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Religion, evolution can live side by side - Comments

Mbee's Avatar Comment 1 by Mbee

Religion and Evolution can only live side by side if religions modify their dogma to fit the facts. While they continue to deny the facts of the Universe and Evolution their religions will continue to decline. The more people that look at the evidence of both sides and actually think about it the sooner humanity will be able to move forward. Unfortunately many will continue to cling to their outdated mythology for fear of facing the truth.

Thu, 26 Nov 2009 21:54:00 UTC | #417155

Sally Luxmoore's Avatar Comment 2 by Sally Luxmoore

I do like Michael Shermer.

This article can best be described as intelligent common sense. He analyses the various oppositions to accepting evolution very clearly.

I was also very interested in his description of the political leanings of the different viewpoints.

I differ from him in that he appears to be arguing for an accomodationist stance, whereas I genuinely think that science and religion are incompatible.

However, a very good article.

Thu, 26 Nov 2009 21:59:00 UTC | #417157

JemyM's Avatar Comment 3 by JemyM

Religion can live side by side with evolution, it have done so since religion was created.

Thu, 26 Nov 2009 22:04:00 UTC | #417159

healthphysicist's Avatar Comment 4 by healthphysicist

It sounds like Shermer is trying to build a weak bridge.

Those folks into the nebulous spiritual kind of religion, who don't adhere to an organized religious dogma, may find his points useful.

But religion is also about power.

If the age of the Earth or the nature of man are not to be believed through the Bible, then the Bible has no authority and those that claim to understand it, have no authority. They are not going to let go of a billion dollar per year business (I live in the US).

If Adam & Eve is a myth, then there was no Fall of Man (or original sin) and no need for Jesus to die on the cross (I know not all sects adhere to this, but many do).

The notion of sin (in an absolute sense) disappears, because we are animals, and animals don't sin. The whole concept of Heaven and Hell disappears.

Evolution is a much greater threat to many religious sects than just a simple reinterpretation of Genesis.

Thu, 26 Nov 2009 22:05:00 UTC | #417160

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 5 by Steve Zara

Theistic religion and evolution can never live side by side.

In a warm pond of chemicals (according to recent research) monomers spontaneously combine at random to form RNA. No god needed.

Some of those countless RNA strands catalyse RNA polymerisation. Digital evolution starts. No god needed.

The RNA strands that catalyse their own formation (and not just random strands) will be selected. No God needed.

Some RNA strands include sequences of RNA that catalyse for other RNA strands that act as catalysts for reactions that provide more energy for reproduction. No God needed.

All this happens within a lipid-rich environment, so the first proto-cell forms. No God needed.

The RNA polymerisation develops a flaw that introduces an equilibration with DNA (which is more stable). No God needed.

DNA is now the stable storage for sequences, along with a system that produces the equivalent RNA strands. No God needed.

The DNA/RNA system mutates to act as a catalyst for amino acid formation (the origin of the ribosome). No God needed.

Proteins form that take over the role of catalysis from RNA. No God needed.

There is no explanatory gap regarding the origin of life and the start of evolution that requires a God. In fact, introducing the idea of a God would have stopped investigation.

Theism is incompatible with the science of life, and especially the science of the origin of life and its development.

Thu, 26 Nov 2009 22:13:00 UTC | #417163

Enlightenme..'s Avatar Comment 6 by Enlightenme..

"The purpose of civilization is.. better angels"

What a load of Accomodationist bullcrap Shermer, 'civilisation' is an emergent property that evolved before we could even make pompous assertions about it.

Thu, 26 Nov 2009 22:29:00 UTC | #417170

SaintStephen's Avatar Comment 7 by SaintStephen

Shermer says:

Believers should embrace science, especially evolutionary theory, for what it has done to reveal the magnificence of the divinity in a depth never dreamed by our ancient ancestors.
Which or what divinity is Shermer talking about? And then why does Shermer's hyperlink tie directly into a CNN page with two videos, both with Dawkins' atheistic mug prominently displayed:

I'm confused by Shermer's angle here. Talking about some "divinity" and then telling theists to go listen to Richard Dawkins seems a bit schizophrenic, methinks.

Thu, 26 Nov 2009 22:30:00 UTC | #417171

Jos Gibbons's Avatar Comment 8 by Jos Gibbons

Most scientists would prefer
Belief that evolution is a threat to specific religious tenets
It is - for example, the belief that God made the world in 6 days. That's a religious tenet, right?
The fear that evolutionary theory implies we have a fixed human nature///originates from liberals
Really? Liberals are that clueless about evolution meaning change? If liberals don't get it, who does?
The difference of six zeros is meaningless
Not to whoever wrote the exquisitely detailed, therefore clearly not metaphorical genealogies in genesis, nor to the people who think God doesn't use a myriad of riddles when he could just say what he means.
the glory of divine creation cries out for praise regardless of when it happened
Hundreds of millions of years of merciless animal suffering the whole world over makes a pretty big difference here if you ask me.
[evolution has revealed] the magnificence of the divinity in a depth never dreamed by our ancestors
What's with these people thinking lots of time is "deep"? It's not deep, it's lazy. Lots of SPACE is impressive, but lots of time is horrendously excessive in the horrors it causes.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Michael Shermer
We can only hope.

Thu, 26 Nov 2009 22:31:00 UTC | #417172

prolibertas's Avatar Comment 9 by prolibertas

It is easy just to look at the 'what' of evolution and find it compatible with theism. It's a bit harder when you actually look at the 'how' of evolution - mutation and natural selection, or survival of the fittest and culling of the weak - a process that simultaneously kills the design argument, exacerbates the problem of evil, and shows that life suspiciously developed by the one means you'd expect it to if there is no God. If theism and evolution were really compatible, then surely the accomodationists would be confident enough to bring up these points and refute their significance. Why don't they? Why do they avoid the real issues?

Maybe Shermer's game of hide-the-ball with the real issues will get people who are ignorant to accept evolution (so long as they don't look into it too much) but the real 'war' is between reason and unreason. What good is it having people accept evolution, if they remain without reason? The world will still be up shit creek. Instead of all this dishonest accomodationist coddling that ultimately achieves nothing in the war on unreason, we should deploy evolution usefully as a weapon against unreason, while also using it to emphasise the awe and wonder of the natural world to mitigate against having people flock back to religion in fright. At least, that's how I was won over.

Thu, 26 Nov 2009 22:33:00 UTC | #417175

entheogensmurf's Avatar Comment 10 by entheogensmurf

For religion and evolution to live side by side, religion has to fess up to be the bunk it is. That does not sound like it can live side by side.

Thu, 26 Nov 2009 22:35:00 UTC | #417177

Nunbeliever's Avatar Comment 11 by Nunbeliever

cop-out, cop-out, cop-out...

I can understand the political reasons for trying to persuade christians that the theory of evolution is not incompatible with their cherished beliefs. And yes, I prefer christians who believe in evolution to creationists.

BUT, what bugs me is that intellectual honesty is constantly being sacrificed in order to please the religious. If christians find it necessary to create intellectual "loop holes" so that evolution can be compatible with their religious beliefs. Fine! That is their problem. But, it is just pathetic when renown atheists like Shermer have to take part in this debate for political reasons.

On the other hand, who am I to judge him. I do not even live in USA.

Thu, 26 Nov 2009 22:43:00 UTC | #417180

Kiwi's Avatar Comment 12 by Kiwi

Side by side is not overlapping. Is he going for NOMA here ? Beware of accomodationist concessions.

Depends on what is meant by "live" in this context. I suggest it could mean "to know it exists as something humans have put forward as an explanation in the past". But not as a currently competing hypothesis knowing what we now know.

Using this definition, Earthcentrism can live alongside Heliocentrism, but only as historical baggage and as an aid to a view of where we have come from in our appreciation of the universe.

Thu, 26 Nov 2009 22:46:00 UTC | #417182

Enlightenme..'s Avatar Comment 13 by Enlightenme..

How much accommodation should we make with Lebensraumers in the West bank?

How much accommodation should we make with the Catholic church in Ireland today?

How much accommodation should we make with Albino & child witch hunters in Nigeria?

Thu, 26 Nov 2009 22:50:00 UTC | #417184

genetheory's Avatar Comment 14 by genetheory

There's a real problem for religious people who say that evolution and their belief's are compatible...

Evolution by natural selection has taken many millions of years to arrive at the world as we currently find it. Therefore, the religious need to explain what big G has been doing all of that time. I then refer you to Hitch's eloquent and quite correct description of a Heaven that watches human beings live and die in appauling conditions for the best part of 100,000 years, only intervening within the last 3,000. Could you imagine the public reaction if it were found that Josef Fritzl's neighbour was entirely aware of what was happening in his dark cellar the whole time? How would we all react if the neighbour was found to be actually watching from a secret hiding place while he repeatedly raped his daughter... I suspect that such a person may even be MORE reviled that Fritzl himself, for not intervening or calling the authorities.

If evolution (by natural selection) is correct, by logical extension Yahweh is NOT a god of love. He doesn't even seem to be that caring really... Doesn't this simply compound the problem for the faithful? What kind of god are they worshipping?

Thu, 26 Nov 2009 23:30:00 UTC | #417199

NewEnglandBob's Avatar Comment 15 by NewEnglandBob

Sorry, Michael Shermer, but this accommodationism is a no-go.

Fri, 27 Nov 2009 00:02:00 UTC | #417211

SyDaemon's Avatar Comment 16 by SyDaemon

Misunderstanding of evolutionary theory. A significant problem is that most people know so little about the theory...Because evolution is so controversial, public school science teachers typically drop the subject entirely rather than face the discomfort aroused among students and parents.

Isn't it because people understand so little of evolution that you have to teach it to them in the first place?

Fri, 27 Nov 2009 01:04:00 UTC | #417220

MrPickwick's Avatar Comment 17 by MrPickwick

How much is that Templeton prize? Mewonders...

Fri, 27 Nov 2009 01:06:00 UTC | #417221

mmurray's Avatar Comment 18 by mmurray

Therefore, the religious need to explain what big G has been doing all of that time.

God is beyond space and time so you question does not make sense. This is the problem with atheist naturalism it doesn't understand that God is so amazingly wonderful he cannot fit into puny pond slime evolved brains.

Seriously you and I know this is so much rubbish but the religiously deluded will find a cop out every time.


Fri, 27 Nov 2009 01:43:00 UTC | #417227

NewEnglandBob's Avatar Comment 19 by NewEnglandBob

17. Comment #435631 by m d:

Accommodationism is not by the theists, but it is an accommodation of theists by the atheists/agnostics toward theism. Shermer is one of them in my opinion, as is Chris Mooney. Some of them say that the 'New Atheists' strategy of confrontation is incorrect and that there is/can be compatibility between theism and science. Shermer seems to dance around these issues.

Fri, 27 Nov 2009 02:02:00 UTC | #417229

Dave Porter's Avatar Comment 20 by Dave Porter

"10,000 years ago or 10 billion years ago. The difference of six zeros is meaningless"

I makes a huge difference. How else do we account for all the sedimentary rock layers? Ignoring data is what keeps Americans ignorant. I do not avoid the conflicts when teaching evolution in my Biology classes. I only present the science side, never the mythology one. I tick off a lot of kids and parents, but none of them can prove the science wrong. We have to stick together.

Fri, 27 Nov 2009 02:41:00 UTC | #417231

Logicel's Avatar Comment 21 by Logicel

Shermer is telling theists to accommodate science. He is even using their language to explain this point.

How stupid/gullible does he thinks theists are? A lot it seems, and it is apparent he wants to keep them stupid and gullible. Shermer probably thinks that in such a frighteningly religious country like America, the best approach is to coddle. Isn't that how America got to be so overbearingly religious in the first place?

Look, Shermer, the coddling has to stop. Speak to theists as they are intelligent adults. And don't tell them the obvious--they are already doing what you are suggesting, that is, the cherry-picking of science.

A change of script is needed here, and you ain't supplying it.

Fri, 27 Nov 2009 03:09:00 UTC | #417232

Ascaphus's Avatar Comment 22 by Ascaphus

While I don't agree at all with the 'side-by-side' part, I think Shermer's analysis of the different objections is perspicuous and useful. We can't mount a valid effort at educating those "opposed" to evolution if we conflate their reasons for objecting.


Fri, 27 Nov 2009 04:36:00 UTC | #417239

RUKiddinMe's Avatar Comment 23 by RUKiddinMe

Has Michael taken Templeton Foundation money?

Fri, 27 Nov 2009 06:23:00 UTC | #417248

Communist's Avatar Comment 24 by Communist

Michael Shermer is a right winger who has written a pseudoscientific book called 'The Mind of the Market' in which he discusses the behaviour of apes and sees capitalism. He has also cooperated with the Templeton Foundation. I view him with extreme caution.

In the essey above, he lists six reasons for the resistance to Darwinian evolution. He misses the most important one: That an evolving biosphere leads to theories about an evolving society. Read the stuff coming from islamist creationists, and this fear is obvious.

Fundamentalists rarely rage against scientific theories about electronegativity or aerodynamics. Their targets are theories that imply change over time: Darwinian evolution, the expanding universe and plate tectonics. All these targets of attack have one thing in common: They imply major changes over time. That's why the fundies fear them.

Fri, 27 Nov 2009 08:07:00 UTC | #417255

Monty_Lovering's Avatar Comment 25 by Monty_Lovering

Whilst to many of 'us' a general acceptance that there is probably no god would be the preferred outcome, to hold out for this is very much like 'Waiting for Goddot', or more accurately, God not.

Don't hold your breath...

Just as the ID/Creationist lobby formed the 'Wedge' stratagy, a similar attempt for 'us' to utilise arguments that allow us to insert 'the thin end' into theist's belief structures is more likely to achieve results than ramming 'the thick end' down theist's throats.

Disbelief is not generally a 'Road to Damascus' like conversion or polarisation of worldview. It is a path of many steps. I've been there and done it and seen it happen in others.

So although it lacks the satisfying purity of absolute insistance, 'us' accepting the first step is moving people to a non-literal interpretation of Creation myths is wise and pragmatic.

Once people are there they can see further. And frankly, I do not care if people maintain unprovable beliefs in the devine akin to Deism provided they don't deny facts or assert the same text that leads them to deny facts is the correct and only guide to leading a good life.

Even if people who make that step do not go further, their children will grow up in an environment where they will have the intellectual freedom to follow the path to the logical conclusion many of 'us' have reached.

Fri, 27 Nov 2009 08:22:00 UTC | #417257

John Desclin's Avatar Comment 26 by John Desclin

Religion: intentional ignorance to keep beliefs safe; Science and evolution: human need to know.
They cannot live together, except in deluded brains

Fri, 27 Nov 2009 08:39:00 UTC | #417259

Michael Gray's Avatar Comment 27 by Michael Gray

First was Shermer's sheer insanity on health-care liberalism, (vis: completely ignoring the resounding success of socialised health-care in enlightened Western democracies and insisting that the very failed user-pays system is superior against all the evidence), and now this equally wrong insistence that faitheism is productive for the atheist cause, well: that's it for me.
Shermer has reverted to his former self-confessed madness. The madness of fervently holding as true that which is demonstrably untrue.
What the intercourse has happened to you, Michael?

Fri, 27 Nov 2009 08:56:00 UTC | #417261

scoobie's Avatar Comment 28 by scoobie

Perhaps Bill Maher should write him an open letter pointing out the error of his ways?

Fri, 27 Nov 2009 09:17:00 UTC | #417267

CyBearNetic's Avatar Comment 29 by CyBearNetic

I can understand the carrying of belief above or along side science fact. However till there is any proven evidence of science mending into religion or vice versa it should remain segregated. Science is science and religion of all sorts is religion. Theory's and ideas are great and I can admire there creativity and imagination but thats where it should stand. Unlike religion, science finds the right solutions not the quickest solutions so that it makes people feel comfortable.

Fri, 27 Nov 2009 09:27:00 UTC | #417269

John Locke's Avatar Comment 30 by John Locke

i dont think the article is terrible (maybe im feeling nice cos its nearly the weekend)

the first 2/3 at least is a pretty good analysis.

where he falls short is that he doesnt analyse religion itself. he he seems to be taking a typically anglican stance on evolution, much like many clergymen here in the UK that richard speaks highly of. to be fair it is hard to argue against people who have chosen this stance, as it is a harmless and passive one. naturally to believe in evolution and god asks even more questions (IMO) particularly about the nature of god, but you cant really criticise someone for believing this as its a viewpoint with little conflict with regards to things that matter. if he chooses to believe in god, so be it, he's got no problem with real, important issues.

this is not objectionable in itself so i think people are being a bit harsh. especially since although a long shot, i think this is a more plausible ruse to win round the religious to at least recognising evolution and believing in it. one step at a time.

maybe he is more atheistic than the article suggests - hence the links to richard's videos?

Fri, 27 Nov 2009 09:28:00 UTC | #417270