What Do You Mean by "Affirm"

Why do you and @swamidass use verbs like “affirm” in a religious sense with respect to evolution? Why does evolution need any affirming?

What other word would you suggest? Affirming the science sounds better than believing the science. Would accepting be better for you?

“Believing” is just as bad IMO, as it is a rational, provisional conclusion based on evidence. I don’t believe in evolution, just as no belief is involved in knowing that my car is parked outside or that Joe Biden was elected.

“Accepting” is much more appropriate; not only better for me, but much more clear communication for everyone involved.

I use the word “affirm” because, if you look at context, I’m talking about my response to what I’ve seen in the evidence.

You are using “belief” as if it is a bad term, but it isn’t. Philosophers use it in a much more neutral sense. Of course, the term does have baggage in the science and religion debate.

That is another reason I use the term “affirm” instead.

As for “accept,” that also is a loaded term for religious audience. It implies almost “giving up” or “giving in.” Of course it need not mean this, but that is the intonation of the term for some.

“Affirm” turns out to be a good neutral term that clearly communicates what I mean when I say it. This is not inconsistent with what you have say. I could go on to say that…

I affirm evolutionary science because the common descent of humans with the great apes is a rational, provisional conclusion based on evidence.

Likewise, @mercer, you also affirm evolutionary science for this reason, and many others. Now, if either of us did not affirm evolutionary science, it would not make the science less valid. It would just mean that we, for what ever reason, did not affirm it.


I agree with “accepting”. Every time I have been sworn in as an expert (or fact) witness I have been given the choice to “swear” or “affirm” that I will tell the truth. I can freely affirm that I will tell the truth to the best of my knowledge and understanding.

That is very different from “affirming that A is true” rather than answering (as I may) that I accept A as a valid scientific conclusion supported by the current body of evidence.


I can also reluctantly “accept” my lot in life, as an inactive process. But “affirming” suggests that I have actively engaged with the science and embraced it to be valid and true.


I don’t see it as neutral at all.

And that looks as though you are equivocating with religious affirmations.

Or that affirming it is superfluous and likely confusing to your target audience of religious laypeople, which is my position.

Okay. Use another word if you like. :slight_smile: At least you know now what we meant by it.

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I normally use “accept”. However, I don’t have any particular issue with “affirm”.

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Let’s go with affept. We can trademark it and sell merch to pay for the transcription.


I think the problem with “affirm” is that it is generally used in an aspirational rather than factual context. In various Self Help regimens you say all sorts of affirmations to yourself, not because you know that they’re true, but because you aspire to make them true. You get a choice as to what you affirm, but not as to what the facts are, and where those facts lead you.

Likewise the problem with “accept” (at least to many believers) is that it is a more passive term, implying to their ears some sort of surrender. This makes them feel that they are in some way compromising their beliefs and their faiths by “accepting” the claims of the secular world.

I’m not sure if there is wording that would satisfy both these viewpoints. It may be that we will just have to accept this mutual discomfort.


But should we affirm it?


We can aspire to affirming it. :stuck_out_tongue:


Personally, I would use “accept” over “affirm” in scientific discourse, because the latter appears to loaded with theological baggage. Most Christians “affirm” the Trinity in the absence of any positive evidence for it, so if a scientist uses the term to express support for evolutionary theory in the presence of certain religious individuals like YECs (who think evolution is a religion), its going to create the wrong ideas in their heads. However, in the midst of informed religious individuals (including YECs) or scientists (like those on PS), “affirm” can be used with little or no risk of theological connotation.

Fundamentally though, I don’t think there is any clash between both terms. One’s audience goes a long way, I think, in determining what term is most suitable.


I’m torn between affirming acceptance or accepting affirmation.


I affept this idea.

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I accept the reasonableness of Swamidass’s reply to Mercer. :wink:

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A pretty widely “accepted” definition of knowledge is “justified true belief”. So by that definition, you believe your car is parked outside, and your belief is justified by the fact that you, say, parked and locked it there, and it is true because it is still there. I don’t think belief is a bad thing, but I agree that it had negative connotations in certain contexts.

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I think you mean widely rejected, right? Ever heard of a Gettier problem - Wikipedia?


Would “acknowledge” be an acceptable middle-ground between “affirm” and “accept”?

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