Tuesday, May 24, 2011

From Philosopher to Science Writer: The Dissemination of Evolutionary Thought

Last week science writer John Farrell discussed the genetic evidence for evolution in his Technology article at Forbes. Farrell’s sources are evolutionists Larry Moran and Stan Rice. It is an interesting example of how evolutionary thinking is handed down and disseminated.

A strong framework

Three hundred years ago the famous and influential Lutheran polymath Gottfried Leibniz argued strenuously for what today is sometimes called naturalism. The idea that the world arose and operates strictly via the natural laws we observe has, historically, been mandated by a framework of interrelated theological and philosophical arguments.

The theological arguments deal mainly with the nature and attributes of a divine creator. The philosophical arguments, on the other hand, deal mostly with knowledge and how we obtain it. Or simply put, the theological arguments deal with god and the philosophical arguments deal with man.

While some of these arguments trace back to antiquity, the complete framework was developed and refined in the early years of modern science when Christian thought was applied to the growing movement of describing and understanding nature. By the mid eighteenth century—a century before Darwin wrote his book—the framework was largely complete.

As a leading intellectual Leibniz contributed substantially to the emerging framework. For example, Leibniz ruled out divine intervention, for it surely was a sign of a lesser, incompetent, creator whose natural laws were insufficient to do the job.

But Leibniz was by no means the only, or even the central, figure in the construction of this framework. What is interesting is how ubiquitous was the urge for naturalism. It was not confined to one genre of thought. It did not come from a particular discipline, or region or religion. Scientists, philosophers and theologians, on the continent and in Britain, Lutheran, Anglican and Roman Catholic all contributed. And today we could add atheist to the list. As PZ Myers wrote:

We go right to the central issue of whether there is a god or not. We’re pretty certain that if there were an all-powerful being pulling the strings and shaping history for the benefit of human beings, the universe would look rather different than it does.

Believing that god does not exist does not preclude believing things about god. In fact, ironically, atheists often hold their theological views more intensely than do “religious” people.

And not surprisingly, with his Lutheran background, Myers’ religious sentiment is nothing new. The idea that an omniscient, omnibenevolent creator would never have created this world comes right out of that seventeenth century framework for naturalism. Whether god creates via natural laws or whether, with Myers, we dispense altogether with this superfluous Prime Mover, matters little. The basic story line was already told long ago.

Understanding John Farrell (and all of evolution)

This centuries old framework for naturalism is key to understanding evolution today. Science writers such as Farrell report that scientists have discovered, for instance, “just how not-so-intelligently designed the human genome actually is,” but this is not a scientific conclusion. For unlike the target of his criticism (the ID theory) which refers to complexity rather than goodness of design, evolutionary thought and its underlying naturalism framework refer to the design’s metaphysics. As Farrell explains:

Many mutations are neutral, or can be easily overcome by technology. And some of them cause a great deal of psychological suffering, such as the mutation that causes trimethylaminuria, which is physically harmless but causes the victims to smell like rotten fish no matter how clean they are. But many other mutations are deadly or, worse yet, can cause a person to have a lifetime of suffering. Perhaps the most disturbing mutation is the one that causes Lesch-Nyhan syndrome. This one mutation, of a single amino acid in a protein, causes the victim to have an uncontrollable compulsion for self-mutilation: they chew their own lips and fingers, and find sharp objects to stab their faces and eyes. The victims are fully able to feel their pain and they know what they are doing, but cannot control it.

Obviously to argue such mutations are the product of intentional design is to suggest the deity or intelligence responsible, is something of a monster.

Indeed. Leibniz was concerned about the evil in the world, but he had no idea how deeply it runs. It is truly abominable, and it makes for a moving and powerful argument that no good creator who has the power to create a universe would ever create this one.

Whether by the Epicurean’s swerving atoms, or science’s natural laws, the world must have arisen on its own.

How could anyone deny this obvious conclusion? This and other metaphysical arguments leave no room for debate. Evolution must be true. We may not know how it occurred, but it is a fact.

The powerful theory of evolution hangs on this framework of thought that mandates naturalism. The science is weak but the metaphysics are strong. This is the key to understanding evolutionary thought. The weak arguments are scientific and the strong arguments, though filled with empirical observation and scientific jargon, are metaphysical. The stronger the argument, the more theological or philosophical.

Oblivious to this context Farrell continues:

But it’s even more problematic, Rice argues: the very structure of the genome itself—not just the mutations—is inconsistent with the idea that the genome, or the human body, or the world was directly designed by an external agent.

The human genome is full of stuff that interferes with the use of genetic information to produce healthy and functional enzymes and bodies. First, consider the fact that only about 1 percent of human DNA codes for those enzymes. About 68 percent of the DNA consists of non-coding DNA that is between the genes, and about 31 percent of the DNA consists of non-coding DNA that is inside of the genes. This is, at best, a clumsy system, because whenever a cell divides, all of this DNA is copied, not just the DNA that the cell will use. In addition, since each gene is broken into little “exon” fragments by a large amount of internal “intron” DNA, the genetic information must be spliced together in order to be put to use. That is, to get a functional enzyme, the genetic information from lots of exon fragments has to be cobbled together. If it works, there is no problem, but the whole system is so cumbersomely complex that it often fails. Not only are many genetic diseases caused by mutations in the genes themselves, but many genetic diseases are caused by (or also caused by) failures of the cell to deal properly with the non-coding DNA and the splicing.

Science writers are at the end of the dissemination chain. Evolutionary thought began with the theologians and philosophers. Their ideas informed institutions and culture. By the time Darwin developed his theory the ground was well prepared and all his strong arguments were non scientific. Nothing has changed today except the details. Evolutionists continue to issue their scientifically absurd proclamations that everything spontaneously arose by itself. They are absolutely certain of this, and inform us that doubters must be religious fundamentalists. Next historians, philosophers and intellectuals apply these evolutionary truths to their respective fields. The world is explained in terms of evolutionary thought. Finally the science writers regurgitate the dogma that is handed down to them. At this point the story line cannot be changed or questioned. The authorities are too intimidating and institutions too overwhelming. The ridiculous must be true. In fact, it must not even be ridiculous.

Next we’ll look at Farrell’s other source, Larry Moran.

18 comments:

  1. It's good to see you back, Dr Hunter!

    You wrote:

    Evolutionists continue to issue their scientifically absurd proclamations that everything spontaneously arose by itself.

    If, on the contrary, God made everything, what's the difference? There's still common descent.

    As Laplace said, "Je n'avais pas besoin de cette hypothèse-là."

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  2. Hey, CH is back!

    Half of us thought you had gone off waiting to be Raptured

    The other half thought you finally had an attack of conscience and decided to quit posting your ridiculous anti-science canards.

    Both hypotheses were rejected because they exceeded the 1 in 10^150 Universal Probability Bound.

    Anyway, glad to see you're OK.

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  3. CH:Believing that god does not exist does not preclude believing things about god. In fact, ironically, atheists often hold their theological views more intensely than do “religious” people.

    Cornelius,

    Clearly, there is a difference between pointing out what appear to be contradictions in other people's beliefs about God and expressing one's own belief about God.

    If, when applied to God, the term Design can tell us nothing about what God would or would not do, then it would appears the term design is extraneous and can be discarded. Furthermore, It literally fails to intersect with all known definitions of the term design, engineer, etc.

    Is God an intelligent arranger or an intelligent designer?

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  4. We can say the same thing regarding God's supposed goodness.

    One on hand, theists appeal to God as an explanation for human behavior we identify as Good. On the other hand, we observe significant suffering due to concrete aspects of human biology, the environment, etc.

    If the term Good when applied to God cannot tell us anything about what God would or would not do, then it appears it is extraneous and can be discarded. In addition, it could no longer intersect with any known definition of Good we currently hold.

    Of course, we cannot rule out with 100% certainly there is some mysterious greater good served by what we observe. However, at this point, you're appealing to a possibility, not an explanation.

    Not that, in both cases, I'm not argument that God should do anything in particular. Instead, I'm arguing that …

    01. The terms "good" and "design" are applied inconsistently by theists.

    02. Unless the terms "good" and "design" can tell us anything about what God would or would not do then their application in the case of God is extraneous and can be discarded.

    Essentially, you're attempting to throw these terms under the bus, yet still appeal to them when they suit your agenda.

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  5. Welcome back. It has been too long.

    An incredibly specious framework. If God created the world that creates evil, then God still created evil.

    The Cambrian explosion is strong evidence that God creates in stages. An all powerful God can do what He wants. It would seem to be more fun doing that way.

    Bible 1, Naturalists 0

    .

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  6. Peter:

    The Midrash and the Talmud say that there were cycles of creation and destruction. They say that God was "experminenting" with creation until he "got it right." This world is described as a palace resting on a garbage heap. This approach fits very nicely with the idea of mass extinctions.

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  7. Nat, nice about the Talmud and all that, but who cares? The Talmud is as irelevant a source of predictive knowledge about the world as the Bible. Is either going to tell me where to drill for oil? Dig for gold or diamonds? Find the ancestor of maize? If Liebniz was a Lutheran or Newton was a gnostic, it no longer matters to science. Science itself is ahistorical, and can leave behind baggage in a way that revelation based religions can't. Perhaps that explains why Dr Hunter doesn't understand science very well.

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  8. Peter,

    The Cambrian explosion is strong evidence that God creates in stages.

    Or that god created things to LOOK like they were created in stages. As you say, "An all powerful God can do what He wants."

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  9. Hawks,

    All of matter is made of energy. All energy is massless, therefore it does not exist. Then all of life is an illusion.

    .

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  10. DvK:

    I was siting the Talmud as an explanation, not a prediction. And I, for one, find it interesting that the authors of the Talmud knew about mass extinctions ~1500 years ago. Just a thought.

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  11. Finally, da boss is back.

    Scott

    Heat up the potato.

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  12. natschuster said, "The Midrash and the Talmud say that there were cycles of creation and destruction. They say that God was "experminenting" with creation until he "got it right."


    In the Prokaryote and Eukaryote organisms and the creatures of the Cambrian (some still exist unchanged) we see immense complexity from the beginning. We see efficiencies in photosynthesis in the most ancient of bacteria that manmade technology has not yet achieved.

    More examples abound... The Trilobite eye is wonderfully complex and efficient. Evolutionists say that Trilobites roamed the ocean for 270 million years. 270 million years. ....and they went exinct because its design wasn't quite right? Seriously?

    What we see in life is a complex top-down, bottom up design. The stuff at the bottom is not simply disgarded (eukaryotes), but forms the scaffolding and infrastructure for the most most advanced forms at the top.

    So much of the posts received here is of the Morton fork variety. Either A or B is a possibility and no other alternatives are allowed.

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  13. Tedford the Idiot said...

    More examples abound... The Trilobite eye is wonderfully complex and efficient. Evolutionists say that Trilobites roamed the ocean for 270 million years. 270 million years. ....and they went exinct because its design wasn't quite right? Seriously?


    Seriously Tedford, you are one of the biggest IDiots to every put chubby fingers to a keyboard.

    Trilobites went extinct at the end on the Permian during the mass extinction event that also killed over 90% of all marine life and over 70% of all land animals.

    Permian-Triassic extinction event

    I'd love to hear your IDiot explanation for the mass extinction that killed most everything on the planet. Let me guess...DA FLUD DID IT!!

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  14. Zoologist Darwin look- at http://bit.ly/9clXcv As a result of the progress of the civilization in the present situation, it became possible to find out the correct solutions to the questions about nature, universe and question about the creation in the majority of the cases according to the rules or provisions of science. Such as- Beginning of the creation a part of the power of the 1-D or Nature became divisible as a result of the big bang. Again, everything of the present universe is the result of evolution of single energy of Power i.e. revolving of the sole level picture and evolution of picture or advent of multilateral matter as a result of change. In or under the circumstances: In the Universe, there is no place of God yet as I see it that- Code of God separated such as: Nature, 1-D, First case, Super power, Dark energy, Black body, Primordial whole, Big/infinite black hole, A Black Hole, Huge reserve of the natural force, Primordial whole and eternity present, Absolute zero space-time and physics- and so on. Religious between a-religion can be found at http://t.co/OQDPbAg

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  15. It's a marvelous post. I just linked to it. And now I'm going to link it on Facebook and tweet it.

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  16. I think I'll get it tattooed on my forehead. Backwards of course, so I can read it every time I look in the mirror.

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  17. Anti Deists don't explain anything. To them Reality isn't made, it has no cause. People who believe things are caused seek to find what it is, that search leads to God!

    When things are reduced to their essence, information is all that remains. Things follow laws of logic, random is uncomputable and love's selection is far wiser than a blind watchmaker.

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  18. It seems strange, doesn't it, that people who disbelieve in God would use terms such as "good" and "evil," saying that if God were really omnipotent and omniscient, he would not have created a universe in which there is such evil present: war that destroys innocent human life, genetic abnormalities that cause pain and suffering, etc.

    If there were no God, how could we ever use such language? To think in terms of right and wrong, good and evil, justice and injustice, etc. points to the fact that we are created in His image, as moral agents in a universe that is tainted by forces that are opposed to the right, good and just. If there were no God, we would not even be having this discussion.

    Dr. Robert D. Hosken

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