Monthly Archives: May 2011

Theology in Retreat?

Surely we often hear the reminder that science does not disprove God. For example, a correspondent recently wrote:

“Hawking, in his book, The Grand Design, makes it clear that his book does not show there is no God nor Heaven and Hell, it only shows such hypotheses are unnecessary.”

The implication here is that a science like scientific cosmology cannot prove that there is no God or heaven; all it can do is show that such ideas are not required in the process of developing a scientific explanation, theory or model of reality.

Whenever I hear this point raised by some theologian, or a theistic philosopher, or any apologist for the theistic line I’m reminded of an episode from “The Simpsons” in which young Bart is confronted with some mischief that points to him as the perpetrator. He makes the following exclamations of diminishing innocence:

I didn’t do it! —- a categorical denial that he is the culprit

Nobody saw me! —- a retreat to claiming that nobody witnessed his action

You can’t prove anything! —- a greater retreat to claiming that there’s no proof that he did it.

In an analogous way, there is a process of diminishing theological ‘truth.’ We can imagine the apologist for theism exclaiming at different periods of theological history:

God is real! —- a Biblical, revealed Truth that all decent people know. (Biblical certainty)

Human experience demands that God exists! —- otherwise human experience does not make sense.

God has been proven to exist! ——– We have proofs, i.e., Theologians and Philosophers have proven it. (Certainty of Philosophy) “There are proofs somewhere.”

God required to explain origins! ——- the origin of universe and the remarkable design of life forms can only be explained by invoking a creator God. The “God” of natural theology.

Nobody (scientist or anyone) can prove that God does not exist! —– God as possibility. Since there isn’t any proof of impossibility, he must be possible. (This is a fall-back position that rests on mere metaphysical possibility.)

Maybe the theist and Bart Simpson are not up to the same trick, but their diminishing claims surely seems look much the same. In Bart’s case he retreats from “I did not do it” to “You cannot prove anything!” In the theist’s case, the retreat is from “He exists” to “You cannot prove He doesn’t.”

C. Rulon: Science & the Genesis Global Flood

By Charles L. Rulon
Emeritus, Life & Health Sciences
Long Beach City College

Americans and Noah’s Flood

In 1988, a sur­vey was reported involv­ing more than 2000 col­lege students on 41 cam­­puses across the country.[i] About 40% of these students (62% in Texas from a different survey[ii]) said they believed that human life origi­nated in the Garden of Eden in the last 10,000 years, and that the worldwide flood described in Gen­esis was liter­al­ly true, and that dino­saurs and hu­mans lived at the same time. In addition, about 200 high school biol­­ogy teachers were also polled na­tionally. To the dismay of the scientific community, roughly 40% also said they be­lieved that human life originated in the Gar­den of Eden in the last 10,000 years and that the worldwide flood described in Genesis was true![iii]

Twenty years later the situation looked even more dismal. 2008-2009 polls summarized in Reports (The National Center for Science Education -May-June 2010) indicated that:

60% of the American adult public believe that all people are descendents of one man and one woman—Adam and Eve.

52% do not believe that the theory of evolution has strong factual evidence to support it.

50% believes that the Bible describes the creation of life exactly as it occurred in six days.

60% believed that there was a flood within the past 10,000 years that covered all the earth and was responsible for most of the rock layers and fossils that are seen across the world (another 15% were not sure).

Flood Geology

How can those who take the Bible as literally true pos­sibly explain the sequen­ces of millions of fossils pre­serv­ed in thou­sands of layers of rock, dating back hundreds of millions of years and there for all to see—fossil sequences that all but spell out evolution? Such visible fossil evi­dence would seem to abso­lutely disprove the biblical literalists’ claim of a cre­ation week only 6000-10,000 years ago. The answer, claim the young-earth/life creationists, is “Flood Geology”. The global flood described in Genesis: 5-6 (and referred to by Jesus [Matt. 24:37-39]) is used to explain the entire geological and fossil record on our planet.[iv]

Dr. Henry Morris (now deceased) and Dr. Duane Gish, co-directors of the Institute for Creation Research near San Diego, have maintain­ed for the last 50 years that the earth’s en­tire geo­logi­cal column containing the total 3.8 billion year fossil record can be com­­pletely explained by one world­wide cata­s­tro­phic flood that occur­red rough­­ly 4,500 years ago. [v] More recently (2002) Kurt Wise, a young-earth/life, biblical literalist creationist who actually earned a Ph.D. in paleontology from Harvard University, added to the creationist flood geology literature with his book, Faith, Form, and Time.[vi]

Morris, Gish, Wise and other Christian fundamentalists with scientific training firmly believe in scientific concordism—that God’s word (the Bible) must agree with God’s works as seen in nature. Thus, the 6-day creation story in Genesis-1 is not only literally true (a day is literally a 24 hour day), but must also align with modern scientific evidence. Thus the challenge is to “scientifically” reinterpret the entire fossil record and geological history of the earth (which is there for all can see) so that it’s consistent with the 6-day creation story. If an alignment can be demonstrated, this would be powerful proof that God inspired the writers of Scripture.

Morris and Gish have claimed that before the flood there was a thick wa­ter vapor canopy in the upper atmos­phere, the oceans were very shallow and the land was much flatter than today. Also, deep in the earth were additional vast water reservoirs. They claim that the entire geological column—the thousands of sedimentary rock layers with its millions of fossils—came about quite nat­urally as a result of cata­s­trophic earth move­ments, volcanic action, erosion and sedimentation which ac­com­panied this global flood.

It happened like this: Those animals liv­ing at the lowest elevations would be buried first, followed by those living higher up. Therefore, bot­tom-dwel­ling marine orga­n­­isms would be bur­ied in the sediments first, fol­lowed by fish and then amphibians. Next to be buried would be the reptiles which lived higher up. Mammals would be buried later since their habi­tats were at still higher elevations and be­cause they had greater mo­bil­ity in escaping to higher ground. Humans would flee to the highest ground and be buried last. Thus, claim Morris and Gish, the sequence of fossils actual­­ly found in the rocks matches quite well what one might expect from a global flood. All of the so-called extinct animals showing up as fossils were just animals that had been buried with the glo­bal flood 4500 years ago as des­cribed in Genesis.

They further claim that the Flood was a geological disaster, eroding and re-depositing sediments miles thick, raising mountains, carving immense canyons and even repositioning continents. Most of the world’s high mountains were formed during the violence of the flood, thus explaining the existence of marine fossils on mountains. After the world had been covered by water for about a year, the continents rose and the ocean basins sunk along vertical faults. These new basins were now able to contain all of this extra flood water. Thus came about the face of the earth as we see it today. The fossil record, rather than being a record of evo­lution, is, according to Gish and Morris, a record of mass des­truction, death and burial by water and sedi­ments. Kurt Wise agrees with Gish and Morris on some points, but adds his own “creative solutions” on other points.

Scientific response

There is no phy­sical evi­dence at all for a global flood in the last 4,500-10,000 years, a fact that has been repeatedly confirmed scientifically. The fallacies and contradictions found in all “flood geology” models are overwhelming and are explored in depth at

The following points are a quick summary:

a. No geological mess is found: If a catastrophic global flood had actually occur­red in the last 4,500-10,000 years, it would have left an exten­sive mess of boulders, stones and other sedi­ments over the surface of the entire earth at that time. These flood sediments could be thousands of feet high and the fossils found in these sediments would be in a to­tal chaotic mess.[vii] But this is not what is found at all. Instead, the millions of fos­sils discovered are found in thousands of different out-croppings of sedi­men­­tary rock layers and are in a neat and order­ly ar­rangement that all but spells “evolu­tion”. For example, there are sequences of fossils found in successive rock layers that make it look just like mam­mals evolved from ancient rep­tile-like verte­brates and that humans evolved from ancient ape-like primates. There are thousands of such examples.

For example, consider the hominid fossil record. A catastrophic global flood, claim physical anthropologists and historical geologists, can not explain why Australopithecus was buried first, then Homo habilis, then Homo erectus and fin­ally Homo sap­iens, not to men­tion why Australo­pithecus, Homo habilis and Homo erectus would even exist in the first place? (Creationists like Gish explain away these finding by claiming that apes lived lower down and so were buried first and that Homo erectus was already human, while Australo­pithecus and Homo habilis were merely apes.)

b. Fossils not sorted hydraulically: Contrary to the claims of Gish and Morris, fossils are not sorted in the fossil record according to their ability to escape rising flood waters. If they were, we would expect to see slow-moving species like sloths, turtles and frogs near the bottom of the fossil record and fast-moving species like the veloci­raptors and other predatory dinosaurs near the top, along with ancient fish. But the fossil record reveals nothing like this. A sloth has never been found in older rocks than a dinosaur. Also, if many of the slow moving snakes, frogs and turtles could have made it to the top before being buried by sediment (which the fossil record tells us they did), why couldn’t many of the numerous and quite agile dinosaurs also have made it to the top? Yet not a single dinosaur has been found in the last 65 million years of sedimentary rock layers, or a single mam­mal-like reptile in the last 150 million years. Also, whales (found in the same marine habitat as fish) do not appear in the fossil until much, much later than fish. Birds do not appear until after the flying reptiles. The fossil record is the story of evolution.

c. No evidence of humans: Also, surely one would expect to find some evi­dence of humans—their bones, homes, iron tools, weapons, grave yards, etc.—throughout all the sediments left by the flood. After all, most humans would have lived at lower elevations near lakes and oceans. Homes and grave yards can’t flee to the top and a great many humans would have drowned, or been killed and buried at lower elevations. Yet, not a single piece of solid evidence has ever been found for humans existing ex­cept at the very top of the geological column.

d. Fossils and sedimentary layers are not just 10,000 years old: The fos­sils discovered are not just 4,500-10,000 years old. Most are from millions to hundreds of millions of years old. They are also of organisms that went extinct at widely dif­fer­ent times, not all at once, as would have happened with a global flood. There are thousands of consistent dates using radio-isotopes that span several billion years and con­clusively show that the fur­ther down one goes in the geological column, the older the rock layers are. (Today’s high-tech dating tech­nolo­gies can date fossils to within ±10% of the actual time of their for­ma­tion.) In addition, different mountain ranges on the earth have widely different dates of formation. The Appalachians are much older than the Rockies, which are much older than the Sierra. (Wise explains this away by suggesting that the radio-isotopes used to date fossils decayed at a much faster rate during the flood, thus giving the appearance of rock layers much older than they actually are. But, there is no evidence for his hypothesis and considerable evidence against.)

e. Fossils quite different: Genesis tells us that Noah took specimens of every type of living air-breathing animal aboard the ark.[viii] From these survivors came all the plants and ani­mals we have today. So the kinds of animals found today should be roughly the same as the kinds that existed prior to the flood just 4,500-10,000 years ago. Yet, nearly all of the fossils found in the geo­logical column are quite different from the ani­mals and plants found today. In fact, the more ancient the fossils, the more different most look from animals living today. Furthermore, contrary to a literal reading of Genesis, there are no fruit trees, flowering plants and grass found in the rock layers containing the amphibians and early reptiles. Flowering plants, including fruit trees and grass won’t evolve until much, much later.

f. Fossilized sand dunes: There are numerous fea­tures on our planet that can’t possibly be explain­ed by a global flood, such as the fos­silized, wind-blown sand dunes found in Grand Canyon, Zion National Park and numerous other areas across our planet.[ix]

g. Additional questions: Flood geology also fails to answer many, many more questions, such as:
—If the flood was fresh water, why didn’t all of the salt water fish and invertebrates die and vice versa? Was it because the ark also contained very large fresh and salt water aquariums?

—What happened to all of the dino­saurs that sup­posedly inhabited earth only 6000 years ago? (Some creationists maintain that they weren’t allowed on the ark because they “were a mixed-up species that represented the scrambling of God’s crea­tion by the emergence of evil into the world.”)

—After the flood reced­ed, how did all of the marsupials end up in Aus­tralia and the lemurs in Madagascar and the wombats in Tasmania, and the penguins in Antarctica, and on and on? In fact, how did they all get to the ark and squeeze into it in the first place? Just more miracles in a list of many miracles neces­sary to make Flood Geology float? Believers have published a rich array of solutions for how all the animals and plants could fit. Rationalists have shot them all down. Cynics ask: “Wouldn’t it have been much easier to just zap all the bad guys in the first place instead of doing this whole ark-flood thing?”

The questions go on and on. In the meanwhile, earth science has exploded in knowledge and understanding. Today, almost all features of the earth can be scientifically explained by conventional, non-miraculous geology.

Flood geology is not optional!

Flood Geology is not an optional or minor feat­ure of the young-earth creation model. Rather, it is the only way in which the Genesis-1 creation story can be reconciled with the fossil record. Yet, the more one considers Flood Geology as the mech­a­nism to explain the fossil record, the more one realizes that it’s a total and dismal failure. Yet, Christian fundamentalists are locked in. They con­tinue to insist that the global flood had to have occur­red because the Bible said it did—and not just the flood, but Noah’s ark as well.

“…the reason for insisting on the uni­ver­sal flood as a fact of his­tory…is that God’s Word plainly teaches it! No geo­log­ical diffi­cul­ties, real or imagined, can be al­lowed to take prece­dence over the clear state­ments and necessary infer­ences of scripture.”

—Dr. Henry Morris

This issue of human evolu­tion vs. the instan­­taneous creation story in Genesis, along with the global flood and Noah’s ark, are critical theo­log­i­cal issues for most conservative/fundamentalist Christians. Few scienti­fic dis­coveries have upset them more. Evo­lu­tion reduces their creation stories to mere myths. Cen­tral bib­lical beliefs such as the Bible being God’s literal word, free of error, the purpose­fulness and dignity of hu­mans, the drama of our cre­ation and fall, plus original sin and, thus, the need for a sav­ior—all of these are ser­i­ously threatened in the minds of most conservative Christians by the scientific finding that humans evolved from ancient apes over the last 5-7 million years. Their literature is clear: “No Christian can accept the teachings of evo­lution. If he does, he goes against God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, the Bible and every born-again believer! Any person who thinks he can accept and be­lieve in the theory of evolution and the Bible at the same time, is treacherously deceived by Satan, because Satan has been a deceiver from the beginning.”

In conclusion

If the Book of Genesis did not exist, then neither would Flood Geology. Flood Geology is not science, but a concerted attempt to make the data fit a religious belief. It is distressing to think that at a time when rational critical thinking skills are need­ed more than ever before, some 60% of Americans have reject­ed the last 150 years of outstand­ing scientific dis­coveries in favor of an an­cient creation myth.

The choice between a literal inter­pre­tation of Genesis and the findings of science is a choice between scien­tific facts, prin­ci­ples, laws and theories known to be true beyond all reason­able doubt on one side, and the reject­ion of rationality in favor of Authoritarian Revealed Truth on the other.


Humans and dinosaur footprints

Creationists claim that fossilized human footprints have been found next to dinosaur prints in Texas, thus proving that the radio-isotope dating techniques are seriously flawed. Yet, a scientific investigation of these so-called man-prints around the Paluxy River in Texas revealed only sloppy observa­tions, wishful think­ing and even fraud. The cre­ation­ists had selected their “human foot­prints” from among hun­dreds of irregu­lar shaped eros­ion holes, plus partial footprints from a small, three-toed di­no­saur. In a few cases, two extra toes had been “added” to these three-toed prints. In other cases only blurry photographs existed of al­leged human prints that had mysteri­ously disappeared.[x] Such scientific exposure didn’t stop the crea­tio­n­ists, of course. They went on to build a “foot­print” museum display, write articles for tens of thou­sands of chur­ches and make a movie titled “Footprints in Stone” that was viewed across the coun­try.[xi] In 1994, there was even a spe­cial on television in which these “man prints” were still being high­light­ed. This was more than 15 years after the prints were totally dis­cre­dited by scien­tists.

Dr. Gish and whale evolution

In the early 1970s I debated Dr. Gish at Long Beach City College. At that time, the scientific hypothesis for whale evolution (based on a few fossil frag­ments, plus comparative anatomy, embryo­logy and physio­logy studies) was that whales were closely related to the order of mammals that included the cow, deer, hippo and pig. In response, Dr. Gish showed a slide of a half-whale-half-cow cartoon to loud laughter. But since then an ever increasing number of discovered fos­sils has clearly shown the evolu­tion of whales from a four-legged land mam­mal. In 1989, a 45 mil­lion year old whale fos­sil with small hind legs and feet was found in the sands of Egypt.[xii] A short time later, a small 50 million year old fos­sil semi-aquatic pre-whale named Pakicetus was found in Pakis­tan with both mammalian fore­arms and hind­ limbs.[xiii] Since then, even more transitional fossils have been found. Furthermore, molecular evidence now indicates that the closest living relative to the whale is the hippo, with the whale lin­eage splitting off from the hippo lineage about 54 million years ago.[xiv] All of this fossil evidence devastates a literal reading of Genesis-1 and can’t be explained away with a global flood.


Genesis 9:12-13 tells us that after the flood waters receded, God created the rainbow as a token of the covenant between Him and Noah. The implication is that rainbows didn’t exist before then. But this would be impossible unless the fundamental laws of electro­mag­ne­tism and quantum mechanics were different prior to the flood. But they couldn’t have been without cata­clys­mic effects throughout the universe.[xv]

Noah’s ark

Has scientific evidence for Noah’s Ark ever been found? No. Yet, every few years, an expedi­tion leaves for Mt. Ararat (a 17,000-foot-high mountain in eastern Turkey near the Russian border) to look for the ark. Followers are spurred on by fraud­ulent photos, wood frag­ments and even “docu­men­­ta­ries” on prime-time tele­vision. They are told that if they can just find “proof” of the ark, it will prove to the world evolution is a monstrous lie.

[i]American Scientist, Sept. 1988

[ii]Skeptical Inquirer, Fall, 1986. (Survey of over 400 college student at the Univer­sity of Texas in 1986.)

[iii]Eve, R. & Dunn, 1989, Skep­tical Inquirer, pp. 260-263.

[iv]Other New Testament references to the Flood include Heb. 11:7; 1 Peter 3:20; 2 Peter 2:5 & 3:6. The Genesis flood story was likely adapted from the earlier Babylonian Gilga­mesh Epic where Enlil, ruler of the gods, wanted to wipe out humanity with a great flood. But another god, Ea, warned the human, Utanapishtim who built an ark, thus saving himself, his family and both tame and wild animals. There is also a similar ancient Greek myth where the world becomes so wicked that the god Zeus causes a great rain to fall and a flood to cover the earth. When it pass­ed, only two humans were left. These global flood myths arose in the Middle East after melting glaciers, about 7,500 years ago, raised the level of the oceans and sent the Mediter­ranean Sea pouring through a collapsed natural dam across the Bosporus Strait, thus inundating a freshwater lake and creating the Black Sea (Discover, Jan. 1999, p.69).

[v]Gish, D. 1978 (1985), Evolution, The Fossils Say No!. Morris, H., 1974, Scientific Creationism. Whitcomb JC Jr, Morris, HM., 1961, The Genesis Flood.


[vii] For what we would expect to see if the earth had experienced a global flood within the last 10,000 years see

[viii] Genesis 6:19-21; 7:2, 3, 8, 9, 15. Actually there are two slightly different flood stories written by two different authors and patched together in Genesis by a third person. As a result, God commands that Noah take 2 pair of all living creatures onto the ark (Genesis 6:19), but also that he take 7 pair of the clean and 2 pair of the unclean (Genesis 7:2).


[x]For evidence against the prints being human, see Cole, J. and Godfrey, L (ed.) 1985, Creation /Evo­lution 5 (1). Also see Milne, D. 1982, American Biology Teacher, May.

[xi]Morris, H, 1980, Tracking Those Incredible Dino­saurs and the People Who Knew Them. ICR, 1981. “Acts and Facts,” Sept.

[xii]Discover, May 1991.

[xiii]Reports, National Center for Science Education 2001; 20 [5]: 33-41.

Gingerich et al., Science 2001, Sep 21; 293: 2239-2242.

Thewissen, J. G. M., et. al., 1994, “Fos­sil Evidence for the Origin of Aquatic Loco­­­motion in Archaeocete Whales. Science 263:210-212.

Berta, A., 1994, “What is a Whale,” Science 263: 180-181.

[xiv] Dawkins, 2004; Luo, Z., Nature 2000; 404: 237-7.

[xv] Free Inquiry, Summer 2001, p. 59.

C Rulon: The U.S. government & the Ten Commandments

By Charles L. Rulon
Emeritus, Life & Health Sciences
Long Beach City College ([email protected])

In 1999, following the Columbine High School massacre, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Ten Command­ments (10C) Defense Act Amendment by a vote of 248 to 180. This act called for the 10C to be posted in every public school room, court­room and government build­ing across our nation.[i] Supporters in Con­gress claimed that “God’s Laws” formed the basis of the American legal system. They also claimed that posting the 10C would reduce violence, drug usage and immor­al sex­ual behavior and would help to return our society to the Bible and to God. Polls indicated that Congress had the support of 3 out of 4 Americans.

Yet, posting the 10C is a really bad idea, unless our goal is a medieval Christian theocracy. Consider:

Commandment No. 1: You shall have no other gods. I am a jealous God. Worshipers of all other faiths and atheists are to be put to death. (This commandment tells us that there are, indeed, other gods, not just the Hebrew’s tribal god. Is this really something Christians want their children to know? Also, the U.S. is arguably the most religiously diverse country in the world, with over 1000 different faiths and branches. By posting the 10C, does Congress really want our nation’s school children to be taught intolerance toward Hindus, Buddhists, Taoists and worshipers of other faiths, or no faiths?)

Commandment No. 2: You shall not worship false idols under penalty of death. (In past centuries Catholics and Protestants fought to the death [particu­larly when gov­ern­­­ments took sides] over disagreements as to what constituted idol worship. Does the U.S. govern­ment really want to take sides in this contentious theological debate?)

Commandment No. 3: You shall not misuse my name under penalty of death. (What does this mean? We better know, since the penalty for break­ing this commandment is death. Will cartoons which make fun of this biblical god carry a death sentence? Could this commandment even mean that those sanctimonious, poll-obsessed politicians who repeatedly use the word “God” in their public speeches for political gain are committing blasphemy?)

Commandment No. 4: You shall not work on the Sabbath under penalty of death. (There are no exceptions given. Does Congress really expect all Americans to just quit work, plus shut down all the shopping malls, hospitals and fire departments on the Sabbath, whatever day that is, on penalty of death? Of course not! But since when did the Lord God Almighty, Creator and Ruler of the Universe tell Congress that it was O.K. to skip this commandment? Isn’t ignoring or overruling the SUPREME RULER OF THE UNIVERSE a very dangerous thing to do?)

Creation vs. Evolution: The 4th Commandment also confirms the Genesis creation story by telling us that “… in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea and all that is in them…” (Yet, our evolution from an ancient fish-like vertebrate over the last 500 million years is considered essentially a fact in the scien­tific community. The persistence of this Genesis creation myth speaks to the success of Christian schools and churches and to the dismal failure of our nation’s educat­ional system. How can democracy survive if we continue to renounce extremely well-established science and even the scientific method, itself? Does Congress really want to shove our students back into the scientific dark ages by having these Genesis creation myths resurrected as “God-given” fact in our class­rooms?[ii]

Commandment No. 5: I command you to honor your father and mother. Disobedient child­ren who curse their parents are to be stoned to death. (Nuf said.)

Commandment No. 6: You shall not murder. (However, the Old Testament contains a great many divine­ly ordained exceptions to the 6th C that would be considered barbaric today in any moral­ly advanced soci­ety. Congress, of course, never planned to post all of the excep­tions to not killing in our nation’s class rooms. But why not? Again, if the Bible really is the Word of God Almighty, Creator and Ruler of the Universe, which almost all members of Congress publicly claim, then why shouldn’t our students and citizens also learn all of the God-approved reasons to kill?)

Commandment No. 7: You shall not commit adultery under penalty of death. (Nuf said)

Commandment No. 10: You are not to covet your neigh­bor’s wife or his ox or his slaves. (I wonder if Congress is aware that this commandment directly conflicts with our entire global econ­omy, which is fueled by desire. Few Americans today see anything wrong with “coveting” a neighbor’s “ox” and offering to buy it. Also, most women spend considerable time and money making themselves attractive to men in general so that they might be desired or “coveted”.)

Only three of the Ten Commandments are codified into modern law — laws against killing, stealing and bearing false witness. But these three laws have been found in societies every­where, religious or not, including ones that existed long before the Hebrews’ tribal god sum­moned Moses to the mountain. They would scarcely have required the ‘Supreme Ruler of the Universe’ to engrave them on two stone tablets. In 1980 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that posting the Ten Commandments in public schools, court­rooms and govern­ment build­ings was unconstitutional (Stone v. Graham). In 2005 the Court recon­firmed the 1980 ruling.

[i] During the 1950s and 1960s, the Fraternal Order of Eagles erected as many as 4,000 markers, statues, and monuments featuring the Ten Commandments in public parks, government buildings, etc.

[ii] Today these creation myths are still apparently believed by former Presi­dent George W. Bush, two U.S. Supreme Court Justices, one-third of all high school biology teachers, roughly half of all Americans, including members of Con­gress… and by two-thirds of all Texans!

C Rulon: Every cruelty has been justified in the name of this god or that god

By Charles L. Rulon
Emeritus, Life & Health Sciences
Long Beach City College

Religion and atrocities

A conflict of global importance exists today be­tween two fundamentally different views of morality and even of reality, itself. One view is sup­ported by several hun­dred years of solid scientific discoveries, ra­tion­al critical thought, comparative religious studies, and humanistic ethics. The other view is based on narrow inflexible inter­pre­­tations of ancient reli­gious texts. The United States with its Christian Right and their medieval faith-based agenda is a disquieting anomaly in the present indus­trialized world — an anomaly that wishes to turn the clock back and undo not only the scientific and democratic revolutions of our time, but also to repeal the Enlightenment.

The Christian Right stridently warns us that without God and His Holy Word (the Bible) to guide us, every atrocity will become possible. And many Christians really do believe that without God morality and civility will break down. Yet, the distressing fact is that even in this so-called enlightened age, religious hatreds and conflicts still fester all over the world. In Ireland, In­dia, Lebanon and the Middle East, fundamentalist Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Hindus and Muslems threaten the security of the entire world with their perennial reli­gious–power–­ter­ritorial wars.

In fact, over the centuries just about every cruelty and atrocity known to humans has actually been justi­fied in the name of this god or that god. The world’s many different gods have ordered their followers to go on deadly crusades and jihads, torture and burn witches, sacrifice virgins, execute those who work on holy days, put to death gay men and abortion doctors, deny anesthesia to women in labor, slaughter “heathen” cultures, and exterminate inferior races.

The Church of medieval Europe fomented reli­gious wars in 16th century France and the 30 Years’ War in 17th century Germany. In fact, the his­tory of Europe is lit­tered with the corpses of those slain because of doctrinal differences. Christ­­ian societies orga­­nized and carried out the Cru­sades, the extermi­nation of the Albigensians, the Inquisition, the religious wars follow­ing the Reforma­tion and centuries of anti-Semitic violence.

The Christian Church followed and sup­ported the Spanish, Portuguese, French and English conquerors in order to convert indigenous populations. It was the god-fearing Christians who helped to reduce the Indian population of Mexico from 25 million in 1519 to only one million by 1605. In the 1500s, the Spaniards in Mexico and Peru baptized Indian infants and then immediately dashed their brains out. By this means they insured that these infants went to Heaven.

In 1543, Martin Luther, the father of the Protestant Refor­ma­tion, set forth a program to extermi­nate the Jews, which included burning their synagogues, schools and homes, taking all their money and driving them out like mad dogs. In the 1600s, god’s Grand Inquisi­tor sent his Catholic troops to slaughter thousands of innocent Protestants and Muslims in Italy and France. He later elected Pope Pius V in 1566 and even canonized a saint after his death.

In the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, the Ayatollah Khomei­ni of Iran recom­mended killing infidels as “a surgical operation com­manded by God.” Over 500,000 young men died in battle, all being told that death provided an instant place in Heaven.

Biblical atrocities

The Bible, itself, was written at a time when society had no concept of universal human rights. So the Hebrews’ tribal god demanded an eye for an eye (Exodus 21:23-5), the execu­tion of children who cursed their parents (Exo­dus 21:17; Lev. 20:9) and the stoning to death of brides found not to be vir­gins on their wed­ding night (Deut. 22: 13-21).

The Old Testament also has instructions for the genocide and enslavement of out-groups; the Israelites were instructed by their god to slaughter or enslave every man, woman and child in enemy villages. City after city was totally destroyed with no mercy (Deut. 2:34, 3:3-7, 7:1-6, 20:16-18). In the Book of Joshua, the followers of the Hebrews’ tribal god killed tens of thousands, leaving nothing remaining. They “utter­ly destroyed all that breathed, as the Lord God of Israel commanded (Joshua 6:21-24; 10:40).” The biblical Jesus never condemned any of these actions and, in fact, instructed his followers to uphold the Old Testa­ment laws and commandments down to the very last one (Matt. 5:17-19).

I’ve listened to pastors in the Christian Right explain away these God-ordered killings of all the men, women and child­ren in city after city in the Old Testament, while at the same time defending their god as a god of love, justice and mercy. They tell their flocks that the people in the cities that God ordered destroyed were all utterly evil and depraved and were trying to commit genocide on God’s chosen people through whom He would bring salvation to the entire world through Jesus Christ. They preach that had any of them been allowed to live they could have continued their geno­cide against the Israelites in the future. Regarding the killing of children, pastors remind their flocks that in these evil and depraved tribes there was no hope for the child­ren anyway. So God’s command to kill all the children was really an act of mercy, since every child who died before the age of account­ability went to heaven. (Isaiah 7:16; Mark 10:14).

How does one respond to this justification for the genocide of every man, woman and child? This is my response. When religious leaders are able to take the commands of their god—commands that today would be considered immoral, even barbaric in any civilized society—and twist these commands into some­thing that sound good, just, merciful and wise, it only proves that people can use their gods to justify any­thing, from genocides, crusades, witch-burnings and inquisitions, to jihads and even to Arma­geddon Theo­logy, the ultimate biblically sanctified atrocity of global nuclear annihilation where everyone on the planet is incinerated except for the “raptured.”

The Christian Right today

By the early 1990s, fundamen­tal­ist and evan­geli­cal Chris­t­ians were reported to account for 1/5th of all Repub­lican voters, enough to swing major elec­tions. In addition they claimed con­trol of over 2000 school boards nation­wide, elected nine state gover­nors, took control of numer­ous legis­latures and dom­i­­nated 20 state par­ties. By 2001 the Christian Right had front row seats in the White House and much of Congress. By 2005 there were 1600 Christian radio and television broad­­casters who reached over 140 million listeners. By 2010, James Dobson’s colossal fundamentalist Christian media empire was taking in over $150 million/year. It was presenting news programs daily on 3,000 radio stations in North America, heard on radio broadcasts in 99 countries, mailing out four million pieces of mail each month, buying television time on 80 stations daily and maintaining an activist network of over 100,000 people.[i]

Society’s laws regarding contraception and abortion reflect the power of the patriarchal Christian Right in state and national governments. In 2010, more that 600 measures were introduced in state legislatures in an attempt to force women with unwanted pregnancies to stay pregnant against their will—in essence, to be reproductively enslaved. In November 2010, 29 governors were elected who were solidly anti-choice. Also bills were introduced in the U.S. Congress with over 180 co-sponsors that would permanently deny abortion coverage to low-income women and to all federal employees.

In early 2011 Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), the most outspoken opponent of contraceptives in Congress, was named chairman of the subcommittee on Global Health and Human Rights. He threatened (along with others) to shut down the federal government if it continued to support Planned Parenthood clinics across the U.S.. Smith is now attempting to undermine family planning programs around the globe in the name of saving “innocent babies” (i.e., fertilized eggs, blastulas, embryos). Back in 1998, Smith spon­sor­ed a House amendment that would bar federal health care plans from pay­ing for birth control pills and the IUD because, he claim­ed, they were “baby pesti­cides.” Almost 200 mem­bers of the House sup­por­ted his position!

There is little doubt that the Christian Right has become a power­ful force in American politics and is extend­­ing its influence into many places around the world.[ii] Today, there is no viable political force in either our state or national governments that is willing to defend secular­ism, or to vigorously support women’s reproductive rights. The Republican Party is currently dominated by conserva­tive Christians who appear wedded to archaic biblical morality. The Democratic Party has also failed, as its politi­ci­ans increasingly affirm their devotion to religious piety in public pronouncements.

[i]“Dobson’s Choice: Religious Right Leader Becomes Political Power Broker” at . Dobson has likened the proponents of gay marriage to the Nazis. He has backed political candidates who called for the execu­tion of abor­tion providers and has defined embryonic stem-cell research as “state-funded cannibalism.

[ii]An excellent news­letter which monitors Christian Right activities is “Church & State” published by Americans United for Separation of Church and State, a nonprofit educational corporation . For everything you might want to know about the Theo-­political Right: Their personalities, ideologies, agendas, goals, and methods of operation read Democracy under Assault: TheoPolitics, Incivility and Violence on the Right, by Michele Swenson (Sol Ventures Press, 2005). For a fascinating history of the Christian Right, along with an analysis of their arguments, see Robert Boston’s 1993 book, Why the Religious Right is Wrong, published by Prometheus Press at . Also check out Boston’s recent book, Close Encounters with the Religious Right at .

Where is mind? In here and out there.

A recent article, “Out of Our Brains,” [1] by Andy Clark ( professor of logic and metaphysics in the School of Philosophy, Psychology, and Language Sciences at Edinburgh University, Scotland), along with his short follow-up, “Extended Mind Redux: A Response,” [2] offer some provocative ideas and readers’ commentaries with regard to the concept of ‘mind’ and its location.

In the first article, Clark takes up the question, Where is my mind? Some of us might even doubt that this question makes much sense [3], but Clark assumes it is a coherent question and is prepared to give his response.

Some people might feel that before we can ask about the location of mind, we need a definition of mind. The fact is that definitions of mind are many and raise a host of questions and controversies in their own right. For purpose of the Clark’s discussion, we can think of “mind” along the lines outlined by Walter Kaufmann, a characterization that is consistent with Clark’s idea of mind in the article. [W. Kaufmann sees ]…

“mind” as an inclusive term for feeling and intelligence, reason and emotion, perception and will, thought and the unconscious.

[Walter Kaufmann, The Discovery of Mind, McGraw-Hill, 1980, page 3]

From the Oxford Guide to Philosophy, (Oxford University Press, 2005, page, 603) we get this characterization of mind:

“.. You have a mind if you think, perceive, or feel. Your mind is like your life or your weight, an abstract version of an unproblematic property. ..We don’t have to take minds as objects. They can be features of other objects, such as persons or features of person’s lives. Still we can study minds, inasmuch as we can study thinking, perceiving, and feeling. This is psychology.”

So, for starters, we can conceive of the mind functionally, as the activity of thought, feeling, perception and such.

Now we shall take up Clark’s question: Where is my mind? He starts by remarking:

“Look at the science columns of your daily newspapers and you could be forgiven for thinking that there is no case to answer. We are all familiar with the colorful “brain blob” pictures that show just where activity (indirectly measured by blood oxygenation level) is concentrated as we attempt to solve different kinds of puzzles: blobs here for thinking of nouns, there for thinking of verbs, over there for solving ethical puzzles of a certain class, and so on, ad blobum

“There is no limit, it seems, to the different tasks that elicit subtly, and sometimes not so subtly, different patterns of neural activation. Surely then, all the thinking must be going on in the brain? That, after all, is where the lights are.

This may explain why many people are inclined to locate the mind inside the head with the brain. So, the mind must be located with the brain.

But then again, maybe not. Clark’s second question:

“Is it possible that, sometimes at least, some of the activity that enables us to be the thinking, knowing, agents that we are occurs outside the brain?”

He proceeds to give us several reasons for the possibility that mental activity takes place outside the head:

First, referring to gestures and hand-waving motions that we make when talking, Clark refers to theorists who find reason for “suspecting that the bodily motions may themselves be playing some kind of active role in our thought process.

“In experiments where the active use of gesture is inhibited, subjects show decreased performance on various kinds of mental tasks. Now whatever is going on in these cases, the brain is obviously deeply implicated! No one thinks that the physical handwavings are all by themselves the repositories of thoughts or reasoning. But it may be that they are contributing to the thinking and reasoning, perhaps by lessening or otherwise altering the tasks that the brain must perform, and thus helping us to move our own thinking along

Second, Clark refers to the evolutionary angle:

“There is no more reason, from the perspective of evolution or learning, to favor the use of a brain-only cognitive strategy than there is to favor the use of canny (but messy, complex, hard-to-understand) combinations of brain, body and world.

Third, he mentions that there are

“…. many resources whose task-related bursts of activity take place elsewhere, not just in the physical motions of our hands and arms while reasoning, or in the muscles of the dancer or the sports star, but even outside the biological body — in the iPhones, BlackBerrys, laptops and organizers which transform and extend the reach of bare biological processing in so many ways.

Finally, he mentions what he calls “cognitive prosthetics” at work:

“As our information-processing technologies improve and become better and better adapted to fit the niche provided by the biological brain, they become more like cognitive prosthetics: non-biological circuits that come to function as parts of the material underpinnings of minds like ours.

Given such considerations, Clark’s answer to his first question – Where is mind? – is that at least part of the mind is external to the head and even external to the body in relevant aspects of the environment. This talk of the “extended mind” and mental activity outside the head is intriguing; but the discussion can quickly become abstract, complicated, and technical. The reader can consult a number of publications if he/she wishes to delve more into this issue [4].

For the present, I simply wish to direct some of your thinking to simple everyday activity that might lend credence to Clark’s contention. To simplify our approach, let’s try some of the following questions and remarks. They will not give a definitive answer to Clark’s question, but they will at least help us to focus on some relevant considerations as we ponder the problem.

What do you do when you try to understand the thinking of another person?

How do you show someone else what you are thinking?
What do we mean when we describe someone as ‘thinking out loud’?

As students in a mathematics course, when we solve a problem on paper (or on the board), is our reasoning out there on the paper or on the black board?

When a mathematics or logic instructor requires that you show your work (show the steps by which you derived the conclusion), is the instructor asking for an external picture of your thinking?

Suppose that we are following the moves that a chess player makes; at some point we exclaim that we see what his trying to do. Does this indicate that we see (by way of the moves of pieces on the board) what he is thinking?

Does it make sense to say that often we think with pencil or pen, with our keyboard, or with our computers and calculators?

To work out this problem, I need to write it down on paper. Do I organize and work out my thinking on paper? Does this put my thinking out there (on the paper) rather than in my head?

Sometimes in order to think out a problem, I have to talk it out loud (to myself, or to another person).

Some people cannot describe something without many hand and bodily gestures.

Some people think best when they can stand up and walk around rather than just sitting.

Sometimes I can only work out what I’m thinking by ‘talking it’ to another person.

Usually when you tell me what you’re thinking, I can be confident that I know what you’re thinking; i.e., I don’t worry that what you’re really thinking is inside (your head) and hidden from me.

We often work out the solution to a math problem on the black board or on paper. If we’re interested in chess, we can work out a chess problem — check out possible responses to an opponent’s moves — on a chess board. A very good mathematician or a very good chess player may be able to work out those solutions in his head. When he does this we might say that he works out the problem “mentally.” But the use of paper or the board is also indicative of ‘mental’ work. These external ways also show the “mind at work.

If you insist that the mind is an entity, you must also admit that it is a very curious type of entity. Sometimes it manifests itself in a person’s outward behavior; sometimes it shows internally, “in the head.” Maybe this is the best that a blog posting can do as a quick commentary on the question that Clark’s article poses.

[1] from The Opinionator, online commentary for the NY Times, Dec. 12, 2010


[3] A piece of music – a song or a composition – can be written by a specific person at a particular place. The Gershwin brothers composed and wrote “Summer Time.” Ludwig Beethoven composed the Fifth Symphony. When finished, these works can be performed at a specific location. But it would be a strange question to ask for the location of the song (Where is “Summer Time”? or the symphony, Where is Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony?). The song or the symphony is not like a statue or a painting which have a specific location. It may be that asking for the location of the mind is much like asking for the location of a song, in short, it may be a basic misconception

[4] For example, the article “The Extended Mind,” by Andy Clark and David J. Chalmers.

C Rulon: Scientific Knowledge Devastates Many God Beliefs

By Charles L. Rulon
Emeritus, Life Sciences
Long Beach City College

Physical evidence for God seemed everywhere

A few centuries ago, physical evidence for an all-powerful God seemed everywhere in the Western world. After all, how else could one explain the existence of our bounti­ful Earth at the center of an awe-inspiring cosmos, with planets and stars circling Earth in perfect God-like circles? How else could one explain lightning, thunder, earth­quakes and volcanoes? How else could one explain the exist­ence of all the myriad of beautifully designed species, in particular, us? How else could one explain weeping religious statues, miraculous cures, near death experi­ences, prayers answered and biblical prophesies coming true? Although all along there have been atheists and skeptics, still, all this apparent evidence for God’s existence was inescapable and compelling.

The Scientific Enlightenment

Then came modern science and over the last 400 years essentially all of the “proofs” for God’s existence turned out either to be false or to have quite natural explana­tions. All of the relevant scientific evi­dence—from astro­physics, to our evolu­tion, to the biochem­istry of life, strongly sup­ported the thesis that there never were any gods in the first place, at least not in any kind of manifestation that is of interest to the over­whelming majority of religious folk. Today, mostly as a result of these scien­tific discoveries, over 90% of the members of the National Academy of Sciences (the “hall of fame” for top scientists in the United States) have now declared them­selves to be non-theists (either athe­is­tic or agnostic).[i] For scientists in general, about 60% are now non-theists (although almost all theistic scientists do accept our evolution). Consider some of these scientific discoveries:

The Cosmos

Over the last 500 years our universe has gotten bigger and bigger. We’ve gone from an Earth-centered universe to a heliocentric one, to a galactocentric one, to there being billions of galaxies in a universe with no center, to there possibly being a multitude of universes.

a. Deep space: Contrary to the Bible, the heavens are not stretched out over a stationary Earth (Psalms 104:5; I Chron.16:30) like a canopy (Isaiah 40:22), with the stars so small and close to earth that they could fall to the ground (Rev.12:4) or fall from the sky in the End Times as pro­phe­sied by Jesus (Matt.24:29). Instead, our universe is incomprehen­sibly huge, with liter­ally billions of galaxies, each with hundreds of billions of stars. Our solar system, itself, is moving around the center of our galaxy, the Milky Way, at 400,000 mph. Yet, even at this tremen­dous speed it will still take it about 200 million years to make one round trip. In addition, our galaxy is moving away from other galaxies at an estimated one million miles an hour.

b. Deep time: Contrary to a literal reading of Genesis-1 in which the sun, moon and stars were formed on the 4th day of creation, our universe is unfathomably old, hav­ing come into existence about 14 billion years ago. Our sun was formed about 5 billion years ago from the “dust” left over from ancient explo­d­ing stars that, themselves, were formed billions of years before our sun. Also, Earth was formed hundreds of millions of years after our sun. If the age of Earth were represented by the height of the world’s tallest build­ing, then all of human civili­zation, starting from the dawn of agri­cul­ture some 10,000 years ago, would represent only the thickness of the paint on its roof.

c. A violent universe: Our universe is far from a peace­ful back­drop for some god’s favorite planet. Stars explode. Black holes suck in entire star sys­tems. Gigantic explosions at the center of galaxies destroy millions of worlds.

d. Our solar system: Our own solar system show all signs of having been formed naturally from the “dust” of exploding stars about five billion years ago. Its structural details are sloppy from an engineer­ing perspec­tive, but just what one might expect if only the blind laws and forces of nature were involved.

e. Earth’s surface devastated: Planet Earth is far from a peace­ful setting for some god’s favorite species. Catastro­phic events (meteor impacts, gigantic volcanic eruptions, ice sheets cover­ing much of Earth, plate tectonic movements tearing apart entire continents) have devastated Earth’s surface, resulting in at least five major mass extinctions over the last 600 million years.

f. Laws of nature: In the Bible, God made the clouds rise and sent the light­ning, rain and wind (Rev. 12:4; Isaiah 40:22). Yet today, scientific disco­ver­ies have replaced essentially all earlier supernat­ural explana­tions and events. Comets are no longer viewed as herald­­ing the birth of a new leader. Light­­ning, thun­der, earth­quakes, volcanic eruptions, eclipses and epidemics are no long­er seen as the wrath of an angry god. There is also no phy­sical evidence for a global flood several thousand years ago (Genesis 6), much less for the death of all life on Earth except those crammed on an ark. Science now has natural explanations for the exist­ence of the earth, sun, moon and stars. Ongoing hypotheses and experi­ments on the origin of our universe, its apparent fine-tuning and the origin of life continue to rapidly advance our knowledge.[ii]


a. All life evolved: All life on Earth evolved from earlier life forms going all the way back to an incompre­hen­sible 3.8 billion years ago. Our ances­tors about seven million years ago were ancient ape-like pri­mates. Our extremely ancient ancestors some 500 million years ago were a species of now-extinct fish.[iii] The millions of fossils dis­cover­ed in the thousands of different layers of sedimentary rock that spans hundreds of millions of years all but spell out the evolutionary history of life on our planet.

b. No ladder of progress: There is no so-called evolutionary tree with humans at the top. Instead, there is an extremely branchy evolutio­nary bush with over one billion twigs (species) which continuously grew (evolved) and then broke off (went extinct). If we look at this entire bush, no special branch destined to evolve inexo­rably toward humans becomes obvious. Instead, one sees only frequent changes in direc­tion, or no changes at all, or com­mon rever­sals, or extinctions.

c. No apparent goals: In addition, scientists have been unable to detect any genetic mechanism, or law of nature that could possibly direct evolution toward advanced, intel­ligent beings. In fact, accord­­ing to theorists, if we rewound the evol­utionary clock, the infinite contingencies (accidents, errors, lucky breaks, random genetic variations) of history would most certainly result in an entirely dif­ferent array of species. The evolution of advanced intelligence might not happen again. Thus, very few evolu­tion­­ary biologists since at least the 1950s have believed in any “progress­ive force” or “cosmic goal” of evolu­tion.

c. Natural selection: The entire his­tory of life’s evolution on Earth has been a story of random genetic errors followed by selection of the more fit and extermina­tion of the less fit. With this natu­ral selection pro­cess, all “design” we see in nature is NOT purposeful design, but instead came about over billions of years through a blind, no fore­sight, automatic sifting process. This pro­cess resulted in an “infinity” of dead ends, pain, suffer­ing, wide­spread star­vation, con­stant disease and plagues, flawed designs, violent deaths, a prodi­gious waste of life and ultimately extinc­tion for almost all species. Short­sighted self­ish­ness usually won out, no matter how much pain and loss it pro­duced in the long term. For centuries, arguments have been offer­ed by theologians to explain why so much evil and suffer­ing exists in a world supposedly created by an all-good god. But if only natural selection is at work, the mystery disappears.

d. Flawed & vestigial designs: Another predictable outcome of natural selec­tion is that the human body, like all species, is riddled with anatom­ical oddities, vesti­gial structures and flawed designs that disclose a history of trial-and-error tinkering: Nipples in males, an appendix, wisdom teeth, a retina install­ed back­wards, a birth canal that’s often too small, a miscar­riage rate of over 60%, a wind­pipe next to the esophagus so we can choke to death on a bite of food, lower back prob­lems, hemor­rhoids, varicose veins, a genome riddled with dupli­cate and discard­ed genes, a brain that can seriously mal­function in dozens of ways.…and on and on!

e. Parasites: Parasites make up the majority of species on Earth. So why would a bene­volent god create all of these parasites? Why would he create a para­site that blinds millions of people, or 10,000 differ­ent species of harm­ful tape­worms, or 2000 different species of disease-spread­ing biting lice? Why would he create dozens of species of mosquitoes that transmit malaria to over 300 million people every year, or bacteria that caused deadly plagues (like the Black Death of 1348 which wiped out over half the inhabitants of Europe), or the virus that caused the influ­enza pan­demic of 1918 which killed up to 50 million people? On the other hand, an abund­ance of parasites is just what one would expect if only natural selection is at work.

f. Extinctions: Natural selection, plus chance, the contin­gen­cies of history and cataclysmic events have sooner or later resulted in the extinct­ion of over 99% of the one billion or so species ever to have evolved on our planet. This extremely high extinction rate raises serious theo­logical questions, of course: If almost all of God’s crea­tions sooner or later go extinct, doesn’t that suggest a god that is inept, waste­ful, care­less, or uncon­cerned with the wel­fare of His cre­a­tions?

Evolution of morality

Conservative Christians insist that we need God and the Bible to be moral; that without God society collapses into immoral chaos. Yet, considerable scientific evi­dence has accumu­lated to support the theory that moral senti­ments in humans and moral principles in human groups evolved naturally over the last 100,000 years of living in a Paleolithic environ­ment. Morality evolved as a means of fostering pro-social in-group behavior and of defining and defending the boundaries of that group. Religions and their deities, a cultural development, came much later. [iv]

Darwin’s theory of natural selection (1859) pro­vided a scientific foundation and direction for future research in the study of ethics. Darwin wrote: “Our descent… is the origin of our evil passions!—The Devil under form of Baboon is our grand­father!” Darwin was convinced that it would be through the study of evolutionary biology and evolutionary psychology, not through philosophy or religion, that we would discover new valuable truths and insights into our moral and immoral natures.

No paranormal or supernatural events have ever been proved

The possibility of divine souls and/or life after death would not seem so rationally implausible if para­normal or super­natural phe­­nom­ena (mind over mat­ter, psy­­chic read­ings, see­ing into the future, past-life regres­­sions, talking to the deceased, near-death experiences, weep­ing relig­ious statues, the ap­pearance of the Virgin Mary in one form or another) were actually known to exist. Yet, after over one hundred years of inten­sive inves­ti­gation scientists still have found no con­vin­cing evi­dence for (and much evi­dence against) the exist­ence of any such phe­nom­­ena. When all of the experi­mental vari­a­bles have been tightly con­trol­led (to elimi­nate chance, errors, bias, careless­ness and fraud), not a sin­gle person has yet been found to pos­sess para­normal pow­ers—not one![v] All such claims have turned out to be un­verifiable, scien­tifi­cally explain­­able, wish­ful think­ing, il­lus­ions, hal­lu­cina­tions, or fraudu­lent.[vi]

In addition, all processes studied in liv­ing orga­nisms (from ferti­lization to death) have been found to strictly obey the known laws of chemistry and physics. No paranormal or super­­natu­ral inputs have been found anywhere (or even seem neces­sary) for life to function and to evolve.

The same is true with all claimed super­natu­ral happen­ings or “miracles” (weeping religious statues, medi­cal miracles at Lourdes, intercessory prayer, Shroud of Turin, etc.). In fact, the biblical miracles of Jesus, including his bodily resur­rection, have now been even rejected by over 75 religion professors and biblical scholars composing the Jesus Seminar.[vii]

The human mind

Neuro-science informs us that our minds appear to be totally a function of the neuro-anatomy and phy­siology of our evolved brains. No link to some kind of “spirit” world has been found. There is just no scien­tific evidence for (and a stagger­ing amount of evidence against) any “ghost in the machine” that is separate from our physical brain and lives on after death. [viii]

The human brain has an extremely long evolutionary history. Our brain evolved from an ancient fish brain some 500 million years ago, up through an almost infinite line of ancestors by a process called natural selection. As a result, the human brain, with its many quirks and flaws accumu­lated over eons of time, has made it extremely difficult for us to truly come to grips with numerous aspects of both ourselves and our modern complex world.[ix]

The mental and emotional problems associated with our evolved brain now fill psychiatric textbooks. We tend to be xenophobic and to be attracted to charismatic leaders. We have delusions and fake memories. We can be easily seduced by long disproved para­normal, superstitious, and supernatural beliefs. We become completely locked into belief systems despite all contrary evidence.

As one outcome, our brains have created scores of religions, each one claiming to be the absolute word of this god or that god. In doing so, we’ve rejected centuries of our finest sci­ence and critical rational thought in favor of various “holy books” and super­natural forces.[x] Given our evolved brain and the cultures that sprang from that brain, entire societies have suppressed women, engaged in genocide, fought endless wars, destroyed their environmental life-support systems, and/or believed in apoca­lyptic theologies which threaten the very survival of the entire human species.

Additional arguments against the existence of the biblical god

a. Other gods and religions: Over the millennia humans have created thou­sands of different gods and religious belief systems. All of these different gods (speaking through their prophets, gurus, ayatollahs, shamans, mullahs, clerics, swamis, priests, ministers, rabbis, etc.) have given their follow­ers quite different moral laws and rules regarding just about everything. Logically they can’t all be right. Yet there’s no scientific way to deter­mine which ones are wrong, if not all of them. Thus, on what grounds is an outsider sup­posed to be able to choose between Islamic dogma, Catholic dogma, Bap­tist moral edicts, Hindu beliefs and so on? Indeed, how can theology be considered know­ledge at all when there’s no way to resolve differ­ences short of prayer, persecu­tion and drawing swords?

b. The Bible: If the find­ings of the last sev­­er­al hundred years of scientific discoveries, plus the histori­cal, tex­tual and lin­guis­tic ana­ly­ses of the Bible using the latest sci­entific tools, plus the arch­­­­ae­o­lo­g­i­cal dis­cov­er­ies and com­­para­tive reli­gious stu­d­­ies are all put together and taken seriously, then the Bible appears (at least to those biblical scholars who employ the scientific method) to be a very human book, a book hav­ing no more claim to divine status than does any other book written by humans. It was written by people who lived long ago and who knew no more con­cer­n­ing the nature of the cosmos, the world, or life than did any­one else. It contains enough contradic­tions, ambiguities and incon­sis­tencies to fill books.[xi] As a result, thousands of different Christian sects have appeared over the centuries — sects which disa­gree with each other on just about every­thing — from how to get to heaven, to the time of ensoulment, to the morality of slavery, contra­cep­tion, suffrage, gay equality, abor­tion, and death with dignity, to women wearing long pants.

There’s still much to learn, but skepticism is high

Today, all of the relevant scientific evidence— from astrophysics, evolutionary biology and bio­chemistry, to the lack of any solid evidence for the existence of paranormal and supernatural events, to evidence from objective historical research into the Bible and other holy books — all this evidence has finally reached a critical mass which strongly supports the following powerful thesis: there never were any gods in the first place, at least in any kind of mani­festation that is of interest to the overwhelming majority of Christians, Muslims, Jews and other religious folk.[xii]

Of course, many scientific questions remain and always will. There are major questions surround­ing the origin of the uni­verse and what really are mass, space and time. There are questions on some “fine-tuning” aspects of our uni­verse, why its expan­sion is accelerating, and what are dark mass and dark energy. There are major questions regard­­ing the origin of life and the workings of the human brain.

Yet, of critical relevance, as scientific know­ledge continued to advance over the last 400 years, supernatural explanations for events con­tinued to retreat and retreat … and retreat. Many scientists faced with such a consistent trend have extrapo­lated and declared all of our earthly gods to be non-existent.

Scientists, of course, can only attempt to answer empiri­cally testable questions. Thus, some scientists who are also religious point out that just because a phenome­non can be explained naturally doesn’t mean that God had nothing to do with it. After all, perhaps it was God’s absolute­ly elegant plan for humans to evolve in the first place.

But, respond the non-theists, “God did it” answers don’t explain anything. No experiments or observations are suggest­ed. No outcomes are predicted. It’s just giving ignorance a name. Also, even if there is an “In­telligence” lurking behind all of na­ture, that still doesn’t mean by any stretch of logic that it’s the biblical God. After all, once supernatu­ral answers enter the picture, the possibilities are endless. For example, maybe Satan deceived hun­dreds of thousands of scien­tists over the centuries into thinking we evolved over the last 3.8 billion years. Or for that matter, maybe humans were merely evolved as future “fast food” for God’s truly chosen species which is now touring our galaxy.

Some closing thoughts

Religion is one of the most powerful social phe­nomena in the world. It has guided nations, wars, societies, even whole eras; it has catalyzed climactic moments in history. So, should our religions be open to criti­cal analysis and evaluation in our colleges and univer­sities? Should this be an ongoing assignment of anthropologists, sociolo­gists, archaeo­lo­gists, evo­lu­tion­ary psychologists, geneti­cists & others, all using the scientific method and aided by the recently developed powerful computer tools of statistical, textual and lin­guis­tic analysis? Or is such an undertaking way too dangerous, given who we are as a species? Should the domain of the sacred remain a shroud­ed enclave?

[i]See Larson, E. and Witham, L., 1999, “Scientists and Religion in America,” Scientific American, Sept., pp. 88-93. The specific question asked was: Do you believe in (1) “a God in intel­lectual and affective communication with man…to whom one may pray in expectation of receiving an answer” and (2) “personal immortality.”

[ii]Tanner Edis, The Ghost in the Machine (Prometheus Press, 2002). See also Free Inquiry,; The Skeptical Inquirer: The Magazine for Science and Reason,:; Skeptic magazine,; Prometheus Books,

[iii]In 1999, the National Academy of Sciences pub­lished the 2nd Edition of a booklet titled Science and Creat­ion­ism in which it stated (p. 28) that our evolution from more ancient life forms today is con­sidered a fact by scien­tists, because they no longer question whether or not it occurred since the evidence in support is so strong. In 2008 the NAS published its 3rd book, Science, Evolution, and Creationism in which it notes: “The disco­very and understanding of the process of evolution represent one of the most powerful achieve­ments in the history of science…Evolution successfully explains the diversity of life on Earth and has been confirmed repeatedly through obser­vation and experiment in a broad spectrum of scientific disciplines. Evolutionary science provides the foun­dation for modern biology.” See Also see the National Center for Sci­ence Education:

Today, most Christians still find evolution to be incompatible with their faith, not just because their theology is biblically based, but because they believe that a god who works through evolution is much too remote. Their theology requires a very personal God who is actively involved with individual human lives and who, there­fore, gives purpose to life.

[iv] See The Science of Good & Evil by Michael Shermer (Times Books – 2004). Also, see Teehan, J. “The Evolution of Religious Ethics,” Free Inquiry, June/July 2005, pp. 40-43.

[v] The National Acad­emy of Sciences states that 140 years of research had produced no scien­tific justi­fication for the exist­ence of any paranormal phenomena. In 1997, the James Randi Educational Foun­dation reported that anyone who could demon­strate any para­nor­mal, or psy­chic abil­ity under tightly controlled scien­tific conditions would be paid $1,000,000. Many have tried and so far no one’s col­lected a dime! For more information check the web site at (

Also see Skeptics Society at ( and CSICOP/ The Skeptical Inquirer: The Magazine for Science and Reason:

[vi]CSICOP/ The Skeptical Inquirer: The Magazine for Science and Reason:

Skeptics Society/ Skeptic magazine:

Prometheus Books:

[vii]In 1985 the “Jesus Seminar” was orga­nized to deter­mine which, if any, of Jesus’ miracles could possibly have been authentic. Over 75 reli­gion pro­fessors and other schol­ars contributed. By 1993, these experts had rejected the vir­gin birth, all of Jesus’ mira­cles, and even his bodily resurrection. See: The Five Gospels: The Search for the Authen­tic Words of Jesus (Macmillan Press), 1993.

Price, R., 1998, “The Jesus Seminar: Historians or Believers?”, Free Inquiry, Winter, pp. 9-10.

See also: U.S. News & World Report, April 8, 1996. Newsweek, April 8, 1996. Time, April 8, 1996. Pub­lishers Weekly, May 13, 1996, pp. 36-7.

[viii]Zeman, A., 2003, Consciousness: A User’s Guide (Yale University Press). Zeman is a neurologist in Edinburgh; Fischbach, G., 1992, “Mind and Brain,” Scientific Ameri­can, September. Dr. Fischbach is a professor of neuro­biology and chairman of the department of neuro­biology at Harvard Medical School.; B. Hinrichs, “Brain Research and Folk Psy­cho­logy,” The Humanist, March/April 1997; T. Clark, “Materialism and Morality,” The Hum­anist, Nov./Dec. 1998, pp. 20-25. Also see books by Dr. John R. Searle.

[ix] A few relevant books include: On Being Certain: Believing You Are Right Even When You’re Not by Robert Burton, 2007; Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me) by Carol Tavris and Eliot Aronson, 2007; A Mind of its Own by Cordelia Fine; The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation by Drew Westen, 2007.

[x] Gallup polls consistently reveal that an overwhel­m­ing majority of Ameri­cans continue to hold at least some beliefs that are viewed as non-rational, nonsci­en­­tific & nonsen­sical by the scientific community. For example, the National Science Foundation’s biennial report (2002) reported that 60% of adult Americans believe in ESP, 40% think that astrology is scientific and 70% accept magnetic therapy as scientific. In addition, a 2003 Harris Poll found that 84% of Americans believe in a soul that survives after death and in supernatural miracles.

[xi] As one example see Biblical Errancy, an 800 page reference guide by C. Dennis McKinsey. Also check out the Encyclopedia of Biblical Difficulties (476 pages).

[xii]As one key reference, read Victor J. Stenger’s book Has Science Found God? The Latest Results inthe Search for Purpose in the Universe (2003). Dr. Stenger is emeritus professor of physics at the University of Hawaii. Also a must read is Tanner Edis’s book, The Ghost in the Universe (2002). Dr. Edis is assistant professor of physics at Truman State University Missouri.

Other relevant books include Richard Dawkins’ The Blind Watchmaker (1987) and Daniel Dennett’s Darwin’s Dangerous Idea (1991). See also the following web sites:;; www.natcenscied .org.

Arguing what we don’t know and what we know about life after death?

In a recent review of John Gray’s book, The Immortalization Commission (Science and the Strange Quest to Cheat Death), Clancy Martin (professor of philosophy at the University of Missouri, Kansas City) praises Gray for an interesting account of the weird and fascinating search for evidence of life after death. But Martin is bothered by what he claims is a basic fallacy in Gray’s dismissal of the likelihood of any positive results from the on-going search for life after death. Quoting Professor Martin:

… Gray’s account is undermined by the fact that he clings to an undefended premise, which he believes to be Darwin’s great idea: “Humans are animals, with no special destiny assuring them a future beyond their earthly home.” . . . . No reasonable person would disagree with the idea that human beings are animals. But very little follows from this fact, especially given that we know little or nothing about the subjective experience or capacities of any animals other than ourselves. Whether we are talking about morality or mortality, my observation that dogs are not so very unlike human beings does not allow me to conclude that human beings have no greater capacity for morality than dogs, [or] that we have “no special destiny” or “future beyond our earthly home.” Gray is committing the logical fallacy known as argument from ignorance: we can’t argue from what we don’t know to what we know.

The problem is that Professor Martin is wrong. This is not the fallacy of arguing from ignorance. The only basis for charging Gray with committing a fallacy is the mere possibility that “humans have a future beyond our earthly home,” as Martin expresses it. In other words, all that Clancy Martin can reasonably claim is that it is possible that some aspect of personality extends beyond the death of the body. But the mere possibility that something might be fact does not show that any conclusion to the contrary is based on ignorance. For example, it is possible that undetectable aliens from outer space control the thinking of the great evangelist, Billy Graham; but most rational, sane persons do not believe that, believing instead that Graham’s convictions result from his religious training and experiences. Our belief is not one based on ignorance, although we cannot prove that Graham’s thinking is not controlled by aliens. We have not committed the fallacy of argument from ignorance.

To make this clearer, let me delve a little more into this issue.

Do we commit the fallacy of arguing from ignorance every time we point to ignorance or a lack of evidence as basis for a conclusion? No, we do not. For example, we do not commit this fallacy when reject the conclusion that Muslims secretly plan to overthrow the U.S. government because there is no evidence given for such a conclusion. Given that no evidence is forthcoming and given that if such an event were likely there would be evidence for that event (or at least some indications of that event happening), then it is a valid to conclude that most probably the event is not a fact. Sometimes our best information on a specific claim is that there is no evidence to support the claim (or even to show the probability of the event at issue), and when we point this out we are not committing the fallacy of “argument from ignorance. The mere possibility that there could be a Muslim conspiracy does not allow us to conclude much of anything.

To get a better sense of the fallacy of argument from fallacy, let us consult the logic text (Irving M. Copi, Introduction To Logic, 6th edition). When we do we read the following:

Argument from ignorance: ..illustrated by the statement that there must be ghosts because no one has ever been able to prove that there aren’t any Generally, the fallacy occurs when it is argued that a proposition is true because nobody has ever proven it false; or when one argues that a proposition is false because nobody has ever proven it to be true. An example of the latter: It is false that there are ghosts because nobody has ever proven that there are ghosts.

The idea is that ghosts might exist although nobody has demonstrated that there are such entities. We could commit the fallacy of arguing from ignorance if we concluded that absolutely there are no ghosts because nobody has ever proven that ghosts are real. Our ignorance of any proof demonstrating the existence of ghosts is not proof that such things do not exist. However, Copi goes on to note that

….in some circumstances it can be correctly assumed that if a certain event had occurred, evidence of it could be discovered by qualified investigators. In such circumstances it is perfectly reasonable to take the absence of proof of its occurrence as positive proof of its non-occurrence. .. the proof here is not based on ignorance but on our knowledge that if the event had occurred it would be known.

This qualification means that when I argue that belief in an afterlife is not supported by any objective evidence and therefore likely false, I have not committed the fallacy of arguing from ignorance. The possibility of an afterlife is weakened by a complete lack of evidence to support that thesis. I do not argue that this lack of evidence proves the impossibility of an afterlife. I simply make the reasonable assumption that, if an afterlife was reality, there would be some neutral, objective evidence to indicate that reality. Given the lack of any such evidence, it is obviously a rational position to hold that most probably biological beings such as humans do not have an afterlife.

I submit that this is what Gray has done. His study of the efforts to demonstrate life after death indicates a complete lack of neutral, objective evidence for the belief in existence after death. He also knows that all the relevant sciences (e.g. biology, evolutionary biology) indicate that human beings are physical, biological beings whose existence is strictly a mortal, biological existence. The conclusion that there is no identity beyond death is not one based on ignorance. It is based on knowledge of evolved, biological life and knowledge of the rational, scientific inferences that intelligent beings are entitled to make.

Belief in God and Social Antagonism

News item: May 5, 2011: “Atheists in Orange County, California sponsor a highway billboard which reads:


(The web address for the Orange County Coalition of Reason was included)

Local television newscasts carried this as one of their local news features, with newscasters making the usual comments about atheists making statements that are provocative and offensive to religion.

“Billboard in Orange County causes outrage.”

A few people were interviewed and we heard comments such as

“This is really offensive to me!”
“This is stupid! But I guess everyone has right of free speech.”
“No, this should not be allowed.”

Belief in God. Why is it such a volatile subject? Why should anyone be offended by a person’s declaration that he does not believe in God? Should we (secularists) be offended by another person’s declaration of a belief in God?

In our society, belief in God is assumed and promoted in many places and by many people. US Presidents and politicians frequently invoke that God bless this nation. All our currency carries the slogan “In God we trust.” May fifth has been declared a national day of prayer, which for most Americans implies a prayer to God. This is acceptable, even commendable, to the dominant majority. Some political conservatives and Christian fundamentalists even declare that true patriotism is not possible without belief in God. (Remember when President George H.W. Bush made this preposterous remark?)

On the other hand, non-belief in deity (whether atheism or merely agnosticism) is not easily accepted and is even seen as a threat. Not only are atheists and other non-believers considered unpatriotic, they are considered immoral people, outlaws, and nihilists. The assumption is that without God one cannot find meaning or value in existence; and that one will surely not recognize any moral values or rules. “If there is no God, every thing is permitted,” Dostoevsky was reported to have declared.

Many believers are offended by the mere statement of non-belief. Many believers in a supernatural being look on the contrary statement of non-belief as a threat, an insult, and even an “outrage.” Why is this so? Maybe they see God as the basis for their entire picture of reality; so questions about the base are seen as an attack on their fundamental view of reality.

From an enlightened, rationalist perspective, this intolerance on part of the believer is a form of irrationality and a very narrow, parochial way of looking at things. Carried out consistently this narrow-mindedness would result in a lack of tolerance, even antagonism, with respect to a variety of religious traditions (those not based on theistic doctrine) and secular philosophies (those which don’t posit the reality of a supernatural being).

The narrow-mindedness and dogmatism of the typical fundamentalist religionist are such that any secular, naturalistic philosophy is seen as promoting immorality and nihilism. In an age of science and reason, this attitude comes across as a very primitive form of irrationalism.

Those of us who take a secular perspective on the world don’t think that the mere fact of our refusal to avow the prevailing forms of supernaturalism and theism should be seen by the majority of believers as a threat or an attack on their way of life. My stating that I don’t believe in your God does not attack or threaten you and your religion. I am not interested in converting you to my way of thinking.

Many believers – primarily religious fundamentalists — seem to think that religious conformity is such a highly valued condition that society should insist on conformity, at least so far as belief in a deity is concerned. But why should such conformity be so highly valued?

The problem is that for many believers — especially religious fundamentalist – ‘God’ is the ground for an entire way of life, for all meaning in existence and for the values that give meaning to existence. So when the skeptic denies that God, he denies the very grounds for all that has worth for the believer.

Traditional Christian and Jewish religions contribute to this outlook by way of the Biblical Ten Commandments, three of which declare the obligation that humans have to God; implying of course that denial of that God is the greatest moral offense.

Obviously, then, a philosophy that promotes non-belief in a supernatural being or simply omits belief in a supernatural being will be seen as a threat to theistic religion. So we can understand why those who give high priority to their theistic faith and regard their ‘God’ as the most important aspect of their reality would feel threatened, even attacked, by the affirmation of a non-theistic or atheistic philosophy.

On the other hand, a secular, enlightened attitude is one that tolerates a variety of views on such questionable issues as the reality of a supernatural being who oversees and commands the human world. Ours is an open, free society which tolerates both theistic and non-theistic outlooks on life. Those of us who don’t belong to the prevailing theistic religions and who don’t profess belief in a deity should not be obliged to keep quiet or coerced into keeping quiet about our non-belief and skepticism regarding supernatural claims. My stating that I don’t believe in your ‘God’ may not help you and others to promote such belief. But my stating my view should NOT be seen as directly attacking or insulting your point of view, just as your heart-felt statement of your belief in your “God” should not be seen as an insult or offense to my agnostic view.

C Rulon: Is Evolution a Fact?

By Charles Rulon
Emeritus, Life Sciences
Long Beach City College

The following Q&A evolved from numerous questions raised by my students over the years.

Q. My pastor told us that evolution is a weak theory on the verge of collapse. Is this true?

No. Evolution’s funda­mental prin­ciple—the shared ancestry of living organisms—has over­come all scientific challenges. It has been scien­tifically settled for over a century. We really are related by common ancestry to gorillas, kangaroos and starfish. The National Acad­emy of Sciences in its sec­ond edition of the booklet Sci­ence and Creat­ion­ism even stated that our evo­lu­tion is consid­ered a “fact” by scien­tists the world over be­cause the “evi­dence in support of evolution is so strong that scientists no longer question whe­­ther or not it took place”.[1] Richard Dawkins, Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at the University of Oxford, as usual put it bluntly:

“Evolution is not a theory, and for pity’s sake let’s stop confusing the philo­sophically naive by calling it so. Evolution is a fact.”

Hundreds of thousands of dated fossils, including tens of thousands of transition­al forms found in museums around the world, have clearly demonstrate the evol­u­tion of major types of organisms (including us) from earlier forms. Strong evidence for our evolution also converges from the fields of genet­ics, molec­ular biology, embryology, com­par­a­tive anatomy, comparative phy­si­ology, tax­on­omy and biogeo­graphy. In fact, few, if any, scienti­fic con­cepts in the last 150 years has been more exten­sively tested and more thor­ough­ly cor­robo­rated than our evolution over the last several billion years.

Today almost every major sci­en­­tific organi­­za­tion in this country and throughout the world has published statements support­ing its reality.[2] In addition, over two dozen top scien­­tific orga­­ni­­­­za­tions have pub­lished state­­ments support­ing the use of evolution in biology class­rooms as the “mega-theme” upon which an under­­stand­ing of the life scien­ces must hang. The National Science Edu­ca­tion Stand­ards even specifies that evo­l­u­tion is to be taught as a fundamen­tal, basic concept in science in grades 9 through 12.[3]

Q. Still, aren’t there many unanswered questions surrounding evolution?

Of course. Since biological evolution spans billions of years, with hundreds of millions of different species having evolved and then mostly going extinct, questions will always remain regarding specific evolutionary mechanisms, the speed of evolution and exactly what evolved from what. But one thing essentially all scientists doing real science agree upon is the fact of evolution itself.

Q. Are you saying that you, personally, have no leaps of faith when it comes to evolu­tion?

Right, unless you would consider it a leap of faith that:

—Our planet really does exist about which scien­tists are able to obtain reliable know­­ledge.

—Hundreds of thousand of scien­tists over the past 150 years and across the globe have not been perpetrating a gigantic hoax.

—Some supernatural entity didn’t plant all of the mountains of evi­dence for evolution down to the very last detail.

Remember, the scien­ti­fic method has proved it­self over and over again to be the most power­ful tool we’ve ever dis­cov­er­ed for under­standing how our world works—not the way we might want things to work, but the way things actually seem to work.

Q. So scientists absolutely know that we evolved?

Philosophers debate the meaning of the word, absolute, and whether or not the abso­lute truth about anything can ever be known. Per­haps there are no absolutes in sci­ence, only varying degrees of probability. How­ever, for any number of scien­tific theories this level of certainty is very high. There are laws and mega-theories of physics for which no excep­tions have ever been found. Today there is no doubt that the earth goes around the sun, that germs cause a variety of dis­eases, and that all life on earth evolved. The fact that jet airplanes, satellites, computers and cell phones work so well attests to the strength of the scientific method and of relevant scientific theories.

But all scientific theo­ries (unlike re­li­g­ious dogmas) are con­stantly open to the possi­bility of modification, even rejec­tion in light of new evi­dence. Even incre­d­i­bly well-docu­mented theories could conceivably become part of (or give way to) even more grand theo­ries not even imagin­able at this time. Evolution is not some kind of religious dogma for me that I’m clinging to like millions of Americans cling to the totally dis­proved Genesis crea­tion­ myth.

Q. Is natural selection also a fact?

No. But natural selection, as the primary (but not only) mechanism driving evolution, is considered a very strong theory. It’s a mind­less automatic process where the constant appearance of random genetic variety is followed by fitter organisms surviving and reproducing, while the less fit are weeded out. That’s it. No evidence of an Intelli­gent Designer directing the process; no evidence of superb planning. In the extremely unlikely event that natural selection was ever to be re­plac­ed, evolution would still stand. All of the fossil and non-fossil evidence would still exist.

Q. Couldn’t Darwin have been biased by his athe­ism?

As a youth Darwin firmly be­lieved the Bible to be the in­spired word of God and spent three years at Cambridge preparing for ordina­tion as a clergy­man. Yet, through his prolonged study of nature it slow­ly became apparent to him that his creation­ist beliefs were false. In the last half of his life, Darwin was probably an agnostic, not an atheist. However, even if Darwin had consciously or unconsciously twist­ed the data to fit some atheistic ideology, other research­ers would have eventually caught his fabri­cations and correct­ed them. This is how science works.

Q. How can evo­lu­tion be scientific since it hap­pened only once and no one saw it? It’s not reproducible.

How do we know about any­thing that has hap­pened in the past? Because evi­dence is left be­hind. The scientific fields of astron­omy, his­tori­cal geo­logy, ar­chae­ology, paleontology and physi­cal anthro­po­logy all rely on the col­lect­ed evidence of events that happened only once and were never di­rectly seen by humans.

Regarding evo­lution, scientists have evi­dence from many differ­ent scien­tific fields. There are mil­lions of fos­sils. There is abundant molec­u­lar and ge­netic evidence. There is consid­erable evidence from compara­tive anatomy and from biogeo­graphy. If all this data is collect­ed in a scien­tifi­c man­ner and if the theory which explains this data also makes new and pre­cise predic­tions which can be checked out, then the theory (in this case, evo­lu­tion) is defi­nitely scien­tific.

Besides, much of the evidence for evolution is re­pro­ducible in that other paleon­tolo­gists can go into the same geolog­i­cal areas and dis­cover similar fos­sils. The ages and authen­­tic­ity of these fossils can be dou­ble-checked by inde­pendent labs. In thou­sands of instan­ces, rocks have been dated by two or more different ra­dioactive clocks and the ages deter­mined have been in good agree­ment.

Remember also, no one has ever seen radio waves, X-rays or electrons. But we’re quite sure they exist be­cause we see the evi­dence of their reality when we turn on the radio, study an X-ray film, or correctly pre­dict the operation of electrical de­vices. And if a murder suspect left his finger­prints on the murder weapon, the vic­tim’s blood is under the sus­pect’s finger­nails and there’s a strong motive, it’s usu­ally an open and shut case even though no one actually saw the murder. Con­versely, millions of people claim to have seen things which have never been found to exist at all, like ghosts and space aliens.

Some final thoughts

Today, the mega-theme of biological evolu­t­ion is securely tied by literally thou­sands of lines of evidence anchor­­ing it to virtually every other area of human know­ledge. Thus it would appear to be the height of scientific ignor­ance, stub­born­ness and/or religious blindness to reject evolu­tion just because it sounds too impossible, or because it’s personally dis­taste­­ful, or because it conflicts with a literal read­ing of one specific ancient creation story. One might just as well reject gravity.

But that is what has happened. Today, tens of millions of Americans (including mem­bers of Congress, at least two U.S. Supreme Court Justices and one-third of all high school biology teachers) are convinced that evolution is a spiritually bankrupt speculative philoso­phy, not a sci­entific fact—that only an atheist could ever believe this Satanic idea—that Christ didn’t die to save some evolved monkeys!

[1] To obtain a copy of Science and Creation­ism, go to their web page .

[2] This list includes the National Academy of Sciences, the American Astro­nomi­cal Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the National Science Teachers’ Association, the American Geophysical Union, the Paleontological Society, the National Associ­ation of Geoscience Teachers, the Association of American State Geo­lo­­gists, the Society for Vertebrate Paleontology, the Geological Society of America, the American Chemical Society, the Botanical Society of America and the American Association of Physics Teachers.

[3]As a reflection of this certainty and its impor­tance, the California Depart­ment of Edu­cation man­dated back in 1990 that, as of 1992, biological evolu­tion was to be included as one of six basic science themes for all the high schools in Cali­fornia. Their publication, “The Science Framework for Cali­fornia Public Schools K-12″ (1990) referred to bio­log­ical evolu­tion as a fact and natural selection as a theory (p. 134). There has been contin­uous strong religious pressure to have this mandate watered down.