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Another god debate Ken Perrott Feb 23

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GodAndCosmology_Slider

Apparently Sean Carroll and William Lane Craig went head to head this weekend on the question of “the existence of God in light of contemporary cosmology.”

Usually I think these sort of debates are a waste of time but am keen to see the video of this one – it will be on Youtube eventually. In previous debates Craig attempts to use cosmology to “prove” the existence of his god (I use the word “use” as meaning very opportunist use of motivated reasoning). In most debates his opponents are usually not completely familiar with modern cosmology and he gets away with murder in his misrepresentation of the science.

But Sean Carroll is a different proposition. Not only is Sean a researcher and teacher in cosmology he is also an excellent communicator of science. His recent bookThe Particle at the End of the Universe, won last year’s Royal Society Winton Prize for best science book (see The particle at the end of the universe’ wins Winton Prize).

Carroll

Nor is he intimidated by Craig’s acknowledged debating skills. He says in a blog post before the debate:

“You can find some of WLC’s thoughts on the upcoming event at his Reasonable Faith website. One important correction I would make to what you will read there: Craig and his interlocutor Kevin Harris interpret my statement that “my goal here is not to win the debate” as a strategy to avoid dealing with WLC’s arguments, or as “a way to lower expectations.” Neither is remotely true. I want to make the case for naturalism, and to do that it’s obviously necessary to counter any objections that get raised. Moreover, I think that expectations (for me) should be set ridiculously high. The case I hope to make for naturalism will be so impressively, mind-bogglingly, breathtakingly strong that it should be nearly impossible for any reasonable person to hear it and not be immediately convinced. Honestly, I’ll be disappointed if there are any theists left in the audience once the whole thing is over.”

I think his tongue was in his cheek with the last sentence.

His suggestion for viewers:

“Feel free to organize viewing parties, celebrations, discussion groups, what have you. There should definitely be a drinking game involved (it’ll be happy hour on the West Coast, you lightweights), but I’ll leave the details to you. Suggested starting points: drink every time WLC uses a syllogism, or every time I show an equation. But be sure to have something to eat, first.”

Thanks to God and Cosmology Debate with W.L. Craig

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Testing the God theory Ken Perrott Dec 04

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I enjoyed this video.

It is a full lecture but well worth watching – especially if you are interested in the science-religion debates.

Sean Carroll presents these cosmological arguments well – and his analysis is far more up to date – and “with it” than those theologians who venture into the area. Just compare this with the rubbish W. L. Craig comes out with.

This lecture really puts the theological argument that God is a “better explanation” of life than the multiverse into perspective.

Thanks to Your Thanksgiving viewing « Why Evolution Is True.

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The origins of ethics and violence Ken Perrott Oct 28

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I am spending some time dealing with family business so I am reposting some of my past book reviews over the next few days. These could be useful with Christmas coming up.

I found this book fascinating – and very relevant to modern world problems.


Book review: In the Name of God: The Evolutionary Origins of Religious Ethics and Violence by John Teehan.

Price: US$16.47; NZ$39.97

Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell (May 3, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1405183810
ISBN-13: 978-1405183819

In the Name of God is an excellent popular presentation of the scientific understanding of the origins of religion and morality. It also examines the origins of religious violence and opens a discussion on the way humanity may reduce these problems.

Some people will find it controversial. But not because some trends in evolutionary psychology have discredited themselves with extravagant claims. In this case the controversy will be because, as Teehan puts it, “this view of human nature – the very idea that there might be a human nature – smacks up against some strongly held political, moral, religious, and ideological positions.”

However, the time is right. “It is only within the last few decades that we have developed the tools that can give us a fair chance of setting out a scientific account of religious origins. In fact, I believe we are living in the midst of perhaps the greatest period of intellectual discovery in the history of religious studies.” One could say the same about the scientific study of human morality.


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Are you qualified to discuss God, Heaven and Hell? Ken Perrott Jul 26

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Loved this little story I picked up on Facebook. There’s a moral in it somewhere. Perhaps something to try on these God-botherers next time they come knocking on your door.


A Christian was seated next to a little girl on an airplane and he turned to her and said,

“Do you want to talk? Flights go quicker if you strike up a conversation with your fellow passenger.”

The little girl, who had just started to read her book, replied to the total stranger,

“What would you want to talk about?”

“Oh, I don’t know,” said the Christian. “How about why there is a God, Heaven and Hell, a magical life after death, and that evolution is a lie made up by the devil?” as he smiled smugly.

“Okay,” she said. ”Those could be interesting topics but let me ask you a question first:

A horse, a cow, and a deer all eat the same stuff – grass. Yet a deer excretes little pellets, while a cow turns out a flat patty, but a horse produces clumps. Why do you suppose that is?”

The Christian, visibly surprised by the little girl’s intelligence, thinks about it and says,

“Hmmm, I have no idea.”

To which the little girl replies,

“Do you really feel qualified to discuss God, Heaven and Hell, or life after death, when you don’t know shit?”

And then she went back to reading her book!!

Moving into the mainstream – on the coat tails of the “New Atheists” Ken Perrott Apr 14

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Credit: BadGnus radio

The so-called “new atheists” (or Gnus) – Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, etc., generally get a very bad press from the religiously inclined. Even some atheists (usually of the “I’m an atheist, but . . “ persuasion) chip in. A common complaint is their “stridency,” even “militancy.” They are told to wind back the tone of their critique of religion, to recognise the positive side of relgion or just to STFU.

But here’s an interesting thing. Recent waves of criticism of these gnus are actually, seemingly without the awareness of the critics, an acknowledgement of their very success.

For example, this Spectator article currently much touted by religious apologists  - Richard Dawkins has lost: meet the new new atheists. It’s opening paragraph sums up its “take home” message:

“The atheist spring that began just over a decade ago is over, thank God. Richard Dawkins is now seen by many, even many non-believers, as a joke figure, shaking his fist at sky fairies. He’s the Mary Whitehouse of our day.”

But, as evidence, the article mentions the new “New Atheists.” The authors of books which belong to the new popular genre in literature – the atheist book.

Strange – before the gnus like Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens and Dennett appeared almost a decade ago the genre hardly existed. Publishers thought such books just would not sell. That the bookshops and readers would not accept them – would probably be offended by them.

But all that seems to have changed. These book are not only acceptable, they are popular. They sell well. Something changed in the 2000′s. Those nasty gnus may not have created that change but their books certainly revealed it. Their publication, popularity and huge sales made this new popular genre possible. Atheist writers authoring today’s popular books are, in effect, riding on the coat tails of the original gnus. (So, of course, are many of the religious apologists who have published their own books in response – or even run Church and Bible Classes to give the “Truth” about these horrible gnus).

The spectator article was of course blinkered. It only considered new “New Atheists” who expressed hostility towards, or disagreed with, the original gnus.

“Crucially, atheism’s younger advocates are reluctant to compete for the role of Dawkins’s disciple. They are more likely to bemoan the new atheist approach and call for large injections of nuance. A good example is the pop-philosopher Julian Baggini. He is a stalwart atheist who likes a bit of a scrap with believers, but he’s also able to admit that religion has its virtues, that humanism needs to learn from it. . . . . This is also the approach of the pop-philosopher king, Alain de Botton. His recent book Religion for Atheists: A Non-believer’s Guide to the Uses of Religion rejects the ‘boring’ question of religion’s truth or falsity, and calls for ‘a selective reverence for religious rituals and concepts’.”

The Publishers’ Weekly also mention these critics among the new authors in its article Atheists, the Next Generation: Unbelief Moves Further into the Mainstream. It adds How to Be Secular: A Call to Arms for Religious Freedom by Jacques Berlinerblau and Faitheist: How an Atheist Found Common Ground with the Religious by Chris Stedman. But, more honestly, it mentions a number of other authors who are not described as critics of the original gnus. Who in fact are, in some ways, repeating and developing their original messages.

Mentioned in the article are books like:

Publishers’ Weekly draws a very different conclusion to the Spectator and other naysayers who like to see the proliferation in the genre as somehow a rejection of atheism.

Still, nonbelief, however it is defined, is moving into the mainstream. There is at least one nonbelieving member of Congress (Kyrsten Sinema, D- Ariz.); the Secular Coalition for America has a full-time Washington lobbyist; and there are atheist characters on network television (Big Bang Theory, Malibu Country). And in January, Prometheus Press, a stalwart of the category based in Amherst, N.Y., announced it had reached a groundbreaking distribution deal with Random House. On announcing the deal, Prometheus V-P of Marketing Jill Maxick told The Buffalo News, “The fact they sought us out is an endorsement for what we have to offer the reading marketplace.”

So those horrible gnus did, in fact, start something. Atheism is now moving into the mainstream. People now see normal people who are atheist, like the guys in Big Bang Theory,  in their popular TV programmes. Of course this means there are critics, as well as supporters, of the original gnus – that’s perfectly normal and as it should be. The very diversity of views these new “New Atheists” represent is a sign of the fact that atheism is now an accepted part of society. It has matured as a popular and legitimate social attitude.

So these religious apologists who are gloating at articles like that in the Spectator are being rather childish. They see them as support for their own ideology – that’s why they are busy cherry picking and hot linking them. But in fact movement of atheism into the social mainstream only supports religion in the way that a rope supports a hanging man.

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Dawkins’ new book Ken Perrott Mar 20

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Richard Dawkins’ latest book is due out next September. The title – Childhood, Boyhood, Truth: From an African Youth to The Selfish Gene

It’s yet a new genre for Dawkins – autobiography. Mind you he has reached the age where people do tend to write memoirs and autobiographies.

Richard says  this book covers his life up to the  writing of The Selfish Gene.  There will be a second volume, published in 2015, covering the second half of his life.

I have enjoyed his other books and am looking forward to this one – especially as I have a special interest in scientific biography.

These two volumes will be a good read – he is an excellent writer and has had an interesting life, scientifically.

I wonder if it will get the same sort of emotional attacks his earlier books received?

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Talking sense about morality Ken Perrott Mar 12

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Here’s a great blog post by Jerry Coyne outlining a scientific approach to morality (see How should we be moral?: Three papers and a good book) it gives a summary of his current ideas and a reading list of papers and a book which have influenced him.

I go along with Jerry’s conclusions but I would add a couple of things  to his summary:

  1. I agree that there is no such thing a objective morality – but let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water. I think we can show an objective basis for morality. We can understand how some of our values have an objective basis (others may not) and this is important in our evaluation of moral codes.
  2. I think we should extend our understanding of an instinctual morality model (as opposed to a rational one) beyond the simple proposition of an evolutionary origins of our instincts. We need to see that the instincts or intuitions driving our moral feelings or emotions can also develop, or evolve, via cultural mechanisms. I think this is important to understanding of the moral zeitgeist, the way that our moral codes tend to change over time.

An objective basis for morality?

There is a difference between objective morality – which implies some sort of moral truth existing independently of humanity – and objectively based morality. This latter implies that there is a basis for our morality – the nature of our species – which means that we generally come to the same moral conclusions. Our morality is not just a matter of personal choice.

I see the simplest basis of morality in the simple facts of life itself. Living organisms, even the most primitive, have the property of valuing life and its continuation. Without this basic biological value such organisms would not survive and reproduce. Just imagine a simple organism which ignored indications of nutrients in its environment and had no ability, or “desire,” to reproduce. Natural selection would soon have put paid to it.

While initial organisms may have had simple physical and chemical mechanisms putting biological value into effect evolution eventually led to development of neuronal structures and brains. Biological value could be expressed as instincts and emotions.

Evolution of social animals provided requirements for a finer structure to biological value. The interactions between organisms became more important and this finer structure became represented in the instincts and emotions of social animals – including humans.

Long story short – I see an objective basis for human morality in human nature itself. The fact that we are a sentient, intelligent, conscious, social and empathetic species.

Hijacking human instinct

Of course, there is not necessarily a direct line between our evolved instincts, objectively based in biological and social value, and the morality we profess.  Jonathan Haidt described his useful theory of foundational moral values in his recent book The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion (see my review in Human morality is evolving). While some of our moral codes related to life, care, harm and well-being are related to foundational human values involved with life and its survival – biological and social value – others are not. Or at least they are driven by instincts which have been hijacked. For example instincts of purity may well be related to survival and life, but moral codes related to sacredness, racial superiority and religious purity (unrelated to life and survival) rely on the hijacking of such instincts.

So while I assert that there is an objective basis for some of our morality – especially that related to life, care, harm and well-being -  some of our morality may well not have a genuine objective basis, even though it utilises basic human instincts.

Moral learning and moral zeitgeist

A simple instinctive model of morality, relying on evolved instincts and not conscious deliberation, really doesn’t explain how and why human morality changes. It doesn’t explain the moral zeitgeist.

I think it’s necessary to include both rational consideration as well as instinctive, emotional reaction, to explain this. As Jerry said, our “instinctive judgments are largely a product of evolution.” But it doesn’t stop there. Our intuitions, and hence our emotions, are produced unconsciously, without delineation, but over time they are influenced by our conscious deliberation and learning.

When we learn to ride a bike, or even to walk as a toddler, our actions are deliberate. We consciously consider them and put them into effect. But with learning these actions no longer need conscious deliberation. They are incorporated into our unconscious brain and carried out automatically. Just as well – imagine that adults had to continue all the conscious activity the toddler uses when they start walking. With all the inevitable conscious mistakes. Just imagine grown-ups walking along the footpath, but every so often falling on their backside like a toddler! Because the process of walking had not been learned and incorporated into their unconscious.

I argue, that the conscious moral deliberations of individuals and society produce the same sort of learning. These deliberation may be active – as, for example, our current discussion of marriage equality. Or the learning could be almost passive. Exposure to our culture. I think many people have unconsciously shifted their attitudes towards working mothers, racial integration and homosexuals because of their exposure to TV shows, books, and life itself, where these modern moral attitudes are accepted.

Incorporation of this moral learning into our subconscious means that  homosexuality, for example, no longer automatically provokes our instincts of purity and disgust. Or meeting an atheist no longer causes us to react out of disgust or respect for authority.

So while our day-to-day moral functioning relies on these intuitional reactions and not logical consideration, these unconscious intuitional reactions have been modified by our learning and exposure to cultural changes.

Moral progress?

On the one hand, that moral attitudes related to care, life, harm and well-being can have an objective basis in biological value, in the very nature of life, means we have ways – both emotional and logical – at arriving at common agreement on what is “right” and “wrong.” On the other hand, although our morality is instinctive or intuitional and not rational (at least in common day-to-day activity) the deliberate intellectual consideration of moral issues, as well as our passive exposure to a culture which is changing because of that deliberate consideration, means that we are capable of moral learning. Of adjusting our automatic moral reactions over time. Of making moral progress.

And I think we can conclude that this has happened on issues such as human rights and discrimination – even if not uniformly and evenly.

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Origins of religious ethics and violence Ken Perrott Feb 20

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I am spending some time dealing with family business so am reposting some of my past book reviews over the next few day.

This is an excellent book for anyone interested in a scientific understanding of morality and religion and their evolution.


Book review: In the Name of God: The Evolutionary Origins of Religious Ethics and Violence by John Teehan.

Price: US$16.47; NZ$39.97

Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell (May 3, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1405183810
ISBN-13: 978-1405183819

In the Name of God is an excellent popular presentation of the scientific understanding of the origins of religion and morality. It also examines the origins of religious violence and opens a discussion on the way humanity may reduce these problems.

Some people will find it controversial. But not because some trends in evolutionary psychology have discredited themselves with extravagant claims. In this case the controversy will be because, as Teehan puts it, “this view of human nature – the very idea that there might be a human nature – smacks up against some strongly held political, moral, religious, and ideological positions.”

However, the time is right. “It is only within the last few decades that we have developed the tools that can give us a fair chance of setting out a scientific account of religious origins. In fact, I believe we are living in the midst of perhaps the greatest period of intellectual discovery in the history of religious studies.” One could say the same about the scientific study of human morality.

Outline of evolutionary origins of morality and religion

Science sees the mind as a product of natural selection. And reproductive success involves more than biological causes. It also is dependent on a complex of other, social, skills and morality involves many of these.

The book begins with an excellent summary of current knowledge of moral evolution. It describes the origin of altruism and its development into reciprocal altruism and indirect altruism. The evolutionary origins and development of moral emotions and moral grammar are described.

With development of larger societies our evolved moral sympathies extended to cover large groups besides kin, clan and tribe. This involved an extended idea of the “in-group” to involve individuals who were previously in the “out-group.” There was also a need to identify those who were part of the new “out-group. Religions provided ways of doing this by encoding moral “laws’ and requirements. And by redefining the larger in-group using beliefs, traditions, taboos and ceremony. These also provided mechanisms for individuals to display their adherence to the in-group and so their trustworthiness for social interaction with other members of the group.

Origin of god-beliefs

Part of this approach to studying religion recognises the existence of gods. But in the minds of humans, not (necessarily) as objective entities. These concepts arose as part of our evolved strategy to over-interpret, and under-determine, stimuli. “The human mind is designed to naturally, and automatically, interpret the world in terms of agents – that is, beings acting with intention.”

“Supernatural” agents, gods, spirits, ghost, ancestors, etc., were a natural development. Some agents were defined to have special, counter-intuitive, powers, invisibility, access to one’s mind and thoughts, etc. (I like this description of “supernatural” – always a difficult word to define – as being “counter-intuitive.”)

However, gods were anthropomorphised. Even today most believers adhere to belief in a largely anthropomorphic god. Hence the lack of support for theological and philosophical accounts of gods. “The more that reflective beliefs about God move away from cognitively intuitive conceptions, the less influential those beliefs become.” Gods that are radically different to people are incomprehensible and irrelevant to the ordinary believer. Teehan describes these popular or relevant gods as minimally counter-intuitive (MCI) agents.

So this scientific description portrays religion and gods as ways of solving the problem of extension of our evolved moral intuitions. To enable organisation and operation of societies larger than kin, clan and tribe. And for defining the boundaries between this larger in-group and the still existing out-groups.

Gods as full access strategic agents, knowing our inner thoughts and providing judgment and punishment became important to enforcement of order and social cohesion.

Judaism and Christianity

After describing this evolutionary model for development of morality, religion and culture Teehan sets out to analyse two historical religions. He chooses Judaism and Christianity as his examples, but argues the same analysis can be applied to other religions as well. In fact he does make a brief mention of Islam.

His analysis of Judaism relies largely on describing the Jewish concept of God (Yahweh) and moral law as outline in the Old Testament of the bible. Yahweh does satisfy the criteria for god beliefs generated from evolved cognitive channels. It is a minimally counter-intuitive full access strategic agent. One that judges, provides legitimacy to laws and customs, and punishes. Boy, does it punish!

And his analysis of the Ten Commandments shows how they arose from the needs of the contemporary society and the relationship of the Jewish people to surrounding tribes and people. They provided a code for social relations covering interactions with the larger in-group and the different interactions with those in the out-groups. Customs and taboos provided means for members of the in-group to display their adherence and therefore trustworthiness.

His analysis of Christianity is different and the universalism of the acceptable in-group and concentration on values rather than clan or race offers a challenge at first sight. However, Christianity quickly developed its boundary conditions as the religion moved from values to belief – to acceptance of Christ. This, with co-option of intuitions like purity both reinforced in-group social compliance and the demonization and hostility to the out-group.

Religious violence – the other side of moral coin.

In-group – out-group boundaries and their importance to religion provides an explanation for religious violence. This is the other side of the coin. The negative to the positive of social harmony and religious morality.

Teehan devotes a chapter to religious violence, its evolutionary origins and its importance and the problem it presents to the modern world. He sees this as a major justification for the scientific study of religion. Whatever our own individual beliefs, religions still exert powerful control throughout the world and we all suffer when this results in violence.

Solutions to the problems presented by religion

The book gets into a more speculative style when discussing possible solutions to the problems religion presents to today’s world. On the one hand he considers ways of reducing religious violence. But I am pleased he, on the other hand, also considers ways of dealing with the negative aspects of religious morality. It would have been so easy just to see religious morality as only positive. This is important because dogma and enforcement of ancient religious laws and customs means religious morality is often conservative and just not suitable for today’s societies.

Despite importance of our evolutionary history we are not trapped with the irrational intuitions. As an intelligent species we also have the ability to reason. Teehan does see solutions to these problems in rational thought. Despite recognising how flimsy this is in humans. Too often “rational thought” is just rearranging our prejudices. However, recent history does show moral progress despite religious conservatism. We no longer justify racism and slavery. We condemn controls on women and denial of their rights. Homosexuality is no longer considered evil. Our empathetic concerns often extend to other non-human animals.

So we can advance a more rational morality much more suitable for modern society than those conservative morals inherited from religion.

I see this as not just a rational, reflective approach to morality. Social education does lead to a change in our consciousness and like all learning this becomes incorporated into our subconscious. Just like riding a bike. Our intuitions for guilt, fairness and purity which we once co-opted to justify inhuman practices like racism and slavery, we now co-opt to support a more humane morality.

Teehan also that education of children is important. He sees education in comparative religion will do a lot to break down the in-group/out-group boundaries. If children can appreciate different cultures, different approaches to life, different moral codes, before reaching the age of accepting their own religious moral code as absolute this will do a lot to overcome religious hostility.

What about the non-religious

This is a book about origins and nature of religion and religious morality. I am pleased it goes further and briefly talks about prospects which involve the non-religious. But I would like to see the evolutionary analysis extend to cover other aspects of society, including non-religious movements and institutions.

Clearly today religion no longer plays the same role it did in the past to unite social groups, promote social cohesion and enforce the required social behaviour. We get along well in this in our post religious societies. But our evolutionary history still exerts an effect through our intuitions and cognitive psychology. Some of these will still be negative – we don’t have to hold religious beliefs to display in-group/out-group behaviour and violence.

On the other hand, we don’t need religious beliefs to enforce social cohesion and individual morality. And this is not just a matter of a wider acceptance of reason in modern society. I believe we still have something akin to the religious minimum counter-intuitive entity. We have a conscience and in many ways we experience it as almost an external minimally counter-intuitive full access agent. Almost anthropomorphic and aware of our innermost thoughts and feelings. We will sometimes even portray our conscience as an external being, perhaps sitting on our shoulder.

Perhaps many believers who feel their god is real and personal are thinking of their conscience. And perhaps non-believers who deny the existence of gods have an almost divine respect for their own conscience.

Austin Dacey develops this idea in his book The Secular Conscience. But I would have loved to see Teehan’s analysis extended to cover this idea.

Conclusion

In summary, this is an excellent book. It gives a good summary of current scientific understanding of evolution of morality and religion. It discusses religious violence as the other side of the moral coin. And there is a useful discussion of the problem of religion in modern society and ways we can overcome the negative aspects of our evolved moral and cognitive systems.

The evolutionary study of religion and morality is a new science, but already a fruitful one. This book provides the ideal introduction.

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Does religion blur understanding of evolution? Ken Perrott Feb 14

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Victor Stenger has a short, but important, blog post in the Huffington Post. Appropriately (because it’s about evolutionary science) dated February 12 – Darwin Day, 204th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth.

Stenger’s article, No Belief Gap, considers Gallup Poll data on the numbers of American who accept evolutionary science and who believe in a god. But in contrast to some commentators, he differentiates between those who see evolution as guided by their god or as a so-called “naturalistic” process – defined in the polls as: “Man has developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life [and] God had no part in the process.”

This is, of course, what we mean by evolutionary science. Guidance by gods, goblins, elves or whatever is not part of that science. (Nor is it currently part of any other science). The distinction is important and it is no accident that some religious apologists like Alvin Plantinga  misrepresent the issue and are trying to create the impression that “divine” guidance is an essential part of evolutionary science (see Naturalism and science are incompatible).

Stenger finds of those accepting a proper definition of evolutionary science:

“This is exactly the same percentage of Americans who declare themselves unaffiliated with any religion.

“It may be that the only Americans who accept naturalist evolution are those who do not participate in any organized religion.”

His last comment:

“Virtually all Christians who accept that species evolve, contrary to the Bible that they believe is the word of God, think evolution is God-guided. This is not Darwinian evolution. God-guided evolution is intelligent design creationism. How many American Christians believe in evolution, as it is understood by science? The data indicate none.”

Could we draw the same conclusion about New Zealand Christians? I would be interested to see similar poll data for our country.

See also: A specious argument for the comity of evolution and faith

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A day for cheap shots Ken Perrott Feb 12

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What do you think of the Pope resigning? Yes, I know a lot jokes are circulating today and this might be considered a cheap shot.

But my first reaction was one of surprise – does his employment contract require only 2 weeks notice? Bloody hell, in New Zealand such short notice is usually reserved for casual labour.

I sort of expected far more notice – after all his job description did include infallibility, and a direct line with his god. And the clothing allowance must have been huge. I suspect the golden parachute in his severance clause is also pretty big.

My second reaction to the news was – is Benny a secret member of the Clergy Project. That’s a confidential on-line community for active and former clergy who have lost their supernatural beliefs. The community provides moral support and helps them with the huge adjustments resignation might require. After all, their former job required very few skills.

Saw this photograph on Facebook which suggests he might be:

Pope resigns

Credit: Shannon Phipps.

Mind you, the Onion accepts the public excuse of advancing age. In today’s article Resigning Pope No Longer Has Strength To Lead Church Backward they say the Pope has:

concluded that his declining faculties left him unable to helm the Church’s ambitious regressive agenda and guide the faith’s one billion global followers on their steady march away from modernity and cultural advancement.

“It is with sadness, but steadfast conviction, that I announce I am no longer capable of impeding social progress with the energy and endurance that is required of the highest ministry in the Roman Catholic Church,” Benedict reportedly said in Latin to the Vatican’s highest cardinals. “While I’m proud of the strides the Church has made over the past eight years, from thwarting AIDS-prevention efforts in Africa to failing to punish or even admit to decades of sexual abuse of children at the hands of clergy, it has become evident to me that, in this rapidly evolving world, I now lack the capacity to continue guiding this faith back centuries.”

“Thus, I must step down from the papacy,” he added. “But let me assure every member of the Church that the Vatican’s commitment to narrow-mindedness and social obstruction will long live on after my departure.”

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