Science and Faith Aren’t Mutually Exclusive

After reading a nonsensical screed about how all Democrats must be atheists – or something, it was really nonsensical – I thought I’d just point this out.

Just because someone believes in God (or some other Greater Being) doesn’t mean they can’t be scientists. Or understand science and accept the preponderance of evidence supporting the theory of evolution.

On the flip side, just because someone has accepted the theory of evolution as the best explanation doesn’t mean they have to reject God. And just because they believe God had a hand in the emergence of human life on Earth doesn’t make them anti-science.

This is apparently the evil tactic of “militant atheists” according to Hank Campbell over at Science 2.0. Just to give you a taste:

Apparently a lot of anti-science people are out there – if you frame the question the right way.  But they are Democrats too.  A recent Fox News article highlighted some comments by Texas Governor Rick Perry where he said evolution has ‘some gaps in it’ – a technically true statement but we all know what he was getting at; religion was the secret sauce and the science was invented to try and have an alternative view.  Gallup figures in that same article noted only 8% of Republicans believe evolution was solely science – no God at any point, i.e., atheists.  But only 16% of people overall believe that, which means a whole boatload of Democrats believe it too.

First: what does that even mean? “Religion was the secret sauce”? What?

Second: apparently his point is something like, “Frank Newport is quoted in this Fox News article as saying that all Republicans are anti-science; therefore, Republicans can only be pro-science if they are atheist and Democrats should face the same test.” Newport is the editor-in-chief of Gallup.

Third: he does not appear to have looked at the poll Fox News cited. If he had, maybe he would’ve mentioned the actual figure of Democrats v. Republicans who believe God had no involvement in the evolution of humans: 20 percent of Dems and 8 percent of Republicans.

Or the most startling fact of all of this, which actually supports Newport’s quote. (Leaving aside the possibility of selective paraphrasing/quoting). Here’s exactly what Newport is quoted as saying: “When a candidate like Jon Huntsman comes out and says, ‘Oh, I believe in evolution” then he’s out of sync with his own party.'” 52 percent of Republicans believe that God created humans in their present form within the last 10,000 years. So, the majority of Republican voters, while not necessarily anti-science, haven’t been convinced of evolution and accept the Biblical story of creation. I seriously doubt Richard Dawkins managed to convince any of these individuals with his rather angry, confrontational ode to Darwin in the Washington Post.

This is more of an educational issue than an “anti-science” problem, as witnessed by the increasing acceptance of some sort of evolution as education increases. It’s also changed over time:

With all the other problems with America’s educational system, I’m not sure this deserves as much attention as it’s getting. I’d say financial literacy would be much more useful to kids than knowing that humans evolved from other life forms. I mean, does believing in evolution or intelligent design really change anyone’s behavior or improve their quality of life?

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One Response to Science and Faith Aren’t Mutually Exclusive

  1. David M says:

    Good thoughts! And I’m pleased to see you’ve got a strong grasp on using original data.

    A couple more things for you to think about. In education, “separation of church and state” naturally includes neutrality on the role of God in evolution. It seems to be working to keep “intelligent Design” out of textbooks; right or wrong, it isn’t science. However, are we keeping the idea that God was _not_ involved out of science classrooms? That idea isn’t science and it isn’t part of evolutionary theory; it’s a metaphysical argument that some scientists have accepted. Your graph suggests that it’s being taught by implication.

    Second, I would have a hard time answering that poll; I fall into the “God created people recently” bin, but embrace the evidence we have that the Earth changed and developed over the billions of years before that happened. The available choices would misrepresent me and encourage other people to choose either old, evolving, well-documented ecosystem or God. I believe that that is a false dichotomy.

    If you aren’t swamped with reading already, you might be interested in “The Lost World of Genesis One” by John H. Walton. The first 3/4 is theology and cultural interpretation (which I found fascinating but you might not) while the last few chapters deal with science and education policy. I greatly enjoyed it.

    Hope your second year is off to a great start!

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