Was the evolution of humans inevitable? Nonbeliever Michael Ruse helps Christians reconcile evolution and faith

July 21, 2012 • 5:35 am

Update: Over at Choice in Dying, Eric has an even more splenetic take on Ruse’s lucubrations, including this conclusion:

But, here’s another thing. If no limitations can be placed on God, as Ruse assumes, then God should be able to know, by calculating the probablities, which one of the gazillion possible universes would come up with human beings, if that was his aim in the first place. Wouldn’t someone who knew everything, and could work out the probabilities from initial conditions, come within an ace of predicting which of the possible universes would include us? If so, we are necessitated after all. Why can’t Ruse see this? Because he wants to leave the world safe for religion, and any old argument, apparently, will do. This is not philosophy; it’s not even theology; it’s really opinionated posturing, and it does no good at all for Ruse’s reputation as a philosopher. He should stop this empty, posturing attempt to produce throw-away philosophy, and try to act like a reasonable human being.


Philosopher Michael Ruse, although himself a professed nonbeliever in God, has spent an inordinate amount of time trying to show Christians how they can reconcile the findings of science—especially evolution—with their faith.  I am baffled by this endeavor. Presumably there are good reasons why Ruse rejects Christianity, so why, instead of convincing Christians why he has rejected God, does he try to help them find Jesus despite the ineluctable and contrary facts of science?

One of those ineluctable facts is that, scientifically, we can’t say with assurance that the evolution of Homo sapiens was inevitable.  Mutations are random and may even be caused by non-deterministic quantum phenomena; and since mutations are the fuel of evolution, whether or not a given mutation occurs may strongly affect the course of future evolution.  Further, if the Earth started off under even slightly different conditions, environmental contingencies like the asteroid strike that extirpated the dinosaurs may have profound effects on life’s diversity. (In his book Wonderful Life, Steve Gould argued that in the absence of that asteroid, mammals may forever have been insignificant creatures running around beneath the legs of dinosaurs, ergo no humans.)

All of this addresses the question of whether the evolution of humans was inevitable. The only scientifically supportable answer, in my view, is “We just don’t know.”

That doesn’t sit well with Christians, since the evolution of humans (if you’re a theistic evolutionist who believe that we did evolve) is a non-negotiable issue: we were designed in God’s image, and therefore, as the apotheosis of God’s plan, our appearance was inevitable.

In his latest column in The Chronicle of Higher Education,Does Darwinian randomness make Christianity impossible?” Michael Ruse takes up this issue. He considers several scientific arguments for why the evolution of our species might have been inevitable, including Dawkins’s “arms race” scenario (evolution produces an inevitable arms race between species to outdo each other, and human intelligence is the ultimate weapon), and the existence of an ecological “cognitive niche” that could only be filled by humanlike animals.  But even Ruse admits that these arguments are not absolutely convincing:

But again, I don’t think anyone – certainly not Gould – would say that humans absolutely had to evolve somewhere in the universe. So again, we seem to have a contradiction with Christianity (and, I presume, the other Abrahamic religions).

This leaves Ruse with a problem. If science can’t assure us that the evolution of humans was inevitable, as required by Christians who accept theistic evolution, what does that make of Christianity?  Well, he could give up and admit an incompatibility between faith and evolution, but that’s not Ruse’s style. So he presses on:

So, where do we go from here, and it is at this point that the 10 percent kicks in [JAC: Ruse says that he and I are in general agreement on most issues but disagree ten percent of the time] and Jerry Coyne and I (and, I suspect, my beloved fellow Brainstormer David Barash and I) part company. For Jerry, and I suppose for David, this is the end of the matter. One more evolutionary nail hammered into the coffin of religion. For me, the problem just starts to get interesting and challenging. This is not because I am a believer, because I am not. It is not really because it is a politically good thing to do, although I think that is so. It is rather because, well, it is a problem that is interesting and challenging!

Well, if you think that reconciling nonexistent deities and insupportable beliefs with science is “interesting and challenging,” yes, maybe. But the endeavor seems like a waste of good philosophical brainpower.  To solve the problem, Ruse turns not to science but to theology:

I think, along with Augustine and Aquinas, at times like this, because it is a theological problem and not a science one, we need a theological solution not a scientific one. So if I invoke, as I will, the notion of multiverses – other universes either parallel to ours or sequential – I am doing so not on scientific grounds (although I know there are those who would defend them on scientific grounds) but on theological grounds. The God of Christianity can create these if He has a mind to.

Since we humans have evolved by Darwinian processes, then we could have evolved by Darwinian processes. Just keep creating universes until it happens! And don’t put any direction into the process.

You might think that this is an awful waste, but as God told Job, His ways are not our ways.

Well, yes, but if you accept the last sentence, then anything can be reconciled with Christianity. Ancient fossils? God’s “way” is to fool us by putting those fossils in the rocks. Stars millions of light years away? God’s way was to create the light in transit along with the stars. A literal Adam and Eve? Well, yes, there were really only two progenitors of all humans, but God pumped up the genetic variation in our ancestors to make us think that the human population could never have been smaller than a few thousand individuals.

And if Ruse’s solution is that God works in mysterious ways, why not just accept Elliott Sober’s argument that God could have tweaked an ancestral genome to bring the human-creating mutations into existence on Earth?

If you seek a theological solution to a scientific dilemma, then you’re not reconciling science with faith—you’re distorting science to comport it with faith. Truly, God is mysterious, for although he had the power to create humans anywhere, he chose to do it by making millions of universes until he got the one he wanted!  We can’t argue against that, for God’s ways aren’t our ways.

Ruse gives the game away in his last paragraph:

Do I believe any of this? Not really, but that is not the point. The real point is that New Atheists like Jerry Coyne have some good arguments but before they declare the case closed they should let the philosophers and theologians have their turn to fight back. That is what a doppelgänger is good for.

If one doesn’t believe something, and presumably for good reasons, then the point is to defend your beliefs, not cater to unfounded superstition. This is not a case of a philosopher trying to make the best counterargument for his beliefs, but, contrary to Ruse’s assertion, it’s a politically motivated way to give Christians a loophole.

I’ll let a commenter on Ruse’s blog, “pianiste,” answer for me:

It’s only interesting or challenging because it is a political problem: coming up with a way to make evolution palatable to believers so that they won’t quit denying evolution and making it that much harder to teach scientific subjects scientifically in the public schools. We don’t waste a lot of time “accommodating” lost tribes in the Amazon regarding the red shift in astronomy, do we? No, because their not believing it–or even knowing about it–doesn’t constitute a political problem. We can live and let live. Unless he’s got a jones for wasting a lot of time on crossword puzzles for his own amusement, Professor Ruse is being a bit disingenuous about this “accommodation” business not being a political problem.

“Atheists like Jerry Coyne…should let the philosophers and theologians have their turn to fight back.”

What, pray tell, is Jerry Coyne doing to prevent philosophers and theologians from fighting back? He’s debating them into a corner where the only thing accommodationist philosophers and theologians can say is that is they don’t have anything convincing to say in rebuttal.

The zillions of parallel universes argument might explain how God could have it both ways: a) have humans evolve as He intended, yet b) not oversee evolution directly. But remember, among those universes would be ones in which humans do come along, are tainted with Original Sin, but have no chance to be saved and escape eternal damnation. Nice guy, this parallel-universe God. Think I’ll start tithing to Him.

181 thoughts on “Was the evolution of humans inevitable? Nonbeliever Michael Ruse helps Christians reconcile evolution and faith

  1. Let me interpret Ruse’s real intent:

    “Since my argument loses big time against scientific arguments of those like Coyne, let us philosophers do our philosophical mastubation in the corner and leave us alone!”

  2. I’m always intrigued that religionists, whether evolutionist or not, are so utterly convinced that humans are the end-product desired by their deity that they think no further. But given that the earth, the solar system, the galaxy and the universe will be around for billions of years yet to come, how can it be assumed that this primitive ape is the end of it all? Given the certainty that some cataclysmic event will occur at some point, who can even say that apes will survive? On this planet alone doG has about 4.5 billion years to play his games. Religion doesn’t even address the real questions. So who cares if religionists “accept evolution” or not? Their acceptance means nothing.

    1. Except that christians elect christian politicians that enact doG policy instead of rational policy. That’s why it is important, otherwise we have to keep dragging that two thousand year long chain into everything we do. If christians would just keep their doG on a leash we wouldn’t need to take it to the pound and have It euthanized.

      1. Quite. But I see no meaningful distinction between religionists who accept evolution and those who don’t. Both want a theocracy viz. the fundies (who don’t accept) and RCC Inc. (which does accept evolution). The only hope I see is that over time such people may be educated out of their superstitions – but it’ll be a long process taking generations. Fortunately the young are abandoning religion in increasing numbers (where apostasy is not punished by death)..

  3. All of this addresses the question of whether the evolution of humans was inevitable. The only scientifically supportable answer, in my view, is “We just don’t know.”

    I think a simple ‘no’ is scientifically supportable. The existence of the unusual ape species Homo sapiens is evidently the result of a huge number of cosmic, geological, climatological and biological accidents. Unless you would call it inevitable that an asteroid would finish off the dinosaurs, for instance, I don’t think you can say that anything that owes its existence to that asteroid was inevitable.

    1. Yes. But there is no reason to think that intelligence would have ceased to evolve in the absence of that asteroid. Imagine a body of art and literature based on reptillian folklore and superstition! And a holy book tracing sin all the way back to a garden in the lower Triassic. Yep.

      1. Dinosaurs had plenty of time to evolve human-like intelligence, yet they didn’t. Neither did birds, cephalopods, cetaceans, or frogs. Would intelligent amphibians have had a holy book in which a frog was crucified to atone for their sins? I doubt it.

        1. By the same token, most human civilizations developed some technology, but it seems that most barely develop late stone age tech, and still get along just fine. I don’t think any of this is ‘inevitable’ in any way.

  4. As someone who works in public high schools, I think the political issues that motivate accomodationists have to be taken very seriously.

    As a non-believer I agree with Lawrence Krauss, that any attempts to reconcile science and religion are basically a one-way street- the religion has to accommodate the science, not the other way around!!!!
    I remain unconvinced that if you do it the better (not necessarily “right” way) you are opening up a slippery slope to the wrong way.

    And I usually agree with Dan Dennett’s distinction between toxic and non-toxic religions, and largely letting the latter somewhat alone. (This is in contrast to Sam Harris’ opinion that accomodating moderate religion leads to the immunization of extreme religion. But I have days I am more in the Harris camp.) The latter are usually a lot more willing to change their mind up to the point on the basis of reason.

    1. The marvel of evolution is the bedrock knowlege that it occurs through simple mechanistic processes that are driving change over time. When these supposedly moderate religions support evolution yet only on the proviso that it is god’s plan they have effectively gutted the very tenet that make evolution what it is. There is no place for the tinkerer in this process.

      1. Sometimes accomodationism involves telling evolutionary theory while restraining oneself from drawing out all its implications.

        I should also concede that while Dan Dennett on the one hand believes in letting non-toxic religions alone, he is also critical of “belief in belief”, a position which has affinities with Harris’ notion that tolerating “moderate” religion helps to immunize toxic religion from criticism.

    2. I agree with you completely. A new group has been formed in North Carolina, NC Citizens for science https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/nc-science-education/3m8_XdZH2pY. We have been having some issues about how accommodationist we should be.

      As a prospective science teacher I understand some diplomacy might be needed in class. But my students will have no doubt that science will be the only acceptable topic in the class. I am curious to see how this will play out.

      1. Lynn, have you been in contact with the other state’s CfS groups? I served a couple years on the BoD for the Kansas CfS (I have since, thankfully, left that state), and I know the group in FL is very active as well. I’m sure they will be happy to give you pointers and lots of help.

        I have to admit, as one who stands firlmy on JAC’s side of this issue, the KCFS BoD had some good, sometimes a little heated, discussions on this topic. 🙂

    1. …or just a guy making a living until he retires. Almost as difficult to believe as Christian claptrap, is that a nonbeliever thinks these tedious, silly arguments defending the claptrap are “interesting”.

      If you have any interest at all in leaving a philosophical legacy that isn’t downright embarassing, Professor Ruse, find something else to do.

      1. I think you’re right on with “making a living”.

        There’s really no way for a professional opinion-haver like him to change their mind — no face-saving way to retreat. We all would applaud his integrity, of course, but his career and self-image would suffer. This banal fact (the fear of losing status dominating our thoughts and actions) probably accounts for a lot of high-profile philosophical and political disagreement.

        1. PMCarlton,

          What a silly comment, lacking comment on the subject and simply attacking Ruse because he disagrees with your viewpoint.

  5. Since we humans have evolved by Darwinian processes, then we could have evolved by Darwinian processes.

    “Contrariwise,” continued Tweedledee, “if it was so, it might be; and if it were so, it would be; but as it isn’t, it ain’t. That’s logic.”

  6. “Presumably there are good reasons why Ruse rejects Christianity, so why, instead of convincing Christians why he has rejected God, does he try to help them find Jesus despite the ineluctable and contrary facts of science?”

    Some non-believers in gods and religions apparently sincerely believe in belief, not for the sophisticated elite of course, but as a moral necessity for hoi polloi. May be Ruse is one of them?

        1. Thanks for the correction. I should have waited for the morning coffee to take affect before trying to type.

  7. Yeah, this whole “well, you can’t prove God didn’t do it” reminds me of those theories that can explain everything.

    It’s like Sagan’s Dragon in the garage: if you can explain everything with a theory (“why can’t I see it?” “It’s invisible” “why can’t I touch it?” “It’s intangible” “Why can’t I hear it” “It’s silent” etc), that means it’s unfalsifiable, and thus that belief has zero predictive power.

    And you see this with Christian explanations: they have no fucking idea why God would do certain things, no real confidence in anything specific happening. I hear Christians praying, always making sure to leave God an out “Lord, give me the faith to be healed” or “Lord, if it’s in your will”; even they can’t take their God seriously.

    That’s part of why I deconverted. I stopped making excuses for why God didn’t show up, and he failed to appear or manifest every single time. I stopped excusing God’s ways as higher, and looked at his supposed actions as a moral being without the assumption of humans not being able to judge such things, and those actions were horrifying and utterly morally reprehensible. If you refuse to give God the easy out of post-hoc rationalizations, he’ll fail pretty much every single test.

    1. Unless, of course, God is not the God of your imagination but the reality of what is beyond humanity’s intellectual capacity to grasp. It appears many evolutionists are incapable of thinking beyond materialism. It’s sad that after 150 years of the alleged clash between science and religion, fraudulently argued by Draper and White, materialist philosophers are still incapable of acknowledging that atheism is a belief system. Jerry Coyne’s admits it is when he writes, “the point is to defend your beliefs, not cater to unfounded superstition.” One might argue that atheism is itself an “unfounded superstition”, certainly its caricature of religion falls into that category.

        1. You all noticed I missed the last “t” in “freethought” didn’t you?

          **My need to show everyone that I am smart enough to notice my errors before others do is showing. (What is with that anyway?)

      1. “Unless, of course, God is not the God of your imagination but the reality of what is beyond humanity’s intellectual capacity to grasp.”

        This appears difficult to distinguish in practical terms from “God is whatever makes my argument work” (“so there” optional). This is including both the premises and the actual by reference (“I’d like credit for putting forward premises and logic that have this desired effect, though I’m not going to state what they actually are”), rather than by actually stating them. And you can’t then reasonably demand stated premises with logic as a response.

        Could you please define this “God” thing you’re talking about? Please make sure that the thing you define has anything whatsoever to do with the process of change of living things with time by a process of natural selection, since you refer to “evolutionists” – if you’re going to bring it up as being the thing you’re arguing against, I do expect you to understand what you’re talking about.

        1. Had you read my comment correctly you wouldn’t have asked the question, which by its very nature confirmed the validity of the original critique. Try again but this time try to grasp the point made.

      2. Unless, of course, God is not the God of your imagination but the reality of what is beyond humanity’s intellectual capacity to grasp.

        Feel free to let us know when you come up with a way of verifying this word salad.

        1. Verification is unnecessary. What is required is the deconstruction of “the God of your imagination” which is a caricature of what most theists believe and establishes a barrier to an exchange of views at any level.

          1. Define ‘most theists’. Most xians? The typical lay xian seems to have the bronze age old man with a white beard, vengeful middle eastern god of storms view of their god.

            At least, the most common xians that get heard in the news, on blogs, forums, etc. So if you have some evidence to the contrary, I’m open to seeing it.

            I predict another ‘sophistimicated theology’ argument. As Dawkins, and others have pointed out more times than should be necessary, if even a significant fraction of believers actually were ‘sophisticated’ in that way, we wouldn’t be, and wouldn’t need to have this discussion.

            1. None of the Christians I know hold such a view of God. That you think they do speaks volumes for your ignorance. (I trust this point is not too theologically sophisicated for you to understand it).

              1. I can only conclude, Phillip, that you are being willfully ignorant. Or perhaps choosing a somewhat deceptive strategy of limiting your list of known Xtians to a small circle of co-religionists, presumably members of the One True Faith Sect.

                It doesn’t take more than a 20 seconds with the
                Google Machine to find a wide selection of examples Xtian sects that you are pretending don’t exist.

              2. Your inability to extricate yourself from your ad hominem and bad faith defence in a vain effort to maintain your tattered argument does you no credit. You appear unwilling and unable to recognise or accept facts which demonstrate the paucity of your assertions. Conducting “research” via Google is no substitute for meeting real people but then it would appear that anyone who holds views different from your own don’t qualify as real people.

              3. “…in a vain effort to maintain your tattered argument…”

                Are you going for comic affect now?

                Which “facts” am I not accepting? You haven’t the remotest clue real people I (or anyone else here) has encountered or in what context. But you are just pretending now. The True Faithful are nothing like the caricature we’ve drawn, right?

                Please clarify for me. I’d love to know what makes a True Christian and how to differentiate that from the others whom we only imagine.

              4. “Which ‘facts’ am I not accepting?” The fact that ‘none of the Christians I know hold such a view of God”. Irrational response citing bad faith, “you are just pretending now”. As previously stated, debating with people who use bad faith and ad hominem instead of constructing an argument is unproductive. I do not intend to waste my time any further.

              5. I’ll note that throughout your ordeal you have not attempted to explain how we are to distinguish your True Christian from the “caricature” version you claim doesn’t exist.

                I think this is because there is no way to do it. So, instead you pretend that people like Jerry Newcombe don’t exist.

                ( And since you don’t seem to follow current events: http://www.onenewsnow.com/Perspectives/Default.aspx?id=1634768 )

              6. I do not live in the United States and am unaware of who Jerry Newcombe is and what he stands for. Hence your claim that I pretend he doesn’t exist is a complete falsehood. However, I must thank you for the reference. Having read Newcombe’s article and the variety of posts it generated – both for and against – I can see why you eschew logic and reason in favour of caricature. It enables you to blend into an unthinking intellectual environment. The pity is you appear to lack the brainpower to think beyond that environment and engage in meaningful debate.

              7. People LIKE Jerry Newcombe. Such folk don’t exist where you live? So… therefore they don’t exist?

                Tell us your country. I’ll wager it will not take long to find your domestic equivalents.

                I love it when trolls wander in, complaining about how badly they are treated while simultaneously hurling slurs left and right.

                BTW… still waiting for your trademarked method to distinguish True Christians™ from those caricatures we ignorant atheists only imagine.

              8. The U.K. You may not remember but in 2009 Fred Phelps, his daughter and members of their church, were barred from entering the country and placed on the list of individuals banned for “fostering hatred which might lead to inter-community violence”. Other Americans on the list and banned for the same reason include Michael Savage, Abdul Alim Musa, Mike Guzovsky, Erich Gliebe, Terry Jones, Don Black and Don Francisco. In the UK we don’t have time or patience for hate groups. Any Christian fundamentalist religious groups which exist in the United Kingdom don’t fall into the caricature you try to portray. In fact, if you have any knowledge of recent British politics you will find that religious affiliation is considered a private matter not one to be paraded on the political stage.

              9. Given the recent controversies over a state-funded creationist school, and observing the state of religion in E17 where I live, I’ll assume good faith and just assume you’re mindbogglingly ignorant of your surroundings, rather than deliberately lying.

              10. I am unaware of the alleged controversies to which you refer. Perhaps your own awareness comes from an interest in, or obsession with, the subject at hand. I have a life of my own to live.

              11. “Conducting ‘research’ via Google is no substitute for meeting real people” — Actually, no. Not if your aim is to determine the views of the majority of people. Basing your assertions on only people you have met introduces a significant sampling bias. The plural of anecdote is not data. I trust this point is not too statistically sophisticated for you to understand it


                PS. As you seem to admire grammatical pedantry, please note that there are two t’s in “sophisticated” and the period should be within the parentheses.

              12. My comment that “none of the Christians I know hold such a view of God” is not an assertion it’s a fact. No claim was made that it represented anyone other than the people I know. From your reply it appears you have run out of argument already. To be pedantic the parentheses were superfluous.

              13. “Any Christian fundamentalist religious groups which exist in the United Kingdom don’t fall into the caricature you try to portray.”

                You need to get out more, Phillip.


                You may have a lower number of Xtian super-nuts per capita than we do here in the US, but it doesn’t take a whole lot of investigation to demonstrate that you are just wrong. Hell, I remember wandering the streets of Chester last year to the sounds of a ranting street preacher saving souls for Jesus.

                But, of course, that was just in my imagination. That guy didn’t really exist.

              14. The idea that the Noah’s Ark tourist attraction fits the caricature of creationism which you have been painting is nonsensical. The website states, “rejection of creationist dogma need not imply that the solar system could not have originated in creation” which appears to accept evolution post creation. The group which runs the farm appears to be small and provide their own perspective on life. In a democratic society it’s known as free speech. Neither the site nor your preacher in Chester provide sufficient evidence to buttress your claim that your caricature of Christianity has any validity.

              15. @ Philip

                Yes, that was a statement of fact and I’m not at all disputing that that’s true. All your acquaintances are clearly as sophisticated as you. But you said it in reply to FastLane when they rebutted your assertion “‘the God of your imagination’ […] is a caricature of what most theists believe”. What did you intend, then, by stating that fact, other than trying to back up that assertion? If that wasn’t your intent, why mention it at all? Why not, indeed, present some actual evidence that most theists conceive in God as “the reality of what is beyond humanity’s intellectual capacity to grasp” (which seems even more abstract than Feser’s grade-3 conception of God), and consistently so, rather than as an intercessionary, anthropomorphic (“personal”) supernatural agent (a grade-2 conception of God)?

                Appearances can be deceptive.

                (But you did. And wrongly.)

                Re your reply to GB, should we infer that the life you live doesn’t encompass concern for the quality of the (science) education of the UK’s children?


              16. Two reasons. That it was not my experience and to draw attention to the inadequacy of the view expressed. Infer what you wish. I leave education to the educationists. I had sufficient confidence in my children to make up their own minds about the quality or otherwise of the information they receive. I apply the same principle to my grandchildren. I do not share your obsession with the question of evolution by natural selection notwithstanding my skepticism about various aspects of it. In addition, I have a natural aversion to the evangelical approach adopted by Dawkins et.al. which, far from encouraging reason, promotes an illiberal uniformity of belief inimical to free speech and open discussion.

              17. But, Philip, the Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm website — particularly the resources pages — embodies exactly the kind of anti-scientific religious views that gnu atheists criticise. (And is not a caricature of anything.)

                Yes, there is such a thing as free speech, and, as Prof. David Colquhoun said, “Of course people are free to believe in any daft thing they want, as long as it doesn’t harm anyone else.” But, “[T]he problem is that daft beliefs about religion, just like daft beliefs about medicine, do harm other people.” In this case, those daft beliefs do harm to kids’ education.

                Given the complete bollocks on those pages, I am astounded that the NAZF has been awarded a Quality Badge from the national “Learning Outside the Classroom” scheme. Although that’s not a government funded scheme, one of its manifesto aims is, “[t]o offer learning experiences of high quality”, which seems quite at odds with the NAZF’s utter drivel about Earth history.  

                Good grief!


              18. David Colquohoun. Isn’t he the bloke who had to modify his website to avoid himself and UCL being sued for defamation? Did not UCL issue a joint statement with David Colquohoun which read that UCL, “continues strongly to support and uphold Professor Colquhoun’s expression of uncompromising opinions”. NAZF presents a view of origins which differs from yours – and mine as it happens. I doubt they represent a large body of opinion and to suggest they do is a case of the boy crying wolf. It appears to me that in a society committed to liberal values they have the right to express their own uncompromising opinions even if those opinions differ from yours or mine. I have confidence in people to make up their own minds why haven’t you?

              19. “Neither the site nor your preacher in Chester provide sufficient evidence…”

                Phillip, you claim that we’re just making up the Xtian world view we are criticizing. You say you don’t even know of these types where you live (as if it matters where!) So I gave you two quick examples, one from my personal experience as a TOURIST in your country. Your response? You tell me my examples don’t count.

                You are not being honest. Lying for Jesus is still lying.

              20. Thank you for providing further evidence of your bigotry and intellectual myopia. Your examples provided “insufficient evidence”. Only a bigot would translate that as meaning they “don’t count”. Naturally you end with the usual ad hominem, the last resort of losers everywhere.

              21. @ Philip, re “Two reasons.”

                How does saying (essentially) “some theists/Christians don’t believe that” draw attention to the inadequacy of the statement that “most theists/Christians believe that”? Your logic escapes me.

                I hope your confidence in your children and grandchildren is well founded.

                It’s not an obsession with evolution per se but a passion for science in general and for the highest standards of education for all children, mine and others, but especially those not so perspicacious as yours apparently were, who can easily be confused and misled by this creationist and intelligent-design bullshit (which cuts across all sciences, especially physics, cosmology, geology, et al., as well as, of course, biology). One of the most pernicious aspects of this religiously motivated deprecation of science is that it makes people less trusting of science in general and thus more likely to be taken in by pseudoscientific “healthcare”, climate-change denialism, and so on. It is only public-spirited to call out the educationalists when they get things wrong (as Michael Gove just has).

                I’m glad that you are skeptical about various aspects of evolution by natural selection. So are most evolutionary biologists! And thus are scientific advances made… Consider, for example, genetic drift. (And say “Hi!” to Larry Moran.)

                And lastly, you make another assertion without evidence. You are free to dislike Dawkins’ approach, of course, even to characterise it as “evangelical” (yes, he’s a zealous advocate of science, and why not?), but really, claiming that it “promotes an illiberal uniformity of belief inimical to free speech and open discussion” is just extraordinary. It seems that you’ve had little experience of the freedom of speech and open discussion in the scientific, atheist, and skeptic communities. Dawkins himself is freely criticised within all of those.


              22. The existence of a scientific consensus is insufficient per se to establish that consensus as fact. This is explicit in Popper’s Principle of Falsifiability and implicit in Kuhn’s theory of paradigm shifts. While adhering to the ideas put forward by Popper and Kuhn, there is a tendency to ignore them in practice which leads an idealised view of discussion within the circles to which you refer. Free speech includes the right to dissent. Get over it.

              23. “Only a bigot would translate that as meaning they “don’t count”. Naturally you end with the usual ad hominem, the last resort of losers everywhere.”

                Good one! You are in to provide comic relief!

              24. @ Philip

                Re David Colquhuon: And this is relevant because… ?

                Re NAZF: Theirs might be a small minority view among UK Christians, but it is a very large minority (ca. 40%) view among US Christians and likely among UK Moslems. To decry their anti-scientism is not at all to cry wolf.

                Of course in a society committed to liberal values they have a right to express whatever daft beliefs they like. That doesn’t stop those beliefs being complete bollocks.

                I’m sure that people can make up their own minds; I’m far less certain that everyone will reach conclusions that actually reflect reality.

                Re dissent: What is it that I’m supposed to get over? Of course there’s a right to dissent, and that does happen in the scientific and those other communities.

                Of course the scientific consensus does not guarantee that something is fact, and it does change in the face of new evidence (even though it sometimes behaves like a supertanker and needs a lot of sea). The importance to evolution of, say, lateral gene transfer and genetic drift to time to become accepted. (Too hasty adoption would also be a problem of course.)

                But the scientific consensus does represent the current best model we have. (Btw, if you look at previous posts on this bl— … website, you will see that there are those that disagree with the importance of Popper, Kuhn and other philosophers of science.)

                Tying this back to the NAZF issue, you must take into account what the scientific consensus is based on. In the case of evolution, we have a stupendous volume of detailed evidence and a remarkable consilience between physics, chemistry, geology, &c. and biology. Most religious critics of evolution simply do not appreciate this. To quote philosopher Dan Dennett (and, yes, un bon mot ne prouve rien):

                The evidence of evolution pours in, not only from geology, paleontology, biogeography, and anatomy (Darwin’s chief sources), but from molecular biology and every other branch of the life sciences. To put it bluntly but fairly, anyone today who doubts that the variety of life on this planet was produced by a process of evolution is simply ignorant — inexcusably ignorant, in a world where three out of four people have learned to read and write.

                And that is what the NAZF pages are, inexcusably ignorant. As I said before, it’s perfectly fine – nay, encouraged – to be skeptical about some aspects of evolutionary theory, and evolutionary biologists disagree over many issues (punctuated equilibrium and group selection, for example), but to make counterfactual claims that ride roughshod over the evidence (not just the interpretation of the evidence, but the evidence itself), as NAZF does, is frankly dishonest. (And very typical of creationists and ID advocates.) Even worse, NAZF even deprecates taking a scientific, empirical approach to answer the questions it poses!

                A final word on this issue from Arthur C. Clarke:

                I would defend the liberty of consenting adult creationists to practice whatever intellectual perversions they like in the privacy of their own homes, but it is also necessary to protect the young and innocent.


              25. Arthur C Clarke, the science fiction writer and Daniel Dennett the theorist of conspiratorial religion. Not much of a base to stand on. I suspect you under-estimate the knowledge which religious people have in regards to evolution. Rationalists, on the other hand, lose their rationality when the subject is discussed.

              26. * oh, crap: I didn’t close a blockquote correctly

                I think it‘s still intelligible, however. Maybe Ceiling Cat can fix it… ?

              27. Phillip, you keep saying things like: “…you under-estimate the knowledge which religious people have in regards to evolution.”

                And yet you decline to demonstrate any at all. Inform us! Explain these profound insights! Please! Otherwise you are just trolling.

              28. I notice you are still relying on ad hominem rather than facts. This is only to be expected as you have lost the argument. The odds are you don’t even know what the argument is about, so while screaming ‘troll’ to try and cover your inadequacies and impress your friends may make you feel better it does nothing to support your case.

              29. Oh, please!

                What I said stands without those quotations.

                And all you come up with is a baseless suspicion (and I wasn’t estimating the knowledge that religious people in general have in regards evolution, but about religious critics of evolution in particular; this is either a straw man or a reading comprehension fail) and yet another unevidenced assertion.

                Now you really are trolling.


              30. Philip has been trolling all along. Perhaps I’ve been encouraging it by unwittingly granting him an extra “l” when responding to him. Mea culpa. I’d take them all back if I could.

              31. @Ant: I fear the game is still in play and your count is too low on the “claims” side. However, I’m confident your “evidence” number will hold.

              32. @ Philip

                It’s the most parsimonious hypothesis that fits the available evidence.

                And your only rebuttal is four lines of doggerel and lewd innuendo? Oh, come on!

                But please feel free to falsify that hypothesis by providing some kind of substantive response that backs up any of the flocculent claims that you have strewn around this thread.


              33. You haven’t been following the conversation, simply waiting for another opportunity to write anything to give the impression of being interested.

              34. And thank you for demonstrating the failure of your non-scientific method of analysis. I’m pleased to note you have finally got the message.

      3. “One might argue that atheism is itself an ‘unfounded superstition’, certainly its caricature of religion falls into that category.”

        Oh, really? In what sense does atheism (an absence of belief in any god or gods) caricature religion?


          1. With respect, Philip, none of your comments above answer the question. In fact, your response shows only that you didn’t understand the question, so let me restate it for you: How can the absence of belief in any god or gods caricature religion?


            1. Ant, with equal respect , a caricature is a device or portrait which distorts the real nature of something. The picture of theism drawn by atheists provides such a caricature
              of the nature of theism, as my reply to Naked Bunny made clear. That you misread my comment to mean atheism itself is a caricature of religion does raise the question of whether English is your first language.

              1. Which translated into evolutionist doublespeak means – we’ve been rumbled as serial ad hominem posters and prefer to continue operating as a mutual admiration society.

              2. No. It means exactly what it says. When you make statements like you did about Ant, that English might not be his native language, you display great ignorance, to say nothing about bad manners. You embarrass yourself.

              3. Sarcasm may be classified as the lowest form of wit but never as ‘bad manners’, lighten up!

              4. @ Philip

                Did you not write, “One might argue that atheism is itself an ‘unfounded superstition’, certainly its caricature of religion falls into that category”?

                It is simply very sloppy writing, then, to shift from a sense of atheism that (you claim) is “an ‘unfounded superstition’” to one which (you now imply) is a substitute for “atheists”.

                But then, even if we strip away that ambiguity, what you say still lacks precision. Do you mean “all atheists”? In which case I’d hold that you are still very wrong. Or do you mean “some atheists”? In that case I’d have to allow the possibility that you’re right, contingent on which atheists you were referring to. (Atheists have widely ranging views, convictions and values; there is certainly no homogeneity amongst atheists beyond that common absence of belief in any god or gods.)

                Perhaps you mean “those in the atheist movement” or “gnu atheists” or “a few of the atheists posting comments on WEIT”. Then I would have to say that you need to identify who you do mean, what they have said about religion, what the real nature of religion is, and how the former distorts or misrepresents the later.

                You assert that God is “the reality of what is beyond humanity’s intellectual capacity to grasp”. I would claim that that is a minority view; one that you might believe and one that might be defended by sophisticated theologians, but not one that is shared by the majority of theistic religious believers. We’ve seen on this bl— … website many times that the bulk of Christians, for example, characterise God as an anthropomorphic supernatural agent who is far from ineffable, given how often those folks claim to know what their God thinks about evolution, homosexuality, &c., &c.

                Your claim also raises a philosophical point: What is there, in fact, that is beyond humanity’s intellectual capacity to grasp? I would say that while there is much that humanity has not yet grasped about the nature of reality, there is no evidence at all that we lack the capacity to do so. The track record so far is that things that once seemed beyond our intellectual capacity to grasp have, nonetheless, been grasped.

                “But,” says the religionist, “you cannot explain everything; you cannot understand everything; and that which you cannot explain, that which you do not comprehend, is my God.” We are explaining more every day. We are understanding more every day; consequently your God is growing smaller every day.
                — Robert Green Ingersoll, “The Gods” (1872)


                PS. What would you say if I said that English wasn’t my first language?

              5. Ant, the sloppiness to which you refer is in your reading not my writing. I did not claim atheism was an ‘unfounded superstition’ merely that it could be argued that it was. You clearly understand the subject is too broad to be whittled down to a simplistic atheist/theist argument but mistakenly (and without substantial evidence) suggest the ‘bulk of Christians……characterise God as an anthropomorphic supernatural agent who is far from ineffable, given how often those folks claim to know what their God thinks about evolution, homosexuality”. I would suggest that this is the minority view unless you are judging Christianity on the basis that Fred Phelps represents mainstream Christianity.

                As with Ingersoll’s straw man argument it fails because it opposes religion according to your definition which is in itself subjective. Not only is it subjective it is purposefully misleading and designed to support atheistic philosophy rather than undertake a thorough critique. It is inadvertently ironic inasmuch as Michael Ruse makes the point that the supposed conflict between science and religion is not confined to patterns of thought but to issues of social practice.

                Your confidence “that while there is much that humanity has not yet grasped about the nature of reality, there is no evidence at all that we lack the capacity to do so” ignores the fact that the idea of inevitable progress is a proven myth.

                “What would you say if I said that English wasn’t my first language?” It wouldn’t have mattered, it was a sarcastic comment about your misreading what I wrote. It was not intended to offend, even in the polluted world of political correctness. If it did I apologise.

              6. If I offended anyone by saying that commenters who share names with Spanish kings have trouble tying their shoes, I apologize.

                In any case, the Fred Phelps variety of Xtianity has just as much of a case to being correct as whatever (politically correct?) version you prefer to associate with. As long as you accept belief-without-evidence as a legitimate view of reality, you can’t reasonably disassociate from the more vile of your brethren.

              7. Guilt by association – yet another form of ad hominem from the armory of atheists lacking the intellect to conduct a debate. As long as you continue to deny freedom of thought to those unconvinced by your argument you cannot disassociate yourself from the more vile of your atheistic brethren. Say hello to the Gulag.

              8. “Guilt by association”

                Not at all. This is guilt by logically equality. So I call BS on your use of the persecuted Xtian gambit.

                There is absolutely no objective basis on which we can differentiate between one version of revealed “truth” and another. Zero. You can not claim to have such “truth” it and simultaneously deny it to your more repugnant friends. (Well, you can claim it, but the rest of us have no reason to take you seriously.)

              9. The only BS on this thread is your pitiful attempt to misrepresent your own illogical nonsense as intelligence. It assumes truth is singular, indivisible and means the same to all. It’s a naive view of human nature but does not excuse the contradiction between your pretence of using the scientific method and your blatant disregard of those facts which do not fit into your preconceived notions of what those who disagree with you believe. Thankfully the age of the dictators has passed.

              10. @ Philip

                Well, clearly you’re not going to agree with me. But I know that I didn’t misunderstand what you meant in the statement I quoted; my original question to you was a rhetorical device meant to highlight the ambiguity in what you had written, an ambiguity that is real whatever your protestations. (But yes, you didn’t make that “claim”; that was a hasty insertion to distance myself from the statement, and I should have been clearer. I apologise.)

                My comments about precision et seq. still stand.

                Re evidence, take, for example, the survey about the acceptance of evolution in the USA, which has been discussed on WEIT recently. The majority of USA believes in either creationism or guided evolution, with only a minority accepting unguided evolution as a fact. My contention would be that either belief (creationism or guided evolution) reflects the notion of a God that is a supernatural agent that intercedes in the world. It is very hard to see that a God who is “the reality of what is beyond humanity’s intellectual capacity to grasp” is such an agent. I tentatively conclude that that is a minority view.

                Please feel free to falsify that conclusion by providing evidence that the majority of theistic believers consistently conceive of God as “the reality of what is beyond humanity’s intellectual capacity to grasp” rather than an anthropomorphic supernatural agent that intercedes in the world.

                As for Ingersoll’s quotation being a straw man, I’m afraid that regulars here know that it is not from Jerry’s readings of “sophisticated theology”: Such “God of the gaps” arguments are still used by many theologists and other religionists.

                But if you still contend that this is a caricature, by all means please tell us (as I asked before) what the real nature of theistic religion is. Please show us that theistic religion, whether it be yours or Fred Phelps’, cannot be characterised by belief-without-evidence.

                And now you come up with another claim that demands evidence, that “inevitable progress is a proven myth”. (Although I said nothing about inevitability.) Is this the same invisible evidence that we lack the intellectual capacity to grasp the nature of reality? Please, shake my confidence by presenting the evidence!


                PS. I wasn’t. It is. I just wondered.

              11. I’ve found it unproductive to debate with those who accuse their opponents of bad faith.

              12. “I know that I didn’t misunderstand what you meant in the statement I quoted”. Not directed at you, Ant, but to you.

              13. Perhaps it was for me. As far as I’m concerned all faith is bad faith, though I don’t remember making the statement in the sense it was apparently received.

              14. I’m really sorry, Philip, i may be being unusually dull, but I don’t see how you can construe that statement to be accusing you of bad faith…

                It’s quite telling that you prefer to be affronted by innocuous statements and indulge in bogus grammatical pedantry rather than providing any substantial responses to the questions I posed.

                But if you really feel the need to leave in a huff, rather that, say, discussing Edward Feser’s five grades of conceptions of God, and how widely each is held, don’t let me detain you.


              15. I’m not leaving in a huff I’m simply saving time. I had never heard of Edward Feser, atheist turned Catholic, who was one of those who protested against the censors of political correctness for banning the “Encyclopedia of Christian Civilization”. I might read more.

  8. Do we go to such great efforts to demonstrate that evolution is compatible with the existance of vampires? The facts are out there showing the evolution is a reality. Though people have a right to hold onto their delusions I am not going to go out of my way to help them do it.

  9. A challenging problem??? It is challenging to fall back upon “The God of Christianity can create these if He has a mind to.”???

    Sure, he can create a million universes, but why even go there? He can just trigger whatever mutations are needed to evolve people. Simple theistic evolution. I don’t see why, if he’s going to involve theology, he sees any problem whatsoever. Maybe I’m not sophisticated enough.

  10. Y’know, I have a similar hobby. I enjoy watching Star Trek, and trying to justify the technobabble. It’s an interesting and challenging excercise.

    But of course, in the end, it’s nothing but post-hoc rationalization, that involves quite a bit of twisting and assuming in order to get things to fit. And, in the end, the answer is never particularly satisfying, and Occams Razor always dictates that the real answer is “The writers just wrote [tech] and someone later filled in some technobabble without any concern for what it could mean.”

    Heck, Ruses multiverse justification has a lot of the same style of my own Star Trek technobabble justifications.

    Of course, I don’t think he’s doing any real damage. Explanations like this are like the ontological argument. No one ever became a Christian because of the ontological argument. And no one will ever believe in evolution because of arguments like this. Liberal Christians would have already assigned it to “Gods Mystery” or “Interpretation”. Creationists, whatever their other lacks in logic, are too smart to believe that their god would do something so convoluted for basically no reason. Or too stupid to understand a thing Ruse said.

    In the end, I don’t see a shred of difference between Ruse and my own attempts at trying to make nonsense fit science.

  11. “The real point is that New Atheists like Jerry Coyne have some good arguments but before they declare the case closed they should let the philosophers and theologians have their turn to fight back”.

    The case is far from closed – things are just beginning to warm up.

    There is going to be an inevitable paradigm shift in universal thought – not simply in the Academy but among the public – that in essence living organisms are information technology (symphonies of integrated computer programs).

    This will inevitably lead to the rejection of the concept that “descent with modification” is equivalent to “design without a designer”

    You can be a part of the sea change or you can be a casualty but New Atheists cannot stop the change anymore than proponents of the phlogiston theory could stop it being rejected

    1. The only “sea change” is that IDiot non-idea will drown. James Shapiro wrote a book on this and his arguments fail.

    2. Imminent death of Darwinism number whatever – I’ve lost count.
      Which are there more of, dates for the Rapture or Death OF Darwinism?

    3. There’s been an inevitable paradigm shift coming in science every decade since, I dunno, the Enlightenment. But to the best of our knowledge people are still made of atoms that were once stardust and still live on a rock in space, orbiting a nuclear plasma furnace.

      The demise of Darwinism has also been imminent since, hmm, about 1859. To the best of our knowledge organisms still reproduce with heritable variations, some advantageous, some not. Not one jot of data has suggested this basic picture of reality may be false.

      And ever since the www was invented, there have been endless rafts of people crowing about both impending scientific sea-changes on every scientific website that ever existed – almost in the same numbers as Biblical doomsayers (these people have always been around, but mostly kept to their basements or fringe churches). None of them have been right.

      All anyone has ever asked is “What’s the evidence you have for these claims?” and “How will we recognise the paradigmseachangeshiftthingy when we see it?”

      The only answers forthcoming have been incoherent babble (much like the initial claims themselves).

  12. Just how adaptive is human intelligence, or intelligence in general? Seems to me it is incontrovertible that human intelligence is amazingly adaptive.

    Eventually, some species would emerge from maul of tooth and claw, and whether he has wings or fins or fur, he will make a god in his own image. Or not.

    Maybe what makes Man unique is our irrational and idiotic propensity for religion despite a healthy natural intelligence. It’s likely to to be an unfortunate by-product of an otherwise adaptive improvement in brain structure or function. Religion as sickle cell anaemia.

  13. This unbounded contrarianism could be just stuff that philosophers like Ruse and Sober do as part of their ‘mastery’. Like other professionals have little ‘caste’ behaviours to signify their profession.

    Or it could be that they accept naturalism intellectually, but they don’t like it emotionally – so they struggle hard to create an illusion of an escape hatch to make them feel better. Like plastic flowers in a pot on an office windowsill. A hygiene factor.

    Either way, I’m not impressed.

  14. According to astronomers, the entire Milky Way galaxy resulted from a random quantum fluctuation. So the existence of earth itself can be traced back to a random event. A little more science would much improve Ruse’s speculations.

  15. Ruse: I think, along with Augustine and Aquinas, at times like this, because it is a theological problem and not a science one, we need a theological solution not a scientific one.

    Er … what? How about just realizing that the whole problem is entirely made up and be done with it? No god, no problem.

  16. As I understand it, the question is not the mutations that led to humanity – but what the selection pressure was that led to us growing this ridiculous object on the top of our necks, at a ridiculous metabolic budget. So arguing over mutations is assuming that evolution occurs randomly, not by … natural selection. Have I understood the issue correctly?

    And remember that humanity nearly died out at least once – us ending up here is not in any way inevitable.

  17. Obviously some god send that asteroid to finish the dino’s off, ass evolution didn’t go the way he wanted it.
    Not that this makes me convert. Thát’s the whole point. Fine if believers find a way to reconcile science with their faith. I’ll still be an atheist. And I bet it’s the same for most of you atheists here. Thus using science for “disproving” faith is a waste of time as well.
    I simply don’t f*****g care.
    Then again, it’s not a problem in the country where I live (Suriname), nor in the country where I was born (The Netherlands).

    Btw – why should human intelligence be the ultimate weapon? JAC, you sound like a believer here iso a skeptic.

  18. “Atheists like Jerry Coyne…should let the philosophers and theologians have their turn to fight back.”

    Very, very clever. Ruse avoids making a specific recommendation that Jerry Coyne actually do anything. It’s only atheists LIKE Jerry Coyne that are the problem. Jerry Coyne can do what he wants without fear of criticism from intellectual heavyweights like Michael Ruse. I must think on this a bit. Done.

  19. Back in the 1980s there was an SF story about discovering dinosaur artifacts on the moon and discovering that the dinosaurs had a highly developed technological civilization. They became extinct, not from asteroid strike, but by global nuclear war.

    Many years ago there was an article by George Gaylord Simpson titled something like, On the Nonprevelance of Hominoids. Maybe someone can find that and post it. Coincidentally, perhaps, that was in the John Campbell era as editor of Astounding Science Fiction. Campbell insisted on either a human only universe, or humans as a superior species. That insistence colored an era of SF.

    I have thought of us as the result of, and constrained by, the history of the universe. Steven Hawking has looked at it the other way. That our existence constrains the history of the universe to be exactly what it has been.

  20. “…This leaves Ruse with a problem. If science can’t assure us that the evolution of humans was inevitable, as required by Christians who accept theistic evolution, what does that make of Christianity? …”

    Even if the evolution of humans *was* inevitable, it still does not imply Christianity. Man may be inevitable, but our propensity for religion may be a fluke.

    And even if our propensity for religion is not a fluke, then would it not be reasonable to assume that a god who made us in his image and for the purpose of worshiping him would have us worship him immediately and naturally? If so, then the first god that humans worshiped would be our true creator, not the 10,000th in line.

    And if the reply to this problem is that since evolution is acceptable, then likewise the evolution of Man’s appreciation and invention of gods is also subject to ever-increasing perfection, and therefore the true Creator will always be the last popular incarnation. Unfortunately for Christianity, that makes Allah, or L.Ron Hubbard, or Haile Selassie, or The Flying Spaghetti Monster the most advanced and therefore the true Creator.

    Evolution and Christianity seem incompatible no matter how one loads the dice.

  21. The evolution of humans inevitable? I suppose for a loose enough definition of “human”, like human level intelligence, that might be arguable though the current state of scientific knowledge can only reasonably render a verdict of “unknown”.

    For a more precise definition of human, such as Homo sapiens sapiens, I think we know enough to say that the probability is low enough that “no” is the only reasonable answer. And when the context is religious beliefs you can bet your ass that when they say “human”, they mean “human”, as in just like them.

    I have read bits and pieces of Ruse now for at least a couple of years, and I just don’t get it. It is not my intent to be rude to the man for rudeness’ sake, but I am constantly dumbfounded by the shallowness and simplicity of so much of the philosophy out there, and Ruse is a prime example. How does it happen that so many who are not exceptional in any way reach the rarefied top levels of academia? All I can say is, I want Ruse’s job.

  22. Greetings,

    Two points:

    1. “…This leaves Ruse with a problem. If science can’t assure us that the evolution of humans was inevitable, as required by Christians who accept theistic evolution, what does that make of Christianity? …”

    That isn’t what theistic evolutionists believe.

    They simply accept evolution as part of “God’s Plan”, not that humans (ie, the human form) are inevitable.

    2. Ruse is approaching the issue in the wrong manner.

    Again, a few pointers:

    a) If one looks at the reason why theists reject evolution in America, it’s because they believe that Man is made in God’s image, where God is a Supernatural Man.

    b) Theists believe in the soul/body duality, and that the body is “clothing for the soul”.

    What Ruse should be doing is pointing out that it doesn’t matter what the “clothing” is/looks like.

    The soul is what counts – that is what’s made in God’s image: if God exists, it is as pure spirit, and the soul contains a spark of the Divine.

    Looked at in this light, if there were a water world somewhere in the galaxy, for example, with human-sized cuttlefish – hence, self-aware like us – they may well believe that God is a Supernatural Cuttlefish; that they’re made in God’s image.

    In reality, to a theist, it’s the soul that counts – not the body.

    If Ruse argued from that perspective, then he’d actually help free US creationists from mistaking the “clothing” as the important part and, thus, help them accept evolution.

    Kindest regards,


    1. ” If Ruse argued from that perspective, then he’d actually help free US creationists from mistaking the “clothing” as the important part and, thus, help them accept evolution.”

      This possibility strikes me as not obviously impossible on the face of it. I suspect, though, from their track record, that it won’t work. How would we test this in a practical and workable manner?

      1. Greetings,

        The only possible way is to talk to a US creationist.

        The only way it might fail is if the creationist felt that (s)he was being duped into accepting “evilution”.

        I’m quite certain that Prof. Miller would understand this approach and could make it work. I don’t see why Ruse couldn’t – if he tried it.

        Kindest regards,


        1. I fear creationists have been taught that the word “evolution” itself is synonymous with “satanic”. I can’t find it to quote, but there’s an anecdote in Dawkins’ The Greatest Show On Earth where someone on a plane, asked by a fellow passenger what he’s on his way to do, talks about the fish he’s going to see and why this is interesting, outlines a basic description of evolution by natural selection; when his interlocutor asks what this excellent theory is called and who thought of it, he says “Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection!” and the questioner’s face shuts down like he’s been conned. Hence my guess that it won’t work.

          1. Greetings,

            I’ve heard of this (I’ve got Dawkins’ book) and similar: this is where they’ve been taught to reject evolution as atheistic/materialistic.

            The point I made, however, is to approach it from the spiritual perspective, of the soul – that way the “clothing” is rendered irrelevant.

            I wouldn’t mind chatting to a creationist and using this to help them realise that there really isn’t an issue.

            If anyone ever does come across this problem with a creationist, try the approach – or send them to me!

            Kindest regards,


            1. However, you are simply attempting to soothe a symptom while letting the disease fester and grow. I won’t be sending any of my patients with the christ disease your way.

              1. Greetings,

                You’re less likely to succeed that way.

                By addressing their aversion to evolution first, in time the hold their beliefs has on them will fade.

                Kindest regards,


              2. Actually Dragan Glas your method has been shown to be a failure. Yours is the method that has lead to the IDiots and the push to teach christianity as an alternative to science in science classes.

                Christians have been finding gaps for their gods for a long time now, since scientific methods have shown that the claims made in the christian holey book are false. That is why any partially thinking christian is unable to read their disgusting little book literally. Providing christians with another gap for their gods as you are attempting to do is counter productive and harmful to their acceptance of truth and of living a life free of the fear that is inherent in the foundations of the christian mythology.

                Christians live in fear; of death, of life, of christian sin, of the anger of their christian gods. The way to get christians out of their funky mess is to be an example to them that living in fear is unnecessary and destructive.

                Christians don’t need another gap they need to be shown that reality isn’t something they should be afraid of.

          2. Two significant errors in such a short reply.
            The first, “I fear creationists have been taught that the word “evolution” itself is synonymous with “satanic”.” Surprising for someone who insists on “evidence’ you don’t provide any. Second, a “guess” based on an anecdote which you are unable to reference. Even if you could find the reference can an anecdote be regarded as “evidence”?

            1. Greetings,

              I believe he was referring to the general attitude of creationists to “evilution”.

              And the anecdote from Dawkins’ book – for those who don’t have it – can be read here (scroll down to “Guppies”):


              I would say that the anecdote is symptomatic of their attitude to “evilution”.

              Kindest regards,


              1. So, still no evidence, only a reference to an alleged general attitude amongst creationists and an inference from hearsay. As previously posted (and it doesn’t take long to find the reference) Ruse does not believe science and creationism can be reconciled which raises the question of why Coyne’s supporters continue to characterise dissent from the theory of evolution by natural selection as being exclusively creationist.

            2. What Ruse says he believes and what Ruse writes in support of, in support of christianity, are contradictory.

              1. I clicked the wrong reply button. I intended to reply to Philip’s comment posted July 23, 2012 at 6:13 am. In which he wonders why atheists comment seem contradictory.

                There is no reason to deny the facts of evolution other than an adherence to a christian like mythology. What besides creationism are you proposing Philip?

              2. Suffice it to say I am not proposing creationism. What I have provided is a critique of the false arguments used to attack theism.

              3. So you would like to create a theology wherein there is no creator and you want recognition for your efforts?

  23. “I think, along with Augustine and Aquinas…”

    I never associate reasonable thought with Aquinas or Augustine – I’ve always thought of them as utterly vile and revolting people with defective brains. If you read any of their claimed proofs of anything any sensible person cannot help but wonder what the hell they’ve been smoking. Ruse’s Appeal to Ancient Wisdom is laughable at best. While there were brilliant people such as Euclid in the past, these people still didn’t know anywhere near as much about nature as we know today.

    1. Greetings,

      Augustine, towards the end of his life, became quite melancholic and came to the conclusion (or because of it) that God decided whether souls went to heaven or hell – that it didn’t really matter what we did, it was “only by Grace”.

      Aquinas, having come up with his proofs, gave up on further ones – when urged to continue, he’s reputed to have replied that he hadn’t gone any further than the “straw”: what was written in the scriptures. In other words, he’d gained no further insight than what was on the pages of the bible.

      I don’t think that either were worthy of the insults you cast at them: they were simply men of their time who came to realise that their efforts – and, perhaps, their life’s work – were pointless.

      Like Da Vinci.

      Can you not feel pity for the waste of intellect?

      Kindest regards,


    2. “I never associate reasonable thought with Aquinas or Augustine – I’ve always thought of them as utterly vile and revolting people with defective brains” which is why their books are read and yours aren’t. “If you read any of their claimed proofs of anything any sensible person cannot help but wonder what the hell they’ve been smoking.” – sensible people in this context those who agree with you. More mad than scientist.

  24. It’s only interesting or challenging because it is a political problem

    That’s exactly it. This should be a question for theologians to answer, and not something that should worry anyone else. It’s not our job to reconcile Christianity with evolution than it is our job to reconcile atrology with astronomy.

  25. I’m sorry but the question sounds a little bit egocentric right off. Were neanderthals inevitable? What about floresiensis, were them? They were self-aware and intelligent too.

    While you’re at it, are beetles inevitable? There is an awful lot of them and they’ve been around for 300 million years ago. Those are better candidates for the inevitability medal in my opinion.

    The human tree is so tiny (2.5 million years) and is in such a weak shape (all branches dead except 1) I highly doubt God is paying special attention to us.

  26. btw I agree with the commenters that say this is an issue at all because of the power of religion. Purely conceptually it’s like discussing bigfoot and UFOs.

  27. “Presumably there are good reasons why Ruse rejects Christianity, so why, instead of convincing Christians why he has rejected God, does he try to help them find Jesus despite the ineluctable and contrary facts of science?”

    Do you really not know the answer to your question, Jerry?

    Ruse doesn’t actually reject christianity or “God”. He may say he does but it’s obviously a dishonest facade.

    1. Greetings,

      I don’t think that it’s a case of his being a “closet-theist”, rather that he’s not a Materialist.

      His philosophical outlook leaves the door open for life-after-death – with or without God.

      He’s just trying to “accommodate” theists. That’s all.

      Kindest regards,


      1. I find it remarkable that so many evolutionists argue against Ruse without taking the trouble to consider his intellectual position. Anyone who does so will quickly establish that Ruse
        considers it “inconceivable to find common ground between evolutionists and creationists.”

        1. Greetings,

          I got that impression from reading his “The Evolution-Creation Struggle” (2005).

          It is strange that you should say that as, in “Can A Darwinian Be A Christian?” (2001), Ruse takes the position that it is possible to reconcile the Christian faith with evolutionary theory.

          Indeed, in a Huffington Post article, “A Darwinian Can Be a Christian, Too”, Ruse wrote:
          “About 10 years ago I wrote a book called Can a Darwinian Be a Christian? Answering my question, I argued that it is not easy, but it is possible.”

          Please note that the quote you use is from a question put to him during an interview – http://simplycharly.com/darwin/michael_ruse_interview.htm – and it’s worth reading his answer:

          “Q: Is it totally inconceivable to find common ground between evolutionists and creationists?

          A: Yes. It is not just a theological issue but also a social one as evolution represents modernism, sex ed, abortion on demand, and so forth (when I say represents, I mean acts as a marker for people who have these sorts of beliefs). Creationism stands for anti modernism (anti abortion and so forth). I really don’t see much hope for a meeting of the extremes; whether people more in the center can be influenced is of course another matter. I very much hope so”

          Creationists have the wrong end of stick – as I pointed out earlier – in that they confuse what is meant by “in God’s image”.

          Kindest regards,


          1. It appears to me evolutionists have the wrong end of the stick by assuming anyone who dissents from the theory of evolution by natural selection is automatically a creationist. In his book Mystery of Mysteries Ruse asked the question, ‘Is evolution a social construction?’ and concluded that science was embedded in the culture of the day rather than existing outside it. It’s a point Darwinists seem unable or unwilling to accept.

              1. I can’t imagine why you think I wouldn’t like the NCSE review of Ruse’s book. The reviewer does not deny that Ruse has a case only that he is not persuaded by the cultural influence on science and believes Ruse’s conclusions are inconclusive. He does not adopt a destructive tone and writes, “His first chapter, an even-handed summary and critique of Popper’s and Kuhn’s conflicting views of science, is surely the best thing ever written on this subject in 24 pages.” Given that the NCSE is hostile to those who do not endorse Darwinism the review is well balanced, unlike your own offerings which are evangelical in tone and purpose and contrary to the idea of an open mind.

  28. If he wants to spout nonsense without evidence, why not just claim an omnipotent god could create such a universe where humanity is inevitable? However, like all nonsense, it begs the question of why not just create a universe where everyone believes, has free will and there is no suffering. The multiverse garbage also leaves open the possibility of universes where there is much greater suffering than we can imagine (but the bible shows that god is a bastard, so I suppose that’s OK).

  29. I will agree with Ruser (and others) that the evolutionary arising of “intelligence” in nature is inevitable, but I cannot fathom why Ruser (if indeed he is an atheist) would argue that the evolutionary arising HUMAN intelligence in nature (or, simply, of humans) is inevitable. Or why the inevitability of the evolutionary arising of ANYthing in nature would mean that an uncaused, immaterial, cognitively conscious and will-possessing supernatural creator God must or even likely exists and has always existed.

    Perhaps Ruse is being EMPLOYED (or seeks financial reward) to try to help find a way to conciliate science and religion so as to appease religious creationists? I can’t think of what else besides earned income or payoff might put an evangelical fire for such conciliation in the belly of a genuine (intellectually honest) atheist of even the agnostic (or 6er on the Dawkins’ 0-7 Scale) variety.

    But it seems to me that there are two things that Christianity references which should allow the intellectually honest Christian to believe in the uncaused and forever-existing immaterial, cognitively conscious and will-possessing supernatural creator God IF DOING SO COMFORTS THEM (and despite empirical science’s absence of objective evidence for the existence always of any uncaused, immaterial, cognitively conscious and will-possessing supernatural creator God); namely: the concept of “divine miracles” (unexplainABlE divine intervention into nature to cause events that would not occur in nature) and the concept of “faith” (confident belief in the absence of crucially supporting empirical evidence or logical proof, and even in the face of contradictory empirical evidence).

    These (the possibility of “divine miracles” that empirical science cannot disprove, and “faith”-based belief) seem to me to jointly provide a way for religious folks to believe in the existence of a creator God (including even in one who gives a damn, if it comforts them to so believe) AND ALSO to accept both the historical reality of biological evolution on an ancient Earth and the scientific validity of evolution theory in attempting to explain the reality of evolutionary natural history (as millions of Christians DO without demanding either empirical science nor logic be twisted, strained and compromised to PROVE that which faith does not require to be proven). Why Ruse (regardless of the source of his odd [for an atheist] imperative to conciliate) doesn’t simply “preach” THIS sort of conciliation beats the snot outa me. No other conciliation seems reasonable.

    1. You appear not to notice that your first two paragraphs are ad hominems, as is part of the fourth. The third summarises the weakness of atheism. The reference to “empirical science’s absence of objective evidence for the existence always of any uncaused, immaterial, cognitively conscious and will-possessing supernatural creator God” cannot be ‘objective’ as, by your own definition, God is immaterial by nature, while the limitation of empirical science, is its exclusive preoccupation with materialism.
      Your contribution comes across (like several others on this thread) as condescending towards theists. If that beats the snot out of you, try a handkerchief – it’s far more civilised.

      1. Phillip said: “Your contribution comes across (like several others on this thread) as condescending towards theists.”

        So what? Where does it say that theists should be specially protected from allegedly condescending remarks?

        1. It doesn’t but such condescension conveys a lack of substance in the argument based on an unwarranted sense of intellectual superiority on your part

  30. Greetings,

    davidgerard said:
    “This is stated as fact but is actually an untested hypothesis. How would we test it?”

    What is the probability of their giving up their religious belief in total compared with altering it to accept evolution?

    I’d say the latter is the more probable, as you’re only trying to alter their current belief, as against diametrically opposing it.

    As to how to test it: simply talk to the creationists.

    Kindest regards,


    1. No, talking to them is insufficient: it confuses people liking an argument with the argument working on them. For example, The God Delusion notably upsets people, but also notably works.

      1. Greetings,

        Yes, Dawkins book works on those who are amenable to those arguments.

        Those who are not ready to accept them, become entrenched in their views and find reasons not to accept – he’s a “shrill” and “strident” “atheist fundamentalist”, etc.

        The approach I’m proposing may not “work” immediately – but, as all such, the individual’s perceptions will slowly change over time.

        I’m not looking for instant success – just that they go away and think about it, that’s all.

        Kindest regards,


          1. Greetings,

            I think it’s a mistake to equate something like homoeopathy with creationism (or the existence of God, for that matter).

            The latter has a level of ego-investment that the former lacks.

            Giving up creationism/God “endangers the soul” – homoeopathy is nothing like that.

            For this level of commitment in a belief, it’s easier to ameliorate it than to get rid of it altogether.

            I think our difference is just a case of temperament – I don’t particularly see any need in diametrically opposing views, rather to guide them in a parallel direction.

            “You attract more with honey than vinegar”, as the saying goes.

            Kindest regards,


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