Learning how to think

This is an answer to Maranda, who commented on a recent post.

You’ve done it again, Maranda.  Are you even aware that you are arguing against points I did not raise in this post?  I never said that I would like to teach creation in public schools (I wouldn’t).  I never said that they should stop teaching evolution (they shouldn’t).  And twice you have invoked the talking snake, whereas I never mentioned it or even alluded to it.

What I advocate is teaching kids to think.  That’s a horse of a far different color than teaching them “facts”.  They tell you, for example,  that we evolved up from lower species, and that the more evolving we did, the more sophisticated and intelligent and downright attractive we became.  Then before you have a chance to ask how that’s even possible without some force or entity or intelligence at work, guiding the process, they tell you that the mechanism that caused it to work is “natural selection”.  Somehow we’re supposed to just accept natural selection as a done deal – a closed case.  But is it?

A friend of mine says this about natural selection:

Natural selection isn’t even a mechanism.  By definition, a mechanism is something that does something.  NS, doesn’t qualify because at best it is merely a descriptive term to describe certain observations after the fact. That doesn’t tell us a thing about what mechanism caused something to be the way we observe it.  And all those supposed successive slight modifications haven’t been observed either….they’ve been supposed, proposed and speculated upon, but never observed.

What we have observed is adaptation which merely means that organisms have a remarkable ability to adapt to changes in thier environment.  One of the interesting things about adaptation is that in nearly every case, those adaptations tend to ocillate around a mean depending on what environmental pressures are present or absent over some period of time.  None of that explains how the organism came to posses adaptability in the first place.

And then we have some rather insurmountable problems for Darwinian evolution, such as irreducible complexity found in many biological systems, especially at the cellular level.  Or specified complexity.  Neither of these can be explained by Darwinian evolution, but are explained by intelligent cause.

So without the doctrine of natural selection, Darwinists are exposed as emperors without any clothes.  They are left to say in effect, ‘OK, if natural selection is not a mechanism, or if it is a mechanism, but can’t be proven scientifically, can’t we just accept that it’s a reasonable thing to assume? ‘

The answer is  yes, it is reasonable to build a hypothesis on that assumption.  But that’s not what they do.  What they do is to obfuscate the fact that they did that little slight of hand and simply move on, as if they had just made an irrefutable statement.  Red is a color.  Jet engines are loud.  All living things eventually die.  Those are all statements of fact.  We would have a hard time proving any of them true scientifically.  But it is reasonable to assume they’re true, because we have seen them to be true every time we have observed them, and we know of no exceptions to them being true.  But no such claim could be made of natural selection.  So it’s completely bogus to assume it’s fact.

Meanwhile, the main point of the Stephen Meyer article is that information always has an intelligent source.  Here again, we can’t prove that, but it’s reasonable to assume it’s true because each and every observation has seen it to be true, and it seems reasonable to assume its complexity and non-random arrangement required something more than the working of nature.

What’s your answer to that Maranda?

While I’m at it, I want to also suggest that there are a few important points you seem to be ignoring.  One is this:  If Darwinian evolution is true, why do we care what other people think of us?  Natural selection seems to work by getting the strong to overpower the weak – by having the strong and fast eat the weak and slow.  If I steal your purse, you yell ‘Stop thief!’ and have me arrested for doing you wrong.  But Darwin says I was just doing what came naturally – trying to survive.  Listen to what Annie Dillard had to say on the subject in her Pulitzer prize-winning book, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek.  While trying to commune with nature, she saw that evolution loves death, not life.  She saw a waterbug sting a frog and suck its brains out.  it was one of the most horrifying and brutal things she had ever seen.  She wrote:

Cock Robin may die the most gruesome of slow deaths, and nature is no less pleased.  The sun comes up, the creek rolls on, the survivors still sing.  I cannot feel that way about your death, nor you about mine, nor either of us about the robin’s… We value the individual supremely, and nature values him not a whit.  It looks for the moment as though I might have to reject this creek life unless I want to be utterly brutalized. Is human culture with its values my only real home after all?  Either this world – nature – is a monster ,or I am a freak, because I believe that the strong should not eat the weak, but everything in nature says it should.

All right then. It is our emotions which are amiss. We are freaks, the world is fine, and let us all go have lobotomies to restore us to a natural state.  We can leave the library then, go back to the creek lobotomized, and live on its banks as untroubled as any muskrat or reed. You first.

The point is that we know down deep inside of us that people matter.  I matter.  So do you.  So does your neighbor.  If we act on that, if we protect our neighbor from harm rather than eating him, we are acting counter to what evolution tells us we must do to survive.

Think about it.

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4 thoughts on “Learning how to think

  1. Havok

    It’s been a while John. I see you’re still managing to remain ignorant and misunderstand evolutionary theory. Perhaps you need to “Learn how to think” 🙂

    John: They tell you, for example, that we evolved up from lower species,

    Not “up from lower species”, simply “from earlier organisms/species”. Remember, there are no goals 🙂

    John: Somehow we’re supposed to just accept natural selection as a done deal – a closed case. But is it?

    Pretty much, but I’m sure you’ll continue to misunderstand biology.

    John’s friend: And all those supposed successive slight modifications haven’t been observed either….they’ve been supposed, proposed and speculated upon, but never observed.

    I could mention Darwin’s finches, the peppered moth, and even the recent bacteria which evolved to metabolise cytrate. Obviously none of those were observed, right?

    One of the interesting things about adaptation is that in nearly every case, those adaptations tend to ocillate around a mean depending on what environmental pressures are present or absent over some period of time.

    If the population is fairly well suited to the environment, then selection pressures mean it is unlikely to change rapidly – it will appear “oscillate around a mean” as your friend puts it. Why do you and/or your friend think this is a problem?

    None of that explains how the organism came to posses adaptability in the first place.

    Obviously your friend has never heard of mutation, various copying errors, viral infeection, horizontal gene transfer etc.

    And then we have some rather insurmountable problems for Darwinian evolution, such as irreducible complexity found in many biological systems, especially at the cellular level.

    Which consists of either debunked claims (bacterial flagellum, etc), or arguments from ignorance (“You can’t explain X, therefore it MUST be irreducibly complex”).
    Sorry, the IR argument is bunk.

    Or specified complexity.

    The concept of “specific complexity” is seriously lacking. If mathematicians pan Dembski’s work, I don’t see why biologists need take it seriously 🙂

    Neither of these can be explained by Darwinian evolution, but are explained by intelligent cause.

    Since neither IR nor SC have been shown to be present in biological systems, I don’t see why modern evolutionary theory has any need to explain them.

    John again: They are left to say in effect, ‘OK, if natural selection is not a mechanism, or if it is a mechanism, but can’t be proven scientifically, can’t we just accept that it’s a reasonable thing to assume? ‘

    Natural selection basically amounts to differential reproduction, which can and has been observed in the wild and in the lab. Sorry, this line of argument fails.

    Those are all statements of fact. We would have a hard time proving any of them true scientifically.

    “Red is a colour” is an analytic proof, much like “All unmarried men are bachelors”.
    We can measure the sound energy put out by a jet engine, and define loud to be above a certain threshold. Sounds pretty “sciency” to me. In fact, I think this may have already been done 🙂
    There are perfectly good scientific reasons as to why living things die. Disease, accidents and errors during cell division, for example.
    If, as you claim, “all living things die”, does that also include the supposed “living God” Christians like yourself claim exists? 🙂

    But no such claim could be made of natural selection. So it’s completely bogus to assume it’s fact.

    Natural selection, ie differential reproduction due to environmental pressures etc, is a scientific fact. It failed last time and it fails again here.

    Meanwhile, the main point of the Stephen Meyer article is that information always has an intelligent source.

    If you define information as always requiring an intelligent source, and then claim some information implies an intelligent source, then of course you’re going to find that to be the case. It’s called “begging the question”
    Random signals are very information dense – do they always have an intelligent source too? 🙂
    What definition of “information” are you and Meyers using here, by the way?

    and it seems reasonable to assume its complexity and non-random arrangement required something more than the working of nature.

    Except of course things like spontaneous self assembly in crystals or organic chemistry, etc, show that “complexity” and “non-random arrangement” don’t require anything more than “nature”. Another failed argument.

    If Darwinian evolution is true, why do we care what other people think of us?

    For a start, we’re social animals, we don’t do so well solitary in the wild.
    You might also want to look into Reciprocal Altruism.

    Natural selection seems to work by getting the strong to overpower the weak – by having the strong and fast eat the weak and slow

    It’s not “survival of the strongest” it’s “survival of the most able to reproduce”.

    If I steal your purse, you yell ‘Stop thief!’ and have me arrested for doing you wrong. But Darwin says I was just doing what came naturally – trying to survive.

    And you were arrested because we have laws to help “us” survive. The laws came naturally to us, so your arrest was “us” trying to survive. Another fail 🙂

    The point is that we know down deep inside of us that people matter. I matter. So do you. So does your neighbor. If we act on that, if we protect our neighbor from harm rather than eating him, we are acting counter to what evolution tells us we must do to survive.

    We’re social animals John, therefore we “look out for our own”. If you’re going to claim that everything and everyone is a solitary predator on “evolution”, then you’re quite simply wrong, and I think you know that.

    Since your arguments against ToE and for ID fail, you’re going to accept that there is no evidence of direction or top down teleology in evolution, right?
    No, of course not 🙂

  2. Well, hello again old “friend”. I must say I have not missed your tireless expression of faith claims-presented-as-truth claims. I’m going to do my best to ignore most of what you say, since pretty much all of it starts with a scientifically untestable and unverifiable faith assumption.

  3. Havok

    You are hilarious John.
    Claiming that intersubjective empirical investigations are “faith claims-presented-as-truth-claims”, yet accepting personal subjective testimony as veridical and representing absolute “Truth”.
    Since the results the intersubjective empirical/scientific explanations don’t provide support for your belief system, often seeming to undermine it, and since you’re obviously certain of the “Truth” of your own faith claims, I suppose ignoring and twisting reality to make your “Truth” fit becomes almost second nature, right? 🙂

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