Letters

Did we all read the same interview? Readers go for a second round on Andrew O'Hehir's "Priests in Lab Coats."


Salon Staff
August 11, 2005 7:03PM (UTC)

[Read "Priests in Lab Coats," by Andrew O'Hehir. Read previous letters here.]

Marvin Long, responding to Michael Ruse, says: "The fact is that all of science implies atheism; Darwin is just the popular battleground." I hadn't realized that science had disproved the existence of God. Could I see that in a peer-reviewed journal please?

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I am a young Christian woman studying to be a pastor. I believe God created the Earth. I also believe in evolution. God can create the Earth any way God chooses and the science behind evolution is extremely strong. What I'm continually frustrated with, though, is the same issue Ruse brings up in his book. Some Christians insist through science there must be a God. Some scientists insist through science there can't be. Ultimately, these two views are opposite sides of the same coin. Evolutionary theory doesn't say anything about God. It leaves God out of it. It will, of course, have implications for people's beliefs. But those implications are not set in stone ahead of time. When I study biology, for example, I am amazed at the wonder and complexity of the world. The implication for me is that God did some pretty amazing work, through some pretty amazing means (like evolution). The implication for my lab partner might be entirely different and lead her to discount God. The point is, we are allowed to choose our own implications based on our own experience and our own belief. For an I.D. advocate to say my lab partner must realize that God created the Earth or for Dawkins or Marvin Long to say that I must realize there is no God is insulting and arrogant on both their parts.

What I find especially unfortunate, though, is the number of Christian youth I've met who don't believe they can be proponents of God and proponents of evolution and therefore reject evolution for exactly this reason. They are told by both sides that if they accept the science, then they must reject their belief. Perhaps if more scientists were willing to take Ruse's route, they would approach evolution with a more open mind, coming to understand they can be Christian and accept evolution as fact at the same time.

-- Kit Welch

Sorry to deflate Lyle Bateman's letter, but evolutionary biologists from Darwin himself to Stephen Jay Gould have gone to some lengths to state that the theory of evolution can only be concerned with the origin of species. The origin of life is an entirely different matter, and may not even be open to scientific study.

This is a common misconception that has huge implications for this discussion.

-- W. Hylton

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I greatly enjoyed the thoughtful responses to your interview with Michael Ruse, but would like to reply to the claim made by Lyle Bateman that "Evolutionary theory says it [the origin of life] happened spontaneously because of chemical, electrical and atmospheric conditions at the time."

In fact, evolutionary theory has nothing to say on this subject. Rather, it's concerned with explaining the processes that have occurred since that time, leading gradually to life as we know it.

The scientific origins of life are a separate (though obviously related) field of study known as biogenesis.

The modern theory of evolution is sufficiently established that it would in all likelihood not be significantly altered by any new discoveries related to life's origins. It simply takes for granted that life exists (hardly an "improvable assumption"), without requiring knowledge of where it came from.

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While there's no question that it will be extremely difficult to find a scientific solution to the origin question, that's no reason to jump to the conclusion that God (or I.D.) did it. All that does is pose the question: "So where did God (or I.D.) come from?"

-- Peter Landers

I'm extremely disappointed in the reactions to this article. As far as I can tell, none of them understood Ruse's position. It was like they'd read a different article than the one I read, except they went on to quote it severely out of context.

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Multiple letter writers took shots at "If in fact Darwinian evolutionary theory implies atheism, then you ought not to be teaching it in schools!" In order to criticize, they ignored the entire context it was in. The letter writers apparently believed that Ruse actually advocates not teaching evolution, but if they'd read the previous paragraph, they'd have seen that Ruse was challenging the assertion that evolutionary biology necessarily leads to atheism. If they'd read the question that provoked that sentence, they'd have seen that Ruse was asked to build his best argument for creationism against himself -- a position he's directly called lunacy earlier in the article! And that's just the tip of the iceberg. Multiple letter writers conveniently conflate evolutionary theory and "evolutionism," which Ruse was careful to separately define. Others take semantic jabs at the use of the words "religion" and "dark," again ignoring the context in which they were used. It's as if they're fanatics who saw a position that seemed like it opposed them and just looked for excuses to attack it, no matter the method. It looks just like creationists attacking evolution. I guess they've proved Ruse right.

-- Michael J. Callahan

I really enjoyed the Ruse interview but was even more amused at how many readers were thoroughly pissed off about Ruse's statements. I think the only really good point made in the letters was that the interview avoided any discussion of the reconciliation of evolutionism and non-Christian faiths. I think it would be an interesting discussion to see how other faiths were or are affected by evolutionist thought and how evolution has been addressed or taught in nations that are not predominantly Christian.

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That evolutionism and creationism are sister movements is supported by history. Given the violently self-righteous response from so many readers, I think the idea that evolutionists and creationists have opposing ideologies but behave the same is not unsound.

The idea one reader put forth that "freedom from religious bigotry allows one to examine what makes people good and happy for real and develop values accordingly" is misguided. Communist Cuba and China and, yes, Nazi Germany, are/were atheistic movements and yet they are responsible for as much, if not more, oppression than any single religion in the world has inflicted.

Additionally, it's a gross misrepresentation of Christianity, as some readers suggest, that it is not open to change and that this is a defining quality of religion. Catholicism alone has undergone drastic theological changes in the last 50 years, and its theology is largely shaped by the balance of liberals, conservatives and moderates in the community of cardinals and in the papacy, which itself changes in terms of decades. This is true for almost any other faith, Christian or not. And it's true in science, where even evolutionists disagree on exactly how evolution works.

I think Ruse is right in that evolutionism, as opposed to evolutionary science, is feverishly anti-religion and as such behaves like a religion of its own. The response of many of the readers sounds a whole lot like the angry and defensive crap I hear from Christian fundamentalists the moment I say the words "marriage equality."

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-- Oreste Prada


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