Can you be a scientist and not believe / support the “Theory of Evolution”?

And yes, I do see the irony of using the word “believe”.

Tags: evolution, religion, science

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No self respecting credible scientist can deny it.

But there are still a few out there who can learn the science without actually understanding the process. And then of course there are a lot of people who will concede that evolution was the way that we all got here, but think that god was still the guiding force in some way.
It depends on what you class as a scientist. If it is simply someone with a degree in any science, then there a stacks of non evolutionist scientists. Out of scientists of a higher degree, the percentage is perhaps not as high, but there are certainly very very clever scientists with multiple degrees and PhD's who will testify to not believe in evolution.
Sure, why not.
Definitions, clarity and specificity are paramount here.

In the broadest possible sense, "evolution" just means "organismic change through time" and such change can be demonstrated to such a degree that it would be perverse to say otherwise (Sagan) -- BUT it is *how* this change occurs that allows degrees of nuance and doubt. Evolutionary theory isn't a monolithic seamless concept; it contains "parts" that are differentially supported. There are no eternal immutable truths in science, only tentatively-held "truths," so a reasonable degree of questioning / doubt in current models is always warranted.

This is particularly the case (as touched on above) in regards to the "mechanisms" of change. With things like evo-devo, constraints on "random" mutation, the decline of selectionism as a primary "engine" of change, and a slew of (relatively) newly-discovered sources of variation , certainly what we see today is not the evolutionary theory of Darwin's day. So, on one hand -- depending on how one views the "problem" -- of course it's possible to be a scientist and "disbelieve" in past or current formulations of "evolution."

However, in the broadest possible sense, I'd say that a complete rejection of change through time and all possible mechanisms of such would be unscientific at best, since it would require the rejection of (1) multiple branches of even more robust science, (2) testable, verifiable, replicable data, (3) logic, and (4) pretty much the foundations of consensual reality.

Human beings seem to have a tendency to seek out simplistic single-answer "solutions" to multivariate, complex problems -- and this is itself a problem.

This is my first post here, so be gentle :)
Cor, good post, DM!
I have a Ph.D. in physics and work as an engineer in a high-tech industry. One of my co-workers is a guy I went to grad school with - same advisor, same degree, and he's a fundamentalist/creationist. And among the rest of my coworkers, most of which have engineering degrees, there are many religious types. My boss is a brilliant engineer and extremely knowledgeable about the devices we build, and on his cube wall hangs a sign that says "All Things To The Glory Of God" (What exactly does that mean?)

My experience in grad school tells me that fields like physics and EE draw in plenty of religious types because there is little in the content of these fields that they find objectionable, at least at face value. Getting a Ph.D. in physics is mostly a matter of learning how to solve very difficult technical problems, and then finally spending a few years getting to know one tiny little subfield really well and making a contribution. Going through the process of learning the details of the relevant literature, building an experimental test system, going to some conferences, publishing a paper or two and writing a dissertation can be done with very little regard to how the scientific principle might undercut a few mythologies you hold dear. Unfortunate this is, but it is true.

I'm sure the situation is a bit different in geology and biology.
It sounds somewhat similar to the position that a friend of mine seems to hold. He loves science, jsut so long as it does not contradict any of his religious beliefs. When it does, then that's the Conspiracy of Evil Scientists (TINCES) misrepresenting the facts because they hate God.
More of an old earth. He doesn't accept evolution, well, not 'macro' evolution. He feels that there can be small changes, but there is some kind of barrier preventing species change. I think he accepts the age of the universe, but I'm not quite sure, as he's complained about how carbon dating is unreliable before.

The 'light speed is not constant' argument is easy to refute. Since energy can be neither created nor destroyed, any decrease in the speed of light would require that a vast amount of energy be released as it slowed down. The amount of energy release needed for a 6000 year old cosmos would pretty much sterilize the universe.
Not all highly religious people subscribe to a literal interpretation of Genesis, so it's possible to be incredibly religious and still accept evolution. In your case, of course, it doesn't matter one way or another. That's not their area of expertise. In fact, they never have to apply scientific thinking to their beliefs at all. They are two separate psychological realms that never have to meet. People can believe one thing in church and another in the lab quite easily from a psychological standpoint, depending on your personality. It's really only when you get into sciences that depend on accepting the processes of evolution that the two might clash. It's not rational, but while the majority of scientists are of the nature to need rationality in all areas of their life, some of them really don't. The cognitive dissonance doesn't matter to them. They never think about both at once. Even applying the speed of light to your work you don't necessarily have to think about what that means for your beliefs about the age of the universe. Most people don't even need a bogus explanation. It does happen, even in the sciences. We see the same mechanism all the time in other aspects of denying reality, why not in science too?

Like I said, most scientists are of a nature for that not to work for them psychologically, the nature of science will tend to draw people who can't accept the discrepancy, but certainly not all of them. Of the ones intimately involved in work relating to or founded on evolution, however, it becomes exceedingly difficult to handle that cognitive dissonance, if not nigh impossible. So we're unlikely to see scientists who know their shit decrying evolution, but "scientists" in general, as Shaitte's experience shows, have no such loyalty to that aspect of reality.
@Nelson: Last I checked he was a young earther. He was content with not knowing 'exactly why God did it that way, there must be a good reason, though.'

My own experience in school is that one can easily earn an advanced degree in some science fields without knowing much at all about other fields, or the history of science in general, or the philosophy of science. I'm certain my coworker has no idea who Karl Popper was, or what punctuated equilibria are, etc. And the only reason I know anything about these things is because I read about them on my own; they were not part of my curricula at all.

It is really a shame. Much of this should be covered before college, but that is not going to happen in this country anytime soon. Not until our culture learns to value education more. A while back I lived for a few months in Singapore, and it was astonishing, the cultural differences vis-a-vis school and education. School was an all-year affair. As it should be. We are still governed by an agricultural timetable for a schoolyear that isn't even applicable anymore. But I digress.
Dangit, my reply got lost as well when the initial post was deleted.

Here's what I recall:

I wouldn't agree that evolution is 'perfect', however. Certain flaws in our bodies (like the blind spot in our eyes, the fact that we lost the ability to create vitamin C a while back, etc) show that we're certainly not perfect. Not complete, either. Mutations still continue to pop up in our genome, and while we may not be as subject to natural selection's harsh rule as much as we used to be, it is still operating. Blue eyes, for example, are the result of a mutation that came about around 6-10 thousand years ago.
Hey everybody, Sorry for deleting my post, I thought it may have been in the wrong section. So anyways I'll re-post more or less what my question is, and thanks again for the responses. First of all let me clarify what I meant by "evolution is perfect". I agree 100% with all the responses. Where I was headed was that the mechanisms of evolution are sufficient to account for the diversity of life on this planet, including the creation of the human body. They do not need any outside hand guiding them. (ie intelligent design) The point, however, of this post is that I don't see any fundamental contradictions between God and evolution. I know evolution is a real thing. I have studied it, read about it, and seen it. I also know that my position on this issue is anything but original, but I have yet to find anything about evolution that discredits the possibility of some higher power. Just as a side note: I truly am seeking answers, I've reached that point in my life where I can't believe something because that's what people want me to believe. I am a life long Mormon, and I lost a good friend in a car accident yesterday. It doesn't make any sense to me why that would happen. I stumbled across this site, and thought 'what the hell?' so here I am.

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