Questionable Motives

July 6, 2011

Does creation ‘science’ disprove biblical creationism?

The short answer is Yes.

The long answer can be found in two papers, here and here.

Creation ‘science’ (an oxymoron if there ever was one) posits that animals fall into types, or baramins, which were created independently, but have diversified since. I’m sure you are aware of the creationist campaign to allow for microevolution but not macroevolution. Obtuse reasoning, but there you have it. Baramin is a word used to describe a kind of critter, say a cat to which all members of the cat ‘family’ (like lions and tigers) belong. The argument is that Noah’s ark brought on board not all animals we see today but only the essential kinds necessary to repopulate the world after the love of god was expressed by a murderously cleansing flood. Morphological gaps in the fossil record are used as ‘evidence’ for distinct baramins that could only have come about by a designing creator.

I know, but bear with me.

Dr Senter’s first paper – described in this BBC Nature Wonder Monkey article by editor Matt Walker – points the obvious, that if the fossil record for dinosaurs:

do show transitional forms, and are in fact genetically related to each other, then creationists are in a bit of a bind. Either they must accept that to be true, and therefore contradict their own position that these groups appeared without evolution. Or they must throw out the assertion, but also reject their own methodology, which they have used to validate their creationist claims. Dr Senter’s 2010 study, did of course, show that coelurosaurian dinosaurs are related, in particular that tyrannosaurs (to which T. rex belongs) form a continuous group with other dinosaurs belonging to a group called the Compsognathidae.

In the second and latest study, Senter looks at another creationist science method called taxon correlation, which is also a baraminological technique, and shows enough morphological continuity between dinosaurs to prove, by creationist standards, that dinosaurs are genetically related.

So what?

Well, it shows that dinosaurs can be grouped into eight kinds, or baramins, which would seem to make creationists happy. Eight kinds of dinosaurs are easier to load on to an ark than, say dozens of the huge monstrosities or thousands of smaller ones. So far, so good in the creationist camp. Ain’t life grand?

But hold on a second! This raises a rather sticky problem, namely, that:

in just a few thousand years, each “kind” of dinosaur begat the huge variation in fossils we see today.

In other words, incredibly rapid microevolution leading to macroevolution.

Bugger.

Heads, evolution wins. Tails, creation science loses.

Are we really surprised? Of course not… not if one honestly and with an open mind takes the time to understand why so many branches of science concludes that evolution is true. The evidence painstakingly gathered from every strand of inquiry except theology (again showing why theology is not an inquiry at all but a position of trust in certain assumptions) is mutually supportive and overwhelming. It takes a very firm belief to counter what is true in reality with what is simply believed to be true about it, and this is what theology does: it tries to convince people that reality and causal evidence should be no constraint to a good belief.

(h/t to MUR)

June 2, 2011

Could Adam and Eve have been real people?

Filed under: belief,Bible,Evolution,Faith,Genesis,NOMA,Science — tildeb @ 3:20 pm

No.

The evidence is clear – from a scientific perspective. And this is incompatible with the claim from Genesis that there was an Adam and there was an Eve living in the same place at the same time that brought about an act that upon which human sin and the need for redemption hinges.

It’s factually wrong.

These individuals – humans in the modern sense and not apes or australopithecines – are claimed to be literally true and this means that this claim is open to scientific investigation and verification. So what does the science actually tell us to a very high degree of certainty?

From Why Evolution is True (and a contest!):

Mitochondrial DNA points to the genes in that organelle tracing back to a single female who lived about 140,000 years ago, but genes on the Y chromosome trace back to about 60,000-90,000 years ago, and nuclear genes all trace back to different times—as far back as two million years.  This shows that any “Adam” and “Eve” must have lived thousands of years apart, but also that there simply could not have been two individuals who provided the entire genetic ancestry of modern humans, for each of our genes traces back to different ancestors, showing that, as expected, our genetic legacy comes from many different individuals.  It does not go back to just two individuals, regardless of when they lived.

So there you have it. Now we can sit back and watch (and wait) for some new theological argument to revisit Genesis and ‘properly’ reinterpret it in this scientific light of fact.

But please note that the theology based on a belief claim (like Adam and Eve as the parents of the human race) doesn’t correct itself. It has no self-correcting mechanism to do so, no means for honest and knowable inquiry; instead, we find the science of methodological naturalism stepping into the knowledge void – maintained and often violently protected by those who assume that respect for religious beliefs is an equivalent respect for what is true and knowable by a different means (NOMA) – and providing us with honest and knowable answers. But there is no way we can determine if such faith-based beliefs are true unless and until we invest our respect into a method of inquiry that allows us to test and verify these kinds of claims. Faith-based beliefs are insufficient and whatever pseudo-answers they provide are untrustworthy. Belief in a literal Adam and Eve is a typical example of a faith-based belief that seems like an answer but is, in fact, simply wrong.

April 29, 2011

Why is the NCSE wrong to accommodate creationism?

Russell Blackford quite reasonably points out that When it comes to science education, public school systems in the United States and other liberal democracies generally have the secular goal of teaching students well-established findings, those that are generally accepted by working scientists.

But this isn’t reasonable enough for the NCSE (National Center for Science Education) when it comes to evolutionary biology. Unlike its treatment of all other scientific topics, when it comes to evolution in public education, they feel we must deal more delicately with the religiously inclined. They feel we should be more respectful dealing with christians even though many hold different views about how creation has actually taken place. They feel it wise to avoid dealing with the fact that most of them are wrong, can be proven wrong, and should, at least implicitly, be demonstrated to be wrong. Holding to some form of creationism – it is merely a matter of degree and not kind between Young Earth Creationsim and theistic evolution – avoids the fact that nothing in biology makes sense in light of creationism.

If the Pooh Bahs over at the NCSE wish to respect the notion in policy that parts of the bible remain divinely written or inspired, then is a matter of honesty to admit that the organization, as Coyne argues, is taking itself out of the ambit of empiricism and reason. You’re making a purely subjective decision based on revelation.

This is why the issue is important for the integrity of science education as a whole and the National Center for Science Education in particular to realize that’s why science organizations that endorse some brands of theology, while decrying others, are making a serious mistake. As Jerry Coyne points out in his open letter to the NCSE (motivated by repeated negative articles posted at The Chronicle of Higher Education , let the science of evolution speak for itself.

When this policy is altered to accommodate the kind of theology that presumably (there is little evidence of efficacy) allows for some kind of wider public acceptance for some kind of evolution, then the NCSE is choosing to support a theology that is favourable and good to its aim. Note this is not done for geology and plate tectonics, vulcanism and geography in spite of providing strong evidence against the christian doctrine of a great Flood. No special allowance is made for those who believe the tenets of astrology in the curriculum for astronomy. Alchemists don’t get special consideration and accommodation in chemistry. The subject of physics is not enhanced by pretending that it doesn’t interfere with belief in immaterial things. Yet when it comes to creationism and evolutionary biology, suddenly the wise people at the NCSE think special consideration for christian religious beliefs is necessary and thus warranted. That’s bizarre and, I think, highly counter productive for an organization concerned about educating our youth about science. As Coyne quite rightly points out, who are they (the NCSE) to decide what is “good” theology? What they mean by “good”, of course, is not “theology that gives us a more accurate sense of the divine,” (as stated in their policy) but “theology that best comports with our desire to sell evolution to the public.”

And I think Coyne’s conclusion – supported directly as it is by such people as Richard Dawkins and PZ Myers and many other highly reputable scientists in evolutionary biology – is worth serious consideration because it raises an issue that I think many at the NCSE fail to understand:


First, your repeated and strong accusations that, by criticizing religion, atheists are alienating our pro-evolution allies (liberal Christians), has precisely the same alienating effect on your allies: scientists who are atheists. Second, your assertion that only you have the requisite communication skills to promote evolution is belied by the observation that you have, by your own ham-handed communications, alienated many people who are on the side of good science and evolution. You have lost your natural allies. And this is not just speculation, for those allies were us, and we’re telling you so.

April 12, 2011

What is Big History and why is it important?

In spite of never-ending creationist pushes into public education (the latest in Tennessee) to replace what is true and knowable with what is believed to be true and unknowable, Big History allows us to better understand how the universe operates and our place in it. Enjoy this TED talk from David Christian who wants everyone to know this story (it picks up speed at about the 4 minute mark).

March 13, 2011

Why is suffering a fatal flaw for belief in a benevolent creator?

Most of us know of Epicurus’ succinct summation evil causes belief in a benevolent god:

“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?

The slippery term in this paradox for believers is ‘evil’. I think we can reveal the same fatal paradox without the metaphysical baggage that accompanies such a term by replacing it with the word ‘suffering’. I am certainly not the first to do so and I think it tears away the comforting veil of ignorance that infuses belief in a benevolent god when we look at how the world actually and factually operates.

Life and death on this planet has come about as we know it by the process of evolution, a system Lord Tennyson accurately describes as “red in tooth and claw.” Suffering by sentient beings is simply part and parcel of this mindless, unguided, undirected, indifferent biological mechanism. This is a problem for those who would prefer to believe in a benevolent creator. As blogger and ex Anglican priest, Eric MacDonald so eloquently describes the problem evolution creates for the believer this way:

If this is a consciously designed process (evolution by design as held by many notable people such as Francis Collins and those allied to the same notion endorsed by the rc church and many other denominations), as Christians must maintain — for, from the Christian point of view, god’s first priority is the creation of human beings and their redemption — then all the suffering is an intentional part of god’s purposes. And this is simply intolerable. It cannot stand a moment’s moral reflection, and certainly the doctrine of double effect won’t change the mind of a reasonable person on this matter, for you cannot not intend suffering if you create by means of natural selection.

From an academically and scientifically honest standpoint, evolution is fact that is fatal to the argument that a creator god is benevolent.

So what’s a believer in a benevolent creator to do? In England, an imam with the audacity to suggest evolution is compatible with islam if the Koran is interpreted just so, one must apologize and retract such a statement if one wishes to avoid being killed as an apostate. In the US, one must contend with repeated attempts by the religiously misguided to keep creationism from being inserted into the science classroom, spending untold millions  of taxpayer dollars to continue this separation intact. The latest attack against science is in Tennessee. The one is Kentucky has just died… for this session. The one is Texas is still going strong as it works its way towards approved legislation. Florida tries every year and this one is no different. Louisiana has already passed it’s anti-evolution bill as if this will magically improve the state’s dismal showing in student science knowledge. And so on, and so on, and so on, even after creationism has been soundly defeated in every federal court case brought against its insertion into the public school science curriculum. (The latest was in Dover in 2005.) Religious beliefs about a creator – no matter under what recent title it tries on for public acceptance – have no scientific credibility nor validity. This is not a preference or belief by people who would prefer this not to be so: it’s a fact… and a fact that far too many religious people seem unable and unwilling to grasp. When such facts are contrary to what is believed to be true by those who respect faith-based beliefs, then obviously the facts must be wrong! There’s nothing like a legislative act to set the facts on the path to redemption.

Good grief.

The world, however – and  no matter where we look at it – continues to offer up the brutal fact that creationism is not only a fairytale but that its supposed benevolence is identical in all meaningful ways to that of a delusion. For example, the latest and devastating earthquakes in New Zealand and China and  Japan is accompanied by undeniable indiscriminate death and much human suffering.  Tsunamis add their additional effects. Plate tectonics and the accompanying geological and hydrological effects are just as mindless, unguided, undirected, and indifferent a physical mechanism as biological evolution is and the resulting human suffering just as obvious. The physical evidence for mindless cause and effect of these mechanisms is overwhelming. Where is the evidence for benevolence versus the suffering these mechanisms cause?

No where.

Let us now turn to the pious who feel some level of compassion and empathy for the suffering of their fellow creatures in the wake of these disasters. A.C. Grayling offers us this glimpse into the reasoning that is avoided by those who decide to offer up their prayers to some benevolent creator for these distant folk suffering from calamity. Following the same reasoning of Epicurus’s paradox, he wonders about why anyone would show fealty to such an obvious metaphysical monster some think of as a benevolent creator:

For if he is not competent to stop an earthquake or save its victims, he is definitely not competent to create a world. And if he is powerful enough to do both, but created a dangerous world that inflicts violent and agonizing sufferings arbitrarily on sentient creatures, then he is vile. Either way, what are people thinking who believe in such a being, and who go to church to praise and worship it? How, in the face of events which human kindness and concern registers as tragic and in need of help – help which human beings proceed to give to their fellows: no angels appear from the sky to do it – can they believe such an incoherent fiction as the idea of a deity? This is a perennial puzzle.

Indeed it is.

This desire by the pious to believe in a literal Santa Claus-ian benevolent creator is not just foolishly childish and comforting as only a delusion can be; it is a faith-based belief that incessantly gives god-sanctioned motivation to those who directly attack both evidence-based fact as apostasy and intellectually honest reason as some kind of evil plot to undermine god. That some continue to insist that we can accommodate religion and science – allow respect for what some believe is true as well for what IS true – is foolhardy as well as intentionally dishonest. It is foolhardy because it interferes with folk who think there is a legitimate choice to be made between accepting what is factually true and faith-based beliefs as some kind of equivalent source for knowledge in spite of no evidence for this to be the case (and much evidence in stark contrast to this case), and dishonest because for these same folk it reduces  what is true to be conditional on some collection of faith-based beliefs they have chosen to accept as true first. Yet faith-based beliefs add nothing honest to our understanding of the world nor any true appreciation for the dependent role we suffer for our lives on it and much disinformation and misrepresentation of how the world actually is and how it actually works and how we actually cause effects in it.

August 22, 2010

What might Darwin say?

August 11, 2010

Why do we think some kinds of babies are cute while others we think are not?

Filed under: Biology,Evolution,Jerry Coyne — tildeb @ 11:10 am

“Biology precedes our desires.”

I’ve been thinking about how informative that route is to explore for explanations yet seemingly is overlooked with ease by those who find it more convincing to believe that a mystical transfer occurs between some supernatural agent and humans.

There is a wonderful post for any who might be interested in this topic by (award winning author) Jerry Coyne about this subject with some terrific pictures like this one over at Why Evolution Is True.

May 31, 2010

What has David Sloan Wilson misplaced?

I get tired of the same old crap from religious apologists who claim to be atheists but respectful of religion. The two notions, like so many other notions snuggled up against religion, are simply incompatible. Be that as it may, the religious apologist tends to miss the point of their own atheism: non belief. And one maintains non belief because the reasons and justifications for the belief are held by the atheist to be insufficient to be considered probably true, probably correct, probably accurate.Wilson seems to have misplaced that notion regarding other atheists.

Most of us don’t apologize if we think the followers of astrology are wrong in their beliefs about the effects of stars and planets guiding our destinies. Most of us don’t grant respect to the idea that because some people believe lead can be made into gold by the incantation of magic words, the idea has merit simply by the fact that these folk find comfort in believing in transubstantiation. Most of us don’t lend credence to dowsing because of the utility the belief brings to those who wish to dig to the water table and who – miracle! – find water. Yet there is a veritable army of people who use this kind of flimsy thinking to excuse those who wish to maintain their religious beliefs and enter them into guiding public policies that directly affect the rights and freedoms of others.

One such apologist is David Sloan Wilson who proposes that that natural selection can operate on traits that improve the success of groups rather than individuals. Groupthink is a sociologist’s wet dream and I have always found those who construct mental definitions based on selected group criteria who then in turn define the ‘group’ behaviour as an explanation for that common group criteria to be sloppy thinkers. Sloan does not disappoint me. He responds to a question about why those like he is who argue the evolutionary utility of religion helps to explain its value in terms of group advantages are treated with less deference in the scientific world of biology than he believes they ought. The entire article is here, but the part that pisses me off is his answer to the question:

Does your approach annoy atheists?

I piss off atheists more than any other category, and I am an atheist. One of the things that infuriates me about the newest crop of angry atheists, such as Richard Dawkins, is their denial of the beneficial aspects of religion. Their beef is not just that there is no evidence for God. They also insist that religion “poisons everything”, as Christopher Hitchens subtitled his book. They are ignoring the scientific theory and evidence for the “secular utility” of religion, as Émile Durkheim put it, even though they wrap themselves in the mantle of science and rationality. Someone needs to call them out on that, and that person is me.

Angry atheists? We deny benefit to those who share religious belief? Our beef? Ignore secular utility? Wrap ourselves in science and rationality? What nonsense.

How does this intentional gross misrepresentation of some of the New Atheists deal with what matters most to honest atheists: is the notion being brought forth as a truth claim actually true, and if so, based on what good reasons with evidential support? Sloan doesn’t tackle this point because he can’t; instead, he call more famous atheists names. Yes, what a champion of the droll.

Put another way, Sloan is undermining exactly that approach concerned about inquiring into what is true and focuses on these piddling caricatures of those who do so with more groupthink that has no bearing on truth claims. For example, he seems to think that the inquiry into what is true needs to lend some weighted value to a ‘happy’ factor. He thinks if a belief has some benefit, that must increase it’s truth value. Surely if an idea has utility, he insists, that has to grant some weight to its truth value. And obviously those who insist that truth be determined in as objective way as possible must do so out of some hidden egoism. Regarding what is true, what atheists actually care about, Wilson shoots off his mouth well wide of the mark and thinks himself a real champion of the religious underclass for doing so.

What bunk.

With willing minions like Wilson to tackle the job of undermining atheism by intentional misrepresentations and really stupid and weak arguments like these, David Sloan Wilson becomes just another religious apologist aiding and abetting those who don’t care about what’s true. Although I have no doubt that in Wilson’s mind he has ‘called out’ these atheists who own up to caring about what is true, all he has really accomplished is called into question his own intellectual integrity with such proud prattle. But that will happen when you disconnect from your own higher faculties.

May 18, 2010

Dismantling creationism: how can this happen?

Over at Neurologica there is a wonderful post about a conversation between Novella and a creationist named Duane. It covers many of the standard creationist canards hostile to the science of evolution and clearly reveals how someone like Duane can pretend to respect logic and evidence and appear to be inquiring yet remain firm and steadfast in religiously inspired ignorance when those methods and the provided evidence counter some quacked-up theological beliefs. But half the fun of reading a calm and patient smack-down of hostile creationism is reading some of the comments. My favourite comment is from Weii, the tenth comment down (May 14th, 10:21 pm), who perceptively notes:

He is a typical believer who relies on his faith to answer his questions. Evidence doesn’t convince him as he will only seek evidence that confirms his belief and ignore it if it doesn’t, as we all will. A creationist that is also a scientist is an oxymoron, unless they are in a totally unrelated field. Creationists believe things and only see confirmation. Scientists make certain assumptions about the world and then test them. Someone who believes that toast always lands on the buttered side down, when faced with it landing buttered side up, will think that he buttered the wrong side.

And that is exactly what I have found as I venture through the blogosphere: those who insist that truth must be compatible with their theology have already made the decision to rank what is true to be less valuable than maintaining a religious belief, and will then bend, distort, excuse, and ignore the fruits of honest inquiry that run counter to these comforting beliefs in order to protect and promote religiously inspired ignorance. But with enough cognitive dissonance created by good reasoning about the overwhelming evidence counter to claims about special human creationism, then perhaps some will dismantle their walled religious beliefs one brick at a time and wake up one day to the beautiful dawn of an open mind and wonder “How did this happen?”

April 9, 2010

Are religious beliefs and scientific knowledge compatible?

Absolutely not. And this incompatibility has direct and dire and very real negative consequences on scientific literacy – a fundamental component necessary for a country to remain competitive in a technological and knowledge based world economy.

We are often told by well-meaning people that science and religion are compatible, that each ‘magisteria’ offers us a different way to know, and that each deals with different but equally important questions while providing us with different kinds of answers about human life. It is no wonder, then, that public education must tread a careful path keeping science and religion relegated to their separate spheres of influence.

As we are well aware, science and religion often are in conflict when their truth claims are in direct competition, and nowhere is this conflict more prevalent and rancorous than when religious belief in special creationism comes up against the theory of evolution that informs the biological sciences. The notion that we are dealing with different kinds of knowledge is simply not true. We are dealing with one kind of knowledge only, the kind that is informed by evidence or uninformed, either true or not true, right or wrong, accurate or inaccurate, probable or improbable. It is no wonder, then, that one of the main battlegrounds between knowledge informed by evidence and religious belief informed only by faith begins in the biology classroom (See the latest biology text book banning story here.)

How do American students compare in academic achievement with students from other countries? You know these studies; advisory panels and boards distribute and then gather the completed surveys and tabulate results which are then used to provide the evidence for educators and their political overlords to measure and compare and contrast how effectively we are passing on knowledge about the world to our children through the curriculum of our education system.

This year (2010) has seen a rather remarkable and intentional omission in the United States: the survey questions about evolution and the Big Bang have been pulled. The National Science Board, which oversees the National Science Foundation (NSF), says it chose to leave the section out of the 2010 edition of the biennial Science and Engineering Indicators because the survey questions used to measure knowledge of the two topics (evolution and the Big Bang) force respondents to choose between factual knowledge and religious beliefs. (Source)

What are we to make of this problem? To start with, if science and religion were truly compatible, no “choice” would have have to be made because each kind of knowledge would be separate. But they are not separate at all. They are in direct conflict. Why does this matter?

Well, if knowledge is based on what is true and truth matters, then only one approach – either science OR religion – yields ‘true’ knowledge. It is this ‘true’ knowledge that informs not only the technologies and medicines that work in the world but the moral and ethical framework in which they take place, and science has a solid track record of yielding exactly this. Religious belief, in stark contrast, yields no new knowledge and informs neither workable technologies nor medical practices in all the various fields of human endeavors, although the religious make claims to hold the higher ground in ethical and moral questions.  But rather than face this blunt problem of allowing competing factual truth claims to both have recognized merit in spite of a revealed averaged knowledge deficit by all, the NSF has decided in its wisdom to avoid presenting the data that informs this evidence altogether by intentional omission.

Previous data clearly shows that Americans are far less likely than the rest of the world to accept that humans evolved from earlier species and that the universe began with a big bang and the reason for this lies squarely at the feet of religious belief. We know, for example, that  science knowledge scores vary considerably across the EU-25 countries, with northern European countries, led by Sweden, recording the highest total scores on a set of 13 questions. For a smaller set of four items that were administered in both 1992 and 2005 in 12 European countries, each country performed better in 2005. In contrast, the U.S. data on science knowledge do not show upward trends over the same period. That lack of progress is alarming, which raises the question why not?

We know that in international comparisons, U.S. scores on two true or false science knowledge questions – “Human beings, as we know them today, developed from earlier species of animals,” and “The universe began with a huge explosion” – are considerably lower than those in almost all other countries where the questions have been asked. In the United States, 45% of respondents answered true to the first question in 2008, similar to other years when the question was asked. In other countries and in Europe, the comparable figures were higher: 78% in Japan, 70% in Europe, 69% in China, and 64% in South Korea. Russia and Turkey were the only countries where less than half of respondents responded correctly (44% and 27% respectively) (Gokhberg and Shuvalova, 2004; EC 2005). Similarly, Americans were less likely than survey respondents in South Korea and Japan to answer the big bang question correctly: one third of Americans answered this question correctly compared with 67% of South Korean and 63% of Japanese respondents . (The deleted text is here.)

In other words, basic scientific knowledge in biology and cosmology informed by overwhelming and mutually supportive evidence shows by this data that the US has been drastically influenced by religious truth claims that compete directly with scientific truth claims informed by enough valid evidence to establish scientific consensus. And that competition has a negative effect on passing on this foundational scientific knowledge to our children.  Clearly, religious belief is not a separate but equal ‘magisteria’ from the findings of science nor a different kind of knowledge; religious belief is a direct competitor that is neither informed by evidence nor a consensus of knowledgeable opinion.

From a recent national survey of high school biology teachers in public schools we find it shows that there is a large variation in how teachers approach the topic of evolution. How they teach evolution, in turn, affects public knowledge. High school teachers who completed the most number of college-level credits in biology and life science classes and whose coursework included at least one class in evolutionary biology devoted 60% more time to evolution than teachers with the fewest credits in these areas. More specifically, teachers who expressed the religious view that “God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so” devoted 35% fewer class hours to evolution than all the other teachers.

This data reveals quite clearly cause and effect: those teachers who hold religious beliefs that compete with scientific knowledge have a direct and negative effect on the quality of teaching that scientific knowledge within the public education system. That is a very important finding. For whatever excuse and rationalization the National Science Board cares to drape over their decision to omit that data from its advisory report to the White House, it is highly unprofessional and, in the words of Joshua Rosenau of the National Center for Science Education, a nonprofit that has fought to keep creationism out of the science classroom, “Discussing American science literacy without mentioning evolution is intellectual malpractice” that “downplays the controversy” over teaching evolution in schools.” I will add that it also downplays how that controversy between scientific knowledge and religious belief regarding truth claims affects in a negative way the scientific literacy of the general population.

So next time you hear that well-intentioned person argue that religious belief and science are compatible but different ways of knowing, remember that such a claim is wrong, and the data to prove it is wrong is available to all.  Such an unfounded assumption of compatibility is doing real harm to the next generation by disarming them of the foundational knowledge necessary to compete in a technological and knowledge based world economy. Unequivocally, religious belief and science are in direct competition, and when all is said and done, I think the words of Matthew Cobb and Jerry Coyne shall prove to be prophetic:

“In reality, the only contribution that science can make to the ideas of religion is atheism.”

And, I will add, the only contribution religion can make to the ideas of science is to actively impede the acquisition of knowledge in all areas of human concern.

Update: there is another terrific post with a slightly different take about this over at Why Evolution Is True by Greg Mayer.

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