Monday, May 24, 2010

Jerry Coyne on Religious America

Jerry Coyne wonders: Do religious Americans accept evolution? He writes:
Well, now I’ve seen it all. There are many ways that accommodationists try to show that faith and science are compatible, but never before have I seen a scientist with this aim play so fast and loose with the data. Dr. Joel Martin, the Curator of Crustacea and chief of the Division of Invertebrate Studies at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, has written an astonishing article in the journal Evolution: Education and Outreach, “Compatibility of major U.S. Christian Denominations with Evolution”.
He fails to mention that this article is now behind a subscription wall. This journal was offered free for two years by Springer but now the article costs 34 dollars. Onward. Even though Coyne has it in mind to ridicule scientists who have religious convictions, he makes a valid point with his analysis of Dr. Martin's paper:
When Martin totals up the number of American Christians who belong to evolution-accepting faiths versus evolution-denying faiths, he gets 94,050,000 Americans in the former class and 45,850,000 in the latter, with 9,800,000 belonging to the “unclear” category. Voila! Nearly 63% of American Christians are of evolution-accepting faith! (This is, of course, heavily weighted with Catholics, who represent 71% of the “evolution-accepters).

The problem is obvious: the proportion of faiths that accept evolution is not the same as the proportion of believers who accept evolution.
Coyne is quite correct. Poll after poll have shown that a large percentage of all polled Americans do not accept evolution and that the correlation between lack of acceptance of evolution to religious expression is very high. In fact, recent earth creationism has taken hold in evangelical Christianity so much so that, as the Internet Monk put it a bit back:

Creationism has become a main plank in the platform of conservative Christian culture warriors. As a result, this issue has become more than a debate among Bible scholars who differ on their interpretations of Genesis. It has become a “litmus test” issue for many, identifying who is and who is not a faithful Christian.

So, unfortunately, despite the fact that Bruce Waltke’s views on these matters have been published in his writings for years, the BioLogos video was too provocative in the culture of fear that marks today’s climate in American Christianity.

As we have found out, now that we are home schooling once again, if one prowls the Home schooling resources, the YEC position is not just popular, it is the de facto position. Coyne ends by writing:
It is individuals who reject evolution, fight science textbooks, and make trouble for evolution—many of these in opposition to the “official” positions of their faiths.
I believe that he is correct.

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  1. James, when will you be making another post on Biolgos about the hominid fossil record as you indicated you would in your previous post "Facing Reality?" RTB had a long discussion of the hominids on their recent podcast.

    Todd Wood also has made some recent posts about RTB's recent reporting on Neanderthals.

    Neandertals in bizarro world
    Neandertal non sequitur

  2. Hopefully very soon. I have to get the things written and that has been a struggle with everything else in life. Thanks for asking, though.