The Miss USA competition is evidence that our culture celebrates beauty over brains. Now, that isn’t to say these women aren’t smart per se. All I mean to suggest is that they needn’t sound intelligent to win the pageant. Consider, for example, the contestants’ answers when asked whether evolution should be taught in public schools:
Their answers were, for the most part, woefully (and unashamedly) ignorant. (You can watch every contestant’s answer here.) Several contestants, perhaps wanting to avoid a Carrie Prejean-like controversy, answered that both religion and evolution should be taught in schools. Both should be taught in schools, but not in a science class where students may confuse creationism for an alternative scientific theory to evolution. Religious ideas about the origin and evolution of life should be discussed in philosophy or religious studies courses.
Worse still, of the 51 contestants, only two “unequivocally support[ed]” evolution. Thankfully one of those two was crowned Miss USA: California’s Alyssa Campanella. Here was her response:
I was taught evolution in high school. I do believe in it. I’m a huge science geek. [...] I like to believe in the big bang theory and, you know, the evolution of humans throughout time.
A 2009 Pew Research survey found that Mormons are more skeptical of evolution than any other religious demographic save Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Despite this widespread anti-evolution sentiment within the LDS Church, some Mormons claim that their faith and evolution can be reconciled. BYU biologists uniformly accept evolution as a fact, for instance. And several Mormonbloggers, too, have expressed and explained their belief in evolution. So obviously Mormons can believe in evolution. But given LDS teachings, should they?
I don’t like Richard Dawkins as the spokesman for the ‘New Atheists’, but I still very much respect him as an evolutionary biologist and science educator. In this video, he explains how the eye might have evolved.
One of the banes of my existence are new earth creationists. Another wrench has just gotten thrown into one of their arguments, and science, as it always has, proves that an all seeing, all knowing magical being with all power isn’t needed to explain the order of the cosmos. I have had the chance to converse with a multitude of people all of whom believe that the world was created around six thousand years ago. One of their pillar arguments is the existence of life, claiming that a divine spark is needed to give matter….life. In the last few years, scientist have been able to play the role of god and create the building blocks of life in a test tube. They created RNA base pairs by and through chemical processes; these RNA strands were able to replicate and more importantly mutate (key ingredients of life).
Unfortunately, for the replication to occur, scientists had to assist the splitting of the RNA pairs by adding enzymes to their environment. Now scientists have been able to achieve synthetic life that self replicates. They did this through several complex procedures, and they used an already existing cell structure. While not creating life completely from scratch, we are so close we can taste it, and we are doing it without magic or god.
Professor Kleiner for some time now has presented us student atheists a challenge to explain morality in non theological bases. In the video by Sam that was just posted by Jon it talks about how some things are more morally acceptable than others and that there does exist a basic moral right. The problem I have with the video is that it doesn’t explain how humans have come to the conclusion that there are some things that are wrong and that there are some that are right.
To deal with these challenges and issues I turned towards evolution. The reason I did so is because if any state of mind exist it first (as shown by a plethora of evidence) must have evolved that way.
For the first time, scientists have synthesized RNA enzymes – ribonucleic acid enzymes also known as ribozymes – that can replicate themselves without the help of any proteins or other cellular components.
What’s more, these simple nucleic acids can act as catalysts and continue the process indefinitely.
Professor Kleiner, our token Thomist, sent me an interesting link the other day. It’s a First Things article by Stephen M. Barr, a professor of physics at the University of Delaware and a Catholic. He makes a compelling case that not only is ID bad science, it’s also bad theology.
It is time to take stock: What has the intelligent design movement achieved? As science, nothing. The goal of science is to increase our understanding of the natural world, and there is not a single phenomenon that we understand better today or are likely to understand better in the future through the efforts of ID theorists. If we are to look for ID achievements, then, it must be in the realm of natural theology. And there, I think, the movement must be judged not only a failure, but a debacle.
The emphasis in early Christian writings was not on complexity, irreducible or otherwise, but on the beauty, order, lawfulness, and harmony found in the world that God had made. As science advances, it brings this beautiful order ever more clearly into view.
But whereas the advance of science continually strengthens the broader and more traditional version of the design argument, the ID movement’s version is hostage to every advance in biological science. Science must fail for ID to succeed. In the famous “explanatory filter” of William A. Dembski, one finds “design” by eliminating “law” and “chance” as explanations. This, in effect, makes it a zero-sum game between God and nature. What nature does and science can explain is crossed off the list, and what remains is the evidence for God. This conception of design plays right into the hands of atheists, whose caricature of religion has always been that it is a substitute for the scientific understanding of nature.