Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

Mark Frauenfelder @ Boing Boing
Story on Cobb County Creationism Case

Gary Peare sez: "I have a modest proposal regarding the following story:"

A federal trial began today in Atlanta over evolution disclaimers in Cobb County schools. A group of parents backed by the ACLU argue that the disclaimers in science biology textbooks are a government endorsement of religion.
"The county put stickers with the following text into the books:"
This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully and critically considered.
"So here's my proposal. Let's allow the religious right to paste their stickers in all the biology texts they want so long as they affix the following text to each and every one of their Bibles:"

"This book contains material on Judeo-Christian theology. Judeo-Christian theology offers insight into the origin and meaning of life and is the basis for several of the world's great religions. But it does not encompass the full range of religious beliefs held sacred by members of our diverse American society. Moreover, this material is based on ancient texts, and significant errors may have been introduced through subsequent translations and omissions. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully and critically considered."


It has always puzzled me that educated people can actually not believe in evolution. What percentage of the US does not believe in evolution? Are the belief in evolution and faith in God mutually exclusive?


The Roman Catholic Church openly accepts evolution theory.
The Lutheran churches don't seem to have problems with it either.
It's a portion of the fundamentalist sects that seem to be making all the noise about this.

Well, Darwinian evolutionary theory isn't completely open-and-shut. No one has ever 'proven' the theory. There are still serious questions to be asked about whether something like consciousness, or even a complex design like a human organ, is really likely to 'evolve' out of the soup. Normally, things mostly devolve into something simpler, rather than evolving into something more complex, if they are left alone. Everyone knows this from everyday experience, and thermodynamicists have written many books about it. There is also a suggestion from molecular biology that DNA sequences may 'hop' from one lifeform to another. This is not really how Darwinian evolution is supposed to work.

There was an analogous argument in the field of linguistics in the 60s. The prevailing belief at the time was that language was simply behaviour that had been learned in response to the environment. Chomsky showed that language was in fact innate, somehow hard-wired into the brain and this has been confirmed in many studies since.

I'm not saying that creationism is 'right' or that evolution is 'wrong', just that it isn't an open-and-shut case adn that you genuinely do have to look at the thing with an open mind, like the sticker says.

Antoin, evolutionary theory is "evolving" like all other scientific theories. I don't think most evolutionary theorists are simple Darwinians. I think genetic drift and many other factors are involved in evolution, but I think science is moving "forward". I think the point of the article above is that the creationists are asking people to not move "forward" but rather believe in creation and question progress in science. I think "open mind" can be misinterpreted in this context. Do you really believe that creation is a better theory than evolution? (Modern evolutionary theory, not straight Darwinian...)

okay, here comes a comment war. And a lot of the noise is made because people who aren't superstitious insist on splitting hairs.

Antoin makes a point that evolution isn't an open and shut case. This is absurd. Gravity, for example, carries no warning stickers. Gravity is not challenged by people. Yet we have no clue at all what makes gravity work. Nobody is walking around saying that gravity shouldn't be mentioned in science texts.

This is a political issue pretending to be a science issue. Alert people should focus on this as the key point.

Can smart people not "believe" in evolution? I learned the hard way after writing a book that spent a lot of time on evolution that the answer is, "smart people are capable of denying the fact of evolution because they've persuaded themselves that to do so conflicts with their faith."

Belief is irrelevant because evolution exists whether you believe in it or not.

I'm rambling.

My key point: society has been through this before (Copernicus) and shall go through this again. The opportunity/problem lies in the faith-based community. It has to figure out how to articulate that their God is the one responsible for evolution, which, of course, doesn't conflict with anything scientists know. Until that happens, Kansas and Alabama and other places risk undereducating their kids, which will make them backwaters. It's sad but true.

There is only one problem with all of these arguments: belief. To believe is a fact of human existence. The object of one's belief may or may not be a fact. It is possible to believe in anything that can be formulated, be it an abstract concept, a fantasy, or a reality.

The only hard facts in this case are:

1. There is life on this planet that we call earth.

2. There are several theories that claim to explain how the life came to be.

3. The theories are sometimes confused with truths.

4. Humans, one of the forms of life, have an abstracting capability and language at their disposal which allows them to argue about natural phenomena which they can not even possibly hope to comprehend.

5. Life itself, however you may abstract it, rationalize it, or otherwise came to terms with it, does not depend on human belief, it just exists as is.

A disclaimer ought to be added to life itsef: it is ephemeral and transient, handle with care, respect and integrity.

I think this issue is similar to the one of politics. Many people vote a certain way because their family has "always been Democrats" or "always been Republicans". Similarly, people of religion are not always open minded and while they have the right idea to fight for their cause, I think that people forget that the US is a melting pot and everyone can make up their own mind. If you really want to get down to it, do you think that the current administration actually pushes "moral" beliefs or actual "religious"? If the latter, then we're violating separation of church and state. Man, I go off on a tangent.

Hopefully I got across my idea. Not everyone is black and white. I think people side one way (especially less educated) because of family ties. Scary, but true.

I was raised in a Lutheran church, where it was OK to believe in science and religion at the same time ... maybe I'm still feeling a little spooked by the last election, but I feel a little bit like I'm being squeezed out on that. There seems to be a vibe going on now in American that if you have religion you can't have science.

I think that science vs. religion vibe might affect the global warming "debate" in this country. I mean how can so many people disbelieve the 20 year pile of evidence ... well, it's those same scientists that believe in evolution, isn't it?

FWIW, I think the hardline scientific atheists had an early start on building this gulf. And that might be part of what frightens the new anti-evolutionists. Rather than consider an integrated vision of science and religion (as earlier posters have hoped) it falls out to another black vs. white thing.

The belief that the bible is literally true -- the belief that the creation date and all the bible stories are historically factual -- is a core belief of modern religous fundamentalists.

There are many non-fundamentalists who don't share this belief and don't have this problem. Religious rationalism has a very long history. The medieval Jewish commentator Rashi wrote that "a day of creation is like 1000 years" -- meaning not to take the 7 days of creation as a human week.

Contemporary liberal religious people see science and religion as occupying different domains -- science has nothing to say about the meaning of life, and how people should behave toward each other.

"Scientism" is a belief that since science explains physical origins and the behavior of matter and energy, therefore life is fundamentally meaningless; human behavior is biologically determined, and therefore ethics are irrelevant. This is as much of an item of faith as the fundamentalists' belief that some very old books are literally true.

It doesn't really surprise me that a discussion on whether or not evolution is a reasonable theory has so quickly descended into a polarization of the "religious" and "non-religious" camps. Joi's original question: "It has always puzzled me that educated people can actually not believe in evolution. What percentage of the US does not believe in evolution? Are the belief in evolution and faith in God mutually exclusive?"

While I obviously cannot answer the statistics question, I think I might be able to shed some light on the other questions. Without wanting to sound trite, my initial reaction to the comment would be to mention that I am often puzzled by the fact that educated people are willing to accept a theory without questioning whether or not it holds up to close scrutiny. I have no religious beliefs that prevent me from believing in evolution, and for a number of years took evolution to be a forgone fact. However, some questions have arisen since then, many of which come from the work of Michael Behe, who published the book "Darwins Black Box" in 1998. He suggests an "irreducible complexity" argument, specifically regarding the origin of the bacterial flagellum. Some interesting places to visit regarding this discussion are this faq page on the bacterial flagellum argument, Behe's overview page (and another).

Obviously, this new theory must be closely examined as well, and many scientists have done just that. Some interesting rebuttals can be found at Answering the Biochemical Argument from Design and The Flagellum Unspun.

I would take the information referenced above as sufficient to show that educated people can indeed be skeptical about evolutionary theory, and that there are other equally scientifically satisfying theories that exist.

It is always amusing to me to see my beliefs characterized as those of "fundamentalist sects".

My grandfather got kicked out of a teaching position in a public school back in the 20s because the textbook he used taught evolution, as well as creationism. Now, a teacher could be fired for teaching creationism along with evolution.

So tell me, have we made any progress in the realm of tolerance, or are we back where we started, just with another group doing the oppressing?

"It has always puzzled me that educated people can actually not believe in evolution. What percentage of the US does not believe in evolution? Are the belief in evolution and faith in God mutually exclusive?"

They shouldn't be. But.....the growing 'fundamentalist/evangelical' etc. etc. movement in the US.....which, in the last two years, now also includes my wife, unfortunately.....
is different; in that they essentially require absolute belief as a condition to be 'saved'; and the lead pastors of the various evangelical Christian churches in America determine what those absolute beliefs are to be applied to. Hence....a few months ago, all the lead pastors of it seems most evangelical churches, near-simultaneously went on a jihad that essentially: a) ordered their flocks to write letters to congresscritters et al opposing gay marriage/the massachusetts' court rulings, etc.; and b)ordered them to vote for George Bush (which is against the law, by the way, to use non-profit, tax-exempt churches, by the way; but it was done nationwide.... on what I think was an unprecedented scale I've never seen before.....and the Bush Administration's deliberately-undermanned IRS saw no reason to do anything about it) And their we now know...dutifully obeyed; again, to an unprecedented (in my 50 years in the US) extent.
My wife's letters, and vote, was a total repudiation of everything she's ever done or believed for the last 30 years (I've known her almost that entire time), right up until two years ago....when she joined that church. And when asked why, her response, unlike in all previous decades, was not to explain and even discuss.....but to get, for lack of a better word, hostile, and break off any attempt at communication. And I know for a fact that what has happened in my household is NOT an isolated case.

What I'm saying is that the current--growing-- fundamentalist/evangelical movement, is particularly intolerant; and what's most shocking is that freedom of religion is NOT among the views you are really 'allowed' to hold anymore. There's only one way of looking at the world...only one set of policies or beliefs allowed....and you're either with them, or against them. And that set of positions now taken among among so many people in so short a time is new to America (at least in recent decades), and I think it was only with last weeks' election that many Americans were finally made to realize that it has captured a majority; at least, the most active majority.

Now, insert the subject of 'evolution' into the debate, with all that I've said, and you can, I think, see that it's worse than you think; it's not just limited to the one subject of biological development on the planet.

Dave in Cleveland

Material claims based on what a God supposedly says are rather incoherent: "Any supernatural claims sufficiently generic to be possible is also sufficiently generic to be substituted with some other supernatural belief or character... And any claim specific enough to include material reality within its scope will fail to follow or otherwise be rationally compelling." But there are many people of faith and spirit. Even progressive Christians (e.g., Spong and Borg are prominent) are advocating a non-deistic Christian practice. I just posted a draft on this topic actually:

Shelving God? Implications of Darwin's Dangerous Idea

What are the implications of Darwin's theory of evolution on man's search for meaning? In this paper I delineate a range of positions on a creation/evolution scale and identify those who still claim a limited role for a God with respect to our ultimate beginnings or our consciousness. While more palatable than most creationists, I critique these positions with respect to intention and consciousness from a material evolutionary perspective. I then review a number of attempts to reconcile the desire to find meaning in life with the modern ethos. I conclude by noting that Frankl's theory of logotherapy identifies a source of meaning in light of human suffering without recourse to supernatural claims.

Comments are welcome

Adina (8), WRT you comments on science and the meaning of life ... I humbly suggest "The Blank Slate" by Steven Pinker. On one level it shows what modern science seeks with respect to human nature and the meaning of life, but on another it might explain the threats strict creationists see in science. And in turn it documents the level of religous wars that are sparked by that collision.

Dave (10), I think I'm seeing the same things here in Califoria.

I don't believe in a six days of 24 hours creation, and I think that is a misuse of the Bible to try to say that the original Hebrew in Genesis says 24 hour days.

At the same time, micro-evolution (small changes and trends within species) happens everyday and is visible in life by the naked human eye, but I've yet to find any book, teacher, or professor that can answer questions I have about how macro-evolution would operate (The only book I have left to read it seems is Gould's The Structure of Evolutionary Theory) without their having to use just as much belief/faith as people who talk about 6 day theories or embarrassingly bad statistical "projections."

Coming from these two perspectives, I think we have to do a better job of presenting science in public schools. In order to present science in public schools in a Christian dominated America, we need to truly enforce freedom of religion down to the spirit of the law and respect, not supress, christianity. We should not be hypocrits by telling christians to quit pushing their beliefs on us all while we push our ways of life on them. This evolution/creation debate should NOT be a debate, it should be a search on the part of both sides to best explain the physical workings of life on Earth. That's something we can do to further both science and religious tolerance.

To me, this just shows what a failure our public schools are in this country. Churches and communities teach people something easy to understand on its surface, which doesn't require any difficult thinking. And for the most part, it helps people to lead productive lives, as it reinforces practically valuable ethical practices.

However, our schools need to inculcate an understanding that using investigation and evidence as a basis for beliefs and understanding should be a universal principle, and that it's always applicable. They should show kids how failing to do so can lead to stupendous failures in engineering, science, planning, etc.

Now, to reply to Mr. Reagle's post, I would have to disagree with the proposition that a supernatural claim cannot be rationally compelling.

The position of Christian Science, in which I was raised, is in fact rationally compelling, because it is based in the recognition that all knowledge comes through our senses and is known only in our minds; therefore, our perception is entirely produced in our minds, and it becomes possible to deny physical reality in its entirety as a creation of the mind.

Although you must choose to either believe or not believe in what our physical senses tell us, I think either choice can actually be self-consistent and self-coherent, logically speaking. It's just a matter of the overwhelming nature of our physical perception, the complexity of it, etc., that tips the scale in favor of believing that what we see is real, and I think this is what has happened for me. But we can certainly imagine a scenario in which it is not.

At any rate, fundamentalists have nothing even close to this sort of analysis, merely dogma. When limited to the physical world we see, it's clear that evolution does happen. The people who deny it deny it as a proposition that has not been proven to them properly, with the evidence that would surely convince them.

This is all a hold-over from years ago when "Christians" went nuts over the possibility that man may have descended from apes.

Christian fundamentalists are still horrified that man may have evolved from apes. Put another way, they don't know where to draw the line on where evolution stopped and God plunked down a bunch of animals to start the whole thing off.

What's ironic is that the more the "Christians" attempt to "protect" their children from learning about evolution, the more ape-like their children become.

I am so embarrassed to live in Georgia!

Can we teach the kids stuff like math and science that can be demonstrated, tested and examined (like gravity - yes we don't know how or why it works - but it's observable). Can we teach kids how to invest and balance a checkbook? Can we teach them how to install various operating systems? Can we teach them to be good programmers? Can we teach them manners and social skills? Can we teach them that they are responsible members of society? Can we teach them how to start up a company? Can we teach them critical thinking? Logic? I would much rather time and money be spent on those things than on "fact to regurgitate: we evolved from a primordial soup by a gradual process of changes" or "fact to regurgitate: we were fearfully and wonderfully made by the Creator" Remove both sets of curriculum and teach them something that prepares them for the practical matters of life. Recent history perhaps? Geography? How to find their state on a map? Etc. I'm willing to let my dogma go out of public school if you are. That's what church and private schools are for ;-)

Also to the creationists: there's this great page about "arguments you shouldn't use against evolution" and one of them is the 2nd law of thermodynamics, because obviously processes in place before the fall like chewing, breathing, etc. require the 2nd law. It's here

A great number of religious people I know have no problem seeing God and Science as compatible and even complementary. You've always got the Deists, who (to broadly oversimplify) accept the idea of God as a Prime Mover but do not ascribe to much established scripture; and a great many Christians take a metaphoric approach to Genesis -- that is, they accept the notion of an involved Creator with a vested interest in His creation, but they are also willing to believe that the time frame of 6 days may be a storyteller's condensing of events.

This is typically the approach that many educated Christians take to science (in my experience -- which is the only one from which I am qualified to speak). They don't disregard the Old Testament Pentateuch altogether, but they interpret it as an artistic representation of creation, not necessarily an exact record of events.

Even so, when I was in (my private, Christian, conservative) college, we had a Christian scientist speaker -- of our same denomination -- give a talk in the gymnasium one afternoon. She was a paleontologist who had the unmitigated gall to suggest that The Flood™ may have been a localized event, or might possibly have taken place over the course of more than/less than 40 days and nights. There was a great deal of discomfort in the audience, as you might imagine. Later in her talk she made some reference to evidence that dinosaurs might have survived such a flood to become extinct via some other method ... and she was booed off the stage.

It was a very embarrassing and confusing afternoon for me.

Joi, you asked a couple of perfectly reasonable questions, and I notice that thus far you've gotten no answers to the first one, and some answers to the second one. So, here you go:

1. Using data gathered by the National Science Foundation, about 47% of the US population does not believe in evolution. As a point of comparison, an average for Europe yields the result that 31% of the European population does not believe in evolution. For more information, check out:

2. Evolutionary theory and a belief in God are only contradictory, as other posters have noted, for those branches of religions that adhere to literalistic readings of a significant percentage of their sacred texts. I can't do justice to a full argument in a short comment post, but if you're interested, I would recommend reading:
Finding Darwin's God: A Scientist's Search for Common Ground Between God and Evolution, by Kenneth R. Miller.
While other authors - Stephen J. Gould comes to mind - have written extensively on this issue, the fact that Miller is devoutly religious and a distinguished biologist makes his arguments particularly compelling.

Finally, I notice that a few posts show misconceptions ranging from the basic nature of evolutionary theory, through what are (and aren't) open questions in evolutionary biology, to misdefinitions of "tolerance" in the context of teaching science in the classroom. Again, rather than getting bogged down in addressing each and every one of these points, let me point out a few good references:

The Talk.Origins Archive: - this site is more than just an archive of the Usenet posts to this group - it also contains a well-structured series of FAQs that deal with the misconceptions promoted by creationist groups;

The Panda's Thumb: - a blog dedicated to discussing evolutionary theory and refuting the attacks of the creationist movement;

Darwinism Evolving: Systems Dynamics and the Genealogy of Natural Selection, by David J. Depew and Bruce H. Weber - an intellectually stimulating approach to the history and philosophy of evolutionary theory.

Excellent Ruben. Thanks a lot! Amazing that 47% of the population does not believe in evolution.

Are the belief in evolution and faith in God mutually exclusive?

Not to me. In comparison to spontaneous generation, I have always thought that evolution/adaptation/genetic drift are processes which serve as a greater testament to the genius of creation. God and evolution fit together perfectly, IMHO.

The evidence for adaptation is all around us. The evidence for creationism is nowhere to be found. Ironically, the concept of creationism may be part of natural selection; organisms that cling to outmoded ideas and methods are less adapted and tend to be eliminated over time. ;)

The main issue, I think, is that evolution can be and has been used as a potent, and, prime example of the materialist explanation of the world, it's origins and purpose (that is expressed by much of modern science, in general). This materialist philosophy is very much in opposition to most religious philosophies.

In other words, there is evoloution, the observation about nature. And, there is evolution, the case that the proves world was not created or is not in any way a present expression of a force and/or consciousness greater than material nature. And, often: that the world and life have no greater purpose, and are only the result of random physics and chemistry.

So, if your theology is strongly tied to an idea of literal (and with many sects, historical) acts of creation, evolution comes across as (and, sometimes, is intentionally used as) a way to dismiss and disprove that idea and the people who take it seriously.

Evolution is unlike gravity in this sense, because most religions don't propose that pull towards one's planet is an (or *the*) act of a divine being or force. But, many do propose ideas about origins of life, the differentiation of forms of life, and the meaning of it all.

And, some sects (presumably, like the ones in these classrom cases) conceive of the origins of life as a literal event in history that is part of the foundation of their religious beliefs. In other words, evolution is explicitly contradicting that foundation, because it denies the faithful's history.

Amazing that 47% of the population does not believe in evolution.

But we have recently discussed, Joi, how the chasm between our two American cultures (red and blue) is starkly unbridgeable.

disclosure: I grew up in a very religious family. My theory is that, mainly, the gregarious nature of churchgoers is what keeps them together; faith is just icing on the cake. Opposition to their dogma constitutes a direct attack on their commonalities -- the glue that binds them together. Alone, they are too afraid to bear the uncertainties of life and death.

John, thank you for the Pinker recommendation. Strangely enough, that book is on my desk, not yet read. I'll go read it now :-)

While not an expert in any way, I have not yet been impressed by the contributions of evolutionary biologists to normative conversation about human interaction. Based on the material that I've read, I tend to agree with Steven Jay Gould's critique of evolutionary biology as "just so stories" -- using very small shreds of information about human prehistory and the behavior of other species to draw sweeping conclusions about human behavior, that somehow bolster contemporary social stereotypes.

It is easy to perceive the logical flaws of past generations of science and natural history -- for example, early 20th century research that "proved" that white people are superior, and 18th century thinkers who created arguments "proving" that the natural order supports monarchy as a form of government. It is harder to see the blindspots when contemporary sociobiologists bolster today's conventional wisdom about society.

I'll read the book and see.

A personal note, I was raised in a traditionally religous family, and went to an religious elementary/middle school that was dominated by fundamentalist teachers. My father was a scientist with a "rationalist religious" perspective who did not see conflict between science and faith. I thought the literalist approach of the school's teachers was absurd, but also learned to appreciate the wisdom incorporated in the spiritual tradition when not taken literally.

Well, there are two issues here. 1. Does accepting Judaeo-Christian scripture mean that you believe everything in the bible literally? (Answer is clearly no for many people, and yes for many other people.) The second is the nature of scientific knowledge. My take on this is that most philosophers of science now accept that scientific theories only have to be adequate for their purpose, not absolutely correct, in order to be accepted. (For example, an Aristotelian view of gravity was accepted because it was useful for the earthly purposes of the time, until Copernicus came along and his new theory provided a more parsimonious explanation for the movement of heavenly bodies. The Copernican and Newtonian models now serve us very well, although the shortcomings of these theories have become clear in the last century, as we develop new measurements and requirements.)

There are forms of creationism other than absolute biblical creationism. There are people who believe that life on earth was somehow 'seeded' or assisted from outside, either through accident (meteor falling to earth with biological material) or deliberate intervention (like in 2001: A Space Odyssey). These ideas might seem pretty whacky, but our understanding of the details of evolution isn't good enough to allow us to discount them completely.

Adina, I think the Pinker book has a good survey of current brain/mind science. It had a lot of interesting results and observations (bits I can accept as facts), but at other times one becomes aware as a reader that one is hearing one side of an argument (or arguments).

I don't fault Pinker too much on that, because he seems to think he has to answer a series of arguments. OK, but ...

I did sort of step back during those passages. LOL, they read like one have of an on-line argument ;-)

Pinker, p. 55 of the paperback: "Science and morality are separate spheres of reasoning. Only by recognizing them as separate can we have them both."

So far, Pinker does a good job of demolishing the simplistic claims of sociobiologists. I also suspect he's missing an important point, when arguing down "culturists" who deny the utility of analyzing brain functions.

The relationship between the different layers is like the relationship between hardware and software, or programming language and interaction design. Related, but the higher levels are subject to independent evolutionary pressures.

I'm not sure he's being totally honest in that p55 line. If science is broadly speeking about how things work, and morality is broadly speaking about what we value ... the overlap comes when science starts to understand how our values work.

At this point I think science only gives us glimmers, but those are enough to encourage some people and frighten others.

I haven't sorted this stuff out completely in my own mind, but I do find it tremendously interesting, for instance, that we share concepts of "fairness" with other primates.

Should be an interesting few years as all this is batted about ...

I think it's sad that people talk of evolution as if it's void of spirituality. The whole concept of nature and evolution is quite impressive and mystical in and of itself. The problem is that christianity is very human-centric, yet evolution shows the earth and the universe forces to be more relevant than man; something we cannot control. The conflict of science and religion is that science can make you humble yet religion is very egocentric. Perhaps the creationalists are a bit childish and have yet to bow down to the pervasive power of nature. I strongly believe that the earth will destroy us before we destroy it, so we better treat it with more respect in any case.

By the way, just another thought: the story of creation is just that- a story. It's a story that's neither provable nor unprovable. Yet, people who wish keep our nation in the dark ages continue to live off of the innovations of people who worked hard to research and question the world. It is the height of hypocrity! Anyone who wants to live in a storybook world, free from independent thought, should not be allowed to benefit from those who do use science- especially advances in medicine.

Most of the way through Pinker. The parts of the book backed up by experimental research are fascinating. These sections are about how the mind processes visual images, concepts, and math. They support a coherent theory of the modular nature of the mind.

The sections of the book about emotions, altruism, and values have much less experimental content, and much more meandering speculation about human nature using evolution as a myth. Those sections are less insightful than your average advice columnist. They are not inherently more enlightening than tradional mythic explanations of human complexity (desire leads to suffering in the Buddhist tradition; the "good inclination/evil inclination" framework in the Jewish tradition).

Damasio's based analysis of emotion and consciousness based on clinical neurological research and Terrence Deacon's analysis of the neuroanatomy of the brain are more empirically based, and have more compelling insights about the relationships between emotions, language, and consciousness. When Deacon strays off the empirical farm and does evidence-free, evolution-based mythic speculation, he gets silly too.

Will post the review to weblog at

I also think we need to teach in schools what the word "theory" means. This month's National Geographic has a great defense of the theory of evolution, starting with the concept of "theory" itself. The cover (of the print version) had a provocative headline "Was Darwin Wrong?" which I hope would induce the general readership to open it to the first page which has an even larger headline: "No."

read about it here:

From the article

In the same sense, relativity as described by Albert Einstein is "just" a theory. The notion that Earth orbits around the sun rather than vice versa, offered by Copernicus in 1543, is a theory. Continental drift is a theory. The existence, structure, and dynamics of atoms? Atomic theory. Even electricity is a theoretical construct, involving electrons, which are tiny units of charged mass that no one has ever seen. Each of these theories is an explanation that has been confirmed to such a degree, by observation and experiment, that knowledgeable experts accept it as fact. That's what scientists mean when they talk about a theory: not a dreamy and unreliable speculation, but an explanatory statement that fits the evidence.

There is nothing inconsistent with believing in God and accepting evolution (to say "I believe in evolution" is silly, in the first place - it's not a matter of belief, it happened).

It's also silly to say that evolution is "just a theory". It's the same thing as saying that the law of gravity is "just of theory".

I think I read that 45% of Americans believe that the universe is less than 10,000 years old, in case you never got your question answered, Joi.

My prediction is that in 50 years, that percentage will be close to zero, and the church will be better off for it.

Joi, I suspect most Americans who fall on the religious-liberal (as distinct from political-liberal) end of the spectrum see no conflict between accepting evolution and believing in God. (I experience no disjunction between the two at all.)

I wouldn't be surprised to hear that many Americans who fall on the religiously-conservative end of the spectrum disagree with me, though. And I don't have any statistics on what percentage of Americans are religious liberals and what percentage are religious conservatives.

"It has always puzzled me that educated people can actually not believe in evolution. What percentage of the US does not believe in evolution? Are the belief in evolution and faith in God mutually exclusive?"

Joi, you might want to rent the (relatively recent) documentary miniseries 'Evolution'. They had one episode in particular that dealt with this issue, appropriately titled 'What about God?'.

I am a chemist and a dentist and a graduate of the Medical College of GA. I have had over 6 years of science at the college level, all within our state. Evolution is not science but at best a philosophy. It is not even a theory, because it is not falsifiable. It can not be tested. Even our 1st, 2nd laws of science, and law of biogenisis , contradicts evolution. Both creation and evolution are actually models that science is placed in to, and religions are spit out!Creation has given us three religions -the major ones, and evvolution has given us the multitude of others. Evolution is therefore more religious than creation- in that sense. It was Clarence Darrow who said that it was the height of bigotry to teach only one side-during the scopes trial- the shoe is now on the other foot. Let's quite brainwashing our kids. They need all the critical thinking skills they can get, in such times as this.

Dr. George Madray BSA, DMD

On contributor wrote:

"Belief is irrelevant because evolution exists whether you believe in it or not."

Exactly. That is why I am not concerned about the bruhaha over extinction. Every year some science group worries publicly about species disappearing from the earth. No big deal. Remember folks, we have evolution - which does what? Can you say "Origin of Species"? Species disappear, but are replaced by new species. It is a grand balancing act guided by natural selection. Frankly, I'm dismayed over the concern given to extinction. Scientist never seem to talk about the other side of the coin (origin of species.) I'm going to devote some time to look for new species of mammals. As evolution is a natural process responsible for the origin and diversity of life, all we have to do is look around to catalog the new arrivals. I'll be back to report on my findings.

I'm a god fearing anarchist, so I really don't think Blue state vs. Red states has much to do with it. You can obviously make the jump in reasoning that conservative-isolationists in the 'American Tradition' will fight pure creationism tooth and nail, and you would be generally right. You can also argue that socialists-urbannites with the inate need to reject any form of savior outside of the state would fight any proof of higher consiousness. Both instances typically prove one thing, people have been indotrinated in or the other for the purpose of marginalization. Because I hate such calvinist thinking (which is the exact shame base pathology as authoritarian-communism used in stealing peoples spirituality), and because I put faith in people who can accept human greatness, I think we should not be arguing the dichotomy, but rather, the truth of the matter. To react to anyones comments with absolution usually reveals one as heavily indoctrined in a totalitarian idealology. that aside, I think you absolutley cannot dismiss the progress of sciences that always seem to tell a story of a progressive creation. That all these large events seem to have a singularity and a focal point. Purpose to causality can in fact prove higher thinking, when the reasults are so calculated.

2 monkeys in the tub. 1st monkey says:'oow oow oow,aah aah aah'and the 2nd monkey says:'well put some cold water in'.

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