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Beyond Belief

According to a Gallup Poll announced in June, forty-six percent of Americans believe that “God created humans in their present form within the last 10,000 years”. Only fifteen percent accepted that humans had evolved without God’s intervention.  On the face of it these are alarming statistics, particularly since on the 11 occasions the polls have dealt with this subject since 1982 the results appear to have been remarkably consistent. The 1982 figure for the creationist view was forty-four percent.

This prompted an article in theNew Yorker (7 June, 2012) asking, or rather telling us, ‘Why We Don’t Believe in Science’ and suggesting that “we come equipped with all sorts of naïve intuitions about the world”. That we have to “unlearn” our “instincts” and that “primal belief lingers in the mind”.

It’s true of course that from an early age we are bombarded with false values, not just religious ideas but, about our place in a class-divided society. And that we have to ‘unlearn’ this nonsense before we can understand our true potential as human beings. But there is nothing natural about holding these views. We believe in them because that is what we are taught. They are the dominant ideas in capitalist society.

The title of the article too, ‘Why We Don’t Believe in Science,’ is confusing. Science is not about ‘belief’. Unlike religion, science concerns itself with provable, tried and tested data and facts.

The statements the poll asked its participants to choose from were loaded. It asked:

“Which of the following statements comes closest to your views on the origin and development of human beings?”

1.   Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God guided the process.

2.   Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God had no part in the process.

3.   God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years.

Although statement 2 leaves God out of human evolution, it doesn’t discount him altogether. It suggests that he may be lurking in the background, waiting to perform his latest miracle perhaps, or maybe still resting after his six days of creation.

The Rev Michael Dowd who rather confusingly describes himself as a ‘religious naturalist’, an ‘evidential mystic’ and a ‘big history evangelist’ doesn’t like the three choices on offer either. Trying to square his religious confusion with reality he would like to see a fourth choice.

“Human beings emerged naturally from a long process of physical and biological creativity that can be spoken of religiously as ‘God’s creation’ or scientifically as ‘evolution’.”

Well no. Ideas about the “physical and biological creativity” of a supernatural being should only be spoken of as religious nonsense. And if there’s one thing we don’t need in the twenty-first century it’s yet more mythological mumbo jumbo or ‘evidential mysticism’, whatever that is, trying to pass itself off as science.

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