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Suck it, Kansas
February 12, 2006 5:09 PM   Subscribe

"Who's the only one who's always been there?" Ham asked. "God!" the boys and girls shouted.
"Who's the only one who knows everything?" "God!"
"So who should you always trust, God or the scientists?" The children answered with a thundering: "God!"
Today, on the 197th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin whose discovery of natural selection is the fundamental tenet of modern biology, fundamentalist American Christians work to indoctrinate in children a superstitious disdain for science. Meanwhile, liberal American Christians churches celebrate Darwin and evolution's compatibility with their faith.

But is "Darwin's Dangerous Idea" too corrosive to mysticism to coexist with Christianity?
posted by orthogonality (86 comments total)

 
I hope Jessamyn will add the required apostrophe, stolen by my spellchecker.
posted by orthogonality at 5:11 PM on February 12, 2006


Nice job with this one orthogonality. You did justice to old Darwin.
posted by caddis at 5:14 PM on February 12, 2006


There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being evolved.
The struck-out text was added in the second edition, but is not in the first edition of The Origin of Species.
posted by orthogonality at 5:16 PM on February 12, 2006


"All creatures were vegetarians until Adam's sin brought death into the world."

I did not know this. Does that mean all those church barbecues are dens of iniquity?
posted by madajb at 5:23 PM on February 12, 2006


And I was hoping for a wonderful technofuture made possible by creative young US scientists. Oh well, looks like it really will be China's century.
posted by wilful at 5:24 PM on February 12, 2006


A few more, regarding both Ham & Darwin: Pharyngula on Ham, Niles Eldredge, Olduvai George with a portrait of the naturalist as a young man, and the official (?) Darwin Day site.

Don't, whatever you do, miss this "Know your Creationists" entry from DarkSyde & Aron-Ra over at UTI.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 5:26 PM on February 12, 2006


The problem is...
For Darwin's work to fit with christianity, you have to take a non-literal approach to the Bible.
Thats very threatening to some.
If the Bible's creation story isn't literal, what about other topics?
What about Hell and Heaven?
What about homosexuality?
And, of course, if the Bible is open to interpretation, do you really need the church?
personally, I still think you need the church even more, then. In Judaism you need Rabbis because you need to have someone around who devotes their lives to studying the Torah and all its related works. That takes serious time and effort that most people won't put in.
And then the endless debates.
Interestinly, those make for stronger faith.
There's no real reason the same couldn't be true in christianity.
But, of course, the status quo never likes change
posted by moleboy at 5:26 PM on February 12, 2006


I wish people would actually read some Darwin--it's not exactly edge of your seat exciting, but his ability to imagine a model of evolution without knowledge of DNA is an astounding achievement. I get the impression that scientists don't always do a good job of teaching the history of science--to read him, and try to understand how he arrived at his conclusions is a heady thing. And that scientists (real ones, not Discovery Institute ideologues) need to defend their own legacy more vehemently than ever. Just letting the "political stuff" not interfere with their research is a luxury they might not have forever, esepcially in the US.
posted by bardic at 5:29 PM on February 12, 2006


From the article on the fundie fanatic Ken Ham:
They churn out stacks of home-schooling material. A geology text devotes a chapter to Noah's flood; an astronomy book quotes Genesis on the origins of the universe; a science unit for second-graders features daily "evolution stumpers" that teach children to argue against the theory that is a cornerstone of modern science.
American superiority in the sciences? Not in twenty years.


moleboy writes "For Darwin's work to fit with christianity, you have to take a non-literal approach to the Bible."

No, you just need to avoid critical thinking and suspend belief. Sorty of like when you watch I Dream of Genie or read Harry Potter.
posted by orthogonality at 5:30 PM on February 12, 2006


I'm sorry.
It sounds like you are implying that I Dream Of Genie isn't biographical.
I'm sure you didn't mean to do that.
posted by moleboy at 5:32 PM on February 12, 2006


These fine young christians will make dependable, trustworthy domestic help for all of the Chinese and Indian engineers that are going to lead us into the next golden age.
posted by 2sheets at 5:37 PM on February 12, 2006


I hope Jessamyn will add the required apostrophe, stolen by my spellchecker.

done.

posted by jessamyn at 5:37 PM on February 12, 2006


the other problem is that if the creation story isn't literally true, then women aren't lousy lying wenches and the cause of all the suffering in the world.
Then you might have to let them become priests.
posted by moleboy at 5:41 PM on February 12, 2006


Thank's Jessamyn! (wink)
Emily Maynard, 12, was also delighted with Ham's presentation. Home-schooled and voraciously curious, she had recently read an encyclopedia for fun — and caught herself almost believing the entry on evolution. "They were explaining about apes standing up, evolving to man, and I could kind of see that's how it could happen," she said.

Ham convinced her otherwise. As her mother beamed, Emily repeated Ham's mantra: "The Bible is the history book of the universe."
You know, I thought Dawkins and Dennett went too far when they called teaching children religion a form of child abuse. But I have to say, I feel disgusted at the way Emily Maynard's curiosity and self-thinking have been crushed under the dead weight of doctrine and superstitious mumbo-jumbo.
posted by orthogonality at 5:43 PM on February 12, 2006


which is worse...
the fact that they are crushing the minds of their own children
or
the fact that they want to crush the minds of other people's children?
posted by moleboy at 5:44 PM on February 12, 2006


[moleboy, I got your glaring typo too]
posted by jessamyn at 5:45 PM on February 12, 2006


[thank you, jessamyn!]
posted by moleboy at 5:46 PM on February 12, 2006


"Who's the only one who's always been there?" Ham asked. "God!" the boys and girls shouted.
"Who's the only one who knows everything?" "God!"


"Does anyone on Earth know everything?" "NO!"
"Do the scientists know everything?" "NO!"
"Do I know everything?" "NO!"
"Do any of you know everything?" "NO!"
"How should we go about learning about the things that we don't know?" "UMMMM... ASK GOD?"
"If he just told us, then we'd know everything, and who's the only one who knows everything?" "GOD!"
"So how can we learn about some of the things that God isn't telling us?" "UMMMM... WE COULD MAKE GUESSES?"
"Okay, but maybe our guesses are wrong. What about that?" "UMMM...WE COULD CHECK OUR GUESS TO SEE IF IT'S RIGHT."
"Sure, but what if we check our guess and it's wrong?" "WE MAKE A BETTER GUESS."
"Good idea! You wanna know what all this guessing is called?" "YES!"
"Science." *gasp* *crickets*
posted by 23skidoo at 5:48 PM on February 12, 2006


<Boggles>

Please please please; is there any way of denying modern medicine/science to those who would undermine it?

Sure, jacking up the price of medicine is preventing the poor from access, but there are a lot of poor people who aren't voraciously and willfully opposed to science.
posted by PurplePorpoise at 5:49 PM on February 12, 2006


the other problem is that if the creation story isn't literally true, then women aren't lousy lying wenches and the cause of all the suffering in the world.
Then you might have to let them become priests.
posted by moleboy at 5:41 PM PST on February 12


I actually don't think these evangelicals are the types that would care about women priests anyway. That's more your traditional branch of Christianity rather than the hands waving in the air type. In fact, these types don't even like using words like "priest" as it has a stale, old fashioned connotation attached to it - the opposite of the "cool" image they try to promote.
posted by Jase_B at 5:52 PM on February 12, 2006


The real damage done by this wedge issue is not the army of crappy biologists that the country produces. It's that it infects our culture with a disdain for science in general, and that extends to pretty much everything. How can a god-fearing evangelical be any sort of scientist when his political and religious leaders have turned science into a dirty word?

Interesting, however, that this guy has accepted Darwinian theory for post-creation changes to the animal kingdom. That kind of selective reasoning takes some balls to pull off with a straight face.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 6:11 PM on February 12, 2006


then women aren't lousy lying wenches and the cause of all the suffering in the world.
Then you might have to let them become priests.


A lot of denominations actually have been ordaining women for years.

In fact, these types don't even like using words like "priest" as it has a stale, old fashioned connotation attached to it - the opposite of the "cool" image they try to promote.
posted by Jase_B at 8:52 PM EST on February 12 [!]


Actually, it's because many of the Protestant denominations you're talking about don't have the title of "priest". Never have. That's like saying that the Navy's trying to be trendy by not refering to its Admirals as Generals. There are no priests in most of the Protestant faiths.

Just wanted to interject a few facts. Sorry if I interrupted everyone's conversation.
posted by unreason at 6:16 PM on February 12, 2006


Dennett's book "Darwin's Dangerous Idea" is a bit over-rated, and doesn't do all that good a job explaining evolution. I'd recommend, if one is interested in a critique of Dennett's ideas, John Dupre's "Human Nature and the Limits of Science" which is a non-religious critique of the notion of "human nature" as constructed by evolutionary psychology and economics.

In regards to moleboy's comment, most branches of Christianity don't take the Bible literally. The literal reading, in fact, is merely one of the four traditional types of Biblical criticism in Christianity (literal, moral, allegorical and anagogical IIRC), and the least important and interesting at that.
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 6:17 PM on February 12, 2006


Indoctrinating children is so much more rewarding than trying to sway adults through honest argument and debate, isn't it? Children lack the grounding and experience to ask difficult questions and are so gratifyingly easy to manipulate with emotion. History has always found a place for guy's like this. Pol Pot's Cambodia stands out in particular.
posted by George_Spiggott at 6:17 PM on February 12, 2006


I'd give real money if we could infiltrate those things with a couple of dozen ringers ...

"Who's the only one who's always been there?" Ham asked.

"The Great Sky Spirit! No, the Flying Spaghetti Monster! Maybe it was Zeus!" the boys and girls shouted.

No, seriously. I'd buy tickets.
posted by kaemaril at 6:19 PM on February 12, 2006


I've been attempting to blog about Genesis 1:1-3. I haven't been doing a very good job, so I won't link to it. But anyway, I've found that there are some translation problems/issues with at least the first three verses in Genesis.

Genesis 1:1 can/should be translated something like this, "With Wisdom God created the heaven and the earth."

Genesis 1:2, I haven't researched this verse as thoroughly but it might be translated like this, "And the earth had become without form and void; and darkness (the word for darkness also alludes to the death angel) was upon the face of the deep (I think "deep" can refer to people and multitudes, Rev. 17:15 and I think it can also refer to violent chaos/mob violence). And the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters."

The literal translation of Genesis 1:3 is "And God said, Let Him be light, and He was light." As a Christian I take this to be referring to the Jesus. Jesus is the light of the world. The Gospel of John chapter 1 understands Genesis to begin the way I have outlined.

The first chapter of Genesis is just not what the intelligent design theorists think it is. It's about creation, but not in the way they think it is. To make a long story short we might assume that Genesis 1 is referring to the First Temple in Jerusalem. The first day represents the Holy of Holies.
posted by Buck Eschaton at 6:21 PM on February 12, 2006


Who's the black private dick that's a sex machine to all the chicks?

God! Shaft!
posted by lemonfridge at 6:23 PM on February 12, 2006


Saucy Intruder - there's been a general disdain for education in our country for generations. Salt-of-the-earth farmers are to be trusted. Those eastern elite harvard people aren't. Look at how GW tries to make people think he's all down-homey and not ivy educated.

unreason (and others) - my reference to making women priests really wasn't meant to be taken quite how it was. My point was that much of christianity seems to hold a general disdain for women and their sexuality.
posted by moleboy at 6:26 PM on February 12, 2006


They say that names often trace back to early occupations, such as Collier=coal miner, in which case, going back to the bible: Ham=the simplest interpretation considers uncovering the nakedness of his father to be a great taboo, and the inaction of Ham (who chose instead to publicize and perhaps make light of the situation) to be what led Noah to deem Ham's judgement inferior to that of his more modest brothers.

And this is the guy teaching children.
posted by Postroad at 6:26 PM on February 12, 2006


Pseudoephedrine - uh, doesn't the Cathlic Church take it literally? (actually, I may be wrong there...I think I just read that it is at least SOMEWHAT open to interpretation)
posted by moleboy at 6:26 PM on February 12, 2006


What happens when clever young Emily Maynard decides that she wants to apply her enquiring mind to the sciences at University level? Are there refresher courses for the Biblically misled, or is this sort of deranged 'teaching' too new for that?

I'd have thought a statement signed by the head of every University science or medicine department saying 'If you teach your children like this, they can never become doctors, nurses, geologists, biologists, physicists, zookeepers, teachers, &c., or, indeed, anything that requires a university degree' would put at least a few parents off the whole creationist bullshit shebang.
posted by jack_mo at 6:27 PM on February 12, 2006


My solution is this:

Don't believe in science? Then you don't get any.

Give back your cars, and electric lights, and penicillin, and hospitals, and factories, and, oh, no gravity for you.
posted by tzikeh at 6:35 PM on February 12, 2006


"Sometimes people will answer, 'No, but you weren't there either,' " Ham told them. "Then you say, 'No, I wasn't, but I know someone who was, and I have his book about the history of the world.' " He waved his Bible in the air.
That's just sad. I feel really sorry for these kids.
posted by homunculus at 6:39 PM on February 12, 2006


Moleboy> No, the Catholic Church doesn't take the Bible literally. They haven't for a couple hundred years, last I checked. They accept that some (very few) parts may be accurate records of what happened, while others are divinely inspired allegories or tropes of literary composition from the period put in with some specific purpose in mind (most Catholic theologians consider the vast majority of the gospels to be of this). They find the value of the text in leading people toward contemplation and love of God, moral living and promulgating right doctrine. The church is more important than the Bible in Catholicism, which is one of the criticisms Martin Luther made when he broke with it.
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 6:39 PM on February 12, 2006


tzikeh: What's science got to do with gravity? Surely everyone by now has acknowledged the truth of Intelligent Falling? :)
posted by kaemaril at 6:39 PM on February 12, 2006


"Sometimes people will answer, 'No, but you weren't there either,' " Ham told them. "Then you say, 'No, I wasn't, but I know someone who was, and I have his book about the history of the world.' " He waved his Bible in the air.

"How do you know he was there, just 'cos he allegedly wrote a book about it? Were you there?" :)

And the bible as the history of the world? Huh, it's crap on the American War Of Independence, 19th Century European Politics, says very little about the Weimar Republic ...
posted by kaemaril at 6:43 PM on February 12, 2006


Pseudoephedrine - uh, doesn't the Cathlic Church take it literally?

After twelve years of Catholic schooling I can confidently say, "No, the Catholic Church does not take the whole Bible literally." My teachers never had a problem teach evolution in science class. When the question was raised about the creation story, we were told that Genesis wasn't meant to be taken literally. End of story.

Now, there are a few parts that Catholics take literally, one of them famously being the Last Super and the transubstantiation. But Genesis? No. Revelations? No.
posted by sbutler at 6:45 PM on February 12, 2006


I was actually at a Ken Ham lecture when I was eight or nine years old, as part of a school field trip (I went to a very conservative, very fundamentalist Christian school.) He's fairly out there, even for a six-day creation, six thousand year-old-earth guy. He believes there were dinosaurs on Noah's Ark (baby ones), that Tyrannosaurus Rex ate fruit and vegetables in the Garden of Eden, and that the leviathan and behemoth mentioned in the book of Job are a plesiosaur and an apatosaurus, respectively.
posted by EarBucket at 6:56 PM on February 12, 2006


Don't believe in science? Then you don't get any.

Do evangelicals of this stripe deny themselves, eg. medical treatments based on theories they don't believe in, in the way that Jehova's Witnesses refuse blood transfusions? If not, how do they justify/excuse their use of medical treatments, technologies, &c. that deny their beliefs? (I'm having no luck Googling the subject.)
posted by jack_mo at 7:00 PM on February 12, 2006


They believe in science when it directly benefits them. For example, many have no problem with Darwin when it comes to the market.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:07 PM on February 12, 2006


Now, there are a few parts that Catholics take literally, one of them famously being the Last Super and the transubstantiation.

Does the doctrine of transubstantiation appear in the bible? I don't believe it does. Rather, it's a particular interpretation of some text there. If it was as explicit as you make out, then all of those protestant evangelicals would buy into it as well, but none of them do.

I suppose what you meant to write was they believe that transubstantiation is a fact -- a genuine supernatural act that occurs in thousands of churches for millions of people every week.

Personally, I want to know what happens to the body of Christ when the bread is transubstantiated into poo.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 7:15 PM on February 12, 2006


No one really takes the whole Bible literally.

Of course they shouldn't. But even those who claim to do so really only take the word of their preacher or whoever, who tells them what the Bible "literally" says.

For example. In Genesis, it outright says that the rainbow is God's bow set in the sky. I don't hear any of the literalists bringing that one up.

Further, many of the literalists manage to read whole sections of the bible incorrectly due to context issues. For example:

"It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God," says Jesus.

Now, what does that literally mean? Take it literally, and it's pretty damning of most televangelists and basically everyone in government. And Jesus said a number of other things like that, too.

And what does "rich" mean, anyway? Is there an infernal level of wealth, beyond which you're doomed? Does He send out angelic worth evaluators, looking through bank accounts and counting beans? Because almost everyone in the United States qualifies as rich, if you keep in mind the astonishing poverty that still fills much of the world. According to Jesus' words, practically the entire United States is basically destined for hell.

So literallists create a context around the statement to allow them to get by it, while still reserving the right to call themselves literallists: they say that the "eye of the needle" was a gate in Jerusalem, that was hard for camels to squeeze through but it was still possible.

Jesus spoke in parables for heaven's sake. Metaphor! Aren't his words an important part, some might say the most important part, of the Bible? Thus, anyone who bases their beliefs/lives/votes on a perception that they are somehow a bible literalist is, unavoidably, a fool.

(I understand that we're basically all in agreement with that, but it might be useful to bring up with any fundies you know.)
posted by JHarris at 7:16 PM on February 12, 2006


I think he meant that they take the phrase "this is my body" literally, Peter.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:21 PM on February 12, 2006


I suppose what you meant to write was they believe that transubstantiation is a fact -- a genuine supernatural act that occurs in thousands of churches for millions of people every week.
I've always thought it was a remnant of deeply-taboo pre-Christian worship: eat of thine enemy that you might overcome thine enemy; eat of thy god that you might become as gods.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 7:22 PM on February 12, 2006


For most of my childhood and teens in the 70's and 80's, I attended a very conservative Christian school which would have been in complete agreement with Ken Ham's teachings and I have to strongly disagree with "the sky is falling" attitudes which are on display here.

If any of these indoctrinated children have the sort of intellectual curiosity which would give them the necessary talents for being a research scientist, they'll leave these teachings far behind as they mature.

One fatal flaw of this sort of teaching is how closely tied their "science" is with their morality. Since children can pick up on hypocrisy rather quickly, they'll soon notice the disconnect between what the adults teach and how the adults live. This was very clear at my old school. We could see how miserable the teachers and staff were, how they would take out their misery on their spouses, children and us. If they were wrong about the 'joy' that Christ supposedly gives, what else were they wrong about? Faith wasn't working for them in their daily lives so why should faith be taken at face value when it came to the big things, like the origin of the universe?

On top of that, since this sort of faith often attracts tin-foil and conspiracy theory types, we'd get all sorts of obvious silliness mixed in with the rest of the teaching. Things like how MLK was a communist agent or the schlock that Journey was playing was really Satanic messages in disguise. Again, if they couldn't be trusted to get little things correct, how could they be trusted on the big issues?

In a way, subjecting children to this type of teaching is an interesting form of intellectual selection. The kids too brain dead to ever question adults will fall by the wayside but they probably would have never become scientists anyways. For the rest of them, this experience will eventually create adults who question everything and will never take anything at face value; the sort of adult who would be very good in a research setting.
posted by pandaharma at 7:22 PM on February 12, 2006


Just to throw in my two on the whole deal:

I believe that the current outcry against science is a perfectly understandable response to the ever-increasing relevance of science in everyday life. As science and technology begin to pervade more thoroughly into our homes, they begin to affect the way people live and think, rather than just being a toaster or TV. So... people are afraid - it's happening too quickly, the usurpation (real word?) of a millenia-old institution, the church.

They take a stand against the onslaught against their sacred cow, but since their stand is necessarily one of ignorance and denial, it can only last so long before it blows up in their face.

This will not happen soon... I'm looking maybe 10 years down the line before science breaks their barricades. Our victory in Dover is just a small thing, but significant. Those victories aren't forgotten, but they will only count once they are large enough as a group to force themselves into the brains of even the blindest fundamentalists. It's a matter of time, I think, like it or not, and nothing we can do can speed up the rate at which these people switch over.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 7:39 PM on February 12, 2006


Catholics don't take the Old Testament literally (or particularly seriously) and they acknowledge that much of the New Testament is in the form of allegories designed for illiterate peasants of two thousand years ago. Somewhere in the NT Jesus says that his new teachings are to supercede the old ones about eye for an eye and raping captured women and stuff like that and mainly talks about forgiveness, how bad it is to be wealthy and brotherly love. Most American Christians ignore this completely.

The Catholic Church has always been strongly against people interpreting the Bible for themselves, without talking it over with a priest, as they felt it would lead to dangerous cults and charismatic lunatics leading break away groups. (Also it made them more important socially and gave them sway over heads of state.)
posted by fshgrl at 7:47 PM on February 12, 2006


As science and technology begin to pervade more thoroughly into our homes, they begin to affect the way people live and think, rather than just being a toaster or TV. So... people are afraid - it's happening too quickly, the usurpation (real word?) of a millenia-old institution, the church.

Perhaps they should try a more contemplative science.
posted by homunculus at 8:05 PM on February 12, 2006


It's that it infects our culture with a disdain for science in general, and that extends to pretty much everything.

That's pretty much been the aim of the wedge strategy all along. These people won't stop at evolution - they want to drag you back to before the enlightenment entirely.
posted by Artw at 8:18 PM on February 12, 2006


Why do writers on evolution insist on using such loaded terms in their titles? Dawkins has done incalculable harm in calling his influential book "The Selfish Gene", so that men like Jeff Skilling feel entirely justified by science in fucking over their fellow man. The sight and sound of Dawkins backpedalling on this point is pathetic. And why exactly is Darwin's idea "dangerous"? If an idea is a true explanation of the way the world is, in what sense is it "dangerous"?
posted by Tarn at 8:23 PM on February 12, 2006


But is "Darwin's Dangerous Idea" too corrosive to mysticism to coexist with Christianity?

No, because as it stands, mysticism doesn't have anything to do with Christianity.

What if Darwinism and other important scientific/philosophical ideas really were kept out of schools, and children had to find out about it on their own?

They wouldn't just die out. These ideas are so important, they will survive, although in the future everyone may not be exposed to them.

I'd imagine that people would find a new, secret way to teach their children these things. Alternatively, children are good at the internet -- they could find a new, secret way to tell each other. It might end up being actually more exciting than learning it in school.
posted by Laugh_track at 8:31 PM on February 12, 2006


He who believes that each equine species was independently created, will, I presume, assert that each species has been created with a tendency to vary, both under nature and under domestication, in this particular manner, so as often to become striped like other species of the genus; and that each has been created with a strong tendency, when crossed with species inhabiting distant quarters of the world, to produce hybrids resembling in their stripes, not their own parents, but other species of the genus. To admit this view is, as it seems to me, to eject a real for an unreal, or at least for an unknown, cause.

It makes the works of God a mere mockery and deception; I would almost as soon believe with the old and ignorant cosmogonists, that fossil shells had never lived, but had been created in stone so as to mock the shells now living on the sea-shore.
Charles Darwin - On the Origin of the Species 1859
Darwin at Project Gutenburg. Good to see he is in the top 100.
posted by peacay at 8:37 PM on February 12, 2006


While I disagree with this guy, I respect the fact that he feels strongly about his religion and is only trying to shed light on the truth.
Ham encourages people to further their research with the dozens of books and DVDs sold by his ministry.
Oh. Well I'll be a monkey's uncle.
posted by revgeorge at 8:42 PM on February 12, 2006


Why do writers on evolution insist on using such loaded terms in their titles?

I think you are laboring under the misapprehension that the title is always under the author's control. In Dawkins's case, perhaps more so than others, but still.

I don't think you can blame Dawkins for Enron, though, even if he did choose the title. If someone's knowledge of a book goes no farther than the title, the author's hardly to blame for that.

The sight and sound of Dawkins backpedalling on this point is pathetic..

I believe he's said he wishes he'd chosen a different title and has explained at every opportunity what the book is actually about. I'd hardly call that "backpedaling," more like "correcting an innocent but perhaps naive mistake."

And why exactly is Darwin's idea "dangerous"?

Well, um, read the book and find out? That's why the title is so provocative, after all.
posted by kindall at 8:51 PM on February 12, 2006


Actually Laugh track, Christianity can have a lot to do with mysticism, if one uses a broad enough definition of the term "Christianity." Organized religion in the "western world" however is antithetical to mysticism, a few exceptions like Merton notwithstanding: organized religion is a vehicle for power, money and "fellowship" in a way that almost by definition excludes direct personal union with The Ineffable.

On the other hand, any kind of Theism is not necessary to mysticism, as for example many Buddhists have no belief in a personal Deity; nor is there really any reason why an atheist could not have a mystical experience, though some of the language an atheist might use to attempt to describe his/her mysticism might seem odd in that context.

As to the content of anybody's mystical experience, I'm afraid I can't speak of such things. If I had such an experience I'd be more likely to think I was losing my mind.
posted by davy at 9:42 PM on February 12, 2006


"Ham co-founded the nonprofit in his native Australia in 1979"

...on behalf of the rest of us Aussies, sorry.
posted by nonemoreblack at 10:12 PM on February 12, 2006


A couple problems here. One, evolution is not compatible with the Christian creation myths at all. The Pope embraced it because fighting it would do more harm than good. If Ham and people like him disagree with that then they have a right to. In America you can raise youre kid to practice Santaria, defend Keynsian economics, believe in UFOs, etc. There are no protections against crazy beliefs, which is a point Dawkins made a while ago and at least one critic in this thread has a problem with. Sorry, but we allow the Amish to live in their own little communities. We allow every religious belief. We allow Jehovah's witnesses to deny their children organ and blood transplants.


This is why Dawkins consider indoctrination of children into psychologically harsh belief systems to potentially be something like abuse. I don't think its fair to dismiss him as a nut, unless you're willing to live in a world where biology books are edited by local community standards. Where religious freedom allows for chants like this to go on in public. Either we acknowledge some wrong-doing here or we allow it. A token link to some liberal christians isn't exactly the counter to all of this.

Now if you think society should step in to do something about the above then just say so. Don't pussyfoot around by saying "Oh some minority of liberal churches are okay with Darwin because through some sophistry they equate evolution with God's plan." Umm, what happens when all this sophistry fails when it comes to some other theory? Do we just respect their wishes or link to an even smaller minority of Christians who have no problem with abiogenesis or whatever? If we can't find these people do we pull out some token Deist and say "look, look, religious belief is cool with the hot-button theory of the day."

These villians orthogonality portrays are less literal minded fundamentalists than you might think. Sure, its easy to paint them as nuts, but they are actually pretty mainstream. A typical Christian believes in creation and the judgement of end times. Well, the big bang theory along with evolution and cosmology in general kill these concepts cold. Less than 35% of all Americans even believe in evolution!

I thnk the premise of the FPP is intellectually disingenious to protect vested religious interests. I don't think people realize how deep this kind of thinking goes and how far it spreads from the extremists. Its a moderate position to question evolution (see my above link) or even decry it as a conspiracy of "eggheads with no spirituality."

Again, if there is a problem here then I'd like to see reactions better than just the witch-hunt for this one church out of many. Also, some acceptance of the fact that it isnt the nutters who think this and if this is truly a social problem which creates victims then someone should step in to stop it. If it isn't, if these children are not victims, then why are we complaining?

And a pony.
posted by skallas at 10:30 PM on February 12, 2006


>>Dawkins has done incalculable harm in calling his influential book "The Selfish Gene", so that men like Jeff Skilling feel entirely justified by science in fucking over their fellow man.

And the Beatles are at fault for producing ambigious music which led to Charles Manson becoming a serial killer. Right? We will burn our Dawkins along with our Beatles records.

I don't see how an explanation of the natural world suddenly turns into a justification for all things. If people choose to live without ethics then we as a society punish them for wrongdoing. This is like saying all the discovery channel pieces about alpha-male lions justifies bullying. No, actually, this stuff reveals why bullying is there to begin with.
posted by skallas at 10:40 PM on February 12, 2006


One, evolution is not compatible with the Christian creation myths at all.

I'd argue with that. The vast majority of Christians I know (admittedly Catholics, not USian fundies) have no problem reconciling the two. They regard the creation stories as allegories and accept evolution. Free will and infinite possibility are one of the major tenets of Catholicism after all.
posted by fshgrl at 10:40 PM on February 12, 2006


I would like to see a Venn diagram detailing the overlap of creationists and people who bemoan the outsourcing of science and research work to other countries.
posted by mcsweetie at 10:50 PM on February 12, 2006


>The vast majority of Christians I know

You know? Are you doing a study like the one I linked to? This is an anecdote.

To be fair, Catholicism does not recognize evolution as defined by biology. It recognizes its own theology which claims that if these developments did indeed happen then they happened by the impetus and guidance of God. Again, this has nothing to do with evolution as we know it.

If anything, the Catholic move to embrace an 'evolution-like' posistion was a smart political move to avoid the current battle in the US.

Also, I question the honesty of people who claim to know and believe evolution is a sound theory. There is a great social pressure to not come off like a religious nut in the US amongst certain demographics. If all these acedotes, like yours, were taken into sum, then from what I've heard belief in evolution would be near 100% Yet, polls have it tagged at under 35%. Instead I believe people are just more honest with anonymous polls.
posted by skallas at 10:55 PM on February 12, 2006


But it's so difficult to poll (or get any kind of understanding) about people who don't know what they're being asked. First, how about we start with a poll to find out how many people purely equate evolution with "Humans coming from monkeys"? I've got a feeling that this is the main issue with a lot of less educated people. They think this is what evolution is all about, and they take offence to the concept at some distant anthropomorphic "we're different from animals" level. I know that's how my mother was. She wasn't too concerned about the broader picture, or the scientific picture, but she took offense at the idea that "humans are monkeys".

However, what if you ask people, with basic examples:
(a) Do you believe in characters being passed from parents to childern?
(b) Do you believe some characters might be more suitable in some environments than others?
(c) Do you believe that life forms with characters not suitable to their environment are likely to die and not reproduce?

Then I believe you might get entirely different statistics on how many people "believe" in and understand evolution by natural selection.
posted by Jimbob at 11:16 PM on February 12, 2006


This is evident, by the way, in that famous argument creationists come up with: "If man evolved from moneys, why are there still monkeys?" Anyone who comes up with this sort of argument is in no fit state of understanding to even be asked the question "Do you believe in evolution?"
posted by Jimbob at 11:25 PM on February 12, 2006


Jimbob, if education is the problem then why do other western nations not have this problem when the standard of education between them is roughly the same?

I mean, you can nitpick any poll. For instance I noticed you didnt have a problem with the terms God or Afterlife. Both much more ambigious and open to interpretation than evolution.

The evolution question was asked like so:

"In your opinion, how true is this? ...Human beings developed from earlier species of animals.."

In your example you don't mention humans and animals together. This is really the point. I'm sure you can find lots of people who might agree to your questions as long as you left humans out of it because of their religious beliefs. Im sure people have no problem with animal evolution.

Not to mention its the religious types that have problems with evolution. I don't think its just an educational problem and as far as the loaded monkey question goes, that to me , is a mocking of the debate by people who have long made up their minds.
posted by skallas at 11:39 PM on February 12, 2006


Jimbob, if education is the problem then why do other western nations not have this problem when the standard of education between them is roughly the same?

Well, I think other western nations do have the same problems. Recent surveys in the UK indicated (if I remember correctly) that the majority believe in creationism. I know the debate is going on here in Australia, with federal politicians making statements that they see no problem with creationism being taught in science class, if it's what parents want. It might just be more obvious in the US because of the strength of evangelical / fundamentalist Christianity in certain regions, and because of the classic argument regarding the separation of church and state.

In any case, I gave those example questions to indicate where I believe the "blockage" may lie - not necessarily with a rejection of science but with a rejection of the idea of "man as an animal". The most fundamental part of the creation story, as understood by most Christians, is that god placed humans above the animals. Humans were "created" on a separate day. Therefore, while at a purely logical level most people would accept the individual biological ideas behind natural selection, they refuse to accept it as soon as they are confronted with the place of humanity within the rest of life.

(Personally, I don't know why this is such a great problem. It seems pretty obvious to me that humans are animals too. Two eyes. Legs, arms, head. Same organs. Same reproductive system. Eat, shit and piss the same. Why are some people so caught up with treating humans as something unique?)
posted by Jimbob at 12:00 AM on February 13, 2006


Its a moderate position to question evolution

Maybe. But it's not moderate to put Creatonism up against it as a counter-argument. That's the issue here.
posted by magpie68 at 2:37 AM on February 13, 2006


If you're against literalism - why are you taking this incredibly unrepresentative minority of people and using them as an example of what all christians believe everywhere and all the time ?
Because it's completely and utterly untrue.
Don't you think we can't fucking stand them either ?

A typical Christian believes in creation and the judgement of end times. Well, the big bang theory along with evolution and cosmology in general kill these concepts cold. Less than 35% of all Americans even believe in evolution!

Father George Lemaitre , Roman Catholic Priest , Inventor of the Big Bang Theory.


Anyway , back to your caricatures.
posted by sgt.serenity at 2:45 AM on February 13, 2006


Well said, sarge.

A typical Christian believes in creation and the judgement of end times.

That sentence might well be true if you appended ',in America.' or ',in Africa' to it. In the Church of England, the average Bishop isn't entirely certain about the central tenets of his faith. (Which I rather like - a Christian who endlessley questions their faith is to be admired, unlike one who is utterly, utterly certain because someone else told them to be.)
posted by jack_mo at 4:53 AM on February 13, 2006


If you teach your children like this, they can never become doctors, nurses, geologists, biologists, physicists, zookeepers, teachers, &c., or, indeed, anything that requires a university degree'

Sadly that's not true though. I know of one chap (a photographer who recently won an award) who took a zoology degree despite firmly believing that the world is only 5000 years old. I suppose the dinosaurs are "tests of faith".
posted by bonaldi at 5:56 AM on February 13, 2006


jack_mo: Do evangelicals of this stripe deny themselves, eg. medical treatments based on theories they don't believe in, in the way that Jehova's Witnesses refuse blood transfusions? If not, how do they justify/excuse their use of medical treatments, technologies, &c. that deny their beliefs? (I'm having no luck Googling the subject.)

Well, there is another issue in how the anti-Evolution groups work on this. When they invoke science they tend to give epistemology a right angle twist by saying promoting replicability of experiments as the only way to verify hypotheses. So they would accept the claim that seatbelts save lives because you can conduct experimental tests using dummies instead of human beings. But they will argue against the notion of replicability of observations. Until evolutionists create a new species in the lab through natural selection, it's just a weak theory and there is no way to say that it's true. They reject the notion that it is possible to create and test hypotheses about events in deep time by looking at contemporary evidence. And since the only narrative we have from deep time is the Bible, we must give the Bible some weight here.

tzikeh: Give back your cars, and electric lights, and penicillin, and hospitals, and factories, and, oh, no gravity for you.

Bad claims made by supporters of evolution annoy me just as much as bad claims made by opponents. About the only one of these that can be fully credited to science proper is penicillin.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 6:11 AM on February 13, 2006


Darwinism can coexist with Christianity just as much as Christianity, being internally contradictory, can exist with itself.
posted by Protocols of the Elders of Awesome at 6:41 AM on February 13, 2006


To be fair, Catholicism does not recognize evolution as defined by biology. It recognizes its own theology which claims that if these developments did indeed happen then they happened by the impetus and guidance of God. Again, this has nothing to do with evolution as we know it.

You completely misrepresent the Catholic view on evolution here, skallas. What exactly in that link do you think the Catholic church disagrees with?
posted by TungstenChef at 6:43 AM on February 13, 2006


However, what if you ask people, with basic examples:
(a) Do you believe in characters being passed from parents to child[re]n?
(b) Do you believe some character[istic]s might be more suitable in some environments than others?
(c) Do you believe that life forms with character[istic]s not suitable to their environment are likely to die and not reproduce?


Okay, but reframe that into a worldview where the Earth is 6000 years old, and it can't explain macro-evolution and speciation -- there just isn't a long enough timescale for the mechanism to have such a major impact.

Silly as that sounds, it's a major stumbling block for Creationists/ID-ers in accepting evolution.
posted by LordSludge at 9:03 AM on February 13, 2006


A couple of thoughts:

For some, religious faith is all about the journey: what you learn about yourself and mankind as you figure out how the gods would have you live in this world.

For others, faith is all about not having to do any difficult thinking. For them, what they learn about themselves and what they do in this life is far less important than their assured salvation on account of pure faith.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:08 AM on February 13, 2006


if education is the problem then why do other western nations not have this problem when the standard of education between them is roughly the same?

I'm afraid they do. Western education systems have spectacularly failed to teach people the most basic principles of science. And I don't just mean evolutionary biology. The average person's knowledge of cosmology is practically zero too. It's a moot point if this ignorance is accidental or deliberate.
posted by bobbyelliott at 1:31 PM on February 13, 2006


I'd just like to point out that the findings of the survey linked above (and mentioned by Jimbob) about the UK being >50% in agreement with the idea of creationism/ID are horseshit. I can't prove it to you (since the questionnaire is not available online) but I'd be willing to wager that the questions are designed in such a way to generate such a ridiculous answer. I'd be extremely shocked to see percentages lower than 80% for evolution; even if people don't actually understand it.

British schools might not be any better at educating youth than US schools but there is virtually no media attention devoted to ID/Creationism, other than the occasional "Ha-ha, look at Kansas" type affair. Whilst there is a school in the UK dedicated to religious indoctrination (the Vardy Foundation) most people would be looked at very strangely for indicating a preference for biblical creationism over science.

Again, that's not to say the average British person is smarter or better educated than a Yank, just that ID has no foothold in the public eye over here so it's only ever a subject of derision.
posted by longbaugh at 1:56 PM on February 13, 2006



“Who’s the black private dick that’s a sex machine to all the chicks?”
“God!”
“They say this cat God is a baaad motherfu..”
“Shut your mouth!”
“I’m just talking about God”
“And we can dig it!”

I dunno. There are some dead givaways in the bible: “Damn the flesh that depends on the soul. Damn the soul that depends on the flesh.”

I mean that’s pretty straightforward. JC talked a great deal about this kind of understanding. I don’t get a lot of other folks’ take on it though. It doesn’t seem at odds with any kind of science.

As an epistomological statement -(we kind of forget that Plato - et.al. predates Christ by a bit) it does suggest a difference between knowlege and true belief. Looks to me like it asserts a very strong division of the two.
Without getting into justification and given the tone of the rest of the scripture there (render unto Caesar and so forth) it would seem the assertion is you can’t derive spiritual (or more neutrally - purely reason based) knowlege from worldly (or empiric or objectively derived knowlege) experiance and vice versa.
Decent enough point. There is some question still whether moral knowlege is possible at all (in the sense that it requires truth and thus objective experiance).

I don’t think there is any question the case for evolution is vastly superior in terms of objective truth to any derivable case from the bible.

We get far more real, useful, provable, repeatable knowlege about ourselves from science and from evolution than we do from the bible.

We do not however address any more substantive ontological questions raised by the bible such as the existance and features of things we can’t necessarially see with our eyes - such as numbers or properties.

I would argue that occasionally adherants to science resort to didacticism. (It goes without saying that there are folks on the “mystic” side who indulge in a great deal of tautology)

And that this can get in the way of many of the philosophical issues that Christ raised (his fan club - again, goes without saying).

What indeed is the correspondence of the structure thoughts and the structure of reality? Do you really damage yourself in attempting to apply one mode of thought to the other?

Fortunately, computer science and research into AI has made ontological thought, hip again.
(the ‘intelligence as an algorithm’ bit from one of the links got my brain a-flashing)
posted by Smedleyman at 2:26 PM on February 13, 2006


Ontology in the AI sense is not really the same as in the "science of being" sense.

Formal ontologies are fundamentally incompatible with pre-formal metaphysical thought. You just aren't going to be able to do f'rinstance Thomist metaphysics with a formal language.

I do have to say, though, it was studying AI for years that eventually got me interested in pre-Enlightenment thinking.
posted by sonofsamiam at 3:12 PM on February 13, 2006


The real question should be do these people have anything to do with christianity ?
If it wasnt evolution , it would be something else with them , they just want to control people , christianitys a convenient tool to make them look plausible.
If only they were shouting this loud about iraq or poverty but i presume that's the last thing on their minds.
Maybe if the Mayflower had sank the world would look different.
posted by sgt.serenity at 3:35 PM on February 13, 2006


Actually Laugh track, Christianity can have a lot to do with mysticism, if one uses a broad enough definition of the term "Christianity."

Ah! You are right! I have encased myself in a reflective bubble of Western civilization! Argh
posted by Laugh_track at 4:06 PM on February 13, 2006


S’what I mean sonofsamiam. At least someone is noticing it.

Hell, you have to bust your ass 1/2 the time to explain to people that language and the alphabet were invented. Who even considers ground of being questions?
(Well, unless you’re high.)
posted by Smedleyman at 4:26 PM on February 13, 2006


If there were any kind of decent reason to think the Bible *was* the straight-up word of God, I'd certainly trust it way more than any scientist or scientific theory. But I'm not about to give the Bible (or any other scripture) that kind of credit without some damn good evidence and reasoning...you know, the kind of thing that makes science so persuasive and successful.
posted by uosuaq at 5:14 PM on February 13, 2006


I wonder if the librarians at Alexandria were discussing the sorts of things we're discussing now when the Christians came and burned the place down, destroying almost all the written words, all the science and observation and art and poetry, and everything else, that Indo-European civilization had collected up to that point?

Don't underestimate the power of this kind of indoctrination. A lot of people just love to think they have all the knowledge they'll ever need, and that anyone who claims better knowledge is to be hated, feared and destroyed.

I'm glad I don't live in New Jersey anymore, I lived pretty close to Wayne. *shudder*
posted by zoogleplex at 6:42 PM on February 13, 2006


uosuaq: If there were any kind of decent reason to think the Bible *was* the straight-up word of God, I'd certainly trust it way more than any scientist or scientific theory.

I believe that the Bible is actually the Word of Satan; it tells you exactly the wrong things to do. Believe in it, and burn in Hell.

Why does God allow it to exist? To weed out the suckers.
posted by LordSludge at 9:59 PM on February 13, 2006


Who even considers ground of being questions?

Everybody, up until sometime in the 1700-1800's!
posted by sonofsamiam at 5:52 AM on February 14, 2006


"But is "Darwin's Dangerous Idea" too corrosive to mysticism to coexist with Christianity?"

yes. Atheists ought to form our own country, and say to hell with these schmucks (irony intentional).

There's a reasonably strong correlation between intelligence & tendency towards atheism/agnosticism. Imagine a country with 30-40% fewer stupid people. Everything would be so much better.

And with the bulk of the more productive scientists in our country, we could enforce what Christ (who absolutely loathed hypocrisy) would enforce if he actually existed: if you don't like science, don't use it. Don't benefit from it. The resulting discrepancy in life expectancy ought to go a long way towards compensating for the difference in birthrates.
posted by lastobelus at 1:23 PM on February 14, 2006


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