Can Christians and Evolutionists Both Believe Darwin?

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Yes, answers the Skeptic's Michael Shermer in Scientific American:

Because the theory of evolution provides a scientific foundation for the core values shared by most Christians and conservatives, it should be embraced. The senseless conflict between science and religion must end now, or else, as the Book of Proverbs (11:29) warned: "He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind."

Whole thing here.

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  1. HaHa, these people are funny. They’ve got this god that they insist is incapable of kicking off a universe with a set number of physical laws and having it develop over time with no interference into what we have today. Their god can only pull it off with constant interference, suspensions of its own physical laws and micromanagement. And they’ve the audacity to use the term omnipotent?

    That’s like calling some one a pool shark who can’t even make a bank shot. Pathetic.

  2. Perhaps I’m stating the obvious here, but science and reason do not provide a “foundation for the core values shared by most Christians and conservatives”.

    Quite the opposite, in fact. By explaining the origins of life and the universe, science renders gods unnecessary.

  3. While all of Shermers points may be true, it doesn’t fix the creationist’s fractured syllogism:

    I believe in God.
    Evolution removes the requirement for God*.
    Therefore I do not believe in evolution.

    *prior to Darwin, most biologists believed that the only reasonable scientific explanation for the origin of species was God.

  4. Excellent, excellent find, Nick. Shermer’s column is the first thing that I read when my issue of Scientific American arrives in the mail.

    In regard to Shermer’s points, I would say that evolution does not lead inexorably to those conclusions, but it is certainly not in conflict with the values and positions that Shermer cites. To that extent, evolution need not be seen as a threat to conservatism.

  5. Hasn’t the Catholic church accepted the theory of evolution for some time now? I can recall JPII endorsing it.

  6. Try selling Shermer’s idea to a creationist or any sort of fundamentalist who has a mind-numbing literalist view of interpretation. Or rather they don’t believe in interpretation at all – as though the text speaks for itself, direct text to brain download. The fundamentalist will say, “Either I believe in all of it or I believe in none of it, otherwise, what’s the point? Either it’s God’s word or it isn’t.” There’s no arguing with such dunderheadedness. Though it might be fun to point out to such literalists about whether they always should literally turn the other cheek if they are slapped – oh, and how many of those folks support the war in Iraq; war’s a big no no if you actually believe in Jesus’s literal teachings: ‘if hit on one cheek offer the other to your assailant’ ‘love thine enemies’, ‘blessed are the peacemakers,’ etc. Watch them squirm and hedge then. They try and wedge out of those but for some reason evolution just has to go. I believe they were the same dunderheads Jesus was rebelling against when he set out to reform Judaism so that people would start to follow the spirit of the law instead of following the law like robots.

  7. Highnumber,

    You are correct that the Catholic church has endorsed evolution. As a matter of fact, every priest I have ever talked to has said Genesis is 100% metaphor.

    The thing is, most Creationsists and IDers are not Catholic and thus have no use for mackerel smackers nor their whore in babylon.

    The crux of the issue for them is Genesis and the Garden of Eden story. If evolution is true, then there was no Adam and Eve. No first man and woman. If there was no Adam and Eve, then there was no Original Sin. If there was no Original Sin, then one of the reasons Jesus died upon the cross is not true.

  8. Godfrey,

    It is my understanding that Darwinism does not claim to explain the actual origins of life. Science has not claimed to explain that just yet. There are several competing hypotheses on the subject.

  9. Can Christians and Evolutionists Both Believe Darwin?

    A better question: can liberals (e.g., Reason’s staff) and evolutionists both believe Darwin?

    http://www.skeptic.com/eskeptic/05-02-18.html

  10. Envagelicals and reason do not mix–period. Get over it already.

    “It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into.”–Swift

    No, everybody just can’t get along, Rodney.

  11. Thoreau: “…evolution…is certainly not in conflict with the values and positions that Shermer cites.”

    I must respectfully disagree.

    For instance Shermer says that “evolution describes how we developed into pair-bonded primates and how adultery violates trust.”

    That is only half the picture: there is a continuum of reproduction “strategies” and another effective approach is whoring around to spread one’s genes as widely as possible (this applies only to males, of course, who aren’t stuck with taking care of the babies). In many regions this has been the rule rather than the exception.

    Evolution is blind to the dictates of morality. It is a neutral force…at least until a superstitious person imbues it with assumptions of gods and magic.

  12. Jay D: point taken. Evolution does not directly address biogenesis.

  13. “prior to Darwin, most biologists believed that the only reasonable scientific explanation for the origin of species was God.”

    Somewhat true. There were numerous prefigurations of Darwin’s ideas and a general feeling that their had to be some inter-relation amongst species which fell within the same family. None of them really came together, however.

    Linneas and successors related species by taxonomy and how closely they resembled one another. Darwin followed this by saying that the relationship went beyond resemblance to an actual commonality of descent. An obvious test of this became possible once we got into molecular biology. If speciation was due to mutation from a common ancestor, then Darwin’s theory [actually ANY evolutionary theory] would predict that two related species would show a close resemblance in their molecular biology.

    When analysis of the inter-species variations in cytochrome-c, insulin, and ultimately DNA showed a high correlation with the taxonomic relationship, the creationists should have thrown in the towel.

  14. I think Shermer is being sophistical here — and is disappointingly endorsing belief in belief.

    As legendary skeptic James Randi succinctly wrote in his column in Shermer’s Skeptic magazine, science (including the Theory of Evolution) is empirical and adds to our knowledge of the world, and religion is simple dogma — so they are intrinsically incompatible.

    We also have to distinguish between theism (a constantly intervening god, which/who, as FredQuick points out, must not have been that smart after all), and deism (a supreme being who kicked off the universe then let it run on its own).

    Of course, if you accept the latter definition and believe that God created the Big Bang, you are left with the question of who pulled his finger.

  15. Shermer’s article is junk. It’s simply telling people what they want to hear. For example, the only reason he can propose #1 is that he already has the numbers behind him. In other words, what he’s describing as “good” theology is merely “popular” theology.

    Young earth creationists believe that Genesis is literal and all the evidence that says it’s not is either irrelevant, bad science or is part of God’s mysterious ways

    Christians who believe Genesis is a metaphor still believe that all the evidence that shows that Christ’s life and death was unimportant to the vast majority of the planet dismiss such evidence as irrelevant, bad science or that it’s part of God’s mysterious ways.

    It’s just as possible that an omnipotent God would create the earth in six days and then make it look like it happened over billions of years as it is that an omnipotent God would make the birth, death and resurrection of Christ exceedingly important, but not bother to tell most of the humans on the planet about it.

    In both of the above cases, you have an omnipotent God who goes out of his way to hide his work and to make it look exactly like he doesn’t exist. The only reason Shermer can get away with calling the latter “good” theology (and hence implying that the former is “bad” theology) is the number of people that already believe the latter is so much larger than the number who believe the former.

    Religion has historically been a good thing at least for some peoples. If it hadn’t, it wouldn’t have flourished. As such, popular religions are indeed “better”-in some respects-than unpopular religions (e.g., Catholic sexuality is better at increasing the number of Catholics than Shaker non-sexuality). But that’s not the point Shermer is making; it even undermines Shermer’s point.

    Anti-evolutionists do a good job at keeping the argument focused on nineteenth century science. Shermer does his readers a disservice by ignoring what we have learned since then and drawing the obvious conclusions. Of course Shermer would be much less popular for him to do so.

  16. Lurker Kurt:

    If a literal Genesis is necessary for original sin, then what’s up with Catholics?

  17. As legendary skeptic James Randi succinctly wrote in his column in Shermer’s Skeptic magazine, science (including the Theory of Evolution) is empirical and adds to our knowledge of the world, and religion is simple dogma — so they are intrinsically incompatible.

    Interesting. I would say that science does not claim to explain that which cannot be proven, and religion does claim to explain that which cannot be proven — so they are perfectly compatible.

    The only rule for their compatibility is that religion accept the explanations that science correctly offers and limit its purview to that which science does not explain.

    Incidentally, those who believe that science proves there is no God are making arguments that are more ludicrous than those on the other extreme who believe that the book of Genesis trumps science. At least the latter group states a belief in arbitrary violation of the natural based on interpretation of the supernatural. The former group must violate their very own assumptions in believing something is certain without positive evidence.

  18. Godfrey-

    Good point. I’ll have to think about that.

  19. We also have to distinguish between theism (a constantly intervening god, which/who, as FredQuick points out, must not have been that smart after all), and deism (a supreme being who kicked off the universe then let it run on its own).

    For the purpose of Christian dogma, we don’t have to care about the creation of the universe. We only care about the common ancestor and/or ancestress of all humans alive as of 4 BC. For the Christian God, any alien with a biotechnology equivalent to what we’re going to have anyway in a few decades will do.

    The problem of course is how the aliens were able to get here…

    Of course, if you accept the latter definition and believe that God created the Big Bang, you are left with the question of who pulled his finger.

    But a one-way dimension of time starting at zero is a property of this, encapsulated universe. The statement “before the universe was created” makes no sense. If something created this universe, it did so outside our universe’s matrix of dimensions. We’re getting into HPL territory, here. Fhtagn!

  20. thoreau,

    Godfrey’s point that there is another evolutionarily successful mating strategy besides long-term coupling does not negate the notion that morality derives from evolution: There may simply be two equilibrium points.

    What it does say is that perhaps marital fidelity is not a unique part of the universal morality that models the successful behavior of humans. As supporting evidence, note that as civilization advances, marital fidelity becomes less and less an issue of criminal law and more and more an issue of personal contract.

    Not that this argument would make fundamentalists happy…

  21. On the title of this thread: I think Christians and Evolutionists can both believe Darwin. But at least one blogger seems determined to revisit Galileo and take up the side of the church.

  22. thoreau,

    Have you considered the possibility that you’re the most intelligent person who regularly communicates with “Sam Franklin”? Although that may appear to be a compliment, it’s not necessarily.

  23. That an adult could publish this pablum as if it were quality original thinking is profoundly saddening to me.

    Bible thumpers don’t want accomodation from rationalists. They justly percieve that they’re kicking our ass and that is plenty good enough.

  24. MikeP sez: “Interesting. I would say that science does not claim to explain that which cannot be proven, and religion does claim to explain that which cannot be proven — so they are perfectly compatible.”

    First, MikeP, science does not attempt to explain that which cannot be disproven, but religion does claim to do so. The crime against human knowledge and humanity here is that people believe in and act upon religious dogma.

    Second, deists/theists claim that science can’t prove there’s a not god. Neither can science prove that the universe was not created by advanced beings from another dimension (or any other fantasy we care to invent). In either case, you can’t prove that something doesn’t exist (God, alien beings from another dimension) because you have no evidence it exists in the first place. I.e., the existence of the universe is not prima facie evidence that it was created by a creator. Shermer’s suggestion that a god created humankind through evolution is not disprovable, not testable, and does not add to our knowledge of the universe.

    Further, as deists/theists are presented evidence contradicting the existence of an all-knowing, all-loving, all-powerful god (such as 250,000 people, many of them innocent children, dying in a tsunami), they conveniently change the definition with statements such as “God works in mysterious ways,” ending up with a capricious, inept god we can’t rely on.

    Regarding theism, read Antony Flew’s brief essay “Theology and Falsification.”

    P.S. How do you make those cool italics?

  25. Son of a !

    Good question, next time I talk to a priest, I will ask him.

  26. Richard:

    <i>This text will be italicized.</i>
    <b>This text will be bolded.</b>

  27. Mike P.

    “Godfrey’s point that there is another evolutionarily successful mating strategy besides long-term coupling does not negate the notion that morality derives from evolution: There may simply be two equilibrium points.”

    First, religious edicts tend to be absolute. The equivalence you assign to opposite reproductive strategies directly contradicts Christian doctrine. One strategy is considered immoral (sinful). Both are the product of evolution. Therefore by religious standards evolution produces morality…except sometimes. That is not really a useful statement.

    “The only rule for their compatibility is that religion accept the explanations that science correctly offers and limit its purview to that which science does not explain.”

    There is a word missing from the end of that sentence. Yet.

    Science has the capability of explaining away all of religion’s falsifiable assertions. This being the case, your rule is a temporary stopgap at best. Just ask Ptolemy. Embracing supernatural explanations amounts to little more than evasion.

    The problem of religion vs. science is that the two are fundamental opposites. The core of this conflict actually between their primary components: faith and reason.

    Faith–or the belief in something which lacks supporting evidence (often even in spite of contradictory evidence)–is the exact opposite of reason. Religion, which posits explanations based on supernatural assumption, is the exact opposite of science.

    One has increasingly rendered the other unnecessary. This is hardly a recipe for a happy marriage. In fact it strikes me as grounds for divorce.

  28. anon2-

    Hey, I’d say lunchstealer is at least as smart as me!

    Seriously, I see your point. It’s a habit that I need to kick.

  29. “Science has the capability of explaining away all of religion’s falsifiable assertions”

    how is it any less dogmatic to assume that science can explain everything there can be to know? even if it appears that it might, there appears to be a seemingly infinite amount of stuff to know, in this universe and whatever others there might be. i guess the question is why must everything that “exists” be controlled by natural laws?

    “Faith–or the belief in something which lacks supporting evidence (often even in spite of contradictory evidence)–is the exact opposite of reason”

    i dunno, but any christian i’ve ever asked has told me that their faith is not something for which they have no evidence for. of course, its evidence which is personal, and the only evidence i see is the way they act, but all of them claim to know something, and none of the scientific explanations (yet) can make them doubt what they think they know. so maybe they’re crazy, or maybe they just have some funky brain wiring that not everyone has.

  30. Highnumber,

    I’d say that it is a qualified endorsement.

  31. Son of a!,

    How did you get the text to print without being italicized and bolded?
    (Oy, now this is getting circular.)

  32. Jgray:

    In defense of Godfrey, “Science has the capability of explaining away all of religion’s falsifiable assertions” is not to say that it will do so. No scientist will claim we can acquire absolute, complete knowledge.

    Science, reason and empiricism provide, by the nature of inductive reasoning, tentative yet ever-expanding knowledge — and in the process erode religious dogma.

    Your last paragraph about Christian believers is about human psychology, not reason. What exactly is “personal evidence”? Is it like one hand clapping? And regarding the way believers behave, how well I and others are treated by the religious seems to be inversely proportional to the amount of dogma they accept. (I can give examples.)

  33. I’d say that it is a qualified endorsement.

    Phileleutherus Lipsiensis,

    Catholic endorsement of evolution or an endorsement of Catholicism?

    (I think my mind is stuck in some sort of a loop today. Must be that rap thread.)

  34. highnumber:

    &lt; yields <
    &gt; yields >

    And just for completion’s sake:

    &amp; yields &

    (At this point it becomes recursive, because I have to type &amp;amp; to get &amp;, &amp;amp;amp; to get &amp;amp;, and so on and so forth.)

  35. jgray: “how is it any less dogmatic to assume that science can explain everything there can be to know?”

    Because it is religion, not science, that posits and “unknowable”…which is actually a contradiction in terms. As Richard intimates above, just because we never “will” know everything doesn’t mean that there is something that is “unknowable”.

    In brief (and hopefully without sounding too pedantic or esoteric): If something exists, it has attributes. If it has attributes, it is by definition “knowable” because it is defined by said attributes. In fact the degree to which anything has attributes is the degree to which that thing can defined and is therefore “knowable”.

    If something has no attributes it has no existence. Everything in existence has attributes, therefore everything in existence is ultimately knowable.

    The uncomfortable (for theists) completion of this line of reasoning is that something which has no attributes (i.e. something that is “unknowable”, like, for instance, a god) is something that does not–and logically cannot–exist.

  36. highnumber:

    Just to make it a little more explicit, here’s what I actually typed:

    &lt;i&gt;This text will be italicized.&lt;/i&gt;
    &lt;b&gt;This text will be bolded.&lt;/b&gt;

  37. Godfrey:

    Is there a good source for that line of argument, other than just plagiarizing you? I usually can’t get any more eloquent than, “There’s a difference between ‘unknown’ and ‘unknowable.’ ” Your point about existence and attributes is one I’ve never heard before, and I’d like to know if that’s of your own devising, or if some fancy-pants philosopher has dibs on it.

  38. Son:

    No, it’s not mine. Nothing is…I prefer to steal philosophical points from people who are smarter than me. Luckily I’ve read so much on the topic I can fool myself into believing I would have come up with it anyway, which is almost as good.

    Seriously, if I’m not mistaken the discussion on attributes and non-existence comes from this book.

  39. The uncomfortable (for theists) completion of this line of reasoning is that something which has no attributes (i.e. something that is “unknowable”, like, for instance, a god) is something that does not–and logically cannot–exist.

    Here are some attributes of a god: omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent. Here are some other attributes of a god: bearded, carrying a trident, able to appear as a rutting deer.

    Now, disprove the existence of either.

    Because it is religion, not science, that posits and “unknowable”…which is actually a contradiction in terms.

    Here’s where your argument breaks down. Sorry that it’s the first line…

    Religion does not posit an “unknowable”. It posits something that is hard to know or not yet known or known through exceptional perceptive abilities or the like. It may even say it is unprovable. But religion certainly doesn’t say what it posits has no attributes. And it would never say it is “unknowable” the way you are using the word.

  40. Science has the capability of explaining away all of religion’s falsifiable assertions. This being the case, your rule is a temporary stopgap at best.

    Are you really unable to see how religious — i.e., based on faith — a statement this is?

    The derivative of evidence is not evidence. That the arena where science provides answers has grown, supplanting religious explanations, does not mean that science will ever know everything or indeed that it will ever know a single thing more than it knows today.

    Not only does your position represent an apparently unshakable faith in the “knowability” of the universe — a faith that is based on inductive reasoning at best — it represents an unshakable faith that science itself will never ever discover that God exists.

  41. .. someone else said it something like,

    “Those folks who are really interested in sharing their religion with your are not quite as interested in hearing about yours”

    .. Hobbit

  42. Godfrey

    Unconvincing. You are attempting to define the other side out of existence.

    By definition, a “god” is supernatural & not subject to measurement, which means there is no test [for natural beings such as ourselves] to prove the existence or non-existence of such a being.

    I prefer the Occam’s Razor approach: We are certain that we and the world exist. [The alternative is some form of solipsism.] That said, does belief or non-belief in a god make the world any different? Whether or not we posit a god, there appears to be no difference to what we perceive. ‘God’ is therefore an unnecessary hypothesis.

    The burden of proof lies with the theists, not with the atheists.

    What your argument does show is that, to prove the existence of ‘God’, the theists must prove the supernatural.

    Until they do that, I remain an atheist.

  43. Somehow, whether through reading PKD, Idries Shah, Rumi, or Jung, or through consumption of various substances, or through thought, meditation, and self-examination, I realized that the existence of God, or whatever you’ll have it/him/her known as, is beside the point. We can try to prove or disprove through logic. We can say that god is simply a term for what underlies existence that we have yet to understand. We can follow a dogmatic faith. Why is it so important to us to know? We like to be in possession of “The Truth.” This is egoism and greed. Live right, people! Treat your brothers & sisters well. If there is a heaven, you’ll get there. If there isn’t, you made this world a better place.
    Now stop wasting your time with these silly proofs.

  44. Evolutionists persist in fighting a straw man. The leaders of the intelligent design movement do not advocate “Creationism”. They simply state that life appears designed. (Even leading evolutionists admit this).Darwin proposed a way for this design to occur without a designer. Evidence has piled up that Darwin’s natural selection, random variation and mutations cannot account for life as it is. (I would be glad to furnish a dozen or so scientific reasons). When We find such evidence as complex codes, We normally attribute these to an intelligence. This is the best choice. If We received complex codes from outer space, We would attribute it to intelligence, not chance. Until We come up with a reasonable explanation, Intelligent Design is the only reasonable choice.

  45. MikeP: Here are some attributes of a god: omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent.

    Those aren’t attributes. Attributes are definable. Attributes are also, to some degree, limitations.

    For example: if I say “that car is green” I have begun to define the car, but I have also limited it. The car cannot, at that moment and place, be red. It is green.

    If I say “that object is a sphere” I have limited the object: it cannot be a cube.

    To say that a god is “omniscient” is like saying “that car is all colors” or “that object is all shapes”. Omniscience is not an attribute but a lack of attributes. It is a non-definition.

    It is, by the way, absolutely necessary for a god to be without attributes if he is to be “omni” anything (for “omni” means “without limit” and attributes are, as demonstrated above, limitations).

    Contradictions abound.

    Religion does not posit an “unknowable”.

    Yes it does. In positing the supernatural, it posits the unknowable (i.e. that which is beyond the naturalistic universe, our only frame of reference).

    Now, disprove the existence of either.

    The burden of proof is not mine. You are claiming that a supernatural being exists, a claim which, according to our only frame of reference, is logically inconsistent. As Carl Sagan said: “extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.”

    I’d settle for the ordinary variety.

  46. They simply state that life appears designed. (Even leading evolutionists admit this).

    Name three. (Examples where they say something to the effect of, “Nature appears designed, until you look at it more closely,” do not count.)

    Evidence has piled up that Darwin’s natural selection, random variation and mutations cannot account for life as it is. (I would be glad to furnish a dozen or so scientific reasons).

    Please. Make yourself glad. (You used the word “evidence.” I would therefore like to see scientific evidence, not attempts at logical proofs based on scientific principles.)

    When We find such evidence as complex codes, We normally attribute these to an intelligence. This is the best choice.

    Actually, that’s frequently the worst choice. I once went to an Irish Festival, and just as I arrived, I noticed a cloud that was shaped just like the Emerald Isle. That’s the result of pareidolia, not an outside intelligence.

  47. Aresen: You are attempting to define the other side out of existence.

    Not really: I’m merely asking for a definition. You are probably familiar with this argument, but if I were to say that a “jigibon” exists, loves you very much and in fact blinked the entire universe into existence you would be perfectly justified in asking me “what was a jigibon again?”

    Why should the rules be different for any claim?

    What I was mainly trying to illustrate is that definitions are very difficult when it comes to such things as gods and jigibons. One is forced either to define them in earthly terms (“he is our father”) which strip them of their supernatural quality, in tautological terms (“he is love”) or in terms which in fact do not qualify as a definition at all.

  48. Son of a has challenged me. First Dawkins a very prominent evolutionist has said evolution is a way to explain the apparant design of living creatures. Second, any reasonable mind can see that life appears designed. A woodpecker, for example, has a variety of specialized organs, sight, hearing, turn of claws etc. for finding prey. It also has feathers, wings,circulation and blood clotting, digestion, respiration,hollow bones, sexual reproduction, DNA etc, etc, etc. All science until Darwin accepted these features were designed. Darwin proposed a way for these organs and features to develop by chance. He proposed natural selection could account for these.
    Sample problems for natural selection follow.
    Please note this is not the case against any change over time. It is
    only against “natural Selection” which I also call “Darwinism”.

    1. Plant & animal breeders find a limit to variability that is
    incompatible with Darwin. It should be possible to breed dogs with
    feathers. (Darwinism claims amoebas and worms developed into birds,
    spiders, & humans.) Furthermore, even the variations bred by breeders
    disappear in a few generations when not actively maintained by non-natural (intelligent) selection.

    2. Forced mutations like fruit fly experiments failed to confirm
    Darwinism. Fruit flies were radiated to cause genetic errors (mutations). Most mutations are not beneficial to the organism. Although duplications of organs occurred (like double wings), no new organs were created.

    3. Gaps in the fossil record. If Darwin was right, most fossils would be
    transitional. Between dinosaurs and birds or between fish and amphibians, between sponges and vertebrates there should be millions of intermediate fossils. Instead we have a few highly questionable
    Intermediate forms.

    4. Despite ad-hoc arguments about closed & open systems, evolution works
    against the law of entropy. An explosion in a junkyard will not produce a jet plane,
    no matter how many times you try it. A jet plan will however, deteriorate into a pile of
    junk if you leave it alone for a thousand years.

    5. If Darwin was right all living things are transitional. Life should
    be like a chart in a paint store, with hundreds of shades between red &
    blue. There is no reason transitions (evolution) should have stopped.
    There should be a smear of life.

    6. Although some devolution (loss of organs) can be seen, no nascent
    (new) organs in process of forming can be found. Evolution must account
    for the development of feathers, blood, bones, lungs, the immune system
    the liver, and thousands of organs, systems & behaviors starting with a
    simple life form likes a worm. (Where would the genes come from?)
    I’m not even considering the chemical soup that is supposed to be the
    origin of life.

    7. Thousands of organs exist for which no Darwinian explanation exists.
    Consider the hollow tooth & poison sac of some poisonous snakes. Why
    would natural selection develop & retain a hollow tooth if there was no
    Poison to inject? Why would natural selection develop & retain a poison
    Sac, if there was no way to inject the poison?

    8. The irreducible complexity of Behe is a powerful argument against any
    Naturalistic theory of evolution. Behe says that some organs could not have developed from simpler forms because they are irreducibly complex. Blood clotting, for example must start when needed and stop when the wound is closed. It consists of a complex cascade of actions that would kill the creature if some of them failed. None of the steps can be incomplete, too early or too late.

    9. The extinction of many species is now attributed to non-Darwinian
    Causes such as catastrophes.

    10. Stasis is the most common finding. Gould discusses publication bias as the reason stasis is rarely reported. He understood that when a researcher finds only stasis, the researcher rarely bothers to publish his results. Gould called the prevalence of stasis the trade secret of paleontology. As an ardent evolutionist, Gould tried to explain away stasis with his punctuated equilibrium theory. He admitted that even the few cases that seemed to show change have been refuted by further study.

    11. Stephen Gould proposed a way for evolution to proceed that accounts
    for the lack of intermediate fossils. His “punctuated equilibrium” has
    evolution occurring while species are isolated. Then they join the
    mainstream and quickly overwhelm old forms. Because the changes take
    place while isolated, the change only seems sudden. The problem with his
    “punctuated equilibrium” is isolated species are shielded from predators
    and competitors. Instead of improving, most isolated species lose their
    competitive edge. When joined with the mainstream they usually lose out.
    Think of the dodo, or most native species of Hawaii. . Mr. Gould may
    think he has saved Darwin, but Punctuated equilibrium actual denies the efficacy of
    natural selection.

    12. Darwinists hide from the public much of the evidence against
    natural selection. Look up Haldene’s dilemma. This famous researcher could not reconcile the time available with the genetic changes required. He desperately wanted to prove Darwin right, but had to acknowledge that the genetic changes required thousands of times longer than the available time.

    13.Or research what experts now say about the
    Evolution of the horse. This icon of evolution is no longer considered proof of evolution, but some museums still use displays without correction.

    14. Other icons like the fetus recapitulating the evolutionary history are false. For example gill slits in the fetus were supposed to recapitulate the development of mammals from ancestral fish. Gill slits in mammal fetuses do not develop into any breathing organ. They develop into other organs. The apparent similarity to fish gills is only in our imagination. Illustrations used to show similarities were exaggerated and selectively chosen. This has been known for more than fifty years, but is still used by evolutionists as ?proof?.

    15. Most claims supposed to prove evolution, like drug resistant
    microbes etc. do not involve speciation. Species are different, only if they cannot
    interbreed, or if offspring are always infertile The examples usually offered are only examples of selection among existing variations. No new variation is involved. The famous moths Kettlewell worked with are also merely selection among existing varieties. No new variety emerged. There existed dark and light varieties before and after. Only proportions changed.

    16. If Darwin were correct, there would have been only one genus then a few and finally many as we progress from early fossils to recent fossils. Instead, the earliest finds (like the Burgess Shales) show every genus existing. There were more varieties 400 million years ago then exist today. This is devolution, not evolution.

    17. The homology that seems so impressive, turns out not to exist at the genetic level. Organs that seem homologous turn out to have different genes governing development and therefor cannot be homologous.

    18. One of the most difficult problems for Darwinism is convergent evolution. Darwinists believe that Australia separated from the rest of the continents before modern mammals existed. Yet there exist marsupial versions of many animals that exist as placental versions in the other continents. Evolution is supposed to be undirected and based on chance. How did wolves develop in both areas? According to Darwin?s theory, evolution is not repeatable. If the clock were rerun, human beings would not re-appear. The fact that many nearly identical animals developed independently is a strong indication that something other than chance is at work.

    19. Prominent Darwinian proponents have offered arguments that actually prove they don?t understand what they are teaching. For example in his 1990 book Tim Berra uses the example of evolving auto design to demonstrate evolution. What he is actually demonstrating is intelligent design. The autos did not evolve by random variation or accidental mutation. Darwin?s most strident defender, Dawkins, uses an analogy that is just as bad. He describes how a long sentence can be easily created by random substitution of letters. He does this by saving the correct letter whenever it appears. He has forgotten that there is no reason to save the correct letter, unless you have an intelligent purpose. Darwinian evolution denies any intelligent purpose.

    20. Modern science has discovered complexity at the very bottom of the ?Chain of Life?. The ?simple? single cell animal is actually an amalgam of millions of biological factories, each needed for life. All the man made factories in a modern nation do not equal the complexity and diversity of the machinery in one living cell. The simplest living being known (the virus) cannot exist by itself. It is a parasite that requires a full cell to enable it to reproduce. Therefor, the virus had to arrive after more complex life had already formed. Life is too complex to have begun by chance.

    If Darwin were proposing his theory today, it would be laughed at. Only modern scientists wedded to the theory for historic and emotional reasins keep it alive.

  49. He said to “name three.”
    (Hmm, David Moshinsky does not follow directions well. He gets a black mark.)

  50. I have but one answer to David Moshinsky’s post.

    http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/list.html

    All of the evidence to debunk the bullshit he’s peddling this there. The debate–as if there was one–is over and the “Evolutionists” win yet again. David should go back to posting on raptureready.com or handing out Jack Chick tracts.

  51. David Moshinsky

    I haven’t the time or will to invest the time to refute the sophistries in your statements. [I won’t dignify them by calling them ‘arguments.’]

    However incomplete you may beleive evolutionary theory to be, there is no reason to jump from “we don’t understand this” to “God [or Big Juju or Space Aliens] must have done it.”

    BTW: If life is so complex that only an intelligent designer could have produced it, it follows that the designer must be equally complex. Who designed the designer? Or did the designer ‘just happen’?

  52. Oh, god, circles, here we go!

  53. To say that a god is “omniscient” is like saying “that car is all colors” or “that object is all shapes”. Omniscience is not an attribute but a lack of attributes. It is a non-definition.

    You have got to be kidding. Omniscience a non-definition? Here is the definition for omniscience: able to know everything. That is in no way a lack of attributes. It is an extremely descriptive attribute with very important implications. Verbal gymnastics pretending to be logic do not trump reality or whatever metareality there may be.

    And, by the way, current scientific understanding would give space and time the attribute omnipresent. Do space and time not exist either because they have no “limitations” in presence?

    Interestingly, you have no complaint about the attribute “carrying a trident”. Are you saying that the god Poseidon might exist, but the Judeo-Christian god cannot?

    You are claiming that a supernatural being exists, a claim which, according to our only frame of reference, is logically inconsistent.

    Actually, no. I’m claiming that your assertion that a supernatural being does not exist can not be proven with either science or logic.

  54. Just so I don’t get into an argument about the defintion of ‘unknowable’, I’ll go after another leg of your argument from logic…

    If something exists, it has attributes. If it has attributes, it is by definition “knowable” because it is defined by said attributes. In fact the degree to which anything has attributes is the degree to which that thing can defined and is therefore “knowable”.

    Your argument relies on the chain: existence implies attributes implies definition implies knowable. Then, using your assertion that religion claims that the unknowable exists, you run the contrapositives back to find that the unknowable must not exist. QED.

    What you have not considered is that something else is true: If something does not exist, then it has attributes. Jack Bauer is a man who won’t let anything get in his way, House is a doctor who plays by his own rules, and Poseidon carries a trident.

    The first link in your chain of implication is completely fallacious. And it’s the link that connects the whole of your logic to the notion of existence. You have in no way proven that the supernatural does not exist.

  55. Ha! The evolutionists haven’t presented any arguments against Moshinsky’s and MikeP’s points. They just launch ad hominems and provide links. It’s clear to me who won this debate. (And by “won”, I mean presented a cogent position which merits further consideration.)

  56. MikeP:

    What you have not considered is that something else is true: If something does not exist, then it has attributes.

    I would say that if something does not exist, it may have attributes.

    A=exists
    B=has attributes

    Godfrey: All A are B
    MikeP: All non-A are B
    Son of a!: I disagree. Only some non-A are B

    muskellunge:

    They just launch ad hominems and provide links.

    No ad hominem from me. Also, providing links is a standard way of saying, “Your claims have already been considered by others, and have been found lacking. Rather than re-argue the matter here, go here and see for yourself.” It’s a time-saver.

    If you prefer, here’s a brief rebuttal of David Moshinsky’s 20(!) points:

    1., 2., 5., 6., 7., 9., 15., 16., 17., 18., and 20. betray a lack of understanding of evolution. It doesn’t say what you think it does.

    3. betrays a lack of understanding of geology and an ignorance of archeological findings.

    4. betrays a lack of understanding of thermodynamics, as well as natural selection. They don’t say what you think they do.

    8. betrays an ignorance of modern research, which has already explained away alleged irreducible complexity. (It turns out it is reducible.)

    10. and 11. appear to be contradictory claims. I haven’t studied punctuated equilibrium, so I can’t say anything about them for sure. I’ll leave it to someone else with more knowledge of the subject.

    12. is discussed at the link provided. I’m no expert in the field, but they are, so I’ll leave it to them.

    13. says museums are slow to update in response to new discoveries. That doesn’t invalidate the new discoveries, it just argues that museums are slow to incorporate those findings.

    I haven’t heard of 14. being used as proof of evolution by actual, recent evolutionary biologists. Any examples?

    19. is not an agrument against evolution, but rather an illustration that many analogies are imprecise.

    It’s clear to me who won this debate.

    I see. This isn’t about the search for truth; it’s about “scoring points.” Gotcha.

  57. Son of a!:

    I would say that if something does not exist, it may have attributes.

    Yours was indeed the first construction I came up with. But it occurred to me that if something has no attributes, that that’s a pretty interesting and important attribute. So, without spending too much time considering Godel, I went with the stronger statement.

    I should also say that I don’t buy the whole “attributes define an entity” leg of the argument either. An entity is what it is. Attributes are how observers might describe it, but attributes do not confer reality or existence or a degree of knowability or anything else upon it. It is what it is.

  58. MikeP:

    But it occurred to me that if something has no attributes, that that’s a pretty interesting and important attribute.

    I see what you’re saying. Sort of like the interesting number paradox.

    Attributes are how observers might describe it, but attributes do not confer reality or existence or a degree of knowability or anything else upon it. It is what it is.

    I think I understand what you’re saying (but maybe not; I never studied philosophy). The only thing I have in the way of rebuttal is something Carl Sagan wrote in regard to his invisible dragon.[1] (I don’t own the book, so I’ll have to put it in my own words. My apologies.)

    If there’s no way–even in principle–to detect some thing, what does it even mean to say that that thing exists?

    (From here on is my addition to that.)

    How can I possibly differentiate such a thing from a figment of my own imagination? I have two instances of this thing: one is the “actual” one, and one is just my imagination. How to tell which is which?

    It can’t be that the actual one affects the real world, because that would provide a means of detection (and it would have the attributes Godfrey’s looking for). It can’t be that the actual one causes me to witness something that seems impossible (rather than my simply imagining the impossible), because I see “impossible” things in optical illusions, magic tricks, and movie special effects all the time. It can’t be because the actual thing evokes an emotional response, because nightmares scare the crap out of me, even after I’ve awakened. What’s left?

    If it turns out there’s no way to differentiate the “actual” thing from an imaginary duplicate of it, doesn’t it make sense to conclude that the “actual” thing is just my imagination, too?

    [1] I realize he was actually trying to create an analogy to alien abductees, not the religious, but I think it still applies here.

  59. Since my opponents decline to actually dispute my facts and instead engage in hand waving and claims that they understand Darwin and I do not, I am willing to accept an opinion from the resident Darwinis on the Reason staff. I would like to hear from Ron Bailey as to whether my facts do not conform to Darwin. Also, I believe son of a using a musing on clouds as an equivilent to dna codes which specify the entire development of a living creature including respiration, digestion, hormones, bones, skin, brains, nervous system, etc.is just non responsive.

  60. If it turns out there’s no way to differentiate the “actual” thing from an imaginary duplicate of it, doesn’t it make sense to conclude that the “actual” thing is just my imagination, too?

    It makes sense that you can’t prove that they are different to yourself or anyone else. It makes sense that you or someone else can claim that they can’t be distinguished and therefore you should conclude that the actual thing does not exist.

    But the fact that it makes sense to draw the conclusion that the thing does not exist does not constitute scientific or logical proof that it does not exist.

    Note that I am not making an argument for the existence of God. That is awfully hard to do. I am making an argument against the proven nonexistence of God. That’s relatively easy to do because the scientific method admits no knowledge it can’t verify.

  61. muskellunge,

    I am not arguing against evolutionists or science. I am arguing against dogmatic atheism purportedly proven by science.

    I would argue against dogmatic creationists, too, but they are a harder target than dogmatic atheists. Creationists claim a knowledge I can’t verify, therefore I can’t prove they are wrong. People who say that science proves God does not exist claim a system of reasoning that admits nothing I can’t verify. It is easy to prove them wrong.

  62. We decline to bother with what are not arguments.

    For example;

    #1. Is so false that it is hard to believe that Mochinsky dares to advance it. Artificial breeding does work from the existing gene pool, but we wouldn’t be having the arguments about GM organisms if it weren’t possible to introduce new genes. Give me 10,000 generations and I could breed a dog with feathers. Dog breeders haven’t tried because they have no desire to select for such characteristics.

    #4 “Despite ad-hoc arguments about closed & open systems, evolution works against the law of entropy…”

    Is so egregiously misrepresentative of the facts that I can only assume it is deliberate. There are many instances in nature where highly organized or energetic states arise from the accumulation of energy from outside the system: the creation of diamonds, hurricanes, lightning, and the jet stream are a few terrestrial examples. Each of these depends on the organized result not being a closed system, but open to inputs from without.

    If it did not make a difference whether a system was open or closed, every living thing would die prior to reaching maturity. A human baby must have energy coming from outside to grow.

    It makes a vast difference whether the system is open or closed.

    #11. Mochinsky adds to his summary of Gould’s hypothesis ‘The problem with his
    “punctuated equilibrium” is isolated species are shielded from predators and competitors. Instead of improving, most isolated species lose their
    competitive edge.’ Nowhere does Gould argue that they MUST be isolated from predators or competitors (although this MAY happen as well). Gould only argues that the group be isolated from the rest of its own species. Mochinsky’s addition is gratutious and mendacious.

    #14. “Other icons like the fetus recapitulating the evolutionary history are false.” The recapitulation hypothesis was discarded in the first half of the twentieth century. Mochinsky’s attempt to link it to current evolutionary theory can only be described as wilfull deceit.

    I realize these are simplified summaries. To refute Mochinsky in detail would require several thousand words per item.

    It is evident that Mochinsky [or someone he is quoting] has at least scanned the subject matter behind his ‘points’. Each of his ‘points’ either misrepresents or misconstrues the subject matter.

  63. We decline to bother with what are not arguments.

    For example;

    #1. Is so false that it is hard to believe that Mochinsky dares to advance it. Artificial breeding does work from the existing gene pool, but we wouldn’t be having the arguments about GM organisms if it weren’t possible to introduce new genes. Give me 10,000 generations and I could breed a dog with feathers. Dog breeders haven’t tried because they have no desire to select for such characteristics.

    #4 “Despite ad-hoc arguments about closed & open systems, evolution works against the law of entropy…”

    Is so egregiously misrepresentative of the facts that I can only assume it is deliberate. There are many instances in nature where highly organized or energetic states arise from the accumulation of energy from outside the system: the creation of diamonds, hurricanes, lightning, and the jet stream are a few terrestrial examples. Each of these depends on the organized result not being a closed system, but open to inputs from without.

    If it did not make a difference whether a system was open or closed, every living thing would die prior to reaching maturity. A human baby must have energy coming from outside to grow.

    It makes a vast difference whether the system is open or closed.

    #11. Mochinsky adds to his summary of Gould’s hypothesis ‘The problem with his
    “punctuated equilibrium” is isolated species are shielded from predators and competitors. Instead of improving, most isolated species lose their
    competitive edge.’ Nowhere does Gould argue that they MUST be isolated from predators or competitors (although this MAY happen as well). Gould only argues that the group be isolated from the rest of its own species. Mochinsky’s addition is gratutious and mendacious.

    #14. “Other icons like the fetus recapitulating the evolutionary history are false.” The recapitulation hypothesis was discarded in the first half of the twentieth century. Mochinsky’s attempt to link it to current evolutionary theory can only be described as wilfull deceit.

    I realize these are simplified summaries. To refute Mochinsky in detail would require several thousand words per item.

    It is evident that Mochinsky [or someone he is quoting] has at least scanned the subject matter behind his ‘points’. Each of his ‘points’ either misrepresents or misconstrues the subject matter.

  64. Note that I am not making an argument for the existence of God. That is awfully hard to do. I am making an argument against the proven nonexistence of God.

    Oh! Well then you and I have no quarrel. I am, strictly speaking, agnostic, but am an atheist in practice.

    Aresen:

    The recapitulation hypothesis was discarded in the first half of the twentieth century. Mochinsky’s attempt to link it to current evolutionary theory can only be described as wilfull deceit.

    It’s been my (limited) experience that those opposed to evolution tend to look at it in “Fundamentalist Darwinism” terms, for lack of a better name. The notion that knowledge and facts aren’t eternal is anathema to them, so unless The Origin of Species covers everything, evolution must fall. (Note, for example, that David Moshinsky keeps calling it “Darwinism” instead of “evolution.” There’s an implicit appeal to authority going on.)

    Most anti-evolutionists cherry-pick any modifications to the theory or any new evidence acquired after about the time of Scopes. Frankly, I’m amazed Piltdown Man hasn’t been thrown in our face yet.

  65. MikeP: “If something does not exist, then it has attributes. Jack Bauer is a man who won’t let anything get in his way, House is a doctor who plays by his own rules, and Poseidon carries a trident.”

    A good question, but you are actually illustrating my point for me.

    These three do exist…as fictional characters. But the question is whether they (or gods) exist in reality. We know that the first three do not exist as real-world entities, and so lack real-world attributes. Like gods, demons, angels and giants (all present in the Bible, along with talking donkeys), they are inventions of man’s creative intellect and have been imbued with fictional human attributes. Once man imparts an attribute to something, it exists…if, as in this case, only in his mind.

    So in this way God does exist…as a fictional character. At least we agree on something. 🙂

    “Interestingly, you have no complaint about the attribute “carrying a trident”. Are you saying that the god Poseidon might exist, but the Judeo-Christian god cannot?”

    The reason I didn’t address the trident-wielding man comment directly is that I had already done so obliquely. When theists define their gods in mundane terms (as in a “father” or a bearded man with a trident) they strip them of their deific nature. Otherwise every father or every man with a trident would be a god. Since this is obviously not the case, those are obviously not divine attributes.

    And this is the problem with making an outlandish claim such as “gods exist”: theists cannot even define god, the very object of their claim, in any coherent manner (i.e. without the use of tautological or mundande descriptors). How, therefore, can such a claim be properly addressed?

    “Omniscience a non-definition? Here is the definition for omniscience: able to know everything.”

    and

    “I don’t buy the whole “attributes define an entity” leg of the argument either. An entity is what it is…if something has no attributes, that that’s a pretty interesting and important attribute.”

    That last is an incoherent statement. By that same line of reasoning “nonexistence” is an attribute. It makes no sense.

    Regarding omniscience: actually the meaning of omniscience as it applies to a god is “infinite knowledge”–in other words knowledge without limits. To say “something is everything” does not qualify as a rational definition because a valid definition limits the scope of what a thing is in order to define it (i.e. make it distinguishable from other things). Omni-anything is therefore not a valid attribute but a lack of such. A theist calling God omni-anything amounts more of an evasive maneuver than an attribution.

    But let’s pretend for the sake of argument that omni-anything is in fact a valid attribute. In that an attribute is a definition it is also limiting factor (if God has characteristic A then he does not have characteristic non-A). The very limits imposed by this attribute contradict the claim that the thing being defined (God) is “without limits”.

    So: either God is definable and has limits (in which case he ceases to be a god) or he is not definable therefore has no attributes, in which case the claim that he exists at all sinks into incoherence.

    “…your assertion that a supernatural being does not exist can not be proven with either science or logic.”

    Somewhere among my first posts on this matter I admitted as much. I was fairly careful to say that science is “capable” of explaining religion’s “falsifiable” claims. Science is not only unable to disprove the existence of the supernatural, it is by its very nature incapable of addressing it.

    Logic, however, is a bit more flexible. Logic still cannot prove a negative, of course, but it can show that a claim is irrational, which for all practical purposes amounts to the same thing.

  66. David Moshinsky:

    try reading an evolution textbook to see what evolutionary biologists actually claim regarding evolution instead of straw man arguments advanced by individuals who will never accept evidence for evolution because of their religious convictions. we don’t have time to fill in all the gaps in your education, unless you want to pay us tutoring fees. your single statement about open vs. closed systems making no difference re: entropy is enough to demonstrate that you are too ignorant to understand the topic. try considering both sides of an argument before coming to a conclusion.

    I recommend these books: Scientists Confront Creationism, Evolution and the Myth of Creationism, Intelligent Thought: Science versus the Intelligent Design Movement

  67. So: either God is definable and has limits (in which case he ceases to be a god) or he is not definable therefore has no attributes, in which case the claim that he exists at all sinks into incoherence.

    It must be easy for you to win arguments when you get to define your opponents’ positions for them. In particular, you are the one who takes the term ‘omniscient’ and defines it to be something so limitless it becomes logically inconsistent because anything less is ungodlike.

    How about these attributes for a diety: omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence, but only to the extent logically possible. E.g., no creating rocks too heavy to lift, no making pi rational, etc. Since the very definition of this God defeats your logical complaints, it must be possible, no?

    Logic still cannot prove a negative, of course, but it can show that a claim is irrational, which for all practical purposes amounts to the same thing.

    Logic can show that a claim is irrational, but only within the universe described by the logic. Your pedantic logical universe where a collection of attributes becomes the thing is, shall we say, extremely limited…

  68. It must be easy for you to win arguments when you get to define your opponents’ positions for them.

    Sorry? I merely took the common definition of omnipotence and showed how it is logically inconsistent. If you didn’t mean “omnipotent” perhaps you should have used another word.

    How about these attributes for a diety: omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence, but only to the extent logically possible.

    There is an extent (i.e. a limit) logically possible for something that is limitless? That’s obviously contradictory. If power is not limitless it doesn’t qualify as omnipotence…it gets demoted to something else… “superpotence” perhaps.

    Since the very definition of this God defeats your logical complaints, it must be possible, no?

    My logical complaints are intact; you have merely redefined our god in mid-discussion. You’re now saying that he is not truly omnipotent as that phrase is commonly accepted but merely superpotent. While I still wouldn’t want to meet a “merely superpotent” god in a dark alley, I can at least be sure he’s not the Christian God, whose supposed omnipotence is widely acknowledged.

    Logic can show that a claim is irrational, but only within the universe described by the logic. Your pedantic logical universe where a collection of attributes becomes the thing is, shall we say, extremely limited…

    You are creating a strawman. I never said that attributes become the thing. My point all along has been that a thing which exists has attributes…they are a necessary product of existence. There is a huge difference. And you accuse me of redefining opposing positions!

    If my logical universe is “pedantic” I at least have the comfort of knowing that it is, in fact, logical. Your universe filled with quasi-omnipotent attributeless-yet-extant supernatural beings who exist under laws of alternative logic contradicts itself from the outset.

    It is patently illlogical, which is why I feel justified in opining that it does not exist.

  69. I was once a fundementalist Christian, but I had to abandon my creationist views or get a lobotomy.
    Obviously, darwinian evolution is in conflict with literal interpretation of the Bible.

    Darwin was mostly right. Christianity must adapt to the new evironment or be selected against. (how ironic is that?) This has happened before with Copernicus, Galileo and the Heliocentric theory and it will happen again, but the credibiity of the Bible will be damaged.

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