Saturday, August 27, 2011

Evolution is not a religion

Today I'd like to point out a few common misconceptions that religious people have about evolution and science. A recent Washington Post "On Faith" article asserts that Richard Dawkins is a "high priest" of evolution, which is what inspired me today.

Evolution is not a religion. There are no beliefs in evolution that require any more faith than we all must have in our daily life. For example, the belief that our senses inform us about the world around us is a belief that everyone holds. Nowhere in evolution are we required to believe in something we cannot sense or use reason to deduce. The idea of evolution as a religion shows staggering ignorance of science and religion both.

However, many religious people still make the error of using religious hierarchy to describe atheists and scientists. Dawkins is called a "high priest worshipping at the feet of Charles Darwin" and "the world’s most loyal devotee of 'The Church of Evolution.'" Unfortunately for Jordan Sekulow, the author of these assertions, evolution does not actually meet anyone's definition of religion. I shouldn't have to mention that no one actually worships Darwin or any other scientist.

Clearly, by calling evolution a religion, Sekulow wishes to equate Dawkins' support of evolution with the actions of door-to-door missionaries, and to lower evolution to the level of mere baseless opinion. Evolution is a highly respected scientific theory with evidence and support from many areas of science, if not all sciences. Evolution and gravity are both scientific theories; in layman's terms, evolution is as much a fact as gravity is. In fact, some might say we know more about evolution than we do gravity!

By seeing evolution in its proper light as science, rather than a religion, Dawkins' message is clearly not an attempt at religious conversion. Instead, he is lamenting the popular tendency to conflate religion and science, and the resulting attitude that science is not important. Amusingly, Sekulow is upset that Dawkins considers these ideas ignorant and foolish.

Another error I see in this article is the idea that since most people believe something, it must be true. Sekulow claims that since a high percentage of Americans believe in God, and less than half believe in evolution, Dawkins could not possibly be correct that such beliefs are proof of ignorance. I can only assume Sekulow is unfamiliar with history, because otherwise he would be aware of many examples of the majority being completely wrong. Remember when everyone thought the Earth was flat? Or that the Earth was the center of the universe?

In closing, I'd like to point out that calling someone an elitist for being educated and expecting others to try to learn is despicable. It's the equivalent of writing "proud ignoramus" on your forehead. I'd also like to encourage everyone to spend some time learning about the scientific method and evolution before calling them false.

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