David Berlinski’s Letter to Science Regarding “Public Acceptance of Evolution”

David Berlinski submitted the following letter to Science regarding “Public Acceptance of Evolution” (by Jon D. Miller, Eugenie C. Scott, and Shinji Okamoto, in Science, Vol 313: 765-766, 08-11-06). It appears Science chose not to publish it:

Alarmed by the fact that “one in three American adults firmly rejects the concept of evolution,” Jon D. Miller, Eugenie C. Scott and Shinji Okamoto have suggested that the source of their disbelief may be found in their religious convictions.

But when the authors pass from the concept of evolution to a specific evolutionary claim, those religiously-based objections seem to reflect nothing more than skeptical good sense.

“Human beings, as we know them,” Miller, Scott and Okamoto write, “developed from earlier species of animals.” Those who reject this statement are for this reason denied creedal access to the concept of evolution itself. But how could anyone regard this claim without the most serious reservations? We know hardly anything about human beings. The major aspects of the human mind and the culture to which it gives rise are an enigma, and so, too, the origins of the anatomical structures required to express them. If the phrase “developed from earlier species of animals” implies that human beings had ancestors, there is no reason to think it interesting; if it implies that human beings became human by means of random variation and natural selection, there is no reason to think it true.

Statistical investigations into the origins of belief are in any case pointless. What would it avail us to know that there is a strong statistical correlation between membership in the NCSE and an eagerness to promote Charles Darwin to beatific status and for this reason carefully to cultivate his relics?

In commenting on the study to which he contributed, Jon Miller of Michigan State University, observed that “American Protestantism is more fundamentalist than anybody except perhaps the Islamic fundamentalists.” Considering the fact that American Protestants are not notably interested in waging jihad, this is a little like arguing that oranges are more flat than anything else, except perhaps for paper.

Miller’s additional idea that the United States and Turkey are closely allied in virtue of their fundamentalist commitments is richly conceived.

It has apparently escaped Professor Miller’s notice that Turkey is a secular state and has been since 1922, and that by following his reasoning, one could conclude that the diplomatic services of the United States would look favorably on a revival of the Taliban in Afghanistan or the triumph of radical Islam in Iraq.

Such an excess of stupidity is rarely to be found in nature.

David Berlinski

Casey Luskin

Associate Director and Senior Fellow, Center for Science and Culture
Casey Luskin is a geologist and an attorney with graduate degrees in science and law, giving him expertise in both the scientific and legal dimensions of the debate over evolution. He earned his PhD in Geology from the University of Johannesburg, and BS and MS degrees in Earth Sciences from the University of California, San Diego, where he studied evolution extensively at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. His law degree is from the University of San Diego, where he focused his studies on First Amendment law, education law, and environmental law.



__editedDavid Berlinski