Michael Shermers six specific fears about evolution

an excerpt from Why Darwin Matters

            - <b>A general resistance to science.</b> This reaction falls under the rubric of what I call the Conflicting Worlds Model of the relationship of science and religion, where one is forced to choose one over the other. In particular, if scientific discoveries do not appear to support religious tenets, believers tend to opt for religion, nonbelievers for science. 
	- <b>Belief that evolution is a threat to specific religious tenets.</b> Many people attempt to use science to prove certain religious tenets, but when they do not appear to fit, the science is rejected. For example, the attempt to prove that the Genesis creation story is accurately reflected in the geological fossil record has led many creationists to conclude that the Earth was created within the past 10,000 years, which is in sharp contrast to the geological evidence for a 4.6 billion-year old Earth. If one insists on the findings of science squaring true with religious doctrines, this can lead to conflict between science and religion. 

	- <b>Misunderstanding of evolutionary theory.</b> A significant problem is that most people know so little about the theory. In a 2001 Gallup poll, for example, a quarter of the people surveyed said they didn’t know enough to say whether they accepted evolution or not, and only 34 percent considered themselves to be “very informed” about the theory. Because evolution is so controversial, public school science teachers typically drop the subject entirely rather than face the discomfort aroused among students and parents. 
	- <b>The fear that evolution degrades our humanity.</b> After Copernicus toppled the pedestal of our cosmic centrality, Darwin delivered the coup de gr¬ace by revealing us to be “mere” animals, subject to the same natural laws and historical forces as all other animals. Yet, Copernicus no longer generates controversy because his theory of heliocentrism is fully embraced, whereas Darwin’s theory remains controversial because people of faith have been told that it is a threat to their religion. 
	- <b>The equation of evolution with ethical nihilism.</b> This sentiment was expressed by the neo-conservative social commentator Irving Kristol in 1991: “If there is one indisputable fact about the human condition it is that no community can survive if it is persuaded—or even if it suspects—that its members are leading meaningless lives in a meaningless universe.” Similar fears were raised by Nancy Pearcey, a fellow of the Discovery Institute in a briefing on Intelligent Design before a House Judiciary Committee of the United States Congress. She cited a popular song urging “you and me, baby, ain’t nothing but mammals so let’s do it like they do on the Discovery Channel.” Pearcey went on to claim that since the U.S. legal system is based on moral principles, the only way to generate ultimate moral grounding is for the law to have an “unjudged judge,” an “uncreated creator.” 

	- <b>The fear that evolutionary theory implies we have a fixed human nature.</b> The first five reasons for the resistance to evolutionary theory come almost exclusively from political conservatives. This last reason originates from liberals who fear that the application of evolutionary theory to human thought and action implies that political policy and economic doctrines will fail because the constitution of humanity is stronger than the constitutions of states.

That’s one Shermer book I haven’t yet bought - a situation I aim to remedy soon. His Why People Believe Weird Things is definitely worth the effort.


I just finished Why People Believe Weird Things. I like the more “spiritual” approach to science and thinking he takes.

From http://www.skeptic.com/eskeptic/06-10-25.html :

[b]Why is it so important that people understand evolution?[/b]

It’s the founding principle of most of biology, it’s one of the half-dozen most important theories in the entire history of science, and it’s really one of the foundational theories of a couple of questions that we care the most about, such as “Where do we come from?” and “What’s our place in the universe?” That’s why cosmology also fascinates us — it deals with those big, ultimate questions. Those two subjects, cosmology and evolution, are at the forefront of the evolution wars because they bump up against traditionally religious turf. Theologians feel like that’s what they deal with, and scientists say that they can have something to say about this, too. That’s what makes people nervous.

What I’m trying to do in Why Darwin Matters is show that you don’t have to be nervous, there’s nothing to be afraid of. No one should be afraid of the truth about reality, and science is the best tool we have for illuminating the truth about reality. And so even though it’s always changing, and the truth is a small “t,” it’s still the best method we have.

As Berlinski pointed to Scott in the fireline debate:“There is no theory of evolution”. Darwin used the term Theory of gradual evolution but never actually gave any theory. His conjecture though of finding fossils with gradual change has been falsified - them
dead bones aren’t there.

“,…In biology, evolution is the change in the inherited traits of a population from generation to generation. …”

This quote from Wikipedia is not a theory but an observation which is independent of any theory as to why the traits change.

Hmm, thought that someone might have picked-up on this sooner.

I have read this claim often in many discussions and it is based on outdated scientific information which has been repeated for decades. The same argument has been put forward since the middle of the previous century. Fortunately science progresses and new evidence is found every year.

Notice that the link above includes references. You have not provided references to studies which concluded that the there is insufficient evidence of transitional fossils in evolution - once you have those then you will progress from a conjecture to a (testable) theory. We can investigate the work in the references of your references to make sure that they are also not just conjectures.

That’s because it’s not obvious what either of metari’s point and intent is. At the moment it seems like s/he’s playing linguistic games.