First, let me say something which I hope is apparent, but in case it is not: I am not trying to attack your (or anybody's) faith (my problem is not religion; it is how religion is sometimes misused; and, yes I could say the same thing about atheism). This is stuff that I am wrestling with myself, in search of a satisfactory answer, and all thoughts are welcome.
Originally Posted by darth omar
In terms of your claim that that "It's a matter of faith both ways," that's not precisely true.
The physicist who I heard talk about the afterlife is Sean Carroll and if you are interested in his entire argument (it's not very long), it is here: Physics and the Immortality of the Soul | Cosmic Variance | Discover Magazine.
If not, this is the relevant passage:
Claims that some form of consciousness persists after our bodies die and decay into their constituent atoms face one huge, insuperable obstacle: the laws of physics underlying everyday life are completely understood (Seriously, The Laws Underlying The Physics of Everyday Life Really Are Completely Understood | Cosmic Variance | Discover Magazine
), and there’s no way within those laws to allow for the information stored in our brains to persist after we die. If you claim that some form of soul persists beyond death, what particles is that soul made of? What forces are holding it together? How does it interact with ordinary matter?
Everything we know about quantum field theory (QFT) says that there aren’t any sensible answers to these questions. Of course, everything we know about quantum field theory could be wrong. Also, the Moon could be made of green cheese.
So it seems to me, despite my fervent desire to believe otherwise (I was really thrown when I heard this argument), that the evidence we have is incompatible with, as Sean Carroll puts it, "persistence of the individual soul after life ends." So it is not true that both believing, and disbelieving, the after-life are both matters of pure faith: Only belief in an after-life requires us to accept something incompatible with how the physical laws of the universe as we understand them actually work.
Evolution is one of the most successful and robust theories in the history of science and the challenge to it is more religio-political than scientific. As a matter of history, the challenge was of a religious nature, originally labeled "Creationism" then repackaged as "Intelligent Design" when the teaching of Creationism in schools was deemed a Constitutionally impermissible state endorsement of religion (Edwards v. Aguillard). And when you think about it, of course this is the nature of the objection. After all, people don't get all riled up about science in general (I never once heard anybody get angry about a law of thermodynamics)... unless it conflicts with their world view.
While there are certainly people who reject evolution on religious grounds, there are a growing number of people who reject evolution [aspects of it, actually] on scientific grounds.
And thanks to physicist Sean Carroll, I actually have more sympathy with that feeling than I used to. When science runs headlong into your religious/spiritual beliefs, it is upsetting.
The Theory of Evolution does not rest on the assumption that humans evolved from apes (and, incidentally, the evidence does not show that humans evolved from apes; rather, they share a common ancestor, now extinct); rather, it is a theory as to the process and mechanisms of speciation. And incidentally, the critics of evolution have offered no plausible alternative mechanism to explain speciation.
Myself, I’m a Christian theist who ascribes to the philosophy that if the earth is billions of years old it doesn’t matter; nor does it matter if we evolved from an ape like ancestor. And scientifically, I’m way more sold on the old earth than I am the proposition that we evolved from apes.
From the fossil record (with its abundant transitional fossils) to the DNA record, the evidence for evolution is a slam dunk. And evolutionary biologists have gotten (understandably, in my view) frustrated with the moving of the goal posts. Every time they show something that the the critics demand (i.e. transitional fossils) there is simply a demand for more evidence. That's not to say there aren't some legitimate scientific questions about specifics, but there does not appear to be anything, at present, with the capacity to upend the theory itself.
Too many pieces are missing to the puzzle and if it were true then [given as hard and long as they’ve been looking] the evidence for it should be a slam dunk.
And it’s not.
And at the risk of getting bogged down in an endless debate about evolution, here's a question for you: What would it take for you to believe in the validity of the Theory of Evolution?