Thursday, January 29, 2009

Praise Darwin


This is a billboard that the Freedom from Religion Foundation is planning to put up in several American cities.

I'm totally opposed to this billboard for the same reason I objected to the New Scientist cover saying "Darwin Was Wrong."

Charles Darwin published his famous book in 1859. That's 150 years ago. Since then we have moved far beyond anything Darwin could have imagined while strolling on the Sandwalk. Modern scientists do not worship Darwin and they haven't been wedded to his ideas for over a century.

The editors of New Scientist don't get this, and neither does the Freedom from Religion Foundation.

John Pieret allerted me to this billboard [Praise Hymn]. His take is slightly different. He's more concerned with how the creationists will take advantage of these errors. I'm more worried about how the errors contribute to misunderstanding among sensible people.


  1. Ok, maybe I am being dense. I don't get your objection.

    To me, this billboard says that Darwin took one of the most important early steps away from creationism and toward making origins something that could be scientifically studied.

    Of course he came up with his theory before we knew about genes and many, many, many other things; who doesn't know that?

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  3. I am not sure I understand either. The billboard does not radiate hero worship. It says "Praise Darwin", not "Worship Darwin". I personally think it's a rather modest tribute to Darwin and nothing more, a tribute naturally well-deserved.

  4. Shameful crap. It's obviously stealing form religious language.

    Some people DO use Darwin and "rationalism" as some crapy surrogate for religion. Social networks and recomfortations in the name of science. Of course, all that can come from this is contamination of proper scientific thinking. This is decadence.

  5. If you make evolution look like a religion, people are going to think it is nothing but religion

  6. Praise Darwin, Darwinism, etc… These terms may have had good intentions, but we’d be better off without them. Vargas is right.

  7. Why does organised atheism frequently end up resembling religious groups?


  8. "Shameful crap. It's obviously stealing form religious language. "

    I see it more as a light-hearted parody.

  9. We live in a god-free universe, that's true, and yes one can lead a happy and fulfilled life without religion. But for many many people, religion affords many emotional, esthetic and social satisfactions. It situates them culturally. And it is convenient. You know what to do when you decide to get married and what to do when someone dies. It gives you a very good excuse to get together with people at least once a week. It provides a way to be charitable. It makes you feel better about yourself.

    Atheism offers no satisfaction. It is merely the realization that "God" is a mythical beast, a (rather unpleasant) character in old stories. Atheism is a cold negation, a mere Rubicon to be crossed. Atheists will ferry you across the river but then they dump you on the other side without support or consolation. Once you're there you make do, but for many people, it is an unappealing prospect.

  10. To expand on what I said over at Catshark's, I think you're both right: the creationists will abuse it AND the general public will get the wrong idea -- in a way that if anything moves them towards the creationist position. Thanks fer nuttin', FFRF.

  11. I was in San Francisco earlier this month and was pleased to see this exact billboard prominently displayed on top of one building close to downtown.

    FFRF website says in a press-release yesterday that it is debuting in Madison, WI, next to campus (on a street populated by dorms and small businesses). Strange... I am pretty sure I saw one on Jan 14th in SF.

  12. Ashutosh:

    If your profile is accurate and you're from Atlanta, you've surely heard "Praise Jesus" a time or two. It is virtually de rigueur among fundamentalist evangelical Christians, to be used at every turn, from supposedly miraculous "healings" to having a nice day for a round of golf. It specifically means "worship Jesus" and is so ubiquitous that even most non-fundamentalists and even non-Christians will see the connection with "Praise Darwin." Nor can I imagine that FFRF was unaware of that.

    Whether or not the fundamentalists will be justified in taking offense or the more moderate populace will be justified in seeing it as mocking those Christians, the simple fact is that it was surely aimed at tweeking Christians of a certain stripe.

  13. Alright Im not a fan of the billboard per se. However, it is clear to my few firing neurons that the billboard is supposed to be parody and I think a big stink is being made here over nothing. However, I agree with Ollie my take on Larry's post is that we shouldn't focus on Darwin in relation to evolution because things have changed since then (yes, I am reading into his post, but I reserve the right to think). Obviously this is the case, so what? Should we never mention Kepler? Newton? Einstein? Leeuwenhoek? Pastuer? Koch?

    Finally, the consensus here is that the billboard sucks. Fine, how about recommending some improvements? Its easy to criticize, its tougher to improve or refine. Personally, I would like something more along the lines...
    "Darwin looked at the evidence, try it, you'll like it."
    and my billboard would lack the stained glass look. Of course mine wouldn't be parody either.

  14. Yes, Lorax: but a parody of what? Of certain religious attitudes towards evolution and Darwin? That only works if you're a veteran of the debate, otherwise the parody goes right over your head.

  15. Oh, so much for "pretty sure". The billboard I saw in San Francisco was a different one (same style):

    Frankly, I like Imagine No Religion much better than Praise Darwin. Wish FFRF's own home city had it instead.

  16. I do indeed see those signs in the glorious Southeast. The big difference between Jesus and Darwin of course is that the former praises an entity who probably does not exist while the latter praises an entity who made fundamental contributions to humanity. I would of course think it silly if "Praise Darwin" signs started erupting at every corner or if atheists started using the phrase as an everyday greeting, but I just did not think it indicated hero-worship in this one example.

  17. I tried atheism for a month or two but found little to no strength or joy in it. I have become a Born Again Christian since and personally i was appaled when i seen this billboard in downtown madison.

    When you become saved throught the lord JESUS CHRIST the moment your done saying the prayer of salvation you literally feel this great burdon being lifted from you and you feel renewed. In praising darwin your not promised anything, atheist are saying their freeing your mind but what about your eternal soul. When you trust in god your promised a free mind and an eternal life in heaven. When you trust in darwin your promised a free mind then what? Nothing!
    Ben Carson an awarded neurosurgeon said "religion and science both require faith, that the two disciplines dont't always have to be mutually exclusive, that people have to choose were to put their faith, and that choice dosen't make you superior to those who belive diffently"
    So i say to you where will you put your faith in a "free mind" thats restricted to this world or a free mind and soul that has an eternal life waiting for them? Its your choice.

  18. Anonymous: It is nice for you that you find strength and joy in Christianity; unfortunately, just because it makes you feel better doesn't make it true.

    I have prayed the Sinners' Prayer/Prayer of Salvation, or whatever one is supposed to call it these days. In the emotion of the time (and for some time after) I did feel renewed. But obviously I didn't do it quite right, or something, because I am no longer able to convince myself even of the existence of God (nor of the existence of my (or anyone else's) immortal soul.

    No, I have not replaced praising/trusting God with praising/trusting Darwin (which is exactly the misunderstanding that this billboard and DarwinFishes promote). I have abandoned my beliefs in the supernatural, not without sadness for that which I have lost.

  19. I tried believing that there were no werewolves anywhere in the universe for a month or two but found little to no strength or joy in it. Now i'm a fourth-level lycanthrope slayer and i can't remember a happier time. Checkmate!