Tag Archives: Darwin Day

Does religion blur understanding of evolution?

Victor Stenger has a short, but important, blog post in the Huffington Post. Appropriately (because it’s about evolutionary science) dated February 12 – Darwin Day, 204th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth.

Stenger’s article, No Belief Gap, considers Gallup Poll data on the numbers of American who accept evolutionary science and who believe in a god. But in contrast to some commentators, he differentiates between those who see evolution as guided by their god or as a so-called “naturalistic” process – defined in the polls as: “Man has developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life [and] God had no part in the process.”

This is, of course, what we mean by evolutionary science. Guidance by gods, goblins, elves or whatever is not part of that science. (Nor is it currently part of any other science). The distinction is important and it is no accident that some religious apologists like Alvin Plantinga  misrepresent the issue and are trying to create the impression that “divine” guidance is an essential part of evolutionary science (see Naturalism and science are incompatible).

Stenger finds of those accepting a proper definition of evolutionary science:

“This is exactly the same percentage of Americans who declare themselves unaffiliated with any religion.

“It may be that the only Americans who accept naturalist evolution are those who do not participate in any organized religion.”

His last comment:

“Virtually all Christians who accept that species evolve, contrary to the Bible that they believe is the word of God, think evolution is God-guided. This is not Darwinian evolution. God-guided evolution is intelligent design creationism. How many American Christians believe in evolution, as it is understood by science? The data indicate none.”

Could we draw the same conclusion about New Zealand Christians? I would be interested to see similar poll data for our country.

See also: A specious argument for the comity of evolution and faith

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Something to celebrate

"Our Rocket is all set on the launchpad that Yuri Gagarin launched from 50 years ago." - Ron Garan. Photo credit Jake Garan

US Astronaut, Ron Garan, is spending today travelling on board a Russian Soyuz vehicle up to  the Inernational Space Station for a 5 ½ month stint. He finished his last post at his blog, FRAGILE OASIS, before the launch with this (see Last Blog Post On Earth. For Now.):

In the words of Yuri Gagarin as he left the launch pad on that historic day, Поехали “WE’RE OFF!”

The historical significance is that this launch occurs on the eve of the 50th anniversary of the first manned space flight by Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin – April 12, 1961. And from the same Baikonur Cosmodrome used for Gagarin’s launch. Garan talks about this historic event and some of the traditioons that have grown up around manned space lauches. (For example, every astronaut and Cosmonaut since Gagarin plants a tree before launch).

I remember Gagarin’s flight well. There was understandably far more interest in manned space flight then than there is now. It was certainly an historic event.

So I will be celebrating this anniversary – and hope many others will too. Especially children and students – but anyone interested in or appreciative of science. This event is usually called Yuri’s Night (see below).

Talking about scientific celebrations – Tim Handorf sent me a link to the 20 Best Holidays for Science Geeks. It’s a list of dates for celebration. Great for teachers and parents wishing to cultivate an interest in science among their children.

Here’s the list of suggestions: Continue reading

Darwin Week discussion topic?

Next month there will be public events around to world to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth (February 12th). Here’s an interesting one I came across planned for Clemson University in the US.

A public screening of Ben Stein’s film Expelled: No Intelligence Allowedfollowed by a discussion. It’s sponsored by the Departments of Biological Sciences and Philosophy & Religion.

At first sight this might appear to provide a platform for the anti-science, creationist brigade. Bit think about it. What would be the effect of showing this dishonest propaganda film to a mainstream audience (especially a university based one) and then subjecting it to informed analysis by mainstream scientific and religious experts? Surely this would expose the lies presented in the film and clarify the motives of the films makers and sponsors.

Mainstream university and scientific people probably are not often confronted with the reality of this sort of dishonest propaganda. Perhaps they should be – and doing this in a context where the danger of this propaganda can be exposed can only be a good thing.

Currently “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed in this Film” has a relatively narrow distribution – showing to mainly fundamentalist Christian audiences. In New Zealand this seems to be the only audience even contemplated by the films promoters.

So, perhaps the supporters of science could actually treat this dishonest film as a resource and put it to good use.

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A respectable man with a dangerous theory

Darwin DayThis Tuesday, February 12, marks the 199th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth. The 149th anniversary of the publication of his book The Origin of Species also occurs this year. In this book Darwin laid out his theory of natural selection which is still accepted today as an integral part of modern revolutionary theory.

The anniversary is being marked throughout the world as Darwin day – commemorating the major contribution Darwin made to science, particularly biology. The occasion is of course being celebrated by scientific organisations and activities also include discussion by the New York State Legislative Assembly of a resolution marking the day.

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