Lunacy From Campolo

Writing at Christian Today Tony Campolo has unleashed a stunningly stupid barrage of attacks against Charles Darwin.

Campolo is a bit of a celebrity among the evangelical left. He can thump his Bible with the best of them, but also defends progressive political positions. That he is usually a rare voice of political moderation in an ocean of evangelical narrow-mindedness makes this essay especially disappointing. We consider his essay in full.

Campolo begins:

Many supporters of the principle of separation of church and state say that the Intelligent Design Theory of creation ought not to be taught in public schools because that it contains a religious bias.

They say that Intelligent Design proponents suggest that the evolutionary development of life was not the result of natural selection, as Charles Darwin suggested, but was somehow given purposeful direction and, by implication, was guided by God.

Where to begin? The main reason for not teaching ID in schools is that its scientific claims are universally false. It’s that simple. We shouldn’t teach ID in science classes for the same reason we shouldn’t teach 1+1=3 in math classes.

The reason it should be illegal to teach ID in the schools is that it does, indeed, run afoul of the separation of church and state. Saying that it contains a religious bias is a huge understatement. In reality it is nothing more than an attempt to put a scientific gloss on certain sectarian Christian religous ideas about the creation of the universe.

Furthermore, nearly all supporters of ID reject the common ancestry of life on Earth. It is therefore an error to present the movement as if it represents some challenge from within evolutionary theory. Most ID supporters hope to achieve considerably more than a reassessment of the mechanisms of evolution.

Arguing in favour of what they believe is a non-prejudicial science, they contend that children in public schools ought to be taught Darwin’s explanation of how the human race evolved, which they claim is value-free and dependent solely on scientific evidence. Nothing could be further from the truth! (Emphasis in original.)

I’m sure I could find a few things farther from the truth than the idea that evolutionary theory is dependent solely on the evidence, or that it is value free. We also should not let slide the reference to “Darwin’s explanation” as if evolutionary theory has not progressed in the last two centuries.

This is a prelude to a load of ignorant, scurrilous, oft-refuted crap about what a big racist Charles Darwin was. Let’s have a look:

In reality, Darwin’s writings, when actually read, express the prevalent racism of the nineteenth century, and endorse an extreme laissez faire political ideology that legitimates the neglect of the suffering poor by the ruling elite.

Those who argue at school board meetings that Darwin should be taught in public schools seldom have taken the time to read what he had to say. If they even knew the full title of his book, which is On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life, they might have gained some inkling of the racism propagated by this controversial theorist.

And with these two paragraphs Campolo dismisses himself from all serious consideration. He is just another twit repeating talking points on topics about which he knows nothing.

Campolo has a lot of nerve boasting of having read Darwin’s work. If he had invested any care in such a project he would know that the “races” referred to in the subtitle of Darwin’s book were not human races at all. Indeed, The Origin says almost nothing about human evolution. Darwin, following common usage of the time, was using “races” the way we use the word “subspecies.” Meanwhile, “favored” did not mean “favored by God,&rdquo, or “favored in some moral sense.” It meant simply favored with anatomical variations that gave their bearers a leg-up in the competition for survivial.

The canard that Darwin was a racist because he referred to “favored races” is one of the hoariest creationist cliches there is. It is far more foolish, and far more obscene, than creationist classics like, “Natural selection is a meaningless tautology!” and “Evolution conflicts with the second law of thermodynamics!” I had thought this argument was the exclusive domain of the very dumbest religious extremists. To see a normally serious fellow like Campolo making this point is really quite depressing.

And if Campolo intends us to worry that accepting evolution leads to the legitimation of neglect for the suffering poor at the hands of the ruling elite, he really needs to explain why it is the anti-evolution wing of the American electorate that most stronlgy supports the neglect of the poor. Anti-evolutionism and political conservatism go hand in hand. It was President Bush and his fellow right-wingers, anti-evolutionists virtually without exception, who spent the last eight years doing everything in their considerable power to gut every social program that aided poor people. Their guiding economic philosophy was the redistribution of wealth upwards.

The people who support aid to the poor are precisely the political progressives with whom Campolo closely associates. They are also the ones most likely to believe that control over science curricula should not be farmed out to brain-dead religious know-nothings. Go figure.

Then, if they had gone on to read his second book, The Descent of Man, it is likely that they would be shocked to learn that among Darwin’s scientifically based proposals was the elimination of “the negro and Australian peoples,” which he considered to be savage races whose continued survival was hindering the progress of civilisation.

In The Descent of Man (1871), Darwin went so far as to rank races in terms of what he believed was their nearness and likeness to gorillas. He further proposed the extermination of those races which he “scientifically” defined as inferior. To not do so, he claimed, would result in those races, which have much higher birth rates than his designated superior races, exhausting the resources needed for the survival of better people, and eventually dragging down all of civilization.

Darwin even argued against advanced societies wasting time and money on caring for those who are insane, or suffer from birth defects. To him, these unfit members of our species ought not to survive.

Campolo does not provide any quotations to support these contentions. But these charges are so tiresome and cliched, that others have taken the time to refute them. The ever-useful Wikipedia provides some of the grim details.

Here’s a typical example. In the Descent of Man Darwin wrote the following:

With savages, the weak in body or mind are soon eliminated; and those that survive commonly exhibit a vigorous state of health. We civilized men, on the other hand, do our utmost to check the process of elimination. We build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed and the sick; we institute poor-laws; and our medical men exert their utmost skill to save the life of every one to the last moment. There is reason to believe that vaccination has preserved thousands, who from a weak constitution would formerly have succumbed to small-pox. Thus the weak members of civilized societies propagate their kind. No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man. It is surprising how soon a want of care, or care wrongly directed, leads to the degeneration of a domestic race; but excepting in the case of man himself, hardly anyone is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed.

The aid which we feel impelled to give to the helpless is mainly an incidental result of the instinct of sympathy, which was originally acquired as part of the social instincts, but subsequently rendered, in the manner previously indicated, more tender and more widely diffused. Nor could we check our sympathy, even at the urging of hard reason, without deterioration in the noblest part of our nature. The surgeon may harden himself whilst performing an operation, for he knows that he is acting for the good of his patient; but if we were intentionally to neglect the weak and helpless, it could only be for a contingent benefit, with an overwhelming present evil.

You will search that paragraph in vain for any suggestion that Darwin supports anti-poor social policies or that he desires to exterminate the lesser races. Indeed, it seems pretty clear Darwin was saying exactly the opposite. But you can imagine what that paragrpah looks like after the creationist quote-miners chop it up and conveniently omit certain strategic clauses. (And if you can’t imagine it, go to the Wikipedia article to see how the trick is done.)

By modern standards we can find passages in Darwin’s writing that come off as terribly racist. His casual references to savages, as opposed to civilized people, is not something anyone would write today. But if this is to be the standard, I think you will be hard-pressed to find anyone of Darwin’s time and social class who was not a fire-breathing racist. It is a triviality to find Christian preachers of the time defending slavery and overt racism in explicitly religious terms. Should I worry about the ethical impications of accepting Christianity?

In case you think that Darwin sounds like a Nazi, you are not far from the truth. Konrad Lorenz, a biologist who provided much of the propaganda for the Nazi party, made Darwin’s theories the basis for his polemics. The Pulitzer Prize winner, Marilynne Robinson, in her insightful essay on Darwin, points out that the German nationalist writer, Heinrich von Treitschke, and the biologist, Ernst Haeckel, also drew on Darwin’s writings as they helped Hitler develop those racist ideas that led to the Holocaust.

You just knew that was coming.

The casual linking of Darwin with Nazis is another of those asinine talking points that immediately dismisses the speaker from serious consideration. For a brief overview of how silly this is, go here. But even taking Campolo’s claims at face value they don’t add up to much. He has identified three people who accepted evolution and who also endorsed loathsome political views. From this we are meant to conclude that acceptance of evolution leads to acceptance of Nazi racial theories.

How impressed would Campolo be if I started piling up the examples of loathsome Christian racists and political extremists? Would he slap his forehead and conclude that Christianity leads naturally to vile opinions? Of course not.

Let’s bring it home:

Those creationists who fear Darwin because his theories contradict their literal Biblical belief that creation occurred in six 24-hour days, do not get at the real dangers of Darwinism. They do not realise that an explanation of the development of biological organisms over eons of time really does not pose the great threat to the dignity of our humanity that they suppose. Instead, they, along with the rest of us, should really fear the ethical implications of Darwinism.

I hope that in school our children will be taught that it is up to science to study the processes that gave birth to the human race. But, as postmodern as it may be, I also want them to learn that whatever science discovers about our biological origins, there is, nevertheless, a mystical quality in human beings that makes each of us sacred and of infinite worth.

Personally, I hold to the belief that, regardless of how we got here, we should recognise that there is an infinite qualitative difference between the most highly developed ape and each and every human being. Darwin never recognised this disjuncture. And that is why his theories are dangerous.

After the torrent of ignorance that characterized the earlier part of the essay, this ending seems downright anti-climactic. Personally I am far less impressed by the merits of humanity than Campolo. To say there is an “inifinite qualitative difference” between humans and apes is absurd, and is utterly at odds with biological reality. But that has nothing to do with the obligations we all have towards one another. Quite the contrary, in fact.

As Stephen Jay Gould pointed out a whle back, evolution pretty much proves racial equality. The evolutionary split between humans and apes, and the subsequent diversification of humanity into distinct subpopulations, occurred so recently that there simply has not been time for significant cognitive differences to develop. Evolution also promotes a feeling of kinship and relatedness among all human beings, and also with the rest of nature. It is not hard to build congenial moral and political views on such a foundation.

Christianity, by contrast, neatly divides the world into the saved and the not saved. It teaches that people who dissent from certain key theological points will spend an eternity in hell for their freethought. It claims to have the absolute truth on issues about which no one has any business being certain, and it claims that it’s holy book is an infallible source of wisdom and information.

People who believe such things have nothing to teach the rest of us about morality.

Comments

  1. #1 MrG
    February 27, 2009

    I like to shoot back at personal attacks on Darwin: “Did you know that George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Ben Franklin all kept SLAVES?” I get a “DOES NOT COMPUTE” reaction.

    Cheers — MrG / http://www.vectorsite.net/gblog.html

  2. #2 SLC
    February 27, 2009

    It should also be pointed out that the recent release of much of Darwins’ correspondence makes it clear that he was a vehement opponent of slavery, unlike most Southern Baptist ministers of the time who cheerfully pointed out how the Hebrew bible has numerous passages in favor of slavery.

    However, suppose that everything that crackbrain Campolo were true. That has not the slightest effect on the scientific accuracy of the theory of evolution. I would argue that knowledge of nuclear physics and the theory of relativity are also dangerous as they led to the development of nuclear weapons. Would Mr. Campolo advocate that these subjects also not be taught?

  3. #3 Dave C
    February 27, 2009

    Wow, this is disappointing. Like Jason, I had considered Campolo to be a pretty reasonably person. Apparently I was mistaken, as that piece he wrote is unforgivably bad.

  4. #4 MrG
    February 27, 2009

    It wasn’t just that it was trash, it was also that it was such a predictable cut-and-paste job. I could have put something together that would have read identically to it, just working through the long-established bullet points.

    It was of course annoying that the counterarguments to the bullet points — which are just as well established and in some cases pretty hard to sensibly argue with — were not addressed. It was not just preposterous, it was lazy and sloppy thinking. There was no issue in it he couldn’t have addressed more substantially after a quick session with Google.

    Cheers — MrG / http://www.vectorsite.net/gblog

  5. #5 Feste
    February 27, 2009

    Sigh…it really is a shame to see Campolo disseminating falsehoods like this. The man has some decent theology, and he always seemed so reasonable. Has anyone emailed responses and corrections to him yet?

  6. #6 Eamon Knight
    February 27, 2009

    One more sigh of disappointment here, at the shark-jumping of one of the saner, more humane, contemporary religious voices. As an atheist ex-Christian, I am rapidly running out of former brethren for whom I can retain any respect.

  7. #7 alice
    February 27, 2009

    This may be only marginally relevant to the idea that Drawin was a racist….
    He most certainly didn’t have much regard for women’s intelligence.
    I’ve heard that argument used by Christians. The response to that, of course, would be to have them read St Paul.

  8. #8 Matthew
    February 27, 2009

    GOOD NEWS: Intelligent Design has no intention of evolving…it can not adapt, and its niche is shrinking thanks to the likes of good science educators and promoters like Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, this blog, etc… It will soon be extinct as another rash ideology with no evidence to support it. Can’t wait…

  9. #9 a lurker
    February 28, 2009

    “It should also be pointed out that the recent release of much of Darwins’ correspondence makes it clear that he was a vehement opponent of slavery,”

    We don’t have to rely on recent releases since Darwin attacked slavery in the Voyage of the Beagle published in 1839.

    “This may be only marginally relevant to the idea that Drawin was a racist….
    He most certainly didn’t have much regard for women’s intelligence.
    I’ve heard that argument used by Christians. The response to that, of course, would be to have them read St Paul.”

    Most of the really nasty anti-woman passages of “St. Paul” were not in anyway written Paul of Tarsus, but were written after his death. In his writings that are not in doubt, he positively referred to women evangelists.

    He however have a problem with sexuality to say the least.

  10. #10 Sophist FCD
    February 28, 2009

    In case you think that Darwin sounds like a Nazi, you are not far from the truth.

    I’ll see your distortion of Descent of Man, and raise you an On the Jews and Their Lies quote:

    1. “First to set fire to their synagogues or schools and to bury and cover with dirt whatever will not burn, so that no man will ever again see a stone or cinder of them. …”
    2. “Second, I advise that their houses also be razed and destroyed. …”
    3. “Third, I advise that all their prayer books and Talmudic writings, in which such idolatry, lies, cursing and blasphemy are taught, be taken from them. …”
    4. “Fourth, I advise that their rabbis be forbidden to teach henceforth on pain of loss of life and limb. …”
    5. “Fifth, I advise that safe-conduct on the highways be abolished completely for the Jews. …”
    6. “Sixth, I advise that usury be prohibited to them, and that all cash and treasure of silver and gold be taken from them. … Such money should now be used in … the following [way]… Whenever a Jew is sincerely converted, he should be handed [a certain amount]…”
    7. “Seventh, I commend putting a flail, an ax, a hoe, a spade, a distaff, or a spindle into the hands of young, strong Jews and Jewesses and letting them earn their bread in the sweat of their brow… For it is not fitting that they should let us accursed Goyim toil in the sweat of our faces while they, the holy people, idle away their time behind the stove, feasting and farting, and on top of all, boasting blasphemously of their lordship over the Christians by means of our sweat. No, one should toss out these lazy rogues by the seat of their pants.”
    8. “If we wish to wash our hands of the Jews’ blasphemy and not share in their guilt, we have to part company with them. They must be driven from our country” and “we must drive them out like mad dogs.” [33]

    People who live in protestant houses shouldn’t throw Nazis.

  11. #11 KP
    February 28, 2009

    I always say that the distance between the left and right on the *US* political continuum is small and shrinking…

    ps., Sophist FCD: Thanks for reinforcing my belief that religion has mostly hurt humankind.

  12. #12 Azkyroth
    February 28, 2009

    Why does everyone who thinks “we shouldn’t be getting our morals from nature!” is a valid argument against evolutionary theory seem to have such a problem with the difference between “is” and “ought?”

  13. #13 Mike Haubrich, FCD
    February 28, 2009

    So, where is Matthew Nisbet when we need him? We need someone to rush him over to Campolo’s house and find out how we can re-frame evolution to please Campolo. Stat!

  14. #14 mrg
    February 28, 2009

    My instinct would be to try to politely engage Mr. Campolo, pointing out in detail that he was pushing some very creaky arguments that had very well-established responses. After all, if those who are familiar with him (I am not) say he can be reasonable, it might be the case that he was just having an off day and is open to persuasion on the matter. But I wouldn’t bet on it.

    Cheers — MrG / http://www.vectorsite.net/gblog.html

  15. #15 alias Ernest Major
    February 28, 2009

    The bad (worse?) news is that Tony Campolo appears to have committed the same sins a year ago.

  16. #16 Ralph
    February 28, 2009

    Solid analysis, well stated. It saddens me that all this time and all these words need be invested (wasted?) on a “controversy” with so little merit on one side. Your “1+1=3″ analogy moves the “debate” to a level that ID proponents might understand–that their view is simply, what is true is not true. Perhaps we need more of these analogies they might understand.

    For example: “You go to see a doctor, who tells you that you need your appendix out immediately. Then she says, ‘But first I want to give you all the criticisms of surgery as a solution to an infected appendix, and explain how faith healing might be a perfectly acceptable alternative’.” Or how about this: “We have invited Neil Armstrong to our school to describe how NASA managed to send a rocket to the Moon. But in fairness we have also invited a mystic, who will explain that Armnstrong actually made it to the Moon on a flying carpet, and that everything you read and see and believe about Apollo 13 was a complete fabrication.” Or this, “Gravity is but one explanation for why objects fall. Another is that all objects have strings attached to them, and God decides which strings to hold and which not to hold.”

    Really, this isn’t about “teach the controversy,” is it? It’s about creationist feathers being ruffled, and were evolution not perceived as a threat to what gives them meaning in life, then we would have no controversy to teach.

  17. #17 Thony C.
    February 28, 2009
    In case you think that Darwin sounds like a Nazi, you are not far from the truth. Konrad Lorenz, a biologist who provided much of the propaganda for the Nazi party made Darwin’s theories the basis for his polemics. The Pulitzer Prize winner, Marilynne Robinson, in her insightful essay on Darwin, points out that the German nationalist writer, Heinrich von Treitschke, and the biologist, Ernst Haeckel, also drew on Darwin’s writings as they helped Hitler develop those racist ideas that led to the Holocaust.

    You just knew that was coming.

    The casual linking of Darwin with Nazis is another of those asinine talking points that immediately dismisses the speaker from serious consideration. For a brief overview of how silly this is, go here. But even taking Campolo’s claims at face value they don’t add up to much. He has identified three people who accepted evolution and who also endorsed loathsome political views. From this we are meant to conclude that acceptance of evolution leads to acceptance of Nazi racial theories.

    However if one doesn’t take Campolo’s claims at face value then you can really see what a heap of festering dodo dung the whole article is. Five minutes in the intertubes would have shown Campolo that his own claims and those of Marilynne Robinson are a load of rubbish.

    First of all Hitler must have been incredibly precocious, as Heinrich von Treitschke died when he was only seven years old an early age to be developing racist ideas. Hitler was already thirty when Ernst Haeckel died in 1919 but this was a year before Hitler joined the Nazi Party! Konrad Lorenz is of course embarrassing, he was one of my scientific heroes as a teenager and I loved reading his books. In the War he was an opportunist who joined the Nazi Party in 1938 and accepted a university chair in 1940 under the Nazis. Some of his publications from this period are less than opportune. In 1941 he was himself drafted and served on the Eastern Front as a medic for the rest of the war. However to claim as Campolo does that Lorenz provided much of the propaganda for the Nazi party is, simple put, a complete lie with no historical justification what so ever.

    The statement quoted above contains so many simple factual errors that it would be embarrassing for a thirteen year old in a remedial school but coming from the mouth/pen of a man who is Professor Emeritus of Sociology at Eastern University it is totally inane.

  18. #18 Bayesian Bouffant, FCD
    February 28, 2009

    because that it contains a religious bias.

    He’s as knowledgeable about grammar as he is about biology.

  19. #19 Peter
    February 28, 2009

    Campolo is a bit of a celebrity among the evangelical left. He can thump his Bible with the best of them, but also defends progressive political positions. That he is usually a rare voice of political moderation in an ocean of evangelical narrow-mindedness makes this essay especially disappointing.

    Well, next thiing Campolo will be visiting the creation museum.

    Still, you surprise me Jason. I thought you didn’t like theistic evolutionists in any shape or form, instead preferring the honesty of the YECs ??????? I would have thought that Ken Miller and Karl Giberson both display far more sanity than Mr Campolo ????

    As a Christian, I’ve never really liked Campolo. I find him a very earthy type character who goes out of his way to be antagonistic. He’s also somewhat conterversial in evangelical/fundie circles as well. This from Cecil Andrews (original article by Roger Oakland of Understand the Times international)both YECs by the way:

    http://www.takeheed.net/JUNE2007.htm

    Most Christians can tell you the very moment when they first encountered Jesus Christ in a personal way. Being ‘born again’ is an event that can be vividly remembered. Tony Campolo says his personal encounter began when he discovered Christ through a practice known as “centering prayer.” Though not found in the Bible, the ritual of “centering prayer” is a pillar of Eastern mysticism.

  20. #20 BaldApe
    February 28, 2009

    The whole sad essay is best explained, ISTM, by the assertion that he was pandering to the fundamorons to maintain his Jesus credentials. The completely refuted talking points, the oft-repeated distortions, the lame idiocy of it all, is simply giving the peanut gallery what they want to hear.

    It’s sometimes very hard to figure out just what people actually believe when they are speaking publicly.

  21. #21 Eamon Knight
    February 28, 2009

    In some other forum I recently saw it noted that in OOS, Darwin refers to “races” of cabbages, demonstrating that he means what modern biologists (or gardeners) would call “varieties” or “subspecies”.

    I therefore propose that henceforth, anyone who tries to play the racist card based on Darwin’s subtitle, be awarded the title of Creationist Cabbagehead.

  22. #22 Anton Mates
    February 28, 2009

    But if this is to be the standard, I think you will be hard-pressed to find anyone of Darwin’s time and social class who was not a fire-breathing racist.

    The only example I can think of was Thomas Wentworth Higginson, the Unitarian minister (and financial backer of John Brown) who ended up commanding the Union’s first battalion of freed slaves in the Civil War. To judge by his book “Army Life in a Black Regiment” (which is an awesome book and available online at Gutenberg), he really did come to the conclusion that blacks were not–biologically at least–inferior to whites at all.

    Notably, Higginson was acquainted with Darwin and actually visited him at Down. In 1873, after reading “Army Life,” Darwin wrote to Higginson:

    My wife has just finished reading aloud your ‘Life with a Black Regiment,’ and you must allow me to thank you heartily for the very great pleasure which it has in many ways given us. I always thought well of the negroes, from the little which I have seen of them; and I have been delighted to have my vague impressions confirmed, and their character and mental powers so ably discussed. When you were here I did not know of the noble position which you had filled. I had formerly read about the black regiments, but failed to connect your name with your admirable undertaking.

  23. #23 SLC
    February 28, 2009

    Re Anton Mates

    Actually, George Washington came to a similar conclusion, based on his experiences with free black soldiers under his command. He went into the Revolutionary war with the usual assumption of black inferiority but revised his opinions based on his experiences.

  24. #24 Anton Mates
    February 28, 2009

    Interesting. Did Washington ever discuss that publicly?

  25. #25 Jedidiah Palosaari
    March 1, 2009

    I don’t know if my comment will be posted by Christianity Today or not. This is what I told them:

    Oh my. I don’t know that I’ve ever been more disappointed to read something online. Tony, I respect you so much. You have so much to offer, and I have been lead to the Truth by your words so often. I even had the pleasure of meeting you at the Pasadena Tab, when you spoke at a conference there years ago. You have helped me come closer to Christ.

    And here, you could not be more wrong. Incredibly, incredibly wrong. It is like someone else got ahold of your computer and emailed this article in under your name. I would hope and wish this were true- that you are the victim of identity theft, rather than believing that you actually wrote this.

    Evolution should or should not be taught in schools because it is either the truth, or it is not. What the results are of the theory, or how people use it, are rather irrelevant. The truth shall set you free, regardless of what kind of truth that is. And it just so happens that there is probably no other scientific theory out there that has more evidence for it than the Theory of Evolution. I recognize that you are a great pastor and theologian, Tony- but science is not your strong suit.

    Darwin is rather famous for being an abolitionist, and speaking against eugenics. Sure, the ID crowd and the Discovery Institute often quote him out of context to try to say the opposite, ignoring the very next line where he says (to paraphrase anachronistically), “If eugenics were actually practiced, it would be horrible.” I have no doubt that his beliefs on races aren’t up to our standards today- but the same could be said for Lincoln, and more easily said.

    The long title of Origin isn’t used as much because the word “races” in the 19th century means more than just humans. Indeed, today, the same is still true in biology. My professors would speak of races of seastars, meaning different colors of the same species of Pateria miniata. Since Darwin doesn’t really ever get to the evolution of *our* species in Origin, when he used “races”, he was quite clearly referring to animals in general.

    Yes, the Nazis used evolution incorrectly to support their beliefs. They also used a distortion of Christianity to do the same. Tony, you know that Satan loves to distort the truth, and to use lies to advance his agenda. That doesn’t mean we should throw out the Christian faith.

    Frankly, stating that Haekel is a German, and therefore is to be lumped with the Nazis, smacks of some of the same that you are accusing Darwin of. Haekel made mistakes, but he also contributed a great deal to biology. His drawings of plankton were immaculate and advanced our understanding of them a great deal. Though he fudged his drawings on ontology recapitulating phylogeny, his basic premise was sound and still followed today.

    There was a movie a year ago, Expelled, with Ben Stein, in which they attempted to make spurious arguments linking the Nazis to Darwin. They were completely inaccurate, and unfortunately, you have recapitulated those same arguments here. You have ignored, or more probably not read, the numerous statements by Darwin that his theory should not be used as an ethical paradigm.

    Remember, if evolution is true, and the evidence indicates it is, than it is also a work of God. And for my money, a more powerful God creates in this manner than in the snap-your-fingers style of the IDists or Literal Creationists. There are many authors and theologians now who are discussing not only how Christianity and evolution are compatible (Miller), but how the theology and the science of the two are interwoven and dependent on each other (Edwards). Yes, we affirm that humans are in God’s image, and unique in that way. But in this article you attacked not only the possible ethical implications and misuses of the theory, but the teaching of the theory itself. Consider, Tony, if evolution is true, then what you are doing in attacking evolution is also attacking the very work of God.

  26. #26 Lisa A. Shiel
    March 1, 2009

    Of course the “races” mentioned by Darwin were not human races. But the fact remains that natural selection cannot account for the origins and diversification of life on earth. Living things adapt to their environments–this we can see for ourselves by observing nature. The “evidence” for evolution from a common ancestor via natural selection involves two chief types of evidence: 1) fossils, and 2) genetics.

    Interpretation of fossils requires much imagination and presumption on the part of the scientist. Fossils cannot show us how or if they adapted via natural selection, or indeed how or if they evolved from a common ancestor. Genetics involves equal amounts of guesswork, with no two studies reaching the same conclusion. In the book African Exodus, geneticist Alan Templeton is quoted as saying “there are thousands of equally good but different [phylogenetic] trees” than can come out of the data famously used by Berkeley scientists to prove the African Eve theory. The more times data is run through the computer software, the more variations it will produce. The Berkeley team ran their data once.

    The reality is the evidence for evolution remains woefully inadequate. One need not subscribe to Creationism or ID to recognize that fact.

    Lisa A. Shiel
    author of The Evolution Conspiracy

  27. #27 mrg
    March 1, 2009

    “I don’t know if my comment will be posted by Christianity Today or not.”

    Thanks JP. That was what needed to be done. CT doesn’t seem to be posting comments … maybe they’ll wait for later and sift through the most interesting ones? One hopes so.

    Cheers — MrG / http://www.vectorsite.net/gblog.html

  28. #28 TomS
    March 1, 2009

    Jedidiah Palosaari wrote:
    “Yes, the Nazis used evolution incorrectly to support their beliefs.”

    I have not seen the evidence that the Nazis used evolution, whether correctly or incorrectly, to support their beliefs.

    At least, not in any sense of “evolution” which a great many creationists do not accept.

    Let me first hasten to say that I am not trying to tie creationism to nazism. Rather, I am saying that the Nazis used various commonly held ideas which just about everybody believed at that time. Ideas which are so far from being distinctive of evolutionary biology that even creationists accept them. By the way, I should add another disclaimer, that I am not particularly wide-read on this topic, so I am open to being corrected on my interpretation – I should say eager to learn more about this.

    Many creationists make a point of saying that they accept microevolution, that is, evolution “within a kind”, in particular, evolution within “mankind”. If the Nazis had any interest in evolution, it was surely only evolution within “mankind”. Any concept that humans (especially “Aryans”) had any ancestral relationship with the rest of the world of life would clearly be abhorrent to them. For example, “Himmler mentioned his belief that the Nordic race did not evolve, but came directly down from heaven to settle on the Atlantic continent.” (Heather Pringle -The Master Plan: Himmler’s Scholars and the Holocaust. New York: Hyperion, 2006, page 150)
    
 I suggest taking a look at chapter 11 of “Mein Kampf” where there are statement like this:
    “Even a superficial glance is sufficient to show that all the innumerable forms in which the life-urge of Nature manifests itself are subject to a fundamental law – one may call it an iron law of Nature – which compels the various species to keep within the definite limits of their own life-forms when propagating and multiplying their kind.”

    Creationists would agree with the “common sense” attitude toward change that “random change” without “direction” would tend “downward”, contrary to the important concept of evolutionary biology that natural (as distinct from “purposeful”) selection can produce new complexity in life.

    In brief, I do not see any non-trivial sense in which the Nazis drew on evolution – a sense so trivial that even the creationists and everybody else drew on it.

    There were other biological scientists about whom it could more properly be said to be misused by the Nazis. Hitler compared himself to Koch, for example: “I feel I am like Robert Koch in politics. He discovered the bacillus and thereby ushered medical science onto new paths. I discovered the Jew as the bacillus and the fermenting agent of all social decomposition.” One can say that Pasteur and Mendel were misused by the Nazis.
    But Darwin? At least one instance of the burning of books of “Darwinism”. Houston Stewart Chamberlain referred to “A manifestly unsound system like that of Darwin”.

    I realize that you aren’t assigning any blame when someone misuses a scientific concept. But I think that it is significant that the Nazis may have actually been antievolutionary.

  29. #29 mrg
    March 1, 2009

    “But I think that it is significant that the Nazis may have actually been antievolutionary.”

    There is no doubt they were *Social Darwinists* (“the stronger man is right!”) and eugenicists but … Darwin himself never endorsed either.

    MEIN KAMPF does not mention “Darwin” and the only use of the word “evolution” is to condemn race-mixing. Now you bring up the interesting question of: what did the Nazis think about human origins? Obviously other races might be descendants of “lower animals”, but Aryans? Something tells me NO, and the Himmler reference tends to bear that out.

    Cheers — MrG / http://www.vectorsite.net/gblog.html

  30. #30 Jedidiah Palosaari
    March 1, 2009

    Alice- I would strongly disagree. If you look at the original Greek, St. Paul, as you call him, was profoundly egalitarian, centuries ahead of his time. Advocating that both a husband and wife should submit to each other, or that the man should not be in control, or that women should learn and prophesy and teach in the public meetings, is really amazing to hear in the first century period. The sad thing is his words got radically reinterpreted through the mysogynist ideas of some of the Early Church Fathers.

  31. #31 Larry Gilman
    March 1, 2009

    “Christianity, by contrast, neatly divides the world into the saved and the not saved. It teaches that people who dissent from certain key theological points will spend an eternity in hell for their freethought. It claims to have the absolute truth on issues about which no one has any business being certain, and it claims that it’s holy book is an infallible source of wisdom and information.”

    You were doing great up to this point, but here you inaccurately attribute to a lumped-together “Christianity” an exclusivism that is no longer, in fact, claimed by the majority of the world’s Christian churches. You seem to buy into right-wing, fundamentalist Christianity’s claim to be synonymous with “Christianity.” That it is a false claim is trivially easy to verify. The Catholic church, for example — the world’s largest Christian denomination — no longer claims that all non-Christians or non-Catholics are damned. Nor do all Christians think that the Bible is an “infallible source . . . of information”: at least I know that you’d find precious few liberal Episcopalians who thought so. And there are millions of us in this country. In the heat of battle, we should remain fair, curious, and scrupulous about truthful generalizing.

  32. #32 SLC
    March 1, 2009

    Re Lisa A. Sheil

    1. It’s rather unfortunate that Ms. Sheil quotes Alan Templeton who, according to an article in Wikipedia, claims that modern humans interbred with Neanderthals. And here I thought that Prof. Milton Wolpoff was the last holdout for this notion. Based on the decoding of the Neanderthal gene, it appears that, thus far, Mr. Templetons’ claim isn’t looking too good.

    2. In going to the web site linked to under Ms. Sheils’ name, it appears that Ms. Sheil is a believer in bigfoot and in paranormal happenings. Doesn’t give one much confidence in her scientific acqueity. That’s in addition to Ms. Sheil being a conspiracy buff who apparently believes that there is a giant conspiracy among the worlds’ biologists to cover up the alleged inadequacies of the theory of evolution. I wonder if Ms. Sheil also buys into the moon hoax conspiracy theory?

    Actually, the evidence for common descent is overwhelming, both from genetics and from morphology. In particular, the number of hominid species now exceeds 10. I have posted previously a link to a presentation by Ken Miller showing the evidence for the common ancestry of chimpanzees and humans through the fusing of Ape chromosomes 12 and 13 to form human chromosome 2.

  33. #33 Ray Martinez
    March 1, 2009

    Denying a rich, white Victorian Englishman to not be a racist is one reason why all polls and surveys consistently show about half of all adults in the U.S. to be anti-evolutionists, Creationists and/or IDists.

    If Darwinists would attempt to insult our intelligence concerning the undisputed (Darwin’s racism) then they would surely not hesitate to misrepresent complicated scientific evidence.

    Ray

  34. #34 mrg
    March 1, 2009

    So, Ray, what do you have to say about George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Ben Franklin for being slaveowners? Just curious. Honestly, I am — you’re kind of unique and always full of surprises.

    Cheers — MrG / http://www.vectorsite.net/gblog.html

  35. #35 tomh
    March 1, 2009

    Ray Martinez wrote: If Darwinists would attempt to insult our intelligence concerning the undisputed (Darwin’s racism)

    Undisputed? Have you ever read anything by Darwin? Start with his letters to Asa Gray during the Civil War and you will see he was no racist. Read the Beagle book and learn how horrified he was by the slavery he encountered in Brazil. His grandfather was the great abolitionist Erasmus Darwin, and anti-slavery was bred into Darwin from childhood. Only a fool would claim Darwin was a racist.

  36. #36 386sx
    March 1, 2009

    Denying a rich, white Victorian Englishman to not be a racist is one reason why all polls and surveys consistently show about half of all adults in the U.S. to be anti-evolutionists, Creationists and/or IDists.

    It isn’t about racism. It’s about evolution. Creationists don’t like evolution. They like saying bad things about Darwin because he’s their scapegoat. You know, like the scapegoats in the Bible and stuff. Such superstitions are common among creationists, cuz it’s like… you know… in the Bible and stuff. It’s all up in there, up and down the street. It’s chock full o’ superstition.

    If Darwinists would attempt to insult our intelligence concerning the undisputed (Darwin’s racism) then they would surely not hesitate to misrepresent complicated scientific evidence.

    One doesn’t necessarily follow from the other. Thanks for tryin though.

  37. #37 SLC
    March 1, 2009

    Re Ray Martinez

    If Darwinists would attempt to insult our intelligence concerning the undisputed (Darwin’s racism) then they would surely not hesitate to misrepresent complicated scientific evidence.

    Mr. Martinez has no intelligence to be insulted.

  38. #38 gregwrld
    March 1, 2009

    Ray, Ray, Ray – your insanity doesn’t fly at Talk.Origins and it sure won’t fly here.

    Time to take your meds and go back to bed…

  39. #39 TomS
    March 2, 2009

    Ray wrote:
    “why all polls and surveys consistently show about half of all adults in the U.S. to be anti-evolutionists”

    For the lurkers, I would just like to point out that there is no reason to think that anti-racism is a significant factor in the anti-evolutionism in the USA.

    I would point out that there has been a significant overlap in the USA between racists in the USA and the anti-evolutionists. As far back as Agassiz, through the Ku Klux Klan. On the other hand, there have been people who have supported evolution because it supports the common ancestry of all humans. For example, the famous conservative Presbyterian B.B. Warfield. This is not to identify racism and anti-evolutionism: I would not stoop so low.

  40. #40 Mike Haubrich, FCD
    March 2, 2009

    SLC. Lisa has been plugging her book on many evolution blogs. It’s funny that she is so excited by UFO’s and cryptozoology, yet so invested in dissing evolution as being “unproven.”

    Surprised her dad hasn’t shown up.

  41. #41 JohnK
    March 2, 2009

    Lisa A. Schiel:

    Genetics involves equal amounts of guesswork, with no two studies reaching the same conclusion. In the book African Exodus, geneticist Alan Templeton is quoted as saying “there are thousands of equally good but different [phylogenetic] trees” than can come out of the data famously used by Berkeley scientists to prove the African Eve theory. The more times data is run through the computer software, the more variations it will produce. The Berkeley team ran their data once.

    Another monument to the Dunning-Kruger effect. Recycled almost straight from Apologetics Press.
    http://www.apologeticspress.org/pdfs/e-books_pdf/taho.pdf
    The analysis of human population genetics of course will result in a large number of supported phylogentic trees; their numbers have exploded in 3-4000 generations from 10′s of thousands or less to 6 billion. Like all population explosions, carrying capacity is eventually reached and it ends.
    If Schiel knew the slightest thing about coalesence times under inevitable finite population sizes as carrying capacity is inevitably reached, and the unintuitive rapidity at which lineages disappear over longer time frames (even ignoring natural selection which only makes lineage extinction occur quicker), she would not display her ignorance by generalizing trees of a single 3000 generation pop. explosion to 4 billion years of multi-species evolution.
    Scheil’s ignorance of the robustness of broader and deeper phylogentic trees, made possible by vast lineage extinctions, makes her a fertile field for the stupidities she soaks up from clueless and/or deceptive anti-evolution sources.

    The reality is the evidence for evolution remains woefully inadequate.

    Will the reality of her woefully inadequate understanding of the evidence for common descent penetrate her deeply held opinions? Will she look beyond her anti-evolution sources for results of more comprehensive deeper phylogenetic trees from genetic analysis? Tune in tomorrow for more Dunning-Kruger effect.

  42. #42 SLC
    March 2, 2009

    Re Mike Haubrich

    I haven’t had the displeasure of encountering Ms. Shiel before but she is on a par with other whackjobs who have appeared on this blog, e.g. Mr. JonS and Mr. Charles Rayney. The internet certainly provides an outlet for all manner of insanity. The antivaxers who infest Dr. Oracs’ site, the HIV/AIDS deniers who infest Dr. Tara Smiths’ site, and the global warming denialists who have recently infested Carl Zimmers’ site are just a few examples.

  43. #43 Richard Eis
    March 2, 2009

    You would think that waving the “nazi” references about would have died down a little. At least until the little recent matter of the pope’s nazi sympathiser screwup was forgotten.

  44. #44 Anton Mates
    March 2, 2009

    I would point out that there has been a significant overlap in the USA between racists in the USA and the anti-evolutionists. As far back as Agassiz, through the Ku Klux Klan. On the other hand, there have been people who have supported evolution because it supports the common ancestry of all humans.

    Indeed. I think Gould once pointed out that the “worldview” most conducive to extreme racism is old-earth creationism. Young-earthers and those who accept evolution both believe that all races have a common ancestor–they merely disagree on where and when this ancestor lived. But old-earthers are bound neither to science nor to a literalistic interpretation of Genesis, so they can–although of course most don’t–believe that God created the races separately, just like the various “kinds.” Most old-earthers were not polygenists, but almost all polygenists were old-earthers.

    Agassiz was an old-earth creationist, and it’s pretty obvious from Mein Kampf and from the (admittedly less reliable) “Hitler’s Table Talk” that Hitler was as well. They accepted “microevolution” but rejected common descent.

  45. #45 Ichthyic
    March 2, 2009

    as a tangent, it might be of use to see how some of the evangelical xian orgs view Campolo:

    http://www.letusreason.org/Popteac27.htm

    After September 11, in a Wheaton College debate Campolo engaged with conservative activist Gary Bauer. Bauer responded, “I know this is hard for you to believe, but the enemy is not John Ashcroft, the enemy is Osama bin Laden.” “I’m not sure about that,” said Campolo, drawing gasps and not a few boos from the audience. “When you start taking away the rights of the American citizens, when you undercut the Bill of Rights in order to pursue security, I think you become more dangerous than bin Laden. I think that if this country goes down, it will not be because of the enemies that are outside this country. I think that if this country goes down, it’s because those within the country undercut our basic rights, undercut the principles that gave birth to this institution” (article-Ted Olsen Christianity Today January 21, 2003, Vol. 47, No. 1, p. 32, The Positive Prophet posted 12/27/2002).

    This is a good observation and advice on Campolo’s part. We should equally watch those within the church that want to change our purpose to something other than what the Scripture commands us to do. In this respect we should pay attention to Campolo who works within the church, for not all he says is healthy or biblical. For example, Campolo was examined by the ‘evangelical’ leaders in 1985, they noted that “while he accepts an evolutionary view of the origin of man and the universe, he holds that this is consistent with Scripture that teaches only the fact (not the method) of Creation” (Christian News, 9/23/85)

    with that in mind, the idea that Campolo might be playing defense in posting the outrageous crapoloa we see in the article under discussion here might not be so far fetched.

    that said, it’s still inexcusably poor scholarship from someone who most assuredly knows better.

    If he has that much to fear from the hard-core ignorant godbothering tubthumpers, then he’s already fucked, and all we can do is wish him bon voyage…

    and toss rotten vegetables at him as his ship departs.

    OTOH, I tend to toss rotten vegetables at all who think “theology” is a legitimate field of endeavor.

  46. #46 chas
    March 3, 2009

    If Someone out there created you, but hasn’t given you the ability to KNOW HOW He created you, how would you KNOW HOW He created you?

  47. #47 Ray Martinez
    March 3, 2009

    MrG wrote: “So, Ray, what do you have to say about George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Ben Franklin for being slaveowners? Just curious. Honestly, I am — you’re kind of unique and always full of surprises.”

    They founded and produced a nation and Documents that have enabled an African American to be President.

    Thomas Jefferson: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: That all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness…”

    Darwin the Atheist:

    “But I had gradually come, by this time [1837 and 1838], to see that the Old Testament from its manifestly false history of the world, with the Tower of Babel, the rainbow as a sign, etc., etc., and from its attributing to God the feelings of a revengeful tyrant, was no more to be trusted than the sacred books of the Hindoos, or the beliefs of any barbarian” (Autobio:85; bracket supported by footnote written by F. Darwin).

    Darwin the racist:

    “At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilised races of man will almost certainly exterminate and replace throughout the world the savage races. At the same time the anthropomorphous apes, as Professor Schaaffhausen has remarked, will no doubt be exterminated. The break will then be rendered wider, for it will intervene between man in a more civilised state, as we may hope, than the Caucasian, and some ape as low as a baboon, instead of as at present between the negro or Australian and the gorilla” (“Descent Of Man” 1871:201 Vol.1).

    Ray

  48. #48 Ichthyic
    March 3, 2009

    At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilised races of man will almost certainly exterminate and replace throughout the world the savage races.

    that would be Darwin the prophet, not Darwin the racist. He is noting that based on current observation of extermination and slavery of Africans and non-”civilized” cultures, one might expect more militarily advanced and aggressive civilizations to entirely replace them over time.

    reading comprehension:

    ur duin it rong!

    while others might find you “surprising” (more likely just bait so they can laugh at your gullibility), I find you entirely pedantic and predictable.

    nuff said.

  49. #49 Ichthyic
    March 3, 2009

    If Someone out there created you, but hasn’t given you the ability to KNOW HOW He created you, how would you KNOW HOW He created you?

    that’s an excellent question, Chas.

    answer:

    you wouldn’t. Which of course is exactly why ID is a complete non-starter as a scientific hypothesis.

    compare it to anthropology, for example, where we have a very good idea of how humans have and can create tools and artifacts.

    since we have that knowledge, it is quite easy to produce a testable hypothesis that any particular object one might find is or is not a product of human engineering.

    the moment any ID supporter can contact a putative intelligent designer, and observe them operating in nature, or even ask them directly how they work in nature, THEN there is a basis to formulate a testable hypothesis.

    We’ve been waiting thousands of years for such with no luck so far.

    at some point, one most naturally should conclude there is little pragmatic reason to wait further.

    “The natural cause of the human mind is certainly from credulity to skepticism.”

    -Thomas Jefferson

  50. #50 chas
    March 3, 2009

    Ichthyic,

    Substituting “Intelligent Designer” for Someone & He, what is the answer?

  51. #51 Ichthyic
    March 3, 2009

    Substituting “Intelligent Designer” for Someone & He, what is the answer?

    umm, that’s exactly what I just did?

    …the moment any ID supporter can contact a putative intelligent designer, and observe them operating in nature, or even ask them directly how they work in nature, THEN there is a basis to formulate a testable hypothesis.

    Is that somehow not clear?

    ask again if not.

  52. #52 chas
    March 3, 2009

    “We’ve been waiting thousands of years for such with no luck so far.
    at some point, one most naturally should conclude there is little pragmatic reason to wait further.”

    What’s the rush? How do you know that the “Intelligent Designer”, (whom you don’t know whether or not He created you), hasn’t lived forever?

  53. #53 Anton Mates
    March 3, 2009

    What’s the rush? How do you know that the “Intelligent Designer”, (whom you don’t know whether or not He created you), hasn’t lived forever?

    Doesn’t really matter. We don’t live forever, and science is (so far as we know) an activity confined to the living.

    The Great Designer may choose to reveal its presence and habits next week, but until then, science has to work with more fruitful hypotheses.

  54. #54 Ichthyic
    March 3, 2009

    What’s the rush?

    do YOU live forever, chas?

    no?

    well, there ya go.

    somehow I get the impression I’m wasting my time with Chas.

    :p

  55. #55 chas
    March 3, 2009

    “science has to work with more fruitful hypotheses”

    Like evolution? Which shows how we have changed? So? We have changed. But, what’s the “Origin of the Species”.

    Like abiogenesis? We’re getting close? They last time I looked close only counts in horse shoes. How long will this take?

  56. #56 Ichthyic
    March 3, 2009

    how long have you got?

    why aren’t you contributing?

    why do you keep writing non-sequitors?

    why do you keep asking really stupid fucking questions?

    why am I even bothering with you?

  57. #57 chas
    March 3, 2009

    “We’ve been waiting thousands of years for such with no luck so far.
    at some point, one most naturally should conclude there is little pragmatic reason to wait further”.

    “how long have you got?”

    We’ve got forever to work friutlessly on abiogenesis, but can’t wait further for the “Intelligent Designer”?

    What non sequitur?

  58. #58 Jud
    March 3, 2009

    chas -

    If trying to start rhetorical arguments with non-experts on the basis of no knowledge floats your boat, keep right on doing what you’re doing.

    On the other hand, if you are really curious about how the natural world works and how that’s known, I’d politely suggest a couple of good starting points:

    Sean B. Carroll’s “Endless Forms Most Beautiful”

    Neil Shubin’s “Your Inner Fish”

    Neither book is terribly long, and they’re both, in my experience, quite readable.

    Other folks here may have additional suggestions.

  59. #59 chas
    March 3, 2009

    Jud -

    “If trying to start rhetorical arguments with non-experts on the basis of no knowledge floats your boat, keep right on doing what you’re doing.
    On the other hand, if you are really curious about how the natural world works and how that’s known, I’d politely suggest a couple of good starting points:”

    Make’s me think of Einstein’s quote –

    “Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex… It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.”

  60. #60 chas
    March 4, 2009

    Jud -

    “how the natural world works and how that’s known,”

    What kind of meaningless crap is this? Who cares?

    I just want to know if you know where we came from. If you don’t know just say so. Don’t belabor us with all your meaningless, unproven, mumbo-jumbo about hypothesis, evolution, abiogenesis, primordial soup, Darwin & “Origin of the Species”.

  61. #61 Dan S.
    March 4, 2009

    The bad (worse?) news is that Tony Campolo appears to have committed the same sins a year ago.

    Well, he now says that the quote supposedly relating to the proposed elimination of the “negro and Australian peoples” comes from Descent rather than Origin – last time round everybody pointed out that there was *nothing* at all like this in Origin, and I guess he noticed. Granted, the quoted phrase doesn’t seem to show up anywhere in Descent either – perhaps a different edition, perhaps yet another creationist fantasy quote scavenger hunt – but the passage he’s horribly misinterpreting *does*, so I suppose that’s progress?

    (For those who haven’t been through this particular bit of nonsense before, he’s talking about the passage that Ray quotes (and also fails to understand) at 1:33pm, starting:

    At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries . . .

    See John over at Evolving Thoughts for more.

    . . . they contend that children in public schools ought to be taught Darwin’s explanation of how the human race evolved

    I’m rather struck by the vast gap in mentalities here (in the sense of world-view, not intellect). Granted, I’m often pretty literal-minded and have been fascinated by human evolution since I could barely reach the Time-Life Nature Library: Early Man on my parents’ bookshelf – which is why the first thing to come to mind was – ‘that’s ridiculous! Darwin’s explanation of how the human race evolved? Darwin wouldn’t know an australopithecine if one bit him in the butt!’ Of course, that’s not what Campolo’s getting at – which seems to be: Naturalistic evolution BAD!, further reducing down to: If no God, then nothing to make us special, therefore nothing to keep us from herding each other into the ovens. Never heard *that* one before, no . . . But it is ironic that of Darwin’s ideas on human evolution, what’s weathered the best is that human races have a common – and African – origin, with the differences between them being rather minor.

    Part of the problem seems to be that Campolo’s perhaps combining the creationist’s conviction that ‘Darwinism’ is a competing religion, complete with Holy Scripture, etc. – hence the bit where he seems to imagine pro-science folks going before school boards to insist that children must get in at least two hours a day reciting the text of the sacred books (in the original Victorian, no less!) – and a certain far left, Sokal-hoaxish criticism of science as ‘ideology, ideology, all is ideology; (to rephrase Ecclesiastes). Yuck. Two not-so-great tastes that taste worse together.

    Marilynne Robinson, in her insightful essay on Darwin,

    I’ve heard good things about her novels. But what I’ve seen of her essay on Darwin is a big mess. And what really sticks in my mind (like a burr) is a comment she made in a 1998 interview [pdf]:

    . . .It is very difficult to discuss Darwinism because one is forever confronting raised eye-brows, forever being scolded by people who know only that one must not object to Darwinism [does one sense less a rhetorical device than a personal response? perhaps one does!] .Of no other scientific theory is this true. Nor does anyother branch of science invite or even permit this kind of faith. . . . Darwinists, on the other hand, tend to object to new hypotheses on the grounds that they are incompatible with Darwinism. A recent example is the argument that Neanderthals were actually people disfigured by lack of iodine—cretins. This is not a suggestion to be dismissed out of hand. Diet-related illnesses were common in Europe until quite recently. If studies of skeletal remains have not taken accountof the effects of diet, this is remarkable, and itvery likely reflects the narrow focus Darwinist assumptions have always encouraged. Of coursethe theory does not hang on the particular case ofthe Neanderthals, and the cretin hypothesis could only be thought of as a threat to Darwinism if it opened the whole freighted narrative of progressive evolution of the human species to questioning of the same kind—and it is certainly progressive, despite objections to that word.

    Of course, it couldn’t be that that Dobson’s (no, not that one!) ‘iodine deficient Neandertal cretins’ hypothesis might have gotten a fairly lukewarm hearing from folks because, oh, I dunno, it involved a geographer wandering into their discipline, making an argument strongly reminiscent of the long-ago ‘Neanderthal just a modern man with vitamin D deficiency (and arthritis)’ claim. Nor, most importantly, that on top of all this very human pettiness – while there *were* some intriguing connections – the bulk of the evidence simply didn’t seem to fit . . . But this requires some research, and background knowledge, and reflection, and I can’t say I get the sense that Robinson really bothered with all that. Less a way to understand the universe than a club to beat the Big Bad Darwinists with. And Campolo sadly seems to share the same attitude.

    Well, better in defense of human dignity and equality, at least, rather than ignorance and oppression . . . I suppose . . . but blech.

    I guess we’re not gonna see Campolo getting behind the Great Ape Personhood movement any time soon, eh?

  62. #62 Dan S.
    March 4, 2009

    “how the natural world works and how that’s known,”

    What kind of meaningless crap is this? Who cares?

    Well, that says it all, doesn’t it?

  63. #63 eja
    March 4, 2009

    re chas

    The only meaningless crap I have seen so far is everything
    you have written. Quoting Einstein doesn’t make you look smarter.

  64. #64 FO
    March 4, 2009

    @chas,

    Do you even realize the irony of posting that particular quote?

    I just want to know if you know where we came from. If you don’t know just say so. Don’t belabor us with all your meaningless, unproven, mumbo-jumbo about hypothesis, evolution, abiogenesis, primordial soup, Darwin & “Origin of the Species”.

    Who’s belaboring who? You mean ignoramuses like you who are irked by people who actually know more than yourself, and who are capable of communicating what they know? Because honestly, you’re not contributing anything — so why are you so pissed by those who are?

  65. #65 Anton Mates
    March 4, 2009

    Like evolution? Which shows how we have changed? So?

    Hey, if you don’t care about the history of life on earth, that’s fine. Beats me why you would care if it was intelligently designed in that case, though.

    We have changed. But, what’s the “Origin of the Species”.

    Which species? We’ve seen speciation happen, you know.

    Like abiogenesis? We’re getting close? They last time I looked close only counts in horse shoes.

    Then you haven’t been looking at science, where close is the only thing that counts. Do you consider Isaac Newton’s work useless because Newtonian mechanics is only close to right?

    How long will this take?

    Dunno, but if you want to speed things up, let’s stick to testable hypotheses. If we’re looking for unknown designers with unlimited powers and ineffable motives, we’ll be here all week!

  66. #66 chas
    March 4, 2009

    Anton Mates, et cetera -

    With all due respect to the highly intelligent & well read group –

    “Dunno, but if you want to speed things up, let’s stick to testable hypotheses. If we’re looking for unknown designers with unlimited powers and ineffable motives, we’ll be here all week!”

    How can you find an unknown designer with unlimited powers & ineffable motives – unless He gives you the ability to find Him?

    As I asked earlier –
    If Someone out there created you, but hasn’t given you the ability to KNOW HOW He created you, how would you KNOW HOW He created you?

    And if He hasn’t given you the ability to find the “Origin of the Species” in that primordial soup, how will you find it?

    Seems like we’re as close to finding The Intelligent Designer as we are to finding the “Origin of the Species”.

    But, until you find the “Origin of the Species”, you CANNOT know whether or not you were created by Someone out there.

  67. #67 Ichthyic
    March 4, 2009

    How can you find an unknown designer with unlimited powers & ineffable motives – unless He gives you the ability to find Him?

    well, why don’t you get right on that problem, and come back here when you’ve solved it.

    lunacy indeed.

    Religion is like your brain on crack.

    the evidence to support that continually appears in threads just like this one.

    enjoy your lunacy, chas.

  68. #68 Anton Mates
    March 4, 2009

    How can you find an unknown designer with unlimited powers & ineffable motives – unless He gives you the ability to find Him?

    Exactly. So science doesn’t bother trying.

    But, until you find the “Origin of the Species”, you CANNOT know whether or not you were created by Someone out there.

    We won’t know even after we find the origin of the species–whichever species you’re talking about there. Science can shed light on the natural mechanisms or processes whereby we got here, but it can’t say whether or not they’re the product of some supernatural intelligence.

    Which is why evolutionary theory and abiogenesis don’t, and won’t, address that issue. That’s outside science.

  69. #69 chas
    March 4, 2009

    Ichthyic -

    “well, why don’t you get right on that problem, and come back here when you’ve solved it”.

    Why don’t you jump right on that Theory of Evolution and show us how we created ourselves from some molecules floating around in a primordial soup?
    And come back when you’ve got it solved.

    “Religion is like your brain on crack”.

    Einstein on his religion -

    “My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior spirit who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble mind.”

  70. #70 chas
    March 4, 2009

    Anton Mates -

    I believe species, as stated in the title of Darwin’s book, “Origin of Species”, is plural.

    I guess my last question is what are the odds that the origin of all species will ever be found?

    Thanks for the reasoned, sensible, calm response.

  71. #71 Anton Mates
    March 4, 2009

    Chas,

    Einstein on his religion -
    “My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior spirit who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble mind.”

    A similar but slightly more revealing quote by Einstein is:

    “I cannot conceive of a personal God who would directly influence the actions of individuals, or would directly sit in judgment on creatures of his own creation. I cannot do this in spite of the fact that mechanistic causality has, to a certain extent, been placed in doubt by modern science. My religiosity consists in a humble admiration of the infinitely superior spirit that reveals itself in the little that we, with our weak and transitory understanding, can comprehend of reality. Morality is of the highest importance — but for us, not for God.”

    As well as:

    “I cannot conceive of a God who rewards and punishes his creatures, or has a will of the kind that we experience in ourselves. Neither can I nor would I want to conceive of an individual that survives his physical death; let feeble souls, from fear or absurd egoism, cherish such thoughts. I am satisfied with the mystery of the eternity of life and with the awareness and a glimpse of the marvelous structure of the existing world, together with the devoted striving to comprehend a portion, be it ever so tiny, of the Reason that manifests itself in nature.”

    I believe species, as stated in the title of Darwin’s book, “Origin of Species”, is plural.

    Plural but indefinite; note that it’s not “Origin of the Species,” as you’ve been writing. Darwin wasn’t talking about the origin of all life–which of course is the subject of abiogenesis, not evolution—but about the origin of each individual species, which has been explained by evolution.

    I guess my last question is what are the odds that the origin of all species will ever be found?

    If by that you mean abiogenesis, who knows? From the progress to date, I think it’s almost certain that we’ll find a variety of pathways by which life could have come into existence, but we’ll probably never be able to narrow that down to a single pathway by which it certainly did appear. There’s just too many options.

    Think of it this way—we’re pretty sure that Lewis and Clark made it to the Pacific Ocean and back, but what are the odds that we’ll ever have a footstep-by-footstep map of the precise route they took?

  72. #72 chas
    March 4, 2009

    Anton Mates -

    I notice in none of these Einstein quotes does he doubt the existance of a “Reason that manifests itself in nature”, God, only His character.

    “Darwin wasn’t talking about the origin of all life–which of course is the subject of abiogenesis, not evolution—but about the origin of each individual species, which has been explained by evolution.”

    I don’t believe evolution has explained the origin of anything.

  73. #73 Dan S.
    March 4, 2009

    I believe species, as stated in the title of Darwin’s book, “Origin of Species”, is plural.

    Just to emphasize and reiterate what Anton’s saying, the question Darwin’s big book (and ultimately, modern evolutionary biology) is trying to answer isn’t “what is the origin of life on earth?” Rather, it’s: where do species come from?/ what causes the process of speciation?/ what explains the diversity of life on earth/ Or in other words, ‘why are there all these different funny-looking finches on these islands?’, all the way up to ‘why are there all these different varieties of organisms all over our planet?’

    “What is the origin of life on earth?” is a different question requiring (somewhat) different scientific tools. And when you get down to it, modern evolutionary biology doesn’t really care how life got started. However it happened – up to and including single cells being built in an outer-space lab and then seeded on earth by odd-looking aliens of great technological achievement but low moral character – all that ‘matters’ to evolution is that at some point there were imperfect self-replicators. (Of course, it matters if we’re talking about science as a whole, and obviously very much so when it comes to research on the origin of life!).

    One way to put it: Nowhere in Romeo and Juliet do we learn why the Montagues and Capulets are feuding (although I rather like the suggestion on Yahoo! Answers that ‘well, it was the Feudal Age’). And strictly in terms of the play itself, it doesn’t matter why, or even if we never find out. All that’s necessary is that’s there’s a feud (and young lovers), and we’re off. (On the other hands, it does matter if we’re concerned with a study of how the feud started, let alone with a broader historical account of famous Veronese families of the 16th Century.)

    Or another: CSI-style shows, where the csi crews uncover all sorts of amazing crime scene-related things using specific scientific tools. If your question is, eg, ‘how did so and so die (esp, if in a sensational and unusual manner), and by extension, who might have done it?’ they’d probably be a big help. But if you started insisting they explain why someone did it – what the biological, historical, sociocultural, and/or psychological factors were that led to the deed – well, you get the picture? Or maybe Law And Order: Assorted Subtitle, where, as the narrator points out, “In the criminal justice system, the people are represented by two separate yet equally important groups: the police, who investigate crime, and the district attorneys, who prosecute the offenders.” If you started complaining that the ADA wasn’t investigating crime and personally collaring criminals, that would be kinda weird, no? And yes, I know this part of the analogy sorta falls apart if examined too closely – but look, it’s late, and I’m running out of chocolate. More to the point, it might help to point out that research into the origin of life is essentially a very, very big the-opposite-of-murder mystery, where the ‘crime scene’ is the entire Earth, and the events in question occurred billions of years ago, with many clues hopelessly unrecoverable, and others requiring serious technological wizardry to even find, much less unravel.

    Of course – to echo my previous comments about mindset and worldview – some of your remarks suggest (and correct me if I’m wrong) that the miscue here is far more fundamental, that ultimately you’re not interested in these issues of discipline and methodology and well, science, but instead with matters of theology. In which case, to extend the metaphor further, you’re talking about the nature of sin, while many of the other folks here are – mostly – concerned about, say, DNA analysis and what that can tell us. (Oh hey, lookit that, it works both in and out of the analogy!) (and with a side of ‘well, *ology suggests that ‘sin’ just isn’t very useful in understanding . . . ‘, to be fair.) You may be upset – as some people are – that a) the csi folks (& fans) are not paying attention to these theological issues in their professional work, and/or that b) some of them feel that they’re simply not helpful, at least in any simplistic literal sense, or perhaps any at all. (Methodological naturalism, and a range of beliefs all the way to philosophical or metaphysical naturalism). But that’s a whole ‘nother kettle of -eww, did you get that from the autopsy room? Put that back!

  74. #74 FO
    March 5, 2009

    @chas,

    So what if Einstein believed in a god? First, his concept of god is far removed from the “god of miracles” espoused by most religious people — their god is personal, his is not. Second, just because Einstein believes in a god doesn’t mean he is right, which is what you seem to be implying. That would be a logical fallacy, an argument from authority: “Einstein is widely celebrated as a genius, so what he says must go” — except that Einstein is considered a genius in physics, not in theology (in the original sense of the word, theos + logos).

    I don’t believe evolution has explained the origin of anything.

    Actually, if you had bothered to study evolution a bit more carefully, you would see that evolution has explained a great deal. Evolution is the grand framework of biology that pulls all the pieces of the puzzle together. Without evolution, the fact that all life on earth shares the same kind of building blocks (DNA/RNA), that there is so little genetic variation between physically different species, and a host of other things, would make little sense. You could claim that it was all made by some supreme being, but unless you have evidence to back that claim, your claim is only as valid as the next man’s guess. Evolution is still the best framework science has that is capable of explaining these things, as Anton Mates has mentioned above.

  75. #75 Dan S.
    March 5, 2009

    I don’t believe evolution has explained the origin of anything.

    Ok.

    I mean, I’m sure you don’t believe that evolution has explained the origin of anything. After all, unless you’re flat-out lying or in some other way unreliable, that sort of self-reporting is hard to argue with. However, based on previous experience (with this sort of argument) and some of your previous statements, I’m going to suggest that you probably have little understanding of what evolution is. Not talking Ph.D. level work, here – that’d be a lot to ask – but that you’re simply lacking a basic, decent pop-science sorta coprehension. Of course, I may be unfairly slandering you. So let me invite you to give a brief, bare-bones, really basic account of what you think modern evolutionary biology says. (You can use notes or the internet if you’d like).

  76. #76 Dan S.
    March 5, 2009

    One nifty little resource (out of manymanymany) is here.

  77. #77 Anton Mates
    March 5, 2009

    chas,

    I notice in none of these Einstein quotes does he doubt the existance of a “Reason that manifests itself in nature”, God, only His character.

    Einstein’s god doesn’t have a character. As he says, it isn’t a person and has no will, goal or purpose. In other words, it cannot be your intelligent designer.

    (Not that it really matters. You can find plenty of scientists who do believe in a universal intelligent designer, such as the Christian god, and plenty who don’t. They just leave that issue where it belongs, outside of science.)

    I don’t believe evolution has explained the origin of anything.

    Why not?

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    March 5, 2009

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  79. #79 Ed Darrell
    March 5, 2009

    Yes, Campolo is a repeat offender on this issue. I wrote about it last year:
    http://timpanogos.wordpress.com/2008/01/21/shame-on-you-tony-campolo-darwin-was-not-racist/

    I suspect “Christian Today” borrowed it from last year’s column. Note this is not Christianity Today, but a newer publication of much less note.

    But, can’t Campolo fix his errors in a year? This just heaps on the evidence that the evils of Christianity way too frequently outdo the good stuff. Why would Campolo even bother with this stuff? It’s way outside his area.

  80. #80 chas
    March 5, 2009

    Anton Mates –

    I don’t believe Einstein thought God had no character -

    “God always takes the simplest way.”

    “I want to know all Gods thoughts; all the rest are just details.”

    “God does not play dice.”

    “God may be subtle, but he isn’t plain mean.”

    “God does not care about our mathematical difficulties. He integrates empirically.”

    Please tell us what Evolution has explained the origin of.

  81. #81 chas
    March 5, 2009

    Dan S.

    “In the broadest sense, evolution is merely change, and so is all-pervasive; galaxies, languages, and political systems all evolve. Biological evolution … is change in the properties of populations of organisms that transcend the lifetime of a single individual. The ontogeny of an individual is not considered evolution; individual organisms do not evolve. The changes in populations that are considered evolutionary are those that are inheritable via the genetic material from one generation to the next. Biological evolution may be slight or substantial; it embraces everything from slight changes in the proportion of different alleles within a population (such as those determining blood types) to the successive alterations that led from the earliest protoorganism to snails, bees, giraffes, and dandelions.”

  82. #82 Dan S.
    March 5, 2009

    Chas, I’m sorry, I should have specified: in your own words (not just cutting and pasting). My bad. Didn’t mean to put the goalposts an inch from your foot; I hope you’ll understand if I move them back to their regular position.

    Please tell us what Evolution has explained the origin of.
    The diversity of life on earth.

  83. #83 Anton Mates
    March 5, 2009

    I don’t believe Einstein thought God had no character

    He plainly said this, as above. Again:

    It seems to me that the idea of a personal God is an anthropological concept which I cannot take seriously. I also cannot imagine some will or goal outside the human sphere.

    I believe in Spinoza’s God who reveals himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not in a God who concerns himself with the fates and actions of human beings.

    Spinoza’s God, of course, was simply the entire natural world, and had no consciousness or personality.
    All of Einstein’s quips about “God doesn’t play dice,” etc., are poetic ways of saying the universe behaves in one way or another. They aren’t theological claims any more than someone’s taking God’s name in vain when they hit their thumb with a hammer. I mean, unless you think Einstein is actually making a claim about how God prefers numerical to symbolic integration…

    Please tell us what Evolution has explained the origin of.

    Species, for one thing; evolutionary mechanisms provide an explanation for how one species arises from another. If you don’t like that explanation, feel free to explain why.

  84. #84 chas
    March 5, 2009

    Anton Mates –

    Einstein said -

    “I want to know all Gods thoughts; all the rest are just details.”

    A thinking God has no character?

    “Species, for one thing; evolutionary mechanisms provide an explanation for how one species arises from another. If you don’t like that explanation, feel free to explain why.”

    What is the origin of “evolutionary mechanisms”?

  85. #85 tomh
    March 5, 2009

    @ chas

    Why do you care so much what Eistein thought about the idea of God? Was he some kind of expert on the subject? Plenty of other scientists think there is no such thing as a God. Who cares? Their opinions are no better than anyone else’s. When there is zero evidence to evaluate one person’s guess is as good as another’s.

  86. #86 Ichthyic
    March 5, 2009

    I notice in none of these Einstein quotes does he doubt the existance of a “Reason that manifests itself in nature”, God, only His character.

    If Einstein was a Muslim, would you quote him?

    how bout a Hindu?

    a Moromon?

    a Satanist?

    just how big is that tent you hold over your head, anyway?

  87. #87 Ichthyic
    March 5, 2009

    When there is zero evidence to evaluate one person’s guess is as good as another’s.

    *sigh*

    you DO know you just set him up for the supreme statement of ignorance:

    “well, see, that’s why my “poof” theory is as good as the Theory of Evolution!”

    right?

    whatever. Chas is just like all the other godbothering tubthumpers that troll the halls of sciblogs:

    -completely ignorant (and proud of it).
    -full of projection
    -living in a perpetual state of denial
    -convinced they MUST “save” us in order to save themselves.

    a little originality might keep me interested, but no chance of that with Chas.

  88. #88 Dan S.
    March 5, 2009

    What is the origin of “evolutionary mechanisms”?

    One answer, to the best of my limited knowledge, would be in life’s imperfect ability to create copies of itself (along with new wrinkles added by sexual reproduction, combined with differential survival of variants due to various factors.

  89. #89 chas
    March 5, 2009

    tomh -

    “When there is zero evidence to evaluate one person’s guess is as good as another’s.”

    In science ,what does the amount of evidence have to do with whether or not something is a fact? How much evidence was there that the earth was flat?
    Does all the evidence given for Evolution prove that we originated as little organisms in a primordial soup several billion years ago? Does it prove that we were not created by Someone out there? Does it prove there is no God?

  90. #90 tomh
    March 5, 2009

    Ichthyic wrote: you DO know you just set him up for the supreme statement of ignorance:
    “well, see, that’s why my “poof” theory is as good as the Theory of Evolution!”

    You’re right, of course, my apologies. If he were drowning in evidence for evolution it wouldn’t matter to him.

  91. #91 chas
    March 5, 2009

    tomh -

    “You’re right, of course, my apologies. If he were drowning in evidence for evolution it wouldn’t matter to him.”

    So you’re drowning in evidence for Evolution? If so, why don’t you share a little of it with us instead of trying to be cute, by answering my few simple questions?
    Why dodge a few questions? You undoubtedly have read all the books.

  92. #92 Anton Mates
    March 6, 2009

    chas,

    A thinking God has no character?

    Again, Einstein is speaking poetically. He did that a lot. When he said “God doesn’t play dice with the universe,” he wasn’t attempting to refute quantum mechanics with theology.

    What is the origin of “evolutionary mechanisms”?

    You’re moving the goalposts. You asked what evolution explained, I gave examples. Asking how to explain evolution is another question entirely.

    As it happens, there is an explanation, which Dan mentioned. Mutations are explained by the chemistry and physics of DNA, and all the stuff that can mess it up. Natural selection and genetic drift are explained by mathematics. But, again, this is a separate question.

    In science ,what does the amount of evidence have to do with whether or not something is a fact?< ?blockquote>

    Are you joking? I’m honestly not sure whether you’re joking.

    How much evidence was there that the earth was flat?

    Quite a bit. But a large and round earth explains all the same evidence, plus evidence a flat earth can’t deal with, so round wins.

    Does all the evidence given for Evolution prove that we originated as little organisms in a primordial soup several billion years ago? Does it prove that we were not created by Someone out there? Does it prove there is no God?

    None of those questions is part of evolution, and two of them aren’t even part of science, so of course evidence for evolution doesn’t bear on them.

    Do you really believe that scientists think evolution proves there is no God, or that science textbooks claim this?

  93. #93 Jud
    March 6, 2009

    chas wrote: “how the natural world works and how that’s known,”

    What kind of meaningless crap is this? Who cares?

    I hoped I might be casting bread upon the waters.

    Looks like it turned out to be pearls before swine.

  94. #94 Dan S.
    March 6, 2009

    So you’re drowning in evidence for Evolution? If so, why don’t you share a little of it with us instead of trying to be cute, by answering my few simple questions?

    Now, asking about evidence for evolution is perfectly reasonable. But I hope you’ll understand that it’s a different question from the various ones you’ve been asking (at least based on a quick thread-skim). If you’re actually interested, you might want to start here (the link I posted before), which is fairly clear and simple. TalkOrigins has a giant, multi-part 29+ Evidences for Macroevolution, but that requires a fair amount of interest & a pretty good attention span.

    (I’d try to give some examples here, but there’s that whole getting to work on time thing, y’know . . .)

    And incidentally, no, neither abiogenesis nor evolutionary biology can prove that a (poorly defined, rather shifty) capital -s Somebody doesn’t exist, etc. (neither can meteorology or plate tectonics or germ theory). Beyond that basic ‘what science is and how it works’ issue, YMMV.

  95. #95 Anton Mates
    March 6, 2009

    Apparently the rest of my comment didn’t come through, so:

    In science ,what does the amount of evidence have to do with whether or not something is a fact?

    Are you kidding? How could you establish something as a scientific fact without evidence?

    How much evidence was there that the earth was flat?

    Quite a bit. But all the same evidence is explained by the earth being large-but-round, plus additional evidence that’s inconsistent with a flat earth. So round wins.

    Does all the evidence given for Evolution prove that we originated as little organisms in a primordial soup several billion years ago? Does it prove that we were not created by Someone out there? Does it prove there is no God?

    No. None of those questions is relevant to evolution, and two of them aren’t even relevant to science.

    Really, do you think biology textbooks and classes claim evolution proves there is no god?

  96. #96 chas
    March 6, 2009

    Anton Mates –

    “Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) is a nucleic acid that contains the genetic instructions used in the development and functioning of all known living organisms and some viruses. The main role of DNA molecules is the long-term storage of information. DNA is often compared to a set of blueprints or a recipe, or a code, since it contains the instructions needed to construct other components of cells, such as proteins and RNA molecules. The DNA segments that carry this genetic information are called genes, but other DNA sequences have structural purposes, or are involved in regulating the use of this genetic information.”

    Who wrote the code in DNA? Or did it write itself?

  97. #97 Dan S.
    March 6, 2009

    As Wittgenstein said, “In our language a whole mythology is laid down.

  98. #98 Jud
    March 6, 2009

    chas wrote: Who wrote the code in DNA? Or did it write itself?

    Who makes the mistakes in DNA code (mutations)?

  99. #99 Anton Mates
    March 6, 2009

    chas,

    Who wrote the code in DNA? Or did it write itself?

    Goalposts again.

  100. #100 chas
    March 6, 2009

    Jud

    “Who makes the mistakes in DNA code (mutations)?”

    The same One who wrote the code. How do you know they’re mistakes?

  101. #101 Dan S.
    March 7, 2009

    The same One who wrote the code.

    Objection! Assuming facts not in evidence.

    (And mistakes refers to mistakes in copying. Science cannot (one way or the other) deal with the unknowable intentions of a hypothetical Someb[God]ody in this regard. Just like Indonesian earthquakes or Gulf Coast hurricanes or outbreaks of dysentery.

  102. #102 chas
    March 7, 2009

    As well as I can tell Evolution is simply about the way we have changed. It doesn’t have anything to do with where we came from. Abiogenesis is trying to prove we created ourselves, but hasn’t succeeded. And may never succeed. Neither proves that we weren’t created by God or an Intelligent Designer.

  103. #103 tomh
    March 7, 2009

    Neither proves that we weren’t created by God or an Intelligent Designer.

    Who said they did? Nothing proves that anything was created by your God either. So what? What’s your point?

  104. #104 chas
    March 7, 2009

    tomh

    “Who said they did? Nothing proves that anything was created by your God either. So what? What’s your point?”

    We keep hearing about how great science is. And how science has figured all this stuff out. And science tells us Christianity & Intelligent Design don’t know who created us. And how we created ourselves. But, science doesn’t know who created us either. Science is just like Christianity & Intelligent Design. They DON”T KNOW. They just BELIEVE they know.

  105. #105 trrll
    March 7, 2009

    Who wrote the code in DNA? Or did it write itself?

    Most likely, it was written by natural selection, a powerful creative force. After all, DNA is just a generalized, assembly-line way of doing something that cells can achieve by individualized methods–making proteins. So early forms of DNA didn’t have to make everything or code for every amino acid used in biology (in fact, it still doesn’t!)–all it had to do was make something useful to the cell. Mutation and selection then provides a mechanism for expanding the number of amino acids DNA could code for, and the number of proteins it could make.

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  107. #107 Anton Mates
    March 8, 2009

    We keep hearing about how great science is. And how science has figured all this stuff out. And science tells us Christianity & Intelligent Design don’t know who created us. And how we created ourselves.

    Science says nothing of the sort. You apparently keep hearing that science can answer theological questions, but I don’t know who’s telling you that. Again, crack an evolutionary biology textbook–you won’t find a discussion on God.

  108. #108 SLC
    March 8, 2009

    I haven’t been following the discussion here for a while but, after reading the comments of Mr. Chas and Rayney, the logical fallacies they are invoking should be pointed out.

    1. Mr. Chas commits the logical fallacy of reasoning from personal incredulity. That is, Mr. Chas says that he can’t understand how X could develop by natural processes, therefore god (or the intelligent designer) did it. As biologist Ken Miller (no atheist he) puts it, this is a science stopper. A perfect example of this is the reasoning of Issac Newton relative to the stability of the solar system. Newton showed that the orbits of the planets could be explained by his equations of motion and the inverse square law of gravity. However, the actions of each of the planets on the others could, in principle, cause the orbits to become unstable over time. Instead of attempting to compute these effects, Newton was content to opine that, every once in a while, god had to intervene to maintain the stability of the solar system. A hundred years later, the French naturalist, Laplace, actually computed these effects using a technique known as perturbation theory which he developed and showed that the solar system was stable over long periods of time. Famously, when questioned by Napoleon, after he had supplied the latter with a copy of his treatise, as to what role god might play, he responded that he had no need of that hypothesis.

    2. Mr. Rayney commits the logical fallacy of reasoning from bad consequences. Thus Mr. Rayneys’ argument basically says that X causes bad things to happen (e.g. Hitler), therefore, X can’t be right. By this reasoning, nuclear physics and the theory of relativity cause nuclear weapons to be developed, therefore these theories can’t be right.

  109. #109 trrll
    March 8, 2009

    Why do you care so much what Eistein thought about the idea of God? Was he some kind of expert on the subject? Plenty of other scientists think there is no such thing as a God. Who cares? Their opinions are no better than anyone else’s. When there is zero evidence to evaluate one person’s guess is as good as another’s.

    Obsessing over the religious beliefs of Darwin, Newton, or Einstein is very characteristic of evolution denialists, and seems a bit bizarre to scientists. After all, we admire specific achievements of these men because of the evidence accumulated over many years showing that they were right. There were many other things that they believed that were clearly wrong.

    What evolution denialists often fail to understand is that science is not another competing religion, but an entirely different way of understanding the universe. So they confuse famous scientists with prophets, and try to apply the methods of textual analysis that are often used in religious debate. Scientists find this kind of quibbling over the meaning of somebody’s exact words, often pulled out of context and divorced form the scientific evidence, to be ridiculous, and derisively refer to it as “quote-mining.”

  110. #110 Dan S.
    March 8, 2009

    What evolution denialists often fail to understand is that science is not another competing religion, but an entirely different way of understanding the universe. So they confuse famous scientists with prophets, and try to apply the methods of textual analysis that are often used in religious debate.

    Which is, of course, exactly what’s happened in Campolo’s misbegotten little piece as well.

    We keep hearing about how great science is. And how science has figured all this stuff out. And science tells us Christianity & Intelligent Design don’t know who created us. And how we created ourselves. But, science doesn’t know who created us either.

    To be fair, chas may have been listening to some overenthusiastic online atheists, or even more likely, theist interpretations of atheist claims.* But chas, it’s just not really right to go around pooping on science simply because somebody (real or imagined) offended your religious beliefs.

    “[C]reated ourselves” is a bit weird, and I’d be interested to see what subgenre of creationist literature you got that from, but the next bit is correct – scientists would be the first to say that we don’t (and may never) know with any confidence how life originated (see Anton’s comment @ 8:51 on 3/4), and indeed, others will (and did) point out that science can’t say that Some[God]body wasn’t in fact behind it all.

    But why, you might ask is science stiffneckedly refusing to acknowledge this coyly unnamed Creator for whom we have no evidence? Well, science is pretty pragmatic-minded; it goes with what works. And historically speaking, if you look at attempts to explore, explain, and influence natural phenomena, it’s hard to ignore that between approach a) – direct intervention by supernatural beings, and approach b) – a predictable working-out of natural laws, there’s a bit of an uneven track record

    ————–Direct Supernatural intervention——Natural Laws
    Volcanoes—————fail——————–win——
    Earthquakes————–fail——————–win——
    Crops growing————fail——————–win——
    Storms, lightning———-fail——————–win——
    Rainbows—————-fail——————–win——
    Planetary orbits———–fail——————–win——
    Crop failure___————fail——————–win——
    Disease—————–fail——————–win——
    Biological diversity———fail——————–win——
    Linguistic diversity———fail——————–win——

    Etc. So you can understand that when it comes to (the admittedly very complex question of:
    Origin of life————–?———————–?——

    Science would be inclined (actually, required) to bet on the second column – which of course, has already provided results, though nothing like a complete answer.

    One fancy term for this is methodological naturalism, which is a complicated way of saying ‘if your car doesn’t start, you go to a mechanic, not an exorcist.’ Does this imply or require atheism? Well . . . is taking your car to a mechanic an inherently atheistic act? And are there major ongoing controversies between pro-science people and folks shouting ‘Germs are just a theory!’ or ‘Keep up with your atheistic meteorology, and God will smite you with a thunderbolt?’ When fundamentalist clerics of various faiths insisted that the 2004 tsunami or Hurricane Katrina was God’s punishment for sin, did most religious folks nod their heads and agree?

    Granted, this can be a bit complicated, and to the extent that one worships a god of the gaps, an explanation for an incomprehensible (and frightening, uncontrollable world), science tends to weaken belief (as probably does medicine, public hygiene, the welfare state, etc.). But the day is passing by fast, so let me end this comment here –

  111. #111 Dan S.
    March 8, 2009

    Although I meant to link Darwin, Atheism, and the Catholic Church over at Evolving Thoughts, for an example of folks misconstruing claims about the relationship between science an atheism.

  112. #112 chas
    March 8, 2009

    Dan S., et cetera

    When did evolution start? Is there a date in infinite time? Or did it start at a certain point in the Creation of man? Did it start before DNA, RNA, proteins, amino acids, molecules, atoms, sub atomic particles, dark matter? At what point?

    Can you create something from nothing? Has there never been nothing? Has there always been something? Has this something ever been static? Or has it always been “evolving”?

  113. #113 Anton Mates
    March 8, 2009

    chas,

    When did evolution start?

    As soon as the first thing which could make rough copies of itself appeared. On Earth, we think that happened around four billion years ago or so.

    Did it start before DNA, RNA, proteins, amino acids, molecules, atoms, sub atomic particles, dark matter?

    Not unless there was some other kind of “stuff” back then which could be arranged into a self-replicator. If there was, we don’t know about it.

    Can you create something from nothing? Has there never been nothing? Has there always been something? Has this something ever been static? Or has it always been “evolving”?

    In answer to all of these questions: Nobody knows. They can’t be tested, so they will probably remain philosophical rather than scientific questions for the foreseeable future. And they have nothing to do with the theory of evolution.

  114. #114 Anton Mates
    March 8, 2009

    And science tells us Christianity & Intelligent Design don’t know who created us.

    You know a ton of scientists–evolutionary biologists among them–are Christians, right?

  115. #115 trrll
    March 8, 2009

    When did evolution start? Is there a date in infinite time? Or did it start at a certain point in the Creation of man? Did it start before DNA, RNA, proteins, amino acids, molecules, atoms, sub atomic particles, dark matter? At what point?

    Evolution by natural selection begins as soon as some thing happens to form that is capable of reproducing itself and also capable of passing along variations (mutations) that affect reproductive success.

    Part of the difficulty of figuring out how life began is that this is a fairly broad definition, so there are a lot of candidates potentially capable of satisfying these requirements: nucleic acids, collections of peptides, various types of natural membranes, even replicating clay layers–as well as combinations of all of the above.

  116. #116 trrll
    March 8, 2009

    Another amusing bit of speaking at cross-purposes is that evolution deniers tend to believe that the true agenda of evolutionary scientists is to disprove God. Scientists, on the other hand, whether religious or not, don’t think about God at all when they are doing science, because science is all about natural explanations–turning to God to bail you out of a puzzle is a cop-out, and historically, it has always been a scientific dead-end. The people who make the discoveries are always the ones seeking natural explanations for natural phenomena.

    So when an evolutionary scientist points out that overwhelming evidence proves that all species evolved naturally from a common ancestor, the denialist responds, “Wait, you haven’t disproved God! You haven’t explained how life got started in the first place.” And the scientist looks puzzled at this non-sequitur, because he wasn’t trying to disprove God, at all, he was only trying to figure out why different species have so many similarities. “Wait a minute, that’s a different question, you have to talk to the guys working on the origin of life.”

    So the origin of life guys explain their theories, and the denialist says, “Wait, you haven’t disproved God, where did all of the atoms come from in the first place?” And the scientist looks puzzled, because he wasn’t trying to disprove God, just exploring the possibilities for self-organization of matter and energy. “Wait a minute, that’s a different question, you have to go talk to the physicists working on nuclear synthesis.”

    Etc., etc.

  117. #117 chas
    March 8, 2009

    trrll

    “Part of the difficulty of figuring out how life began is that this is a fairly broad definition, so there are a lot of candidates potentially capable of satisfying these requirements: nucleic acids, collections of peptides, various types of natural membranes, even replicating clay layers–as well as combinations of all of the above.”

    But as you work on these candidates, aren’t you unsure about whether or not Someone out there created you. Can you be sure these candidates aren’t just a process created by God or an Intelligent Designer? Or are you sure you came from nucleic acids or collections of peptides, etc.?

  118. #118 chas
    March 8, 2009

    Trrll -

    “Another amusing bit of speaking at cross-purposes is that evolution deniers tend to believe that the true agenda of evolutionary scientists is to disprove God. Scientists, on the other hand, whether religious or not, don’t think about God at all when they are doing science, because science is all about natural explanations–turning to God to bail you out of a puzzle is a cop-out, and historically, it has always been a scientific dead-end. The people who make the discoveries are always the ones seeking natural explanations for natural phenomena.”
    “Etc., etc.”

    Why can’t the scientist look as these “natural explanations for natural phenomena” as the possible workings of an Intelligent Designer? Pursuing the explanations while admitting they don’t know whether or not they (the scientist) were created by Someone beyond their comprehension? Because they won’t unless He gives them that ability. Which isn’t likely. Because what then? Admitting simply that they don’t & can’t know all there is to know.

  119. #119 Jud
    March 8, 2009

    chas writes, re who or what’s responsible for replication “mistakes” (mutations) in DNA code: The same One who wrote the code. How do you know they’re mistakes?

    Ah, good, now we’re getting somewhere. OK, next question: Is it your view that mutations are induced individually, that they were designed into the process of DNA replication, or both?

  120. #120 Anton Mates
    March 8, 2009

    Why can’t the scientist look as these “natural explanations for natural phenomena” as the possible workings of an Intelligent Designer?

    The scientist CAN do that. The scientist often does. That’s why there are scientists who are Christians and Muslims and adherents of all sorts of theistic/deistic positions. Even most atheist scientists don’t rule out a Designer as impossible–Richard Dawkins doesn’t, for instance.

    C’mon, does Ken Miller have to smash into your room like the Kool-Aid Man? What’s it going to take to convince you that the scientific community is not dedicated to disproving God?

  121. #121 Dan S.
    March 8, 2009

    Why can’t the [car mechanic] look as these “[mechanical] explanations for [your car breaking down]” as the possible workings of an Intelligent Designer? Pursuing the explanations while admitting they don’t know whether or not they (the [mechanic]) were created by Someone beyond their comprehension? Because they won’t unless He gives them that ability. Which isn’t likely. Because what then? Admitting simply that don’t & can’t know all there is to know.”

    chas, it’s not clear to me that you’re reading the comments for comprehension, as opposed to simply looking for keywords, cutting and pasting, and then adding a generic reply. (I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before we have creationist bots . . . or are they already here?) But if you are interested in dialogue, I’d note that Anton [@3:58], trrll [@4:18], and I [@12:04] have directly answered your question.

    But again,

    Why can’t the scientist look as these “natural explanations for natural phenomena” as the possible workings of an Intelligent Designer?

    To the degree they’re acting strictly as a scientist, because there’s no reason or point for them to do this, any more than there would be for the car mechanic. Like trrll pointed out, folks get the idea that scientists are trying to disprove God, when in reality, the whole question of whether God/s exist or not is simply irrelevant for the task at hand. In this case, the question is, how, assuming naturalistic causes, could life have gotten started? Going on about God adds nothing. Did you see that whole ugly & badly formatted chart I made up?

    Of course, as people, scientists cover the whole range of beliefs. Some are basically certain that the workings-out of the natural world were set in motion by God, etc. Others feel they just don’t know (or quite possibly, don’t care). Others are basically certain that the natural world is what’s out there, although being used to uncertainty many will point out that nothing’s certain – Dawkins, for example, talks about how’s there’s almost certainly no God (at book length, in fact), but as unlikely as one is, it can’t be absolutely ruled out.

    (Of course, the same goes for many, many things, all sorts of hypothetical examples including invisible pink unicorns & teapots & airborne pasta beasts and etc., discussion of which might only irritate you. You also don’t seem to necessarily realize that statements like “admitting they don’t know whether or not they (the scientist) were created by Someone beyond their comprehension? Because they won’t unless He gives them that ability. Which isn’t likely.” are really dependent on assuming the existence of that Someone-Who-Apparently-Must-Not-Be-Named for their intended impact, if beyond the trivial. Maybe we were all created by Someone Beyond Our Ken and have no way of discovering that fact beyond a random whim of this incomprehensible and unpredictable entity. Well, ok. And perhaps we’re all really in the matrix, or just brains in vats, or all figments of our imaginations, etc. This seems to be a pivotal point in your argument, but I don’t think it can support the weight you’re trying to drop on it without a whole framework you’re not supplying. But this is wandering afield from more concrete matters; in reality, most folks either a) believe in God/s and take it from there, or b) don’t, and take it from there; whatever.)- more importantly,

    science and scientists certainly don’t think we do (or most likely, can) know all there is to know. That’s just silly (and would take all the fun out of doing science). Science is a mechanism/method/way of thinking and doing/etc. to find out about and work with the natural world (whatever one thinks about whether there is any other kind); as such, it’s been incredibly successful. We’ve put people on the moon, directly altered the genes of various organisms – I just read that scientists have built little functioning glands out of cellular building blocks. We’ve delved into the tiny and very weird building blocks of matter, found (through telescopes) planets orbiting unimaginably distant stars, and even caught echoes of the ancient beginnings of our universe. Along with little helpful things: so if (for Westerners) you have numerous children die in infancy, often along with their mother, it’s an incredible tragedy, not a completely standard occurrence; if you step on a rusty nail or get bit by a rabid dog, it’s a trip to the emergency room and some unpleasant shots (for the latter, even *that’s*not always necessary for the former), instead of a certain and unavoidable death whose hideous agony is lessened only by its speed. Etc. You get the point: science = nifty. (Although as we’ve learned all too well, great power, great responsibility, etc.) Tossing in aimless metaphysical speculations on company time is either pretty pointless – a mechanic nattering on about God’s plan for sparkplugs – or actively harmful – a mechanic trying to figure out what’s wrong through ritualistic incantations, or not bothering to find out what broke because God/a demon did it, and that’s that.

    Look: your 2:52 question seems to indicate that you don’t know much about evolutionary biology (the word “evolution” can have a range of meanings, as the quote you cut-and-pasted points out, but it’s clear that what we’re talking about is biological evolution; conflating that with all sorts of whatever is a standard creationist misunderstanding/tactic); nor are you very familiar with what science is. That’s almost certainly not your fault: thanks to a combination of creationist pressure, a culture that can be strikingly anti-intellectual, and a general neglect of education, most folks learn almost nothing about this stuff. Everybody here’s patiently trying to help (the reception you would’ve gotten over at Pharyngula . . . might have been a bit different) but I have to say, it’s not clear that you’re particularly interested in these things or paying much attention. If you are, I’d suggest Finding Darwin’s God: A Scientist’s Search for Common Ground Between God and Evolution by the aforementioned Ken Miller; you might find it pretty interesting. (He has a new one out as well, which I sadly haven’t gotten to yet.)

    (And if that’s the case,, we will keep trying to explain, I think. But seriously, read what we’re writing! Though if you’re just trying to show us up/the error of our ways/etc., well . . . yawn . . . )

  122. #122 Dan S.
    March 8, 2009

    C’mon, does Ken Miller have to smash into your room like the Kool-Aid Man?

    That would be awesome.

  123. #123 Dan S.
    March 8, 2009

    And Anton said most of my post in 1/20th the verbiage. Let me try that: Ok, it’s like building a bridge. You don’t want your bridge-maker to be assuming direct divine intervention while on the job, so to speak, because that might go very badly. When people build bridges without directly referring to God in the blueprints, it’s not some sort of evil atheist plot or something, it’s just good sense. I mean, what would be the point? At the same time, they might personally feel that the physics of why bridges work are part of the plans of a Divine Engineer, or that their ability to do so is a gift from God, etc., etc. Or not. Whatever.

    Ok?

    (Personally, I’m hoping that the next xkcd strip involves Ken Miller busting through somebody’s wall.)

  124. #124 windy
    March 8, 2009

    “Who makes the mistakes in DNA code (mutations)?”
    The same One who wrote the code. How do you know they’re mistakes?

    Cystic fibrosis: what’s your explanation? Is the One an immoral sicko or just incompetent?

  125. #125 Dan S.
    March 8, 2009

    Cystic fibrosis: what’s your explanation? Is the One an immoral sicko or just incompetent?

    Didn’t Behe basically claim that God made malaria?

  126. #126 Anton Mates
    March 8, 2009

    Fun fact: Kool-Aid actually started out as a completely dehydrated version of a previous liquid-concentrate product called Fruit Smack.

    I would buy almost anything under the name “Fruit Smack.”

  127. #127 Jud
    March 8, 2009

    Dan S. @ 10:04 -

    Nah, he got close, but basically he said plasmodium falciparum is a demonstration of how far something can evolve without direct Deity/Designer intervention.

    Of course, Behe doesn’t bother to explain why a Deity/Designer wouldn’t intervene to make humans more resistant, or do it in a far less clumsy fashion than subjecting hundreds of thousands to the agony of sickle cell disease, or why if evolution’s possibilities are so lacking, they seem, as constituted in Plasmodium, more than adequate to keep up in an arms race with the Deity’s/Designer’s best efforts. Minor niggles, I’m sure.

  128. #128 Heraclides
    March 8, 2009

    Tiny nitpick: the subtitle is properly “the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life”, with a ‘u’ in ‘Favoured’: Darwin was English, not American ;-)

    I imagine Campolo fails to mention that “Darwinism” is a creation of the creationist crowd, and as such is a straw man to start with.

  129. #129 chas
    March 8, 2009

    Dab S.

    “And Anton said most of my post in 1/20th the verbiage. Let me try that: Ok, it’s like building a bridge. You don’t want your bridge-maker to be assuming direct divine intervention while on the job, so to speak, because that might go very badly. When people build bridges without directly referring to God in the blueprints, it’s not some sort of evil atheist plot or something, it’s just good sense. I mean, what would be the point? At the same time, they might personally feel that the physics of why bridges work are part of the plans of a Divine Engineer, or that their ability to do so is a gift from God, etc., etc. Or not. Whatever.
    Ok?”

    So? Do you always assume that anyone who believes that evolution or abiogenesis doesn’t in fact prove where we come from is stupid? I’ve been assuming that most scientist, even atheists, can walk & chew gum at the same time.

  130. #130 chas
    March 8, 2009

    windy –

    “Cystic fibrosis: what’s your explanation? Is the One an immoral sicko or just incompetent?”

    Sorry about the cystic fibrosis. But, you’ll have to ask the One. Only He would know.

  131. #131 chas
    March 8, 2009

    Jud -

    “Nah, he got close, but basically he said plasmodium falciparum is a demonstration of how far something can evolve without direct Deity/Designer intervention.
    Of course, Behe doesn’t bother to explain why a Deity/Designer wouldn’t intervene to make humans more resistant, or do it in a far less clumsy fashion than subjecting hundreds of thousands to the agony of sickle cell disease, or why if evolution’s possibilities are so lacking, they seem, as constituted in Plasmodium, more than adequate to keep up in an arms race with the Deity’s/Designer’s best efforts. Minor niggles, I’m sure.”

    I fail to see that the possibility that Someone out there could have created us implies that He is “perfect”, or implies anything about Him.

  132. #132 Dan S.
    March 8, 2009

    So? Do you always assume that anyone who believes that evolution or abiogenesis doesn’t in fact prove where we come from is stupid? I’ve been assuming that most scientist, even atheists, can walk & chew gum at the same time.

    Er . . . what?

    (Setting aside the “prove” issue, no I don’t assume that anyone who doesn’t understand that evolution is the best explanation yet for biological diversity (and that work on abiogenesis is practically the best hope to understand how the specific natural phenomena know as life originated) is stupid. (Statistically speaking they’re more likely to have lower levels of education, iirc, but that doesn’t say anything about some specific random creationist, much less about their inherent intelligence). What’s generally more relevant is a lack of decent science education (thanks in part to creationist pressure) and/or a specific set of sectarian religious beliefs (and of course, the anti-science position of conservative evangelical protestants isn’t even shared by some of their fellow Christians, let alone the variety of religions where folks rarely have any problem with evolution).

    Now, blindly accepting stuff can be kind of silly, esp. when we’re talking about evolution, where the basics are pretty graspable. But for the most part, your questions here have been various reiterations of: well, how can you say that God doesn’t cause storms, to which the answer is a) for the simplest sense – geez, go find yourself a witch to burn or something, and b), for the more sophisticated sense – well, if you believe in (that kind of) God, presumably they are ultimately responsible for the workings of the natural world, no doubt having set all of this motion, but surely who can see how that wouldn’t be a factor in meteorology itself (although meteorologists , being people, have all sorts of beliefs.

    Seriously, imagine writing “Do you always assume that anyone who believes that meteorology doesn’t in fact prove where storms come from is stupid?, or “Do you always assume that anyone who believes that the germ theory of disease doesn’t in fact prove where infectious diseases come from is stupid?. WIth various caveats about proof and complexity* and how we don’t understand much of anything yet (and how even what we do is far from absolutely certain).

    The better answer to the bit quoted above is really ‘why do they believe this?’ Often the answer is because a) an authority they trusted told them it was bad/false/evil/would lead to social and moral breakdown/destroy their whole biblical-literalist belief system and leave them alone and terrified before what they imagine to be a meaningless, howling void and b) they haven’t really learned about it. (two factors which can get a great deal of synergy going, of course).

    * But not the irreducible kind. Go on about that and I’ll have to whip you with a bacterial flagellum **

    ** Not an actual threat. If you don’t understand what I’m referring to, count yourself the luckier for it. (At least in terms of the political/ideological context – bacterial flagella themselves are kinda cool).

  133. #133 Dan S.
    March 8, 2009

    fail to see that the possibility that Someone out there could have created us implies that He is “perfect”, or implies anything about Him.

    Well, apparently it implies that they are/were of the masculine gender; more seriously it would seem to imply that they are (or were) capable of creating us. Of course, realistically speaking everyone arguing about a certain carefully unnamed Somebody and evolution, etc. turns out to be coming from a specific set of theistic traditions – mostly conservative evangelical protestants (but with a few exceptions and oddballs like that Moonie fellow) – where it’s pretty obvious that all these arch protestations of ignorance are the beard for a very familiar face. I suppose you might be a genuine outlier here – unlikely, but we can’t completely rule it out yet. Although it’s interesting that you assume this creator is a male-identified unity, which certainly wouldn’t appear to be necessary – why couldn’t they be a committee of hemaphrodites, or a same-sex couple from an advanced alien race, or completely beyond the concepts of gender or number, or etc.?

  134. #134 Monado, FCD
    March 9, 2009

    Actually, I believe that it was the composer Richard Wagner, writing pseudonymously in the anti-semitic newsletters of the time, who provided Hitler with much of his inspiration.

  135. #135 chas
    March 9, 2009

    Dan S. -

    ‘why do they believe this?’

    I fail to see where speculating about why we believe what we believe has to do with the question before the house. Can Evolution Theory or Abiogenesis Theory prove where we came from? Like “an experiment proves that life can be created in the lab from ———?————— ? ——————-?”

    I appreciate your patience on this.

  136. #136 Militant Agnostic
    March 9, 2009

    It appears that chas is beginning to retreat from intelligent design to the more supportable position of unintelligent design. If there is a “Designer”, then the designer is malicious, incompetent or both. As an Engineer and the owner/operator of a standard issue human body, I can assure you that this “One” who allegedely designed humans is a piss poor engineer.

  137. #137 Monado
    March 9, 2009

    I recommend “Evolution for Everybody” by David Sloan Wilson, which is also quite readable and explains how evolutionary thinking is useful in more situations than just biology.

    I guess chas is with those airlines in Nepal that occasionally sacrifice a goat to cure mechanical problems with the airplanes. Because, hey, Somebody might like a goat and you can’t prove that it doesn’t work.

    An experiment has demonstrated evolution of new characteristics: breeding 12 populations of bacteria on citrate-enriched gels produced one population that could metabolize citrate and 11 that couldn’t.

    The explanation of evolution starts with populations of organisms. It does not explain the origin of life–that is a different problem. You can assume that Santa Claus pulled it out of his sack if it pleases you. But don’t expect science to prove it for you.

    Organisms reproduce. More are born than the environment can support. Some are different than their parents. Some have more offspring than others. Consequently, the proportion of different genes in the population changes. There is no “natural limit” to how much something can change, no “within kind” limit. That’s like saying erosion can cause rivulets but not river valleys.

    Read “At the Water’s Edge: Fish with Fingers, Whales with Legs” by Carl Zimmer. Read “Evolution” by Carl Zimmer. Please go away and learn something instead of asking to be spoon-fed. Or perhaps you would like summarize the entire discipline of civil engineering, plus urban design, plus sensor technology, plus computers and communication protocols, plus Intelligent Transportation Systems and weather prediction for us in a few words and prove who invented the wheel and who designed the Wonderful One-Horse Shay and why we need God to do it? Evolution is a big subject. Thank you.

  138. #138 kelebek
    March 9, 2009

    yorumsuz

  139. #139 chas
    March 9, 2009

    Dan S.

    “Well, apparently it implies that they are/were of the masculine gender; more seriously it would seem to imply that they are (or were) capable of creating us.”

    “Although it’s interesting that you assume this creator is a male-identified unity, which certainly wouldn’t appear to be necessary – why couldn’t they be a committee of hemaphrodites, or a same-sex couple from an advanced alien race, or completely beyond the concepts of gender or number, or etc.?”

    WRONG –

    From “Websters Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary” –

    “-He – used in a generic sense or when the sex of the person is unspecified-“

  140. #140 chas
    March 9, 2009

    Dan S.

    addendum to previous -

    From “Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary” –

    “-He – used in a generic sense or when the sex of the person is unspecified-
    (he that has ears to hear, let him hear – one should do the best he can)”

  141. #141 Jud
    March 9, 2009

    chas writes: I fail to see that the possibility that Someone out there could have created us implies that He is “perfect”, or implies anything about Him.

    Ah, sorry. I thought you were implying that by giving the honorific uppercase first letter when writing about “the One,” “Someone,” and “Him.”

    And I see that you failed to respond to my previous question about your views regarding mutations as one-off tinkering or part of the underlying design of genetic replication. I’d appreciate it if you’d answer that.

    Getting back to your comment, the question of perfection raises numerous problems for the notion of a Designer.

    - If the Designer is not the perfect Unmoved Mover of holy writ, then the Designer had an origin. So you haven’t answered the question of how life and species came into being by postulating a Designer, all you’ve done is changed the location where natural forces first gave rise to life from Earth to the home of the Designer.

    - If the Designer is the perfect Unmoved Mover, and has the capability of creating life in any way He/She/It chooses, then why is so much of life so damned sloppy and cruel? Everything from nipples on males, appendices, the design of the human spinal column (ever had back spasms?) to babies and puppies dying horribly of disease by the millions – if it were a person this was describing, you’d say someone needs to stop the sick, evil bastard.

    - Regardless of whether a Designer is thought to be perfect or not, here is the central problem posed by the malaria example: It shows that evolutionary changes in a humble microorganism are adequate to keep pace with anything humans (with all the advantages of design, if you believe we were designed) can come up with in the way of resistance. So if evolution is sufficient, what need is there for a Designer? Granted, this doesn’t show there is no Designer, just that there’s no necessity for one to explain the features we see in living things.

  142. #142 Dan S.
    March 9, 2009

    WRONG - [cites definition from dictionary published in the 1980s]

    Attention! You may be suffering from Unexpected Temporal Displacement. Please complete the following simple test to determine if you are in need of assistance.

    1) “Cell phones” are
    a) Huh? Are they those new push-button phones?
    b) Bigger than your hand, mostly used by Wall St. types
    c) Ubiquitous, used to listen to music, snap photos of friends, and annoy innocent bystanders with loud discussions containing way too much information
    d) I remember my granddad talking about those . . . .

    2) You turn on the TV, and see a program about people on a small island trying to get home. You’re watching:
    a) Gilligan’s Island
    b) Survivor
    c) Lost
    d) The news – remember when Florida was above water? I miss Disneyworld . . .

    If you’ve answered something other than c), please contact your local Chronoguard representative. Thank you , and have a nice day.

    (If you want to play dueling dictionaries, I’d quote the (rather long) usage note from The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition, which ends “The writer who chooses to use generic he and its inflected forms in the face of the strong trend away from that usage may be viewed as deliberately calling attention to traditional gender roles or may simply appear to be insensitive.” But honestly, didn’t that game go out of style in the late 90s?)

    Re: your 1:09 post – I need to get to work; will try to answer later. Monado’s book recommendations above are quite good, incidentally.

  143. #143 sohbet
    March 9, 2009

    very quality blods

  144. #144 trrll
    March 9, 2009

    Why can’t the scientist look as these “natural explanations for natural phenomena” as the possible workings of an Intelligent Designer? Pursuing the explanations while admitting they don’t know whether or not they (the scientist) were created by Someone beyond their comprehension?

    This is pretty much the sentiment of most religious scientists, who are far more common that evolution deniers would have you believe. The difference is that religious scientists are not looking for “proof” of God in the natural world. For the most part, religious scientists believe that God is diminished by the notion that the universe requires supernatural intervention to achieve His Will. They look for God, not in exceptions to natural law, but in the nature of those laws themselves. So their religious beliefs lead them not to seek (or feel the need for) a “God of the gaps,” but rather to expect that gaps in scientific understanding will be filled by seeking a fuller understanding of natural law.

  145. #145 chas
    March 9, 2009

    Dan S.

    I can’t understand how someone who claims to be highly educated and claims to have read a lot of books can’t understand the meaning of the words “implies anything about Him” used in, “I fail to see how the possibility that Someone out there could have created us implies that He is “perfect”, or implies anything about Him.”

    And also fails to consider the non-sexual use of a pronoun to make a meaningless point.

    “WRONG – [cites definition from dictionary published in the 1980s]”

    Current on-line Webster dictionary definition of “he” ————— same as 1980.

    “2 —used in a generic sense or when the sex of the person is unspecified

    Still WRONG ———

    And if you choose to be disrespectful of He who possibly created you, that’s your prerogative. If He has created you He has given you that ability. It is my prerogative to be respectful of Him.

  146. #146 chas
    March 9, 2009

    Jud –

    “If the Designer is not the perfect Unmoved Mover of holy writ, then the Designer had an origin. So you haven’t answered the question of how life and species came into being by postulating a Designer, all you’ve done is changed the location where natural forces first gave rise to life from Earth to the home of the Designer.”

    I fail to see how it follows that the Disigner had an origin if He is not “perfect”.
    What do you mean by “perfect”? Also, how do you know that “natural forces”, Creation, first gave rise to life on Earth? Why not somewhere else? What makes you think the Designer has a home?

    I’ll answer your previous questions later.

  147. #147 chas
    March 9, 2009

    Jud -

    “Ah, good, now we’re getting somewhere. OK, next question: Is it your view that mutations are induced individually, that they were designed into the process of DNA replication, or both?”

    Why does it have to be either – or both? Couldn’t there be something else going on? Aren’t there actually an infinite number of possibilities? Are you assuming we know or can know everything there is to know?

    I’m certainly not proposing we stop trying to understand.

  148. #148 Jim Harrison
    March 9, 2009

    Chas writes “I’m certainly not proposing we stop trying to understand,” but that’s precisely what he’s proposing. There’s small point in continuing to try to understand the world if you are determined in advance to reject what you find out if it offends your theological sensibilities.

    If you are going to doubt the reality of evolution by natural selections, you may as well doubt everything since human beings have very little knowledge that it is as well attested as the theory of evolution.

  149. #149 Anton Mates
    March 9, 2009

    And if you choose to be disrespectful of He who possibly created you, that’s your prerogative. If He has created you He has given you that ability. It is my prerogative to be respectful of Him.

    Why do you think the hypothetical designer would find this respectful? Why couldn’t the designer be a She, or a They, or even a they, who finds your use of the capitalized masculine singular to be silly or offensive?

    WRONG -

    From “Websters Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary”

    What makes you think the designer takes its rules of etiquette from Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary?

  150. #150 chas
    March 9, 2009

    Anton Mates -

    “Why do you think the hypothetical designer would find this respectful?”

    How do you know I think the hypothetical designer would find this disrespectful?
    Does anybody know what He thinks about anything?

    “Why couldn’t the designer be a She, or a They, or even a they, who finds your use of the capitalized masculine singular to be silly or offensive?”

    Who knows?

    “- capitalized masculine singular-“

    For the 3rd time – From Websters current on-line dictionary———
    He – 2 —used in a generic sense or when the sex of the person is unspecified -he that hath ears to hear, let him hear — Matthew 11:15(Authorized Version)—-one should do the best he can

    “What makes you think the designer takes its rules of etiquette from Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary?”

    What makes you think I think the designer takes His rules of etiquette from anything?

  151. #151 Jud
    March 9, 2009

    chas’ answers are more and more redolent of good ol’ Charlie Wagner, but I’ll give it another shot or two, Jason permitting.

    I’ve been posing questions, and chas seems not to want to commit to any answers, after bombarding us with questions himself. He’s asking for many clarifications. So clarifications it is, and let’s see whether any answers are subsequently forthcoming.

    1. Any Designer, if he/she/it exists, is either a supernatural being or not.

    If supernatural, then he/she/it can be eternal, perfect, omniscient, omnipotent, all-merciful, and whatever other attributes anyone would like. The problem in this case for any sort of design proposal is that the designs we see in the world are subject to all sorts of problems, prone to disease, injury and painful deaths, so if the Designer is perfectly capable of doing better, why didn’t he/she/it? In this scenario, the Designer comes off as rather a horse’s patoot. If supernatural but not perfectly capable – just some sort of ghost-thingy on a lark – well, really, who would seriously consider Casper the Not-So-Friendly Designer as an alternative to one of the best-confirmed theories in all of science, evolution?

    If not supernatural, then by definition the Designer is subject to natural laws. In that case, one hasn’t at all solved the problem of origin of species. One has simply moved the question away from Earth, and to wherever the Designer’s ancestors first arose, either by natural means or supernatural. If supernatural, we’re back to the previous paragraph. If natural, then we’re back to the first 3 sentences of this paragraph. So a design proposal answers nothing at all, it just leads to infinite regress.

    2. Mutations (changes to the previous generation’s genetic patterns) are either errors in DNA replication, or not (i.e., intentional). If intentional, they are planned as part of the replication process or unplanned (ad hoc). So (for the 3rd time), which do you think it is, chas? Mistakes or not? If not mistakes but rather intended, are they planned or unplanned?

    If they are mistakes, then this evidences either no Designer or a bad one – and if a bad one, then what need of a Designer if Nature is perfectly capable of making mistakes on its own? If they are intentional, then such behavior – intentionally causing mutations that, e.g., produce cancer in newborns – evidences the type of Designer up with which we ought not put, morally speaking.

    So which is it, chas? An incompetent Designer? An immoral one? Or none at all, and in place of the incompetent or immoral One, one of the greatest, most awe-inspiring scientific theories of all time, evolution?

  152. #152 chas
    March 9, 2009

    Jim Harrison -

    “If you are going to doubt the reality of evolution by natural selections, you may as well doubt everything since human beings have very little knowledge that it is as well attested as the theory of evolution.”

    What makes you think I doubt the reality of evolution? I don’t. I just don’t think it tells us where we come from. It doesn’t tell us how or by Whom we were created. It doesn’t tell us whether or not evolution is just a subset of our creation. Evolution more or less explains how we have changed over the last 4 billion years or so, but not before.

  153. #153 History Matters
    March 9, 2009

    Good discussion. A couple considerations:

    First, while many who want evolution out of schools claim the U.S. Constitution carefully stays agnostic about religion. But our Constitution is not entirely free of religion. The number of days a President has to sign a bill into law does not count Sundays. Granted, this is not necessarily an affirmation of a God, but it is a recognition that worship was a part of life with which governing should not conflict.

    Jefferson is the person who brought “separation of church and state” into our common usage, although we misuse it terribly compared to what he intended. The University of Virginia has Jefferson’s writing collected on their website. Many are organized by category. On the page of statements he made about the need for the Bill of Rights, you will find six references to “freedom of religion” but not even one to “separation of church and state.” (See: Jefferson’s Own Words)

    According to the U.S. Code, the Constitution and Declaration are two of our foundational documents. Another is the Northwest Ordinance. The NW Ordinance says, in part, “Religion, morality, and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall be forever encouraged and established in the Northwest Territory.” Congress later required that all territories becoming states must have Constitutions which were “not repugnant to the Northwest Ordinance.” So it says there that religion is one necessity for which schools must be established.

    My point is not that we should teach evolution or that we should teach creationism. It is simply that we should decide these things based on reason, not based on a misinterpretation of the First Amendment based on “separation of church and state.”

  154. #154 Dan S.
    March 9, 2009

    What makes you think I doubt the reality of evolution? I don’t. I just don’t think it tells us where we come from

    Well, it does, up to a point.

    It doesn’t tell us how or by Whom we were created . . . Evolution more or less explains how we have changed over the last 4 billion years or so, but not before.

    Yep. We are all in complete agreement here, I think. Evolution deals with what happens once life shows up (“we” is being quite egalitarian and inclusive here, given that our earliest ancestors were pretty unsophisticated.) The origin of life is a completely different field (and one that, sadly is mostly so far above my head that I’m not just rapidly out of my depth – as with non-pop-science work on evolution – but in fact crushed down to the size of a soda can by the immense pressure). Science cannot, by its very nature, tell us by Whom [if anyone] we were created; it can’t say that we definitely weren’t created in some sense by a Whom. That all is irrelevant to the question at hand. I’m not sure why you’re ok with accepting a practical view when it comes to how we evolved, but then get stuck at doing so for how life originated. This approach works to understand (however imperfectly) what makes thunder and lighting, why crops, cattle, and people get sick (and sometimes how to make them better), what the big and little lights in the sky are, why we share a ever-increasing number of traits with ever-narrower sets of other organisms – but when it comes to life’s origin you come to a screeching halt. Why?

    I’m not saying you have to abandon theological speculations, even if I don’t share them – I mean, who am I to insist that? – but that’s a different matter altogether. If you believe in God/s, they’re what’s behind why nature is. If you don’t, they’re not. Whatever.

    Now, we can’t, of yet, explain quite how life on earth originated. There seem, as far as I can tell (about 5mm), to be a number of interesting and perhaps promising ideas, and various other puzzle pieces, but it seems at this point we’re mostly working on the corners and putting all the sky pieces in a separate pile (better informed folks, please chime in!). You might feel this opens the door to considering other approaches, but recall that science has a rather good track record here when it comes to understand natural phenomena. Again, theological considerations are a different matter.

    Also, how do you know that “natural forces”, Creation, first gave rise to life on Earth? Why not somewhere else?

    Unsure what you’re asking here. Did some kind of life first show appear on some other planet (or whatever) independently of later developments here on earth? (no doubt shouting “First” . . . .) Umm . . . maybe? We don’t know it didn’t, and there’s no reason to require that it didn’t. Did life on earth actually originate somewhere else? Well, it doesn’t seem impossible – even if you just read the wikipedia page on abiogenesis, it discusses research on this idea (sorry, links seem to be triggering spam filter). It sounds like most work by far is focusing on an indigenous origin – it appears to be the simplest explanation, I’m guessing – but I’m sure if evidence suggesting otherwise builds up eventually scientists will follow.

    Why does it have to be either – or both? Couldn’t there be something else going on? Aren’t there actually an infinite number of possibilities? Are you assuming we know or can know everything there is to know?I’m certainly not proposing we stop trying to understand.

    I’m sure you don’t think you are, but this sort of freshman-dorm philosophizing does, at least in terms of any sort of practical understanding. (I’m not sure where you get the “know or can know” bit, since I doubt anybody here – let alone any scientist – would agree with it.) In a certain sense, science (and similar methods – indeed, any sort of disciplinary, well, discipline) involves a process of ruthless limitation, not this free-floating word-tossing. Of course creativity and open-mindedness have extremely important roles, but . . . . (oh geez, I just hope there isn’t some poor person relying on this to learn about science!)

  155. #155 chas
    March 9, 2009

    Jud -

    “If supernatural, then he/she/it can be eternal, perfect, omniscient, omnipotent, all-merciful, and whatever other attributes anyone would like.”

    Can we understand about Him anything other than what He gives us the ability to understand, if He in fact created us & therefore evolution? He is just what He is. What do you do if you live forever?

    “then what need of a Designer if Nature is perfectly capable of making mistakes on its own?”

    But, what if the Designer also created Nature?

    “So which is it, chas? An incompetent Designer? An immoral one? Or none at all, and in place of the incompetent or immoral One, one of the greatest, most awe-inspiring scientific theories of all time, evolution?”

    How can you assign qualities to or understand He who created you beyond those he has given you the ability to assign or understand? Also, could He be the same One who put that Sun out there which has been fusing about 600 million tons/sec of hydrogen to helium for about 4 billion years? And put those other 400 billion suns in this Milky Way galaxy He has given us to live in? And put those hundreds of billions of Suns in each of those 100 billion galaxies we can see out there with Hubble? Can we be sure He isn’t?

    “one of the greatest, most awe-inspiring scientific theories of all time, evolution?”

    Agreed. But, where did it come from? Did it create itself?

  156. #156 Dan S.
    March 10, 2009

    chas,

    I fail to see where speculating about why we believe what we believe has to do with the question before the house.

    You asked me if I thought that people who believe that evolution or abiogenesis doesn’t in fact prove where we come from [you might want to use a less unclear expression] were stupid; I was trying to explain my view of this in order to answer your question.

    Can Evolution Theory or Abiogenesis Theory prove where we came from?
    I’m not entirely clear what you’re asking here. Evolutionary biology can ‘explain’, much better than anything else we’ve yet come up with, the diversity of life on earth and many details thereof (I should stress that science isn’t revealed Truth but a imperfect and provisional human endeavor, a voyage of discovery, etc). Work on abiogenesis attempts to understand how life originated. Absolute proof, philosophically speaking, isn’t really a science thing, but you get degrees of certainty; the fact of evolution is pretty certain, many details far less so. Any specific theory of abiogenesis is certainly not there yet – and possibly may never be, but science’s overall track record on explaining natural phenomena make me figure it’s the most sensible way to go. Remember, science isn’t revealed truth.

    But what you mean by “where we come from” seems to be something else.

    can’t understand how someone who claims to be highly educated and claims to have read a lot of books can’t understand . . .

    Yeah – who are you talking about, though? It almost sounds like that’s directed at me, but I haven’t claimed any of those things here. (Perhaps I should clarify that I’m not a scientist, don’t have particularly advanced degrees, etc.)

    an’t understand the meaning of the words “implies anything about Him” used in, “I fail to see how the possibility that Someone out there could have created us implies that He is “perfect”, or implies anything about Him.”

    Besides, (to pedantically nitpick), that basic capacity. But while that might not imply anything, you are, in your choice of words, statements, attitudes, etc. , implying various things.

    (A side note: when you talk about “Websters current on-line dictionary“, you’re referring to an old edition that was dumped on the web since it’s been superseded by subsequent editions (they’re up to 11th now, I think?), so they could at least get ad revenue, etc. Nowadays he (or He) is mostly read as referring to male gender, and one can make an argument that in a sense, to a degree, ’twas ever thus – the American Heritage Dictionary (4th edition, 2000) says “This analysis of the generic use of he is linguistically doubtful. If he were truly a gender-neutral form, we would expect that it could be used to refer to the members of any group containing both men and women. But in fact the English masculine form is an odd choice when it refers to a female member of such a group. There is something plainly disconcerting about sentences such as Each of the stars of As Good As It Gets [i.e., Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt] won an Academy Award for his performance. In this case, the use of his forces the reader to envision a single male who stands as the representative member of the group, a picture that is at odds with the image that comes to mind when we picture the stars of As Good As It Gets. Thus he is not really a gender-neutral pronoun; rather, it refers to a male who is to be taken as the representative member of the group referred to by its antecedent. The traditional usage, then, is not simply a grammatical convention; it also suggests a particular pattern of thought.·

    You quite possibly intended to use “He” as a nongendered pronoun, but it’s not clear that history and culture would let you, that there weren’t both unintended echoes and unrealized reasons for that choice.

    I’m belaboring this past the bounds of sanity because – well, draw your own conclusions, but it seems to get at a basic problem with your argument. As far as I can understand (and might be completely off), you’re trying to push for a kind of hopped-up fundy agnosticism, with an extra scoop of theism. Apparently big bad scientists don’t constantly endorese this view, so they’re closed-minded or something – I hope we helped clarify why this isn’t really right. But as a separate matter, while you’re arguing for this whole anything’s possible!, who knows? acknowledge my theistic hypothetical! stuff, you seem to actually have some rather specific ideas in back of it. Certainly this has turned out to be the case for one handwaving ID advocate after another, part of the intellectual (and even moral) corruption that seems inherent in that movement. Again, maybe you’re an exception; if so, you must be very lonely. Anyway, while insisting on this anything goes!/who knows? view, you’re simultaneously saying things that sound almost nonsensical against that framework. Why should practical scientists waste time on some sort of vague, utterly unproductive (in terms of research) hypothetical with apparently no testable claims? What on earth does it even mean to be respectful or disrespectful if of some possible, uncertain, undefined hypothetical creator(s), and why should we care? Why, when talking about such an entity/es – one where, you constantly stress, we have no way to figure out or predict even the most basic things – would one specifically use not just “he” but “He,” which unavoidably carries a whole civilization’s worth of baggage, compared to it/they/noun/whatever ? This suggests to me that, of course, the Someone you’re talking about is, for you, a very familiar face indeed. And this distorts the whole argument.

  157. #157 Dan S.
    March 10, 2009

    How can you assign qualities to or understand He who created you beyond those he has given you the ability to assign or understand? Also, could He be the same One who put that Sun out there which has been fusing about 600 million tons/sec of hydrogen to helium for about 4 billion years? And put those other 400 billion suns in this Milky Way galaxy He has given us to live in? And put those hundreds of billions of Suns in each of those 100 billion galaxies we can see out there with Hubble? Can we be sure He isn’t?

    Ok – the thing is, in some sense, this isn’t actually an argument. If you have belief in God/s, then this works, this has meaning: if you’re religious, this is how God/s did stuff (for a certain variety of religion, anyway. If you don’t – sorry – not so much. It’s a teeny bit like (if you forgive the analogy) Battlestar Galactica fans going on about Cylons and Kara and hybrids and who-knows-what: it has meaning for them; for me . . . well, not so much.

  158. #158 trrll
    March 10, 2009

    How can you assign qualities to or understand He who created you beyond those he has given you the ability to assign or understand? Also, could He be the same One who put that Sun out there which has been fusing about 600 million tons/sec of hydrogen to helium for about 4 billion years? And put those other 400 billion suns in this Milky Way galaxy He has given us to live in? And put those hundreds of billions of Suns in each of those 100 billion galaxies we can see out there with Hubble? Can we be sure He isn’t?

    You can argue for pretty much anything you choose by this kind of Russell’s teapot argument, so it has no real meaning. It’s the rhetorical equivalent of dividing by zero.

  159. #159 chas
    March 10, 2009

    Jud –

    I don’t see how you will ever be able to prove that there is no Intelligent Designer because of one simple question – “If Someone out there created you, but hasn’t given you the ability to know He created you, how can you know he created you?”

  160. #160 chas
    March 10, 2009

    Anton Mates –

    “Why couldn’t the designer be a She, or a They, or even a they, who finds your use of the capitalized masculine singular to be silly or offensive?”

    What difference does it make?

  161. #161 Tulse
    March 10, 2009

    “Why couldn’t the designer be a She, or a They, or even a they, who finds your use of the capitalized masculine singular to be silly or offensive?”

    What difference does it make?

    Because if you choose the wrong one, He/She/They/they might damn you forever. Think of this as Anton’s Corollary to Pascal’s Wager.

  162. #162 chas
    March 10, 2009

    Tulse -

    “Because if you choose the wrong one, He/She/They/they might damn you forever. Think of this as Anton’s Corollary to Pascal’s Wager.”

    Or He might not.

  163. #163 Tulse
    March 10, 2009

    “Because if you choose the wrong one, He/She/They/they might damn you forever. Think of this as Anton’s Corollary to Pascal’s Wager.”

    Or He might not.

    But can you take that chance?!?!

  164. #164 Anton Mates
    March 10, 2009

    How do you know I think the hypothetical designer would find this disrespectful?

    You characterized your use of pronouns as respectful, and Dan’s as disrespectful. Since Dan didn’t say anything about respecting or disrespecting the hypothetical designer(s), you have no grounds to say he’s being disrespectful in his own eyes, so who’s left to judge disrespect besides the designers themselves?

    What difference does it make?

    I don’t know. But how do you know it makes none?

  165. #165 tomh
    March 10, 2009

    History Matters said:

    My point is not that we should teach evolution or that we should teach creationism. It is simply that we should decide these things based on reason, not based on a misinterpretation of the First Amendment based on “separation of church and state.”

    No one claims that “separation of church and state” is in the First Amendment. The First Amendment is quite clear, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;”

    Just what part of “make no law” do you feel is being misinterpreted?

  166. #166 chas
    March 10, 2009

    Tulse -

    “But can you take that chance?!?!”

    You’ll have to make that decision for yourself.

  167. #167 chas
    March 10, 2009

    Anton Mates –

    chas said –

    “What difference does it make?”

    “I don’t know. But how do you know it makes none?”

    Where did I say it made no difference? You answered “I don’t know” so I assume you understood it was a question, & not a statement.

  168. #168 Anton Mates
    March 10, 2009

    Where did I say it made no difference? You answered “I don’t know” so I assume you understood it was a question, & not a statement.

    So you don’t know that it makes no difference, then?

  169. #169 Dan S.
    March 11, 2009

    I don’t see how you will ever be able to prove that there is no Intelligent Designer because of one simple question

    Indeed. Not falsifiable. See why it doesn’t have a place within science?

    Of course, as mentioned before, science doesn’t actually bother with trying to prove [fill in philosophy of science caveats here, if you wish] that there is no IntelligentGDesignerod. It’s irrelevant, just as with other similarly Godless pursuits like plumbing, bridgebuilding, high-speed pizza delivery, etc.

    (And atheism – well, even Dawkins, who’s become one of the big public faces of atheism, upfront acknowledges that – while there is almost certainly no God – it’s logically kinda impossible to *completely* rule one out, given the setup.)

    I guess the question is: where does this get us? There are a whole lot of things that can’t be completely ruled out – the Matrix/brains in vats, radical solipsism, the universe being a hairball spat out by the Great Cat (except in any sense that would allow us to determine this), etc., etc. Ok . . so?

    (I’m not trying to argue against theism here, only that this particular argument doesn’t seem particularly convincing (or at all relevant) from the outside.)

  170. #170 Jud
    March 11, 2009

    Further to Dan S.’s post about the fact that all the discussion about proving there’s no Intelligent Designer doesn’t get us anywhere:

    Y’see, chas, most of us hang around here because we’re interested in knowing more about science, particularly evolutionary biology, and associated issues. Could an Intelligence create beings without the capacity to adduce evidence of Its existence? Yah, sure, you betcha, but heck, even grade school kids are able to formulate puzzles on that level, e.g., “Can God make an object so heavy He can’t lift it?” I assume we all know the difference between that sort of navel-gazing and the dedicated pursuit of knowledge by scientists like Lederberg, Monod, Jacob, Lenski, etc., in brilliantly designed, painstakingly performed experiment after experiment. I’m hungering for more knowledge of the latter, but this thread (in spite of efforts by many to point out where such good knowledge may be had) is tending far too much toward the former for my taste.

    And so, adieu.

  171. #171 chas
    March 11, 2009

    Anton Mates -

    “You characterized your use of pronouns as respectful, and Dan’s as disrespectful. Since Dan didn’t say anything about respecting or disrespecting the hypothetical designer(s), you have no grounds to say he’s being disrespectful in his own eyes, so who’s left to judge disrespect besides the designers themselves?”

    Dan said -

    “Although it’s interesting that you assume this creator is a male-identified unity, which certainly wouldn’t appear to be necessary – why couldn’t they be a committee of hemaphrodites, or a same-sex couple from an advanced alien race, or completely beyond the concepts of gender or number, or etc.?”

    Committee of hermaphrodites?

    What do you mean by characterize?

    “char•ac•ter•ize
    vt
    1. describe somebody or something: to describe the character or characteristics of somebody or something
    2. be typical of somebody or something: to be typical of the way a particular person or thing behaves or looks
    Encarta ® World English Dictionary © & (P) 1998-2005 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.”

    “ in his own eyes”

    Do you characterize yourself as a mind reader?

  172. #172 Anton Mates
    March 11, 2009

    chas,

    Committee of hermaphrodites?

    What about it?

    Do you characterize yourself as a mind reader?

    Did I somehow give you that impression?

    And if you choose to be disrespectful of He who possibly created you, that’s your prerogative. If He has created you He has given you that ability. It is my prerogative to be respectful of Him.

    What did you mean by this?

  173. #173 chas
    March 11, 2009

    Anton Mates -

    “So you don’t know that it makes no difference, then?”

    What difference does it make?

  174. #174 James
    March 11, 2009

    After reading long enough to come up with a particularly irritating comment( for the ignorant god whores, Of course)

    “Please tell us what evolution has explained the origin of?”

    Well……god for one thing. Monotheism didn’t exist prior to Akhenaten. This required the whole process of evolution to change us from ameboid to human(oid).

    Speaking of Akhenaten, how do you like your religion? There is no evidence of Creation, Adam, Eve (please explain Lilith to me), the flood, Moses, an Egyptian Pharoah getting eaten by the sea, the plagues, or a roving horde of wild jews getting hopped up on mescalin and “seeing god”, and on and on….. no proof of Jesus, no proof of miracles, nothing written down for 40 years about the bible, jesus wrote nothing). Not to mention that the tribes of Israel didn’t write anything down. Until from 1000 to 200 BC things were slowly written in a pre-greek language which is conveniently lost.

    All of that means nothing? Ok……The lost original comic book was then translated into greek, then latin, then old english. By Catholics. Of course, protestants get their origin from royalty paying people to make them look “God Appointed”.

    Speaking of Jesus, how do you like your false idol? Look up Dionysius, Krishna, Buddha, Mithras, and several others or at least their births and deaths. You might notice a few small virgin birth, zombie creating, zombie being, multitude feeding, similarities.

    What does evolution explain? Well, theistic evolution would explain how a crazy egyptian half religion evolved into fundamentalist chritianity.

    So, instead of screaming about the evolutionary proofs, why not prove god? It shouldn’t be to hard to find proof of an invisible source of limitless power which (since you like physics) doesn’t violate any laws of physics and is eternal. I mean outside of the never ending game of mistranslated Jewish telephone you claim as truth.

    Sleep well

  175. #175 Anton Mates
    March 11, 2009

    What difference does it make?

    What difference does what make?

  176. #176 chas
    March 12, 2009

    Dan S., James, et cetera –

    I’m completely satisfied, that in spite of all the almost brilliant, sometimes verbose posts that no one has been able to say unequivocally that there is scientific evidence that they weren’t created by God.

  177. #177 Anton Mates
    March 12, 2009

    I’m completely satisfied, that in spite of all the almost brilliant, sometimes verbose posts that no one has been able to say unequivocally that there is scientific evidence that they weren’t created by God.

    In fact, we’ve been saying exactly the opposite for a week now, so hey, glad we’re finally on the same page.

  178. #178 Dan S.
    March 12, 2009

    Yep. Repeatedly.

    Tell me, chas, what might such evidence look like. How could one ‘prove’ (if one was so inclined) that we weren’t created by God. (Aww, you acknowledged them! And the rooster hasn’t even crowed once!)

  179. #179 Dan S.
    March 12, 2009

    [Rereads my most recent comment]

    Huh. Apparently my ‘disrespect’ has caused God to curse me with an apparent inability to use question marks. I have learned the error of my ways! Let that be a lesson to us all . . .

  180. #180 jt99
    March 15, 2009

    Let’s keep it simple folks. Never mind DNA, pseudo genes, etc., you don’t need a degree in microbiology to understand that no amount of tweaking genes or DNA copying errors can possibly explain how compatible male and female sex organs evolved in separate independent organisms of any kind, from mice to man and woman. Check out TheDarwinDelusion.com — and find out where evolutionists and creationists both go wrong.

  181. #181 Dan S.
    March 15, 2009

    Oh, good lord, jt99, is your imagination that stunted? (and plus, independent organisms is a bit of a misnomer here).

    Geez, what is it with creationists and sexual reproduction?

    . . . oh.

    (Anyway, see here for a bit of a start.)

  182. #182 jt99
    March 15, 2009

    Hi Dan, I read that stuff. He spends a lot of time tracing male and female elephant populations back to hyraxes, which supposedly evolved from earlier male and female ancestors.

    All right, so the male and female ancestors have magically evolved. Did both male and female then experience the same identical random DNA copying errors as they evolved side by side into a vast variety of new organisms? It is absolute nonsense.

    He then claims that those original male and female creatures originated with a hermaphrodite worm in preCambrian times that somehow produced male and female eggs. In other words, male and female exist now because they already existed then.

    That is vague waffle, Dan. Face it. Evolution cannot answer the question.

  183. #183 Anton Mates
    March 15, 2009

    jt99,

    . Did both male and female then experience the same identical random DNA copying errors as they evolved side by side into a vast variety of new organisms?

    Of course not. We’re talking about populations here–when a mutation arises, it can be passed down from the individual where it appeared into their male and female descendants. You don’t need a male and a female to develop the mutation independently.

    Or do you think a woman can’t pass on traits to her sons, nor a father to his daughters?

  184. #184 Tyler DiPietro
    March 15, 2009

    Ho-hum, another creotard thinks that his half-informed objections to evolution make for a devastating argument.

    “All right, so the male and female ancestors have magically evolved. Did both male and female then experience the same identical random DNA copying errors as they evolved side by side into a vast variety of new organisms? It is absolute nonsense.”

    Two things, moron. Sex is a developmental phenomenon, and mutations diffuse through populations that contain both males and females. You might want to at least take a glance at “The Complete Idiots Guide to Biology” before going half-cocked into an argument with people who actually have some idea of what they’re talking about.

  185. #186 jt99
    March 16, 2009

    So we’re talking “populations” and “diffusion” of mutations now. Sounds good but says nothing. Those “populations that contain both males and females” and those “male and female descendants” you mention — Where did they come from? Please answer the question.

    The usual vague evolutionary waffle says nothing specific. And hurling insults is not a scientific argument.

  186. #187 Dan S.
    March 16, 2009

    Hi Dan, I read that stuff.

    Thanks! What’s odd, though, is that you then toss out the same silliness (“d both male and female then experience the same identical random DNA copying errors as they evolved side by side into a vast variety of new organisms?” that’s addressed (albeit a bit in passing, as almost to obvious to discuss) in that link. Your original question was far more interesting!

    (I should make a juvenile joke about microbiology and sex organs, but it’s too early in the morning . . . )

    So we’re talking “populations” and “diffusion” of mutations now.
    Ah, underinformed creationists!* Do chemistry-related blogs get folks showing up saying ‘So we’re talking about ‘molecules’ and ‘chemical reactions’ now. Sounds good but says nothing?’

    (You’re entirely right that “hurling insults is not a scientific argument – I’d say this is neither, but a bare statement of fact. And as, iirc, I mentioned above re: chas, it’s probably not your fault, between the quality of science education most folks get, and ideology – the question is, what do you do now?)

    Those “populations that contain both males and females” and those “male and female descendants” you mention — Where did they come from? Please answer the question.

    Well, PZ’s post attempts to (retroactively), but you don’t like that answer either. All this goalpost moving is making me dizzy. Let’s go one at a time: are you interested in the evolution of sexual reproduction, the evolution of sex specialization (individual males and females) or the evolution of generalized mammalian sex organs?

    Two questions for you: 1) in your mind, what is the basic, most stripped-down definition
    of “male” and “female”. 2) Can you think of any reasons why it might be tricky to determine *exactly* when, where, and how, say, sex specialization evolved?

  187. #188 Dan S.
    March 16, 2009

    “to obvious” s/b “*too* obvious,” obviously

  188. #189 Jud
    March 16, 2009

    jt99: OK, let’s give a straight, simple answer to your question first -

    A mutation shows up in the DNA of the sperm or eggs of one member of a sexually reproducing species. When this member of the species mates and has offspring, they of course begin as the union of a sperm and egg, and since one of these has the mutation, the offspring will carry the mutation (genotype) in their DNA. Let’s say the mutation has some physical effect (phenotype) on the individuals that carry it. The effect will either show or not in accordance with the well-known Mendelian heredity laws.

    So that’s an illustration of how a mutation in one individual can be passed down to generations of descendants, male and female, and thus can spread through a population.

    The mutation will either continue to spread through descendants of the original individual, or die out. The speed with which it spreads or dies out depends on how advantageous or disadvantageous it is, and works according to the same math that governs, for example, the PowerBall lottery. (Details of the mathematics of evolutionary biology were worked out nearly a century ago.)

    This is simple, straightforward, in accordance with known rules about how sexual reproduction and heredity work, and nowhere is there any requirement that two individuals simultaneously have compatible mutations, right?

    Second point: As others have already mentioned, evolutionary biology is one of those topics where folks seem to think they need no education or training to be experts. As with any other science, this isn’t true. Any objection you currently have to evolutionary theory will be based on ignorance, so just like your thought about having to have simultaneous compatible mutations, it will be completely wrong, and easily shown to be so. At this stage you’re just wasting everyone’s time, including your own.

    There have been any number of excellent books recommended in this thread, and the topic of evolution is a wonderfully exciting one, so you could do a lot worse than go off and read some of them. If you don’t care to search through all the comments, I think I can safely say that anything by Sean B. Carroll or Carl Zimmer will be both informative and entertaining.

  189. #190 kelebek
    March 16, 2009

    yorumsuz

  190. #191 jt99
    March 17, 2009

    Hi Jud, Thanks for your comments. You are obviously well informed and also have total faith in evolution, as did (and still does) British biologist Derek Hough, author of “Evolution — a case of stating the obvious”. Like many top biologists, Hough realizes that the situation is not as simple was guys like you and Dan make out. As Hough explains, after being an evolutionist of missionary zeal for many years, he suddenly realized that the concept of evolution by the gradual accumulation of small differences and shaped by natural selection was “infantile nonsense”. Still a confirmed evolutionist, Hough seems to be trying to revive Lamarck’s ideas, which do away with the need for zillions of failed intermediate forms.

    Yes, I have read a couple of Carroll’s books and one by Zimmer. Carroll now tries to explain the Cambrian Explosion as created by the “invention” (one of those vague verbs again) of toolbox genes. So now we have layers of master and slave genes existing in the supposedly most primitive of creatures. It makes that explosion even more mysterious.

    I have read a lot of stuff about evolution, pro and con (most recently “The Darwin Delusion” ), and realized that the existence of man and woman, or male and female in any creature cannot be credibly explained in detail by Darwin’s ideas (ask Wikipedia, etc). The informed intuition that tells me what is beautiful and ugly, also helps me see through the evolutionary claptrap of Richard Dawkins, who actually avoids the sex problem. No wonder Jerry Coyne finds intelligent people unwilling to accept this ideas, although they cannot tell him specifically where he is wrong. It works the same when the Jehovah’s Witnesses come to my door. A mass of regurgitated technical jargon does not always prove somebody is correct.

    I’m sorry I am not convinced by your explanations, which yet again start out with existing male and female organisms, sperms and ova. Shall we agree to disagree?

  191. #192 Dan S.
    March 17, 2009

    Ah, jt99. I was starting to think that having defied the dragons of darwinism in their den (or some similar such nonsense) you had decided that discretion was the better part of valor and scampered off – and what fun would that be?

    total faith in evolution,

    Yes, yes, we get it, ‘Darwinism’ is just a religion, and pretty much the entire world community of biologists (not to mention everyone else who appreciates science and doesn’t have a irresolvable conflict with a certain specific set of sectarian religious interpretations) are just members of a closeminded cult worshipping the teachings of a certain retiring Victorian gentleman. Uh-huh.

    British biologist Derek Hough
    I find it more amusing than it probably should be that Wikipedia’s entry on a Derek Hough actually refers to a guy on “Dancing with the Stars”.

    So now we have layers of master and slave genes existing in the supposedly most primitive of creatures.
    Of course, by the time we get to the Cambrian, we’re certainly not talking about the most primitive of creatures. Whether Carroll’s ideas here are exactly right, they seen plausible – these sort of ‘toolbox’ genes are widely shared among the groups that diversified, generally in the kind of patterns one would predict from evolution, and involve the kind of body plan stuff that seems to have taken off during this time.
    I’m certainly not proposing blind acceptance of proposed ideas, but at the same time, we’re not responsible for your failures of imagination, etc.

    (most recently “The Darwin Delusion
    I don’t know if that’s the best use of time, but YMMV.

    (ask Wikipedia, etc
    Perhaps you could be more specific?

    The informed intuition that tells me what is beautiful and ugly
    Is completely irrelevant in this case.

    Richard Dawkins, who actually avoids the sex problem
    Well, he’s married to Romana from Dr. Who, but what they do in their private lives is their own business.

    A mass of regurgitated technical jargon does not always prove somebody is correct.
    Literally speaking, that’s correct, but the application here is unclear. After all, if I get annoyed at gravity and step off a cliff while quoting the above, well . . . splat.

    I’m sorry I am not convinced by your explanations, which yet again start out with existing male and female organisms, sperms and ova.
    Ok, now we’re getting somewhere (or possibly nowhere, likely fast, but we’ll see). It was a bit unclear whether you thought that males and females somehow magically evolved as separate – yet compatible – species, or felt that internal fertilization had to be invented anew for each mammal species, or what . . . .So what you’re asking about is the evolution of gamates, basically? Or sexual reproduction itself (since PZ’s suggestion starts with existing organisms that are both male and female, in this sense, not “existing male and female organism”, so presumably you want to look back a bit more?)

    See also my previous questions.

    Off to work –

  192. #193 Jud
    March 17, 2009

    jt99 writes: Yes, I have read a couple of Carroll’s books and one by Zimmer.

    Cool, that’s more than most folks who speak of evolution as a “faith.” Having read Carroll and Zimmer, you know (or at least Carroll and Zimmer provide the information) that evolutionary biology isn’t based on faith, but on the results of innumerable painstakingly performed experiments and observations. Thus I “believe” (rather than “believe in”) evolutionary biology to the same extent and for the same reasons that I “believe” the relativistic theory of gravitation.

    I’m sorry I am not convinced by your explanations, which yet again start out with existing male and female organisms, sperms and ova.

    Sorry, I gave a straightforward answer to what I thought was your question. My interpretation of your wording was that you wanted to know how mutations can propagate if they arise in only one individual of a species that reproduces sexually. I guess that wasn’t correct. Want to rephrase?

  193. #194 cephe kaplama
    March 17, 2009

    Great idea Dan.Thanks a lot.

  194. #195 Tyler DiPietro
    March 17, 2009

    “I’m sorry I am not convinced by your explanations, which yet again start out with existing male and female organisms, sperms and ova. Shall we agree to disagree?”

    No, it’s obvious that that you fail to comprehend some of the most rudimentary topics in biology and thus invite, not polite disagreement, but ridicule.

  195. #196 JT99
    March 18, 2009

    I went back and read the stuff you suggested very carefully. Your expert CANNOT and does not explain the origins of sex, let alone the creation of man and woman. Look again yourself at this extract and admit that it is infantile and desperate evolutionary claptrap that explains nothing.

    He says: “The differences arose GRADUALLY.” That says nothing. There were “APPROPRIATE HORMONES.” How come? It needed the “RIGHT BLOCKERS” or “RECEPTOR ERRORS.” Where did they come from? There was “PROGRESSIVE SPECIALIZATION.” How convenient!
    Here is a longer extract:

    “All of the obvious differences are the result of simple switches. A female embryo can be induced to develop into a male by the presence of the appropriate hormones, and a male embryo can be born looking female with the right blockers or receptor errors.

    The sexual differences Ray finds so difficult to comprehend arose by progressive specialization: genetic switches that could turn off either male or female gamete production were already present, and some individuals in the population turned off the making of eggs and made sperm, while others did vice versa.

    As for the appearance of those male and female sexes, their origin lies far back in the pre-Cambrian. The differences arose gradually.”

    This is pure microbiological mumbo jumbo. It says and proves nothing. You have mentioned imagination a couple of times — and that is your problem, chaps, as with Dawkins (who actually believes that a statue might wave at you) and Sean Carroll, you have nibbled he magic mushroom of Darwinism and therefore believe that evolution made happen whatever you want to believe happened. You cannot think straight anymore. But you think it is other people who cannot think straight, because they can see through this pseudoscientific nonsense.

    I suggest you ponder some bigger question — e.g. how are the young of migrating birds born knowing how to navigate by the sun and stars, even when kept out of contact with their parents? How do cells in a growing foetus “know” how to work with each other to form the shape of an arm or an ear or a liver? How do slime molds work? Is your life and obvious intellect no more than atoms and molecules in motion? Why does the fossil record continue to show only fully formed organisms, like Tiktaalik? And what is the purpose of you life?

    I refer you again that book — “The Darwin Delusion”, which corrects the errors of both evolutionists and creationists.

  196. #197 Jud
    March 18, 2009

    jt99 @ 5:38 am: I very politely invited you to rephrase your previous question, because the way you worded it the first time evidently confused not only me but Dan S. as well, and likely others. Rather than taking the offered opportunity to engage in further reasonable discussion, you wrote a triumphalist screed, replete with gratuitous use of caps lock. You’re rather obviously what my Italian wife would call a ‘testa dura,’ so before I bid adieu to a second person in this thread (i.e., you won’t have to look for any further responses from me) I’ll leave off any attempt to actually explain where you might learn answers to the questions you keep asking and treat your statements and questions as the rhetorical tactics they are.

    How do cells in a growing foetus “know” how to work with each other to form the shape of an arm or an ear or a liver?

    If you had understood the books by Sean B. Carroll that you claim to have read, you’d know the answer. Carroll spends a good part of his book “Endless Forms Most Beautiful” setting forth in detail the results of meticulous experiments, some performed in his own lab, showing exactly how such developmental steps occur, and how this beautifully informs our knowledge of evolution.

    As with many of your questions, evolutionary biology has provided detailed answers, but you either are not able or refuse to understand them.

    Your expert CANNOT and does not explain the origins of sex, let alone the creation of man and woman.

    I personally haven’t read research that purports to retrace the evolutionary history of sexual reproduction. This is something that would likely be extremely difficult, since sexual reproduction has been traced back to one-celled life that did not leave fossils, but it’s a fascinating question so perhaps there are researchers looking at it. I don’t know whether researchers have come up with the likely steps leading to the origin of sexual reproduction yet, but if they haven’t, then the scientific answer to your question is “We don’t know (yet).”

    That’s a perfectly satisfactory answer for scientists. In fact it’s an exciting one, because it means there are interesting questions to be answered. This is why, when folks like you excitedly jump around saying “Here’s something you can’t explain!”, even if it’s true, the reaction is “Yeah, of course – there’s a lot we don’t know. Why do you think there are still scientists?”

    Why does the fossil record continue to show only fully formed organisms, like Tiktaalik?

    Heh, this is a funny one. Before Tiktaalik, the refrain was, “Why are there no fossils showing the transition from water to land?” (There were, of course, but folks who want to wish evolution away didn’t acknowledge them.) Now that there is such a transitional fossil, folks criticize it as “fully formed.” What did you expect, a chimera? Tiktaalik *is* a chimera, but not the sort of literal half-reptile, half-fish that someone with a limited imagination might picture. Do you mean something that isn’t the type of animal we see around us today? Tiktaalik also meets that criterion, and there are tens of other such transitional forms, such as four-winged dinosaur/birds with feathers, in the fossil record.

    But there are still those who refuse to acknowledge that such forms exist. That’s OK, though. I hear there was this fellow who came into the world so that those who do not see might see (John 9:39), so perhaps there is hope for you yet, jt99.

  197. #198 jt99
    March 18, 2009

    Nice to hear an evolutionist admit he doesn’t know something — and to also start quoting the Bible. In fact that “little fellow” you mention did open my eyes when he said that in the beginning God created man and woman, male and female (Matthew 19:4).

    I realized first that he believed in the literal truth of Genesis, as all Christians should, and that in one simple sentence he had identified one of the key problems that evolution cannot solve. (By the way, Genesis does not say that the earth is just a few thousand years old — see that book I recommended).

    When it comes to the human eye, they line up all kinds of eyes of varying complexity, saying, See, look how evolution did it, step by step. But they cannot do that with sex, because the incredibly complex but compatible organs had to evolve in separate organisms. A total impossibility.

    Over and out. Let’s hear from somebody else.

  198. #199 Tyler DiPietro
    March 18, 2009

    Give a four year old an answer, and he or she will respond invariably with “why?” Perhaps jt99 is a four year old.

  199. #200 Christopher Heard
    March 19, 2009

    The Christianity Today article seems to be basically a rerun of a January 2008 op-ed by Campolo in the Philadelphia Inquirer.The new version is no better than the old one.

  200. #201 S. G. Poss
    March 19, 2009

    Campolo and those like him are largely motivated by fear. Not fear of the fact of evolution, but fear that an understanding of the fact of evolution by the general public is a threat to their business model. Fear that they will be rendered irrelevant in an increasingly science and technology driven world.

    Given the enormous environmental challenges facing humanity and their consequent political manifestations, it is increasingly evident to the rational that “salvation” will only come through the application of logic and of science. The Campolos of the world realize that and that simple advocacy and exhortations of authoritarian religious views on how our complex universe is organized and works, offer neither wisdom nor understanding. The total failure of such a religous/philosophical approach creates within them extraordinary anxiety, as they see the relevancy of their beliefs in the market place of ideas loosing market share. They see this as a threat to their livelihood and their way of life. This drives ever more fervent feelings of anxiety and fear.

    This increasingly obvious fact drives many to deny the teachings of the own religion and lash out at all things rational and scientific, in the vain hope that their own fantasies and machinations may somehow triumph over logic and rational thinking. Mimicing modern pundits, they vainly try to smear Darwin in an effort, however fraudulent and dishonest, to cast aspersions on his ideas. Unfortunately, even if Darwin may have had some minor moral lapses and was perhaps after all, at times human like the rest of us, others like Alfred Russel Wallace, would and did come along to establish the essential correctness of Darwin’s ideas. That their sophistry is irrelevant to the essential soundness of Darwin’s fundamental ideas is a further source of their anxiety.

    It is this same fear that motivates the recent remarks by Pope Benedict regarding the use of condoms. He too would rather bear false witness and be content to watch millions die unnecessarily than see his business model upended by the truth. Clearly, within the circles of the anti-scientific little progress has been made since the time of Galileo Galilei. However, even the most oblivious have begun to notice that a lot has changed since 16th century and certainly also since the scientific discoveries of Darwin that revolutionized all of Biology and Medicine. This is a source of optimism and hope, not fear.

  201. #202 Dan S.
    March 19, 2009

    I realized first that he believed in the literal truth of Genesis, as all Christians should, and that in one simple sentence he had identified one of the key problems that evolution cannot solve

    Well, jt99, thank you for being honest about the source of your opposition to modern science. Of course, many Christians – to say nothing of folks from other traditions – don’t have this problem, as you admit by saying “as all Christians should” rather than “as all Christians do”. Let me hand the mike over to St. Augustine:

    Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he holds to as being certain from reason and experience.

    Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of the faith think our sacred writer held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men.

    If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason?

    Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertions.

  202. #203 Dan S.
    March 20, 2009

    the need for zillions of failed intermediate forms . . . Why does the fossil record continue to show only fully formed organisms” (emphasis mine)

    Just in case anyone’s still reading, it’s things like the above that make it so predictably (but still disappointingly) clear that even well-read creationists usually have no idea what they’re talking about, and lack even basic comprehension of the science they so bitterly oppose. Granted, it’s hard to be sure of what these vague terms refer to, but doing one’s best – yes, if evolutionary biology predicted lots of half-formed organisms – drawing-board monsters – at least potentially appearing in the fossil record, that would be good reason to consider it pretty dubious. Of course, it claims nothing of the sort – indeed, that would probably be evidence for some kind of creationism.

    See Claim CB925:”We do not see creatures in various stages of completion. In the past, according to evolutionary theory, there were half-birds, half-dogs, etc.” from Talk Origins’ Index of Creationist Claims. for a little bit more. Nothing new under the sun . . .

    (The “failed” part is particularly interesting. One could say the four legs of the battered coffee table of creationism are Teleology, Essentialism, Literalism/Fundamentalism, and Fear (of death, meaninglessness, immorality)

    When it comes to the human eye, they line up all kinds of eyes of varying complexity, saying, See, look how evolution did it, step by step. But they cannot do that with sex, because the incredibly complex but compatible organs had to evolve in separate organisms. A total impossibility.

    Ironically, of course, one can. So, jt99, if you happen to stop by this way again (or anyone of similar mindset who by chance may be reading), would you agree that if I present you with a reasonably plausible picture along these lines, then you’d need to reconsider your opposition to modern science (though not, by any logical necessity, your religious faith, unless it’s built completely on the idea that the Bible is a science textbook (and presumably that Pi = 3, the earth is a flat thing covered by a dome of sky around which the sun moves, God keeps snow and hail in special storehouses and sends forth lightning, etc., etc, etc.)?

  203. #204 jt99
    March 21, 2009

    Hi Dan

    I was interested by your quote from Augustine, which I had not seen before. Although I agree with what he says, he is assuming that his other beliefs are correct. Young earth creationists would also agree with the statement, whilst still assuming that their own beliefs are also correct — yet you and I and Augustine (perhaps) would agree that they bring the Bible into scientific disrepute by claiming the earth to be 6,000 years old and that most rock strata were formed by Noah’s flood. Because a literal reading of Genesis says no such thing, as Buckland realized.

    You also make assumptions, and evolution is based on many dodgy assumptions. Because I do not accept Darwin’s macro-evolution, you immediately assume that I am a) scientifically illiterate, and b) Anti science. The problem is, as Solomon pointed out long before Augustine, that we automatically judge new information on the basis of what we have already accepted as Truth. And can get quite hostile about it. Solomon used armed Watchmen as a metaphor those attitudes that limit our thinking. This is a major barrier to creativity, the automatic hostility to unfamiliar ideas.

    That book I recommended, points out how Newton’s laws did away with the need for all the “crystal spheres” that earlier people thought were necessary to keep the moon and planets moving. They had to be crystal to be invisible. They assumed an object would stop unless a force kept it moving. but the crystal sphere did not exist and never had existed — just as Darwin’s missing links do not exist and never did. Which is why they cannot be found, except by using cladistics to massage the findings and change the definition of what an intermediate form should be. Both were contrivances of a false theories but convincing theories. After all, it was common sense that objects needed forces to keep them going, or they would just stop.

    Then, of course, Newton himself was also making assumptions about the invariability of time.

    According to Buckland, there was a prehistoric age that was destroyed by the catastrophies that Darwin and Lyell rejected, but which are now accepted again. On that basis, those extinct organisms of the paleozoic and mesozoic were not the evolutionary ancestors of present day organisms at all, but a separate creation. Like the trilobites, etc., those were all incredibly complex organisms anyway. Hence, macro-evolution becomes a myth.

    But God has engineered into all organism the power of micro-evolution — those toolbox genes, etc. that Sean Carroll is discovering, whereby all the dogs breeds we now have originated from an original pair of dogs (I believe Noah called them Rover and Lassie, but I could be wrong). Hence organisms continue to reproduce “after their kind”.

    Got to go out. We can discuss those special storehouses some other time.

  204. #205 Dan S.
    March 22, 2009

    Well, the thread is very dead, but just because . . .

    was interested by your quote from Augustine
    But seem to have missed the point I was making, perhaps, which is that at this point you seem to be one of those “talking nonsense . . . [who] bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren” . Now, I’m not Christian, or any kind of theist – but you are, so you might want to take that under consideration. [/concern troll]

    You also make assumptions, and evolution is based on many dodgy assumptions.
    Such as?

    Because I do not accept Darwin’s macro-evolution, you immediately assume that I am a) scientifically illiterate, and b) Anti science.
    Well, that’s a pretty good assumption to make, esp. re: folks who show up and start commenting on how “ you don’t need a degree in microbiology to understand that no amount of tweaking genes or DNA copying errors can possibly explain how compatible male and female sex organs evolved in separate independent organisms of any kind, from mice to man and woman.. If they’re promoting a garbled version of early 19thC natural theology/Catastrophism devoid of evidence, well, that doesn’t help matters. Question is, what will you do about it? Will you try to learn more?

    we automatically judge new information on the basis of what we have already accepted as Truth. And can get quite hostile about it. Solomon used armed Watchmen as a metaphor those attitudes that limit our thinking.

    And as the movie shows, you might not want to trust those . . . But of course, we all do that; indeed, it’s probably necessary to make sense of the world. You don’t want to take it too far – and neither being a scientist or being interested in science (in my case) are guarantees against it. However, science (and related ways of thinking) is in many ways an intellectual and institutional structure that works to minimize these kinds of errors (eventually, at least). Creationism isn’t. Indeed, as one former creationist wrote over at TalkOrigins some time back, creationists have instead a demon (metaphorically speaking), one which “sat at the gate of [his] sensory input apparatus and if and when he saw supportive evidence coming in, he opened the gate. But if he saw contradictory data coming in, he closed the gate.. Are you brave enough to open the gate when your demon isn’t looking?

    This is a major barrier to creativity, the automatic hostility to unfamiliar ideas.
    Unfamiliar ideas? I wish!

    [Newton, etc.]
    I love how creationists will randomly refer to real science in an attempt to associate themselves with genuine scientific authority (which itself is pretty telling). Your contribution actually has a kind of analogical point, which puts it head and shoulders above desperate quote mines or “Galileo was persecuted, therefore I’m right!!1!” Doesn’t work, but points for effort.

    just as Darwin’s missing links do not exist and never did.
    And back to this, as always. (Do you actually know, independently, what cladistics is?, or are you just repeating something you heard? I’m curious. It’s not exactly the most accessible of topics) As Jud mentioned before he walked away in disgust, it never changes. Whales with legs, feathered dinosaurs, fishapods, etc., etc. – none of it makes a dent, just elicits a repeated mutter of ‘no missing links! they don’t exist!’ See also my mention of “Essentialism” up above.
    (Incidentally, “missing links” is a popular term that workers often (though not always) disparage, both for technical reasons and because it’s kinda misleading. Transitional fossils, baby!) Ironically, Buckland himself – a fascinating fellow who taught Lyell, corresponded with Darwin, was an early supporter of Agassiz’s glaciation theory, and identified the first dinosaur! – fully accepted the idea of transitional forms (albeit understood rather differently).

    But anyway, back to your Newton analogy. In that case, Newton’s work did a better job of explaining and making sense of the world. Same for evolution. Two things: Creationists in general never grasp that “Goddidit!” isn’t actually a better explanation, scientifically speaking, because it doesn’t actually explain anything. Whatever one’s beliefs, “Goddidit” is magic, hocus-pocus, poof-ism. (The Vatican astronomer recently described creationism as “a kind of paganism,” along the lines of ancient nature gods that served to explain natural phenomena) And then, of course, there’s the little problem that the facts don’t actually support creationism. (The existence of god/gods/etc. somehow ‘behind’ the natural world is a different issue, and not one science can address).

    In this case – well, we can think through this from two directions: What kind of evidence would cause us to propose Buckland-style catastrophic creationism as a best explanation, or: what would we predict to see if that was the case? And it simply doesn’t work. You argue that “those extinct organisms of the paleozoic and mesozoic were not the evolutionary ancestors of present day organisms at all, but a separate creation” But in that case, we’d expect to see utter discontinuities in the fossil record, and drastically limited genetic relationships. Instead – alongside genuine catastrophes and real mass extinctions – we find significant continuities, and genetic testimony of very deep ties. (Aside from the issue that even if creation restarted at the K-T boundary, then we’re still talking about everything from apes to asses evolving from teeny-tiny shrew-like creatures.

    . Like the trilobites, etc., those were all incredibly complex organisms anyway.
    Of course, trilobites come very late in the history of life, you understand.

    But God has engineered into all organism the power of micro-evolution — those toolbox genes, etc.
    That’s some pretty impressive over-engineering, then.

    whereby all the dogs breeds we now have originated from an original pair of dogs . . . Hence organisms continue to reproduce “after their kind”.

    Huh. First if seemed as if you were perhaps going to define “kind” (baraminology: creationist cladistics!) at the level of class (ie, mammals). Now we’re down to the level of subspecies. Of course, dogs can breed and have fertile offspring with wolves – so perhaps wolves are just a kind of feral dog (although wolves show up much earlier) or dogs are domesticated wolves? And what about jackals? You’re surely going to ignore anatomy and the fossil evidence, but what about genetics? The same genetic principles that show how individual dogs – and different breeds – are related to each other also show that they’re related to other members of the genus Canis – wolves, the coyote and assorted jackals. And related, more distantly, to other members of the family Canidae, including various ‘wild dogs’, foxes, and some odd looking fellows. And then related, more distantly, the other members of the Caniforma or Canoidea – the bears, red panda, raccoon (and relatives), skunks, weasels & otters, and pinnipeds (sea lions, seals, walruses). And then, to their horror, related to the other folks in the Carnivora – cats! (and civets, mongooses, and those weird mongoose-relative things in Madagascar). And then . . . So on what grounds do you stand athwart biology closing your eyes, covering your ears and yelling “NA NA NA NA I CAN’T HEAR YOU!!” at the top of your lungs?

    (I believe Noah called them Rover and Lassie

    Which rather ironically – given who played Lassie, and if we assume Rover is a (correctly given) boy’s name – would make that a bit of an Adam and Steve situation . . .

    We can discuss those special storehouses some other time.
    Great poetry (whatever one thinks of the theology). Science textbook? The meteorologists say no!

  205. #206 Dan S.
    March 22, 2009

    Darwin’s macro-evolution

    You mean “modern evolution biology,” right? Darwin is so late 19th century . . .

  206. #207 jt99
    March 23, 2009

    My final comment: “Knowledge puffs up . . . If any man thinks he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know”.

  207. #208 GRCY
    April 5, 2009

    Another amusing bit of speaking at cross-purposes is that evolution deniers tend to believe that the true agenda of evolutionary scientists is to disprove God. Scientists, on the other hand, whether religious or not, don’t think about God at all when they are doing science, because science is all about natural explanations–turning to God to bail you out of a puzzle is a cop-out, and historically, it has always been a scientific dead-end. The people who make the discoveries are always the ones seeking natural explanations for natural phenomena.

    So when an evolutionary scientist points out that overwhelming evidence proves that all species evolved naturally from a common ancestor, the denialist responds, “Wait, you haven’t disproved God! You haven’t explained how life got started in the first place.” And the scientist looks puzzled at this non-sequitur, because he wasn’t trying to disprove God, at all, he was only trying to figure out why different species have so many similarities. “Wait a minute, that’s a different question, you have to talk to the guys working on the origin of life.”

    So the origin of life guys explain their theories, and the denialist says, “Wait, you haven’t disproved God, where did all of the atoms come from in the first place?” And the scientist looks puzzled, because he wasn’t trying to disprove God, just exploring the possibilities for self-organization of matter and energy. “Wait a minute, that’s a different question, you have to go talk to the physicists working on nuclear synthesis.”

    Etc., etc.

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    April 7, 2009

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  209. #210 max
    April 8, 2009

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  211. #212 kalp
    April 8, 2009

    “This may be only marginally relevant to the idea that Drawin was a racist….
    He most certainly didn’t have much regard for women’s intelligence.
    I’ve heard that argument used by Christians. The response to that, of course, would be to have them read St Paul.”

    Kalp

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  228. #229 söve
    April 17, 2009

    Of course, by the time we get to the Cambrian, we’re certainly not talking about the most primitive of creatures. Whether Carroll’s ideas here are exactly right, they seen plausible – söve these sort of ‘toolbox’ genes are widely shared among the groups that diversified, generally in the kind of patterns one would söve predict from evolution, and involve the kind of body plan stuff that seems söve to have taken off during this time.
    I’m certainly not proposing blind acceptance of proposed ideas, but at the same time, we’re not responsible söve for your failures of imagination, etc.

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