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.

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It is very easy to get carried away having a debate about evolution with a deist, and it seems that it acts as a red herring when the central issue is the existence of god/s.  I once had a online discussion with some 2012 doomsday Christians which spiraled into a evolutionary technical argument that quite frankly neither of us i suspect were qualified to have.  What was telling however, was that I repeatedly asked for an explanation for the vestigial tail that we all have (coccyx), and this was completely ignored.
yes - now that brings up another issue for me - after reading all these books by Dennitt / Dawkin's etc - I feel like I must go out and convert the masses to sensibility - perhaps my own crusading tenancy - but all the same - your comment here brings up an important point for me - if none of us are really qualified to discuss these things - they what sort of conversations should we be having with theists regarding changing their minds? Perhaps we should really be talking about the books and logic we have that have led us to our world view - and perhaps suggest that they do the same - in order to broaden their understandings more - as they seem narrow minded to us. But then again, are we really qualified to say this? I say this myself as a regular Joe who's read a few science based books here and there.

Yeah, if you can catch them young, before they've completely invested their identity in the whole concept, they're much more open to an alternative to their brainwashing.  Most teenagers believe because they're not aware that there's a viable alternative.


That's why it doesn't matter if we actually convert anyone with the billboard campaigns going on around the country.  We're still at the public awareness stage of the campaign.  Any deconverts we get are a bonus.

In high school I helped a classmate realize he is and atheist. :)
That's right - we need to improve on the memes that are circulating out there - I'm glad that I had my dad for this sort of input when I was a kid - he told me about the big bang, evolution, physics, and other theories - so even though I also had a lot of supernatural influence from most of the others in my life - I still had this as something to think about - and it just made more sense - it was a more complete and complex theory - that had more explanations - religion actually doesn't have much depth - it doesn't take a genius to ask questions way beyond the capacity of religion to provide interesting answers - although eventually in both we get to a point in science where we are cutting edge and we just don't know - which most people feel very anxious about - and instead of saying oh well - they have a desperate need to fill the void - because there is an answer - because there much be an answer to every questions - so when science says we just don't know - the anxiety is too much and people feel much safer with God did it - even though that makes no logical sense - as if God did it - how did God get there etc.  It's something to do with the feelings of anxiety and the amount of questioning someone knows how to ask.  Until I've had someone to explain logic to me, I don't have it naturally - I only recognise logical explanations when I hear them - and only get rid of ones that sound less logical when I come across conflicting ones that sound more logical.  For example when I was about 7 years old - I had two options one was a religious explanation of the world, the other was the scientific explanation of the world.  I accepted them both until I realised that they conflicted in the age of the world - 5,000 vs 13,000,000,000 or something like that.  So here I saw a contradiction.  So I did some more questioning and decided that the scientific answer was way more plausible, even though the religious answer was way more appealing because the whole package met my human needs much better.  By the time I was 15 I was feeling quite lost in life - and I actually thought I'd try out the religious life - because I was quiet desperate and had many unmet needs - such as community, friendship, closeness, security, meaning etc - but the religion that I picked didn't meet any of those needs - perhaps another one would have - but again I had all that science in my head and I just couldn't make things stack up.  This caused me to be very isolated and vulnerable and depressed.  It's tough growing up.

Ultimately, you should bring people over to atheism by reason and evidence (or lack thereof), but you have to crack their shell first.  You need to start with emotional arguments to get them actually listening to you in the first place.  You can't reason with people who have their fingers in their ears.


Case in point:  the girl I'm working on, who presented Thomas Aquinas's Five Proofs as a solid proof of the existence of God.

The first three 'proofs' are the same damned thing.  They're the exact same structure of the first cause argument with very slightly different wording.  They have the same flaws in the exact same places.  At that, it's a very primitive construction of the first cause argument.  It's not even as advanced as the Kalam Cosmological Argument.

The first 'proof' ends with:

Therefore it is necessary to arrive at a first mover, put in motion by no other; and this everyone understands to be God.

I've explained to her what a perfect demonstration of the Argument from Ignorance that statement is ... what a complete non sequitur it is.  Until I can crack the shell and get her to the point that she's able to seriously consider the idea that her god is made-up, she won't be able to look at the arguments objectively.  She'll fill in the freaking huge holes in the arguments with her a priori belief in her brainwashing.

It's the emotional arguments which may get her at least slightly free of the brainwashing to the point that she can start to reason.

I think people believe what makes sense to them - but also what they want to believe - what suits them to believe - and it's usually strongly based on what they were told as children.
Brainwashing, in other words, yes.  That's what I meant.  You need emotional arguments, if you want to get them into a frame of mind in which they're capable of questioning their childhood indoctrination.

I agree with your sentiment - although I'm not sure what you mean by emotional arguments as such.  I think all my conversations are emotional - in that we can't separate emotions from logic or reason - it's all intertwined.  Sam Harris mentions this in his book the moral landscape - because it's all dealt with in the same frontal cortex.


But that besides - I would say it's important to develop an emotional connection with the person - find common ground - show them compassion - and then bring up conflicts of belief - so that they can see that you are a loving and compassionate person who also has a logical way of seeing the world - which may well be surprising to them if they have been brainwashed into believing that we are all sinning heathens with evil intentions.  This conflict will be quite obvious to them.

... although I'm not sure what you mean by emotional arguments as such.


Stuff like one of my favorite Matt Dillahunty rants:



Similarly, Dan Barker makes a lot of the immorality sort of arguments, in his latest book.  You need to attack a theist emotionally, before they'll listen to reason and stop filling in the holes in the logical arguments that they cling to so tenaciously.  You have to make them want to be objective.


If you start from the perspective of logic, explaining the null hypothesis, the burden of proof, shooting down all of their (il)logical arguments for God.  You have to get past their emotional fallbacks, like faith, before you can reason with them.

I didn't see the emotional connection as such - I saw that he started a conversation with them and then gave them evidence why what he said wasn't logical - and gave good argument.  Which is very good, and I obviously knows his stuff.  I might use that one next time I see a 7th day Adventist or other...

Those aren't really logical arguments; they're emotional ones.  He argues against the morality in the Bible.  He's going for emotional impact, not speaking to their reason.


He doesn't really make an argument in the whole discussion about whether it's true or not, just about how horrifying it would be if it was true.  That's an emotional argument.


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