August 14, 2007

Atheism and evolution

It seems that few debates capture the imagination and ire of religious and non-religious people alike as completely as the debate surrounding evolution. In the US, it has a long history of court decisions, public arguments, and certainly no shortage of book publishing. It seems that at the heart of the debate stands the relation between science and religion. And maybe one of the things that most people can agree upon in the debate, regardless of side, is that the government should not advocate a specific position on the question of religion and faith. Teach credible science, yes, theology, no. What this basic principle means in practice has quite a variety of proponents, but the basic principle seems to stand. That makes the following quote especially interesting, and certainly food for thought. The quote comes from an article from the First Things blog about the recent surge in publishing about atheism. Enjoy.

"The physicist Steve Barr tells the story of a lecture Daniel Dennett gave last year at the University of Delaware, in which he claimed that Darwin had shredded the credibility of religion and was, indeed, the very “destroyer” of God.

"In the question session, a philosophy professor named Jeff Jordan suggested to Dennett: “If Darwinism is inherently atheistic, as you say, then obviously it can’t be taught in public schools.” “And why is that?” inquired Dennett, incredulous. “Because,” said Jordan, “the Supreme Court has held that the Constitution guarantees government neutrality between religion and irreligion.”

"Dennett, looking as if he’d been sucker-punched, leaned back against the wall and said, after a few moments of silence, “clever.” After another silence, he came up with a reply: He had not meant to say that evolution logically entails atheism, merely that it undercuts religion."


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