January 21, 2009


Has Darwin Failed?: Human beings, animals and plants were not created by God, but are the result of evolution. Charles Darwin published this revolutionary theory 150 years ago. It's been a huge success with scientists, but it was never popular. Is the human brain wired toward supernatural belief? (Markus Becker, 1/20/09, Der Spiegel)

According to a survey completed by the European Commission in early 2005, 52 percent of the citizens in the European Union believe in God. About one in four Europeans stated that while not believing in a personal God, they did believe in "a sort of spirit or life force," and only 18 percent outed themselves as non-believers. Germany ranked in the middle of countries surveyed, with 47 percent of respondents declaring a belief in God. According to the 2005 study, 25 percent of Germans said they believed in a higher power other than God, while another 25 percent believed in neither.

In an international comparison, these numbers still place Germany and the EU among the world's most secular regions. In the United States, the Gallup Organization regularly polls people on questions of God and science. According to the most recent result only 14 percent believe Homo sapiens arrived in the world as a sole result of evolution. Thirty-six percent believe evolution did take place, but under the guidance of God. The largest group, comprising 44 percent, believes the Almighty himself created man in his current form -- and that this occurred no more than 10,000 years ago.

Even in Darwin's native Britain, a majority of citizens no longer adheres to the theory of evolution, as a 2006 survey showed. Only 48 percent of Britons claimed to believe in it. More than 40 percent would like to see the Biblical story of creation taught in government-run schools -- and not just in religious studies, but also in biology class. One in four teachers on the government's payroll agree.

But nowhere is the battle between supporters and opponents of Darwin's theory as heated as in the United States. On the one side are creationists, who for some years have promoted a worldview they call "intelligent design," in which God created man and all life. They are opposed by the overwhelming majority of scientists and an increasingly vocal atheist movement, which views organized religion as little more than a childish belief that rises to the level of a public danger. A large number of books that discuss religion, in terms ranging from the levelheaded to the irate, have made it onto US bestseller lists in recent years.

Between the two fronts are those who are either uninterested in the issue or believe that science and religion could be reconciled, perhaps even complement each other. Their favorite argument is that religion does not, in fact, seek to make any scientific claims, while science is only interested in mapping the galaxies and analyzing genes, avoiding ethical and ideological questions.

So maybe it's just a big misunderstanding? Hardly. Some academics like to point out that certain questions are beyond the scope of science, such as the ultimate source of the universe and whether there is a higher purpose to its existence. But even in these metaphysical realms, there is overlap. "Religions make existence claims, and this means scientific claims," says Richard Dawkins, biologist, bestselling author and figurehead of the so-called New Atheists. "A universe with a supernatural presence would be a fundamentally and qualitatively different kind of universe from one without."

At the point where Mr. Dawkins conceded to Ben Stein that even his own extreme version of Naturalism depended on a SuperNatural primum mobile you'd think the titular question had been answered.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at January 21, 2009 1:02 PM
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