Republican Candidates vs. Evolution

3 of the current Republican Candidates for President don’t believe in evolution. One of them, Mike Huckabee, is ever becoming a major contestant.

A little while back, The Proletariat had an interesting post that discussed Darwinism, evolution, Marxism, and Religion on his blog in response to an article in the Journal of International Socialist Review entitled “Why evolutionary biology creates a problem for the Right?” by Phil Gasper.

Simply put, the religious fundamentalist attack on Darwin’s ideas amounts, in effect, to an attack on the scientific method itself. Rejecting evolutionary biology means rejecting along with it large portions of physics, astronomy, cosmology, geology, and other sciences, which provide evidence for evolution or employ similar methods. But capitalism depends on the accumulation and exploitation of new scientific knowledge. In the short term if religious anti-evolutionists are successful in a particular locality, they can do serious damage to science education, deter researchers from accepting university positions, and create a climate hostile to high-tech industry and investment. In the longer term they can pose a threat to scientific reason itself. Because of this, opposition to creationism and intelligent design has emerged within the conservative movement itself.

It got me thinking about the supposed ‘war’ between science and religion.

I myself am a fervent believer in Evolution. I’m not anti-religion, nor am I a “secular humanist” (I find them silly). I simply think that the evidence is clear, and that the theory of evolution is the strongest theory we have to explain human origins.

It says nothing about whether there is or is not a God. That isn’t the point. The point is that there is genetic variation over time and through processes like natural and sexual selection in response to pressure from their environment and from other species, creatures can (and very often do) change dramatically. It’s about biology and genetics, NOT metaphysics.

There may well have been a God that had a hand in the start of the universe. I, and no one else can know for sure. But, Evolution as a theory makes a remarkably strong case for how species have evolved and branched out ONCE LIFE GOT STARTED.

Evolution does not start with the premise that there is no God. That’s a myth. It just takes us from the moments in the beginnings of life to now. If God is as powerful and all-knowing as Christians say he is, then he is MORE than capable enough to have started this process and allowed it to just ‘do it’s thing’.

I am still convinced that the reason that Creationists and ID folk don’t believe in the theory of evolution is based on a few key points: 1) They don’t fundamentally understand what the theory actually says; and 2) Their fears, born out of that misunderstanding, that evolution is an attack on God, hits too close to home for them to think rationally. It is very hard for anyone to think rationally when they think that those things (or those people, ideas) that they hold dearest are under attack.

But, the fact of the matter is that evolution is NOT an attack on Religion. Period. Of course, I understand that many evolution writers (Dawkins comes to mind) are themselves engaged in what they see as a war between Atheists (and others they deem truly ‘rational’) and Religionists (who they deem decidedly ‘irrational’). But, we must be careful not to confuse the scientific ideas with the non-scientific, philosophical, discussion about the existence of God that happens to be continuing on between some of those who work in these fields.

When a Physicist says that he supports a Democrat for President, it doesn’t imply that the theory of Quantum Mechanics necessitates Democratic policies. That’s absurd. Science is science, politics is politics, and religion is religion.

I am becoming increasingly convinced that the war between Science and Religion is largely a fabrication by those at the extremes to polarize an otherwise intelligent and reasonable public. With full access to the facts, and without the suppression that comes from creationists and those who favor ID to keep evolution out of schools, people would be far more likely to be able see evolution for what it is (and for what it isn’t).

There is no war based on facts. There is simply animosity between groups that don’t really hear one another.

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12 responses to “Republican Candidates vs. Evolution

  1. Saij, well said! I believe this is one of the clearest and most thoughtful posts I have seen on this imagined clash of worldviews. You are saying much the same thing as John Clayton: no one should have an argument with the facts. Thank you for this very cogent post. I will refer readers to it on my blog.

  2. Pingback: The War between Science and Faith « Whitticisms

  3. Hi saij,

    I think akismet blocked my comment because it had 5 links in it. It wasn’t spam, I promise! If you dig through Akismet Spam you can retrieve and approve it (if you don’t mind). I was responding to your post from a different, nonpolarizing perspective.

    Thanks,
    the forester

  4. I hope that you don’t mind my just surfing in. One fact that is beyond dispute: scientists, especially the elite ones, are far more likely to be atheistic than non-scientists. I think there is a reason for that.

    My guess: many people turn to religion to help answer the question: “who are we and how did we get here?” If one truly accepts evolution, then one accepts the concept of random mutation and thereby accepts the concept that just plain randomness had something to say about why “we” are “we” and not some other creature with intelligence.

    That is, evolutionary theory leads us to understand that, as humans, there is nothing that special about us. That in tern leads to a non belief in a personal deity (though some might posit the existence of some non-personal creative intelligence; even Dawkins admits that this is possible).

    Thank you for the nice blog post!

  5. Pingback: Goose Run « blueollie

  6. Well, in lieu of an Akismet bail-out, I’ll try my comment again, this time with only 3 links:

    I was raised agnostic. I believed in evolution through public high school and private university (Johns Hopkins). My understanding of evolutionary thinking isn’t shabby; I continue to read about it frequently. I think that addresses your point #1.

    At the age of 25 I came to believe a lot had been glossed over in what I’d been taught. When I threw out my preconceptions and started over, thinking critically about evolutionary theory, I came to suspect it was flawed. (A few of my questions are here.)

    However, I don’t wage war on science. I support evolutionary science because researchers are digging up and scrutinizing real animals in real rock layers. God is no deceiver. While I may disagree with the timeframes scientists conclude on, I can still appreciate what they reveal about the organisms God created that are no longer alive today. Further, I don’t demand that creationism be taught in schools — creationism needs to prove itself in the scientific sphere first (and I expect it will do so eventually). I hope this addresses your point #2 — evolution doesn’t scare me.

    … and yet, unlike many Christians who see no conflict between evolution and faith, I do see evolution opposing Biblical Christianity. Genesis explains that God created a good world … but the world I see is not. Many question God’s goodness and/or power on the basis of suffering. Genesis explains suffering: the world fell into corruption as a result of humanity’s disobedience in the Garden of Eden. Without a good creation, and without a literal Adam and Eve, this explanation for suffering falls apart — putting God’s character back in the crosshairs. I don’t consider this little conundrum a fabrication — it’s a real philosophical stickler.

    Addressing your conclusion …

    I am becoming increasingly convinced that the war between Science and Religion is largely a fabrication by those at the extremes to polarize an otherwise intelligent and reasonable public. With full access to the facts, and without the suppression that comes from creationists and those who favor ID to keep evolution out of schools, people would be far more likely to be able see evolution for what it is (and for what it isn’t).

    … I’m a creationist who’s not at war with science, not even evolutionary science. I suppress nothing — I even post del.icio.us links to evolutionary articles on my blog. I expect all schools, even religious schools, to teach evolution thoroughly until it is debunked. I hope this qualifies me as “intelligent and reasonable”; if you read my blog I hope it will be seen as one that spurs others on toward intelligence and reason.

    There is no war based on facts. There is simply animosity between groups that don’t really hear one another.

    I agree with you to some degree. Yes, each side has advocates that are too polemic. But I don’t have any animosity, and I think I do hear the other side.

    I write all of this to suggest that a person can be reasonable and intelligent, yet still have doubts about evolution.

  7. … or, on second thought, two links. (Creationism notwithstanding, I do know how to count.) 😉

  8. Well said! Thanks for this great post.

    I just wanted to comment that my path through atheism (although I don’t call myself that) and science has been the opposite of what BlueOllie suggested.

    I have always been non-religious and have never held any belief in gods or deities. I grew up in Kansas, where, even before intelligent design became a common term, there was almost no talk of evolution in the schools. Since religion was not an option to answer the ‘how did we get here’ questions, and I wasn’t finding answers in junior high or high school, I felt very compelled to study physical anthropology and human evolution at university and grad school.

  9. I really don’t care what a politician says in order to appeal to a base, even that he or she doesn’t believe in evolution, or that the earth is flat, or that the sun revolves around the earth. Such politicians are panderers at best, morons at worst, and I for one would never vote for any of them.

  10. Except this isn’t really an equal battle. Faith is attempting to label its products science, and scientists are having none of it. If ever a debate was one sided, it is this one. It isn’t that both sides don’t hear one another. They do. Hence ID rather than Creationism. Hence the Flying Spaghetti Monster. They hear, and then adjust their approach. The creationists try to hide the religious nature of the beliefs behind labels and experts. The scientists respond with humor.

  11. I DON’T want ID or creationism in SCIENCE CLASS, because there is no way to measure or physically research the metaphysical/supernatural parts of those systems. However, in order to try to teach our kids tolerance and acceptance, I think we should teach creationism and religion still in general in your SOCIAL SCIENCE/STUDIES CLASS and/or part of PHILOSOPHY CLASS.

  12. Thank you everyone for the responses. Especially during the holidays!

    Forester: Sorry for the delay, the holidays being what they are, I haven’t been able to check my blog (and un-spam your post) till now.

    But, as much as I do believe in the theory of evolution, I wouldn’t ever want to imply that it’s an infallible theory, nor beyond question. Serious questions based on facts (or lacking facts) are always welcome. That’s what science is all about. In fact, that’s where much of the FUN of science lies.

    I think people like yourself are very welcome, or at least should be. I certainly welcome you! Neither side should become so dogmatic that they stop asking the hard questions.

    Unfortunately, so much of the “debate” in the public sphere is not of that kind. It’s primarily rhetoric based on fear-mongering. It’s that kind of rhetorical babble I’m complaining about (at least that’s what I meant).

    Dan (fitness): You make a good point. Much of what we might call a debate, isn’t really a debate proper. Scientists aren’t changing the way they conduct business in any significant way because of the ID folk. They largely see them as whacko’s.

    Likewise, hardcore Christian conservatives see ‘evolutionists’ as anti-God heathens.

    There in lies the problem.

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