Arguments From Ignorance: 15 Questions for Evolutionists (Part 3)

In Arguments From Ignorance on November 19, 2011 at 10:38 pm

Well, this is it folks. This little series of posts has brought me the largest viewership I’ve had in my…er…month of blogging. Sorry it took so long. I know I promised I’d have it up sooner, but I’ve been caught up in some planning for something of a change in leadership in an organization I’m a part of (I’ve put too much time into this group to watch its current leadership continue to shit all over it the way they have been; in case you cared). Anyway, as much as I hate to see this little series go, it’s time to finish off this list of non-arguments and misinformation. If you have managed to bear with me through parts one and two, I cannot thank you enough for putting up with my rambling and ranting. Just one more set, and this is all over. I promise.

11. How did blind chemistry create mind/ intelligence, meaning, altruism and morality? If everything evolved, and we invented God, as per evolutionary teaching, what purpose or meaning is there to human life? Should students be learning nihilism (life is meaningless) in science classes?

Um…unless I missed some huge announcement, scientists generally concern themselves with the “how” of things. I don’t think anyone in a science class is actually being taught that life is meaningless; they’re just not taught what the meaning of life is because that is generally left up to individuals to determine for themselves. Now, as far as how “blind chemistry” creating intelligence, meaning, morality, etc., it’s actually pretty easy to explain these things from an evolutionary perspective. Some form of cognition is present in all animals. We can say that, at least in some environments, where individuals may be dealing with intense competition, or they are dealing with complex social structures (as most primate groups do) higher intelligence could lead to a higher rate of fitness. If you are interested in how the chemistry of the brain works, and how it leads to thoughts, emotions, etc., I would suggest looking into the field of neuroscience.

Altruism and morality? Well, those are pretty easy to explain, despite what creationists may think. Among social animals, altruism is essential. If a group’s survival is dependent on complex social interactions (as primate groups tend to be), the more individuals you have looking out for each other, and protecting each other, the more likely it is that the whole group will survive, making it more likely that the altruistic individuals will reproduce. Morality is really just a set of social rules that govern interactions between individuals, and again, is an essential aspect of evolution in social animals. This does not mean that morality is absolutely relative; rather, morality is only relative to species. The ultimate goal of morality is to provide the greatest degree of well being for members of a particular species, and this is true even of religious moralities. If it wasn’t, there wouldn’t be so many preachers and missionaries out trying to convert people; there wouldn’t be these massive debates over what is the right way to conduct ourselves and what isn’t.

(Though admittedly, it is more entertaining to think of morality like this.)

And as for meaning, well…meaning is subjective. And it tends to come from the same enhanced cognition and social perceptions that inspire altruism and the development of morality. I would not say that life is meaningless. So far as I’m concerned, life doesn’t have an absolute, objective meaning, handed down from on high; but that doesn’t mean I can’t find meaning in my friends, my family, or even the simple fact that I am alive. The thing about meaning is that everyone has to find it themselves. You can’t tell someone else what the meaning or purpose of their life is. Which is why I would contend that it is subjective.

12. Why is evolutionary ‘just-so’ story-telling tolerated? Evolutionists often use flexible story-telling to ‘explain’ observations contrary to evolutionary theory. NAS(USA) member Dr Philip Skell wrote, “Darwinian explanations for such things are often too supple: Natural selection makes humans self-centered and aggressive—except when it makes them altruistic and peaceable. Or natural selection produces virile men who eagerly spread their seed—except when it prefers men who are faithful protectors and providers. When an explanation is so supple that it can explain any behavior, it is difficult to test it experimentally, much less use it as a catalyst for scientific discovery.”

And so the answer is to replace this theory, which actually has evidence backing it, with religious “‘just-so’ story telling”? Makes total sense. And isn’t, in any way, indicative of double standards. Oh, and the only evolutionary “stories” that get told in any widespread way are ones which actually have evidence to support them. As for Dr. Skell’s examples, the example of humans being aggressive and self-centered, except when they aren’t, is an incredibly misleading generalization. Humans can be self-centered and aggressive, but this aggression is generally directed at individuals which are considered to be outside the aggressor’s own group, and this is true for most (if not all) primates as well. The example of males being eager to spread their seed, except when they are faithful protectors and providers, is also misleading. There is already overwhelming body of evidence which shows males to have a greater tendency to mate with just about anything they have access to. This is largely the behavioral result of anisogamy: since males in anisogamous species expend a relatively small amount of energy per copulation, the most efficient way for such males to ensure reproductive success is to mate with as many females as possible. Furthermore, just because a male mates with many females, does not mean that said male cannot be an effective provider or protector. Take gorillas, for example: they tend to live in single male, multi-female groups, and the single male (who mates with all the females) is the main protector for the group.

(And if the warm sensation trickling down my leg right now is any indication,
there is some damn fine protecting going on here.)

13. Where are the scientific breakthroughs due to evolution? Dr Marc Kirschner, chair of the Department of Systems Biology, Harvard Medical School, stated: “In fact, over the last 100 years, almost all of biology has proceeded independent of evolution, except evolutionary biology itself. Molecular biology, biochemistry, physiology, have not taken evolution into account at all.”Dr Skell wrote, “It is our knowledge of how these organisms actually operate, not speculations about how they may have arisen millions of years ago, that is essential to doctors, veterinarians, farmers … .”Evolution actually hinders medical discovery Then why do schools and universities teach evolution so dogmatically, stealing time from experimental biology that so benefits humankind?

Before I answer your question, I’d like to ask one of my own: where are the scientific breakthroughs due to creationism?

There are none? Then why are you talking?

Now, I’ll go ahead and answer your question, because that’s what I promised to do. Just know that the question is hypocritical and (as I am about to demonstrate) demonstrably false.

You want an example of the relevance of evolutionary theory? Here, have a site dedicated to providing examples of this. These examples range everywhere from understanding and anticipating the evolution of viruses and disease causing bacteria, to the use of insecticides on food crops, to the conservation of species. If you think these examples do not provide any “benefits to humankind”, then I sincerely do not know what is wrong with you.

(I see what I did there.)

14. Science involves experimenting to figure out how things work; how they operate. Why is evolution, a theory about history, taught as if it is the same as this operational science? You cannot do experiments, or even observe what happened, in the past. Asked if evolution has been observed, Richard Dawkins said, “Evolution has been observed. It’s just that it hasn’t been observed while it’s happening.”

Actually, you can do experiments. Refer back to the link I used in response to question 7. And you can run specific tests on bacteria and viruses, or even simply observe them as they evolve, which is what many medical scientists do to trace the spread and development of diseases. And the claim that it cannot be observed is about as ridiculous. Here, have another link. In case you didn’t click it, the site gives examples of speciation in fruit flies, rats, and primrose, among others. So to say that evolution cannot be observed, cannot be tested, and is simply a theory about history (implying that it is no longer occurring), in light of all this evidence, is quite simply a grand display of ignorance.

(Maybe if you keep it up, reality will just give up and go home)

15. Why is a fundamentally religious idea, a dogmatic belief system that fails to explain the evidence, taught in science classes? Karl Popper, famous philosopher of science, said “Darwinism is not a testable scientific theory, but a metaphysical [religious] research programme ….” Michael Ruse, evolutionist science philosopher admitted, “Evolution is a religion. This was true of evolution in the beginning, and it is true of evolution still today.”If “you can’t teach religion in science classes”, why is evolution taught?

You forgot the rest of Popper’s quote:

And yet, the theory is invaluable. I do not see how, without it, our knowledge could have grown as it has done since Darwin. In trying to explain experiments with bacteria which become adapted to, say, penicillin, it is quite clear that we are greatly helped by the theory of natural selection. Although it is metaphysical, it sheds much light upon very concrete and very practical researches. It allows us to study adaptation to a new environment (such as a penicillin-infested environment) in a rational way: it suggests the existence of a mechanism of adaptation, and it allows us even to study in detail the mechanism at work. (Unended Quest; An Intellectual Autobiography, 1976)

Now, I know what you’re doing. It’s called quote mining, and it doesn’t present any kind of factual information. Instead, it is an attempt to misuse a statement by a person of prominence in an attempt to refute another’s argument. It is extremely easy to do. Just from the list of “15 Questions for Evolutionists”, I can tell you with certainty that Creation Ministries International has stated:

…evolution has changed worms into humans…

See? Creation Ministries International has admitted that evolution works!

Now, I know that doesn’t answer your question. I’m just pointing out that your methodology here is, well, dishonest. So, to answer your question: evolution is not a religion. I know Popper and Ruse made statements to the contrary, but they are two individual men, sharing personal opinions. For a refutation to Popper’s assertion that evolution is not scientifically testable, please refer to my response to question 14.

As far as Ruse goes, that is another individual statement. I disagree with him wholeheartedly. He may treat evolution in a religious manner; but I do not, and neither does anyone else I know who actually believes in evolution. We don’t accept it on faith, as many creationists would like to believe, but rather, because it fits the evidence. We also don’t follow it blindly and stubbornly, to the exclusion of all other options. If a theory is later developed which better fits the evidence, I will gladly drop my support of evolution. But at present, it is the best theory we have, considering the evidence we have access to.

PZ Myers said it well:

No, no, no. You could argue that many of us find solace in secularism, or that science provides a story of origins or explanation for the world, and that it does substitute for religion in providing a rational explanation of our place in the universe, but it is not a religion unless you want to say that everything that provides a reference point is a religion. And in particular, scientific disciplines like evolutionary biology are not religions, and scientific theories like evolution are not religions. Ruse must have a very, very broad and peculiar definition of “religion” to think so. Is mathematics also a religion? How about engineering?

The fact that a couple people once said that evolution is a religion means nothing if they can’t back it up. And neither Popper nor Ruse have effectively done so. They may be extremely intelligent, but that does not make them all-knowing, and they most certainly do not speak for everyone who accepts evolution. Their statements do not magically turn your ignorance into knowledge.

And that’s 15 questions answered. Were they answered to your satisfaction, creationists? Probably not. But you wouldn’t have believed anything I said on the subject anyway. The important thing is, I had a great deal of fun writing these, and I hope those of you who bothered to read them enjoyed them, too.


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