A basic point about evolution

Evolution is an entirely natural process. It occurs through well understood mechanisms for which we are gaining ever improving detail. The belief in theistic evolution runs counter to all this; it is not compatible with the theory. Yes, yes, there are people who say they accept both their interventionist god and evolution and therefore their views are not contradictory, but that holds no relevance here. Things don’t become compatible simply because a lot of people believe them simultaneously.

In order for one’s views to be consistent with evolution, one can only hold two positions: atheism or a sort of deism. By “a sort of deism” I mean either exactly deism or something where, okay, there is a god who intervenes in human affairs, dictates our morality, and does all that other magic bigoted thought-crime sort of thing, but this god does so incidentally. That is, since no particular form of life, much less characteristic, much less species, was ever destined to exist by any law of biology, a god which it is believed made humans (or intelligent life, a la Miller) inevitable is necessarily false. Only a god which had no part in evolution is tenable; evolution is a miracle free process.

So let’s break it down:

Atheism: Entirely compatible with the theory of evolution. The process of natural selection is miracle free and excludes all directed intervention.

Traditional Deism: Compatible, but likely unsatisfying. By “traditional” I mean the deism which says there was a creator with intention that began the Universe, but that creator’s interest ended there.

Other Deism: Compatible, but still unsatisfying. I use “other” because there is no particular name for this sort of deism as far as I am aware. This is the deism which says we have a moral lawgiver and all that swell BS, but it can only be incidental. The theory of evolution tells us that humans were not destined to exist, therefore we cannot say that this interventionist god planned on us, as if we’re somehow special.

Theistic evolution: Not compatible. No species are destined to exist. That includes humans.

Creationism: Moronic anti-science nonsense. It isn’t compatible with any major branch of science.

I have excluded agnosticism because it doesn’t mean much to say that this or that is or is not compatible with “idunno”.

The erosion of progress by fundamentalism

I found this great video with Neil deGrasse Tyson where he talks about the rise in intellectual accomplishments by those in the Middle East between the years 800-1100 and how everything went downhill shortly thereafter. The rise was brought forth through free thought and inclusiveness of ideas from all walks of life. Unfortunately, one influential fundamentalist Muslim convinced people that mathematics was the work of the devil around 1100. From there everything started to fall apart. To make his point, Tyson notes that there are well over a billion Muslims in the world while there are about 15 million Jews. And how many Muslims have won Nobel prizes? A couple. How many Jews? Probably close to a quarter. It isn’t because there’s something inherently superior in the intellect of Jews; it’s because fundamentalism erodes scientific (and social and moral) progress. We face the same problem with intelligent design creationism today. If as a society we were to follow the course of the Christians (and Muslims and sometimes Jews and others) who advocate for that sort of anti-scientific/anti-science position, we would find ourselves down a very worrying path indeed.

Two final points. One, my post title is different from the video title because Tyson is not talking about religion in general. Two, you’ve got to love what he says at the end:

I want to put on the table not why 85% of the National Academy [of Science] rejects God, I want to know why 15% don’t.

Thought of the day

On the Super Bowl:

The Game: I had no horse in this race, but I’m glad the Packers won over the Steelers. And no, it’s not because I’m one of those sports fans who loves to indict players like Roethlisberger for non-sports related activities. I just think sports fans from Pennsylvania are crappy – even when they aren’t from Philadelphia.

The Halftime Show: Terrible, just terrible. I mean. Terrible.

The Commercials: I thought they were supposed to be entertaining. And while I recognize that the commercials around the halftime show weren’t the super expensive fancy ones, I still found it hilarious that there was a Toyota commercial which apparently used clip art.

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