No Belief Gap


In a blog titled “Celebrating Darwin: Religion And Science Are Closer Than You Think” posted on Darwin’s birthday, February 12, MIT physicist Max Tegmark reported on a survey he conduced with Eugena Lee and Meia Chita-Tegmark, The MIT Survey on Science, Religion, and Origins: the Belief Gap. While the survey covers many denominations, the central result is that although almost half of Americans, 46 percent according to Gallup, believe that God created humans in their present form less than 10,000 years ago, only 11 percent belong to a religion that openly rejects evolution.

Tegmark and his colleagues didn’t ask the right questions. Or, at least, they should have defined evolution better for their respondents. As I reported in a Huffpost blog on October 6, 2012 titled“Is Evolution Compatible With Religion?,” the same 2010 Gallup poll Tegmark refers to, linked above, found that only 16 percent of Americans believe in “Naturalist Evolution,” defined as the view that “Man has developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life [and] God had no part in the process.” This is exactly the same percentage of Americans who declare themselves unaffiliated with any religion.

It may be that the only Americans who accept naturalist evolution are those who do not participate in any organized religion.

Although the Catholic Church and moderate Protestant churches claim they support evolution by natural selection, the fact is they do not. In a message to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences on October 22, 1996, Pope John Paul II refers to encyclical Humani Generis (1950) composed by Pope Pius XII as stating that “there was no opposition between evolution and the doctrine of the faith about man and his vocation, on condition that one did not lose sight of several indisputable points.” Pope John Paul hedged considerably on his acceptance of evolution, implying it has not yet been validated and there is more than one hypothesis in the theory. And he made it very clear that mind or the spiritual soul did not emerge from matter but is a creation of God.

Written By: Victor Stenger
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  1. Well written and very true. Theistic evolution and ” unnatural selection ” has not a scintilla of supporting evidence, but it does have a tanker full of BS to spread around.

    Comes right back to ” magic man done it ” and no more than that.

  2. A valid and important point. However, I think Stenger overplays his hand with his concluding sentences. I’ve met liberal Christians who believe that natural selection is simply the process that God used to create the various species. This isn’t an obviously unscientific view of evolution (or at least, it’s more defensible than belief in an interventionist deity who occasionally pushes the evolutionary process along). I’m not defending this view, of course–it’s unparsimonious and likely false. But I wouldn’t go so far as to say that it constitutes a lack of belief in “evolution, as it is understood by science.”

  3. I read Max Tegmark’s article with hope, but couldn’t help feeling at the end that I didn’t entirely agree with his results. Tegmark’s data really did not compliment the data that I have observed as a former preacher (which I know is mostly from experience and therefore mainly anecdotal). While I am sure that a portion of religious people perhaps believe in a ‘type’ of evolution, clearly it is not what scientists would call evolution, as it necessarily forces questions such as ‘when did god inject the soul?’; ‘What was god’s necessary need for evolution in the first place?’; ‘If we were perfect 3,500 years ago when we began writing the bible, why do we continue to evolve – and into what?’. Superfluously ridiculous and tortuous questions, but the kind necessarily asked by the religious when they hold any form evolution.

    Darwinian evolution makes predictions and asks questions that can be tested, the questions and conclusions from EVERY type of theistic evolution ask questions that cannot be tested, except by ‘personal revelation’. Stenger is right when he says that their belief is not evolution as science understands it, simply because theism introduces non-scientifically necessary conclusions and questions.

    Cheers, J

  4. It is well known and widely known that “theistic evolution” is not science!

    Theistic evolution or evolutionary creation is a concept that asserts that classical religious teachings about God are compatible with the modern scientific understanding about biological evolution. In short, theistic evolutionists believe that there is a God, that God is the creator of the material universe and (by consequence) all life within, and that biological evolution is simply a natural process within that creation. Evolution, according to this view, is simply a tool that God employed to develop human life. According to the American Scientific Affiliation:

    Theistic evolution is not a scientific theory,

    ▬▬▬▬▬▬▬ ▬▬▬▬▬▬▬ ▬▬▬▬▬▬▬

    but a particular view about how the science of evolution relates to religious belief and interpretation.
    ▬▬▬▬▬▬▬ ▬▬▬▬▬▬▬ ▬▬▬▬▬▬▬

    Theistic evolution supporters can be seen as one of the groups who reject the conflict thesis regarding the relationship between religion and science – that is, they hold that religious teachings about creation and scientific theories of evolution need not contradict. Proponents of this view are sometimes described as Christian Darwinists.

    The claim that this non-scientific view does not conflict with the scientific view, is simply a disingenuous false claim that “theistic evolution” – {rejecting (in various degrees) the real science} – IS the scientific view.

    (Quote @link) – A theory of theistic evolution (TE) — also called evolutionary creation — proposes that God’s method of creation was to cleverly design a universe in which everything would naturally evolve. Usually the “evolution” in “theistic evolution” means Total Evolution — astronomical evolution (to form galaxies, solar systems,…) and geological evolution (to form the earth’s geology) plus chemical evolution (to form the first life) and biological evolution (for the development of life) — but it can refer only to biological evolution.[1]

    This is probably why many of its followers confuse Dawinian evolution with abiogenesis. The misuse and misrepresentation of the term “theory” in a scientific context, is also likely to add to confusion. (Scientific theories require evidence.)

    There is also an interesting graph on the link, with a breakdown of % by religions:

    Religious Differences on the Question of Evolution (United States, 2007)
    Percentage who agree that evolution is the best explanation for the origin of human life on earth
    Source: Pew Forum[11]

  5. well said

    when i hear liberal christians saying they accept evolution it makes my ears go flat. they quite simply are either lying or ignorant. at best evolution is compatible with deism but to suggest that natural selection occurs just how god wanted it IS intelligent design. it might be very elaborate design but if the apes came out the way they did (in god’s image) then every process of cosmic evolution was considered at least 13 billion years ago rendering their god incapable of intervening.

    theists have a quaint cliche that states god always answers prayers; sometimes “yes”, sometimes “no”, sometimes “wait”. this could be true if their god was utterly incapable of doing anything more than knowing what the future will be.

    the problem is always the word “evolution”. to the unschooled it just means one thing changes into another which is why there’s so much ignorance. fundamentalists simply think nothing changes, accomodationists think god changes things. that things change should be of no surprise to anyone who’s seen the results of selective breeding, what happens in embryology and indeed what happens to individuals as they get older. theistic evolution invokes magic which would suggest change happens with no natural explanaition, yet we can see what Darwin saw in every day life; populations change because of the environment, the environment changes because of populations. there is change going on all along and requires nothing more than the basic laws of physics.

    I may as well state string theory is compatible with christianity, on the grounds i’m so ignorant of it I don’t know why it isn’t compatible

  6. Stenger puts it well and succinctly. Old Earth creationists hold a view that is just as stupid as the YECs, and it conflicts with their holy books as well. You can’t consistently believe in evolution and still think some higher power guided it. It requires compartmentalisation of the brain. Stenger shows clearly the Pope doesn’t believe in evolution as science understands it.

    When the facts of reality show the theology to be wrong, the theology mysteriously changes !

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