Josh Rosenau on Coyne on evolution and religion in Evolution

| 368 Comments

Over at Thoughts from Kansas, Josh Rosenau has a much more thorough critique of Coyne’s Evolution article than I had time to write. Rosenau’s got a major family event in progress, so it wasn’t trivial for him to find the time. Rosenau mostly addresses Coyne’s statistical arguments, which are, well, strained.

Some major points:

1. Coyne’s attempt to blame religion-in-general for creationism (instead of, say, fundamentalism) using correlations between economics, religion, and creationism, misses a huge and obvious alternative hypothesis, which is that the real explanatory variable in changing minds to accept evolution is level of education.

2. Science education is too important to hold it hostage to some absolutist goal of eradicating religion (which is probably impossible on any foreseeable timeframe anyway, and which IMHO has no guarantee of solving more problems than it causes). Rosenau’s summary is apt:

At the end of the day, I agree with Coyne that so long as the dominant form of American religion is anti-evolution, we’ll have problems with creationism in schools. Which suggests two possible solutions. One, which Coyne advocates exclusively, involves eradicating religion. He likes to toss that idea around, and it works OK as a slogan, but doesn’t suggest any obvious platform of actions that would actually eradicate religion (“Europe did it!” is not a platform). The other solution, which Coyne rejects for reasons that have less to do with evidence than personal aversion, involves changing the dominant form of religion. Doing that would involve outreach by scientists to religious leaders and religious communities, encouraging those who are already pro-evolution to speak out more, those who are on the fence to come out for evolution, and those that are anti-evolution to at least more fully confront the current state of evolutionary science, as well as the full range of theological approaches to evolution.

I think that latter strategy has a lot of potential. Scientific studies show that telling audiences that it is possible to be religious and to accept evolution is one of the most effective way to change their mind about evolution, and those studies are backed by years of experience by activists on the ground. A growing number of evangelical scientists are voicing their support for evolution, and opening up internal discussions within evangelical churches that will at least soften opposition to evolution, and may well be turning people around. Mainline Protestant churches are issuing more and stronger statements in support of evolution and evolution education, and leaders in many religious traditions are taking the opportunity of Evolution Weekend to urge churchgoers not to reject evolution.

The second strategy doesn’t require a complete revolution in our social system. We should, of course, work towards a more equitable economy, and my record on that point is, I dare say, stronger than Coyne’s. But doing so will not happen quickly, nor will any consequent change in society’s religious makeup. I don’t want science education to wait on a back burner for the conclusion of these social revolutions. I think there’s a deep need to uproot the social legacy of slavery and Jim Crow, of gender discrimination, of union-busting, of kleptocratic traditions and rules in Washington and our state capitols, of legacy college admissions, and a host of other tools of oppression and economic division. We don’t, however, need to treat those big, complicated fights as a necessary prerequisite of fixing science literacy. Fixing those inequities in American society could take centuries more, and I don’t think science literacy can wait.

368 Comments

…a huge and obvious alternative hypothesis, which is that the real explanatory variable in changing minds to accept evolution is level of education.

Well, yes, but that means we should probably look at those variables most clearly associated with education levels. Things like education levels of the parents, percentage of public school classmates going on to college, etc. And we might very well discover that our model has it backwards – that higher levels of education do not lead to higher acceptance of evolution, but rather than higher acceptance of evolution (and science generally) is conducive to attending school longer.

Ultimately, I think we’ll discover that the child achieves the aspirations his parents hold for him, armed (or perhaps crippled) with the attitudes and beliefs his parents instill. Rosenau’s second solution involves UNlearning what should never have been learned in the first place.

Europe has not eliminated religion so much as it has become largely irrelevant. I think the cause of that is not so much education as it is (counter intuitively, I know) the institutionalization of religion. Religion thrives on adversity and persecution (either perceived or actual.) And I think that here in the states, we see an actual example of evolution in progress as different sects battle for power and influence.

Chad Kreutzer said:

Religion thrives on adversity and persecution (either perceived or actual.) And I think that here in the states, we see an actual example of evolution in progress as different sects battle for power and influence.

Religion certainly CAUSES enough adversity and persecution, that’s obvious!

This may be a bit off topic, but you have totally failed to understand what is happening with the “GNU Atheists.” What we are seeing is Atheist Lib, the equivalent of the social phase change that happened in the 1960’s (yes, I was around then) with women’s lib and gay lib. There are still plenty of gay-bashing misogynists around today, but their opinions are no longer socially acceptable and they know it. (And society is better for it.) What new Atheists seek is not the end of religion (duh!) but the de-privledging of religion so that religious people will have to accept that their beliefs are just their opinions, and that many people disagree with them. And have good reasons for their disbelief. If that makes them uncomfortable, they will learn to live with it just as (most) racists and gay bashers have done.

When women’s lib started it had a very strong in your face radical wing: all-men-are-rapists, vaginal-orgasms-are-a-myth. It was the radical crowd that got attention, raised consciousness even among those who disagreed, and moved public opinion forward. The Mr. Nice Guy, never-offend-anyone approach will get you precisely nowhere. Believers know all the standard arguments against God, they just ignore them, and have been doing so since the dawn of time. And as long as they can ignore you, they will. The only way to bring about change is to become un-ignorable, which Dawkins, Harris, et. al,. have done, quite successfully. We need more of the same, not less. Nice Guys get left behind and are left wondering why.

Of course education is the answer. Of course we need to get it into state curricula and make sure it is actually taught. Of course we need to emphasize it in college. Of course we need to reach out to life long learning programs and programs for seniors. Of course we should do our best to disseminate the scientific discoveries on which the modern theory stands. Of course we need to work to increase scientific literacy. Many of us are doing those things every day. We have the evidence and the truth on our side, that should count for something.

Unfortunately, as Flint points out, even if this strategy is ultimately effective, it might take a very long time. Many children grow up being brainwashed by fundamentalist parents. They are taught from a very early age not to trust science or scientists. They are taught that evolution is a lie and that scientists are trying to fool them (for some unspecified reason). Usually they just shut out any contrary evidence after a certain point and become practically unreachable. Having come from such a background myself, I can testify as to how effective this strategy can be.

However, as Frank is so fond of pointing out, when these kids eventually find out who it was that was really lying to them, some of them can learn. Some of them are intellectually honest enough to admit the truth when confronted with it. There is a big price to pay for dealing all of the lies and deceit from people you trusted, but it does work for some. This seems to me to be the best hope for breaking the cycle of lies. That and working to make sure that the lying hypocrites don’t use the public school system to accomplish their brainwashing.

A wise man once said, you will know the truth and the truth will set you free, it will just hurt a lot. I was right again.

Ted -

This may be a bit off topic, but you have totally failed to understand what is happening with the “GNU Atheists.” What we are seeing is Atheist Lib, the equivalent of the social phase change that happened in the 1960’s (yes, I was around then) with women’s lib and gay lib. There are still plenty of gay-bashing misogynists around today, but their opinions are no longer socially acceptable and they know it. (And society is better for it.) What new Atheists seek is not the end of religion (duh!) but the de-privledging of religion so that religious people will have to accept that their beliefs are just their opinions, and that many people disagree with them. And have good reasons for their disbelief. If that makes them uncomfortable, they will learn to live with it just as (most) racists and gay bashers have done.

What is “de-privileging”, very specifically defined? I’d love to see the tax exempt status of religious organizations eliminated, although that won’t happen. I’d love to see ostentatious religious display become somewhat less socially acceptable. However, use of vague but rather charged language like “de-privileging” makes me wonder specifically what you are talking about.

When women’s lib started it had a very strong in your face radical wing: all-men-are-rapists, vaginal-orgasms-are-a-myth. It was the radical crowd that got attention, raised consciousness even among those who disagreed, and moved public opinion forward.

1) These statements are factually incorrect - some men are not rapists and some women have orgasms via vaginal intercourse. Therefore, the logical interpretation of this statement is that you think Gnu Atheists say things that are not true for shocking effect, and you support that.

2) I’m old enough to know that these are NOT slogans from the early days of women’s lib. “All men are rapists” has been traced to the novel “The Women’s Room”, which was published in 1977.

The “radical feminism” you describe represented movement hijacking in the late 70’s and early 80’s. At the that time, hijacking of progressive causes by attention seekers who distorted them into absurdly extreme demands that could never be achieved (in order to assure that their attention seeking careers could never be ended by a success) was a common phenomenon. Movement hijackers did such a big favor for the right wing that Karl Rove should be sending them flowers.

Although upper class white and assimilated Asian women have - and this is a very good thing - made major gains, almost to the point of true social equality, this has come against a background of lower wages, reduced social services, eroded civil rights, and of course, massive and constant attacks on contraception (which were not as prevalent in 1977). I would argue that the most well placed women have made gains despite movement hijacking, not because of it, and would advise caution to anyone who seeks to emulate that model.

The Mr. Nice Guy, never-offend-anyone approach will get you precisely nowhere.

1) Straw man - no-one has recommended such an approach.

2) False dichotomy. Between obsequiousness and over the top rage, there are many other options.

Believers know all the standard arguments against God, they just ignore them, and have been doing so since the dawn of time.

Silly of them, in my opinion, bu that’s their business.

And as long as they can ignore you, they will.

For me, the alternative to authoritarian theocracy is human freedom. Not forced atheism. I’m not religious and never have been, but I’ll choose my religious beliefs or lack thereof on my own. In a free society, some humans probably will choose some religious or magical beliefs, for the indefinite time being. I strongly support rights-respecting attempts to persuade them otherwise. Of course, if such attempts are made in a style that is highly incompatible with persuasion, they will achieve the opposite of their stated goal.

The only way to bring about change is to become un-ignorable, which Dawkins, Harris, et. al,. have done, quite successfully. We need more of the same, not less.

Most people don’t even know who those guys are. A substantial plurality of the population probably has some idea who Dawkins is (for Harris, probably about 1% can even identify who he is), but of that plurality, most are passively aware of him but actually ignore him.

Nice Guys get left behind and are left wondering why.

No doubt your extensive readings of Ayn Rand helped you arrive at that conclusion.

Many children grow up being brainwashed by fundamentalist parents. They are taught from a very early age not to trust science or scientists. They are taught that evolution is a lie and that scientists are trying to fool them (for some unspecified reason). Usually they just shut out any contrary evidence after a certain point and become practically unreachable. Having come from such a background myself, I can testify as to how effective this strategy can be.

Strong congratulations on overcoming that.

I recall that Tenncrain used to be a YEC. Tenncrain, what changed your mind? And are you still a Christian? If the story is on-line somewhere, you can just give us a link.

Josh Rosenau’s strategy has been the dominant strategy in America for almost forty years.

How’s it working so far?

https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/[…]CWmnkXJxKAx4 said:

Josh Rosenau’s strategy has been the dominant strategy in America for almost forty years.

How’s it working so far?

It has been a colossal failure. The percentage of Americans who accept a natural evolutionary thesis hasn’t changed significantly in 40 years. Mr. Rosenau, by the way, also attacks Prof. Coyne for having the temerity to have a negative thought about the Templeton Foundation. I left a comment on the thread on his blog challenging him to do better then Mr. Matzke was able to do in defending associating with an organization headed by gay bashing bigot John Templeton, the contributor of $425,000 to the gay bashing National Organization for Marriage, along with another $125,000 contribution by his wife.

SLC said:

https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/[…]CWmnkXJxKAx4 said:

Josh Rosenau’s strategy has been the dominant strategy in America for almost forty years.

How’s it working so far?

It has been a colossal failure. The percentage of Americans who accept a natural evolutionary thesis hasn’t changed significantly in 40 years.

By that measure, Richard Dawkins has also been a colossal failure. The Selfish Gene came out 36 years ago.

Carl Drews said:

SLC said:

https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/[…]CWmnkXJxKAx4 said:

Josh Rosenau’s strategy has been the dominant strategy in America for almost forty years.

How’s it working so far?

It has been a colossal failure. The percentage of Americans who accept a natural evolutionary thesis hasn’t changed significantly in 40 years.

By that measure, Richard Dawkins has also been a colossal failure. The Selfish Gene came out 36 years ago.

Well, the Rosenau strategy hasn’t worked, books like The Selfish Gene that try to educate the public about science haven’t worked, how about for the next forty years we try to get rid of religion. Maybe that will work.

As of 1991, 54% of the college educated believed in old-earth creationism. That is, I suppose, marginally better than YEC, but still pretty pathetic.

Yes, it’s a fairly dated poll by now, but I think it shows that education isn’t some silver bullet against creationism. I don’t suppose anyone really doubts that a strong science education would likely correlate well with acceptance of evolution (causality not so obvious), however that’s neither here nor there, as most people aren’t going to be science majors.

So why Rosenau resorts to such questionable use of the statistics isn’t clear. Education plays a role, no doubt, in high US rates of evolution rejection, but so do numerous social factors, including the sorts of religion that exists here (Rosenau mentions this, but doesn’t really discuss it meaningfully), as well as a sort of “critical mass” effect where rampant anti-evolutionism suggests to people that it makes some sort of sense–as well as many other factors, probably including social dysfunction.

Glen Davidson

https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/[…]CWmnkXJxKAx4 said:

Josh Rosenau’s strategy has been the dominant strategy in America for almost forty years.

How’s it working so far?

A commonly repeated retort that remains ridiculous. The “dominant strategy” is what the public is most exposed to and that would be Dawkins, Coyne, et al. vs Discovery Institute, Answers in Genesis, et al., often referred to as “the people who have skin in the game”. The media attention on the topic of the politics of science education has always been on the drama queens at the extremes, and both camps are too busy with their own agendas to seriously give a damn about science education. Wouldn’t it be nice if we all got behind the experts for a change and worked to take science education out of the culture wars rather than sacrificing science education on our respective altars. What’s been dominating the media hasn’t worked so far.

I should add one caveat, as I realize now that the OEC category in the link in my previous post included theistic evolution, which isn’t superb, but isn’t so horrible either, at least in my view (most seem not to have a good idea of what “naturalistic evolution” even entails, still, few theistic evolutionists directly oppose science).

So I don’t know exactly what the creationist level of college graduates is. I don’t doubt that Ken Ham has reason to worry about sound education in college, but it’s also true that there are a whole lot of college-educated creationists out there, too, meaning that education is likely to be only part of the answer to creationist twaddle infecting so much of American polity.

Glen Davidson

Ted said:

What new Atheists seek is not the end of religion (duh!) but the de-privledging of religion so that religious people will have to accept that their beliefs are just their opinions, and that many people disagree with them.

tomh said:

Well, the Rosenau strategy hasn’t worked, books like The Selfish Gene that try to educate the public about science haven’t worked, how about for the next forty years we try to get rid of religion. Maybe that will work.

https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/[…]CWmnkXJxKAx4 said:

Josh Rosenau’s strategy has been the dominant strategy in America for almost forty years.

How’s it working so far?

1) It’s been 100% successful so far.

Every effort to introduce sectarian creationism into public schools as “science”, or even to distort or omit the teaching of evolution, has failed, either in court, at the ballot box, or both.

As a result of past successes, creationists have been forced to compromise and compromise. When they first came roaring out during the initial right wing backlash against civil rights and contraception, they were trying to get straight up 6000 year old earth, Adam and Eve, Noah’s Flood into classrooms as “creation science”. That failed, so they tried the ID scam, or in Kansas in 1999, just trying to eliminate evolution. Those failed. Now they’re trying to play “academic freedom” games.

In fact, creationism often has to be advanced by stealth. That’s been the case, and it’s still the case. We have plenty to worry about, due to right wing SCOTUS appointments by George W. Bush and “Tea Party” candidates. But did you hear “Tea Party” candidates campaigning on anti-evolution bills? I didn’t. One of the few who did bring it up, Sharon Angle, was defeated. Most campaigned on BS about Obama and the economy - then launched creationism bills once elected.

2) It would be nice to see better poll answers, but I’ve pointed out repeatedly that if you bias the poll by making it about human evolution and making the scientific answer look like a confrontation with religion, you will get results that exaggerate the popularity of creationism. I once saw a poll that asked whether bacteria and plants had evolved. I don’t have a link; it disappeared and I’ve sought for it many times (link would be appreciated if anyone has one). It had about 70% agreement with evolution.

3) If you think that the best way to promote strong science education is through a very indirect approach, by commenting on the internet about atheism, then do that. No-one is stopping you. I strongly support promoting acceptance of atheism when that is relevant. I strongly support Jessica Alquist, Rock Beyond Belief, etc, etc, etc. I am completely non-religious myself.

But creationism in schools/science education impacts on everyone. You can be religious, and still support strong science education, and oppose illegal sectarian preaching during science class.

The same freedom that allows you to express yourself allows Josh Rosenau to do the same. He and I are on the same side of the creationism issue. I don’t see any possible reason to indulge in some kind of purity test that would exclude him.

I’m one of the geezers here who has been involved in trying to debunk ID/creationism since the early 1970s.

I think one of the mistakes made by the science community early on – when Morris and Gish were taunting scientists to campus debates – was to give them the free ride. ID/creationists have since parleyed that publicity into an advertising campaign that netted them enough money from rubes to build institutes that allow them to do nothing all day but crank out self-sustaining propaganda and hatred of science. So this is one of the mistakes of the past we are currently stuck with. But this is hindsight; we in the science community were pretty much blindsided by creationist tactics back then.

But I have also noticed that ID/creationists over the years have developed the nasty tactic of luring those who debate them - whether it be on the internet or elsewhere - into adopting the misconceptions and definitions of ID/creationism in the arguments. They still taunt and play on people’s egos in attempting to lure people into debates, and they often lure people in who are a bit shaky in their own understanding of concepts. The result is that ID/creationists have developed a set of pseudo-arguments that work well against the general public’s shaky understanding of science. ID/creationists practice and keep notes.

ID/creationism is able to gain a foothold in socio/political arguments because ID/creationists focus on peoples’ misconceptions as though these misconceptions are real science and not misconceptions. They sound “reasonable” to the many people who have not learned the nuances of many of the important concepts and evidence in science.

We have all heard the taunt, “If humans came from monkeys, why are there still monkeys?” I have seen exactly the same problems with physics and chemistry, especially with those nauseatingly repeated thermodynamic arguments of the ID/creationists. This trope gets pulled out and repeated at regular intervals. It gets shot down only to be pulled out and repeated again and again when ID/creationists find a new venue or believe that people have forgotten. Part of the reason it gets repeated is that people who debate ID/creationists have serious misconceptions of their own; and these just get burned deeper into the public folklore about thermodynamics.

I am beginning to suspect that ID/creationism is analogous to the canary in the coal mine with regard to our educational institutions. I suspect our educational institutions are under extreme stress at all levels. They are not supported properly, teachers and professors are extremely overloaded, there are financial incentives to dumb down courses at all levels, and there is almost never any time for remedial work that would bring students up to the levels of the courses they are supposedly prepared to take.

ID/creationists can often game the system by keeping their heads down and slithering around the requirements for legitimate degrees. And once they are in positions of “authority,” they are free to continue to spread their misrepresentations and misconceptions.

Part of any future strategy on our part must be to do a better job at debunking ID/creationist misrepresentations and misconceptions by making sure we understand and can explain scientific concepts in a way that makes sense to the public.

I was enjoying the newly renovated and expanded Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles on a Saturday a couple of weeks ago, and I was pleased to notice the thousands of people who poured into the exhibits all day long until closing. Science is still popular, and people are still interested. We can’t let them down.

SWT said:

Ted said:

What new Atheists seek is not the end of religion (duh!) but the de-privledging of religion so that religious people will have to accept that their beliefs are just their opinions, and that many people disagree with them.

tomh said:

Well, the Rosenau strategy hasn’t worked, books like The Selfish Gene that try to educate the public about science haven’t worked, how about for the next forty years we try to get rid of religion. Maybe that will work.

This is worth emphasizing.

I have a nose for coded language that is intended to seem bland to the uninitiated, but signal support or tolerance for extreme or authoritarian policies to the in-group.

While authoritarian imposition of religion has been more common, authoritarian suppression of religion has an obnoxious track record of its own. These situations are not opposite to one another. The Inquisition and the Gulag are similar institutions. The opposite of authoritarianism is human freedom.

There seems to be a bit too much of this type of thing - one guy denies extreme stuff, but uses vague language. Another guy uses more extreme language. But they don’t argue with each other, instead, they tag team against the “outsiders”. That causes the first guy to lose credibility in my eyes.

How about it Ted? Who’s the real Gnu Atheist - you or tomh?

Mike Elzinga -

I was at the American Museum of Natural History on Saturday, and it was jammed with people, many obvious tourists from “red” states, especially that always popular dinosaur exhibits. And nobody was complaining about the dating.

Are there not a few parallels here between Coyne’s use of rather sketchy statistical analysis to support a personal animus against religion and, say, NOM’s amateurish attempts to construct sciencey-sounding arguments around the ‘risks’ inherent in allowing gay marriage? There’s an element on both sides of this debate whose main goal appears to be finding socially reasonable ways of demanding that efforts are made to remove things they find unpleasant or confusing from public life.

harold said:

https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/[…]CWmnkXJxKAx4 said:

Josh Rosenau’s strategy has been the dominant strategy in America for almost forty years.

How’s it working so far?

1) It’s been 100% successful so far.

Every effort to introduce sectarian creationism into public schools as “science”, or even to distort or omit the teaching of evolution, has failed, either in court, at the ballot box, or both.

As a result of past successes, creationists have been forced to compromise and compromise. When they first came roaring out during the initial right wing backlash against civil rights and contraception, they were trying to get straight up 6000 year old earth, Adam and Eve, Noah’s Flood into classrooms as “creation science”. That failed, so they tried the ID scam, or in Kansas in 1999, just trying to eliminate evolution. Those failed. Now they’re trying to play “academic freedom” games.

In fact, creationism often has to be advanced by stealth. That’s been the case, and it’s still the case. We have plenty to worry about, due to right wing SCOTUS appointments by George W. Bush and “Tea Party” candidates. But did you hear “Tea Party” candidates campaigning on anti-evolution bills? I didn’t. One of the few who did bring it up, Sharon Angle, was defeated. Most campaigned on BS about Obama and the economy - then launched creationism bills once elected.

2) It would be nice to see better poll answers, but I’ve pointed out repeatedly that if you bias the poll by making it about human evolution and making the scientific answer look like a confrontation with religion, you will get results that exaggerate the popularity of creationism. I once saw a poll that asked whether bacteria and plants had evolved. I don’t have a link; it disappeared and I’ve sought for it many times (link would be appreciated if anyone has one). It had about 70% agreement with evolution.

3) If you think that the best way to promote strong science education is through a very indirect approach, by commenting on the internet about atheism, then do that. No-one is stopping you. I strongly support promoting acceptance of atheism when that is relevant. I strongly support Jessica Alquist, Rock Beyond Belief, etc, etc, etc. I am completely non-religious myself.

But creationism in schools/science education impacts on everyone. You can be religious, and still support strong science education, and oppose illegal sectarian preaching during science class.

The same freedom that allows you to express yourself allows Josh Rosenau to do the same. He and I are on the same side of the creationism issue. I don’t see any possible reason to indulge in some kind of purity test that would exclude him.

If Romney is elected in November, the judicial wall against creationism in the schools is in deadly danger. There are now 4 votes on the Supreme Court that will vote to overturn the Overton decision, namely Roberts, Alito, Thomas, and Scalia. It is doubtful that Ginsburg will make it to 2016 and Romney, who, by the way has develop[ed a close relationship with Robert Bork who is certifiably insane, would undoubtedly appoint a Scalia clone to replace her. Be afraid, be very afraid.

http://freethoughtblogs.com/dispatc[…]ey-and-bork/

harold said: I once saw a poll that asked whether bacteria and plants had evolved.

I’ve never seen a poll with a separate question for plants, let alone bacteria, but this Harris poll comes close (it’s about a third of the way down the page.) When asked, “Do you think human beings developed from earlier species or not?” 38% said yes. Then, “Do you believe all plants and animals have evolved from other species or not?” 49% said yes. So that’s a significant difference. But I think the pollsters feel that if someone is a creationist, they accept the Genesis account, and lump everything together.

Carl Drews said:

I recall that Tenncrain used to be a YEC. Tenncrain, what changed your mind? And are you still a Christian?

My college geology course was a major factor. My prof explained mainstream geology exceedingly well, and is a Christian with Affiliation of Christian Geologists (ACG is mostly mainstream geologists or at least OECs, only a few rare YECs like Kurt Wise).

Fatefully, my geology course was followed by the Kitzmiller trial. I was influenced by the weight of Judge Jones’s decision, the strength of the plaintiffs, and the very self-defeating testimony of YEC Dover board members like Buckingham and Bonsell.

But despite the geology class and the trial, I experienced turmoil for another year or so as my YEC beliefs only slowly weakened. I remain a Christian, but it was rough for a while. Former YEC Glenn Morton (link here) has a similar experience.

More salt to the wound was being looked down upon by other YECs, even friends and family (I now understand this is a somewhat common experience for ex-YECs). It was even claimed I was never a “real” YEC in the first place (despite me looking up to Henry Morris, John Whitcomb, Kurt Wise). Several said I succumbed to “peer pressure” (if anything, the only pressure was from other YECs wanting me to stay a YEC).

DS and others have also touched on breaking from their fundamentalist upbringings, so it happens. Recent Gallup polls suggest YECs beliefs (not necessarily anti-evolution beliefs in general) are finally starting to decline a bit after relatively little change in previous decades. But even if this decline continues, seems many YECs will still take their beliefs to their graves.

Chad Kreutzer said:

Europe has not eliminated religion so much as it has become largely irrelevant. I think the cause of that is not so much education as it is (counter intuitively, I know) the institutionalization of religion. Religion thrives on adversity and persecution (either perceived or actual.) And I think that here in the states, we see an actual example of evolution in progress as different sects battle for power and influence.

There is likely to be a lot of truth in this. Historians of American religion note that after the distestablishment of religion after the Revolution, American religion became entrepreneurial, individualistic, extra-literalist (since the Bible was the only authority left), etc. This led, among other things, to an irreconcilable religious difference over slavery. See works by Mark Noll.

So yeah, ironically, if it were possible to wave a magic wand and make Anglicanism the official state church again, that might be the fastest way to reduce the religiosity of the U.S.

Gnu atheist #1 says:

What new Atheists seek is not the end of religion (duh!) but the de-privledging of religion so that religious people will have to accept that their beliefs are just their opinions, and that many people disagree with them.

Gnu atheist #2 says:

Well, the Rosenau strategy hasn’t worked, books like The Selfish Gene that try to educate the public about science haven’t worked, how about for the next forty years we try to get rid of religion. Maybe that will work.

Make up your mind, guys.

tomh said:

harold said: I once saw a poll that asked whether bacteria and plants had evolved.

I’ve never seen a poll with a separate question for plants, let alone bacteria, but this Harris poll comes close (it’s about a third of the way down the page.) When asked, “Do you think human beings developed from earlier species or not?” 38% said yes. Then, “Do you believe all plants and animals have evolved from other species or not?” 49% said yes. So that’s a significant difference. But I think the pollsters feel that if someone is a creationist, they accept the Genesis account, and lump everything together.

Yeah, apart from all the issues in doing statistical analyses, there is a general issue which affects the entire national discussion of the evolution issue: poll questions on science issues are generally awful, and require a lot of interpretation to get anything sensible out of them.

I once saw a poll which said that 25% of the population thought that the Sun goes around the Earth.

Naive interpretation: 25% of the population are committed geocentrists

Probably better interpretation: 50% of the population has never thought about this issue in any serious way, and just gives a random guess

Tenncrain said:

Fatefully, my geology course was followed by the Kitzmiller trial. I was influenced by the weight of Judge Jones’s decision, the strength of the plaintiffs, and the very self-defeating testimony of YEC Dover board members like Buckingham and Bonsell.

Kudos to Nick Matzke for his role in assisting the Dover plaintiffs in Harrisburg!!

trnsplnt said:

https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/[…]CWmnkXJxKAx4 said:

Josh Rosenau’s strategy has been the dominant strategy in America for almost forty years.

How’s it working so far?

A commonly repeated retort that remains ridiculous. The “dominant strategy” is what the public is most exposed to and that would be Dawkins, Coyne, et al. vs Discovery Institute, Answers in Genesis, et al., often referred to as “the people who have skin in the game”. The media attention on the topic of the politics of science education has always been on the drama queens at the extremes, and both camps are too busy with their own agendas to seriously give a damn about science education. Wouldn’t it be nice if we all got behind the experts for a change and worked to take science education out of the culture wars rather than sacrificing science education on our respective altars. What’s been dominating the media hasn’t worked so far.

That’s a good point. As for education, how seriously has it really been tried? We have seen dramatic improvements in the amount of evolution being taught, but this progress has been very gradual. Evolution was banned or widely under-taught into the 1960s. The bans were repealed in 1968, but then we had two decade of “creation science” to deal with. California only finally abandoned its decades-long tradition of antievolution policies in 1989 (soon after the NCSE was established, no coincidence). Then we had ID fights from the 1990s-2005. At the end of all of this, we finally have the word “evolution” in the science standards of most states (which was not the case even back in the 1990s, IIRC). So progress is being made, but it is slow, and it is slowest in the old bastions of antievolutionism like Louisiana.

So it’s not as if standardized evolution education was universal in 1968 and has been continuous since then.

Another argument is the widespread on-the-ground experience from educators, which is that:

* when students link evolution to atheism, they feel threatened, insulted, etc., by evolution education, shut down, don’t listen, don’t learn anything, etc.

* however, when this sense of threat and assault is ameliorated – for example when the teacher notes that science is science, and not aimed at anyone’s religious beliefs, and that various religions and religious people have diverse views on evolution, not universally negative – well then, students are able to open up and pay attention to the science.

I think it’s pretty dubious to ignore this widespread experience just for the thrill of kicking religious people in the shins.

trnsplnt said:

The “dominant strategy” is what the public is most exposed to and that would be Dawkins, Coyne, et al. vs Discovery Institute, Answers in Genesis, et al., often referred to as “the people who have skin in the game”. The media attention on the topic of the politics of science education has always been on the drama queens at the extremes

What, precisely, is extreme about Dawkins? All he is saying is that religious beliefs should not be immune to criticism. You are unfairly equating him with people who want to force a theocracy on the rest of us.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we all got behind the experts for a change and worked to take science education out of the culture wars rather than sacrificing science education on our respective altars.

How do you propose to do that? This isn’t an issue that lends itself to compromise. The science curriculum is either restricted to real science or religious beliefs are allowed to be taught as science. I have never heard of a “gnu” atheist who is advocating teaching that all religions are wrong in science class. Again, you are equating two positions that are not at all symmetrical.

dalehusband said: You seem to have forgotted about that Big Bang Theory. What started the universe? What set the physical and chemical laws that run the universe? Those questions remain unanswered and there is no guarantee that science will ever provide those answers.

Science may not have the answer but you seem to think you do. In fact, you seem quite certain about it, when you say, “since by its very nature only a supernatural cause could have produced it.”

tomh said:

dalehusband said: You seem to have forgotted about that Big Bang Theory. What started the universe? What set the physical and chemical laws that run the universe? Those questions remain unanswered and there is no guarantee that science will ever provide those answers.

Science may not have the answer but you seem to think you do. In fact, you seem quite certain about it, when you say, “since by its very nature only a supernatural cause could have produced it.”

Is that all you have to rebut me? Then you really have nothing. Moving on.….

For the record, there is nothing wrong with being an atheist, with taking the position for YOURSELF that there is no God and that you would only accept anything as true if there is empirical evidence for it. If that is what your nature calls for, so be it.

My problem is with someone doing that and them going on to insist that atheism and that naturalist standard of proof must be held by EVERYONE ELSE or they will be targets of ridicule or verbal abuse. That.….….….….is.….….…..BIGOTRY!

I am a REAL agnostic. I slam religions like Christianity for their falsehoods and for the bigots they harbor, but I see no reason to attack anyone merely for being different from me, for choosing freely to have beliefs I do not, if those beliefs cannot be disproven.

So can Theism or Deism be disproven? I have never seen an atheist do that. All they do is disprove specific religions and by doing so, cast doubt on Theism or Deism. But doubt is not an absolute reason for denial. I don’t deny God’s existence. I am not an Atheist. And I don’t care who hates me for not being in the Atheist camp.

dalehusband said: Is that all you have to rebut me?

Rebut you? There is nothing in that silly statement to rebut. I’m just laughing at you and your foolish dogma.

tomh said:

dalehusband said: Is that all you have to rebut me?

Rebut you? There is nothing in that silly statement to rebut. I’m just laughing at you and your foolish dogma.

What silly statement? What dogma? Empty rhetoric such as yours goes nowhere and does nothing.

Or do you take seriously the idea that the natural universe can create itself with no outside intervention, in the absence of anything that could justify this assumption? May I refer you to a crash course of Logic 101?

dalehusband said:

Or do you take seriously the idea that the natural universe can create itself with no outside intervention

There you are, that’s the dogma. Because you don’t know the answer, the only possible explanation is that spooks and goblins must have done it. Anyone who doesn’t agree is completely illogical.

dalehusband said:

Or do you take seriously the idea that the natural universe can create itself with no outside intervention, in the absence of anything that could justify this assumption? May I refer you to a crash course of Logic 101?

And do you take seriously the idea that that “outside intervention” or Prime Mover or whatever does NOT require a creator of its own? Would that logic class cover infinite recursions…turtles all the way down?

dalehusband said:

[…] natural universe can create itself […]

That’s a big sticking point. Not the concept which people usually *mean*, but that particular wording. “Create itself”? Really?!?

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This page contains a single entry by Nick Matzke published on April 23, 2012 8:36 PM.

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