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GodlessHeathen's Avatar Comment 1 by GodlessHeathen

I'm not convinced that the main reason folks freak about evolution is ego. I think it's really primarily moral - the whole "if we're just animals then we act like brutes" silliness.

Anyway, nice article, clear and rational. Won't make a bit of difference to the creationist crazies, so lets hope some more moderate types read up and "get it".

Thu, 22 Apr 2010 20:55:00 UTC | #461941

jonjermey's Avatar Comment 2 by jonjermey

What Dawkins and Coyne seem to miss is that Creationism is a belief without consequences. If you don't believe the germ theory -- and act as if you don't believe it -- then you get sick. This is a powerful motivation to at least ACT as if you believe it. But there is no corresponding motivation to believe in evolution, or act as if you do, because for most people there is no pay-off. In fact belief in Creationism is -- in my view -- just a convenient way for devout Christians to identify themselves to each other. It has no practical implications whatsoever. So no matter how upset it makes real scientists, it is unlikely to go away any time soon.

See Creationism for my detailed arguments on this. (There should be a plus between Why and Creationism but I can't get it to stay there.)

Thu, 22 Apr 2010 21:06:00 UTC | #461945

keithapm's Avatar Comment 3 by keithapm

I'd say religious folks reject evolution partly for egotistical reasons, partly due to their daft concept of how it affects morality, but mostly out of innocence and ignorance through fear. Many are innocent of evolution, in that they simply don't know anything about it and ignorant because they are afraid of the repercussions of learning about it, and the loss of the sense of certainty in the truth of the bible. "If genesis is wrong... what else could be?"

Oh and jonjermey, the practical implications of not accepting evolution are right up there with the germ theory of disease. In fact they're very much related. Most of the problems we have with viruses and bacteria at the moment is coming about because they are constantly evolving, that's why we need new flu vaccines every year for example and why doctors are currently being encouraged not to proscribe antibiotics unless it's necessary as the bacteria are evolving new defenses. If you don't believe that bacteria/viruses can evolve -and act as if you don't believe it- you get sick

Thu, 22 Apr 2010 21:43:00 UTC | #461961

The Plc's Avatar Comment 4 by The Plc

It think there is no escaping it, evolution just corrodes away Biblical theology and all religious belief. It's Darwin's Dangerous Idea. It anything solidifies the idea that we live in a natural world, governed by natural laws without any superstitious intervention, it's evolution by natural selection. Moderate apologists should just stop pretending that the two are totally compatible by taking the art of hermeneutics to farcical levels. One advantage the fundies have over the moderates is that they see and realise the full, logical consequences of the science of evolution, so they have no choice to reject it in order to be a true believer.

Thu, 22 Apr 2010 21:44:00 UTC | #461962

jafditchdoctor's Avatar Comment 5 by jafditchdoctor

When I was a boy I had a cousin who was into Karate. He had enthusiastically explained to me that in order to land an effective punch, you had to aim several inches beyond your target - to which he then demonstrate this technique by sending my other cousin through the gyp-rock.
Your man Richard Dawkins is, you might say, an effective Karate punch. Though his target is every creationist, his efforts typically send them through to the next room. It's for this reason that few will ever go near R.D. with a ten foot pole. But other, maybe less aggressive, spokespersons for evolution will now be heard.
Coyne is just such an author.

Thu, 22 Apr 2010 22:04:00 UTC | #461969

AngelsForAtheists's Avatar Comment 6 by AngelsForAtheists

I thought all the missing links were fabricated by god denying heathen scientists??? Wtf is going on here?

Thu, 22 Apr 2010 22:07:00 UTC | #461971

Luke_B's Avatar Comment 7 by Luke_B

All it shows is that there's a lot of work to be done.

Thu, 22 Apr 2010 22:13:00 UTC | #461976

Truism's Avatar Comment 8 by Truism

Godless Heathen, you are quite right. Dawkins has overcome the 'proof' and 'theory' stumbling block. Maybe this piece by Jane Goodall can at least start on the point you raise. - Jane Goodall, The Spectator , April 7th 2010
‘Chimps can learn sign language, but in the wild, so far as we know, they are unable to communicate about things that aren’t present. They can’t teach what happened 100 years ago, or ten years ago, except by showing fear in certain places. They certainly can’t plan for five years ahead. If they could, they could communicate with each other about what compels them to indulge in their dramatic displays. To me, it is a sense of wonder and awe that we share with them. When we had those feelings, and evolved the ability to talk about them, we were able to create the early religions.’

Thu, 22 Apr 2010 23:12:00 UTC | #461985

NewEnglandBob's Avatar Comment 9 by NewEnglandBob

swampdonke @5:

If you think Jerry Coyne is a "...less aggressive, spokespersons for evolution...", then spend more time reading his blog at

Thu, 22 Apr 2010 23:41:00 UTC | #461992

FractalShift's Avatar Comment 10 by FractalShift

I would disagree with the author in so much as the strongest evidence for evolution is not the fossil record, but molecular sequencing evidence. For instance DNA/protein functional redundancy.

Fri, 23 Apr 2010 01:01:00 UTC | #461998

drmagyar's Avatar Comment 11 by drmagyar

I'd say that religious people don't want evolution to be true because it means that we were created through a somewhat random process (genetic mutation) and an undirected (at least by a higher being) process (natural selection) so we are arbitrary beings. We are therefore not special, not the chosen species. Add to that that there isn't any absolute morality. And also that when we die we just die.

So there is a lot of incentive not to accept evolution. It has too many scary consequences if you want there to be divine justice and an afterlife.

Fri, 23 Apr 2010 01:37:00 UTC | #462005

Bonzai's Avatar Comment 12 by Bonzai

The quantum pimp? Now there is something Deepak would approve.

Fri, 23 Apr 2010 01:55:00 UTC | #462009

JuJu's Avatar Comment 13 by JuJu

For some reason it is very difficult for people to get their head around natural selection and gene mutations. I know people who believe evolution is a fact, but they assume it happens via Lamarckism and/or some energy force (vital force) that twittles with your DNA to make you progressively better in your environment. These are some of the people who believe heavily in alternative medicine and magical thinking. Its not only religious people who are deluded. I know people who would laugh at faith healing, but believe reiki is a way of warding off disease by energizing your immune system. What's the difference? None really. If one believes that evolution by natural selection is true, then one would expect the acceptence of the germ theory of disease. But if one doesn't understand the process of evolution properly then one might think vaccinations are worthless, or that science just doesn't have the instrumentation to see whats really happening yet. Like Bertrand Russell said "most people would rather die than think, and most of them do, and you don't want to be one of them".

Fri, 23 Apr 2010 02:39:00 UTC | #462016

Dave Porter's Avatar Comment 14 by Dave Porter

Most of what I see in the resistance to Evolution is America's selfishness. If a "GOD" didn't create a superior set of humans to make this county great, then it is a failure. The "Christian" religion is an extreeeeemly selfish cult, and it throws a tantrum when any scientific evidence gets in its way. Just look at what has been done in the past with dissenting scientists.

Fri, 23 Apr 2010 03:58:00 UTC | #462024

Narvi's Avatar Comment 15 by Narvi

There IS a lot of people who don't believe in germ theory. Most of them are anti-vaxxers.

That's really one of the more annoying problems skeptics have: we can't invent a position stupid enough NOT to be a popular one.

Fri, 23 Apr 2010 04:29:00 UTC | #462026

jointhedots's Avatar Comment 17 by jointhedots

Speaking from a personal point of view I would agree with both keithapm and wasted tourist.(Comment #482719 by keithapm Comment #482720 by Wasted Tourist )
As a young teen I was indoctrinated by a cult. I was taught their version of the theory of evolution and why it was wrong. Further, we were not allowed to use original sources to learn about anything that conflicted with the cults beliefs.
I still held some superstitious beliefs many years after leaving. Understanding evolution became my progression towards becoming an atheist.

Fri, 23 Apr 2010 05:57:00 UTC | #462040

Raiko's Avatar Comment 16 by Raiko

I still have to catch my breath from reading about the argument by F&P that because we don't know on which exact trait natural selection works on, so natural selection can't be the explanation. As Jerry Coyne correctly points out, it's silly to believe "we don't know" is an argument for "it can't be", but even beyond that - how can studied beings be as breathtakingly dumb as this and focus on single traits instead of the individual organism when it comes to natural selection? So even if a new, advantageous treat x necessarily comes with a new disadvantageous treat y, if the net effect is a reproductive and/or survival advantage for the individual, that is what matters! It doesn't matter whether x or y made the effect! What about mutations that have no net effect on individual fitness until other changes come in - changes that maybe one offspring of many who carries that mutation develops? X might not be an advantage or disadvantage until Y comes in - or environmental conditions change. But in the end, some individual will be advantaged over the rest of the population. It's completely irrelevant which way the advantage came to pass, as long as it did. That's how science works, after all - you first acknowledge that something is the case and then try to figure out the whys and hows. I'm not suprised Jerry Coyne had trouble understanding how F&P could make such a stunningly stupid mistake.

Fri, 23 Apr 2010 05:57:00 UTC | #462039

jonjermey's Avatar Comment 18 by jonjermey

My point is simply that people don't believe in creationism because they have evidence: they believe in it because they are theists. Showing theists the evidence against creationism is hard work and requires a good deal of training and persistence. Showing people the evidence against theism is relatively easy and can be done by nearly anyone. What gives the greatest return on time and effort; mucking around with complicated biological hypotheses, or simply pointing out that belief in God is absurd?

One of the first responses I ever read in an atheist forum was "You can't argue people out of a position they weren't argued into." That sums up the futility of arguing against creationism in a nutshell.

Fri, 23 Apr 2010 06:55:00 UTC | #462045

Bernard Hurley's Avatar Comment 19 by Bernard Hurley

Comment #482702 by jonjermey

What Dawkins and Coyne seem to miss is that Creationism is a belief without consequences.

Creationism does have consequences. For instance, my son is a medical geneticist. A creationist would simple not be able to do any useful work in this field.

Fri, 23 Apr 2010 08:11:00 UTC | #462051

Greyman's Avatar Comment 20 by Greyman

19. Comment #482810 by Bernard Hurley on April 23, 2010 at 9:11 am

Comment #482702 by jonjermey
What Dawkins and Coyne seem to miss is that Creationism is a belief without consequences.

Creationism does have consequences. For instance, my son is a medical geneticist. A creationist would simple not be able to do any useful work in this field.

Likewise geophysics, petrochemistry, and other fields.

What jonjermey meant, I think, was that Creationists see no adverse consequences to their belief. Indeed most fear that there will be social consequences of abandoning scripture in favour of evidence. That everyone will spontaneously degenerate into nilistic hedonists or something.

Fri, 23 Apr 2010 08:22:00 UTC | #462053

epeeist's Avatar Comment 21 by epeeist

Comment #482702 by jonjermey:

What Dawkins and Coyne seem to miss is that Creationism is a belief without consequences.
If people kept their creationism to themselves then this would be true.

But unfortunately there is a whole industry behind the promotion of such views and it has its fingers into both education and politics.

Dealing with individual creationists is probably pointless (though it can be fun to play the serpent), but exposing and debunking the followers of Rushdoony is absolutely necessary.

Fri, 23 Apr 2010 08:45:00 UTC | #462057

jointhedots's Avatar Comment 22 by jointhedots

Comment #482804 by jonjermey
I agree that a belief in theism can lead to accepting creationism. However, a rejection of one set of supernatural beliefs often leads to another. An argument from an opposer can be seen as a test (from God or Satan).
Creationists often argue against and refute evolution from an intellectually dishonest standpoint.
There are honest indivduals whose theist beliefs are reinforced by the pseudoscience of ID. Exposure to and understanding of science itself would be a prevention of this occurring. That is my point. Oh, BTW I am not refuting your experiences. Only remember, individuals are individual and often respond and learn differently to one another.

Fri, 23 Apr 2010 10:12:00 UTC | #462067

Adrian Bartholomew's Avatar Comment 23 by Adrian Bartholomew

18. Comment #482804 by jonjermey on April 23, 2010 at 7:55 am
One of the first responses I ever read in an atheist forum was "You can't argue people out of a position they weren't argued into." That sums up the futility of arguing against creationism in a nutshell.
I know I’ve been argued out of positions I wasn’t argued into (libertarianism for instance). Frankly I think the claim "you can't argue people out of a position they weren't argued into" needs to be demonstrated because in my opinion it’s one of those phrases that sounds truer than it actually is.

Fri, 23 Apr 2010 10:14:00 UTC | #462068

Stafford Gordon's Avatar Comment 24 by Stafford Gordon

I've read both TGD and WEIT and they compliment one another in a way that leaves no doubt in the mind of anyone who is not entirely incorrigible.

Jerry Coyne amusingly explains the google proportion of the creationist six thousand year old planet fallacy; his book's almost worth reading just for that!

Fri, 23 Apr 2010 10:33:00 UTC | #462074

ukvillafan's Avatar Comment 25 by ukvillafan

Just like to say I found this an excellent article and a neat dissection of F&Ps ludicrously biologically-ignorant propositions. Not being a scientist by learning or occupation, I have to "adapt" to new information on a regular basis. Being a lawyer helps but not as much as erudite and interesting contributions from scientists, like Coyne and Dawkins, with a well-developed ability to communicate.

I know Richard would not have time to read every post to every item here, but I'd like to say that he and Coyne, and Harris and Hitchens (and a few others) have transformed my understanding of science and religion over the past couple of years. I was always a non-believing rationalist - now I have a much better understanding as to why!

Fri, 23 Apr 2010 11:19:00 UTC | #462083

Carl Sai Baba's Avatar Comment 26 by Carl Sai Baba

I think most of the arguments presented are after-the-fact excuses.

People believe in creationism because 1. it makes sense to them impulsively for biological or psychological reasons, and 2. they were told it was true repeatedly (often with an implication that there was evidence for it) when they were children.

That's a powerful combination. Natural inclination reinforced by indoctrination.

Religion/creationism isn't the only thing which takes advantage of that nature. There are plenty of non-Abrahamics who have a strong belief in conspiracy theories and nonsense medicine with no evidence. Some of them are even here.

Fri, 23 Apr 2010 14:24:00 UTC | #462119

phasmagigas's Avatar Comment 27 by phasmagigas

coynes example is useful, you could argue that germ theory has never actually been proven technically but correlation of plasmodium and malaria are so tight that we would be foolish to ignore it as cause effect.

we could go 'creationist' and suggest that a demon tricks us into believing its plasmodium (a benign critter) by possesing a body with plasmodium just for fun, the demon leaves as the critter leaves, hence the cure. the idea is to demonstrate that with supernatural explanations one can make up whatever you please (and expect to be taken seriously).

Fri, 23 Apr 2010 14:33:00 UTC | #462127

Pilot22A's Avatar Comment 28 by Pilot22A

I am extremely pessimistic about Americans, or anyone for that matter, really shedding religion and embracing common sense.

I found it extremely difficult to separate myself, as did my brother, from the junk that was poured into our brains when we were very young and impressionable.

Fri, 23 Apr 2010 14:34:00 UTC | #462128

crookedshoes's Avatar Comment 29 by crookedshoes

People who reject evolution do so for many reasons. There are poorly educated people, slow readers with low comprehension and retention, idiots, and their lot. However, the majority of people I have run into that want to fight about it are doing so and believing that they are defending something dear to them against vandalism.
It is the equivalent (to them) of an attack on family member. "Even if my brother is a dead beat no good piece of shit, YOU have no right to say it." Like you are outside the family so your opinion is hurtful and negative and doesn't help their already befuddled interpretation of the world around them. They cannot afford (in thought economy) to allow you to get even a wafer of logic into their heads, because then they'll have to THINK about stuff. And, thought requires energy and after all there are video games to spend thousands of hours mastering. So if I keep my world view as narrow, provincial, and UNCHANGING as possible it leaves more time for recreation. Who has the soma?

Fri, 23 Apr 2010 15:50:00 UTC | #462156

Denial's Avatar Comment 30 by Denial

I think jonjermey is onto something. While Creationism isn't entirely without consequences, the price you pay (in inability to pursue certain specialist careers) is quite low. And thus it gets you "cheaply" into a public conflict long after religion has almost ceased to provide such.

I believe the value people can derive from distancing themselves from the mainstream opinion in a public debate is underestimated by some who might have better things to do. It is a well-understood part of the attraction of fringe religions and is a reason why small, cult-ish groups which maintain a measure of tension to mainstream society tend to grow while larger, church-ish groups with lower tension tend to shrink (see the sociology of religion classic by Stark and Bainbridge: "Acts of Faith"). However, this tension can't to be too high, which is why most religious groups will pick a few issues (evolution, abortion, homosexuality etc.) but leave other traditional points of contention (divorce, alcohol, antisemitism etc.) in order not to appear too far-out.

This theory predicts that opposition to evolution and other current issues should wane as soon as there are new issues the religious can rally around. With human cloning, stem-cell therapy and possibly artificial intelligence, some of these are around the corner.

Fri, 23 Apr 2010 19:30:00 UTC | #462220