The Graffin study: How evolutionists pretend that “religion” and evolution are compatible!

by Richard Peachey

Greg Graffin

Greg Graffin is well-known as the lead singer/songwriter for the punk rock band Bad Religion. Under Cornell historian of evolutionary biology Will Provine, Graffin earned a PhD in zoology. His research topic was “the intersection of evolutionary biology and theology and the various forms of compatibility.” (Bold print in the quotations below indicates emphasis added.)

(1) Graffin informally summarized his results in an e-mail to a Christian correspondent:

“I have found that evolutionary biologists debase religion to a significant degree to make it compatible with science. They think they are doing religious people a service by subscribing to a form of compatibilism—that is, by maintaining that religion and evolutionary biology are compatible. In most evolutionary biologists’ view, there is no conflict between evolution and religion on one important condition: that religion is essentially atheistic! I know it sounds crazy, but that is the result of my dissertation” (E-mail to Preston Jones. In Preston Jones [ed.], Is Belief in God Good, Bad or Irrelevant? A Professor and a Punk Rocker Discuss Science, Religion, Naturalism & Christianity. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2006, pp. 21f.)

(2) On a more formal occasion Graffin and his advisor Provine offered this comment in a scientific article:

Evolutionary scientists are strongly motivated to ameliorate conflict between evolution and religion. Sociobiology offers them an apparent conciliatory path to the compatibility of religion and evolution, avoiding all language of inescapable conflict. Sociobiological evolution is the means to understand religion, whereas religion as a ‘way of knowing’ has nothing to teach us about evolution. This view allows a place for religion and sounds superficially comforting to compatibilists.

The conclusion of that article refers to a questionnaire that was part of Graffin’s PhD study:

“Only 10 percent of the eminent evolutionary scientists who answered the poll saw an inevitable conflict between religion and evolution. The great majority see no conflict between religion and evolution, not because they occupy different, noncompeting magisteria, but because they see religion as a natural product of human evolution. Sociologists and cultural anthropologists, in contrast, tend toward the hypothesis that cultural change alone produced religions, minus evolutionary change in humans. The eminent evolutionists who participated in this poll reject the basic tenets of religion, such as gods, life after death, incorporeal spirits or the supernatural. Yet they still hold a compatible view of religion and evolution” (Greg Graffin and Will Provine, “American Scientist 95[4]:294-297, 2007.)

(3) The following is the transcript of a five-minute video in which Greg Graffin summarizes his PhD findings.

(The video can be viewed at <>.)

INTERVIEWER: “Greg, what is the main finding from your PhD study?”

GRAFFIN: “Well, if you ask the leading evolutionary biologists in the world the following question, ‘Is evolution at war with religion?,’ according to my study you will find that only 10% of them believe that religion and evolution are incompatible. This means that the majority, in fact 87% of the participants in my study, 87% of them find some way to make religion compatible with the tenets of evolution. And my study was based on a questionnaire that was sent out to 22 different countries, to members of national academies of science who expressed research interests in evolutionary biology. And most of them believe that religion is an adaptation, in other words, religion is a part of evolution, not religion is something given to us from God, but rather, religion was manufactured by humankind.

INTERVIEWER: “How does the naturalist worldview expressed by your participants affect the complexion of traditional theology?”

GRAFFIN: “Well, I would say that the naturalist worldview expressed by these evolutionary biologists is not very kind to traditional theology, because it sees theology as subordinate to evolutionary biology. You cannot understand religion unless you see it as an adaptation, and of course to understand adaptation, you have to be firmly grounded in evolutionary biology. So in a sense, theology takes a back seat to evolutionary biology. Hence, one of my conclusions of the study, and that is that the world’s leading evolutionary biologists find no conflict between evolution and religion on one condition, and that condition is simply that what they call religion is a severely debased form of traditional theology that is fundamentally atheistic in tone. My study reveals that the worldview of these scientists is so different from traditional theology in that no gods exist for them, there is no such thing as the incorporeal spirit or soul, there is no life after death — all of the things that are held most passionately by traditional theology, all of them have to be abandoned. And if that condition is met, then religion is perfectly harmonious with the tenets of evolution. The only way to find compatibility in such a worldview is by accepting a religion with no authority on the most meaningful matters of human existence. For that, we have sociobiology, or evolutionary biology, and that, to me, is offensive to most theologically-minded people.”

For further reading:

“‘Finding Darwin’s God’ — Is It Possible?”

“Darwinism = Atheism!” <>

“‘A child may see the folly of it'” (by Ken Ham) <>