December 13, 2010

Because we have not talked about evolution in a bit

I point to this post from slacktivist about Al Mohler and the weird way in which evolution is a "belief" system. And I also loved this from the comments:
"The simplest argument to make, I have found, is to use the Seasonal Flu Shot test. When I'm confronted by Christians who insist that to embrace evolution is to deny God, I ask if their Christian beliefs permit them to be vaccinated every year against the flu. Nearly always I receive a 'yes'. At which point I explain that if evolution is false, flu shots cannot work. Seasonal flu shots are evolution in a very simplified, quick-action form, but what makes them work (and each season's new, modified shots effective) is based in evolution. If evolution is false, then flu shots are false. Furthermore, GETTING flu shots is to deny Christ.

But I don't know that I've actually changed anyone's mind about anything other than, 'Stop arguing theology and evolution with her.'"


Sam said...

More Lions please.

leighton said...

It's a truthful response, but anyone who is a fan of the con artists who make their living practicing creationist apologetics would probably sputter something about microevolution vs macroevolution, as though those were concepts that had any meaning in actual biological literature.

The problem with trying to discuss the issue with evolution deniers is that they don't argue in good faith. That doesn't mean ordinary people will necessarily make statements they know are false (though I would argue that is certainly true for employees of organizations like the Institute for Creation Research and Answers In Genesis); rather, it means that most people who think it's important to denounce evolution don't actually care about coming up with a historical model of the biological development of life on earth (where "model" involves quantitative predictions of what we'll find when we gather additional evidence, not just vague narrative handwaving). Their goals are political, not scientific.

This is partly why scientists have, historically, not done particularly well in communicating to lay audiences - it isn't that their opponents are unconvinced by evidence, it's that their opponents' reasoning goes "Evolution must be false, because if it were true, it would give people less reason to take my personal religious denomination seriously."

Streak said...

Well stated, Leighton. I think your last sentence, btw, could be just shortened to "evolution must be false." That is how it appears to me, anyway. It isn't that it is proven false, but it just has to be.

Sam, you aren't exactly making a good case for atheism here.

Smitty said...

That was a really thoughtful response, leighton.

I have read "Why Evolution is True" by Jerry Coyne. The book review says it better than I can: "Additionally, although fully respectful of those who promote intelligent design and creationism, he uses the data at his disposal to demolish any thought that creationism is supported by the evidence while also explaining why those ideas fall outside the bounds of science. Coyne directly addresses the concept often advanced by religious fundamentalists that an acceptance of evolution must lead to immorality, concluding that evolution tells us where we came from, not where we can go."

Yeah. What they said. I am also about halfway through The Greatest Show On Earth by every atheist's good buddy Richard Dawkins. Wonderful, and massively thorough, but less approachable than Coyne's IMO.

My only problem with Sam's response (I *do* like snark, after all) is that atheists are already seen in some circles as elitist egotists. All I think of is Lalla Ward's general tone of voice in The God Delusion on uppity British snotty as can possibly be. I prefer humility. But hey...that's just my preference. For every Sam Harris, there's a Douglas Adams.

leighton said...

Oh, I finally figured out Sam's comment; the capitalization had confused me and I didn't quite follow what Detroit's football team had to do with the post.

It's impossible to strike a perfect balance between being appropriately uncivil to abusive religious organizations who do harm to their members and the community at large, while still being civil to individual members of those organizations. I'm currently at a stage where as a consequence to connect more deeply with my Catholic friends, I can't speak out as strongly against the Vatican's habit of hiding and excusing child abuse all over the world. That may shift as time goes on, as it has shifted in the past. It's complicated enough that I don't feel obligated to condemn Sam Harris as unhelpful or the NCSE's religious outreach as enabling authoritarian mental abuse.

Smitty said...

It's complicated enough that I don't feel obligated to condemn Sam Harris as unhelpful or the NCSE's religious outreach as enabling authoritarian mental abuse.

That captures pretty much where I am at. Well said.

Streak said...

Jerry Coyne's book is amazing. I could not put that thing down.

no problem with the snark, btw, but simply just as I respect people who are atheists, I think atheists should at least respect that there are many believers who are not only well-intentioned but sincere and intellectually honest.

Jesse H. said...

Why do some evolutionists claim to be Christians? Jesus believed Genesis, which contradicts evolution. If Jesus was wrong about how things came to be, why do people believe anything else he said?

Streak said...

Why do some evolutionists claim to be Christians? Jesus believed Genesis, which contradicts evolution.


Smitty said...




Sam said...

No football reference here. I think you pretty much had the snark right the first time.