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Creationist Belief in Europe:

The theory of evolution may face greater resistance in the United States than most of Europe, but creationist belief is strong in European nations than many might think. From the February 27, 2009 Science:

News coverage of the creationism-versus-evolution debate tends to focus on the United States, where surveys consistently show that less than half of Americans accept the theory of evolution. But in the past 5 years, political clashes over the issue have also occurred in countries all across Europe. In Italy, Silvio Berlusconi's government briefly tried to halt the teaching of evolution in schools in 2004. In 2006, a deputy Polish education minister called the theory of evolution "a lie." In 2007, the education minister of a major German state courted controversy by advocating that creationism and evolution be taught together in biology classes. . . .

Even the birthplace of Charles Darwin is struggling with evolution, despite the myriad celebrations for the 150th anniversary of his On the Origin of Species. "Creationism is on the rise in the U.K.," says James Williams, a lecturer in science education at the University of Sussex. "Creationists have adopted the attitude that if you get to children young and early, you can indoctrinate them before they even start talking about evolution in schools." Williams cited a December 2008 Ipsos Mori poll of 923 primary and secondary school-teachers in England and Wales: 37% of the respondents agreed that creationism should be taught in schools alongside evolution. Even among biology and science teachers, the number was 30%.

Survey data also shows that anti-evolution sentiment is particularly strong among Muslims in Europe.

While Europe has its share of anti-evolution sentiment, what it seems to lack is the organized, active resistance to evolution. Is this simply because European nations tend to be less religious than the United States? Are Europeans, as a whole, just more scientifically literate? Or is there some other reason Americans have been more likely to accept the (erroneous) notion that evolutionary theory is inherently incompatible with religious belief?

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Creationist Belief in Europe:
  2. Darwin Too Controversial for Hollywood?
DiverDan (mail):

surveys consistently show that less than half of Americans accept the theory of evolution


My god, is this Country REALLY that stupid? I'm sorry, but that is simply much too depressing to drop on me on a rainy Monday Morning.
9.14.2009 8:58am
Bob from Tenn (mail):
I think it is because the U.S. population is more religious. The resistance is because evolution is all too frequently taught, not just as a scientific theory (and by theory I don't mean it is just a conjecture--I accept the evidence), but as a counter to religious belief, and even for atheism. It has also been co-opted, in the past, in support of eugenics and other doctrines contrary to the dignity of man. Unfortunately, many will not just counter evolutions mis-use in social doctrine, but the theory itself.
9.14.2009 9:14am
Doc merlin (mail):
I think its because europe tends to be much more top-down in terms of ideas and execution.
9.14.2009 9:40am
Blue:
A higher level of religiousity in the US combined with a higher degree of elite control/mass acquiescense in Europe.
9.14.2009 9:44am
Perry Dane:
Polls about how many people believe in "evolution" strike me as inherently slippery. "Evolution" can mean at least three different things: (1) A set of scientific facts about the sequence and path of the development of life: how species are biologically related to each other and to their predecessors, and how long it has taken for that sequence of species to come and go (several billion years). (2) A Darwinian-inspired set of scientific explanations for the how and why of that sequence of species. (3) The philosophical (rather than scientific) belief that Darwinian explanations for evolution exclude the possibility of a parallel religious account, or exclude the possibility of a divine role of some sort in guiding evolution. Many other folks, including many scientists, reject (3) without rejecting (1) or (2). Some people can't entirely articulate even to themselves how (1), (2), (3) do or do not relate to each other.

Also a word about Europe: Europeans do tend to be less "religious" than Americans by most measures. But this varies considerably from country to country. Also, many Europeans (and an increasing number of Americans)think of themselves as rejecting "organized religion" while still being, in some sense, religious or spiritual. In fact, Scandinavians, who famously rank very low on most standard measures of religious commitment, also tend to rank fairly high on some "new age" beliefs, which might include a skepticism about science and scientific method.
9.14.2009 9:53am
Brian Mac:

A higher level of religiousity in the US combined with a higher degree of elite control/mass acquiescense in Europe.

Am I the only one who sees a contradiction there?
9.14.2009 9:54am
Perry Dane:
Corrected:

Polls about how many people believe in "evolution" strike me as inherently slippery. "Evolution" can mean at least three different things: (1) A set of scientific facts about the sequence and path of the development of life: how species are biologically related to each other and to their predecessors, and how long it has taken for that sequence of species to come and go (several billion years). (2) A Darwinian-inspired set of scientific explanations for the how and why of that sequence of species. (3) The philosophical (rather than scientific) belief that Darwinian explanations for evolution exclude the possibility of a parallel religious account, or exclude the possibility of a divine role of some sort in guiding evolution. Many folks, including many scientists, reject (3) without rejecting (1) or (2). Some other people can't entirely articulate even to themselves how (1), (2), (3) do or do not relate to each other.

Also a word about Europe: Europeans do tend to be less "religious" than Americans by most measures. But this varies considerably from country to country. Also, many Europeans (and an increasing number of Americans)think of themselves as rejecting "organized religion" while still being, in some sense, religious or spiritual. In fact, Scandinavians, who famously rank very low on most standard measures of religious commitment, also tend to rank fairly high on some "new age" beliefs, which might include a skepticism about science and scientific method.
9.14.2009 9:55am
Deirdre (mail):
Also, the difference might have to do with the religious make-up of Europe v. the US.

Europe is still heavily Catholic, with a good smattering of Lutherans thrown in-- neither religion advocates the LITERAL interpretation of Genesis. So, for most European Christians, there is no conflict between Evolution and Religion.

BUT

The US has more Protestants who take the bible completely literally (except for that messy "This is my Body" part...)--so we're more likely to have a population who CAN'T reconcile evolution and religion.

You really can't treat 'religion' or even 'Christianity' as a monolith in this comparison.... it really depends on WHAT religion we're talking about....
9.14.2009 9:58am
Cato The Elder (mail) (www):

My god, is this Country REALLY that stupid? I'm sorry, but that is simply much too depressing to drop on me on a rainy Monday Morning

It isn't stupidity. It's just fear of the implications of what accepting such a theory might mean. For example, if everything evolved, and behavior is an adaptation, that means human morality evolved. Now one key feature of Christian evangelism is its universalism, in the belief that everyone needs to be "saved". Moreover, according to Genesis, salvation is required as a result of the original sin of Adam and Eve, from whence the human race departed from its originally "pure" state.

So what does Darwinism say? It says for one thing that moral behavior is contigent on environment and furthermore that it is an "unnatural" departure from the natural state of man. A rich man might not be as much of a sinner as a poor man because he can get away with it. The forceful repression of a woman's sexuality might have evolved in a different geography because the ecological landscape facing one demography's elites was different from the other's, so their philosophers' assessments of that practice's correctness will also differ. Scarily, it raises the question that people might differ in fundamentally unbridgeable ways and by other implication introduces the possiblity of vast inequality in its subjects that no religion wants to grapple with.

So it's not rank stupidity at work here, though of course the ability to pose disturbing and complex questions to onself should be an increasing function of IQ. It's simply choosing to ignore the facts because they are incovenient. This is not so strange; humanity does this all the time. In fact, we have a major political party in the United States much of whose dogma ignores major findings from the social scienes of Public Choice and psychometry. The difference is that since they control the levers of media power you don't hear any wailing and gnashing of teeth in those cases.
9.14.2009 10:04am
Connie:
Why is it that Jews in the U.S. don't seem to side with fundamentalist (using the term as defined in a recent post, not meant pejoratively) Christians in opposing the teaching of evolution in public schools?
9.14.2009 10:09am
David M. Nieporent (www):
A higher level of religiousity in the US combined with a higher degree of elite control/mass acquiescense in Europe.

Am I the only one who sees a contradiction there?
Yes.
9.14.2009 10:16am
CJColucci:
The resistance is because evolution is all too frequently taught, not just as a scientific theory (and by theory I don't mean it is just a conjecture--I accept the evidence), but as a counter to religious belief, and even for atheism.

That hasn't been my experience in K-12 education (the actual battleground) in New York, and I very much doubt it is any more likely to be true in Tennessee. Certainly, people have written books making these arguments, which anyone can buy in the local bookstore, and any number of people have made these types of arguments on the internet, which anyone can access, but that it is "taught" that way to K-12 students anywhere is, as far as I can tell, just not true. Do you have any examples?
9.14.2009 10:17am
Wallace:
This data quoted here is a little old, but I find it fascinating in discussions like this.

Percentage of American Adults who believe sun orbits Earth: 1 in 5.

Percentage of British adults who believe the same: 1 in 3.

While less scientific, this shows that heliocentrism didn't catch on in France either.

So this isn't just about "stupid Americans."

Finally, a majority of people who believe in evolution support the teaching of creationism in public schools.
9.14.2009 10:17am
Perry Dane:
Another very important point:

Some people mistakenly think of Biblical literalism as some sort of regression to a pre-scientific world view. In fact, traditional Jewish and Christian thinkers were rarely literalistic in their readings of the Bible. If anything, modern "fundamentalism" is as much a product of the modern "scientific" sensibility as evolutionary biology is. The distinguished Christian theologian John Milbank explains it this way:


Modern science insists on literalism as regards facts, and Protestant fundamentalism was born (around 1900) in a construal of the Bible as presenting a parallel universe of revealed facts alongside the realm of natural facts. Catholic, orthodox Christianity, by contrast, insists that the abiding truth of the Old Testament is allegorical: literal violence points figuratively to a future revelation of embodied peace in Christ
9.14.2009 10:22am
David M. Nieporent (www):
Why is it that Jews in the U.S. don't seem to side with fundamentalist (using the term as defined in a recent post, not meant pejoratively) Christians in opposing the teaching of evolution in public schools?
Because (1) the large majority of Jews in the United States are extremely secular, (2) the large majority of Jews in the U.S., for historical reasons, are very paranoid about fundamentalist Christians and don't want to do anything to give them political power, (3) of the non-secular Jews, most are not Biblical literalists, and (4) the most religious Jews avoid public schools altogether so it isn't an issue for them.
9.14.2009 10:23am
Tim McDonald (mail):
I have to tell you, as an engineer, if my boss came to me and said, we have to make a decision based on this, does the theory of evolution hold up, I would have to tell him flip a coin on the decision, there is not enough data to rate the so called theory of evolution as any better than an untested hypothesis, and unfortunately, it looks likely to remain that way.

Creationism is religion, and should not be taught in school. But it is past time the schools started teaching the theory of evolution as a theory, and be open with the students about the holes and questions, because TODAY, they are hearing one thing from their teachers and another from their parents and their Sunday school teachers, and I will flat our guarantee they trust the latter more. So they regard the teaching about evolution as pure lies.

The problem we have, is that the Darwinist's treat evolution as a religion, to be accepted without evidence, and all problems to be brushed over. If you are going to take on your pupils religion, be sure NOT to leave out the inconvenient parts, because the church will point them out (trust me, I attended a class offered by the church on it, and there were 6th graders in the class). If your students KNOW you are leaving out part of the story, you lose. Every time.

In my opinion, science textbook authors and teachers have failed our children. And I really hate to see it.
9.14.2009 10:24am
Commentor (mail):
The only debate regarding creationism versus evolution is political. There is no scientific debate; that evolution is a valid theory was established in the 19th century.

Its like having a political debate about whether matter is made up of atoms. Scientists are building super-colliders to view quarks and baryons.
9.14.2009 10:32am
Perry Dane:
Connie asks:


Why is it that Jews in the U.S. don't seem to side with fundamentalist (using the term as defined in a recent post, not meant pejoratively) Christians in opposing the teaching of evolution in public schools?


Most American Jews are religiously "liberal" or secular, so the issue wouldn't necessarily come up for them. Among more traditionally observant Jews, a few do oppose the scientific view of "evolution," but I would argue that they've been unduly influenced by non-Jewish forms of fundamentalism. (Keeping up with the Joneses and all that.) Most observant Jews, however, whether Orthodox or otherwise, don't really have much of a problem with evolutionary biology because they are immersed in a tradition that has for a long time treated the creation accounts and the rest of the early chapters of Genesis as being more about certain timeless messages regarding the nature of humanity, the place of Israel in the human family, and the relation of God to the world, rather than sheer historical facts.
9.14.2009 10:32am
Ricardo (mail):
Perry Dane:

Modern science insists on literalism as regards facts, and Protestant fundamentalism was born (around 1900) in a construal of the Bible as presenting a parallel universe of revealed facts alongside the realm of natural facts.

As the saying goes, everyone is entitled to their own opinions but not their own set of facts. If you want to create "a parallel universe of revealed facts" don't go around calling it the product of scientific thought -- nothing could be further from science which emphasizes empirical evidence and repeatable results.

I also agree with CJColucci: schools in fact are quite careful not to teach evolution as an alternative for religious belief for obvious reasons. If Timmy wants to believe that God somehow guided the process of evolution, he's entitled to do so. Similarly, he is entitled to believe that God had a hand in making sure he was born without any serious mental or physical problems and that he has managed to spend most of his days out of harms way. We grouchy cynics tend to have more prosaic explanations for all these but to each his own.
9.14.2009 10:34am
ichthyophagous (mail):
There's plenty of evidence in favor of evolution, far more than was available in 1859 when The Origin of Species was published. The problem with popular science instruction (including science journalism) is that it can't present anything except in terms of true/false with no shades of gray in between. No wonder people distrust it.
9.14.2009 10:52am
Perry Dane:
Ricardo writes:


If you want to create "a parallel universe of revealed facts" don't go around calling it the product of scientific thought -- nothing could be further from science which emphasizes empirical evidence and repeatable results.


Neither I nor Milbank would argue that creationism is "scientific." But it is, along with "fundamentalist" Biblical literalism more generally, a cousin to modern science, arising out of a similar sort of distinctly post-Enlightenment sensibility. This is not a knock on science or scientific method, only an observation about the paradoxes of cultural history.

If anything, I think that both Milbank and I would argue that the "scientific" sensibility is best confined to precisely those areas that are amenable to tests of "empirical evidence and repeatable results." That means a rejection of Dawkins/Hitchens/etc. forms of scientism that assume that science is all there is, but also a rejection of forms of religious fundamentalism that have lost sight of what is properly distinctive about the religious way of approaching both texts and the world.
9.14.2009 10:56am
Assistant Village Idiot (mail) (www):
Commentor - "The only debate regarding creationism versus evolution is political." Plus the debate about commentors defining their terms conveniently.

Ricardo - read more closely

People often believe contradictory things, and many who would call themselves creationists also like having their children learn about astronomy and dinosaurs. All sides of this discussion seem determined to stuff others into their own preset categories. Perry Dane's comments only begin to describe the complexity, and folks can't even absorb that here.

It is a great irony how rigidly and unscientifically folks regard the rigid and unscientific creationists.
9.14.2009 10:58am
Some dude:

Even the birthplace of Charles Darwin is struggling with evolution...



Charles Darwin was exactly wrong about most everything. Ask any evolutionist today. Why is his name such a big deal? We don't celebrate the guy who came up with the æther theory.
9.14.2009 10:59am
byomtov (mail):
there is not enough data to rate the so called theory of evolution as any better than an untested hypothesis, and unfortunately, it looks likely to remain that way.

Just a century plus of biology research.

Wait, don't tell me. I know. All the researchers are and were members of a great conspiracy to foist the false doctrine of evolution on a gullible public, and succeeded beyond their wildest dreams.
9.14.2009 11:16am
Cato The Elder (mail) (www):
"Nothing in biology makes sense except in light of evolution."
9.14.2009 11:17am
yankee (mail):
Or is there some other reason Americans have been more likely to accept the (erroneous) notion that evolutionary theory is inherently incompatible with religious belief?

Depends on the religion! Evolution is completely compatible with religions like Catholicism or Reform Judaism, whose doctrines endorse evolution or at least do not contradict it. But there is no reconciling evolution with fundamentalist Protestantism, which holds that God created life in more or less its present form over a period of 6 24-hour days. Genesis can be given other interpretations, but fundamentalist Protestants don't endorse them.
9.14.2009 11:26am
Curt Fischer:

Tim McDonald: I have to tell you, as an engineer, if my boss came to me and said, we have to make a decision based on this, does the theory of evolution hold up, I would have to tell him flip a coin on the decision, there is not enough data to rate the so called theory of evolution as any better than an untested hypothesis, and unfortunately, it looks likely to remain that way.


I welcome the skepticism - it's actually quite refreshing in a thread where so many people are talking about what they do or don't believe. But evolution is on ground more solid than you might think. It's absolutely right to teach children about the holes and poorly developed areas of the theory, but those are fewer than many believe. On the whole, odds for evolution are much better than a coin flip. See here.


Some dude: Charles Darwin was exactly wrong about most everything. Ask any evolutionist today. Why is his name such a big deal? We don't celebrate the guy who came up with the æther theory.


This is a terrible analogy. A better one would be to link Lamark to æther theory, and Darwin to Einstein. Sure, Darwin was wrong about a lot of stuff, but so was Einstein (see quantum mechanics). Who cares? Their contributions deserve our admiration even if they weren't always right.
9.14.2009 11:26am
Ben P:

I have to tell you, as an engineer, if my boss came to me and said, we have to make a decision based on this, does the theory of evolution hold up, I would have to tell him flip a coin on the decision, there is not enough data to rate the so called theory of evolution as any better than an untested hypothesis, and unfortunately, it looks likely to remain that way.


Apparently engineers aren't biologists.

There's an enormous amount of evidence for evolution. Including in the past few decades, scientific, lab conducted tests. Mostly with bacteria, because they're really the only organisms that breed fast enough for the experiments to not be decades long.

Here's an example of something relatively recent and really cool.


Five months (which is probably hundreds of millions of generations of bacteria) in an environment with an electrical current, and the bacteria evolved two distinct biological structures in response to the environmental stimuli.
9.14.2009 11:28am
Malvolio:
Whenever I hear a person, especially a liberal, spouting off about the scientific illiteracy of other people, I always feel the urge to ask that person about economics. What is his opinion, say, of minimum wage or free trade? The scientific consensus there (minimum wage, bad; free trade, good) seems to be as firm as or firmer than those for global warming or even evolution, but even here, on a fairly intellectual and fairly libertarian blog, just yesterday there was a discussion of whether the government should intervene to try to prop up the US tire industry, a proposal that would have made any economist sigh in dismay.

What I find particularly amusing and particularly galling about specifically economic ignorance is that it doesn't take grubbing around in Olduvai Gorge or poring over data from weather charts to learn something about economics. Every day of your life, you are doing field work in economics.

Should we worry that the US has a "trade imbalance" with China? Well, do you worry if you spend more at the grocery store than the grocer spends with your employer? Should the minimum wage be raised? Well, would you like your neighbor going into your boss's office and demanding a raise on your behalf, saying that if more money is not forthcoming, you will summarily quit? Like that.
9.14.2009 11:29am
Teller:
Some dude: Charles Darwin was exactly wrong about most everything. Ask any evolutionist today. Why is his name such a big deal? We don't celebrate the guy who came up with the æther theory.

Ofcourse, we do. Aristotle, Rene Descarte, and Sir Issac Newton are all celebrated, today.
9.14.2009 11:34am
Brian Mac:

So what does Darwinism say? It says for one thing that moral behavior is contigent on environment and furthermore that it is an "unnatural" departure from the natural state of man.

I think that's a bit old fashioned. Nowadays most biologists accept that moral behavior originated in primates.
9.14.2009 11:39am
Joseph Hindin (mail):
Is this simply because European nations tend to be less religious than the United States? Are Europeans, as a whole, just more scientifically literate? Or is there some other reason Americans have been more likely to accept the (erroneous) notion that evolutionary theory is inherently incompatible with religious belief?
You have excluded other possibility: that the European politics is completely devoid of democracy, so whatever unwashed masses think on the subjects of evolution or capital punishment, their opinion never reaches the political stage.
9.14.2009 11:52am
klw (mail):
The Catholic Church accepted evolution in 1977. But there are still catholics that dont know that. Anyway most catholics dont read the Bible anyway and dont care about what the Church says and there are more catholics in Europe than in the USA.
BTW: the Telegraph of London reported that a movie about Darwin has not encountered distributionin the USA
9.14.2009 11:58am
Cato The Elder (mail) (www):

I think that's a bit old fashioned. Nowadays most biologists accept that moral behavior originated in primates.

Brian Mac,

After I posted that I almost immediately wanted to go back and revise that sentence. What I was trying to express is the idea that moral behavior is both "novel" and "improbable" -- hence an adaptation as defined as George Williams -- and not the "natural" state of things. There isn't some inevitable force of good shaping the evolution of species or of society. In fact, evolution will favor outrageous and evil behavior as long as it increases the inclusive fitness of the actor; it doesn't care the quality of one's character as long as one propogates.
9.14.2009 11:59am
Frater Plotter:
So what does Darwinism say? It says for one thing that moral behavior is contigent on environment and furthermore that it is an "unnatural" departure from the natural state of man.
To the contrary: it strongly suggests that the ability to acquire morals, and possibly certain universal moral tendencies, are features the human species has because they are beneficial to us. Morality is not unnatural at all, but as natural as any other human social behavior: such as language, or family, or eating together.

There is a great deal of work on the evolution of social behavior, and the evolution of morality specifically. See the work of E. O. Wilson, Barbara King, Michael Shermer; also Matt Ridley and some bits of Daniel Dennett. "Sociobiology" in a larger sense is controversial among social scientists, but many ideas in the evolution of morality are well-attested: just as we share certain physical features with our relatives in the animal kingdom, so too do we share certain moral features. To quote:

attachment and bonding, cooperation and mutual aid, sympathy and empathy, direct and indirect reciprocity, altruism and reciprocal altruism, conflict resolution and peacemaking, deception and deception detection, community concern and caring about what others think about you, and awareness of and response to the social rules of the group. (Shermer, quoted in Wikipedia)

Rather, it is Christianity -- specifically Western Christianity, and most strongly Calvinist Protestantism -- that asserts that the natural state of man is "fallen" and hence immoral; that morality is no part of human nature but must be acquired by the grace of God, or beaten into one by discipline.

If (post-)Darwinian, materialistic evolution is true, then morals are a material thing, a natural function of the brain rather than a saving incursion of the divine into human existence. But so is the ability to love, to understand music and art, to acquire language and culture, or any other feature of human social behavior.
9.14.2009 12:01pm
LN (mail):

The scientific consensus there (minimum wage, bad; free trade, good) seems to be as firm as or firmer than those for global warming or even evolution,


Oh please. Compare the number of economists who support raising the minimum wage to the number of biologists who don't think evolution is valid. Are you saying that Kenneth Arrow, Robert Solow, Joe Stiglitz, and Clive Granger are economically illiterate? Furthermore it is clear that free-trade and minimum-wage policies create both winners and losers and that therefore calling them "good" and "bad" is a moral judgment, not a mere application of "scientific" economic analysis.


Should we worry that the US has a "trade imbalance" with China?


"Oh, the topic of evolution makes my tribe look bad. So can we change the subject please?"
9.14.2009 12:14pm
lxxx (mail):
Sorry to depress you further Diver Dan but Americans are even stupider than that: More than 25% of Americans believe in Astrology, more than 30% in Angels.
9.14.2009 12:37pm
Guest14:
On the whole, odds for evolution are much better than a coin flip. See here.
The TalkOrigins site is essential. Frankly, no one has any business commenting on the supposed inadequacy of the evidence for evolution unless they've read and understood the article you linked.
9.14.2009 12:52pm
Nick P.:
I have to tell you, as an engineer, if my boss came to me and said, we have to make a decision based on this, does the theory of evolution hold up, I would have to tell him flip a coin on the decision, there is not enough data to rate the so called theory of evolution as any better than an untested hypothesis, and unfortunately, it looks likely to remain that way.

At what point can we start calling the Salem Hypothesis the Salem Theory or, even, Salem's Law?
9.14.2009 1:02pm
hattio1:
I would think the main difference is that in the US the teaching of evolution in public schools is a wedge issue that one party can and has used for political gain. That, of course, only leads to the question of why the teaching of evolution never developed into that kind of a wedge issue in Europe. I think the answer lies mostly in the two-party system, partly in the difference between fundamental Protestantism and Catholicism or other "old-line" churches, and partly in the greater religiosity of Americans.
9.14.2009 1:22pm
Laura(southernxyl) (mail) (www):
Frater Plotter:


Rather, it is Christianity -- specifically Western Christianity, and most strongly Calvinist Protestantism -- that asserts that the natural state of man is "fallen" and hence immoral; that morality is no part of human nature but must be acquired by the grace of God, or beaten into one by discipline.


That's not exactly what I was taught growing up in the SBC. We were taught that morality is part of human nature - that is, knowing right from wrong - we just don't choose right due to our fallen nature.

Rom. 2:14-16


For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus.


I dislike me-too comments but I want to say that if you want to persuade someone to your point of view, starting with "you dummy" pretty well guarantees that all that person is going to hear afterward is "blah, blah, blah." See the first comment for an example.
9.14.2009 1:29pm
yankee (mail):
Whenever I hear a person, especially a liberal, spouting off about the scientific illiteracy of other people, I always feel the urge to ask that person about economics. What is his opinion, say, of minimum wage or free trade? The scientific consensus there (minimum wage, bad; free trade, good) seems to be as firm as or firmer than those for global warming or even evolution, but even here, on a fairly intellectual and fairly libertarian blog, just yesterday there was a discussion of whether the government should intervene to try to prop up the US tire industry, a proposal that would have made any economist sigh in dismay.

Economics is very useful, but it's not science. It's based on a priori assumptions about human behavior rather than empirical evidence, they don't do experiments (a few economists do but this is a very new development), and there's a distinct attitude that if reality doesn't fit the theory, too bad for reality. Psychology (which is based on controlled experiments) is much more like science than economics is.

Social science is not the same thing as science.
9.14.2009 1:37pm
yankee (mail):
Furthermore it is clear that free-trade and minimum-wage policies create both winners and losers and that therefore calling them "good" and "bad" is a moral judgment, not a mere application of "scientific" economic analysis.

Indeed. They're no more "scientific" than Social Darwinism or eugenics (both of which were once claimed to be "scientific" results of the theory of evolution).
9.14.2009 1:47pm
Cato The Elder (mail) (www):
Darwin was a master expositor. This quote of his much better illuminates the idea I was clumsily trying to broach earlier:

"I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidae with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of Caterpillars..."
9.14.2009 2:06pm
wht (mail):

Why is it that Jews in the U.S. don't seem to side with fundamentalist (using the term as defined in a recent post, not meant pejoratively) Christians in opposing the teaching of evolution in public schools?


It has to do with certain groups a Christians adopting a different biblical interpretation over the last 200 years or so. This interpretation departs for the most part from traditional christian and Jewish theology and probably for a good portion of the reason.

I am in no way an expert on Israel, but even my orthodox Jewish friends from there, cannot understand the christian fundamentalists' biblical interpretation. They all believe in evolution, and don't see the religious problem with it.

This is also were you get the argument that not only are creationists bad at science, they are bad at theology too.
9.14.2009 2:58pm
who (mail):

Whenever I hear a person, especially a liberal, spouting off about the scientific illiteracy of other people, I always feel the urge to ask that person about economics. What is his opinion, say, of minimum wage or free trade? The scientific consensus there (minimum wage, bad; free trade, good) seems to be as firm as or firmer than those for global warming or even evolution, but even here, on a fairly intellectual and fairly libertarian blog, just yesterday there was a discussion of whether the government should intervene to try to prop up the US tire industry, a proposal that would have made any economist sigh in dismay.


Since when is economics a science? I think the answer to that question will answer yours.
9.14.2009 3:02pm
Leo Marvin (mail):

Or is there some other reason Americans have been more likely to accept the (erroneous) notion that evolutionary theory is inherently incompatible with religious belief?

Because we've been blessed with industrious folks like my old crim law professor, Phil Johnson (and a long line of predecessors), to drive a wedge between science and religion. If we ship Phil across the pond, I'm sure he'll straighten out our European cousins. For the same money, maybe he can also convince them AIDS has nothing to do with HIV.
9.14.2009 3:10pm
Andy Bolen (mail):
Or is there some other reason Americans have been more likely to accept the (erroneous) notion that evolutionary theory is inherently incompatible with religious belief?

TBH I blame evangelical atheists for this as much as anyone; lots of non-religious people have pushed the idea that macroevolution is incompatible with theism, or somehow makes it less plausible.
9.14.2009 3:33pm
yankee (mail):
TBH I blame evangelical atheists for this as much as anyone; lots of non-religious people have pushed the idea that macroevolution is incompatible with theism, or somehow makes it less plausible.

Who are these evangelical atheists? I'm sure there are people who argue that evolution defeats the argument from design, at least insofar as it's based on life requiring design. And there are people who argue that evolution defeats the claim that life was created as described in Genesis 1. But I know of absolutely no "evangelical atheists" who claim that evolution disproves the existence of God.

Who are these atheists who claim evolution is incompatible with God?
9.14.2009 3:51pm
Guest101:

Or is there some other reason Americans have been more likely to accept the (erroneous) notion that evolutionary theory is inherently incompatible with religious belief?

Huh-- that's quite an ipse dixit. Obviously if you're talking about something as vague as "religious belief," then pretty much anything can be said to be "compatible" with it (even the empirical non-existence of God, if one's theology is sufficiently academic.) But if you're talking about "religious belief" as it's understood in most of America, which holds as a tenet of faith that God created the world and all life in its current form (or nearly so) in six literal 24-hour days then it gets a lot harder, and blithely wishing that conflict away in a parenthetical doesn't change that fact.
9.14.2009 3:55pm
BGates:
Five months (which is probably hundreds of millions of generations of bacteria)

Apparently biologists aren't mathematicians. 20 minutes is a pretty good doubling time for bacteria; 5 months would give just under 11,000 generations. Of course, that just strengthens your point.
9.14.2009 3:56pm
Bob from Tenn (mail):
Do you have any examples?

My son's freshman Biology I teacher last year.

To be clearer, this is not a matter of the textbook nor the formal lesson plan; it is instead the snide asides.

Is Tennessee different than New York? You betcha, in many ways; but I don't know if the teaching is that different. If it is, perhaps an atheist in Tennessee feels compelled to demonstrate his liberal bona fides, whereas in New York it would be taken for granted. (See I Can't Believe I'm Sitting Next to a Republican.)
9.14.2009 3:57pm
CJColucci:
"Do you have any examples?"

My son's freshman Biology I teacher last year.

To be clearer, this is not a matter of the textbook nor the formal lesson plan; it is instead the snide asides.


That's it? If you're going to give us something this thin, at least give us the juicy details. It may be useless as evidence, but at least it might be amusing.
9.14.2009 4:10pm
LN (mail):

perhaps an atheist in Tennessee feels compelled to demonstrate his liberal bona fides


In the same way that there are more flamboyant gay people in Tennessee than in San Francisco.
9.14.2009 4:17pm
ray_g:
I'm an atheist, but I would never say that the theory of evolution is incompatible with the idea of a deity. I would, however, say that it provides an explanation of the development of species that does not require a deity. Which, IMO, is what makes it so dangerous to the theists.

Evolution is certainly incompatible with a literal reading of the Bible creation story, but then again so are geology, astronomy, and other scientific studies. Why does evolution cause so much trouble, and not the others? (Actually, the others also did, but not so much in modern debate. I'd like to recommend a fascinating book, Measuring Eternity, for more information. I get no money for this plug, darn it.)
9.14.2009 5:14pm
Laura(southernxyl) (mail) (www):

Evolution is certainly incompatible with a literal reading of the Bible creation story, but then again so are geology, astronomy, and other scientific studies. Why does evolution cause so much trouble, and not the others?


Because some see it as going to the heart of "let us make man in our own image".

In my view, that doesn't mean that God exhibits bilateral symmetry and has five digits on each extremity, it's a spiritual component that humans have that animals don't and it's completely unrelated to evolution. But I am not unanimous in this.
9.14.2009 5:22pm
ChrisTS (mail):
ray_g:

Why does evolution cause so much trouble, and not the others?

To expand on Laura's point: becuase humans are supposed to be special in Creation; maybe all those other thingies evolved, but humans have g-given souls. We exist between the level of the rest of material beings and the angels.

T. H. Huxley purportedly made this jest:

Lord X told his wife that "Mr. Darwin believes we are all descended from Apes." Lady X replied, "Oh Heavens, let us hope no one finds out."
9.14.2009 7:23pm
ChrisTS (mail):
yankee:

Who are these atheists who claim evolution is incompatible with God?

Unfortunately, there are a few current stand-outs on this issue, including Christopher Hitchens and Dan Dennett.

I don't know much about Hitchens. This is what my spouse, who used to work with Dennett, had to say about the latter's anti-religion screed:

"Dan's a great guy and a brilliant philosopher of mind, but he ought to stick to what he knows."
9.14.2009 7:26pm
anotherpsychdoc (mail):
Part of the history of scientific investigation into human evolution is the work of the Jesuit Teilhard de Chardin who wrote, in addition to scientific papers, Alpha and Omega in which he seemed to regard evolution as a process of self knowledge. Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologica often referred to moral behavior as being (also) a product of natural law.
9.14.2009 7:34pm
yankee (mail):
Who are these atheists who claim evolution is incompatible with God?

Unfortunately, there are a few current stand-outs on this issue, including Christopher Hitchens and Dan Dennett.

And when did they ever say that? They've said that God is not necessary to explain life, purported to rebut many common arguments in favor of the existence of God, harshly criticized religion in general, and even more harshly criticized many specific religions in particular. But when did they ever claim evolution is incompatible with theism? As far as I know, never.
9.14.2009 9:00pm
ChrisTS (mail):
yankee:

Dan has been quite clear, both in "Darwin's Dangerous Idea" and his debate with Alvin Plantinga, that he thinks evolutionary theory is the "acid' that must dissolve all theistic views.
9.14.2009 9:30pm
exoticdoc2 (mail):
Poor DiverDan, so little understanding. The foolishness lies on the side of the evolutionists. Evolution has not one viable leg to stand on. It can be refuted from a purely scientific standpoint without ever bringing religion into it. Religion must come into play when one goes looking for a substitute, i.e., the truth. There is a growing number of evolutionists willing to question this long-standing nonsense. A good collection of their own words is in the books by W.R. Bird entitled "The Origin of Species Revisited."
9.14.2009 9:33pm
LN (mail):
Look! exoticdoc2 is another victim of the liberal educational establishment!
9.14.2009 9:44pm
ChrisTS (mail):
jeesh.
9.14.2009 10:08pm
ChrisTS (mail):
yankee:

So, spouse and I have spent some time searching oldest child's room to find "God is not Great," to no avail. Her room is NOT evidence of intelligent design.

However, we are both sure that Hitchens has made the connection between evolution - and the rest of modern science - and the impossibility of theism quite clear. o be sure, his self-styled "anti-theism" could be seen as independent of any views about evolution per se.

Dawkins, of course, is even more clear about the connection between the truth of evolutionary processes and the falsity of theism.
9.14.2009 10:14pm
http://volokh.com/?exclude=davidb :
ChrisTS, you raise an interesting point.

I don't recall Hitchens or Dawkins ever saying that evolution and the rest of modern science render "the impossibility of theism quite clear."

Dawkins is an agnostic, but not in the way most people think of that word. As he once put it (paraphrasing), he is agnostic about God in the same way he is agnostic about fairies. He can't disprove the existence of either, but also doesn't have any reason whatsoever to believe that either exist.

Hitchens, as I understand it, edges closer to the view you ascribe to him, but as I read him, still doesn't quite get there. I think he believes that we are marching toward the day in which science will basically render the existence of a deity impossible -- and he may be at the point where he believes theism (rather than deism) is impossible to reconcile with science and evidence.

He seems to hold out the point, however, that a deist's God is not yet susceptible to scientific disproof.

Hitchens' subtle views on this issue are perhaps best summarized in his introduction to Stenger's book.

I think it's clear that Stenger DOES believe that modern science renders "the impossibility of theism quite clear." After all, his book is called "God: The Failed Hypothesis. How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist."

I really don't read Hitchens to have gone that far, yet. But the point is a close one.
9.14.2009 11:04pm
http://volokh.com/?exclude=davidb :

I would, however, say that it [evolution] provides an explanation of the development of species that does not require a deity. Which, IMO, is what makes it so dangerous to the theists.

Agreed. With theists, the argument from design is sort of like that dinner you hated as a kid -- it's "what we're having," and it's "all that we're having," because it's "all that we have left."

I think the argument from design has by now been roundly, and soundly, debunked. This has been the inevitable result of evolutionary theory and science. Alchemy is what we had before we developed chemistry; astrology is what we had before we developed astronomy; the argument from design is what we had before we had evolutionary theory.

There's a simple reason you see fundamentalists' with bumper ornaments in which Christian "truth" fish are eating "darwin" fish. Fundamentalists understand, correctly, that evolution is a dagger in the heart of their world view.
9.14.2009 11:10pm
Joe Triscari (mail):
CJColucci: The next time you hear someone sniffing about the uneducated who don't accept evolution, ask them if they know what adaptive radiation is. Ask them if they can identify the experiments that justify Darwin's opinion and falsify Lamarck's. When they can't answer, you will have identified someone who does not understand evolution as a scientific theory. You will have identified a dimwit who uses evolution as a way to needle religious people.

Now you can create as many examples as you like!
9.15.2009 1:34am
Ricardo (mail):
Neither I nor Milbank would argue that creationism is "scientific." But it is, along with "fundamentalist" Biblical literalism more generally, a cousin to modern science, arising out of a similar sort of distinctly post-Enlightenment sensibility.

Without more context, the quote from Milbank reads as the quote of someone who would rather be counter-intuitive than correct. It's like saying that belief in free-market capitalism in the U.S. comes from a "Marxist sensibility." I mean that's pretty provocative -- but there's no real support behind it.

There is a sensibility that Milbank has in mind but it's not a scientific one and it certainly doesn't date from the Enlightenment. A better starting point would be Plato and Socrates -- who are, of course, relied quite heavily upon by Catholic theologians -- who tried to construct an understanding of the universe based on appeals to reason and intuition rather than observation. There was a resurgence of this mindset during the Enlightenment with the rationalist school of thought. However, modern science is much more closely associated with the empiricist, Humean world view which is inherently skeptical of knowledge that does not come from experience and observation.

This supposed "scientific sensibility" has nothing to do with actual science.
9.15.2009 3:19am
Ricardo (mail):
On Hitchens, from what I recall in both his book as well as his public appearances, he has always stated quite clearly that he cannot disprove the existence of God; Mr. exclude=davidb is quite right on that point.

On the other hand, if we keep truly open minds on the subject, we would have to start asking all kinds of frankly blasphemous questions: Is God good or evil? Should all that we observe in the natural world really be laid at the feet of the Christian God?

For instance, if we believe life begins at the moment of conception, it turns out that spontaneous abortion is much more common in nature than we previously realized. This is in addition to the pregnancies that end in miscarriage. In the womb of tiger sharks, the beginning of life is even more arbitrary: baby tiger sharks carry on a fight to the death inside the mother's womb so that only the strongest is ever born in the first place. The gruesome reality of the plague virus and various flesh-eating bacteria are also not things that, if I was a believer, I would want attributed to my God. Religions have only extraordinarily tepid responses as these uncomfortable facts start to accumulate.

I think this is really the point Hitchens zooms in on. Even if you remove God entirely from the question of the creation of life, as Hitchens is fond of saying, you still have all the same work an atheist has in front of him of trying to make sense of the world.
9.15.2009 3:35am
Joseph Slater (mail):
Joe Triscari:

Next time you see someone doubt the idea that the internet is controlled by little internet trolls and fairies that live inside computers, ask them to explain the computer coding, physics of wireless transfer of electronic information, etc. If they can't, they are dimwits who have totally lost the argument with the troll/fairy folks.
9.15.2009 9:14am
Laura(southernxyl) (mail) (www):
Joseph, if the troll-doubter was sneering at the troll-believer and calling him an uneducated idiot, I'd think asking those questions would be exactly the thing to do.
9.15.2009 9:52am
Randy R. (mail):
Actually, the dagger in the heart of religion began with the Enlightenment. Asking questions of these sorts didn't begin with Darwin, but rather began in the 17th and 18th centuries, and so Darwin was merely following in a long line of questioning philosophers and scientists. (Early on, they were one and the same, of course).

Everyone likes to blame and credit Darwin for removing religion from its pedestal, but we really should give copious credit to all those who came before him, whether they be Newton or Voltaire, or merely an obscure person of curiousity who wouldn't take "God did it" as an answer.
9.15.2009 10:17am
I Believe in the Internet Fairy!:
WHO DARES CALL ME STUPID? ANYONE?

Relativism strikes again! There is no objective truth, just people with fancy book learning, and people without fancy book learning! I blame liberals.
9.15.2009 10:38am
Assistant Village Idiot (mail) (www):
Well, no one answered before, so I don't know why I bother.

Yankee, and others, are making a distinction without a difference. To note that Dawkins or Dennett or whoever did not say an certain set of words and has made a point of saying something that is 3% different is a non-answer.

Most evolutionists don't really care about the God &Bible issues at all, except that they want to be free to teach what they think true. There are others whose anti-theist aim is obvious. Most fall somewhere in between, not giving it much attention but definitely taking the "good on you for kicking the creationists a bit."
9.15.2009 10:38am
CJColucci:
Joe Tricari:
You seem to think we disagree about something, and I suspect we do, but I'm not sure what you think the nature of our disagreement is. Maybe that's my fault, so I'll try again.
The overwhelming majority of non-professionals have absolutely no basis or ability to judge for themselves whether the theory of evolution is true. I think we all agree on that, and I include myself among that overwhelming majority. For similar reasons, most people, including me, have no way of judging for themselves whether Wayne Gretzky is a better hockey player than Steve Yzerman.
The overwhelming consensus among those who do have the ability to judge for themselves whether the theory of evolution is true is that it is, and any reasonably well-informed person knows that this is the consensus of those entitled to an opinion. Likewise, the overwhelming consensus among those who do have the ability to judge hockey players is that Wayne Gretzky is a better hockey player than Steve Yzerman, and any reasonably well-informed sports fan knows that this is the consensus of those entitled to an opinion.
Now if one of the vast majority who know nothing about hockey were to sit in a sports bar and loudly insist on the superiority of Steve Yzerman over Wayne Gretsky, giving what are, even on superficial examination, bad reasons for this belief, the members of the vast majority who cannot judge hockey players for themselves but are aware of what hockey experts know would be justified in considering the barfly an ass. And they would be right to think so, even if they themselves could not explain why Wayne Gretzky is better than Steve Yzerman. Similarly, if someone incapable of judging for himself nevertheless insists that the theory of evolution is wrong, giving bad reasons for this belief, other people incapable of judging for themselves, but aware of what actual scientists know, would be justified in considering the loudmouth who, without basis, challenges the expert consensus, to be an ass.
So what is it we disagree about?
9.15.2009 10:40am
Laura(southernxyl) (mail) (www):

if someone incapable of judging for himself nevertheless insists that the theory of evolution is wrong, giving bad reasons for this belief, other people incapable of judging for themselves, but aware of what actual scientists know, would be justified in considering the loudmouth who, without basis, challenges the expert consensus, to be an ass.


Can I jump in here?

Is it necessary to call someone an ass? What if a person is very polite and respectful in saying that he thinks the theory of evolution is wrong - are you still justified in calling that person an ass?

I am down with evolution, totally. I am not down with telling somebody else he's stupid and a fool simply because he's not down with it, especially since my first thought would be that he's reacting to OTHER people telling him he's stupid and a fool, not because he is rejecting actual data.

And when people go off the deep end about evolution, on either side, I wonder what they're so dadgum defensive about. I took a microbiology course, a lecture and a lab, at a university a few years ago. We talked about evolution a little bit but it was not the sole point of discussion that whole semester - far from it. Hyperbole like "Nothing in biology makes sense except in light of evolution." comes across as such b/c for those of us who've studied biology, evolution is important but it is not the be-all end-all. You can learn all about the function of different kinds of DNA, protein construction by ribosomes, how enzymes work, proton pumps, and all kinds of cool stuff without mentioning evolution even once. I'd have liked to have learned more about how evolutionary theory informs micro, as a matter of fact, but there was not time to get to it. So evolution isn't all there is to biology, and a person who rejects it isn't necessarily living in the stone age.
9.15.2009 11:45am
Randy R. (mail):
Laura, you make some good points. When I took biology classes back in high school and some more general science classes in college, I was taught evolution, and it wasn't a big deal. Just part of the curriculum.

The problem arose sometime between then and now, and it arose because some religionists have proclaimed very loudly and publicly that evolution is false, teachings of Satan, destroys our faith in God, etc. They were the ones that went on the attack against any person who taught evolution at all, like in my high school class.

So now we have high school students challenging teachers when the subject comes up, and their challenges all come from ill-informed books and dogma. (Questions like how could wings develop if you need a full size wing to fly?)

And so evolutionists were caught off guard. Strangely, these religionists tried to prevent evolution from being taught at all, but they lost that one. So they came up with the clever creationism to pretend it's science. That didn't work, so now they are disingenuously trying to 'teach the controversy.'

They simply won't give up. Evolutionists have said, keep science in the classroom, and theology in Sunday school. That seems a reasonable compromise, but it's not enough for them.

So, yes, I agree, we shouldn't be calling people like doc an ass, but when they are deliberately trying to create a controversy where none exists, where they keep trying to teach something that is false as true, and keep trying to find ways to discredit evolution, then you are going to see a bit of exasperation on the part of the scientists.
9.15.2009 12:40pm
zuch (mail) (www):
Tim McDonald:
I have to tell you, as an engineer, if my boss came to me and said, we have to make a decision based on this, does the theory of evolution hold up, I would have to tell him flip a coin on the decision, there is not enough data to rate the so called theory of evolution as any better than an untested hypothesis, and unfortunately, it looks likely to remain that way.
I have to tell you, as a scientist, that your knowledge of the sciences is not very good.

And if you, as an engineer, choose to remain ignorant of the state of science, you probably aren't a very good engineer either.

Cheers,
9.15.2009 12:48pm
zuch (mail) (www):
... and not an English major either.
[Tim McDonald]: The problem we have, is that the Darwinist's [sic] treat evolution as a religion, to be accepted without evidence, and all problems to be brushed over.
Now I would be a fool to take this raw assertion as true without evidence, wouldn't I? ;-)

Cheers,
9.15.2009 12:51pm
CJColucci:
Is it necessary to call someone an ass?

No, but it's often fun and sometimes desirable.
People who know or should know that they do not know what they are talking about should either accept what those who do know what they are talking about say or avoid the subject about which they are ignorant. Those who, lacking any basis to do so, set themselves up as critics of what they do not understand, are asses. Whether to call them that in particular circumstances is a question of tactics and taste.

What if a person is very polite and respectful in saying that he thinks the theory of evolution is wrong - are you still justified in calling that person an ass?

Generally, no. I haven't run into many who fit that description, but if I do, I'll try to be polite.
9.15.2009 12:52pm
KM2 (mail):
Economics is very useful, but it's not science. It's based on a priori assumptions about human behavior rather than empirical evidence, they don't do experiments (a few economists do but this is a very new development), and there's a distinct attitude that if reality doesn't fit the theory, too bad for reality. Psychology (which is based on controlled experiments) is much more like science than economics is.


Actually, the parallel between economics and evolutionary theory is a very good one. I say this as an economist whose daughter is a research biologist. In their original and most basic forms each looks at pure observations and attempts to use some simple experimental evidence to help explain those phenomena. Darwin took Mendel and used his controlled experiments to help explain the development of distinct species in isolated ecosystems. Adam Smith took simple thought experiments involving a limited number of actors and used those results to help explain economic behavior on a large scale. In each case, long after the basics of evolutionary theory and market economics were developed, controlled experiments were devised to test and refine those theories. Just as there are a relatively small number of good, solid biologists who dispute the scientific validity of all or parts of evolution, so are there a small number of good, solid economists who dispute the benefits of free trade or the harm of minimum wage regulations. In each case, their arguments seem rather contorted and designed to produce a pre-selected conclusion, rather than to explain actual phenomena.
9.15.2009 1:25pm
Anatid:

You can learn all about the function of different kinds of DNA, protein construction by ribosomes, how enzymes work, proton pumps, and all kinds of cool stuff without mentioning evolution even once.


Sure, you can, but you'll be doing more rote memorization of biochemical pathways than true understand of how biological processes came to function the way they do if you don't place them into the context of evolution.

Far more important than learning any single scientific fact is the ability to think critically about those facts. Part of the ability to think critically about biology includes understanding the basic biological paradigms. Evolution is one of them. Everything has evolved.

If you're trying to understand why the heck a hormone like oxytocin - antidiuretic as well as smooth muscle contractant and associated with orgasm, love, and trust - has the various functions it does, then you'll be lost without evolution. If all you care about is memorizing those functions, then you're fine.
9.15.2009 1:34pm
Anatid:

Darwin took Mendel and used his controlled experiments to help explain the development of distinct species in isolated ecosystems.


IIRC, Darwin had not heard of Mendel when he wrote Origin. I don't even believe he'd heard of Wallace. His influences were more guys like Lyell.
9.15.2009 1:36pm
zuch (mail) (www):
KM2:
Actually, the parallel between economics and evolutionary theory is a very good one. I say this as an economist whose daughter is a research biologist. In their original and most basic forms each looks at pure observations and attempts to use some simple experimental evidence to help explain those phenomena. Darwin took Mendel and used his controlled experiments to help explain the development of distinct species in isolated ecosystems.
I think your 'analogy' breaks down a little here. Mendel's obsertvations came after, and independently of, Darwin's "On the Origin of Species". Ask your daughter.

Cheers,
9.15.2009 1:51pm
Laura(southernxyl) (mail) (www):

CJColucci:
Is it necessary to call someone an ass?

No, but it's often fun and sometimes desirable.


And so what do you imagine you have accomplished when you do that? A - you've made yourself feel superior in the way that a schoolyard bully might. B - you've eliminated any possibility that that person is ever going to listen to what you have to say. That's real mature there. Please don't help the cause of evolution any more.


If you're trying to understand why the heck a hormone like oxytocin - antidiuretic as well as smooth muscle contractant and associated with orgasm, love, and trust - has the various functions it does, then you'll be lost without evolution. If all you care about is memorizing those functions, then you're fine.


Are you talking, Anatid, about the exact evolutionary pathway from primordial soup to the molecular structure of oxytocin? Or the bare bones theory of natural selection, which can be explained in five minutes and moved on from? Or something in between?
9.15.2009 1:57pm
Laura(southernxyl) (mail) (www):
Oh, and further:


So now we have high school students challenging teachers when the subject comes up, and their challenges all come from ill-informed books and dogma. (Questions like how could wings develop if you need a full size wing to fly?)

And so evolutionists were caught off guard.


If evolutionists were caught off guard b/c they'd gotten lazy and not asked questions like how wings could develop, then seems to me that evolution-deniers are doing science a favor by forcing these questions to get some attention. Complacency, sloppiness have no place in science.
9.15.2009 2:06pm
Joseph Slater (mail):
Joseph, if the troll-doubter was sneering at the troll-believer and calling him an uneducated idiot, I'd think asking those questions would be exactly the thing to do.

Laura: I dunno. My point was there is an awful lot of science going on in the world around us that most laypeople have generally correct but not specifically correct ideas about. I suppose I could say the troll-doubter could then go look things up on some equivalent to talkorigns. Anyway, I couldn't explain exactly how wireless internet works, but I still don't think that should prevent me from disagreeing, even disagreeing emphatically, with the troll/fairy-believers.

Also, yeah, being challenged can push me to learn more, and that's often good. But few among us are going to have a real detailed understanding of how everything works in this highly technological age.

But maybe your real point is one about civility: people shouldn't sneer, call them an ass (per the posts above), etc. Generally speaking, I heartily agree. I think, though, that some on the "pro-evolution" side believe that some on the creationist/intelligent design side aren't really arguing in good faith. You do see a lot of arguments that have been thoroughly discredited over and over. That's not an excuse for being rude, but it's a reason people lose patience.
9.15.2009 2:31pm
ohwilleke:
Creationism is strong in the U.S. because Evangelical religious belief, which has creationism as a tenant is strong.

Evangelical religion, in turn, is strong in the U.S. because it protects a Southern culture threatened by a national culture different in values. Protection of the Southern culture has been sensitized by most of pre-Civil War and Reconstruction history, where it was actively attacked, and again by the Civil Rights movement.

Evangelical religion is also strong because it is one of the main unifying threads between black and white populations in fiercely racially divided Southern communities. It is a rallying cry to bring together locals against a common Yankee threat.

Creationism is weak in Europe because it has not been a tenant of any of the leading established religious denominations of Europe (Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Anglican), and because non-immigrants in Europe is far more secular.

Immigrants of all faiths are far more religious than native Europeans, with the exceptioon of Ireland where the Roman Catholic church preserved Irish culture against Protestant occupiers from England, and perhaps Poland, where it served a similar role. The only full Christian churches in England are immigrant churches. The teach both set in Europe, I suspecet, is primarily expressing a desire for immigrate tolerant policy rather than their own views.

Europeans believe many weird counterfactual things, like any other people. But, not creationism, because it doesn't have the same cultural litmus test role that it does in the United States.
9.15.2009 2:44pm
Laura(southernxyl) (mail) (www):
An Egyptian commenter on my blog said this:


By the way my father used to be an evolutionist . He went to prison for six years in the past for what he believed . But still he never gave his opinion or freedom of speach up .


And I had a Muslim coworker, from Lebanon, who was appalled to find that I had not rejected evolution in favor of the creation stories in Genesis.
9.15.2009 2:48pm
NickM (mail) (www):

Oh, and further:



So now we have high school students challenging teachers when the subject comes up, and their challenges all come from ill-informed books and dogma. (Questions like how could wings develop if you need a full size wing to fly?)

And so evolutionists were caught off guard.



If evolutionists were caught off guard b/c they'd gotten lazy and not asked questions like how wings could develop, then seems to me that evolution-deniers are doing science a favor by forcing these questions to get some attention. Complacency, sloppiness have no place in science.


"Evolutionists"? This has little to do with scientists not being able to answer questions, but a lot to do with the sorry state of science education in many American public schools, where the football coach is deemed qualified to also teach science classes because he majored in kinesiology.

Nick
9.15.2009 2:55pm
Laura(southernxyl) (mail) (www):
Well, I will give you that, Nick, and it's another reason why all of this angst about what gets taught in high school is beside the point. Face it, the kids are looking out the window anyway.
9.15.2009 2:58pm
CJColucci:
And so what do you imagine you have accomplished when you do that?

You're assuming that I want to accomplish something. Sometimes, telling a jackass he's a jackass is its own reward. Politeness is a good thing, especially when there is some reason to think the other person is acting in good faith and is open to rational persuasion; but not everyone is as nice as you, and when they make clear that they are not acting in good faith or open to rational persuasion, they forfeit the right to be treated as if they were.
9.15.2009 3:47pm
New Pseudonym (mail):

The Catholic Church accepted evolution in 1977.


I don't know where this comes from. It would surprise both my mother (who graduated from Catholic college in 1934) and Father Vopelak, my high school biology teacher in 1954, both of whom taught me about evolution.


Anyway most catholics dont read the Bible anyway . . .


Same thing. As a minimum, there are three readings from the Bible at Mass every Sunday and most people I see have their noses in their missalettes, reading along with the lector. Perhaps they don't read the Bible all the way through from cover to cover, but both statements are inaccurate.
9.15.2009 7:23pm
zuch (mail) (www):
Laura(southernxyl):
If evolutionists were caught off guard b/c they'd gotten lazy and not asked questions like how wings could develop....
And if pigs could fly, we'd all carry cast iron umbrellas. Scientists have investigated (and solved some of) these issues of the origin of new functionality. The cretinists, of course, ignore it.

Cheers,
9.15.2009 7:30pm
zuch (mail) (www):
ohwilleke:
Evangelical religion is also strong because it is one of the main unifying threads between black and white populations in fiercely racially divided Southern communities. It is a rallying cry to bring together locals against a common Yankee threat.
This is not true. In fact, in the words of Wolfgang Pauli, "It's not even wrong."

Cheers,
9.15.2009 7:36pm
Laura(southernxyl) (mail) (www):
Zuch, it wasn't I who said the evolutionists were caught off guard. That was Randy R.

If I ask you a question, and you have an answer for it, you aren't caught off guard, are you?
9.15.2009 7:36pm
Leo Marvin (mail):
Laura, I don't think they were caught off guard by being asked to explain the evolutionary process, but rather that anyone would seriously suggest the teleological arguments against evolution hadn't long before been taken up and disposed of.
9.15.2009 8:06pm
Laura(southernxyl) (mail) (www):
Leo, if a kid asked me a question I could answer, I'd answer it.

I caught a lot of crap a few years ago on an online forum, from a biologist in NZ, b/c of some questions I asked. I then got an email from him; he'd "popped over" to my blog and "had a look", realized I was just sincerely questioning, apologized, and answered my questions. We had some back-and-forth emails, in which he nicely answered several questions I had that probably forty million other people have asked, without accusing me of "seriously suggesting that the teleological arguments against evolution hadn't long before been taken up and disposed of." For instance, we keep hearing that wisdom teeth, no longer needed, will stop showing up; some people now have only three, and so on. What's the mechanism for that, I asked. I could see it if people were dying b/c of wisdom tooth decay and rot, but that's probably happening less now than at any time in the past, so where's the pressure to stop having wisdom teeth? (And I'd be interested to know how many non-biologists on this thread who are scoffing at people who question evolution can answer that question.)

The fact is that if person X asks person Y a question, and person Y comes back with "you only ask that because you've been put up to it by dishonest people," then that leaves X thinking that those people who put him up to it have a point.

If I were teaching a kid in a high school biology class, and he insisted on asking questions like how flies got their wings, I'd probably load him down with reference books containing relevant information and invite him to write me a paper about it. Lessons for him to learn: Don't ask serious questions if you're not prepared to work a little for the answer. Don't assume that I don't know what I'm talking about. And don't shoot your mouth off in class.
9.15.2009 8:49pm
Anatid:
Laura:

Are you talking, Anatid, about the exact evolutionary pathway from primordial soup to the molecular structure of oxytocin? Or the bare bones theory of natural selection, which can be explained in five minutes and moved on from? Or something in between?


I'm talking about the simple understanding that most given hormones, enzymes, genes, and even organs develop in an organism and serve an original function, and then associated functions are likely to arise using the same molecule/etc. Oxytocin is a good example of this. For that matter, so is the feather, or any number of recombinant genes I could look up. If you want to study the role that oxytocin plays in the body without understanding, on a very basic level, how this antidiuretic hormone wound up in evolution to participate in some fairly sophisticated neurological processing, then be my guest. But you'll be missing out.

That's the thing. You don't "believe" in evolution. You understand it. And once you do understand it, you start to see more and more in the context of it. The study of origins is great stuff. Look at a piece of iron, and see the supernova'ed core of a long-dead star. Look at Yosemite Valley, and see the glaciers that carved it out. Look at a bird, and see a specialized dinosaur.

Look at a worm, and see a self-replicating molecule that, by sheer volume of random chance, time, and natural selection, became a life.

I know I'm waxing eloquent here, but I feel like any level of understanding that is less thorough is incomplete. Among other things, studying things as they are without studying how they came to be leaves the student vulnerable to the exact point of discussion in this thread: general ignorance. If you know that birds have wings, and dinosaurs do not have wings, and never bother to study the wing motions of groundrunning birds, then it isn't unreasonable for you to doubt that one could become the other. If you offer the five-minute explanation of natural selection without really delving into examples and theory, then you usually wind up with a student who has substituted the intentional, guiding hand of God in his mind for Nature, but otherwise views evolution with the same lack of comprehension.

Selectively leaving out bits from an otherwise rich curriculum, to try not to offend people's religious-fueled (or ignorance-fueled) feelings, seems not just foolish, but dangerous. Why the heck has evolution, one of the most important theories for understanding life (it's implicit in the definition of life itself!) been singled out for this mistreatment? Do we see people questioning the first law of thermodynamics because energy and mass were not conserved when Christ made few fishes and loaves feed many? Do we see people questioning liquid physics because Christ walked on water? Do we see people questioning Euclidean geometry because Noah was able to fit two of every species onto the 300x50x30-cubit ark?

Aside from certain specific parts of recent developmental neursocience literature as they relate to sexuality and social/moral behavior, evolution seems to have been singled out. The reasons don't seem logical, they seem grounded in the indignation of people who seem to feel that they'd be degraded if they view themselves as animal, much less self-replicating organic systems, much less self-regulating neural networks.

Call it the bias conferred by an excellent early education in science, but for me, I see two very different approaches to answer the question "Why?" One is a vast, fascinating, infinitely complicated study of dynamic systems within systems, and the other is the obsolete metaphor left over by one desert tribe that happened to culturally beat out the other desert tribes by virtue of valuing literacy.

(Even religion 'evolves'. Look at all the various names used to refer to God in the Torah and compare them to the pre-Judaism Levant deities of the area. Look at all of the local Amerindian deities and compare them to the Catholic saints now worshiped in the same towns. Look at the incorporation of Buddhism into Shinto in Japan.)

- So hopefully you can begin to see why this debate is so frustrating, and why those who understand evolution might react more negatively than simply referring those who do not understand to the pertinent educational material. Scientific understanding should not have to compete with, nor be presented in the same arena as, religious belief.
9.15.2009 9:24pm
Joe Triscari (mail):
CJColucci: You ask where we disagree. You asked for examples of people using evolution to needle religious folk. Rather than giving you an example, I gave you a reproducible experiment.

The questions I presented are not arcane scientific knowledge. They are not equivalent to knowing the detailed inner workings of the internet (Joseph). They are the basic evidence that support evolution. They are a way to probe if your target has a tenth grader's understanding of the science of evolution.

As for your argument that your opinion comes from agreeing with the consensus, you are just repeating the arguments of politicians who know very little about science. Consensus is not the basis for scientific fact. Nor are peer-reviewed articles. You are not more scientifically literate for your ability to nod along with the crowd.

Reproducible experiment is the basis of scientific fact.

Learning science means learning which reproducible experiments support the facts you are being asked to accept. Science literacy pretty much comes to that.

So when you hear someone complaining that Europeans are more scientifically literate than Americans because they are willing to accept facts they don't understand as long as they're accepted by experts ask yourself, "Could there another reason? Do Europeans have a propensity to accept authority with fewer questions?" Honest answers to those questions may be less flattering to Europeans and less condemnatory to Americans.

Finally, if a teacher, a blogger or whoever cannot respond to questions regarding science by presenting scientific evidence, they ought to consider talking about something else. If they are are caught off guard because "the science is settled" or the questioner might believe something else or whatever, then they should consider some alternate way to keep their mind active.

Because "science" doesn't need them.
9.15.2009 10:06pm
Laura(southernxyl) (mail) (www):

You don't "believe" in evolution.


Oh, I agree there. That whole "believe in evolution" thing irritates me, because we don't "believe in" gravity, do we? Believing in something does sound like a religious term.

I think that before a person gets to the level of understanding that you're talking about, he or she needs quite a bit of background information to make sense of it. I look back at my daughter's education: she had a great high school biology class, but a major project was to build a model of a section of DNA using styrofoam balls and dowel rods, so the students could get the concept of the double helix in their heads. They did talk about evolution a bit but there was a lot of other stuff to get through. When my kid got into her upper level courses (she was a biology major) she finally was ready for an evolutionary biology course and even with her background it was rigorous. (I somehow didn't get biology in high school; I had botany and zoology, and cell biology and genetics, in college, then that micro class a few years ago. Obviously there was some evolution discussed in my classes but not a hell of a lot.)

So I don't think one should consider a high schooler's education defective if it covers a lot of ground without going into great detail about evolution.

And that's one of the things I've told people who were having a hard time letting go of the Genesis stories. You have to study biology for years before you really get evolution. Even kids in high school biology are building on things they learned in the lower grades; classification of birds and mammals and reptiles in elementary school, for instance. How was God going to reveal evolution to the writer of Genesis? He wouldn't have had the basic knowledge to understand it at all.

If God gave that same revelation to you, you'd write it down very differently; if for no other reason, because you'd have a million questions that it wouldn't have occurred to the writer of Genesis to ask. Besides, the point was that God created the physical universe; he created the Earth and all living things, he did it deliberately, he liked it and thought it was cool. The point was not to explain the mechanism by which it was all done.

And we're part of it. Adam was created from the dust of the ground. When you study biochemistry, you study CHNOPS: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus, sulfur. These are all elements in abundance on this planet. We didn't accidentally fly in on an asteroid or get seeded by aliens, we're part of the whole. There, now I've waxed.

I don't think it's appropriate to be impatient with a questioning teenager. The teacher may have answered the same question forty times, but that particular teenager is asking it the first time. I think you have to view the questioner as an individual, not a representative of a truculent group of deliberate know-nothings. And if a person can't do that then he has no business dealing with high schoolers.

I have a whole lot of other thoughts but I'll stop now.
: )
9.15.2009 10:10pm
ChrisTS (mail):
Laura:

Be thankful. "[B]otany and zoology, and cell biology and genetics" is a lot more biology than most high school kids get these days. (My biology teacher skipped the reproduction chapters - including plant reproduction - because he found it embarrassing.)
9.15.2009 10:16pm
ChrisTS (mail):
http://volokh.com/?exclude=davidb :
he believes that we are marching toward the day in which science will basically render the existence of a deity impossible -- and he may be at the point where he believes theism (rather than deism) is impossible to reconcile with science and evidence

Yes; I think he IS there. The Stenger intro is pretty convincing.

Ricardo:
he cannot disprove the existence of God

Yes, but he is also very, very clear that the burden of explanation is on the theist, and his track record in debating various theists indicates [to me] that he is quite sure they cannot do it, precisely because the hypothesis is false.

I acknowledge that Hitchens, in particular, is careful. But, I think if one reads all his work and listens to his interviews and debates there is little reason to doubt that he thinks science does mean the falsification of theism.

Personally, aside from wanting to be careful in representing another's views - which I applaud - I cannot think of much reason to deny that Hitchens, Dawkins, and Dan Dennett all agreee that science has or will 'disprove' theism. I'm pretty sure none of the three would object to being understood that way by sympathetic readers/listeners. (I know Dan would not.)
9.15.2009 10:29pm
Laura(southernxyl) (mail) (www):

My biology teacher skipped the reproduction chapters - including plant reproduction - because he found it embarrassing.


Oh, that is too funny.
9.15.2009 10:29pm
Ricardo (mail):
Personally, aside from wanting to be careful in representing another's views - which I applaud - I cannot think of much reason to deny that Hitchens, Dawkins, and Dan Dennett all agreee that science has or will 'disprove' theism.

I think the reason to be careful is that if someone does make an incorrect statement about Hitchens, Dawkins or Dennett believing science disproves the existence of God, that provides an opening for their detractors to say that they are scientifically ignorant, do not understand scientific methodology, and have something of a blind faith in the scientific establishment which therefore shows them to be hypocrites.

In the case of Hitchens, I think he is quite careful to close off that rhetorical opportunity. Again, I remember when he was asked this question in a public appearance he said something like "I can't disprove the existence of God. Some people, like Stenger, actually go much further than I do in saying science has actually disproven God's existence."
9.15.2009 11:04pm
John Moore (www):
DiverDan:


surveys consistently show that less than half of Americans accept the theory of evolution

My god, is this Country REALLY that stupid? I'm sorry, but that is simply much too depressing to drop on me on a rainy Monday Morning.

Half the country voted for Obama, so the answer is yes.
9.15.2009 11:47pm
Leo Marvin (mail):
John Moore:

surveys consistently show that less than half of Americans accept the theory of evolution

My god, is this Country REALLY that stupid? I'm sorry, but that is simply much too depressing to drop on me on a rainy Monday Morning.

Half the country voted for Obama, so the answer is yes.

Actually, 53%. But you're right, it should have been much higher. And I assume it would have been, but for the 58% of Republicans who aren't convinced he was eligible to run. So yes, that's an awful lot of Americans whose intelligence is hard to defend.
9.16.2009 12:30am
John Moore (www):

But if you're talking about "religious belief" as it's understood in most of America, which holds as a tenet of faith that God created the world and all life in its current form (or nearly so) in six literal 24-hour days then it gets a lot harder, and blithely wishing that conflict away in a parenthetical doesn't change that fact.

It's clear that either our media or our educational system or both are doing a terrible job at teaching people the demographics of religion.

No, "religious belief" does not, for most religious people in the US, mean Biblical literalism and young earth creationism. Really. It doesn't.

Enough of this ignorant stereotyping.
9.16.2009 12:44am
John Moore (www):

The problem arose sometime between then and now, and it arose because some religionists have proclaimed very loudly and publicly that evolution is false, teachings of Satan, destroys our faith in God, etc. They were the ones that went on the attack against any person who taught evolution at all, like in my high school class.

What, did they suddenly have a revelation from God that it was time to rise up?

I think not. They were responding to assaults on their beliefs (especially regarding abortion) from the liberal elite, who are extremely visible since they control almost all of the media (pre-talk radio) and academia. It doesn't help that some prominent scientific figures (such as the late Carl Sagan - prominent as a popularizer, not a scientist) became active crusaders against religion.

The rise of the fundies is a reaction, pure and simple.
9.16.2009 12:47am
John Moore (www):

Anyway most catholics dont read the Bible anyway


They don't have to. Three years of mass attendance and they've had the whole thing read to them, and explained.
9.16.2009 12:48am
CJColucci:
As for your argument that your opinion comes from agreeing with the consensus, you are just repeating the arguments of politicians who know very little about science. Consensus is not the basis for scientific fact. Nor are peer-reviewed articles. You are not more scientifically literate for your ability to nod along with the crowd.

Joe, I don't disagree with any of that as far as it goes. My point is that 90-plus percent of us, whether pro- or anti-evolution, are in the same leaky boat as far as having sufficient knowledge or expertise to judge for ourselves whether the theory of evolution is true. Among those who do have the knowledge and expertise, the issue is settled. So what is the reasonable attitude for the rest of us to take? I submit that the reasonable person who lacks the ability to judge for himself defers to the consensus of those actually qualified to judge. A person who lacks the ability to judge for himself and nevertheless decides to challenge the consensus among those who do have that ability and know better is unreasonable.
Outside of the question of evolution, we know lots of people of this sort. When they expound on law, medicine, or the like, we call them cranks. (Is that more acceptable to our civility police than "asses"?) Usually, religion has little or nothing to do with their cranky beliefs, and we treat these cranks as if they were Cliff Klaben teetering on his barstool at Cheers. But as a matter of historical and social fact, most people who take this unreasonable or cranky attitude on evolution do so for what they consider religious reasons. That raises the emotional temperature, but cranks are cranks, whatever their motivation.
How any of this is a substitute for actual evidence on the seemingly forgotten original claim that evolution is "taught" as part and parcel of some overarching atheistic worldview eludes me.
9.16.2009 9:44am
Peter Bozek (mail):
There is another problem with evolution - if we and our minds were created by evolution, and no divine intervention was needed, we can reproduce the process - we know how the evolution works. And we can create not only life, we can create intelligent life.
9.16.2009 10:46am
Laura(southernxyl) (mail) (www):
As apparently the default local civility police, I'd like to point something out.


My god, is this Country REALLY that stupid?


lead to


Half the country voted for Obama, so the answer is yes.


which lead to


Actually, 53%. But you're right, it should have been much higher. And I assume it would have been, but for the 58% of Republicans who aren't convinced he was eligible to run. So yes, that's an awful lot of Americans whose intelligence is hard to defend.


So the initial comment lead into some probably satisfying little forays into tribalism, but did not do one thing toward furthering the discussion.

Civility doesn't matter if all you want to do is score points. Is scoring points the only thing that matters in the evolution/creationism struggle? If so, the struggle will never end because neither side wants it to. The only way it will is if somebody starts being the grownup.
9.16.2009 12:56pm
ChrisTS (mail):
ricardo:
provides an opening for their detractors

Ah. Good point.
9.16.2009 5:49pm
ChrisTS (mail):
CJColucci:
People who know or should know that they do not know what they are talking about should either accept what those who do know what they are talking about say or avoid the subject about which they are ignorant

As philosophers like to say, 'Speak not whereof you know not, A**hole." (With apologies to Laura; just being silly)
9.16.2009 6:12pm
ChrisTS (mail):
Anatid:
I know I'm waxing eloquent here

Well I loved it. I hope eloquence is not forbidden.
9.16.2009 6:13pm
Laura(southernxyl) (mail) (www):

... accept what those who do know what they are talking about say...


You know, that's a good theory, but sometimes people who should know what they're talking about, and who think they know what they're talking about, don't. I've had enough experience of that to run EVERYTHING past my personal reasonableness check, and to triangulate the things that are really important by getting independent info.

You can get into real trouble, for instance, if you take what somebody with M.D. after their name tells you without checking it out.
9.16.2009 7:46pm
Anatid:
Thank you, Chris!
9.16.2009 10:54pm
Anatid:

You can get into real trouble, for instance, if you take what somebody with M.D. after their name tells you without checking it out.


The thing is, though, this isn't like a single doctor telling you that you should absolutely take Prozac to treat your depression. This is more like the medical community as a whole coming to an educated consensus that depression is a major and potentially lethal mental illness that needs to be taken seriously, and that for certain individuals medication can be beneficial.

Most people have not studied enough of the relevant literature in order to confirm this for themselves, but accept the consensus of those who have. When outreach programs try to train everyday people to spot symptoms of depression in themselves and others, and encourage those who are depressed to seek treatment, they have neither the time nor the necessity to teach the supporting empirical data. Teaching the basics is enough to save lives.

And then crackpots hang out on the sidelines shouting that even the most severely depressed can cure themselves with nothing more than good nutrition, exercise, and willpower. (The fact that this group is disproportionately made up of Scientologists does not mean that all these people are Scientologists, nor that all Scientologists feel this way. But Scientologists as a whole will still come under fire for it, whether they deserve it or not.)

So absolutely, get a second opinion on what your doctor tells you and research the drug yourself (PubMed is a wonderful place) before starting a new treatment. But if you're suicidally depressed? Please, don't listen to those folks trying to sell you copies of Dianetics in the train station. Go seek help.

Your analogy isn't quite what CJColucci was trying to get at.
9.16.2009 11:09pm
John Moore (www):
Depressions is a good example...

And then crackpots hang out on the sidelines shouting that even the most severely depressed can cure themselves with nothing more than good nutrition, exercise, and willpower.

And they are mostly crackpots, but guess what, certain non-medical treatments work for some percentage of the population. And that's the key - depression is not one thing affecting a uniform set of humans. It is a symptom of several different disorders, expressed and modulated differently as a result of different neurochemistry, neuropatterning and life experience.

The experts know more than anyone else, but they don't know enough - not nearly enough - yet, to make strong claims in this area.

In the area of evolution, they can make much stronger claims. However, one must beware of experts - often their focus is extremely narrow (it has to be to make progress in a field so complex, with so many people working in it, and so much data available).

Note that the same is true with climatology, where skeptics of the AGW hypothesis are labeled cranks with the same disdain as is held for young earth creationists - and yet the AGW hypothesis, also a "consensus," is not nearly as well supported.
9.17.2009 1:07am
Laura(southernxyl) (mail) (www):

The thing is, though, this isn't like a single doctor telling you that you should absolutely take Prozac to treat your depression. This is more like the medical community as a whole coming to an educated consensus that depression is a major and potentially lethal mental illness that needs to be taken seriously, and that for certain individuals medication can be beneficial.


It may be like the entire medical community calling antibiotics "wonder drugs" as they did when they were first developed (and they were) and then almost destroying their effectiveness by prescribing them all the time. Creating diseases like MRSA and XDR TB by using them inappropriately even after it was clearly known what would happen. Remember that diabetes drug - started with an "R" - that had to be suddenly taken off the market b/c it was damaging people's livers? You have people who react to these things by rejecting medication of all kinds, and I can't say that I don't see their point. I don't reject medication of all kinds, but I definitely "trust but verify". I'm just not that impressed with authority and credentials.
9.17.2009 9:46am
_Drew_ (www):
I disagree with the notion that laypeople can't learn the evidence for evolution to a sufficient degree. It's not really that obscure or technical. It just takes time and interest in the subject, and a willingness to get a good background in lots of different scientific areas (since the evidence involves more than simply biology proper). Most people don't have either, and there's nothing wrong with that (I don't have the time or interest to become informed about football scores of the 1930s).
9.17.2009 9:48am

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