28th April 2009

“Today, I get dozens of students who ask to be excused lectures on evolution because of their religious beliefs. They even accuse me of telling lies when I say natural selection is backed by the facts. So I ask if they believe in Mendel's laws of genetics? They say yes, of course. And the existence of DNA? Again, yes. And genetic mutations? Yes. The spread of insecticide resistance? Yes. The divergence of isolated populations on islands? Yes. And do you accept that 98 per cent of DNA is shared by humans and chimps? Again yes. So what is wrong with natural selection? It's all lies, they say. It beats me, frankly.”

Professor Steve Jones

25 Responses to “28th April 2009”

  1. Prime Directant Says:

    The professor should have them write an essay defending their beliefs with scientific evidence. Then they can discover how off they were, or make themselves look like an idiotic conspiracy theorist. Either way they lose.

  2. Bob Says:

    Prime Directant, I’m not so sure that would work. I work with a number of “born again” Christians & have so for many years. These are people at some level I consider intelligent yet I’ve had many arguments about how they could possibly believe the planet is around 6,000 years old in the face of overwhelming evidence that the age of the earth is around 4.5 billion years old & they simply don’t believe it. They will quote some “Christian scientist” to back up their beliefs & of course the Bible (which they regard as fact).

  3. Prime Directant Says:

    Good point, but look on the bright side,you can all but guarantee that they will not go into careers in math and science. They can continue to be ministers to others that agree with them, leaving the rest of us to what they cannot “believe”.

  4. Prime Directant Says:

    They are based on a system of belief, so we shouldn’t encourage anyone to “believe” in science. Belief means to accept without question or logical reason, and that is not how a scientific theory works at all.

    Maybe bob, we should let the believers believe, and the thinkers think.

  5. Bob Says:

    I agree with that! Funny as it may seem the Christians I work with believe that natural selection, the age of the Cosmo’s, etc is all “just a theory”. I tried to explain to them that’s true in the same sense that gravity is “just a theory” but they will never “get it”

  6. Bob Says:

    Prime, my experience is that debating scientific facts with Christians will get you nowhere as they simply disregard them. What confuses them are simple questions like Why pray? If it changes Gods mind he’s not sovereign. If it doesn’t change his mind it’s superfluous or Why would God create a place of torment unless he derived pleasure from witnessing pain?

  7. Prime Directant Says:

    they are two ld separate spheres of thought, and in my opinion they should stay that way, we do not want any of this “believe” in science. My guess is that the fact that they do not “get it” bob means that you are keeping true to the purpose of science. For example, if scientists were to discover that changes in species actually were a result of radioactive waves that bombard livning organisms every 500 years, then we shouldn’t deny these because we “feel” or believe that evolution is correct. we accept it because it is the most plausable theorey.

    In short bob, you do not “believe” in absolute truth which means that you cannot get them to understand the whole idea of subjective truth

  8. Prime Directant Says:

    sorry my posts are so long

  9. Oxymoronic Christhinker Says:

    It is ironic that many of the “founders” of modern science were Christians who believed that the world could be explained scientifically precisely because they believed that it had been created by a rational God in an orderly manner. Too many Christians today forget this fact of history in favor of clinging irrationally to easily disproved “faith-facts” such as ID “theory” and young-earth creationism. I am a Christian who believes in God (I know this does not make me “friends” on this site). But I am also a Christian who knows – no faith required – that the theory of evolution is as close to a fact as human beings are likely to get for the time being. The theory may undergo change and refinement in the future, but the sheer fact of evolution will remain. Let those who wish to walk out on the professor’s “lies” do so – their time is over (“methinks thou dost protest too much?”). But do whatever you can to challenge the exclusionary politics that grows like a cancer from out of their phantasmic “theo(ry)logy.”

  10. John Sutton Says:

    I sometimes have some daft notions – here is one of them.

    It might be easier to understand if we regard religious indoctrination as a toxin that has already had its effect during the early development of the mind. Perhaps a silly idea at first, unsupported by evidence, but a useful hypotheses by analogy.

    A child dosed, say, with the wrong hormone or given some food additive may develop an abnormality. It might, for instance produce an increase in size. Even when the hormone is removed, and the correct balance achieved, the effects of the wrong additive early in life cannot be removed. The child will remain over sized and everything it does will be effected by this.

    In the same way the wrong world-view imprinted into the minds of religious people cannot be erased. Some of them are changed forever and there is no point in trying to rectify them. They are lost to reason and the best we can do is to prevent them from poisoning the next generation.

    Exit stout party in anticipation of flying vegetables.

  11. Oxymoronic Christhinker Says:

    So in your view, John Sutton, even theists – with the wrong world-view -who “convert” to the right world-view – I assume you think that is atheism – are forever tainted with the “poison” of belief? Sounds similar to the the Spanish inquisition’s insistance that Jews converted to Christianity could not possibly be Christian. Torquemada (sp?) knew that the only way to “prevent them from poisoning the next generation” was to kill them – and their children. Now I doubt you are suggesting a “death to the believer” sort of policy. But your post does show that even some atheists – just like their fundamentalist Christian bretheren – are not above offering “daft notions” without evidence. And then you bravely “exit . . . in anticipation of flying vegetables.” Unlike your fellow fundamentalists, you, at least, seem to know you are full of it!

  12. Bob Says:

    Christthinker, I’m curious (and not trying to bash you) but as a Christian do you believe that the stories in the bible are literally true & historic fact or just symbolic stories meant to make a point (whatever that point may be)?

  13. Bob Says:

    One of the reasons that the founders of modern science were Christians is that if you were not Christian you were subject to the Inquisition & their methods of “converting people to the faith” worked well indeed. Galileo is just one of many examples.

  14. Prime Directant Says:

    In the defense of Christhinker, the bible is a pretty large book, and several of the stories are legitimate historical sources (Deuteronomy, Chronicles, Kings). The other aspect is that many myths, fables, and folklore have an origin in fact. There was most likely a real Trojan war, but not in the same way as the Illiad, and the Egyptian war between the gods Horus and Set are considered an allegory for a war between those deities respective cults.
    Same for the bible, there probably was a very tall building that collapsed or wasn’t completed, and that became the tower of babel

  15. Oxymoronic Christhinker Says:


    Any honest understanding of “The Bible” must acknowledge that it is not a monolithic, unified, fell-out-of-the-sky-as-is, written words of God himself sort of book. It is, rather, a collection of “books” and even “books within books,” written in all sorts of genres, including genres that no longer exist, and including fiction and non-fiction, and written by many people over centuries, and edited into its final form(s) by many others including both individuals and groups. Most, if not all, Jewish and Christian groups see the Bible as sacred, but each of these groups define that in different ways. And other groups and individuals – Buddhists, Muslims, atheists, etc…, see the Bible still differently, as everything from an out-and-out intentional lie (some atheists) to a book containing spiritual truth (some Buddhists). The Bible, I believe, contains Fact, Truth, and Beauty, but not necessarily in equal measure and often mixed in with a whole lot of archaic notions and even nonsense that must be jettisoned by anyone living within our modern, scientific understanding of the world. The Bible proves/disproves nothing, and should never be used – as it is by fundamentalists, ID “theorists,” creationists, and even some atheists – as a science book. The Bible is a huge subject containing many things, both positive and negative, and even contradictory things. The one-size-fits-all characature of the Bible upheld by fundamentalists et al as The-One-and-Only-Truth is just as ridiculous as the one-size-fits-none characature of the Bible upheld by (some) atheists as The-One-and-Only-Lie. It is not as simple as a choice between “literally true & historic fact” or “just symbolic stories.” Human beings live and breathe “just” symbols. Science is full of “just” symbols. Justice cannot be done to what the Bible is (or to what science is, for that matter) in a few rather rambling sentences on an atheist web-site!

    One of the other reasons that many (by no means all) of the founders of modern science were Christians is that they were, in fact, Christians, and it was their Christianity that motivated their science. I do not disagree that at least some “Christians” were being prudent in the face of possible (even certain) humiliation, torture, and execution – I do not mean to minimize the threat posed to atheists and others by the 600+ year existence of the Inquisition (in some places I would say “ongoing” existence . . .).

  16. Chris Says:

    Oxy – you have your fans here for your civility if not beliefs most here find unjustifiable. I liked very much that you wrote “sheer fact of evolution”. The anti-Evilution crowd really misses so much in their stubborn and stupid misapplication of the word theory. Evolution was not invented by Darwin. Evolution is a natural process, a completely observable fact of nature. Darwin was simply the first or most successful of those attempting to describe this fact. His explanation has withstood countless scientific challenges and cannot be considered orthodoxy since it is the role of scientists to pick at the weaknesses of each others work.

    John – I have to disagree that those afflicted are beyond repair. I suggest Bob Barker’s book GODLESS for an example of one very far gone down the 6000 year old Earth path who returns to the land of the rational. I myself was raised as a believer and many atheists you’ll talk to were as well. To say they are beyond repair is to give up very prematurely. But as with alcoholism, one needs to want to give it up.

  17. Chris Says:

    Oxy – the bible cannot be considered any sort of foundation for a moral life. Yes, there is stuff in there obviously not intended to be taken literally but there’s a bloody lot that is pretty damn clear and would earn you the death penalty in any modern society. That any claim “divine” inspiration for such a twisted hodgepodge of brutality, rape and murder is only a claim that their god is a monster. Good fodder for sitting by a fire wearing cotton/poly blend while eating a ham and cheese. Somehow god saw fit to give advice that unruly children are to be murdered at their parents hands but couldn’t clue us in to the germ theory(!) of disease.

  18. Prime Directant Says:

    I think, Chris, that John is refering more to a personality that you see in fundamentalists than their actual affiliation. An absolutist mentality is a fanatic be it christianity, islam or origin

  19. Prime Directant Says:

    and those require something major to change, an anti-epiphany, or a reakization as grand as that of Jurgis in The Jungle

  20. Bob Says:

    Chris, Dan Barker wrote the book Godless:How an Evangelical Preacher Became One of America’s Leading Atheists. Bob Barker’s claim to fame was the TV show “The price is Right”

  21. Bornagain A. Theist Says:

    After everyone else has waxed so eloquently about the subject, I fear that my little contribution may draw flames, but going back to the original post, I see nothing wrong with denying the exemption requested by the religious classmembers – to the point of expulsion if the students miss those lectures. Evolution is as close to truth as science can provide, and should not be something that a student should be able to avoid because of his or her belief in something that is clearly imaginary.

  22. Chris Says:

    Damn! Dan, not Bob. LMAO.

  23. Bob Says:

    Christhinker, I’m not sure where you’re from but here in the states (I’m in Los Angeles which by no means is the “bible belt”) the Christians I know have a VERY different understanding of the Bible than what you describe. Their view is that it’s the inspired word of God, a historic fact & every word is literally true. They cannot even acknowledge the contradictions (of which there are many) let alone scientific facts.

  24. Bob Says:

    Prime, you make a good point

  25. John Says:

    It’s only what thier preacher tells them to say and to think that closes their minds.