Tag Archives: Darwin

Does the new Ida fossil prove evolution?

Well, if it does, doesn’t that mean that evolution wasn’t proved before?

But I digress. Whenever you have questions about evolution and culture, there is only one blog that you really need to read, and that’s Denyse O’Leary’s Post-Darwinist. She has written no less than THREE stories on the Ida fossil, so let’s take a look at see what she’s found.

First, on May 19th, she noted that the lemur-like fossil contradicted the current best naturalistic theory of human origins.

[The] fossil doesn’t “explain” human evolution; it complicates the picture. The theory that was gaining ground was that humans were descended from tarsier-like creatures, but this fossil, touted as a primate ancestor, is a lemur-like creature.

Second, on May 21st, she added:

This recent Messil Pit find bolsters the case of the lemur supporters against the previously dominant tarsier supporters.

That only creates more confusion about origins, it seems to me, rather than resolving anything.

Where you have opposing histories, evidence that strengthens one history must weaken the other.

It does not necessarily add up to a gain in information.

What if the tarsier advocates find a fossil that bolsters their case in, say, 2012?

And who’s to say that won’t happen – as it has happened already?

Everything gets so complicated, once you look past the “missing link” sound-bites. But many people looking for validation for their atheist lifestyle will never bother – so long as the cultural authorities can offer them some Piltdown Man or Archaeoraptor or Haeckel’s embryos or Peppered Moths, etc., to justify their atheistic faith.

Denyse also points to a round-up of links from Access Research Network, as well as a New Scientist story that is skeptical of Ida’s status as *the* missing link.

Third, on May 25th, she linked to this story from the UK Times Online:

… in the research paper detailing the discovery, the scientists had painted a rather different picture. Ida, they said, “could represent a stem group from which later anthropoid primates (including humans) evolved but we are not advocating this here”.

And more:

Robert Foley, professor of human evolution at Cambridge University, believes many people misunderstand the huge timescales involved in assessing fossils.

“This animal lived around 47m years ago but human-like creatures only appeared in the last 2m years,” he said. “That’s a gap of around 45m years with many other species lying between us and that era. Any one of them could be called a missing link. Really, the term is meaningless.”

Now I know what my many atheist readers are saying: “we’re only skeptical of your beliefs! Not our beliefs!”. Well, I’m sorry, true believers, to throw cold water on you.

How religious faith drives the delusion of Darwinism

Commenter ECM alerted me to Cornelius Hunter’s new blog “Darwin’s God”. Cornelius is a software engineer like me who rose up the ranks of the firm through “sweat equity”, and was able to eventually pursue a PhD in Biophysics from the University of Illinois. I have his first book “Darwin’s God” and I read it. His thesis is basically that theological beliefs about what God would and would not do are the driving force behind evolution.

Evolution and the problem of evil

Here is his latest post about a debate that occured at Westminster Abbey between an atheistic evolutionist and a theistic evolutionist.

Here’s what the theistic evolutionist said:

Alexander is a theist and Jones an atheist. But they both agree that God would not have created what we find in this world. Everything from programmed cell death to the extinction of so many species and the food chain points to a massive economy of death in nature. With this sort of evidence, “What kind of a designer,” asks Alexander, “are you going to end up believing in?

…According to Alexander, this problem of death and evil does not leave much room for a divine creator. Alexander concludes that God did not create the details of the world. He is thus absolved of the world’s many evils. He implemented a framework of sorts, but let unguided processes do the rest.

And here’s what the atheist evolutionist said:

As with Alexander, Jones also finds that biology does not meet with his expectations of divine creation. “The feeblest of designer,” Jones has written, could improve the design of the human eye. This and other examples, says Jones, shows that complex organs are “not the work of some great composer but of an insensible drudge: an instrument, like all others, built by a tinkerer [i.e., the evolutionary process] rather than by a trained engineer.” As with Alexander, Jones’ religious sentiment mandates some sort of evolution to be true.

So let’s think about what causes people to become evolutionists, beyond the normal answers of peer-pressure, career preservation, wanting to be thought of as smart, wanting to rebel against parents, wanting to have sex and drink alcohol, etc. Is it about science? No. It’s about knowing what God would do and observing that the world does not correspond to these ideas of what atheists think God would do.

Remember that post I wrote a while back about Christopher Hitchens’ case against God. None of his arguments against God were based on evidence, but only on his personal preferences. God wouldn’t have done it that way. God should have done it this way. I don’t like this theology. I don’t like that feature of the universe. It’s just a long-running temper tantrum against any kind of authority, regardless of the evidence.

Here’s Dawkins explaining how unobservable aliens must ave evolved, even if Dawkins doesn’t have any evidence:

He doesn’t even need to see the evidence that we evolved. He knows that God wouldn’t have created the life this way, and so the evidence is irrelevant.

Evolution and the problem of sub-optimal design

Another way that assume that evolution is true, other than childhood trauma and the desire to be morally evil, is by assuming that if material forces did not do the creating, then the design must be optimal. Now I am a software engineer, with undergraduate and graduate degrees, a published paper that I presented at the IEEE and a patent in wireless technology. My specialty is architecture. So I will tell you.

There is no such thing as an optimal design.

As part of my graduate course work, I had to study the work done at the Software Engineering Institute at the Carnegie-Mellon University. They have invented an entire methodology for designing software based on analyzing trade-offs between alternative architectural candidates. They use use case scenarios, disaster scenarios, maintenance scenarios and other scenarios in order to evaluate how well each architecture performs.

All of the architectures can satisfy the so-called “functional requirements”. But the architectures differ in their ability to satisfy non-functional requirements, the “-ilities”. These can include performance, maintainability, security, extensibility, testability, simplicity, re-usability. This is the bread and butter that software engineers like me have to deal with every day.

Here’s an excerpt from a related post from Uncommon Descent:

It is simply impossible for one architecture to have all the “ilities” because many conflict. For instance, if I want high “security” I am going to have to give up a good deal of “interoperability”. A large part of architecture is actually deciding what you are going to give up, which incidentally affects how the architecture can change in the future (i.e. usually it cannot “evolve” to conform to different “ilities”). This is all still fairly new, but we are now able to judge architectures in terms of the “ilities” they match and the “ilities” they do not match. A better understanding of the conflicts between certain “ilities” is gradually developing.

When I worked in the embedded space on operating systems like VxWorks, we regularly traded-off memory against speed. It’s the nature of the engineering business. And make no mistake – God is a software engineer. He writes code.

Conclusion

Hunter’s article concludes with this:

Have the theists sold out? Have the theists been duped? Are they afraid to stand up for themselves? Are the atheists taking over? No, no, no, and no. The theists and atheists are united in their religious beliefs about God and how he would interact with the world. They may have their differences, but regarding evolution those differences are irrelevant. Their shared religious convictions mandate evolution. Religion drives science and it matters.

I have an idea. Let’s keep religion out of science and decide how we really got here, no holds barred. Instead of blocking debates and persecuting dissent, let’s actually have a debate about origins, and not rule intelligent causes out before we look at the evidence.

Further study

Atheist responses to scientific arguments for theism are fun to understand. Atheists attribute the beginning of the universe to untestable theories and the fine-tuning to an unobservable multiverse. (And don’t forget their lame responses to galactic, stellar and planetary habitability arguments)

Contrasting the moral values of an authentic Christian with an authentic Darwinist

Let’s start with someone who acted consistently on the plain, intended meaning of the Christian worldview, as expressed in the New Testament.

The case of William Wilberforce, an authentic Christian

Consider this article from the Wall Street Journal about the abolitionist William Wilberforce.

In fact, William Wilberforce was driven by a version of Christianity that today would be derided as “fundamentalist.”

…William Wilberforce himself, as a student at Cambridge University in the 1770s and as a young member of Parliament soon after, had no more than a nominal sense of faith. Then, in 1785, he began reading evangelical treatises and underwent what he called “the Great Change,” almost dropping out of politics to study for the ministry until friends persuaded him that he could do more good where he was.

And he did a great deal of good…[h]is relentless campaign eventually led Parliament to ban the slave trade, in 1807, and to pass a law shortly after his death in 1833, making the entire institution of slavery illegal. But it is impossible to understand Wilberforce’s long antislavery campaign without seeing it as part of a larger Christian impulse. The man who prodded Parliament so famously also wrote theological tracts, sponsored missionary and charitable works, and fought for what he called the “reformation of manners,” a campaign against vice.

Even during the 18th century, evangelicals were derided as over-emotional “enthusiasts” by their Enlightenment-influenced contemporaries. By the time of Wilberforce’s “great change,” liberal 18th-century theologians had sought to make Christianity more “reasonable,” de-emphasizing sin, salvation and Christ’s divinity in favor of ethics, morality and a rather distant, deistic God. Relatedly, large numbers of ordinary English people, especially among the working classes, had begun drifting away from the tepid Christianity that seemed to prevail. Evangelicalism sought to counter such trends and to reinvigorate Christian belief.

…Perhaps the leading evangelical force of the day was the Methodism of John Wesley: It focused on preaching, the close study of the Bible, communal hymn-singing and a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Central to the Methodist project was the notion that good works and charity were essential components of the Christian life. Methodism spawned a vast network of churches and ramified into the evangelical branches of Anglicanism. Nearly all the social-reform movements of the 19th and early 20th centuries–from temperance and soup kitchens to slum settlement houses and prison reform–owe something to Methodism and its related evangelical strains. The campaign against slavery was the most momentous of such reforms and, over time, the most successful. It is thus fitting that John Wesley happened to write his last letter–sent in February 1791, days before his death–to William Wilberforce. Wesley urged Wilberforce to devote himself unstintingly to his antislavery campaign, a “glorious enterprise” that opposed “that execrable villainy which is the scandal of religion, of England, and of human nature.” Wesley also urged him to “go on, in the name of God and in the power of his might, till even American slavery (the vilest that ever saw the sun) shall vanish away before it.”

Wesley had begun preaching against slavery 20 years before and in 1774 published an abolitionist tract, “Thoughts on Slavery.” Wilberforce came into contact with the burgeoning antislavery movement in 1787, when he met Thomas Clarkson, an evangelical Anglican who had devoted his life to the abolitionist cause. Two years later, Wilberforce gave his first speech against the slave trade in Parliament.

…This idea of slaving as sin is key. As sociologist Rodney Stark noted in “For the Glory of God” (2003), the abolition of slavery in the West during the 19th century was a uniquely Christian endeavor. When chattel slavery, long absent from Europe, reappeared in imperial form in the 16th and 17th centuries–mostly in response to the need for cheap labor in the New World–the first calls to end the practice came from pious Christians, notably the Quakers. Evangelicals, not least Methodists, quickly joined the cause, and a movement was born.

William Wilberforce believed that slaves were made in the image of God – that they were embodied souls who could be resurrected to eternal life. Wilberforce believed that the purpose of human life is to freely seek God, and to be reconciled with God through Christ. He wanted all men and women to have the opportunity to investigate and respond to God’s self-revelation to them.

You can read more about Wilberforce’s beliefs here and his public activities here. And you can still see modern-day abolitionists, like Scott Klusendorf, consistently acting out their Christian convictions in the public square. Only today they’re called pro-lifers. By the way, like Wilberforce, I am also a Wesley-inspired Evangelical Protestant Christian. Hooah!

The case of Adolf Hitler, an authentic Darwinist

Now let’s take a look at the opposite of Wilberforce someone who despised and rejected Christianity entirely. Adolf Hitler was strongly influenced by the anti-Christian zealot, Nietzche, but also by Darwin’s evolutionary ideas such as human inequality, moral relativism, the non-existence of human rights, equality of humans with animals, denial of the soul, and survival of the fittest.

You can see the entire case presented by tenured professor of history at the University of California, Dr. Richard Weikart, in a lecture presented at the University of California at Santa Barbara, here:

Here’s the blurb on the lecture from the University of California Television web site:

First Aired: 11/15/2004
58 minutes

In his book, From Darwin to Hitler: Evolutionary Ethics, Eugenics, and Racism in Germany (2004), Richard Weikart explains the revolutionary impact Darwinism had on ethics and morality. Darwinism played a key role in the rise not only of eugenics (a movement wanting to control human reproduction to improve the human species), but also on euthanasia, infanticide, abortion, and racial extermination. This was especially important in Germany, since Hitler built his view of ethics on Darwinian principles.

But for those who don’t like watching video lectures given by tenured professors, with nice Powerpoint slides, in front of a live audience of students and faculty, at a major university, then here is an article by secular Jew David Berlinksi writing in Human Events to give us the briefest of summaries of Weikart’s argument.

A little bio of David Berlinski:

David Berlinski received his Ph.D. in philosophy from Princeton University and was later a postdoctoral fellow in mathematics and molecular biology at Columbia University. He has authored works on systems analysis, differential topology, theoretical biology, analytic philosophy, and the philosophy of mathematics, as well as three novels. He has also taught philosophy, mathematics and English at such universities as Stanford, Rutgers, the City University of New York and the Universite de Paris. In addition, he has held research fellowships at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in Austria and the Institut des Hautes Etudes Scientifiques (IHES) in France.

He starts his Human Events piece like this:

Published in 1859, Darwin’s On the Origin of Species said nothing of substance about the origin of species. Or anything else, for that matter. It nonetheless persuaded scientists in England, Germany and the United States that human beings were accidents of creation. Where Darwin had seen species struggling for survival, German physicians, biologists, and professors of hygiene saw races.

They drew the obvious conclusion, the one that Darwin had already drawn. In the struggle for survival, the fittest win out at the expense of their rivals. German scientists took the word expense to mean what it meant: The annihilation of less fit races.

…At Hitler’s death in May of 1945, the point was clear enough to the editorial writers of the New York Times. “Long before he had dreamed of achieving power,” they wrote, [Hitler] had developed the principles that nations were destined to hate, oppose and destroy one another; [and] that the law of history was the struggle for survival between peoples … ”.

Berlinski concludes by analyzing an answer given by Richard Dawkins to Ben Stein in the movie Expelled:

Would he care to live in a society shaped by Darwinian principles? The question was asked of Richard Dawkins.

Not at all, he at once responded.

And why not?

Because the result would be fascism.

In this, Richard Dawkins was entirely correct; and it is entirely to his credit that he said so.

The difference between consistent Christianity and consistent Darwinism is the difference between day and night. There is not now, nor will there ever be, an atheist Wilberforce. Atheists live their lives seeking pleasure and avoiding social disapproval, and they will never be able to consistently and rationally sacrifice their self-interest to oppose the fashions of their culture in obedience to a higher objective moral standard.

Atheists acknowledge no higher moral standard. If there is no God and the universe is an accident, then there is no way humans ought to be. The only thing to do in life is to invent your own arbitrary “morals” and hold to that, or not, (you do whichever gives you pleasure, since there no ultimate accountability one way or the other), while avoiding social disapproval for breaking the arbitrary cultural standard of your time and place. That’s atheist “morality”.

The moral character of a consistent Christian towers above the base animal selfishness of a consistent atheist like a Colossus towers over an ant. Atheists understand morality like a cat in a library, seeing the words, but lacking all understanding of their meaning.

Here is a quote I am stealing from the Anchoress to summarize: “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.”

Other debates on atheism and morality

My summary of the William Lane Craig (of Biola) vs Shelly Kagan (of Yale) debate at Columbia University on the topic “Is God Necessary for Morality?” is here.

Here are some prior debates on the rationality of morality on atheism.

  1. From Christianity Today, a written debate: Douglas Wilson vs. Christopher Hitchens
  2. From the University of Western Ontario, a transcript of a public debate: William Lane Craig vs. Kai Nielsen
  3. From Schenectady College, a transcript of a public debate: William Lane Craig vs Richard Taylor
  4. From Franklin & Marshall College, William Lane Craig vs. Paul Kurtz (audio, video1, video2, video3, video4, video5, video6, video7)
  5. From the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, William Lane Craig vs. Louise Antony (audio1, audio2, video1, video2)

Further study

A good paper by Bill Craig on the problem of rationally-grounding prescriptive morality is here. My previous posts on this blog on this topic are here and here. The first one is about whether atheists can use an ungrounded, arbitrary standard to judge God for his “moral failures”, the second (better) one is on why the concept of morality is literally meaningless on atheism.