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← Science, Religion and Society: The Problem of Evolution in America

Science, Religion and Society: The Problem of Evolution in America - Comments

Reality Enthusiast's Avatar Comment 1 by Reality Enthusiast

Excellent work. Clear, concise, logical, informative, interesting, enlightening, and inspiring.

Sat, 26 May 2012 00:34:21 UTC | #943588

brighterstill's Avatar Comment 2 by brighterstill

Thanks RDFRS, for a minute there I forgot why I was so depressed.

Sat, 26 May 2012 01:16:26 UTC | #943594

susanlatimer's Avatar Comment 3 by susanlatimer

More great work by Jerry Coyne. He's addressed the issue squarely, backed it up with evidence and communicated the important issues thoroughly.

Another excellent effort. I'm becoming a huge fan.

Sat, 26 May 2012 02:39:13 UTC | #943607

Quine's Avatar Comment 4 by Quine

Another excellent effort. I'm becoming a huge fan.

Good choice.

Sat, 26 May 2012 02:54:48 UTC | #943609

Hume's Razor's Avatar Comment 5 by Hume's Razor

But it is not just religious fundamentalists who oppose evolution in America. As I mentioned above, 40% of Americans see God as having created humans directly, but a recent Gallup Poll (2011c) shows that only 31% of us see the Bible as literally true. [...] Even “liberal” believers, then, show religiously based opposition to evolution.

The otherwise brilliant Susan Jacoby has used this fact to argue that religion can’t be the root cause of opposition to evolution in America. The unstated premise seems to be that if it’s not fundamentalist religion, it’s not religion. period. But in my experience believers are not split into those who take everything in the Bible literally and those who have no problem with evolution. There are certainly Christians who don’t believe creation literally happened as described in the book of Genesis, who are none the less deeply uncomfortable with any theory that says there didn’t have to be a creator at all.

Bottom line, I just think the whole dichotomy between “fundamentalists” (defined as somebody who takes the whole Bible literally) and “moderates” as too simplistic. Even “moderates” take parts of the Bible literally, and even “fundamentalists” don’t take everything literally. (In fact, some interpret parts of the Bible metaphorically to make them more extreme than in their literal interpretation, for example by re-interpreting perfectly innocent passages about reaping the harvest (etc.) as coded end time prophecies).

The hope is that by showing the faithful that science and evolution do not automatically lead to atheism, many of them will retain their faith but abandon creationism.

This is definitely one of my pet peeves. when accomodationists try to make evolution more palatable to believers by insisting that it poses no threat to their religious beliefs, what they seem to be implicitly saying is that if evolution did pose such a threat, then that would indeed be a valid reason to reject it. Furthermore, their arguments are often blatantly inconsistent, as when Mooney and Kirshenbaum insist that there is no conflict between religion and science and then go on to argue that “…if forced to choose between faith and science, vast numbers of Americans will select the former”.

The conflict couldn’t be put much clearer than this. If religious believers are prepared to accept the findings of science only on the condition that it doesn’t contradict beliefs held for bad reasons, they haven’t really accepted science even if they do manage to find a way to reconcile it with their beliefs. Putting such conditions on your acceptance in the first place is the very antithesis of an open-ended search for truth which is the very essence of science. The real conflict between science and religions isn’t between different conclusions at all but between different and irreconcilable ways of arriving at conclusions.

In the end, the only way to make science compatible with faith (while being consistent) is to drain science of everything that made it worth promoting in the first place. The day when having good reasons for one’s beliefs became optional in science, the day when science no longer made anyone any less inclined to engage in motivated reasoning and self-deception, the day when science no longer made it any more difficult to believe in bullshit was the day that science died.

The biggest problem with accommodationism is the absence of studies showing that it works

One more thing that always bugs me. It’s not as if the non-confrontational, appeasing, “stick-to-teaching-the-science” approach hasn’t been tried. In America, where - as Coyne points out - "[t]he Gallup figures have remained pretty steady since these surveys began in 1982" it is basically what they have been doing all along, and it has already failed miserably.

Sat, 26 May 2012 06:42:15 UTC | #943620

All About Meme's Avatar Comment 6 by All About Meme

Comment 5 by Hume's Razor

The day when having good reasons for one’s beliefs became optional in science, the day when science no longer made anyone any less inclined to engage in motivated reasoning and self-deception, the day when science no longer made it any more difficult to believe in bullshit was the day that science died.

Well said, and I couldn't agree more.

Sat, 26 May 2012 07:44:28 UTC | #943624

brianlmerritt's Avatar Comment 7 by brianlmerritt

Interesting post - especially given so many people believe in genetic evolution but not group selection or social or cultural evolution (or perhaps better stated, they believe social or cultural evolution is just an expression of genetic evolution).

When a group - religious, scientific, or otherwise - is under attack, then the collective organism that is that group goes on the defensive, closing their ears and minds to the outside "propaganda" and closing ranks, firming up their god/science/other given beliefs. Other, probably equally misguided groups, try to enlighten the original group, often using inflammatory language thrown down from their "superior" vantage point.

It will be interesting to see what the future holds for groups who cling desperately to outmoded ideas. Will they evolve intelligence and better still knowledge? Will they disband and dissolve as their component parts gradually realise their reality is sub-optimal. Or will they form flat earth societies, dig in their heels, and gradually fade away like that dot on the old fashioned TV?

Sat, 26 May 2012 08:59:17 UTC | #943628

isisdron's Avatar Comment 8 by isisdron

well it seems like we have a lot of waiting for people to die to do. that's the only way to make room for the future it seems.

Sat, 26 May 2012 21:40:28 UTC | #943704

Roedy's Avatar Comment 9 by Roedy

The USA is coasting on past glory. It "earns" its living by borrowing money. Think about the public attitude to science in 1960 vs today. The accountants took over. Education became a frill. Outsourcing was more profitable. The confidence of the people pulled back. As it always does in uncertain times, religion raced to fill the gap.

It is a vicious circle. The religion is making people dumber and dumber. This makes financial prospects worse. This makes people more superstitious.

This is not necessarily a bad thing. When America was #1, it tended to throw its weight around. Religion is weakening it. Religion makes people stupid and gullible. Americans have pretty much handed over control of their country to a elite who run the corporations. The corporations promote religion. That is surely no accident.

If they want to regain first class status, they will have to make education a priority, and kick this anti-science habit.

Logically an oil company should refuse to hire Christians. The business runs on science. You can have people with faulty ideas about science making corporate decisions.

Sun, 27 May 2012 14:34:00 UTC | #943826

BillFoster's Avatar Comment 10 by BillFoster

Elsewhere I posted this: I think my comments are relevant here.
Very recently I saw a program about how the Nazis made a religion out of their crazy beliefs, thereby changing a previously sane civilised nation to one deranged by the Nazi belief system: Very frightening when you think about it. It seems humans are particularly susceptible to the dangerous religion meme. Two good books I have read recently are:- 1) "The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ" by Philip Pullman 2)"The Second Coming" by John Niven

One other thing that greatly bothers me is that here in the UK, amongst the TV channels I subscribe to the is "God TV" which I find very objectionable, made more so by it sometimes featuring John Hagee, the American "Christian Zionist" Looking briefly at this "man" he reminds me of Hypnotoad from Futurama

Tue, 29 May 2012 19:18:58 UTC | #944287