The debate about whether or not evolution is ‘real’ or not is one with which atheists and theists alike will be familiar. I recently received a very well written and nicely produced pamphlet attacking ‘scientific myths’, including evolution: pointing out that there is no complete consensus on how evolution works, and that there are gaps in the evidence. Within discussions of the validity of religion, such debates are, however, something of a red herring – evolution has no relevance to considerations of the veracity of religion.
Yet by engaging atheists in debates about evolution, and evidence and arguments for and against, theists are distracting from this simple fact. More seriously, there is a danger that this debate sets up an implication of an ‘either/or’ situation, which is clearly not the case. Humans always want certainties – that is why they invent religions and argue strenuously about evolution – but the argument over the certainty of where life comes from should not distract from the certainty that really matters: there is no god.
I give credence to the theory of evolution, because it is afforded widespread scientific/academic credence, there appears to be plenty of evidence and it seems to me to make sense. However, that position could arguably also have applied to various (‘scientific’) beliefs in, say, early Christian times that are no longer taken seriously, therefore:
Can I personally say with absolute certainty (that certainty with which I can say that there is no god) that evolution, as we currently understand it, is a fact of nature? No. Does that have any bearing on the simple fact that there is no god (or does it indeed have any relevance to discussions of this matter)? No.
Perhaps we will eventually be able to produce an account of evolution in all its features and workings that is completely accurate and incontrovertible. Perhaps we will have to alter or expand our current understanding substantially to achieve this. Perhaps a more differentiated alternative will be developed. Perhaps we will never know entirely and exactly how we arrived at our present state as a species. Do these possibilities have any bearing on religion? No.
There will almost certainly always be things that we can’t explain, and humans evidently feel the need to formulate answers to questions that preoccupy them, to the best of their (often feeble) abilities.
I’m not arguing against scientific endeavour (on the contrary - I’m an academic), just keep in mind that you don’t have to ‘prove’ evolution to disprove god. Put simply: there is no need for a definite alternative to disprove god – it’s not an either/or situation: however the universe began, and however life developed, god does not exist.
'Evolution is an historical fact just like any other historical fact'. - David Attenborough
The theory of evolution is essential to my understanding of life, the world and natural history. Therefore it has a direct bearing and is essential in understanding Atheism.
Theological arguments regarding the existence and non-existence of a god are nonsense.
... claiming to be an atheist is as good as claiming to be a afairyist. And although it does tell us something - on the other hand it doesn't tell us anything at all about reality.
I don't buy that in the slightest. We don't have many people running around claiming that fairies really exist and have told them how we should live ... and are passing laws based upon what the fairies tell them. The value of being part of an opposition group increases with the level of influence exerted by the group you're opposing.
Now certainly, you should have additional definitions of yourself, besides the negative ... but I consider my atheism to be a far more important definition than my status as a rationalist, skeptic, or secular humanist. The rationalism and skepticism are just the lens through which I look at the religious questions.
Now if you're going to head in the direction of conspiracy theory, we may have to have a word about introducing a little more skepticism into your mental mix.
I think the words 'theism' and 'atheism' imply 'god existing' as the default position for reasons discussed with Alice. However it is perfectly reasonable to take the view that 'god not existing' is the default position in argument and reasoning. Dr. Meaden states that he takes this view.
We really need a new positive word for our philosophy. I just can't think of one !!