Science as religion/Darwinism

Welcome to the Darwinism as Religion discussion group. Participants in this learning project read about evolution and religion and discuss the claim that Darwinism is taught as religion in public schools.


Charles Darwin

Is Darwinism the religion of public schools?


Additional reading



  • The question "Is Darwinism the religion of public schools?" makes several assumptions which themselves should be questioned. Perhaps a more valid heading is: Is Darwinism a religion? Or "What defines a religion?"

Central dogma


-- What about the central dogma of molecular biology? would you still consider it a dogma? comment added by 00:52, 24 May 2007

  • When Crick first used the term "central dogma" he called it "dogma" because it was a widely accepted idea for which there was very little real supporting evidence. During the past 50 years there has been accumulation of a huge amount of confirming evidence supporting the idea that genetic information is stored in nucleic acid sequences and can be used by cells to produce corresponding protein sequences.

Correction: Crick dubbed it the central dogma to poke fun at religion.

Knowledge vs belief

  • Decimal arithmetic is also taught in public schools. Does that also make it a religion? Science is knowledge whereas religion is belief. The author (Alba) makes no effort to try to separate both. Pedro.Gonnet 18:33, 10 October 2006 (UTC)

Although Religion is a belief it is often incorrectly claimed to be scientifically based. A consequence of this is the question as to whether religion should be a subject of science. The lack of any scientific proof for religion precludes the ability to consider such as a science. It is not a science. To make such a claim is to fundamentally misunderstand the meaning of science.

Religion is increasingly a subject for scientific study. Religion can be studied as a natural phenomenon. --JWSchmidt 02:28, 2 December 2007 (UTC)

In contrast, the study of religion as a social event, the effect on large numbers of people can be studied scientifically. This is true of any grouping of individuals and is not unique to religion. It does not, however, concern itself with the factual validity of the religion itself but rather with the effect it has on groups of people. Since this can be statistically measured and modeled, such studies fall within the realm of science even if the religion itself clearly does not.

When the writer talks about scientific proof he/she is mistaking the scientific process. Mathematicians prove; scientists observe. A better choice of words would be scientific evidence in place of proof. With regard to evidence religious persons might claim there is evidence that supports ones beliefs just as Darwinists claim there is evidence to support evolution, and both sides might question whether the evidence scientifically supports the others beliefs. Is there evidence that supports undirected evolution?—

The nature of scientific theories

  • This page, and the article it originates from, is totally meaningless. As others have pointed out, evolution theory has many fruitful consequences, but this is irrelevant. Even if it did not, knowledge of how nature works is a goal per se. Evoulution theory is a scientific theory in the sense that there are a number of conceivable archeological findings that could in principle falsify it. For example, a fossil primate datable the Mesozoic era, or a fossil cat with wings ascribable to any era. None of the above would falsify creationism. God could have created cats with wings, horns and breathing fire. No conceivable finding could possibly falsify creationism. Not even millions of findings supporting evolution theory will ever falsify creationism because after all - who knows what God thinks? - god could have perfecly deceived human beings into believing that evolution theory is true, simply by placing fossils in the correct times and places to test human "faith". So, creationism is not a scientific theory. It is a mysteric explanation which resorts to mystical intervention which could explain anything and the contrary of anything. It has exactly the same value as the theory that all reality is an imaginary construct of my consciousness, which is the only existing being in the universe (no, not your consciousness. Mine). Basically, as far as science is concerned, creationism is nothing at all. Massimamanno 11:24, 24 January 2007 (UTC)

Reproducible observations vs revelation

  • Science and Religion are both concerned with the proposition of generative mechanisms to any observable phenomena. Science is dependent upon repeatable observations to inform its claims, while religions typically rely on the claims of prophets as revealed to them by god. Any teacher unable to inform their students as to the repeatable observations that inform modern understanding of the Theory of Evolution really should not be in the business of teaching science. Ms. Alba presents a series of fundamental misconceptions about the nature of science and the biological sciences in particular. The idea that there are no transitional fossils, no observed incidents of speciation and the seeming contradictory nature of the "Cambrian Explosion" are all famous Creationist canards, easily explained away by anyone who takes a moment to review any of the pertinent information on the subjects.Mr. Knuffke 14:09, 19 February 2007 (UTC)

Has Darwinism really failed to achieve the goals set out by Alba?

  • Before we start, shouldn´t we ask ourselves if darwinism equals evolution ? If not, then we should take full responsability and look for the reductionist (and functionalist) flaws in the neodarwinian paradigm, without the need of invoking creationist magic, e.g. we may consider systemic biology, structural coupling, autopoiesis and evolution by natural drift (see Maturana & Mpodozis, 2000). comment added by 00:52, 24 May 2007
  • Rambaut, Posada, Crandall, and Holmes dicsuss how HIV evolves within and among hosts through natural selection and other evolutionary mechanisms. If you had a drug-resistant variant of AIDS, would you want your doctor to be a creationist?
  • Some creationists make a distinction between the rapid and observable evolution of micro-organisms and the evolution of new species (example), saying that the observable evolution of micro-organisms does not indicate that new species arise by gradual natural selection. --JWSchmidt 01:46, 11 October 2006 (UTC)
    • Well, I guess that depends on how we're going to define "species." Is reproductive isolation enough? Looking for a speciation event is a bit like Zeno's paradox... at what point does Achilles pass the tortoise?
    • Here's a good quote from that article: "Whatever we may try to do within a given species, we soon reach limits which we cannot break through. A wall exists on every side of each species. That wall is the DNA coding, which permits wide variety within it (within the gene pool, or the genotype of a species)—but no exit through that wall." I.E.-- DNA is immutable.
  • I guess this discussion only makes sense if we first enumerate the 'goals set out by Alba':
  1. "What scientist and field of science relies on and solely depends on Darwin’s theory of evolution for any advances in human progress?"
  2. "What advances in modern medicine, technology and products were derived solely from relying on Darwin’s theory of evolution?"
  3. "Did evolution produce gas-powered mowers, sticky notes, aluminum foil, zip-lock bags, war and peace, medicines, mammogram machines, vaccines, zippers, microwaves, coffee machines, etc.?"
  4. "Without belief in Darwin’s overall theory, would scientists still have discovered the wonders of the genetic code?"
  5. "Would they have embarked on exploring the universe, developing complex mathematical equations, discovered black holes and other anomalies [without belief in Darwin’s overall theory]?"
  6. "How has evolutionary theory contributed to discoveries of the building blocks, atoms and molecules?"
  7. "Do we really require Darwin’s evolution theory for human societies and the study of all things?"
  8. "What has it produced?" or, more rethorically laden "The deep silence of the Darwinian faithful, who cannot give us the answers for their beliefs, speaks to us loudly and clearly."
The first two questions are answered rather nicely in the Nature article.
The goals 3-6 are of a more lofty nature and are not achieved by Darwinism or evolutionary theory (ET), since they have nothing or very little to do with biology. This may be the result of Alba casting Darwinism and ET in the mold of a religion as a driving force of humanity. I doubt, however, that any religion will fare any better at these goals.
The goal/question 7 has to be split in to two subquestion: a) "for human societies" and b) "the study of all things". Darwinism and ET is only of limited applicability for societies and is best known for it's misuse in such fields (although viewing the survival of a society under ET becomes an interesting and relevant question). Regarding the "study of all things", Darwinism and ET are definitely useful for understanding Biology (see, again, the Nature article), yet "all things" may be too high an aspiration. Again, this is probably the result of trying to cast Darwinism and ET as a religion.
The 8th and final goal can again also be answered by the Nature article -- almost all advancements in immunology and virology stem from the assumption that all organisms -- and hence all genes -- have a common ancestor. Pedro.Gonnet 07:49, 11 October 2006 (UTC)
  • I don't understand this. Maybe someone can enlighten me. All I see here is citations from anti-evolution websites (, and from a Christian fundamentalist- at least, from what I can see (Alba). This is Wikiversity, right? I'm new here, but I expected this to work somewhat like a university. And at a university, people usually look at all sides of the argument. Not just looking at the facts that seem the most pleasing to our background or personal ideas. So please, if this is just another anti-evolution rant, could you at least make that clear to people who come onto this article? IronChris 03:47, 9 November 2006 (UTC)
    • This is an exploration of a claim about a certain type of relationship between some scientific ideas and religion. It might be possible to label the Alba article as an "anti-evolution rant", but it is hard for me to see how that label applies to this discussion. At the top of the page is the suggestion that participants read "The Causes and Consequences of HIV Evolution".....hardly a citation to an anti-evolution source. If a side of the argument has been left out, please add it in. --JWSchmidt 05:28, 9 November 2006 (UTC)

Is Christianity the religion of public schools?


It depends on your culture, my dear. (The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talkcontribs) )

What is Science? What is Religion?


Science is systematic empirical inquiry, based on doubt, looking for facts. It is not a movement, but a philosophy on how to attain knowledge. Therefore, science should not be viewed as a body of knowledge (that may or may not be proven incorrect), but rather as a frame of mind and philosophy on how to be as honest and objective as possible in trying to find and apply the rules that govern the natural world. Religion is assumption, without inquiry, based on beliefs handed down through generations. Unlike science, religion is a movement. Being a movement implies having an agenda. Even though a scientist may have an agenda, science (as a process) does not.

This describes science as being at least in part a philosophy. Wouldn't that imply that science starts with certain assumptions? That is, there is only the natural world and by definition, no creator, no intelligent design. I have heard some in the scientific community saying that "God" or "God"-like figure isn't given consideration because it can't be proved. Could it be that God just hasn't been proved yet. I find it fascinating that the science community of any particular age treats their existing beliefs as irrefutable because they have been scientifically proven, and yet our understanding of natural law is constantly evolving. Many of the best minds of the day thought the world was flat until they found it wasn't. Is it possible that science will deny the existence of a spiritual realm until they find it exists? Could it be that some "scientist" somewhere is discovering that the lack of a spiritual realm doesn't match the reality of his observations and thereby sets about to test his hypothesis that another dimension in addition to the physical world exists? I find that people of religious belief and people of science both operate on faith. One has faith that a spiritual realm exists and the other has faith that it does not. 04:58, 12 March 2009 (UTC)Ty Lorts

"the science community of any particular age treats their existing beliefs as irrefutable because they have been scientifically proven" <-- We all face the danger that we will adopt and act on an assumption, then at a later time discover new evidence that makes it impossible to continue making use of that assumption. Science often discards old assumptions after new methods are found for exploring the world and providing us with new information that we previously lacked. Science builds upon objective evidence that multiple people can collect and examine. Within science, rather than take things on faith there are rewards for finding new ways to test existing ideas, hypotheses and theories. A "scientific proof" is just an argument that other scientists accept as a valid argument. When new information becomes available, old proofs can be abandoned, possibly because they were built upon faulty assumptions. I think the only real "faith" within science is the idea that the assumptions, beliefs, and ideas we adopt are best based upon objective evidence that is open to constant challenge, questioning and re-evaluation...and even that "faith" is based on much human experience and learning from past successes and failures. Sometimes if you are not an expert in a particular scientific specialty it might seem like you are forced to take the claims made by experts in that scientific specialty "on faith". This is where the track record of that discipline becomes important. It is always fair to ask if scientists in that field previously demonstrated that they can be trusted. The need for open evaluation and criticism of scientific claims never ends. In general, new scientific ideas are tentative and given little weight until many independent investigators can evaluate and confirm the results and conclusions, ideally by using multiple tests of different design. One strategy that many scientists often make use of is Occam's razor. If Darwin suggests that new species can arise and evolve by natural selection while a religion's doctrine says that an unseen intelligent designer is needed, many scientists are going to view it as a welcome simplification to abandon belief in the need for an intelligent designer: doing so saves us from having to provide objective and reproducible evidence for the unseen intelligent designer that is only known to us through religious doctrine. If you brought God to the next AAAS annual meeting for public demonstrations of the creation of new species by intelligent design, many scientists would be thrilled and would re-examine their assumptions. Many scientists do not feel that it is productive to assume that there is an unseen intelligent designer because that "answer" to the question of where living things come from creates the additional problem: where did the intelligent designer come from? I'm interested in the idea that some things might be easily known by subjective means yet be difficult to demonstrate objectively. For example, the human brain might have some sources of knowledge that science has not yet discovered. Scientists make a living by collecting data and doing experiments that other people can reproduce, so they are not usually ready to spend their time investigating supernatural and spiritual claims that have long resisted the available scientific methods of study. I think the general assumption is not that "supernatural things do not exist" but rather something like, "As a scientist, I am unlikely to find objective evidence for claimed supernatural entities, so I'll devote my efforts to other topics of study". "Could it be that some "scientist" somewhere is discovering that the lack of a spiritual realm doesn't match the reality of his observations and thereby sets about to test his hypothesis that another dimension in addition to the physical world exists?" <-- Yes, it could be, but if a method was found to reproducibly provide evidence for a "supernatural phenomenon" then it seems to me that the phenomenon would then pass into the domain of science. --JWSchmidt 00:32, 13 March 2009 (UTC)

What is Religion?


Mirriam-Webster defines religion as:

1b. commitment or devotion to religious¹ faith or observance
2. a personal set or institutionalized system of religious¹ attitudes, beliefs, and practices
4. a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith²
¹religious: 1 : relating to or manifesting faithful devotion to an acknowledged ultimate reality or deity
3 a : scrupulously and conscientiously faithful b : FERVENT, ZEALOUS
²faith: 1 a : allegiance to duty or a person : LOYALTY b (1) : fidelity to one's promises (2) : sincerity of intentions
2 a (1) : belief and trust in and loyalty to God (2) : belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion b (1) : firm belief in something for which there is no proof (2) : complete trust
3 : something that is believed especially with strong conviction; especially : a system of religious¹ beliefs <the Protestant faith>

According to Mirriam Webster, then, religion may be (in the relevant senses):

  1. A commitment or devotion to faith² in (or observance relating to) an acknowledged ultimate reality
  2. A personal set of attitudes, beliefs, and practices relating to an acknowledged ultimate reality
  3. An institutionalized system of attitudes, beliefs, and practices relating to an acknowledged ultimate reality
  4. A cause held to with ardor and faith²
  5. A principle held to with ardor and faith²
  6. A system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith²



The original statement is just a bit of rhetorical judo. I've also seen "Darwinian Fundamentalism." Personally I find it humorous and hard to take seriously at all. It fits well into the overall Intelligent Design strategy. They already call ID religious beliefs scientific, so why not call also scientific ideas religious?

I am afraid our education system is so poor that it doesn't really matter much. Children with talent and ability in science are likely to find resources on their own. (like wikiversity?) Average students are not interested and if as adults they join fundamentalist religions, it won't matter what they were taught in school. Cuvtixo 15:20, 26 July 2007 (UTC)

I wonder if it would be constructive for Wikiversity to just go ahead and create pages for an investigation of the idea of intelligent design. If we showed the actual problems that arise when you try to use scientific methods to explore and test the idea that life was designed by an intelligent agent, would that provide a useful learning resource? --JWSchmidt 16:19, 26 July 2007 (UTC)
If it could avoid flame wars and still remain two-sided. The Jade Knight 05:42, 27 July 2007 (UTC)
I'm skeptical about "two sidedness" of scientific investigations. Everyone should collaborate to test ideas by comparing hypotheses to reproducible observations. Yes, disputes arise within science, but everyone should have the same goal.....finding the descriptions of our world that fit best with what we can all observe. --JWSchmidt 15:55, 27 July 2007 (UTC)
Flaming occurs in the field of Science as well as elsewhere—those Scientists who have one position, regardless of whether its right or wrong (and this is true today, as far as centuries of history show), do not easily accept theories that contradict their own. On the other hand, certain ID supporters have shown a particular willingness to flame members of the Science community, and criticize some established scientific theory. I think most people coming to this project will have already made up their minds which of the two sides is correct, and that it will be very difficult to avoid flaming if both sides are present. The Jade Knight 22:12, 27 July 2007 (UTC)



The word itself is pejorative. Evolution theory has changed vastly since Darwin and this word is almost 100% used by IDists & Creationists in order to further the idea that it is a religion. Also, this topic as is almost solely confined to the USA as far as I know (I'm in the UK). (apologies if this is in the wrong place - see talk page. TheresaWilson 14:02, 30 July 2008 (UTC)

Thanks Theresa. How do you see calling it "Darwinism" as a means of suggesting that it is a religion? Is it that "evolution" would be perceived as a scientific theory, but the fact that we can call it after someone makes it possible that we are following a pseudo-religious guru? For me (and I am also in the UK), I have never heard "Darwinism" being used, but I often hear references to "Darwinian", which refers to the ever-developmental, survival-of-the-fittest process that we associate with Darwin's theory of evolution. Cormaggio talk 15:46, 30 July 2008 (UTC)
If you examine words ending in "ism", few come to mind at the moment, but I'll give it some thought, I think that you will find that most are religious or pseudo-religious. (Buddhism, Hinduism, spiritualism off the top) IDists/Creationists use a similar construction to attempt to equate Evolution(ism) with their beliefs in order to demonstrate their point. This is especially true in the USA where there is a legislated division between Church & State. Their reasoning appears to be that: if evolution (Darwinism) can be shown to be a religion then their religion should be given equal opportunity. TheresaWilson 16:00, 30 July 2008 (UTC)
As to why "Dawinism" rather than "Evolutionism" is used: it reminds everyone of Victorian times and allows the current thinking on evolution to be minimised. TheresaWilson 16:31, 30 July 2008 (UTC)
That's interesting. There are certainly more "isms" than simply those that denote religion - eg. postmodernism, positivism, tribalism, colonialism - though I would agree that they all reflect a cultural dimension of the world, and hence some sort of worldview. But it's interesting that Wikipedia acknowledges that the use of the word scientism is also used pejoratively. In fact, isn't "ism" itself sometimes used as a word in its own right to indicate a disdain for academic distinctions between things? (Eg. "Oh, it's just another ism".) Cormaggio talk 19:17, 30 July 2008 (UTC)
Yes, I was wrong in tying -ism to religion - your cultural ref is much nearer. See w:-ism* wherein: "In the United States of the mid-nineteenth century, the phrase "the isms" was used as a collective derogatory term ....". The suffix still promotes a less than approving aura to its subject. *(couldn't wikilink to "-ism" for some reason) TheresaWilson 05:16, 31 July 2008 (UTC)
(Interwikilink fixed - you can see syntax in edit mode, or see Help:Interwiki linking.) So, it seems your observation adds a kind of meta-critique of this page. It also seems relevant to develop our materials on evolution, which are currently quite woeful. (See Category:Evolution.) Cormaggio talk 09:38, 31 July 2008 (UTC)
(Ha! mea culpa - I'd forgotten that I was trying to link to a different wiki) Unfortunately I have no qualifications, or indeed relevant experience, in evolution, or anything at all, so I'll probably just lurk for a while. TheresaWilson 11:38, 31 July 2008 (UTC)
I find it amusing that any group could refer to others using "-isms", but be offended when it is labeled in an "-ism" itself. The Jade Knight 14:28, 3 September 2008 (UTC)

Technically, most 20th/21st century scientific thought on evolution refers to the Modern Synthesis (see, not Darwinism. Is there such a thing as "Modern Synthesisism" and if so, why doesn't anyone use the term? I think "because Modern Synthesism sounds silly" is a perfectly acceptable answer. Not everything is appropriately referred to as an -ism. For example, it would likewise be silly to refer to "peanut butter and honey sandwichism." 22:14, 27 January 2009 (UTC)

See also