Evolution is a religion (Talk.Origins)
From CreationWiki, the encyclopedia of creation science
- Evolution is a religion because it encompasses views of values and ultimate meanings.
Source: Morris, Henry M. 1985. Scientific Creationism. Green Forest, AR: Master Books, pp. 196-200.
CreationWiki response: What Talk Origins is doing here is limiting the actual statement creationists make. A good number of creationists say that "evolution is a religion" but they say this for a number of reasons other than what Talk Origins claims. I would recommend that you check out the following sources to see more reasons why creationists say this.
- Evolution as religion
- The Religion of Evolution
- Evolution is Religion, not Science
- Evolution is Religion, not Science II
- Evolution is Religion
This is just a sample of the articles you can read on the web which shows the reasons why evolution is more akin to religion than to science. If you read them, you will note that they don't simply say "evolution is a religion because it encompasses views of values and ultimate meanings" although this would still be a valid argument, as we shall see later.
One definition of religion is:
"a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith" Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary
The meaning of faith is also:
"firm belief in something for which there is no proof" Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary
This shows that there can be theistic and non-theistic religions, since religion doesn't necessarily have to have a deity or even a prescribed set of morals. It also shows us that one definition of faith. These are important in dealing with Darwinism and evolution.
Now when it comes to a belief that all living animals descended from common ancestors, this is a faith. There is no proof of this, and the evidence for it is questionable to say the least. They may say that at the bottom of their hypothetical geologic column there are really small fossils of multicellular organisms, but that on its own means nothing but a system of beliefs being used to make a statement. They have untestable axioms (faith statements) like that of uniformitarianism, and then the belief that the geologic column shows the history of the development of life when it is actually a faith in some people's decision about how the rock layers of the earth were formed and deposited, people who were not there but chose to speculate. Then there is the tenet of faith that some simpler form of life must have changed into the multicellular fossil they have at the bottom of their hypothetical chart. That belief has no evidence, but is fueled by the fundamental faith in nature to create life from non-life and to do what has never been observed.
If you really took at look at evolution and saw not only how grand a scheme it is, but also the amount of faith you have to put into what has never been observed in real life, and the baseless explanations, expressed as fact, for how this animal could have changed into another animal by the inadequate processes of mutation and natural selection, then you would see why creationists rightly see evolution as a religion, because it is a system which is based on certain beliefs, certain faith statements/untestable axioms held to be self-evident truths. It is through this lens that evidence is interpreted, as an evolutionary geneticist called Theodosius Dobzhansky said,
Evolution is the light which illuminates all facts, a trajectory which all lines of thought must follow.
This is not a scientific statement. It's a religious statement. It's akin to saying
Evolution is the truth, the way, and the light. All the facts of science must bend to this.
Evolution and naturalism can be used interchangeably in such authoritative statements.
It is not just because the theory of evolution is based on so many faith statements why it is called a religion, but also its implications about the role of Deity in creation (if any), about morality, about the purpose of our existence. When evolution is followed to its natural and logical conclusion, it is not a scientific theory, but a worldview. How would religions and morals have developed as humans evolved from their ape (old world simian) ancestry? The idea of deity could have simply come as explanations for things we couldn't understand with our primitive brains. How did one animal or a group of the same kind of animal evolve further without being dragged back by the genes of the rest of the lesser evolved population? Death and disaster would be a common occurring theme (not at all universal, since there are other factors).
Evolutionists will dictate to us, declare as fact, things about a past they have never seen, with ranges of absolute dates that have no objective verification, but have some evidence of added to their interpretations, and say "Deity could not have created animals in their different inter-breeding groups". Why? "Because we have a naturalistic explanation". They will say "there could not have been a flood that had any major impact on the rock layers of the earth and the fossil record". Why? "Because we have a naturalistic explanation". Understand that the role of "science" these days is not to find truth, and in its true form it cannot. These days, "science" and evolution are only out to find "a naturalistic explanation" about everything it can, past, present, and possibly future, seen and unseen. This betrays its bias and, dare I say, religious allegiance to an all-pervading naturalism, the rejection of an actively working Deity. This is not a condemnation of the so-called "methodological naturalism" people may use to make observations like "the boy kicks a ball, transferring the kinetic energy of the foot to the ball, causing it to move", or "the heat of the sun evaporates the water which condenses in the sky and forms rain". These are based on a lot of good observations and experience, human experience. The naturalism I speak of is the dogmatic philosophical kind that says things beyond human experience and thus beyond real science, where it tells us "facts" of history never witnessed, never experienced, only believed and preached enough to convict others who use the same philosophy in parts of their lives, consistently, like an atheist, or inconsistently, like some theists.
This is just to give you a hint of the reasoning behind calling evolution a religion. It is similar to creation science as they both have a philosophical bias, and scientific evidence and research. One difference is that evolution is funded more by governments and given more airtime in the media and the support to fund its research. All these things don't make it true, just pervasive.
The Talk Origins website makes a number of straw man comments like:
(Talk.Origins quotes in blue)
Evolution merely describes part of nature. The fact that that part of nature is important to many people does not make evolution a religion.
Note to reader: straw man argument. Nobody said that.
Evolution may be considered a religion under the metaphorical definition of something pursued with zeal or conscientious devotion.
Note again to reader: it is doubtful that this was the only reason someone called evolution a religion, if they used this point at all. The author of this Talk Origins may be dealing more with dictionary definitions rather than creationist claims.
Evolutionary theory has been used as a basis for studying and speculating about the biological basis for morals and religious attitudes (Sober and Wilson 1998). Studying religion, though, does not make the study a religion. Using evolution to study the origins of religious attitudes does not make evolution a religion any more than using archaeology to study the origins of biblical texts makes archaeology a religion.
Once again it is extremely doubtful that anyone said that studying the basis of religion and morals from a certain point of view makes evolution a religion in itself. But this does go to show how pervasive evolution is as more of a philosophical worldview than a scientific theory. What does biology have to do with morals? What philosophical framework to you have to be using to even imagine this? This is not just exploration, but an expression of the sort of thinking that goes behind evolution and its logical implications.
But a noticeable thing is that religions do study religions. Christians look into Islam and Hinduism came into being through their own philosophical lens. Judaism looks at Christianity and other religions through its own philosophical lens. Apparently evolutionists have joined the club of religions looking at other religions. This doesn't mean that evolution is a religion based on this point, but as I've said, the similarities are interesting and possibly quite leading too.
Anyway, after getting past these weaker points, Talk Origins makes a number of points that are actually worth discussing.
Religions explain ultimate reality. Evolution stops with the development of life (it does not even include the origins of life).
Firstly a question might be, what is "ultimate reality"? After searching, I found that Wikipedia had a nice concise explanation about it.  It states the following:
"In philosophy, Ultimate Reality is the absolute nature of all things. It is different from ordinary reality, which is considered a product of the individual conscious mind. Ultimate Reality is independent of observation.
An Ultimate Reality is generally alluded to by non-theistic religions where theistic religions would speak of divinity."
This is quite informative since it tells us that both theistic and non-theistic religions can have an ultimate reality. The article also linked ultimate reality with objective truth.
If, for the sake of argument, evolution was a religion, a non-theistic religion, what would its ultimate reality, or objective truth, be? When the author of another Talk Origins page was talking about a form of naturalism which he believed science used, he said:
"It does not assume that nature is all there is; it merely notes that nature is the only objective standard we have." See Claim CA601.
The philosophy of naturalism, which evolution is inextricably tied to has its definition the following phrase:
"The system of thought holding that all phenomena can be explained in terms of natural causes and laws." Dictionary.com
The main link we have here is nature or matter. When trying to understand the world and how it came to be, evolution places one thing as the ultimate reality, the only truth it is willing to recognize: Nature. Since it excludes the supernatural, what else is left? It logically follows that Nature must have the power to do all that is required for the development of all living things. Now where real science may include the study of natural causes, evolution takes it many steps beyond where real science can go, saying nature, natural forces and causes, is all there is that can be used to explain everything in the natural world . "Deity" becomes extremely subjective ("...a product of the individual conscious mind"), put into the place of speculation and opinion. The only objectivity ultimately comes from the natural world. Nature becomes the absolute, the objective, the ultimate. How can it be relative if it is the standard you are using?
It then follows that evolution does explain its own ultimate reality and humanity's place within it, to counter Talk Origins' second point about human existence, despite its claim that it only limited to the biological.
The author here is either quite insincere or ambiguous with his use of the word "evolution". It would have been better for him to say "biological evolution" or "Darwinism/Neo-Darwinism" or even "the theory of evolution" is limited to life after it begins. But we'll just discuss the more ambiguous term he used. To say that "evolution" simply starts when life starts is incorrect because the doctrine of evolution is much wider, as can be evidenced by the Talk Origins website, which doesn't just argue about biological evolution, but also about the big bang and abiogenesis. "Evolution" encompasses a vast number of fields in religio-naturalistic "science".
There is a part called Chemical evolution, dealing with abiogenesis and the hypothesis of life coming from non-life.  Just type the words "chemical evolution" in an internet search engine and there will be a huge number of sources, evolutionist sources, trying to sell this theory of evolution.
There is a part called Stellar evolution, dealing with hypothetical theories on how stars are born, their development, and their "death". 
There is even something called Cosmic evolution, dealing with the origin and development of matter in the entire universe, for example . These can include theories that try to tell use the universe is eternal and infinite.
All these things can be found on the internet, just doing a search using these words.
So if the author of this Talk Origins page is trying to tell us that simply "evolution" starts with life, he is either grossly mistaken or insincere (to say the least). At best he should rephrase the words he uses, and his whole website to leave out the other sorts of evolution.
So yes, evolution deals with ultimate reality, since where theists have divinity, evolutionists and atheists just have nature and matter. And its logical implications does have bearing on a person place in that ultimate reality.
These points alone could enforce the point that evolution is a religion, a naturalistic worldview, but I'll continue on with the points the Talk Origins writer tries to say.
Religions almost always include reverence for and/or belief in a supernatural power or powers. Evolution does not.
The key word in what he said was "almost". The most important fact is that atheism is a religion and it has no supernatural power or powers. Looking at the definition we had concerning religion higher up on this page, having to do with faith in a cause or principle, it definitely does not rule out evolution. So this point the Talk Origins author raises, by his very own wording, proves nothing to help the idea that evolution is not a religion.
Religions impose moral prescriptions on their members. Evolution does not.
Note that with a lot of these aspects that the writer of Talk Origins points out, they are not essential to a religion. They may be essential to institutionalized religions, but not in essence to religion.
Now it may be true that evolution does not actively or overtly enforce moral prescriptions upon their members. But there are some ground rules in the evolution faith that one cannot break. For example, don't invoke the divine or the supernatural. And, don't challenge the status quo of the fundamental evolution faith unless you can find another "good" naturalistic theory. Just as "religion" may tell you to act and work and interact in a certain way with the world around you, evolution and its adherents do no less.
Additionally, evolution does have moral implications since it does show us where our morals come from: our biological development. Evolution also has implications as to how objective these morals are that we may all have, or what objective source they have.
Evolution, as Dobzhansky said, is the light which illuminates all facts. And how dark our world has become!
Religious ideas are highly static; they change primarily by splitting off new religions. Ideas in evolutionary biology change rapidly as new evidence is found.
Although the author tries to paint a nice open view of evolutionary biology, there is one religious idea in evolution that has never changed in over 150 years since it first come into formal existence: that evolution happened, and that it happened only by natural causes, and it all happened over a vast period of time. (When I speak of evolution here, I speak of biological evolution which claims that all living creatures descended from a common ancestry of simpler life-forms billions of years ago.) They still hold to the static belief that natural selection must have had something to with it, as well as mutation. People who question evolution or denounce it would be kicked out of the metaphorical evolutionist country club and lose respect because they challenge and oppose this established belief. Evolutionary biology, like any religion, may change (and religions are not as highly static as the author of this Talk Origins page would have us believe), but its change is limited to its overall statement of belief: (grand-scale) evolution happened
Now I shouldn't have to deal with every single point that the Talk Origins author brings up in order to show that the ways he uses to distinguish evolution from a religion is based on narrowing the definitions and descriptions of religion to how he wishes religion to be in order to make evolution not a religion. The distinctions he has tried to impose are neither accurate enough in description, nor valid enough in use to point away from the fact that evolution is a religion, an outgrowth of a philosophy that excludes Deity.
How can a religion not have any adherents? When asked their religion, many, perhaps most, people who believe in evolution will call themselves members of mainstream religions, such as Christianity, Buddhism, and Hinduism. None identify their religion as evolution. If evolution is a religion, it is the only religion that is rejected by all its members.
Once again, the definition of religion is narrowed to "institutionalized religions". This is not necessarily the point that creationists have been trying to make, so he's made another straw man for himself to hack to pieces.
Evolution as religion has been rejected by the courts:
This is one of the kind of funnier points, but I guess this point is made to help further the cause for evolution to be taught alone as science in school, and to neuter any creationist cause. All that has been said here is that certain human authorities say that evolution is not a religion. Have these authorities given us all an objective definition that will last for all time for all people? Are they now the judges of all truth on this matter? If a murderer was declared innocent of his murders by a judge or a number of judges, does that mean he is truly innocent?
Although the judge gave his own honest opinion about evolution being a religion, that's all he did: give his opinion. And it was authoritative in a way because he was a judge ruling in a court. But does an authoritative human opinion mean truth, the end of the matter? Very doubtful argument.
There are significant reasons why evolution can be seen as a religion, a faith that has been spread to the knowledgeable and the naive alike. I hope this article has outlined some of them.
- Ultimate Reality - by Wikipedia
- Chemical evolution - by Wikipedia
- Stellar Evolution - Columbia Encyclopedia via Yahoo!
- Cosmic Evolution