In case you missed Eugenie Scott's Gould Lecture at the evolution2009 conference last week, she made the usual religious argument that evolution is a fact, followed by claims that evolution is not religious. It is amazing that evolutionists continue to utter such contradictions, and journalists continue to print them.
In the nineteenth century UC Berkeley professor Joseph Le Conte promoted Darwin's religious arguments for evolution. As is typical, Le Conte was so convinced by the arguments that he lost sight of the religious premises. As with evolutionists today, Le Conte proclaimed powerful religious beliefs, and then concluded that evolution was an inescapable scientific finding. In spite of the religious foundation, he claimed that evolution was as much a fact as gravity. And just as we do not use "gravitationist" for someone who accepts the obvious fact of gravity, so too we should not use "evolutionist" for someone who accepts evolution.
Le Conte's work is a classic example of evolutionary thinking and Scott replayed the tape in her lecture. We cannot ''believe" in evolution, explained the Executive Director of the National Center for Science Education, because its basic idea--common descent--is a scientific fact. Debating the existence of evolution's core idea is as ridiculous as debating other widely accepted scientific facts. After all, no one would talk about belief in cell division. It was classic nineteenth century triumphalism, free of twenty first century science.
Scott followed this with the other classic evolutionary keystone that non evolutionary explanations are not scientific. Science, after all, is limited to explaining the natural world using natural processes. What a happy coincidence. Science is limited to naturalistic evolution, whatever it may be, and it so happens that naturalistic evolution, whatever it is, is a fact.
And regarding all those disagreements among scientists about the mechanisms and patterns of evolution, Scott reminded us not to worry. Such problems are often misunderstood as weaknesses of evolution as a whole, but of course, that would be impossible. Remember, evolution is a fact.
Scott's lecture was a succinct summary of the sort of sophistry to which evolution's religious premises lead. Religion drives science, and it matters.