The debate about whether or not evolution is ‘real’ or not is one with which atheists and theists alike will be familiar. I recently received a very well written and nicely produced pamphlet attacking ‘scientific myths’, including evolution: pointing out that there is no complete consensus on how evolution works, and that there are gaps in the evidence. Within discussions of the validity of religion, such debates are, however, something of a red herring – evolution has no relevance to considerations of the veracity of religion.
Yet by engaging atheists in debates about evolution, and evidence and arguments for and against, theists are distracting from this simple fact. More seriously, there is a danger that this debate sets up an implication of an ‘either/or’ situation, which is clearly not the case. Humans always want certainties – that is why they invent religions and argue strenuously about evolution – but the argument over the certainty of where life comes from should not distract from the certainty that really matters: there is no god.
I give credence to the theory of evolution, because it is afforded widespread scientific/academic credence, there appears to be plenty of evidence and it seems to me to make sense. However, that position could arguably also have applied to various (‘scientific’) beliefs in, say, early Christian times that are no longer taken seriously, therefore:
Can I personally say with absolute certainty (that certainty with which I can say that there is no god) that evolution, as we currently understand it, is a fact of nature? No. Does that have any bearing on the simple fact that there is no god (or does it indeed have any relevance to discussions of this matter)? No.
Perhaps we will eventually be able to produce an account of evolution in all its features and workings that is completely accurate and incontrovertible. Perhaps we will have to alter or expand our current understanding substantially to achieve this. Perhaps a more differentiated alternative will be developed. Perhaps we will never know entirely and exactly how we arrived at our present state as a species. Do these possibilities have any bearing on religion? No.
There will almost certainly always be things that we can’t explain, and humans evidently feel the need to formulate answers to questions that preoccupy them, to the best of their (often feeble) abilities.
I’m not arguing against scientific endeavour (on the contrary - I’m an academic), just keep in mind that you don’t have to ‘prove’ evolution to disprove god. Put simply: there is no need for a definite alternative to disprove god – it’s not an either/or situation: however the universe began, and however life developed, god does not exist.
"My point is that I'm not really qualified to be able to express that opinion with absolute certainty (and the same is certainly the case for most people I know, and probably most people that I don't know). If science developed a more useful theory, I would, in turn, be happy to accept that."
Acceptance of new information
"I depend on fact based on less rigorous logic and evaluation of evidence all the time without a qualm. I will change this 'fact' (as I change existing 'facts' all the time, as I learn new ones - Adlerian psychology calls this a 'guiding principle', an excellent concept) when I receive new insights which can change my mind, e.g. god introduces himself personally."
Acceptance of new information
"Also, I feel that accepting the fact that God doesn't exist as a complete certainty is an important step for any atheist."
"accepting the fact that God doesn't exist as a complete certainty"
It's not beyond the bounds of the imagination that we don't understand evolution accurately, and there are certainly aspects of evolution that we can't fully explain with obvious, incontrovertible evidence.
Is it just me, or does the spidey sense tingle?
I'm unwilling to get drawn into a debate about the nature of certainties, mainly because they tend to be pointless (they can be entertaining, even stimulating, but ultimately achieve little or nothing). 'God does not exist' is as reasonable a fact as any other. Let's take as an example the fact that 'there is grass growing in the park across the road from my house'. My mind could conceivably be changed - it could turn out to be fake grass, or some other plant that merely looks, feels and (when cut) smells like glass, or perhaps I've just consistently hallucinated it. But until any of those turn out to be the case, I'm going to stick with my original fact. Isn't that the closest we can get to certainty in any case? Is there any practical advantage in consequently denying that anything is certain? We clearly act as if things were certain, and surely that is, in practical terms, certainty.
To put it another way: because I can conceptualise the theoretical possibility of alternatives doesn't destabilise my certainty in 'what I know' (which is the closest anyone can actually get to fact).
How is admitting the theoretical possibility of a deity any more useful than admitting the theoretical possibility of anything else for which there is no evidence and which makes no logical sense?
Actually,if we're dealing with 'the "god" humanity has come to understand', we can say with certainty that he doesn't exist. A Christian God, for instance, encompasses all aspects of how this concept is understood, including, for instance, the account provided by the Bible. Now, we know that plenty of what it says in the Bible is factually incorrect, therefore that God definitely doesn't exist.
The discussion about certainties can only apply to a vague, unknown, theoretical 'higher power'...
I somewhat agree--even if they believe in evolution, many christians I know who do don't believe in "macro evolution" or they believe that god used evolution to create us.
Evolution is our biggest weapon against this sort of thinking though. If only 'Macro' evolution is possible how do we have transition fossils and similarity in DNA? If god created us, a lot of other things I would have done, would have made a lot more sense, we are clearly not "created" or came to be with anything special in mind--we simply survived, but with them claiming that we can study science all we want, it's just that god created it, we risk running into an answer for that and having to fight through it again and again.
So the argument is both separate and intertwined with each other, does god exist/does he not and did evolution happen/did it not.
The other part is that proving that evolution did happen--the proper way of seeing evolution, the one that we have evidence for, is important, and a lot of people simply aren't fighting for it, but guess what? we are. The god thing tends to get pushed by the wayside while people try to muck up education with their religious pseudoscience.
Now if only I could make it illegal for them to force their children to church or for non-licensed 'teachers' to teach children such pseudoscience....
I just feel sorry that you americans have to suffer this on laught of christianty - we just don't seem to have that battle here - but I wonder if it is a cultural thing also - in that Australians just don't talk about politics, religion or sport - same as the English - but I've been told that Americans love disscussion those topics and debate them passionatly - it's part of their culture and free speech or whatever...
I've started a local adult education course and the first couple of sessions have been about christianity - and quite frankly i'm over talking about christianity - i was brought up atheist and hindu by hippy parents and have no interest in the ongoing conversation about christianity - they are full of shit and live in fantasy world - and yet they keep coming up again and again in our community - why? I think it is this American culture of free speech that fosters a competative culture of shouting your believes and aiming to force others - in a sort of 'war' on what ever it is that they are battling about - it's not just about 'war' or submitting - there are other options - i've got at least 4 christian friends and their families - all the other kids on the street are religious - christian or hindu - it doesn't need to come up - we get on fine - i have another close family friends who are christian - we have had disscussions - but we are good friends - although not as close as I would be if they were God free. In fact just about all the people i know are supernatural in some way formal or informal - and they are all pretty normal people just getting on with their lives - why does it need to be a problem that we have to irradicate.
Again I think the problem is American culture of declaring war on things that are different - and thus creating the belief wars that are present here...