Sam Harris on The Fact of Life

Here’s an excerpt from “Letter to a Christian Nation,” by Sam Harris, that I really liked.


All complex life on earth has developed from simpler life-forms over billions of years. This is a fact that no longer admits of intelligent dispute. If you doubt that human beings evolved from prior species, you may as well doubt that the sun is a star.

Imagine your potential for embarrassment if your religious faith rested on the presumption that the sun was not a star at all. Imagine millions of Christians in the United States spending hundreds of millions of dollars each year to battle the godless astronomers and astrophysicists on this point. Imagine them working passionately to get their unfounded notions about the sun taught in our nation’s school.

This is exactly the situation you are in now with respect to evolution.

Christians who doubt the truth of evolution are apt to say things like “Evolution is just a theory, not a fact.” Such statements betray a serious misunderstanding of the way the term “theory” is used in scientific discourse. In science, facts must be explained with reference to other facts. These larger explanatory models are “theories.” Theories make predictions and can, in principle, be tested. The phrase “the theory of evolution” does not in the least suggest that evolution is not a fact. One can speak about “the germ theory of disease” or “the theory of gravitation” without casting doubt upon disease or gravity as facts of nature.

In 2005, a survey was conducted in 34 countries measuring the percentage of adults who accept evolution. The United States ranked 33rd [Ed- nearly dead last], just above Turkey.

Meanwhile, high school students in the United States test below those of every European and Asian nation in their understanding of science and math.

These data are unequivocal: We are building a nation of ignorance.

Agree? Disagree? What do you think?

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