Bill Nye On Evolution: Poll Shows People Can See And Accept It As Fact Of Life

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What do Americans make of evolution? It's complicated. A surprising new HuffPost/YouGov poll shows that while most of us accept the theory of evolution as scientific fact, some think that God guided the process — and many want to see that idea taught in public schools.


Twenty-five percent of those polled think that humans and other species evolved over time "without the guidance of God." Another 14 percent said humans and other species "existed in their present form since the beginning of time." But 46 percent said that humans and other living things have "evolved over time with the guidance of God."

What do science-minded people make of the results? Bill Nye told The Huffington Post in an email that the poll shows "people can see and accept evolution as a fact of life, and at the same time they feel there is a higher power in their lives. Phrased this way, there is no conflict between any religion and science."


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  1. Phrased this way, there is no conflict between any religion and science.”

    For many there is no problem in seeing no conflict, as they are too ignorant of both evolution and religion to spot the contradictions.

    Others lack the reasoning skills to sort out their cognitive dissonance!

  2. I hope that the multiple-choice question (I assume that’s what it was?) included an answer for: it happened “without the guidance or presence of any deity”, alongside the rather presumptuous “without the guidance of God.” I’m not sure whether an absence of such an answer would make the question a leading one, but it would certainly not be desirable.

    • In reply to #3 by MathsyFool:

      I hope that the multiple-choice question … “without the guidance or presence of any deity”, …

      Sorry to be picky but I would have prefered “without the need of any supernatural guidance”.

      • In reply to #15 by old-toy-boy:

        Sorry to be picky but I would have prefered “without the need of any supernatural guidance”.

        You’re absolutely right. However, I would say believing that several ghosts/ghouls/similar influenced evolution is entirely different from believing that a single omnipotent deity influenced it and guided it at ‘His’ will.

  3. The group falling into the “guidance of god” category would probably be hard pressed to explain the exact mechanism by which this happened. It’s probably some vague notion that is not the result of much thought.

    Why for instance, did god decide to inflict extinction events wiping out almost all species? What did god have against dinosaurs, the dodo and other species on the brink of extinction this very day?

    Like most religious reasoning, it is just an excuse not to think too much about anything.

    • In reply to #4 by Nitya:

      The group falling into the “guidance of god” category would probably be hard pressed to explain the exact mechanism by which this happened. It’s probably some vague notion that is not the result of much thought.

      Indeed. If they accept evolution then (presumably) they agree that metaphorical Genesis isn’t appropriate course material. So what are the known details of god’s “guidance” that students need to understand – so as to score well on a biology exam? What constitutes a correct or incorrect answer?

      • In reply to #5 by David-in-Toronto:

        In reply to #4 by Nitya:

        The group falling into the “guidance of god” category would probably be hard pressed to explain the exact mechanism by which this happened. It’s probably some vague notion that is not the result of much thought.

        Indeed. If they accept evolution then (presumably) they agre…

        I agree. It’s all so vague and airy-fairy. Then they glibly assert that the bible is just metaphorical anyway. I always want to ask which bits are metaphorical and what do the metaphors represent exactly? Of course I usually don’t follow this path because it would just be perceived as being mean.

    • In reply to #4 by Nitya:

      The group falling into the “guidance of god” category would probably be hard pressed to explain the exact mechanism by which this happened. It’s probably some vague notion that is not the result of much thought.

      Catholic teaching and evolution – .wikipedia

      The Catechism of the Catholic Church (1994, revised 1997) on faith, evolution and science states:

      1. Faith and science: “… methodical research in all branches of knowledge, provided it is carried out in a truly scientific manner and does not override moral laws, can never conflict with the faith, because the things of the world and the things of faith derive from the same God. The humble and persevering investigator of the secrets of nature is being led, as it were, by the hand of God in spite of himself, for it is God, the conserver of all things, who made them what they are.” (Vatican II GS 36:1) 283.
        The question about the origins of the world and of man has been the object of many scientific studies which have splendidly enriched our knowledge of the age and dimensions of the cosmos, the development of life-forms and the appearance of man. These discoveries invite us to even greater admiration for the greatness of the Creator, prompting us to give him thanks for all his works and for the understanding and wisdom he gives to scholars and researchers…. 284.
        The great interest accorded to these studies is strongly stimulated by a question of another order, which goes beyond the proper domain of the natural sciences. It is not only a question of knowing when and how the universe arose physically, or when man appeared, but rather of discovering the meaning of such an origin….
        Paragraph 283 has been noted as making a positive comment regarding the theory of evolution, with the clarification that “many scientific studies” that have enriched knowledge of “the development of life-forms and the appearance of man” refers to mainstream science and not to “creation science”.[58]

      Having laid claim to main-stream science, rather than “creation science”, the double-talk moves on to this!

      Concerning the doctrine on creation, Ludwig Ott in his Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma identifies the following points as essential beliefs of the Catholic faith (“De Fide”):[59]

      • All that exists outside God was, in its whole substance, produced out of nothing by God.
      • God was moved by His Goodness to create the world.
      • The world was created for the Glorification of God.
      • The Three Divine Persons are one single, common Principle of the Creation.
      • God created the world free from exterior compulsion and inner necessity.
      • God has created a good world.
      • The world had a beginning in time.
      • God alone created the world.
      • God keeps all created things in existence.
      • God, through His Providence, protects and guides all that He has created.

      There is even a “UNIVERSE FROM NOTHING BIT!” – There is also this:

      The Church has deferred to scientists on matters such as the age of the earth and the authenticity of the fossil record. Papal pronouncements, along with commentaries by cardinals, have accepted the findings of scientists on the gradual appearance of life. In fact, the International Theological Commission in a July 2004 statement endorsed by Cardinal Ratzinger, then president of the Commission and head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, later Pope Benedict XVI, now Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, includes this paragraph

      According to the widely accepted scientific account, the universe erupted 15 billion years ago in an explosion called the ‘Big Bang’ and has been expanding and cooling ever since. Later there gradually emerged the conditions necessary for the formation of atoms, still later the condensation of galaxies and stars, and about 10 billion years later the formation of planets. In our own solar system and on earth (formed about 4.5 billion years ago), the conditions have been favorable to the emergence of life. While there is little consensus among scientists about how the origin of this first microscopic life is to be explained, there is general agreement among them that the first organism dwelt on this planet about 3.5–4 billion years ago. Since it has been demonstrated that all living organisms on earth are genetically related, it is virtually certain that all living organisms have descended from this first organism. Converging evidence from many studies in the physical and biological sciences furnishes mounting support for some theory of evolution to account for the development and diversification of life on earth, while controversy continues over the pace and mechanisms of evolution.

      The Church’s stance is that any such gradual appearance must have been guided in some way by God, but the Church has thus far declined to define in what way that may be. Commentators tend to interpret the Church’s position in the way most favorable to their own arguments.

      This is illustrated in the paragraph below:

      The ITC statement includes these paragraphs on evolution, the providence of God, and “intelligent design”:

      In freely willing to create and conserve the universe, God wills to activate and to sustain in act all those secondary causes whose activity contributes to the unfolding of the natural order which he intends to produce. Through the activity of natural causes, God causes to arise those conditions required for the emergence and support of living organisms, and, furthermore, for their reproduction and differentiation. Although there is scientific debate about the degree of purposiveness or design operative and empirically observable in these developments, they have de facto favored the emergence and flourishing of life. Catholic theologians can see in such reasoning support for the affirmation entailed by faith in divine creation and divine providence. In the providential design of creation, the triune God intended not only to make a place for human beings in the universe but also, and ultimately, to make room for them in his own trinitarian life. Furthermore, operating as real, though secondary causes, human beings contribute to the reshaping and transformation of the universe. A growing body of scientific critics of neo-Darwinism point to evidence of design (e.g., biological structures that exhibit specified complexity) that, in their view, cannot be explained in terms of a purely contingent process and that neo-Darwinians have ignored or misinterpreted. The nub of this currently lively disagreement involves scientific observation and generalization concerning whether the available data support inferences of design or chance, and cannot be settled by theology. But it is important to note that, according to the Catholic understanding of divine causality, true contingency in the created order is not incompatible with a purposeful divine providence. Divine causality and created causality radically differ in kind and not only in degree. Thus, even the outcome of a truly contingent natural process can nonetheless fall within God’s providential plan for creation.

      In addition, while he was the Vatican’s chief astronomer, Fr. George Coyne, issued a statement on 18 November 2005 saying that “Intelligent design isn’t science even though it pretends to be.

      So it is the usual RCC cognitive dissonance and self contradictory pseudoscientific fudge pretending to be science!
      (“Oh YES! We believe in mainstream science! …. BUT god still fiddles with it on a regular basis!! ?? and we will also pretend science supports our views!”)

      Like the Bible – they can cherry pick whatever bits they want to claim to believe!

      • In reply to #10 by Alan4discussion:

        In reply to #4 by Nitya:

        The group falling into the “guidance of god” category would probably be hard pressed to explain the exact mechanism by which this happened. It’s probably some vague notion that is not the result of much thought.

        Catholic teaching and evolution – .wikipedia

        The Catechism o…

        Thank you for giving such a comprehensive analysis. It’s not quite as vague as I thought. I wonder at what stage of the catholic education program these thoughts are presented. I imagine the latter years of high school. Before then, a simple “god did it” would probably suffice in their thinking. I know that the subject is taught rigorously enough for students to be able to answer questions in state exams.

        An afterthought: of course I’m now thoroughly conversant with The First Cause Argument of St Thomas Aquinas. Ha ha!

  4. What do Americans make of evolution? It’s complicated. A surprising new HuffPost/YouGov poll shows that while most of us accept the theory of evolution as scientific fact, some think that God guided the process — and many want to see that idea taught in public schools.

    Man, they must have a low opinion of God if they think he’s the brains behind evolution by natural selection.

    I mean, sheesh, I think it’s impressive in an intellectual way, but then I’m not a deity with control over it, and evolution would not exactly be a deity’s crowning achievement. It has to slog through huge numbers of organisms before the adaptation emerges, it claims way too many casualties for it to be admired morally, and it’s a painfully slow way to produce anything. Let’s not even get into the whole predators and parasites business, not to mention the violence, death, frustrations, and general misery that are the results of amoral evolutionary forces doing what they do.

    Anyone who could make a world for living things would have to be either a sadist or an idiot to inflict that upon them.

    • In reply to #8 by Zeuglodon:

      What do Americans make of evolution? It’s complicated. A surprising new HuffPost/YouGov poll shows that while most of us accept the theory of evolution as scientific fact, some think that God guided the process — and many want to see that idea taught in public schools.

      Man, they must have a low op…

      Early technology: no “UNDO” button…

    • In reply to #8 by Zeuglodon:

      Let’s not even get into the whole predators and parasites business, not to mention the violence, death, frustrations, and general misery…

      And don’t forget the Ice Capades!

      (Thanks, George Carlin)

      Steve

  5. Evolution isn’t enough by itself. We got here via Evolution Via Natural Selection. It’s the whole thing that’s important, not just the first word. Boeing and Intel use evolutionary algorithms to design aircraft wings and CPU circuits respectively, but while such things are useful, that is not the evolution we mean when we talk about the cornerstone of biology.

    Compare and contrast: 71% of Americans believe in black people. Only 25% believe one is currently president.

  6. Scary that such a large percentage think the “guided by god” angle should be taught in a science class. In a way, I prefer out and out creationists. It’s a more honest standpoint and much easier for rational people to argue against with evidence.

  7. As far as evolution is concerned, aside from letting nature do the extinction work, divine guidance could only work if god would somehow control genetic mutation. In that case, he-she-it does a pretty good job at making mutation look random.

  8. Q: Why don’t dogs eat lemons?
    A: Because the don’t have to, having the ability to synthesize Vitamin C.

    So did God create dogs with a basic ability He could easily have granted to humans, who aren’t that far removed from our canine cousins? What about the ability of rats to drink (and process) sea water?

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