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Does belief in evolution lead to atheism?

Darwin famously lost his faith over a long period, though a false deathbed conversion story (the Lady Hope story) is still propagated.

Richard Dawkins has often said that he should never testify in a trial concerning intelligent design. If he were asked, “Did your studying evolution lead you to become an atheist?” he would have to say yes, and any theists in the jury would be antagonised.

If I’m an atheist who’s concerned about the religious threat to science, how can I address the increasingly common perception of evolution as an atheist-maker to help me gain the support of relatively reasonable theists?

Posted: November 27th 2007

flagellant www

Theistic belief, involving a personal, loving, interventionist god has been undermined. Literalism in belief, apart from being dangerous, is ridiculous given our current and ever-expanding scientific knowledge.

Rational believers, if one can use that oxymoron, deny biblical creation and refer to it as 'metaphor’ or simply speculation by ignorant people. Sensibly, these believers – or 'hopers’ as they should be called – prefer scientific explanations to biblical ones. The problem for them is that the more science they accept, the closer they get to atheism. It isn’t just Evolution that’s responsible.

The Universe began aeons ago. As things developed, the Earth came into being and, eventually, primitive life developed. (Craig Venter, first sequencer of the human genome, says that he is about to undertake some experiments to create artificial life. Interesting, eh?)

Evolution explains the development of life on Earth brilliantly and makes predictions that are constantly being borne out. Have a look at the growing and consistent mass of evidence here. If your friends don’t accept Evolution, they are very silly. Things are true if they’re true. Not liking them doesn’t make them any less true. It’d probably take a bit more than the Principle of Evolution (notice that I do not say 'Theory’) to make an atheist of a believer. In the middle ages, 'God’ was everywhere. The creation story was universally taken as true; plagues were punishments from Him, and people lived their superstitious lives constantly in fear of 'the loving Father in Heaven’. Now, such explanations seem ridiculous – our scientific knowledge has seen to that.

The Enlightenment philosophes, who helped to throw off the tyranny of religious thinking, during the eighteenth century, did so even though Darwin and Evolution were yet to come. It was knowledge, and the beginnings of science, that drove and informed them. Some remained deists, others became atheists. Yet we now know much than they did.

The Evolutionary Principle alone doesn’t always lead to atheism. There are some Christian Evolutionists, but not many. The wealth of parallel scientific knowledge, with Evolution, makes religious faith very difficult to justify rationally.

Posted: December 4th 2007

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brian thomson www

PS: calling evolution a “belief” is a slight misnomer: unlike religious belief, you’re not expected to take it on faith or “follow” it on anyone’s word alone. It’s important to understand that the idea started with an interpretation of the available evidence, and has been developed according to more evidence. If we were to start from scratch, with no records or memories of current theories, we’d still come to the same conclusion, because the evidence is independent of people and our preconceptions.

Posted: December 4th 2007

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Russell Blackford www

There are two answers to this. The first is that the fact of biological evolution really does cause problems for most kinds of religion. It not only destroys some (but not all) kinds of design arguments for the existence of a deity; it also makes it much more difficult to believe in a benign and providential god and to believe in some kind of exceptional importance for human beings. Providential theism and human exceptionalism are in trouble, and most religious positions are committed to one or both …

I don’t think there’s any point in denying this. How difficult “more difficult” is, of course, is something that’s open to debate.

Which brings me to the second point. Some religious positions have accommodated themselves to what science is finding out, even if it’s taken intellectual gymnastics. How they do that is really their problem. But presumably if one of these religions is actually true it will be able to explain how everything fits together, including evolution. Nothing about evolution actually rules that out entirely.

Posted: December 2nd 2007

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bitbutter www

I think an understanding of evolution theory should lead to atheism. As far as I’m concerned the argument from design was the last half-decent reason to believe in a creator god and Darwin’s work demolished it.

Studies seem to show that biology is the field with the greatest number of atheist scientists. We could speculate that an appreciation of the beauty and elegance of the theory of evolution leads to a greater likelihood that a person will reject the god hypothesis, but speculation is all it would be.

In any case, the existence of religious people who accept that evolution is real (including every Christian European of my generation with whom I’ve spoken about the subject) shows that it’s by no means certain that belief in evolution leads to atheism.

Posted: December 1st 2007

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SmartLX www

Evolution is the nemesis of the Argument from Design as it pertains to the complexity of life. Not to the universe, not even to the origin of life (abiogenesis is another subject). Evolution only has one huge point to make in the debate over the existence of gods, and that’s it.

Dawkins had lost his faith once before. He reclaimed it at age twelve solely because of the Argument from Design. Education in evolution led to his present atheism only because the lack of just such an explanation was his only remaining anchor to belief.

When creationists claim as a scare tactic that evolution leads to atheism, they are effectively saying that the Argument from Design is the only valid one and belief crumbles without it. The existence of religious biologists like Miller and Collins shows that there must be other personal reasons to believe, but this often goes unconsidered.

Shows a lot of confidence from the creationists in the steadfast faith of their congregations, I don’t think.

Posted: December 1st 2007

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logicel

You can point out the Catholic Church who accepts evolution while retaining its religious beliefs, while Francis Collins and Ken Miller are two very respected scientists who are religious believers and accepters of evolution.

Religious believers can attribute evolution to God, that God set it in place. If a prominent religion and prestigious scientists who are devout religious believers can accept evolution, so can other religious believers.

Evolution was not the reason why I am an atheist from earliest memory for I was too young to even know about evolution. My reason was simply, if God made me, then who made God? The God concept creates more problems that it solves. I also saw no evidence of the supernatural in my every day life, and I knew from reading fairy tales that make believe was not real. So knowing about evolution is not even necessary in becoming an atheist.

Posted: December 1st 2007

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