Wednesday, July 04, 2007

I Am Not Alone

From the TO Star on Canadian attitudes towards evolution:

The Canadian Press-Decima Research survey suggests that 60 per cent of Canadians believe God had either a direct or indirect role in creating mankind, shattering the myth that Canadians had long ago put their faith strictly behind the scientific explanation for creation.

The poll suggests Canadians divide in essentially three groups on the issue of creation: 34 per cent of those polled said humans developed over millions of years under a process guided by God; 26 per cent said God created humans alone within the last 10,000 years or so; and 29 per cent said they believe evolution occurred with no help from God.

Interesting less for the information on the number of pure-bread nutters among us (26%), then for the fact that, if you interpret the 29% who believe "evolution occurred with no help from God" as being Atheists, then this is about twice the number usually given by Stats Canada (16.2%).

So in Canada we The Godless outnumber young Earth Creationists. I for one am comforted.

PS. I recommend reading the whole article for its detailed breakdowns. As has been generally noted in the past, B.C. is a relative hot-bed of atheism with 31% saying that God played no role in evolution. Somewhat more surprising, given earlier research on the topic (at least my understanding of it), are the Quebec numbers:

Regionally, Quebec respondents were by far the most likely to say God’s role in creation was a delusion, with 40 per cent saying the evolutionary process had no interference from an intelligent designer.

The actual survey is still not up on the Decima site. If I remember, I will post a link when it appears.


Alison said...

Totally off-topic but not able to get in to your email so go ahead and erase this after you've read it:

BCL? Having a moment of insecurity here. I can't tell from your cryptic comment on my post referencing you whether you were amused or offended by it. I take it for granted you know I adore your blog and my post was supposed to amuse you. If it didn't I'll happily take it down right now. Sometimes I'm not as funny as I think I am so please advise.

bigcitylib said...

Alison, it did amuse me, however I read it very much pre coffee so at first I was not sure if I had actually been tagged or just ref'd admiringly. NOw after two cups I am pretty sure I have been tagged with another meme, and will respond on your blog with threats shortly. I feel responding with threats will be my standard method of dealing with memes from here on.

PS. What's wrong with the email?

Alison said...

What's wrong with the email?
Probably nothing. Couldn't figure out the passport thingy.

Late night drunk-blogging I'm afraid.
Really thought from your "I'll get you for that" comment that I had offended you. Ok, happy again now.
Tagged or ref'd admiringly, your choice. Threats - perfect.
Have to go lie down now.

Ti-Guy said...

Grand philosophical questions...does God exist? Does God intervene actively in the world to guide the physical processes of evolution? Burning questions that we all want to know and the first thing our media should do is survey the population on what it believes.

Next up, What else but Quantum mechanics! What do Canadians think about Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle and Planck time?

Lord Kitchener's Own said...

Well, I wouldn't say that believing that "evolution occurs with no help from God" is equivalent to atheism, necessarily. I guess it all depends upon what one means by "help" or "guide".

I'd imagine one could easily believe (and that many do) that God created the universe, but simultaneously that God does not interfere in the natural processes (such as evolution) which sprang from said creation. I wouldn't call myself an atheist (agnostic maybe, but I'm not prepared to say atheist) but I think I'd have been in that 29%, while not AT ALL thinking of myself as atheist.

It's pretty complicated actually. If one believes that God created the universe, what need would God have to "guide" evolution? Wouldn't he know exactly where the natural processes that were the result of his creation would end up (He is all-knowing afterall). If one takes "guided by God" to mean "actively manipulated by God in real time" I'd imagine many "believers" would say "No, it isn't, not in that sense". If one reads "guided by" as simply created by", or "ultimately set in motion by" maybe not so much, but I don't think that's the typical way to read "guided by".

It's similar in some ways I think to the theological question of free will. Can free will be "free" if God knows what you're going to choose before you choose it? Many say yes. It's certainly complicated.

Anyway, I just wouldn't go too far in equating "God isn't actively 'guiding' the process of evolution" with "There is no God". I think one can believe the first without believing the second. One can easily, I think, believe that God created the universe, AND that He does not interfere in it's natural processes (which are, nonetheless, the result of His creation), just as one can believe simultaneously that God does not interfere in the choices we make, yet is nonetheless aware of the choices we will make, even before we make them.

Regardless of any of that though, that 26% is pretty shocking. If God exists, one of the things He gave us was reason. I'd bet He's not at all pleased so few of us ever use it. It's rather rude!

bigcitylib said...


That's good point, but then the position you seem to outlining (God set up the initial conditions and then let it roll) would seem more like the "evolution via a process guided by God" (or initiated by God?). To say evolution occured without God (the 29%) is to say that men were not Created by God. Or so it seems to me.

I will be interested in getting a look at the actual survey questions.

Anonymous said...

At first I was scared by the Title of "I am not Alone" meaning that you were one of the Sheep (or flock as they say) that thinks that a) there is a Deity and the b) it had anything to do with us.

Lord Kitchener's Own said...

BCL, I think the difference between "guided by" and "initiated by" is an important one in that context (and at least the perceptions of that difference by those surveyed is). It would be interesting (and important) to see the actual survey questions, but if we take the article at face value, and presume the question involved a process "guided by" God, I think that's a lot different from "initiated by" God (which itself isn't probably ideal in this context). I think that you're probably right that, "To say evolution occured without God is to say that men were not Created by God". I just don't think that's necessarily what the survey says 29% of people believe (in fact, I think that's not at all what the survey says, based on the article). It's very different, I think, to say that evolution occured "without God" than it is to say that evolution occured "without 'guidance' from God". Maybe the difference isn't so stark if you really drill down, but I don't think most of the people surveyed probably did.

An analogy, 'cause I'm not sure I was as clear as I wanted to be (not that this analogy will necessarily help!).

A lot of this has to do, I think, with what one views as "creation". We tend to think in these arguments of God-centred views of creation (or "creationism") solely in the context of evolution, and the biological evolutionary process and the "creation" of life, rather than in a larger context of creation of the universe. We approach the argument (because it's framed as an argument about evolution and biology, as opposed to perhaps physics) from the stance that the options are that God is either managing the process of biological change like a movie director, or that He doesn't exist/isn't involved at all.

So, here's an imperfect analogy. If I put a pot of water on the stove, and crank it up to high, the water will boil, and eventually evaporate entirely. Now, did I "guide" the process of boiling? Did I need too? Did I need to reach in magically and manually manipulate the atoms of the water to make them move more rapidly, creating heat and turning the water to steam? Of course not. And I think if you surveyed people, a lot of people would say that the boiling happened "with no help from LKO" if the other options were that either the water boiled "through LKO's power alone" or that it boiled "under a process guided by LKO". The natural process of water boiling when heated simply happened, so many would say, despite my involvement in the boiling, that I did NOT guide the process of atomic excitation. Nonetheless, it doesn't happen if I don't put the water on the stove (yes, yes, the water would evaporate eventually without me, but you see the point I hope). I didn't "guide" the boiling process, and there would be no need for me to (in fact, even if I could, it would be silly for me to "guide" a process that I know will happen in due course without my "guidance"). But the point is, the boiling still doesn't happen without me. The water boiled because I created the conditions under which it would boil. I didn't "guide" or "interfere" with the atomic processes that resulted in the boiling, but I'm still the guy who boiled the water. The water doesn't boil without me.

Understand, I'm not using this as an argument for, let alone proof of, the existence of God. I'm not saying God is "needed", I'm simply saying that He can exist, and be responsible for "creation" without actually "guiding" or manipulating the natural process. The difference of course is that God's not just setting a pot on a stove. His "creation" is elemental. Once the universe exists though, there's no more need for God to "guide" it, going forward, than there is for me to guide the excitation of H2O molecules in order to get the water to boil. In fact, if you believe in an omnipotent God, I would think the idea of God "guiding" a natural process would be pretty silly. Why would He need to?

Anonymous said...

Solticism is next.

Anonymous said...

argghhh!! Solticism = solsticism!!!

Red Tory said...

LKO — In fact, if you believe in an omnipotent God, I would think the idea of God "guiding" a natural process would be pretty silly. Why would He need to?

Maybe He's just a meddlesome busy-body with nothing better to do than tinker with the products of His creation for the fun of it. Not all of His experiments have been successful... Or, He could be like some heavenly breeder ceaselessly refining different species to develop certain traits over time (which is relative remember).

Ti-Guy said...

With these kinds of surveys, I just can never get past the feeling that people are expressing what they think they should believe, rather than what they actually do believe. Religion imposes a very strict form of hypocrisy that compels you to answer questions about things you have no way of knowing in an very orthodox way; otherwise, you'll be accused of not being a true believer and therefore a...*gasp*...bad person.

I find surveying people's behaviour and observing the choices they make more compelling, than listening to them tell me what they believe. That's what's been fascinating about all the un-Christian hate coming from the Religious Right these last few years.

Jay said...

You have been tagged for 8 random Things about Yourself. Someone had to be the victims. ;)

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Jay said...

Just noticed you may have already been tagged.

If you haven't please do me (not in the sexual sense of course).

Jay said...

I'm atheist and I despise all religions and wish they would be wiped from the face of this planet but I do recognize it serves a purpose for those without their own moral compass.

Its frightening to think that without a bible/koran/torah/L Ron Hubbard novels, all these religious folk would probably be out maiming and killing others.

So yes their is a need but unfortunately its to control people

Anonymous said...

I prefer polls that ask questions which how many Canadians have been abducted by aliens.

Anonymous said...

Like that idea Mushroom.

However, as much as PMSH is proclaiming that 'Canada is back' on the international stage' we have been losing our intergalatic edge under Canada's Somewhat Psuedo-New-ish (with just a few minor dents and scratches) Government.

UFO sightings dropped 16 per cent under Harper