Portrait of Charles Darwin (1809-1882), author of "On the Origin of Species."

Darwin Day notwithstanding, evolution debate keeps, well, evolving

“Questioning Darwin,” a new, hourlong documentary airing on HBO throughout February, juxtaposes the story of the 19th-century British naturalist with looks into the lives of contemporary American Christians who believe the world was created in six days, as described in the Book of Genesis. Portrait of Charles Darwin (c. 1880) courtesy of HBO

“Questioning Darwin,” a new, hourlong documentary airing on HBO throughout February, juxtaposes the story of the 19th-century British naturalist with looks into the lives of contemporary American Christians who believe the world was created in six days, as described in the Book of Genesis. Portrait of Charles Darwin (c. 1880) courtesy of HBO

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(RNS) In 2005, a federal judge ruled that "intelligent design" -- the idea that life is so complex it must have involved some sort of supernatural creator -- isn't science, but religion in disguise.

Science educators heralded the decision, and many thought it spelled the end of creationism in public schools.

They were wrong.

This week, as scientists, educators and others mark Feb. 12 as International Darwin Day -- named for British naturalist Charles Darwin, who advanced the theory of evolution with his work on natural selection -- the anti-evolution camp is as active as ever.

Opponents have managed to pass laws that permit the teaching of "alternatives" to evolution in Tennessee and Louisiana; Oklahoma and Iowa are considering similar bills. Another anti-evolution bill died on Feb. 4 in the South Dakota Senate.

But in the wake of the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District ruling, their tactics have changed. And they have been successful enough in challenging evolution education the American Academy for the Advancement of Science is devoting three hours to the issue at their annual meeting in Washington, D.C. Feb. 11-15.

Anti-evolutionists have "come up with a policy that is vague enough to avoid court challenge so far, but specific enough that religiously conservative politicians will work to pass it," said Nick Matzke, an evolutionary biologist who studied 60 anti-evolution bills and wrote about them in the journal Science.

Anti-evolutionists now speak of "Science Education Acts" and "academic freedom," with no mention of a creator or designer.

They are also pairing origins science with other hot-button issues, such as climate change and human cloning.

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“This tactic appears to be an attempt to circumvent earlier legal decisions suggesting that targeting evolution alone is ... evidence of religious motivation and, thus, unconstitutional,” Matzke wrote in Science. “An additional motivation may be the dislike of climate change research by economic and religious conservatives.”

Matzke's point is playing out in the presidential campaign. In December, NPR twice asked Sen. Ted Cruz, an evangelical Christian, whether he questioned evolution. Cruz linked his answer to climate change, which he doubts, and finally said of evolution: "Any good scientist questions all science. If you show me a scientist that stops questioning science, I'll show you someone who isn't a scientist."

And Sen. Marco Rubio fumbled a reporter's question on the age of the Earth, saying “I don’t think I’m qualified to answer a question like that. At the end of the day, I think there are multiple theories out there on how the universe was created and I think this is a country where people should have the opportunity to teach them all.”

Meanwhile, Americans are conflicted on the subject. In 2015, the Pew Research Center found 65 percent of Americans agreed with the statement "humans evolved over time." But 31 percent reject evolution entirely, agreeing that humans have always existed in their present form.

Proponents of intelligent design say they have no agenda and are working to promote a scientific theory.

"Evolution is a constellation of lots of different questions and issues, and the peer-reviewed scientific literature is rife with disagreements about various parts of evolutionary theory," John G. West, a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, wrote in an email interview. "There certainly is a robust debate going on about the Darwinian mutation-selection mechanism and how much it can actually accomplish. If scientists can debate these questions in their science journals, why can’t students study these questions in their science classes?

"The question of whether nature displays evidence of design has been one of the great and continuing questions in the history of thought and the history of science," West said. "Those who try to conflate this broader discussion of design with the narrower debate over creationism are either sadly ignorant of intellectual history or they are simply trying to avoid a discussion of the real issues."

Barbara Forrest, a professor of philosophy at Southeastern Louisiana University, is having none of that. Forrest, whose testimony for the plaintiffs in Kitzmiller v. Dover traced the substitution of the term "intelligent design" for the word "creationism" in the textbook the Dover school board wanted to use, said proponents of intelligent design are now taking their agenda -- and their fundraising efforts -- overseas to Great Britain, Scotland and Brazil.

READ: West gathers digital arsenal against Islamic State -- to what effect?

"That tells me they don’t see their fortunes getting better here in the U.S. so they are putting in more effort over there" where no First Amendment separation of church and state precludes the teaching of creationism in public schools, she said. "I think they are realizing their star here has gotten as high as it is going to go."

Young-Earth creationists -- people who believe God created the universe in six literal days about 6,000 years ago -- also continue to protest evolution with anti-Darwin Day websites and events.

"We want to see critical thinking -- not criticism as in shaking your finger at us for what we believe, but to look at things objectively and analyze the flaws of evolution," said Cowboy Bob Sorensen, the founder of Question Evolution Day. "This is a resource for our side of the story on biblical science."

There is a middle path. The Clergy Letter Project, an effort to show evolution and religion can coexist, has 14,000 Christian, Jewish and Buddhist signatories. They plan "Evolution Weekend" events on or near Darwin Day that include sermons, presentations and discussions on the compatibility of religion and science.

"It is important for parishioners to realize that some of the very loudest voices arguing evolution is an abomination and bad science are speaking loudly but narrowly for their own religion but not for other religions," said Michael Zimmerman, founder of the Clergy Letter Project and a biologist at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash. "In fact, those voices are doing damage to religion in general as well as to science."

(Kimberly Winston is a national correspondent for RNS)


  1. It is esy to understand why Darwin’s theory is unimaginable for the majority.
    1. For the entire history of mankind, no such notion was entertained until the Nineteenth Century, therefore all ancient wisdom contradicts Darwin.
    2. Time, beyond the lifetime of man or men, is very difficult to imagine. Most cannot do it, so must simply accept that which they cannot envision.
    3. Religion contradicts the root notion of natural selection.
    4. Purposeless creation seems impossible.
    5. Darwin was a genius, and genius is problematic for the rest of us.
    Darwin kept a notebook in which he jotted down all the objections to his theory that he was able to discover, or which appeared in the press. All of these were addressed in his two great works intended for the public to read.
    As one would think little of the opinions of those who claim to be educated who had never read the Bible, one should think little of the opinions of those who have not read “On the origin of Speces” and “The…

  2. Darwin had figured out that the claims of creationism were batsh_t crazy, and just wrong. No wonder his theory got and still gets so much opposition from the hangers-on of creationism; he blew their case to smithereens. Christian creationism is obviously wrong. Good on Darwin for having the brains and the guts to stand up and say so.

  3. There is a great deal of mythology about Darwin being a “great scientist”. His only degree was in theology, and he botched the so-called “Darwin’s Finches” identification. The “great scientist” plagiarized grandfather Erasmus and others, and evolutionism has been a religious belief for millennia. Chuck only popularized it and put a lab coat on an unscientific “theory”.

    Read “Origin of Species”? Which revision? Not that it matters, traditional Darwinism has been largely abandoned.

    One reason Question Evolution Day is needed is to counteract propaganda and bad science, and get people to think for themselves. People do NOT get the full evidence, only the polished up good side, with few of the down sides.

  4. Darwin wrote to remove the Creator from science, as did his hero, Lyell. His material is full of errors, and has been largely abandoned by the scientific community. Creationists have the guts to scientifically blow evolution to smithereens, but propagandists and anti-creationists are on a secular jihad to suppress contrary information.

  5. “However, that is not what is expected from the Royal Society gathering in November, since Denis Noble, the point man of the meeting, has already expressed that his interest is in replacing the Modern Synthesis, neo-Darwinism…
    We need major changes in how evolution is understood. There’s still a great deal too much credence in the neo-Darwinian model, which has all kinds of problems…
    Peter Saunders in his interview comments to me said that neo-Darwinism is not a theory, it’s a paradigm and the reason it’s not a theory is that it’s not falsifiable.
    “Is it the case that there are all sorts of mechanisms at play, some of which have now been identified, that have been previously considered part of natural selection? It seems natural selection is used as a catch-all for a failure to identify what the mechanisms are.”
    The biggest point of this conference is to question the idea that natural selection and genetic mutation are all we need to understand evolution…

  6. Bob,
    I fear you sound like a country preacher, not a scholar.
    Galileo Galilei worked with the theory devised by Copernicus, yet he is considered the greater scientist because of the refinements that made to Copernicus’ theory that made it more useful. Galileo’s work has long been superseded by a host of astronomers, but that is the way of science – and history- works. Your comments are all vitriol and no logic. You are merely angry that his theory has largely displaced your favorite theory among the well educated.

  7. There is nothing but mythology in the support of things like creationism and intelligent design. Calling evolution unscientific doesn’t make it so.

    Darwin is not Jesus, people are not expected to have taken his words as the unchanging gospel truth. Darwin may not have had a complete picture of evolution and how it works, but he had the first published and recognized one

    Question Evolution Day is something concocted by 1iars. People who have so little trust in their own faith, that they have to pretend their religious beliefs have some kind of objective truth to them which reality doesn’t permit them.

    There so far is no evidence which contradicts evolution as a working theory in biology. If it existed, the scientists discovering it would be world famous.

  8. Actually Denis Nobel doesn’t dispute evolution. Only its mechanisms. Peter Saunders is not a biologist.

    The whole idea of “Question Evolution Day” is not to discuss the myriad of scientific discussions on how evolution works. Its to pretend warmed over mythology is a suitable replacement for it,

  9. Since you brought up bats, evolve one for us as an example of Darwin’s say-so science. A rat-like thing loses use of forelegs and pushes itself around through the mud on its half formed, floppy appendages–far from useful proto-wings. And after B’s x B’s of these half-and-half “brat” creatures die on their way falling upstairs in complexity via two negative processes (mutation and selection) the Wright brother bats take to the air. But they go extinct waiting for females with the same gene package. It simply takes too much faith to be an atheist these days with so much real science showing how ludicrous the Darwinist belief system of against-all odds accidentalism, or extreme luckiness, really is and always was. Darwin was a lying deliverer for Victorians who wanted free of God’s righteous rule, all laws written on every conscience. His supporting evidence was short and so sweet: There’s no God; we are here; therefore we made ourselves. A science of Say-so purely.

  10. Hey it’s Darwin Day nr. 30, the new atheists’ Christmas to honor the birth of their deliverer from from rules and even meaning. Although life = death in your faith system, please don’t shoot up the place. Go get a beautiful bouquet of bananas for your mate and celebrate all your Simian forebears. Is Darwinism really just MEism in a cheap lab coat?

  11. I love how the righteous neo-religious posters seem to have no problem posting blatant, easily disproven lies on this thread. I have a question for you. If you believe in the principle of WWJD, do you think he would want you to lie on his behalf, as you are doing? I seem to remember something about bearing false witness…

  12. Wow, Q Patc, I had no idea I was so amoral. Especially after all the time I’ve spent considering, choosing, deploying, and getting skewered by my very own values and beliefs.

    My chosen values and beliefs are based on the fact that I care more about how people treat each other than about anything else. Thus my principal guiding values are Equality, Respect, and Compassion.

    I believe the Golden Rule means respecting other people’s personal boundaries, beliefs, belongings, bodies, bedrooms, & business — not to mention their rights, freedoms, privacy, & equality — as I would have others respect my own.

    And I believe that making up stories about strangers and their character is lying; and that using one’s lie to justify one’s own willful abuses/insults against others is not only inexcusable. It’s immoral.

    How about you, Q Patc?

  13. By the way, Q Patc, I personally find “meaning” in composing music, and in writing social commentaries on cultural, spiritual, and political traditions that teach “us” to subordinate “them”.

    There are few ways I can contribute positively to society, and since I have an abundance of passion and a pinch of talent in these two areas, they allow me to leave a legacy of which I can be proud: an accumulation of sincere efforts to add to the good in humanity.

    That, for me, is rich in simple, human, existential meaning.

  14. Bob, Bob,
    “typical atheist ‘morality’ in action? ”
    Slander, worthy of a sawdust floor, revival tent meeting, where the preacher brags about his scarlet sins, his submission to the devil, and his rescue by the “Lord”.
    It’s a class act all the way.

  15. Evolutionism has been a religious belief for millennia? wOw! Who knew, besides you?

    Evolution isNot just one fact, but billions of facts, from dozens of disciplines. And what do you have? Well, we don’t actually know, seeing as you haven’t offered up THE TRUTH.

    I assume you just have only The creation of some Bronze Age goat herders. In the same description of the world, they also say that God was worried that he tower some of these goatherd era were building would reach heaven.

  16. Regardless of Darwin’s shortcomings and failures, the theory of Evolution is one of the most well supported scientific theories in all of science. Questioning everything is always warranted and healthy and will ultimately only lead to strengthening theories that are true, but there is a huge difference between questioning in a reasonable and logical manner and purposefully spreading misinformation and ignorance due to the presuppositions that are inherent in creationist beliefs. If any questioning is needing to be encouraged, it’s certainly not in such a thing as science, as science requires that it be questioned, it’s in theism and religious beliefs, as both tend to discourage and restrict the kind of questioning that could lead to them being proven false.

  17. Part of the problem is that we no longer read Darwin; we read commentaries. John G West, for example, talks about the “Darwinian mutation-selection mechanism”. That’s not Darwinian. It’s a 20th century add-on to Darwinian theory.
    The other part of the problem is that the tenor of debate in the US is so puerile, as though you have to be an evolutionist or an advocate of intelligent design.

    Let’s be clear about this, there is nothing in Genesis about intelligent design. God is clearly portrayed as intelligent, but it is nowhere said that he designed giraffes to reach high places and bees to pollinate flowers. From a fundamentalist perspective, both those ideas – evolution and intelligent desig – are unbiblical.

  18. To me, the single greatest argument against intelligent design is the fact that the ureters run through the prostate in men.

    Only an idiot would have designed that.

  19. Thank you for understanding a complete lack of understanding of the process of evolution.

    For matter, with this: “Darwin was a lying deliverer for Victorians who wanted free of God’s righteous rule, all laws written on every conscience.”

    You also demonstrate a distinct lack of understanding of sociology, morals, faith, history, and the atrocities committed against innocent others by those who claim morality comes from god.

  20. an account of his journey back to faith” for all his former listeners to read, “in his book, The Recovery of Belief.”

    last part was cut off.

    Just some food for thought.


  21. Evolution is a scientific theory. Whether it is “Biblical” or not is immaterial. Evolution is accepted no matter what your religious belief is, because it is supported by evidence and research.

    Your religious belief is only accepted to the point where people are willing to do so. Mileage will vary. Belief entirely on faith. Belief based on no information and evidence whatsoever. Whether something is “Biblical” or not does not mean it has to be accepted by anyone.

  22. Funny, its only the Creationists who are maliciously and dishonestly casting aspersions on the morals of others here. Doesn’t say much for the moral fiber of those fundamental protestant Christians who espouse such stuff.

  23. “Personally, I do NOT believe in judging anyone for what they chose to do, that is between them and God”

    But those who disagree with me are, in my judgment, going to HELLLL!!!!

    Passive aggressive Christian threats as usual.

    “If you don’t take me seriously you will suffer eternally!!”

    People become fundies because it gives them a feeling of superiority over others. An excuse to act rudely, maliciously and in an arrogant manner with some measure of social acceptance. License to act like a d1ckweed.

  24. Evolution is built on circular reasoning, bad science, fraud, and multiple logical fallacies. But there’s money in it! Meanwhile, the Evo Sith bully people into accepting the consensus. The consensus has been wrong many times, and is wrong now.

  25. Humans are obviously simple organisms compared to a god who must be infinitely more intelligent, skilled, and powerful to have created the universe. An old question that people seem to spend little time contemplating is: Where did God come from? A common answer is: God is eternal, and thus has always existed. And then they change the subject. All the answers I’ve heard seem to be designed to avoid any serious consideration of the question.

    You can assert that God just suddenly appeared, but there is not a single shred of evidence for that (and Bible verses don’t count). So, if God didn’t just suddenly appear, he must have developed by some form of evolution.

    If you are unable to believe that life on earth could have developed via evolution, how can you possibly believe that an infinitely more intelligent, skilled, and powerful God suddenly appeared from nowhere or through a form of evolution?

  26. Where exactly does this article mentions the “current event”?
    I’m only 14, and I understand 3/4 of this article, but I can’t seem to find the current event. All the other occurrences take place long ago. I even researched similar websites and all of them inform the same thing. Please reply soon.

  27. Well Richard, I cannot answer your query, but I can answer “What was God’s first creation?” It was a Jewish scribe, employed to write an eyewitness account – which was to appear in a Book which God planned to create.

  28. “Is Darwinism really just MEism in a cheap lab coat?”

    MEism? Strange thing to say when in fact your religion teaches you that the world was made for man. Evolution tells us exactly the opposite. It tells us that we’re not special. MEism is YOUR belief.

  29. Having the guts to do so is useless without the means to do so. Creationists have convinced themselves that they know science but their arguments say otherwise. That’s why they’ve lost every court case: they can’t convince judges that what they argue isn’t religion.

    And, no, Darwin’s ideas haven’t been “largely abandoned by the scientific community.” They’ve been added to and revised but so what? What scientific theory doesn’t get revised as time goes by and as new data comes to light? That’s in stark contrast to your dogmatic belief system where everything is locked in under threat of eternal damnation and Hell-fire. Real knowledge grows, it isn’t handed down the way your closed-minded religion pretends it is.

  30. Despite all this “overwhelming evidence” that is claimed, only 4% of American are atheists which is 12-13 million people.

    Clearly there are other issues involved.

  31. If God is indeed eternal, then he is older than the four billion years of the universe. And how do we know he existed before that, or for that matter, before us?

  32. The “current event” is identified in the fourth paragraph, John:

    “This week, as scientists, educators and others mark Feb. 12 as International Darwin Day — named for British naturalist Charles Darwin, who advanced the theory of evolution with his work on natural selection — the anti-evolution camp is as active as ever.”

  33. Perhaps God merely created an illusion. For all I know, I am the only one here.
    “Them old dreams are only in your head” -Bob Dylan

  34. Cow Bob, your own post is actually an example of the ad hominem fallacy. Ben is right, and you’ve lost the argument yet again.

  35. Actually, Cow Bob, you are the one introducing fallacy after fallacy, as you try to prop up your religious myths. So far, there is not a single science citation that you’ve been able to make to support your “case”, if it could even be called that.

  36. No, Cow Bob. Looking at all your posts here so far, you have yet to actually back up a single one of your claims with a valid citation or any reliable information of any form.

  37. Actually, Elaine Griswald keeps spouting personal opinion-based fallicies, as she tries to prop up her biased beliefs. So far she has not offered a single science citation to support her “case” — if you can call it that!

  38. Sounds to me like Ray’s opinions are a dogmatic belief system where everything is locked in under threat of biased, atheistsic Darwinists who are not scientists. Evolutionism is constantly being “added to, revised, and growing” because it doesn’t know what it believes, it’s 98% conjecture (not facts), and doesn’t have the truth about anything. As more and more contrary evidence comes to light, it must dance faster and faster to keep ahead of it!

  39. Anyone with the handle of “The Godless” is blatantly exposing their atheistic, anti-God, anti-religion, anti-objective bias — and his refusal to question Evolutionism. That automatically renders all his opinions useless and totally non-objective.

  40. Samuel Johnston, I fear like you sound like a non-objective, biased, arrogant ideologue, not a scientist.

  41. Thank you for making it perfectly clear Ben that you possess a complete lack of understanding of the many problems concerning the process of evolution. You also demonstrate a distinct lack of understanding of sociology, morals, faith, history, and the atrocities committed against innocent others by those who claim God does not exist. But you have plenty of arrogance, egotism, and holier-than-thou condescension!

  42. The irrational idea that the universe created itself from nothing for no reason, and that life somehow spontaneously created itself from non-life is what is unscientific and “warmed-over mythology”. I doubt very much, yoh, that you are a biologist either. The whole idea of “Darwin Day” is not to freely discuss all the problems with Evolutionism; it is to blindly cheerlead for an atheistic, secularistic, materialistic belief system that is rapidly becoming obsolete.

  43. So, G Key, your way of “following the Golden Rule, caring how other people treat each other, respecting other people’s personal boundaries, beliefs, rights, freedoms, and equality” is to go around insulting and putting down other people who choose to believe differently than you do, look down your nose at them, discriminate against people who choose to believe in God and Creationism, and put yourself up on a pedestal as being better and smarter than everyone else. Is that right?

  44. Biblical Christianity doesn’t teach that “the world was made for man” — it teaches that the world was made by God and for God. Evolution tells us nothing, except that there is no meaning whatsoever to anything or anyone — the whole universe (including people) is totally random, accidental, pointless and meaningless. So I guess that means that in the end anything you (or anyone else) have to say is also totally random, pointless and meaningless. Right?

  45. B-Rad, on what basis are you assuming that “righteous neo-religious posters” (as YOU choose to see certain people) are liars? Just because you personally choose not to accept what they say or believe? But isn’t that little more than blatant prejudice, bias, and discrimination on your part? And aren’t you being extremely judgmental to say something like that? Is that any better than being a (so-called) “liar”?

  46. yoh, that’s a blatant lie. You and the other Evolutionists here are posting PLENTY of “malicious and dishonest aspersions on the morals of others”. Your statement is a totally hypocritical, judgmental, biased, prejudiced one.

  47. Elaine, YOU have not “backed up a single one of your claims with a valid citation or any reliable information of any form” either!

  48. And how long has that system not worked for you, Ben? Are you unable to pass urine? Are you unable to eject sperm during sex so as to procreate another human being? Only an idiot would question something that works perfectly well for what it was designed for.

  49. yoh, your statements show a total ignorance of how “observation and experiment” works (which is what science is). You’re right, Evolution is a theory. Nothing more. And it is a theory that is rapidly being contradicted by observable evidence and research that you (and many others) willfully ignore just because you don’t like it. Your statement about “Belief based on no information and evidence whatsoever” is totally false, and springs out of willful bias and discrimination, ignorance of the actual evidence, and personal prejudice.

  50. Richard, your question is irrelevant and self-contradictory. God is self-defined by the Bible as being eternal. That means He has always existed. He is the original uncaused cause that all other causes MUST eventually spring from. The laws of logic insist that there MUST be an original uncaused cause by which all other causes must have come from. To insist on continually asking the irrational question “What caused an uncaused God?” is a contradiction in terms. He didn’t “suddenly appear”. And He didn’t “develop by some form of evolution”. He has always been there. Just because you can’t understand how that could be so doesn’t make it untrue. It just means that you, being a finite being, simply cannot fully comprehend what an infinite being must be like.

    Also — if you cannot believe in an eternal God, then how can you believe that the entire universe somehow caused itself out of nothing by random accident for no reason before there were any laws of physics to accomplish…

  51. If you are correct about the reasons for people rejecting evolution, then why do not people equally reject the theory of relativity (both of them), since 4 out of 5 of your reasons apply equally to that?
    Perhaps the reason for that discrepancy, the reason people widely dispute one but not the other, is that despite the seeming absurdity of claims like time not being absolute, relativity theory remains easily the best explanation available for the evidence it involve. When it comes to evolution, this is not the case. There’s an obvious alternative explanation for our existence, one that’s simpler, more intuitive, and fits in with all other experience – we know all complicated things we see around us are designed by intelligent beings, and we simply deduce that the same is true of us. The evolutionary explanation seems, from that standpoint, like the grasping at straws of those who are desperate to avoid that obvious conclusion.

  52. ““Evolution is a constellation of lots of different questions and issues, and the peer-reviewed scientific literature is rife with disagreements about various parts of evolutionary theory,” John G. West, a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, wrote in an email interview. “There certainly is a robust debate going on about the Darwinian mutation-selection mechanism and how much it can actually accomplish. If scientists can debate these questions in their science journals, why can’t students study these questions in their science classes?”—quoted

    Of course there is vigorous (and rigorous) debate within the scientific community. But not about the broad umbrella theory of descent with modification, AKA origin of the species. That is long-settled as the central principle guiding all biological education. It’s only about specific details. All science has that.
    As to teaching the “controversy” at the level of high school—whoa! Slow down, Bishop Wilberforce! What other discipline launches 14 yr/olds into advanced theoretical seminars before they even get their feet wet? How would religious schools like it if we forced them to teach advanced Biblical exegetics in Sunday school?

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