I get email too: a convert

I’ve received at least half a dozen emails like the following; I’m posting this one (with names changed to protect the apostate) with permission of the sender.  It all goes to show that not all of us scientist/atheists turn people away from evolution. And it’s one piece of data (about six, actually).  So where are the cases of people who wanted to accept evolution but just couldn’t because the “New Atheists” forced them to choose between faith and science? We hear a lot about them, but there is never any documentation.

Accommodationists seem to think that people like this don’t exist: people who will accept evolution based on the facts, regardless of whether those facts are encased in a sugar coating of love for religion.

Subject: Thanks for the Book Why Evolution is True

I grew up in –––– and went to a private Christian School most of my life where evolution wasn’t really taught (though I think my biology teacher believed evolution to be true, I think she had to hide it). Anyways I was raised thinking scientists were just out trying to prove God didn’t exist. About 2 years ago I started really thinking about my beliefs and why I held them. Things just didn’t add up. I had been an evangelical christian my whole life but I decided to put that bias aside and seek truth. I read many books on all kinds of different topics including a book that covered ID and your book on evolution. You presented the evidence very clearly and it was overwhelming. I was told my whole life there was no fossil record along with a bunch of other nonsense. I am now agnostic and finally know what I really believe and why.

I hope you didn’t me contacting you over Facebook.

Thanks for you help!



  1. Posted July 1, 2009 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

    That’s really great. I too would like to challenge those who claim atheists scientists turn people away from evolution to show me the evidence.

    As a side, I wonder what the convert here means by this:

    I am now agnostic and finally know what I really believe and why.

    Usually ‘agnostic’ is used to refer to not being quite sure what you believe, not taking either side. It could, of course, be meant in the sense of an ‘agnostic atheist’ or ‘agnostic theist’, emphasizing that we just cannot know for sure. But as it is written it seems a little odd. If the subject reads this, how about telling us what it is you now believe?

    • Hempenstein
      Posted July 1, 2009 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

      These things take time. This is already a sea change for the individual – it’s more than changing what you see as a basis of reality, it’s also changing how you see most/all of the people closest to you – transitioning from regarding them as wise etc. to regarding them as deluded or something of that sort.

      • Posted July 1, 2009 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

        I may be wrong, but given the context I took them to be saying something like: “I’m now [an] agnostic [about the existence of God] and know what I believe and why [about evolution, i.e. that it’s true].”

    • Aeternitas
      Posted July 2, 2009 at 9:24 am | Permalink

      Actually you can be an atheist and an agnostic at the same time.
      It just depends on wich type of agnostic you are a epistemic or a doxastic agnostic

    • Posted July 2, 2009 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

      I don’t see a problem. “I am persuaded that the existence of God cannot be established one way or another, and here’s why …”.

      Of course, a lot of people who call themselves agnostic do so because they don’t want to be, or amit they are, atheist.

      One step at a time.

  2. Posted July 1, 2009 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

    So where are the cases of people who wanted to accept evolution but just couldn’t because the “New Atheists” forced them to choose between faith and science? We hear a lot about them, but there is never any documentation.

    Well if you make it specific enough, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to fulfill the requirements. After all, most of the likely candidates for turning away religion to atheism are going to be listening to what the preachers and other religious people said, not what “New Atheists” said.

    But have you ever watched a debate about evolution within a church? I have, for instance at spectrummagazine.org. Believe me, the pro-science side is not quoting Coyne, Myers, or Sam Harris, it’s largely Collins, Giberson, and Miller. Unless they’re just stupid (and I do not think they are, at least not on that issue), they’re very aware that they have to tell church-goers that they can mix god and science.

    Now on the down side, I ended up at that address arguing with a “theistic evolutionist” who had to totally misrepresent me for my audacity in stating that “mind” can only properly be understood under the same epistemological standards as we use to understand the “physical” evidence of evolution. I ended up quoting Nietzsche that “if you want to breathe pure air, stay away from churches,” and slamming the door on my way out, since the “discussion” was completely dishonest from the side of the “theistic evolutionist.”

    So I’m not trying to whitewash anything, I’m just pointing to the fact that indeed the “theistic evolutionists” who are really trying to find a place for (albeit Bowdlerized) science in religion do find theistic scientists helpful in their task.

    Those who haven’t been strongly religious tend not to realize the aporia into which a total and quick rejection of religion can throw one. It’s difficult to suddenly not understand the world through the single worldview that they have known.

    This isn’t an argument against the anti-compatibilists, I’m just saying why compatibilists will continue to have an audience.

    Glen Davidson

  3. Notagod
    Posted July 1, 2009 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

    To me it seems a very bad idea to teach young students that accommodation is a scientific principle. The accommodationists aren’t explicitly stating that but, when the students listen to it in the class room and understand what is being taught within their science class they are likely to take away the message that the practice of science includes compromising in order to gain popularity for the results of a scientific investigation. In fifty years there could be a scientific theory of, oh maybe, the earth moves around the sun for half a year and the sun moves around the earth for half a year, it is important to keep that in mind when launching interplanetary rockets. Well, maybe not that (who knows where accommodation science could lead, the accommodationists haven’t set any rules regarding what line they will not cross) but you get the idea of what might happen if accommodation is regarded as a scientific practice.

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted July 1, 2009 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

      “accomodation science” is an oxymoron equivalent to “virgin whore”.

      • Posted July 1, 2009 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

        That’s not an oxymoron! I should know, I dated her back in college.

  4. MadScientist
    Posted July 1, 2009 at 6:50 pm | Permalink

    I think he deserves a special trip to a paleontology department for a good look at a large collection of real fossils (as opposed to mere replicas). Hearing about fossils and seeing sketches and photographs and cast plastic dinosaur bones is one thing, but seeing real specimens and having someone talk about what can be learned from each specimen and how it has contributed to the big picture is something else.

    One thing that does get me though is that people always think “fossil” when evolution is mentioned; it seems few understand that the evidence is also there in the diversity of existing animals (and new genetic tools only confirm rather than give reason to reject the theory).

  5. Cat
    Posted July 1, 2009 at 9:30 pm | Permalink

    Wow I should have looked over my grammar before I sent the email 🙂

    That’s just pathetic!

  6. articulett
    Posted July 1, 2009 at 10:03 pm | Permalink

    I don’t think we can illuminate peoples’ “demon haunted world” without causing some to wonder why gods are no more evident than demons?

    Shouldn’t science treat these sorts of beliefs and claims similarly? Science is the best method we have of getting rid of superstitions, and I don’t see why religious magical thinking should be treated differently then any other kind of magical thinking. Yet, the accomodationists seem to be asking scientists and science teachers to do just that.

  7. GregV
    Posted July 2, 2009 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    It’s been said before, but there is a religion that’s compatible with evolution: Deism. However, I don’t think these liberal Christians who are defending accommodationism really have thought that through. They want to interweave a lot of things into science that don’t hold up to scrutiny.

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