The Seattle based Discovery Institute is once again expressing alarm over what they call the “corrosive” effects of evolution. This time the concern is that “the theory of evolution is beginning to erode that belief in humanity’s unique status and dignity.”
In a survey they asked 3,400 respondents if they agreed or disagreed with the following statements:
1) Evolution shows that no living thing is more important than any other.
2) Evolution shows human beings are not fundamentally different from other animals.
3) Evolution shows that moral beliefs evolve over time based on their survival value in various times and places.
While the results indicate that all three positions are still held by a minority of Americans, the Discovery Institute is concerned that the minority is growing.
Foreword from Karl Giberson: The following post is from Emily Zygiel, an honors Biochemistry major at Stonehill College, taking my Science & Belief class. On the final exam I asked the class to explore how the facts of science and the values of religion combine to their worldviews. Emily wrote the following essay, rejecting the premise of the question, the first student who has ever done that.
Emily’s discussion was so insightful that I wanted to share it on my website. It has been lightly edited.
I am a scientist. Every day, I gain a deeper understanding of nature at its most elementary level.
I am imperfect. Every day, as I gain a deeper understanding of nature, I realize how much I don’t know and will likely never know.
I am an agnostic. Every day, as I realize how much can’t be explained, I wonder if there is a god.
Wheaton College in Illinois is preparing to terminate its first tenured female African American professor, political scientist Dr. Larycia Hawkins. The charges against her--which will cost her her job-- are theological: She believes that Muslims worship the same God as Christians. Hawkins, by all reports, has been popular with students (you can read glowing comments about her on rate my professor), and her scholarship is not in question. She is also tenured, a feature of Higher Education that exists for the sole purpose of protecting scholars from the sort of witch-hunt she is experiencing.
The Seattle-based Discovery Institute, America's tiny but loud voice for Intelligent Design, is once again trotting out their thoroughly discredited argument that good science education requires that our public schools "teach the controversy." America's public schools should present the "strengths and weaknesses" of evolution, as well as alternative explanations for our origins. They charge that academic freedom demands that teachers be encouraged, or perhaps even required to present both sides of any scientific controversy: "At Discovery Institute, we advocate teaching the controversy about evolution. That is for several reasons. Students should learn the full range of evidence on evolution. Teaching the controversy aids in developing critical thinking. And it trains students to think like scientists."
The third Republican debate suggests that the GOP race for president may be shaking down to Ben Carson as the official "outsider" and Marco Rubio as the preferred establishment candidate. While many believe that Carson's ascendancy will be short-lived, this electoral cycle has been full of surprises. We should all hope, however, that Carson soon fades because his presidency could be an unprecedented disaster for American science.
Carson says, for example, in a widely quoted speech, that Darwin's theory of evolution "was something that was encouraged by the Adversary."
We don't talk about sin anymore.
This worries me.
For two thousand years those of us in the Judeo-Christian Tradition have wrestled with sin--a sin originating with Adam and Eve. For most of those long centuries we believed that Adam had fallen from God's favor in the Garden of Eden and God had responded by cursing the world. That legacy included a mysterious "original sin" that we are born with--a sin condemning us to hell unless wiped away by salvation. But even salvation--whether by baptism or being born again--didn't fix the problem and Christianity developed rituals, sacraments, and liturgies to remind us that we sin and must seek forgiveness. Millions of Christians still kneel every Sunday and ask God to forgive them for "things done and left undone."
The “two cultures” is all too relevant of a description of my relationship with my non-science peers. I recall a conversation I had with one of my good friends, who majored in English at Stonehill College. We argued about whether science or humanities is better in terms of resourcefulness for humans. English and the humanities provide language and discussion, creation and ideas, my friend argued. I pushed back with my belief that science is the core of life. It describes in a very physical manner how we survive, and what good is a conversation if we cannot inhale oxygen, exhale carbon dioxide, and contribute to the ecosystem that ultimately feeds our lives?
Dear President Pearsall:
The time has come to fight back against the fundamentalists who are destroying the mind--not to mention the heart and soul--of American evangelical Christianity, including your university.
You have just assumed the presidency of Northwest Nazarene University (NNU) under a dark cloud. Your predecessor, David Alexander, resigned in disgrace amidst a scandal that seems to be growing, and you unexpectedly found yourself in an office that you did not seek, confronted with problems that you did not create. The greatest of these problems was your predecessor's termination of Tom Oord, a popular professor and your school's leading scholar.
Another evangelical denomination has voted Darwin and his champions off the island.
In a story becoming all too familiar, another pro-evolution faculty member has been forced to leave his evangelical institution. Jim Stump, longtime professor of philosophy, productive scholar, and popular, award-winning teacher at Bethel College in Indiana, resigned his position in June because of pressures put on the college by its sponsoring denomination, the Missionary Church.
Right-wing conservatives in the Church of the Nazarene have driven another scholar from their ranks.
The trustees of Northwest Nazarene University (NNU) announced on June 26 the termination of Dr. Tom Oord, tenured professor of theology, ordained Nazarene elder, and lifelong member of the Church of the Nazarene.
The tragic shooting in South Carolina offers another painful reminder of American Christianity's troubled relationship with race and segregation. While it is true that most of the great abolitionists were inspired by their Christian faith, it is also true that their opponents were inspired by their Christian faith. As a result, much contemporary racism is rooted in Christianity.
Unfortunately, the Bible is not very helpful when it comes to race issues. Many have found within its pages justifications for slavery, abuse of African-Americans and segregation. Unfortunately, the divisions between the races are exacerbated, not diminished, by Christianity.
Does God answer prayers? Can God keep the clouds away from your outdoor wedding? Heal your grandmother? Help you find a girlfriend, as I once prayed in my youth? Is history the unfolding of God's providential plan or just, as Arnold Toynbee wrote, "one damn thing after another"?
Few people believe that things just happen randomly in the world, with no goal or purpose. In the Western tradition until recently this was attributed to God's providential care that -- although hard to square with plagues, wars, and famines -- was almost universally embraced.
Martin Luther King Jr. famously said in 1963, “It is appalling that the most segregated hour of Christian America is eleven o’clock on Sunday morning.” Fifty years later this remains true as America’s churches lag behind its schools, businesses, military, and almost every other institution in escaping old taboos about mixing the races. Compare the diversity in the pages of Christianity Today to that of Sports Illustrated. The greatest humiliation of American Christianity is its long endorsement of slavery, and even longer endorsement of racism—a dark cloud still clearly visible at eleven o’clock on Sunday mornings. And many other places besides churches on Sunday morning as well: open any issue of Christianity Today—the flagship magazine of evangelical Christianity—and you will see almost exclusively white faces, most of them male.
Equating science with atheism is one of the most dangerous byproducts of America's culture wars. This strange polarization portends disaster, as the country divides into factions that cannot find common ground on the way the world operates. And it goes without saying that there will be no agreement on what should be done when scientifically significant issues need political action.
I was reminded of this a few days ago when Beacon Press released my book: Saving the Original Sinner: How Christians Have Used the Bible's First Man to Oppress, Inspire, and Make Sense of the World. The book was inspired by the controversy raging in evangelical Christianity about whether Adam and Eve were actual historical figures. Recent advances in genetics have made it quite clear that the human race never consisted of just two individuals and Christian geneticists have been working overtime trying to convince their respective faith communities they need to pay attention. Most of them are not.
Faith and doubt need to go together and the former needs to stop fearing the latter. And by doubt I mean real actual doubt: Did Jesus really rise from the dead? Does the truth of evolution mean that God did not create the world? Does God even exist? Are those rich TV preachers total frauds? The only kind of doubt I have ever seen welcomed—tolerated might be a better word—in my Christian experience is of the trivial kind: Can I believe in God’s leading when the paths seem blocked? Can I trust God to get me a girlfriend?
Evangelicals seem to view doubt like a cancer. Announce that you have doubts about the existence of God and the response will be the same as if you announced that you have a brain tumor: “That is terrible. I will pray for you.”
Science denialism is alive in the United States and 2014 was yet another blockbuster year for preposterous claims from America’s flakerrati. To celebrate the year, here are the top 10 anti-science salvos of 2014.
1) America’s leading science denialist is Ken Ham, head of the Answers in Genesis organization that built the infamous $30 million Creation Museum in Kentucky. He also put up a billboard in Times Square to raise funds for an even more ambitious Noah’s Ark Theme Park. Ham’s wacky ideas went primetime in February when he debated Bill Nye. An estimated three million viewers watched Ham claim that the earth is 10,000 years old, the Big Bang never happened, and Darwinian evolution is a hoax. His greatest howler, however—and my top anti-science salvo of 2014—would have to be his wholesale dismissal of the entire scientific enterprise as an atheistic missionary effort: “Science has been hijacked by secularists,” he claimed, who seek to indoctrinate us with “the religion of naturalism.”
The evangelical Christian Reformed Church (CRC), an evangelical denomination centered mostly in the Midwest U.S. and Canada, voted last week not to set up a committee to examine the denomination’s theological positions involving the origins of the world and of human sin. The CRC’s 2014 Synod decided that there was no need for a six-year study of the complex issues surrounding the relationship between modern science and Christian theological beliefs because its affiliated scholars—especially at its flagship institution, Calvin College—were already conducting rigorous scholarship on the issue.
“The ongoing work of [CRC-affiliated colleges] doesn’t warrant us putting resources and money into [the study committee] for six years,” said Chris De Vos, the reporter for the synod’s advisory committee.
Gallop’s latest poll on evolution, taken in May, shows younger Americans rejecting creationism and embracing the idea that evolution is a purely naturalistic process—bad news for evangelical Christianity. The poll has asked the same questions since 1982, providing a provocative look at where America has been and may be heading.
Every two years, respondents have been asked: “[W]hich of the following statements comes closest to your views on the origin and development of human beings?” The three responses are...
On rare occasions, humans are born with tails — real functioning tails that can even be “wagged” via voluntary muscles contractions in response to emotional stimuli. Although the birth of a baby with a tail is frightening for parents and typically requires surgery, the remarkable human tail is an important part of the even more remarkable tale of our origins—namely evolution.
Human tails are part of the evolutionary baggage that we carry in our bodies, leftover from our ancestors. As we evolved through time, responding to different environmental pressures, natural selection pruned and edited, making our ancestors better at some things—like talking—while ignoring skills and characteristics that became less relevant in new contexts—like smelling. Unfortunately, natural selection has no mechanism to eliminate useless features, but traits that become irrelevant can atrophy or get co-opted for some other task since there is no longer a disadvantage when those features show up in a weakened form.
Debating anti-evolutionists is something of a fool’s errand, which makes me something of a fool, especially if you read the reviews of my recent debate with America’s leading intelligent design “theorist.”
Debates are curious events. They masquerade as intellectual contests, but are really just showcases for rhetorical cleverness and public charisma. Richard Nixon is thought to have lost a debate—and the 1960 presidential election—to John Kennedy because he was visibly sweating during one of the first televised debates. In provocative contrast, radio listeners, who couldn’t see what Nixon looked like, thought he had won the debate.