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#1 Edited by Tearhead (2158 posts) -

Hey everyone, I've been thinking a lot lately about my beliefs when it comes to God, religion, and what science has to say about the universe around us. While I do believe in God, I also currently find evolution a strong rational reasoning for how we, and every living thing around us came to be. Only recently I asked myself if I could believe in both God and evolution. Am I just trying to have my cake and eat it too by believing in whatever is convenient for me?

So I thought the best idea was to read as much as I can on both evolution and creationism. Do you know of any great literature on either subject? So far, I've found a few compelling books such as "The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution" but would like any feedback. Thanks.

#2 Posted by Shortbreadtom (736 posts) -

The obvious answers are Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins books. "The Selfish Gene" is really good for this kind of stuff, and Dawkins is a master of putting stuff in layman's terms (but you already know that, reading the Greatest Show and all). Well done on being someone brave enough to question your beliefs; there are so many people who go through their whole life thinking what they were told to think because it's the easier option (being an atheist in a Catholic household I sympathise)

#3 Edited by ProfessorEss (7309 posts) -

I've gone through similar philosophical struggles in my life. Unfortunately I've found every piece of literature I've looked into on both sides is so steeped in agenda that I end up exactly where I started.

Creation vs. Evolution is big business and frankly I have trouble seeing anything but a bunch of people on both sides trying to get famous and/or make money. That's not much help, sorry.

#4 Posted by Tom_omb (368 posts) -

While I'm not religious, I never really thought there was an inherent contradiction between religion and science. I stumbled upon the Inspiring Philosophy youtube channel from one of his videos on quantum physics. From what I have seen the purpose of this channel seems to be to consolidate religion and science. While I don't necessarily agree with some of his opinions, the science seems solid.

You might want to look into Darwin's religious background as well.

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#5 Edited by Tearhead (2158 posts) -

@professoress said:

I've gone through similar philosophical struggles in my life. Unfortunately I've found every piece of literature I've looked into on both sides is so steeped in agenda that I end up exactly where I started.

Creation vs. Evolution is big business and frankly I have trouble seeing anything but a bunch of people on both sides trying to get famous and/or make money. That's not much help, sorry.

I have found this to be a problem as well. I read some of this stuff and feel like they go out of their way to criticize the other side, when I'm just looking for someone to lay out the facts as they see them. If it's true, it should be able to stand on its own without having to acknowledge the other side. I've been trying to stay away from literature whose stance is basically "Fuck those guys, and this is why those asshole are wrong!"

#6 Posted by TobbRobb (4588 posts) -

@tearhead said:

@professoress said:

I've gone through similar philosophical struggles in my life. Unfortunately I've found every piece of literature I've looked into on both sides is so steeped in agenda that I end up exactly where I started.

Creation vs. Evolution is big business and frankly I have trouble seeing anything but a bunch of people on both sides trying to get famous and/or make money. That's not much help, sorry.

I have found this to be a problem as well. I read some of this stuff and feel like they go out of their way to criticize the other side, when I'm just looking for someone to lay out the facts as they see them. If it's true, it should be able to stand on its own without having to acknowledge the other side. I've been trying to stay away from literature whose stance is basically "Fuck those guys, and this is why those asshole are wrong!"

If you could distinguish which one was "true" that easily, this wouldn't be an argument no? And assuming the truth will stand unbreakable on it's own, then we can safely say that both theories are somehow false and a third option is the real truth.

Either way. Anyone dedicated enough to make big write-ups about this stuff, most likely have a fairly biased opinion. You really just need to read literature from both sides and try to filter out the information you would consider "true" and not bias. GOOD LUCK HAVE FUN!

#7 Posted by Clonedzero (4198 posts) -

This seems pretty relevant to what you might want.

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#8 Posted by Athadam (684 posts) -

You should really watch Cosmos if you can. I know it's not literature, but the show teaches and contextualizes sciences tremendously well. It has honestly changed my life.


Also, I am assuming you've watched the Bill Nye vs Ken Ham debate? I don't find the evidence for creationism appealing at all and Ken Ham pretty much presented everything he could offer during that debate.

#9 Posted by kcin (127 posts) -

Michael Behe's book, Darwin's Black Box, lays out the theory of intelligent design, which is a combination of evolution and creationism that has been cited in court by defenders of creationism who want to teach it in schools or who want to remove evolution from curriculum. It is rooted in the concept of "irreducible complexity", which states that some organic structures are too complicated for them to have evolved from a much simpler form, since their functionality relies entirely on their complexity. The human eye is an example of a structure that he believes is irreducibly complex, for example. If you take a part of the eye away, he argues that it would cease to function, and given the tenants of evolution, it is unlikely a working eye evolved from a similar structure that, until this step of evolution which adds the missing part, simply couldn't have functioned as an eye since that creature probably would not have been able to see in the first place.

I personally think it utterly fails to prove its points and willfully ignores the nuances of the theory of evolution, as do the courts in which it was cited and in which Behe himself has been called to the stand to speak in defense of it, but its significance in the evolution-as-fact struggle cannot be denied and seems to suit your reading list exactly.

#10 Posted by TheHBK (5471 posts) -

To me the religious debate should not be about religion vs science. Science just is. It should be Religion vs No Religion. The question that has to be asked is how can anyone believe one religion when there are so many out there? None of this, well it fits me better crap because then you are not looking for the truth and instead just comfort. I don't understand how anyone can so steadfastly be Christian if they understand had they been born in Pakistan, they would instead be Muslim. My take is that if you see how strong faith is for different religions, then there is no way you can say one is true and the other is not. They all have to be true which is not possible and prohibited in those religions, so they all have to be false then. I would more readily believe in Hercules.

Also, fuck Ceelo Green.

#11 Posted by TheHT (11093 posts) -
#12 Posted by 2HeadedNinja (1592 posts) -

This might make me sound like a dick, but you don't really need to read up on creatonism, its a non-science, bullshit "theory" ... there is zero credible evidence for any claims creatonists make. Evolution is a well established theory in the same way gravity is a well established theory. Even if I am an atheist I think there is no reason to have no faith if you just accept that evolution is a fact unless you take the bible literaly which nobody ever should do.

#13 Edited by Athadam (684 posts) -

@tom_omb said:

While I'm not religious, I never really thought there was an inherent contradiction between religion and science. I stumbled upon the Inspiring Philosophy youtube channel from one of his videos on quantum physics. From what I have seen the purpose of this channel seems to be to consolidate religion and science. While I don't necessarily agree with some of his opinions, the science seems solid.

You might want to look into Darwin's religious background as well.

To me there is an inherent contradiction by the means by which they derive the truth. Religion has been wrong countless times because every time there was a gap inside scientific knowledge, people reasoned that a god or gods made it so. Why is it raining? Because the weather god is mad. Why is there a plague? Because we've sinned too much. Why is there evolution? Because God made it so.

This way of thinking is called the god of the gaps, and it has been with us throughout history.

As science progressed, the explanations for natural phenomena may have changed the public's answers but it has yet to change how people really think. People are easily willing to accept the products of science but not the methods and virtues of skepticism and vigorous peer review. They will accept that science is important and necessary, but they will not incorporate any of its core foundations into their lives.

To me religion and science are fundamentally different - not by measure of how much good/bad they do to the world - but by the means of which each derives the truth. One requires evidence and skepticism, the other relies on what people wish to be true and pure faith.

If you accept the products of science and its creation myths without knowing how these stories were really discovered nor do you appreciate the scientific method, then science may just as well be a religion.

#14 Edited by mikeeegeee (1553 posts) -

Neil deGrasse Tyson's "Cosmos" has touched on evolution a number of times over the span of its first seven episodes. My favorite so far was the second episode, which you can watch here:

http://www.cosmosontv.com/watch/195050051992

The fourth segment is the best. It details how incredibly complex structures, such as the human eye, come to be over millions of years of mutation and natural selection. The first segment isn't bad either, explaining how dogs have evolved over the years.

I think the reason people have such a hard time accepting evolution as fact is because it requires an understanding of the immense, geological timeline required for it to occur. It's hard for anybody to appreciate anything beyond a few generations of human life, let alone the 500 million years it's taken for life to evolve to this state. It's truly an incomprehensible timeline. Cosmos frequently touches on the idea of the cosmic calendar to better illustrate how briefly humans have been around, so that may be worth looking into to better conceptualize the amount of time evolution takes.

As far as creationism goes, I don't think there's any evidence to support it beyond the bible. I don't think it deserves to be taught in schools or treated equal to evolution. One is science, one is theology. I consider myself agnostic, I wonder about the existence of a god. I think that, at a point (prior to the big bang, really), we don't have answers, and that may be where god fits in. I don't claim to know one way or the other.

#15 Posted by EXTomar (4635 posts) -

The issue has always been an attempt to mix together different "schools of thought" which makes about as much sense as trying to resolve Dentistry and Optometry. There is a temptation to try to make them similar things "compatible" when it turns out you shouldn't bother. It is fine to believe in whatever religion while also holding evolution and all of the results are accurate. Neither field of study actually makes claims contrary to the other where it is really only radical jerks on both sides that are causing problems by erroneously arguing the wrong things.

#16 Edited by BaconGames (3359 posts) -

If you asked me 6 years ago, I'd have links for days since skeptic community publications have a ton of published debates and openly ask about the boundaries between science and religion and whether there is one etc. As for the material itself, I think the Cosmos and Bill Nye videos do a great job. Also the newest Neil Degrasse Tyson revival of Cosmos does a great job highlighting the history and conceptual basis for science that affords us a unique accomplishment in the universe as a species, to ascertain the closest we can to credible accounts of how our world works as we can.

Anyway, enough preface, time to get into the nitty gritty. The basic philosophical quandary that you face at the moment has confronted countless over the centuries in what is classically known as the "god of the gaps." This concept basically involves the constant pull and push between religious/spiritual accounts of the universe and life and the accounts brought about by observation of natural evidence and logical experimentation. In effect, for any given time in history, religion predominated a given explanation of the creation of life or the universe and as science discovers and builds evidence in favor of a natural explanation so to speak, then over a few generations or sometimes longer, the evidence persists and the religious explanation recedes. You can imagine a time when religious explanations, ones that rely or are inherently based on faith of a supernatural being (often anthropomorphic because naturally it would), had a monopoly and has scientists in many forms across many cultures worked to explain processes, then the "god did it" explanation was no longer as easily applied. The logical conclusion of this process in effect means that religious institutions and individuals place "god did it" into any open spot that science has not explained yet and so rallies around it. Sometimes that rallying is personal and not altogether boastful, sometimes it's incredibly damaging to science and scientific literacy. Regardless, since the vast compexities of our universe are so great, we are still at a stage where our religious history is strong enough and the science nascent enough that god of the gaps is still with us.

Now the ironic thing is this distracts from the personal end of the issue which is individual contradiction between science and faith. History overwhelmingly demonstrates that men (I say men in recognition of the gender bias which is another discussion for another day) of faith both official and private have often been the major spearheads of scientific thinking. Isaac Newton alongside his work with the physics of light and gravity, had a penchant for alchemy and Biblical numerology that went nowhere. Monks, most famously of which Gregor Mendel, did the experimental work to demonstrate and ultimately provide the fundamental basis that would prove the mechanism of evolution once and for all: genetics. Also, side note, Evolution as a theory was widely accepted at the time but it was still technically incomplete until genetics and molecular biology both closed the book on its true underlying mechanics. Anyway, the point being that up until the last century or so, it was incredibly rare for any major scientist to not have been an adherent to a religion. Logically it makes sense that what is more malleable is not the natural evidence that proliferates our universe but instead our faith, that we may choose to place the god of the gap in the only place it can go unharmed and unable to be touched: in the realm of the supernatural. In effect any time science and religion clash, it is over the realm of natural evidence which history shows over time favors science. However by placing god in that very realm science itself inherently cannot touch, then the entirety of the natural universe is what we may observe with science and it's either all or none that a God may exist behind the cosmic curtain. Variations on this theme is how many in the past have made sense of the discovery that the Earth is not the center of the universe and so on. Is it so much to ask that God's apparent beauty and infinite vastness, at least as far as the Judeo-Christian tradition is concerned, is a creator of the ongoing scientific discoveries we have in front of us? I'm not a religious person by any means but I am against the idea that one can never bring those two forces of thought together.

It does mean that one must let go an element of dogmatic adherence to what society has deemed the word of God we as humans have recorded and retold. Let's not forget that the components of a religion are stories and tales, morality plays and codes. To get lost in the literal details and stubbornly assert the earth is 6000 or so years old I find loses the point from both ends. What do we gain by the literal fact that we happened to tie a collective culture's faith in god to a particular point that men thousands of years ago wrote down as part of it, only to ignore the underlying motivation, which was to explain and to teach. They explained to the their knowledge and taught their view of morals and the universe but so did earlier bands of humans who saw spirits among the rocks and messages in the stars long before we gave a human face to a god or agreed a single god is the answer.

By taking creationism to heart, we must also summarily ignore the history of other religions, the history of human thought concerning the cosmos, and most obviously the history of science. It's not a battle worth fighting if the alternative is accepting the pursuit of science and keeping your faith along for the ride in mutually magnifying ways. Faith or not, there is (and ought to be more) mutual agreement in the inherent value of scientific thinking and the evidence we can extract using its somewhat messy and human but nonetheless systematic methodology. Anything less, the extreme represented by creationism, is from my view destructive to science, public knowledge, and serves mostly to promote zealotry and dissent. Now that isn't to say scientists aren't humans as well in the way they can act but that is no excuse to treat creationism and evolution as equivalent.

The last thing I'll say is people are incredibly good at conflating things with another. Religion can often mean just a given sacred text, all the extended teachings, the narratives people created long after the fact that we confuse for the original and so on. So don't fall into the trap that you have to treat creationism and your faith as equivalent which goes for any outdated dogmatic statement in sacred books of faith. You would no sooner stone someone to death for their sins; likewise many horrific tortures and punishments sanctioned by the Catholic church in Europe were determined and justified by the institution itself at the time. Religion is a lot messier in this regard than these discussions give credit anyway, which is ironic considering religious die-hards want to treat science as the fuzzy one (which it openly admits to where it is true).

#17 Posted by Sargus (726 posts) -

The obvious answers are Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins books. "The Selfish Gene" is really good for this kind of stuff, and Dawkins is a master of putting stuff in layman's terms (but you already know that, reading the Greatest Show and all). Well done on being someone brave enough to question your beliefs; there are so many people who go through their whole life thinking what they were told to think because it's the easier option (being an atheist in a Catholic household I sympathise)

While Hitchens and Dawkins know their science and are thus a good source for the Evolution vs. Creationism "debate," just keep in mind that both are terrible philosophers. Like, "can't stand up to a freshman Basic Philosophy class" terrible. So they can be good sources on science, but their commentary on God and religion can, in my humble opinion, be more or less ignored.

OP, as you go on this journey (which sounds like a great idea, by the way), keep in mind that there is a very large, growing number of theists/Christians who outright reject young Earth creationism. Among them is Francis Collins, who wrote the book The Language of God -- a book that talks about theistic evolution. Based on what you've said, it sounds like it might be something you'd be interested in.

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#18 Posted by DetectiveSpecial (466 posts) -

They have nothing to do with one another. Unless, of course, you are referring to a Christian or Muslim god rather than a general (and not bound by prophetic text) creator - in which case you would be partaking in deism. If your question is simply can there be some creator as well as evolution, then sure. Why not.

Can there be a creator as outlined in the worlds religious texts and evolution? No. Those texts each have their own theory as to the origins of life, and they are incompatible with evolution.

#19 Edited by Darkstalker (870 posts) -

stay away from dawkins. the guy is an asshole.

gotta agree with people who say cosmos. its a great place to start and tyson is very good at explaining. he has a podcast as well that i heard is good.

like others have said there is no verus science. like tyson say the great thing about science is that even if you dont agree it doesn't make science less true.

evolution is a fact. its proven.

is there a god? its unrelated but cant be proven either way.

#20 Posted by Splodge (1197 posts) -

Oil is something that completely dis-proves creationism. For plant life to degrade to the point it turns into fossil fuels, i.e. coal, oil, even turf, it takes a hell of a lot longer than 6000 years. Try 6 million. The Bible was never meant to be taken literally.

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#21 Edited by Sargus (726 posts) -

@detectivespecial said:

Can there be a creator as outlined in the worlds religious texts and evolution? No. Those texts each have their own theory as to the origins of life, and they are incompatible with evolution.

I can only speak to Christianity with any real sense of authority (I'm far from an expert on most other religious text, though I'm familiar with them), but this is not true. The Bible is not incompatible with evolution.

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#22 Posted by Darkstalker (870 posts) -

@sargus said:

@detectivespecial said:

Can there be a creator as outlined in the worlds religious texts and evolution? No. Those texts each have their own theory as to the origins of life, and they are incompatible with evolution.

I can only speak to Christianity with any real sense of authority (I'm far from an expert on most other religious text, though I'm familiar with them), but this is not true. The Bible is not incompatible with evolution.

well the bible is more incompatible with logic. unless you believe a flood that cant be proven or someone living in a whale for 3 days.

reading the bible for facts is silly. its supposed to be a book of fictional stories with morals of being good to others and good to yourself.

#23 Edited by Fattony12000 (7263 posts) -

On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life

- By Charles Darwin, published on the 24th of November, 1859.

#24 Edited by LibraryDues (342 posts) -

Evolution is a difficult subject because it is so deceptively simple that it's very easy to misunderstand, and soon you're thinking of higher orders of creatures vs. lower orders and similar errors.

It's about an hour long, but I highly recommend this interview series with a medical doctor named Randall Nesse who goes into many of the aspects of our own bodies have been shaped by natural selection, both to our benefit and detriment. Susceptibility to back injuries, the immune system, women outliving men and so forth. Lots of interesting stuff. It fantastically illustrates evolution as a process, when too often we focus on the outcomes. Also, the interviewer is Richard Dawkins, but don't get put off by that as a religious person. He's pretty much there as a sounding board, and I don't recall religion ever coming up.

#25 Posted by gaminghooligan (1434 posts) -

I would recommend watching both the original Sagan COSMOS and also catching up and watching the new COSMOS on FOX. As for literature I guess you could try Dawkins and the like, however I've been an atheist the majority of my adult life and tend to stay away from the more aggressive forms of theological discussion and stick to the scientific side of existence.

#26 Edited by LibraryDues (342 posts) -

Also, a common misunderstanding is the conflation of evolution the theory with evolution the phenomena. When Einstein proved that Newton's theory of gravity was wrong, he obviously did not disprove gravity, but just Newton's explanation of it. Objects continued to fall when dropped.

Evolution, in the simple sense, is simply a fact. Life on Earth has changed over time. The fossil record, DNA evidence and direct observation all clearly demonstrate this.

*How* this happens is much more open. Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection is deservedly the dominant "theory of evolution," but there have been others proposed over the centuries, such as Lemarckian evolution. These theories could be wrong, but even if Darwinian evolution was disproved tomorrow, we would lose an explanation but not the phenomenon it was trying to explain. Because life on earth still changes over time, and objects still fall when dropped.

#27 Posted by ripelivejam (3729 posts) -

Carl Sagan was what i wish Richard Dawkins could be. Sagan was never insulting or patronizing or petty like Dawkins could be at times. that said, read/experience as much as you can of Sagan including The Demon Haunted World (a treatise on science and skepticism that is enlightening without being combative), and as for Dawkins i admit i need to read more but The Ancestor's Tale is fantastic and sticks about 95% of the time to pure science.

#28 Posted by ZombiePie (5629 posts) -

For someone struggling to reconcile religion and science, especially in regards to evolution, I personally gravitate towards the views of Stephen Jay Gould and his idea of non-overlapping magisteria, or NOMA.

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#29 Posted by YOU_DIED (702 posts) -
#30 Posted by YoThatLimp (1895 posts) -

stay away from dawkins. the guy is an asshole.

gotta agree with people who say cosmos. its a great place to start and tyson is very good at explaining. he has a podcast as well that i heard is good.

like others have said there is no verus science. like tyson say the great thing about science is that even if you dont agree it doesn't make science less true.

evolution is a fact. its proven.

is there a god? its unrelated but cant be proven either way.

I would agree on Dawkins even as an atheist. he is a little preachy.

So Religion and Science are antithetical to one another. if by "God" you are talking about the man made bible that has been revised by man to suit his needs, than yes it directly opposes scientific fact. If you want to think about god in a broader sense, a bigger divine entity that is fine. When Christians use the fact that historically scientists have believed in god and it hasn't been until recently they refuted it, they forget that Einstein didn't believe in god in the christian sense, it was a bigger "natural" god.

#31 Edited by RVonE (4623 posts) -

@sargus said:

@shortbreadtom said:

The obvious answers are Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins books. "The Selfish Gene" is really good for this kind of stuff, and Dawkins is a master of putting stuff in layman's terms (but you already know that, reading the Greatest Show and all). Well done on being someone brave enough to question your beliefs; there are so many people who go through their whole life thinking what they were told to think because it's the easier option (being an atheist in a Catholic household I sympathise)

While Hitchens and Dawkins know their science and are thus a good source for the Evolution vs. Creationism "debate," just keep in mind that both are terrible philosophers. Like, "can't stand up to a freshman Basic Philosophy class" terrible. So they can be good sources on science, but their commentary on God and religion can, in my humble opinion, be more or less ignored.

Yep. It doesn't help that Dawkins is pretty unlikable.

#32 Edited by Jazz_Bcaz (255 posts) -

I hold no supernatural beliefs myself but would never recommend Dawkins. The stick is so far up his arse it's likely to turn you off just to spite him. I don't think irreligion and spirituality lack compatibility either, but my approach to spirituality comes from a more humanitarian and philosophical one. The concept of a higher power and the mechanisms of religion are obviously fundamental to humanity that it seems counterproductive to accredit all evil to religion like Dawkins does. How these things manifest in the future I don't know.

What I would recommend is that you treat theology outside the confines of your own particular religion, or any bias that you might have been raised with, to get the most out of understanding. It helps to have an omnist approach. And learn to understand the scientific method, and why it's important to our progress as a species.

Regardless of religious beliefs, all people should understand the scientific method. It has nothing to do with religion and it's flipping important.

#33 Posted by diz (918 posts) -

I hold no supernatural beliefs myself but would never recommend Dawkins. The stick is so far up his arse it's likely to turn you off just to spite him. I don't think irreligion and spirituality lack compatibility either, but my approach to spirituality comes from a more humanitarian and philosophical one. The concept of a higher power and the mechanisms of religion are obviously fundamental to humanity that it seems counterproductive to accredit all evil to religion like Dawkins does. How these things manifest in the future I don't know.

What I would recommend is that you treat theology outside the confines of your own particular religion, or any bias that you might have been raised with, to get the most out of understanding. It helps to have an omnist approach. And learn to understand the scientific method, and why it's important to our progress as a species.

Regardless of religious beliefs, all people should understand the scientific method. It has nothing to do with religion and it's flipping important.

I think that those sort of ad-hominem attacks are particularly undignified with regard to Dawkins. It is more justified to reject what people say than those people themselves. You may have your perceptions of him, but I have never heard him "accredit all evil to religion", despite reading many of his books and watching his lectures, debates and TV series. In fact, he strongly denied your implication in finding it a ridiculous proposition that anything could be considered the root of all evil.

#34 Posted by forkboy (1127 posts) -

@sargus said:

@shortbreadtom said:

The obvious answers are Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins books. "The Selfish Gene" is really good for this kind of stuff, and Dawkins is a master of putting stuff in layman's terms (but you already know that, reading the Greatest Show and all). Well done on being someone brave enough to question your beliefs; there are so many people who go through their whole life thinking what they were told to think because it's the easier option (being an atheist in a Catholic household I sympathise)

While Hitchens and Dawkins know their science and are thus a good source for the Evolution vs. Creationism "debate," just keep in mind that both are terrible philosophers. Like, "can't stand up to a freshman Basic Philosophy class" terrible. So they can be good sources on science, but their commentary on God and religion can, in my humble opinion, be more or less ignored.

OP, as you go on this journey (which sounds like a great idea, by the way), keep in mind that there is a very large, growing number of theists/Christians who outright reject young Earth creationism. Among them is Francis Collins, who wrote the book The Language of God -- a book that talks about theistic evolution. Based on what you've said, it sounds like it might be something you'd be interested in.

Honestly. I would even disagree on Hitchens knowing his science, he knows the basics but he's a writer/journalist/polemicist first and foremost. Dawkins is at least an evolutionary biologist (& a well regarded one at that) who does understand the subject in depth. Really, stay clear of The God Delusion. When Dicky Dawkins sticks to the science he's captivating but yeah, he's an arse, and a misogynist to boot. The Selfish Gene is a good recommendation.

Also, I saw someone recommend you read The Origin of Species. And honestly, I don't really recommend it. For starters, it's old science, modern evolutionary theory builds on that as a key text, of course, but it was written before we understood genetic inheritance, DNA, and all the science that occurred in the latter half of the 19th century and the entire 20th. I mean when Darwin wrote that we weren't even sure of the structure of the atom.

I haven't read it myself but I have heard good things about Why Evolution Is True by the University of Chicago evolutionary genetics professor Jerry Coyne, and also paleobiologist Neil Shubin's Your Inner Fish: A Journey Into The 3.5 Billion Year History Of The Human Body.

Ultimately though, your best bet to really understand evolution is to take a class in evolution at a local college, to really get an appreciation.

As for your doubts about if you can "have your cake & eat it", well, this link from Cal-Berkeley says no. I don't know your denomination, but the largest Christian group, the Roman Catholic Church, has declared that evolution is compatible with their faith, as has the 2nd largest, the Anglican Communion. And as far I am aware that's the case for denominations of Lutherans & Presbyterians too (though quite possibly not all). So no, I don't think science needs to have anything to do with religion.

#35 Posted by MonkeyKing1969 (2666 posts) -

@tearhead: People might not agree with me, but this is may take. If you believe in science that great because it really is pretty compelling and the junk people push who reject science is pretty lame. But, if you believe there is a god...well that's cool as long as you don't think your god is trying to tell you to kill, hate, or abuse other people AND as long as you don't support anyone abusing other people in your religion.

You can have you cake and eat it too. (I assume god is cake...wait is science cake?) If god is cake what's the worst thing that could happen if? As long as you were a decent human being...at worst you were wrong and the cake was a lie. You die, and there is no god. If science is cake, again the last time I looked no scripture said YOU must judge all sin. I think you could go on with you life being nice and cool with all people of all kinds and God can't 'ding' you for that.

I'd rather have people who believe in science and god...but are not sure, than people who just believe in God.

#36 Posted by TheHT (11093 posts) -

@forkboy said:

When Dicky Dawkins sticks to the science he's captivating but yeah, he's an arse, and a misogynist to boot.

Wait, what?

#37 Posted by tourgen (4459 posts) -

Take a community college course in biology. There are fruit fly experiments you can complete yourself that allow you to observe evolution first hand. Evolution is a fact. The origin of a species through evolution is (a well demonstrated) scientific theory.

#38 Posted by forkboy (1127 posts) -

@theht said:

@forkboy said:

When Dicky Dawkins sticks to the science he's captivating but yeah, he's an arse, and a misogynist to boot.

Wait, what?

I don't even remember the details now. It was a couple of years ago and about when I sort of gave up on following the atheist community online.

#39 Posted by mikey87144 (1719 posts) -

As a person who believes strongly in science I always say that you can believe both without contradicting yourself. Take the story of God creating the universe in 7 days. Science says that the universe is billions of years old while if you go by the bible it's only a few thousand years old. Two ideas that contradict each other, right? Well not really because while the bible says 7 days it never says how long a day is. God is a being who has always been so a day to him could be billions of years to us.

#40 Posted by SingingMenstrual (327 posts) -

I'm sorry, what does your belief in God have to do with how we came to be, and how is the ancient origin of human beings relevant to your daily life or your future? I'm curious as to why you need to understand or be aware of ancient biological history, which none of these scientists were there to actually witness anyway? Consequently I'm curious as to how learning these unproven facts will affect you in any way in the present day or affect your beliefs in a deity?

If you're just curious because it's an interesting origin mystery, sure count me in, this creationist stuff is pretty fun to think about. But you're talking about your beliefs, how are they relevant?

God is a form of spiritual guidance and provider of peace inside you, people who focus too much on his trivial background story are missing the point.

#41 Posted by Jrad (621 posts) -

A lot of people seem to think Dawkins is an asshole, but outside The God Delusion he's really not. He's a scientist first and foremost, and he tolerates absolutely zero bullshit. He can be abrasive because of this, but he devoted basically his entire life to studying biology and contributing to the field, and people who ignorantly disregard a hundred years of scientific progress because of their religion piss him off, and rightly so. If any of them had any decent counter-arguments or evidence to present, he wouldn't be half as dismissive. The big problem is that a lot of people seem to think that Creationism is valid science. It isn't. It's complete and utter horseshit. It's on the exact same level as the Flat Earth "theory", but disgustingly, it actually gets scientific funding in some states. Among the scientifically literate, there is no "controversy". But then again, if religious people could be argued with or convinced, they wouldn't be religious in the first place.

#42 Edited by joshwent (2156 posts) -

@tearhead: First of all, good for you for questioning your beliefs. As goes one of my favorite quotes (from F. Scott Fitzgerald), "The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function." Only by questioning things we think we know do we grow as individuals and as a society.

Now, I hope this doesn't sound too extreme, and it may sound contradictory having just lauded the value of questioning everything, but it's crucial to state that evolution is a fact. There is NO REAL DEBATE between evolution and creationism. It's been tested and proven innumerable times for over 150 years. One of the most powerful tests (and benefits) of a scientific theory is that it can be used to make predictions, and evolution has predicted a myriad of things which have then been discovered to be true. Not to mention that concepts derived from understanding evolution are used every day in tons of different fields, not just expected things like zoology and botany, but organic chemistry like pharmaceuticals and vaccines, and tons of other things that make all of our lives better (even AI concepts that could make our video games more awesome!).

Granted, there are absolutely pieces of the puzzle that are missing (minor as they are) but where lots of folks confuse the issue is that if parts of current evolutionary theory are shown to be wrong, then they say that evolution is wrong. That's simply not how science works. If any new revelations are discovered that contradict current theory, they become incorporated into the theory, making closer and closer to a flawless description of this natural process. We used to think that gravity was exclusively an effect of the mass of an object. It was later shown that object's masses warping space time was a larger part of the effect than their masses alone. But scientist didn't say, "Well, fuck those earlier ideas, this new stuff is the only truth.". Rather, the new discoveries are incorporated into what was already established to be true, creating a deeper understanding overall.

Basically, if Creationism was valid, it wouldn't need to be called "creationism", it would just be "Science".

Creationists have gained power fighting against this mythical idea that Scientists value current thought above all, and any new ideas just get forced out if they don't agree. I hope you can see that science is in fact the exact opposite. It's people challenging current thought every single day in hopes of creating a deeper and more accurate understanding of things. New ideas are always welcome if they can be proven. The ideas that creationists put forth aren't because there's just no proof to any of their claims.

This wonderful Nova special goes into some of the debate in a less heated way than you might find watching some of the actual debates folks have recommended above. It's the story of the trial that ensued after the school board of Dover, PA began pushing to have Creationism taught in science classes.

As to the bigger question of where your Religion fits into this, I, as an Atheist can't really say. But I (and many scientists who are also Christians) see zero contradiction between their being some kind of God, and the natural history of the universe and our species as we currently understand it scientifically. If your God is omnipotent, there's no reason why it couldn't have known exactly how it's creation would turn out. Basically, being able to create a function that perpetuated itself for 13.8 billion years, and still perfectly predict that humans would happen eventually. That kind of God exists separate from time anyway, so that (pretty damn huge) gap between the big bang and me typing this right now wouldn't seem like any time at all to that sort of being.

What our current science does disprove, are many of the scientific claims in the Bible. But this shouldn't seem like a shock, as lots of Biblical claims were disproved hundreds of years ago. God could never stop the Sun in the sky (as he does in Joshua 10:13), because the Sun doesn't move. We move around it. But the people who wrote that story didn't have the knowledge about the solar system that we now have. Similarly, the people who made those creation stories had absolutely no concept of DNA replication, genetics, geology, and other sciences that contradict it before you even get to evolution.

To conclude this giant post (sorry!),I really want to make it clear that I like a lot of the morality in the New Testament, and even as an Atheist, I adore Jesus' message and try to live every second of my life by it. Be kind and loving to all no matter how you're treated by them. Share what you have until you can't share any more. And accept everyone with respect as a human being, regardless of their creed or past deeds. Absolutely beautiful concepts that more people should live by...which are in no way lessened by disregarding the 2,000 year old myths and rejoicing in our ever more deep understanding of the universe and our natural origins.

#43 Posted by EveretteScott (1451 posts) -

@singingmenstrual: Different people different thought processes. The human is a difficult creature to understand, yo.

#44 Posted by Jazz_Bcaz (255 posts) -

@diz: He had a TV program on Channel 4 about religion called "The Root of All Evil?"

#45 Edited by Immortal_Guy (110 posts) -

All Christians - even very devout ones - take some bits of the bible as true, and leave others. There's a whole load of stuff in the bible (for example, laws in Leviticus saying that if there's a guest in your house you need to let them sleep with our wife) that no sane person would follow - and most Christians don't.

It goes deeper, because the bible isn't even 100% self consistent, so any possible interpretation has to take some bits and leave out others. There are debatable contradictions - God seems vengeful in some places and merciful in others. There are also some flat-out contradictions, such as the historical records/family trees not matching up in different books. There's even another Genesis story immediately following the first. It's very similar, but man and the animals are created in a different order - man is made first, then various animals are made to keep him company, and when these aren't good enough God finally decides to make Eve. If you want to take one of the stories as the literal truth, which one do you pick?

Given all that, the question for any believer seems to be "what bits to I accept, and what bits do I reject?" And given that every believer is making that choice (whether they realise it or not), there doesn't seem to be anything wrong with saying "There's plenty of evidence in favour of evolution, so I'm going to put the literal interpretation of the genesis story in the 'reject' pile", while still maintaining a Christian faith. You can probably basically believe in Christianity without having to accept every word of the bible.

#46 Edited by Genfuyung (231 posts) -

Richard Dawkins: The Greatest Show on Earth. As a former Christian who was indoctrinated all through my childhood, this book saved my life.

#47 Edited by forkboy (1127 posts) -

@jazz_bcaz said:

@diz: He had a TV program on Channel 4 about religion called "The Root of All Evil?"

I'll preface this by saying I'm really not a huge fan of Dawkins at this point, but Channel 4 has a history of sensationalised titles to reasonable documentaries. I remember even Dawkins wasn't pleased with that title. To quote the ever reliable WIkipedia, as you always do when you're too lazy to look for proper sources, "The sole concession from the producers on the title was the addition of the question mark. Dawkins has stated that the notion of anything being the root of all evil is ridiculous"

Anyway, lets stop reducing a guys honest thread to a discussion about one prominent atheist.

#48 Posted by AlisterCat (5522 posts) -

This thread is hurting my head... there can't be this much ignorance.

#49 Posted by Tesla (1917 posts) -

Dawkins is the man, don't believe the hate. Atheists are one of the more despised groups of people out there. A Gallup poll from 2012 showed that US citizens would sooner vote for a Muslim, gay, or lesbian president than they would an atheist. Dawkins has been nothing but professional any time I've heard him speak or read his work, but perhaps there are things I'm not privy to which warrants people not liking him. People certainly don't like him, and he receives more death threats than I would care to have leveled at me for simply stating my beliefs.

Watch either version of Cosmos for a great introduction to evolution and the scientific method in general.

#50 Posted by Sin4profit (2921 posts) -

Dunno if it helps but i'll drop my own personal beliefs in here.

I feel that the absolution in debating the two is irrelevant as there is no such thing as truth or fact, there is only belief and faith. There's nothing about science that makes religious perspective obsolete. As language itself is a design for the sake of communication, so too is metaphor and allegory. The problem, i think , ultimately comes from complacency with ones beliefs. There is far greater to be gain from expanding your understandings of the expressions, faiths, and theories of the many rather than argue the validity of "the one".

The idea that you're asking "am i trying to have my cake and eat it too" is a part of that problem. Doctrines and studies, if not looked at in perspective, only lead to shallow ideals which, when we become complacent with those ideals, only shut out many more perspectives around us leading us to enforce our own ignorance.

What i'm tying to say is, "yes" you can have your cake and eat it too, no shame in it.

...but as someone who believes in epistemological solipsism of course i would say that...