Evolution acceptance still flatlined in America

June 2, 2012 • 4:56 am

A new Gallup poll shows that, as in the past thirty years, acceptance of evolution in the U.S. has remained static. In fact, the latest statistics (light green line in figure below), show that 46% of Americans are young-earth creationists, 32% adhere to some form of god-guided or theistic evolution (dark green line), and only 15% adhere to evolution as we scientists know it (“human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God had no part in this process”).  Young-earth creationism rose 6% since the last survey, which may not be a statistically significant change.

These data of course show several things:

  1. My book didn’t convert huge numbers of Americans to evolution (duh!)
  2. The ongoing strategy of accommodationism by scientific organizations, the NCSE, the Clergy Letter Project, and others who assert a harmony between religion and science didn’t work, either
  3. The books and writings of the New Atheists didn’t work, although they’ve had far less time to operate than accommodationism

That is, nothing much works. Although there are of course converts to evolution produced by atheist writings (I got an email from one yesterday), they are way too few to be reflected in the statistics, and may well be counteracted by the conversion or incursion of people who don’t accept evolution (Hispanic immigrants?).  I’d bet ten to one, though, that somebody claims that the gains of accommodationism are counterbalanced by the effect of atheists on turning people away from evolution! I would dispute that given the constant presence of accommodationism over several decades and the relatively recent rise of New Atheism.

As you know, I think this stasis is due almost entirely to the extreme religiosity of the United States. I claim that acceptance of evolution won’t increase until the grasp of religion on America weakens. We can win court cases all we want (thank you, NCSE!), but America remains obdurately resistant to Darwin.  And those court cases, and creationism in increasingly cryptic guises, will continue.  I am confident that America is becoming more and more secular (after all, acceptance of naturalistic evolution has risen from 9% to 15% (see update below), but it’s going to take a long time before most Americans accept evolution the way scientists do.  In other words, not in our lifetime.

In a recent paper in Evolution (free download), I documented the evidence that evolution-denial is largely caused by religion. Here are some more stats from that poll supporting my claim; they show the expected correlation between acceptance of evolution and attendance at church:

Who are the biggest evolution-deniers besides the faithful? Republicans, of course.  Here are the data divided up by political affiliation. Note that Democrats and Independents share similar views:

Finally, education plays a role, as it always has.  Acceptance of both theistic and naturalistic evolution increase with education, and young-earth creationism, as ever, is most prevalent among the undereducated.  Note, however, that 25% of American with some postgraduate (i.e., after college) education are still young-earth creationists, and remember that these factors are cross-correlated: I suspect that religiosity, for example, is higher among the less educated.  Earlier work has shown that when you partition out these factors independently, religion and education have similar effects on science literacy (that work deliberately didn’t assay acceptance of evolution, though).

Gallup concludes the statements in bold are either my emphasis or my interpolation:

Despite the many changes that have taken place in American society and culture over the past 30 years, including new discoveries in biological and social science, there has been virtually no sustained change in Americans’ views of the origin of the human species since 1982. The 46% of Americans who today believe that God created humans in their present form within the last 10,000 years is little changed from the 44% who believed this 30 years ago, when Gallup first asked the question.

More broadly, some 78% of Americans today believe that God had a hand in the development of humans in some way, just slightly less than the percentage who felt this way 30 years ago.

All in all, there is no evidence in this trend of a substantial movement toward a secular viewpoint on human origins.

Most Americans are not scientists, of course, and cannot be expected to understand all of the latest evidence and competing viewpoints on the development of the human species. Still, it would be hard to dispute  that  that most scientists who study humans agree that the species evolved over millions of years, and that relatively few scientists believe that humans began in their current form only 10,000 years ago without the benefit of evolution. [JAC: what a lame-o statement! “Hard to dispute”? Really? Would Gallup say that it “would be hard to dispute that the earth rotates on its axis?” This sounds like a sop to creationists.]  Thus, almost half of Americans today hold a belief, at least as measured by this question wording, that is at odds with the preponderance of the scientific literature.

No, it’s not half of Americans who hold an anti-scientific belief about evolution.  It’s more than 3 out of 4—78%, to be exact.  God-guided evolution is just as antiscientific as the idea that God guides photons and electrons—or chemical reactions.  It’s time to stop saying that the beliefs of theistic evolutionists are in harmony with science.

149 thoughts on “Evolution acceptance still flatlined in America

  1. Keeping religion out of the schools is the most important. I couldn’t care less if someone personally feels that God had a role in evolution or not, as long as everybody can accept the undisputed facts, that the Earth is billions of years old, that humans evolved from a common ancestor of all life on Earth over a course of millions of years. If they want to think that the deck was stacked, fine.

    But the only way to get to that stage is to make sure that every kid in America learns the truth. It is up to the adherents of religions to accommodate the facts, not the other way around. Religions that fail in this will fall by the wayside as long as everyone that might join can see this failure. Would you join a religion that states that the world is flat? It would certainly make you look twice at everything else it said.

    So, as long as we teach kids the facts, then YEC religions will eventually loose their grip. Religion as a whole will probably never disappear, but that is okay. It will eventually become what some many people already claim (falsely) that it is, a system of beliefs that inform the values of the believers, allowing them to live good and happy lives.

    1. We’ve been teaching kids the facts for years, and the facts are all over the place: just read Steve Gould, Carl Sagan, Dawkins, etc. Kids can get facts stuff up their ying-yangs but if they’re already brainwashed by religion at home, in church, or by their peers, those fact won’t stick.

      Yes, we should improve education, but I’m dubious that Americans will accept evolution until we become a less religious country and that (as I say in my paper) will require restructuring our society, not just education.

      I’ve lectured on evolution in high schools and junior high schools to kids, and they just won’t buy it if they’re already religious.

      1. And I’d like to add that the aim of education is not to pour facts into their heads and measure success as the rate at which those facts stick, i.e. are faithfully reproduced. That is why I would strongly recommend dropping the term ‘acceptance’ of evolution in favour of understanding of evolution. Measuring, and trying to raise, the rate at which a certain opinion is professed may have some political utility, but what matters considerably more is how many people actually understand what the process of scientific thinking involves and are willing and able to implement it.

        Moreover, any alleged fact can (from the point of view of logic) be argued away—by invoking human error, faulty equiment, or even godly intervention. In the end, what matters is that we agree not to retreat into that logical safe zone and deny whatever may run counter to our preconceptions, and that we agree that our arguments must not contain contradictions. A cultural convention to insist on those two criteria would, in my view, go a very long way towards not just scientific literacy but, in the broadest terms, sanity.

        1. This is an excellent point. It is fine if a person does not accept evolution. If they understand the facts that inform the theory and why it is an excellent predictor of the behavior of life through time, that is much more important. Let anyone who has an intellectual query about scientific theory pursue it – without such queries, we wouldn’t have evolutionary theory to begin with! We needn’t accept all theories, but we do need to understand them for the sake of scientific and intellectual progress.

      2. I think really going over what constitutes quality evidence is very important, and parsimony. I don’t think we see enough of this in education. I don’t know if can over come the general force applied by too much religion in a culture, I can say that understanding how and when to apply Occam’s Razor caused me, in my youth, to jettison my soft New Agey/slightly theistic ideas (guided evolution etc) and accept evolution on its own without making unnecessary assumptions, because that was all the evidence implied.

        If I have a problem with early education in science (middle and high school) it is that this idea of economy and simplicity is broadly neglected. In Jerry’s paper, I also thought the concept could have been highlighted a bit as part of the educational solution. I know its not a magic bullet, but I do think it is important.

        CarlSagan’s “The Dragon in my Garage” is so profoundly illustrative of this concept, and a few others besides, that I think it should be mandatory reading in all high school science classrooms.

      3. I believe I saw one reason on the Richard Dawkins foundation website which discussed the undue influence the Texas Board of Education has had in the school textbook game. Book approval there is by a board made up of many hard-core fundamentalists, who, of course ban talk of evolution from their texts. But, because school districts elsewhere in the nation can save money by ordering books they may be getting the same texts the benighted students of Texas are subject to.

    2. I couldn’t care less if someone personally feels that God had a role in evolution or not, as long as everybody can accept the undisputed facts, that the Earth is billions of years old, that humans evolved from a common ancestor of all life on Earth over a course of millions of years.

      The problem with this attitude is that the whole point of the Theory of Evolution by Random Mutation and Natural Selection is its explanatory power. You might as well state, “I couldn’t care less if someone personally believes that rainbows are caused by Leprechauns hiding their pots of gold, so long as they accept the undisputed fact that all monochromatic colors can be observed in a rainbow.”

      Gods fiddling with the genome to ensure the eventual evolution of H. sapiens sapiens is every bit an anti-scientific concept as gods causing volcanic eruptions to indicate their desire to have virgens be fed to them.



      1. I would make the distinction between anti-scientific and non-scientific. Anti-scientific would be believing something despite the scientific evidence against it. Non-scientific would be believing in something for which there is no evidence for or against. Sure, it would be nice to get rid of magical thinking entirely, but this is America we are talking about, and we do have freedom of religion. If the religions want to adopt a “god of the gaps” position, then fine, stick to the gaps and we are cool. I am confident that the gaps will get smaller and smaller thus marginalizing religion even more. It is easy to make a case for teaching the facts, less so for the gaps. But I think we can reasonably teach critical thinking as well. That should help the issue you bring up.

        1. What gaps?

          No, really. What few there are (such as the exact method by which abiogenesis occurred) are far too small to squeeze in any type of god, let alone a god as big as the one the Christians pretend is calling the shots.


          1. And that is one of the reasons why the religious will always be resistant to accepting (or “understanding,” if you prefer) evolution. The stakes are just too high.

            I know this. I lost my faith after learning about evolution and, after a couple of hundred hours’ study, finally accepting that it is true and what I had been taught about human origins was not. I’ll always remember one bright, sunny morning as I stood in the shower thinking (as I so often do in that quiet, reflective place), “My God of the gaps is gone.” It took several more years of agonized mental struggle to give up the whole religious framework of my childhood, but that was the fateful first step.

        2. Anti-scientific would be believing something despite the scientific evidence against it. Non-scientific would be believing in something for which there is no evidence for or against.


          science demands parsimony, thus it IS anti-scientific to postulate superfluous hypotheses to explain something already well explained.

      2. The Blind-Watchmaker who created the universe could be argued to have had humans (or at least a human-like intelligence) in mind when he created the universe in a gigantic flash of light xx billions of years ago, so belief in God and belief in Evolution are hardly contradictory. Adding “without God” to the question ensures that only atheists are going to answer the question as affirming evolution, since any deists are going to have to deny their belief that God exists in order to affirm evolution. IOW, the result is meaningless.

        1. I agree the question is bad in various ways, but the survey has been running for decades; changing it now would mean abandoning the attempt to measure a trend. I guess it’s a bit frustrating for the folks at Gallup.

          Of course, the same or another polling organisation could start running a better-designed study tomorrow.

    3. blu28 wrote

      Keeping religion out of the schools is the most important… But the only way to get to that stage is to make sure that every kid in America learns the truth.

      The problem is, as religionists continue to gain an ever-tighter grip on political power in the US, in state legislatures, school boards, etc., they are making learning optional. Witness the pending Missouri constitutional amendment that specifies, “that no student shall be compelled to perform or participate in academic assignments or educational presentations that violate his or her religious beliefs.” It is very difficult to even conceive of a way to combat the political power that religion has gained in the US.

  2. I’ve always suspected an anti-science deity has been distributing (and guiding)necrotizing fasciitis. Just ask Alexandru Marin and Eric Allin Cornell.

  3. Do religious people also tend to have more children than non-religious? If so, the flat-lining doesn’t surprise me.

      1. Baloney. Hereditary means squat here. The children aren’t taken away from the parents the moment they’re born, they’re put right back in the environment that they get brainwashed in.

      2. There single biggest predictor of a person’s religious views are the religious views of the person’s parents.

      3. That explanation only works if religious belief is hereditary.

        what was said above.

        and in support:


        AND there is likely a hereditary component that predisposes one towards partisan thinking:


        so, yeah, it’s likely the case that there is a strong heritable component to authoritarian personalities, and that itself predisposes one to the types of organized and simplistic authoritarian beliefs commonly found in evangelical xianity in the US

        It’s like being born an alcoholic, to a family of alcoholics.

        tough to break out of that.

  4. This is just a possible explanation of the flat-lining phenomenon.

    The main article in the New Scientist of 26th May 2012 entitled “The argumentative ape: Why we’re wired to persuade” suggested that humans are driven more to argue as a means of persuading, than to finding the sometimes “staring you in the face“ obvious truth. This supposedly assists them in climbing the alpha male ladder and hence would probably have become an embedded evolutionary phenomenon. No great surprise here you may say but perhaps it might just give us pause for thought when devising our own persuasion strategies. For example, taking the study’s findings as fact, then when arguing with the religiously pietistic (what a lovely word) one might try agreeing with them first to nullify the “argumentative” reflex and then, by extending the logic of their arguments, reach a position where they cannot anymore support their proposition – not at least without appearing ridiculous, even to themselves. This approach is not a million miles away from Mark Antony’s famous “but Brutus is an honourable man” speech whereby he subtly turns the crowd against the unfortunate Brutus.

    Just a thought.

  5. And now, according to an article in today’s New York Times, Twitter reports that “evangelical Christian leaders’ tweets of Bible verses or other “messages of God’s love” perform “about 30 times as well as Twitter messages from pop culture popwerhouses” such as “NBA players, politicians, or [movie] actors.”

    The NY Times article says that Twitter, “always looking for ways to add new users….has sent a top executive, Claire Diaz Ortiz,”on a mission: to bring more religious leaders into the Twitter fold.”

    According to Diaz-Ortiz, who has an MBA from Oxford, ‘Pastors are always telling me Twitter is just made for the Bible.”

    On average, the NYT says, “verses in the King James Bible are just under 100 characters long, leaving room to slip in a #bible hashtag and be under the 140-character limit.”

    Maybe we need to start ‘Pharyngulating’ Twitter with WEIT “verses”?

    1. Hmmm…there’s an opportunity here. There are a wealth of horrible Bible verses that could be slipped in there, too. Might be worth it just to see them get all huffy and complain about it being out of context.

      1. I don’t know… I can easily see that the horrible verses could end up “mainlined” and accepted by large numbers of religious folk. In the absence of some increase in the mean ability to critically think, I fear we’d only be arming the Christian Taliban.

  6. Nitpick for clarity, I suggest parentheses as follows:

    Gallup concludes (the statements in bold are either my emphasis or my interpolation):

  7. I wonder if religiosity correlates with non-acceptance of evolution rather than causes non-acceptance.

    It seems to an outsider that for the poorest in America life must feel far more unsettled and risky. You only get health care if you are employed. You only get employed if you have maretable skills. The disparity in wealth is far greater.

    Belief in the church communities is the only way to persuade yourself that anyone gives a damn about you. Why not turn to magical thinking?

    1. Your premise doesn’t follow from the argument. To just correlate rather than be causal, we have to suppose that there are other factors that lead to both religiosity and rejection of evolution. One such factor is education which was already noted in the article, although it is apparently not the only factor. Other than not learning about evolution, why would the poor reject evolution and an old earth other than because of their religion? Certainly we can think that the poor turn to religion to comfort. But it is still the religion that causes them to reject evolution, not being poor.

    2. This is a valid point. People are emotionally indebted to church communities, especially in America.

    1. In one small sentence you have managed to sum up the entirety of the explanation for our country’s decent into madness.

      I weep with you. After a lifetime of activism dedication to the promotion of sanity and reason, never could I have EVER imagined that we would experience the insanity we currently witness in the second decade of the 21st. century. I was always so confident that immense progress would be made in the areas we work and advocate.

      Thus the explanation for our feelings of hopelessness and sorrow. It’s hard to be optimistic when you are constantly reminded by the available evidence that all you’re really doing in all of your efforts amounts to nothing more than shoveling shit against a tsunami of ignorance.

  8. Putting these statistics together creates a rather interesting picture of the most likely science denier: an ignorant, Bible-thumping, Republican 🙂

  9. I’ve seen public school children as young as first grade who have already been brainwashed that “nature study is evil” and Jesus guides every aspect of life. Education is desperately needed about rational thought and critical thinking in general.
    Americans have always had a predilection for mythmaking and magical thinking that springs from religion but is more deeply rooted and universal than that. The traditional distrust of “eddycayshun” and embracing of ignorance as a kind of innocent purity does not help. Our entire culture needs reform.

  10. Your infer that because the person on the street does not have the knowledge of a evolutionary biologist they cannot understand the issue. Do you really think that more knowledge is necessary to gasp the issue? These are your two choices; evolution backed up by evidence even an idiot could understand or miracles by backed up by claims even an idiot could question. I can tell you that this idiot does not need a PhD to realize that evolution is the obvious choice to go with. What we are dealing with here is a culture that raises its children to believe that delusion is a virtue and the quest for knowlege is a sin. How does one remedy this tragic problem?

  11. What about acceptance by age? If the 18-25 year olds are less religious, they should have a higher acceptance of evolution.

    1. I hope you are right. I’m an old goose of 63 years and sometimes the kids denial of reality scares me. I’d like to know if Prof. Coyne’s classes show that the solution can be solved by waiting for the old deluded fools to die off. I hope he tells us that we are about to witness an age of enlightenment.

  12. I think most of those who checked the box “Humans evolved, but God had no part” are pretty much those who would have checked the box “There is no god.” Not surprising about the flat line.

    1. I think you’re right. For several years now I’ve accepted that evolution is true, that I really am the descendant of hominims over millions of years with common ancestry to chimpanzees and, ultimately, all other life. That the Adam and Eve story is an ancient myth with no connection to reality.

      But saying God “had no part” in how I was formed seemed tantamount to denying his existence, and it’s still hard for me to mentally check that box even after leaving Christianity behind.

      To borrow and adapt a line from the late, great Mr. Hitchens, one might say that, for religion, evolution poisons everything.

      1. But saying God “had no part” in how I was formed seemed tantamount to denying his existence, and it’s still hard for me to mentally check that box even after leaving Christianity behind.


        This is an excellent point. The choices were worded quite poorly, and the results are thus slanted towards a kind of Pascal’s Wager response. Reworded a bit, here is how the correct choice sounded:

        “Sure, humans evolved, but God the Almighty didn’t have one single thing thing to do with it? C’mon! You REALLY believe that?”

        Many conservative agnostics who essentially agree with the idea of un-guided evolution probably avoided ticking this box merely because it sounded too radical to them. Here is how the choices could have been worded:

        A) Evolution couldn’t work without God’s intervention.

        B) Evolution doesn’t need God’s intervention to work.

        C) Evolution is a lie. God created humans.

        Also, I still harbor the suspicion that there are huge numbers of people who will NEVER admit their true feelings for fear of losing their employment, or their social standing in their communities. They simply don’t trust the pollsters to keep their secrets safe.

        If I was a multi-billionaire, it would be an interesting experiment to offer people who currently attend church services regularly $250,000 per year salaries — if they would come to work for my ATHEIST MARKETING CORPORATION, where they would, every day of the week, be actively involved in promoting science and atheism to the masses.

        There would be fights breaking out (among former “true” believers!) to get in line, and they would all be chanting “Money talks, bullshit walks“!!!

        1. The question about whether one believes that evolution is unguided has to be asked. As long as you are unwilling to throw away the miracle card when looking at evolution you are not talking science.

    1. Well I certainly hope he’s right! I like Dan, he is a very entertaining speaker, full of arresting and sometimes humorous ideas.

  13. Like religious belief, adherence to right-wing or left-wing political ideology also seems to correlate with non-acceptance of evolution – and science in general. See, for example:

    “The Republican Brain: The science of why they deny science,” (Chris Mooney, 2012) and;

    “Higher Superstitition: The academic left and its quarrels with science” (Paul Gross & Norman Levitt, 1994).

    What’s that about?

    1. It’s anti-rationalism either way. That’s pretty clear in _Higher Superstition_, where Gross and Levitt make a point often about the political irrelevance of the academic left, and the aid and comfort those trends give the political right.

      I can’t speak on Mooney’s book – I haven’t read more than parts of his HuffPo self-promotion articles before losing patience with the spectacle of slapping himself on the back.

  14. Even though the numbers have not changed as much as we had hoped, remember that many theistic evolutionists are on their way to being agnostic/atheists. One of the routine questions I ask members of CFI Indiana is “Why did you become an atheist?” They invariably answer they were religious at one time and gradually rejected the supernatural events in the bible when they realized there were sientific answers to their questions. Almost everyone was a theistic evolutionist at one time in their life. They were “in progress” of becoming atheists but not there yet. If it were not for this convient and natural evolutionary point in their conversion, there would not be as many atheists as there are presently. It’s true, the numbers have not changed that much, but the theistic evolutionary point in their gradual change is the reason the number of atheists and agnostics has not diminished. I was a evolutionary deist at one brief time in my life, but soon continued on to become an atheist. I think most people follow that evolutionary tract.

    1. Even though the numbers have not changed as much as we had hoped, remember that many theistic evolutionists are on their way to being agnostic/atheists.

      They may be on their way, but it doesn’t seem like many of them are getting there. According to a Gallup poll from last year, over 90% of Americans believe in God, a number almost unchanged since the 1940’s.

  15. Well this news is horrible. Just got to face the ugly fact here.

    But the news isn’t all bad. The National Council of Churches yearbook for 2012 is out.

    Total church membership reported in the 2011 Yearbook is 145,691,446 members, down 1.15 percent over 2011.

    According to the churches own figures, 1.5 million people left xianity last year. US xianity is slowing dying.

    There are some real limitations in this data though.

    1. Not all churches report their data to the NCC. For a lot of fundie churches the NCC is a heretical organization that assumes that all xian churches are True Xians.

    2. The biggest one, a lot of churches grossly inflate their figures to appear more powerful than they are. They just lie. The RCC reports stable membership by counting baptisms only. The reality is they have lost 1/3 of their members, 22 million people.

    3. Who is really getting hammered are the moderate xians. They are losing 3-4% of their members per year. This is not so slow suicide in the historical context of thing. I did my part here, dropping out of one of them.

  16. Continued – Granted, some people never leave the position of being an evolutionary deist, but at least they are not Creationists. Evolutionary deists are not as much of a threat to Democracy as Creationists. At least we can talk to them. I agree, they are incorrect when they claim a supernatural original creating force exists, but they are on our side about the separation of state and church.

  17. I think that there is something else going on here. The average person doesn’t have a great background in science, nor are they interested in it on a recreational level. Hence they go by what they see in the media.

    All too often scientific issues are fought by scientists who are shilling for some big interest (say, climate change skeptics shilling for the fossil fuel industry, or those who shilled for tobacco).

    Hence when scientists present evidence that contradicts what “makes sense” to them, they dismiss these scientists as those who are shilling for some pet cause; they see some grand conspiracy to hide the truth (e. g., Ben Stein’s film “Expelled”).

    They think that evolutionists (or cosmologists) are “trying to pull a fast one” on them and they aren’t going to buy it.

  18. Over the past five years, I’ve had the following critique of evolutionary theory thrown at me several times by different people and, being the non-expert that I am, I could never figure out whether the absence of any online refutation of it is due to the fact that serious commentators don’t consider it worthy of a response (which is what I hope), or because they’re less than confident of their ability to present an effective rebuttal (which is what I fear).


    1. It’s pointless. He states right at the end that the only evidence for evolution he’ll accept is reproducing it in a test tube, but then turns around and says that experiments done in labs are “intelligent design” and don’t count. That’s not a refutation. He’s simply made it impossible to meet his own criteria. This is no better than Hovind’s evolution challenge.

      Go to Panda’s Thumb and the Talk.Origins archive for sources that not only address the issues Reed raises, but also (unlike Reed) include references.

      1. It’s pointless. He states right at the end that the only evidence for evolution he’ll accept is reproducing it in a test tube,

        It is pointless.

        Countless experiments showing evolution have been done and not only in the lab.

        Evolving pathogen resistance is a serious and often treatment limiting problem in medicine. It’s also the basis of our agriculture systems that feed a once unimaginable 7 billion people.

        A new branch of experimental evolution is “meso-scale” evolution where scientists set up experiments outdoors on the multi-acre (hectares) scale.

        Whoever is simply lying like all creationists. If whatever they are demanding as evidence is provided, they just move the goalposts. Their goalposts are motorized on wheels because they have to move them so often.

        1. I’ll add here that if xians provided evidence for their religion equivalent to the evidence for evolution, we would have:

          1. A videotape of the crucifixion and resurrection.

          2. Jesus would show up occasionally on TV and talk about his crucifixion, resurrection, and how things are going in heaven and hell.

          According to xians, jesus isn’t dead, he is god, the all powerful ruler of the universe. Showing up on time for a TV talk show should be trivial for such a being.

          1. Curiously, Reed says that it’s only evolutionary scientists who commonly engage Christians in these arguments, and that this demonstrates some sort of religious insecurity on the part of “evolutionists”; whereas, for example, astronomers just ignore creationists. Putting aside the inaccuracy of this statement, he completely ignores the fact that he isn’t writing a long essay insulting astronomers and insisting that they are not scientists until they demonstrate the formation of stars on a table in front of him.

            Again, he can’t make logical connections, nor can he keep cause and effect straight.

            1. Creationists almost always go after evolution as their most immediate threat to their mythology.

              But all sciences, geology, astronomy, cosmology, archaeology, history, anthropology contradict their mythology.

              They plan to go after them after they kill off biology.

              Sounds like this Reed guy is just a typical pathological liar nutcase, or in other words a fundie xian creationist. Not worth engaging.

        2. I should have been more clear in that the only evidence that Reed will accept to demonstrate evolution is reproducing abiogenesis in a test tube, presumably by mixing some chemicals together and letting it sit for awhile.

          In fact, most of his objections to evolution have to do with abiogenesis, which he then later claims can be uncoupled from evolution, but evolutionary scientists refuse to do so. So not only does he have it backward, he’s not even consistent within the same essay.

          The whole thing is a mess. I only skimmed it, because it is very long, and I could pick out a number of fallacies and inconsistencies. Though I have to admit, his notion that kidney stones are a problem for evolution is a new one to me.

          1. Actually we do have a form of life produced in a “test tube”.

            The self replicating and self evolving RNA replication system that Scripps came up with fulfills the criteria for life in the broadest sense used by NASA.

            It wasn’t even entirely human made, it evolved itself.

            This would be an independent, replicating, evolving lineage.

            Creationists avoid real science like they avoid real thought and real honesty. When confronted with the fact that something very like life has been created abiogenetically they just…move the goal post again.

            The latest is that you can’t upcouple the Big Bang from abiogenesis. So we have to touch off a Big Bang before they (supposedly) will believe us. It’s a good thing none are planned right now. That would be the last experiment anyone did for at least another 13.7 billion years or so.

          2. FYI. Here is one example of abiogenesis, test tube life.

            The NASA definition for life is, “an independent, replicating, evolving lineage.” They need a broad definition because they are looking for extraterrestrial life. This includes viruses and excludes mitochondria.

            The Scripps evolved self replicating RNA molecules fulfill this definition.

            scienceagogo 2009:

            Reporting their work in Science, Scripps’ Tracey Lincoln and Gerald Joyce explained how their breakthrough

            began with a method of forced adaptation known as in vitro evolution. The ultimate goal was to take one of the RNA enzymes already developed in the lab that could perform the basic chemistry of replication, and improve it to the point that it could drive efficient, perpetual self-replication.

            This involved synthesizing a large population of variants of the RNA enzyme that then underwent a test-tube evolution procedure to obtain those variants that were most adept at joining together pieces of RNA. Ultimately, this process enabled the team to isolate an evolved version of the original enzyme that was a very efficient replicator.

            The improved enzyme fulfilled the primary goal of being able to undergo perpetual replication. “It kind of blew me away,” says Lincoln.

        3. Their goalposts are motorized on wheels because they have to move them so often.

          That probably explains my nausea. They were being moved quite a lot, especially when the intelligent design section came along.

    2. Which part? Most of them are dealt with at the TalkOrgins index to creationist claims. He’s wrong in saying that once they thought this about the origin of life, now they think this. They’re all hypotheses, no one at this point knows how life began (that’s one of the reasons so much science is being done in that field), but evolution deals with how life ‘evolved’ changed, not how it began. David Deamer’s “First Life” and Robert Hazen’s “Genesis” are good books on the origin of life.

    3. He meanders all around. Some of the points are good, many show a misunderstanding of evolution. And he conflates evolution and abiogenesis. Sure, we do not know exactly how life started on Earth and probably will never know. But we almost certainly will demonstrate that it was possible and even probable. The Creationist standpoint for a very long time was that it wasn’t possible.

      There are too many points of evolution to address one by one in the list. None of them are really big issues. Some show specific points on which we are ignorant, some show specific points on which he is ignorant. In cases like that, I might just say, pick your best point and let’s look at that one.

    4. It’s one long argument from ignorance, conflating abiogenesis with evolution, failure to understand natural selection and then a list of examples of I can’t understand this so your explanation must be false.
      No real understanding of falsifiability, you must prove it true is the dead give away. Ignores neutral theory and has a view that evolution is focused on a goal.
      You can count the canards, watchmaker, hurricane in a junkyard and I’m sure I missed a few.

  19. If we forces of light and reason are serious about changing behaviors we MUST adopt and use modern marketing, media and sales tactics and strategies the same as the forces of darkness do — and get funding to do so. This is Marketing 101.

    In addition, current brain and social science research is getting very good at explains how these mistakes in behavior-thinking occur and counter-measures.

    It’s not that complicated.

    1. If we forces of light and reason are serious about changing behaviors we MUST adopt and use modern marketing, media and sales tactics and strategies the same as the forces of darkness do — and get funding to do so.


      I’ve been saying this for yonks!

      it’s quite obvious that authoritarian personalities will not be changed by an evidentiary argument presented to them.

      no, they follow only the messages presented by trusted authorities.

      the only way to fix this problem, is to change the messages they are listening to.

      Replace people like Rush Limbaugh with people like Rachel Maddow.

      change the message to one that is PRO science instead of anti.

      as you say though, the problem is simply one of money.

      the big money pretty much all resides with the people that have served their own interests by sending out anti-science messages for decades now.

  20. Getting people to accept evolution is just part of getting them to accept responsibility for themselves and for Earth. Evolution is important, but in the near term taking responsibility for global warming and doing something about it is more pressing. Is *anything* about climate change taught in K-12. No, because it’s opposed by the same no-nothing anti-science coalition of the religious right and the plutocrat Republicans.

    1. In the western U.S., it’s more complicated (and more grim) than that. Science (including the most basic natural history and geography) is minimal because it would contradict the political culture that unregulated development, ranching, agriculture, and mining are God’s divine purpose for the land. Throw in Republican greed, Christian willful ignorance, and the apathy of an undereducated, myth-ridden population, and there you have it: desertified land, dry rivers, dust storms, and abandoned houses that have never been lived in…and that’s NOW. What will it look like in ten years?

      This is why I think earth science education (including evolution, geologic time, and environmental geology) is so important. It’s the only way to give people an accurate, responsible sense of time and place.

  21. I found your blog very interesting, seriously. I am one of those brain-washed people that believe in a Designer. Somehow I was not persuaded in my youth by my environment nor my family or friends. Somehow, as a young adult things clicked and I chose to, in your perspective, deceive myself.

    As one who holds a MA I am not uneducated nor close-minded but all of nature seems to scream out to me that there was a designer. This is where I am confounded by those who hold fast to the theory of evolution.

    I am thankful for your perspectives and to have a forum that allows dialogue between widely diverse points of view. And why, not so unlike the “religious” do you feel the need to “evangelize” your point of view? I ask this with respect, not to spur a war.

    1. As one who holds a MA I am not uneducated nor close-minded but all of nature seems to scream out to me that there was a designer.

      humans are selected for pattern recognition.

      deciding to see pattern in nature tends to make one try and explain it.

      but how does intelligent design *actually* explain anything?

      how does it produce any useful information?

      can it predict anything?


      can you actually take your idea and use it to test and see if a particular thing was, in fact, designed?


      OTOH, there are literally tens of THOUSANDS of scientific papers that have ALREADY utilized modern evolutionary theory not only to explain pattern and variation we see out there, but to make testable predictions for what would would find, even in the fossil record!

      what’s more, in all those hundreds of thousands of man hours spent investigating this observed variation using evoltuionary theory, we have learned a tremendous amount about ourselves and our world that has lead to things that have directly improved the quality of life for everything on this planet.

      your concept of intelligent design has accomplished nothing but keeping your head in a cloud of ignorance.

      1. But it is not just about pattern recognition. I am sitting in my office. Everything I see had a designer–my computer, books, desks, art, furniture…I look at things with a curiosity that says, “how is that made?” or sometimes, “who made it?” as in what period of history, what company, what country. Is this really just pattern recognition?

        1. But it is not just about pattern recognition. I am sitting in my office. Everything I see had a designer–my computer, books, desks, art, furniture

          how do you recognize that the objects in your office are human-made?

          have you ever sat down and thought about that?

        2. Right, you see patterns that you recognize as objects that are man-made. You are in your office where everything is man-made, so you have no opportunity to the false-positive rate on this sense.

          Have you seen any of recent visualizations of the workings of the proteins that are responsible for replication of DNA? It is hard to watch them and not see some kind of design involved. They look like little machines, with appendages here and there, all designed to accomplish their task.

          Yet there are visualizations of other chemical reactions which look just as much like little machines, with appendages that accomplish their tasks, but which are inorganic and we know occur naturally from common chemicals.

          Once you have a replicator, materials and time, there is very little limit to the complexity of what can develop. We have very little ability to conceive of the amount of time this all took. We see how difficult it is to get a single beneficial mutation, and then it just naturally seems like it couldn’t have happened, but we underestimate the power of vasts amount of time and large populations.

          And the history of evolution is a history of a process that is accelerating. Things have been following a process of more and more efficient evolution.

          In one sense, that is the real miracle of life and evolution. Life and single cell organisms are probably very common in the Universe. We don’t know exactly what is required, but it is likely quite a number of different possible sets of conditions. But for large, complex, mufti-cellular creatures like us, now that requires stability.

          1. i was with ya up to here:

            Things have been following a process of more and more efficient evolution.

            can you explain what your thinking is here?

            Having studied evolution in the field, i do not see any pattern to the process of evolution itself.

            selection and drift, drift and selection… pretty much always the same.

            how does one get a sense that “efficiency” is changing over time?

            1. It’s like this: It took nearly a billion years to get to the first replicator. Then the replicators evolved to single cell organisms. Those organisms and the replicators inside them co-evolved to protein making and using machines. Eventually that basic design won out and replaced whatever else might have been competing with it. At this point, we have a design in the replicator system that allows bits and pieces of the replicator (DNA) to exchange with other organisms. At this point we have all of the basic chemical processes evolving separately, but then combining to form more complex processes. This standardization on DNA and proteins allowed the process to accelerate. We then see the number of types of single cells winnow out to a few efficient designs, with the development of organelles through the combining of cells with different chemical processes. This in turn allows multi-celled organism to form, which leads to cell specialization.

              Basically, my point is that evolution follows the concept that progress is made by increasing the number of things that we can do without thinking about it. The number of possibilities decrease over time, but the speed at which the remaining possibilities can occur increases.

              1. The number of possibilities decrease over time, but the speed at which the remaining possibilities can occur increases.

                but… it is not progressing linearly towards some end goal or process, it is not progressing linearly towards ever more complex structures.

                just because it started that way, doesn’t mean that is the way it continues.

                selection doesn’t favor the more complex over the lesser, just whatever works for the current conditions.

                it doesn’t necessarily push for optimal solutions, just ones that are “good enough”.

              2. No, of course not. I didn’t mean to imply that it did. What I am saying is that certain stability in the environment (which may be an temporal anomaly) has allowed the the most flexible forms of life to give up some of that flexibility to fill more quickly the niche created by that stability. Furthermore, it is a continuing process, with each in turn giving up some flexibility in exchange for more quickly being able to fill the remaining niches. I am thinking, for example, of the HOX genes, which allow for gross anatomy changes but only within a specific set of possibilities.

                But to get back to your point, I think of it somewhat like waves at high tide. As long as the tide is high, a certain small number of waves reach higher than the rest, higher than any of the others. It isn’t because the waves strive to do so, it is just because the circumstances cause it to happen.

      1. iamaudacioiusconsulting’s web site provides all the context you need to understand her comment:

        Audacious Consulting is owned by Annette Trucke of Eugene, Oregon who passionately enjoys coming alongside people and to help them to accomplish what God has called them to do. She sees potential everywhere and knows how to channel it. Annette is a creative thinker who specializes at thinking “outside of the box” to find solutions that enable others to realize their God-given dreams. She loves people and God and her mission is to bless both in her endeavors.

        Annette has a BA in Christian Ministry from New Hope Christian College in Eugene, Oregon and she holds a MA in Human Services: Executive Leadership. She volunteers on a consistant basis for several organizations, always desiring to see good causes and ministries flourish.

      2. You went to my website didn’t you? Then you know part of my educational background, minus everything in between. And yes, I attended all but two years in Christian college environments.

        It might surprise you and you many not choose believe me but both my faith and intellect were challenged by professors and prescribed curriculum in those colleges. They do not just spoon feed to numb minds religion to the ignorant. Though I am sure you would beg to differ.

        1. You went to my website didn’t you?

          well, you DID link to it in your nym!

          if you didn’t intend to, you shouldn’t have.

          if you DID intend to, but your motivation was simply to sell yourself, that’s rather frowned upon.

          It might surprise you and you many not choose believe me but both my faith and intellect were challenged by professors and prescribed curriculum in those colleges.

          yeah, I can just imagine the terrific challenges you faced there….


          1. I didn’t have anything to hide like others who say whatever they want through anonymity. Why would you assume I am trying to sell myself to anyone on here. I don’t even know why you would say something like that. You insult me for your pleasure not based on truth which is what all of those who are supportive of Darwinism are looking for, right?

            1. I didn’t have anything to hide like others who say whatever they want through anonymity.


              Why would you assume I am trying to sell myself to anyone on here.

              It’s an explanation for why you included a link to your sales site, not an assumption.

              not based on truth which is what all of those who are supportive of Darwinism are looking for, right?

              bah, you’re not here looking for “truth”

    2. MA in what subject? I would suggest reading Charles Darwin’s “The Origin of Species…”; then Robert T. Pennock’s “Tower of Babel, The Evidence Against the New Creationism”, and then Eugenie Scott’s “Evolution vs Creationism”. Then once a day or so go to “TalkOrigins” on the web and read one or two entries just to keep up to date and learn what the arguments against a designer are.

      The need for WEIT/Jerry Coyne and other such websites/blogs like Pharyngula and the Richard Dawkins Foundation, and authors such as Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, (and the late Christopher Hitchens, and Carl Sagan and Stephen J Gould before them) to educate (not evangelize – see below) is because they are public figures interested in education or who are or were in fact employed to educate – that is it’s their job (and passion too I’m sure). Educating implies truth telling and truth seeking — WEIT and the others are not presenting their “point of view” at least as it relates to the science of evolutionary theory – they are presenting the evidence of evolutionary theory.

      Because these blogs/websites/authors have a very large audience, it might seem like “evangelizing”, but let’s get some perspective here on evangelizing versus educating. Ask yourself and any of your friends/acquaintances: When was the last time you had an “evolutionists” on your porch trying to convert you to the “Church of the Theory of Evolution”, or asking you to accept Charles Darwin as your personal saviour so you don’t burn in hell?
      See the difference?

      1. You assume that I have never read any of your above reading suggestions.

        And honestly, I don’t entertain those on my porch who would want me to put my faith and intellect in Darwinism. But, I do have conversations with people, I do read their views, and watch educational programming saturated in it. It all asks for buy-in doesn’t it?

        1. No, physics, chemistry, and biology do not call for buy in. You can ignore the principles illuminated by these sciences (in some cases at your peril) but your physical reality is bound by them all the same.

          However, when it comes to YEC, no amount of buy-in, magical thinking, or motivated reasoning will ever make it factual. Emotionally satisfying to half our fellow citizens? Apparently, much to our shame as a nation once renowned for our scientific and technological prowess. But not true.

        2. There is very little faith involved, that is the point. If you do not actually read what these authors say, then of course it is easy to dismiss the conversational arguments of their adherents. If you don’t see for yourself the transitional fossils, then it is just hearsay that they exist. Darwin himself was very eloquent and persuasive; he had to be, his entire audience was essentially hostile. And in 150 years, not one prediction has been proven false. Not one shred of valid evidence to the contrary has been presented. But if I say in conversation there is literally thousands upon thousands of specific predictions and bit of evidence for evolution, you can just dismiss it. Much harder to do so when this information is presented formally.

          1. Your previous response was the most decent, non-oozing with arrogance response that I have had. I can even agree with you on many points as I read through. I do see things through different lenses. Many would think that is ignorance, or rather stupidity. I see these pictures of amazing “machinery” and say, “wow, God.”
            I happened in this blog because of curiosity. What I stumbled into seems to be a cold culture war which slanders anyone who is outside of the box. Why would anyone outside of the box want to get in when they and their people are slandered and maligned by those inside. No wonder no one of faith will listen to them.
            Anyway, thanks for the genuine respect.

            1. I suggest you do us the respect of learning about evolution before you dismiss it, say, by reading my book. There are mountains of evidence supporting it and none supporting creationism or design.

              If you’re really curious, as you say, you’ll read about the evidence for evolution before you come here and insult the readers for slandering and maligning.

              Now go read.

            2. Ahem…

              Your previous response was the most decent, non-oozing with arrogance response that I have had.

              You mean compared to, say:

              You insult me for your pleasure not based on truth which is what all of those who are supportive of Darwinism are looking for, right?


              And honestly, I don’t entertain those on my porch who would want me to put my faith and intellect in Darwinism.

              No sign of arrogance there, then! It’s fairly clear that your mind is made up, and nothing you read here or elsewhere is going to persuade you that your ability to “see” design wherever you look is the same mistake Paley was making 200 years ago, and the same trumped up reasoning current day IDers have been vainly attempting to sell for lo these past 15 years (dating roughly from the wedge document).

              As others (including the person on whose site you’re a guest) have pointed out, the evidence for evolution is so abundant that anyone who doesn’t accept it should be (but rarely is!) embarrassed by their mule-like intransigence. Maybe you’ll take the suggestion, read that evidence, and be convinced. But I suspect that, as someone who knows she’s doing God’s work, you won’t be moved an inch by any amount of reading.

        3. You assume that I have never read any of your above reading suggestions.

          you assume correctly.

          care to prove us wrong?

    3. all of nature seems to scream out to me that there was a designer.

      Hmm… As Dawkins is wont to say, this is only an illusion of design. Look closer, and you’ll see “design” that is very well explained by the accumulation of small changes over time (that is, evolution!), but which would represent some frankly bizarre engineering decisions were there really a designer.


  22. What the Religious don’t realise (or maybe their preachers do?)is that the more uneducated the masses are kept, then the less they can demand for wages. If people get educated, then they can get better jobs, learn how to think (instead of being told by pastors what to think). Politicians have used the tool of keeping the masses relatively uneducated, so that they could control them and the churches do the same in keeping the people in fear to control them.
    Countries can always afford Wars, yet never afford proper education, or healthcare!

    1. I hear you. I agree that leaders all have a responsibility to those they lead them well and not just feed them and make them lethargic non-thinkers.
      The church let too many fall into lethargy, some because of leaders who abuse power and like control but by far that is not the case in my experience through relationships with leaders and by all that I have read and heard about. I wish you could trust me on this one but unfortunately those who falter and abuse power always get the attention and all of the faithful, the scholars, and those with great integrity get overlooked.

    1. Oh don’t let me get to you! I do my share of reduce, recycle, reuse. I understand the need to reduce my carbon footprint…I believe that we should take care of our earth…
      I am doing energy monitoring in my home right now… I just can’t sit in your school of thought nor can you sit in mine right now.

  23. One minor detail on the most recent Gallup data only halfway shows in the methodology: the four days the poll was taken on were those immediately following President Obama’s announcement of the latest evolution in his position on gay marriage. This may have provided some “Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve” religious priming, contributing to the swing from the TE/ID position to the YEC/OEC position.

  24. I predict we’ll see serious progress within years (rather than centuries) when a fourth question is added to the menu of possible responses to the question of human origins:

    4. Human beings emerged naturally from a long process of physical and biological creativity that can be spoken of religiously as “God’s creation” or scientifically as “evolution.”

    My latest entry on HuffPost proposes this in more detail: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rev-michael-dowd/evolving-gallup-evolution-poll_b_1564081.html?ref=religion-science

    1. So religion is “a way of knowing” for the scientifically illiterate? Sounds about right.

        1. Whither objectivity, then? I prefer my interpretations to be revelation-free and backed by repeatable experiments. Religious interpretations tend to be more of the “out of thin air” variety (e.g. your interpretation of humans’ existence).

            1. Oh, having read your PuffHo piece now, I see that you’re one of those religious types who want to take the supernatural out of religion and replace it with a human psychology. Well, I think that’s great, but it does have the drawback of flying in the face of what about 95% of your coreligionists believe, in the US at least.

              Good luck with rendering the God of Abraham as a mere personification (of what? the totality of the laws of nature?) in the eyes of most Christians and Muslims (I omit Jews, because I suspect most non-orthodox Jews are actually in on the joke, e.g. our gracious host). If you subtract the anthropomorphized elements of “the Creeator” from most people’s beliefs, they’re not going to be left with much, and it certainly won’t be religious belief as most define it today. That’s exactly what most people commenting here would like to see, of course, only taken a step further and eliminating all the needless metaphorical window-dressing when describing nature.

              But it’s not going to happen: where would the Westboro Baptist Church be without their angry, sexually-obsessed god to punish the “fags”? How can Jerry Falwell’s successors ask for donations in the name of “the personification of the blind forces of nature”?

              1. You’re probably right, Pete. Still, I feel like I need to do what I can to help my fellow religionists let go of superstitious otherworldlyism and embrace an evidential, evolutionary, ecological worldview.

        2. What exactly is the difference between “a way of knowing” and “a way of interpreting”? This strikes me as a distinction with no difference. Religion is neither. It is a way of pretending that you know what you don’t.

              1. Mr James it is, then! 🙂

                I’ve just contacted some folk at Gallup. We’ll see if my propsal makes any difference at all. I hope so.

              2. Still seems a distinction with no difference.

                If we’re going to rely on highly abstract definitions of the deity, I’ll stick with John Lennon’s “concept by which we measure our pain” definition.

    2. Why would you put two opposing viewpoints in the same question? Why not ask, “Do believe humans emerged as God’s creation?”, or, “Do you believe humans emerged naturally?”

      1. Tom, see my HuffPost blog proposal (linked above). If that doesn’t answer your question let me know and I’ll clarify it here.

        1. I read that before I commented. Seems like you want to categorize God’s creation as natural. Seems odd.

            1. You still don’t explain why you would equate the unnatural, humans emerging from God’s creation, with the natural, humans emerging through natural processes, and wrap it all up in one question just so everyone can answer yes.

            2. If you’re confused, think of your readers. From the question you want added, you seem to consider humans being created by God, “God’s creation,” to be a natural process, the equivalent of humans emerging naturally without God. To me they seem like very different things.

              1. Tom, I’m not sure what it is about “personification” that you find difficult to understand, but it seems to me clearly the case. My version of “New Theism” is quite similar to what most of the leading Protestant theologians of the 19th and 20th centuries were saying. Parker Whittle wrote an excellent post on this, which I highly recommend: http://bootstrapmonkey.com/2012/03/21/the-god-shaped-hole/

            3. Personification is not hard to understand, though why you keep harping on it is beyond me. The poll question you’re promoting says, “Human beings emerged naturally from a long process of physical and biological creativity that can be spoken of religiously…” In other words, you’re telling people they can still tell the “God did it” stories, as long as they know the stories aren’t true, they’re just myths, like Poseidon and Sol. What’s the point of that? You think people will accept evolution as long as you give them permission to tell mythical stories about it? That’s why your poll question makes no sense to me, and just repeating the word “personification” explains nothing.

              1. The point is simply this: a fourth question such as I have proposed would reveal that there are significantly fewer supernaturalists and ID proponents in America than the current three question options suggest.

                Based on having spoken to more than 1,600 radically different groups across North America over the last decade (admittedly a small sample), I’ll go out on a limb and offer a guesstimate as to what I think the percentages would be if four questions were offered:

                Which of the following statements comes closest to your views on the origin and development of human beings?
                1. Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God guided the process. (24%)
                2. Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God had no part in the process. (15%)
                3. God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so. (46%)
                4. Human beings emerged naturally from a long process of physical and biological creativity that can be spoken of religiously as “God’s creation” or scientifically as “evolution.” (11%)

  25. I’m a Scout leader (atheist Scout leaders are allowed in Canada) and I was out with my troop a few weeks ago and at one point as we were resting after a hike I asked them why were leaves and grass green? They knew the answer. Then I said that leaves are not as efficient as they would be because they don’t use and reflect green light. If they were 100% efficient then they would be black and the landscape we were looking at would be quite dismal. Without missing a beat one Scout piped up and said but then we would have evolved to appreciate black the same way as we now appreciate green. All the other agreed that that would be true.

    1. Great story. My own son quit Scouting when he got old enough to understand the policy on atheism and gays. He was about to get his Eagle badge. It was the point here he understood why I never was a Scout leader. A proud moment in an atheist dad’s life!

      1. I would never have joined or allowed my son to join if they discriminated against gays or non-believers. When I was asked to be leader I was upfront with Scouts Canada about my non belief and they didn’t say I couldn’t join. I would never push my non belief on any of the Scouts and we try to get out into nature as often as we can.

        1. I didn’t feel a need to “protect” my kids from the religious in our midst figuring that the important thing was getting them to think critically. It worked!

          1. Thinking critically is the most important skill that one can teach children. I wanted my son to have the experience of Scouts as I practically grew up in the woods. It as only when I was asked to be a leader that I investigated so technically I let him join without knowing they were not prejudiced.
            Also Scouts here in Canada is co-ed. Some of my best scouts are female. They’re so much more mature and responsible than boys are at that age.

      2. It is a proud moment when children start standing up to their ideals. In Canada here the Catholic Church is pushing back on Gay Straight Alliance clubs in Catholic schools and the students (gay or straight) are fighting back saying they want to support their friends.

  26. Pingback: Transit of Venus
  27. IMO, Evolution is the wrong “weapon” – And this is the big mistake which has been made for decades by those trying to get science accepted, and god ‘devalued’ in society.

    Someone who is in religion, Christianity or Islam, will not engage in real debate over anything which contradicts their faith – they have their “holy” books, and ONLY when the ERRORS in these books is made clear to them, is there ANY chance that they will look at evolution, or anything else..

    In 38 years (since I left Christianity at age 16) I have never had any impact on any believer by giving them scientific argument – Even in a scientific environment, believers cling to their book, and ignore contradictions between what their book says and what science clearly shows.

    I have “de-converted” about 15 people [ I no longer try to do this – if it happens through something I say / do, so be it – But I have seen some “de-converted” people become unhappy Aholes, it aint worth it!] – These “de-conversions” all occurred as a result of:

    A) Expound the hypothetical minimum attributes which an entity capable of creating the universe would need to possess.

    B) Contrast these attributes to the content of any “holy book” this entity is alleged to have inspired.

    C) Learn enough about the “holy” book that you can show clear examples of complete deviation from the “minimum attributes” you have specified (it is a good idea to get the believer to agree with your list of attributes before you advance to this stage)

    -A typical example is the story of the tower of Babel in Genesis .. You can show that a creator would have known it was impossible for man to build a tower into “the heavens” – Even disregarding the mechanics, that long before man got even ‘close’ the oxygen in the atmosphere would be insufficient to sustain life..

    -Show a few examples like this, sow the doubts
    – Slowly, get into deeper issues.

    Only when the believer is forced to see that their book is flawed and entirely untrustworthy, does one have ny chance that the believer will be open to scientific reason.

    1. I think there are many paths by which a person may be led to enlightenment (i.e., away from religion), and your suggestions are excellent examples.

      But a lot of people feel strongly about correcting the lies the religious tell (and are told) about evolution because they’re just so, well, egregious. There are few other areas of science I can think of where the facts are so blatantly ignored or covered up**. I guess it’s possible to cite specific religion-inspired lies like, “Abortions cause breast cancer,” but with evolution it’s a whole branch of science, one without which none of biology makes sense, as the man said. It’s really hard to sit back and let the nonsense slide when you’re aware of the rank dishonesty that’s behind it.

      Maybe speaking out about the creationists and IDers and other religious science deniers won’t save a single soul (so to speak), but not to do it would be unthinkable for many, many reality-based people.

      ** Note that I’m specifically talking about religious denialism here. I’m well aware of the politically inspired denial of AGW etc. and the frequent overlap between them.

    2. IMO, Evolution is the wrong “weapon” – And this is the big mistake which has been made for decades by those trying to get science accepted, and god ‘devalued’ in society.

      no, what you’ve missed here is that it could have been ANYTHING.

      what is being set up is resistance to anything that challenges controlling authoritarian groups, period.

      if it wasn’t evolution as science, it would most certainly have been something else.

      1. In 38 years (since I left Christianity at age 16) I have never had any impact on any believer by giving them scientific argument

        neither have I.

        what HAS worked, and not just for me, is pointing out where authority figures have lied to the religious.

        once their trusted authority figures are shown to actually be untrustworthy (and all of them ARE), then they start reading religious dogma for themselves, and often will seek out evidence for and against on their own, with no prompting.

      2. “if it wasn’t evolution as science, it would most certainly have been something else”

        Oh, I absolutely agree! – we have seen that.. Every scientific idea which has ever challenged the “authoritarian groups” (spherical earth, earth orbiting sun, evolution..) has been their target.

        What I am saying is that there is a “soft underbelly” which we do not attack because we are so busy ‘defending’ our science.

        I believe we can inflict so much damage by using the simple fatal flaws in their revered “holy” scripts, that they would not have the energy to fight.

        The other mistake we make (IMO) is that we fight fair – when they present “ID” we engage in battle with “ID” – Instead we should go for the underbelly – “yeah – we can accept teaching of ID, provided that this includes critical evaluation of ID hypotheses, and that when hypotheses are shown to be false, they are expounded as false, and this includes scientific evaluation of the creation myths in Genesis and other texts – we are running a science class, after all!”

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