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Old 14.12.2007, 11:12
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Re: 30 per cent of the Swiss reject evolution

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Switzerland is Christian. Christians don't believe in evolution. Is it really such a surprise?
Thanks Gooner, my thoughts exactly!
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Old 14.12.2007, 11:36
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Re: 30 per cent of the Swiss reject evolution

As a professional evolutionary biologist I get rather cross with these discussions, as most contributors seem to miss out on the interesting question. OK, so god doesn't exist. I think that most logical people would agree with that (religion requires belief – the antithesis of logic). Yet the majority of humans do believe in god. Any evolutionary biologist would want to know how such a general species-level trait (belief) evolved. Most if not all religions have a two basic properties: (1) there is an all-powerful god who judges you on your actions during life on Earth, and (2) there is an afterlife in which you either go to a good place (heaven, reincarnated as something good) or a bad place (hell, Milton Keynes, etc) depending on the judgment. So this acts as a supernatural policing system for society - if you behave, then you'll be rewarded (72 virgins, avoidance of Satin’s red hot pokers, etc). The 10 commandments (or equivalent) are a simple set of rules which most of us will agree are a good basis for a healthy society.

Imagine a group of people who didn’t believe in god/afterlife – the temptation for individuals to be selfish and fu<k everyone over to their own gain would be very strong, and the “society” would degenerate into a bit of a warring mess. But if we imagine a group of people who believed in god/afterlife, they will be more altruistic and “well-behaved” because of their fear for what will happen to them if they don’t. So with religion you get stronger societies because everyone behaves and everyone gains. So any trait that promotes religion or belief in god will be favoured by natural selection. As an evolutionary geneticist I don’t have too much problem with the idea that susceptibility to belief could have a heritable basis.

You may ask what happens when people break the rules (or commandments) – surely the lack of a punishment of those people from god would highlight the fact that god doesn’t exist? Well, the key is that punishment isn’t metered out until the next life, so it’s a big and risky gamble to be naughty. In addition, intrinsic to many/most religions are forms of collective punishment of “sinners” – from being made an outcast to society, to physical punishment, etc. All of which makes it rather unwise to be a non-believer in a society of believers.

So do I, as an evolutionary biologist, have a problem with religion – no not a bit. Indeed I think that societies with a religious basis may often be more stable than secular ones. However, when things get run by extremes (Taliban, Bible-belt, etc) then they start to go a bit tits-up …
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Old 14.12.2007, 11:48
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Re: 30 per cent of the Swiss reject evolution

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Imagine a group of people who didn’t believe in god/afterlife – the temptation for individuals to be selfish and fu<k everyone over to their own gain would be very strong, and the “society” would degenerate into a bit of a warring mess. But if we imagine a group of people who believed in god/afterlife, they will be more altruistic and “well-behaved” because of their fear for what will happen to them if they don’t. So with religion you get stronger societies because everyone behaves and everyone gains. So any trait that promotes religion or belief in god will be favoured by natural selection.
One word--> Bull
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Old 14.12.2007, 11:48
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Re: 30 per cent of the Swiss reject evolution

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.

So do I, as an evolutionary biologist, have a problem with religion – no not a bit. Indeed I think that societies with a religious basis may often be more stable than secular ones. However, when things get run by extremes (Taliban, Bible-belt, etc) then they start to go a bit tits-up …
So would you say that considering mankind is now capable of grasping the differences between "good" and "bad" as abstract concepts, we could move on from policing societies by religion to policing them by law without invoking some sort of supreme ghost?
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Old 14.12.2007, 11:53
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Re: 30 per cent of the Swiss reject evolution

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Castro this is good enough for me So where is your proof of god?
The definition of "Faith" is belief in the absence of empirical proof. Just because I cannot prove something, does not mean that it doesn't exist.

But to return to evolution, the poblem I have (as a scientist) with evolutionary theory is that even though it is theoretical possible, it is statistically impossible. Richard Dawkins wants you to believe that a tornado which twists its way through a scrap yard will end up producing rows upon rows of gleaming cars. Now I can't say its "impossible" but common sense and reason say it is unlikely. These are the trillion to one coincidences which would have needed to have occured in precise sequence for the post big bang primordial soup to have ordered itself into life.
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Old 14.12.2007, 11:54
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Re: 30 per cent of the Swiss reject evolution

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So would you say that considering mankind is now capable of grasping the differences between "good" and "bad" as abstract concepts, we could move on from policing societies by religion to policing them by law without invoking some sort of supreme ghost?
In theory yes, but life ain't really like that. The law isn't perfect - you can quite literally get away with murder. But "God" sees everything that everyone does, so you can never do something naughty and get away with it. You will be judged by the omniscient one. So god will always be a more potent policing force in a society comprising mostly believers.
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Old 14.12.2007, 11:55
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Re: 30 per cent of the Swiss reject evolution

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The definition of "Faith" is belief in the absence of empirical proof. Just because I cannot prove something, does not mean that it doesn't exist.
Which should answer your question about the missing fossil link.
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Old 14.12.2007, 12:01
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Re: 30 per cent of the Swiss reject evolution

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It's been calculated that of the 6 billion people alive today, all that will remain in the fossil record is possibly a femur and a fragment of jaw bone. Try finding those on a planet this size and you'll see why some things are damn' difficult to find in the fossil record.
Add to that the fact, that the whole of the human race at certain times consisted of less than 1000 individuals. Check up on the Genographic project (https://www3.nationalgeographic.com/genographic/) and you get an idea.

Evolution happens right now. That is where multidrug-resistant bugs come from.
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Old 14.12.2007, 12:01
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Re: 30 per cent of the Swiss reject evolution

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In theory yes, but life ain't really like that. The law isn't perfect - you can quite literally get away with murder. But "God" sees everything that everyone does, so you can never do something naughty and get away with it. You will be judged by the omniscient one. So god will always be a more potent policing force in a society comprising mostly believers.
Beg to disagree. God will be a potent policing force to the extent that it has boots on the ground who spread fear of retribution. Similar to non-believer societies, you will be able to get away with murder if there aren't enough boots on the ground.
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Old 14.12.2007, 12:04
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Re: 30 per cent of the Swiss reject evolution

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the poblem I have (as a scientist) with evolutionary theory is that even though it is theoretical possible, it is statistically impossible. Richard Dawkins wants you to believe that a tornado which twists its way through a scrap yard will end up producing rows upon rows of gleaming cars. Now I can't say its "impossible" but common sense and reason say it is unlikely. These are the trillion to one coincidences which would have needed to have occured in precise sequence for the post big bang primordial soup to have ordered itself into life.
I really really don't want to start or have the time to get drawn into an argument, but this statement is simply bollocks of the highest order! The statistical argument (or lack of it) is grounded in complete naivety. All I can say is go and re-read Dawkins again - you clearly misunderstood it.

Regarding the improbability of life, I kind of agree, but the the fact is is that that sequence of events DID occur - hence we have life on Earth today. Its only with hindsight that we realise how small the probability is. Imagine you take a deck of cards and you lay them out on a table one next to another. Then pick them up and shuffle them together. What is the probability of you could deal them out in exactly the same order as the first time - I dunno what it is, but its vanishingly small. So by your argument you would say that its practically impossible to get that exact sequence of cards. But you've overlooked the fact that that sequence has already appeared, and so it is not impossible!
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Old 14.12.2007, 12:07
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Re: 30 per cent of the Swiss reject evolution

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Beg to disagree. God will be a potent policing force to the extent that it has boots on the ground who spread fear of retribution. Similar to non-believer societies, you will be able to get away with murder if there aren't enough boots on the ground.
Ok, I don't really think that we disagree. Yes, "boots on the ground who spread fear of retribution" are the real policing force, but if you are a believer then punishment metered out by God is a pretty scary prospect. The fear of god's wrath is one of the fundamentals of "belief" IMO. But as a non-believer, what do I know
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Old 14.12.2007, 12:18
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Re: 30 per cent of the Swiss reject evolution

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It's been calculated that of the 6 billion people alive today, all that will remain in the fossil record is possibly a femur and a fragment of jaw bone. Try finding those on a planet this size and you'll see why some things are damn' difficult to find in the fossil record.
Although we haven't unearthed 100% of what is out there there is still a voluminous amount that we have (mainly invertebrate and fish) and so within this you'd expect to see some basic trends. Instead the fossil record always shows a sudden, step-appearance of a wide variety of both simple and complex life-forms. To me that is indicative of discrete species differentiation rather than a continious evolutionary chain.
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Old 14.12.2007, 12:20
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Re: 30 per cent of the Swiss reject evolution

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but if you are a believer then punishment metered out by God is a pretty scary prospect.
Yes but it still does not stop religious people from being evil

One thing that I find interesting is how come a priest that hides a kid under his gown not worry about the scary punishment aspect? Maybe he knows that the idea of god's punishment is all bull?
What confuses me even more is why "great" believer like ze pope try to cover everything up? Obviously your theory has big holes.
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Old 14.12.2007, 12:28
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Re: 30 per cent of the Swiss reject evolution

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Yes but it still does not stop religious people from being evil
That's actually quite true. The lady living next door to my parents is (by my dad's description) a "God-botherer". She goes every Sunday to church but is the most evil of women. She's done some delightful deeds over the years such as poisoning one of the other neighbour's cats, locking my sister (8 at the time) in her garage for an afternoon for retrieving a tennis ball from her garden and other "neighbourly" stuff.

She thinks it's all okay if she spends a few minutes in the confession box every week or so. The wizened old trout is "religious" so that's makes her superior, of course.
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Old 14.12.2007, 12:30
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Re: 30 per cent of the Swiss reject evolution

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Yes but it still does not stop religious people from being evil
True - but I guess they think that they are doing god's work on Earth and so are getting into his good books

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One thing that I find interesting is how come a priest that hides a kid under his gown not worry about the scary punishment aspect? Maybe he knows that the idea of god's punishment is all bull?
Or perhaps he can confess to himself and that makes everything ok

Right, enough procrastination - must get on with some work
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Old 14.12.2007, 12:34
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Re: 30 per cent of the Swiss reject evolution

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But if we imagine a group of people who believed in god/afterlife, they will be more altruistic
How is that altruistic if the motivation is fear of god? The religious person is being "altruistic" to get browny points which in my humble opinion = being selfish

al·tru·ism
1. Unselfish concern for the welfare of others; selflessness.
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Old 14.12.2007, 12:40
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How is that altruistic if the motivation is fear of god? The religious person is being "altruistic" to get browny points which in my humble opinion = being selfish

al·tru·ism
1. Unselfish concern for the welfare of others; selflessness.
OK, my use of the word altruism was to describe behaviour rather than the motives or reasoning behind it. We are very much in agreement that "The religious person is being "altruistic" to get browny points which in my humble opinion = being selfish" That is why I think that belief may be selected for, because it is beneficial for the individual (through the positive effects of living in a "well-behaved", cooperative society).
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Old 14.12.2007, 12:41
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Re: 30 per cent of the Swiss reject evolution

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Although we haven't unearthed 100% of what is out there there is still a voluminous amount that we have (mainly invertebrate and fish) and so within this you'd expect to see some basic trends. Instead the fossil record always shows a sudden, step-appearance of a wide variety of both simple and complex life-forms. To me that is indicative of discrete species differentiation rather than a continious evolutionary chain.
You seem to forget that the vast majority of creatures never make it to fossils. That means, that if a transitional life-form only exist in very small numbers they are likely to disappear from the record.

Is there not a quit good line of elephants and horses and their respecitve ancestors?

Anyway, what is the alternatives?

- young Earth creationism. Basically, reject any science.
- God (or the Flying Spaghetti Monster) created the creatures as He went along. Does not fit with "the perfect being", does it?
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Old 14.12.2007, 12:46
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Re: 30 per cent of the Swiss reject evolution

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How is that altruistic if the motivation is fear of god? The religious person is being "altruistic" to get browny points which in my humble opinion = being selfish

al·tru·ism
1. Unselfish concern for the welfare of others; selflessness.
Human altruism is another interesting question. Why is it that we act completely counter to our Darwinian programming and commit acts of charity or self sacrifice? With very few exceptions, we are one of the only species to seek and look after the young of others, we risk our lives fighting for abstract values such as freedom and democracy and we give generously to victims in countries we cannot even pronounce.
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Old 14.12.2007, 12:56
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Re: 30 per cent of the Swiss reject evolution

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You seem to forget that the vast majority of creatures never make it to fossils. That means, that if a transitional life-form only exist in very small numbers they are likely to disappear from the record.

Is there not a quit good line of elephants and horses and their respecitve ancestors?

Anyway, what is the alternatives?

- young Earth creationism. Basically, reject any science.
- God (or the Flying Spaghetti Monster) created the creatures as He went along. Does not fit with "the perfect being", does it?
All good points. Also note that the evolutionary rate is not constant - there are frequent periods of rapid evolution which over geological timescales appear like the sudden appearance of a huge number of species. For instance, consider a group of animals who are boneless (e.g. worms) - when they die they leave no fossils (soft tissues rarely fossilize). Now if some of these animals develop a calcarious shell then they will likely be less susceptible to predators and hence be evolutionarily successful. Now suddenly these creatures will be around as fossils (because of their bony parts) and looking at the fossil record they will have appeared to have arisen instantaneously. So they must surely have been created ?!? By God??? Errr, no.
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