Saturday, April 23, 2016

What if evolution really provides an argument for atheism?

Some people think it does. Suppose teachers and textbook writers were eager to draw out the atheistic implications of evolution, and did so in public schools. (Some seem to). 

Does that mean that the teaching of evolution in school also violates the establishment clause, since it supports the religion of atheism? 

Would this mean that evolution, as well as creationism or intelligent design, could not be taught in the public schools, since it would undermine the religious neutrality of government institutions? 

15 comments:

Legion of Logic said...

If teachers try to draw such unscientific implications from a science lesson then they indeed would be violating the law.

Cal Metzger said...

Atheism is not a religion anymore than the solution to a math problem is Math.

And asking for the argument "for" atheism is like asking for the argument for zero.

Victor Reppert said...

The question is whether open or implied atheist advocacy in public school can violate the establishment clause. The whole basis for the Dover decision was the idea that ID content has to be kept out of the public school classroom because those who supported it were motivated by a desire to promote religious belief. In a court case it was successfully argued that you atheism is protected by the free exercise clause, in a case where an atheist prisoner was granted access to atheist materials.

http://www.atheist-community.org/library/articles/read.php?id=742

Now, in the Constitution, the free exercise clause and the establishment clause go together. Heck, they're in the same sentence. Atheists can't help themselves to the free exercise clause, but when accused of violating the Establishment Clause on behalf of atheism, fall back on the "not collecting stamps" argument. That's cheating.

So, as I keep saying, the main argument in the Dover case, which was an Establishment Clause case, only works if you assume the religious neutrality of evolutionary biology. That is the official NCSE position on the compatibility of religion and evolutionary biology that people like Dawkins, Myers, and Coyne are hell-bent on attacking.

Given the constitutional context here, the fact that atheism is not a religion in the popular sense is irrelevant. If you want Free Exercise protections, you have to live with Establishment Clause limitations. It's the American way.

Cal Metzger said...

VR: "So, as I keep saying, the main argument in the Dover case, which was an Establishment Clause case, only works if you assume the religious neutrality of evolutionary biology."

It seems to be a perpetual problem among the religious to feel that when reality conflicts with their beliefs then reality is guilty of some kind of oppression.

Cal Metzger said...

VR: "So, as I keep saying, the main argument in the Dover case, which was an Establishment Clause case, only works if you assume the religious neutrality of evolutionary biology."

I don't assume it, btw. I observe it.

Evolutionary biology is the study of the processes that produce diversity in structures and behavior of all living organisms.

People of different religions, and people who are irreligious, are all able to study and research evolutionary biology. How is it that these adherents of a religion can all study and research evolutionary biology, but some other religious adherents are not?

Maybe, and I'm just spitballing here, but just maybe, the problem with the conflict of religion and evolutionary biology might be dependent on the beliefs of a specific religion, as opposed to being inherent in the study and research of evolutionary biology itself.

Btw. Question for you: Are blood transfusions religiously neutral?

William said...

This is a false dichotomy set up by Victor (hypothetically I think).

When atheists had only Aristotle's ideas about spontaneous generation or some form of "eternalism" (saying that life has no origin, it just is) about the Earth's current to explain life. At such earlier times, they certainly had less support from biology than they do in more recent centuries, so one can see why atheism and evolution have been seen as mutually supportive.

But theism and evolution in general are not inconsistent, logically speaking.

Evolutionary biology is indeed seen as falsified by the statements of certain Hebrew and Koranic scriptures by some subgroups of Judaism, Christian, and Muslim religions due to how the first few chapters of Genesis are interpreted by those groups; but for thousands of years there has been a tradition of looking at Genesis as a poetically structured statement about God's origination of the cosmos, not something interpreted to state a limit on the exact number of years the world has existed or a statement of how, exactly, various species came to exist.

In the Eastern religions, there are fewer interpretations at odds with evolutionary biology, since their doctrines of animal vitalism allows the vital soul to evolve with the species. However, certain Sikh scriptures, such as one which claims there are only 84 species of life in total, would cause a Sikh literal scripture interpretation to contradict evolutionary biology, and certain old Hindu writers specify a certain number of years for some of life's history, which might be seen as in contradiction to paleontology and evolutionary biology for those who took such things too literally.

Legion of Logic said...

"And asking for the argument "for" atheism is like asking for the argument for zero."

It's a poorly worded query. A better way of asking it would be something like "Can you give me the evidence for an atheistic worldview that explains the existence of matter, energy, the universe, and the features thereof that doesn't amount to 'it just is'?"

I personally don't much respect atheists who sit back and talk about how there is no evidence for a god but turn around and take an atheistic explanation on faith.

Cal Metzger said...

Legion: ""Can you give me the evidence for an atheistic worldview that explains the existence of matter, energy, the universe, and the features thereof that doesn't amount to 'it just is'?"

I'd start out by separating the two questions.

First, I'd say that regarding claims of all of the religions I can think of, none of their claims hold up to scrutiny, and since we can explain the human need for religious belief (human psychology, social benefits, etc.) based on our shared evolutionary past our time is probably better spent working on other topics that we are curious about.

Secondly, I'd say that to the extent that explaining the "existence of matter, energy, the universe, and the features thereof" is a tractable question, we can either point to our current knowledge or admit that we don't know. I'd simply point out that when questions like the one you suggest are made tractable religious explanations are falsified, or, more commonly. the religious "explanation" doesn't actually explain anything.

It's always astounding to me anytime anyone disagrees with the two paragraphs I wrote above.

Legion of Logic said...

"First, I'd say that regarding claims of all of the religions I can think of, none of their claims hold up to scrutiny"

The first paragraph hinges on this statement, and it is a statement that every Christian (I assume) disagrees with. So someone who believes it in fact does hold up to scrutiny would disagree with paragraph one.

Paragraph two is fair, regarding "I don't know" being an acceptable answer, but it is also easily dismissable in the context of an atheist telling a Christian that belief in God is unreasonable when the Christian finds it to be a reasonable belief, and superior to any alternatives. Particularly when the answer is either theistic or atheistic, and atheists have no answers and no alternatives besides "no gods". It really does come across as a faith statement.

B. Prokop said...

"It's always astounding to me anytime anyone disagrees with the two paragraphs I wrote above."

Well, prepare to be astounded, because I for one disagree with both of them.

In the first paragraph, you write "regarding claims of all of the religions I can think of, none of their claims hold up to scrutiny". Yet as regards the Resurrection of Christ, the claims have consistently stood up to the most exacting scrutiny imaginable very well indeed, thank you.

In the second, you write "the religious "explanation" doesn't actually explain anything". Yet Christianity demonstrably explains quite a bit. You may not like the explanation, but the explanation is there. So your statement is nonsense.

Jezu ufam tobie!

Cal Metzger said...

Legion: "So someone who believes it in fact does hold up to scrutiny would disagree with paragraph one."

Sure, I expect that. I was just pointing out that all that atheism starts with discovering that there's nothing (objectively, verifiably, reliably) credible behind religious claims. I understand that believers disagree about the particular religion that they subscribe to.

Legion: "Paragraph two is fair, regarding "I don't know" being an acceptable answer, but it is also easily dismissable in the context of an atheist telling a Christian that belief in God is unreasonable when the Christian finds it to be a reasonable belief, and superior to any alternatives."

Well, I'm just saying that this is more the crux of what I think is a problem for believers. Because, as I first pointed out here, the believer seems satisfied with the "true for me" variety of belief. When it comes to "true for me" beliefs, I don't think we're talking about reasonableness and superiority.

Legion: "Yet Christianity demonstrably explains quite a bit."

Good explanations predict, they have scope, they match with background knowledge, they are productive (among other things). I don't think that suggesting that god is behind the creation of the universe, for instance, gives us any more information or helps us better explain the existence of the universe that what we already know about it. (And if we were to start with the biblical understanding of the universe, we'd be much worse off than we are now.)



Joe Hinman said...

Sure, I expect that. I was just pointing out that all that atheism starts with discovering that there's nothing (objectively, verifiably, reliably) credible behind religious claims. I understand that believers disagree about the particular religion that they subscribe to.

Again 200 studies in academic journals verifiable data showing religious experi9jeces are universal in content and that those who experience them are transformed by those experiences in ways consistent with the claims of the world's religions especially Christianity.

that everything you just said it's not. It's proven in 2000 studies.


aticle summarizing those claims

Part 2

Joe Hinman said...

sorry 200 not 2000

Joe Hinman said...

Well, I'm just saying that this is more the crux of what I think is a problem for believers. Because, as I first pointed out here, the believer seems satisfied with the "true for me" variety of belief. When it comes to "true for me" beliefs, I don't think we're talking about reasonableness and superiority.

new atheism has worked scientism into a n ideology. Like all ideologies it pushes one value that it can't really deliver and overlooks it's own failings in the same regard and focuses upon the failures of all other views.

All ideologies require an exigency. For Marxism it's capitalism for Nation of Islam it's w2hite people for feminism it's men. for white supremacy it's people of color, or right wing it's liberals, for atheism it's religion.

science can[t rely prove most of what inset the core of science today It can't prove dark matter or string theory or a lot of things. it really can't prove what energy is made of but they will never admit it. All of that they gloss over as though it' just unimportant then right around and castigate religion for being unsupported by "objective data." Of course when we have it they refuse to examine it or slough it off imn other ways

Joe Hinman said...

btw I just put up an article on my answer to the Brain Structure objection to my a universal religious experience argument. I talk about above. this is more answer to Cal on his statement about how we have no empirical data. This objection says religious experiences are alike because we all have human brain structure.

Answer to Brain Structure Objection