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Oklahoma, Vatican Take Opposite Tacks On Evolution 1161

Posted by kdawson
from the little-communicating-across-the-divide dept.
nizcolas writes "Notable evolutionary biologist, author, and speaker Richard Dawkins was recently invited to speak on the campus of the University of Oklahoma as part of the school's celebration of Charles Darwin. However, Oklahoma lawmakers are working to silence Dawkins with the passage of House Bill 1015 (RTF), which reads in part: '... the University of Oklahoma ... has invited as a public speaker on campus, Richard Dawkins of Oxford University, whose published opinions, as represented in his 2006 book "The God Delusion," and public statements on the theory of evolution demonstrate an intolerance for cultural diversity and diversity of thinking and are views that are not shared and are not representative of the thinking of a majority of the citizens of Oklahoma ...'" Pending legal action, Dawkins is set to speak tonight at 7 pm. (Luckily, we no longer live in the era of Bertrand Russell's court-ordered dismissal on moral grounds from the College of the City of New York.) And reader thms sends word of the Vatican's Darwin conference (program): "The conference, marking the 150th anniversary of the publication of "The Origin of Species," has been criticized by advocates of Creationism or Intelligent Design for not inviting them. The Muslim creationist Harun Yahya, most famous for his Atlas of Creation, also complained about not being invited."
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Oklahoma, Vatican Take Opposite Tacks On Evolution

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  • Re:Dumb Summary (Score:4, Interesting)

    by skeeto (1138903) on Friday March 06, 2009 @02:16PM (#27094005)

    Yes, the bill is simply to send a nasty letter to the university president, nothing more. There is no "legal action".

  • Conceptual domains (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Brain-Fu (1274756) on Friday March 06, 2009 @02:26PM (#27094193) Homepage Journal

    The theory of evolution is the natural product of the application of the scientific method. That doesn't make it true. It just makes it the product of the scientific method. When you want to talk about products of the scientific method, evolution is on the menu.

    The theory of creation is the natural product of theological studies of specific scriptures. That doesn't make it true. It just makes it the product of theological studies of specific scriptures. When you want to talk about products of theological studies of specific scriptures, the theory of creation is on the menu.

    So what's the big deal? Someone holds that the products of the scientific method are facts whereas the products of theological studies of specific scriptures are myths? Well that opinion precedes any discussion of the products of these methods. We can intelligently discuss both of them while reserving any statements about our more foundational metaphysical assumptions.

    But, sadly, most people just aren't broad-minded enough to recognize the relationship between metaphysical assumptions, belief systems, and truth. So they get all intimidated whenever they talk to anyone who has a different metaphysical assumption, and to stupid stuff like this.

    Maybe someday the majority will grow out of this habit. But I doubt it will be any day soon.

  • Re:They Have A Point (Score:2, Interesting)

    by damagemanual (1072736) on Friday March 06, 2009 @02:33PM (#27094293) Homepage
    I totally agree with you. I just finished watching Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed last night. As an atheist, I was embarrassed after watching the final interview with him. He came off as pompous and ignorant.
  • Re:They Have A Point (Score:3, Interesting)

    by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland.yahoo@com> on Friday March 06, 2009 @02:52PM (#27094687) Homepage Journal

    You need more exposure.

    You can't have a resonable debate with the church, becasue the church as no reasonable points.

    How do you debate something with someone who refuses to accept real physical evidences and facts, and backs their argument with nonsense?

    That aside, with the exposure I have had, he only gets that way when:
    A) People are lying about atheists
    B) People refuse to understand that atheism is not a religion
    C) People lie and make stuff up about evolution

    Yes, he is passionate about seeing those facts get out into the light.

  • by n1hilist (997601) on Friday March 06, 2009 @02:55PM (#27094729)

    Even though I find the existence of any god completely bunk, I can understand why people believe in . Perhaps I'm too diplomatic, I just feel when debating something, one should strive to win the argument by facts and logic in a calm, rational manner than with force.

    And yes, I know what I just said opens up a lot of retorts about religious people not having/using logic/real proof to prove anything. :)

    I think a good summary of my feelings is the old forum-ettiquette of "don't attack the poster, attack his point of view", Dawkins sometimes steps over that line.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 06, 2009 @02:55PM (#27094733)

    The original theory of evolution -that all those bones in the ground implied the existence of evolution is easily shown to be false. Put the skeleton of a chihuahua next to that of a beagle next to that of a great dane. The theory would argue that this shows a historical track of evolution. But all these bones belong to the same species and are contemporaneous. Ergo - the morphology of bones is a very poor indicator of genetic change, and does in no way "prove" evolution occurred. There have been a few examples recently of the identification of new species, but this only shows that evolution is possible. Some day we will have a real theory of evolution, one in which we can identify which genes changed from each species to the next, and more importantly, we can identify the agents (radiation, chemistry, random errors) which really caused those changes.
    Until the REAL theory of evolution is developed, all we have is a philosophy of evolution to goad us to further exploration.
    But very few people have the intellectual honesty to admit this.
    This is partly due to fear that honesty will weaken the case for evolution and open the door to creationists.
    If responsible Christian authorities would simply admit that the story of the Garden of Eden is a morality tale and an allegory meant to illustrate the nature of man, and stop insisting that the authors of the Bible were writing factual accounts in the style of 20th century journalists, then we could all relax.
    Bible-reading believers could stop having fits of apoplexy when evolution is mentioned. And athiests could no longer claim that the obvious fact that the book of Genesis is allegorical in nature somehow disproves the existence of God.

  • by Un pobre guey (593801) on Friday March 06, 2009 @03:03PM (#27094889) Homepage
    The core issue is very simple to express. In the 19th century, a trend in english-speaking Christianity appeared that asserted that the Bible was factual and should be interpreted literally. That very simple single assertion on which Christian fundamentalism is based is the root cause of this and many other issues grouped together in the U.S. by the term "Culture Wars."

    It is conceptually simple to understand, particularly for people who are not of an analytical bent. It does not require deep thought or incisive intelligence, it is by and large unambiguous, it results in absolute truths that can be used as rules and maxims, and concentrates all authority on the literal meaning of the scripture. This allows true believers to dismiss anything else out of hand, because the literal interpretation is held to be the literal word of God. That is the great appeal. Simple people need not worry about analysis, interpretation, consistency or anything else. Unfortunately, it is an illusion.

    In practice there is as much ambiguity as before, absolute truths are difficult to pin down, consensus is difficult, and physical reality contradicts practically all attempts to assert literal truth of biblical claims. On top of this is the curious trait of religious fundamentalists in general to cling to their arbitrary beliefs even more strongly in the face of contradiction, as if, rather counterintuitively, that in itself confirmed their beliefs.

  • Re:They Have A Point (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Workaphobia (931620) on Friday March 06, 2009 @03:15PM (#27095099) Journal

    Eh? I've heard an interview and a lecture by Dawkins (neither one live), and I don't think I ever heard him attack individuals, except for the actions their beliefs may lead them to.

  • by SirWillae (74480) on Friday March 06, 2009 @03:20PM (#27095193)

    I don't have to be tolerant of the belief in Zeus. I can see flat out, it is bunk.

    I'm curious how you can "see" that Zeus is bunk. You may not believe he exists (personally, I don't, either), but that's no proof. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. To claim otherwise is unscientific.

    If I say, there is no god and I will not entertain any such nonsense, people are irrational. They will say I am intolerant.

    If I say there IS a god and I will not entertain any atheist nonsense, people are irrational. They will say I am intolerant. Your point?

    they are expecting special treatment for their own neurosis.

    Exactly what special treatment do theists expect? And what neurosis are you speaking of? I think it's pretty callous to call a belief which you do not share "neurosis". You and I may disagree on a lot of things. Does that make both of us neurotic?

  • Re:Oklahoma? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Orion Blastar (457579) <orionblastar@noSPAm.gmail.com> on Friday March 06, 2009 @03:25PM (#27095287) Homepage Journal

    I think it has to do with Dawkin's bashing of religion and religious people in his TV programs and books by using fallacies [guardian.co.uk] which some people call it as "Hate Speech".

    If it was some other Atheist who doesn't have a track record of bashing religion and religious people, I think they would not object to him or her speaking about Evolution.

    I feel that people should be able to have free speech and choose their own religion or choose not to choose a religion if they want.

    Not all Christians are opposed to Evolution proof of that is here. [thankgodforevolution.com] What I think the majority in Oklahoma are objecting to is Dawking's bashing of religion and religious people which has made him a bigot over the years.

  • Re:Oklahoma? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by psychokitten (819123) on Friday March 06, 2009 @03:38PM (#27095553)
    As another (unwilling,) Oklahoma resident - let me agree with this. This is one of the scariest places I've lived in thanks to the fine populace.
  • No sense at all... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by copponex (13876) on Friday March 06, 2009 @03:43PM (#27095651) Homepage

    Religion is the adherence to a set of rules made by a particular culture hundreds or thousands of years ago, with small, rare changes in views. Science is the sum total of testable human knowledge from all cultures from the beginning of modern human history to the present. If Dawkins decided that all of science in 2009 was correct, and any new theories incompatible with 2009 science were wrong simply because they were new, he'd be religious.

    Belief in a higher power has helped people cope with psychological stress and diseases of habit, but in my opinion, modern medicine has saved many hundreds million more lives than any spiritual affiliation. I'd wager that every single senator who supported that bill would laugh out loud if you suggested they visit a Shaman to cure cancer, but would accost you if you insisted that praying for someone had the same effect.

    Some people just don't get it.

  • by mlwmohawk (801821) on Friday March 06, 2009 @03:43PM (#27095653)

    faced with someone who can't take the difference seriously, whether that person's beliefs are christian, muslim, atheist or whatever.

    What "theists" do not get is that atheism is not a belief, it is a glorious lack of belief.

    I do not believe that there is a god. This is quite different than believing in a different god or believing there is no god.

    There may or may not be a god, but lacking any proof or validating logical argument, it doesn't matter and makes no difference and for all practical purposes, it is safe to operate on the assumption that there is no god until proof is provided.

  • Re:Meh. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Grishnakh (216268) on Friday March 06, 2009 @03:46PM (#27095719)

    read that the US has lost 650,000 jobs in the last month. Maybe enough bad debt, cold and hunger will finally get people to realize that real science can be a vehicle to productive jobs and accept that their 6000 year old Earth hypothesis doesn't hold water.

    Sorry, no. As the other poster commented, hard times generally make people turn more to religion. As an example, look at all the backwards, fundamentalist Islamic countries out there. They're dumps, their economies are terrible, but do you see anyone there turning away from Islam (esp. strict interpretations of it)? Hell no. They're turning even more strongly towards it. Pakistan just had to allow its western side to implement Sharia Law to prevent a civil war.

    It's sort of like alcoholism and other drug addictions: they say that an addict has to "hit rock bottom", and want to fix himself, before he can overcome his addiction (if he survives).

    Remember how bad life in the Middle Ages was under strict Christian theological rule? We're probably in for another dose of that kind of society before another "Renaissance" comes around, 1000 years from now.

  • Re:Oklahoma? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Profane MuthaFucka (574406) <busheatskok@gmail.com> on Friday March 06, 2009 @04:02PM (#27096049) Homepage Journal

    That's not a fallacy at all. Science can most certainly investigate questions about the existence of supernatural entities.

    Just as soon as you claim that this supernatural entity does stuff for you, affects the universe, changes reality, prevents a dude from dying in a plane crash, or any number of other things that religious people attribute to gods, then those things can be investigated and experimented with.

    If you want to claim that your god doesn't touch any part of the world that science can investigate, then that makes you a Deist. And that's a useless sort of god to invent.

    So, go ahead and try again to find a Dawkins fallacy.

  • by mlwmohawk (801821) on Friday March 06, 2009 @04:05PM (#27096109)

    I think you mean "agnostic." Theists believe in God, atheists believe there is no God, and agnostics reserve judgment, IIRC.

    Any connection with the term "atheist" and "belief" is incorrect, however, there are lots of people who like to muddy the waters for benefit.

  • Re:Oklahoma? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 06, 2009 @04:42PM (#27096797)

    First, you implicitly equate "not intelligent" with "moron". This is nonsense.

    Second, you have no idea how many people Dawkins believes are intelligent. Maybe "intelligent thinker" is an unattainable ideal that we strive for. Then no one is an intelligent thinker, and therefore no one is put down.

    However, I think [Dawkins] is the atheistic equivalent of the guy on the university corner with a bugle calling passing girls "sluts" and telling them if they don't believe in God, they're going to hell. He generates bad PR for his cause in the same way fundamentalist believers do.

    This is where you go completely overboard. You yourself just admitted that you only know Dawkins indirectly through slashdot discussions. The guy has done absolutely nothing to confront you or impede your life in any way. What extra measures do you want him to take to insulate you from his opinions?

  • Re:Oklahoma? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by PitaBred (632671) <slashdot@pitabre ... g ['s.o' in gap]> on Friday March 06, 2009 @04:44PM (#27096843) Homepage
    I agree with your stance in general, but I believe that many people have forgotten that freedom of religion in some cases implies a freedom from religion. If your religion forbids a caricature of your profit, er, prophet, that should never be even considered being supported by the legal system. You're free to not draw pictures of your prophet, but you have no right to forbid other people from doing so.
  • Re:Oklahoma? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by AliasMarlowe (1042386) on Friday March 06, 2009 @05:00PM (#27097195) Journal

    A "god" answer is an answer to /who/ and maybe /why/. Science is about asking /how/.

    Well, that's true if by "god" you merely mean something like Spinoza's god or some other deist variant (i.e. "god" is that which gave form to the universe and about which nothing else can be known). Although philosophically distinct, there is not much practical difference between deism and atheism. In both cases, the universe is only what can be observed and studied; "god" is irrelevant to one's personal life.

    Unfortunately, religions tend to imbue their gods with numerous other attributes, often quite complex or fantastical. In particular, it is asserted that gods have the ability and motivation to affect the universe in real time, and are believed to do so continuously. That sort of interference is scientifically testable. In fact, numerous such tests have been done, for example statistically testing the "power of prayer" (which is a wierd sort of way that people supposedly control the actions of their gods). The short answer is that prayer had no measurable effect on outcomes in those studies.

  • Re:They Have A Point (Score:4, Interesting)

    by PitaBred (632671) <slashdot@pitabre ... g ['s.o' in gap]> on Friday March 06, 2009 @05:05PM (#27097259) Homepage
    Blaise Pascal: "Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction."

    Steven Weinberg: "I think that on the balance the moral influence of religion has been awful. With or without religion, good people can behave well and bad people can do evil. But for good people to do evil -- that takes religion."
  • Re:They Have A Point (Score:1, Interesting)

    by canuck08 (1421409) on Friday March 06, 2009 @05:13PM (#27097437)

    Indeed. Dawkins, like Chomsky, uses language very precisely.
    When Dawkins uses words like 'deluded' and 'unsophisticated' a great many people take them as insults rather than interpreting them based on their dictionary definitions.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 06, 2009 @05:28PM (#27097703)

    I'm both a scientist and a Christian (I was basically an atheist from the ages of ~16-35), and I have to say I'm appalled at anti-evolutionists and the like. There is nothing important to Christianity that contradicts evolution or anything else in modern science.

    Religion (at least as I understand the term after quite a few years) is not a license to propagate ardent nonsense, and I do believe the anti-evolutionists are engaging in ardent nonsense. The Bible is a guide to help us lead our lives as God intends (albeit a very confusing and misleading guide without sufficiently careful study). It is not a history text, and is most certainly not a science text.

    I believe in the scientific method, and believe that the findings of science are generally correct. If science seems to contradict something about religion, then it means my understanding of *religion* is not sufficiently advanced. This has not happened for me in many years.

    I also believe in being politely respectful of others' views, whether they are believers or non-believers. This sort of civility seems to be lacking on both sides of this argument.

  • by AliasMarlowe (1042386) on Friday March 06, 2009 @05:29PM (#27097719) Journal

    There is quite a bit of "what" and "how" in the Bible.

    Indeed, the Bible contains explicit data from which we can deduce that heaven is hotter than hell!
    * Lower bound on temperature of Heaven: 525C.
    * Upper bound on temperature of Hell: 445C.
    The thermodynamic analysis leading to this result can be found in Applied Optics, 11, A14 (1972).

    Religions don't seem to know when they are making assertions which have scientifically testable implications.

  • Re:OU Student Here (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Abcd1234 (188840) on Friday March 06, 2009 @05:31PM (#27097769) Homepage

    Doesn't it sound arbitrary to wait until a brain is formed to call it human?

    Given we use the same metric to determine when to pull the plug on someone (I'm sure you've heard the term "brain dead" thrown about), I'd say, no, it's not arbitrary at all. It's exceedingly logical, in fact, not to mention morally consistent.

  • Re:Oklahoma? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by init100 (915886) on Friday March 06, 2009 @06:30PM (#27098819)

    Dawkins' message and tone would positively mild compared to partisans like Rush Limbaugh

    I completely agree, especially after reading quotations from the American Taliban [ucsd.edu].

  • Re:Oklahoma? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Grishnakh (216268) on Friday March 06, 2009 @09:02PM (#27100657)

    This argument sounds a lot like the idea that a tree falling in a forest doesn't make any noise if there isn't anyone there to hear it.

    How about another question: Are there aliens? Disregarding all the people claiming to be abducted or see UFOs, there's very little evidence for alien visitation on earth. But that doesn't answer whether they exist at all. Given that an average galaxy such as our own has literally billions of stars, each of which might have planets which could harbor life (and we've now discovered hundreds of exoplanets), and there are millions of galaxies which we've already witnessed with our primitive telescopes, the odds are that intelligent alien life probably does exist, somewhere out there. Does it have affect on our world? No, probably not. Some civilization of aliens in the Andromeda galaxy somewhere isn't going to affect us unless they've developed FTL travel and come here to kill our cows and make crop circles. But that doesn't mean they don't exist.

    Here's another question: how was the Universe created? There's the Big Bang theory, and all its attendant parts about expansion and whatever, but what came before that? Was that directed by something of intelligence, or not? Is our Universe's existence just a big experiment in some being's laboratory, to see what happens when you create a specific set of laws of Physics and start it in motion with a lot of energy and mass? As a civilization that hasn't even figured out how to send its inhabitants further than its own Moon yet, and has only confirmed the existence of planets in other star systems within the last 10 years I think, it's pretty ridiculous IMO to suggest that we have the answer to that question.

    Lastly, as far as the effects of a god, can you prove that people who miraculously have their cancer disappear don't owe their healing to a god? How would you scientifically test that? You can't, since one anecdote is simply a historical data point, and can't be retested in a controlled environment. You're not talking about a physical effect, which can be replicated. If the god doesn't want to heal other people of cancer, it won't, and there's no way for you to determine that your cancerous test subjects were simply ignored by the god, rather than that there is no god.

    How about we set up an experiment where a bunch of rats are given a poison, and then we wait to see how many die. However, we put them in a closed room, with no surveillance or witnesses, and the door is unlocked. During the night, a lab technician wanting to screw with your test results decides to go in the room and give 2 of the rats the antidote. So you do the experiment again, and that day he doesn't do anything. What have you proven with your experiment? Nothing. When an intelligent being is involved in the experiment, you can't prove anything either way, because you don't have repeatability. The whole idea of humans debating the existence of god(s) is like ants debating the existence of humans.

    The only sane answer to the existence of god(s), higher beings, etc. is "I don't know".

  • Re:Fearmongering (Score:3, Interesting)

    by DaveV1.0 (203135) on Saturday March 07, 2009 @11:34AM (#27104731) Journal

    His comments are very hostile to certain ways of thinking or belief systems, and that hostility has no place in a tolerant society

    As opposed to Christianity which states that anyone who doesn't believe in it will burn forever in a hell?
    As opposed to Christianity which continually tries to codify bigotry and hatred into the laws?
    As opposed to Christianity which has and still does kill people who will not conform to it's rules?
    As opposed to Islam which says it is OK to lie, cheat, steal from, and kill non-believers?
    etc.etc.etc.

    Exactly how is his "acidic tone towards Christians" dangeous? Will the Christians kill him, as they done to others in the past?
    Or, will they merely find a way to put him under house arrest for the rest of his life, as they have done in the past?

    Religion has no place in a tolerant society because religion is never tolerant to those who will not conform to the tenets of religion.

  • Re:Oklahoma? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by iamacat (583406) on Sunday March 08, 2009 @05:30AM (#27110851)

    Atheism is merely a classification of religion that is on par with "N/A"

    Actually classic Atheism goes much further than "N/A". It is an unquestionable belief that no intelligent powers were involved in our creation, our life has no higher purpose than whatever an individual (or at least a society) feels like doing and our consciousness disappears with death of our brain cells. Many atheists rely on Occam's razor principle to support their belief that anything not covered by today's science doesn't exist. In reality, although, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, the simplest explanation of the facts is usually true, there are plenty of examples where the actual explanation is more complex than anyone could have imagined beforehand. One needs to look no further than the theory of relativity or quantum physics.

    "N/A" would be more of a person who doesn't give much thought to religious questions. There are more non-religious people than atheists and most people who would identify themselves as Christians are actually non-religious and basically view church as a Sunday cultural event.

    As for myself, I believe that, based on what we observe in the rest of the universe, it's extremely unlikely that we are NOT part of some kind of bigger picture - like electrons in an atom, a single cell in a human body or an individual animal in an ecosystem. However I also can not see how any particular person can claim to have the complete answer on what that big picture is.

     

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