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Archive for the ‘Evolution’ Category

Charles DarwinThe New Yorker has an article up on “Why We Don’t Believe In Science.” This essay, though mainly concerned with a study of our neural reactions to counter-intuitive experiences, begins by citing a recent Gallup poll on what Americans believe when it comes to evolution. Somewhat surprising is the large percentage of Americans (45%) who reject the theory of evolution and instead hold that the world was created within the last 10,000 years by a supernatural agent.* 32% of adult Americans hold what might be called theistic evolution, while only 15% hold to a purely naturalistic account of evolution.**

*Is this regression? Even among those who rejected evolution in the early 20th century, William Jennings Bryan among them, they were generally not this type of “Young Earth Creationist.Instead, they readily proclaimed that “a day is like a thousand years to God,” which allowed them to accept the antiquity of the Earth without abandoning the 7 days of creation in Genesis – a position known as “Old Earth Creationism.”

**Lost in this is the fact that more people accept evolution than reject it. And I have a major bone to pick when it comes to the use of the word “believe” in reference to scientific theories. One does not “believe” a scientific theory, one can only accept it (or reject it) as the theory that makes the best sense of the empirical evidence. And to do this, one must employ logic – the kind of thing that Aristotle developed and was so important for the medievals, even though Aristotle gets kicked around in this article for being naive and erroneous. If you want to know what belief is, go read this. It has nothing to do with science, and to use faith/belief in reference to science is to actually denigrate what science is in the first place.

As my students would tell you, I am a defender of the theory of evolution and work hard to show them that there is no biblical or theological basis for supposing a conflict between Christianity and evolution. Darwin certainly did not think so, nor have most educated Christians since the emergence of Darwinian evolution. This conflict – and this is so crucially important to understand – has been trumped up (by both sides!) as a subset of the (trumped-up!) conflict between the secular and the religious, and is ultimately a political (broadly understood) conflict that has to do with particular configurations of power rather than ideological beliefs. But that is for another post. (more…)

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