Some people just don’t get it

February 7, 2011 • 2:50 pm

When the topic of the antagonism between science and religion arises, people who seem reasonably intelligent suddenly seem to lose some neurons.  We saw an example earlier today with Elaine Ecklund, who appears to have become a Templeton-funded automaton, endlessly repeating false mantras of accommodationism.

Now writer Lauri Lebo has fallen victim as well.  She’s incensed about a piece by fellow Post writer Julia Duin, who, observing in an On Faith column that one in eight high school biology teachers rejects evolution, notes that:

Evolution runs directly counter to most major world religions, which teach that God created the world in some form or another.

Duin’s point was that there is considerable “mainstream” opposition to evolution, including Speaker of the House John Boehner’s belief that creationism should be taught in school.

And boy did this tick Lebo off!  Writing at Religious Dispatches, she furiously demands that Duin retract her statement about the opposition of faith and religion:

Really? Just off the top of my head I can think of a few major religions that have no trouble reconciling evolution with faith, including Judaism, Catholicism, Buddhism, and all non-fundamentalist versions of Protestantism, such as, for instance, the United Methodist Church.

Lebo then consulted Michael Zimmerman of the Clergy Letter Project, asking for his take.  Of course Zimmerman agreed with her:

Although some claim that evolution is at odds with the beliefs of most religions, the truth is very different from that perspective. If you look at the basic tenets of the world’s religions, as Joel Martin has in his book The Prism and the Rainbow, you’ll see that religions and denominations representing a large majority of adherents across the globe are fully comfortable with evolution. Similarly, The Clergy Letter Project, with its more than 13,000 American clergy from various traditions, fully demonstrates how deeply religious individuals can be fully comfortable with their faith and the basic principles of modern science. The perspective that evolution must be rejected by those who are religious is nothing more than an oft repeated myth, promoted by some who want to advance both their political causes and their narrow religious perspective. For so many others, the wonders of evolutionary theory in particular and the amazing discoveries of science in general have served to deepen their religious faith.

And, in a high dudgeon, Lebo finally demands that Duin retract her entire piece:

I sincerely hope Washington Post’s religion editors take note of Duin’s factual inaccuracy, which cries out for a correction. A newspaper of the Post’s reputation owes far more to its readers than to print blog posts of different viewpoints to generate buzz, without regard to the facts. Duin’s just-so assertion, which was not backed up by a shred of evidence, shows a woeful lack of understanding of her beat, and insults the beliefs of the countless people of faith she so casually dismissed.

The problem, of course, is distinguishing between the views of “religion”—which I guess Lebo (along with Zimmerman) sees as the official position of church officials and theologians—and the views of religious people themselves.

There are two points to be made here.  First, even the “tolerant” official views of religion can be anti-science.  While the Catholic church officially accepts evolution, it accepts theistic evolution, in which God guided the process and casually slipped an immortal soul into the hominin lineage.  And theistic evolution, in which God has a role in the process, is not acceptance of evolution as we biologists understand it.  So yes, the true biological view of evolution as a materialistic, unguided process is indeed at odds with most religions.  Organizations that promote evolution, such as the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), prefer to avoid this critical point: all they care about is that evolution get taught in the schools, not whether believers wind up accepting the concept of evolution as it’s understood by scientists.  (If all they want is evolution to be taught, that, I suppose is fine. But it’s not fine if they want public understanding of evolution.)

Second, if you construe “religion” as “what religious people believe,” then there certainly is opposition to evolution among members of all religions.  For example, despite the position of their church, many Catholics adhere to the form of young-earth creationism accepted by 40% of Americans.   That 40% does not comprise only Bible-waving fundamentalist Protestants.

When we’re totting up resistance to evolution, then, we have to do more than look at official church positions: we have to see what religious people actually think.   And we should stop claiming that theistic evolutionists are fully on the side of science, because they aren’t.  They’re on the side of the angels (whose existence, by the way, is accepted by 75% of Americans).  These theists see evolution as involving miracles at one point or another.

Only about 20% of Americans agree both that humans evolved and that this process wasn’t guided by God.  If you’re a naturalist, those are our real allies.  The rest are what Anthony Grayling calls “supernaturalists.”

123 thoughts on “Some people just don’t get it

  1. And the second- or third-largest denomination in the US — the Southern Baptists — positively eschew the theory.

    And believe in the entire Young Earth Creationism mythology.

    Of course, they’re probably “No True Christians(TM).”

      1. What is even more interesting is that the denominations formerly known as “mainstream” constantly lose ground to the radical ones.
        On a related note, what would it be like if the gnus could demand a retaction every time the “liberal” media endorsed the religionist viewpoint?
        I can’t even imagine it.

        1. “Only about 20% of Americans agree both that humans evolved and that this process wasn’t guided by God. If you’re a naturalist, those are our real allies. The rest are what Anthony Grayling calls “supernaturalists.””

        2. Jerry writes, and apparently everyone agrees,

          “Only about 20% of Americans agree both that humans evolved and that this process wasn’t guided by God. If you’re a naturalist, those are our real allies. The rest are what Anthony Grayling calls “supernaturalists.””

          You guys sure like having enemies, don’t you? If you’re going to choose your allies on the basis of “you have to be an atheist, or you’re a stupid moron and you can go to hell (metaphorically of course)”, I hope the rigid doctrinal purity you enjoy outweighs the complete failure you will experience in any political endeavor.

          1. Oh Nick, please put a sock in it–or try to comprehend the point. There are allies when battling creationists in the courtroom, and different allies when fighting religion and superstition. I was of course referring to the latter.

            Perhaps you read my post last week about meeting with the Methodists? I don’t recall telling any of them to go to hell.

            And of course we haven’t failed politically; the growing number of nonbelievers attests to that.

            Maybe you could try to comprehend some of the points being made?

            1. Oh Nick, please put a sock in it–or try to comprehend the point.

              strangely, I think some part of him MUST comprehend the actual point, since it’s been clearly presented to him, from hundreds of people in multiple fora, for years now.

              I can only conclude he has some sort of mental issue that prevents him from consciously acknowledging it.

              …well, that, or he too has seen the “value” of stumping for Templeton money.

              NSF grants ARE rather competitive.

          2. “you have to be an atheist, or you’re a stupid moron and you can go to hell (metaphorically of course)”,

            Can you please show me an example of a “gnu atheist” who has made this assertion? Or even something close to it? Seriously, you need to provide some links, examples, something.

            We’ll be waiting.

            1. Nick LOVES to prop up strawman arguments, but oddly only in this particular area.

              I’m sure his current committee doesn’t let him get away with this inanity in his own research, so it never ceases to puzzle me why he thinks he can get away with it in any other intellectual arena.

              It’s jaw dropping, in fact.

          3. Some of my favorite people are religious and I do not want to hurt their feelings. Some hurt feelings may be spared if scientists pretend that science and religion are compatible ways of understanding the universe, but that does not make the statement true. Do the accommodationists want us to lie anyway? What kind of scientist would lie about the nature of the universe just to win friends and influence people? This kind of dishonesty by a scientist would not be tolerated under any other circumstance and this goes to show that religion really does poison everything.

            1. Well, some of my favourite people are also religious, or were. The religious among them have been dropping as of late, but not due to my selection biases, but theirs. Fewer and fewer of them espouse religious views or expect any of us nonreligious to accept religious statements a priori. I suspect a few of them are still hiding their religious beliefs like one does with a sexual paraphilia, but the point is the same, and I suspect, for the same reasons. I am rarely bothered with religious beliefs; indeed, personally, I can’t even remember the last time. In the media, yes, of course, but not personally. In my circles anyway, it really has become anathema to espouse religious beliefs. And, I do think that is a good thing.

    1. The “non-fundamentalist Protestant denomination” is clearly a deceitful term. She makes it look like most Protestants do not have a problem with evolution. In reality, due to the negative connotation of the word “fundamentalist”, many groups shun it, while still vigorously reject evolution. Even Mormons do not universally accept it (Glenn Beck comes to mind).

      1. According to Wikipedia and the National Council of Churches, the largest denominations in the US are:

        1. The Catholic Church, 68,115,001 members
        2. The Southern Baptist Convention, 16,228,438 members
        3. The United Methodist Church, 7,853,987 members
        4. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 5,974,041 members
        5. The Church of God in Christ, 5,499,875 members

        It’s worth noting that only No. 3 would (AFAIK) be considered “mainline”.

        I think you’d be hard-pressed to find more than a handful of No. 2 (!) or No. 5 members who accept the actual TOE. Hell, i doubt whether more than a small fraction of any of them do.

        To be fair, the “mainline” churches are generally more liberal than the bigger churches, but as I’ve said nearly all their clergy and members will sneak in some sort of creationism, even while claiming to accept “evolution”.

  2. That is just frustrating. Have these people ever tried to work out the train logic that goes of how evolution and God/soul/reason for sin can possibly co-exist? They can’t. If there was no adam and eve, if there was evolution then original sin is gone and Christians are left with an even worse problem of evil pickle than if they don’t accept evolution. What a dense argument. These people are making idiots out of themselves.

    1. never let it be said that humans aren’t good at compartmentalization.

      they will re-write their own religious beliefs in whatever way best supports the house of cards they like to build for themselves.

      not only will they rewrite their religions, but just about anything else that interferes as well.

      hence we see people like Michelle Bachman, or the Texas DOE trying to rewrite history itself to better fit their personal views.


      make themselves look like idiots?

      to who?

      and why should they care, since in their minds, they have resolved all apparent conflicts.


      It’s no fun laughing at people who can’t understand why they are being laughed at.

  3. I wonder if theistic evolution could be seen as a lesser form of creationism. Instead of creating the individual forms of life, God created the mechanism for creating life. It’s a bit like a computer programmer designing a program which in turn produces something else. There’s still some creation at work.

    1. That is exactly what it is. It is a way for them to have their cake, and eat it too, while feeling high brow compared to the more hardcore creationists.

      It is an age old tactic used regularly by shysters, con men and sales people through the ages. Pretend to agree, but change it just a little bit, and then cover up those slight changes and hope nobody notices. And if that doesn’t work, then play the offended card.

      The really sad part is that in many cases, perhaps most, the mark is themselves.

    2. I thought that was the deist version, gods creating the initial mechanism “just so”.

      In theistic evolution there can be no machine involved since evolution is contingent, but theistic evolution assumes man (or something equivalent) would be the obligatory result.

      Hence Miller and his quantum woo active god “pokes”, which are agent interactions creating a certain outcome.

  4. I think there is a difference amongst those who believe in theistic evolution. I don’t think they all believe that there was a point that God poofed a soul into man, but many believe that everything that happened was according to his or her plan.

    1. I want to agree with you TAJ, and there are surely gray areas, but if you believe in a soul, and you believe that non-human animals don’t have them, (and you’re not a full-blown creationist or ID’er), then there must have been a transition between ancestors of ours who didn’t have souls and those who did. Whether this was a ‘poof’-style instantaneous transition or something more gradual isn’t really important.

      I’m not sure you can say that “god guided the process” and be a deist/watchmaker.

      1. I think there are quite a few people who believe in God and that animals have souls.
        And some that don’t put any major religious value on God and that includes the soul thingy.

        1. Fair enough, but still, I don’t think “according to god’s plan” fits under the umbrella of “theistic evolution”. Maybe this is just semantics, but it doesn’t seem like god is “guiding the process” if its only actions are those of a watchmaker.

          1. How do you define “a watchmaker”?

            In any case, deist or theist, there is creative agent work (creation) taking place, see comment #4 thread. So maybe the semantics is superfluous to our understanding?

        2. I think there are quite a few people who believe in God and that animals have souls.

          there are over 7 billion humans on this planet.

          statistically, you will be able to find a substantial number that believe in just about anything you can possibly imagine.

          which, of course is EXACTLY the problem with religion as a way of learning about and interacting with the world.

          it is nothing but projection, and so is infinitely mutable to whoever is projecting.

          there is no way of independently checking against assertions based on a projected belief, hence one can be eminently happy thinking that pink unicorns rule the universe.

          The very IDEA of religion itself MUST be finally equated as being no different as a way of thought from any other childhood fantasies we engaged in, if we as a collective are to actually progress much further in our understanding of how the universe actually works.

          It is no more than asking all of us not to rely on our own personal projections when trying to understand how things work.

          so far, science represents the only verified successful method, period.

          conflict with religion?

          the idea that religion can conflict with science is exactly like saying any particular imaginary construct conflicts with reality. Is there any productive point to arguing the existence of Santa Claus?


          The problem is not trying to make religion conform to reality, or trying to argue which bits of any particular set of dogmas do or don’t. It’s in getting people to finally recognize that religion is no different than any other projected fantasy to begin with.

          seriously, it’s time to move beyond the idea of “conflict resolution”, and on to what the real issue is:

          recognizing fantasy from reality.

          religion is fantasy.

          simply as that.

          Going to church should be no different than getting together with a group of friends for a game of Dungeons and Dragons.

          It’s not like anyone is going to have grand arguments about whether DnD conflicts with science.

          Once we reach that point, we will have finally grown up.

          and frankly, I really am of the camp that thinks that coddling those who want to believe their projected fantasies are reality, is really not doing them, or ourselves, any favors.

          there simply is no logic to accomodationism.

        3. “I think there are quite a few people who believe in God and that animals have souls.”

          I thought that was pretty much a standard Hindu and neopagan position. So, “quite a few” might be a billion or so people.

  5. The Catholic church saying that it accepts evolution, albeit theist evolution, is just a word game played by the rcc. If you have to postulate a non natural cause at any point, i.e. god kicked off evolution and retired to have a well deserved smoke and then appeared momentarily to inject a soul into a primate ancestor then what is being described is not evolution.

    And then we have the rcc position on teleological evolution as exemplified by Teilhard de Chardin, where Homo Sapiens is just one step in a progression to an omega point. Evolution is considered to be guided and have a direction and goal and is just an attempt by the rcc to push intelligent design while not being honest enough to call it this.

    1. It is simply a propaganda campaign by the RCC in an attempt to adapt to modern times for fear that they would begin losing adherents.

      The RCC has no interest in understanding reality as revealed by the processes of science, except perhaps when it comes to the manipulation of large groups of people. The RCC’s only interest is in maintaining its power and wealth, which depends on retaining adherents, and retaining some measure of control over them.

    2. I had the privilege* of seeing George Coyne, Jesuit priest, astronomer, and former director of the Vatican Observatory and head of the observatory’s research group which is based at the University of Arizona in Tucson, Arizona, talk at the Newman Centre at the University of Toronto a few years ago** for the “Naming the Holy” lecture series.

      He debunked creationism and intelligent design but near the end of the lecture showed a suitably distorted tree of life with homo sapiens on a leaf and claimed that since the tree of life looked like an arrow there was obviously a goal and that goal was us and the goal maker was god.

      * It really was a privilege, he is a very good teacher and speaker.

      ** This was just after the Bill Maher movie Religulous came out, after the talk I had a chance to talk to George Coyne and I congratulated him on his appearance in that movie. He did not appear to be too pleased with his 15 minutes of fame.

  6. I thought teratology would have already put an end to theistic evolution. Oh well.

    Fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva must be a front-loaded feature of the designer’s magic wand.

    1. Clearly god put FOP in us humans so that some could suffer and others could excel at alleviating suffering.

      god makes people suffer to prove how great and worthy other people are. Its all a great big mind-fuck.

  7. She is either lying or living under a rock. Study after study show that acceptance of evolution has a negative correlation with frequency of church attendance. She counts Judaism among religions accepting evolution, but that is not true; orthodox Jews often don’t. Does Islam count as a “major” religion, with its over a billion faithful? Lastly, if such a question of importance to her, why not turn to THE MOST INFLUENTIAL of the clergy, like the guy who often met with President Bush, James Dobson?

    1. Based on the GSS data, it’s true that Orthodox Jews are not particularly likely to take the UNguided evolution position. (GSS sample size is too small for any accuracy; it’s about half/half guided versus creationist, similar to the overall US.)

      However, Orthodox Jews are a relatively small fraction of Jews; and for Conservative, Reform, none-of-the-above, and all types combined, acceptance of UNguided Evolution is over 50%, higher even than the irreligious “Nones”.

  8. They don’t get it and probably never will as long as the word, no idea, of belief or believe is in there mental vocabulary. Here I am, raised Southern Baptist, uneducated but experienced in life for near 84 years and it is plain to me that there never was, ain’t and won’t be a god tomorrow. To me “belief and believing” are their weasel words. i.e, if they find that evolution is true tomorrow their excuse can be, ‘Well that’s what I believed,’ and they are off the hook.
    I still write them but as far as the list under the verb “to know”, believe and beief ain’t in my mental vocabulary!

  9. The perspective that evolution must be rejected by those who are religious is nothing more than an oft repeated myth…

    Really?! Nothing more? There’s no reason at all to think that’s the case; there are no examples at all of people rejecting evolution explicitly because it is contrary to their religion?


      1. That is the other end of the scale and is unnecessary here. It would be a no true scotsman if it was used to define “religious”. Instead it is mostly true, since most often religion makes claims on human evolution. But yeah, shamanism and other old religions may be compatible with evolution as such. Just not with biology (say, because of belief in spirits and spirit quests).

  10. I recognize that there is no evidence for guided evolution (the guided part), but is it really accurate to say that theistic evolution is incompatible with the evidence? Jerry says belief in theistic evolution is not acceptance of the scientific understanding of evolution, but I have a hard time with that.

    Isn’t theistic evolution like saying “Yes, and…” to science?

    1. The phrase “belief in theistic evolution is not acceptance of the scientific understanding of evolution” does not have the same meaning as the phrase “theistic evolution is incompatible with the evidence.” And we all know which phrase JC used in the OP.

      The key point is not that you cannot devise a fantasy that fits the observed evidence for evolution, the key point is that there is absolutely no need for anything like a deity to explain evolution.

      To paraphrase a famous scientist when asked by Napolean Bonaparte where god fit into his explanation, “I have no need for that hypothesis.”

    2. Yes, its incompatible with the evidence because there is evidence that evolution is guided by a mechanism called natural selection. And if u accept the natural selection part, god is left unemployed.

    3. I’m not a scientist, so my view on this is basically meaningless (as it should be), but I think of it this way: Evolution is a natural process. If a supernatural being guided it, then doesn’t that make it a supernatural process? Well, the scientific understanding of evolution is that it is NOT a supernatural process, but a natural one. Materialistic and unguided, as Coyne writes above.

    4. Evolution is a process without a goal beyond “continue successfully propagating your genes” with no outside source directing it.

      Theistic evolution has an end result (humans) that it was guided to by an outside source (god). Looks vaguely similar from a distance, but it violates the most basic principles of how evolution is supposed to work.

    5. By definition, if “evolution” were guided, it would not be evolution, i.e. natural selection, any more, but domestication, i.e. artificial selection, instead. And domesticated is actually a very good description of the relationship we would have with the divine manipulator if that were true.

    6. but is it really accurate to say that theistic evolution is incompatible with the evidence?

      is it really incompatible with observed evidence to say the Flying Spaghetti Monster is what’s behind it?

      no, it isn’t.

      neither is any other imaginary, unobservable, entirely mutable, concept I can spin off the top of my head.

      the fact is, it’s irrelevant.

      what’s relevant is not whether or not my imaginings are in direct conflict with a particular observation of reality…


      fantasy is simply incompatible with science, IN TOTO.

    7. “Isn’t theistic evolution like saying “Yes, and…” to science?”

      Not at all. It’s like saying, “Yes, physics makes sense, but it’s fairies that really guide the stream”.

  11. There’s another thing about this supposed majority view and the Clergy Letter – which is that it usually rests on drivel about awe at the wonders and beauties of God’s brilliant evolution. Like so:

    I emailed Duin’s story to Michael Zimmerman, the founder of the Clergy Letter Project, an organization that seeks to foster greater understanding and appreciation of life’s amazing and inspiring diversity through the process of evolution.

    And like so:

    For so many others, the wonders of evolutionary theory in particular and the amazing discoveries of science in general have served to deepen their religious faith.

    Inspiring; the wonders. Yes but natural selection is horribly cruel. It’s really not evidence of a loving god. If it’s evidence of a god, or compatible with a god, the god in question is a nightmare.

    That’s another trap the Uniters get themselves into.

    1. Not to mention sloppy. “I’m going to create human beings through this round-a-bout process of trial and error that involves millions of dead ends in order to crudely fashion a humanoid with numerous structural and psychological defects after a few billion years.”

    2. Similarly, The Clergy Letter Project, with its more than 13,000 American clergy from various traditions, fully demonstrates how deeply religious individuals can be fully comfortable with their faith and the basic principles of modern science.

      I became distinctly nauseous when reading that particular bit of drivel. I can’t fricking stand that “how deeply” crap anymore. They just can’t stop using it.

      I mean, come on. “how deeply religious individuals can be fully comfortable with their faith”? Really? That is so cheesey. So fake. If somebody actually spoke that to me I’d laugh at them for being so pathetically insincere.

        1. Ahahahaha – that use of “comfortable” is one of the very first words I jumped on for the Dictionary of Fashionable Nonsense. It gets used in stupid ways a lot, as a substitute for “I have good reasons to think” and the like.
          “I’m comfortable saying that that investments is safe.” Who cares?

      1. We have a Prime Minister who is “comfortable” with a vast array of incompatible facts, people and issues. If he were any more comfortable, he’d be a sofa.

    3. But they also tend to get out of that trap in a way that spectacularly underscores their disingenuousness – ‘The lord acts in mysterious ways’, or ‘We’re not supposed to know all his plans’.
      Pathetic. Truly pathetic.

    4. Well, that just goes to show that to the true believer, there is no evidence whatsoever that would ever make them reconsider. Heads I win, tails you lose. Everything will be twisted into an argument for god.

  12. Sorry, but since it was brought in as part of the quote, I gotta chime in: To the best of my knowledge, there is nothing in Buddhism that goes against Evolution. Of course there’s no God to do anything, so that helps. I’d amend “members of all religions” to read “members of all theistic religions”.

    1. So, roughly speaking, what percentage of people that would identify themselves as Buddhist understand and accept Evolution as understood by biologists?

      What percentage would agree with your assessment of Buddhism regarding its compatability with Evolution as understood by biologists?

      1. In MY sect? Most if not all would be comfortable with it; as far as BELIEF, I can only say I have never met anyone who doesn’t, and I’ve been around a long time. It’s possible, however, to be Buddhist and believe either way; origins and such not being of particular interest as far as the Sutras are concerned. There are sects where Buddha is indistinguishable from God, but even there I haven’t heard of anyone who would even care.
        Bottom line: As far as the TEACHINGS are concerned, I have no evidence the Buddha cared about gods or creation myths. As far as MY sect, there’s absolutely nothing there about how the earth came about or where animals came from; and since nobody tells you what you should believe, it’s never a factor.

        1. ….and if there WAS something about any particular sect of Buddhism that conflicted with a particular aspect of science, like evolution…

          how would you go about resolving it?

          if you can mutate your religion to fit the observed evidence from science, how does it qualify as a religion?

          isn’t it really then, just imaginary projections that you personally just, like?

          infinitely mutable to fit whatever circumstances arise?

          and if we agree that’s what they are, then why not call them that instead of a religion?

          Because isn’t a religion supposed to be based on immutable truths that were revealed instead of observed?

          and if it’s just imaginary projections, shouldn’t it all be reclassified as with any other fantasy group convention?

          How is Buddhism, then, inherently any different from anything else claiming itself to be a religion?

          If it claims itself fantastical philosophy, then let it claim so publicly, and be removed from the realm of things calling themselves “relgions”.

          of course, there might be some complaints about tax status…

          1. Because isn’t a religion supposed to be based on immutable truths that were revealed instead of observed?
            Buddism isn’t about “IMMUTABLE TRUTH”; never has been. It’s about Reality. Hard is it is to understand, the Buddha was about what reality is before the tools were there to understand it. “All philosophies, insofar as they are correct, are revelations of Buddhist truth.” As a Buddhist, I’m committed to understand reality as far as I can. Feel free to classify me as a reality-challenged dweeb, but I know where I stand as a Buddhist.
            Sorry about disrailing this discussion as much as I have; I was mainly trying to challenge a definition I thought was too broad. This isn’t the proper venue for religious debate, so I’m gonna close it down here. Thanks for your interest!

            1. Buddism isn’t about “IMMUTABLE TRUTH”; never has been.

              yes, it is.

              The Buddha was revealed an immutable truth, which he then tried to share with the rest of us.

              sorry, you either don’t understand your own religion very well, or, as I said, have managed to become one of the many that has projected their own mutable belief structures on to it.

              which, of course, is why there isn’t just one “buddhism”, but thousands.

              you’re still failing to grasp the point here.

              1. Bullshit. I’ve been a Buddhist for over 30 years, and been studying it the whole time. The Buddha was interested in the interface between the person and reality. Feel free to cling to your shallow understanding, but it isn’t mine. The ONLY thing immutable about Buddhist truth is the principle of change itself. I’m sorry to have brought it up, as you can’t seem to accept the idea of a rational religion, and nothing I can say will change that; furthermore, I find it hard to care very much. And, yes, there are “thousands” of Buddhisms, just as there are thousands of Christianities and Athiesms. The fact is and remains that there is nothing in Buddhism that requires that you deny Evolution; a fact that I THOUGHT was what this discussion was about.

              2. I’ve been a Buddhist for over 30 years, and been studying it the whole time.


                still missing the point.

                idea of a rational religion

                you can’t seem to even DEFINE what a religion is.

                how do you know what you call Buddhism is even a religion?

                I’m sure I can find many sects that would disagree with your interpretation of Buddhism.

                But then, if you really have been studying the broader concept of Buddhism for 30 years, you surely must already know this…

              3. Bullshit. I’ve been a Buddhist for over 30 years, and been studying it the whole time.

                So how can you tell that you’ve been a Buddhist for the last thirty years? Because honestly, the “Buddhism” you’re describing sounds indistinguishable from methodological naturalism.

            2. So when you study as a Buddhist, what do you actually study? I mean do you read the latest journals for scientific advances in our understanding of reality? Or what?

      2. So, roughly speaking, what percentage of people that would identify themselves as Buddhist understand and accept Evolution as understood by biologists?

        Whatever percentage have studied biology.

        What percentage would agree with your assessment of Buddhism regarding its compatability with Evolution as understood by biologists?

        Hard to estimate, but since no Buddhist texts deal with an explanation of why life exists as it does, then I’m guessing “almost all”.

        1. It’s not bloody relevant.

          As stated, one can find adherents to any religion that will modify its dogma sufficiently to be “compatible” with ANY particular observable reality that can be named.

          You are missing the point here.

          1. To me, the point was that there is no point. Evolution has ABSOLUTELY nothing to do with my religion, either positive or negative, full stop.

            1. SCIENCE has nothing to do with your religion.

              REALITY has nothing to do with your religion.

              your religion is fantasy.

              full stop.

              1. Bullshit. My religion came before science, so had no input from it. However, the Buddha was interested more in the interface between the Mind and Reality. There was never any question about what Objective Reality was; it was never discussed. When Science gets more involved in subjective reality, I’m more interested and willing to alter my understanding. I’m waiting (And reading; I have no fundamental investment in my current point of view).

              2. I have no fundamental investment in my current point of view

                then why do you call yourself a Buddhist?

              3. My religion came before science, so had no input from it.

                ALL basic religious dogma came before science.

                it just gets modified in the face of it, now, since religious dogma has been entirely unproductive in both explaining the world around us, and in having any predictive value.

                so, you say:


                I say:

                prove it.

                name ONE thing unique to your understanding of Buddhist epistemology that offers an independent reliable explanation of an observation, or makes a fundamentally testable prediction that is useful in any way.


                I know, the question is really rhetorical.

                no religion has EVER met that obligation, which of course, is why we even HAVE science to begin with, and why it has been progressively supplanting religion as a way of “knowing”.

                still, I do have to wonder why call yourself a buddhist if your entire claim to doing so is based on saying it mimics the scientific method of exploring causality?

                why not just say you’re a pragmatic empiricist?

                or a naturalist?


          2. The thing is that Buddhist dogma doesn’t address the origins or evolution of life. It didn’t have to be modified.

    2. I refute it thusly:


      More generally, buddhism idea of “impermanence” (anicca) goes against *all* of science. The constance and universality of laws follows from _permanence_ of physical processes.

      1. 1) Rebirth: This is the Buddha speaking to people who already believe this. He’s telling them to take responsibility for their life NOW, not later. It’s not a requirement to be a Buddhist to believe it.
        2) The Law of Buddhism is the Law of Change. Every particle has a half-life, everything changes. The only thing that doesn’t is the law. Physical processes (laws) don’t change (at least in THIS brane 😉 ), but everything else does.

        1. The only thing that doesn’t is the law

          so, IOW, you can imagine any dogma you wish, at any time, and call it Buddhism, because Buddhism’s only law is change.

          got it.

          Yes, I’m laughing.

          1. ? How is that different from Science? I’m confused…
            Buddhism is about Causality. That is most of Science. Maybe there’s a problem with Heisenberg, but for the most part, we’re good.

              1. Sorry to have started this; my intent was to correct an over-generalization, not to debate religion. I find Buddhism helps me to clarify what’s important to me as a person and as a way to understand my mind and relation to the world. It’s a practice, not a belief.
                With that said, I’m not really interested in pursuing this any further; really, the only reason I did in the first place is that other people telling me what I think has always irritated me. However, I probably shouldn’t have bothered. If you wish to think I’m a woo-loving deluded idiot who believes the Buddha created the earth 6000 years ago, feel free; as for me, I’m outta here.

  13. I noted that Lebo says that Duin was sympathetic towards creationism in the classroom. On rereading the Duin article, I agree, although I missed it the first time.

  14. Is it because everyone knows it without it being mentioned that nobody mentioned Lebo’s prominence in the PR about the Dover trial?

  15. I love this site!

    I started off with reading the OP and saying to myself: BOOM! Bang on criticism. And then I felt greatly disappointed in Lauri Lebo, not only for failing to make this obvious distinction between religions and what their adherents actually believe, but for failing to grasp why even the official positions are so problematic if one wishes to maintain respect for the science. After writing a book about Dover, she should know better.

    And then I read the comments and realized just how richly rewarding WEIT is for me.

    Thanks, all.

    So many great points after

  16. It’s worth noting that Laurie Lebo was a reporter in Harrisburg Pennsylvania who covered the Dover trial. She wrote a book about it called The Devil in Dover.

    Her website describes her as having a fundamentalist Christian father. If I had to make a guess at her motivations (and it’s just a guess, I don’t know her, and I’m not imputing any malice to her), I’d bet she’s very, very keen to put distance between herself and her father. Especially after the embarrassing spectacle of fundamentalism on display during the Dover trial. She’s probably got psychological reasons to want present mainstream Christians to the world (and to convince herself of this) as Anything But Those Ignorant Asses Who Made Us All Look Stupid Before The World.

    But that’s just speculation. Her recent piece is still wrong, wrong, wrong.

    1. In the PBS show, Lebo is a very sympathetic figure. After her fundamentalist father died, Lebo runs the fundamentalist radio station that he founded–taking up the family business, so to speak. I’d guess it’s difficult to promote fundamentalism on your radio station and not have some bit of it rub off on you. The alternative is the worst kind of hypocrisy.

  17. How can you understand the way living beings evolve if you think someone is guiding the process? The whole point of natural selection and random genetic drift is their capacity to build something without guidance.

    Adding theistic baggage seems like a convoluted version of goddidit.

  18. I still remember the first time I heard the term “atheist”. I was 11 or 12 (so not quite a quarter century ago), and had long already been an atheist in all but name (since I didn’t know there was a name).

    I heard the term in conversation among the adults at a Boy Scout meeting. I asked the scout master, a life-long Roman Catholic, “What’s an atheist?”

    His response, word for word: “Someone who believes we came from monkeys.”

    This is in central New Jersey, no hotbed of fundamentalism. A completely mainstream Roman Catholic equated evolution with atheism.

    These people who assert no conflict between science and religion simply have no fracking clue what they are talking about. They don’t know what religions actually teach, and they don’t know what the vast bulk of adherents actually believe.

    1. hey don’t know what religions actually teach, and they don’t know what the vast bulk of adherents actually believe.

      I some cases, that’s right, but in others, it’s even WORSE:

      they KNOW there is inherent conflict, but choose to deliberately ignore it or play it down because they think that it is more politically productive to do so.

      that’s where NCSE is at.

      as a strategy, I can’t argue that it HAS worked in more than a handful of cases.

      the problem is, it’s much like showing a blind eye to torture and barbarism during a war.

      it’s not the way to end the war, only to win a few battles.

  19. What has not been said by religious apologists is why the adherents of their churches don’t believe their “official” positions. I suspect that is because in Catholic classrooms and Methodist Sunday schools, what children are actually taught has nothing whatsoever to do with the “official” positions – and the members of the church heirarchy damn well know it! Sure, its fine to acknowledge to a group of reasonably bright college students that the church considers Biblical stories to be allegorical. By the time the subject arises it generally comes while doing some (unacknowledged) backpedaling on the students’ earlier brainwashing.

    The adherents of religions get the message that the church intends that they get: goddidit. That message has to be pounded in repeatedly when they’re young, because otherwise kids would too quickly consider the unthinkable alternative: hey, maybe this is bullshit. Without the supernatural mysticism, church messages are up for grabs. Without supernatural mysticism, even children will figure out the scam.

    1. You’ve hit it. I once asked a Sunday School teacher of my acquaintance what he actually taught in his class of 8 and 9 year olds. He had a few examples of the usual just-so stories. I asked if he ever discussed such stories as that of the patriarch Judah and the harlot by the side of the road (she was really his daughter-in-law in disguise), or the story of the rape of King David’s daughter by her half-brother. He didn’t know that such stories existed, and was horrified that I thought that such things should be taught to kids. Just the nice things, you see. that’s what kids needed.

  20. Yes, no directed evolution or directed-causes, directed-miracles and so forth per the teleonomic argument, and per the atelic one, theists beg the question of that direction-wanted outcomes.
    Theology is just dressed-up animism behind one Supreme Spirit, the one behind the Meaverse!
    These two arguments gainsay all arguments with intent!
    Theistic evolution remains obscurantistic and-silly.

  21. Religion has at least two identifiable components:

    1) A bunch of lies.
    2) Forcing said lies onto people.

    This seems to contradict both science and good education in general.

    While some people quibble over (1) it is (2) that is the problem.

    If religious people quibble over (1) then at least stop with the forcing part.

    If you want to ‘teach the controversy’ then feel free to begin science lessons in churches, and stick Darwin’s Origin of Species as the third testament on the bible. But I don’t think religious people are at all interested in debate or controversy, rather they are only interested in forcing their opinions as if they were facts onto people.

  22. It is not that people like matske don’t get the point, they know exactly what we are talking about. The real thing what’s happened to these people is this : when a child discovered that Saint Nicholas never existed she or he has two opportunities, she closed her eyes and wear glasses for the rest of her life or she straighten her back and say to herself “ok, we must go on now and I can only trust myself”. The first is an intellectual coward and the second can hope that he or she find people with the same experience. But also the intellectual coward can find people who are cowards like him, there is a difference between the truth and accepting the truth. I think most of them can’t live without hope and they are dangerous, even Nietsche was aware of this. The clergy of the different religions has create an hole population of believers, hardwared in their brains the dogmas of lies, they can’t get rid of it. That’s the situation we have now in the 21st century. It shall take a long way before every person of this earth gonna accept the truth. The focus of the eyes shall becoming aware of life instead of a focus on the afterlife of the believer who can’t prove it exist. These generation shall be different from the generations now but you can’t set aside the truth.

  23. Ray Moscow said:

    “According to Wikipedia and the National Council of Churches, the largest denominations in the US are:

    1. The Catholic Church, 68,115,001 members
    2. The Southern Baptist Convention, 16,228,438 members
    3. The United Methodist Church, 7,853,987 members
    4. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 5,974,041 members
    5. The Church of God in Christ, 5,499,875 members “

    Huh! That means that if only 2% of Americans are atheists, we represent more people than the fifth largest denomination is the U.S.

    That makes us atheists – at minimum – the Fourth Largest Religious Denomination in the United States.*

    Time for some frackin’ respect, yeah?

    According to the Harris poll, 18% of American adults are agnostic/atheist. If half of our population is “adult”, that’s 27,000,000 people. Which puts in at Number Two?

    Seriously – we need a professional lobbying interest.

    1. Don’t overlook the split between the News (Gnus) and the Nices (Faitheists). That will put us down the list a bit, sort of like the various Lutherans.

      But yet: we’re a large fraction of the population who generally gets treated either like we don’t exist or else as Public Enemy No. 1.

    2. The unfortunate thing is that atheism is both widely spread, and not a good predictor for other political and philosophical beliefs. I’m a pretty liberal minded atheist, but I’ve met atheists all along the spectrum with many varied interests, and had varying degrees of interest in engaging religious people.

      Perhaps the best way would be to style our voting after the Anti-Saloon League, which established Prohibition. They had a diverse group too, but agreed on a certain set of issues, and would organize voters only in close races. Only having 2-5% seems weak, but if they are reliable, and used every time a race is 47% vs 50%, it becomes a hammer, and suddenly, all the politicians are afraid of you. We just have to find the issues everyone can be galvanized by.

      1. I think we can comfortably start off with the proposition that we are entitled to a place at the fracking table. 🙂

  24. Interesting post and stats. I think that what most of the folks who stick to the Biblical account of creation fail to understand is that it is not a factual account. The Bible is allegory and to take it literally is foolish and dangerous.

    I personally believe in a Creator. I think that both religion and science try to discover the origin and concept of what the creator is. In order to get a broad-based view and understanding of the order of things one has to study both.

    This is my opinion of course.

    1. But why should you even take it as allegory? There is lots and lots and lots of literature spanning the whole history of written language. Why single out just one book?

      1. And how do you know where to stop? Is the whole thing allegory? What are your standards and how do you determine whether they are correct or not?

        1. The Bible contains allegory, folklore, history, poetry, and fictional drama. It is a library and if you remove the dogmatic views of Pauline Christianity and look at it as an ancient library it can be extremely enlightening.

      2. Te reason you take it as allegory is because that and the use of symbols was the primary method of instruction during ancient times. There were very few books/scrolls and even less people actually capable of reading them. The Bible even contains allegory within the allegory – the parables.

        I personally don’t just single out one book in my research and studies. In an open forum such as the “blogosphere” I use the Bible primarily because it is the oldest and most widely used of the religious texts.

        FOr some more contexts on what I am talking about I will have to shameless plug my blog –

  25. a new book titled The Belief Instinct: The Psychology of Souls, Destiny, and the Meaning of Life by Jesse Bering is out and I hope this will help tip the stats some so that religion will be eradicated from this precious planet.

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