Here I Triumph
When an article begins with the statement that “The theory of evolution by natural selection is among the best established in science,” you know the author won’t be defending that claim but rather will be assuming it as a given. You also know the author, in this case psychology professor Tania Lombrozo at the University of California, Berkeley, is sufficiently distant from evolutionary theory such that facts won’t confuse the message. Even committed evolutionists have long since admitted that natural selection, at best, can only be one of several modes of evolutionary change. In fact biological adaptations we can observe are dominated by rapid, directed change in response to environmental challenges, not slow, random change accumulated via natural selection as evolutionary dogma had insisted.
Lombrozo’s article discusses ideas and theories about why some people accept evolution while others do not. Cultural factors and religious beliefs are at play, but there is something more:
But in the last 20 years or so, research in psychology and the cognitive science of religion has increasingly focused on another factor that contributes to evolutionary disbelief: the very cognitive mechanisms underlying human cognition.
So there are cognitive mechanisms underlying human cognition that influence our failure to accept evolution. While that seems to make sense it reminds us of that thorny problem, of which Lombrozo is happily oblivious, that these cognitive mechanisms (as well as everything else for that matter) must have been created by evolution.
In other words, Lombrozo’s belief in evolution is, according to her own account, simply a consequence of mechanistic actions in her head and the resulting molecular states, all of which just happened to arise spontaneously by the blind interplay of chance events and natural law.
How can Lombrozo be confident of any of her Epicurean assertions? Nonetheless she forges ahead:
Researchers have argued that a variety of basic human tendencies conspire to make natural selection especially aversive and difficult to understand, and to make creationism a compelling alternative. For instance, people tend to prefer explanations that offer certainty
Preferences for certainty? Is the Berkeley professor familiar with Rene Descartes and his need for certainty? Is she aware that Thomas Huxley acknowledged the great rationalist as foundational to evolutionary thought because, if not, she should know she’s soaking in it or, in this case, him (please click on video above to understand the full extent of Lombrozo’s predicament).
Lombrozo speaks of cultural factors as though she transcends them. In fact her belief that the world spontaneously arose is drenched in such cultural factors.
In fact, there's evidence that individuals vary in the extent to which they favor purpose and exhibit other relevant cognitive tendencies, and that this variation is related to religious belief — itself a strong predictor of evolutionary belief.
Indeed, evolutionary belief is a religious belief. There is no science behind spontaneous origins, rather it is mandated by our convictions about what a good god would and would not do. From a scientific perspective evolution is absurd. From a religious perspective it is a fact.
Lombrozo is hardly alone in her confusion over evolution’s epistemology, or lack thereof. Darwin himself made the same blunder in his famous July 3rd, 1881 letter to philosopher and political economist, William Graham. With less than a year left to promote his message, the elderly Darwin admitted that Graham made good points against chance but, in classic Petitio Principii style, Darwin turned the obvious evidence on its head:
Nevertheless you have expressed my inward conviction, though far more vividly and clearly than I could have done, that the Universe is not the result of chance. But then with me the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man's mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would any one trust in the convictions of a monkey's mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?
In other words, while evolution’s chance construction (yes, it is chance, the supposed natural selection merely kills off the bad designs, it does not coax good designs to arise—every mutation must have occurred by chance according to evolution) calls Graham's scientific judgments into question, thus protecting Darwin's modern-day Epicureanism, evolution’s chance construction by no means harms our theological convictions that God never would have created this world. Therefore evolution must be true.
It was a century after Hume and the perfect replay of Philo’s response to Cleanthes’s powerful design argument. Philo admitted the argument was a great challenge for him, but it was neutralized by the evil in the world. “I needed all my skeptical and metaphysical subtlety to elude your grasp,” admitted Philo, but “Here I triumph.”
So there you have it. The theory of evolution by natural selection is among the best established in science.