Steve Jones on Muslim students vs. Darwin

December 7, 2011 • 2:05 pm

When I reported earlier about Muslim students boycotting evolution lectures at University College London, some readers doubted that story.  Now my good friend Steve Jones, who gave some of those evolution lectures, confirms in the Telegraph that the story is true.  Go have a look at his essay, “Islam, Charles Darwin, and the denial of science.”

I have tried asking students at quite what point they find my lectures unacceptable: is it the laws of inheritance, mutation, the genes that protect against malaria or cancer, the global shifts in human skin colour, Neanderthal DNA, or the inherited differences between apes and men? Each point is, they say, very interesting – but when I point out that they have just accepted the whole truth of Darwin’s theory they deny that frightful thought. Some take instant umbrage, although a few, thank goodness, do leave the room with a pensive look.

The problem is not with any particular belief system but with belief itself. Sir Francis Bacon once said that: “If a man will begin with certainties, he shall end in doubts; but if he will be content to begin with doubts, he shall end in certainties.” In other words, if you are absolutely sure that you are right whatever the evidence, you will end up in trouble; but if you are always willing to change your mind when the facts change you will emerge with a robust view of how the world works.

I sometimes wonder how many of those who pour their inane opinions about creationism into their young pupils’ ears ever consider the damage they are doing; not to my science, but to their religion. Why, when a student begins to learn the simple and convincing facts, rather than the fantasies, about how life emerged, should he believe anything else that his pastor, his rabbi or his imam has told him? Why build a philosophy based on fixed untruths, when we have so many truths, and so many things still to find out?

There is no creationism, no anti-evolutionism, that doesn’t sprout from religious roots.


h/t: Raymond

84 thoughts on “Steve Jones on Muslim students vs. Darwin

  1. During my exposure to Harun Yahya’s world tour of “Evolution: Fact or fiction – the collapse of Darwinism and the fact of creation” which was held at a university I was took to the side by a member of staff who wanted to know all about the event.

    He told me that the university had been having problems with a gang of Muslims who were intimidating other Muslims who did not share their particular religious views (Wahabi)

    1. I love Harry Yahoo. I’ve spent many a pleasant hour sifting through his videos after a Muslim friend with whom I’d been having a vigorous discussion about Evo recommended him to me – She described it as Islamic Science. I told her there was no such thing as Islamic Science, only Science. I don’t think it sank in.

  2. “There is no creationism, no anti-evolutionism, that doesn’t sprout from religious roots.”

    Oh, now you’ve done it!

    *Berlinski begins clearing throat*

  3. “Why, when a student begins to learn the simple and convincing facts, rather than the fantasies, about how life emerged, should he believe anything else that his pastor, his rabbi or his imam has told him?”

    Prof. Steve Jones is right on this one. Once I began questioning my evangelical Christianity (after exposure to the fruits of the last four centuries of scientific knowledge), liberal Christianity was not an option for me. The whole thing crumbled, slowly but surely…

    1. To make the connection to evolution more explicit: I came to realize that the Christian apologists that I trusted were either dishonest or ignorant on many things ,including evolutionary science. After that I was extremely skeptical of all apologetics.

  4. You can’t question religion because it’s an unsupported house of cards and will just fall down. Science has no such worry. That’s how you tell the honest from the dishonest.

  5. The word “evolution” equates with the word “atheist”. Substitute “natural processes” for evolution, and “secular humanist” for atheist and there won’t be as many protestors. They believe in the principals but not the words.

  6. My impression wasn’t that people doubted the story per se (I can quite believe it) but that it was reported in the very right-of-center Daily Mail. For the record, the Telegraph is also the most right wing of the non-tabloid newspapers.

    My personal experience of Muslims is that they DO NOT accept Evo as a fact, and that this is mainstream thinking (for them), so boycotting lectures with Evo as a large component is entirely plausible.

    1. Steve Jones is a pretty reliable source, though. JAC and he are also good friends.

      I was also sceptical about The Daily Mail source, not because of the plausibilty of the story but because it was The Daily Mail.

  7. Why, when a student begins to learn the simple and convincing facts, rather than the fantasies, about how life emerged, should he believe anything else that his pastor, his rabbi or his imam has told him?

    This is why students are taught by their religions to stick their fingers in their ears and shout “Lalalala” during lectures. If they can’t hear it, they can’t learn it. Religions that survive modernity are the ones that activly discourage intellectual discourse, or choose only bits of science they like. Religions that start to admit that bits of their holy book is wrong, and more and more bits are shown to be wrong, eventually cease to be followed. It is a form of survival of the fittest. Casual religions fade away as they provide no real compulsion to be followed, eventually leaving the only the more hard-core religions, and secular society. So people follow the only viable options open to them, either drift into the open secular world, or into the insular religious world.

    The important thing is to keep up the teaching, speaking and public writing, so at least some knowledge of the secular world exists, and that it is a nice viable alternative to religious dogma.

    1. Casual religions fade away as they provide no real compulsion to be followed, eventually leaving the only the more hard-core religions, and secular society.

      I love this. Can I use it sometime?

  8. What he says is very pertinent to your previous post –
    “Why build a philosophy based on fixed untruths, when we have so many truths, and so many things still to find out?”

  9. According to Salman Hameed, writing in the journal Science, there exists a contradictory attitude towards evolution in the Muslim world. While Muslims accept science as fully compatible with Islam, and most accept microevolution, very few Muslims accept the macroevolution as held by scientists, especially human evolution.

  10. There is a lot of truth in what you say, but you fail to see how it applies to you. There is no Darwinism that does not begin with materialism. You start with the certainty that all of nature can be explianed by the actions of blind, purposeless forces. When evidence begins to suggest otherwise, your blind faith in a pseudo-religious viewpoint closes your mind to the truth.

    1. Okay, Chris the Simpleton, let’s have your evidence that there is more to the universe than pure materialism. Please give your reasons in detail, and if you believe in God, your reasons for that, too. You won’t be allowed to post further until you answer this query.

      1. I doubt that I could offer anything that you haven’t already heard and rejected before. Nevertheless, …

        I have experienced the supernatural. And so have you. In fact, what I am referring to is an ongoing supernatural phenomenon that all of us are currently experiencing. It is consciousness: the mind. Say what you will about the mind being a mere product of the brain, matter alone does not explain conscious thought. Regardless how complex the machine, a machine does not produce sensation. Sensation is a different animal. Do computer’s have the sensation of conscious thought? Do they see? Could they ever? Is consciousness something that springs forth at some threshold level of complexity? Could any mere arrangement of matter or electrical circuitry produce consciousness? There is no known mechanism (or even an imaginable one) by which mere matter can produce a sensation of consciousness. Mind is supernatural. And the world is more than a mere mechanical dance of atoms.

        Of course, you are a smart guy, so I am sure you have considered this before. No doubt I am making an argument from ignorance, or relying on intuition.

        1. You forgot to give you arguments for the existence of God. Your supernaturalism-of-the-gaps argument is unconvincing, as you yourself have recognized, for it’s simply an argument from ignorance. You’ll have to do better than that.

          1. Arguments for the existence of God. I could name a few, none of which would be convincing to you. Rather than give an extensive list of reasons, which would allow you to pick and choose the easiest to ridicule, I will give you what I consider to be the piece of evidence that is most difficult to dismiss.

            (Drum roll please …)

            …The fine tuning of the Universe. I am sure you’ve heard of it.

            1. What does god need with a fine tuned universe?

              He is supposedly omnipotent so he would not need to fine tune anything to get a universe teeming with life.

              Indeed there would be no reason for god not to design the universe in the way it is literally described in the bible (flat disc on pillars with pillars supporting the sky, an ocean above the sky making the sky blue and the sun circling the earth).

              The best counter-argument for fine-tuning IMO is Ambrose Bierce’s definition of an ocean:

              “Ocean, n. A body of water occupying about two-thirds of a world made for man — who has no gills.”

              Apply it to the universe as a whole and you get Neil Degrasse Tyson’s take.

            2. No, I mean the argument that goes something like:
              1) the physical laws of the universe are extremely fine tuned. I.e., if they were a tiny bit different, life would not be possible.
              2)There is no reason why the laws of the Universe have to be what they are.
              3)It is so highly improbable that the laws would be as they are, that is reasonable to believe they were chosen to be that way by an intelligence intending to bring about a Universe capable of sustaining life.

              If this evidence of God were easy to dismiss, the materialists would not have gone to all the trouble of imagining an infinite number of Universes to attempt to explain it away.

              1. As opposed to inventing a sky fairy, who is infinite, omnipotent, omniscient, jealous, violent, ruthless, apparently deeply insecure, who loves us so much that he/she/it will torture for eternity for trivial offences, is willing to wipe us out at a whim, is so apparently bad at communicating with his/her/its/their minions that we don’t know which god(s) to worship and only talks through certain individuals in selected languages that most of the rest of the population don’t understand and has created a vast universe populated with countless galaxies, stars and planets, all for one species of chimpanzee on one of those planets.

                You’re right Chris, this multi-universe hypothesis is SOOO far-fetched.

              2. #1 is not true, in fact. There’s quite a bit of elasticity. See Victor Stenger on this.
                #2 is true, but if they weren’t we wouldn’t be here to argue the point.
                #3 is bogus; it is improbable, but see #2. Your conclusion is a groundless leap of faith.

                The idea of an infinite number of universes is not an attempt to explain away the (non-existent) fine-tuning problem. It arises as a consequence of some cosmological models that attempt to explain the observed characteristics of the universe.


              3. – The universe is _not_ “extremely fine tuned”, and physicists knows this.

                We can throw out one of the four fundamental forces (weak interaction) and still have life (see the Weak-less universe in, say, Wikipedia). We can vary fundamental parameters in ratios many orders of magnitudes and still have life (here is where you want to see Stenger’s et al work).

                So if that is your best claim, scientists will laugh at you. Fact is that the apologists have lied to you. And you can easily check this.

                – As Ant Allan notes, physicists have been forced to accept that the natural ground state of today’s standard inflationary cosmology is a multiverse.

                Grudgingly so, because most physicists would still today rather have a unique set of parameters, a perfectly decided Theory Of Everything (TOE).

                That hope may have taken a hit recently.

                An open question for physicists is what preceded inflation in standard cosmology. A singularity would both point to one set of parameters (so closer to a TOE) and predict that there is a “nothing” that the universe can tunnel out of. Here “nothing” is bubbles without a spacetime.

                The possibility of nothing was realized by Hawking some decades ago. And just before the standard cosmology was tested to be valid, it was realized that the universe is zero energy.

                As indeed flat spacetime of standard cosmology confirmed. (Flat space = locally spacetime has zero energy density.) This means that nothing is an example of something. It also means that there can not be a third party agent causing a universe to tunnel out of another universe or out of nothing. It is a spontaneous process, with no creators allowed.

                However, while something can tunnel to nothing, it turns out that nothing probably can’t tunnel to something.

                “The bubble solutions that are close to this limit [the bubble of nothing], bubbles of next-to-nothing, give us a controlled setting in which to understand nothing. Armed with this understanding, we are able to embed proposed mechanisms for the reverse process, tunneling from nothing to something, within the relatively secure foundation of the Coleman-De Luccia formalism and show that the Hawking-Turok instanton does not mediate the quantum creation of a universe.”

                This means that the remaining cosmological possibility should be that the stationary state of a sufficiently old inflationary multiverse is indeed the only state – the multiverse is past eternal as much as it is future eternal.

                Now we need to test that. The Planck probe should test inflation on its lonesome (today only tested within standard cosmology) and start to constrain inflationary physics. Hopefully we could see an eternal inflation physics after eliminating the contenders.

                Of course, _if_ the universe is eternal and can’t have no creator, the religious will retreat under the barrage of science once again, this time into deism or pantheism. (O.o)

              4. The fine tuning argument is utter bunkum, so much so that it is difficult to know where to start. I will restrict myself to pointing out one thing:

                Premise (1) is quite straightforwardly false. All that is required for life to have evolved something like the way is has on earth is for the earth to have existed for the requisite length of time and for physics in its immediate environment (e.g. in the solar system) to have worked more of less the way it works at present throughout that time. This means that it must be possible to construct infinitely many theoretical models of a universe that would still allow this to happen. In some models general relativity would be approximately true near the earth but not true in the universe as a whole. In others things we take to be constant, e.g. the charge on an electron, would vary over the universe. Thus the universe could be radically different to what we observe and yet life could still be possible.

            3. “Fine tuning?” You might want to read beyond Creationist tracts, simpleton.

              The most elegant refutation of the “fine tuning” blither is by Douglas Adams:

              The intelligent puddle who is delighted that the planet it was on had been made in just exactly the right shape to fit himself, the puddle.

              The game of football was developed over centuries so that the rules, traditions, techniques, physical demands, size of the pitch, mass and elasticity of the ball, type of grass, etc. would match Lionel Messi. The ways that Pele and Maradonna changed the game was to further tune the techniques and training of defense and the rules enforced by the referees so that the game would exactly match to Lionel Messi’s physical and mental characteristics. Oooooh, the Football Fine Tuning argument. That is what you just argued.

              If the rules of basketball had been just a little different, Michael Jordan would have been a second-string baseball player. Ooooh, the Basketball Fine Tuning argument. That’s what you just argued.

              Look up the “wrong direction” fallacy.

              We are the way we are because of the way things were when we developed.

              You make the egocentric assumption that the only way life could be is the way you are, so time has to go backward so you can be the way you are. Duh.

              Evolution gave you a brain, start using it.

          2. JC: “Your supernaturalism-of-the-gaps argument is unconvincing, […] for it’s simply an argument from ignorance.”

            Chris the Simpleton: “I will give you what I consider to be the piece of evidence that is most difficult to dismiss.

            (Drum roll please …)

            …The fine tuning of the Universe.”

            Rebutting a criticism of argument from ignorance by making another argument from ignorance – too funny.

        2. Consciousness is indeed mysterious, and seems qualitatively different from everything else.

          Given that, why do you consider a supernatural explanation the best approach? And it really isn’t an explanation at all — it just pushes the non-understanding back 1 level.

          One big problem with supernatural or other dualistic “explanations” for consciousness is that somehow this non-natural activity interacts with a fully natural brain. How does that possibly happen? It looks like you’ve traded one mystery (conscioness) for two: what makes the non-natural activity conscious in the first place, and how does it interact with natural brains?

          I am hopeful that within my lifetime there will be a scientific understanding of consciousness (at which point we will likely be able to make a conscious machine). But regardless, our current ignorance does provide a warrant for supernaturalism or dualism or any other attempted explanation that just compounds the ignorance.

        3. ‘I have experienced the supernatural’ care to share your experienced? ‘And so have you.’ Nope not buying it as I have never experience the supernatural. Computers were build with a specific purpose in mind and none of it dealt with evolution just large calculations. So computers never had to survive in the natural environment competing for resources. So we are left with either consciousness is an emergent property of the brain or it is inserted by god? The evidence for the former is ongoing but the evidenced for the later should be all inclusive, so care to share that evidence that I so obviously missed?

          1. Yup.

            “Mind” is not supernatural. Take a hit or eat a bud or a shroom, and suddenly that supramaterial ineffability will have a very natural and material cause affecting it. Whoa, man….

            In fact, its Friday! A little barley or grape that went bad, and the “supernatural” will be entirely materially changed! Slainte!

        4. Is consciousness something that springs forth at some threshold level of complexity? Could any mere arrangement of matter or electrical circuitry produce consciousness? There is no known mechanism (or even an imaginable one) by which mere matter can produce a sensation of consciousness. Mind is supernatural.

          – We know that the mind and its expressions, such as consciousness are fully determined by the brain-and-body system. Nothing external can drive the brain, and today we can identify individual thoughts as they set up patterns in brains during brain scans. So no dualism here anymore than elsewhere.

          – There is in fact a known mechanism for consciousness. In a very similar manner that evolution self organizes to eliminate contenders by competition (which is why species with “eternal” static individuals are so rare), the cortex self organizes under evolution to eliminate inferior learning mechanisms by competition.

          Learning needs to avoid the common phenomena of overtraining in neural networks, and since the cortex spontaneously organizes to form symbols it does so.

          “This is the first time (to my knowledge) that such abstract, symbol-like representations have been observed to self-organize within a neural network [a model of a prefrontal layer].

          Furthermore, this network also showed powerful generalization ability. If the network was provided with novel stimuli after training – i.e., stimuli that had particular conjunctions of features that had not been part of the training set – it could nonetheless deal with them correctly.”

          So the brain is wired to form symbols spontaneously. This is probably why languages are so easily formed, the brain is working with symbolic methods.

          Interestingly the cortex is, AFAIU, a very early evolved trait of animals, both vertebrates (cortex) and invertebrates (mushroom bodies) have homologous such structures. Robust learning was apparently an early achievement of the neural system.

          Then you get into degrees of consciousness, but you have to be more specific in that case.

    2. when evidence begins to suggest otherwise

      In other words, it hasn’t yet? In the meantime, please consider that the original theories of the nature of things was that “god(s) did it.” As time progressed, a lot of clever and curious people thought “… hang on a minute, that doesn’t really work that way.” and progressed from there to understand that all natural processes are, well, natural. No supernatural needed to explain things.

      If you have to Assume the supernatural, then you are using the “A” word. As soon as you use the “A” word to explain something, you have probably found the problem in your faulty explanation. This is a rule of thumb from my software engineering experience, anyway. 🙂

      1. The outstanding example is Issac Newton who thought that the stability of the solar system might have to be maintained by a divine intervention every so often. 100 years later, Laplace showed that he had no need of that hypothesis.

        1. Oh dear not this again! Why do people say this? Can anyone provide me with a reference to a passage where Newton expresses this opinion. It was not Newton’s opinion when he wrote the Principia:

          “And to us it is enough that gravity does really exist, and act according to the laws which we have explained, and abundantly serves to account for all the motions of the celestial bodies, and of our sea.”

          (Newton “Principia” Snowball Edition p 443)

          It may be that Newton changed his mind at some time in his career but I have asked for a reference to this on several fora but up till now have not been supplied with one.

          1. “Original letter from Isaac Newton to Richard Bentley, dated 17 January 1692/3”

            “So then gravity may put the planets into motion but without the divine power it could never put them into such a Circulating motion as they have about the Sun, & therefore for this as well as other reasons I am compelled to ascribe the frame of this Systeme to an intelligent agent.”

            I think it is what he is talking about.

            I found it here:


            1. Thank-you for the link. Newton often argues like this, he seems to have thought that a “random” universe would collapse under its own gravity. But he also thought that a stable universe was a mathematical possibility and here he is using a version of the “argument from design” to say that an intelligent agent must have set it up to be stable in the first place.

              He also argues like this in the Principia, but, in addition, he says of Gods and bodies “neither affects the other” and goes on to say that gravity accounts for all the motions of celestial bodies. So his opinion seems to have been that God created the universe so that it would be stable and then left it to run all by itself.

      2. The argument that progress in acquiring knowledge about how nature works disproves the existence of God is a non-sequiter. One could just as easily believe that the search for knowledge is a search for how God fashioned the natural world. In that framework, each new discovery does not confine God to an ever shrinking sphere of influence. Rather, it sheds light on God’s design. In other words, belief in God and the search for knowledge are not incompatible, as you seem to suggest.

        1. Not really. I was addressing the statement in your comment “You start with the certainty that all of nature can be explained by the actions of blind, purposeless forces.” Taking the “you”==”Jerry”==”[a scientist]” and addressing the history of science in a very shorthand form. Original natural philosophy (pre-science) did not start with “certainty that everything has a natural explanation”, rather it started with “how did god do that, because god must have.” Once the how was worked out, it was determined that “hmph, god doesn’t have to do anything, it does it by itself.” The idea that all of the natural world is explained by natural phenomena was really cemented in Darwin’s big idea, which showed that all of the variation demonstrated in life itself is possible using only natural agencies.

          As for the fine tuning argument. I have a vague understanding of the origin of the universe, but I believe the 20 or so constants that are declared to be fine tuned need to be determined during the phase when the universe was smaller than Planck size (at any larger universe diameter time, the constants are set). This means that for a god to be able to sort out and set them, that deity would have to know the mass and velocity of the proto-particles to an infinite level of precision at a precise single point in time. This is impossible under quantum indeterminacy, so it is as possible as creating a square triangle; by its very definition, it cannot be done.

        2. Beside not knowing how to spell non sequitur, you also don’t understand what it means.

          Look it up.

          Try again.

          You might want to read outside of Creationist tracts. There’s a much bigger, richer universe out there.

    3. Chris shows us a clear example of flaws of religious fundamentalism: while he is the one that starts with religion, and rejects 150 years of science simply because it doesn’t endorse his doctrine, he accuses science of doing precisely that. Projection, plain and simple. Freud would be thrilled!

    4. “Regardless how complex the machine, a machine does not produce sensation.”
      Good thing you can just proclaim that by decree. You know what else your religion didn’t think (for 1700 years) a machine could produce either? Epileptic seizures. None less that Jesus himself believed seizures were caused by evil spirits. The result: “trepanation”, making a whole in the skull (with no anesthesia) to let the evil spirits out.
      And of course finding of neuroscience exclude mind-body dualism: there is no mind that is separate from brain. This conclusion is supported by multiple lines of evidence.
      I am sure none of this will change your mind though. You will still think there is no way a mere “dance of atoms” can cause conscious thought; in doing so you will continue a very old tradition of christianity than in its day caused untold pain and suffering.

    5. Your last sentence is pure dishonest projection. Lack of belief in your superstition set [religion] is not a religious position.

      Leprechauns are cool. They do not exist. Failing to believe in leprechauns is not another form of leprechaunism; it is not pseudo-leprechaunism.

      “Materialism”? You might want to do some reading outside of creationist tracts. You want to prove materialism false? Here in New York we have a thing called the “third rail”. Why don’t you materially lick it and immaterially be unaffected?

      Oh, and there’s no such thing as “Darwinism”. You might want to do some reading outside of Creationist tracts. There is no more a “Darwinism” than there is a Newtonism, Bohrism, or Maxwellism. Do you want more? Einstein was not a Daltonist; there is no Mendeleyevism, Hubblism, or Hawkingism; alas, there is no place to sign up to be a Feynmanist. Darwin was one of the early presenters of the theories (nod to Ernst Mayr for the plural) of evolution, not the poo-bah of a cult. Use of the term “Darwinism” is projection; not everybody labors in your mode of Simpletonism.

  11. “There is no creationism, no anti-evolutionism, that doesn’t sprout from religious roots.”

    I think that this statement is wrong; I know of atheists who reject evolution. Here is why: they are of the mindset that if they don’t understand it, “it” must be BS. Hence they reject religion, but then they reject any science concept that doesn’t come easily (or at all) to them.

    1. You know, I hear this now and then. But I do find it hard to believe. What is their non-religious reason for the diversity of life? I’d love to pick their brains about this.

  12. Muslims do not have much choice in the matter. Orthodox Islam is based on the infallibility of the Koran. To say that Adam, Eve, or Noah may not have existed is considered heresy and is punishable by death according to Sharia.

  13. There is no creationism, no anti-evolutionism, that doesn’t sprout from religious roots.

    I know of at least ONE atheist (who wrote rather shrill, strident and militant columns against faith, religion and especially Christianity), who did not accept evolution as a viable scientific theory. He wrote a book about it and had discussion about it on Dutch TV with famous (in the Netherlands) biologists.

    I have to assume there are more atheists who do not accept evolution. (Just like there, undoubtedly, are atheists who don’t ‘buy into’ global warming, who insist that Obama was born in Kenya, who see UFO’s and who consult homeopaths or practice Reiki).
    (For your Dutch readers: I’m referring to the late Prof.Dr. Karel van het Reve, Dutch slavist and writer).

    1. Okay, okay, let me modify what I said. Virtually ALL opposition to evolution comes from religion. Yes, there are some isolated atheists and humanists who oppose evolution (David Berlinski may be one), but really, those are the EXCEPTIONS. After all, creationism has been repeatedly forbidden in schools by US courts, and that’s because it’s seen as a disguised form of religion.

      1. I joked about Berlinski above, but I don’t think he’s an exception, even granting that he is an atheist as he claims.

        Without religion, there would be no organized opposition to evolution, no Discovery Institute, and no money to fund Berlinski’s bloviating. He may not be doing it explicitly for the money, but without the money he’d find some other contrarian cause to support. He wouldn’t oppose evolution “pro bono,” so to speak.

        1. I too was not completely serious about the DI money and egos, although that is a big part of their MO. Without the religious foundation of donors and staff, they would not exist.

      1. Hoyle went from being a prominent atheist returning to his christian (methodist) roots in later life. Strangely his reversion (you can hardly call it call it a conversion) apparently arose out of some his best scientific work on stellar nucleosynthesis. In particular the prediction of the Hoyle state (necessary for the synthesis of the elements essential for life) which was subsequently experimentally demonstrated and finally this year was calculated by ab initio methods.

        He took this as evidence for fine tuning and saw it as evidence for design and so effectively became a christian ID’er. Many cosmologists regard it as an example of the weak anthropic principle in a godless multiverse.

        His biology was ludicrous. Viruses from space! I read the article he and Wickramsingh wrote in the New Scientist, it was so bad I did not know whether to laugh or cry. To use Pauli’s phase, it is so bad it is not even wrong. His 747 assembling from a whirlwind in a junk yard metaphor showed he had not the vaguest idea of what evolution really is.

        I think there were most certainly religious motivations in part for his criticism of evolution. He was my childhood hero when he was an atheist cosmologist and science fiction writer.

    2. I think we can find a few examples of people, sometimes educated people, who do not accept evolution nor believe in god.

      However, the vast majority of rejectors of the TOE that I’ve met or even read about were religious. Why? Because the two main explanations for life and all its complexity are creationism and the TOE. Those who accept the scientific method and the supporting evidence generally accept the TOE. Those who don’t have usually rejected the TOE on religious grounds.

      Yes, it’s possible to blend the two approaches if one doesn’t think about either in much depth. These are generally the liberal theists.

  14. There is, in fact, a strand of anti-evolution that does stem from non-religious roots. There exists a very complex and widespread ‘conspiracy culture’, prominent in North America and Europe (with homologies in other geopolitical regions)that contains various configurations of conspirators and events. The M.O. pattern of thinking is a suspicion of the ‘mainstream’ (yes, it is that simplistic) and its rejection in favour of any alternative theory, so long as it is conspiratorial enough. Internal consistency is not necessary. Denialism, rejectionism, paranoia and grand scale conspiracy are all that is required. Alternative theories to the ‘mainstream’ are interchangeable. Conspiracy theorists disagree on the specifics but are unified in their rejection of the standard theory. A popular one competing with evolution is ‘intervention theory’, the idea that aliens intervened in or engineered human evolution. This can be accompanied by a complete rejection of evolutionary theory, or simply and interjection. I’ll stop there though I could say much more. Just wanted to point this out.

    1. Wrong. That makes the eye argument even stronger because the eye arose earlier. You appear to not understand how creationists think. Any evidence at all is to be construed as an argument the Darwin lobby (or is it the Darwin religion this week).

      1. 500 million years ago!? That supports creationism how?

        Yes, it’s an evil conspiracy to pretend weird creatures preceded (weird) creationist humans billions of years ago. lol

  15. The story is incredibly depressing. When I was a kid in the 70s/80s hardly anyone was religious. It seems almost certain that the rise in religion here is largely down to mass immigration, especially of (asian) moslems. Unfortunately this means that opposition to religion can very easily look like, or topple over into, racism. This apparent connection has also allowed Xians etc to jump on the bandwagon. Add large doses of identity politics and offence mongering……

    Still, its not like tribalism, inequality and economic turmoil have caused problems in the past, so I’m sure it will all be fine.

    Surprising that no-one has pointed out that Jones ends by agreeing that he shouldn’t say “Why evolution is right”.

  16. “Why, when a student begins to learn the simple and convincing facts, rather than the fantasies, about how life emerged, should he believe anything else that his pastor, his rabbi or his imam has told him?”

    This is the most profound part of this story. It is how the whole debate over belief makes religion a fairy story turns Jesus and Muhammad into Santa Claus and Krampus. Wow our brains really have it out for us sometimes. It would be much easier to be a plant – move to the sun – you would know who was your god then no freaky superstitions there.

  17. Sad. By accepting evolution the students feel they have to reject their parents and family who probably paid their tuitions, friends, their religion, and the only God they have known. No wonder they feel obliged to complain about evolution. Why not find an acceptable alternate name for them to use such as “Muslilution” defined as: Change in life forms by the miracle of nature. Or, another definition that they could live with. We of course would keep the word and definition exactly the same.

  18. “There is no creationism, no anti-evolutionism, that doesn’t sprout from religious roots.”

    Incorrect. There are also crackpot gloryhounds.

  19. I would highly recommend Taner Edis’ “An Illusion of Harmony: Science and Religion in Islam”. It’s somewhat Turkish-centric, but that is somewhat to the point since much of it talks about the secular and religion tension in Turkey, not to mention “Harun Yahya”

    In general, the fruits of Western science are obvious, but Western science – it’s rarely just “science” – is to be distrusted, since it has not been subservient to the divine. There are numerous “reimagining” projects in the Middle East: trying to make an “Islamic” science, “Islamic” sociology, “Islamic” economics (which is technically ‘humane’, but it cheats to get around the prohibition on usury by such means as ‘the bank takes part ownership and merely shares in the extra profits’) and what have you.

    It’s of course an uncomfortable fit because the assumptions that have to be made to make science “fit” within Islam hamper or fully prevent discoveries from being made

    Evolutionary theory just does not fit within any of their traditional frameworks. There are a precious few that are out on the edge in which it can be accommodated, but even there it is an uncomfortable fit.

    The problem, too, is that this rejection is mainstream in Islam, and it’s often backed up by some profoundly weird conspiracy theories.

  20. I think there are a (small) fraction of nonreligious people who do not accept evolution. I think Jerry and I both have run across university faculty members who simply are unreasonable, obstreperous contrarians who basically want attention, and will joyfully deny the obvious to get it.
    Fortunately these people are rare.

    Of course the great bulk of support for creationism has religious roots.

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