Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Christian Man's Evolution

 
A posting on the Scientific American website describes the view of Francisco J. Ayala, a man who was ordained as a Dominican priest who is also an excellent scientist [The Christian Man's Evolution: How Darwinism and Faith Can Coexist .

Here's an excerpt ...
Ayala graduated in physics at the University of Madrid, then worked in a geneticist’s lab while studying theology at the Pontifical Faculty of San Esteban in Salamanca, Spain. By his ordination in 1960 he had already decided to pursue science instead of a ministerial role. At the monastery Darwinism had never been perceived as an enemy of Christian faith. So a year later, when Ayala moved to New York City to pursue a doctorate in genetics, the prevailing U.S. view of a natural hostility between evolution and religion was a shock.

Ever since, Ayala has attempted to address religious skepticism about Darwin’s theory. At first, he recalls, his scientific colleagues were wary and took the position that researchers should not engage in religious discussions. By 1981, when the Arkansas legislature voted to give creationism equal time in schools, the mood began to change. The National Academy of Sciences prepared an amicus curiae brief for a Supreme Court case on the Louisiana “Creation Act” and asked Ayala to lead the effort. The booklet became the 1984 Science and Creationism: A View from the National Academy of Sciences.

For the second edition in 1999 Ayala presented the idea of incorporating the words of some theologians but recalls, “I was almost eaten alive.” In the third edition, published this year, one section features statements by four religious denominations and three scientists on the compatibility of evolution with religious beliefs.
I've already commented on the National Academys' sellout to political correctness and on the fact that Ayala was Chair of the committee [Richard Dawkins on the Michael Reiss Affair] [National Academies: Science, Evolution and Creationism]. The fallacy here is something called The Doctrine of Joint Belief.

That's not what I want to comment on today. I want to draw your attention to the use of "Darwinism" in the title of the article and to "Darwin's theory" in the body of the article. The author, Sally Lehrman1, should know better. If she's going to write for Scientific American then she better learn that the correct terms are "evolution" and "evolutionary theory." The editors of Scientific America should know better, but then what can you expect from a magazine that has fallen so far from its heydays in the 60s and 70s?


1. "Sally Lehrman teaches journalism in the public interest at Santa Clara University."

13 comments :

  1. Larry, I'm glad that your post today doesn't comment about the foolishness of Ayala and "The Doctrine of Joint Belief".

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  2. This caught my attention:
    Francisco J. Ayala ... who is also an excellent scientist

    Well, I looked up his citation record. Basically, he is good. Probably somewhat better than an average in comparable position. But maybe just perfectly average because his best work goes back to when he was a postdoc
    (which is why "maybe" - too many people just happened to be in the right place in the right time; hard to tell). In any case, nothing extraordinary. So all his fame he owns to being religious [nut].

    Then again, citation records are a mixed bag that tells some but not everything...

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  3. I agree with the first part of your comments (the bit that you didn't want to comment on today), and I would add that I was strongly reminded of Kenneth Miller's book Finding Darwin's God, which I was reading a few days ago and found very disappointing, not only the second half (in which I seem to agree with most people), but also the first half, which mentions God a lot more often than seems to me necessary in a discussion of what are claimed to be scientific arguments put forward by creation "scientists".

    As for your main point, I always avoid using Darwinism when I mean natural selection or evolution, so to that extent I'm with you. However, it's worth noting that using Darwinism in that sense isn't as much of a dirty word on this (eastern) side of the Atlantic as it appears to be in North America. I'm pretty sure Richard Dawkins (no compromiser with religion he!) has been known to use it, and Michael Ruse used it in the title of his book Darwinism defended, written, if I recall correctly, while he was still in Canada.

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  4. Relative to Prof. Ayala, it's not even clear that he is a believer any more as, apparently in a recent interview, he refused to say that he was a theist.

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  5. Why are some scientist flashing the 'religious' label?
    Ok, some trades people do it to make people believe they are not rip-off merchants (which they usually are) by having that silly fish on their vehicle.
    But scientists should know better, so it seems more to attract attention as implied elsewhere here.

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  6. Lets ask a different question. Why are so many scientists so fanatical about atheism? Let me state upfront I am not a Creationist Wacko by any means. I certainly don't believe the earth is 6,000 years old and definitely accept evolution as a fact. That being said, the hostility of many scientists toward the concept of God is frankly religious fanaticism. You guys really have an ax to grind. The fact is, the vast majority of people do believe in God and will continue to believe in God regardless of what agenda you are pushing, and atheism is nothing more than a religious belief in its own right.

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  7. atheism is nothing more than a religious belief in its own right.

    Same old. It never ends. *sigh* 1) you have to come up with some radical definition of "religious" to claim that atheism is a religion. 2) Scientifically, knowing what we know (or think we know), atheism is the most parsimonious position.

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  8. gnh said "Lets ask a different question. Why are so many scientists so fanatical about atheism? "
    Let me try to answer it this way.
    Atheism itself is not what most scientists feel is important in science (I don't know a single atheist scientist who denies that non-atheists can do and have done some great science).
    Rather the problem is more of one of what type of religious belief has basic implications that could invalidate the day to day working of science.
    A deistic, Spinozan/Einsteinian belief system (God started it all aff and doesnt involve him/herself afterwards) is compatible with science.
    On the other hand a God that does miracles (changes the laws of physics on Earth briefly for a predetermined purpose) is problematic. It's problematic because evolutionary theory and astrophysics has shown that there is nothing special about the earth or humans themselves.
    If the laws of physics might get occasionaly suspended for the benefit of humans then why not other species or planets, stars or Galaxies?
    In other words how can you trust the results of a single experiment as it might be the results of a miracle? (perhaps God saving the life of a doomed E.coli colony rather than a real result about the efficacy of a particular antibiotic - I've heard Francis Collins try to answer that exact question and he, of course, dismissed it with special pleading - God would never do miracles for bacteria, just for humans! (or words to that effect)).

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  9. GNH says,

    Lets ask a different question. Why are so many scientists so fanatical about atheism?

    They're not. Most scientists don't care about religion one way or the other. You just happen to be reading the blog of someone who cares.

    Let me state upfront I am not a Creationist Wacko by any means. I certainly don't believe the earth is 6,000 years old and definitely accept evolution as a fact. That being said, the hostility of many scientists toward the concept of God is frankly religious fanaticism.

    The fact that I have not fallen prey to one of the main superstitions that go by the name of religion is not "religious" fanaticism.

    I'm interested in promoting rationalism. That's the idea that you should be skeptical about what you believe and you need to combine evidence and rational thought before adopting a belief system.

    I'm trying to help people like you and get you to examine basic assumptions that you may not have thought about before.

    You guys really have an ax to grind. The fact is, the vast majority of people do believe in God and will continue to believe in God regardless of what agenda you are pushing, and atheism is nothing more than a religious belief in its own right.

    You are certainly correct about the majority in the USA. It's not necessarily true of other Western democracies.

    You are definitely incorrect to assume that the majority will continue to believe in God in the future. You will be able to see how wrong you are in your own lifetime.

    Saying that atheism is a "religious belief" is just the sort of non-rational thinking that many believers engage in. Personally, I think the world will be a better place if we can teach these people that it's better to think rationally.

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  10. I don't know, Larry. I am inclined to agree with Gnh about people continuing to beleive, though this is in no way an endorsement of those beliefs.

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  11. valhar2000 says,

    I don't know, Larry. I am inclined to agree with Gnh about people continuing to believe, though this is in no way an endorsement of those beliefs.

    So, how do you explain the fact that the percentage of people who don't believe in God is approaching 50%, and growing, in several European countries?

    Even in Canada, the percentage of atheists is about 18% today, and growing, but it was less than 3% in the 1970's.

    This seems to be evidence against your hypothesis, no?

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  12. The reason for my own hostility towards religion is that whenever I have conversations with religious people about their faith, they can never justify their own beliefs as opposed to other religious beliefs.
    Until I can understand why I should believe one over another, I see no reason to believe in any of them.
    (The fact that believers then use this personal feeling as justification for behavior or law-making is what makes me hostile.)
    The number of people believing any one religion is irrelevant.

    I am aware that this argument doesn´t refute religions individually, but to me it implies that there is probably something in the human mind and society that allows myths to proliferate as truth. And we should thereby be skeptical to all.


    This is where science comes in. Science looks at the world, investigates and builds worldview from observation. When laws are based on rational arguments, most people should be able to at least understand the reasoning, even if they do not personally agree with the conclusion.

    Most fanatic religious people wish to not only inhibit their own range of actions, but also those who do not share their reasoning(read: Bible says so). Science and rationality utilizes observation and logic,which is something every human should be able to understand, even if they don´t hold the same text to be holy.

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