Is there any hope for people like this?

Stuff like this shows up every day in my inbox, and I usually don’t let it through, but I suppose it’s salutary from time to time to let readers see it. This post came with the reader’s name:

Hassan Badr : ) commented on Talk in North Carolina next week

Dear Evolutionists,

I stand before you here today to discuss how evolution is not true. evolution is based on development and people say that we all came from one living thing. Ask yourself, what is this one living thing? No one will be able to answer this question because its not true and everyone who supports evolution is just saying that because they think humans were apes or something like that. We all have to use our common sense and understand how evolution did never happen. Maybe things got smaller by time, but they never got an exact answer till this very moment in the 21 century.

Thank You
Hassan Badr (American International School of Egypt)

My response:

Dear Mr. Badr,

By any chance are your foolish criticisms of evolution based on religion? If so, then your views are based not on science but on faith People like you often say that we all came from one celestial God. Ask yourself, what is this one God? Is it Allah, Brahma, the Abrahamic God whose son was Jesus, Zeus, or something else? No one will be able to answer this question because it’s not true and everyone who supports creationism via a god is just saying that because they were taught to by their parents, by some book or mullah, or because they simply find false ideas comforting. We all have to use our common sense, and when we do so we see that evolution is simply true, supported by thousands of facts from all areas of biology and geology. (Have you read my book by any chance, Mr. Badr?) The Qur’an is supported by nothing but wishful thinking.

One thing is certainly true: your own God, if that’s what you so believe, is getting smaller over time, and will soon disappear, for there is far more evidence for evolution than for a god.

Thank you
Jerry Coyne (University of Chicago)

p.s If your opposition to evolution is based not on religion but on ignorance, then you need to read my book all the more.

If you want to respond to Mr. Badr, who after all is at a university, do so below and I’ll call his attention to the responses. Be nice.

I’ve assume that Mr. Badr is Muslim, though I’m perfectly aware that other religions are present in Egypt. But it’s a pretty good guess that his opposition to evolution springs from faith.

For those readers who are sympathetic to Islam, and find it no more invidious than other religion, my studies on resistance to evolution show that it is far more pervasive in Islamic than in Western countries, for many Muslims tend to accept the Qur’an literally.  And even those evolution-friendly Muslims, including high-school science teachers in Canada and Pakistan, exempt humans from the working of evolution. That’s because the Qur’an says our species were created.


  1. agentwhim
    Posted April 27, 2013 at 7:21 am | Permalink

    Surely nobody is saying “humans were apes” – that would be the incorrect tense.

  2. Posted April 27, 2013 at 7:22 am | Permalink

    Jerry, the embedded links at the start of this post aren’t working.

  3. Posted April 27, 2013 at 7:23 am | Permalink

    Resistince to evolution is islamic countries, is in part due to the perception by many people there, that evolution is part of western propaganda aimed at the destruction of islam. As long as this is the case, there is little chance that evolution will be accepted in certain parts of the world.

    • krzysztof1
      Posted April 27, 2013 at 8:52 am | Permalink

      That is certainly part of it. What would you call it–mass paranoia? Part of it is that there is in fact an anti-Muslim bias in the Western world, and not without justification. What most on either side fail to see is the extent to which religion is responsible.

  4. David Duncan
    Posted April 27, 2013 at 7:27 am | Permalink

    I really can’t be bothered spending time arguing with creationists, they’re either ignorant or wilfully intransigent. Family and friends are different, I will put in the time with them.

    • Posted April 27, 2013 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

      I agree with this. I have to value a person a lot to be willing to invest the time, to try to reach through the layer upon layer of irrational.

      Even then, in my experience, you rarely succeed, unless you manage to find the one knot that unravels the nexus.

      This is not a job for the faint-hearted.

      • microraptor
        Posted April 27, 2013 at 10:53 pm | Permalink

        The only really useful time to argue with a creationist is when it’s in a controlled setting so they can’t Gish Gallup you. And you’re not doing it to convince them, that’s generally impossible. What you want is an audience that you can demolish the creationist’s arguments in front of: those are the people you’re going to have success convincing if you can show just how strong the evidence for evolution is and just how nonexistent the evidence for anything else is.

      • Posted April 28, 2013 at 8:27 am | Permalink

        Speaking of willingness to invest the time, I know that Jerry finds Jonathan Haidt’s writings a bit woo-ish, but I just started “The Righteous Mind”. I am no expert but the stuff he says about “speaking to the elephant first”, that is; that we should speak to people’s emotions first; might be reasonable. When talking to family and friends, which none are creationists, but nevertheless strong theists of various forms; they all seem to feel very offended by the cruelty of my equating their religious believes to mere “comforting false ideas”. I agree with Jerry and all the New Atheists, but I see where we are potentially failing by only appealing to reason. To quote PZ Myers “We must embrace humanity and culture” or perhaps it’s just me failing at it. This of course goes back to Jerry’s “A letter to atheists from a believer”.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted April 28, 2013 at 8:32 am | Permalink

          You might be on to something with how we influence. I’ve found I run into the same issue occasionally at work when I’m presenting my very rational thought through ideas, backed up with data to someone who is emotionally invested in an idea and resists it. This is hard for me to deal with as I’m naturally one that makes decisions using reason and not emotion.

          I had to go to someone who had more of an emotional bend for advice and I re-approached the people I was trying to influence with a lot of emotional support like “let’s try this and see”. Then I had to go lay down for a while because that just drains me 🙂 It worked though.

          I don’t have an equivalent solution from the religious side but I remember thinking when I was going through this persuasion issue that it was like trying to reason with someone who was emotionally invested in religion.

          • Posted April 28, 2013 at 9:04 am | Permalink

            It sounds defeatist, but it almost is:
            If the other person is not willing to let go their comfortable beliefs; it just will not happen because they are also defending their ego.
            I haven’t seen much about this, but there are some ideas out there that pose supernatural belief as an extension of the ego but I don’t know if this is something well confirmed/accepted.
            I know of at least two theist good friends that will not accept any of my arguments (Gnüs’ arguments really) and I see that they are also defending their ego, not just their “god” helping them get a better job or finding their car keys, but they sound more like defending, justifying and rationalizing a bad purchase and of course that would imply the embrace of negative thoughts. We all do this all the time. We just exclude invisible friends from that argument. A couple of books I recently finished about this: “Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me)” and “The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking”.

        • Posted April 28, 2013 at 8:34 am | Permalink

          I meant to say, “religious beliefs”…

  5. Alex Shuffell
    Posted April 27, 2013 at 7:27 am | Permalink

    If we used our common sense to understand science, how little would we understand?

    • Posted April 27, 2013 at 8:48 am | Permalink

      I might go so far as to say common sense rarely discovers truth.

      • Kurt Helf
        Posted April 27, 2013 at 9:24 am | Permalink

        Yes! Common sense is *so* much bullshit!

      • Arctodus23
        Posted April 27, 2013 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

        Common sense, doesn’t lead you to sound conclusions. You’re right.

    • marcusa1971
      Posted April 27, 2013 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

      I disagree. T.H. Huxley said something to the effect that science was only formalised common sense. And he was correct, but only in respect to the method of science, not its discoveries. For example, we know matter consists almost entirely of empty space – an idea that doesn’t make “sense” from our perspective. But the method by which this was determined – hypothesis formulation, experiment, observation, peer review and repeatability – is a “common sense” approach to finding the truth.

      • HaggisForBrains
        Posted April 28, 2013 at 12:49 am | Permalink

        The trouble with common sense is that it is actually pretty rare.

      • Alex Shuffell
        Posted April 28, 2013 at 1:07 am | Permalink

        I agree that after experiment and observation these ideas are common sense, like with “the method” itself. It took us centuries, on and off, of attempting to do science before we created the method. Now we’ve proven it works it’s become common sense, yet it still has to be taught. But, to get to the experimental stage requires disregarding common sense momentarily.

        With a mind like Mr. Badr common sense has a very different meaning. Everything he knows, the way he looks and tries to understand, is based on ancient teachings, tradition and authority, it’s just common sense to accept what has ‘worked’ for people like him. Far longer than science has worked for us. For him to accept or understand science it would require abandoning everything he knows, maybe even every-one too. The same applies to us if we were to accept and understand his teachings. We have evidence of experiment and observation and actual progress on our side. But I don’t think that matters to him. There is hope to help him understand, but he has to care enough to look first, I don’t see why he would want to.

        • krzysztof1
          Posted April 28, 2013 at 7:26 am | Permalink

          Common sense seems to have two different meanings or applications. The scientific method is one positive outgrowth of common sense, as was pointed out. It is applying the laws of logical inference to careful observation in order to reach a reasonable conclusion. The other meaning is basically a justification of “it’s true because I (we) believe it.”

          • marcusa1971
            Posted April 29, 2013 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

            Or if something looks true, therefore it IS true (eg, a flat earth).

  6. Diana MacPherson
    Posted April 27, 2013 at 7:34 am | Permalink

    “No one will be able to answer this question because its not true and everyone who supports evolution is just saying that because they think humans were apes or something like that.”

    Okay…I was going to make smart remarks about the syntax of this sentence but Jerry said to be nice….

    Mr Badr really does need to read a bit about evolution. It is clear he has not and is threatened by what it means to his religion as it is just odd that he believes that people “think humans were apes or something”. No one thinks that….and this sentence further implies that the evidence for evolution is really just faith based and people WANT it to be true – it isn’t a matter of what we want, it’s a matter of what we have learned and what has been shown to be true. I won’t go into details – Mr Badr needs to read about that himself. 🙂

    • Mattapult
      Posted April 27, 2013 at 8:43 am | Permalink

      That’s what you get when you get your science from religious leaders. Those leaders know their jobs are on the line if real truths take hold.

      • Mark Joseph
        Posted April 27, 2013 at 10:50 am | Permalink

        Hence the entire phenomenon of Liars for Jesus.

        “It is difficult to make a man understand something when his entire paycheck depends on him not understanding it.”

  7. Posted April 27, 2013 at 7:35 am | Permalink

    “… because they think humans were apes or something like that.”

    Or, you could say that chromosome 2 is the relic of an ancient telomere to telomere fusion. Something like that.

  8. NewEnglandBob
    Posted April 27, 2013 at 7:38 am | Permalink

    After reading the letter from Hassan Badr and discounting the obvious language problems, it is apparent that this person does not have any concept of logic or reason. Normally, I would attribute this to someone being uneducated, but this is supposed to be someone at a university. I fear that this is a willfully ignorant belligerent person and it is a waste of time responding to someone like that. I hope I am wrong.

  9. Posted April 27, 2013 at 8:02 am | Permalink

    Unfortunately, the world is filled to the brim w/ people like Mr. Badr. They’re literally everywhere.

    I don’t hold out any hope that things will improve anytime soon. It’s simply too easy for individuals to remain comfy in their willful state of thoughtless bliss. And it’s getting easier by the day.

    I too don’t believe that ignorance of this magnitude deserves an intellectual response; this kind of child-like thinking in an apparent adult needs a psychiatric response. Jdubs are just like this.

    I believe it’s basically a waste of ones valuable time responding to these types of letters. Mr. Badr would probably have had the gull to argue some point w/ Einstein.

    When you receive a letter like this I think it’s best to just ask yourself: WWED? (What Would Einstein Do?) I think he probably would have re-routed it to Freud.

  10. brianmatlock
    Posted April 27, 2013 at 8:08 am | Permalink

    This seems to me to have been written by a child, maybe a young teen. Other than the grandiose sounding “I stand before you here today…” the rest of the letter simply sounds like something a child who is just learning to debate or argue would write. I Googled American International School of Egypt:

    • Posted April 27, 2013 at 8:23 am | Permalink

      Nice follow-up w/ the link.

      I think your assessment of Hassan as a child is probably correct. It’s probably best to just pat him on the head and send him off to play a little more. You can put the Freudian approach is on hold for now.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted April 27, 2013 at 8:53 am | Permalink

      Ha ha, oh Wikipedia, “The teachers employed by AIS Egypt are certified in North America or Canada”, Canada is part of North America, so is Mexico. 🙂

      • Sunny
        Posted April 27, 2013 at 10:28 am | Permalink

        So is Greenland.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted April 27, 2013 at 12:52 pm | Permalink


          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted April 27, 2013 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

            and you’re right of course but I just think it’s silly. 🙂

    • Posted April 27, 2013 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

      So it is a child… at least, someone at or under the age 18.

      Not surprising.

      What I want to know is… what science are they teaching at that school that this kid would be so willfully ignorant?

  11. watson
    Posted April 27, 2013 at 8:20 am | Permalink

    Dear Mr. Badr:

    I also considered my personal opinions “common sense” once. The trouble with my common sense on the subject of evolution is that it was not supported by knowledge. I avoided exposing myself to the science because I had been warned of its dangers from childhood. As an adult I decided to drop my defensiveness, and I read the book. And then I read about ten more books.

    Years before I understood the science I made all sorts of arguments against evolution, and they sounded great. My pseudo-philosophical, science-y sounding assertions were the hot air of a person wholly ignorant of the subject. I will very loosely paraphrase Richard Dawkins, I believe from The God Delusion, as he addresses irreducible complexity and associated points: the person who says this or that is too complex to have evolved is saying that he, sitting in his study, not having received education in biological/geological/genetic sciences, has not yet thought of a way. I don’t think someone facing liver failure would ask an economist if she could think of a way to transplant an organ.

    A person who genuinely cares about truth should do two things: learn about something before they attempt to debunk it, and admit when they are wrong. I was wrong for a long time. Instead of trying, unsuccessfully, to antagonize someone whose contribution to all of us has been information and knowledge, why don’t you read his book instead?


    Watson, former creationist.

  12. krzysztof1
    Posted April 27, 2013 at 8:23 am | Permalink

    I doubt that Mr. Badr will read Jerry’s book (or any other scientific book on evolution) anytime soon. It sounds as if he has already made up his mind, and his mind is not open to considering the questions that science poses. This could be because he believes that to accept evolution is a threat to his religion, and he is probably right. Having grown up in it, he feels comfortable with it, and his personal comfort is more important than learning about how things really are in the universe. To argue that Islam, or any other religion, has a lock on the truth (if that is what he does) is to blind himself to the undeniable fact that there are millions of other people who feel just as strongly about their religion as he does about his, and that all the reasons his religion is true and theirs aren’t are simply rationalizations for continuing that particular fantasy. Maybe Mr. Badr knows what would happen if he failed to conform to the norms of Islamic society, and he is not prepared to go that route. But I think it’s more likely that he is so thoroughly indoctrinated by his religion that the question of whether or not it is true never comes up at all!

  13. Wayne Tyson
    Posted April 27, 2013 at 8:27 am | Permalink

    Public Radio had a piece on recently (I believe it was yesterday) about just how people are recruited by cults. The man being interviewed was an ex-Moonie. Maybe this sort of technique would help other True Believers, and on a broader basis than the evolution issue alone.

    Did anyone else hear this piece? I heard only a fragment, not the whole piece.

  14. krzysztof1
    Posted April 27, 2013 at 8:33 am | Permalink

    The other night we watched “Wise Blood,” a John Huston film based on a novel by Flannery O’Connor. It takes place in a fictional community in the deep South. The main character is an ex-serviceman who has a vague idea about his purpose in life, which idea gradually takes the form of starting a new church–one without Jesus in it. It’s worth watching, but I mention it here because one of the recurring motifs in it reminded me of religious faith (which is behind Mr. Badr’s stout defense of creationism, I think).

    The hero of “Wise Blood” goes to a used-car lot to buy a car. He winds up with an incredible piece of junk that barely runs at all. It is always breaking down, but every time he has a mechanic look at it, he insists on telling the mechanic that it is a “GOOD CAR”, and that it can’t break down–in spite of the facts that the radiator can’t hold water, the tires are no good, and there’s no air filter, oil, etc. [This happens several times in the movie.] Whether O’Connor intended it or not, that is a great analogy for how people think about their religion!

  15. Posted April 27, 2013 at 8:36 am | Permalink

    Maybe we all have to use our common sense and understand that Muhammed never flew on winged horse, because common sense tells us that flying winged horses are impossible.

    • gr8hands
      Posted April 29, 2013 at 9:05 am | Permalink

      Oooo snap!

  16. Vaal
    Posted April 27, 2013 at 8:37 am | Permalink

    That letter is pure gobbledygook, so it doesn’t seem to warrant any attempt at a reply. Though I think it’s admiral Prof. Coyne gave it a whirl.

    The tone of the letter reminds me of the standard creationist challenge I’ve encountered all too many times: Evolution defies both observation and common sense.
    Macro Evolution of the complex species has never been observed and it’s ridiculous to attribute all the amazing life forms merely to the process of “nature.”

    To which my basis reply begins: Well, even BEFORE we began to lay out a scientific theory of evolution, let’s talk about which explanation for the origin of species would actually based on observation.

    Have you ever seen any animal of any type simply “poof” into existence magically out of nowhere? Have you ever, once, observed
    the supernatural production of a life form?


    What DO we observe?

    Every life form we have ever observed has come from a process of reproduction – from parent forms. Every. Single. One. Further, we have observed that animals reproduce themselves with heritable variation (otherwise, for instance, creating new crop or animal breeds would never be possible).
    We observe that a process of selecting from among the heritable variations can alter a population’s form over successive generations. (Again, human experience breeding crops and animals).

    So, let’s REALLY talk about whose theory is being derived from what we ACTUALLY observe about the world?

    Which theory am I going to think holds the most promise. Will a rational person think the most promising avenue of explanation will derive from what we ACTUALLY OBSERVE about how life seems to replicate every day? Which comprises untold millions/billions of examples?

    Or…on the theory that proposes a supernatural, magic process which has never been observed and which you can not demonstrate occurs, even once?

    So, now: Who is basing his explanation on observation and common sense again?


    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted April 27, 2013 at 9:39 am | Permalink

      Oh, I think Coyne’s response is above that, it is fL33t admiral.

      [Sorry, for some reason so many comments were awash in these funnies – I couldn’t hold myself any longer. Nothing personal.]

      Your response is a good one too.

  17. Sastra
    Posted April 27, 2013 at 8:53 am | Permalink

    Dear Mr. Badr,
    By any chance are your foolish criticisms of evolution based on religion? If so, then your views are based not on science but on faith.

    Heh. Sometimes the best defense is an offense.

    The normal, mainstream approach to answering Mr. Badr’s challenge would be to follow Jerry’s opening question with a reassurance, not with a different challenge. “If your criticisms of evolution have their roots in your faith — be not afraid, my child. You can have God and Jesus and Mohammed and/or any supernatural-religious-spiritual belief you want and yes, there is a way to reconcile it with evolution. And now that I have calmed you down enough to listen to me, here are the facts …”

    Instead, Jerry goes right to the jugular. “If you’re going to set up ‘God’ as your alternate explanation for the evidence explained by the theory of evolution, then it’s time to grow up and accept the consequences of that. No free ride. No forbearance. Let’s get down to what REALLY bugging you about evolution — no room for the supernatural — and have it out. You’re proposing an explanation based on your own hypothesis. Fine. Let’s have THIS debate (on God, the supernatural, faith, revelation, and the status of what we can know and how surely we can know it) BEFORE we get into the science.”

    Good call. It’s not the only tactic, no — but I think it’s a good one. It’s an honest and reasonable approach and it comes from a position of strength. If the root of the problem lies in the idea that faith is a virtue then letting that idea pass in favor of playing a never-ending game of religious wack-a-mole doesn’t really make a lot of sense. Faith is a VICE. It does not define a person’s identity, it screws up their ability to think, reason, and be honest. It elevates nonsense over the world.

    So instead of helpfully showing them how to make theological virtues out of scientific necessities, let’s go on the offense. They want to argue over the nature of reality? Game on.

    Good response, Jerry.

    • Posted April 27, 2013 at 9:06 am | Permalink

      Yes. The goal is not simply gaining acceptance of evolution or any other scientific theory.

      The goal is getting rid of faith and other forms of faulty thinking.

      From this perspective accomodationism is a losing strategy.

  18. krzysztof1
    Posted April 27, 2013 at 8:57 am | Permalink

    My bride pointed out also that Mr. Badr doesn’t intend a “discussion” at all. A real discussion involves asking of questions. He’s not asking any questions. He’s telling us how [he thinks] it is.

  19. emotter178
    Posted April 27, 2013 at 8:57 am | Permalink

    Is there a way to view evolution as further evidence that there is a God?

    • Jeff Johnson
      Posted April 27, 2013 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

      There is a way to view almost anything any way you like. But viewing things from a limited perspective, and with a preconceived notion in mind, before honestly observing and evaluting them with a sincere desire to understand, usually leads to confusion and error.

      There are philosophical views called pantheism and deism that would be consistent with the idea that somehow evolution is “how god works” or “ideas in the mind of god” or some such view. Deism is the view that god created things in the beginning (like the Big Bang and physics) and then left everything alone to follow its natural course, i.e. evolution. Pantheism is the idea that the Universe itself is identical to god, i.e. every atom and molecule, star and galaxy, are parts of god’s body or god’s mind.

      But there is no way to construe evolution as “evidence” of either of these ideas. These ideas have been popular with some pretty smart people, Thomas Jefferson or Baruch Spinoza, for example, who were smart enough to realize that theism was a non-starter. But as far as evidence goes, there are innumerable possibilities for how the Universe came to be, and that a great power or intelligence of some sort planned it seems to be among the least likely, for the simple reason that one then has the problem of explaining how that intelligence came into being. The idea of god is really just the most simple minded and obvious idea that can pop into a human’s mind if asking the question “where does everything come from?” It requires no knowledge or detaied understanding of nature and the Universe, it only requires a human psychological perspective based on our limited experience of life on earth as children with parents, and as adults who work and create things.

      Basically Deism and Pantheism seem very unlikely given what we know of reality, and theism seems even more impossible because it involves a god who knows all human languages, cares about the lives of each human, has some grand plan, is watching and listening and intervening selectively with infinite knowledge and power and goodness, all while allowing atrocities, misery, suffering, grief, injustice, and other horrors to proceed without the slightest evident concern.

      Even if you recognize that evolution is true, and try to salvage faith by exploring some more sophisticated metaphysics like deism or pantheism as an explanation for matter, energy, physics, evolution, etc., to borrow a line from Christopher Hitchens, you still have all your work before you to arrive at the idea of a theistic god as believed in by the vast majority of religious folks.

      • emotter178
        Posted April 27, 2013 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

        So this is all based on what we believe or know about the origin of the universe?

        • Sastra
          Posted April 27, 2013 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

          Tentatively based, yes. Which means it could be wrong and would have to change with new data.

          You asked “Is there a way to view evolution as further evidence that there is a God?” and the answer to THAT question is “of course!” Faith doesn’t depend on the data. Faith doesn’t depend on the evidence, the theory, the consistency, or the coherency. When you have a religious kind of faith you make a personal commitment to look at WHATEVER is there and enthusiastically cry out “… wow, this is further evidence that there IS a God!” No other result could have been better, in fact.

          Evolution? God exists. Young Earth Creationism? God exists. You had a great day? God exists. A bus filled with Sunday school children just ran off a cliff? God exists. The sun just went supernova and the entire planet is about to be completely destroyed? God exists. What could be more plain — to those who seek God with an open heart and mind?

          Smile, smile, smile. Spin, spin, spin. “Why, evolution is so amazing and elegant and so bereft of any need for divine intervention whatsoever … that surely only a very, very wise God could have come up with it!” Faith strengthened. My God is an awesome evolution God and your creationist God is too small.

          There is nothing easier than viewing evolution as further evidence that there is a God is all you’re trying to do is shore up your own faith. Is there a way — any way at all? Why, yes. Easy peasy: just strengthen your loyalty to your faith. Your personal criteria can be bent.

          The trick though is to use evolution as evidence that God exists from scratch. As a conclusion. To skeptical scientists. On their turf.

          That “view” is more rigorous and no — it doesn’t work.

        • Sastra
          Posted April 27, 2013 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

          On re-reading your second question, I think I answered your first. Sorry. Evolution doesn’t equate with origin of the universe, no. But I think Jeff was pointing out that if evolution as a bottom-up process doesn’t require God, then you’d have to import the skyhook hypothesis from some other source and then force-fit them together. Consistency would entail a non-interventionist God. Otherwise, you’ve got a God which doesn’t care at all whether humans exist or not suddenly being intensely preoccupied with what they do.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted April 27, 2013 at 12:32 pm | Permalink


      Because the attributes of biological “evolution” are fully defined. We know what is meant by the term although there is room for dispute about the mechanisms involved & their relative importance.

      On the other hand the attributes of “God” [pick any god you fancy] are not fully defined ~ there is no coherent agreement on the attributes at all other than, usually, as the creator of all things.

      If one attribute of “God” is that it is the [or one of the] mechanisms in biological evolution there ought to be evidence of purposeful Intelligent Design. There isn’t any ~ the evolutionary mechanism is messy, inefficient & brainless.

      Most believers in a “God” consider that it is the moral law giver & it is a force for good. Biological evolution is nasty.

    • coyotenose
      Posted April 27, 2013 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

      No. It’s just a process. It doesn’t signify higher intelligence any more than does water when it moves along the path of least resistance.

    • Posted April 27, 2013 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

      Not for a personal, interventionist god, no. One could still find room for some extremely loose definition of a non-interventionist (won’t or can’t) impersonal deity (see: Spinoza), even when a natural explanation for the origin of life itself is finally found.

      To rule out a higher creator (including hyper-evolved aliens) entirely, we’ll need to finally find the actual Theory of Everything. Then, assuming the Theory of Everything is entirely natural (which it probably will be, considering everything), any belief in any kind of higher power at all will be utterly untenable to the intellectually honest person.

      But of course this is just splitting hairs. Evolution is a dire threat to the belief in a personal, interventionist deity like Yahweh, and it’s a dire threat to the anthropocentric viewpoint that humans are a special creation with a specific purpose, and that’s why so many Christians and Muslims are so dead-set against it.

      • Posted April 27, 2013 at 8:44 pm | Permalink

        And on top of all that, given evolution, “finding room” for some kind of god is a far cry from evolution actually being evidence of some kind of god.

      • derekw
        Posted April 29, 2013 at 9:19 am | Permalink

        Evolution is a dire threat to the belief in a personal, interventionist deity like Yahweh, and it’s a dire threat to the anthropocentric viewpoint that humans are a special creation with a specific purpose, and that’s why so many Christians and Muslims are so dead-set against it.
        BioLogos would disagree with this. I wouldn’t say evolution is a dire threat. Naturalism is.

  20. Posted April 27, 2013 at 8:59 am | Permalink

    I think Mr. Badr’s comment shows very well that the biggest obstacle we face in fighting religion/woo/etc is not that people are simply ignorant of facts.

    No, it’s that people have little to no critical thinking skill, do not know what constitutes an argument, do not know what constitutes evidence.

    Mr. Badr frames his comment as an argument, but it contains no supporting evidence, and doesn’t really even contain *an argument*. It reduces to “I don’t think so”. But he can’t see that.

    • krzysztof1
      Posted April 27, 2013 at 9:09 am | Permalink

      Exactly! Lack (and misunderstanding) of critical thinking skills. Few people will admit that they are not good thinkers and that they might work on improving their thinking.

  21. krzysztof1
    Posted April 27, 2013 at 9:15 am | Permalink

    I’m convinced that it’s not possible to have a real discussion with most people like Mr. Badr. That’s not what they want, and to the extent they claim otherwise, they are not being honest.

    When you lay out the facts for them, they just get defensive and refuse to deal with the points you raise. Asking them to critically examine their own beliefs doesn’t work much better. The minute they feel like you have them cornered, they will stop talking. To me, that indicates that on some level they know what’s happening. Cognitive dissonance again.

    • Sastra
      Posted April 27, 2013 at 9:37 am | Permalink

      I’m not convinced of that.

      Meaning, I’m not going to write off Mr. Badr and all the Mr. Badrs out there just on the principle that they’ve got nothing in common with us. If they’re feeling cognitive dissonance at all then we’ve got a common ground because they’re recognizing a conflict — internal, external, both. If they are human and thoughtful and care about the issue then we’ve got a common ground. If they live in the world and value evidence then we’ve got a common ground.

      Sure, some of them are unreachable. But all of them? No. Which ones? I don’t know. Neither do you. There’s no handy and definitive test. Some atheists came out of backgrounds and world views which seemed intractable. They obviously weren’t.

      One of the aspects of “faith” which I hate the most is the way it forces divisions between tribes. Faith removes the common ground from non-believers by demonizing us as incapable of being reached. “You just can’t reason with THEM.” “There’s no point in even trying to reason with THEM.” “They don’t believe because they don’t WANT to. They’re unreachable.”

      This is never a good position to take with those who dissent. If we can’t reason with “them,” then what is left? Praying for a shaft of divine enlightenment from above?

      Not available. If “at some level they know what’s happening,” then at some level we’ve got at least the possibility to connect and get through and change a mind.

      • krzysztof1
        Posted April 27, 2013 at 10:53 am | Permalink

        First, I just want to point out I said “most,” not “all.” But on my better days I agree with your points, including the one about not giving up.

        • Sastra
          Posted April 27, 2013 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

          Yes, I suppose it depends on what the term “most” means. I interpreted it more generously than you may have intended. Apologies.

  22. Brad
    Posted April 27, 2013 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    God-belief is like looking at the world through glasses that are worn on the inward side of one’s face. They’re totally invisible to the wearer. And what stands in the way of someone, say like Mr. Nadr, from developing an awareness of these inward resting specs? Faith — whch to a believer is a kind of muscle that must be vigilantly trained up at all times.

  23. Marcoli
    Posted April 27, 2013 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    It seems appropriate to suggest to this person to read the article by Theodosius Dobzhansky: “Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution”.

  24. Wayne Tyson
    Posted April 27, 2013 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    Maybe too much “knowledge” and not enough understanding?

    Self-righteousness seems to be the fundamental cognitive dissonance, and that, unfortunately, is all too frequently displayed on both “sides.”

    • Mark Joseph
      Posted April 27, 2013 at 11:15 am | Permalink

      Perhaps. But I don’t think it is unreasonable to point out that evolution has mountains of evidence, “some new findings lead us toward the recognition of evolution as more than an hypothesis. In fact it is remarkable that this theory has had progressively greater influence on the spirit of researchers, following a series of discoveries in different scholarly disciplines. The convergence in the results of these independent studies—which was neither planned nor sought—constitutes in itself a significant argument in favor of the theory.” Whereas, on the other hand, creationism has precisely zero objective, scientific evidence it its favor; indeed, the only “evidence” for creationism is the writings of a few pre-scientific so-called holy books. These same books which, by the way, teach that bats are birds (Lev. 11:19) and that the fertilized egg becomes a clot of blood before it becomes a lump of flesh (Quran 23:14).

      So, yes, we can be a bit self-righteous about evolution as opposed to creationism, but that is not the full extent of our sin–we are also self-righteous about our heliocentrism as opposed to geocentrism, about our adherence to the germ theory of disease as opposed to disease being caused by demons, and by our pompous, strident, and militant insistence that lightning is an electrical phenomenon in the atmosphere, and not a thunderbolt hurled by Zeus.

      • Wayne Tyson
        Posted April 27, 2013 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

        I did not say that evolution lacked evidence. No straw-men or -women, please.

        I said by implication that some who claim to be scientists also exhibit self-righteousness, i.e., argue from authority, just like religious people do. “Two wrongs don’t make a right,” as they say.

        • Sastra
          Posted April 27, 2013 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

          I’m having trouble picturing what you mean in this situation. Could you give an example of a particular scientist “arguing from authority, just like religious people do?” For instance …

          • Wayne Tyson
            Posted April 27, 2013 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

            I’m not going to libel anyone, but if you don’t recognize that it happens and happens with disturbing frequency, I guess I can’t help. Just chalk it up, if you like, to my impression that some people who call themselves scientists, often, if not habitually, argue from authority–for example, in citing references with no evaluation and comment about the reference’s validity, as in replication and peer review.

            • Posted April 27, 2013 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

              “I’m not going to libel anyone…”

              If it’s true, it’s not libel. So, example?


            • Sastra
              Posted April 27, 2013 at 8:41 pm | Permalink

              I think scientists who ‘argue from authority’ by citing references without evaluating them properly (?) still do so within a scientific framework — by which I mean they accept the need for replication and peer review, whether they consistently follow through or not. They operate or at least try to operate within a system of checks and balances which is supposed to catch mistakes.

              If you’re going to compare this to “what religious people do” then I think you’d have to say that many ‘self-righteous’ scientists trust in their chosen authority no matter what, proudly insisting that their authority needs no replication or peer review because there are Other Ways of Knowing which trump such materialistic methods … and nothing would or could ever get them to doubt the righteousness of their authority. No, nothing.

              I seriously doubt that this happens with any frequency, disturbing or not.

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted April 27, 2013 at 11:29 am | Permalink

      Claim in need of reference.

      Naively it should be easy to be self-righteous when it is (elite and) self-correcting, as science is. I don’t think it says much on the frequency of display though, since it _is_ self-correcting and so such an attitude would “self-punish”.

      On the accommodationist/creationist side it is certainly seen. Badr seems to be an example, not questioning during his “discussion”. But again, we lack statistics.

      • Wayne Tyson
        Posted April 27, 2013 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

        What sort of statistics?

  25. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted April 27, 2013 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    evolution is based on development and people say that we all came from one living thing. Ask yourself, what is this one living thing?

    I know creationists wilfully like to confuse development (as in individual maturation) with evolution (as in population change), but this takes the cake. Either Badr doesn’t know the difference or he has entered the Twilight Zone of fuzzy language.

    I note in passing that evolution works whether there we go back to ancestors or not, we just don’t capture speciation very well, or whether we go back to the previous ancestor or more universal ancestors. Darwin wasn’t prepared to predict whether there was one universal ancestor I think, even if he in private entertained the though (“one warm pond”).

    But since astrobiology interests me, assuming we have established evolution as a fact on the very many evidencies we have (and Badr seems unfamilar with), I have never heard anyone say that we come from “one living thing”. All that we see are populations, and it is far more likely populations evolve to populations. And this is where the main work is ongoing, how chemical evolution took chemical systems with their populations of chemicals into biological systems with their populations of cells.

    But as it happens, when people look at phylogenies they do see collective states.

    This is what a paper that has to my knowledge probed deepest (with protein folds) and most general (with 645 proteomes) observes: “While horizontal gene transfer seems rampant at sequence level, its impact appears quite limited at higher levels of structural organization. [Eg starting with folds.] … A primordial (communal) world … In this ancient phase, domain structures diversified but were rapidly shared by the emergent cells.* … During this phase however there were no lineages as we know of them today. Instead, selective sweeps ensured structural innovations were retained** … Most proteins were also multifunctional.” [“The evolutionary history of protein fold families …”, Kim et al, BMC Evol. Biol. 2012]

    * They see this from diversification but no to little loss of folds. ** And I assume this is the only selective mechanism available in a communal world.

    So instead of “one living thing” we have a communal world of *very many living things with multifunctional (promiscuous) proteins*. When life evolved out of chemistry it was the handymen, livin in ur basement, tinkering with the chemical toys floating around.

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted April 27, 2013 at 10:21 am | Permalink

      “Wilfully” – willfully”. Or maybe I was thinking of vile-full. =D

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted April 27, 2013 at 11:32 am | Permalink

      I also forgot to note that since Darwin we now *know* there was a UCA population. It is in fact the best observed fact in all of science.

      • Marcoli
        Posted April 27, 2013 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

        One of the choir here, but the Universal Common Ancestor is a strongly inferred theory, likely muddied by lateral gene transfers. I think the best view right now is that UCA was a community of microbial species. It makes sense too that it was spread out not only over species lines but also over time.

  26. Posted April 27, 2013 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    What always amazes me is that if religious people really believed that the universe were their god’s creation, then the disciplined, systematic study of the universe (you know, science) would be their highest calling. And smug, willful ignorance like this would be the greatest sin.

    That just seems obvious to me. Which always makes me wonder if they really believe what they say.

    • Mark Joseph
      Posted April 27, 2013 at 11:21 am | Permalink

      They don’t; it’s just a way to preserve their in-group cred. Similarly for the argument that if their god created everything as it is, then he clearly created the ecosystem as a harmoniously functioning whole, and could hardly be pleased that some of his people would be willing to destroy part of it for short-term economic gain.

      Actually, I shouldn’t really say they don’t believe it; rather, they never (and I do mean, literally never) think about it. 23 years in the fundagelical church was plenty for me to realize that what they don’t believe or even know much about, they never even think about; in fact, it never crosses their consciousness except on the rare occasion that some half-witted Sunday school teacher happens to diss evolution or some other scientific, political, or cultural idea in passing.

  27. krzysztof1
    Posted April 27, 2013 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    If you want common sense, here is some: You and I had parents, and their parents each had parents, and each of them had parents, as did their parents before them, as did their parents before them, as did their parents before them, as did their parents before them, and on back millions of generations. No miraculous creation of a first human, no infusion of a “soul” at a crucial point.

  28. lorianne1971
    Posted April 27, 2013 at 11:17 am | Permalink

    I like that he is standing before us. I picture him at a podium in a suit and tie. And because of that, I have been persuaded. All these scientists are just making things up. 😉

  29. Kevin
    Posted April 27, 2013 at 11:25 am | Permalink

    Dear Mr. Badr:

    It does not matter what you think. What matters is what you can prove.

    The proper question you need to ask in this setting is “how do you know that?” Not necessarily “what do you know.”

    When you start asking the “how do you know” questions, you’ll find that there’s an awful lot we do know about evolution.

    How do we know? We study genes. Genes tell us a lot, including giving us a pretty darn good “clock” that we can use to walk various species backwards through time. Every species has a history, and those histories are written in the genes. Those observations tell us two things: every animal had a parent, and every child is slightly different from its parent. That, in a nutshell, is evolution in action. Slight differences over time. You are an evolved creature, different from your mother and father, more different from your grandparents, and more different from their grandparents. Evolution in action.

    How else do we know? We study fossils. Paleobiology is a fascinating subject. Now, you’ll hear some awfully stupid assertions about paleobiology, paleontology, and geology. But the fact remains that we can date fossils. We can literally see evolutionary history at work. And we see first small, simple creatures. Not fish with fins or birds with feathers. First, we see bacteria. Simple came first, then complex.

    How else do we know? We compare the two disciplines of fossils and genetics. And guess what? They arrive at exactly the same conclusion starting from completely different beginning points.

    Now, ask yourself, how do you know that your position is “true”? Because some preacher told you? Based on myths written hundreds and hundreds of years ago? These myth writers were primitive men. They had no telescopes, no microscopes, no chemistry (only alchemy which was not correct), only the most rudimentary physics, and zero understanding of biology. They didn’t know what blood did, or why men breathed air. They didn’t understand where disease came from, or how the body fights infection or how it sometimes loses. They had no radio, no TV, no internet. The vast majority of people of the time were illiterate. With a first-grade education, you know more than the vast majority of those who lived back in those times.

    I suggest you ask yourself — which is more likely? That hundreds and hundreds of years of human intellectual progress and accumulation of knowledge is wrong? Or that myth-writers writing hundreds of years ago might not have understood the topics they were writing about?

    You already know far more about evolution and every other science than the myth-writers ever could. I suggest you turn away from the myths and towards knowledge.


  30. Jim Jones
    Posted April 27, 2013 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

    Mr. Badr:

    You believe that god made everything? This is not true. I am God and I did not do that.

    You doubt that I am God? Prove I am not.

    • Mark Joseph
      Posted April 27, 2013 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

      That’s easy. I’m God In fact, I created you with the (false) belief that you are God. Ha ha.

      Prove me wrong.

      • HaggisForBrains
        Posted April 28, 2013 at 1:12 am | Permalink

        “Who let the Gods out?”

        • krzysztof1
          Posted April 28, 2013 at 7:29 am | Permalink

          Roof! Roof! Roof Roof!

      • Posted April 28, 2013 at 1:28 am | Permalink

        At least one religion has already beaten you to that (look at numbers 2, 3 and especially 4, in the list) :D.

        • Mark Joseph
          Posted April 28, 2013 at 8:42 am | Permalink

          Meh. I actually created everything with a view to the fact that as it unfolded, it would be presented as you indicate (all part of my prescience). In fact, I did this all last Tuesday, and you are the first of my disciples to whom I am revealing this. Or, as the prophet Popeye revealed in Ex. 3.14, “I yam what I yam”.

          And now, let us repeat the watchword of our faith, “Have a Nice Day”.

  31. Golkarian
    Posted April 27, 2013 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

    Saying evolution isn’t true because we don’t know what the common ancestor was is a clear argument from ignorance. That said we can use methods (that involve parsimony) to reconstruct what it was probably like (look up: “last universal common ancestor”). Since this process is not based on the fossil record, it would be surprising (if evolution wasn’t true) to find that this is what we see appearing before everything else in the fossil record.

  32. Vaal
    Posted April 27, 2013 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

    As some have mentioned, it can be a useful and quick approach to even bypass trying to quickly argue for evolution and ask the religious person to examine the consequence of their own proposal.

    I had some Jehovah’s Witnesses dump off some anti-evolution tracts and return later to ask if I wanted to talk about the material.

    I said, ok, let’s say you are right and the lifeforms on earth are just too complex – they require a Designer, who you think you know as God. Let’s look at some of the things God designed…and on to examples of cholera, Ebola, rabies, malaria etc.

    I asked them what we’d think of any person who deliberately designed such horrors, introduced them knowing full well the horror and misery these diseases would cause us.
    They had to admit, actually saying the words, that we’d call such a person a bio terrorist.

    I said “Yup, and in your next breath you are going to say this is a Being worthy of my worship and praise? Can you understand why I’m going to have a problem with that?”

    Basically they admitted “We see your point” and left. (No doubt for easier marks).


  33. Posted April 27, 2013 at 2:21 pm | Permalink


  34. Mark Phillippi
    Posted April 27, 2013 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    Jerry’s list of gods suggests his response was written in haste. (I am often guilty of writing a response in haste to an inane postulation like that of Hassan Badr so I am in no way trying to claim immunity from the common tendency to do so when confronted with absurdity.)

    “Is it Allah, Brahma, the Abrahamic God whose son was Jesus, Zeus, or something else?”

    Allah is considered by Muslims to be the same Abrahamic god worshiped by Jews and Christians. However, only one of the three religions claims that Jesus is that god’s son.

    Leaving out any mention of Jesus would have also eliminated the possible, however unlikely, interpretation that Jerry was including “Zeus, or something else” as possible sons of the Abramic god.

    I see no reason to capitalize the word ‘god’ unless it begins a sentence or is otherwise justified. Most of us wouldn’t capitalize the word ‘god’ when writing about Greek or Roman gods or about any of the thousands of other gods imagined to exist throughout history. The god of Abraham deserves no special consideration in such matters.

    • js
      Posted April 28, 2013 at 8:59 pm | Permalink

      Yes, I get very annoyed when software auto capitalises ‘god’.

  35. kelskye
    Posted April 27, 2013 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

    “We all have to use our common sense and understand how evolution did never happen.”
    I find this statement disappointing. Understanding evolution isn’t a matter of common sense; an understanding cannot be divorced from the science.

    “Ask yourself, what is this one living thing? No one will be able to answer this question because its not true and everyone who supports evolution is just saying that because they think humans were apes or something like that.”
    The question of what the one living thing was (answer: prokaryotic bacteria ~3.5 billion years ago) is different to the proposition that we “were apes”. Aside from being conceptually confused (we never stopped ceased being apes, and were classified as apes before evolution showed our common ancestry with other apes), the scientific evidence that we are related to other apes is overwhelming. Not only do we share junk DNA with other apes, the patterns of drift in junk DNA show that we are more closely related to chimpanzees than chimpanzees are to gorillas.

  36. Posted April 27, 2013 at 7:24 pm | Permalink

    Sorry, this critique of anti-evolution is presumptuous. It assumes personal beliefs and characteristics that may or may not pertain to the author. Still, I applaud the injunction “read my book.” It is convincing to any rational and objective reader. Unfortunately, there are many readers who are neither.

    • Notagod
      Posted April 28, 2013 at 8:53 am | Permalink

      Sorry, your critique of the critique has no substance. You have reduced yourself to not even one example to support your contention.

      However, I will note that I am unaware of any christian or christian alike that has ever provided a full description of their individual gods and their relationship to It. So it is generally by lack of the christian’s diligence that some assumptions are obliged in order to respond to their drivel.

  37. Kevin O'Neill
    Posted April 28, 2013 at 12:32 am | Permalink

    I think that there are millions of people who think like Badr. He obviously knows nothing of evolutionary theory and has another agenda in which the idea of evolution is an unwanted inconvenience or threat. I would respect his opinion if it displayed knowledge of the subject. As expressed it is not worthy of respect however. Ignorance is not to be respected, challenged perhaps, respected never.

  38. alexandra
    Posted April 28, 2013 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    Just saw this – well, for sure Harvard isn’t always right. Hate it when mushy stuff like this is promulgated……

    “”According to researchers from Harvard Medical School, belief in god is correlated with improved outcomes of treatment for depression. Quoting: ‘In the study, published in the current issue of Journal of Affective Disorders, researchers comment that people with a moderate to high level of belief in a higher power do significantly better in short-term psychiatric treatment than those without.

    “Belief was associated with not only improved psychological well-being, but decreases in depression and intention to self-harm,” says David H. Rosmarin, Ph.D., an instructor in the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.’ This raises interesting questions. Does this support the concept of depressive realism? If the association is found to be causal, would it be ethical for a psychiatrist to prescribe religion?”

  39. Dan Rau
    Posted April 29, 2013 at 8:25 am | Permalink

    Guess what came into my email a few days ago?

    Why Evolution Is True?


    Can wait to read it … all of it 🙂

    ps: and as for the muslim guy … whatever

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