Hello. I’m Al. I’m an atheist, I actively believe that supernatural gods don’t exist.
In my previous video, “What Science Isn’t”, I detailed the case that the intelligent design movement had motivations that were far more political than scientific.
Creationism never had the anywhere near the level of objective evidence that evolution provided, but creationism still sees popular support in the United States.
Although I’d like to go into the overwhelming evidence that evolution has, in this video I’ll detail my thoughts on why anti-evolutionism is so prevelant in America.
This video doesn’t touch on atheism as much as my previous videos, but I think everyone, atheists included, has a stake in seeing that our education system stays true to scientific principles.
Also, because this video is centered on religion in America, I’ll mostly be talking about Christianity instead of theism in general.
I think I have some good insights into why science comes under assault when it deals with things such as the origin of life.
As usual, I’d like you to think about the things I say, and if you have anything to say back to me, please leave a comment.
(caption: On our humanity)
The heart of my argument on why so many are disinclined to accept evolution is because they think that it reduces our humanity and somehow makes us less special.This idea of human exceptionalism isn’t treated lightly, and many people take it very seriously.
There are lots of things that separate humans from other living organisms:
We discover mathematical principles that describe the behavior of the physical universe.
We wear clothing.
(naked) We create language that can be used to express complicated and abstract ideas.
We worship gods.
We create poetry, art, and video blogs.
We invent incredible things like skyscrapers, airplanes, and spoon-forks, which we call sporks.
Many people feel that since evolution dictates that we descended from apes, in a way this destroys our own humanity.
Here’s a short clip from NPR’s Morning Edition radio show that I feel quickly sums up the feelings of many on the anti-evolution side. On August 4, 2005 Steve Inskeep interviewed former Pennslyvanian Republican senator, Rick Santorum. During this time the Dover Area School Board was in court for promoting creationism in the classroom, and Santorum commented on his thoughts about evolution’s implications:
(Steve Inskeep) “Why do what you see as holes in the theory of evolution, and there are scientists here on the air, that will disagree that the idea that there are really that many holes, but-”
(Rick Santorum) “I just think they’re wrong.”
(Steve Inskeep) “Why does that particular item of the academic curriculum concern you as a United States senator? Why would those holes matter?”
(Rick Santorum) “It has huge consequences for society. It’s where we come from. Does man have a purpose? Is there a purpose for our lives? Or are we just simply, you know, the result of chance? If we are the result of chance, if we’re simply a mistake of nature, then that puts a different moral demand on us. In fact, it doesn’t put a moral demand on us, than if in fact we are a creation of a being that has moral demands.”
I think Santorum’s statements are very typical of the popular misconceptions of evolution. And there are several interesting things he said that I’d like to point out.
But something I want to show first is an interesting thing Santorum didn’t say:
Just because he finds the idea of humanity being descended from previous species to be philosophically uncomfortable, that doesn’t refute the scientific evidence in support of evolution.
This logical fallacy is known as an appeal to consequence, in which one rejects an argument simply because it leads an uncomfortable consequence, regardless of the argument’s actual merit.
But Santorum’s philosophical implications of evolution are also misconceptions. Evolutionary theory and the process of natural selection are completely disinterested in human morality and purpose.
Wow, despite Santorum also being a slang word for the mixture of semen and fecal matter that results from anal sex, I’ve managed to say his name repeatedly without giggling.
(suppressed and strained straight-face)
A similar flawed entanglement of science and philosophy occured in the beginning of the last century with Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity.
Heheh, get it? Einstein? Entanglement? Nevermind.
Relativity is a very unintuitive concept in physics, and most people didn’t quite understand it and applied it irrelevant areas such as human morality. There were many people who opposed Einstein’s relativity because they thought it implied an endorsement of moral relativism.
Not really. All it said was that light travels at a constant speed regardless of any frame of reference, which leads to time dialation, spacial contraction, and other phenomena as an object’s velocity approaches the speed of light. It also dictates that it is impossible for matter to travel faster than the speed of light in a vacuum.
Evolution isn’t quite as complicated, but it’s often misunderstood to imply that the development of humans from apes means humans are conscious-less, soulless animals without intellect or purpose.
Not really. All it describes is the gradual changes to the genes in a population in response to environmental pressures. It also dictates that over time new species arrise from these changes.
In the 1890s the term “social darwinism” appeared in the vernacular. It was term used by people colloquially known as “rich assholes” to justify racism, xenophobia, and widespread poverty. According to social darwinism, the upper class deserved their wealth because of their innate strength in climbing the social and finacial ladder. You could argue that the term didn’t have much to do with evolutionary biology, but at least it provided a convenient excuse to jail union leaders and use child labor.
(with overlay of handlebar mustache and monocole) Ha ha, inferior child, you will work in my coal mine.
“Survival of the fittest” was also misused as justification for eugenics, the philosophy that adovcates improving the human race through institutional intervention. Eugenics become unpopular in the 1930s and 40s when Nazi Germany decided to institute their idea of human improvement on a mass scale.
All of this associates a lot of negative baggage with evolution, and while it has much to do with philosophy, politics, and sociology, it has nothing to do with biological science.
(caption: A supposition.)
I’m going to go out on a limb and make a supposition:
“There would be no popular controversy about the science of evolution and natural selection, if they did not imply that humans descended from apes.”
I think many people find discomfort with the idea that our ancestors of millions of years ago were primates, or single-cell microorganisms billions of years ago. And I think many theists are used to believing that their religion holds a monopoly as a source of moral behavior and values.
I don’t think we have a moral mandate because God said so. I think we have a moral mandate because our actions, nevertheless what we think, make a difference. We affect the people around us in material and emotional terms, and our actions set an example for others to follow.
We have a moral mandate to take responsibility because we are in the rare position among life forms on earth to think, reflect, and take consideration of consequence.
I think to fail to excogitate on our actions with our unique mental capabilities is tragic.
And we see the problems that arise out of this failure, both in problems of hurt emotions and damaged relationships, and in problems of brutal violence and conflict.
Our ancestory from millions of years ago doesn’t limit our intellectual capability to find solutions to these problems today.
It doesn’t impede our moral imperative to heal ourselves.
And, unlike what Rick Santorum says, it doesn’t remove purpose from our lives.
But many people don’t see it that way. And then evolution becomes an attack not only on our divine creation, but also one on our humanity.
And I think this is the reason there’s so much popular opposition to evolution.
I hope you consider the things I’ve had to say, and if you have anything to say to me, please leave a comment. A transcript of this video is available on my website at coffeeghost.net.
Take care, and thanks for watching.
Online Reading List
- An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish by Bertrand Russell (1943)
- Bible Teaching and Religious Practice by Mark Twain
- God is Imaginary
- Is there an Artificial God? by Douglas Adams (1998)
- Skeptics Annotated Bible
- The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine (1795)
- Which Way? by Robert Ingersoll (1884).
- Why I Am Not A Christian by Bertrand Russell (1927)