Weekly Buzz: 6/16/14

Richard Dawkins, atheist

Photo by Mike Cornwell

This week’s buzz features Richard Dawkins, Lawrence Krauss, John Oliver, Stephen Hawking, N.T. Wright, and the new Gallup poll on evolution.

The Unbelievers Now Available on iTunes and Amazon

In this documentary, science evangelists Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss preach their message throughout the world.

Even though the film debuted last year, it’s only now available on iTunes and Amazon. I’ll post a review next week.

John Oliver Interviews Stephen Hawking

John Oliver just interviewed Stephen Hawking on Last Week Tonight.

N.T. Wright’s View of Adam

Jonathan Merritt interviewed the theologian on his new book, Surprised by Scripture: Engaging Contemporary Issues. Merritt asked Wright to summarize his view of the historical Adam:

The way I see it is that there were many hominids or similar creatures, part of the long slow process of God’s good creation. And at a particular time God called a particular pair for a particular task:  to look after his creation and make it flourish in a whole new way. Actually, this fits with the scientific evidence according to which there were some significant changes in the hominid population and lifestyle around 6000 years ago, though I wouldn’t myself put too much weight on that.

Wright devotes an entire chapter to the Adam question in his new work. The entire interview is worth reading.


New Gallup Poll on American Views of Human Evolution

Gallup Poll on evolution

Spoiler alert:

  • 42% believe God created humanity in its present form 10,000 years ago.
  • 31% believe humanity evolved, with God guiding the process.
  • 19% believe humanity evolved, and God had nothing to do with it. This position is rising.
  • Believing God created humanity 10,000 years ago does not require believing the earth is 10,000 years old. So, it’s inaccurate to say 42% of Americans are young-earth creationists. 


Is Google Replacing God?

Christine Rosen, senior editor of The New Atlantis, wonders about religiosity in the digital age:

Is religious affiliation another opportunity cost of our digital world, something that will grow obsolete, like handwritten letters? . . . In relying on the Internet to answer questions that religious institutions used to answer—crowdsourcing faith, in other words—do we risk losing access to some of the answers data can’t provide?

Her nuanced article is the best take I’ve seen on the relationship between internet use and atheism.


8 thoughts on “Weekly Buzz: 6/16/14

  1. I’m surprised belief in “God guided evolution” has dropped in recent years. I would have bet money that position would have trended upward since the early 1980’s.


  2. With respect to the Gallup Poll: Although the implications of 42% of the American population believing God created humanity in its present form 10,000 years ago is fairly terrifying (specifically with respect to scientific literacy of an ever-more science and technology-dependent civilization), I choose to akin at least some portion (and I hope the majority of) the 42% of people who choose that view to people who would proclaim they would “not switch” in the Monty Hall Problem (Background: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monty_Hall_problem). In order to knowledgeably hold to “not switching” in the Monty Hall Problem, one would have to deny some higher-order mathematics as well as statistical analysis, yet a 1999 University of Missouri-Columbia study found that not even 20% of respondents would choose to “switch” when given the traditional formulation of the Monty Hall Problem (A link to the study: That is, 80% of respondents would choose the “wrong” answer in a well-defined, well-understood mathematical/statistical problem (I say wrong in quotes here since we’re dealing with choosing the lesser likely of two probabilities, and since choosing a lesser-likely probability does not equate to that probability not coming to fruition, flatly calling that choice wrong would not be accurate). Since choosing the “correct” answer in the Monty Hall Problem requires some knowledge of higher-order mathematics and statistical analysis, does this mean that 80% of people would disavow the majority of mathematics that form the foundation of our technological society, or that 80% of people are mathematically illiterate? I think not. Instead, I think that these people are uninformed, and probably uninterested (and who can blame them?), in the mathematics necessary to make the correct choice in the Monty Hall Problem. So how does this relate back to our 42%? I would like to believe it is because these individuals are equally uninformed, and probably equally uninterested, in the scientific knowledge necessary to make correct sense of the evidence available when it comes to the question of the origin of humans. Does this mean they are likely to throw out all evidence that pins our place in the universe and the history of our planet’s origins (although obviously the examples of individuals willing to do so are legion), or that they are entirely scientifically illiterate? I choose to think not, at least not in the majority of cases. Instead, I choose to believe they have remained ignorant of the threads that tie the scientific literacy they already have (such as the age of the earth, etc) with the origins of man.

    But…1) I may just do that in order to help myself sleep better at night, and 2) there are not whole institutions the world over that willfully dissuade anyone from considering the mathematics and statistical analysis necessary to come to the correct conclusion in the Monty Hall Problem.


    • Thanks for the thoughtful reply, Sean!

      I think you’re too optimistic, though. I think people ARE “likely to throw out all evidence that pins our place in the universe and the history of our planet’s origins.” Why? Because their theology is more important to them. If evolution, even understood properly, conflicts with theology, so much the worse for evolution.

      Kurt Wise, who did his doctoral work under Stephen Jay Gould, is a good example of this kind of thinking: “If all the evidence in the universe turns against creationism, I would be the first to admit it, but I would still be a creationist because that is what the Word of God seems to indicate. Here I must stand.” (The quotation is from The God Delusion.)

      Does the 42% feature more people like Kurt Wise, or more people who would accept evolution after studying it? I don’t know, but I suspect more folks are like Kurt Wise.

      I must add that people like Richard Dawkins are not helping this situation. When people like him proclaim that accepting evolution = accepting atheism, it only adds more fuel to the anti-evolution fire, creating more Kurt Wises. Dawkins is undercutting his own efforts to promote popular acceptance of evolution. People who understand that evolution and God can coexist, like Francis Collins and Michael Ruse, are so important.

      Of course, I’m not saying theology should simply marry the science of the day. That would only make it the widow of tomorrow! I’m saying that God speaks through nature AND the Scriptures. If there is a discrepancy between the two, it’s possible our science is wrong, but it’s also possible our biblical interpretation is the issue.


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  5. N.T. Wright is guessing – making something up so it “fits”. What does he imagine was the mechanism “God” chose to “call” the “particular pair”? It reminds me of when he talks so glibly about “resurrection” without seeming to consider the mechanism for that either. A body that stopped breathing and cooled down can’t start to breathe again on day 3 or any other day. Where are the red cells coming from to take up the O2?


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