Evolution: Is There A Controversy?


“…Scientific research –not catchphrases– informs us that the evolution controversy in society is a cancerous zombie, difficult to eradicate. And outcomes of the last elections warn us that assaults on science will metastasize in the United States. Not because researchers ‘do not see’ or ‘do see’ a controversy in the science of evolution, or climate change, or the dark fate of our sun. They have no doubt these are realities. But because unrests resurface in communities whenever we have irreconcilable differences around fiction versus facts. And yes, there is a profound conflict between Faith and Science, intrinsic to their fundamental incompatibility…”

By Guillermo Paz-y-Miño-C  &  Avelina Espinosa

The new strategy among the pro-faith-in-evolution supporters (i.e. theistic evolution, creation science, evolutionary creation, BioLogos, or the Creator-Designer-and-Darwin-in -the-same-sleeping-bag) is to spread the slogan “there is no controversy about evolution” with the purpose to persuade the religious public that evolution is real, and that there is no scientific doubt about it, period. The latter is true.

It is also true that after a memorable judgment, in 2005, when Intelligent Design lost in court (Dover, Pennsylvania, Kitzmiller et al. versus Dover School District et al. 2005) for violating the rules of science by “invoking and permitting supernatural causation” in matters of evolution, and for “failing to gain acceptance in the scientific community,” the opportunistic idea to “teach the controversy” over evolution in the science class gained track.

The vested interest was to publicize that there was a “scientific disagreement” over evolution (note that this view was a fabrication, since most of today’s scientists take evolution for granted), and that students ought to be exposed to the “dispute” to secure good schooling. By “teaching the controversy,” designers aimed at injecting creationism into the mix.

“…The sinister drive was to keep the Creator-Designer in the classroom. Of course this was –still is– a controversy, political and ideological.”

Thus, the slogan “there is no controversy about evolution” emerged in response to the proposal to “teach the controversy,” which, in turn, insinuated that modern scientists questioned the authenticity of evolution. The sinister drive was to keep the Creator-Designer in the classroom. Of course this was –still is– a controversy, political and ideological (see facts about the debate).

The sensu stricto scientific controversy between evolution by means of natural selection, as per Charles Darwin, 1859, and the views of the religious-naturalists of his time (Richard Owen, Adam Sedgwick, John Stevens Henslow, among others) is a fact in history (see also the timeline of the creation-evolution controversy 1650s-2000s). By all epistemology principles, this was a confrontation between Darwin’s naturalistic explanations of how species originated and differentiated over time, versus the core conviction of the Victorian scientific establishment: God, the Creator of nature, its laws and mechanisms.

In consequence, the refurbished slogan “there is no controversy” is, for the most part, a wishful tactic to redirect the “rejection of evolution” back at the “rejectors” themselves, under the premise that –in their minds– the “notion of controversy” enhances the very dismissal of evolution. It is a circular, cosmetic reasoning, with little empirical support, but memed in the social media with enthusiasm.

Now, the contemporary academic topic “evolution controversy” (arguably traceable to the Twentieth Century, 1920s onwards) has never been about any sort of “hypothetical rejection” or “acceptance” of evolution by credible researchers (the spectacular majority of them know evolution happens, contrary to Darwin’s generation), rather, it has been –at least in the United States– about the phenomenon of societal dismissal of science/evolution on the grounds of religious beliefs and conservative political ideology. All sound conceptual studies demonstrate this (e.g. A, B, C, D).

The storm has been about, for example, the support to anti-evolution legislation by lawmakers and their constituents; the low acceptance of evolution by the misinformed general public, and by educators at all levels, who teach creationism because they fear embracing proper science (E, F); and, ultimately, the persistence of ignorance despite the extensive access to knowledge. “That” is –it has been as per chronology– “the controversy.”

“…Imagine asserting that there is no societal controversy concerning ‘alternative facts’ versus facts…” 

Here is some food for thought. Imagine asserting that there is no –societal– controversy concerning: climate-change deniers and their opposition to data-based projections of extreme weather fluctuations; or about “alternative facts” versus facts; or homeopathic and chiropractic cures versus scientific medicine; or antivaxxers versus proven herd-immunity effects; or faith healing versus surgical oncology; or anti-GMOs versus no-negative-health-effects-scientifically-attributable-to-GMOs; or pray-sex-health/abstinence versus unwanted pregnancies and sexually-transmitted-diseases… just because –allegedly– no serious scientist gives a damn about the “beliefs in non-facts” by those who worship imagination.

bill-nye-vs-ken-ham-debate-2014In 2014, public educator Bill Nye debated creationist Ken Ham over the legitimacy of evolution. The encounter itself was controversial, it took place at the Creation Museum in Kentucky. Opponents to the match argued that, by debating, Nye would grant notoriety to Ham’s Museum and the Young-Earth-Creationism agenda. The ‘Science Guy’ defeated Ham at the debate, but it is true that private donations poured in to support the exhibits after the televised event. Currently, the Museum struggles financially and faces sharp criticism by the scientific community.

“…evolution, the ‘E’ word… and E-correctness…”

Since the sticky slogan proclaims “there is no controversy,” it is worth asking: are the science education surrogates expected to put aside the “yuge” societal clash between anti-science and science, or between superstition and empirical reality, and equate them to a minor disagreement, a stone in the shoe?

Like evolution, which continues to occur despite our level of understanding or acceptance of it, the societal controversies are factual and must be addressed as such under reason and science principles, not under the hope that, if we concur to post-like-and-share the catchphrase “there is no controversy about _blank_”, we will make the problem –or part of it– go away. And that is the fallacy of slogans coined to go viral regardless of their silliness. Self deception never pays.

“…any ‘acceptor’ of evolution who believes that God was involved –somehow– in the Creation of the universe, or its laws, is a creationist in principle…”

Is the next step to call evolution the “E-word” so that we rarely use it and, therefore, avoid offending someone? To be E-correct so that our students and public love us as educators, at the same time that we smuggle pseudo-science subliminally into their souls via “teaching techniques“? Or, worse, is the companion, accommodating agenda (to the catchphrase) to force-marry Darwin with Faith to secure that believers accept His message?

Creationism and its disciples come in a range of flavors, from Young Earth Biblical Creationists to Design Creationists, and to any position in which the Creator shows up, even vaguely, in the background of causality (i.e. theistic evolution, creation science, evolutionary creation, BioLogos; links above). In other words, any “acceptor” of evolution who believes that God was involved –somehow– in the Creation of the universe, or its laws, is a creationist in principle. And all morphs of creationism are destined to fail because they merge, deceptively, desire with veracity.

“…as for the fortune of the slogan, trash it…”

Scientific research –not mottos– informs us that the evolution controversy in society is a cancerous zombie, difficult to eradicate. And outcomes of the last elections warn us that assaults on science will metastasize in the United States. Not because researchers “do not see” or “do see” a controversy in the science of evolution, or climate change, or the dark fate of our sun. They have no doubt these are realities. But because unrests resurface in communities whenever we have irreconcilable differences around fiction versus facts. And yes, there is a profound conflict between Faith and Science, intrinsic to their fundamental incompatibility.

As for the fortune of the slogan, let us close by being both historically and E-correct: trash the slogan. — EvoLiteracy © 2017.

G. Paz-y-Miño-C and A. Espinosa are authors of Measuring the Evolution Controversy (2016), Evolution Controversy: A Phenomenon Prompted by the Incompatibility between Science and Religious Beliefs (2015), The Incompatibility Hypothesis: Evolution vs. Supernatural Causation (2014), The Everlasting Conflict Evolution-and-Science versus Religiosity (2013), Why People Do Not Accept Evolution (2012). For access to their studies (PDFs) go to GPC and AE.

clarence-darrow-william-jennings-bryan-scopes-trial-evoliteracyPHOTOClarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan during the Scopes Trial (i.e. The State of Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes 1925) in Dayton, Tennessee. At the Scopes “Monkey” Trial, teacher John T. Scopes was accused of violating the TN’s Butler Act, which considered it illegal to teach human evolution in the state’s public schools. The Scopes Trial is iconic in the history of America’s evolution controversy.


You can contact Guillermo Paz-y-Miño-C via email at guillermo.pazyminoc@gmail.com — Follow us on Twitter @gpazymino and Facebook.

Related Articles

Evolution and the Upcoming Challenges of a Predictable Landscape

Bill Nye defeats Ken Ham at Creation Museum

Evolution Wars: Debunk II

The Incompatibility Hypothesis: Evolution vs. Supernatural Causation

The World Celebrates Darwin Day


Today, February 12, the world celebrates the life and legacy of Charles R. Darwin (12 February 1809 – 19 April 1882). Here, at Evolution Literacy, I would like to share with our readers articles and images previously posted, which have been well received and further disseminated by our colleagues, friends and followers. Don’t forget to observe Darwin Day. — GPC

Darwin Day Awaits Designation by US Congress

Darwin Day… signifies the celebration of the achievements of reason, science, and the advancement of human knowledge. The igniting moments in human history when light was brought into our own origins, when understanding that ordinary apes, like Homo, were capable of the extraordinary, of discovering the truth and debunking obscurantism; yet we still struggle to make science the sole guiding star in our survival decisions, the reliable source of concern and joy, the toolkit to plan our departure from Earth –before our Sun in agonizing heat engulfs its nearest orbiting planets– and seek home somewhere else in the cosmos. Read FULL article at Darwin Day Awaits Designation.

At The Down House: Darwin’s Home

I visited the Down House, Darwin’s Home, in July 2010. Here are a few pictures I wanted to share in celebration of the International Darwin Day, February 12. Prior to visiting the Down House, which is located just a few miles South East of London, I went to Canterbury, Kent, to attend the International Society of Protistologists (ISoP) annual meeting, at the University of Kent. Coincidentally, back in 1991, as an undergraduate student, I obtained a Diploma in Endangered Species Management from the University of Kent, which offered such certification in partnership with the Jersey Wildlife Preservation Trust (nowadays Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust). Read FULL article at Darwin’s Home.

Darwin’s Skepticism about God

i-think-by-charles-darwinThis is one of our most read articles at EvoLiteracy — The yearly celebration of International Darwin Day (February 12) is approaching. Here are some of Darwin’s writings, which reveal how skeptical he became –with age and wisdom– about the existence of God. Despite this historical evidence, the pro-religion-in-science crowds, or para-creationists (i.e. theistic evolution, creation science, evolutionary creation), continue to mislead the public by spreading the meme that Darwin was, deep in his soul, a religious naturalist. And that is false. In 1879, Darwin wrote: “…an Agnostic would be the more correct description of my state of mind.” But read below what else Darwin wrote about The Old and New Testaments, Christianity and God in his Autobiography and later documents. Read FULL article at Darwin’s Skepticism.

Are Women Generally more Religious than Men? Does it Matter?

Yes, women worldwide are, overall, more religious than men. Yesterday, the Pew Research Center released another update to its frequent reports on religion (The Gender Gap in Religion Around the World), which I shared on Facebook. It includes useful maps and descriptive statistics, however, here I summarize only the numeric trends and leave the maps aside (they are didactic). Readers can find the complete report online, as well as the figures and web-links. But first, why do we care at EvoLiteracy News about this topic? One of the reasons (not the only one) is that acceptance of evolution is negatively associated with level of religiosity, as we (and other researchers) have demonstrated in numerous studies. Therefore, the Pew Research report would imply that women, worldwide, accept evolution less than men. But this is –of course– something not addressed by the Pew Research Center in this particular study (see such differences here). Instead the report focuses on speculating about why the gender gap in religious commitment exists, and it does demonstrate that, by just joining the workforce, women become less religious (voilà) –although the gender gap remains. The report, however, disregards the historical oppressive role of religion on all peoples, particularly women. Read FULL article at Are Women More Religious?

The Art Of Nature: Sculptures Of Dinosaur Tracks and Traces

“…Edward Hitchcock’s collection of fossilized tracks and traces of dinosaurs is one of the largest in the world and the Beneski Museum of Natural History exhibits them as fine art, carved by nature… Under soft lighting, a saturation of textures emerges from or deepens into the flat rocks. The 200-million-year-old footprints are so exquisite…” Read FULL article at Beneski Museum.

Hiking among Trilobites, Ancient Whales and Dinosaurs

I have previously stated that to be reassured that evolution is true one simply needs to visit the New Bedford Whaling Museum. Its displays of skeletons of a North Atlantic right whale with a calf, a humpback, a juvenile blue, and a sperm whale can impress anyone curious to compare human bones to those of cetaceans. And such comparison suffices to infer that common ancestry connects mammalian sea gallopers — whales and dolphins — to us, the upright bipedal apes who live in cities and launch vessels to explore the stars. Read FULL article at Hiking among Trilobites.

i-think-by-charles-darwin-1837-sketch-evoliteracyI think — Case must be that one generation then should be as many living as now. To do this & to have many species in same genus (as is) requires extinction. — Thus between A & B immense gap of relation. C & B the finest gradation, B & D rather greater distinction. Thus genera would be formed. – bearing relation — Charles Darwin’s Notebook B, 1837

Science Challenges Golden Age of Violin Making

Unsubstantiated beliefs interfere with the acceptance of evidence. Belief is a powerful cultural pollutant: it disrupts, distorts, delays and stops the assessment of reality, what I call in my academic work “the 3Ds + S cognitive effects of illusory thinking.” Indeed, I explore, at a scientific level, why people struggle when confronting inner beliefs with facts, and for that I examine acceptance of evolution by highly educated audiences —university professors, educators of prospective teachers, and college students at elite institutions, who, despite their fine education, embrace distinctive degrees of superstition. Read FULL article at Golden Age Violins.

Measuring the Evolution Controversy

The reality of evolution is indisputable and, based on current scientific evidence, all people in the world should accept it. Yet, only 41% of adults worldwide embrace evolution, and they do it under the premise that a deity created humans. One in every three people are strict creationists who believe in religious scriptures concerning the origin of our universe and of humans, and explicitly reject that Homo sapiens is an ape —when, in fact, science informs us that humans’ closest relatives are chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas and orangutans. Indeed, we are all apes. Read FULL article at Evolution Controversy.

Nobel Prize in Chemistry Goes to Curiosity-Based Research

If completely stretched into a single, long molecular chain, the DNA of a human cell would measure about two meters. During our lifetimes, our bodies would replicate enough DNA that, theoretically, it could be extended from Earth to the Sun, and back, 250 times. Ample opportunities to accumulate 37 trillion mutations while re-copying the genetic material. Read FULL article at Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

Evolution and the Upcoming Challenges of a Predictable Landscape

darwin-on-the-argument-for-designIn Chapter Nine of Measuring the Evolution Controversy, we ask: what will be the societal setting in which science/evolution and religion interact in the future? Early in the narrative of the book, before addressing this question, we remark that societal interactions between science and ideology are intricate, and subject to public policy, law, and abrupt socio-economic change. In addition, we sketch a probable world socio-cultural environment —based on statistical demographic projections— in which acceptance of science and evolution could take place in the future. By the 2050s or 2060s, we argue, the world societal dynamics will be quite different in respect to today’s, particularly in four relevant landscapes associated with attitudes toward science and evolution: distribution of wealth, education, migration, and demographics of religious groups. Read FULL article at The Future of Acceptance of Evolution. — EvoLiteracy © 2017.

You can contact Guillermo Paz-y-Miño-C via email at guillermo.pazyminoc@gmail.com — Follow us on Twitter @gpazymino and Facebook.