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Paul

Not a surprise really, the 'culture war' is still going strong with either side unwilling to backdown. I am currently studying in the US and the political debate is far more interesting than back at home. There are as you survey points out real differences between conservatives and liberals on a number of issues and thus you are able to have real discussion rather than arguing about a couple of billion here and there and minute details which is sadly the case in the UK. European politicians are mere 'managers' of a country, with no firm ideas and believe in nothing or is it everything? That is why they are so keen to give powers away to the glorious EU, for they are unable to come up with worthwhile policies themselevs!

Winchester whisperer

Do you think it's because Europeans are too cynical to have party political differences in morals?

David

That 80% for creationism being taught in schools figure is worrying. The Republicans need to be careful they don't turn into a Talibanesque party ofhard Christians.

Andrew Lilico

Two remarkable figures there to me: Only 50% even of Democrats would consider voting for an atheist, and more than half even of Democrats believe that creationism should be taught in schools. To me this illustrates a massive gulf with Europe. Surely the vast majority even of voters for Christian Conservative parties in Europe would consider voting for atheists and would oppose creationism being taught in schools. On these issues, even *Democrat* voters - before one even gets to the Republicans, whose expressed preferences are beyond European comprehension - are way, way out from European norms.

Tony Makara

The divide between Conservative and Progressive goes beyond politics and is very much a matter of actual lifestyle. The progressive movement is more than just the democratic party, it encompasses an assembly of radical elements whose raison d'etre is centered on lifestyle and often alternate lifestyle.

The Conservative movement is the best hope for America because it offers continuity. The progressives could go either way and a generation from now we might even witness a hardline radical left emerge in the United States.

atheling

"That 80% for creationism being taught in schools figure is worrying. The Republicans need to be careful they don't turn into a Talibanesque party ofhard Christians."

Yeah, those Christians sure like to behead, stone, blow up, and kidnap non believers, don't they?

Steevo

Yeah, just wanna kinda back atheling. First off I don't believe its that high a percent at least from the immediate experience with those I talk with. Hardly anyone below 30 or so gives a hoot. Look there are a lot of huge holes in evolutionary theory but nobody wants to talk about that, its just 'science' and another trusted god. I believe in the personal bringing forth what is instead of time, chance and accidents but I wish the subject wasn't even taught in school. People who wanna believe in no god or only themselves, fine. Just as those who chose an external god from the bible. Whatever the percentage I think for the most part its just people who feel they've gotten the short end of the stick. I mean after all, they're paying taxes for public education with a number of schools teaching a philosophy the antitheses of their own. Lets just get all of it out of the classroom and concentrate on reading, writing and arithmetic. Our biggest problem with education is having our students not learning how to think for themselves.

mamapajamas

David, re: "That 80% for creationism being taught in schools figure is worrying. The Republicans need to be careful they don't turn into a Talibanesque party ofhard Christians."

When I was in school learning about evolution back in the Stone Age (LOL!)--actually, around 1956-- I recall the teacher saying, "Some people believe that God created the world, and we respect that. Evolution is the theory scientists believe, so this is what we teach in school."

No muss, no fuss. But today, a teacher could be FIRED for saying those words in a US public school.

And that's all most of us want... just an acknowledgement that there ARE ideas other than evolution out there, and that would probably account for that 80% rating, since it doesn't divide into subsets of the question to account for a gray area. For myself, I believe in both Creation and Evolution... that they are the answers to two different questions. Creation is "what?" and Evolution is "how?" So how could I give that question a "yes" or "no" answer?


atheling

Why does it have to be either or?

As Steevo said, there are gaps in evolutionary theory (and it IS a theory).

And even if evolution is true, why does it mean that it wasn't a system or process that was created?

mamapajamas

I think evolution MUST be taught in school precisely because it's what most scientists believe, and is therefore a proper topic for a science class.

But I also think there is a huge gray area that needs to be at least acknowledged... at least in the US where there are so many religious beliefs, including those of us who are Christians but don't take the Bible quite as literally as others.

Kevin Sampson

Evolution is not a theory, it is an observable fact which is going on all around us all the time. Evolution is what creates drug-resistant strains of disease. Evolution is why modern mosquitoes are 1500 times more resistant to DDT than their ancestors of a century ago were. You may, or may not, choose to believe that evolution was responsible for the emergence of humans, as there is no conclusive proof either way. But the process of evolution through natural selection is incontrovertible.

Frogg, USA

Kevin, evolution is indeed a "theory". That's why it is called "Darwin's theory of evolution". And, it isn't a perfect theory (especially with the advancement in science related to DNA, genetics, etc since then).

But, that aside, I don't know why this scares so many people.

A poll done by People for the American way showed that:

1. The overwhelming majority of Americans (83%) want Evolution taught in public schools. While many Americans also support the in-school discussion of religious explanations of human origins, the majority do not want these religious explanations presented as “science”. They would like these Creationist ideas to be taught about in separate classes other than science (such as Philosophy) or taught as a “belief”.

1. While Republicans are slightly less Evolution oriented than are Democrats, the differences are relatively small.

2. A substantial majority of Americans (about 7 in 10) believe the scientific theory of Evolution is compatible with a belief in God – one does not preclude the other.

I don't have a problem with it. Knowledge is a good thing.

Steevo

Paul, I've thought very similar to your comments. I would be hesitant to say real discussion tho ;) It seems arguing with no middle ground is more like it but it still may depend, a little, on who's involved. I'm American but have felt similar to your take on Euro politicians too.

America simply runs the gamut. Anything and everything. Much of the time we're usually first - from stupidity to brilliance, honor to "Code Pink", freedom of expression to intolerant hate. And there is meaning and deep conviction with people actually thinking through why they believe what they believe - to the insanity of raw mind-numbed emotion.

Anyone who believes this America is some kind of a police state is nuts. Of course they may witness our hard Left Universities intolerant to any divergence of their ideology. But the authorities on high there are faculty and administrations allowing it.

Jonathan Powell

There seems to be some confusion about whether evolution is a theory or a fact: the reality is it's both as paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould explains:

Evolution is a theory. It is also a fact. And facts and theories are different things, not rungs in a hierarchy of increasing certainty. Facts are the world's data. Theories are structures of ideas that explain and interpret facts. Facts do not go away when scientists debate rival theories to explain them. Einstein's theory of gravitation replaced Newton's, but apples did not suspend themselves in mid-air, pending the outcome. And humans evolved from ape-like ancestors whether they did so by Darwin's proposed mechanism or by some other yet to be discovered.

For a full discussion see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolution_as_theory_and_fact

Creationism is neither a theory or a fact, but rather a myth i.e.
a traditional story, esp. one concerning the early history of a people or explaining some natural or social phenomenon, and typically involving supernatural beings or events.

There may be a place for teaching mythology in schools, just so long as it doesn't masquerade as science.

Simon Newman

Re Creationism, I think Americans would be best off with Christian Religious Education lessons in schools, and only science taught in Science classes - keep the religion in the religious lessons and the science in the science lessons. Of course this should be decided at State level - no federal Establishment of Religion - doing so would require limiting or abolishing the hideous Incorporation Doctrine that turned the Constitutional limitation of federal power into the limiting of State power and the exalting of federal power.

Jonathan Powell

Re Creationism, I think Americans would be best off with Christian Religious Education lessons in schools

Why not confine Christian Religious Education to Sunday school? That way non-Christian Americans don't get other peoples religion shoved down their throat and you free up time in school to teach something less frivolous, such as maths, or perhaps baseball.

atheling

"Creationism is neither a theory or a fact, but rather a myth i.e.
a traditional story, esp. one concerning the early history of a people or explaining some natural or social phenomenon, and typically involving supernatural beings or events."

Let's apply some logic and science to this. Ever hear of Aquinas' Five Proofs for the Existence of God which he borrowed from Aristotle, Plato, et al?

Aquinas’ first proof is through the argument of motion. It can be noted that some things in the universe are in motion and it follows that whatever is in the state of motion must have been placed in motion by another such act. Motion in itself is nothing less then the reduction of something from the state of potentiality to actuality. Because something can not be in potentiality and actuality simultaneously, it follows that something can not be a mover of itself. A simple example of this is a rubber ball motionless on a flat surface. It has the potential for motion, but is not currently in the state of actual motion. In order for this to happen, something else in motion must set the ball in motion, be that gravity, another moving object or the wind. And yet something must have set that object in motion as well (even gravity, a force caused by matter warping the space-time fabric, attributes its existence to pre-existing matter and the exchange of pre-existing graviton particles). Thus pre-existing motions cause all motions. Yet, this chain can not extend into infinity because that would deny a first mover that set all else in motion. Without a first mover, nothing could be set in motion. Thus we acknowledge the first and primary mover as God.

The second proof follows closely with the first and expounds the principle of causality. St. Thomas explains that in the world of sense there is an order of causes and effects. There is a cause for all things such as the existence of a clock. And nothing can cause itself into existence. A clock cannot will itself into existence, it must be created and caused into existence by something else. A clockmaker creates a clock and causes its existence, and yet the material of the clock and the clockmaker did not cause themselves to exist. Something else must have caused their existence. All things can attribute their existence to a first cause that began all causes and all things. We call this first cause God.

Aquinas next explains that things of this universe have a transitory nature in which they are generated and then corrupt over time. Because of this the things of nature can be said to be "possible to be and possible not to be". Since it is impossible for these things always to exist, then it indicates a time when they did not exist. If there are things which are transitory (and are possible not to be) then at one time there could have been nothing in existence. However, as was already explained in his second proof, there must have been a first cause that was not of transitory nature that could have generated the beginning of nature.

In his fourth point Aquinas notes that there is a certain gradation in all things. For instance we can group things that are hot according to varying degrees of the amount of heat perceptible in that object. In classifying objects there is always something which displays the maximum fullness of that characteristic. Thus universal qualities in man such as justice and goodness must attribute their varying qualities to God; the source of maximum and perfect justice and goodness.

Finally, Thomas Aquinas says that the order of nature presupposes a higher plan in creation. The laws governing the universe presuppose a universal legislature who authored the order of the universe. We cannot say that chance creates order in the universe. If you drop a cup on the floor it shatters into bits and has become disordered. But if you were to drop bits of the cup, they would not assemble together into a cup. This is an example of the inherent disorder prevalent in the universe when things are left to chance. The existence of order and natural laws presupposes a divine intelligence who authored the universe into being.

Kevin Sampson

FRogg - ‘Kevin, evolution is indeed a "theory". That's why it is called "Darwin's theory of evolution". And, it isn't a perfect theory (especially with the advancement in science related to DNA, genetics, etc since then).’

Darwin’s ‘theory’ was on the origin of species. Evolution was the mechanism Darwin proposed to account for this phenomenon. No, it isn’t perfect, but unless you believe that Creation is an on-going process and God himself is responsible for MRSA, MDR-TB, DESB, and others, I don’t think you have a lot of options.

Joanna

Kevin, are you talking about microevolution? None of the Creationists or Intelligent Design people I've read have a problem with microevolution--evolution within species. Their problem is with macroevolution, and you can't say there's that much evidence for macroevolution in nature--the missing links that ought to be all over the place and somehow aren't:).

mamapajamas

Simon, re: "Re Creationism, I think Americans would be best off with Christian Religious Education lessons in schools,"

I could go with that, but the fact is that "religious education" isn't ALLOWED in US public schools, under any course title.

Which is why Christians get so ticked off when public schools have "Muslim Studies" days or weeks when they study Islalm.

Jonathan Powell

Let's apply some logic and science to this. Ever hear of Aquinas' Five Proofs for the Existence of God which he borrowed from Aristotle, Plato, et al?

I hate to break it to you, but Aristotle and Plato hardly represent the cutting edge of scientific thought, and Aquinas' logic leaves a lot to be desired.

Take his forth point (I see you have given up calling them "proofs" by that stage): "there is a certain gradation in all things", which you illustrate using the example of heat. Well, yes, some things are hotter than others, but does that imply something is "perfectly hot", and if so, is that God as well? Why is He not perfectly cold?

Even if you accept the idea for things which can be measured, such as heat, it's invalid to apply the same logic to something which is qualitatively different, such as "goodness", which is in fact completely arbitrary. For example, to Bin Laden's followers he is highly good, which would imply that God is like a supernatural Osama. Forgive me if I choose not to worship such a God.

Even is we accept Aquinas' "proofs", all we are left with is something supernatural which accounts for the 5 points he raises. But there are an infinite number of possible "Gods" which would qualify, and there's no objective way of choosing between them. I've already pointed to the Islamists' God, there must at least of couple of other Muslim interpretations. Different Christians will also have different views of God: is he the one who loves everyone or the one who hates gay people and sends sinners to Hell? And why just one God? Couldn't there be a separate one for each of the 5 "proofs", for example? Or more than one for each proof: e.g. just as something that is hot need not also be long, why should something good also be just? Perhaps a God of Goodness and a separate God of Justice? Indeed, many people would employ a many gods explanation of Aquinas' ideas, Hindus for example, or the Ancient Greeks.

The key point is that--even accepting Aquinas' shaky logic--many different religions are consistent with the facts of the Universe, and yet they cannot all be correct.

Luckily, scientists such as Stephen Hawking have shown that we do not need to suppose a supernatural being to understand the Universe. Although science cannot disprove the existence of God, the most rational explanation is that all Gods were in fact created by Man, rather than the other way around, and in this context we can see creation myths for what they are: at best allegory and at worst the ill-informed guess of Men who did not have access to the evidence which we now possess regarding the process of evolution.

Of course, people can believe whatever they wish--I like to believe in Harry Potter--but if mysticism is taught as fact we are back in the Dark Ages, as has already happened in the Muslim world.

Kevin Sampson

"Their problem is with macroevolution, and you can't say there's that much evidence for macroevolution in nature--the missing links that ought to be all over the place and somehow aren't:)."

How do you account for the similarities between dinosaurs and modern birds? Or do you deny that dinosuars existed at all?

Simon Newman

Jonathan Powell:
"Why not confine Christian Religious Education to Sunday school? That way non-Christian Americans don't get other peoples religion shoved down their throat..."

Well, I'm from an atheist family but I feel I benefitted greatly from Christian RE lessons as well as the daily act of Christian worship in the school assembly. Getting in touch with and appreciating the religion of the majority doesn't do any harm in my book. Parents who are strongly anti-Christian can withdraw their children from those lessons.

Simon Newman

mamapajamas:
"could go with that, but the fact is that "religious education" isn't ALLOWED in US public schools, under any course title."

Which is due to your Supreme Court misapplying your Constitution. They changed the rule once, they can change it back.

Simon Newman

mamapajamas:
"Which is why Christians get so ticked off when public schools have "Muslim Studies" days or weeks when they study Islalm."

The wonders of cultural Marxism in the classroom!

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