If not, then what are alternative theories of our origin?
Posted: August 10th 2011
I haven’t met any who don’t believe in evolution. I don’t see the point, either—if you’re capable of disbelieving in evolution, you might as well go ahead and be a Christian. It’s great fun being Christian… and you’ve already hurdled most of the cognitive dissonance.
If you are talking about the origin of humans, the evidence that we share ancestors will all the other organisms on the earth is so voluminous that it isn’t really a matter of believing that we are related, it’s just obvious that we are.
Why we are related – how evolution works, the theory of evolution – is something that I think is the best explanation for how evolution happened. There’s a chance that some other theory could come along and replace evolution, but that seems unlikely at this point.
If you are talking about the origin of life, evolution doesn’t really cover that, the study of abiogenesis does. There are a number of theories there but all of them are naturalistic.
Atheism does not by itself inoculate a person against woo. There is an “atheistic religion” called Raëlism which teaches that aliens seeded life on earth, and that the diversity of life is due to intelligent design carried out by these same aliens. Humans have mistaken these aliens for angels and deities and constructed false religions based on these misapprehensions, or so the story goes.
Alternatives to evolution are all of this type (whether they are atheistic or not). People decide that they don’t like evolution by natural selection for whatever reason, and they reach for any alternative no matter how bogus. The theory of evolution is as well supported as any other finding in science; the only objections to it are based not on evidence but on prejudice.
Please be careful with words like “believe”. The word is too broad: it gets used for irrational religious belief as well as rational acceptance, so you need to be more specific. I am speaking for myself only: no-one speaks for all atheists.
Evolution is not a “belief” in the irrational sense: it does not demand that we accept it without question, and neither do any of its supporters. No, not even Richard Dawkins. I generally accept Evolution by Natural Selection as the best explanation of our origins, since right now there are no supported alternative theories – “supported” meaning “backed by objective evidence”. It’s the state of the art.
The theory is so advanced that its findings mesh extremely well with other branches of science e.g. the discovery of the Tiktaalik fossils were the result of evolutionary predictions of what might have lived 375 million years ago, at which point geologists were able to steer researchers towards rock formations of that age – and the predictions panned out very well.
However, what if I’m wrong, and some better explanation comes along? Then I will look at that too. My existence and self-image are not contingent on belief in any theory. This is the part that religious people don’t seem to get: that we define the theories, but are not defined by them. We’ll “believe” something if there’s a reason to believe: and if the reasons change to point at something else, we then can believe that – and suffer no consequences from the change, since we weren’t dogmatically wedded to the old “belief” in the first place.