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William Provine  (b. 1942?)  Andrew H. and James S. Tisch Distinguished University Professor of Biology at Cornell University  Web  Amazon  LoC  GBS  AV

Throughout the history of Western civilization, the most popular, powerful, and persuasive argument for the existence of God (or indeed of any purposive force, whether conscious or not) has been some version of the argument from design. We observe phenomena that appear so organized and purposive that we cannot imagine pure mechanistic causes for them and conclude that a purposive force must have been one of the causes. The exquisite adaptations of biological organisms, such as eyes, appeared incapable of mechanistic explanation. This argument, unlike the esoteric and tortured arguments of the academic theologians for the existence of God, is accessible to everyone. Creationists today use the argument from design constantly.    Academe  January 1987  p.51

Of course, it is still possible to believe in both modern evolutionary biology and a purposive force, even the Judeo-Christian God. One can suppose that God started the whole universe or works through the laws of nature (or both). There is no contradiction between this or similar views of God and natural selection. But this view of God is also worthless. Called Deism in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and considered equivalent to atheism then, it is no different now. A God or purposive force that merely starts the universe or works thought the laws of nature has nothing to do with human morals, answers no prayers, gives no life everlasting, in fact does nothing whatsoever that is detectable. In other words, religion is compatible with modern evolutionary biology (and indeed all of modern science) if the religion is effectively indistinguishable from atheism.    Academe  January 1987  pp.51-52

My observation is that the great majority of modern evolutionary biologists now are atheists or something very close to that. Yet prominent atheistic or agnostic scientists publicly deny that there is any conflict between science and religion. Rather than simple intellectual dishonesty, this position is pragmatic. In the United States, elected members of Congress all proclaim to be religious; many scientists believe that funding for science might suffer if the atheistic implications of modern science were widely understood.    Academe  January 1987  p. 52

Liberal religious leaders and theologians, who also proclaim the compatibility of religion and evolution, achieve the unlikely position by two routes. First, they retreat from traditional interpretations of God’s presence in the world, some to the extent of becoming effective atheists. Second, they simply refuse to understand modern evolutionary biology and continue to believe that evolution is a purposive process.

We are now presented with the specter of atheistic evolutionists and liberal theologians whose understanding of evolutionary process is demonstrable nonsense, joining together with the ACLU and the highest courts in the land to lambast creationists, who are caught in an increasing bind. Evolutionary biology, as taught in public schools, shows no evidence of a purposive force of any kind. This is deeply disturbing to creationists. Yet in court, scientists proclaim that nothing in evolutionary biology is incompatible with reasonable religion. A view also supported by liberal theologians and religious leaders of many persuasions, Not only are creationists unable to have their “creation science” taught in schools, they cannot even convince the court system that evolution is in any significant way antithetical to religion; thus the courts are effectively branding their religious views as terribly misguided. No wonder creationists (somewhere near half of the population!) are frustrated with the system and want equal time for their own views, or at least to be spared bludgeoning with evolution.    Academe  January 1987  p. 52

Modern Science directly implies that the world is organized strictly in accordance with deterministic principles or chance. There are no purposive principles whatsoever in nature. There are no gods and no designing forces that are rationally detectable. The frequently made assertion that modern biology and the assumptions of the Judaeo-Christian tradition are fully compatible is false.    Evolutionary Progress  (1988)  p. 65

The conflict is fundamental and goes much deeper than modern liberal theologians, religious leaders and scientists are willing to admit. Most contemporary scientists, the majority of them by far, are atheists or something very close to that. And among evolutionary biologists, I would challenge the reader to name the prominent scientists who are ‘devoutly religious.’ I am skeptical that one could get beyond the fingers of one hand. Indeed, I would be interested to learn of a single one.    Evolutionary Progress  (1988)  p. 69

I suspect there is a lot of intellectual dishonesty on this issue. Consider the following fantasy: the National Academy of Sciences publishes a position paper on science and religion stating that modern science leads directly to atheism. What would happen to its funding? To any federal funding of science? Every member of the Congress of the United States of America, even the two current members who are unaffiliated with any organized religion, profess to be deeply religious. I suspect that scientific leaders tread very warily on the issue of the religious implications of science for fear of jeopardizing the funding for scientific research. And I think that many scientist feel some sympathy with the need for moral education and recognize the role that religion plays in this endeavor. These rationalizations are politic but intellectually dishonest.    Evolutionary Progress  (1988)  p. 69

A widespread theological view now exists saying that God started off the world, props it up and works through laws of nature, very subtly, so subtly that its action is undetectable. But that kind of God is effectively no different to my mind than atheism. To anyone who adopts this view I say, ‘Great, we’re in the same camp; now where do we get our morals if the universe just goes grinding on as it does?’ This kind of God does nothing outside of the laws of nature, gives us no immortality, no foundation for morals, or any of the things that we want from a God and from religion.    Evolutionary Progress  (1988)  p. 70

Let me summarize my views on what modern evolutionary biology tells us loud and clear -- and these are basically Darwin's views. There are no gods, no purposes, and no goal-directed forces of any kind. There is no life after death. When I die, I am absolutely certain that I am going to be dead. That's the end of me. There is no ultimate foundation for ethics, no ultimate meaning in life, and no free will for humans, either.    Darwinism: Science or Naturalistic Philosophy  April 30 1994

Evolution is the greatest engine of atheism ever invented. 

Naturalistic evolution has clear consequences that Charles Darwin understood perfectly. 1) No gods worth having exist; 2) no life after death exists; 3) no ultimate foundation for ethics exists; 4) no ultimate meaning in life exists; and 5) human free will is nonexistent.    "Evolution: Free will and punishment and meaning in life”  1998  Darwin Day Keynote Address  1  2  

As the creationists claim, belief in modern evolution makes atheists of people. One can have a religious view that is compatible with evolution only if the religious view is indistinguishable from atheism.    No Free Will  (1999)  p.123

Advocates of ID theory are directly violating NOMA. Thus, in one fell swoop Gould dismissed the favored view of some 90 percent of the population of the earth. I obviously agree with Gould about intelligent design in organisms, but I think also that a real disagreement exists. Gould's solution was to push NOMA in hopes of reaching harmony. I suggest rising above the real disagreement and aiming for more harmonious social relationships.

The biggest problem is that NOMA allows only certain kinds of religion. Nearly all of the religions around the world would have to give up crucial parts of their belief systems. Gould said it's fine to believe that God created all creatures through the laws of science but this is basically deism, considered atheism in Isaac Newton's day.

Gould described his own personal view as "agnostic," appropriately conciliatory in pursuit of NOMA. Did he treat his own scientific theories in a similarly agnostic way? Did he say he is an agnostic about the concept of punctuated equilibria, one of his favorite theories? ... Gould, Thomas Henry Huxley (inventor of the term), and Charles Darwin all billed themselves as agnostics, although they somehow avoid being agnostic about natural selection. Gould appeared to be saying that religion is fine as long as it can't be distinguished from atheism in the natural world. ... NOMA, a principle that, according to Gould, is respectful, loving, simple, humane, and rational, leads him to dismiss and denigrate half of the population in the United States.    Darwinism, Design and Public Education  (2003)  p.507-8

Creationists will have to speak louder. I continue to support those who would like to have their voices heard in biology classes. I encourage the effort to limit the teaching of evolutionary biology until such time as evolutionists encourage a more inclusive participation of students. The very idea of the American Civil Liberties Union conspiring with evolutionary biologists to limit the free speech of the majority of the high school students in this county is grotesque.    Darwinism, Design and Public Education  (2003)  p.511

The great majority of the evolutionists polled (78 percent) chose A, billing themselves as pure naturalists. Only two out of 149 described themselves as full theists (F), two as more theist than naturalist (D) and three as theistic naturalists (B). … Most evolutionary scientists who billed themselves as believers in God were deists (21) rather than theists (7).    American Scientist  July 2007  p.295

Instead, the wide majority, 72 percent, of the respondents chose option B. These eminent evolutionists view religion as a sociobiological feature or human culture, a part of human evolution… Evolutionary scientists are strongly motivated to ameliorate conflict between evolution and religion. Sociobiology offers them an apparent conciliatory path to the compatibility of religion and evolution, avoiding all language of inescapable conflict. Sociobiological evolution is the means to understanding religion, whereas religion as a “way of knowing” has nothing to teach us about evolution. This view allows a place for religion and sounds superficially comforting to compatibilists… Seeing religion as a sociobiological feature of human evolution, while a plausible hypothesis, denies all worth to religious truths.    American Scientist  July 2007  p.296    see also: Cornell Evolution Project


W P Pycraft  (1868 - 1942)  Osteologist at the Natural History Museum  Web  Amazon  GBS

A discovery of supreme importance to all who are interested in the history of the human race was announced at the Geological Society on Wednesday evening (Dec. 18), when Mr. Charles Dawson, of Lewes, and Dr. A. Smith Woodward, the Keeper of the Geological Department of the British Museum, displayed to an eager audience a part of the jaw and a portion of the skull of the most ancient inhabitant of England, if not in Europe.    The Illustrated London News  December 28 1912  p.958

The remains thus far recovered leave no possible doubt but that they represent not merely a fossil man, but a man who must be regarded as affording us a link with our remote ancestors, the apes, and hence their surpassing interest.    The Illustrated London News  December 28 1912  p.958

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