Tuesday, April 14, 2009

God and evolution; friends or foes?

In the 'debate' over the legitimacy of intelligent design as an alternative explanation to evolution in the development of life on earth, the media portrayal is generally of creationists trying to give scientific legitimacy to the fifth of Aquinas' five arguments for the existence of God versus empirically-minded, atheistic scientists.

I find such characterizations irritating. Sanctimonious leftists who proclaim the indisputability of Darwinian evolution are often the same people who castigate men like James Watson, Gregory Cochran, or Steve Sailer for extending the theory to explain human differences. Richard Dawkins could exhibit true courage by tackling the orthodoxy that guards the blank slate, but instead he rides the soft circuit approved by elite opinion makers almost everywhere, proclaiming the ignorance of religious people in front of highly sympathetic audiences.

Worse, by turning rejection of evolution into a political litmus test, the right not only makes itself look unscientifically primitive, it shoots itself in the foot politically, since human biodiversity realism tends to mesh with the popular right's worldview much better than it does with the worldview of the popular left.

Further, theism and evolution by natural selection need not be mutually exclusive. The natural genetic and fossil evidence for evolution does not bear on the possibility that the supernatural guided the process along or at least set it into motion. By definition, the supernatural cannot be definitively proven or disproven by the natural. The Humian response that miracles conceivably could happen but apparently never do is not absolute but probabilistic in nature. Since piety and demographic sustainability appear to go hand-in-hand, it seems practically worthwhile to give theists an option that is both consistent with their spiritual beliefs and compatible with modern science.

And oh how unique have I felt holding the position laid out above! Turns out, a substantial minority of Americans, on the order of 130 million people, are already there. The unique tastes of millions, indeed. The GSS asked participants about their views on the origin and development of man:

OriginsN = 1440
God created man42.5%
Man evolved, God guided41.6%
Man has evolved12.2%

This question was only asked in 2004, so the results are skewed by time. It might serve as a reality check for readers (as it did for me) that in the contemporary US, approaching half of the citizenry are creationists who deny natural selection, at least as it applies to humans. Among blacks, that is the majority opinion. Responses, by race*:

God created man41.4%56.0%34.1%21.6%
Man evolved, God guided41.7%34.4%56.1%56.9%
Man has evolved13.2%6.0%7.3%19.6%

In the future, it looks as though the conciliatory response is going to gain even more ground. It may well become the majority view, and not only because it is apparently already favored by Hispanics. Responses, by age range:

God created man33.3%47.7%41.2%48.8%
Man evolved, God guided51.0%39.8%39.6%36.9%
Man has evolved12.5%9.1%14.3%12.5%

GSS variables used: AGE(18-29)(30-44)(45-64)(65-89), CREATION, RACECEN1

* Hispanic also includes "some other race", as it is a method of racial identification used almost exclusively (97% of the time) by Hispanics. The Asian category includes Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, and "other Asian". The sample sizes for each are small (41 and 51, respectively) and consequently should only be taken as suggestive.


The Undiscovered Jew said...

In the future, it looks as though the conciliatory response is going to gain even more ground.This is good news for HBD.

If more Americans accept Darwinism as being compatible with Christianity it will be easier for HBDers to incorporate sociobiology policies with mainstream conservative policies.

Unfortunately, as of now many conservatives - who as you point out - ought to be on our side are hostile to sociobiology because they feel Darwinism is an attack on religion.

This is why I think websites such as Secular Right are a mistake.

Rather than being scornful of religion, HBDers will be much more likely to get a seat at the conservative policy table once genetic research achieves critical mass if we focus on how Darwinism justifies much of traditional conservative thinking.

If HBD can try to reach as much common ground as possible with religious conservatives, we are more likely to get a fair hearing for our ideas when the time comes.

Anonymous said...

Note how creationism gets a burst of popularity in the 30-44 age bracket but then falls significantly after 45. I haven't any idea what might explain that.


Anonymous said...

In reading your posts for a while now, a hypothetical occurred to me. You have posted average IQ scores for Asians, Whites, and Blacks and shown that by that measure Asians>Whites>Blacks statistically.

Taking all of that at face value, and statistics being what they are, there are still exceptionally dumb Asians and exceptionally smart Blacks.

So here is my question. Suppose we were given two islands. Further suppose that we populated one of them with 500 Asian men and 500 Asian women all with IQ's of 90 or less. Finally, suppose that we populated the other island with 500 Black men and 500 Black women all with IQ's of 110 or more. If reproduction occurred only within those populations, what would happen over time? In 100 years would we still have one island of dumb Asians and one island of smart Blacks, or would the children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren of the original inhabitants revert to their racial mean IQ's?

Stopped Clock said...

There is no way to know the answer to that question without knowing what genes those original inhabitants had. Genes are only part of what makes someone smart. If you've successfully chosen blacks with all the smart genes and Asians without 'em, then you've made a genuine exception to the race/IQ correlation, and they will be that way forever if they remain genetically isolated. But real-world expatriate populations aren't always like that, which is why we see, for example, regression to the mean among the children of high-IQ African immigrants.

Stopped Clock said...

A random guess to Iron's question: it is the 45+ group that is the outlier, due to it being composed of people who were teenagers during the 60s and absorbed disproportionately leftist ideas. I suspect that if this question had been asked in more years than just 2004 we might get a clearer picture of what was going on.

Personally, I've held to the same belief since I was a young boy: God created the world, and God is still active today, just as it says in the Bible, but just as it also says in the Bible, God works secretly and does not provide direct evidence of everything He does. In other words, God covers his tracks and the idea of humans looking to prove God's existence by searching for evidence of Young Earth Creationism is just silly. I really honestly don't know how Biblical literalism got to be such a big deal and I hear that it wasn't so until the rise of American-born Christian churches with no ties to organizations in Europe, chiefly the Baptists.

Audacious Epigone said...


Well said, as usual. I share your sentiments regarding the Dawkins-like condescending scorn toward religiosity. But there are writers at SR (Razib immediately comes to mind) who, while personally atheistic, are much more clinical in their treatment of religion and the way it intersects with other social aspects than guys like Dawkins are.


On many socio-cultural issues, Gen X has more in common with the Greatest Generation than they do with the boomers. This appears to be one of them.


SC covers all the bases. I'd guess some regression toward the mean would occur in both populations, but specific environmental conditions would begin affecting each of them within a couple of generations.


I see little reason for the Young Earth Creationism or evolution dichotomy. Your working assumption seems perfectly functional to me.

Anonymous said...

I've found that science has actually re-enforced my faith. I'm currently taking a course in Physics of the Early Universe, and the things I'm learning about the Big Bang, various laws of physics, and how we as conscious beings have come to be after the universe started out containing only hydrogen and helium, are so remarkable that it's hard to believe that God couldn't have a hand in it. Besides the lack of direct proof, I don't know why scientists go out of their way so much to disavow God.

The Undiscovered Jew said...


Razib is more even handed at Secular Right, but Heather MacDonald is particularly mean spirited towards the religious.

I don't see what Dawkins and anti-theistic atheists think they are going to accomplish by aggravating Christians. The evangelical atheists are being very counterproductive, IMO.

Anonymous said...

It is difficult for me to believe in evolution and God at the same time.

The more I learn about evolution - a cold, directionless, cruel and brutish process - the less likely it appears that God exists. Humans seem to hold no special ranking in this process and it looks likely that our species - the only one that acknowledges a god - will be short lived in evolutionary terms.

And then there is the issue of egalitarianism. Surely God would not have created people with such inequality, but that's exactly what seems to have occurred.

Religion is all about redemption, egalitarianism and brotherhood, an opportunity to lift oneself above his evolutionary beginnings. It sounds wonderful and I wish that I could believe it, but for now it's logically easier for me to believe in materialism, Spencer and Darwin, the selfish gene and reject the Ghost in the Machine.

But on the other hand, who really knows? Do we even possess, or rather have we evolved the capacity to understand all this? Probably not. So if believing in God makes you feel more fulfilled, if believing in God helps us to behave better to one another and to practice self discipline, if believing in God helps us to strive for spiritual betterment, why attack religion?

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:51,
I completely agree with the thrust of your rhetorical "why attack religion?" question.

I read some of Hitchens' "God is not great" and I flatly reject his premise. While many awful things have been done in the name of religion, I believe that religion has been a justification of convenience, not a primary motivator of most of those things.

In order to justify his position, Hitchens treats religion as the primary motivation of many evils which I believe were not truly religiously motivated.

Furthermore, I think that he and the rest of the militant atheist crowd generally overlook or ignore the good things that religion has contributed to. The abolitionist movement was largely rooted in theology here in the US as was the Civil Rights movement (to a lesser extent) a century later.

Audacious Epigone said...


It strikes me as vanity, but that is just my personal opinion. I don't mean to impugn anyone's integrity without evidence. Like you though, it seems counterproductive to me as well.


There are several secular political ideologies, like the various 20th century isms, that are at a similar level of culpability when it comes to creating suffering as religion is. Wasn't Hitchens' animosity toward religion (in this case, Islam) a driving force in his early and vociferous support for the Iraq war?

al fin said...

I must say that I despise the way Dawkins, Hitchens, and the rest have taken their potshots at devoutly religious people. As an atheo-agnostic who loves a large number of people holding religious beliefs, I consider such attacks to be cowardly and contemptible.

No one has held his religious convictions more deeply than did I, when I held such convictions. I abandoned those convictions through reason alone, essentially without changing my lifestyle or associations significantly.

Of course it would be better for non-religious persons to be more respectful and conciliatory toward persons who are sincerely devout. Unfortunately, too many persons cannot lift themselves out of their innate mean-spiritedness and cheap-shot nature.

Nick said...

Yeah, militant atheists are baffling. What I don't get is how they can be so convinced of the overwhelming beauty of a wholly secular society when such a society has never existed. Sure, countless bad things have happened in religious societies, but we have no alternate history where we were all secularists and everything was wonderful. We just don't know if it'll work, and the assumption that we can fundamentally alter humanity's worldview for the better strikes me as equally utopian as Marxism.

Secularists also falsely assume that everyone will naturally accept tolerant humanism in place of religion, a dubious assertion. As a strong agnostic myself, I incline towards hedonistic self-centeredness. If I ever become an out and out atheist, I'll move even further this direction. I'd likely make a point of it, in fact.

Audacious Epigone said...

AF and Nick,

We need more of you among the non-theists.