National Academy of Sciences Tries to Beat Back Creationism

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Today the National Academy of Sciences released a tidy little monograph, Science, Religion and Creationism, that elegantly rebuts creationism and its latest intellectual excrescence, intelligent design. In particular, Chapter 2 of the monograph is a great introduction to the massive amounts of scientific evidence for biological evolution. The monograph also argues that there is no necessary conflict between science and religion. To wit:

Science and religion are based on different aspects of human experience. In science, explanations must be based on evidence drawn from examining the natural world. Scientifically based observations or experiments that conflict with an explanation eventually must lead to modification or even abandonment of that explanation. Religious faith, in contrast, does not depend only on empirical evidence, is not necessarily modified in the face of conflicting evidence, and typically involves supernatural forces or entities. Because they are not a part of nature, supernatural entities cannot be investigated by science. In this sense, science and religion are separate and address aspects of human understanding in different ways. Attempts to pit science and religion against each other create controversy where none needs to exist.

This formulation seems to mirror biologist Stephen Jay Gould's old "two non-overlapping magisteria" argument, i.e., religion and science don't conflict because their proper subject matters never come into direct conflict. Another way this has been put is: "Science tells us how the heavens go while religion tells us how to go to heaven." As I've written before, I have strong doubts that the two non-overlapping magisteria argument actually works.

In any case, I highly recommend directing any of your friends, family members and associates who want to learn more about biological evolution to Science, Religion and Creationism (which you can download free at the NAS website).

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  1. Ding Ding! round 1

  2. “two non-overlapping magisteria”

    I know Gould was trying not to offend people, but that argument only works if you really don’t actually belive that your religion is true…I mean literally true. This trope comes up time and time again and as someone who is very pro-science I think it is ridiculous.

  3. The theory of evolution and an old universe do conflict with fundamentalists who believe in a young universe and a literal garden of eden as depicted in genesis.

  4. This oughta be good for 270 posts.

    Let’s kick off with a Hitchen’s quote:

    “What is asserted without evidence may be disregarded without evidence.”

  5. that argument only works if you really don’t actually belive that your religion is true…I mean literally true.

    Here is a religion: God created the universe through natural laws and initial conditions. Praying to Him gets one into heaven.

    Doesn’t that religion falsify your statement?

  6. I wonder: what is it about evolution in particular that makes a certain breed of modern Christian go so nutty? The Bible, after all, contradicts many other scientific notions, like “the earth is round” or “we circle the sun rather than vice-versa,” and yet you don’t see big chunks of Christianity piss away its credibility on attempts to deny the shape of the earth or the layout of the solar system. Why is evolution different?

    Or maybe the question should be: if the Bible’s inaccuracy about things like the shape or location of the earth doesn’t bother the hyperfaithful, why should evolution? Why can’t the mental justifications they use to gloss over a round planet or an immobile (relative to us) sun apply to evolution as well?

  7. Oh god not this, in on the first screen.

  8. I really do highly recommend reading Chapter 2 of the monograph. One of the more accessible introductions to evolutionary biology, I’ve seen, up to and including, Gould’s essay, The Panda’s Thumb.

  9. big chunks of Christianity piss away its credibility

    Don’t you mean infallibity?

  10. Sounds more like the NAS is trying to shove at least SOME objections out the door.

    Locally, our school board (which at times has been just one vote shy of ordering Creationism taught in schools — yes, we have a lot of fundies down here) has actually had a pretty good track record of shooting down the “concerned parents” with the line “We teach science in science class. Religion gets taught in church. We find it’s best not to mix them.”

    Then they hand the parents the opt-out form for evolution and life moves on.

    Although honestly once they started checking to make sure the “concerned parents” actually had a child in the school district we had fewer complaints.

  11. Infallibility. Must. use. preview.

  12. Jennifer,

    The other biblical teachings you mention aren’t pointed to as the basis of a moral code or definition of what it means to be human.

    Creation stories exist for the purpose of expressing moral truths about who we are and how we are meant to live. By pointing to, say, women’s subordination to men as being rooted in how God created the world, it establishes that moral teaching’s legitimacy. Sort of like Jefferson using “endowed by their Creator” to point out that the rights he lists, and their inalienable nature, are non-negotiable and not subject to human alteration.

  13. Or maybe the question should be: if the Bible’s inaccuracy about things like the shape or location of the earth doesn’t bother the hyperfaithful, why should evolution? Why can’t the mental justifications they use to gloss over a round planet or an immobile (relative to us) sun apply to evolution as well?

    Those can easily be visibly proven retarded with a space ship and a camera. Evolution takes many, many generations. (Well, this is what I think at least, I could be completely wrong)That being said, why dog breeding alone doesn’t prove to that sort of people that its possible to change the way a set of animals look and act with some sort of selection on who breeds and who doesn’t I will never understand.

  14. “As I’ve written before, I have strong doubts that the two non-overlapping magisteria argument actually works.”

    I have doubts about that too. If your religion holds that the Bible is the ultimate authority, full stop, and science says that life wasn’t created in six days, then something’s gotta give.

    It’s like they’re saying that science and religion don’t necessarily have to conflict–so long as you’re willing to alter your religious beliefs in accordance with scientific knowledge. …not every religious tradition will allow for that.

    I’ve tried to present it to believers myself this way–your faith must not have much of a foundation if it can’t accommodate the real world around you.

  15. Where in the Book does is say the earth is flat and the center of the solar system? Was I asleep during that class?

  16. They shouldn’t put religion in science classes anymore than we should put science in Sunday school classes.

    Of course, I know of no example where a atheist sued a chruch to force them to include evolution at Sunday school. And they claim they are the ones being attacked.

  17. As a scientist (research process engineer) and a person of faith, I think the non-overlapping magisterial argument works very well. Mr. Bailey is wrong in thinking that the more we find out about the biological mechanisms of belief, the less room there is for religion. Just the opposite is true for me – the more detail I learn about the wonders of our universe, the more I believe in the majesty of God. The idea that God created a universe where everything we perceive today, and the way we perceive it, is a direct result of a few simple laws of physics, set in motion billions of years ago is truly impressive. This is beautifully elegant, much more so than the allegories of the bible.

    And for the record I am convinced that evolution is real, and that teaching intelligent design in any way that obfuscates students’ understanding of evolution would be a great disservice. ID should be kept in religion or philosophy classes.

  18. Religious conservatives don’t like evolution because they think that it 1. falsifies their religion, which must remain literally true in every on of its particulars or cease to be true in its entirety and in all senses, and 2. they think that there is no reason to be moral at all if we are not created by God, because it is our status as “God’s children,” created in him image that makes it incumbent upon us to respect ourselves and those around us.

    Probably more than Jennifer wanted to know, but I’ve read a bit about this from the theocons at National Review.

  19. .:

    most creationists I know will acknowledge “micro-evolution” like dog-breeding, but will say its impossible for jumps like single-cell -> multi-cell organisms or for the development of things like the eye and sexual reproduction. They say those things require an intelligent creator hence the whole ID thing.

  20. I hate to bring Jocko Homo into this, but very few real live creationists disregard evolution as a process. …the bible suggests that we’ve devolved ourselves.

  21. Why do we even bother to attempt reasoning with those that deny th FACT of evolution?

    Reason – Biblical Creationism. Does not compute.

    Again the question, Why do we bother? Wouldn’t mocking them be just as effective?

  22. As I’ve written before, I have strong doubts that the two non-overlapping magisteria argument actually works.

    As you wrote before, only about 2 paragraphs address your ‘anti argument’, and dont actually go very far in making the case.

    You cite extremely weak efforts so far in things like, “the God Gene” and evolutionary psychology that *may* directly conflict with ‘belief’, but admit that they arent close yet at providing anything practical.

    Rather than cite the weak argument against non-overlapping, why not go balls out and just make the case that religion (as in all of them) is eventually *replaceable* by science.

    Unless you can make an argument as to why/how this could happen, and why it would be to the good, it’s basically nitpicking at the fringes, and frankly less useful than Gould’s framework, where the metaphysical is left to the incense burners, and the physical to the bunsen burners.

    uugggh. i know, that was weak 🙂 It just rolled out that way.

  23. “This is beautifully elegant, much more so than the allegories of the bible.”

    What of those religious traditions that don’t see them as allegories?

    We may be parsing the terms “religion” and “faith” here. If you’re talking about investigating the God Hypothesis by applying the scientific method to God’s creation, then I’m not so sure you’re talking about the same thing Bailey’s talking about when he talks about “faith” and “religion”.

  24. “if the Bible’s inaccuracy about things like the shape or location of the earth doesn’t bother the hyperfaithful, why should evolution?”

    Most Intelligent Design folk will base their argument not on “…but the Bible tells us” but rather on moral grounds, e.g. if all life is the product of random chance and natural selection, then there’s no reason to have any morality at all and we should just kill handicapped people because of their genetic inferiority or something. I think evolution is a more touchy subject than the shape of the earth because it has implications for human nature. I’m not saying I agree, but I think that’s where a lot of these folks are coming from.

    Personally, I’m kind of curious about how fundamentalists of other religions view evolution. I mean, Jews have the same creation story as Christians, right? Yet the whole Darwinism thing doesn’t seem to bother them as much.

  25. Mr. Bailey, hating on the greens and IDers yet again today — full disclosure time, is Reason paying you by the number of comments generated? If so, pulling Ron Paul into an ID thread was genius on your part.

  26. Reason – the faculty, not the magazine – no matter how finely developed can only cause us to reject claims made by religion about the physical universe.

    Reason and science will never, ever, no matter what, be able to demonstrate that the sacramental wine does not become the blood of Christ in the essential manner while maintaining just the surface characteristics of wine, because reason and science can only address themselves to those surface characteristics.

  27. Fasula Jones | January 4, 2008, 2:12pm | #

    This person puts it pretty well. I think the anti-gould argument is more or less ‘picking a fight’ using weak science against what are broad and fuzzy concepts.

    FWIW, i’ve been pretty consistent on ragging on the “scientists pretending to be psychologists/sociologists/everything else” whole thing. Saying “republicans have X chromasome in Y location!” is basically screwed up in how the question is asked. It gets nowhere near causation and isnt exactly a science providing any utility in the forseeable future. Not saying it’s “none of the business of geneticists”… but simply pointing out the “so what?” factor of the studies they’ve done to date. If anything, it’s at the level of phrenology at the moment, and there’s nothing to get excited about.

  28. Where in the Book does is say the earth is flat and the center of the solar system? Was I asleep during that class?

    I don’t recall the exact book and verse, but it refers to the earth’s four corners (we’re not just flat, but square), and the famous story about God commanding the sun to stay still for a day.

    The other biblical teachings you mention aren’t pointed to as the basis of a moral code or definition of what it means to be human.

    And yet you could make the same argument about the location of the earth: if we humans are the pinnacle of creation, and the universe was made specifically for us, it makes perfect sense for us to be the center of the universe. But being one planet of many, circling a fair-to-middling sun that’s just one of millions of stars in a galaxy which itself is nothing special compared to other galaxies . . . I’m just thinking that any “amoral’ arguments that can be used against evolution could’ve been applied to astronomical matters back in the day.

  29. Personally, I’m kind of curious about how fundamentalists of other religions view evolution. I mean, Jews have the same creation story as Christians, right? Yet the whole Darwinism thing doesn’t seem to bother them as much.

    Fundie Jews and Muslims also regard evolution as false/heretical. Dunno about Hindus and Buddhists though.

  30. Jennifer,
    Thanks for the reply. I will look into it and get back to you.
    I know the roman church held such a stance, but can’t say if it was biblical.

  31. Jennifer,

    I agree that reducing the centrality of humanity in the universe can be seen as an indirect refutation of the premise that we are God’s special creation, and Gallileo almost lost his head over the matter, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be so. God can still be our creater, and we his special children, in a heliocentric solar system.

    However, if we are not created by God, we are not created by God, and there’s no way around it. If your red line is that humans were created by God in his own image, then you can learn to live with the Earth orbitting the Sun. You cannot learn to live with humanity not being created by God in his image.

  32. “intellegent design” is just another term for “genetic engineering.” Does the author believe in genetic engineering?

  33. “…but the Bible tells us” but rather on moral grounds, e.g. if all life is the product of random chance and natural selection, then there’s no reason to have any morality at all and we should just kill handicapped people because of their genetic inferiority or something.”

    I think you’re right in that people draw a lot of meaning from “knowing” where they came from and where they’re going. If we wait until everyone reacts the way we want them to to, what should we call it? …existential panic? …we’re gonna be waiting an awful long time.

    “I mean, Jews have the same creation story as Christians, right? Yet the whole Darwinism thing doesn’t seem to bother them as much.”

    I can’t speak for Jews but as someone who grew up around a lot of Protestant fundamentalists, I’d say that the literal interpretation of this myth is a function of the importance of the “priesthood of believers” idea. I think it’s a God put those words there in that order so we could understand him by reading it for ourselves kinda idea.

  34. most creationists I know will acknowledge “micro-evolution” like dog-breeding, but will say its impossible for jumps like single-cell -> multi-cell organisms or for the development of things like the eye and sexual reproduction. They say those things require an intelligent creator hence the whole ID thing.

    That would be true among the more “educated” evolution deniers, but it’s been my experience that a large number of them don’t even understand evolution or even natural selection.

    It’s quite common to hear them use arguments like this:

    “If we evolved from apes, why are there still apes around?”

  35. “That would be true among the more “educated” evolution deniers, but it’s been my experience that a large number of them don’t even understand evolution or even natural selection.”

    …and yet they can balance their checkbooks.

    Really, how often does the subject of natural selection come up in every day conversation?

  36. Jennifer, the creationist rebel against the FACT of evolution because they do not appreciate the fact that we are one of the apes, who evolved from monkeys, who evolved from other primates. Evolution implies that we aren’t special, the pinnacle of God’s creation, but simply part of a natural process that is ongoing as we speak.

    Questions that logically occur if you are a Christian and agree with evolution.
    Do chimpanzees have souls?
    Did Homo Erectus have souls?
    How about Neanderthals?
    What was Homo habilis’ relationship with God?

    We’re not “special” any more and that hurts. Hurts a lot to some people it appears.

  37. Wow, NAL.

    That makes “If the earth is warming, why is it snowing?” seem positively incisive.

  38. Personally, I’m kind of curious about how fundamentalists of other religions view evolution. I mean, Jews have the same creation story as Christians, right? Yet the whole Darwinism thing doesn’t seem to bother them as much.

    Judaism is more about law, as opposed to faith. You can be a good Jew if you follow the law, it doesn’t matter so much what you believe. Also, Jews traditionally are very big on scholarship and education, you can’t be well informed about biology and be a creationist.

  39. Really, how often does the subject of natural selection come up in every day conversation?

    Six a year, on average.

  40. Not every believer takes the Bible literally. I think of it more as a metaphor. Even things like the creation taking 7 days–who knows what a “day” means to God? Could be millions of years, for all we know. Scripture works much better when you go for the “spirit” of the law rather than the “letter.”

    This coming from a believer in both God and evolution. I personally think God was bound by the tenets of evolution as well as physics and chemistry when creating the earth.

    Just my $.02.

  41. Jennifer & brotherben:

    Revelation 7:1 After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth, so that no wind would blow on the earth or on the sea or on any tree.

    Is one reference.

    For a long time, the Temptation of Christ in Matthew (I think) had the Devil taking Christ onto a mountain and showing him “the four corners of the Earth” and offering to make Christ the ruler of it all if Christ would bow to him. I believe this translation has now been ‘corrected’.

  42. That makes “If the earth is warming, why is it snowing?” seem positively incisive.

    An excellent analogy.
    joe, I know you would never try to threadjack, but someone will likely jump on that.

  43. Couldn’t the “four corners of the Earth” just be referring to North, South, East, West? I don’t think it HAS to be interpreted to mean the earth is flat.

  44. “Questions that logically occur if you are a Christian and agree with evolution.
    Do chimpanzees have souls?
    Did Homo Erectus have souls?
    How about Neanderthals?
    What was Homo habilis’ relationship with God?”

    Some “Christians” might argue that, unlike Moses, they’re Christians in the sense that they follow and believe in the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. …and that much of the earlier myths provide context.

    I think most would concede that they don’t know the answers to those questions.

    Being a believer in human evolution and a fundamentalist Christian requires you to be really comfortable with uncertainty, I suspect.

  45. I don’t understand why evolution makes it so people aren’t special anymore. There are a lot of animals on the planet and we are one of the few that show abilities like being self-cognizant and arts and humor and politics and all the wonderful things we create.

    I’d say that’s pretty damn special.

  46. While I will take part in the discussion, I too will recognize that it is not necessary to make fun of creationists in a libertarian context because creationists do not *necessarily* want to force their opinion on the rest of us.

    Now…
    Who else here just has existential crises that manifest themselves every few months, take control, and then are put back away so that you can continue to function with the rest of society?

  47. There is no conflict so long as religious doctrines make no falisfiable claims about the universe. There is going to be a conflict in areas where such claims are made.

  48. The non-overlapping magesteria argument only works with a sort of ad-hoc religion that is not or only loosely based on the Bible or Koran or whatever. Yes, I can make up my own religion that says that everything we see in the world was put that way because of God..well sure, I mean God in this system becomes almost superflous.

  49. “I think of it more as a metaphor. Even things like the creation taking 7 days–who knows what a “day” means to God?”

    Or it could be indicative of the Zoroastrian influence, very heavy on the editors of the Bible, with it’s seven aspects of Ahura Mazda, each of which created…

    Or it is plausible, I suppose, that God actually created life on top of what had evolved already…

    It’s a lot easier to reinterpret the text than to ignore the science. …for me anyway. I guess a lot of people find it easier the other way around.

  50. How do psychedelics fit into this? doesnt the lsd experience prove god is real?

  51. Couldn’t the “four corners of the Earth” just be referring to North, South, East, West? I don’t think it HAS to be interpreted to mean the earth is flat.

    If you believe the Bible is the infallible word of God, it gets suspicious when you start insisting that whenever it isn’t, that just means God is speaking metaphorically.

    However, if we are not created by God, we are not created by God, and there’s no way around it.

    True, but even though I don’t believe in God, if he DID exist I figure his building skills would be a tad more sophisticated than those I displayed as a five-year-old molding Play-Doh; I could never make a clay wad “evolve” into an ashtray, but instead had to physically shape the stuff. But God could do much better than that.

    The Roman Catholics, as I understand it, don’t criticize evolution; they just have certain opinions about when “ensoulment” occurs, and this “ensoulment” is definitely a religious, not scientific, idea. No conflict there; you can believe in evolution AND ensoulment at the same time. I’m just amazed that the fundies don’t do something similar: don’t deny science, just explain why your religion can co-exist with it.

  52. The non-overlapping magesteria argument only works with a sort of ad-hoc religion that is not or only loosely based on the Bible or Koran or whatever. Yes, I can make up my own religion that says that everything we see in the world was put that way because of God..well sure, I mean God in this system becomes almost superflous.

    In the religion I posited, God is not superfluous. Praying to him gets one into heaven.

    JasonL put it very well. A religion that requires the belief that the sky is green and that water is corrosive to human skin will be believed only by the deluded. A religion that requires the belief that the earth was created 6000 years ago will be believed only by the uneducated or those faithfully willing to explain away science.

    But the multitude of scientists and engineers who have religious beliefs pretty much proves that there are religious beliefs — in no way “ad-hoc” — that are consistent with science. These people are neither idiots nor deluded. They do not deny the evidence or theories of science. They simply accept that there are things that can be believed that are beyond the reach of science. And they, understandably, make sure that science and their religious beliefs don’t contradict each other.

  53. Folks, I’m just going to throw it out right here: the platypus. There’s really no good evolutionary explanation for this animal. By the same token, it also debunks ID. No, while it doesn’t explicitly rule out creationism, I really shudder to think what it might say about the creator. It may lend support to polytheistic views featuring a “trickster god” such as Loki. In conclusion, I think we really need to put our heads together and come up with an entirely new explanation for everything, ‘cuz clearly something out there ain’t right.

  54. doesnt the lsd experience prove god is real?

    No, the LSD experience just proves that perspective can feel like an illusion.

  55. The fundies didn’t do that, Jennifer, because they don’t believe that there is a sphere of life that is not subordinate to religion.

    Catholicism came into being under circumstances where you’d damn well better be able to acknowledge authority other than your religion.

    Evangelical Protestantism did not.

  56. James,

    God in that scenario is only superfluous in explaining facts about the physical universe. He remains central to explaining morality and metaphysics.

  57. “If you believe the Bible is the infallible word of God, it gets suspicious when you start insisting that whenever it isn’t, that just means God is speaking metaphorically.”

    I dunno. Sometimes it talks about beasts coming out of the sea with talking horns and stuff. Sometimes there’s a statue with legs of iron.

    Sometimes Jesus himself speaks metaphorically.

    It’s the “infallible” part that gives us the trouble. Protestants got all bent out of shape about a pope being infallible and went and made something else infallible instead. …originally, I think they just meant that it was the ultimate authority–rather than the Pope specifically–and like most things, the distinction was lost over time. …either that or the illiterate boneheads of the time just never really understood the distinction.

  58. “In the religion I posited, God is not superfluous. Praying to him gets one into heaven.”

    Uh yeah…but this sounds like a religion of your own making.

  59. …you can’t be well informed about biology and be a creationist.

    You’d think. I had a microbiology professor who is an orthodox jew. He told us that he believed the earth was about 6,000 years old. He didn’t sound particularly convinced though.

  60. The platypus proves that god’s LSD experience was real.

  61. “God in that scenario is only superfluous in explaining facts about the physical universe.

    If God can be so inept at explaining the facts about the physical universe how can we believe that he has any vailidity in expressing truths about the moral and ethical universe? Sounds like a rather un-impressive God.

  62. James,

    Catholicism teaches that the Bible is the inspired word of God, given to mortal men.

    The devil didn’t take Jesus to the mountaintop to teach him geography. The Author was making a point, and made it in language his audience would understand.

  63. Uh yeah…but this sounds like a religion of your own making.

    Throw in Jesus as God’s son born as man who died and ascended to heaven, and change “praying to him” into “accepting him as your savior”, and you have the essentials of mainstream Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, etc., theology.

    None of these, to my knowledge, deny science or evolution. Do you think they do?

  64. In any case, I highly recommend directing any of your friends, family members and associates who want to learn more about biological evolution to Science, Religion and Creationism (which you can download free at the NAS website).

    How about loony-bin Republican presidential candidates?

  65. What bothers me about maintaining a deep religious faith and a respect for science in the same head is that, to me at least, it seems you have to compartmentalize not evidence and descriptions of the universe, but more importantly the process for attaining knowledge. I just don’t know how someone who accepts the premises of skeptical empiricism can suspend those premises on an ad hoc basis. The philosophical notion that drives you to withhold belief in a theory until it can be verified should also drive you to discount the presence of cosmic judges based on an authoritarian text.

    In other words, I can see how religion and science can coexist in one’s brain, but I do believe that there is some philosophical hanky panky required. You just have to say that you are going to be skeptical of all claims except those of a certain flavor you happen to like.

  66. Something I’ve always wondered –
    what is the explanation for Jesus being God’s “only” son? I mean, it’s not like he couldn’t just impregnate some other woman if he wanted to. Or couldn’t he?
    I just don’t get it. Did Jesus allegedly exist before he was “born of the Virgin Mary?”

    I need to go back and read that bible again so I can be ready for the “are you an American or a Terrorist test” that will be issued by President Huckabee.

  67. You see however there are problems with this when you think systematically about theology…death was supposed to enter the world with sin, and before that no death (according to the Bible). However evolution is full of death, it is all about death and competition and survival of the fittest. The more you begin to think logically about these so-called spiritual truths, the lest credibility this religion has…now if God did reveal himself though a book, I would expect a far more impressive understanding of the world.

  68. “The philosophical notion that drives you to withhold belief in a theory until it can be verified should also drive you to discount the presence of cosmic judges based on an authoritarian text.”

    For some people, I don’t think it’s based on just an authoritarian text. They may take the Sermon on the Mount and apply it to their own lives, to whatever degree, and I think they basically test it–day in, day out. …and if they stay true to their uncertainty, I don’t see a necessary contradiction there.

  69. “Catholicism teaches that the Bible is the inspired word of God, given to mortal men.”

    …and that it’s the Catholics’ job to keep it away from them!

    *clown horn*

  70. Reinmoose,

    Huckabee is planning to drop the “A” because words that start with a vowel are “foreignish” (his phrase, not mine.) So technically you will taking a “Are You A ‘Merican or a Terrorist Test.” Proper pronunciation will help you pass in polite society.

    I personally don’t think most of the vocal Evangelicals really give two shits in a paper cup about evolution, it’s just a line in the sand they decided to draw in the 80s (like their historically recent obsession with abortion.) If they could still gin up outrage bitching about Elvis the Pelvis, the Friday rock music bon-fires would continue to be all the rage.

  71. give em time. it’ll be back

  72. Ken:

    I think it is hard to deny that in doing so, you are swallowing far more than your empirical skepticism would permit. Your tests aren’t controlled, the outcomes are inconclusive, there are too many variables, what are you testing exactly, and so forth. What is significant to me is that the essence of why you believe an airplane will fly has been is in conflict with your belief that you will rise from the dead.

    If one were trying to come up with a theory of knowledge concerning the sermon on the mount, it would be pretty thin stuff by comparison. So long as there is no harm to the lower order belief(on the scale of stardards met), everything is fine. I become concerned when there is a conflict or when people forget that the their particular religious belief is underivable.

  73. Couldn’t the “four corners of the Earth” just be referring to North, South, East, West? I don’t think it HAS to be interpreted to mean the earth is flat.

    In the language of the time, “North, South, East, West” were referred to as the “four quarters” of the Earth.

    ‘Quarters’ had a much broader meaning than ‘corners’.

    As Jennifer points out, it gets suspicious that whenever something that was formerly taken literally is shown to be not possibly true in the literal sense, it is reinterpreted as a metaphor.

    But for outright contradiction, read the geneologies of Christ given in the Gospels. They are irreconcilable.

  74. James wrote, “Yes, I can make up my own religion that says that everything we see in the world was put that way because of God..well sure, I mean God in this system becomes almost superflous.”

    I disagree that this makes God superfluous. My favorite idea in physics is Heisenburg’s uncertainty principle. I think it allows me to believe that God can have a hand in our everyday lives, and we would never be able to observe it. The idea is basically that God knows whether Schrodinger’s Cat is alive or dead, and further that He can choose which state the cat is in when the box is opened.

  75. Your tests aren’t controlled, the outcomes are inconclusive, there are too many variables, what are you testing exactly, and so forth.

    You left off alternate explanations, but, yeah, massive uncertainty.

    “What is significant to me is that the essence of why you believe an airplane will fly is in conflict with your belief that you will rise from the dead.”

    I’m not sure I understand that last bit correctly, but if you’re suggesting that they don’t know that they’ll rise from the dead like they know that a plane will take off from the runway, you’re right.

    It’s a big leap from Jesus being right about how I should live my life to whether or not I will actually be resurrected. …again, we’re talking about massive uncertainty, and I think we’re probably in agreement about those who are sure of that stuff.

    There are a lot of Christians who talk about “faith” as being a state of absolute certainty, and I think you’re right about them being in conflict with their reasoning faculty. …but there’s another bunch of Christians who when they talk about “faith” are talking about uncertainty, and I don’t think their beliefs are necessarily in conflict with their ability to reason.

    They don’t know for sure that they’re right.

  76. greek- gonia, an angle: corner, quarter.
    same word, read it as you wish.

  77. About the evolution of the platypus, I found this: http://www.amonline.net.au/factsheets/platypus.htm

    Even if you can’t answer a tricky question about evolution, you can always fallback and say “There’s got to be at least 1 PhD candidate looking into that.”

  78. I believe you are all arguing over a moot point. God is dead. Nietzsche double tapped him between the eyes.

  79. JasonL,

    I just don’t know how someone who accepts the premises of skeptical empiricism can suspend those premises on an ad hoc basis.

    Prove to me that Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” is beautiful, using the premises of skeptical empiricism. You do agree that it is beautiful, right?

    I don’t think compartmentalizing methods for attaining knowledge is that difficult.

  80. but he’ll rise again.
    done it afore.
    no worries

  81. Even if you can’t answer a tricky question about evolution, you can always fallback and say “There’s got to be at least 1 PhD candidate looking into that.”

    And the answer will appear eventually. When creationists point to the unanswered questions as evidence against evolution they just set themselves up.

  82. “Prove to me that Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” is beautiful, using the premises of skeptical empiricism. You do agree that it is beautiful, right?”

    Right. Except I can’t help but note that in one case you are applying an asethetic adjective and in the other you are claiming some sort of truth. To the extent that you don’t claim religion is a path to either truth or knowledge, there will be no problem.

  83. The reasoning part of my brain always gets in the way of me believing in anything 100%. If I’m interpreting this correctly, that means that I can’t really have *faith* in something because I have doubts and unanswerable questions (it’s not that I can’t put away my doubts, but it’s that I even have them).

    Then I wonder, why would a god who required of me that I have absolute faith in him not give me the capacity to do so.

    It usually goes downhill from there.

  84. Then I wonder, why would a god who required of me that I have absolute faith in him not give me the capacity to do so.

    That is just satan getting in the way. There are procedures you can have done to fix that one.

  85. Then I wonder, why would a god who required of me that I have absolute faith in him not give me the capacity to do so.

    Isn’t that Free Will?

    (I haven’t been a theist since I was 13 or so, so I could have it wrong.)

  86. Do athiests not have free will?

    no I am not trying to be snarky, just trying to understand a set of beliefs different from mine.

  87. My sister and I were talking about science and god just this morning and she told me that she was worried about my soul. I explained that I appreciate the concern and prayers, but have (in my opinion, anyway) very good reasons for walking away from the church and god. The discussion was long, healthy and respectful and while I’m an unbeliever, I really do love that she cares to share her spiritual experience with me.

    My questions to her were (in part) based on what we know about the Bible. I’m no theologian, but my understanding is that the books of the New Testament were either assembled by a council designed for that purpose or by the church over time. Either way, there is now evidence that there were texts excluded either with purposeful intent or ignorance of their existence. Knowing that, how can one claim the Bible to be the inerrant word of the one true God? Since my mind and heart sincerely believe that governments and religions only seek to control mankind, I question that a book assembled by one or both is the true word. In short, if one is to even entertain the argument that there is a god or devil, how can you be sure that the Bible, as assembled, is not the work of a devil seeking to finally and fully enslave man? If there’s a benevolent god, why wouldn’t he fully expect and even reward our doubt?

    BTW, my sister is newly “born again” and she had a very profound experience. She believes evolution and ID aren’t incompatible and is happy to accept that there are things she just can’t understand.

  88. I would imagine that some people need more evidence than others to make that leap. So are people who require more evidence therefore less moral?

  89. I wonder, why would a god who required of me that I have absolute faith in him not give me the capacity to do so.”

    Faith isn’t about absolute certainty.

    The Christianity of Kierkegaard and Tillich and even Auden wasn’t about certainty, and I think it avoided the inherent inconsistency Jason was talking about. …at least as far as I can tell. They all seem to have embraced a certain amount of uncertainty.

    So long as it doesn’t involve me, by the way, I don’t care much about what most other people believe, but I have noticed that those who want to inflict their beliefs on the rest of us often seem to be the ones who are most sure of themselves.

    God save us all from certainty.

  90. God save us all from certainty.

    Amen 🙂

  91. Why is it that the same people who shit nickels every time somebody utters a prayer at a public high school have no problem with a tax supported government agency rebutting creationism?

    I don’t care if it’s truth or patent medicine, the got dam government has no business using my tax money to propagate anything. So, you’ll have to pardon my lack of enthusiasm for yet another “official” proclamation of truth.

  92. Wine: The NAS is private.

  93. Well, Ron, don’t I feel like two cents waiting for change. Erase, Erase, Erase. And don’t tell Mrs TWC.

    We learned in HS that NAS was created by Lincoln during the civil war so I naturally assumed that it was a group of government agencies that operated in a similar fashion to CDC.

  94. Why is it that the same people who shit nickels every time somebody utters a prayer at a public high school have no problem with a tax supported government agency rebutting creationism?

    My sis mentioned prayer in school and was pissed that it’s not allowed. It took a minute to explain that private prayer is allowed but there are a lot of jackasses that sue anytime the word “god” is mentioned. The money spent on both sides is a ridiculous waste.

  95. Michelle, there was never a prayer uttered in any public school I ever attended except by the football team before each game. It didn’t help, they still lost every game. 🙂 I’m quite sure that pre-game, kneeling prayer, would never be allowed in today’s America.

    As many people here know (some don’t) I’m not religious. However, I take a view of Amendment One that is a little different. Ain’t nothing in that Amendment that says anything like …..or prohibit the free exercise thereof, except in government owned schools.

    It’s something like the In God We Trust thread the other day. People are having a cow about a motto on a coin when the coin isn’t even worth what it cost to mint it (rank hyperbole, I know).

    The emphasis is misplaced. The problem is the inflated currency not some slogan that nobody pays the slightest bit of attention to.

    And in the case, of prayer in school, the problem is public schools, not the prayer itself.

  96. TWC,
    I should preface every comment I make with this disclosure, “I’m dealing with a family crisis that’s consumed my heart and mind to the point that I’m only here as a respite from it. My comments may be more out there than is usually the case.”

  97. “Do athiests not have free will?”

    Atheists are all 100% programmed at birth. Now, the question that’s really going to bake your noodle is: By whom?

  98. Michelle, My comments may be more out there than is usually the case.”

    Not at all–always happy to see you drop by.

    I hope you didn’t think I was beating you up, because that wasn’t the case at all. I was just babbling along, trying to divert attention from my own ignorant ranting. 🙂

    That’s the trouble with this dam medium anyway, sometimes it’s hard to read the intent (well, except for Edwierd)

  99. Meant to also say, Michelle, sorry to hear about the family stuff, which can be ever so gut wrenching.

  100. And, I actually meant to say that I didn’t know prayer in school was a problem, because it never occured in any public school I attended during my wasted yoot. An important part of my meandering that I left out.

  101. Overexplaining. Again. Walk away, TWC. Do it now. Go. The water is muddied enough.

  102. Hehe, we’re both dipshits online at H&R on a Friday night. ;o)

    Thanks about the family stuff. It’s gonna work itself out; I think the doc is sick of the business of medicine and is searching his heart for a next stage in life career.

    There’s some good news. My daughter and son-in-law just told me that I’m going to get a new girl to dote on.

  103. My House Blond and her friend Hailey are singing along to Hannah Montana on the Wii. In Moscow. Loudly.

    Sorry your mister is disillusioned. I know a surgeon who invented that blood staunching bandage. He’s planting a huge Pinot vineyard in Oregon. Talk about a perfect next stage.

    Cool about the new little girl.

  104. I personally don’t think most of the vocal Evangelicals really give two shits in a paper cup about evolution, it’s just a line in the sand they decided to draw in the 80s (like their historically recent obsession with abortion.)

    Yeah. For half a century or more before 1975, bio-evolution had been basically uncontroversial. They just looked around for something they could dredge up to be contrarian, and did.

  105. Robert,

    There are hundreds of ways that basic science chips away at religion, but most Evangelicals either ignore the science or metaphor out the passage of the Bible that it contradicts. That they 1) picked the most allegorical and least archaeologically supported of the books (Genesis) and 2) decided to raise up a giant well-funded edifice of pseudo-science called creationism (let’s not fool ourselves about ID being anything different) to support it means that they have drawn a line in the sand.

    That this intensified in the 1980s has more to do with the rise of the Moral Majority and the emboldening of Southern Theo-Conservatives. I was not suggesting they just started to have an objection to evolution in the last 30 years, only when they seemed to order that there be no more retreat on the subject.

  106. JasonL,

    “Starry Night” is beautiful is a true statement.

  107. TWC, when I was in 7th grade, the math teacher would read the Bible to the class. yes, public school. yes, the south. he claimed the assistance principal okayed it, as long as he wasn’t “teaching” religion. just thought I’d throw that out there.

    also, from the NAS book that is the subject of this post:

    “The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society to which distinguished scholars are
    elected for their achievements in research, and is dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use
    for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate
    to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. The Institute of Medicine was established in
    1970 by the National Academy of Sciences as both an honorific and a policy research organization, to which members are
    elected on the basis of their professional achievement and commitment to service in the examination of policy matters
    pertaining to the health of the public.
    The National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine are each governed by an elected council. The NAS Council
    is responsible for honorific aspects of the NAS and for the corporate management of the organization. The IOM Council
    oversees the study activities of the Institute, as well as matters pertaining to the IOM membership. The members of both
    councils reviewed, revised, and approved this document.”

  108. …even if the NAS were gov’t funded, wouldn’t it be nice to have a citizenry that understood certain things about reality (aka science)?

    The lunacy of libertarianism is assuming a “free-market” society/economy with the bulk of the population scientific illiterates will magically outperform a socialist society/economy that insists basic science and technology be learned by the entire populace.

    In other words, if the ID ninnies take over in the US, we’ll still automatically have better biotech than China or Korea. Yeah, riiight….

  109. TO Jennifer’s astute question:
    …if the Bible’s inaccuracy about things like the shape or location of the earth doesn’t bother the hyperfaithful, why should evolution?

    I submit that there is a directed campaign led by the Discovery Institute to challenge the materialstic nature of science, which DI in its own words sees as a danger to humanity. Evolution purports to explain human existence without causal or moral significance. DI attributes all of the moral decline of our civilization to materialstic naturalism, which views the universe without the workings of a deity. What is odd about DI is that they are so sloppy and hypocritical in their approach, they espouse exactly those methods they criticize, and appear ready to lie and malign others to defend a literal-Christian worldview of existence.

  110. I believe we are experiencing conditions in our society, where a majority of the population does not enjoy a rational and solid understanding of science. For example, most people cannot distinguish Hollywood-type special effects from real physics of motion, and thereby recognize what they are seeing is illusion and not possible. Our media also gingerly tip-toes on topics of science and technology, fearing to educate or make an audience feel ignorant of a given topic, which would adversely affect ratings and profit.

  111. “””if one is to even entertain the argument that there is a god or devil, how can you be sure that the Bible, as assembled, is not the work of a devil seeking to finally and fully enslave man? If there’s a benevolent god, why wouldn’t he fully expect and even reward our doubt?””””

    I’m gonna use that one.

    When the religous take up causes such as ID, I say it’s a crisis not of the American public’s faith, but of the level of faith within those religious people. They feel evolution is a threat to their faith, which it is not since the level of faith God demands requires an unmoveable belief.

    A real person of faith would say, “I believe in God and the words in the bible so strongly that your science can not move my belief”

  112. Some people who are commenting on this blog may be doing so without having had the opportunity to read our book, “Science, Evolution, and Creationism.” This conversation might be enhanced and clarified by reading the book online or downloading it in pdf for free at http://www.nap.edu/sec.

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