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U.S.College students perceive “evolution” as atheistic

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In a survey:

Although many scientists agree that evolution does not make claims about God/god(s), students might assume that evolution is atheistic, and this may lead to lower evolution acceptance. In study 1, we surveyed 1081 college biology students at one university about their religiosity and evolution acceptance and asked what religious ideas someone would have to reject if that person were to accept evolution. Approximately half of students wrote that a person cannot believe in God/religion and accept evolution, indicating that these students may have atheistic perceptions of evolution. Religiosity was not related to whether a student wrote that evolution is atheistic, but writing that evolution is atheistic was associated with lower evolution acceptance among the more religious students. In study 2, we collected data from 1898 students in eight states in the United States using a closed-ended survey. We found that 56.5% of students perceived that evolution is atheistic even when they were given the option to choose an agnostic perception of evolution. Further, among the most religious students, those who thought evolution is atheistic were less accepting of evolution, less comfortable learning evolution, and perceived greater conflict between their personal religious beliefs and evolution than those who thought evolution is agnostic.

M. Elizabeth Barnes, Hayley M. Dunlop, Gale M. Sinatra, Taija M. Hendrix, Yi Zheng, and Sara E. Brownell, ““Accepting Evolution Means You Can’t Believe in God”: Atheistic Perceptions of Evolution among College Biology Students” at LSE (open access)

Well, the New Atheists, however tattered and fragmented their movement is now, can boast at least that one success. They’ve made quite clear to alert persons that Darwinism (referred to here as “evolution”) is atheistic.

Note: “Evolution” isn’t necessarily atheistic. It’s doubtful that anyone became an atheist due to horizontal gene transfer. But then, the people who identified and reported on HGT—unlike Darwin and Huxley—had no intention of promoting atheism by writing about it.

5 Replies to “U.S.College students perceive “evolution” as atheistic

  1. 1
    polistra says:

    MIght have been more meaningful if the survey had teased out the two separate parts of evolution. Natural selection isn’t theistic or atheistic, it’s just a tautologous fact, visible in all aspects of life all the time. Random mutation IS atheistic.

  2. 2
    AaronS1978 says:

    So pretty much the perceived divide between religion and science was solidified by new Atheists specifically for evolution
    In doing so made it more difficult for people to except evolution the very thing that they were complaining about which was that people weren’t excepting evolution. They succeeded in creating a bigger divide, congrats!

  3. 3

    Just imagine how honest science and reason would effect the situation.


  4. 4
    ET says:

    Students, meet Will Provine:

    In other words, religion is compatible with modern evolutionary biology (and indeed all of modern science) if the religion is effectively indistinguishable from atheism.1

    The frequently made assertion that modern biology and the assumptions of the Judaeo-Christian tradition are fully compatible is false.2

    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.3
    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.4

    ‘Let me summarize my views on what modern evolutionary biology tells us loud and clear … There are no gods, no purposes, 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 for me. There is no ultimate foundation for ethics, no ultimate meaning to life, and no free will for humans, either.’ 5

    Thank you for your honesty Will Provine.

    1- Academe January 1987 pp.51-52 †

    2-Evolutionary Progress (1988) p. 65 †

    3- “Evolution: Free will and punishment and meaning in life” 1998 Darwin Day Keynote Address 1 2 †

    4- No Free Will (1999) p.123

    5- Provine, W.B., Origins Research 16(1), p.9, 1994.

  5. 5
    EDTA says:

    Not that we need more evidence of this, but from _Organismic Evolution_*, by Verne Grant, (c) 1977, ch. 38 is devoted to debunking the Judeo-Christian creation account.

    (*A college-level evo text, and an otherwise non-religious book.)

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