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Christians' misunderstanding of evolution not ALL their fault

Discussion in 'Religious Issues' started by Bren, Aug 27, 2012.


  1. Bren

    Bren
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    I'm not excusing anybody's lack of effort to educate themselves. However, I recently watched some documentaries on human evolutionary history and I was aggravated, as I always am, by the issue of "language." Basically, how the misunderstanding of evolution, among creationists, seems to be linked to the poor ability of scientists to describe things, or the limitations of language.

    In the debates on evolution, the "creation" side typically shows a misunderstanding of the most basic concepts of either evolution or the scientific method, but I am convinced that part of the problem lies in the way scientists and teachers describe evolution.

    Things like: “we descended from apes” or “the apes had to change to adapt to the changing environment in Africa” or “these moths changed from brown to gray to blend in with the environment and avoid predators.” All of those statements are “sort of true-ish” but give an impression of something completely wrong. In turn, the religious community usually argues against what they perceive as the silly claims of science, based on these poor word choices. “If we descended from apes, why are their still apes” and “how can a moth choose to change its color” and “why don’t we just adapt immunity to cancer or UV radiation” or something like that.

    Obviously, there is some feigned ignorance, especially on the internet. But has anybody else noticed the scientific community’s poor word choices and how they mirror the misunderstanding of evolution?






    Technically, the title should say "creationists" but I've never heard an anti-evolution debate from any who aren't christians. No doubt, muslims have the same issues, but you aren't allowed to discuss it in their countries and they don't have much influence in mine.
     

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    #1 Bren, Aug 27, 2012
    Last edited: Aug 27, 2012
  2. NMG26

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    On target.

    I was just going to bring that up in another thread.

    .
     

  3. Animal Mother

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    In the case of evolution, most of the creationists' objections are based on wording that is decades, if not over a century old. The constant references to the use of "Race" in the full title of the Origin of Species is a prime example. Among creationist believers misunderstanding may play a role, but most often that's due to the willful misrepresentations of people like Hovind and Ham and Baugh.
    Harun Yahya
     
  4. Altaris

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    I agree. While some are truly not knowledgeable and the wording does legitimately confuse them, I tend to think most try to play word games, or just won’t listen no matter how much evidence it put in front of them. I think many know better and know what we really are trying to mean, but play word games to intentionally misrepresent the information. We have a lot of examples of that in threads on this board where the other person knows what is going on, but then claims wording is important and that “I really don’t know what you mean”, even though it is obvious what is going on.
     
  5. Geko45

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    My problem with how evolution is generally presented is that it always seems to be anthropomorphised into an intelligent force that is moving us "forward". That is not the case at all. There is no "forward" or "backward" when it comes to evolution. It is an entirely dispassionate effect that is the culmination of a million probabilities playing themselves out. A species either thrives or dies without any objective truth to that being either a "good" or "bad" thing. It just is.

    The dinosaurs were given a turn of events that they couldn't adapt to and now they are gone. Likewise, we will eventually be presented with something that we can't handle and will be gone too. Hopefully that is after a few billion year run for the species, but if it doesn't work out that way then oh well.
     
    #5 Geko45, Aug 27, 2012
    Last edited: Aug 27, 2012
  6. English

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    Bren,
    A nice post. Unfortunately the language is rooted in religious concepts. The word, "creature" for instance come from the concept of all life being the creation of God. To all reasonable understanding, we are descended from apes because those apes remained recognisably apes in appearance and behaviour while we changed both appearance and behaviour though, in zoological terms terms, as Desmond Morris pointed out, we are naked apes.

    It is hard not to say that a creature wanted to change when we mean that a species needed to do so if its species was to survive. It gets cumbersome to be precise in such ways. In comparison, the bleat of, "If we descended from apes, why are there still apes?" is quite easy. Only some of those long ago apes were forced out of the forrest and into the savanah and on those individuals, the loosers in the struggle to hold a forrest territory, different selective forces came into effect from their different environment. These forces made us evolve into humans by gradual stages, generation by generation while the long ago apes in the forrest kept the same environmental forces that made them apes originally and so they stayed much closer to their 6 million years ago ancestors. It is an easy enough idea but many people seem unable to think about things that take hundreds or thousands of generations to achieve.

    In general only a minority of the scientifically inclined go into teaching and so maths or biology teachers might often have trained in history or physical education. Then they teach without real understanding of evolution or the scientific method, or the nature of evidence and falsification of ideas.

    There is a physicist who goes round schools demonstrating to physics teachers that even their relatively advanced students don't actually understand what the teachers think they have taught about the basic principles behind the lessons. One example was to get the students to draw a simple electrical circuit with a switch, a bulb and a battery immediately after a lecture on the basis of a circuit. The majority did not manage to connect the components so that a circuit was formed. That was in a teachers training college. Another was to ask students where the material for a tree weighing several tons had come from. They didn't really know but the majority guess was that earth was converted into wood and leaves.

    On this basis you can't hope for too much from TV programs. The ignorance is not just of evolution but of any kind of science. And the idea that people as a whole might understand the scientific method and the scientific meaning of proof and truth is just too much to hope for. And then there are the Greens of course where a misunderstanding of science and evidence are the basis for a political movement and the socialists where a misunderstanding of the nature of progress and economics are equally the basis of an even more dangerous political movement.

    For the most part the people who get into TV are arts graduates who know nothing of science. When they then produce programs or interview people about topics like evolution they think they know what they are talking about but don't understand the basics.

    Ho hum!

    English
     
  7. Bren

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    Exactly my complaint. They tend to use words that imply species "choosing" and changing themselves or "needing" to change - even words like "adapt" leave out the part where we adapt by those who aren't suitable dying, even including whole species. Using better terminology might go along way to helping people understand that the tree of evolution is shaped by pruning shears.


    That's a pretty good line - "the tree of evolution is shaped by pruning shears." Feel free to use it.:supergrin:
     
    #7 Bren, Aug 27, 2012
    Last edited: Aug 27, 2012
  8. Gunhaver

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    That pretty much sums up the problem. If you don't understand evolution you just need to try harder but you have to really want to understand and you can't do that with hangups in the way. Same as with algebra or rocket science or anything else. Strange that you never see people who have no clue of algebra adamantly claiming that x actually = 100 when the consensus of mathematicians agree that x=200 or that the escape velocity of earth is nowhere the 25,000 mph that the people that can do those calculations will tell you. They simply have no outside motivation not to take scientists at their word not to mention the fact that it's hard for even the most ignorant people to say somebody hasn't a clue what they're doing when they go through the mind boggling order of operations needed to drop a rover on Mars and proceed to take it for a spin.

    With things like evolution and climate change there's much motivation to not accept facts that have been arrived at by exactly the same method that non-controversial science uses. It isn't a matter of inability to understand but a major motivation to disbelieve because of the "holy" nature of the question being asked as well as the implied responsibility that many would like to avoid by remaining under the umbrella of ignorance. We put jobs in the hands of the best and brightest every day and think nothing of fully trusting them even when they come back with very unwanted news like in the case of a dire medical diagnosis or advise to take a plea from a lawyer.

    It's not really enough to have the ability to understand. You have to want to accept whatever answer you get based on the data regardless of what it may be.
     
    #8 Gunhaver, Aug 27, 2012
    Last edited: Aug 27, 2012
  9. packsaddle

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    That goes both ways.

    And it's not the data that's the issue, it's the interpretation of the data.

    take care.
     
  10. Bren

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    Well, I'm always up for a good evolution vs. creation debate. How do you interpret the data to show a god or gods created us?
     
  11. IhRedrider

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    Paddlesack,
    Please vacate this thread, it was started by an atheist for atheists. Do not bother them when they are in devotional. They don't harass you while you are in a prayer meeting, please return them the favor.
     
  12. Bren

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    In other words, you can't support what you believe and, obviously, neither can he.:rofl:
     
  13. Japle

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    Look up “Lamarckism”. Stalin (certainly not a Christian) required the teaching of Lamarckism – otherwise known as Lysenkoism – over evolution because he thought he could use the principle to create the perfect race of Communists. The result was the murder of millions.

    Evolution has only been rejected for religious and political reasons; never for scientific reasons.
     
  14. Green_Manelishi

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    The "scientific" world simply ignores the scientific method when evolution is being discussed.
     
  15. Animal Mother

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    An excellent illustration of the point Bren was making. Well done, GM.
     
  16. English

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    As I keep saying, Communism is a religion and not a "scientific" form of government. It has its holy book which is not to be questioned. One of its beliefs was that people could be perfected by their own efforts. Lamarckism was the inevitable outcome given a suitably dishonest scientist. Lamarckism was no more than a side show to the great deception. It was not Lamarckism which resulted in the murder of millions but Communism under Stalin. After his death, the rate of state murder dropped to less than half his rate if I remember corectly.

    English
     
  17. dbcooper

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    I think a large part of the problem is that the idea to acknowledge evolution is seen as being equal to saying there is no God, that the science of evolution is an attempt to prove there is no God when that simply is not the case.
     
  18. Gunhaver

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    Science has a thing called peer review where only the opinions of people that really know what they're talking about are considered and the result is that science moves forward and gives us useful stuff like satellite radio and medicine and junk like that.

    Religion lets anybody have their own interpretation of scriptures and the result is over 30,000 branches of Christianity alone and they can't even agree on what foods to eat or what kind of hats to wear let alone pray our cell phones smaller.
     
  19. Green_Manelishi

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    :rofl:

    You are obviously not paying attention to the evolutionists.

    You are also parsing words. it is not possible to "prove there is no God". Evolutionists do however proceed from the initial premise "there is no God". They will even intelligently design experiments to prove that under the right conditions (which just happened to happen) life could simply begin. From there it's a series of leaps to conclusions that slime became this, which begot that, which morphed into something completely different.
     
    #19 Green_Manelishi, Aug 30, 2012
    Last edited: Aug 30, 2012
  20. Bren

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    It seems so easy to reconcile their religion with science, I can only imagine that a lack of scientific education and a lifetime of assuming the bible was intended to be literal truth combine to creat "creationists."

    Don't they ever wake up and say "hey, if creating the earth in 7 days, 6,000 years ago was just a sort of allegorical explanation, then it actually fits right in with science." the world being "void and without form" and then life starting in the oceans, etc., etc. Heck, it would even avoid all of the nagging defects in biblical creation.