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God and Evolution September 16, 2007

Posted by Joe in agnosticism, atheism, belief, Christianity, creationism, evolution, Kent Hovind, religion, science, skepticism, theism.

Many people on both sides of the evolution/creation struggle in the United States want people to believe that their is a conflict between a belief in god and an acceptance of the biological theory of evolution. Let me assure you they are wrong. They want to construct a false dichotomy because it is easier to prop up your side when all you have to do is tear down the other.

If there are more than two options than tearing down the other is not sufficient. One needs to have positive evidence that supports any theory of the origins of species. I will stick with science and the massive evidence across multiple disciplines which converge on a common answer; evolution by natural selection. Whether you be god believer or not I would advise you do the same. If you are skeptical I suggest you approach the evidence with an open mind and realize (as Pope John Paul II did) that “Truth cannot contradict truth.”

As a Christian, a trained engineer and scientist, and a professor at Emory University, I am embarrassed by the Superintendent Kathy Cox’s attempt to censor and distort the education of Georgia’s students. The existing and long-standing use of the word ‘evolution’ in our state’s textbooks has not adversly affected Georgians’ belief in the omnipotence of God as creator of the universe. There can be no incompatibility between Christian faith and proven facts concerning geology, biology, and astronomy. There is no need to teach that stars can fall out of the sky and land on a flat Earth in order to defend our religious faith.

-Former President Jimmy Carter on the inclusion of an ‘evolution warning’ in Georgia’s textbooks.


It’s the evidence! July 9, 2007

Posted by Joe in atheism, belief, creationism, evidence, evolution, freethought, science, skepticism.

I entered a discussion on the teaching of evolution with some creationists here. Why’d I bother? I’m not yet sure.

I struggled to get across the idea that hollow assertions on a blog shouldn’t be enough to convince anyone about any theory of the real world. (and yet was still accused of wanting them to accept evolution on the weight of my assertions alone!) Pure reason can tell us nothing about the real world! Only actual evidence and data collected from it can tell us what it is really like.


Proof vs. Evidence June 19, 2007

Posted by Joe in belief, creationism, evolution, fallacy, freethought, logic, psychology, science.

The Hovind challenge referenced yesterday repeatedly called for “scientific proof” of evolution. There is no proof in science. Proof is for mathematics and alcohol. You cannot prove anything in science to a certainty, though you can disprove a lot. All scientific theories are tentative and subject to revision. Even the “law of” gravity is subject to revision, and in fact was revised by Einstein’s general theory of relativity.

Science is about evidence. Evidence is the result of a structured scientific experiment or observation that supports the claims of a theory. In order to be useful a different outcome for the experiment or observation must be able to falsify or disprove the theory.

That is, there must be a well defined result that if observed would demonstrate that the theory would be false. Every experiment or observation must be structured to test the theory, thus allowing the possibility for it to fail. A theory can be disproved by a single verifiable counter-example, but no amount of confirming evidence can ever demonstrate a theory to 100% certainty.

Hovind’s $250,000 June 18, 2007

Posted by Joe in agnosticism, atheism, belief, creationism, ethics, evolution, fallacy, Kent Hovind, logic, psychology, science, skepticism.

The inimitable Kent Hovind has had his $250,000 dollar version of The Amazing Randi’s Million Dollar Challenge offered for anyone who can “give any empirical evidence (scientific proof) for evolution.*” available since 1990. (The quoted star is significant, because you have to prove his straw man of evolution to capture the prize.)

Here is how Hovind defines evolution:

Evolution is presented in our public school textbooks as a process that:

1. Brought time, space, and matter into existence from nothing.
2. Organized that matter into the galaxies, stars, and at least nine planets around the sun. (This process is often referred to as cosmic evolution.)
3. Created the life that exists on at least one of those planets from nonliving matter (chemical evolution).
4. Caused the living creatures to be capable of and interested in reproducing themselves.
5. Caused that first life form to spontaneously diversify into different forms of living things, such as the plants and animals on the earth today (biological evolution).


The Demon-Haunted World June 18, 2007

Posted by Joe in agnosticism, atheism, belief, books, creationism, ethics, evolution, fallacy, freethought, god, language, life, media, NASA, politics, psychology, reading, religion, science, skepticism, space exploration, theism.
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It’s been more than I decade since Carl Sagan wrote A Demon-haunted World: Science as a candle in the dark, But even as I reread it today its message is as timely as ever. The survival of our way of life depends entirely our scientific knowledge and how we apply it. Yet we have created a society where the vast majority have no knowledge of the methods or findings of science and no knowledge of how the technology they use everyday actually works.

Furthermore we have media and politicians that present everyday anti-science attitudes, watered down and pop-culture simplifications of science, and present pseudo-science uncritically.

Everyone should read this book; theist or atheist; “evolutionist” or creationist. Whatever your stripe you will get something out of it and enjoy the trip.

Carl Sagan explains what makes science the best way we have to know what is:

Some people consider science arrogant, nevertheless, I maintain that science is part and parcel humility. Scientists do not seek to impose their needs and wants on Nature, but instead humbly interrogate Nature and take seriously what they find. We understand human imperfection. We insist on independent and to the extent possible, quantitative verification of proposed tenets of belief. We are constantly prodding, challenging, seeking contradictions or small persistent residual errors, proposing alternative explanations, encouraging heresy. We give our highest rewards to those who convincingly disprove established beliefs.