"Science wants to know the mechanism of the universe, religion the meaning. The two cannot be separated". ~ Charles Townes, physicist
1. The conclusion of science that the universe and our planet are billions of years old is beyond doubt for those who examine the evidence carefully and are willing to abandon beliefs that run counter to the evidence. It is a narrative backed by confirmed predictions, experimentation, and observations. In contrast, scriptural narratives are built upon revelation and visions that cannot be confirmed, ancient stories that are often in conflict with common sense and known science, and eyewitness testimony from those with a religious agenda. For an example of how wrong eyewitness testimony can be, see the Innocence Project by clicking here. (see also here)Note that it is DNA evidence that is exonerating innocent prisoners, often convicted using eyewitness testimony, with some on death row. Evidence from cosmology, geology, radiometric dating, fossils, Plate Tectonics, biogeography, and DNA studies all converge and agree on processes involving deep time. We have a very robust scientific based narrative of how and when most things originated, but certainly with much more to study and learn. For example, we may only know 5% of what the universe is comprised of; the rest is 'dark matter' and 'dark energy'.
2. Evolution is true. As counter intuitive as it may seem to some, evidence has now accumulated from many different areas of science that allows us to conclude that evolutionary theory, including macroevolution, is true beyond a reasonable doubt. Given the new evidences from genomics alone, it is no longer possible to remain as an antievolutionist, nor even agnostic towards evolution. To the fundamentalist Abrahamic believer, the only alternative is to deny and hunt for anything that could cast doubt on this theory. But the chance of all the areas of science that converge and independently confirm this theory being incorrect is infintessimally small. If an old world theist wishes to try and harmonize evolutionary theory with their faith, they face explaining the death and destruction processes of natural selection, the randomness of earth's history (immense numbers of extinctions, asteroid hits, etc.), and the incredible size of a violent universe certainly not made for mankind as the OT impies. See the articles by other authors, "Christian Faith Requires Accepting Evolution" and "Adam & Eve and Human Genomics", both on this web site.
3. Human evolution is true, and not excluded from the data. If humans are descended from previous species then we have also culturally evolved. For example, our morals are a product of evolution and they transcend the individual, are thus not relative, and have a basis in the past. They were not bestowed upon us by a supernatural entity. To the fundamentalist in each of the monotheistic relgions the propostion of human evolution is anathema, and rejected outright. But the hominin fossil record is now more diverse than ever and difficult to deny; DNA studies are increasingly difficult for them to adequately dismiss. DNA and fossil studies clearly show our species arose in Africa 200,000 years ago and then left Africa after suffering a near cataclysmic decline to low numbers only to subsequently colonize the world beginning about 60,000 years ago. We did not originate first in the Garden of Eden and certainly did not colonize the globe from a family on an ark in the Middle East several thousand years ago.
If one wishes to remain a theist and somehow incorporate human evolution into a religious worldview - as Catholics and many Protestants have attempted, many other troubling problems arise. Why so much death and suffering before humans arrived? If God reached down and imparted a soul into a human or prehuman at one point, what about the generation before? What will happen when neuroscience advances to the point to definately rule out a soul, one of the last, and perhaps ultimate god-of-the-gaps? Those with family members dissolving away from dementia can see consiousness or "soul"(?) slowly disappearing before their eyes and can observe its true and only biological basis. On the other side of the coin, a deep evaluation of scriptures shows they are hardly inspired; the theist is thus squeezed on two sides, an external one by science and an internal one through scholarly biblical criticism. How much of the scriptures need to be interpreted as allegorical before the believer sees what it really is - special literature but hardly the inspired word of God? Since the Enlightenment, the waters of reason have been pouring into the ship of theism faster than the onboard apologists can bail.
4. Given the above, we should find by close examination of various scriptures that they are a product of human literature and ancient attempts to understand ourselves and the world around us. We should expect to find errors, contradictions, etc. and a mixture of history, wisdom, myth, bizzare rituals and links to previous origin narratives. And that's exactly what we do find.
5. There is no solid evidence for theism, and if it exists, there should be some effects in our world that would be detected. Evidences could include demonstrated unequivocal answers to prayer, healing of illness under controlled conditions (such as amputees growing new limbs), and phenomena that does not eventually yield to naturalistic explanations. As Stenger has noted, "Abscence of evidence is not evidence of abscence unless the evidence should be there and is not". Although deism is not testable and remains a possibility, theism fails critical thinking, a close examination of various scriptures, and research studies. For most, deism does not supply the answers nor hope that they are seeking.
6. A positive synthesis of the above conclusions will lead to secular humanism as a way of life. Secular humanism to date for many is poorly formulated and defined. It has yet to organize itself into a structure that is useful and practical for many people. Although strongly intellectual, in general it does not connect emotionally for many persons.
(See: "The Problem With Humanism" Link ) However, science can be a source for morality questions and the study of ethics. Link (Sam Harris @ TED). See also The Future of Humanism. Link See Shook's assertions about Healthy Humanism.
See also Epstein's Secularism has reached a tipping point Sam Harris - The Problem With Atheism (2007).
7. In the end, it's not about the evidence; the problem is not a type of anosognosia that is amenable to correction through new information. Some persons with religious and spiritual beliefs have staked their future afterlives on their scriptural hopes and to them it would be catastrophic to abandon their beliefs. No amount of evidence, logic, or critical thinking will ever persuade them that they could be in error. In addition, many have built their concepts of morality and healthy inter-personal relationships on supernatural beliefs and either are unwilling or unable to consider relating to others under a different social paradigm. Lastly, many derive strong feelings from prayer and worship, sucumbing to confirmation bias, and as quoted earlier in this site from Dobzhansky:
"No evidence is powerful enough to force acceptance of a conclusion
that is emotionally distasteful".
Kenneth Miller, in his book "Only A Theory" writes in his opening chapter:
"But for a handful in the audience, nothing I could ever say about evolution would be sufficient, absolutely nothing. To be sure, these folks might bring up certain scientific issues in the battle against evolution, but the issues themselves were not their real problem. There was something in the science itself that bothered them, giving rise to an undercurrent of unease and fear that no fossil, no DNA sequence, no experiment in lab or field could ever address. And they were certain beyond belief, not just that evolution was not the answer, but evolution could not be the answer." (emphasis in the original)
And Jerry Coyne writes in the final chapter of his book, "Why Evolution Is True":
"After the talk, a member of the audience approached me and said, 'I found your evidence for evolution very convincing - but I still don't believe it'... How can that be? Other areas of science aren't plaqued by such problems. We don't doubt the existence of electrons or black holes, despite the fact that these phenomena are much further removed from everyday experience than is evolution... What's not a problem is the lack of evidence... To these folks, evolution raises such profound questions of purpose, morality, and meaning that they just can't accept it no matter how much evidence they see. It's not that we evolved from apes that bothers them so much; it's the emotional consequences of facing that fact." (emphasis in the original)
See also: Why Darwin Sustains My Baptist Search for Truth
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