Tag Archives: evolution

What it means to “teach the controversy”

Here is a textbook example of how to discuss what it means to “teach the controversy”. Casey Luskin does a great job of diffusing the “anything other than accepted Darwinist dogma is religious in nature!” argument that is rather common among the high priests of Darwinism.

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Sam Harris on the rape of religion

As a biological phenomenon, religion is the product of cognitive processes that have deep roots in our evolutionary past. Some researchers have speculated that religion itself may have played an important role in getting large groups of prehistoric humans to socially cohere. If this is true, we can say that religion has served an important purpose. This does not suggest, however, that it serves an important purpose  now. There is, after all, nothing more natural than rape. But no one would argue that rape is good, or compatible with a civil society, because it may have had evolutionary advantages for our ancestors. That religion may have served some necessary func­tion for us in the past does not preclude the possibility that it is now the greatest impedi­ment to our building a global civilization.

-Sam Harris, Letter to a Christian Nation

If religion is an evolutionary byproduct which is no longer useful, why should we suppose that Sam’s atheism is any different? Indeed, it seems that if evolution can take us from rape being beneficial to socially condemned, doesn’t it stand to reason that the practice could make a comeback at a future date if evolution (whatever that is) leads us in that direction?

I would be the first to admit that the prospects for eradicating religion in our time do not
seem good. Still, the same could have been said about efforts to abolish slavery at the end of
the eighteenth century. Anyone who spoke with confidence about eradicating slavery in the
United States in the year 1775 surely appeared to be wasting his time, and wasting it
dangerously.

Indeed, it seems that we have little reason to think that rapists today aren’t merely misunderstood revolutionaries who want to drive us back to a more traditional time where men apparently clubbed women over the heads whenever they felt the urge to mate.

After all, if evolutionists are right with regard to our origins, rape is apparently the original “traditional marriage”.

Catch 22: The evolutionary explanation of religion

No matter where you go in the world you are confronted with the fact that mankind is a deeply religious creature.

The religious behaviour may be a misfiring, an unfortunate by-product of an underlying psychological propensity which in other circumstances is, or once was, useful. On this view, the propensity that was naturally selected in our ancestors was not religion per se; it had some other benefit, and it only incidentally manifests itself as religious behaviour.

-Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion pg 174

This is a particularly difficult problem for materialists like Mr Dawkins to deal with since the historical evidence speaks strongly against the notion that everyone is borne as an atheist, or blank slate per John Locke.

To answer this, many evolutionists like to suppose that notions of religion arose out of the overriding need for survival.

However this presents a problem for the evolutionist. If it is true that religion is merely a survival mechanism, then it demonstrates the fact that the primary goal is not the production of true beliefs. If it is false, that religion is merely a survival mechanism, then we cannot dismiss it as merely a delusion.

Darwin on intelligent design

From Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of. Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.

A large amount of change in our cultivated plants, thus slowly and unconsciously accumulated, explains, as I believe, the well-known fact, that in a vast number of cases we cannot recognise, and therefore do not know, the wild parent-stocks of the plants which have been longest cultivated in our flower and kitchen gardens. If it has taken centuries or thousands of years to improve or modify most of our plants up to their present standard of usefulness to man, we can understand how it is that neither Australia, the Cape of Good Hope, nor any other region inhabited by quite uncivilised man, has afforded us a single plant worth culture. It is not that these countries, so rich in species, do not by a strange chance possess the aboriginal stocks of any useful plants, but that the native plants have not been improved by continued selection up to a standard of perfection comparable with that given to the plants in countries anciently civilised.

In the first part of Darwin’s famous book it should be noted that Darwin understood selection in light of animal and plant breeders. And in the section above it is clear that Darwin thought that intelligent beings were the chief agents the selection of genetic traits. It is also worth noting that Darwin thought that purpose or intentionality, even if “slowly and unconsciously accumulated”, was a central part of his theory of natural selection.

So when modern proponents of Darwin’s theory like Richard Dawkins advocate Natural Selection as the alternative to blind chance on one hand and design on the other, it seems fair to question what real reason we have to conclude that the selecting is not done according to a definite design and by intelligent agent(s).

Darwin apparently thought so.

Alvin Plantinga: Science & Religion – Where the Conflict Really Lies

[HT Case for Christianity]

Debate: Does the Universe have a purpose?

On the Christian opposition to intelligent design

Some Christians maintain the notion that:

“The term ID is an attempt to remove God from the discussion.”

Well, that might be true…

…if God were in the discussion to begin with. Intelligent design is a strategic move to break the strangle hold philosophical naturalism has on most science classrooms.

In that respect the only goal of ID is to lead people to the conclusion that there is a designer. After that, we can move the discussion down the hall from the physical sciences classrooms, many/most with their presupposition of verificationism as the only or ultimate source of truth (which ID satisfies with flying colors btw) into the philosophy/metaphysical sciences classroom. You see, ID is meant to address the “how” of our existence, that being design by an intelligent being while a further discussion on “who” the designer is can and should be shifted to another classroom.

This strategic approach to leading others towards the designer we know as Christ (that is, for ID proponents that are Christians) is nothing new. The cosmological argument for God’s existence is designed only to lead someone to the understanding that there is a God and not necessarily the Christian God. This is mostly because the cosmological argument came to us from Islam.

We should not be afraid to use any and all evangelistic tools at our disposal. Whether it be ID, cosmology, mathematics, etc. If Romans is right then all of creations speaks to God’s handiwork so it logically follows that we ought to be able to use all of creation as a springboard to lead people to Christ.

As for proponents of 6 day creationism1. I am a proponent of it as well. However I do not hold to a 6,000-10,000 year old universe (young earth)((ID is not necessarily opposed to YEC, but the use of scientific arguments does pose a lot of problems for proponents of YEC.)). And it is this, coupled with a poor view of how Scripture ought to be used in relation with non-believers, that led me to my rash comment from earlier. We simply cannot ignore the findings of science, especially when they in no way contradict the text itself, and still hope to maintain any sort of intellectual credibility. And hiding under the “fools for Christ” umbrella is simply not intellectually valid or honest because while it is true that we are called to maintain a historically unpopular position, it is not true that we are called to abandon logic and reason in order to do that. Moreover, an assault on science and the use thereof to lead others to Christ does great harm to the legacy of Christians who, throughout history, have striven to provide a logical and cogent argument to the people of their times.2 ID is no different.

So while I understand that many, especially those who for some reason still hold to a young earth position, will not join with their brothers and sisters in using and promoting ID, the least they can do is get out of our way and not accuse us of holding strange and heretical doctrines like theistic evolution. It is hard enough to advance in the face of overwhelming odds on rough enemy terrain without having to worry about getting shot in the back by friendly fire.

  1. This is addressed because some who are against ID accuse proponents of ID of denying a literal 6 day creation. Presumably because ID proponents generally simply refuse to comment on it. []
  2. Including Stephen, Paul, Peter, James, Justin Martyr, Augustine, Anselm, Irenaeus, Ignatius, etc. []

Whence cometh reason?

Can atheists Trust the truth detecting ability of their own minds?

By that I mean; In a theistic universe we are given reason to trust that our senses are capable of accurately detecting the world around us because we hold to the notion that they were properly designed to operate in the environment in which we employ them.

The naturalistic alternative here is that our senses simply evolved through random chance and mutation towards an undirected end. In this case we simply cannot reasonably trust our senses, much less our cognitive abilities to understand the world we find ourselves in. In this model, we might as well be protoplasmic lumps in a cosmic vat that is manipulating our synapses into forming sensory perceptions of a purely artificial environment.

“Fittest” does not entail the production of true beliefs. I think this can be made abundantly clear by simply pointing out how many animals (and humans) posses faulty or flat out false beliefs and who nevertheless manage to survive and thrive.

I believe Idiocracy makes this point quite clearly. (Welcome to Costco, I love you.)

One example would be how easily animals are trapped in the wild. Sure, some figure out the traps and manage to avoid being caught or eaten, but only for a while. If the production of true beliefs were integral to the survival of the species or a criterion of “fittest” in the evolutionary sense of the word we should expect that animals today would not be so easily overcome by traps designed in the stone ages.

Another example would be human malice, greed, evil, etc. According to philosophical naturalists like Sam Harris our collective morality has grown up because it is somehow evolutionarily beneficial. That is contributes to “the survival of the species”. However if this were true then we should expect fewer and fewer systems propagating false beliefs such as obscure cults, Scientology, etc.

No one, to my mind, doubts that natural selection is a mechanism that operates in the world we find ourselves in. We are merely want to point out that what natural selection “selects for” is still hotly debated even among the Darwinist crowd1, and nevertheless not aimed at the production of true beliefs (and to my mind no naturalist has ever tried to make the claim that it was either).

The fact is also that evolution must be seen as random in order for it to avoid the sticky implications, if a system existed, of a guided evolutionary process. You can’t have your cake and eat it too, though many like Dawkings try, either evolution is thoroughly random or else it is guided. And not merely guided by a system that conveniently “selects for” what we, at the end of the process, deem to be evolutionarily beneficial. That is not scientific observation any more than it is wishful thinking or blind faith (which is why many like myself make no distinction between Darwinian evolution and other systems of faith).

At any rate; I believe this, the inability to ground or explain the origins of our cognitive faculties, will ultimately be the Achilles heel of Darwinian evolution.

Well, along with the sheer lack of evidence, massive changes in the underlying theory, and general disagreement on rather large details such as the definition of evolution, selection, and qualifications of “fittest”.

However if you can’t even lay a proper epistemic framework I don’t see how you can reliably build anything at all. Without a proper ground for our cognitive facilities we might as well be howling at the moon for who’s to say we are any better off cognitively than our ancestors?

  1. In fact, there is a rather large debate as to whether it is even legitimate to claim that natural selection “selects for” anything as such would entail guided as opposed to unguided evolution. []

Applied intelligent design

[HT Uncommon Descent]

I recently ran across a two part article on Uncommon Descent which attempts to answer the question of what practical use intelligent design serves in our pursuit of scientific truth.

Part 1 opens up with a provocative and succinct statement that “Every science works as much from its limits as it does from its potentials.” John then goes on to outline a 5 point argument against the open-endedness presupposed in a pure Darwinian system:

  1. In order for evolution to be open-ended (i.e. work in environments which it did not have in mind beforehand) it must be on a Universal system (a system which can be programmed open-endedly)
  2. Universal systems are chaotic
  3. Chaotic systems are characterized by chaotic mappings between input configuration and results
  4. Natural selection assumes a fairly continuous mapping between input configuration and results
  5. Therefore, evolution cannot be open-ended, because navigating such a chaotic mapping would require design, and not having such a chaotic system would violate the notion of being open-ended in #1 & #2.

He then goes on to outline how, according to Turing, logical constraints on the input and outputs of systems necessitate a closed, as opposed to open, system of biological development.

In the second part the logic surrounding software development is compared to the apparent biological system at work and we are presented a very compelling argument, again, necessitating a closed rather than open system.

It looks like ID can actually help us out a lot when deciding where to look for the next big scientific breakthrough. Perhaps there’s a reason after all why the pioneers of science came from a Judeo-Christian ethic. As the initial statement indicates, we would do well to examine the potential of any philosophy that lies behind our scientific inquiry.

New peer-reviewed paper demolishes objections to intelligent design

[HT Uncommon Decent]

On this episode of ID the Future, Casey Luskin examines a new peer-reviewed paper that demolishes a very common and very fallacious objection to intelligent design. That objection? “Aren’t there vast eons of time for evolution?”

For more information on this and other peer-reviewed papers relating to intelligent design, visit Evolution News & Views at www.evolutionnews.org.

Listen to the full podcast here.

This is a great day to be a proponent of Intellegent Design.