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America's great faith divide
BBC ^ | Sunday, June 2, 2007 | Justin Webb

Posted on 06/03/2007 6:46:20 AM PDT by Jedi Master Pikachu

The current US presidential debates are almost certain to see the candidates asked to comment on spiritual issues, but some Americans are worried about the trend towards religiosity in public life.

Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton
Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton will be challenged on their beliefs

At my twins' annual school camp in West Virginia, you are meant to leave your troubles behind.

It is an idyllic couple of days - a communing with nature which my wife gallantly insists is simply too enjoyable for her to take part in - it has to be a dad's experience.

Actually it is not that uncomfortable. The tents are sensible structures with plenty of room to stand up. There are rudimentary bunk beds you can bang your head on in the early morning.

The setting is a reminder too of the size of the United States - only two hours from the nation's capital, these are woods and fields as empty and isolated as any in the Scottish Highlands.

The kids love it. They and 20 other seven-year-olds, roast marshmallows by the campfire, catch tadpoles in the pond, and roam around, unwashed, at five in the morning in the early light of the West Virginia day, pointing their torches into each other's tents.

Silence before breakfast

"Did Cole see a bug and sleep in his dad's car? Did Peter's water bottle break? Did Talia's mum fall out of bed?" Etc etc, and then comes breakfast.

Breakfast is an indoors affair, not luxurious but hey this is America and these are middle class kids and some parents are beginning to flag by seven in the morning and there is a need for the familiar comforts of multi-coloured cereals and soy milk.

First though - a silence.

"Please take off your hats," asks the jolly camp counsellor (yes, that is what they call them). She looks down and up again.

The silence lasts less than 30 seconds and my two children discover that there are pancakes with M&Ms inside them and we give the silence not another thought.

But I am a foreigner here, an anthropologist, and one of the pitfalls of anthropology is that there are some things you have to be a member of the tribe to really get.

Unbeknownst to me the silence has caused outrage, or to be more precise, has caused pleasure to some and great outrage to others.

I discover this later when talking to a dad about the post silence debate which took place between certain concerned parents and the silence enforcing camp counsellor.

Religious divide

Basically the problem is this: What was the silence? Was it contemplative or was it religious? The distinction to my English mind was unimportant. I am personally not religious but I am not fussed about the trappings of religion in the public space.

Creation Museum, Kentucky
The Creation Museum exhibits the Earth's history according to the Bible

To me it is part of life, no big deal, but in modern America it is a big deal.

Some parents believed that the breakfast silence was an attempt by a religious cabal to take over our camp, to insinuate their beliefs into our get-together, to steal the minds of our kids.

Are they right to be in such a funk? I am not sure that they are.

America is famously religious, infamously if you like, but try as they might, the real hard-line theocracy crowd repeatedly fail to get their ideas to fly.

When you visit them, as I did, coincidentally, just days after the breakfast silence issue, you find a group of people in a funk comparable to that of the atheists.

I was at the Creation Museum in Kentucky, the day after it opened, a moment evangelicals should really have been celebrating with great gusto. And to an extent they were.

The museum is a striking place, with wonderfully life-like models of Adam and Eve and the garden of Eden, and an airy, well put-together feel.

But I did not get the impression from those in charge or from those visiting, that they considered themselves to be on the march in modern America.

In fact the whole thing had a slightly beleaguered feel.

One parent confided: "At last there's a place I can bring the kids where they are taught what we teach them at home."

Another asked me almost plaintively whether I was convinced by the museum's planetarium where the sun was created after the Earth.

Freedom of choice

I had to be honest and say that I was not, but I felt quite sorry as I did.

There is nothing remotely convincing about the Creation Museum and frankly if it poses the threat to American science that some American critics claim it does, that seems to me to be as much a commentary on the failings of the scientific establishment as it is on the creationists.

At the Creation Museum goggle-eyed children watch depictions of the Great Flood

There is a reason, I think, why theocracy will never fly in the United States and it has been touched on, inadvertently, by George Bush himself.

Mr Bush often makes the point that the philosophy of the Islamic radicals, full of hate and oppression, would not be attractive to people who truly had the freedom to choose.

Similarly the philosophy of the Old Testament, so much celebrated by some evangelicals here, has a limited power to enthral free people.

At the Creation Museum, goggle-eyed children watch depictions of the Great Flood in which children and their mums and dads are consumed, because God is cross.

In a nation of kindly moderate people I am not sure this is the future.

I put my faith - in America.

From Our Own Correspondent was broadcast on Saturday, 2 June, 2007 at 1130 GMT on BBC Radio 4. Please check the programme schedules for World Service transmission times.





TOPICS: Culture/Society; Miscellaneous; News/Current Events; Philosophy
KEYWORDS: bbc; creationism; crevo; crevolist; misinformation; zealots
Wow. This is infuriating. Creationism is NOT a threat to science--stubborn unwillingness to consider alternative views to the formation of the universe and life seems to to fit the bill, though.

Creationists are not asking that all people agree with them, much less are they demanding it. They simply have their beliefs--which is the Christian belief--on how the universe and life formed; they have scientifically backed up their argument to the same extent--if not more--than the Macroevolutionists; now, they merely seek recognition of their scientific model as a plausible alternative to the now standard Macroevolutionary viewpoint.

Webb mentions the Sun being created after the Earth (which it was). Obviously an attempt to make Creationists seem to be hairbrained idiots (P.S. Light was made before all the stars). Creationists still agree with their Macroevolutionist counterparts that the Sun is powered by nuclear fusion, its elemental composition, its distance (Creationists are also heliocentric--the Bible is silent on Earth's location in the universe, including the Solar System) from the Sun.

In almost all science pertaining to the here and now (or even recorded history), Creationists and Macroevolutionists are in concordance. It is chiefly on origins--a very small part of science--in which they disagree.

1 posted on 06/03/2007 6:46:22 AM PDT by Jedi Master Pikachu
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To: Jedi Master Pikachu

P.S. (P.P.S.?) Since this is Sunday, not expecting all that much sympathy, as a lot of Christian freepers could either be at or getting ready to go to church (it’s around seven here). It was just one of those articles that was so offensive and it was asking to be posted. (not everything posted is because it is found to be offensive, though).


2 posted on 06/03/2007 6:56:06 AM PDT by Jedi Master Pikachu ( What is your take on Acts 15:20 (abstaining from blood) about eating meat? Could you freepmail?)
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To: editor-surveyor; DaveLoneRanger

ping.


3 posted on 06/03/2007 6:57:39 AM PDT by Jedi Master Pikachu ( What is your take on Acts 15:20 (abstaining from blood) about eating meat? Could you freepmail?)
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To: Jedi Master Pikachu
And the God of the Old Testament is exactly the same as the God of the New Testament.

Not intended offense to European freepers, but what a European attitude, that the Old Testament and the New Testament express two almost divergent views.

4 posted on 06/03/2007 7:02:23 AM PDT by Jedi Master Pikachu ( What is your take on Acts 15:20 (abstaining from blood) about eating meat? Could you freepmail?)
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To: Jedi Master Pikachu

Hasn’t science exploded and made remarkable advances since about 1600 all the while most of its practiconers were Christian? Americans are too paranoid about all this. No one else sees the need to deny state funding to parochial schools, for instance.


5 posted on 06/03/2007 7:47:41 AM PDT by ClaireSolt (Have you have gotten mixed up in a mish-masher?)
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To: Jedi Master Pikachu; Coyoteman; CarrotAndStick

“Creationism is NOT a threat to science”

Of course not. Superstition is the threat that wants to substitute supernatural explanations for phenomena and creationism is... wait a minute. Actually, it is a threat. Throwing up your hands at puzzles and saying, “God did it so let God do it,” isn’t how transistors or pickle slicers come to be.


6 posted on 06/03/2007 1:18:29 PM PDT by gcruse
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To: Jedi Master Pikachu
...[creationists] have scientifically backed up their argument to the same extent--if not more--than the Macroevolutionists;

Sorry, false.

7 posted on 06/03/2007 1:26:08 PM PDT by Coyoteman (Religious belief does not constitute scientific evidence, nor does it convey scientific knowledge.)
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To: Jedi Master Pikachu; gcruse
Creationism is NOT a threat to science--stubborn unwillingness to consider alternative views to the formation of the universe and life seems to to fit the bill, though.

Creationism? Which version of it? There must be atleast a couple of hundreds of them. So, when you decide on Creationism, just remember that you just entered a tunnel that leads to a tunnel of its own- each flavour of Creationism leading to a spectacularly different hypothesis. Of course the human mind is creative, so this variety is not a surprise...

8 posted on 06/03/2007 7:48:42 PM PDT by CarrotAndStick (The articles posted by me needn't necessarily reflect my opinion.)
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To: gcruse

Suggest that you look up the definition of superstition. You may consider Creationism to be pseudoscience, but it isn’t superstition.


9 posted on 06/04/2007 1:35:16 AM PDT by Jedi Master Pikachu ( What is your take on Acts 15:20 (abstaining from blood) about eating meat? Could you freepmail?)
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To: gcruse
Of course not. Superstition is the threat that wants to substitute supernatural explanations for phenomena and creationism is... wait a minute. Actually, it is a threat. Throwing up your hands at puzzles and saying, “God did it so let God do it,” isn’t how transistors or pickle slicers come to be.

OK...so where did all matter come from? Don't have an answer? That's right, that it's always been is simply part of the "throwing up your hands at puzzles " explanation of macro-evolutionists. It's all part of the macro-evolution faith.

10 posted on 06/04/2007 1:44:04 AM PDT by highlander_UW (I don't know what my future holds, but I know Who holds my future)
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To: gcruse
More on your comment:

Have you actually 'seen' what Creationist views are? Your comment hints that you have not.

Creationism doesn't 'throw up hands at puzzles.' Using your analogy, those puzzle pieces are fit together in a separate way from the Macroevolutionist view. More clearly, both Creationists and Macroevolutionists have the evidence (your puzzle pieces), but disagree on the implication of those pieces--i.e. fossils, stars and galaxies millions of lightyears away, the distance to the edges of the universe seemingly almost the same in length.

Again, as for the threat Creationism supposedly poses to science, the only pseudoscience it poses a threat to is Macroevolution, which already is reliant on getting people suckered in when they're young so that they don't bring up some difficult questions when they grow up.

Also, it is a threat to science when those with a particular belief dogmatically and zealously (you could type religiously attack opposition to their viewpoint when the opposing model can stand on its own two feet.

Again, it seems as though you aren't familiar with what Creationism actually espouses. And suggest that you go look up some stuff about Creationism--from a Creationist source--before posting comments about Creationism which don't actually reflect the Creationist standpoint. There are many sources on the internet; you can just Google (or use another search engine--for its leftist leanings, Google is a very useful search engine) Creationism, and you should get some hits.

11 posted on 06/04/2007 1:52:48 AM PDT by Jedi Master Pikachu ( What is your take on Acts 15:20 (abstaining from blood) about eating meat? Could you freepmail?)
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To: Jedi Master Pikachu
....the distance from Earth to the 'edges'.....
12 posted on 06/04/2007 1:54:10 AM PDT by Jedi Master Pikachu ( What is your take on Acts 15:20 (abstaining from blood) about eating meat? Could you freepmail?)
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To: Jedi Master Pikachu
From wiki:

Thus, the English word "superstition," as understood from its original Latin meaning, implies a religion-like belief that stands outside the bounds of clerical religion. ... From the broadest perspective, all religion is a form of superstition.

Perhaps you are saying creationism is not religion/religious?

13 posted on 06/04/2007 8:06:49 AM PDT by gcruse
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To: highlander_UW

“That’s right, that it’s always been is simply part of the “throwing up your hands at puzzles “ explanation of macro-evolutionists. It’s all part of the macro-evolution faith.”

Well, no. Cosmology is a disciplined approach to the origin of matter. The hands thrown up are the ones saying matter must have come from an invisible in the sky because ancient camel herders thought so.


14 posted on 06/04/2007 8:09:56 AM PDT by gcruse
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To: Jedi Master Pikachu

“getting people suckered in when they’re young so that they don’t bring up some difficult questions when they grow up.”

Thank, Pikachu. You’ve just emphasized on of my biggest complaints about religion. It’s like the mites or fleas present at the hatching of baby birds. The birds never have a chance to get rid of the pests when they are present at birth and stay on the bird through life.

Eventually we tell our kids, if they haven’t already figured it out, that there really is no tooth fairy or Santa Claus. When we feed them our superstitions as fact with room for doubt, it cripples their rationality.

I think it’s a horror, too.


15 posted on 06/04/2007 8:15:13 AM PDT by gcruse
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To: gcruse

Haven’t had my coffee yet. Should have read...
“as fact with NO room for doubt”


16 posted on 06/04/2007 8:18:23 AM PDT by gcruse
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To: Jedi Master Pikachu

Leaving aside the creationist silliness in your post, if you find this article “so offensive” I’d suggest that you have an awfully thin skin. I read it, and it seemed if anything sympathetic to people of faith, their right to believe in whatever they want, and supportive of a place for religion in public life.


17 posted on 06/04/2007 8:33:25 AM PDT by -YYZ-
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To: Jedi Master Pikachu
Creationism is NOT a threat to science

No, it's a threat to education. Creationists will have zero impact on scientists' work. However, if not resisted, they can and will undermine science education and generally increase the level of ignorance and superstition among the public at large.

18 posted on 06/04/2007 2:22:19 PM PDT by curiosity
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To: highlander_UW
OK...so where did all matter come from?

The theory of evolution does not address this question.

Why is it that so many creationists think it does?

19 posted on 06/04/2007 2:24:35 PM PDT by curiosity
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To: gcruse
Well, no. Cosmology is a disciplined approach to the origin of matter. The hands thrown up are the ones saying matter must have come from an invisible in the sky because ancient camel herders thought so.

OK, then where did all matter come from? Something is eternal, either matter or God...and the thought that it's matter is irrational. Or will you resort to the last explanation I got from an evolutionist and claim matter popped into our dimension from an alternative one...which is no answer but simply a displacement of the inability to answer the question.

20 posted on 06/04/2007 7:58:19 PM PDT by highlander_UW (I don't know what my future holds, but I know Who holds my future)
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To: curiosity
The theory of evolution does not address this question.

And a previous poster claimed evolutionists don't just throw up their hands...and yet your post is proof they are wrong.

Why is it that so many creationists think it does?

You misunderstand. I, for one, understand that evolution itself does not address cosmology...but in the process of discarding the Creator, and accepting the evolution as a complete explanation on how we are here begs the prior question of where did all the here, get here. You're simply ignoring the problems with your world view by compartmentalizing.

21 posted on 06/04/2007 8:03:26 PM PDT by highlander_UW (I don't know what my future holds, but I know Who holds my future)
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To: highlander_UW

If matter from another universe popped into this one, you’re right. One then has to ask where the other universe came from. You task would be to explain where God came from.


22 posted on 06/04/2007 8:20:32 PM PDT by gcruse
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To: gcruse
If matter from another universe popped into this one, you’re right. One then has to ask where the other universe came from.

You do see the problem with that explanation...and yet the guy making the claim didn't. I realize he's just one evolutionist, and his silly answer is probably only held by a fairly small minority.

You task would be to explain where God came from.

The answer is, God created time, He's not bound within that creation. That is to say, God is outside of time. So, where did all this matter come from? I answered your question, how about taking a shot to answer mine?

23 posted on 06/04/2007 8:25:18 PM PDT by highlander_UW (I don't know what my future holds, but I know Who holds my future)
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To: highlander_UW
Matter in the form of the elemental particles condensed out of the superhot energy of the big bang. As to where the big bang came from, I like to think it rebounded from a big crunch in a serially oscullating universe. That's just my preference. The question may have no immediate answer, because we don't know whence the big bang banged. Some Christians might think that atheists are hypocritical for dismissing Christians' explanation for the universe without offering one of their own — but such Christians are missing a lot. For one thing, we don't need to have a final answer to something in order to know that something else definitely isn't the answer. For another, scientists' investigations into the origin of the universe is one that is amenable to arriving at an answer; saying "God did it" not only isn't a real explanation, but is something that closes off the possibility of ever learning anything more.
24 posted on 06/04/2007 8:42:01 PM PDT by gcruse
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To: gcruse
Matter in the form of the elemental particles condensed out of the superhot energy of the big bang. As to where the big bang came from, I like to think it rebounded from a big crunch in a serially osculating universe. That's just my preference.

You strike me as a reasonable person, so I'm sure you can see that this answer still doesn't address where matter came from in the first place. My point is simply that one is forced to accept that something is eternal. A Christian would, of course, say it's God that is eternal. If one rejects God's existence then one is forced to assume that matter is eternal. Consider your serially osculating universe for a moment. I recall about 20 years ago scientists were saying that it appeared that matter at the far extremes of the expanding universe may have already reached a point that it had exceeded the point where it'd be pulled back into the cycle of oscillation. Rather that matter has already reached that point or that only a small percentage of the entire mass of matter will eventually reach such a point...then the whole oscillating theory blows apart. The reason for this is that if even only a small portion of the total mass is lost on each cycle, but that pattern of cycle is followed back into eternity (which is a very long time indeed!) then the total mass of matter will have already reached a point of insufficient mass to implode, thus breaking the cycle. AND, that's ignoring the problem of where the matter came from in the first place, and what caused the oscillation cycle to begin in the first place.

The question may have no immediate answer, because we don't know whence the big bang banged.

Nor what, or WHO caused that big bang...and again, that's assuming that model is even correct. But you can see that it's crically flawed in any case.

Some Christians might think that atheists are hypocritical for dismissing Christians' explanation for the universe without offering one of their own — but such Christians are missing a lot. For one thing, we don't need to have a final answer to something in order to know that something else definitely isn't the answer.

This is very true, one does not need to have an answer to know another answer is false. Of course this cuts both ways...and at least a Christian admits that they are working with some amount of faith, whereas an atheist denies working on faith, even though they are employing at least as much faith as a Christian...they just don't admit it. Of course it's irrational to assume one can discount God without valid reason...and what I'd read from the article you linked to failed to actually provide anything more than an unsupported conclusion...really just an opinion.

For another, scientists' investigations into the origin of the universe is one that is amenable to arriving at an answer; saying "God did it" not only isn't a real explanation, but is something that closes off the possibility of ever learning anything more.

This statement is only true if it's true...that is to say, it's circular reasoning. If God DID create the universe then it's valueless to say that to accept that fact closes off the possibility of ever learning anything more. Again, this is nothing more than a view built upon faith.

25 posted on 06/04/2007 11:08:40 PM PDT by highlander_UW (I don't know what my future holds, but I know Who holds my future)
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To: highlander_UW
I, for one, understand that evolution itself does not address cosmology...

Okay, that's a start.

but in the process of discarding the Creator,

The theory of evolution does no such thing.

and accepting the evolution as a complete explanation on how we are here

The theory of evolution does not pretend to be a complete explanation of how we are here.

begs the prior question of where did all the here, get here.

Yes, but it's not part of the theory.

You're simply ignoring the problems with your world view by compartmentalizing.

The theory of evolution is not a world view. It's simply a scientific theory about how life changes over time. Nothing more, nothing less.

Furthermore, "compartmentalizing" is essential to science. That's why we have different branches of science, like chemistry, physics, biology, and the like. Different theories explain different phenomena. No scientific theory tries to explain everything, nor should it.

And BTW, don't make assumptions about my worldview. I happen to believe in God.

26 posted on 06/04/2007 11:09:14 PM PDT by curiosity
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To: Jedi Master Pikachu

Leave it to the Beeb to portray faith as an ugly, unneeded force.


27 posted on 06/04/2007 11:14:19 PM PDT by DesScorp
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To: curiosity
The theory of evolution does no such thing.

I was referring to evolutionists, not the theory of evolution.

The theory of evolution does not pretend to be a complete explanation of how we are here.

I understand, evolution is only a portion of a worldview...one that typically discounts God as the Creator.

The theory of evolution is not a world view. It's simply a scientific theory about how life changes over time. Nothing more, nothing less.

While you may view it at such a simple level, evolution is a core element of the worldview of many. Stand on a street corner and talk about God and you will find it's not long before someone asks about evolution as a challenge to the existence of God. It is far more than a simple theory for many. It, in fact, approaches the level of dogma for many.

Furthermore, "compartmentalizing" is essential to science. That's why we have different branches of science, like chemistry, physics, biology, and the like. Different theories explain different phenomena. No scientific theory tries to explain everything, nor should it.

I agree with you, but only to a point. Ultimately, we should be seeking truth. Whatever is true will "fit" with the whole. If a carpementalized piece does not fit as part of the whole of truth, then it is not itself true. When one scientific study crosses several areas of knowledge it doesn't get discarded...instead additional experts are sought, additional research is done by those doing the study. A piece can be studied as a piece, but if it can't fit with the whole there is a problem. My point being, one can't allow truth to be buried by over compartmentalizing.

And BTW, don't make assumptions about my worldview. I happen to believe in God.

It is not my intention to put words or thoughts into your (or anyone else's) mouth. But we all make assumptions about what another means and thinks...based, hopefully, upon what one knows about another and that other provides. You would, I suspect, agree that a theistic evolutionist is a minority position, both amongst evolutionists AND theists. So I stand updatated/corrected on a piece of your worldview...but it's impossible to converse without filling in pieces as one goes and correcting as one finds one's assumptions are faulty.

28 posted on 06/05/2007 12:17:26 AM PDT by highlander_UW (I don't know what my future holds, but I know Who holds my future)
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To: highlander_UW
I was referring to evolutionists, not the theory of evolution.

Well, I take "evolutionist" to mean an evolutionary biologist, as in someone who studies evolution. Perhaps you mean something else?

I understand, evolution is only a portion of a worldview...one that typically discounts God as the Creator.

No, the theory of evolution is not a worldview. An atheist may base his wordlview on it in part, but there is no necessary connection between the theory and an atheist worldview.

I agree with you, but only to a point. Ultimately, we should be seeking truth. Whatever is true will "fit" with the whole. If a carpementalized piece does not fit as part of the whole of truth, then it is not itself true.

The theory of evolution will fit either with an atheist or a theistic metaphysics. That's because it does not even attempt to address the question of God.

Simiarly, evolution will fit most cosmological theories. That's because it is unrelated to the question of cosmology. Evolution deals only with how life changes once it exists. How life got here, or how matter got here, are unrelated questions.

When one scientific study crosses several areas of knowledge it doesn't get discarded...

Yes, and evolutionary biology does cross areas of knowledge like zoology, genetics, paleontology and geology. It does not, however, cross into the area of cosmology.

You would, I suspect, agree that a theistic evolutionist is a minority position, both amongst evolutionists AND theists.

No. Most people who accept the thoery of evolution believe in God. Now most evolutionary scientists don't, that's true, but it's also true of most other scientists (chemists, physicists, etc).

As far as believers, in industrialized countries worldwide, most accept evolution.

In the US, most don't, but a large minority, somewhere on the order of 40%, accept evolution.

29 posted on 06/05/2007 11:16:34 AM PDT by curiosity
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To: curiosity
Well, I take "evolutionist" to mean an evolutionary biologist, as in someone who studies evolution. Perhaps you mean something else?

I am essentially referring to those who hold evolution in a religious sense. For some it's simply just one theory within one area of science...for others it's held at a much higher level...an almost religious level.

No, the theory of evolution is not a worldview.

I didn't say it was, I said it was a PART of a worldview.

In the US, most don't, but a large minority, somewhere on the order of 40%, accept evolution.

A statistic that's pretty amazing given how evolution is taught in most schools...without allowing the possibility of pointing out any difficulties or controversies with the theory...not a very scientific way to teach science, actually.

30 posted on 06/05/2007 8:16:20 PM PDT by highlander_UW (I don't know what my future holds, but I know Who holds my future)
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To: highlander_UW
A statistic that's pretty amazing given how evolution is taught in most schools...without allowing the possibility of pointing out any difficulties or controversies with the theory...

Geninuine scientific controversies about the details are taught, such as gradualism vs. punctuated equilibrium. Manufactured controversies with no scientific basis invented by the Discovery Institute and other pseudo-scientific groups are, rightly, ignored.

31 posted on 06/05/2007 10:37:25 PM PDT by curiosity
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