The Republicans Devolve

devolutionWhether your party is becoming more ignorant, or whether ignorant people are increasingly drawn to your party, the conclusions to be drawn when over 50% of those who identify as members also proudly admit that they have a 19th Century understanding of the universe cannot be called encouraging. Thus the Pew Research Center’s just released data showing that only 43% of Republicans understand and accept evolution is bad news for that party, and indeed for the nation as a whole.

Democrats have nothing to be proud of, as just two thirds (67%) of them told Pew that they believe in evolution, but at least the members of that party are getting smarter: the last poll, in 2009, showed 64% had absorbed the conclusions of Charles Darwin and Stephen Jay Gould. Republicans, in contrast, have gone backwards, dropping from 54% to the current, pathetic figure. For the American public as a whole, the takeaway is that a full 33% are incompetent at life, for that is what complete confusion about and misunderstanding of the world around us means in practical terms.

An inability to understand and accept evolution has wide-reaching implications. It is impossible to make sense of the natural world while stubbornly insisting that the fossil record is false or misleading, and that somehow, some way, mankind just popped into being, exactly as he and she are today, “at the beginning of time.” Holding this view in defiance of the overwhelming evidence of science and history makes it impossible to make sense out of geology, astronomy, anthropology, biology, paleontology, anatomy, zoology, physics, biochemistry and history itself. It demonstrates deficits in critical thought, intellectual curiosity, basic logic and common sense, as well as power of analysis, observation and problem solving. Might these missing abilities implicate trustworthiness, diligence, responsibility, and competence to perform other tasks and comprehend other important matters? Of course. Would these flaws make it more difficult to obtain and hold a job, run a business, or participate in democratic government?

Yes.

The ugly truth is that we each have an obligation to our society, families, culture and nation to carry our share and be as productive as our abilities, health and opportunities will allow us to be. Willful ignorance, which is exactly what rejecting the discoveries and conclusion of science over the past 150 years is, makes fulfilling that obligation nearly impossible. In 2013, one need not have am elite college degree to learn the basics of evolution; one only requires the ability to read, the initiative to watch and listen, and something approaching average intelligence. That’s all. I would like to know the proportion of the unemployed who fall into that willfully ignorant 33%. I would like to know how many incompetent and corrupt elected officials have been given power by majorities of voters dominated by members of that bumbling, confused 33%. The stubbornly ignorant are an anchor pulling down American society in a thousand ways, and there is no excuse for it.

This is not, like the insistence of Phil Robertson and others that homosexuality is a sin, a misguided belief that can be explained by religion and morality alone. Science cannot argue with morality: there is no way to prove gays are not sinners, if someone believes that an all-knowing deity has so pronounced them. But the Earth does circle the sun, and this is provable, despite what the understandably mistaken authors of the Bible thought. Denying the evidence of science cannot and should not be respected, nor should it be tolerated. Ignorance is intolerable. Willful, stubborn and arrogant ignorance, when it undermines the hopes, dreams and well-being of everyone else, is nefarious.

There is an obligation to seek basic competence in living, and 33% of the public are breaching that duty.

Most of them are Republicans. Is a party dominated by the willfully ignorant and incompetent trustworthy? The Republican leadership needs to ask itself the question, before the 67% who aren’t incompetent answer it for them.

___________________________________

Sources: Reuters, Pew

Graphic: Garden of Eden

79 thoughts on “The Republicans Devolve

  1. Even if, hypothetically speaking, the world magically came into existence 10,000 years ago, you’d have to a) find a way to explain away the 11,000 year old evidence of, not just human civilization, but human language, and b) explain away every breed of cow, horse, cat, and dog to discount the influence of selective breeding. If coping with, and trying to survive, life doesn’t constitute evolution, I don’t know what does.

    The GOP’s problem is that they fell victim to a fact of American politics. The political parties in this country are basically competing brands. Kind of like Coke and Pepsi. Whatever market share one gives up, the other one grabs.

    Sometimes at their own peril.

    The Republicans used to be the party of civil rights and equal opportunity. Abraham Lincoln was a Republican. Teddy Roosevelt (at one point) was a Republican. The Republicans ended slavery, and secured the right to vote for women.

    And then, in the mid-1960’s — when the leadership of the Democratic Party decided to agree with them on those questions — the GOP saw a lot of disaffected voters up for grabs. They went for them, and now they’re discovering that you are what you eat.

    A hundred years ago, I would not have been caught dead being a Democrat. Which, at the time, meant being racist and sexist. Today, I wouldn’t be caught dead being a Republican — because not even they know what that means.

    • “The Republicans used to be the party of civil rights and equal opportunity. Abraham Lincoln was a Republican. Teddy Roosevelt (at one point) was a Republican. The Republicans ended slavery, and secured the right to vote for women.

      And then, in the mid-1960′s — when the leadership of the Democratic Party decided to agree with them on those questions — the GOP saw a lot of disaffected voters up for grabs. They went for them, and now they’re discovering that you are what you eat.

      A hundred years ago, I would not have been caught dead being a Democrat. Which, at the time, meant being racist and sexist. Today, I wouldn’t be caught dead being a Republican — because not even they know what that means.”

      This tired and incorrect meme again?

      Debunked here, in the last few paragraphs

  2. “But the Earth does circle the sun, and this is provable, despite what the understandably mistaken authors of the Bible thought.”

    You lost me with this. It is almost inconceivable that the authors of the Bible considered the mechanics of the Earth and the sun at all, other than to make use of the still-used idiom that the sun “rises” and “sets” in the sky (“heavens”).

    I’ve seen passages describing the Earth as “unmovable” sometimes used to bolster the idea that the Biblical authors were teaching about a fixed Earth, but this also is the sort of tripe that makes philologists groan. It’s highly unlikely that the Psalmist was making any point other than a poetic, theological one- that only God is strong enough to move something as enormous as the Earth.

    There’s a reason why the earliest heliocentrists could use scripture just as well to support their position (mostly with scriptures out of context) as geocentrists could (also using scriptures out of context). Neither side had a strong Biblical argument until the science settled it. Because none of the Biblical authors were interested in explaining to anyone how solar-systems work.

    Is it too much to ask that intelligent, logic-loving people at least try to understand a thing or two about the Bible and/or oriental culture from Biblical times? The Bible ended up being the most culturally important book in all of Western civilization.

    • Biblical cosmology is identical to Babylonian cosmology. Nothing metaphorical about it.

      The firmament or expanse was a great tent-like (Isaiah 40:22) ceiling made of solid crystalline material (Job 37:18 and Ezekiel 1:22), which might be pierced by skyscraper and gimlet (3 Baruch 3:7–8). It had many windows, some of which opened and closed for the sun and moon to travel through (1 Enoch 72:2–5) or to let water, which was held above, fall through as rain (Genesis 7:11). On top there were also warehouses of snow and hail (Job 38:22). Stars were small objects that were attached tenuously to its surface (Genesis 1:14–17, Daniel 8:10, Matthew 24:29, Mark 13:25, Revelation 6:13, 8:10, 9:1 and 12:4).

      OK, it’s Wiki, but let’s look at the original sources.

      (Baruch 3:7-8)
      7 And the Lord appeared to them and confused their speech, when they had built the tower to the height of four hundred and sixty-three cubits. And they took a gimlet, and sought to pierce the heaven, saying,
      8 Let us see (whether) the heaven is made of clay, or of brass, or of iron. When God saw this He did not permit them, but smote them with blindness and confusion of speech, and rendered them as thou seest.

      • The only original source you used is from a book (Baruch) that’s not in the Bible. Did you even know that?

        It’s not that hard to copy and paste Bible verses. Something that is not an obvious poetic flourish. I’ll wait.

        (P.S., I really don’t want to argue about this…but anyway you’d totally lose. 🙂

        • Let’s look at your first example alone: Isaiah 40:22, in context:

          “It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to dwell in.”

          You are actually trying to make the case that this means that Isaiah the prophet believes that the sky is an actual tent-like ceiling? So what, is God literally sitting on it, too? Are people actually grasshoppers? Do you know what a simile is?

          It was your decision to try to make the point that there’s “nothing metaphysical about it,” but, not having done the homework yourself, you copied and pasted stuff from Wiki. That kind of exactly proves my point. Being a skeptic is great, but it’s supposed to involve some work.

        • Of course Baruch is in the collection of books known as the Bible. It’s in the Apocrypha.

          The Book of Baruch, occasionally referred to as 1 Baruch, is called a deuterocanonical book of the Bible. Although not in the Hebrew Bible, it is found in the Septuagint and in the Vulgate Bible, Eritrean/Ethiopian Orthodox bible and also in Theodotion’s version. It is grouped with the prophetical books which also include Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, and the twelve minor prophets…. In the Vulgate, the King James Bible Apocrypha, and many other versions, the Letter of Jeremiah is appended to the end of the Book of Baruch as a sixth chapter; in the Septuagint and Orthodox Bibles chapter 6 is usually counted as a separate book, called the Letter or Epistle of Jeremiah.

          It may not be in the version you’re familiar with of course.
          That’s the problem with many Christians – their reading is narrow, confined to one sect’s scripture alone.

          Look at the 1610 KJV version, or go to any Coptic church.

      • The above passages are no more proof of a geocentric cosmology than when you say the sun rises and sets, or that stars fall, or (perhaps) that it rains cats and dogs, or ….

        Baruch is only accepted as inspired scripture in the Roman Catholic church, I believe. But laying that aside, all we learn from that passage is the belief of a more ancient, pagan people (who lived about 2000 years before 3 Baruch was written) It is not what the author of 3 Baruch believed.

        Finally, it should be noted that evidence-based skepticism or challenge of the faith-based claims of Darwinism is not synonymous with believing in the Bible, or in anything. Some of the most devastating critiques of neo-Darwinism have been authored by agnostics or atheists. One does not need to believe in any scripture or church to point out a naked emperor.

        • None of which has anything to do with the fact of human evolution, 0r that there is no way to excuse the belief by educated adults that “humans have always been just as they are,” only to explain it as self-crippling, willful ignorance. Religion does not require the denial of what is known about the physical world.

    • Sorry for the side rant. Here’s Galileo to take it home:

      “In expounding the Bible if one were always to confine oneself to the unadorned grammatical meaning, one might fall into error. Not only contradictions and propositions far from true might thus be made to appear in the Bible, but even grave heresies and follies. Thus it would be necessary to assign to God feet, hands and eyes, as well as corporeal and human affections…This doctrine is so widespread and so definite with all theologians that it would be superfluous to adduce evidence for it.”

      [“The Bible is filled with poetic language, and the scientists and priests hatin’ on me by using that poetic language to bash my theories are being dumb. Everybody with a brain understands this.” Ironically, mishandling the Bible’s poetry is the same dumb thing that skeptics are now doing, for entirely different reasons…]

      “For that reason it appears that nothing physical which sense­ or experience sets before our eyes, or which necessary demonstrations prove to us, ought to be called in question (much less condemned) upon the testimony of biblical passages which may have some different meaning beneath their words. For the Bible is not chained in every expression to conditions as strict as those which govern all physical effects; nor is God any less excellently revealed in Nature’s actions than in the sacred statements of the Bible.”

      [God made nature and the Bible. The Bible uses poetry and aesthetics; science is more strict and plain. Therefore the latter can be used to better understand the former, more easily than the other way around.]

      “From this I do not mean to infer that we need not have an extraordinary esteem for the passages of holy Scripture. On the contrary, having arrived at any certainties in physics, we ought to utilize these as the most appropriate aids in the true exposition of the Bible and in the investigation of those meanings which are necessarily contained therein, for these must be concordant with demonstrated truths. I should judge that the authority of the Bible was designed to persuade men of those articles and propositions which, surpassing all human reasoning could not be made credible by science, or by any other means than through the very mouth of the Holy Spirit.”

      [“I don’t see any teaching in the Bible that contradicts any of my discoveries, and I am certain that any scientific discoveries can be combined with our knowledge of scripture in order to lead us towards a perfect understanding of the world, since I have full confidence that there will never be any actual contradictions. I think the Bible doesn’t teach astronomy because its purpose is more to teach us about spiritual things, that we could not discover otherwise.”]

      I’m with Galileo, who’s got his own chapter in Foxe’s Book of Martyrs.

      • Isaac,

        Thanks for this reply – it is what I would have written had I the skill.

        “But the Earth does circle the sun, and this is provable, despite what the understandably mistaken authors of the Bible thought.”

        I have been seeing this type of statement (by Jack in this instance) over the years that I have to believe that it is being taught somewhere and I missed that class somehow in my education. It is frankly so entirely ignorant of any reasonably modern level of theology that I was quite surprised to see it repeated here.

        Now, to the question of evolution: Darwin is without a doubt a towering figure as a scientist. Given that, we are foolish to forget that he himself referred to evolution and the origin of species as a theory. There are elements of this theory that have certainly been confirmed. At the same time, as the fossil record has been pushed back further and further, the theory of evolution has been modified quite a lot. That is not necessarily a criticism of Darwin, since it is a feature of theoretical work that it is subject to change/modification as new information comes to light. The scientific method REQUIRES challenge and exploration to any theory, rather than unthinking acceptance.

        • NO. Human evolution is a fact. Natural selection was the cornerstone of DARWIN’s theory about how evolution took place. Evolution itself is not a theory, and I am pretty tired of reading that as a deceitful (or ignorant) justification for pretending the fossil and DNA record don’t exist. How evolution took place could include a theory that the Flying Spaghetti monster zapped the DNA of some ancient pre-humans, but there is no rational argument that evolution has not occurred, whic his what the incompetent 33% believe because they choose not to read, listen, and think.

          “Marshall’s Theory Of The Red Sox 2013 Championship” is that the team was strong but injured in 2012, and just needed to get healthy and get normla years from its stars to succeed. But the team’s championship is a fact.

          This the kind of intellectual laziness I was writing about, and there really is no excuse for it.

          • Reading comprehension moment: Then please stop conflating evolution with Natural Selection. There is a theoretical construct that includes natural selection. You brought up Darwin in your post, so it is clear that you were referring to his THEORY of evolution. That is what I was responding to. If you now insist that you didn’t really mean to talk about Darwin’s theory, that is fine … but hardly consistent since I didn’t say that evolution was a theory. Just that Darwin had a theory of evolution.

            • Foul. Obey the “don’t put words in my mouth” rule, please. What I wrote was..”at least the members of that party are getting smarter: the last poll, in 2009, showed 64% had absorbed the conclusions of Charles Darwin and Stephen Jay Gould.” “Absorbed” does not mean “completely accept” and Darwin’s conclusions, apart from his theory,incuded the fact of evolution, as my pairing him with Gould, a scholar, scientist, writer and authority on evolution would make clear to anyone not trying to misconstrue my meaning. Back off. You are spinning and cherry picking to defend the indefensible.

      • 1 Corinthians 2:14 (ERV) | In Context | Whole Chapter
        14 People who do not have God’s Spirit do not accept the things that come from his Spirit. They think these things are foolish. They cannot understand them, because they can only be understood with the Spirit’s help.

    • This was one of the Bible contentions that tripped up Williams Jenning Bryan as a Bible expert when he was cross-examined by Clarence Darrow in the Scopes trial. The passage at issue is from the book of Joshua:

      12 On the day the Lord gave the Amorites over to Israel, Joshua said to the Lord in the presence of Israel:

      “Sun, stand still over Gibeon, and you, moon, over the Valley of Aijalon.”

      13 So the sun stood still,
      and the moon stopped,
      till the nation avenged itself on[b] its enemies,

      It’s pretty hard, though Bryan tried, to claim that this passage doesn’t betray a mistaken belief that the moon and the sun do the same thing, as in “revolve around the Earth.” If the sun isn’t moving, then it can’t be stopped. If anything was stopped, it would have had to be the Earth, which, as Darrow pointed out, would have had rather horrible consequences.

      as it is written in the Book of Jashar.

      The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day. 14 There has never been a day like it before or since, a day when the Lord listened to a human being. Surely the Lord was fighting for Israel!

      15 Then Joshua returned with all Israel to the camp at Gilgal.

        • He was a theologian like Darrow was an outspoken and dedicated atheist. And the court admitted him as an expert on the Bible. None of which changes what is written in Joshua. Darrow sandbagged him—he had researched and written a pamphlet on the inconsistencies in the Bible, and had lots of examples at his fingertips.

          • By that measure, I would be a theologian. You are basically saying that the attorney Bryan was out lawyered by the attorney Darrow.

            The quotation from Joshua is not an example of an inconsistency. It is a description of a miracle.

            • No, I’m saying that an accepted authority on the Bible couldn’t reconcile it with fact. An authority on the Bible need not be a theologian.

              Your resort to the “miracle” rationalization is intellectually dishonest. It says the sun stopped. Are you saying the miracle was that the sun stopped when it wasn’t moving? The miracle was that the earth didn’t spin off its axis and that all life wasn’t extinguished. Assuming for argument’s sake that this “miracle” occurred, the writer clearly misunderstood what happened, because He thought the sun stopped, when in fact it was the EARTH that stopped.

              Please. You’re embarrassing yourself.

              • Do I really need to explain that a miracle performed by the being that created the universe would not at the same time destroy the world and that it would be comprehended by the people who witnessed it?

                  • If God wrote the Bible, then He didn’t recall how the solar system works. Well, it had been along time. And anyone following the Bible as truth would believe that the sun goes around the Earth, which…you do know this, right?…it does NOT. Thus using the Bible as an authority to ignore the fossil record is bats…or lazy. Or stubborn. Or denial. Whatever it is, its crippling.

                    • I believe that most people reading the Bible prior to a widespread knowledge of how the solar system works would understand that the writers were describing their perception of the universe as planet bound witnesses.

                      Please, don’t try to say that I have been using the Bible to deny or ignore the fossil record — after all, I introduced the fossil record into this thread in my response to Isaac above.

                    • It’s poetry and metaphor that lazy thinkers treat as fact. This was the key admission that Bryan made to Darrow—yes, those “Seven days” were metaphorical and might have been millions of years. But the deniers of science don’t read it that way.

                    • “People gave ear to an upstart astrologer who strove to show that the earth revolves, not the heavens or the firmament, the sun and the moon. Whoever wishes to appear clever must devise some new system, which of all systems is of course the very best. This fool [or ‘man’] wishes to reverse the entire science of astronomy; but sacred Scripture tells us that Joshua commanded the sun to stand still, and not the earth.”

                      – Martin Luther, Table Talk

                      “Those who assert that ‘the earth moves and turns’…[are] motivated by ‘a spirit of bitterness, contradiction, and faultfinding;’ possessed by the devil, they aimed ‘to pervert the order of nature.'”

                      – John Calvin, sermon no. 8 on 1st Corinthians, 677, cited in John Calvin: A Sixteenth Century Portrait by William J. Bouwsma (Oxford Univ. Press, 1988), A. 72

                      We get a lot of that. The accusations of Foolishness, being in league with unclean spirits etc. Twas ever thus.

                  • I understood that it is clear that you were speaking of the description of the miracle. That is why I referred to how it would be comprehended by the people who wrote about it and included it in their history.

    • OK, so classify it as poetic.

      The fact that tens of millions of US voters confuse poetry and science is still the problem that our host pointed out.

  3. This is not, like the insistence of Phil Robertson and others that homosexuality is a sin, a misguided belief that can be explained by religion…alone

    I disagree.

    I think it self-evident that Religious belief, in particular belief in an inerrant and literal meaning of the Bible is the sole root cause of the vast majority of such belief.

    The causes beyond that are many and varied. Public schools where teachers were taught poorly when young, and who haven’t got the faintest idea what Evolution is because their teachers didn’t either. Public School Administrators and School Boards who will lose their positions if they don’t play down “controversial” issues.

    Private, Charter and Voucher schools who provide a “Christian Education” – meaning a narrow Baptist one – but one where Morality and Scholarship is valued too. Even though they do teach that the Loch Ness Monster exists, etc.

    • You can’t possibly miss the distinction I made. Religion is the prime reason for the ignorance, but not all religious people are ignorant. The point is and remains that when someone says “the Bibles says gays are sinners,” and I believe the Bible is the word of God, there it is. No amount of facts can counter an opinion that “gays are sinners” because it’s a characterization, not an assertion of demonstrable, observable fact. The scientific idiocy is different: it would be like people saying, “Gays are ten foot tall, polka dot Junebugs; the Bible says so,” if the Bible in fact did say so, or some wacko claimed it did. Well, so what? The intelligent way to use that information could only be to conclude—“Hmmm…I guess the Bible isn’t right about everything, because any fool can see it’s wrong about this: my cousin Lou is gay, and sure as hell isn’t any giant June bug.” It also drives the conclusion that an all-knowing God either didn’t write the Bible or had some pretty bad interlocutors. But with evolution, the 33% don’t do this. That’s not religion’s fault—that’s a failure of intelligence or character, or both.

    • The causes beyond that are many and varied. Public schools where teachers were taught poorly when young, and who haven’t got the faintest idea what Evolution is because their teachers didn’t either. Public School Administrators and School Boards who will lose their positions if they don’t play down “controversial” issues.

      Very few people actually know that evolution is true- knowing meaning that one came to that conclusion after examining the evidence. Most people who believe in evolution merely believe so because popular culture accepted it.

      A similar thing is probably true given belief in general relativity. Most people do not have time to go through all of Einstein’s equations to make sure he did not forget to carry the 3.

  4. Random unrelated comments:

    The idea of Biblical literal inerrancy is a recent and radical innovation.

    The engineering personnel at an aerospace company where I used to work were frequently creationists. That’s right, the airplanes you ride in and the weapons protecting your country were designed by people who can’t understand or weigh evidence.

    A lot of the opposition is from people who conflate evolution with materialism and believe there can be no foundation for morality except for instruction from a Creator. When someone says that teaching evolution causes school shootings, that’s what they mean.

  5. Once more Jack states the obvious fact, asks the obvious questions And the sky falls on him. Or at east a deluge of dubious argument does . Including some people quoting the Bible as evidence. What the Bible says cannnot possibly have any bearing on the matter.

    The proposition ‘Matters of fact and of faith are distinct’ (or ‘Evolution and the Bible…’ or ‘Science and Theology…’ you choose) takes a view point external to both subjects.

    Those quoting the Bible to disprove or doubt evolution might as well try quoting the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics to prove that God doesn’t exist.

    The dialogue of the deaf that has errupted is, if anything, an illustration that the proposition is true. The two enquiries are completely different arguments in completely diffferent languages about completely different matters. The unhappy acccident that the two enquiries share some English words in common is just that – an accident. Is there a God, Is there an evolutionary process? ‘Is’ and ‘Is’ – two different concepts to be tackled in quite different ways.

    Now why is there any debate about this? Or about where the duty of educated political representatives lies??

    • A deluge?

      I think one person argued against him…

      And as Fred alludes to, I think the urgency by creationists derives almost directly from the conflating evolution with materialism and materialism’s distinct difference in source of moral authority.

      • I didn’t even argue against him on evolution. I merely pointed out that the fossil record shows fully developed humans farther and farther back in world history, which has lead to corrections and modifications in Darwin’s theory. The issue of faith in the truths of the Bible was a bit of a side issue for me as it was for Jack.

      • Two comments crossed in drafting. Fred effectively anticipated my question and answered it. (Phil and others points were friendly fire? …you could have fooled me, and did. I counted 5 critics and 1/2 supporter – for an issue which I would think would be open and shut. ‘Deluge’? I’m supersensitive still, obviously). Thanks.

  6. Is the phenomenon Jack wrote about a side effect of the Southern Strategy? The Republican Party deliberately sought out votes from an area where chronic under-education and obscurantist religion are endemic.

    The Southern Strategy itself is a study in ethics, though a straightforward one.

    Jack writes about the duty not to be ignorant, which gives me an excuse to repost a link to one of my favorite essays:
    http://myweb.lmu.edu/tshanahan/Clifford-Ethics_of_Belief.html

  7. It seems to me that the Bible should be weighted as much as any other tome of ancient lore as evidence in support of any hypothesis/theory/belief/idea/explanation of what has actually happened. It might speak of some real people who have existed, but it sure doesn’t provide reliably accurate literal descriptions of the natural world.

    However, it is not obvious to me that the Bible is necessary, or even as useful as it’s cracked up to be, for deciding what is ethical and unethical. No matter whether the contents are literal or metaphorical, it does not make sense to me that the correct ethical system is one that cannot be figured out on one’s own, but rather must be revealed by an energy being. I have an idea of consciousness, and I base my ethics on sustainable behavior promoting the well-being of consciousness in this world based on my model’s predictions of “well-being”. No set of rules can cover every situation, as Jack has pointed out numerous times, and our own judgment is the only resource we have at the end of the day to determine what to do when we run out of rules, or even whether the rules help us in the first place. This fact is just as important for people to realize as the fact that the Bible doesn’t describe natural history accurately. However, because the basic principles of philosophy are apparently even more obscure than the basic principles of science, fewer people realize this than realize evolution actually makes sense.

    Christians keep claiming that we’re made in God’s own image, that we’re God’s children. They irreconcilably contradict themselves when they say we’ll never understand God’s reasons, methods, or even morality. Being a child means eventually growing up, becoming an adult, and hopefully equaling or even surpassing one’s parents. No Christians I’ve heard from seem to think we can have such a relationship with this energy being they claim rules the world. We are asked to do things for reasons we’ll never understand, we are told to praise the being despite the horrible things that happen to people… And apparently the suffering is good for us, despite human experience being the only metric we can ever claim to have for deciding whether events are good or bad, harmonious or inharmonious.

    This is spot-on characteristic of how we average, imperfect humans treat our pets. “Sit. Speak. Good! Eat this. Don’t eat that. Play nice with the other pets. Play with this toy. Ooh! Look at the string! Wear this stupid sweater. Take this bath so you’re all clean. Don’t rub your genitals on that. I’m sorry the place gets cold during the winter; I can’t afford to spend that much on heating. I’m sorry you’re sick, but all I can do at this point is dope you up on happy feelings for the rest of your life.” If Judeo-Christian religions have any truth to them, if they’re not just cultural maladies that have only survived by constantly claiming to be the only source of ethics and evolving to adopt whatever “principles” are popular with their adherents, then their only existentially coherent implication is that we’re pets, and therefore our well-being is really not God’s only priority, or even necessarily the main one. If that’s the case, I’ll either volunteering for the next cosmic uplift experiment or become a feral human, because I won’t accept a destiny I don’t understand just because it’s handed to me. I’m an Ubermensch (in the way the term was actually created to mean) and I don’t trust hypothetical energy beings to act ethically according to the only ethical standards that make sense to me.

    Also, the author of this webcomic discusses excellent issues with religion in his work. Here’s an example pertaining to the issue at hand. http://leftoversoup.com/archive.php?num=484

    • One (questionable!) advantage of receiving ethical instruction from a detailed religious manual is that it helps prevent self-interested rationalization. “No man to be judge in his own cause” is an old principle with sound reason behind it.

      One problem, of course, is that self-serving people are very good at finding support in their holy texts for whatever they’ve decided to do anyway.

      • Those are both excellent points. I certainly don’t mind the idea of a code of ethics to which I can turn in times of uncertainty or temptation, which is where the advantage part comes in. I do want to know from whence it came and whereby it claims to improve the world by me following it, which is where the questioning part comes in.

        And as you say, the Dress Code Principle means that darn near any rule whose spirit a person doesn’t respect can be bent, loopholed, or effectively rationalized out of existence.

        So, the idea of having a text as an ethical guide would work for me, but it can’t be a giant appeal to authority, and it has to have some reasoning behind it that I can understand. It would essentially work the same as a science textbook (e.g. one on the theory of evolution): I have to be able to repeat the experiments, studies, thought experiments, or reasoning if I really want to and reach the same conclusion. I trust scientists because they show their work and judge the work of their peers critically. When a being supposedly without peers tells us to believe it or else (on natural history, ethics, or anything at all), I get a bit edgy.

  8. Jack, correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t the point of the post supposed to be that trusting someone to lead us who lets his beliefs fly in the face of known fact is perhaps a bit dangerous? If so, I gotta wonder about the argument about whether or not the Bible is true is just silly.

      • Of course. People have come to reject Darwinism solely from faith in the Bible, or from faith plus logic and evidence, or from logic and evidence with no faith involved at all.

        Even though some Republicans probably fall into the first group, others have studied the issues enough to know that the evolution dogma does not account for reality. Once all of the a priori assumptions have been unpacked from the assertions, many of us sense that (as I quoted below) “the mere statement of such absurdities is more than a refutation.”

        By the way, i reject the usual compromise of tacking God onto evolution.

        If Darwinist/naturalist claims are true, and matter possesses an inherent, mysterious power to create and order itself into stunningly complex arrangements (creating consciousness itself), there is no need for a God (or, matter is God — but I won’t debate that one today).

        If, on the other hand, there is no conclusive proof that all life evolved from molecules to mud to man, then there is no need to say that God supervised it.

        • If Darwinist/naturalist claims are true, and matter possesses an inherent, mysterious power to create and order itself into stunningly complex arrangements (creating consciousness itself), there is no need for a God (or, matter is God — but I won’t debate that one today).

          I first heard this argument when I was, I think, 13, and I wondered then: how completely uninformed one must be about probability, entropy and the nature of very large numbers, not mention genetics, to utter such a thing in public. And that was a long time ago. Now we know about chaos, and much more about DNA. It is a statement, no more, no less, that shows too much unfamiliarity with basic concepts that organize the universe to be qualified to have an opinion on evolution. Minimal research would reveal how ridiculous this argument is.

          • I do wonder how “entropy” builds increasingly complex programming codes when actually entropy means the exact opposite of that.

            yes, we know much more about DNA’s stunning, multilayered complexity — more than enough to calculate the probablity that it all evolved by chance is less than 0.

    • Yeah, I was drifting quite a bit rather suddenly there. Sorry about that. By way of explanation (but not justification), I consider philosophy to be objective (but not empirical) on par with the scientific method, so it all kind of blurs together for me when people try to get answers on either out of an uncontested book. Both to me represent intellectual dishonesty and apathy, and so I just see a sliding scale of whether a person’s lack of curiosity extends to the physical world or merely the abstract and intertwined realms of philosophy and ethics.

      The idea of creationism, that we can (and must) trust a text as a literal description despite investigation yielding evidence against it, is only a symptom of a larger problem: the idea that we have to answer to a being that doesn’t have to answer to us in the slightest. I figured it was more efficient to go for the source, but I forgot that most people don’t draw the connection, so it would be de facto shoehorning.

      I do still think it’s very important that this underlying issue be addressed to get anywhere in any discussion on religion, including in politics, but I probably should have engaged in an actual discussion first and let it evolve from there (no pun intended).

      Getting closer to the topic, a less drastic argument against creationism, a very popular one among scientifically-literate Christians is that the natural process of evolution can be ascribed to God as a divine method of creation that remains harmonious within the physical laws that He created. It gives God more credit than I personally would prefer, but it certainly floats their ark.

      • Of course the Darwinists Inquisitors will still put you in the heretic dungeon. NO GOD ALLOWED — period. That is the True Religion, and woe to all who deny it.

        • Hey, now, that’s not how I roll. I’ve just never had anyone explain to me how a cosmic energy being can be responsible for all natural events (hurricanes, plagues, et cetera) and still be trusted with the well-being of individual humans. If you would like to explain to me how this works, I would be grateful.

          None of my conclusions are final, and if someone thinks I’m wrong, I’d like to know why. I would not want to be left to be wrong, if indeed I am wrong. If we have mutually contradictory positions, at least one of us must logically be wrong, but it would be the height of arrogance for me to assume that it wouldn’t be me.

          • EC, although I mistakenly put that reply under your post, I should clarify that I was referring to Jack as the elitist or at least sounding-like-an-elitist.

            You, OTOH, sound like an actual free thinker (somewhat out of place here, as I feel).

            Taking your premise above, why would it be hard to believe that a conscious intelligence could a) create, and b) oversee the universe?

            I find it incredible that any one believes at a universe of stunning complexity, from the subatomic to the cosmic, could have happened without the direction of intelligence.  
            I realize that the kind of intelligence could be debated. The funny thing is, metaphysical “naturalism” (not quite synonymous with evolution, although evolution tends to lead to naturalist belief and  most evolutionists do seem to implicitly equate the two) is all based on a completely unnatural assumption– information and intelligence allegedly springing from nonintelligence. Nothing could be more unnatural.

            Part b) gets down more to specific theology — which i’m not sure I want to debate here, simply because I have a lot of other things to do. However, to keep it general, why would a creator of matter, space, and time not be able to watch and to influence his creation? 

            We can get further into theology by discussing the Creator’s motives and character. I am satisfied that he is benign, and does communicate with his creatures, since I have done it successfully and seen very specific results. I’m also satisfied we are part of a plan which has little to do with the “traditional”Christian teleology/eschatology as traditional churches have taught. (Mainline “Christian” teachings contain a surprising amount of pagan Greek and Roman influence.) It seems more a case of the Creator reproducing himself, rather than farming souls for heaven, and casting the bad ones into “hell.”

            I also take insights from other religions that seem to harmonize with the core biblical principles. (And by the way, when I use masculine pronouns for the Creator, it’s merely a default – it does not mean I believe he has a penis or anything.)

            Some of this, of course, is based to a degree on faith. Yet to believe the universe is meaningless is, to me, another kind of faith all its own — a negative faith in the power of nothingness to create everything, of nonintelligence to create intelligence, of meaningless material processes to create a universe which shouts meaning, including creatures who know their lives have meaning, and spend their lives trying to figure it out.

            • And to address a specific point that I failed to address above: a God would not necessarily need to micromanage all natural events — having set it up according to orderly laws (yet also allowing chaos — that is another issue). He could nevertheless influence events according to his will, and of course, could influence them in favor of specific individuals according to his will.

            • All of which is beside the point. How anyone resolves the central mystery of the origin of existence is beyond my concern, just as the mystery of why anyone would think presupposing the existence of an all powerful, all-knowing entity that defies all known laws, physical limitations and logic is the most reasonable solution is of academic interest only—whatever floats your boat. What the post is about is those who allow their fanciful, entirely unprovable and inherently fantastic conclusion justify ignoring or denying known facts, proven facts, and the laws of the physical world. One’s faith, religion or belief system doesn’t concern me at all, until and unless it leads to irresponsible action and incompetent conduct that undermines the efficiency and the manageability of society for everyone else. This conduct indicates either incompetence at a genetic level (stupidity) or self-inflicted incompetence. At that point, when it makes someone incompetent to deal with reality, then it becomes society’s business. Life his hard, and those who throw away the tools meticulously devised over centuries to deal with it, insisting instead on using the old, stone-age tools, like religion, because they are comfy and familiar and not too complicated, become a burden for the rest of us. And thts’s unethical, because it is not necessary. One can have faith and knowledge too.

        • As a further note, I apologize for not making that clearer in my posts. I believe my own rather alien viewpoint is fairly accurate, as does everyone for their own viewpoints, but I always try to be open-minded enough to investigate the reasons other people think I am wrong, because it’s important to me that people get on the same page. I try to figure out ways in which other people may be correct and I may be wrong, and I look at the world from the assumption that they’re correct to see what it would be like, and if it makes sense given what else we know. I’ll try to make this clearer in the future. I was just trying to attract a person who could successfully make me revise my viewpoint, because if I don’t do that every so often I get intellectually stagnant and complacent.

      • “Getting closer to the topic, a less drastic argument against creationism, a very popular one among scientifically-literate Christians is that the natural process of evolution can be ascribed to God as a divine method of creation that remains harmonious within the physical laws that He created. It gives God more credit than I personally would prefer, but it certainly floats their ark.”

        An excellent argument!! Particularly since it agrees with my sentiment almost exactly.

        • It is definitely an elegant way to populate a planet with ecosystems, and it obviates the quintillions (just to pull out a ludicrously big number) of interacting differential equations one would have to balance to ensure that all of these ecosystems reached an equilibrium if they were created from scratch. Even an all-powerful energy being would probably go the simple route.

          Too bad for us, though. Forgoing evolution and taking the teleological approach would allow for the possibility of having incredibly convenient resources that would never evolve (I’m picturing trees that are also fully-functional spaceships) and would hopefully mean the human body was more fortified, like a human engineer would design it (“just to be on the safe side, let’s let them regenerate any limb or organ and adapt to any environment.”)

  9. first, i don’t even like the fact this is again coming up, dovetailing with the great “Duck Dynasty” debate being used to invoke yet another round of Culture War. Does the Pew center always release a survey about various political grouos’ beliefs about origins around this time of year? If not, why now?

    That’s what I ask about any “burning natiional issue” being hyped up these days. Why are we constantly sidelined onto debating cultural issues, or those that properly are outside the bounds of politics (especially at the national level)? what are they trying to distract us from now? Whom are they trying to divide?

    As to the superiority of the Darwinist belief system (and i’m equating that, for practical purposes, with metaphysical/ontological naturalism since Darwinists themselves do)
    It seems to me that the ethical stance would require some humility and some ability to revisit, revise, or even abandon one’s cherished beliefs when the evidence does not support them.

    In fact, i could swear that comes pretty close to a description of the scientific method itself.

    I prefer to seek out the advice of people who seem to be more learned than I, so I will let a few of them speak — just some bits and pieces I happened to have saved:

    Evolutionism is a fairy tale for grown-ups. This theory has helped nothing in the progress of science. It is useless.”

    (Prof Louis Bounoure, President of the Biological Society of Strasbourg)

    From a participant at the (UK) Royal Society message board:

    simply cannot bring myself to believe that mud mutated into mind or that human personality was once latent in a cloud of gas. To me, the mere statement of such absurdities is more than a refutation. Yet it is these ludicrous propositions which our scientific and academic establishments wish to impose upon schoolchildren. Why? If you are honest, it is because it is your preferred philosophical or metaphysical worldview and nothing to do with science.

    Another participant:

    <Blockquote
    All systems of thought are built upon the foundations of a-priori assumptions, or paradigms, held by faith, by the opinion formers, and rarely discovered by the rest of us.
    Subsequent steps in the logical construction may be of the most flawless Pure Reason. This often gives the false impression of it being a scientific discipline.

    This is not about credentials (since elitist knowledge priesthoods always want to make it so) nor even about any particular field or its subject matter. It is about how we know what we know — and that is the province of every single human being capable of perception and cognition.

    To most normal people — the people you and other elitists like to sneer at — this is common sense. No creation process has been or can be observed, so of necessity any statement about it is ultimately a statement of faith.

    • Bby the way, I did not meant to lump you in with the elitists– i failed to edit that properly. I don’t know your motives well enough from only reading one post. i can say, your certitude about the mother of all uncertanties — the origin of life — and your quickness to condemn thise who disagree or doubt, does sound elitist.

    • I’d like to assume you’re addressing me, if I may. If I’m incorrect, I’d appreciate being permitted to join in this discussion.

      The way I approach the natural history of the development of life on Earth is that I think evolution is possible as described, and even the most likely story. That is, no matter what actually happened (and continues to happen) on Earth, the idea of evolution works. However, assuming life on Earth happened to have been created by another entity, e.g. space aliens, that entity must have either evolved or been created by another entity, which either evolved or was created, et cetera, until after N degrees something must have evolved because it’s rather absurd to have an infinite string of entities being created by their predecessors, no matter how old you think the universe is.

      Of course, there’s the idea of an eternal consciousness that creates things. Many people claim it is superior to human consciousness to a degree we existentially can’t match, and even claim that it is perfect. Based on what I think I understand of consciousness, this doesn’t make sense to me. As I understand it, consciousness is the process by which an entity surpasses its prior limitations, unlike inanimate machines. Perfection implies changelessness, which precludes consciousness. Therefore, consciousness and perfection are mutually exclusive. Assuming a perfect being, it would be an inanimate principle, such as electromagnetism, mathematics, or even evolution itself (which reminds me of an engaging and eloquent essay explaining evolution which I extremely endorse: http://lesswrong.com/lw/kr/an_alien_god/ )

      As for the possibility of an imperfect but eternal consciousness (that is, incredibly old and incredibly long-lived), I don’t see anything inherently contradictory about it. It just seems that everything makes sense without it, and positing that one definitely exists seems like a rather bold claim. Also, I’m presuming the consciousness has some reason for existing that is either based in spontaneous generation (i.e. emergence and evolution) or in creation by another being… et cetera. Or, it could be built into the fabric of the universe, but that would mean that the fabric of the universe includes something that is inherently self-changing. The universe having its own consciousness, affecting the laws of physics as it thinks and grows, would be a very interesting idea indeed, and I think that that might even be halfway likely, but it doesn’t do much for our understanding of human development down here on Earth. Yet. The laws of physics seem to have been consistent throughout the history of the universe, so that’s what I’m going with for now.

      I realize now I haven’t really asked any questions. I think it’s because I haven’t been confronted with assertions so much as skepticism raised about my viewpoint, so I’m clarifying my own assertions. I would like to know, though, how people think human development, and the origins of species in general, came to pass if evolution doesn’t work. What mechanisms were in play? What motivations would intelligent designers have?

      Do you have any questions about how evolution would have caused the world we see today?

      • EC,

        We can know what didn’t happen even if we don’t know exactly what did happen or when.

        Any one proposing a theory about what happened in the distant history of life and the universe, has a heavy burden of proof. They have to prove reptiles turned into birds (even though there are no credible fossil specimens of this); I don’t have to prove they did not. No one has ever observed such a thing happening, even in slow-mo.

        Even given Darwinists’ own overly generous time frames, the major theory of evolutionary mechanism fails. Some people realize this by the weak nature of its argumentation..

        Other theories of short-burst evolution are dismissed out of hand by the authorities.

        Without a plausible mechanism, there isn’t any “fact” of evolution — only facts of life which need to be explained some other way. It would be better to say “we just don’t know yet” than to throw up a smokescreen of religious certainty (even while excoriating other religious or nonreligious people who hold a different belief).

        To me, even miraculous creation by a Genesis God — let’s even make him an old white man with a long white beard, just like Michelangelo’s version — isn’t any less plausible than the trillions of allegedly unguided, uncaused miracles without any plausible natural causes alleged by Darwinism.

        Unlike them, I don’t feel a need to coerce, browbeat or ridicule any one into accepting what I believe. I don’t wish for my “side” to monopolize institutions of knowledge dissemination and brainwash the masses. I believe in a level playing field in which all can seek the truth and come to their conclusions. That, to me, is the ethical approach.

        • “Any one proposing a theory about what happened in the distant history of life and the universe, has a heavy burden of proof. They have to prove reptiles turned into birds (even though there are no credible fossil specimens of this); I don’t have to prove they did not. No one has ever observed such a thing happening, even in slow-mo.”

          You just don’t have the knowledge or analytical ability to discuss this topic intelligently, JL, and this sad paragraph shows it.

          1. Nobody claims reptiles became birds. one branch of dinosaurs evvolved into avians, but dinosaurs, being warm-blooded, are not reptiles.
          2. The recent discovery of dinosaur fossils that show evidence of feathers, which was predicted by the bird-dinosaur link but appeared after it was theorized, is, to the contrary, strong confirmation of that pr0gression.
          3. The oft-repeated creationist claim that anything not witnessed cannot be proven simply bypasses the realms of deduction and logic, as well as science.
          4. You don’t know what you’re talking about.

        • I don’t think I’ve ever before met a person so agnostic as to deny that we have strong evidence of evolution. It’s interesting. It seems to me that your humility in admitting what you don’t know has strayed into the arrogance of asserting that nobody else can know either. Just because you personally don’t know how a cell phone works, for instance, doesn’t mean it doesn’t work. Evolution works, too.

          You can look it up by asking Google “How does evolution work,” but here’s my simplified take on it (this is from memory so take the chemistry vocabulary with a grain of sodium chloride):

          In the early solar system the young, volcanic Earth is full of carbon dioxide and nitrogen and acids and inanimate organic (containing H-C bonds) material. Those chemicals are altered by the heat and chemical emissions of volcanoes, This is where the phenomenon of emergence comes in. It seems to me that you are under the impression that information cannot be created, but rather can only degrade. It seems to me that this is a rather limited and unconventional definition of information, and ignores the fact that there are plenty of energy gradients in the universe which can locally reverse entropy, including a rather reliable one that we happen to orbit.

          The hot areas on the young Earth cause chemical reactions and emit many products. This is where information is “created”: from chaotic messes (see also: mutation, where a DNA molecule undergoes a small random change). Some of the resulting chemicals have the property of self-replication, extending themselves like chains by converting other chemicals with the same atoms into themselves when there was enough ambient energy for the reaction. In other words, the lowest energy state at the time was to join the growing molecule and mimic its structure. This is how crystals form, and how self-replicating nucleotides originated.

          Then came the natural selection: Once the random chemical generation areas produced self-replicating chemicals, those chemicals became more common through replication. Then some of them changed a bit, through interference from the environment. Some of these just broke. Others were able to generate other stuff besides themselves. Some of this other stuff was useless. Other times it helped the replication process, and these new strains became more common. Eventually the most common nucleotide molecules were the ones coding for amino acids that fit together to form proteins that fit together to form structures that collected solar energy to grow faster, or even structures that moved and ate other types of structures.

          Over the eras, the structures continued to collect energy from the sun or each other for self-replication, change their codes slightly at random due to errors in replication and environmental interference, and become more or less likely to continue replicating depending on how these changes interacted with the environment or with other structures. The populations of each type of these structures changed to reflect the fact that the less-likely ones died and the more-likely ones replicated more. That’s natural selection. As the environment changed, and the surrounding type populations changed, each type population adapted. And that’s how the ecosystems we see around came to be.

          It seems odd to me to assert that evolution doesn’t work when people use genetic algorithms copying the theory of evolution based on mutation and natural selection to generate designs for mechanical parts that are better than those we could consciously design. The criteria for the “natural” selection in this case aren’t whether or not the solution data can replicate in a terrestrial environment, but how well the solution data solves the problem posed. This process is something we can observe directly, and it works quite well indeed.

          I realize it is rather arrogant of me to assume that everyone who sees the same information as I do should draw the same conclusion, but if we have mutually contradictory viewpoints based on the same data, we can’t both be right. In this case the contradiction is that you see that evolution doesn’t make sense, and I see that evolution as a concept is not only possible, but a likely explanation for the observable world. Every aspect of it is a process that we already know to work: Mutation is random chemical reactions, self-replicating chemicals are seen with the naked eye in the form of crystals and witnessed directly in labs as DNA and RNA, and natural selection seems rather obvious, since it works with animal breeding, related rates problems, cultures both human and bacterial, chemical reactions, computer simulations… Natural selection is not really complicated, at least to me.

          Please let me know if I failed to address one of your concerns in my explanation.

          • Trying to be brief, not flippant: 

            “. It seems to me that your humility in admitting what you don’t know has strayed into the arrogance of asserting that nobody else can know either.”

            Nobody can know with the level of certainty with which the leading Darwinists (and apparently, Jack Marshall) claim to know. Natural history is history. Historians, in proposing theories about human history, do not presume to the absolute level of certainty that I often hear claimed for evolution (which are based on what amounts to a few snapshots of an alleged 4-6 billion years).  Given the nature of the evidence, it’s hardly humble to pretend to such certainty.

            “. energy gradients in the universe which can locally reverse entropy, including a rather reliable one that we happen to orbit.”

            ok, so it can add heat: can it add specified complexity, aka information?

            “some of the resulting chemicals have the property of self-replication”

            See excerpts below.

             

            “It seems odd to me to assert that evolution doesn’t work when people …”

            I.e., intelligent designers

             
            “Mutation is random chemical reactions”

            Which destroy information, not create it; and almost always tend to make the organism less fit, not more.

            “Natural selection is not really complicated, at least to me.”

            It is assuredly “not complicated” enough to create new, more complex information, forms or species; it only selects among a range of existing variations.

            So EC, thank you for retelling the evolution story. As stories go, it is interesting, even entertaining, if one suspends one’s disbelief. It’s interesting that you assumed that I had not gotten this story all my life (high school and college biology and health science courses, nature programs, science magazines and books, etc., ad nauseum.) it is, after all, the official religion of our society. So it’s  not that I don’t know it, it’s that I reject it due to insufficient and contrary evidence. Although I don’t have a science degree (I don’t believe Mr. Marshall does either) I am well read enough to comprehend the popular arguments by Darwinists and  contrast them with information such as the following:

            ____________
            Time for evolutionists to come clean with the public.

            A steady stream of ground-breaking books and peer-reviewed scientific articles authored by scientists who question key assumptions of modern evolutionary theory has been coming out in the last couple of years. It is only a matter of time before these articles and books get the attention of the general public. What’s important here is that the scientists writing these books and articles are not “outsiders” who reject evolution, but “insiders” who recognize that contemporary theories of evolution are radically deficient in explaining the origin and evolution of life.” …

            1) Scientists have calculated that Darwin’s theory of natural selection brings about changes too slowly for evolution to have occurred in just 4 billion years …

            2) [A separate] central criticism of the Darwinian account [has] nothing to do with the time available; rather, it had to do with the type of evolution required to account for the changes that took place at that time – namely, the simultaneous appearance of about 30 different kinds of animal body plans, during the Cambrian period. …

            3) The origin of life is often bracketed to one side by Darwinists, who argue that it falls outside the scope of the theory of evolution. But methodological naturalism (which is currently regarded as the “official” methodology of science) claims to provide a naturalistic account of origins … 

            Dr. Steve Benner, director of the Florida-based Westheimer Institute at the Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution … referred to four major hurdles confronting any theory for getting from simple chemicals to a Darwinian replicator, such as RNA. Dr. Benner admitted that the track record to date in overcoming these hurdles has been one of unmitigated failure …

            4) Speculative new proposals, such as dynamic kinetic stability, fail to quantify, and therefore don’t deserve to be called science …

            5) Calculating the probabilities: Eugene Koonin admits that the origin of life requires a multiverse …
            “The origin of the translation system is, arguably, the central and the hardest problem in the study of the origin of life, and one of the hardest in all evolutionary biology. The problem has a clear catch-22 aspect: high translation fidelity hardly can be achieved without a complex, highly evolved set of RNAs and proteins but an elaborate protein machinery could not evolve without an accurate translation system.”

            Dr. Koonin claims that the emergence of even a basic replication-translation system on the primordial Earth is such an astronomically unlikely event that we would need to postulate a vast number of universes …[however] Both Collins’ and Davies’ articles, which expose the flaws in appealing to the multiverse hypothesis as an alternative to theism, are freely available at Websites which make no attempt to push a theistic worldview: Collins’ paper is available at commonsenseatheism.com/, for instance …

            Let us hope, then, that 2014 brings further good tidings in the fight against ignorance and scientific “groupthink.”

             

            Yes, let’s hope — the year is still young.

            • OK, I’ll be flippant:

              Hmmm! Well, now that put it THAT way—sure, the calculations of a couple of outlier iconoclastic scientists definitely makes the most reasonable explanation for humanity that it is the favorite child of a giant, eternal, magical super-being that created itself and is running everything as a hobby, and placing confusing fossils all over the place to tempt us not to believe in him for kicks.

              It’s waste of time reasoning with this kind of belief system, which creates a Mobius strip of impenetrable illogic.

            • Oh yes, and this —

              “In fact, the fossil record does not convincingly document a single transition from one species to another.”

              So it seems to me that the above is enough of a string for the truly curious to tug on if they want to investigate further.

              I have a bunch of things to do and a lot less time and energy than I’d like — and after a brief period of enthusiasm, i’ve determined that reading this blog is likely to waste more time and energy than I will gain from it, knowledgewise or otherwise. So everybody have a great year.

              • That seems like a valid conclusion, since your pre-determined belief system is apparently resistant to new data, reason and analysis. To anyone determined not to think and evolve, EA is a waste of time. Give my regards to Noah.

            • I don’t consider this a waste of time, since it appears to me you have genuine reservations about evolutionary theory the same way I have genuine confidence in it. Reconciling different points of view is essential if we’re to reach a better future. Also, I should note for the record that I didn’t think you were calling me an elitist, just so you know.

              Human history is more nebulous than evolutionary history because human history has a lot of individual human actions and thought processes which we’re trying to figure out. Natural history is about giant processes that leave large amounts of evidence behind as they take eons to happen. It’s easier to figure out what happened when the only things people are actually trying to predict leave footprints the size of moraines. That’s why people are so confident in, for instance, an Ice Age. People can use the gases trapped in prehistoric ice to determine the atmospheric conditions of the past.

              If the timeline of evolutionary theory doesn’t fit the actual process, it could be that space aliens or energy beings interfered, or something like that, but it doesn’t change my perception that evolution works as a concept, even if it’s not strictly speaking what happened on Earth. It should also be noted that I also think the multiverse (or rather, omniverse) theory is accurate, but that’s not nearly relevant enough to elaborate on. I do think that evolution is the best explanation of human development I’ve heard by far, based on the criteria of internal consistency, consistency with evidence (to the extent of my own non-expert knowledge), and compliance with Occam’s Razor (doesn’t assume the existence of forces or entities which were invented for the explanation but don’t or can’t leave other evidence of their existence). And no, natural selection doesn’t count as a force or entity because it’s an abstract principle that works, related to mathematics. Whether it actually worked to create us must always be open for debate.

              It is true that genetic algorithms are set up by conscious beings. I only mentioned those to point out that after such processes are initiated, the principle that mutations and natural selection result in evolution works on its own. That is to say, just because conscious beings set up the initial conditions for an model of the evolutionary process doesn’t mean that they directly control how the evolutionary process changes the evolving entities. I may raise a ball into the air and let go, but I do not make it fall. Gravity does that. I consider the principle of evolution to be empirically vindicated by people setting up entities that can breed, replicate, mutate, and be better or worse at surviving in an environment, and starting the clock and watching as the average traits of the population become better adapted to the environment. I can watch as water I cause to evaporate with fire condenses and falls from my ceiling, and reasonably conclude that the same can happen naturally when it rains.

              It is also true that the vast majority of mutations are either neutral or detrimental; that’s why I’m a transhumanist (I want people to be free to choose their own form). If I weight the evidence differently in my head, which is essentially a bias based on my own experience and how I’m used to thinking about it, I can definitely see how it seems highly implausible that small variations in physiology in a population can become new organs (even over long periods of time) simply because the organisms that have slightly less advantageous traits are less likely to survive and/or reproduce. It may be that what we observe of how quickly Earth life developed doesn’t fit how quickly those life forms could have developed through evolution, but I would avoid underestimating evolution. Whatever explanation one comes up with for how species developed, however, deserves scientific inquiry, be it evolution or intelligent design. I propose the field of theopsychology to determine the mental state of a creator being based on the being’s works. This is different from religion because I’m not waving my hand and saying “the Lord works in mysterious ways, far be it from us to try to understand.” That’s anti-humanist talk. If ours isn’t to reason why, we’re being denied an integral part of our conscious experience.

              I think there is an important semantic disconnect in our discussion centered around the word “information.” I think by your definition, erasing a hard drive with a magnet results in “no information on the hard drive.” By the definition people use when they explain evolution and mutation, erasing a hard drive results in “useless information on the hard drive.” That is to say, just because a random sequence of numbers or a row of zeroes tells you nothing you want to know doesn’t mean it’s not “information.” Your definition of information seems based on the context of who’s looking at the information. With evolution, the only “observer” whose context matters is the next generation, which receives all the “information” from their parents, including the mutations. Therefore, when a mutation occurs, it does degrade the information that was there before, but the resulting code is still the same amount of “information;” just slightly different. This is how new “information” enters the gene pool: through mistakes. If you were looking for information on the distant ancestors of the population, that’s disappearing sure enough (very slowly), but information on what the population is right now is just as present right now as the original information was present in the distant past. Based on this definition of information, snowflake formation constitutes the creation of information through inanimate processes. The snowflake reflects the air conditions in its immediate (very small) vicinity. Just because it’s not information we were looking for doesn’t mean it’s not new information that wasn’t there until those conditions were translated into a crystal. Similarly, radiation can be translated into a random error in the DNA resulting from a replication exposed to radiation.

              I don’t see anything inherently contradictory with having been created by an intelligent being, except that I expect that at some point intelligence will have arisen from inanimate matter. Babies, for instance, start out with a single cell and develop intelligence from scratch, as far as I can tell. I see nothing contradictory about this either. The way I see it is that evolution eventually selected in favor of structures that could transcend their limitations, reach into the abstract, and bring it into the concrete. This is consciousness. Meaning in this world is created by us conscious beings; that is our collective meaning. We’re the only ones who have opinions and perspectives, so it’s only to us that anything has purpose. We experience disharmony, and work to make it more harmonious. If not for us, the concept of “disharmony” wouldn’t exist. We see possibilities we like more than the present and work to realize them. We are the part of nature that observes all of nature, to quote Hegel. If you do feel that intelligence cannot emerge from nonintelligent matter, such as through evolutionary processes, then I suppose we’ll have to establish what intelligence is and what it needs and see if those conditions can be fulfilled by nature. As it happens, I do have a fairly comprehensive picture of how I think intelligence works (it’s atheist-evolution-compatible), but I think that’s getting a bit too far off topic here and it might cut more into my time than I’m prepared for. I can direct you to a half-finished and rather gimmicky website of mine where I describe my idea, if you want.

              This has been a very stimulating discussion. I enjoy having to find new ways to explain and evaluate my viewpoint and finding new lines of questioning into others’. I may not be able to take this discussion much further because my classes will be starting up very soon and will require a great deal of concentration (only snow days staved them off this long). However, I hope you are in some measure satisfied by my explanations and I hope our discussion can serve as an example to others of how Paradigm Synch works.

              Many thanks, JayLib.

              • Kudos. You have more patience than I do. The reason this is a waste of time—although good practice for you, I guess—is that, as his earlier reptile-bird comment showed, JayLib has only read evolution-debunking intelligent-design promoting sources. Paradigm Synch requires a common knowledge base, and mutually open minds.

        • “Unlike them, I don’t feel a need to coerce, browbeat or ridicule any one into accepting what I believe. I don’t wish for my “side” to monopolize institutions of knowledge dissemination and brainwash the masses”

          Oh dear. I’ll try, once, with you JayLib.

          Evolution is established Theory. So why are you bashing your head, and ours, on a brick wall? You couldn’t expect this blog to endorse your argument, or even really consider it – it’s an ethics blog, not a source of scientific authority. Certainly not a source of the kind that can overturn or seriously question an established Theory.

          So it’s a rather low blow for you to make your argument here at all. The result is heat not light. And since no one here is a scientist, except me as far as I know, and i know my limits, it must always be so.

          Tell me why you are so passionate and I’m all ears. What are you so scared of?

    • To most normal people — the people you and other elitists like to sneer at — this is common sense. No creation process has been or can be observed, so of necessity any statement about it is ultimately a statement of faith.

      What a statement! Unless “elitist” suddenly means “conscious and educated,” this is just ad hominem crap. There is nothing elitist about accepting the fossil record, geological certainties, physics, chemistry and basic logic. It reminds me of the kids on the playground that called anyone who could name the (then 9) planets as “brainiac.” Yeah, guys, you don’t know how to tie your shoes, and that makes ME weird. As I think I wrote, the position held by a majority of Republicans doesn’t just require a rejection of evolution, but a rejection of a good chunk of proven science. One can find isolated scholars who will reject anything, including proof of the Holocaust. You write well about being ignorant, which is especially sad—unlike most of your colleagues, you are capable of better. When the light finally dawns, you are going to feel really silly.

      • Wow.
        I wonder, how does coming straight out of the gate with ad hominem name-calling against people who don’t accept your dogmas — meaning, an entire population segment — fit into “ethics”?

        • And now we know you don’t know what an ad hominem attack is. Calling ignorant ignorant is extremely ethical. What is unethical is to allow people to be secure in the false belief that their misconceptions are justified and not harmful to them and others. Now you know—if you don’t care to enlighten yourself, that’s not my fault.

          And “lots of other people are ignorant” is not a defense.

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