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xxii's avatar

Should colleges conduct an "Evolution Litmus Test"?

Asked by xxii (3321points) May 10th, 2010

I was reading this blog post which argues in favour of an “Evolution Litmus Test” where those who intend to major in Biology (or related fields) should only be admitted if they believe in evolution.

Here is an excerpt:

“If you are getting a degree in something biology-related, you should understand and accept evolution. Hell, I know Biology students (mostly molecular or pre-med people) who don’t accept evolution, so it’s not a matter of curriculum*. But to know that we’re giving degrees to people who fail to understand – no, outright deny a basic tenet of biology is shameful.
...
Do not accept people into your school or Masters/PhD program unless they accept evolution. I don’t care how you do it – a written test, an essay question on the application, a simple check box to weed out the honest, asking pointed questions during interviews, sending grad student spies to mingle and get the truth out… But figure out what people deny basic science before you turn them into scientists. A friend shared with me a story about a fellow grad school interviewee at a very prestigious university who was a unabashedly proud young earth creationist around the other prospective students (but not current ones or professors) – do not let this ignorance infiltrate your program.

I know people are going to claim I’m just putting an “atheist requirement” on studying biology, but I am not. There are many many biologists who are religious but still accept evolution. I have friends here at Purdue who go to church weekly, are in religious clubs, and will still laugh at Intelligent Design for it’s anti-science lunacy. This is just a scientific standard. If you don’t believe in a fundamental of the field, you should not be able to claim some sort of expertise in it. It’s as bad as graduating in History with a focus on WWII and believing the Holocaust was a hoax. It proves you do not understand the topic, and it is embarrassing to the school.”

What are your thoughts? Should Biology majors be denied college admissions because they believe in intelligent design?

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106 Answers

poofandmook's avatar

Well, right off the bat, it’s discrimination and illegal.

But, no. There are plenty of people who attribute the creation to both God and science. I myself believe it was a little of both.

lillycoyote's avatar

No, I don’t think so. They should just teach the classes and anyone who can’t master the basic principles of biology because a belief in creationism makes it impossible for them, then they just fail. Colleges shouldn’t have belief litmus tests. They should teach ideas and the facts, the science and the truth. If someone can’t handle that, that’s fine, but no one should be subjected to some sort of ideological test before enrolling in a class. That’s not what education is supposed to be about. If people are “educated” in an environment where they are not permitted to disagree with each other or with the prevailing wisdom or even with the “experts” then they are not being educated with a capital E. Though mastering a body of knowledge is obviously one of the most important aspects of an education, if a college isn’t training minds to think and question it isn’t educating people.

Seaofclouds's avatar

I don’t think this should happen. Failure to believe something doesn’t mean you don’t understand it. I’m sure these graduates understand the theory behind it, they just chose not to believe it. People refusing to believe what they were told is what lead to a lot of discoveries over time (like the world being flat, for example).

lilikoi's avatar

Discriminatory. Illegal. Ignorant.

Perhaps one of the easiest ways to convert a person to an evolution-supporter is to enroll them in a biology program. No guarantees of course, but exposure to hard evidence can’t hurt. And let’s not forget that some people manage somehow to believe in both God and Evolution.

ETpro's avatar

I am of a libertarian bent when it comes to what one must believe. That said, there are certain fundamentals one must grasp to claim expertise in a given field. I was a chemistry major. I do not think I should have been granted a degree if I had insisted steadfastly that there are only 4 elements; earth, fire, wind and water and that the objective of a chemist should be to find the philosopher’s stone and turn lead into gold.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

No, that is a shameful idea. It would exclude new thinking. Creationism isn’t the only alternate viewpoint, and someone may have thoughts on origins that are neither evolutionary or religious.

kevbo's avatar

…and now we can add science to the list of major world religions.

You cannot attend “lab church” or go to “science heaven” unless you accept Charles Darwin as your Lord and Saviour.

Also, there’s already some precedent for litmus tests in university settings.

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

I don’t imagine Bible colleges accept students who don’t accept Jesus as their personal Saviour. Why teach divinity studies to people who deny Creation or Salvation through Jesus?

Rabbinical Yeshivas don’t accept students who don’t observe the Sabbath and accept the Torah as an authoritative source.

Why admit students to the study of Biology who deny the value of scientific evidence and the use of the Scientific Method? They already know what the Bible teaches and what is universally true without the need for science or evidence? They are a waste of a seat in the class. They are likely to attempt to undermine other’s learning by proselytizing in and out of class.

This is not discrimination, it is selection of students suitable to study the subject.

{Devils advocate position perhaps, but logical and consistent}
I tend to favour openness and equal access for all but I can see the value of the argument I presented above.

kevbo's avatar

@Dr_Lawrence, I agree with you to an extent, but I think the process should be self-selecting. Professors already tend to reward students who (at the very least) mimic their ideology and treat students who “don’t get it” accordingly.

If the science establishment is going to act like a religious establishment, then what is science really accomplishing?

nikipedia's avatar

As a biologist and a staunch atheist, I guess I still have to agree with the majority view here, no matter how much it irritates me. If people can produce the work they need to, they’re entitled to their private beliefs, no matter how wildly incorrect those beliefs are.

That said, I think it would be very difficult to genuinely not believe in evolution and still be a successful biologist. I hope you will forgive me for not digging up a source, but I have read more than once that there are more atheists in the field of biology than any other academic discipline. I do not think this is a coincidence.

I took a class in college called Mechanisms of Evolution. On the first day of class, my professor suggested that people who did not believe in evolution probably would not benefit much from taking the course and should go to the registrar’s office and drop it before the deadline passed. He told us that we were welcome to believe that god was responsible for evolution and/or creation in the same way that we were welcome to believe that aliens had created the human race ten seconds ago and implanted us all with memories of our entire lives. But neither position was well-supported by scientific evidence and would not serve us well in the course.

I thought this was very wise.

kevbo's avatar

“That said, I think it would be very difficult to genuinely believe in evolution and still be a successful biologist.”

Wow. Freudian slip of the century. ;-)

j/k @nikipedia

nikipedia's avatar

OH MY GOD I EDITED THAT SHIT SO FAST KEV I HATE YOU

nikipedia's avatar

If I can make another point, I think this also has to do with what the role of a university is. The purpose of a university is to educate, and all students should have equal access to that education, no matter how flawed their belief systems.

I do think it would be entirely appropriate for a professional society such as the National Academy of Sciences or the AAAS to choose not to include “scientists” who fail to accept evolution as a basic tenet of biology.

WestRiverrat's avatar

@Dr_Lawrence not true. My nephew just graduated from a christian preseminary program. The valedictorian of his class is a devout Hindu.

The valedictorian is welcome in the seminary, he just cannot become a pastor without accepting the doctrines of the faith.

kevbo's avatar

This is probably a more appropriate pedagogical position for any university program of study…

“The Japanese master Nan-in gave audience to a professor of philosophy. Serving tea, Nan-in filled his visitor’s cup, and kept pouring. The professor watched the overflow until he could restrain himself no longer: “Stop! The cup is over full, no more will go in.” Nan-in said: “Like this cup, you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?”

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

@WestRiverrat Thanks for clarifying that for me. I suspect some Yeshivas would even allow non-Jews with sufficient prerequisite knowledge to attend courses on Talmud although they would not be considered for the Rabbinate.

@nikipedia I so like your answer. My attempt at a rhetorical answer did not reflect my real opinions.

zophu's avatar

You don’t have to believe in evolution to know how it works. There are many very knowledgeable fools.

lillycoyote's avatar

@Dr_Lawrence I would still have to disagree, even with the devil’s advocate. This is a circumstance, I think, where two wrongs don’t make a right. Any college where the purpose is to educate and train minds as opposed to indoctrinating them, should not have ideological tests for entrance to its programs.

DominicX's avatar

This isn’t about scientific standards. The person writing this doesn’t give a shit about that. This is about her wanting to force her beliefs on other people and further her agenda. It’s absolutely ridiculous and a little laughable.

There’s a difference between testing knowledge of evolution and testing belief in it.

tuxuday's avatar

Yes, belief in whatever you do is necessary to be eligible to do it. You don’t have to read the holy books if you are an atheist. We all know this is agreed, now let us make it as a law.

I see it similar like an entrance test for engineering/business studies, where the prospective students are ensured to have the basic aptitude for the respective courses.

Isn’t it scientifically proven that patients who believe that the drugs they take will cure them, are found to respond better to the drugs. Belief is mandatory

plethora's avatar

What about the respected biologists who are creationist?

zophu's avatar

@tuxuday Don’t be a fool, and understand that people have the right to be foolish. For fuck’s sake, look at how you wrote your last post. You sound like a zealot. You actually used the phrase: “Belief is mandatory.” Seriously, dude, are you being sarcastic?

“You don’t have to read the holy books if you are an atheist. We all know this is agreed, now let us make it as a law.”

No, you don’t have to read holy books, but you can. And you can memorize every one of their pages. You can learn the religious laws, legends and philosophies and recite each at will, compare them with each other, find ways to apply them arbitrarily to the real world. You could do all of this without for a second believing in anything you’ve learned. It only takes diligence.

Understand that while you see great value in believing in what you’re studying, that doesn’t mean it can’t be studied efficiently by those who don’t. They may lack the intuitive relationship you have with those subjects, but so what? Education is about knowledge and the application of knowledge. Belief and knowledge are practically two different things, especially when it comes to religion.

LuckyGuy's avatar

Maybe i am being closed minded but, I want my personal doctor to believe in evolution, gene splicing, genetic engineering, and stem cell research.
I do not want one that thinks all life came over on the Ark.

tuxuday's avatar

@zophu. Please stay away from personal comments, because that’s not we are here for!

My point is that ‘belief in whatever you do is necessary to be eligible to do it.’. I said that from my experiences, whatever those maybe. I am not shooting from the hip.

I don’t see how you won’t believe in evolution, but still want to do genetic research? You can’t appreciate the beauty of numbers, but want to Phd in mathematics? You don’t appreciate the contours of a girl, but want her to be your wife? I feel it will be like ‘Blind men and an elephant’ story!

mattbrowne's avatar

Those who intend to major in Biology (or related fields) should not be admitted if they “believe” in evolution.

They should only be admitted, if they support basic scientific principles or are willing to learn about them such as scientific method which also means supporting evolution.

Asking about beliefs is this context is totally ridiculous. No one would ask people who intend to major in Physics whether they believe in gravity.

Young adults who reject evolution could be admitted as well, because there’s a chance of undoing the brainwashing. Kids are more or less victims of religious lunatics. Learning about biology will help them see the lunacy they’ve been exposed to.

CaptainHarley's avatar

I tend to agree that those who do not hold with evolution need their head-space and timing checked, but to establish a “belief” requirement for virtually anything except Minister smacks too much of “thought police” to me. Everyone should be allowed to sink or swim on their own merits and efforts without some sort of “belief” litmus test.

poofandmook's avatar

Honestly, this is getting really heinous.

I think it’s incredibly pompous of everyone that actually agrees with this. Frankly, my personal beliefs are none of anyone’s business. I can learn everything a college has to teach me just dandy as a Christian, thank you very much. And I resent the implication that as a Christian, I must be uneducated and stupid, and not worthy of everything a school has to offer. Who cares if I choose to live believing that there’s something good coming when life is over? Who gets hurt by that? All it does, for people that don’t go crazy with it, is allow people to live life happy, with something to look forward to, and strive to be decent people. It has nothing to do with science and whether or not we believe in things like gene splicing and stem cell research. I happen to be a Christian and I believe in gene splicing and stem cell research and all medical science has to offer. So… what is the problem here?

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

For all the people who agree with this, how do you expect creationists to learn about the wonders of evolution? From their pastor?

wonderingwhy's avatar

Interestingly, I’d be in favor of this from one particular stance. I want scientists who develop theories to fit facts. I don’t want you going out to prove some theory unless, when the data demands it, you are equally willing to disprove the same theory, no matter how tightly you hold to it. So long as you’re willing to do that I don’t care what you believe, happy researching.

Of course that goes regardless of the theory in question.

LostInParadise's avatar

I am with those who oppose litmus tests. It would be an admission of defeat. It would say that a person could fulfill all the requirements for getting a degree without needing to use evolution. In fact evolution is not just some irrelevant abstract theory. It is a tool regularly employed by biologists to make discoveries. If someone wishes to be handicapped by not employing that tool and can still make a contribution, that is not the business of anybody else.

cazzie's avatar

Yeah… we need to let them in and learn and perhaps they’ll even change their minds. We shouldn’t exclude them because they show signs of minor delusional behaviour. I’d hate for them all to end up moving to Texas to go to school and then seceding from the Union. Darn shame that would be.

cazzie's avatar

@poofandmook they’re not asking if you’re Christian and the life after death stuff, .. just the evolution thingie.

Next they’ll have to ask people studying history and geology and palaeontology when and how they think the earth was made??? Where does it stop? People go to school to learn and be exposed (ready or not) to new ideas and the big big bad world. You can’t exclude the ignorant.

Oh.. as for personal feelings as to allow people into Master Grad classes or PhD level… ahh.. it happens all the time.

mattbrowne's avatar

@poofandmook – I’m a Christian too. I think we were all talking about religious nutcases who think the Earth is 6000 years old and Noah’s ark carrying dinosaurs and tigers was a historical event. If they enroll in biology two things can happen:

1) The professors are able to undo the brainwashing
2) The student keeps rejecting evolution and as a result won’t be able to graduate

I think we should welcome young adults who were subjected to creationist brainwashing at our universities. But if they remain stubborn, we can never allow them to get a science degree. This would be the end of our western civilization. We would go back to witch hunts and burnings at the stake.

Nullo's avatar

@mattbrowne…Those aren’t nutcases. They’re mainstream Christians, or were.

@cazzie It’s still a part of the faith, though.

benhodgson's avatar

I think atheists should be allowed to study religions at a university without believing in them. I suppose that, by the same argument, people who don’t believe in evolution should be allowed to study it. You don’t have to believe in something to understand it.

That said, I don’t think that you can really claim to be a biologist without believing in evolution. Just simply understanding biology doesn’t make you a biologist, in the same way that knowing all about christianity doesn’t make you a christian.

Full disclosure: I am an atheist

benhodgson's avatar

@poofandmook I don’t think that the argument is not the fact that they are Christians, it’s that they don’t accept what is considered to be a basic fact of their discipline.

nikipedia's avatar

@plethora: “respected biologists who are creationist” are like leprechauns and unicorns. Nice idea; don’t exist.

plethora's avatar

@nikipedia Just out of one’s own personal self-respect one should avoid making patently stupid statements.
Here’s One at random and there are a host of others.

gailcalled's avatar

Some people stil believe in geocentricity and the flat earth. What to do if they want to major in Astronomy and Astrophysics? There are some profound contradictions there.

kevbo's avatar

@plethora, I guess we’ve progressed in our treatment of heretics.

nikipedia's avatar

@plethora: Creationist biologists exist. Respected creationist biologists don’t.

xxii's avatar

The phrase “creationist biologist” is arguably an oxymoron.

JLeslie's avatar

I have a girlfriend who is a theist, a biologist, and a creationist. I don’t think there should be a litmus test to study the subject. As an atheist I am interested in religions, and would take a comparative religion class, even though I would think a lot of it is ridiculous, but I can still learn the subject matter. Also, as others mentioned, believing in God does not mean someone does not believe in evolution, they do not have to be mutually exclusive.

I don’t know much about majoring in biology or working in that field, but I would think evolution is just a part of it, certainly biology is much more than the theory of evolution. The girlfriend I mentioned in my last statement wound up working for a company concerning the environment.

Nullo's avatar

@xxii A biologist is someone who studies organisms, no?
@nikipedia That Creationist biologists focus on the tangible, observable present instead of making wild conjectures about the past gives them more credibility in my book.

JLeslie's avatar

@Nullo Creationists focus on the tangible? Explain that please. There is all sorts of evidence for evolution. I think of creationsist as just believing what the bible says, and ignoring evidence.

zophu's avatar

@tuxuday Yeah, sorry for getting personal. I was feeling dramatic.

Not all artists who appreciate and know how to draw the female form are attracted to women. If they make the statement, “I do not find women attractive or exceptionally beautiful,” but they can draw one realistically, should their ability be disregarded? They’re not going to devote their lives to portraits of women, but they have still proven themselves competent artists.

If the education is sound, one should not have to believe in what one is being taught, only how to practice it. And if it can be practiced, why hold anyone back because they believe it shouldn’t be? That’s not the place of education.

I am not religious. And that is why I can not accept the idea of an educational institution forcing people to believe in order to be passed, even if they prove competent in their understandings and applications.

Creationism is disgusting, but this is not the way to deal with it. Oppressing their foolishness just makes it stronger. Let their beliefs face nature directly instead of giving them the ability to hide behind your opposition. Help them up so they can see how foolish they are for themselves.

Lightlyseared's avatar

@plethora If that guy was a respected scientist he wouldn’t have been fired.

CaptainHarley's avatar

@Nullo

No, “creationism” is not part of the christian belief system. It is a manmade apendage added on as a result of certain people who call themselves “christians” being unable to differentiate between myth and history.

zophu's avatar

@CaptainHarley I like how you claim your own kind of Christianity. It gives me more faith in religious people.

CaptainHarley's avatar

@zophu

Thank you! If there truly IS a God and s/he IS omnipotent, they he/she can certainly use whatever mechanism s/he wants to, to bring about more complex life. God gave us intellect to use in the service of all creation. If we prove to our own statisfaction that evolution is a fact of existence, then God obviously used evolution to create complex living systems.

One of the primary reasons Christianity has survived the ages is that it adapts to whatever culture in which it takes root, and accepts as allegory those things which science ( i.e. people using the brain got gave them ) disproves as fact.

Qingu's avatar

Giving a biology degree to a creationist strikes me as similar to giving an astronomy degree to someone who believes the sun revolves around the earth.

Perhaps our geocentrist astronomer could “fake it” and pass the tests, do the work, etc required for the degree, but I don’t think it’s “discriminatory” or “ignorant” to have qualms about letting such a person get a degree in astronomy. Such a degree would certainly reflect dishonesty on the part of the geocentrist.

JLeslie's avatar

@zophu From wikipedia this will give you more hope For Catholics, human evolution is not a matter of religious teaching, and must stand or fall on its own scientific merits. Evolution and the Roman Catholic Church are not in conflict. The Catechism of the Catholic Church comments positively on the theory of evolution, which is neither precluded nor required by the sources of faith, stating that scientific studies “have splendidly enriched our knowledge of the age and dimensions of the cosmos, the development of life-forms and the appearance of man.”[49] Roman Catholic schools teach evolution without controversy on the basis that scientific knowledge does not extend beyond the physical, and scientific truth and religious truth cannot be in conflict.[50] Theistic evolution can be described as “creationism” in holding that divine intervention brought about the origin of life or that divine Laws govern formation of species, though many creationists (in the strict sense) would deny that the position is creationism at all. There are Christians who look to science fro answers, but they many times are Catholics. I don’t know what specific religion @CaptainHarley identifies with, but I agree it is always nice to listen to a Christian who is also logical and willing to accept that religion and science do not have to be in conflict.

Qingu's avatar

Science and what the Bible says do clearly conflict on this point.

It’s just that many religious people today ignore what the Bible says when it conflicts with accepted science or modern morality.

JLeslie's avatar

@Qingu That makes sense. I think fundamental Christians are reluctant to accept any part of the bible being wrong or innacurate, but other Christians understand that just because something in the book is wrong, doesn’t mean you have to throw the entire book out. The all or none attitude I find ridiculous.

CaptainHarley's avatar

@Qingu

Once again, Oh Font of All Knowledge, you are incorrect. : )

Qingu's avatar

Okay. Tell me which of the following parts of the Bible you’re not ignoring:

• The sky is a solid dome that holds up an ocean (Genesis 1)
• God created the earth in six days. The sun was created after the earth. (ibid)
• God made humans from clay. Then he made the other animals, one by one (Genesis 2)
• God told one guy to take 2 or 7 of every “kind” of animal ever to exist on a big submarine (Gen 6)
• Then he flooded the world by opening up the windows in the dome-sky (Genesis 7)
• Every land animal that exists today came off the ark (Genesis 8)

CaptainHarley's avatar

@Qingu

The Bible is historical document, legend, meaphor, allegory, entertainment, and many other things. One thing it is not is a literal description of actual events as recorded when they happened. It has been rewritten, revised and reinterpreted throughout history, and will continute to be so.

You are quoting from the Book of Genesis, which I had just said was not to be taken literally but as metaphor and allegory.

What part of the above do you not understand?

zophu's avatar

@Qingu In all fairness, those things are pretty surreal and are obviously intended for artistic expression, (even if they are believed literally by some.) It’s the more directly stated miracles that are believed in without question that are the big problem here.

plethora's avatar

@Lightlyseared That would be an erroneous conclusion. Academe, at all levels and in any discipline, is the most closed minded of all societies. Academics are fired regularly for not toeing the PC line. How old are you anyway? Ya gotta be older than 13 to be on here.

plethora's avatar

@Qingu Once again, just out of a sense of one’s own self-respect, one should avoid making patently stupid statements.

Qingu's avatar

@CaptainHarley, “metaphor” and “allegory” are not actually euphemisms for “bullshit.” However, you are using those words in that manner. Which is what I meant when I said many religious people “ignore” what the Bible says.

@zophu, they weren’t intended for artistic expression (though much of Genesis, as literature, is certainly artfully written). They were common beliefs at the time the Bible was written. Babylonians, Akkadians, and Sumerians had flood stories, gods making humans out of clay, a cosmology that said the sky was a solid dome.

In the same way, people 2000 years ago believed the sun revolved around the earth, and that flies were born from rotting meat. It’s not “allegory,” or “metaphor.” It’s what people back then actually believed. They didn’t know any better, so they wrote about what they thought they knew.

ETpro's avatar

This is actually a great question, as the number and passion of the responses has shown. I say again that I think you are not just starting down a slippery slope, you are strapping a jet-pack to your back and greasing your shoes if you allow College Curricula and degree requirements to be manipulated by those who reject all we have learned in the Age of Reason and beyond.

I think that those in university Philosophy Departments started us down this slippery slope. Hegel comes to mind. He was an early champion of relativistic truth or Dialectic Materialism. Marx, Lenin and Mao Tse Tung followed in his footsteps. They maintained that logical inconsistency isn’t a problem at all, that real contradictions between actual facts aren’t just common, but actually necessary for existence. Here is Chairman Mao on this topic:

“Engels said, ‘Motion itself is a contradiction.’ Lenin defined the law of the unity of opposites as ‘the recognition (discovery) of the contradictory, mutually exclusive, opposite tendencies in all phenomena and processes of nature (including mind and society)’. Are these ideas correct? Yes, they are. The interdependence of the contradictory aspects present in all things and the struggle between these aspects determine the life of all things and push their development forward. There is nothing that does not contain contradiction; without contradiction nothing would exist.”

This kind of thinking is not only stupid and idiotic, it is downright dangerous. Chairman Mao murdered as many as 50,000,000 of his own people. Stalin slaughtered some 20.000,000. I am not suggesting that Creationists are likely to do anything of that sort, but I am saying that allowing people who deliberately divorce themselves from logic, cause and effect, evidence and the laws of reality to be granted degrees in the physical sciences and allowed to then practice them is absurd and potentially dangerous.

Qingu's avatar

I really don’t think it’s helpful or accurate to compare creationists to Chairman Mao and Stalin… that’s a very “Beckian” way to make an argument.

The bottom line is that creationism is not compatible with being an expert in biology. If you get a B.S. or a PhD in biology, that connotes that you are an expert in the material. But if you believe that all species of land animals today were taken on a magical ark straight out of Mesopotamian mythology— or else that all species super-evolved from a smaller number of kinds of animals on the ark, as many creationists say —you clearly are not an expert.

Now, I suppose creationists could keep their beliefs to themselves and, if they demonstrate expertise in the material, get biology B.S.s or PhD’s. But that would be dishonest.

ETpro's avatar

@Qingu I pointed out that I was not comparing the two. I cited that to show that belief in a rather popular modern philosophy, that truth is relative, and that enough people believing something makes it true despite evidence to the contrary, is a slippery slope for science and enlightenment of any kind. I am sure most creationists would swear on a stack of Bibles that they are not relativists or Dialectic Materialists, but they are perfectly willing to ignore a mountain of evidence in favor of superstition. Someone who does that is welcome to their beliefs, but they should not be awarded a degree in science based on them. Alchemists shouldn’t get chemistry degrees. Witch Doctors should not get medical degrees. Fortune tellers shouldn’t get degrees in economics. Those insisting on a geocentric solar systems shouldn’t be called astronomers or cosmologists. If you are going to have no standards, who have exams or term papers. Just print up a degree for anyone who wants one, and claim it is meaningful regardless of how absurd their “knowledge” might be.

plethora's avatar

Let’s go to the very base of this discussion and it is not about all the logical consistencies of evolution or those claimed by creationists.

There is only one question at issue. Does there exist an all-powerful God who has the power to create life?

If the answer is NO, then evolution is the only consistent path to follow. Indeed, any inconsistencies will be either dismissed or forced into consistency. They must be, because without a God able to create, ONLY evolution is possible and all the physical facts discovered in the universe will, one way or the other, fit the evolutionary model.

On the other hand, if there is a God with the power to create life, then creationism becomes possible (not proven…possible). And all the physical facts discovered in the universe will, one way or the other, fit the creationary model.

Bottom line…guys

ETpro's avatar

@plethora That is decidedly not the bottom line. In order to believe the Earth is only 6,000 years old you have to reject an enormous wealth of observed facts. A scientists who bases their conclusions not on observations but on hunches or things he read in ancient texts is a contradiction in terms. That is not what science is about.

There are some who believe in a creator, but believe that the Earth is billions of years old as the evidence suggests and that evolution occurred as the evidence says it did. No problem with their being biologists. But there is a huge problem with someone claiming that mantle when they reject the scientific method.

plethora's avatar

The earth is 15–17 billion years old. The scientific method requires a model that must be proven or disproved. No one works in a vacuum. All evidence in any field is going to be viewed in more than one way depending on the suppositions that form the model. Therefore, if a scientist believes that a creator God does not exist, he must work with the evolutionary model.

If, however, he believes that a creator God does exist, he can work with both the evolutionary model and the creation model, to determine which evidence fits each model.

Are you suggesting that evidence that fits the creation model (note the word “model”, not proven fact), but not the evolutionary model should simply be ignored or forced to fit the evolutionary model because that is the only view of the universe permitted. Say hello to Galilieo. He had to contend with the same kind of closed minds.

ps….no one is suggesting that the scientific method be discarded. The scientific method is neutral.

LostInParadise's avatar

The question is not whether or not there is a God. The question is whether people who are creationists should be allowed to become biologists. The theory of evolution should not be made into a credo. It is a tool used by biologists. If someone wants to disregard this most useful tool but can still make contributions, then I see no reason to prevent the person from becoming a biologist.

Suppose someone wanted to become a mathematician but did not believe in complex numbers. I agree this is not very likely, but it is certainly possible to make contributions to mathematics without working with complex numbers. It would not be right to bar such a person from becoming a mathematician on this account.

CaptainHarley's avatar

@Qingu

Speaking of bullshit….

ETpro's avatar

@plethora The evidence suggest the Earth is between 4 and 5 billion years old, not 15 to 17 billion. The evidence says that the Big Bang occurred 13.7 billion years ago. The very matter that the Earth was formed from did not exist before that.

The fact that a scientific theory is subject to challenge does not in any way imply Philosophical Relativism, and the relativism of truth is exactly what you imply when you insist that the entire scientific method may be tossed out the window because someone chooses to believe in the supernatural and ignore mountains of evidence showing their belief is incorrect.

Christian fundamentalists who argue for the inclusion of creationism in college biology are so inconsistent in their “thought” process it is laughable. You hate and condemn moral relativism except when you employ it because it suits your purposes. You argue for beliefs based on the thinnest possible “evidence” but reject those built on hundreds of years of observations, proofs, and predictive value. Calling someone a scientist who rejects the scientific method is as ridiculous as calling a witch doctor or a snake-oil salesman a medical doctor.

Qingu's avatar

@plethora, what you are suggesting is completely contrary to the way science actually works, which is exactly why creationists who pick and choose between scientific and mythological models and retrofit evidence as such do not deserve degrees in a scientific field.

Similarly, someone like me—knowledgeable about Christianity and the Bible, but clearly not a believer in its central premises—doesn’t deserve a degree in theology. And it would be dishonest of me to try to get one in some attempt to “infiltrate” Christian institutions.

CaptainHarley's avatar

Everyone believes in myth, in one form or another. Consider the domination of science by the Cartesian Divide for several centuries. Clearly based on a myth, but not easily percieved as such.

ETpro's avatar

@CaptainHarley The Cartesian divide is nowhere near a disproof of the scientific method, it is rather a demonstration of how fundamental error creeps in when you substitute intuition for verifiable proofs. It is a poster child for not allowing creationism to be labeled science.

CaptainHarley's avatar

@ETpro Um… I THOUGHT that’s what I said!

ETpro's avatar

@CaptainHarley Ha! I guess upon rereading that you did. Looks like I got so wrapped up in this subject I got stuck in broadcast mode. Mea culpa.

CaptainHarley's avatar

@ETpro

A gift of chocolates and a bit more bowing and scraping should suffice! : D

zophu's avatar

@ETpro yeah you do that every once in a while, it seems =)

ETpro's avatar

@CaptainHarley Virtual chocolates on the way. :-)

@zophu Never claimed to be perfect. :-)

zophu's avatar

@ETpro I like it. It shows you have something to say and aren’t just looking to argue.

CaptainHarley's avatar

LMAO @ETpro

Hey, wait! Where’s my bowing and scraping? : D

ETpro's avatar

@zophu Actually I don’t love argument. I like it a lot better when people just agree with me. Unfortunately, sometimes I am dead wrong, and I like being wrong even less than arguing and thereby fiding out I am wrong.

@CaptainHarley Don’t push your luck. Enjouy the chocolates and STFU. :-)

Nullo's avatar

@Qingu
The sky is a solid dome that holds up an ocean (Genesis 1)
No dome is mentioned in Genesis 1. Neither is there any indicator of its permeability.

• God created the earth in six days. The sun was created after the earth. (ibid)
This is a problem how? Sure, it doesn’t jive with modern cosmological theory, but that’s only a concern if you’re trying to reconcile the two.

• God made humans from clay. Then he made the other animals, one by one (Genesis 2)
You can find all of a person’s component matter in the dirt. Animals are created en masse in Genesis 1.

• God told one guy to take 2 or 7 of every “kind” of animal ever to exist on a big submarine (Gen 6)
One of every kind of animal, as well as his wife and kids and his kids’ wives and kids. Oh, and it was a ship, not a submarine.

• Then he flooded the world by opening up the windows in the dome-sky (Genesis 7)
Says “floodgates of Heaven”, actually. It has been suggested that antediluvian Earth had more cloud cover than modern Earth. It has also been suggested that God simply increased, however temporarily, Earth’s gross water levels.
I’m pretty sure that there’s also a bit about subterranean water being thrown into the mix, as well.

• Every land animal that exists today came off the ark (Genesis 8)
The text states that every animal that had been on the ark left it. Reasonable speculation suggests that natural selection (contrary to popular belief, natural selection works perfectly well in a literal interpretation of the Bible, just not in the same massive role that the evolutionists place it in) generated a fair amount of intragenus differentiation.
The Ark held land animals and birds.

mattbrowne's avatar

@Nullo – Here’s a weird coincidence. The pope of all atheists Richard Dawkins supports the clay theory for the creation of life from lifeless matter

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abiogensis#Clay_theory

Clay !

Amazing that in 2010 so many people understand ancient myths in a literal manner, both creationists and hard-line atheists.

Myths are not about historical events. They are about human psychology.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@Nullo “This is a problem how? Sure, it doesn’t jive with modern cosmological theory, but that’s only a concern if you’re trying to reconcile the two.”
This is a huge problem. We know for a fact that the Sun and Earth formed from the same stellar cloud, and that the sun condensed from this cloud before the Earth. If the omniscient God who inspired the Bible got such an elementary thing wrong, why should we believe anything else the Bible has to say?

ETpro's avatar

@Nullo

I don’t know what translation you are using, but in the NAB translation Genesis 1:14 says, “And God said, Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night…” The HarperCollins study Bible uses the same wording. Other translations use “firmament of the sky” or “expanse of the heavens” in this spot.

Genesis also talks about the firmament separating the Waters from the Waters, as if heaven and earth have water, and the sky is sandwiched in between. And it implies a flat Earth. Creationists base their entire argument on Genesis being a literal description of the beginning of everything that exists, and 6 days meaning 6 modern 24 hour periods. That requires accepting as gospel truth so many absurdities that it is difficult to imagine calling a creationist a university graduate of any kind, much less a biologist.

Creationist Science is one huge, silly oxymoron. Arguing that it is as valid, scientifically, as the Theory of Evolution only calls attention to all the gaping holes in such an assertion.

Qingu's avatar

@Nullo, dome, firmament, expanse and vault are various translations of the Hebrew word “raqia,” which means a solid structure. The word has the same root as “beating out,” as in beating out metal.

If it was permeable then it wouldn’t “separate” the waters below it from the waters above. And Yahweh wouldn’t need to open its “windows” in the flood story.

Out of curiosity, how many insects do you believe Noah hunted down and took on the ark with him? There are at least 1 million species of insects in existence today.

gailcalled's avatar

@Qingu: I know he took a pair of ticks, a pair of blackflies and a pair of cockroaches.

mattbrowne's avatar

@Qingu – It’s not just a matter of the number of species, but also the gene pool of single species available today. Comparative genomics (now widespread because of cheap DNA sequencing) invalidates both a literal Adam and Eve type human origin 6000 years ago and a literal Noah’s ark at the alleged time of the Great Flood. Interestingly genetic research also created the notion of a ‘Mitochondrial Eve’, see

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mitochondrial_Eve

and

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Seven_Daughters_of_Eve

JLeslie's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh I hear many Christians say they have to believe everything in the bible word for word or they might as well throw the whole book out, and I completely disagree with thats statement. It is this type of all or none thinking that maintains some Christians in their unwillingness to accept scientific proof, their persistance to ignore logic and stick to religious text. If a theory of Einstein’s was later proved to have a flaw, we would not tthrow out everything Einstein ever discovered, calculated, or theororized. Einstein himself would most likely be interested in the critique of his work, and want to look at the new theory.

LostInParadise's avatar

But the bible is supposed to be the word of God. If some of it is wrong, how can you trust any of it?

JLeslie's avatar

@LostInParadise Because the bible was witten by human beings, years after Jesus’ death in a different language. It is basically impossible for a modern English version of today to have the exact meaning of the people who wrote it over 2000 years ago. Even if it had been written in some sort of Old English it would have losses in meaning. Anyone who speaks two languages knows it is almost impossible to not lose some meaning or misinterpret intention while translating, and remember it is mere men who do the translations.

Anyone who has ever played telephone as a child knows that as stories are told from one person to the next the story changes, and so before these stories were written down there would have been changes.

Everyone who is over the age of 40 knows that as years pass memories many times become inaccurate.

To believe that every single word in the bible is an accurate word of God as it would have been spoken by Him is an impossibility.

ETpro's avatar

@JLeslie That sidesteps the question @LostInParadise posed. If an omniscient God inspired the Bible, what he inspired should be absolute truth. God is truth, it says. There is no shadow of turning in him. Subsequent mistranslation doesn’t work either, because the God presented in the Bible is supposed to be Omnipotent. He has all the power needed to ensure prefect translations.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@JLeslie If you don’t accept 2 Timothy 3:16, what yardstick do you use to judge which parts of the Bible you can believe and which you cannot? If you use your own reason to find value in some parts and reject the contradictions and immorality of others, why not start from scratch and reject the whole book?

mattbrowne's avatar

@LostInParadise – Being the word of God does have a spiritual meaning, not a physical meaning. God didn’t use a dictation machine for humans to listen to it and write it all down. Right and wrong always has a historical context. Even the meaning of morphemes, words, phrases, sentences and paragraphs does change over time. Linguists will explain why this is so. Even two humans can’t carry out exactly the same semantic processing in their brains when they look at exactly the same sequence of characters. Therefore we got

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biblical_hermeneutics

and

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Higher_criticism

Atheists should not adopt the simple stance of biblical literals. The world isn’t that simple. A complex book like the bible isn’t that simple. And religions evolve. Christianity 3.0 looks different from Christianity 1.2 or 0.9

It’s time for some atheists to download an upgrade when trying to analyze and understand Christianity. A lot of American evangelicals are still using smoke signals or if we’re lucky punch cards. But the notion of a USB stick seems alien to them.

gailcalled's avatar

As I understand it, the bible is not a treatise written by one historian. It is a compendium of various authors, various interwoven scraps of text and varies from translation to translation.

If you look at the footnotes of the Torah (Five Books of Moses or The Pentatuch) alone, you will find volumes of discussion on every word. MIshnah and Gemora known collectively as the Torah.

JLeslie's avatar

I don’t see how I sidestepped anything? I am the one saying don’t throw out the whole book just because something has been proven wrong, or possibly simply translated incorrectly over time. I would go as far to say that maybe was written correctly in the original text. But, now @ETpro is even saying God would ensure correct translation, sorry I think maybe this conversation is going nowhere, and I am certainly not trying to convince you to be an athiest or to take Christianity away from you, that is not my goal at all. Just maybe trying to get you think and not blindly follow how someone else has written or interpreted the word of God.

It is the theists here who seem to be saying that the whole book has to be thrown out which I find ironic. As @gailcalled points out learned men argue over the intended meaning of the Torah, but then I guess in this discussion we are focusing on Christianity and the new testament.

By any chance do you, @ETpro, @FireMadeFlesh , @LostInParadise speak two languages?

LostInParadise's avatar

Once you say that any part of the bible is not correct then, as @ETpro pointed out, you are free to choose how much or how little you want to believe and it loses is sacrosanct status. It does not matter what the cause for disbelief is, since there is no way of knowing. It could be a mistranslation or simply a mistake.

@gailcalled , I am sure you meant to say Talmud rather than Torah, which is the first five books of the bible. I took a brief course about the Talmud given by a local rabbi. It was quite fascinating. The Talmud is a kind of practical field guide to the bible. We read an English translation about an argument between the schools of Hillel and Shmai.

Hillel was a reformer born in the generation before Jesus. That there are Hillel centers but no Shmai centers should give a pretty good idea of who won most of the arguments. The one we read about concerned the passage that says that a particular prayer has to be said when you rise in the morning and when you lie down at night. Shmai took this literally to mean that you had to say the prayer standing up in the morning and lying down in the evening. Hillel argued that the passage only referred to time time of day and was not meant to be taken so literally. As usual, Hillel’s side prevailed. The point of this is to show that the Talmud dealt with fine points of interpretation.

gailcalled's avatar

@LostInParadise: I would swear I changed that link to “Talmud.” Thank you for noticing. I had already written that the Torah, or Petateuch (which I misspelled) represented the first five books of the OT.

I love being amidst a crowd of scholarly Jews, all arguing (usually at the same time). I wonder what Shmai had to say about the prayer before intercourse. When I was a member of a small Reconstructionist Synagogue, the congregation (all 20 of them) used to happily interrupt the rabbi during his homily. The rabbi welcomed the debate.

Then we had wine and challah.

LostInParadise's avatar

I think it was Ben Gurion who said that whenever you bring two Jews together you get three opinions

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@JLeslie No, I don’t speak any other language. I also never said the whole book should be thrown out because it has one wrong thing in it, I just used a single example as an example of how the Bible is riddled with holes, and therefore it should not be thought of as the word of God since it is obviously fallible.

I see value in certain parts of the Bible, but that is because it agrees with me, not because I agree with it.

ETpro's avatar

@JLeslie If I seemed to be arguing for the literal acceptance of the entire Bible, I must have been extremely unclear in my writing. Nothing could be further from the case. I am an Agnostic and am well aware of many very serious contradictions and outright false statements in the Bible. Nonetheless, had it actually been dictated to man by an omnipotent, omnicsiennt God, my statement stands that it should be absolutely error free and there should be no error creeping in with successive translations, something that is not in fact the case.

I am not sure what additional languages have to do with this, but I speak French. I do not speak any of the languages the original texts of the Old or New Testament were written in.

Qingu's avatar

The Bible is best understood for what it is.

A collection of Mesopotamian mythology, combined with the ramblings of a Roman-era Judean cult leader and legends about that cult’s founder.

Apart from its influence, it’s not a special book. It’s not a “spiritual” book, anymore than the Babylonian creation myth is “spiritual.” It’s mostly inaccurate, wildly so in many places. And it’s also fairly repulsive from a modern moral standpoint.

And the only Christians who literally accept all of the Bible are the Flat-Earthers and possibly the Dominionists who support things like slavery and stoning disobedient children. Everyone else cherry-picks to varying extent, with “liberal” Christians ignoring almost the entirety of the book.

JLeslie's avatar

@ETpro Indeed I had slightly misunderstood your original points, thank you for clarifying. I think we still continue to disagree, but I appreciate your opinion. :).

@FireMadeFlesh I see, I think we actually do agree. I am an atheist, but I believe the bible has value much like almost any religious document or philosophical text.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@JLeslie I believe that the Bible has some value, but only because it agrees with my ideas derived from other sources. It is a poor practice to see the Bible as the original source for any beliefs, since it works from the false basis that there is an omniscient, omnipotent, benevolent god. I happen to agree with some of the ideas expressed in the Bible, but that is coincidental and ultimately quite irrelevant.

I prefer to see the book as a collection of interesting fictional stories.

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