Field of Science

Critical thinking in Cairo (a first)

I am anti-creationism, and I am also anti-religion. But those are different issues that, while interrelated, aren't identical. I do wish everybody would accept evolution, and discard creationism. I do also wish people would stop being religious, because a) I think the truth is that there isn't anything supernatural out there (I am an atheist), and b) religion is the cause, directly or indirectly, of a lot (but not all) of the things that are wrong with the world. I don't think religion is only bad, but it seems to me that it is on average. Those are hard statements, I know, and if you don't like them, please show yourself the way out of here at your own leisure.

Obviously, if religion disappeared tomorrow, nobody (sane) would believe in creationism any more either. But if creationism disappeared, that would not totally do away with religion; there are many religious people who accept evolution. There are no (sane) people who aren't religious but believe in creationism.

But what is the best strategy for achieving the goal of ridding the world of religion? (Yes, I do say that because I think it would benefit mankind (and the rest of us) tremendously - I am talking about the religions that matter in that context, so if you are of the religious sort that just privately believes in something supernatural, but you also accept science and don't push your unsupported beliefs on others, then I don't really mean you.) It is more effective to make a big push against religion, and then be happy that it implies the end of creationism too? Or, is it the better way to educate widely about the science, and then see creationism disappear first on its own? Richard Dawkins writes that he doesn't want to compromise and say that science and evolution can accommodate religion, because to him the real battle is against religion. I agree with that in principle, but I wonder if - given that we all know it is going to be a very long and tiresome battle - it isn't more effective to do everything we can to first show everyone how ridiculous creationism is, and then worry about religion after that. I imagine that understanding evolution, and being convinced by the ample evidence there is in its favor, will lead a lot of religious people, and especially a lot of children of religious people, to question their religious views.

At this point it may sound to the reader like I am aiming at "beautifying the level of the discourse," such as other faitheists have proposed. But I am not.
1. faitheist
An atheist who is "soft" on religious belief, and tolerant of even the worst intellectual and moral excesses of religion: atheist accommodationist.

A lot of leftist faitheists say, "I'm not religious, but we shouldn't criticize the Muslim oppression of women because it's a sincere religious belief.
Perhaps it is true that even saying that [the bigger battle can be won eventually by focusing on showing the evidence for the science that is in conflict with creationism] will turn some people off evolution and science, and yet I am not proposing not to do so anyway, because I believe in saying what I think, telling it like it is, and because I believe that many religious people will respond to the message that science have for them.

I mention this because of a conference on evolution held in Cairo, where education is dismal and Islam is ubiquitous. Work to improve their education, have the students learn to think for themselves (apparently, they don't learn that there), show them the evidence for evolution, and explain what the theory says.
Darwin, of course, did not say man came from monkeys. He said the two share a common ancestor. But to discuss Darwin anywhere is not just to explore the origin of man. It is inevitably to engage in a debate between religion and science. That is why, 150 years after Darwin published “On the Origin of Species,” the British Council, the cultural arm of the British government, decided to hold an international conference on Darwin in this conservative, Sunni Muslim nation.

It was a first.
Apparently, Egyptian students aren't taught about evolution.
Education here is based on rote memorization, with virtually no emphasis on creative thinking. Few schools here even teach the theory of evolution.
The testimonies from students at the conference is what makes me think that this is going to be a long and painful process, but that we will eventually prevail.
“I am not against the idea of evolution completely,” said Amr Zeydah, 23, a zoology major at Alexandria University. “I accept the idea partially.”

Despite his major, Mr. Zeydah has never studied Darwin, and before the conference knew little about the theory of evolution. He accepted the Islamic account of creation, that God formed Adam from dirt and infused him with a soul.

But after taking in the discussion, he said he had worked out a way to reconcile the two: that God created life, which then evolved to suit its environment. “God created Adam at 15 meters tall,” he said, quoting what he said was a Hadith, or saying, of the Prophet Muhammad. “So evolution comes in because we are obviously not that height now.”

While some people may chuckle at the notion that man was once of enormous height, the point, some of the speakers here said, was that local sensitivities and beliefs must be understood, too, not dismissed out of hand, if dialogue is to work.
As always, understanding is not accepting - I don't have to accept religious beliefs in order to understand how they influence a person's way of thinking about science. And without understanding I don't think we will get anywhere. Dialogue is crucial, so let's accept that advancement will come in tiny increments, such as in the case of Mr. Zeydah who now at least got to learn anything at all about evolution, like all zoology majors should, even though it lead him to bend over backwards father than a contortionist to accommodate his religious beliefs.

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