8.11.2005

Yesterday Slate published "Evolution vs. Religion" Jacob Weisberg's baseless argument that religion and evolution are incompatible. Weisberg grabs at any straw he can to make the two seem like polar opposites on the spectrum of belief systems. "Evolution vs. Religion" reminds me of physicists who want to claim that they've discovered the theory of everything, but don't want to do the math required to actually prove their theory true. Just come up with a big, simple theory that seems to make "obvious" sense, and then find the evidence later.
Weisberg spends the first few paragraphs explaining his distaste for intelligent design. Fair enough, I think it's stupid too. He then goes on,

In much the same way that intelligent-design advocates try to assert that a creator must be compatible with evolution in order to shoehorn God into science classrooms, evolutionists claim Darwin is compatible with religion in order to keep God out. Don't worry, they insist, there's no conflict between evolution and religionĂ‚—they simply belong to different realms.

...

That evolution erodes religious belief seems almost too obvious to require argument.

This is lucky for Weisberg, since he doesn't provide this almost unnecessary argument. He provides two pieces of evidence that "evolution erodes religious belief":
1. Darwin became an agnostic.
2. This 1993 NORC survey: In the United States, 63 percent of the public believed in God and 35 percent believed in evolution. In Great Britain, by comparison, 24 percent of people believed in God and 77 percent believed in evolution.
Speaking of science Jacob, I don't think many sociologists would be keen on the idea that the statistics in 2. constitute an argument that "evolution erodes religious belief".
Apparently in Weisberg's mind, if God didn't directly control the process of the development of a species, then he's not much of a God. "Post-Darwinian evolutionary theory, which can explain the emergence of the first bacteria, doesn't even leave much room for a deist God whose minimal role might have been to flick the first switch." OH, SNAP! I guess I don't believe in God now that Jacob's shown me that he didn't cradle the first bacteria in his hand and place it gently on the good earth.
The argument that teaching evolution will lead to more students becoming atheists seems like saying that teaching that the Earth revolves around the sun lead to more people becoming atheists. It seemed like an idea dangerous to faith at the time it was initially taught, but I would guess that almost all Americans believe the Earth revolves around the sun, regardless of our high percentage of believers in God.
The scriptures of the major faiths are not meant to be read literally, as the fundamentalists and apparently Weisberg believe. They are metaphorically rich texts, and reducing the argument over intelligent design to "Evolution vs. Religion" is insulting to both evolutionists and the faithful.

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