Tag Archives: Evolution

Men and Women

Cross and Madsen covered plenty of research showing that men think of themselves based on their unusual traits that set them apart from others, while women’s self-concepts feature things that connect them to others.

Might this help explain why women seem to be more religious?

The above excerpt is from a very long, compelling, and less commonly repeated explanation of gender differences from an evolutionary perspective. Read it here.

Thoughts, as always, are welcome.

The Two Levels of Theological Understanding

It’s funny, really.

Most major religions have accepted evolution. The last two Vatican Popes have stated support for the evolutionary observation (it’s not just a theory). Yet about half of American Christians believe evolution isn’t the best explanation of human life on earth, and only 58% of catholics support the idea of evolution.

Where does the disconnect come from?

Plainly this is largely because pastors & priests mostly neglect to inform their flock that, despite a religion originally based on Jewish mythology, the creation story just doesn’t hold up. I would argue — influenced, no doubt, by the excellent book The God Virus — that these pastors intuitively realize that without the Garden of Eden, there’s no “original sin” to be erased by “the blood of Jesus,” thus nullifying tho whole religion. This is just common sense. And part of the application of memetic theory to religion implies that church leaders are not going to do anything that risks losing followers.

Now I know, and you know, that Catholicism has an official response to that problem in the form of sophisticated, convoluted theological arguments.

These arguments are wholly unconvincing to me, and, I have to imagine, quite a lot of laypeople and casual churchgoers. Or any convincing element is mostly an “argument from authority” sort of deal.

This is what I’m driving at with tho two levels of theological understanding: There’s the “professional” level which accepts, to some degree, modern scientific understanding and works around it with complicated theological contortions, and there’s the everyday understanding of God creating a world, Man immediately screwing it up, and then Jesus saving us from “our” mistakes.

And the result is a flock that isn’t on the same page as its shepherds.

I don’t really have a point here — just thinking out loud. See also: Being Catholic, Believing Whatever and “Free Will” Can’t Solve Theodicy.

On Speaking Out

Implicit in the use of the term “militant atheists” is the assumption that, having no religion, atheists have no place discussing it. And nested in that assumption, Russian-doll style, is this one: It’s no use dissuading anyone from religion, because hey, what’s the harm?

But that’s where we run into problems. Religion kills.

I have begun tagging the problems with religion as “What’s The Harm”.

Let’s get started:

  • Wars, crusades, inquisitions, gunpoint missionaries
  • Faith healing, heartbreakingly forced upon children
  • Circumcision and genital mutilation
  • Separating families (heck, even Jesus advocating leaving your family to follow him)
  • Spreading scientific illiteracy and general ignorance
  • Exorcisms performed on victims who are simply either mentally ill or gay

Why speak out? For a better world.

“Answers to the 4 Big Questions” — A Light Critique

I recently got into a discussion with a few street preachers.

The conversation was somewhat interesting — not interesting meaning “stimulating,” of course, but interesting meaning “amazing what some people believe.” For example, they told me that Catholics aren’t real Christians. While for some definitions of “real Christians,” they may have a point — the Pope is as different from Christ as humanly possible — absolutely all Catholics consider themselves true Christians.

Anyway, the youngest of the group is, if nothing, a good arguer and convinced me that I could not write off the book he was handing me, Answers to the 4 BIG Questions, simply because Ken Ham was a co-author. (“Ken Ham!?” I exclaimed, thinking of his laughable position on evolution. “That guy is a joke!” Our street-preaching friend noted correctly that my perceptions of Ham did not necessarily merit outright rejection of the book. But it turns out, my hunch was quite correct.)

This book goes off the tracks at step one: Picking four big questions. Without even going into the answers, here are my critiques of the questions themselves:

Question 1. “But doesn’t evolution explain our existence?”

No. No, it doesn’t, and no scientist would say that evolution by itself “explains our existence.” As Carl Sagan famously noted, if one really wanted to make an apple pie from scratch, one would first have to create a universe, fill it with atoms, etc., etc. Evolution is part of “how we got here” but does not and could not explain the whole universe. (Any believers reading should take note that most atheists are — at least intellectually! — fine knowing that science has not explained why the universe exists at all. We don’t feel the need to pretend to know that a mythical being created it.)

Bad question.

Question 2. “How did different ‘races’ arise?”

If that is one of the four biggest questions on your mind, I can only assume you are racist. But Biblical literalists always surprise me, and apparently if God created exactly two people — Adam and Eve — then we should not expect to see so many races, especially without evolution, making Africans, Asians, Native Americans, Europeans and the like a direct challenge to your notion of God.

I remember seeing a question regarding skin color in a science museum as a child. I understand that melanin causes skin pigmentation and is important in resisting sun damage, so with a rudimentary understanding of evolution we might expect populations living in areas with a lot of sun — e.g. Africa, not so much England — to have darker skin.

Not a very perplexing question.

Question 3. “Cain’s wife–who could she have been?”

This is the part where I start laughing. If one takes Genesis as a parable or myth, it’s a pointless question.

But to Biblical literalists, it’s significant. This book actually states that one of Adam and Eve’s other children became Cain’s wife. Of course, this leaves the assumption that one of the first, few humans on the face of the earth decided to run away with the murderer of her own brother to start a thriving family. Then again, the Old Testament is almost always that messed up.

Question 4. Does God exist?

Probably the only question in the book that is legitimately one of the big ones.

Of course, my answer to this question is “depends on how you define God.” The Christian God is a contradiction in terms and probably cannot exists. Some god could possibly exist, but I have not seen proof of this and remain unconvinced. Fair enough, right?

In general — terrible book, terrible questions, and as always, atrocious pseudo-science from the Answers in Genesis people.

Being Catholic, Believing Whatever

While the Pope claims to speak for a billion people, his beliefs and statements do not actually reflect the beliefs of those who call themselves Catholic.

Part of this is due to a lack of education, and part is due to a lack of a comprehensible, comprehensive compendium of Catholic dogma. Catholic tradition states belief should come from the top down; the idea that people can believe whatever they want is the least Catholic idea there is. Yet as a former Catholic and as an atheist who often wonders what the Church’s official stance is, I am very aware of a lack of such a compendium and the lack of the unity of belief the Pope would have us expect.

Some examples:

  • The Vatican is not opposed to the theory of evolution, but only 58% percent of American Catholics believe man evolved, a priest on Fox news seems to take Genesis’ creation stories literally, and anecdotally some of my Catholic family members do not subscribe to the theory.
  • A Sunday school (CCD) teacher once told me we could pick and choose which bits of Catholicism to believe.
  • Many Catholics do not believe that the Host, or communion wafers, are actually non-metaphorically Jesus’ body, as doublethink-like Catholic dogma claims.
  • It is common knowledge that the Pope prohibits the use of condoms and indeed all forms of birth control (besides the rhythm method, which they call Natural Family Planning; apparently the high error rate lets God to his thing). Yet it would be foolish to think that every Catholic considers their usage a sin.
  • Even dead Popes disagreed with the current one on many issues, be they vulgate Bibles, limbo, indulgences, the Crusades, and Hitler’s Nazi party.
  • (Update, early 2014): A full 60% of US Catholics “do not oppose” gay marriage, despite the Church’s stance. 76% say abortion is sometimes or always acceptable; 79% support the use of contraception; and 64% want to see women priests. In each of these statistics, the majority of Catholics disagree with Catholic dogma. (Source: Univision, as quoted in The Week)

Of course, this may all be a moot point since no Christian really understands how the Trinity is three separate people but one God. If the most basic of doctrines doesn’t make sense, it may be too much to ask for the rest to be believed with any consistency, as well.