Thursday, August 11, 2005

There's an odd article about religion and evolution by Jacob Weisberg at Slate today. He cites a poll.
According to the most recent Gallup poll on the subject (2004), 45 percent of Americans believe God created human beings in their present form 10,000 years ago, while another 38 percent believe that God directed the process of evolution. Only 13 percent accept the prevailing scientific view of evolution as an unguided, random process.
But then he writes this.
Look at this 1993 NORC survey: In the United States, 63 percent of the public believed in God and 35 percent believed in evolution. In Great Britain, by comparison, 24 percent of people believed in God and 77 percent believed in evolution. You can believe in both—but not many people do.
So what happened to those 38% percent? Next we get this.
In reviewing The Origin of Species in 1860, Samuel Wilberforce, the bishop of Oxford, wrote that the religious view of man as a creature with free will was "utterly irreconcilable with the degrading notion of the brute origin of him who was created in the image of God."
And what is "the" religious view of man as a creature with free will? Perhaps Weisberg should read the debate between Luther and Erasmus on this subject.

Anyhow, after such odd claims, we get to Weisberg's main point.
To be sure, there are plenty of scientists who believe in God, and even Darwinists who call themselves Christians. But the acceptance of evolution diminishes religious belief in aggregate for a simple reason: It provides a better answer to the question of how we got here than religion does.
But where is the social science demonstrating that "acceptance of evolution diminishes religious belief in aggregate"? How do we know the causality doesn't go the other way for most people? Weisberg only offers the anecdotal evidence of Charles Darwin's loss of faith and of opposition to evolution by some religious leaders.

Consider again the 38% of Americans that claim to believe "God directed evolution." Why hasn't evolution undermined their faith? The argument for atheism implicit in Weisberg's article can be (over)simplified to the following three steps.
1) Cite modern science.
2) Apply Occam's razor.
3) Throw God away with the rest of the shavings.
Even if (2) doesn't get you stuck in philosophical shoals, you may still fail to achieve (3). If you believe in a miracle, then (3) doesn't follow from (1) and (2). For someone like me, who believes in the resurrection of Christ, (1) and (2) could easily lead to "God directed evolution," so I'm not surprised that 38% of Americans believe that. To continue the argument for atheism with me, one would need to delve into historical evidence regarding Christ; evolution wouldn't be relevant. Even for a Christian who interprets Genesis as saying that God created the universe a few thousand years ago, which is more likely, that arguments for evolution (not to mention modern geology and astrophysics) would lead to him to doubt God, or that such arguments would lead him to revise his interpretation of Genesis?

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