Did Darwin kill God?

Here’s a really amazing little factoid.  According to today’s edition of “Breakpoint“, a new poll commissioned by the think tank Theos, shows that “only 37 percent of people in the UK believe that Darwin’s theory of evolution is ‘beyond reasonable doubt.’” Moreover, 51 percent “say that Intelligent Design (ID) is either definitely or probably true.”  

eaststa2But that’s not the most surprising thing.  What is, is this:  the UK is an extremely secular country from an official government policy standpoint.  What I mean by that is that their laws and their official position is highly secular, yet the actual people are unwilling to declare the battle over and simply call themselves atheists.  So, even though 71% identify themselves as Christian, only 10% demonstrate that they are actual believers by attending church services on a weekly basis.  Trust me when I tell you that true belief in the Christ of the bible and church attendance are highly correlated!

The reason I took notice of that is that so many anti-ID scientists insist that ID is the same as creationism. So here we have a very large percentage of these fairly non-religious people expressing doubt in Darwinism, and a deep-seated belief that something else – something intelligent – was somehow involved.  Even Richard Dawkins, unwilling to embrace the notion that life arose out of non-living material, suggested that maybe space travelers brought us our first life from another place in the universe!  

…after a century and a half of having Darwinian evolution rammed down their throats by their professors and the media—people still say they believe in God, and that He created heaven and earth.

That’s the most amazing thing to me.  That in spite of this 150 year conspiracy to eradicate anything not Darwinian from the science classroom, the science lab and all scientific inquiry, and contrary to Nietzsche’s proclamation,  God is not dead yet!

Belief in ID is not mutually exclusive with evolution!

Now, once again, I am a christian and a proponent of ID, but what I mean by that is that the two can and do coexist!  I believe that evolution is real.  I believe that it has played a very significant role in shaping our world.  And I believe that scientists should continue to pursue nearly all of their inquiry into the mechanisms that are at work.  But I do not believe that many of them are playing by their own rules.  They contend that only materialism is science, because nothing else is testable or falsifiable. Yet that statement, in and of itself, is a faith statement.  It cannot be tested, so by their own rules, science is not scientific!

My most recent post included just a few things for which the impression of design is overwhelming.  It is simply irrational in the extreme to think that stonehenge or Mt. Rushmore are the product of random variations over long periods of time.  So why do we not give the cell, with its incredible and ordered functional complexity, or a single strand of DNA, which is many times more complex, the same recognition?

Even Ken Miller believes in a creator!

Perhaps the most articulate and compelling apologist for Darwinianism, Dr. Ken Miller, is a professing Catholic Christian.  His book “Finding Darwin’s God” is at least in part , his attempt to explain how he could believe in the God of the Christian Bible and yet still so staunchly and forcefully defend Darwinism without any reference to the created order.  In it, he deftly explains that he does not “regard evolution, properly understood, as either antireligious or antispiritual.”  But importantly, he also says this:

A believer in the divine accepts that God’s love and gift of freedom are genuine – so genuine that they include the power to choose evil and, if we wish, to freely send ourselves to Hell. Not all believers will accept the stark conditions of that bargain, but our freedom to act has to have a physical and biological basis. Evolution and its sister sciences of genetics and molecular biology provide that basis. In biological terms, evolution is the only way a Creator could have made us the creatures we are – free beings in a world of authentic and meaningful moral and spiritual choices.

That’s a faith statement from an eminent scientist and Darwinist that I have no argument with.  And I appreciate the intellectual honesty of it.  There are still some things I would love to ask Dr. Miller, but that is a theoretical and theological common ground that seems all too often absent in this debate.  Well said, Dr. Miller!

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21 thoughts on “Did Darwin kill God?

  1. Pingback: Topics about Christian life and Bible readings » Archive » Did Darwin kill God?

  2. Havok

    Even Richard Dawkins, unwilling to embrace the notion that life arose out of non-living material, suggested that maybe space travelers brought us our first life from another place in the universe!

    You know that quote of his was taken well out of context. I believe he was asked for a plausible scenario for ID, and the most plausible scenario he could think of was panspermia (from memory).

  3. “That in spite of this 150 year conspiracy to eradicate anything not Darwinian from the science classroom, the science lab and all scientific inquiry, and contrary to Nietzsche’s proclamation, God is not dead yet!”

    One, it’s not a conspiracy. It’s science showing the truth.

    And given that religion and god belief has been around for thousands if not hundreds of thousands of years, I think 150 years of good scientific thinking has done pretty good so far.

    1. Here’s Wiktionary’s definition of conspiracy:
      1-act of two or more persons, conspirators, working in secret to obtain some goal, usually understood with negative connotations.
      2-(law) an agreement between two or more persons to break the law at some time in the future.
      3- a group of ravens

      Since this has nothing to do with ravens or the law, let’s use the first one. There are certainly more that two persons involved. Perhaps you could contend that the persons are not working in secret. That leaves the question of whether there are negative connotations. That does not hinge on whether theories other than neo-Darwinism are true. It only hinges on whether it benefits society to repress discussion of them, or belief in them as viable alternative theories. In other words, what I’m saying is that you want to repress things you don’t agree with, and exalt things you do agree with. And you don’t seem to mind that you have – all of your life I would surmise – have anly heard one side of the story.

      If it is actually “science showing the truth” then let it be questioned. Let it be challenged. Let it be subjected to every cooky and half-baked idea there is. If it is the truth, it will survive.

      Or are you part of the conspiracy thing that’s not a conspiracy to keep it from seeing the light of day?

    1. If you read what I said, I agree with him – both that evolution is real and that God was involved somehow in getting it all started. He doesn’t call it intelligent design, but he is a Christian. And he says that we have the power to choose to “freely send ourselves to hell”. That’s a far more intelligent response to the evidence than what I hear from most who stop by.

      Now to be clear. I am Christian, and I believe as Ken Miller does that those who decide to reject God will go to hell. I believe that in deciding to become an atheist, that you are profoundly wrong. But I respect your right to choose that or any religion, and would defend your right so to choose.

  4. “It only hinges on whether it benefits society to repress discussion of them, or belief in them as viable alternative theories.”

    No one is repressing ID. We’re just saying you can’t call it science, because it isn’t.

    You can teach it to your own children. You can publish books on it. You can make TV shows about it. You can shout it from the rooftops.

    But you can’t call it science and try to teach it as science in public schools.

    “If it is actually “science showing the truth” then let it be questioned. Let it be challenged”

    It is, constantly, by actual scientists doing actual work.

    The challenges made by the ID proponents have failed. Sorry. If you get new ones, bring them forward.

    “Let it be subjected to every cooky and half-baked idea there is. If it is the truth, it will survive.”

    It has. Especially since most of those cook half-baked ideas haven’t passed the muster to be considered science. If it’s not science, then it can’t supplant evolution. Be science first, then you can worry about proving evolution wrong.

    1. By what criteria do you claim that ID is not science? Because it cannot be tested? Please. That’s a pretty old canard. We’ve already been discussing the strange phenomenon that by that criteria science itself cannot be tested. To be more clear, the atheistic science crowd argues that for something to qualify as science, it has to be testable. How do you know that statement is true? Has it been tested? Is it falsifiable? And when you answer, please do not resort to non-materialistic explanations.

  5. Havok

    John: Sorry Havok. He was interviewed by Ben Stein in the movie Expelled.

    I know that. I’ve seen the interview. He was taken well out of context. I don’t want to speak for him, but I would be very confident that Dawkins would say Abiogenesis (by whatever method) is the most plausible and probable hypothesis for life.
    If you check through Dawkin’ own site – http://richarddawkins.net – you’ll find a number of articles on the expelled movie, including one addressing that specific interview, including the underhanded method through which his cooperation was obtained, as well as the creative editing job which was done to achieve the desired effect.
    The entire “Expelled” movie is a terrible hatchet job. It’s really a shame that so many people think it is unbiased and accurate.

  6. Havok

    John: By what criteria do you claim that ID is not science?

    It seems the entire ID movement is an effort to discredit an existing theory due to ideological reasons. That’s not science, that’s propoganda 🙂
    What it’s proponents should be doing is research, and letting the results speak for the validity of their hypothesis. In general the ID’ers are not doing this, and when they do, they’re results are shown to be either wrong, flawed, or not even wrong.
    How much effort should be spent investigating something while failing to obtain positive results, before it is discarded as being invalid?

    John: Because it cannot be tested? Please. That’s a pretty old canard. We’ve already been discussing the strange phenomenon that by that criteria science itself cannot be tested.

    The scientific method is not a claim concerning reality, and therefore doesn’t need to be validated by itself. It is a process for assessing claims about reality. All it needs is to produce results – it does and therefore has utility as a valid method of producing knowledge concerning reality.
    In fact, it is the most successful method we have (and the only objective one I know of).

    John: To be more clear, the atheistic science crowd argues that for something to qualify as science, it has to be testable.

    “atheistic science” is a nonsense statement. It’s science, and can be practiced by anyone, regardless of their beliefs. That’s the great thing about science – basically anyone can do it and get the same/similar results regardless of their beliefs – it’s objective.
    I think it was Popper who argued for falsifiability. If some claim concerning reality cannot be falsified (and therefore can’t be tested), how do we assess it’s value as a model?

    John: How do you know that statement is true? Has it been tested? Is it falsifiable? And when you answer, please do not resort to non-materialistic explanations.

    Well, when the statement is not concerning reality (where methodological naturalism is currently the best we have), or when science is unable to provide an answer (for example, 2 hypothesis account for the same data), then logic and reasoning are used (principle of parsimony, occam’s razor are some of these tools).
    This leaves us with “The modern synthesis theory of evolution” being the dominant (read: only current) theory for the origin and diversity of species. ID is rejected because it postulates an entity (the designer) whose existence hasn’t been shown, nor has this entity been shown to be required – ID is an argument from ignorance “This feature is complex and I can’t see how it could have arisen without intervention”. Nor has ID provided any method to test it’s claims about reality, above those which also support the current theory of evolution.

    No where to my knowledge have any features been shown to be impossible without the nebulous designer (we don’t want to call the designer God, because creationism failed dismally in the past).

    1. It seems the entire ID movement is an effort to discredit an existing theory due to ideological reasons. That’s not science, that’s propoganda.

      That’s REALLY ironic, given that Darwin’s ideas were dreampt up in the first place because he was angry at God for taking his daughter away from him, and didn’t want to have to be subject to him any more. His theories, as Dawkins has said, permitted him to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.

      With regard, to the argument that what they (ID proponents) should be doing is research, I agree. The problem is that they are almost universally shunned, ostracized, marginalizied, and denied the opportunity to go where the evidence leads. They are relegated to the fringe, and denied not only jobs, tenure, and raises, but grant money.

      Your claim that “they’re results are shown to be either wrong, flawed, or not even wrong” is interesting. Other than the Dover trial, what evidence do you have to support that claim? And since I brought it up, Ken Miller was the clear ‘winner’ at the Dover trial. He destroyed Behe more because of his flamoyance and showmanship than his science. But more to the point, I do not contend, as some do, that ‘God did it, so shut up’. I have said repeatedly that I believe that evolution has played a major role in getting us here. But as you will see in an upcoming post, ID and neo-Darwinism are not mutually exclusive claims.

      I agree that the scientific method does ‘have utility’. But listen to yourself. In one paragraph, you say that “The scientific method is not a claim concerning reality”, then “It is a process for assessing claims about reality”. What would be the reason for assessing the claims about reality, if not to see what is real? And I note well that you said it is “a process”, not ‘the process’. Your implication, like it or not, is that there are other possible ways to assess what is real.

      As to whether atheistic science is a ‘nonsense statement’ or not, I could not more profoundly disagree with you. My contention all along is that there has to be a hypothesis before something can be evaluated. And one’s worldview about whether God might exist it the determining factor. If you assume at the start that God is real then you will look for evidence in support of that belief. Said another way, an athiestic scientist ‘believes’ in neo-Darwinism because he is an atheist, not the other way around.

      There are exceptions, of course. Ken Miller is rather unique among Christians. He believes in the God of Catholicism, but he sees evolution as the method God chose or allowed to happen. And as you will see in upcoming posts, there are atheists who support the idea that we should be teaching ID, if not in the science classroom, then somewhere else.

      Atheism is a faith system. It says ‘I assert and believe that there is no supernatural, devine agent or being.’ Atheists have no more scientific way to support their claim than Christians, Muslims, or people in other faith systems. Agnosticism does not go as far. It simply says it has no opinion on whether a god exists, or that the evidence is inconclusive. But you cannot live your life with one foot in the ‘God is’ camp and the other in the ‘god is not’ camp. Agnostics usually live secular lives, and usually ‘see no reason’ to investigate on their own whether that belief system is right. Therefore, they live as functional atheists.

      So by keeping even the mere mention of ID out of the classroom, are we being honest with our students? Can we pretend that there is no dissent? Can we pretend that Darwin had it all figured out 150 years ago, and that the possibility that a designer or a creator might have been involved somehow is intellectually honest? Can we in effect say ‘evolution did it, now shut up’?

      I cherish the fact that we live in a country where we can choose things for ourselves, and at the same time grieve that we so often choose the wrong. So I respect your decision to live as an atheist and would stand and fight with you if the powerful wanted to take that right away. But I do not agree with you, and I would be intellectually dishonest if I ‘went along to get along’ and simply settled back in my comfy easy chair, slothfully allowing the ‘thought police’ to continue to teach their one-sided belief system to the exclusion of all dissenting opinion.

      When we repress the expression of dissenting opinion, we all lose – every single one of us.

  7. “When we repress the expression of dissenting opinion, we all lose – every single one of us.”

    I’ll be over to teach your children the Holocaust didn’t happen, shall I?

    And make sure it gets taught in schools as a valid historical interpretation.

    1. Are you in favor of the repression of dumb ideas? If so, who gets to decide which ones are dumb? Did you actually study the holocaust? Repression of free thought – particularly from the Christian church leaders in Germany – was one of the first tactics employed by Hitler to grab power early in the Reich’s rein or terror. You really should consider how many people died to give you the right to express stupid ideas of your own.

  8. Havok

    John: That’s REALLY ironic, given that Darwin’s ideas were dreampt up in the first place because he was angry at God for taking his daughter away from him, and didn’t want to have to be subject to him any more.

    You can of course back up that assertion, right?
    What was Wallace’s motivation for “dreaming” up a similar hypothesis to Darwin? Did he also lose a daughter and was angry at the Christian god?
    Regardless of what may or may not have been Darwin’s motivating factor, the basics of his theory have stood up to attempts to falsify it for 150 years now.

    John: The problem is that they are almost universally shunned, ostracized, marginalizied, and denied the opportunity to go where the evidence leads.

    I hope you’re not saying this based upon the “evidence” presented in expelled?

    John: They are relegated to the fringe, and denied not only jobs, tenure, and raises, but grant money.

    Same with the electric universe people, the holographic universe people, the water powered car people etc. Also, many main stream scientists also fail to find tenure, funding, raises etc. You seem to be implying that ID’ists, creationists etc are unfairly marginalised. Something I don’t see evidence of.

    John: Other than the Dover trial, what evidence do you have to support that claim?

    Behe has claimed that the Flagellum is IC has been shown to be flawed.
    Behe’s claim that the human blot clotting cascade is IC has been shown to be flawed (this is what Miller showed in the Dover trial).
    Is there an example of ID, which can be falsified, which has not been shown false, and which isn’t simply an argument from ignorance? I’m not aware of any.

    John: And since I brought it up, Ken Miller was the clear `winner’ at the Dover trial. He destroyed Behe more because of his flamoyance and showmanship than his science.

    He showed that the claims Behe made concerning the IC of the blot clotting cascade was false. Whether he presented himself better or not is meaningless in this context (though it may have influenced the trial, it doesn’t mean his testimony was false). Behe failed to support his assertions of IC, and wasn’t even aware of much recent work on the blood clotting cascade.

    John: But more to the point, I do not contend, as some do, that `God did it, so shut up’.

    Good. Many people, however, do seem to contend a similar line of thought – “God did it so evolution must be false/innadequate”.

    John: I have said repeatedly that I believe that evolution has played a major role in getting us here. But as you will see in an upcoming post, ID and neo-Darwinism are not mutually exclusive claims.

    Modern evolution explains the features we see, without the requirement of a designer. ID, from my understanding, posits everything evolution does, but includes a designer, but is yet to demonstrate the necessity of said designer (or it’s existence). This means the designer is currently superfluous and unnecessary, therefore modern evolutionary theory is to be preferred.
    It doesn’t matter what you believe, it only matters which hypothesis/theory is supported by the evidence.

    John: I agree that the scientific method does `have utility’. But listen to yourself. In one paragraph, you say that “The scientific method is not a claim concerning reality”, then “It is a process for assessing claims about reality”.

    Right. It’s a tool. It’s the best tool we have for assessing claims about reality.

    John: What would be the reason for assessing the claims about reality, if not to see what is real?

    I fail to see why the scientific method being a useful tool for assessing claims concerning reality means that the mthod itself must be found valid using itself. Can you clarify this point?

    John: And I note well that you said it is “a process”, not `the process’. Your implication, like it or not, is that there are other possible ways to assess what is real.

    Sure, there might be. Revelation was, at one point, thought to be a good method of assessing these claims. In modern times, however, revelation has been found to be subjective, and give different results depending on the individual (Buddhists, Hindus, Christians, Muslism etc have all come to differing conclusions while relying upon “revelation”).
    I don’t know that anyone would claim that the scientific method/methodological naturalism is the ultimate and only procedure for investigating reality.
    I would claim, however, that it is the best tool which we currently know about and utilise.
    Do you know of another objective method for investigating claims concerning reality?

    John: As to whether atheistic science is a `nonsense statement’ or not, I could not more profoundly disagree with you.

    And I would still say you’re wrong 🙂

    John: My contention all along is that there has to be a hypothesis before something can be evaluated.

    And the hypothesis should be based upon observations of reality, not upon whatever your own subjective beliefs and feelings are.

    John: And one’s worldview about whether God might exist it the determining factor.

    So if I approach the world with the presumption that the Invisible Pink Unicorn created and sustains the universe, that is legitimate science? He created the universe last Thursday, you know, with the appearance of age (including our memories). Would you call that science?

    John: If you assume at the start that God is real then you will look for evidence in support of that belief.

    I would say that is an unjustified assumption. Can you provide support for the assumption that your specific concept of God actually exists?

    John: Said another way, an athiestic scientist `believes’ in neo-Darwinism because he is an atheist, not the other way around.

    I would disagree. The scientist becomes an atheist (remember, most of them are going to start out theists of one stripe or another) due to acceptance of the modern theory of evolution. For me and most of the other atheists I know, a lack of belief in god or gods – atheism – is a conclusion from assessing the evidence, not a presumption for which supporting evidence is looked for.

    John: He believes in the God of Catholicism, but he sees evolution as the method God chose or allowed to happen.

    For which he has no supprting evidence – just his belief.
    He accept evolution as it currently is. Evolution as it currently is does not require the manipulation of any deity, and so positing the intervention of a deity is superfluous.
    I think Miller puts his God’s intervention into quantum events, but as far as we can tell, quantum events are not directed, they are statistically deterministic, but essentially random within that. Again, this intervention is not required by quantum theory, and is therefore superfluous.

    John: And as you will see in upcoming posts, there are atheists who support the idea that we should be teaching ID, if not in the science classroom, then somewhere else.

    Philosophy class?
    I’ve never understood wy ID should be taught in high school when it is currently not mainstream science. Should we teach string theory, or other speculative or fringe theories in high school, when there is barely enough time to teach an overview of what is the current state?

    John: Atheism is a faith system. It says `I assert and believe that there is no supernatural, devine agent or being.’

    You’re mistaken. Sure, some people are as you say – “No deity” is a presupposition through which they interpret everything.
    For most, in my experience, atheism is a conclusion after assessing the evidence.

    John: Atheists have no more scientific way to support their claim than Christians, Muslims, or people in other faith systems.

    When you can provide credible evidence to support your religious claims, over and above all other religious claims, then you’ll have a point here. Until then the only justified position is one of non-belief (provisionally, of course).

    John: Agnosticism does not go as far.

    Atheism – without theism
    Agnosticism – without gnosis (knowledge, generally of a spiritual nature)
    I would say I’m an agnostic atheist. I lack belief in a god or gods, but I’m not certain about it. I’m pretty certain about all the concepts of gods which man has put forward, but I cannot categorically rule out the possibility of a god.

    John: Agnostics usually live secular lives, and usually ‘see no reason’ to investigate on their own whether that belief system is right. Therefore, they live as functional atheists.

    Most of the atheists, like myself, have come to that conclusion based upon an investigation of their own and other belief systems. Many of them seem to have started their investigations as committed Christians 🙂

    John: So by keeping even the mere mention of ID out of the classroom, are we being honest with our students?

    Yes. You can mention it as “science done badly” and perhaps investigate it as such, but at present it has no place being taught as “science”.

    John: Can we pretend that there is no dissent?

    Do we teach them about all of the dissent over many details of evolution which are still being worked out, or do we teach them the basic over all theory?
    The level of dissent over evolution pales into insignificance when compared with the dissent within evolution (though not over any “major” points), so shouldn’t we teach that first? Of course, the students would have to complete at least a Bachelor level course in evolutionary biology to understand the issues, which means it couldn’t be done in high school. Guess we should just teach the generalities then, and ignore teaching the cutting edge then 🙂

    John: Can we pretend that Darwin had it all figured out 150 years ago, and that the possibility that a designer or a creator might have been involved somehow is intellectually honest? Can we in effect say `evolution did it, now shut up’?

    Who says Darwin got it all right?
    He knew nothing of genetics (though Mendel was a contemporary), and had something similar to Lamarkianism as his method of adaption (I think, though am not certain, that Wallace’s hypothesis was closer to what we have now, in this regard). The basics however – common descent, descent with modification, and natural selection, have stood the test of time.

    John: So I respect your decision to live as an atheist and would stand and fight with you if the powerful wanted to take that right away. But I do not agree with you, and I would be intellectually dishonest if I `went along to get along’ and simply settled back in my comfy easy chair, slothfully allowing the `thought police’ to continue to teach their one-sided belief system to the exclusion of all dissenting opinion.

    Ok, you’ve rather lost the point now. Evolution is a scientific theory, not a belief system. Evolution, being the dominant theory in it’s field, with no reasomnable alternatives at present, should be taught to high school students to the exclusion of those fringe alternatives. This is high school, not an advanced university course.

    John: When we repress the expression of dissenting opinion, we all lose – every single one of us.

    As morsec0de said, should we teach holocaust denial in history, as an alternative intepretation? Teach that the moon landing never happened?

  9. Havok

    Are you in favour of teaching high school students that the holocaust didn’t happen, that the moon landing was faked, that aliens landed in Roswell, New Mexico etc, as valid history, or should we stick to teaching them that which is more supported by the evidence?
    I’m not in favour of burning holocaust deniers at the stake, nor ensuring that they’re persecuted because their beliefs don’t tow the party line.
    Why should these people be given a platform for their beliefs?
    Why have their personal conspiracy theories taught to children when they’re unable to demonstrate that these theories are more likely than what is currently accepted?

    Oh, I think you just Godwin’d this thread 🙂

    1. Sorry it took me a while to reply.

      Are you in favour of teaching high school students that the holocaust didn’t happen, that the moon landing was faked, that aliens landed in Roswell, New Mexico etc, as valid history, or should we stick to teaching them that which is more supported by the evidence?

      No, no and no. But what we’re talking about here is whether the teaching of neo-Darwinism without discussing the problems with the theory or the possibility that there may be other forces at work is fair, or right, or even intellectually defensible. And like it or not, there are more people who reject Darwinian theories of random mutation and natural selection than accept them. So your assertion that this is in the same category just does not fly.

      Why should “these people” be given a platform for their beliefs?

      Which people are you referring to? By what standard to we measure the worthiness of their beliefs? Who gets to decide? You? People who agree with you? Smart people? Educated people?

      More to the point, why are you an atheist? Some of what you have said in previous exchanges has argued that there is ‘no need for a god’. Albert Einstein said that one could live his life as if there were no miracles, or as if everything was a miracle! No man of God, he was at least intelligent enough see that all of the order and complexity and beauty and discoverability in the design of things from the sub-atomic to the inter-galactic and beyond must be there for a reason and must not be the product of random nothingness.

      I was once an agnostic, but was open to new and additional information, and when that information came along, I changed my mind. If you are indeed an atheist, that implies that you are not open to new information that may change your mind. Is that right?

      Why do you suppose we cry out “Oh God! when we are desperate? Why are there no atheists in foxholes? Why do we feel a need for God when we are at the end of our own ability to deal with the problems we are facing?

      And how does one live life with any sense of personal dignity, or purpose, or hope, if one believes that he came from nothing purposeful, is destined for nothing, and has no particular reason for living?

      And by the way, if you’re at all curious, I’d be glad to answer all of those questions about me, and why I feel that you can’t really be intellectually fulfilled – Dawkins’ theory notwithstanding – unless you are a Christian.

  10. Havok

    John: But what we’re talking about here is whether the teaching of neo-Darwinism without discussing the problems with the theory or the possibility that there may be other forces at work is fair, or right, or even intellectually defensible.

    The problem is that to get to the point of discussing the “problems” with the modern synthesis, you need to be around college level biology, which means you need to have been taught the basics. The same goes for discussing the possibility of “other forces”, and why they’re not plausible 🙂

    John: And like it or not, there are more people who reject Darwinian theories of random mutation and natural selection than accept them.

    Not experts in the field, which is the only people who rationally can have an opinion on these matters. You want to disagree, then you need to become aquainted with the topic.
    There are more people who reject Christianity than accept it, does that make it wrong?
    Christianity is the most popular religion, does that make it right?

    John: So your assertion that this is in the same category just does not fly.

    Yeah, it does actually. Experts generally agree that the holocaust probably occurred (historians), that evolution and common descent are probably true (biologists), that quantum events are statistically deterministic, but essentially random (physicists).

    John: Which people are you referring to?

    Those whose opinion goes against the opinion of experts in the field, especially when they themselves are not experts. Holocaust deniers tend to not be historians. People who believe quantum mechanics means some kind of mind over matter tend not to be physicists, and people who think that special creation is more likely than common descent and evolution are generally not biologists.
    So, why would we let people who go against the consensus of experts in a field have a platform for having their pet hypothesis or belief taught as a legitimate alternative, when these people have not shown it to be a legitimate alternative?

    John: By what standard to we measure the worthiness of their beliefs?

    Their arguments and evidence, as judged by other experts in the field seems to be the best way we currently have. If someone simply holds a belief, that is fine. You can believe all day long that God stepped in to guide evolution through te influencing of quantum events, as Ken Miller seems to.
    What you shoudn’t do is say this is more than your opinion without argument and evidence, which is why Miller, as a biologist, holds to ALL of the tenants of the modern synthesis theory of evolution, including common descent, with no direct influence from a designer – simply because there is no evidence of this at present. Miller simply seems to tuck his God’s intervention into quantum events (a field in which he is not an expert, by the way), a field in which he is not an expert, and in which experts do not agree that this is the case 🙂

    John: Who gets to decide? You? People who agree with you? Smart people? Educated people?

    Experts in the field. Who gets to decide that ‘2 + 2 = 4’?
    I’m not quite expert enough in Mathematics to the point where I can prove this myself (set theory and peano arithmetic are probably involved somewhere). This proof is beyond me, so I take the opinion of the experts in the field that a proof has been demonstrated and that this is the case.
    We do this for all sorts of things – no one can be an expert on everything. When it comes to doctors we even ask for second (or third etc) opinions, to garner a “consensus” of what might be wrong, or what the best course of action is. We have to do this simply because we’re not experts.
    I’m curious to know if you think Homeopathy or Astrology should be taught in science class?
    To me they both seem to be in the same or similar situation as ID/Creationism – failed sciences which have a very large group of believers in the general public.

    John: More to the point, why are you an atheist?

    Lack of evidence in support of any paticular concept of god or gods.
    I’m specifically not a Christian because of the incoherence of the belief system, both internally and externally.

    John: Some of what you have said in previous exchanges has argued that there is ‘no need for a god’.

    What has been shown to require a god (more specifically, the Christian God) as an explanation?
    Without a demonstration of that requirement, and without a tested scientific hypothesis (such as is the case currently with the origin of the visible universe) we’re left with agnosticism – “We don’t know”.
    When it comes to something where there is a scientific theory which has been tested and refined for some time, which has great explanatory and predictive power, which remains unfalsified and which is accepted as (provisionally) correct by the majority of experts with no real competing hypothesis, such as is the case for the theory of evolution, then I don’t see that there is a rational justification for not accepting it when you’re a non expert.

    Albert Einstein said that one could live his life as if there were no miracles, or as if everything was a miracle!

    Depends on your definition of miracle. I don’t think Einstein was suggesting everything was due to the supernatural intervention of a deity. Do you?

    John: No man of God, he was at least intelligent enough see that all of the order and complexity and beauty and discoverability in the design of things from the sub-atomic to the inter-galactic and beyond must be there for a reason and must not be the product of random nothingness.

    Who said it was all random? From what we understand there is order to the universe – we allude to this with the term “Laws of Physics”, though what we term the laws of physics are the bext approximations we have to whatever might be underlying.
    Depends on what you mean by reason too. There doesn’t seem to be a need for teleology – an electron behaves as it does, because it’s an electron, and that’s what they do. There doesn’t seem to be an indication that electrons behave as they do because your God wills it, does there?

    John: I was once an agnostic, but was open to new and additional information, and when that information came along, I changed my mind.

    I’d be interested in what that information was. I would like to think my mind is open to new information.

    John: If you are indeed an atheist, that implies that you are not open to new information that may change your mind. Is that right?

    Sorry, “Atheist” simply means “without theism/god”. Whether that means an outright denial of the existence of Gods (usually termed “strong atheism”) or simply a lack of belief in their existence (“weak atheism”) would require further information.
    I would something like an “agnostic atheist” (or “weak atheist”).
    I don’t know there is no god or gods, but I don’t see reason for belief that there is. The burden of proof, as far as I can tell, is on Theists (and strong atheists) to justify their positions

    John: Why do you suppose we cry out “Oh God! when we are desperate?

    Many people cry out “Oh goodness!” 🙂
    I would guess it’s social conditioning? Do you think the ancient greeks cried out “Oh, Zeus?” Nah, they would have said “By Zeus!”. The norse? Likely “By Odin’s beard!”.

    John: Why are there no atheists in foxholes?

    There are. Perhaps you should investigate a little further 🙂
    I’ve also heard of there being discrimination of atheists in the armed forces (at least there in the US). Fighting for “God and country” might discourage a few people from enlisting also – who want’s to fight for an imaginary being?

    John: Why do we feel a need for God when we are at the end of our own ability to deal with the problems we are facing?

    Because it is comforting to think there is someone who’ll make it alright? Doesn’t mean that someone exists, mind you.
    When I’ve been through personal tragedy, I’ve not felt the need for your or anyone else’s God. Maybe I’m “different”? Maybe you’re simply projecting? 🙂

    John: And how does one live life with any sense of personal dignity, or purpose, or hope, if one believes that he came from nothing purposeful, is destined for nothing, and has no particular reason for living?

    You’re talking about absolute meanings and reasons for living. I don’t think those exist – they certainly haven’t been shown to exist to my knowledge.
    This doesn’t mean we can’t fashion our own meaning (or inherit meaning or something like that), and not, this doesn’t give way to total relativism – dialog using reason and logic help, as they do when discussing most anything 🙂

    John: And by the way, if you’re at all curious, I’d be glad to answer all of those questions about me, and why I feel that you can’t really be intellectually fulfilled – Dawkins’ theory notwithstanding – unless you are a Christian.

    Great, I’ll be asking some questions then.
    Would you prefer email or some “blog” conversation?

    1. The problems with the modern synthesis i was referring to have nothing to do with science. They are metaphysical or theological or philosophical. Neither of us is expert at that, but I dare say that would not keep either of us from expressing our opinions. hahaha

      I have posted on this topic (Only Believe). That post listed several experts who question the thesis that Darwinism explains things like the origin of life, or the complex and highly ordered design of cells, etc. True, it does seem that more bio-scientists accept Darwinism than Christianity, and no, neither statistic proves the validity of either point of view.

      In going against the opinion of experts in the field, I would be pretty foolish if there were no experts who disagreed with the consensus. But there are. I believe their views make more sense than yours, and that they are more consistent with the non-scientific aspects of life than yours.

      Holocaust deniers, believers in the idea that the moon landing was faked, and that aliens landed in Roswell are outnumbered by at least 10 to 1. That puts them on the fringe, and since none of them could produce expert witnesses that would be taken seriously, it’s pretty sane for us to reject their ideas. But if their numbers grew to say 40% and if their ranks were to include people whose credentials and recognized expertise was beyond reproach, that would put them in a whole new light. That’s what we have here.

      What biological principles do you think I am arguing against? Hopefully, none. What I disagree with is the metaphysical assumptions behind your worldview. You assume there is no God, therefore, it is easy for you to accept that random mutation, natural selection and the tree of life are adequate explanations for our origin. That is an opinion based not on science, but on a metaphysical bias that rejects God. It is a self-reinforcing way to look at the world. I am persuaded that the evidence for random mutations and evolution within organisms is voluminous, scientifically unassailable, and that it does in fact explain a lot of things. I do not believe it precludes the involvement on some level, of God. Further, since there are experts who do not agree with the metaphysical presuppositions you make, I find it possible to believe in God and am overjoyed that I did not have to leave my brain at the door to do so.

      My point is that I do not deny the reality of evolution any more than the holocaust. What I argue against is the notion that naturalism is all there is, that the “rules” The people who invented mathematics told us that 2+2=4. God (in my opinion) made up the laws of physics when He created the universe. I find it incoherent to say that those laws just happened, or that the universe came into being randomly or for no particular reason. Since scientists have come to nearly universal agreement that the universe began, is it intellectually satisfying to assume that it did so for no particular reason?

      My perspective is that most professing atheists are really agnostics (what you term as weak atheists). That sounds to me like what you are, and that’s good to hear. The fact that you are open to new information means that there are reasons for us to continue our dialogue. If we were both closed-minded, what would be the point?

      There’s discrimination against Christians too. Lots of it. If you are Christian physician, and find abortion to be morally repugnant, you can still be forced by the powers that be to perform them, or to lose your funding, lose your standing in the profession, even lose your job. And try to read a Bible in study hall at school. Although you probably could get away with it if you put a Harry Potter cover on it.

      As for continuing discussion, we could do it either way, but an on-line chat tool might be better. Are you on facebook?

  11. Havok

    John: The problems with the modern synthesis i was referring to have nothing to do with science.

    So you accept that the modern synthesis theory of evoution is the best explanation for the origin and diversity of species, common descent and all of that, in much the same fashion as Ken Miller does?
    I thought you were advocating ID as an alternative, and saying that evolution is not a sufficient explanation 🙂

    John: I have posted on this topic (Only Believe).

    I’ll head on over there as well and have a read.

    John: That post listed several experts

    A quick browse of that post doesn’t list any biologists, nor chemists, so how can they be considerd experts concerning the origin of life or the origins of the first cell?

    John: who question the thesis that Darwinism explains things like the origin of life,

    In the same way that Relativity doesn’t explain the behaviour of electrons – different domains. Evolution has never to my knowledge been proferred as an explanation for the begining of life – simple chemistry, ala abiogenesis seems to be the most fruitful avenue of research in that direction which is yielding exciting results.

    John: or the complex and highly ordered design of cells, etc.

    True, there is no account of how a cell formed as yet, but that doesn’t mean there cannot be one. To my knowledge there are some hypothesis for how this may have occurred.

    John: True, it does seem that more bio-scientists accept Darwinism than Christianity, and no, neither statistic proves the validity of either point of view.

    And to get ahead of myself, they are in the vast majority, just as those historians who accept the holocaust and the moon landing are, as you point out below.

    John: In going against the opinion of experts in the field, I would be pretty foolish if there were no experts who disagreed with the consensus.

    We could probably find an “expert” who supported almost any position 🙂

    John: But there are. I believe their views make more sense than yours, and that they are more consistent with the non-scientific aspects of life than yours.

    Yet if we play “duelling experts” the modern synthesis wins hands down. Yes, those who doubt evolution may in the end win the day – the claims of science are provisional after all.
    Currently, however, the case has not been made, and their claims seem either arguments from ignorance (ie. Behe’s bacterial flagellum argument) or have been shown incorrect (again, Behe’s flagellum argument fits here).

    John: Holocaust deniers, believers in the idea that the moon landing was faked, and that aliens landed in Roswell are outnumbered by at least 10 to 1.

    As I mentioned above, I think you’d find that biologists accept evolution in a far greater majority than this. At what ratio can we say “You’re wrong”?

    John: But if their numbers grew to say 40% and if their ranks were to include people whose credentials and recognized expertise was beyond reproach, that would put them in a whole new light. That’s what we have here.

    Not really, as far as I can tell. The vast majority of scientists accept evolution. The ratio is even greater if we restrict ourselves to “experts”.

    John: What biological principles do you think I am arguing against? Hopefully, none.

    No idea. You’ve not actually made an argument against the theory of evolution that I can see, just claimed that it is inadequate in some metaphysical sense. If it is the best explanation for what it seeks to explain, then I don’t see why it is deemed to be innadequate.

    John: What I disagree with is the metaphysical assumptions behind your worldview.

    That’s all fine and good, but the the theory of evolution is not based upon those assumptions. It may appear that it is due to the scientific method’s reliance upon methdological naturalism, but that is not an initial assumption, it s procedural thing.

    John: You assume there is no God, therefore, it is easy for you to accept that random mutation, natural selection and the tree of life are adequate explanations for our origin.

    You’ve got it backwards. I look at the evidence around me – random mutation, natural selection, DNA and morphogenic evidence for common descent, the fossil record, as well as geology, cosmology, anthropology, history, etc etc and come to the conclusion that the Christian God is incredibly improbable.
    I look at the same evidence and find that any interventionist deity is of a similar ludicrous improbability. I look at the evidence and find the best case for a god is for one of Deism, which is as good as none at all anyway, and so I conclude that belief in a god or gods is not supported by the available evidence.

    John: That is an opinion based not on science, but on a metaphysical bias that rejects God.

    Incorrect – it’s not a presupposition, it’s a conclusion. It seems it’s difficult to get this point across as most believers I’ve put it to don’t seem to understand.
    The bias is procedural – there is no method for investigating the supernatural, which puts any claims on a shaky footing.

    John: It is a self-reinforcing way to look at the world.

    I’m open to any and all evidence, but that evidence needs to be of a persuasive. I find scientific evidence to be generally persuasive due to it’s objectivity. I find arguments from personal experience to be far less persuasive because of their subjectivity.

    John: I am persuaded that the evidence for random mutations and evolution within organisms is voluminous, scientifically unassailable, and that it does in fact explain a lot of things.

    We agree on this. Are you implying here, however, that so called “macro evolution” does not/can not/has not occurred?

    John: I do not believe it precludes the involvement on some level, of God.

    Again, I agree. There is the possibility of some kind of “intervention”. As far as we can tell however, there isn’t, hasn’t been, and is no need for said involvement – it’s unecessary and superfluous, so why include it in the hypothesis?

    John: Further, since there are experts who do not agree with the metaphysical presuppositions you make, I find it possible to believe in God and am overjoyed that I did not have to leave my brain at the door to do so.

    Again, no problem here. You seem to accept evolution (though perhaps not all it entails, such as billions of years of evolution, incredible animal suffering, homo sapiens sapiens being around for probably around 100,000 years prior to your God making itself known etc. To my mind the above alone makes the Christian God incredibly improbable, given it’s supposed attributes. How do you reconcile this?

    John: My point is that I do not deny the reality of evolution any more than the holocaust.

    Ok. I’m glad to hear it. Does that include common descent etc? I certainly hope so 🙂

    John: What I argue against is the notion that naturalism is all there is, that the “rules” The people who invented mathematics told us that 2+2=4.

    I find this essay to be a good example of Philosophical Naturalism being the only justified conclusion given current evidence and methods. You might find it interesting.
    Also, the maths which means “2+2=4” is true are based upon some basic axioms, as far as I can tell (though I doubt I can follow the actual proofs). If you don’t accept the axioms, then you don’t accept the result 🙂

    John: God (in my opinion) made up the laws of physics when He created the universe.

    But without decent evidence for your God, I find your opinion to be unjustified and irrational. Why not simply say “I don’t know how/why the laws of physics are”? 🙂

    John: I find it incoherent to say that those laws just happened, or that the universe came into being randomly or for no particular reason.

    Well, we don’t know how the laws came into being. We don’t know how the visible universe came into being. These are open questions, and from my (meager) research, there are some hypothesis for both, though there is nothing “concrete” as yet. Again, “I don’t know” seems to be the justified position on this.

    John: Since scientists have come to nearly universal agreement that the universe began, is it intellectually satisfying to assume that it did so for no particular reason?

    Well, cosmologists don’t know that the universe began. We can model the universe rather well using the standard model (big bang cosmology), but when it gets to a certain size and time (around Plank time) our current theories fail, and we are in ignorance. It’s hoped that reconciling relativity and quantum mechanics (a theory of quantum gravity) will enable us to model further back into the past.
    You may want to look into the Hawking-Hartle model, which postulates that time becomes “smeared” such that we cannot say there was an actual beginning. Or perhaps other models such as M-brane, or Smolin’s black hole evolution, for some current “live” hypothesis concerning the origins and beginnings of our visible universe.

    John: My perspective is that most professing atheists are really agnostics (what you term as weak atheists). That sounds to me like what you are, and that’s good to hear. The fact that you are open to new information means that there are reasons for us to continue our dialogue. If we were both closed-minded, what would be the point?

    Well, when I do encounter those who are close minded, I think of those who might be reading the discussion. Then I eventually become frustrated and give up 🙂

    John: There’s discrimination against Christians too. Lots of it. If you are Christian physician, and find abortion to be morally repugnant, you can still be forced by the powers that be to perform them, or to lose your funding, lose your standing in the profession, even lose your job.

    Regarding abortion, if it’s a part of your job description, perhaps you shouldn’t have entered the profession, right?
    It would be somewhat like me trying to become a Christian priest and crying foul because I don’t believe in the Christian God.
    There are occasions (in the UK I think) where Muslims have refused to sell alcohol to people in supermarkets where the Muslims worked, because they find it morally repugnant. Does it seem sensible to allow them to continue this, though the selling of everything in the store is a part of their job description?

    John: And try to read a Bible in study hall at school. Although you probably could get away with it if you put a Harry Potter cover on it.

    Try reading the Koran pretty well anywhere in a western country and see what happens. Christian persecution is not some isolated thing. Most groups are persecuted. Christians would seem to have less occasion to feel/be persecuted as they tend to be in the majority in western nations.

    John: As for continuing discussion, we could do it either way, but an on-line chat tool might be better. Are you on facebook?

    I think our different time zones might make an online discussion a little difficult. You should have my email address from these comments. Drop me a line and we’ll work something out 🙂

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