God, Or Some Of His Followers Anyway, V. Evolution

NPR has had some interesting stories about the latest battles.

First this one:

The first public display of a nearly complete human skeleton — expected later this year — will pit scientists against Kenya’s evangelical movement. The evolution/creationism battle has arrived in a country known as the cradle of mankind.

Then “God, Darwin & Dixie” a three part series by our local station, WBHM. Here’s part one, here’s part two. Part three will be tomorrow.

The local story involves our state’s anti-evolution stickers, which helped earn us an “F” on the Fordham Foundation’s State of State Science Standards report:

Similar and more serious faults are to be found in the life science standards. Most distressing, however, is the long statement provided in the preface to this entire document:

The theory of evolution by natural selection, a theory included in this document, states that natural selection provides the basis for the modern scientific explanation for the diversity of living things. Since natural selection has been observed to play a role in influencing small changes in a population, it is assumed, based on the study of artifacts, that it produces large changes, even though this has not been directly observed. Because of its importance and implications, students should understand the nature of evolutionary theories. They should learn to make distinctions among the multiple meanings of evolution, to distinguish between observations and assumptions used to draw conclusions, and to wrestle with the unanswered questions and unresolved problems still faced by evolutionary theory.

Although this is focused on evolution, and it paraphrases the “critiques” of evolutionary biology currently advanced by “intelligent design” creationism, it quite effectively derogates every branch of science. (There are, for example, many basic, “unanswered questions” about the fundamental forces of nature. Do we, for this reason, warn students to be suspicious of, or to “wrestle with,” the “unresolved problems” of physics?) The Alabama preface sows confusion and offers a distorted view of what science is and how it is pursued. The quoted paragraph is preceded by mention of Copernicus, Newton, and Einstein, all physicists or astronomers; it then launches into an attack by misdirection on (evolutionary) biology. The statement is obviously of political, rather than scientific inspiration, and it reinforces the grade of “F.”

Both stories are well worth a listen.

Personally, I have no problems with someone who objects to evolution. I don’t think a faith that ignores reality is much of a faith, but hey, that’s just me. Where I draw the line is attempts by the anti-evolution crowd to insert their religious beliefs into science classes.

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20 Comments on “God, Or Some Of His Followers Anyway, V. Evolution”

  1. Kathy Says:

    I just have to shake my head at the this quote:

    “I did not evolve from Turkana Boy or anything like it,” says Bishop Boniface Adoyo, head of Kenya’s 35 evangelical denominations, which he claims have 10 million followers. “These sorts of silly views are killing our faith.”

    Then your faith must be pretty weak to start with. What is it with people who can believe that God (or the devil) would plant evidence of evolution in order to test our faith but who can’t believe that God’s concept of time might not be the same as ours?

  2. wheeler Says:

    from the same article:

    “Bishop Adoyo believes the world was created 12,000 years ago, with man appearing 6,000 years later. He says each biblical day was equivalent to 1,000 Earth years.”

    well, o.k. that’s fine. i don’t get why he thinks its permissible to equate the word “day” with 1,000 years, but not to go ahead and read the whole story as an allegory. but whatever.

    this is the real problem:

    “Turkana Boy will be displayed in a private room, with limited access and behind a glass screen with 24-hour closed-circuit TV. Security guards will be at the entrance.

    ‘There are issues about the security,’ said Dr. Emma Mbua, the head of paleontology at the museum. ‘These fossils are irreplaceable and we wouldn’t want anything to happen to them.’

    Insurance coverage could run into millions of dollars, she added.”

    if his faith requires him to deny reality, fine. but trying to force the rest of us to be equally childish is outrageous.

  3. Kathy Says:

    Ah — I missed that part. I guess he also believes Adam and Eve rode dinosaurs to church, with their KJVs tucked under their arms.

    “this is the real problem:”

    Yep — trying to keep the general population from making its own informed evaluation by suppressing the evidence, apparently out of fear that seeing it will destroy someone’s faith. This man must think God is pretty weak.

  4. Dan Says:

    Ah… the King James Bible. If it was good enough for Jesus, it’s good enough for me.

  5. Kathy Says:

    “Ah… the King James Bible. If it was good enough for Jesus, it’s good enough for me.”

    Exactly! 🙂

  6. tom hubbard Says:

    It is deeper than evolution. It is our world view. Do we live in a magical world populated by gods and devils, saints and demons, witches, vampires,angels??? Do we live in a natural world which is pretty much as it appears. The beauty of a magical world is that if we pray hard enough anything is possible. The horror of a magical world is that god will reward me with 77 virgins for eternity if I’ll just blow myself up along with a bunch of other people. If someone says “god says>>” you fill in the blanks there is little objective evidence to dispute their claim. Like Noah being told by god to build an ark. You can’t prove that god didn’t visit Noah. In a natural world you expect reason and evidence to sort fact from fiction. In a magical world anything is possible. I don’t believe Darwin because he said that evolution exists. I believe Darwin because he present reasonable arguments and a lot of evidence. But Darwin isn’t god and he can be questioned and might be wrong. Give me reasonable arguments and evidence and I’ll believe something else. For all of the attention it’s recieved Darwin’s book was pretty dry reading.

  7. MCF Says:

    Why don’t non-believers capitalize the proper noun “God”? Would they write “santa claus”?

  8. tom hubbard Says:

    I guess that if you are a believer then you are a monotheist and god is referring to one particular supernatural being. But if you are a non-believer god is more of a concept and there are many gods that have been worshiped over the years. Right now in the USA when you speak of god it is Jesus. But if you are a jew or a muslim then jesus is either a fake or a prophet. I had a friend from japan and his father was a budist priest so when he talked of god it was different than when the average american talks of god. Now I did have a hindu friend from india and he accepted Jesus as god but in his concept of god god was Brahma. Brahma can take many forms and Jesus is just one of those forms. Buda is sometimes represented as a supernatural being but sometimes as an enlightened human. I’m not sure exactly when a supernatural being becomes a god. Surely a superpowerful genie might be considered a god by simple people living in a remote village. I’d bet 300 years ago a man that could control nuclear cruise missles could establish himself as a god by blowing up a few cities. Leaders in the past always wanted to consolidate their power by claiming divinity. Even fairly recently Hirohito was supposed to be descended from the sun god. A jewish friend and I talked about god quite a bit. He is absolutely sure of two things. 1. His jewish god is real beyond doubt. 2. Jesus is a fake because god doesn’t have sex with humans. Jesus also goes against the jewish concept of monotheism. There can only be one god if you are a monotheist. To him if you accept Jesus then there are two gods. Also if you accept that god has sex with humans you revert to pagan beliefs. To the greeks and romans it was only natural that gods lust after humans. Look at Hercules!!! Satan is an interesting concept. To the jews who are monotheists satan doesn’t exist as an independent being. To some christians and muslims satan is independent and at war with god. The never ending battle of good versus evil. Also hell doesn’t exist. God loves his jewish children and would never send them to hell to be punished for eternity. He punishes his children but only to make them better. Once his children are punsihed enough for their sins and become better then they can go to heaven. My brain is far to feeble to decide who is right. Raised a Baptist I’m fond of Jesus. I guess that is the problem with religion. Almost everyone believes as they were raised. If you are a raised a baptist surrounded by baptists the n baptists are right. If you are raised a Jew surrounded by Jews then Judaism is right. An atheist raised an atheist surrounded by atheists might regard all belivers in the supernatural as being silly. Just as I can’t fully grasp why Shia and Sunni Muslims are so hot to kill each other. Just like in Ireland exactly why are the protestants and catholics killing each other??? Religion can be so silly. My father was a Methodist and he and Mom usde to fight over baptism. Mom swore that if you weren’t submerged in water you weren’t baptised. Whereas Dad beleived sprinkling a little water on your head was a baptism. Also more importantly dad believed that alcohol was alright. Whereas Mom believed that drinking was a sin. Mom’s brand of baptist was very much fire and brimstone and sinners burn forever. Believers vary greatly in what they believe. I think that the fire and brimestone god has mostly been replaced by the sugar daddy god. If you listen to some of the preachers on TV all you have to do is pray to become a millionaire. In my fire and brimstone upbringing you should pray in a closet so only god knows that you are praying and to pray for anything material was a sin. The only acceptable things to pray for was other people’s well being and to be a better Christian. To pray for a new bicycle would surely put me into hell. To pray publicly was praying for other people’s favor and god ignores those prayers.

  9. wheeler Says:

    “If you listen to some of the preachers on TV all you have to do is pray to become a millionaire.”

    joel olsteen is my hero. i wish i was him.

  10. MCF Says:

    Whether you capitalize “God” has nothing to do with your beliefs. It’s a matter of grammar — it’s a proper noun, unless you speak of “a god.”

  11. tom hubbard Says:

    I did a Yahoo search and it does seem as if there is disagreement about the capitalization of god. Allah , Jesus and Yaweh should be capitalized as you are talking about a specific god. But in the context of god verus evolution are we talking about a specific god? Don’t most religions have creation myths? The Hindu god Brahma is dreaming all of this anyway. The universe only exists as Brahma’s dream and will come to an end when he awakens. So if Brahma dreams of Darwin who writes of evolution ,does Brahma believe in evolution? It makes my head spin. Even tricker is if Brahma dreams of Yaweh who believes he is the only god does Brahma disappear? We won’t even think about the only way to the father is through the son if the father and son are the same god. Now I am getting dizzy!!!


  12. I’m a Christian and a world religion freak, so I figured I’d address a few things.

    With the God/god question… All you have to do is read the Bible for the explaination. It goes back to the Jewish respect for God’s name. It was considered so sacred (and still is) that it was never said, with the exception of one high priest on the holiest day of they year. He would enter the innermost sanctum of the temple where the Ark of the Covenent was held and pray for the sins of the city. At that point, he would utter the name of God. We still do not know what that name is. Some say Jehova and others say Yahweh, but nobody is certain. Because we consider the name of God sacred, we should not say it or even write it. Rather, we call him God (as a proper name). Similarly, the name of Christ was not written for a long time. The Greek “Xristos” was downsized to the letter X, or Chi, out of partial respect and partial fear for life and limb. Thus, the terms Xmas and Xian were born. The people who get offended by “taking the Christ out of Christmas” from Xmas every year simply have no clue, yet they display that fish on their cars, not realizing that it ties in with the “X” thing.

    Technically, Allah, Jesus, and Yahweh are the same god, depending on what religion you follow. Allah is merely the Arabic translation of the word “god”, but Muslims refer to the same god that Jews serve, since they refer to him as the “god of Abraham.” Both groups are decended from Abraham– Jews are decended from Isaac, and Muslims are decended from Ishmael. Jesus is viewed as an incarnation of that same god, or god as man. His role is debated in Judaism and Islam. Some consider him a prophet but not the “son of god.”

    Any preacher who tells you that you will become a millionaire by praying doesn’t read his Bible very much or very well. There are, however, over 800 passages in the Bible that deal with personal finance, and they’re pretty effective. Most of them tell you to stay out of debt.

    Buddhism is a non-theistic religion. It focuses on personal enlightenment, not service of a god. There are some Hindus (and other religions), however, that work Buddhism into their own religion. It’s possible that that Buddhist referring to a “god” was referring to Vishnu. Buddha is seen as one of his incarnations, like Krishna.

    The existence of a god (or gods) has been proven using mathmatics and quantum physics. Basically, you have to consider the limitations of human perception. We are incapable of observing a fifth or higher dimension. (Fouth dimension is time.) It’s like a 2D object in a 2D world trying to view a sphere. All it would observe is a circle. And a 3D entity would appear to have god-like abilities, such as being able to “teleport” objects outside of their containers into other areas and touch the “insides” of 2D beings. The 3D entity itself would have the ability to view many things in the 2D world (much more than the 2D perception allows) without himself being seen. So, if the 2D entity is incapable of fully perceiving the 3D entity, does the 3D entity exist? Is an electron the smallest particle that exists because we don’t have the tools to view smaller ones? Or perhaps we do have the means to view an outer entity, but we’ve yet to discover those means.

    That brings us to science. I happen to not like evolution because it seems a bit shaky. There are some questions that seem to me to be unanswered, and for some reason people are just fine and dandy leaving them unanswered and unexplored, but I don’t believe that it shouldn’t be taught. I don’t think alternate theories should be taught for two reasons: 1. There aren’t any viable alternates, yet. 2. Getting into advanced mathmatics and quantum physics is way too advanced for school children. As lawyers, many of you are familiar with trying to create a case based on circumstantial evidence. Many cases for scientific theories, including evolution, are just that. If you are a scientist, and you have complete and utter faith that everything you know and understand about how the world works according to scientific theory, then you are a bad scientist. A good scientist, one that makes important discoveries, goes from an assumption that everything he “knows” today could be complete and utter crap. There was once a time when the theory that meat breeds maggots could have been proven via scientific method. But we all know today that the experiment was flawed because the perception and foresight did not exist to cover up the freaking meat. That’s why I take such offense to people who act as if evolutionary theory is written in stone. It makes them no better than people who follow a religion without asking questions. I take offense to “blind” faith in any form.

    So I think that there should be a disclaimer on science books, but I don’t think it should address evolution specifically. I think it should read something like this:

    “Within this book is the truth as we know it today. The beauty of science, however, is that it is ever-changing. We can use new and better tools to discover new things. Therefore, there is a good chance that something you read here may be completely different someday. Ask questions, and look for answers.”

  13. tom hubbard Says:

    Science is a process. You combine reason with facts. Hopefully you come up with the most likely truth. Religion is belief mostly not supported by facts. Look at the bible. Most of it is old folk tales handed down for generations before someone finally wrote down the legends. Even the New Testament’s origins are a bit obscure. now the Koran’s origins are known. Written by one man “inspired” by god. Same with the Morman’s. Supposedly god gave Smith a golden document but was too cheap to let him keep the original. The Church of Scientology was basically created by the science fiction writer L . Ron Hubbard. I’m sure Hubbard will become more god like if his religion survives for a 100 years or so.

  14. tom hubbard Says:

    ” I am satisfied and sufficently occupied with the things which are,without tormenting or troubling myself about those which may indeed be but of which I have no evidence” Thomas Jefferson

    The problem with gods is that there is no evidence of their existence. Reason seems to suggest that men create gods not that gods create men. As for extreme physics it does tend to become more philosophical and less scientific. Maybe it’s just the science getting ahead of technology. Both Darwin and Mendle knew nothing about the physical nature of “genes”. Before Watson and Crick genes were thought to be proteins. The cellular nature of life awaited the microscope to be discovered. When there is evidence reason can be brought into the conversation. Where is the evidence that a god exists?? That is the emptiness of saying that god created the universe. The next question should be “where did god come from??” Saying that he has always existed is not an answer. I do not have a clue as to the origin of the universe. I doubt that science will have a good answer in my lifetime. Saying that god created the universe adds nothing. Just like saying god created man adds nothing. evolution may very well be wrong. But it does provide a mechcanism and has abundant facts. It is cool that modern molecular genetics is providing facts to fine tune the mechanisms of evolution.
    One last thing about the bible. It provides no information about the world that wasn’t known by the locals. No mention of the vast snow covered regions of the planet. No mention that we are on a planet,. No mention of the Americas and the civilization of the Mayans. If it truely came from god wouldn’t he mention a few of these facts. But as Jesus said , for those that would believe no proof is required. There is something in the nature of believers,maybe a lack of critical thinking that separates them from non believers. Actually I would prefer to believe it would make life easier.


  15. Interestingly enough, there is a Biblical reference to Pangea. And yes, there is a referance to other people and other lands, too. Brownie points to the person who finds it. I’ll even give a hint: Pangea is in the portion considered to be the Torah, and other cultures were (almost) completely removed, so you will have to check the “lost books” as well. There is, however, a small obscure reference very close to the Pangea reference. There’s also quite a bit of science that had not yet been discovered, but the references made to it are so natural (as if it was common knowledge) that they are hard to catch. This includes anatomical, medical, and astrological references. There is even a reference to atomic particles. Problem is, the early Catholics pretty much butchered religious writings to create the Bible we’re all familiar with today. The main message survived, but it really takes some digging to find the really cool stuff.

  16. wheeler Says:

    “it really takes some digging to find the really cool stuff.”

    like the davinci code?

  17. MCF Says:

    Tom,

    Same point re: “the bible” vs. “the Bible.” I notice the Koran was deemed worthy of capitalization.

    It’s a proper noun. Nobody’s going to mistake you for a believer just because you use proper grammar.

  18. MCF Says:

    As a point of comparison, see the official directive from the 1995 position statement of the National Association of Biology Teachers: “The diversity of life on earth is the outcome of evolution: an unsupervised, impersonal, unpredictable, and natural process.”

    “Unsupervised”? “Impersonal”? Can science prove so much?

  19. Wheeler Says:

    no. i think that statement steps beyond science just as badly as would a statement saying it is supervised and personal.

  20. sailer Says:

    This whole evolution debate needs to be changed to a debate over the supernatural. Evolution is just a proxy war. America (the world) needs to take a hard look at religion(s) . I was pretty tolerant of religions in the past when they were a little less activist and spent their time saving souls. Now religions want to reclaim their past dominance of society. Remember the blue laws here in the south??? I remember when no stores were allowed to be open on Sunday. The camel got it’s nose into the tent when it was argued that people need gasoline. Then pharmacy then finally everything was allowed to be open Sunday after church. Here in Alabama there are still dry counties.
    Today when you have religous leaders telling their followers that god will reward them for commiting suicide the statements of religous leaders need to be examined closely. Judge Roy Moore is a scarey person. When a Judge who is supposed to uphold our laws feels compelled to break and defy the laws that he has sworn to uphold, we have a problem. We now have pharmacists who instead of worrying about pharmacology are worried if god would want them to fill a prescription. god should not be a part of the medical decision making process. Imagine a patient gets an infection after a procedure. The doctor’s first question; Did everyone pray before this surgery. Did all of the nurses use their rosary on that day. Or the patient going to the pharmcist to get antibiotics for an STD talking to the customer. “What you did was a sin” (having extramarital sex) “therefore I won’t fill this prescription”. “By treating your STD I feel that I would be condoning extramartial sex”. When any professional can deny services because god would approve isn’t far from excusing criminals because “the devil made me do it”. Is it a crime if satan is involved???


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