Monday, November 30, 2015

The Discovery Institute Reports on Why College Students Leave the Faith and Fails To Ask the Important Questions

According to a story in the Religion News Service, more people are turning away from the faith because of their belief that science and religion are incompatible.  Tessa Rath writes:
In the report, Are Young People Losing Their Faith Because of Science?  John West, Associate Director of Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture, which is the international hub of the intelligent design movement, highlights the challenge young people face dealing with matters of science and faith. For helpful information and resources, download the report here.
I am always just a hair suspicious when I read things by John West because the DI has a noticeable and biased slant on this kind of news against evolutionary theory.  You have to sign up for the newsletter Nota Bene to get the report but can unsubscribe at any time, the site reads.

The report really isn't a report, in the formal sense.  It is more of a boiled down summary of one, with some references to previous research.  It begins with an anecdote about one Jesse Kilgore, who grew up in an evangelical environment and then, in turmoil because of what he was taught in a biology class, committed suicide:
Jesse had been raised in a devout evangelical Christian home, and his
father served as a military chaplain. He enjoyed defending his faith to his
friends and acquaintances. However, in the last months of his life, Jesse had
been hiding a deep secret from his father: A college professor had
recommended that Jesse read atheist biologist Richard Dawkins’ book The
God Delusion, which argues that science refutes belief in God. The book left
Jesse devastated.
In the days following Jesse’s suicide, Jesse’s father learned that his son
had revealed his growing inner turmoil to a few selected friends. In fact, just
an hour before he took his own life, Jesse confided in his uncle, Rich May:

He started telling me about the fact that he had been taking this biology class and as a result there were a lot of things that really challenged his belief and kinda shaken him and made him lose his faith in what he believed in. [He] specifically mentioned, too, that his professor recommended that he get The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins.
This story is absolutely tragic, but I suspect that there is considerably more to the story than this, especially since the young man had made references to suicide before he encountered Dawkins or evolution.  Furthermore, as the Sensuous Curmudgeon reports, Kilgore was a young earth creationist and probably hit some pretty hard walls when he got to college.

This brings into sharp focus the possible reason that many people might be leaving the faith when they get to college and to some very important questions of the young adults that are leaving the church that West never gets around to asking, such as:
  • Were you taught that the earth was created six thousand years ago?
  • Were you taught that evolutionary theory was wrong and misguided?
  • Were you taught that there was a world-wide flood that destroyed all life on earth?
  • If you were taught young earth creationism, how did it affect your faith when you found out that there is no scientific support for it?
There are probably some other questions that could be asked, but these would give a good indication of the backgrounds of some of the kids that leave the faith, and whether or not (as I believe), young earth creationism played an important role in that decision.

Much of what the “report” purports to say has already been written and there is really nothing new here that hasn't been known about the faith “fall-off” for some time. It is unfortunate that the Discovery Institute never saw fit to ask the important questions about why this is happening.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Google Graphic

Google has a graphic of the timeline of human evolution that is pretty cool.  The rest of the graphic is, as nearly as I can tell, long bone and skull fragments.  Go to Google to see it.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Scorecard on What YEC Sites Think of Homo naledi

Naturalis Historia posted a scorecard  on what the various opinions of Homo naledi are depending on which young earth creationist site you visit.  I have read and responded to the AiG post, which was flawed in its approach from the outset (it assumed that all australopithecines were only apes).

Hat Tip to Todd Wood at CORE.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

New DNA Information From Denisova Teeth

Many news outlets are reporting on new findings from the Denisova teeth that were discovered a few years ago.  Here is what the Chicago Tribune has to write:
According to a new analysis of a huge, recently-discovered fossilized molar, published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the Denisovans lived for roughly 60,000 years in Asia alongside both Neanderthals, their close cousins, and more distantly related Homo sapiens - us. Their complicated genetic legacy suggests that they interbred with both species, and, possibly, with another hominid group that has yet to be discovered.

"The world at that time must have been far more complex than previously thought," Susanna Sawyer, an author of the study, told National Geographic. "Who knows what other hominids lived and what effects they had on us?"
It is taking us a bit long to wrap our brains around the fact that we are the only version of Homo on the planet now and have been for probably fifty thousand years. Prior to our ascendancy, there may well have been three or four related species—part of a syngameon—that occupied the landscape at approximately the same time and, as the researchers point out, likely interbred.  We know that archaic Homo sapiens in Africa interbred with the moderns there and that the moderns that left Africa interbred with the Neandertals and the Denisovans that they encountered.  One big happy family until we ruined the party.  More to come I am sure.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

New BioLogos Post on the Daoxian Modern Human Teeth

My BioLogos post on the new anatomically modern human fossil remains from the South China Daoxian Cave is up.  As always, comments welcome here and there.

Saturday, November 07, 2015

Deal Breaker

Ring of Fire has a post on Ben Carson and, if he is being quoted in context, then he has said some truly daft things.  That Dr. Carson is an evangelical Christian is not in dispute, and I personally think it is good to have someone who is so up-front about their faith on the campaign trail.  That is not the problem.  Here is what Justin Lane writes:
During a recent campaign event at a church in Nashville, TN, Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson explained that he believes in creation and thinks the theory of evolution is the work of Satan.

“They say, ‘Carson, ya know, how can you be a surgeon, a neurosurgeon, and believe that God created the Earth, and not believe in evolution, which is the basis of all knowledge and all science?'” Carson posited.

“Well, you know, it’s kind of funny. But I do believe God created us, and I did just fine. So I don’t know where they get that stuff from, ya know? It’s not true. And in fact, the more you know about God, and the deeper your relationship with God, I think the more intricate becomes your knowledge of the way things work, including the human body,” he said.

Carson went on to explain that the theory of evolution, specifically, is the work of the devil.

“I personally believe that this theory that Darwin came up with was something that was encouraged by the adversary,” he said.
Evolution is one of the most highly documented, well-supported scientific theories on the planet and he thinks that it came from Satan? Really?  This is, ostensibly, a highly educated man.  I simply cannot take seriously anyone who thinks this, no matter what their other accomplishments might be.  Nor can I vote for a person who thinks this. 

I simply cannot.

Carson is also on record as saying that he thinks that the pyramids in Giza were built by Joseph to store grain.

Paul Waldman of the Washington Post adds this:
Ben Carson’s ideas about things like the pyramids, combined with what he has said about other more immediate topics, suggest not only that his beliefs are impervious to evidence but also an alarming lack of what we might call epistemological modesty. It isn’t what he doesn’t know that’s the problem, it’s what he doesn’t realize that he doesn’t know. He thinks that all the archeologists who have examined the pyramids just don’t know what they’re talking about, because Joseph had to put all that grain somewhere. He thinks that after reading something about the second law of thermodynamics, he knows more about the solar system than the world’s physicists do. He thinks that after hearing a Glenn Beck rant about the evils of Islam, he knows as much about a 1,400-year-old religion as any theologian and can confidently say why no Muslim who doesn’t renounce his faith could be president.
In this way, he is not very different from many evangelical Christians who seem to be afflicted by an illness that convinces them that they can dismiss any scientific theory they don't like by reading one article on the subject.  If Carson does not moderate his public speaking on these subjects, he will continue to look foolish.  That is a shame because I think he genuinely wants to help the country and has some good ideas.  Just not the scientific ones.