Philosophy Weekend: Respect For Religion

An Atlantic Monthly article by David A. Graham titled “Why Has Republican Belief in Evolution Declined So Much?” made the rounds last week, citing a Pew Research Center study that shows the percentage of self-identifying Republican voters in the United States of America who believe in evolution dropping from 54% to 43% since 2009.

Is this a worrying trend? Many of my fellow liberal progressives on Facebook and Twitter seem to think it is. I think the more dangerous trend is that these friends of mine are snapping at the bait. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: as enticing as the Darwin vs. creationism debate may look to eager liberals, we should never swallow it. It’s a poison pill.

Darwinism is rock-solid science, but anybody who thinks scientific proof has more power to compel personal belief than traditional religion needs to freshen up on William James, the brilliant philosopher who wrote The Varieties of Religious Experience and The Will to Believe. In the latter essay, James listed the necessary conditions for typical belief in any possible truth, and showed that personal inclination tends to play a stronger role than preponderance of evidence in most belief situations. Most importantly, James showed that willful belief is a universal human pattern at all levels of intellect and education, and that the selective mechanisms which construct our beliefs do tend to provide enough of the sturdy fabric of truth and understanding required to inform and guide our lives.

In other words, there are many ways a person can stand on solid ground as a creationist, if they wish to do so. So why do more Republicans believe in creationism today than in 2009? Apparently because they wish to do so, and this is their right. This probably has something to do with the general increase in cultural/political polarization in the Obama era. More directly, it’s probably because creationists from Sarah Palin to Mike Huckabee to the folks at the Creation Museum have been much more vocal than they used to be. So what? If you are a progressive liberal like me, I strongly suggest that you avoid trying to ever persuade a creationist that they are wrong. It’s a losing argument, and a pointless one. Worse, it’s an argument that can slide quickly into bigotry and disrespect.

It’s hard to discuss evolution vs. creationism without discussing religion, and a hot debate about Darwin will often turn into a hot debate about religion itself. (Sure, it’s possible to be devoutly religious and also believe in Darwin, and this is the calm ground upon which many people stand today — however, this doesn’t mean that the conflict between religion and science is erased.) I have observed and sometimes been drawn into these debates, and I have noticed that the pro-Darwin position tends to morph into an anti-religion position, sometimes explicitly and sometimes unwittingly. Once this happens, the cause becomes corrupted and the debate becomes a mess.

It’s an interesting coincidence that the recent article about Republican creationism ran in the Atlantic Monthly, a venerable publication that used to publish the great William James himself. I’m quite sure that James would not have found the recent David A. Graham article about voter trends satisfying or edifying, and I wonder if any of the Atlantic editors noted the juxtaposition.

William James was a roaring liberal of his era — he spoke out proudly for social justice and humane civil policies, and was especially outspoken against the obscene war crimes committed by the American military in the Philippines during the Spanish-American War. (As a groundbreaking medical researcher James was also, of course, an enthusiastic Darwinian.)

But William James wrote constantly and respectfully about religion, and this is an example those of us who carry on James’s enthusiasm for liberal and progressive causes should follow today. There are so many important movements in action right now in the United States of America. We finally have a sane health insurance marketplace available to all Americans (the free market couldn’t get this job done, so the government had to step in). Individual states are leading the way on gay marriage and legal marijuana. There is a growing public dislike of militarism, and a growing appreciation for environmental sensitivity as we face the hazards of climate change.

Of all these current debates, it’s the last one that reveals the greatest danger of overreach and false linkage on the activist side. David A. Graham’s Atlantic Monthly article links attitudes about evolution with attitudes about climate change, referring (as so many other commentators do) to the idea of a “war on science”. This is an unnecessary and dangerous connection to make. We need fast action on environmental problems right now — in the USA and all over the world — and we do not want to wait until everybody stops believing in creationism before we can pass legislation that can help. We can’t wait forever, and forever is exactly how long it will take for creationism to go away.

Instead of getting drawn into a “war on science” that links the important cause of ecological awareness with a different cause that’s not even worth fighting at all, I plead with my fellow liberal progressives to remember the importance of always fully respecting the religious beliefs of others, and always respecting these beliefs upon the others’ terms (which may include an acceptance of the idea of creationism) rather than upon our own.

After all, religious awareness provides pretty strong ground for ecological awareness. A war on science is not worth taking sides over, but a mission to protect our god-given planet is something we can all hopefully agree about. Most of us, anyway. I know William James is in.

38 Responses

  1. ..everything evolves. Except
    ..everything evolves. Except the soul. It is constant and knows. It remains a mystery. The compelling beyond our instincts and desires. Science is useless in the study of the soul. The soul is what was created. And will live forever. Body and mind just a stack of bones. The third person has soul, the devil constantly scheming to get it back. These battles are above us. And below. Unlike Jesus, not an historical figure. A figure for the future, a figure for always…

  2. Belief comes in two
    Belief is acceptance in another’s experience based upon trust in that person. Belief is also what one personally experiences which then becomes their own infallible belief based solely upon what that person experienced themselves.

    Personal experience is the most profound indicator of what is true and what is not. But in our everyday world we find ourselves having little choice in our decision making when it comes to knowledge. Do we trust the author of a book to be telling the truth? Do we accept The Bible as the true word of God within every chapter and between the pages of every writer? The majority of the Judeo/Christian believers will not be swayed in their belief that their Holy Book is 100% true because God would not lie to them, period. If a believer accepted otherwise, the wrath of their God would take revenge upon them. They better believe or else.

    Science relies on evidence to make their truths valid. Darwinism has survived a mere 155 years (Origin of the Species, Nov. 1859), using evidence to convince the skeptic. Compare that to The Bible that has no evidence but offers only words that are either believed to be Absolute Truth or not. The little evidence within The Bible is found in archeological diggings, which is evidence of objects that existed at the times. But as far as actual evidence that there was/is a God that inspired the writers of the Bible can always be questioned but often unwise to do so due to the repercussions of the believers, so powerful we have constructed our Gods throughout history that the belief in any God may actually bring us to a Heaven or a Hell, depending upon our belief. Compare that alternative to believing in Evolution.

    However the disbelievers in evolution, inmo, fail to understand that we hu’mans are the perfect example of evolution. We began as hunter/gatherers and up through the 21st Century the advances we have made from those humble beginnings is evolutionary. Without our sciences of every school, the portfolio of arts throughout our history, our ability to communicate with so many of our kind today, our amazing transportation advances, our walking on the Moon… the list is enormous and the ostensibly growing knowledge of our world and the planets even beyond our everyday vision leads one to believe that indeed, we are proof positive of evolution, and evolution on the constant move.

    Creationism, on the other hand, seems to be a belief that defines us as static creatures who were created and that is that. No need to believe in anything more. God created us and accept that. And why not? God is perfect. We mustn’t question His will… or else.

    The discoveries of our own origins is an ongoing process and that process depends upon fact to be believable by all, or at least the vast majority. However there are various beliefs that have yet to be fully accepted. Michael Cremo’s book “Forbidden Archeology” suggests (w/ evidence) mankind has been around far longer that our present knowledge holds… the American Indian’s believe that there has been a succession of times when hu’manity and life in general has been reduced by natural catastrophes; the Hindu views on evolution are based upon books written far longer than our Bible and has millions of believers who swear by their Holy Books just as Christians believe in their Book.

    Who is right and who is wrong? Or is there a right and a wrong when we debate Creationism over Evolution? Perhaps both schools are correct with each having their own time of belief until evolution brings about another belief system for hu’manity..? I’m of the school that any one belief system is open to debate and debate is hu’manities weight to bare in our perpetual journey of knowing. Discarding anything of knowledge is unwise for even Religion itself depends upon knowledge for it’s existence. Knowledge is larger than the Universe itself, much too large for a simple creature such as ourselves to ever fully comprehend. To believe we will ever evolve to that degree of knowledge may be foolish but we have bestowed upon ourselves the name “homo sapiens” , the wise man, because that is our wish to eventually (evolutionarily) become.

  3. I see where you are coming
    I see where you are coming from. You’re right, there is no good in attacking the personal beliefs of creationists.

    But I’m part of the debate myself, and I am not attacking. In fact, the way I have always seen it is that none of us are attacking. We are defending. While this is debatable, I believe the long term effects of allowing any form of creationism into public schools will have serious long term effects on our understanding of science.

    If someone believes the Bible is literal, fine. But if he is trying to change the fundamental definition and education of science, we have a problem.

    You are telling us “remember the importance of always fully respecting the religious beliefs of others, and always respecting these beliefs upon the others’ terms”. But when the Discovery Institute pushes to have its dogma taught in public science classes, it is not introducing even religious beliefs into classrooms. All it is doing is attacking the theory of evolution with false scientific controversies.

    Defending children from pseudoscience is in no way starting a war on religion, and in no way prevents me from supporting the environmental movement as well.

  4. You could draw in more than
    You could draw in more than just liberal progressives with the plea to respect people’s religions fully on their terms. And it would be interesting to address the idea that while religion is a matter of belief, global warming and its evidence are not matters of belief. They are matters of fact that either are or need to be proven.

  5. Thanks for feedback …
    Thanks for feedback …

    Sigma, that’s an interesting link to a bunch of scientists who do not believe in religious-inspired creationism but who also think Darwinism is flawed on purely scientific grounds, though I don’t think they are attacking the general theory of evolution itself. Well, when I say “Darwin” or “theory of evolution”, I’m using both terms pretty much interchangeably, which is probably inexact, but good enough for popular discussion. What do you think about these debates?

    Matt, I’m glad you are bringing up the one way in which the evolution vs. creationism debate can affect public policy: education. What if creationism were to become so popular that it began to threaten the ability of science teachers to teach science? If this were to happen, I would join you and many others in being outraged. However, correct me if I’m wrong, but this isn’t currently happening anywhere, is it? I don’t think even the creationist community is ready for a sequel to “Inherit the Wind”.

  6. i think you’re missing the
    i think you’re missing the big danger in this, and that is what we choose to teach the next generation…the problem isn’t who believes what, it is how do we explain these differences to our children?

  7. I was baptized when I was 9
    I was baptized when I was 9 and brought up in the Catholic church. I know more people who see grey areas in the interpretation of the Bible and/or flat out reject portions of it than I know people who believe it to be the absolute word of God. (edit: In fact, thinking more deeply about it, I don’t know anybody who believes the Bible is the absolute word of God.)

    For example, my grandparents go to church almost every day. But they have both been divorced. They reject the part(s) in the Bible that to divorce is committing adultery. Does this make them bad Catholics? I would argue no, but it does make them human.

    Another example, the priest who baptized me was a well known alcoholic. He was always sober during business hours, but pretty much everybody in the church knew he was drunk every night. At the age of 9, I didn’t know what a whiskey sour was but I knew he drank them.

    My point is: religion should help us better understand our humanity, not be ashamed of it or hide it or mask it.

  8. Levi, at the moment I’m not
    Levi, at the moment I’m not creationist, neither darwinist. I am simply not satisfied by any theory, and I would like to find something more scientifically sound; until that moment, for me evolution theory can be close to what really happened, but I don’t take darwinism as “solid science”, meaning that it can be a theory with some scientific proofs, but not enough to reach certainty.

    I am really disturbed by the fact that some “scientific theories”, with many gray spots and not enough proofs, are taught at schools like they are completely certain, unfailing, armageddon-tested laws of physics, and that happens in other sectors than darwinism, like Keynesian macro-economic theory that is granted the same certainty and infallibility as basic algebra – Von Hayek will have something to say… I mean, how is possible to teach one of many theories telling that it is the only truth?
    Some years ago, while being Catholic, I was convinced of darwinism as much as I am convinced that if I let an apple fall from my hand, it will goes toward the ground (for Catholics, the Old Testament is a mythological book, not an historical one like the New Testament, so darwinism is not much of a problem), and now my issue against darwinism is not my religion. My issue is than darwinism is believed true “a priori”, is like an untouchable “dogma” of science, and if you try to discuss it, you are challenged as religious zealot or unbeliever in the scientific method (of course I’m not referring to this blog, I always like and thank you so much for the real freedom of expression granted here on Litkicks).
    Well, this I expected from a religion, not from the science!

  9. Thanks for your answer, Sigma
    Thanks for your answer, Sigma. Since I know you are a professional engineer, I can’t help but connect your logical approach to Darwinism to the fact that you are, in a sense, a trained expert in “applied logic”. (As I like to think I am too, as a software engineer).

    I think it’s important to realize that the types of detailed scientific objections to Darwinism you are talking about do not imply that the theory of human evolution is not scientifically very strong. Here, we have to differentiate “Darwin” (the narrow science) from “theory of evolution”, which simply means the best set of theories at the current moment. It should be widely understood that even the best current theories are incomplete and subject to error.

    I do see, though, why creationists like to cite scientific objections to Darwinism. It shows that scientists should not be too arrogant about their level of correctness. This is a worthwhile point.

  10. —-“I do see, though, why
    —-“I do see, though, why creationists like to cite scientific objections to Darwinism. It shows that scientists should not be too arrogant about their level of correctness.”

    yes. and darwinists cite lack of any science whatsoever in creationism. i don’t agree that darwinism/evolution is taught as “complete truth,” or “completely certain,” precisely because “missing link(s)” still remain. i think the main issue is, what is appropriate for public education? the best current scientific theory, or bible-based belief? if we’re going to teach the six days, maybe we should also teach noah’s great flood as the reason marine fossils exist on desert hills?

  11. the devil put it there to
    the devil put it there to fool us
    somewhere in this infinity
    there must be some divinity oh can’t you see
    somewhere in this boundless space
    we all are running ev’ry race

  12. The creationist community has
    The creationist community has always been ready for that squeal. There are court cases and bills being introduced all the time related to Intelligent Design. I don’t think the ID movement has been very successful at all recently, but unfortunately I do not think this is because so many people see right through it on their own. I think the reason people see through it is with help from anti-creationism movements. And without these counter-movements I think creationists would jump on any opportunity to “wedge” themselves into public education.

    Also being from northeastern public schools we are in the best situation. Based on what I have seen and heard, religious private schools who are partially funded by our taxes are teaching straight-creationism (a friend of mine who went to an orthodox-jewish school experienced this) plus some science teachers in the bible belt are open to creationism to varying degrees.

    I know for me its scary because I have heard friends asking me things like “isn’t evolution not agreed on by all scientists” or “isn’t there no real proof for evolution”. The reason why this is scary is because when people like this see the Discovery Institute’s campaign to “teach the controversy”, they think this is actually a good thing. But in fact “teaching the controversy” is actually the start of that slippery slope. Once people get that idea in there head that there is a controversy it will be so much easier for creationists to get more of their goals accomplished.

    I agree that at a certain point you are going too far when you are just attacking religious beliefs. But an example of something I support is the upcoming debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham. I also support organizations like Americans United for Separation of Church and State in their mission. An example of something I don’t support is American Atheists, who put up billboards directly attacking people’s personal beliefs by telling them “you know that God is not real”. American Atheists puts a really bad name on the secular movement in the same way that the Westbuourgh Baptist Church puts a bad name on Christians. The point I am trying to make is that although it has gone to far in certain cases, a strong counter movement to creationism is very necessary to keep science classrooms safe from pseudoscience.

    Besides, its easy. While the creationists have to continuously create diversions from evidence, think of creative ways to interpret the evidence in a different way, or just lie, all we have to is present the facts.

  13. Hi Sigma. I disagree very
    Hi Sigma. I disagree very much that “darwinism is believed true ‘a priori’, is like an untouchable “dogma” of science, and if you try to discuss it, you are challenged as religious zealot or unbeliever in the scientific method”.

    I think you are attacking a straw man here. In most debates you watch you will see creationists present their “evidence”, and the scientists refute it, while the creationists cannot directly refute the scientist’s evidence.

    I’ve never in my life seen a creationist called those things in response to them trying to start a discussion. I could imagine some kids saying that in an informal setting, but overall the scientific community has open-mindedly and comprehensively addressed all of creationists claims.

  14. in the land of freedom–
    in the land of freedom– freedom of religion, and freedom from it. separate church and state. science textbooks and the scientific method in the classroom, and the bible and religious faith in houses of worship please. seems clear enough.

  15. Hi Matt.
    Hi Matt.

    I’m living on the other side of the sea, and here “Creationism” is almost unheard. Here, there is no debate at all, no creationist community (and if there is any, it is completely unknown by the “common man”). You cannot find any reference to creationism in any mainstream media – nor in the school.
    I want to clarify one thing, I am not creationist. I am just scared that darwinism (darwinism, not evolutionism) here in the middle school science book is taught in the same way as Newton’s universal gravitation law (not as a theory, but as an historically true law). I am not defending a “creationist community”. I am just asking not to “believe” in darwinism, not to kill any debate about evolution without a serious scientific, open-minded confrontation.

  16. however, Sigma, to which
    however, Sigma, to which debate do you refer? “belief in” darwinism vs belief in creationism? one is scientific theory, and the other is religious belief. so it’s apples and oranges, isn’t it? at least in the context of a science classroom?

  17. That is the point, Mnaz. Is
    That is the point, Mnaz. Is really Darwinism a scientific theory? Karl Popper will not agree, and he is not the only one.
    And, if it is really a scientific theory, there is nothing to be afraid in some confrontation.

  18. Hi Matt. Sigma is right.
    Hi Matt. Sigma is right.

    I get tired of this “debate”. It’s not about science and seldom is it scientists arguing. It’s a culture war debate using science as a vehicle. It has zero to do with biology or evolution.

    Bill Nye is an actor.

  19. Mnaz, it makes total sense
    Mnaz, it makes total sense and I would think that someone who wrote:

    “one is scientific theory, and the other is religious belief. so it’s apples and oranges, isn’t it?”

    Would understand.

    What did you not understand?

  20. I think all of these
    I think all of these discussions DO make sense. But we try to find ways to declare that they don’t make sense because we crave certainty and consensus.

  21. TKG, nothing personal, but
    TKG, nothing personal, but what you wrote makes no sense to me– it seems more like muddled obfuscation. “a culture debate using science as a vehicle” ?? what does that mean, and what on earth does it have to do with this discussion? are you perhaps arguing that biblical creation should have equal footing with evolutionary theory (or the more pejorative “darwinism” if you prefer) in a science classroom?

  22. Mnaz, you wrote:
    Mnaz, you wrote:

    “are you perhaps arguing that biblical creation should have equal footing with evolutionary theory … in a science classroom?”

    I’m curious. What could possibly lead you to wonder such a thing based on anything I wrote?

  23. TKG, i was trying to
    TKG, i was trying to interpret what you wrote. apparently i guessed incorrectly.

  24. Hi mnaz.
    Hi mnaz.

    I don’t know how to say it more clearly. It’s part of the culture war.

    Atheist liberal/left vs religious conservative/right.

    It’s a socio-political argument that uses science as a vehicle.

    Like you said, “one is scientific theory, and the other is religious belief. so it’s apples and oranges, isn’t it?”

    It’s not a scientific debate. Science doesn’t have to argue with religion.

    It’s not really a religious debate because science can’t measure religion.

    It’s a political and social argument. Look at the Bill Nye example.

    Bill Nye is not a scientist, he’s an actor. He is an atheist liberal, though. The other guy he is debating is not a scientist, but he’s a believing conservative.

  25. Well, wait a minute there TKG
    Well, wait a minute there TKG — for a short time you and I were in rare agreement, until you got into this left/right thing!

    Even though it is probably true that red state conservatives skew towards religious fundamentalism and creationism and blue state liberals tend to be appalled by the idea of religious fundamentalism and creationism — that can’t be the core truth here, or else how do you explain that I (obviously a liberal) wrote this blog post? Also, many liberals are religious and open to religious interpretations of human origins, and many conservatives are not.

    There has got to be a more intelligent way to break down this argument than conservative/liberal. That’s what I’m reaching for by starting this discussion. Religion and science are topics too important to be dragged along as sidelines to banal political arguments. How can we get to the core of this argument without resorting to politics?

  26. — “It’s a socio-political
    — “It’s a socio-political argument that uses science as a vehicle.”

    so this whole dust-up about whether or not to teach biblical creation in a science classroom alongside (or replacing) the scientific theory(s) of evolution is a legitimate “socio-political argument” ?

    — “It’s not a scientific debate. Science doesn’t have to argue with religion . . . It’s not really a religious debate because science can’t measure religion.”

    exactly. so why is it a “debate” at all?

    — “Bill Nye is not a scientist, he’s an actor. He is an atheist liberal, though. The other guy he is debating is not a scientist, but he’s a believing conservative.”

    i don’t see the relevance of this.

    as for karl popper, I found a pretty good summary of his views of “Darwinism” (which themselves evolved over his philosophical career):

    in 1976 he said— “Darwinism is not a testable scientific theory but a metaphysical research programme.”

    the response to this is:
    (1) Popper’s statement of nonfalsifiability was pretty mild, not as extensive as it is often taken. He applied it only to natural selection, not evolution as a whole, and he allowed that some testing of natural selection was possible, just not a significant amount …. and he said: “The theory is invaluable. I do not see how, without it, our knowledge could have grown as it has done since Darwin.”

    and (2) Popper later changed his mind and recognized that natural selection is testable. Here is an excerpt from a later writing on “Natural Selection and Its Scientific Status” (Miller 1985, 241-243; see also Popper 1978):
    — “When speaking here of Darwinism, I shall speak always of today’s theory – that is Darwin’s own theory of natural selection supported by the Mendelian theory of heredity, by the theory of the mutation and recombination of genes in a gene pool, and by the decoded genetic code. This is an immensely impressive and powerful theory. The claim that it completely explains evolution is of course a bold claim, and very far from being established. All scientific theories are conjectures, even those that have successfully passed many severe and varied tests. The Mendelian underpinning of modern Darwinism has been well tested, and so has the theory of evolution which says that all terrestrial life has evolved from a few primitive unicellular organisms, possibly even from one single organism.”
    — and, “I have changed my mind about the testability and the logical status of the theory of natural selection; and I am glad to have an opportunity to make a recantation. My recantation may, I hope, contribute a little to the understanding of the status of natural selection.”

    Brush, Stephen G. 1994. Popper and evolution. Reports of the National Center for Science Education 13(4)-14(1): 29.
    1. Miller, David. 1985. Popper Selections.

  27. Mnaz and TKG and others:
    Mnaz and TKG and others:

    I think the controversy over acceptance of Darwinism encompasses more than just the theory of natural selection itself. This may be the strict topic of the controversy, but the underlying question is whether or not science can explain nature and existence, and whether or not it is possible for religious cosmologies to be true.

    I have always believed in Darwinism as a biological explanation for the animal kingdom, plant kingdom and the human race. However, I do *not* think that science can explain human existence, and I do believe that religious cosmologies may contain insights into the meaning of existence and “creation”. In this sense, I am disturbed when I hear suggestions that religious awareness has no place in schools. Religious awareness if part of our culture, and I do not think we need to fear a small presence of religion in public life or education.

    I know that some disagree with me. That’s fine. I’m mainly remarking that these types of controversies are the broad controversies that underlie the public debate about Darwinism and creationism.

  28. Well stated, Levi.
    Well stated, Levi.

    Mnaz, “exactly. so why is it a “debate” at all?”

    Exactly my point. It’s not a debate. Except as a political one or religious one.

    I’m a molecular biologist and I don’t like seeing the militant atheists use science in this manner. I think it hurts science.

    I must say that in grad school in my 20’s I did tend toward that tendency to belittle religion and that sort of belief. I think it is an immaturity and I’m glad I never went too far and was able to expand my worldview.

  29. Popper continues the
    Popper continues the statement quoted by Mnaz with the following lines… <>.

    Again, let’s read the following sentences…


    From this last quote you can understand that Popper believed in the utility and possibility of truthfulness of Darwin THEORY, but that does not makes it a scientific LAW, that does not prove it is for sure the correct explanation of reality – there should be always the possibility for a discussion, a confrontation, and eventually the rejection of the theory if we find something wrong – or something better. And this is the main point that I and I think also TKG and Levi are pursuing. Am I wrong?

    Again, the use made by BOTH creationists and evolutionists of Popper’s quotes is improper. I think no one here, not me nor TKG, is trying to suggest that creationism has more scientific credibility than evolutionism. Misusing the quotes of Popper is another proof that “evolutionism vs creationism” is not a debate, is not a scientific confrontation; it is just a “war of ideologies”, fought with unfair and non-scientific methods, and without respect.

    Levi: for Catholic Church, especially for “rational catholics”, faith and the existence of God are not against the Darwin theory, as Old Testament is a “mythological book” and not an “hystorical book”; religion does respond to “why”, leaving to science to explain “how”.

  30. i guess i still don’t see why
    i guess i still don’t see why religious belief (or “awareness,” as levi called it) has much of a place as a “political debate” in these sort of matters. in fact i think that’s the problem. to me it’s one of the main problems with religion through the centuries and into the modern era–it has too often become politicized– involved too heavily in political power structures.

    to me, the point isn’t whether or not science will ever explain origin (it probably never will, at least not completely), nor is it a matter of awareness or “respect” for religious cosmologies (i have both). the main point for me is that, personal beliefs aside, actual science (or science-based theory) is the domain of the public school science classroom, and exploration and nurturing of (non-scientific) religious beliefs is the domain of the house of worship. i don’t always “believe in” science, but i can acknowledge and study it as such. i am also free to believe in scriptural teachings, some of which i hold to be true, especially the teachings of jesus, which i feel have essentially been steamrolled over the centuries by religious politicism.

    so does that make me a “militant atheist?” i don’t think so. but even if i am to be pigeon-holed as such, remember also that a variety of religious experience and belief exists out there, so does that mean we should devote at least a small amount of time to each one as an alternate to scientific theory?

    Levi, you wrote, “…. anybody who thinks scientific proof has more power to compel personal belief than traditional religion needs to freshen up on William James ….”
    and, “….(James) showed that personal inclination tends to play a stronger role than preponderance of evidence in most belief situations.”
    well … yes. exactly.

  31. Mnaz, I do not place science
    Mnaz, I do not place science and religion on the same level. I do not want that the biblic creation gets the same treatment in school as Darwin theory. But I do not want that Darwin theory is taught at school as if it was a completely scientific proven LAW, as the only, undebatable, untouchable explanation of human origin and evolution. Because this is unfair also for the scientific method.

  32. that’s fair, Subject Sigma. i
    that’s fair, Subject Sigma. i agree with your latest post, though i’m curious where this idea of “law” and “undebatable” or “untouchable” comes from. perhaps from Levi’s “rock-solid science” remark? “darwinism,” or whichever term we prefer, was never taught as LAW in my public school science classroom; it was taught as science-based theory. as it should be.

    and Levi, i’m still not sure what you mean by this statement:
    —- “I am disturbed when I hear suggestions that religious awareness has no place in schools.”

    what kind of religious awareness? and to what degree? just curious.

    btw, not to wander off-topic here, but i also wonder how creationists feel about geology as a course of study– another discipline related to cosmic origin (the age of rock and its “fluid” nature over many epochs, etc.), based on scientific analysis and testing, but also reliant on inferential reasoning and extrapolation to fill in missing gaps. i’m curious about that too.

  33. This has been a really good
    This has been a really good discussion — reading the various back-and-forths has helped me understand the depths of feeling about this topic.

    Mnaz, when I mention religious awareness I am thinking of the awareness of the essential mystery of existence. Some atheists — not all, but some, including some outspoken public figures like Richard Dawkins — believe that science can and will eventually explain everything about the origins of life. They believe that “the Big Bang” is a satisfying answer to the question of “how was the universe created”, even though there doesn’t seem to be any possible way to answer the question “how was there something there to bang?”. These atheists tend to think of religion as a dying relic of the human past, rather than as an institution with an active future. When I say that I believe religious awareness can have some place in public education, I am saying that I don’t think it would be a good idea for our schools to embrace atheism to the extent that some atheists believe it should.

    As for how religious awareness should be presented in schools — well, I agree that it should not be part of a science curriculum! But I hope religion gets plenty of sympathetic attention in literature and social studies courses. And I like the idea that individual teachers who happen to be religious should be able to freely introduce their own points of view into their classroom (though obviously not in such a way that would be oppressive to students who do not share the teacher’s beliefs.) I guess I would go with a “trust the teacher” approach. I should also mention that, back when I was in high school, I was very affected by an excellent Social Studies teacher who departed from the curriculum for ninth grade world history and spent many sessions explaining the Buddhist religion. If it were not for Mr. Arnold, this teacher, I might never have formed the lifelong interest in Buddhism that still motivates and inspires me today.

  34. Mnaz, in my country Darwinism
    Mnaz, in my country Darwinism is taught the same way as Newton universal gravitation law, and if I ask my brothers, my co-workers, anyone “what is creationism” almost no one knows.

    Levi, I’m with you about the main point of this question: where is the boundary of the knowledge area that science can explain?

  35. i agree with your comments
    i agree with your comments Levi. origin is perhaps the ultimate mystery. no one can adequately answer the “how was there something to (big) bang” question any more than anyone can adequately explain the origin of God with a capital G, other than some variant of “has no beginning nor end” ….

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Litkicks will turn 30 years old in the summer of 2024! We can’t believe it ourselves. We don’t run as many blog posts about books and writers as we used to, but founder Marc Eliot Stein aka Levi Asher is busy running two podcasts. Please check out our latest work!