Ruse States it Plain

Here’s an interesting essay from Michael Ruse, published in the Georgia newspaper the Rome News-Tribune:

So why should we take the idea seriously? Why should we ever think that it could ever be much more than a “theory,” meaning an iffy hypothesis like speculations on the Kennedy assassination? Why should we ever agree that evolution is a “fact”?

Darwin realized full well that often we don’t have direct evidence, but that doesn’t stop us from talking about facts. Indirect evidence can be overwhelming. It can trump direct evidence even! Take a murder, or some other crime against the person. What would lead you to point a finger at a culprit? Sure, eyewitness testimony is going to be very powerful. But we all know that people under strain can be very unreliable about remembering faces. That is not a weakness; it is a very understandable aspect of human nature.

There follows an impressively succinct summary of some of the evidence for evolution. Worth a read.

Alas, I had to roll my eyes at his concluding paragraph:

And now I will break my promise not to mention science and religion. I believe that the human ability to peer into the past as do evolutionists is one of the most wonderful things that we ever do. If ever I wanted proof that although we may be modified monkeys we are nevertheless made in the image of God, this would be it.

The only way I can make sense of this, given that Ruse is a nonbeliever (as he has made clear elsewhere) and therefore does not believe that we are made in the image of God, is that he is saying if you are the sort of person inclined to believe we are made in the image of God, and if you seek some confirmation for your belief, the human ability to peer into the past is just such confirmation.

Somehow I do not think that religious believers uncomfortable with evolution are going to find much solace in this thought. They are more likely to note that our peering has shown us to be the chance result of billions of years of evolution by bloodsport, and wonder what that tells us about the existence of God, and of our role in creation.

Comments

  1. #1 Divalent
    June 7, 2008

    Well, he was speaking hypothetically (“If I ever wanted proof …”), so I’d say it all a matter of framing. (note that he doesn’t reveal his religious “orientation” in this article.)

    Rome Ga is rural (near the southern tail of the Appalachians; doesn’t even have its own interstate) and religion-wise is pretty conservative (it’s near where Howard Finster lived, and the locals consider his art inspirational). Cobb County (of the textbook sticker fame) is a couple of counties south and is a veritable cosmopolitan Gomorrah by comparison.

    So, doubtless the last part was a suck-up to the religious.

  2. #2 Tyler DiPietro
    June 7, 2008

    “They are more likely to note that our peering has shown us to be the chance result of billions of years of evolution by bloodsport, and wonder what that tells us about the existence of God, and of our role in creation.”

    Christian cosmology has always had a difficulty reconciling a corrupt world with an all-powerful and all-loving creator, but that has not impeded them elsewhere. Their hang-ups on evolution that aren’t shared by, say, the germ theory of disease (something which paints an equally disturbing and callous picture of the natural world) come from the fact that it undermines the sort of top-down teleology required by just about any Christian theology. It’s an unbridgeable divide for which I’ve never seen a satisfactory answer.

  3. #3 csrster
    June 8, 2008

    I think that last paragraph translates as “I’m an atheist but I’d really, really, like to win the Templeton Prize. Please?”

  4. #4 Tegumai Bopsulai, FCD
    June 8, 2008

    And now I will break my promise not to mention science and religion. I believe that the human ability to peer into the past as do evolutionists is one of the most wonderful things that we ever do. If ever I wanted proof that although we may be modified monkeys we are nevertheless made in the image of God, this would be it.

    There’s a metaphor for stuff like this. “Trickled down his leg.”

  5. #5 Blake Stacey
    June 8, 2008

    csrster:

    I think that last paragraph translates as “I’m an atheist but I’d really, really, like to win the Templeton Prize. Please?”

    Doncha hate it when the rent check is due and you realize your salary — a “purely academic” consideration in more senses than one — hasn’t kept up with your lifestyle of wild hedonism?

  6. #6 skeptic griggsy
    June 14, 2008

    The weight of evidence is there is no cosmic telology! Tyler, so yes.

  7. #7 arlin a mauer
    June 23, 2008

    All theories become facts when there are no alternative hypothesis taught at any state university anywhere in the world. In 1937 Lysenko still belived in inheritence of acquired characterisics, so he took winter wheat, stored it in Siberia, but alas; no differences! That year evolution became a fact. Intelligent design is a joke: It has no comprehensive theory of evolution! Darwin has been confirmed a million times; evolution occurs eveywhere, resistant diseases, plant modifications, microbes and mosquitos resistant to pestcides, etc.

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