Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Evolutionist is "Shocked, Shocked to Find Religion in Here"

Religious doctrinaire PZ Myers now incredibly claims there is no religion in evolution. After seeing Paul Nelson and Ronald Numbers discuss the issue, Myers reveals he is deeply in denial:

The argument from biological imperfections is not theological, no matter how vociferously Nelson asserts that it is, because no biologist is simply saying what he claims they are; the interesting part about imperfections like the recurrent laryngeal nerve or the spine of bipeds or mammalian testicles isn't simply that they seem clumsy and broken in a way no sensible god would tolerate, but that evolution provides an explanation for why they are so. We can build a case that these structures are a product of historical antecedents, and have a positive case for them as consequences of common descent. Nelson is misrepresenting the argument, and Numbers just went along with it.

It is not news that people live in denial of their own commitments and convictions. But the degree to which evolutionists are in denial is remarkable. The metaphysics embedded in their thought is exceeded only by their denial of it. It is a truly fascinating mythology.

The reason given by evolutionists such as Myers for why their theological proclamations don't count is that "evolution provides an explanation for" the imperfections. This reasoning is so problematic it seems unnecessary to rebuke. Can evolutionists really be serious? Unfortunately they are, so here goes.

First, as a simple matter of logic, the evolutionary "explanations" for imperfections do nothing to remove the theological claims. Second, as Elliott Sober has recently pointed out with logical rigor, it is precisely from the metaphysical premises that the argument from imperfection derives its strength. Third, the notion that "evolution provides an explanation" is absurd. That's like saying bed-time stories provide an explanation. See here, here and here for the evolutionary aburdity that vision (and that imperfect blind spot) just "evolved." Fourth, the theology has historically and continues today to drive evolutionary thought.

The seventeenth century cleric Nicolas Malebranche argued for simple, blunt means of creation to explain imperfections and evil in the world. His theodicy laid the groundwork for Leibniz and others. And the seventeenth century botanist John Ray argued that the world's “errors and bungles” reveal indirect creation mechanisms. These are merely two examples of how evolutionary thought was being formulated centuries before Darwin. And here are just a few examples from later thinkers:

Thus, God's choice, not having the slightest motive for tying [the planets] to one single arrangement, would reveal itself with a greater freedom in all sorts of deviations and differences” –Immanuel Kant, 1755

“I needed all my skeptical and metaphysical subtlety to elude [the design argument, but] here [referring to imperfections and evil] I triumph.” –David Hume, 1779

The hierarchical clustering of the species is "utterly inexplicable if species are independent creations.” –Charles Darwin, 1859

“I own that I cannot see as plainly as others do, and as I should wish to do, evidence of design and beneficence on all sides of us. There seems to me too much misery in the world. I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created the [parasitic wasp] with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of caterpillars, or the cat should play with mice.” –Charles Darwin, 1860

“The strange springs and traps and pitfalls found in the flowers of Orchids cannot be necessary per se, since exactly the same end is gained in ten thousand other flowers which do not possess them. Is it not then an extraordinary idea to imagine the Creator of the Universe contriving the various complicated parts of these flowers as a mechanic might contrive an ingenious toy or a difficult puzzle? Is it not a more worthy conception that they are some of the results of those general laws which were so co-ordinated at the first introduction of life upon the earth as to result necessarily in the utmost possible development of varied forms?” –Alfred Wallace, 1870

“If whales were made at once out of hand as we now see them, is it conceivable that these useless teeth would have been given them?” –Joseph Le Conte, 1891

Unless “one is prepared to believe in successive acts of creation and successive catastrophes resulting in their obliteration, there is already a strong presumptive indication that evolution has occurred.” –Sir Gavin de Beer, 1964

"Odd arrangements and funny solutions are the proof of evolution—paths that a sensible God would never tread but that a natural process, constrained by history, follows perforce." –Stephen Jay Gould, 1980

What could have possessed the Creator to bestow two horns on the African rhinoceroses and only one on the Indian species?” –Douglas Futuyma, 1983

“It has turned out to be easier to evolve variations on the five-digit theme, than to recompose the limb structure. If species have descended from common ancestors, homologies make sense; but if all species originated separately, it is difficult to understand why they should share homologous similarities.” –Mark Ridley, 1993

Would God “really want to take credit for the mosquito?” –Ken Miller, 1999

“There are too many deficiencies, too much cruelty in the world of life. To assume that they have been explicitly created by God amounts to blasphemy. I believe God to be omniscient and benevolent. The design of organisms is not compatible with such beliefs.” –Francisco Ayala, 2002

Evolutionary thought is, and always has been profoundly religious. Of course that is nothing new--religious mandates have always been influential. What is remarkable is the denial of evolutionists about their own arguments and convictions.