Another accommodationist book on evolution

June 30, 2011 • 5:34 am

Why do accommodationists have to spoil a perfectly good book on evolution by dragging in a lot of stuff about God? I barely touched on the subject in WEIT, merely stating that “elightened faith” (what I meant was deism) had no problem with evolution; and if I had it to write again, I’d leave that sentence out.  You can tell people about evolution, and give them the evidence, without dragging in theology.

Unless, that is, you’ve won the Templeton Prize.  Last year’s winner, evolutionist Francisco Ayala, has a new book, Am I a Monkey? Six Big Questions About Evolution,  published by Johns Hopkins University Press.

Here are the six big questions:

• Am I a Monkey?
• Why Is Evolution a Theory?
• What Is DNA?
• Do All Scientists Accept Evolution?
• How Did Life Begin?
• Can One Believe in Evolution and God?

Lest you have any doubt about how Ayala answers the last question, here’s the Press’s blurb:

This to-the-point book answers each of these questions with force. Ayala’s occasionally biting essays refuse to lend credence to disingenuous ideas and arguments. He lays out the basic science that underlies evolutionary theory, explains how the process works, and soundly makes the case for why evolution is not a threat to religion.

Now if you take the last question literally, the answer is “Of course you can believe in evolution and God—lots of people do.”  But that’s not how Ayala construes the question, as you can see from the blurb above: he’s asking whether evolution is a threat to religion.  And the answer to that is “Yes, of course it is, for millions of religious people see it that way, and for very good reason.”

Obviously, in a book about evolution, Ayala is going to propose a form of religion in which evolution isn’t seen as a threat. But that’s not evolution, it’s theology.

I could easily write a similar book, but with a final chapter that answers that same question in a completely different way. But of course that book wouldn’t be promoted by the National Center for Science Education.


96 thoughts on “Another accommodationist book on evolution

  1. I have not read this book, but Ayala spoke at my university a year or two ago. I am guessing that he does not really confront the crux of the issue surrounding the final question: doesn’t the well-supported, detailed and purely materialistic explanation for human origins render any deity superfluous (as a behind-the-scenes entity) and likely the product of wishful thinking?

    1. And perhaps his god is as well…
      hmmm perhaps god began as a single-celled life form and evolved?! [Well of course it did as we are god(s)].

    2. Sadly, he doesn’t. He answers the title question in the negative, though what he means is that he doesn’t belong to any of the extant “monkey” species.

      This is one of the more annoying common myths about evolution: “We aren’t monkeys, just descended from a common ancestor with monkeys.” Systematists are seriously annoyed by such claims, though I’m sure it’s meant well.

            1. Only to you Europeans! Whenever I hear the term applied to clergy, I always picture a baboon in vestments…

    1. Perhaps that is how accomodationist religious people approach the banana of evolution, with trepidation and at a distance? As Jerry intimates he appears to slip on the skin in the last chapter.

    2. He obviously did not talk to Ray “Banana Man” Comfort about the correct way to eat a banana, which is strange as his theology is in agreement with that of Mr. Comfort.

        1. A friend from Thailand informs me that Americans eat their bananas upside down. The correct, efficient method is to hold the stem portion like a handle, and pinch open the blunt tip. Is this heresy in Ray Comfort’s theology, or merely a minor difference of practice?

          1. Chimps eat them the same way. I do that too. In fact if I want it ‘mashed’ I roll the banana between my hands firmly, squidging it up inside. Open from near the tip & voila, saved a fork in the washing up!

            1. Well, fine, as long as we’re playing with our food. I still occasionally enjoy the classic boy’s magic book stunt of pre-slicing a banana inside its skin, using a needle and loops of thread pulled through in a kind of keyhole surgery, leaving the rigged result out on some table to effect the eventual amazement of some unsuspecting primate. It’s a miracle!

    1. Exactly.

      In fact, belief is the problem here, as Ayala tries to cram his faith into the increasing small gaps that his science is producing.

  2. He’s an ex-priest. Of course he’s going to write about religion. His journey to and from religion is surely one of the most notable events in his life.

    That said, as a grad student Ayala visited my university, as the EEB grad students’ pick one year, so I spoke with him a few times. Over the years I met quite a few prominent ecologists and evolutionary biologists. Most of them could speak about their work, politely asked the grad students about their work, but that was about it. Ayala was different – he asked people what they were doing, and had some pretty good insight on any topic. I almost never come away from a conversation thinking I’ve met someone more intelligent than I am (speaks to my arrogance more than more intelligence, but that’s beside the point). Ayala is one of the few people who actually impressed me in that regard.

    1. Oh, I came across an apposite quotation just the other day… which I can’t find now, of course… something about intelligent people being able to create good justifications for holding bad ideas…


  3. The “Can One Believe in Evolution and God?” should be “Can One Accept Evolution and Still be the Center of Attention?”

  4. Am I a Monkey?


    Just as you’re also a primate, a mammal, a vertebrate, and an animal.

    Going the other direction, you’re an ape, a human, and a member of the Ayala family.



    1. I think you can only call him a monkey in the pejorative sense of the word – a monkey is not an ape, and humans are apes.

      1. Properly looked at it, we really are monkeys.

        We are apes, of course.

        Our ancestors were apes with tails, and those ancestors are the same ancestors of modern monkeys who never lost their tails.

        If you hold that chickens are dinosaurs, then there can be no doubt but that we are monkeys.

        We and chickens are both vertebrates — which, of course, is just another way of saying that we’re both fishes.

        Neither humans nor salmon are arthropods, but all three of us are animals.



        1. Humans are Catarrhines, which includes Old-World Monkeys and Apes. But we’re Apes, not Old-World Monkeys. This is pretty standard, uncontroversial Primate taxonomy.

          1. Yes, but the problem is that the word ‘monkey’ does not represent a monophyletic group, but apes does (Hominoids). So Old-world monkeys are more closely related to apes (and vice versa), including us, than they are to other ‘monkeys’ (the New World monkeys or Platyrhines).

            So whether we are in a group with ‘monkeys’ becomes almost a semantic issue.

            1. Ayala says:

              I am a primate. Monkeys are primates, but humans are not monkeys. Primates include monkeys, apes, and humans. Humans are more closely related by descent to apes than to monkeys. That is, the apes are our first cousins, so to speak, while the monkeys are our second or third cousins

              But I’m with Ben here.


              1. I suppose Ayala means that Cercopithecoids (old-world monkeys) are our second cousins, and new-world monkeys are our third cousins, which is a reasonable way to put it.

                But is disingenuous to pacify evolution skeptics by declaring that we are not monkeys – if that is the intention. I tell creationists who seem insulted to think they evolved from monkeys that there is no reason at all to “stop” at monkeys (or apes) and it gets a whole lot WORSE the farther you go back in time. How much more insulted would they be to discover they evolved “from” single-celled organisms!

              2. But the point missed is that if old world monkeys are our second cousins, and new world monkeys are our third cousins, new world monkeys are also third cousins to old world monkeys.

    2. (One would hope that Mr. Ayala is better equipped for modern-day skills — such as proper use of the <blockquote /> tag — than a mere monkey such as myself. b&)

  5. #3 is an interesting question but perhaps not so ‘big’ – there are much bigger (and better) questions to ask about DNA rather than the extremely limited ‘what is it’.

    #5 is a big question and I suspect that the best we will be able to do is to demonstrate a number of pathways for the beginning of life – which paths were ultimately taken may never be known with certainty.

    All the other ‘big questions’ are not really big questions – in fact I’d label them either as ‘trivial’ or ‘outright stupid’.

    Given the cover, I would have chosen the title ‘Am I a Banana?’ and Chapter 1 would have been all about Ray Comfort.

    1. The title Am I a Banana? would be just as good scientifically — “No, humans and bananas share a common ancestor” (1400 million years ago, according to

      inb4 “Why are there still bananas?”

  6. I see no reason whatsoever why a scientist can’t both believe in the explanatory effectiveness of the Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection and Random Mutation and believe in Santa.

    It’s just utterly beyond me why anybody — let alone somebody with an intellectual reputation to tarnish — would be proud of trumpeting the fact that he still believes in flying reindeer and chubby charitable chimney sweeps.



  7. Now I don’t follow South Park, but like many ’round these parts I have at least seen the Dawkins episode.

    The phrase “am I a monkey” caused me to recall a particular scene from that episode. This wouldn’t be worth mentioning were it not for the over-the-top salacious scene later on involving the phrase “I’m a monkey” and anal sex.

    Just thought the connection was curious and/or unfortunate and/or fortunate.

    1. What do you think? There wasn’t a snowball’s chance in hell of that. Privately I’ve heard that they didn’t care at all about what the letter said, or about the many people who signed it: the higher-ups were simply to busy with their onerous duties to pay any attention to what was written on “blogs.”

      But of course they paid attention because it was called to their attention. They were just slagging us off.

      1. Never mind the numbers — some of the signatories are amongst the most influential evolutionary biologists of all time.

        If the NCSE can’t be bothered to pay attention to the people who established the field the teaching of which they’re ostensibly promoting…

        …well, I’ll stop there, because there’s no way I can finish that sentence without setting the flamethrower to “11.”



      2. Actually, I did think you’d get a “response” something along the lines of: yammering about how people like Collins and Miller are great allies and show how compatible faith and evolution are, extolling the virtues of “outreach,” reciting all the good things NCSE does, and brushing aside criticisms of what Rosenau and Matzke have said as being “not official positions of the NCSE, which of course supports its current and former employees’ rights to free speech.”

        In other words, something not very responsive to your actual points at all. But I figured they’d at least make a token effort.

  8. The question of the hour is:

    “Does the Templeton corrupt completely or does the Templeton search for the completely corrupt?”

  9. the questions are not about evolution or science

    they are about personal confusions of people who do not like discipline of logical thinking

    evolution is a scientific fact

    as such it belongs to science at large and is independent of what some particular individuals chose to think about it

    science progressess slowly but surely

    knowledge is power :those who know more about their configuration space are better equipped to position themselves when system experiences the shocks that lead to extension

    the next shock will be when mankind (humanity as organism-whole) “develops” the planet into the state when it no longer can support the number of humans and their “life-style-and-quality” (consumerism)

    at that time the proper scientists (those who understand human condition from evolutionary biology perspective) will be able to position themselves for survival

    the ignorant “believers” will die out first

    so eventually natural selection will take care of vestigialization of religion and other “beliefs” ({like belief that current system of government is “best” system of government)

  10. the ignorant “believers” will die out first

    Don’t be too sure. It’s the believers who are in control of both the militaries that would do us in quickly and the economic infrastructure that’s doing us in slowly.

    I’ll agree that if we have significant numbers of great-great-great…grandchildren, they will be significantly less superstitious as a whole than we are today. But by no means is it assured that we’ll have great-descendants or even that our not-so-great descendants won’t be even more backwardly religious.

    Just look to the Dark Ages for an example.



    1. ben,

      i am talking about long enough horizon

      and don’t forget that each generation is born in ignorance

      this is why a scientist is not guaranteed to have a child that will turn out to possess ability to think scientifically

      this is why i am talking about the time when the population of humans shrinks from the bottom all the way to the top and the hierarchy of pecking order as it manisfest now will be greately affected by the less number of people and higher penetration of “science” into “government” (it may very well be after a nuclear war or equally impactfull series of climate disasters)

      our greatest value to posterity is in strict adhearance to PURE SCIENCE and living it _personally_

      to the degree that we become the coherent group of people and provide the basis for institutions that will be based on PURE SCIENCE we will make our contribution towards having the stabilization sooner rather than later and leaving posterity more of the uncorrupted planetary resourses to play with

        1. Ben seems to be suggesting that a larger population of humans is a solution. I doubt that would have a positive result and think that the pressures of continued human over-population would result in a further decline in average reasoned thoughtfulness.

          I’ll be with bits and pieces from Ben and bits and pieces from AT.

          1. I sure didn’t intend to suggest that a larger population of humans is a solution. Personally, I think the optimal human population is probably under a billion.

            Really, my only point is that, if humanity survives long-term, our rationality will increase — but that’s no guarantee that there won’t be significant short-term periods of backsliding.



            1. Then I must be sufficiently confused about the meaning of “significant numbers” in your comment from June 30, 2011 at 7:42 am.

              I do agree with your restated position, although, every time we (as a species) start to make forward progress the christians become more intent on pushing us back into the hole. Which is probably implied by your cautionary clause.

              However, I am optimistic of the possibility that we could reduce the influence of superstition within a shorter time frame. If I didn’t have that optimism I would walk away from the whole mess and spend my remaining time observing nature without respect to the problems created by christians.

              1. I think he’s saying, “if the species persists in sufficient numbers for enough generations.” No guarantee, there.

                On what is your optimism based?

              2. The reduction of influence of superstition is the byproduct of accumulation of knowledge and as a result inevitable transcendancy of science

                This, of course is hard to expect over our lifetime, but is inevitable in the long-run.

                H Sapiens is “fooling around” with the ‘dynamics inside the black box’ he calls “Planet Earth”. But the “fooling around” is also part of the “let’s see what will happen if I do this?” which is the heuristic prosess of accumulating knowledge or SCIENCE.

                It is only a matter of time when enough scientists understand that they have no choice but “move into” government and shape up the institution in such a way as to make sure that each generation that is born in ignorance is not picking up the nonsense of religion and other non-scientific beliefs as they grow up

                when that begins to happen those scientists will also deal with the overpopulation and unsustainability of current socio-economic system

                eventually science will become the shepherd of human condition and the population and its impact on the environment will be stabilized and _chosen_ by the whole-organism to the equal and maximum well- being for all (very distant by inevitable evolutionary future for mankind which by then will be _institutionally_ very differnet from homo sapiens)

              3. Diane G.,

                I’m optimistic because It was revealed to and received by me through revelation from on high; err umm that is, a birdie tweeted a melody for me in which it was revealed; err umm that is, I had a transcendental moment; err umm that is, OK, OK, I used; optimistic rationalization, there I said it, I used optimistic rationalization, yepper, you can throw cotton balls and soft sponges at me all you like but that’s how I did It. And I’ll tell ‘ya right now I’d do it again too! 😉

                Well, that christian style voodoo surely didn’t provide a clear answer. I’ll try to do a little (not a lot) better. I think that christianity is approaching a crisis, the body of knowledge backed by observable evidence is contrary to the foundations of their mythology, that evidence is becoming easier to find and harder to ignore. Christian mythology is also becoming a burden on the well being of society and is only held up by those christians who want to impose their will through deception and those christians that live in fear of their poops and pastures (err a that is pastors, I think that’s the correct spell’in, yeah it’s pastors). Young adults are rejecting the christian in unusually high numbers. The older adult christians that I converse with seem, on average, less motivated by the supernatural myth than they have been in the past, but more by a fear of what their neighbor might do if the fear of gods is not within them (which oddly enough is what their neighbors probably think of them as well). Even though Bill O can’t understand why the tides go in and the tides go out (as will the christian influence) they still occur and the erosion of the boulders that the christian hides behind is relentless.

                My optimism is for a greatly reduced christian influence in public policy affairs and fewer christians. However, I think there maybe some small bands of christian available to entertain societies for many many years.

                However, the greed, self grandeur and over indulgence that has festered as a by product of christian influence is a different concern and I’m not as optimistic in that regard.

            2. Although another possibility might be developing biological castes…

              Or repeatedly wiping ourselves out before reaching pan-rationality, so that the species just keeps having to start over with whatever remnants survive catastrophe…

              1. There is a high probability that knowledge developed as a consequence of deliberative capability (a machine that goes by itself) may so supercede H sapiens ‘encompass’ of it that he (H sapiens) may have to _subspeciate_ (DH-based) both physically and mentally

  11. The big question regarding Ayala’s answer is whether he makes a role for God in the process of Evolution (or suggests that scientific Evolutionary Theory does). Does his answer accomodate Theistic Evolution or does he acknowledge that Evolutionary Theory is naturalistic?

    1. Although many theists might suggest otherwise, I don’t think it makes any sort of logical sense to claim that there’s some sort of a god who could trivially muck around with the genetics of life on earth but then rush to state that that god hasn’t actually done any such fiddling.

      If you’re driving down the freeway on a straight patch of road with no wind, you should be able to take your hands off the wheel and the car will happily keep going for quite some time without you doing anything. Does that mean that you’re not driving the car?

      What if you just give it the tiniest of nudges every quarter mile or so? Does that still qualify as not driving the car?

      If you’re a theist, you believe in theistic evolution, period, full stop, end of story. The only question is how well-tuned life on Earth is and how often your gods need to touch the controls.

      Unless, of course, it’s your assertion that your gods are drunk, or yakking on the phone, or putting on makeup, or reading the paper, or….



      1. That’s it! God’s been texting for the past few billion years! Why didn’t we realize it sooner?

      2. If you’re a theist, you believe in theistic evolution, period, full stop, end of story.

        And you presumably also believe in theistic geology, theistic quantum chromodynamics, theistic hydrology, theistic neuroscience, etc. etc. etc.

        1. exactly

          and this is why as soon as anyone who claims to be a scientist mentions

          anything that even remotely can be construed as “theistic” [and i mean “theistic” defined as broadly as possible: “non-material”, “non-explainable”, “not-subject to scientific inquiry” or “anything that inconsistent with up-to-the-date accumulated body of knowledge”]

          the other scientists should should redicule the guy/gal and if he/she does not drop the ambiguos language right on the spot he/she should be _forever_ crossed out as a source of “scientific opinions”

          only in this way we can foster the proper institutionalization of science that will eventually reachm all the way to the top and into government changing default human condition from what all of us live now into _sustainable_ socio-economic system of heuristic government and economic policy

  12. So what’s Ayala’s answer to the titular question? I know the standard answer is “no”, because apes are not classed as monkeys, but I have heard at least one compelling argument that the taxonomy would make more sense if the “monkey” category were expanded to include apes as well. (The problem of course being that there is no common ancestor of both Old World and New World monkeys that is not also a common ancestor of apes…)

    While the pedantic “No you’re not a monkey, you’re an ape” answer is technically correct given the current orthodox taxonomy, I sort of feel like “Yes you are basically a monkey” is more expressive of our evolutionary past.

    1. There is a broader category, Primates, and within Primates, apes and monkeys belong to the simians (infraorder Simiiformes). It’s best to stick to the precise 100% true claims rather than “basically” ones. Humans are apes, simians, primates, mammals, vertebrates, animals. It’s really amazing to me that anyone who has ever eaten meat a mammal would doubt that humans are animals. We have all the same parts in the same places. If God designed all of the mammals separately, then He really had a lack of imagination.

    2. I didn’t know “ape” was a taxonomical term. “Homo” sure, “Hominidae”, “Hominini”, “Catarrhini”, that kind of thing. “ape” sounds more like a vernacular English word. Common words don’t have to follow the rules of cladistics so it doesn’t matter whether the group the word “apes” designates is monophyletic or not. Maybe a picture should help clarify this: “there, those are our genealogic relationships with our closest relatives. Now call yourself whatever you want.”

  13. Let’s answer those questions.

    Am I a Monkey? No, but your great-great-great-great^23 grandaddy was. Just like you’re descended from fish (on your mom’s side).

    Why Is Evolution A Theory? It isn’t. Evolution is a process of nature. Evolutionary theory is our understanding of how that process works.

    What is DNA? The instructions to make you, me, a tree, a bacterium, and pretty much everything else that’s classified as “alive” (and even some things that aren’t quite alive, like viruses).

    Do All Scientists Accept Evolution? Well, if they don’t, they’re pretty dumb scientists. But it’s a pretty bad question, because most scientists don’t study evolution. And “accept” is a stupid word, because “acceptance” implies the corollary — that there is something to reject. That said, there are some dumb scientists out there, and some dumb people posing as scientists who claim evolution did not and does not occur. They are wrong.

    How did Life Begin? Short answer – chemistry. Slightly longer answer: We don’t have the exact process down, but it was a reaction between readily available carbon-based molecules and the environment that led to self-replicating molecules within a protective bubble-like milieu. Oh wait, if you’re thinking “then a magic invisible ghost spoke magic words” … well … no.

    Can One Believe in Evolution and God? Yes. It’s a classic example of what is called bifurcation. One believe in physics and astrology. One can believe in chemistry and reiki. One can believe in biology and phrenology. It’s stupid to do so and wastes a lot of time in reconciling science with nonsense, but it can certainly be done.

    1. Do All Scientists Accept Evolution? Well, if they don’t, they’re pretty dumb scientists. But it’s a pretty bad question, because most scientists don’t study evolution. And “accept” is a stupid word, because “acceptance” implies the corollary — that there is something to reject.

      Kevin, I think you’re splitting hairs here. There is nothing wrong with the word “accept” in this context. Science is a group activity and consensus building is an important part of that activity. Peer review, the demonstration that particular results are reproducible in other laboratories, their agreement with the rest of the field are all elements of that process. Scientific theories are accepted if they meet certain conditions (which, of course, the evolutionary theory has met ten times over). And theories are sometimes rejected, or rejected at first (even if they are supported by observations and coherent) but then accepted with accumulating evidence (think for example the prion theory or continental drift). Even facts are “accepted”, which simply means that scientists in the given field agree that the observations/experiments that demonstrate those facts have been conducted properly (methods, controls, statistics etc).

  14. This seems like it should be a very short book, except for the chapter on DNA.

    Anyway, don’t you really need to define what you mean by ‘god’ before you can answer the last question?


  15. Is evolution a threat to religion? It depends on how you define religion. If you take my own irrelevant, convoluted form of religion, then you’ll have no problem! However, if you won’t stop talking about actual religions that exist and the real people who believe in them, then obviously you’re a raving gnu and you’re part of the problem.

    1. And I read the blurb as, “This to-the-point book answers each of these questions with farce.”

  16. Of course, it is not at all clear that Prof. Ayala is even a theist. Allegedly, in an interview with a Spanish newspaper around 2000, he admitted to not being a believer anymore. It is a fact that the professor refuses to discuss his personal religious beliefs when queried on the subject.

  17. Doesn’t that cover photo refute Ray Comfort’s claim that the banana was perfectly designed to fit in the human hand for grasping it while eating?

  18. This seems like a very confused soul – let me try to help:

    •Am I a Monkey?
    Of course you are. At least if you want monophyletic monkeys. And if you don’t you’d better come up with a good and catchy name for the new world monkeys.
    • Why Is Evolution a Theory?
    Duh, because it’s proven. You’re obviously not a very clever monkey.
    • What Is DNA?
    An acid.
    • Do All Scientists Accept Evolution?
    Depends what you mean with “Scientists” – it’s not like it’s a protected title you know.
    • How Did Life Begin?
    We don’t know. Yet. This one is actually a hard one since there wasn’t anybody there. Of course, it becomes easier to answer if one accept hypothesis someone took out of his own ass without prof. The problem with these things are that they are usually wrong – so we try to discourage them.
    • Can One Believe in Evolution and God?
    No, you can’t really “Believe” in evolution as it has been proven. Not if you are doing it right. It’s like asking if you can believe in fuzzy cats (you can’t really believe them either, but that’s because they are cute, but devious bastards)

  19. …he’s asking whether evolution is a threat to religion. And the answer to that is “Yes, of course it is, for millions of religious people see it that way, and for very good reason.”

    Yes, as a historical and sociological question, this has been answered, and it looks silly for them to insist upon denying it.

    The argument that they can imagine some forms of religion that need not necessarily conflict with evolution is a separate one. It’s wrong, too – they have to mess with and/or misrepresent aspects of both to try to get away with it, and fail. But even more plainly wrong is the idea that religion, however it’s defined, can be compatible with science. In any event, the NCSE should really call itself the NCEE. It wouldn’t help them to avoid fundamental problems with their approach, but it would be more accurate.

  20. To promote the book, the NCSE website quotes Ayala:

    “Primates include monkeys, apes, and humans. Humans are more closely related by descent to apes than to monkeys. That is, the apes are our first cousins, so to speak, while the monkeys are our second or third cousins.”

    Um, we ARE apes. Why is the NCSE okay with pretending we are something more or different? And when are we going to start celebrating the fact that we are apes? “Ape day” would be awesome – we will drag our knuckles, climb trees, and frolic like bonobos.

  21. Sad to see the NCSE diddling about with theological speculation yet again. I know it must seem oh-so practical given their limited mission (“defending the teaching of evolution in the public schools”) but what’s the use if they’re undermining critical thinking in the long term?
    I wonder- are there any physics/cosmology organizations following this tack? i.e. persuading people to accept the Big Bang for the wrong reasons?

  22. Parts of the book can be browsed on My first groaning moment came in the introduction, which stated “The first is that science is a wondrously successful way of knowing the world, but it is not the only way. Knowledge also derives from other sources, such as common-sense experience, imaginative literature, music and artistic experience, philosophical reflection, and, for people of faith, religion and revelation.”

    That opens the door wide for any religious person to make well-known but unsatisfying arguments. God exists because :-

    – it’s common sense; I feel it inside
    – the bible could only be the inspired Word
    – the rock-solid theological arguments of Thomas Aquinas and William Lane Craig
    – the beauty of the world around us.

    The introduction then goes on to state a NOMA viewpoint, even stressing that “a scientific view of the world is hopelessly inadequate”. Apparently moral questions are beyond the scope of science, and the answers are more important to many people than science “per se”. In one sentence the book denies Sam Harris’s argument that science can help us to answer moral questions. I can only hope the book’s main content justifies this dismissal.

    It’s a pity that an apparently scientific book has to tarnish itself with this wishy-washy genuflection to religion. While an earlier comment calls this “Six dumb questions about Evolution”, for believers and those who know little about evolution, they may seem cutting edge, or at least insightful. Anybody genuinely interested in the answers though, need not be enticed by the accommodationist reassurances.

    1. common-sense experience

      That’s what gave us the dome of the sky and melons falling faster than apples.

      imaginative literature, music and artistic experience

      I wouldn’t want to live my life without all that, but the best way to fully understand any is with formalized analysis indistinguishable from science. Yes, even music — you’ll never listen to a Beethoven symphony the same way again after taking a Form and Analysis course, and you’ll wonder how you ever listened to it before you did.

      philosophical reflection

      That gave us Plato’s cave, which has been the most useful (as a negative example) in illustrating the importance of applied philosophy, aka “science.”

      religion and revelation

      Oh, bother. The one gives you talking animals, wizard duels, flying horses, and zombie porn. The other is colloquially known as “pulling shit out of your ass.” They constitute “ways of knowing” the same way getting presents from Santa constitutes an “economic stimulus package” or campfire ghost stories are “exotic biosciences research institutes.”

      If that’s how Ayala gets his knowledge about evolutionary biology…well, it’s a damned good thing the peer review process is able to filter out such nonsense. It works so well, the nonsense probably never even gets written down in the first place…outside of popular press embarrassments like this, of course….


  23. • Am I a Monkey?
    Since you can ask the question, no.
    • Why Is Evolution a Theory?
    Because a theory is an organizing framework that explains observations.
    • What Is DNA?
    A compound used to code information to reproduce complex molecules necessary for a self-sustaining processes we call life.
    • Do All Scientists Accept Evolution?
    Nearly all do. As for the few the may not, so what?
    • How Did Life Begin?
    At this point, no one knows, but reasonable hypotheses exist.
    • Can One Believe in Evolution and God
    God is not defined in scientific terms, so the question is meaningless. But as god defined in the bible, no.

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