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2012/08/30

Theistic evolutionists are creationists

Filed under: Evolution, Science — Neil Godfrey @ 6:12 pm
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From Jerry Coyne’s comments on responses to Bill Nye’s attack on creationism (reformatted), posted on his blog, Why Evolution Is True:

Theistic evolutionists are creationists, pure and simple; they differ from straight fundamentalist creationists only in how much of life God was involved in creating, ranging from

  • those who think God set the whole plan in motion, knowing it would culminate in that most awesome of species, US,
  • to those who think that God tinkered with mutations to create the right species (see the philosophical work of Elliott Sober),
  • to those who think that humans are set apart from other species because God inserted a soul in our lineage (that’s the official view of the Vatican). 

That is being anti-evolution as scientists understand it, since we see evolution as a naturalistic process that has nothing to do with deities.

Sadly, far more Americans are theistic evolutionists than naturalistic evolutionists: the proportions among all Americans are 38% to 16% respectively (40% are straight creationists, 6% are unsure). We have a long way to go.

2012/08/11

Evolved Morality

Filed under: Ethics & human nature,Evolution, Science — Neil Godfrey @ 4:50 pm
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I  loved this video clip of Frans de Waal’s talk, Moral Behavior in Animals. (It was recently linked on Jerry Coyne’s Evolution is True blog.) It demonstrates that more animals than humans have evolved moral attributes of empathizing with others, offering others consolation, “prosocial” tendencies such as caring for the welfare of others, and a sense of fairness. The talk begins by balancing the themes we used to hear so often about our nearest animal relatives being so aggressive and territorial by showing that they also “believe in” reconciling after fights.

Or if you are short of time and want to jump to the funniest part where we see outrage over an unfair deal . . . . .

2010/11/01

Evolution and God go together like Newtonian physics and Hobgoblins

Filed under: Evolution, Science — Neil Godfrey @ 9:22 pm
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I tried to explain a technical computer fix to someone once over the phone. I ended up saying something like, “Press the X and Y keys, and a little man inside the computer will do ABC for you.”

Isn’t that the sort of fantasy nonsense that is required to reconcile evolution with a belief in a personal God who has a special thing for humans?

How does evolution work?

The combined effects of mutation, natural selection and the random processes of genetic drift cause changes in the composition of a population. Over a sufficiently long period of time, these cumulative effects alter the population’s genetic make-up, and can thus greatly change the species’ characteristics from those of its ancestors.

That’s from Evolution: A Very Short Introduction by Brian and Deborah Charlesworth. The back cover blurb contains a panegyric by Richard Dawkins.

Now that makes humans no more unique, or pre-ordained, than sponges. There is no room for supernatural intervention in the terms “natural selection” or “random processes.”

If we like to think we can believe in evolution BUT God somehow guided it to make sure it produced us for Jesus Christ or Jehovah or Allah, then aren’t we kind of copping out, kidding ourselves, and really no different from the person who believes a computer works because there is a little man inside the thing making it work just right?

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2010/09/17

Why Evolution Is True: And Reflections on Historical Jesus Scholars

Filed under: Evolution, Science — Neil Godfrey @ 12:03 am
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Someone posted a link to a post on my blog on Jerry Coyne’s blog “Why Evolution Is True” (See his post: I get Christian email: more irreducible complexity)  — and wonderful, wonderful! I like reading books like his (I have referenced Coyne’s book twice here but never knew he also had a blog) — and I loved reading his summary explanation for the evolution of sex. He was giving a clearly reasoned, evidence-based response to a Creationist. I have read more detailed accounts of this topic, but what was refreshing was to see how real science, real argument, real logic, real evidence, really works. You don’t find arguments like that — or you certainly very rarely find them — when historical Jesus scholars respond to Jesus mythicist arguments. Actually that is misleading. Historical Jesus scholars very rarely in my experience ever respond to Christ myth arguments. They mostly pretend to, usually with a snicker or sneer, and demonstrate their ignorance or incomprehension of

  1. basic historical methodological ideals in nonbiblical studies,
  2. the arguments they think they are addressing,
  3. and the difference between logical fallacies and logical rigour. (more…)

2010/09/09

A Creationist Method of Argument (and exposing the lie of those who compare mythicism to creationism)

A dome-shelled Galápagos giant tortoise, Geoch...
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I good friend who is a creationist recently offered me a creationist article to read (“or refute”). The article’s argument against evolution are based on:

  1. a mis-statement of, or failure to understand, the arguments for evolution itself
  2. a glossing over of arguments for evolution by misleading oversimplifications
  3. a failure to address the counter evidence for evolution cited by evolutionary scientists
  4. “bait and switch” — “sloppy language leading to sloppy thinking”

The article my friend gave me is Tortoises of the Galapagos by Lita Cosner and Jonathan Sarfati, apparently found in creation.com.

Here is the critical passage:

Evolution from goo to you via the zoo would require new genes encoding encyclopedic amounts of new information. But the tortoises’ adaptation to various island environments can be explained by the sorting out of already existing genes with some of these then eliminated by natural selection. . . .

The two sentences here do not logically follow one another. The authors have created a false argument against evolution by juxtaposing two sentences that in fact address different questions: by placing them together they confuse the question and lead the uninformed reader to think the authors have cleverly rebutted the foundation of evolution’s case. (more…)

2010/06/24

The Genesis Enigma

Filed under: Parker: Genesis Enigma — Neil Godfrey @ 9:11 pm
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I picked up The Genesis Enigma: Why the Bible is Scientifically Accurate by Andrew Parker curious to see what arguments could possibly earn back cover blurbs like ‘Parker’s arguments seem very plausible to me’ by none other than Francis Crick of DNA fame,  through to the Daily Mail’s “Jaw dropping – an astounding work . . .” Okay, I wasn’t really persuaded by the Daily Mail cites, but I was curious when I noticed the author really IS a reputable scientist.

Amidst what I see as the chaff in the book there is something I really did see as A Good Thing. After pages of warming up to less than inspiring arguments supposedly proving the divine inspiration of the Bible by claiming that its Genesis account is a “metaphoric” template of the facts of evolution, he pulls no punches in declaring to his readers that evolution really is a fact. Evolution is not a theory, he insists. Evolution is true. He deplores Creationism and its modern deceitful garb of Intelligent Design.

Parker says point blank that to call evolution “a theory” is “dangerous”. (more…)

2009/10/18

The Greatest Show On Earth: The Evidence for Evolution

I have just completed Richard Dawkins’ latest book, The Greatest Show on Earth: the Evidence for Evolution. Loved just about all of it, but a few particular themes have left their mark in my mind more than others.

1. The idea of essentialism. We think of dogs and pigs and fish as having an essential character of dogs and pigs and fish. This is, after all, at the very heart of basic concept building from our earliest years that equips us with the tools we need to get by in the world. (Dawkins traces the notion back to Plato — who was of course the arch essentialist with his theory of Ideas (Essences?) — but I see the idea as having a more immediate necessity for our mental makeup.)

But we are like a mayfly trying to make sense of the world in its short 30 minute to 24 hour lifespan. While we can see changes in dog shapes we cannot expand our faculties far enough to see how what appears to be essentially a dog now was a million years earlier something we would not call a dog at all. Yet in the meantime, the chain from that earlier non-dog to our “essential” dog is smooth and we could never find a spot where one animal was a dog and the preceding one wasn’t. Every animal next in line would be classified as a natural offspring of its parent. The differences from one generation to the next would never be so great as to prove otherwise. It is only when we look back through incomprehenible millions of years that we can see that there have been such dramatic changes. Slightest changes (that would never be so great as to enable us to say a parent gave birth to a different species) accumulated over millions of years really can lead to the appearance of something quite different from what was in the family tree at the beginning.

The corollary of this concept is that change does not occur at the outward level of appearance, but at the embryological level. So a lizard like thing 50 million years ago might have two offspring, and each one of those another offspring, and no-one would have been able to see anything about them that made any of them a different species. But one of those final offspring would be the progenitor of what was to become a new species. But for this to occur there would have to be a geographical separation of some of that offspring’s descendants in order to narrow the range of genetic mix — either by being swept on a log to another land mass, or changes from earthquake etc.

But getting around our presumptions that each species has a certain “essential” character to it that sets it within the boundaries of that species is something that one can understand makes the idea of evolution difficult for anyone not familiar with the evidence.

2. Dating the rocks and fossils. I once was led to believe that evolutionists were so dumb that they failed to acknowledge that their methods of dating were circular. Rocks were dated by the fossils in them and fossils were dated by the rocks that housed them. Dawkins trashes this nonsense completely by discussing lucidly the wide range of dating techniques used by archaeologists and paleontologists, and how they are used for cross checking and correcting each other. For God to have somehow changed so many laws of nature after the flood to make the whole gammut of these different clocks all get out of whack to mislead us to thinking that the earth’s age is in billions of years is a bit much to swallow.

3. I had not fully appreciated the UNimportance of the fossil record for establishing the fact of evolution. Not that there isn’t an abundance of fossil evidence, especially for humans. But even if there were no fossils surviving we would be compelled to believe in evolution nonetheless. By comparing the structures of species around the world, and examining their geographical locations, it is clear that the evidence points to common ancestors of species (and a common ancestor of all life) and non-random natural selection. (Fossils are still important, of course, for understanding the pathways of evolution.)

4. One creationist in the film, Voyage that Shook the World (link is to my earlier blogpost), argued that because some finches on Galapagos Islands changed very rapidly, we ought to see them as evidence for a young earth and recent creation. Yet Dawkins cites several examples of rapid evolution alongside more common glacial changes.

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