Read the full article here.
There are at least six reasons that make people resistant to accepting evolution.
1. The Warfare Model of Science and Religion. The belief that there is a war between science and religion where one is right and the other wrong, and that one must choose one over the other.
2. Belief that evolution is a threat to specific religious tenets. Many people attempt to use science to prove certain religious tenets, but when they do not appear to fit, the science is rejected. For example, the attempt to prove that the Genesis creation story is accurately reflected in the geological fossil record has led many creationists to conclude that the Earth was created within the past 10,000 years, which is in sharp contrast to the geological evidence for a 4.6 billion-year-old Earth.
3. Misunderstanding of evolutionary theory. A significant problem is that most people know so little about the theory. In the 2001 Gallup Poll, for example, a quarter of the people surveyed said they didn't know enough to say whether they accepted evolution or not, and only 34 percent considered themselves to be "very informed" about the theory. Because evolution is so controversial, public school science teachers typically drop the subject entirely rather than face the discomfort aroused among students and parents.
4. The fear that evolution degrades our humanity. After Copernicus toppled the pedestal of our cosmic centrality, Darwin delivered the coup de grâce by revealing us to be "mere" animals, subject to the same natural laws and historical forces as all other animals.
5. The equation of evolution with ethical nihilism. This sentiment was expressed by the neoconservative social commentator Irving Kristol in 1991: "If there is one indisputable fact about the human condition it is that no community can survive if it is persuaded -- or even if it suspects -- that its members are leading meaningless lives in a meaningless universe."
6. The fear that evolutionary theory implies we have a fixed human nature. The first five reasons for the resistance to evolutionary theory come almost exclusively from political conservatives. This last reason originates from liberals who fear that the application of evolutionary theory to human thought and action implies that political policy and economic doctrines will fail because the constitution of humanity is stronger than the constitutions of states.
All of these fears are baseless. If one is a theist, it should not matter when God made the universe -- 10,000 years ago or 10 billion years ago. The difference of six zeros is meaningless to an omniscient and omnipotent being, and the glory of divine creation cries out for praise regardless of when it happened.
Likewise, it should not matter how God created life, whether it was through a miraculous spoken word or through the natural forces of the universe that He created. The grandeur of God's works commands awe regardless of what processes He used.
As for meanings and morals, it is here where our humanity arises from our biology. We evolved as a social primate species with the tendency of being cooperative and altruistic within our own groups, but competitive and bellicose between groups. The purpose of civilization is to help us rise above our hearts of darkness and to accentuate the better angels of our nature.
Believers should embrace science, especially evolutionary theory, for what it has done to reveal the magnificence of the divinity in a depth never dreamed by our ancient ancestors. We have learned a lot in 4,000 years, and that knowledge should never be dreaded or denied. Instead, science should be welcomed by all who cherish human understanding and wisdom.
Sunday, November 29, 2009
Shermer on evolution and religion
I think this is a sensible and level-headed piece arguing that religion does not have to conflict with evolution (of course, certain type of beliefs may clash - but not all). Shermer lists the reasons for people's discomfort with evolution - and these are also applicable to the Muslim world - minus the age of the Earth issues. Perhaps most importantly, rather than insulting beliefs and believers, he strikes a positive tone in the article: