place neither believer or non-believer exist-in (or rather know they do or can exist in). Belief does not alter reality (truth, underlying reality, external truth, internal truth); belief only alters belief (which is a psychological in-mind event). The theist has no upper-hand in knowledge here, at all. Except his hand is played willingly as if he has a full-hand, a royal-flush or even a full-deck. It is a willingness to lie from a position of sincerity and self-deception, and that must be respected?

Wedge strategy--subversive lie, an agenda, it's product: Intelligent Design.

Debate me, debate the controversy--another subversive lie, there is no controversy.

Elevate the religion-domain to science status--science and religion are both fields of knowledge aren't they--just different? No, there are not two fields of knowledge--there is only one; just one domain. And, myth, religion, god (ideas--about the idea); etc; exist within the knowable realm (within knowable reality) and are subject to study. They are all clearly within the domain of science and reason.

To quote my idiotic biological brother James: "Evolution? We don't teach that lie in my home, please respect that, Thomas." I am sorry but I've yet to see a convincing argument--that respect is even due and should be granted.

Tue, 24 Mar 2009 20:31:00 UTC | #339054

Styrer-'s Avatar Comment 23 by Styrer-

Comment #355182 by CShepGuy on March 24, 2009 at 7:49 pm

You won't get to him, because he's insulated and can simply privately shrug you off as a test which he's passed; but he might very well get to you, as a friend, for the rest of your life, as you proceed through your life wondering if you were right, if you were wrong, to bring the topic up at all, and worried about having perhaps upset him.

I have some experience of this.

Advice: you did your friend an enormous favour; he didn't listen; you were a true friend for trying.

Then have a crack at the fucker a few months later!

But never feel guilty for challenging ideas. Ever. No matter what your friends might think. It is better to lose a theistic friend than to pretend that you're still long lost buddies.

Experience again. Sad but true. And their fault, not yours.


Tue, 24 Mar 2009 20:51:00 UTC | #339060

j.mills's Avatar Comment 24 by j.mills

Styrer (#21 = #355197), you seem to think Coyne is accepting a form of NOMA at the end there. When he says:

Leave religion and its compatibility with faith to the theologians. That’s not our job. seems to me not that he's saying it can be done, but that science needn't even waste time discussing it; it's a problem for religion, never for science. And good luck to the theologians, who can't even agree inside their own religions. (Can't "sing from the same hymn-book", as it were...)

Tue, 24 Mar 2009 21:09:00 UTC | #339067

itopal63's Avatar Comment 25 by itopal63

It may not be Coyne's Job, so what...

But it is the job of the:

Tue, 24 Mar 2009 21:15:00 UTC | #339071

Styrer-'s Avatar Comment 26 by Styrer-

Comment #355213 by j.mills on March 24, 2009 at 9:09 pm

Tell me you are kidding. Please.

Just how many more times, on this issue, is it going to be necessary to drag in Dawkins' own words, to the tune that 'a universe with a god is very different from one without scientifically'? When will these words finally reach their targeted cerebrums in making clear that no appeasement to religious bullshit is rendered possible, despite a nauseatingly large number of 'I'm an atheist butt-heads'? When will the likes of Coyne wake up to the fact that religion's claims - and how fucking grand, solipsitic and detestable they are - are entirely within science's purview to explore, to examine, to evaluate and on which to render verdict?

Coyne prolongs centuries of pissing about on this one, and he is, as a scientist, an utter disgrace for not putting paid to this nonsense once and for all, quite within the remit of his own expertise.

Shame on him.


Tue, 24 Mar 2009 21:53:00 UTC | #339080

EvidenceOnly's Avatar Comment 27 by EvidenceOnly

Religions use all modern technologies to the fullest to raise money (internet, cell phones, trains, planes and automobiles, ...) to conquer more souls. So they don't appear to be 180 degrees against science all the time.

What religions are most afraid of is that science education makes you think and request evidence and thinking people are more likely to question superstition than the those who are ignorant.

However, of all sciences, religions are mostly at odds with evolution, astronomy, (and clearly also any science that has to do with the pre-born and the brain-dead) for the following reasons:

- The current monotheistic religions all claim that god created humans in his/her/its image as the central part and purpose of his creation, gives us our only purpose, dictates what we must and must not do, forgives sins, answers prayers, is very revengeful if we don't do what he/she/it wants and can violate all laws of physics at any time, ...

- When science proved that our planet is not the center of our solar system but just one of the trillions of planets circling one of the trillions of suns at the edge of the universe in one of the billions of galaxies, that was considered such a blasphemy that Galileo Galilei was convicted of heresy in 1632. Pope John Paul II expressed regret for this in 1992. It has taken 360 years for the Vatican to kind of acknowledge that they may have been a little bit wrong on this one but then again Benny Hex recently said that the church did not really make any mistake (and last week claimed that condoms increase the HIV epidemic in Africa).

- 150 years ago Darwin thought us with ample evidence, reinforced by 150 years of refinements, new evidence, transitional fossils, DNA, genetics, ... that life slowly evolved from single cells over billions of years through small random genetic mutations and non-random natural selection. This implies a number of obvious conclusions:

(1) all current life is constantly evolving which means that we are not central to any gods creation and who knows how our species will look like in another billion years,
(2) life does not evolve to any particular predefined point which means that evolution has no purpose and nothing gives us our purpose (but ourselves)
(3) live started from a single cell organism and evolved to its current complexity which means that higher complexity comes later in life and also means that invoking the most complex being ever (god) as the creator of the universe and all life is not a credible answer

Some religions, consistent with the tradition of all religions (picking and choosing out of their holy books what they like and ignoring what they don't like mostly hopelessly running behind the zeitgeist that they fight as long as they can then claim ownership of the changes as so often has happened), accept evolution (the roman catholic church officially does) but ignore its natural consequences just like they now accept astronomy but not its logical conclusions.

Science has a well-defined recipe of hypotheses, evidence, peer review, always being open to new evidence. You could say that its process is rigid which leads to continuously improving conclusions.

Religion has well-defined conclusions or dogmas and its theology schools constantly twists and turns explanations to smoke screen the ignorant in believing that what they observe fits their foregone conclusions. You could say that its conclusions are rigid but its process to rationalize these conclusions are constantly evolving.

There is simply no way to rationalize your way into claiming that science and religion are not in conflict. They are 180 degrees opposed in their conclusions and methods.

Teach good science to everyone.
Teach evolution and its conclusions (no need to target any particular religion).
Keep religion out of science classes.
Teach people how to think and that the scientific method should be applied to everything they think and do.
Teach people that there is no evidence for any of the old and new common superstitions: alchemy, astrology, the mercury retrograde, supernatural beings, tooth fairies, pink unicorns, ...
Teach people that tsunamis, hurricanes, earth quakes, floods, ... are natural disasters.
Teach people that a plane landing on the Hudson is because the pilot kept his cool and was experienced.
Teach people about the meaning of statistics and to look at events on a larger scale instead of making conclusions based on their limited world.

Education is the answer but education without evolution, its strong evidence and its logical conclusions are not good enough. Without evolution, it is too easy to look at everything being created and never see the light.

We have to fight religion only insofar they prevent proper scientific education and when they manage to influence politicians to make policy based on superstition.

Read Jerry Coyne's book and pass it on to as many as you can. Very compelling!

Tue, 24 Mar 2009 22:36:00 UTC | #339088

Ole's Avatar Comment 28 by Ole

I stumbled over this site and thought it was good. For instance how they dealt with ID:

Intelligent Design: Is it scientific?
Use the Science Checklist to see how Intelligent Design differs from science:
The URL is this:

The checklist is good.

Pity they "mess it up" with the things that Coyne talks about.


Wed, 25 Mar 2009 01:25:00 UTC | #339109

stephend's Avatar Comment 29 by stephend

>>20. Comment #355182 by CShepGuy on March 24, 2009 at 7:49 pm

I have had exactly the same experience at my work. I got nowhere with my friend.

Though getting somewhere can be equally unsatisfying. I have a Catholic colleague that cheerfully tells me "Oh, we believe in evolution". It leaves me wondering if my fundamentalist friend has a more honourable position of not cherry-picking his beliefs...

Wed, 25 Mar 2009 01:33:00 UTC | #339112

sornord's Avatar Comment 30 by sornord

The URL is this:

That whole site is good. Thanks!

Wed, 25 Mar 2009 02:39:00 UTC | #339124