The scientific establishment argues strongly for evolution. Apparently the “evidence is overwhelming”, though I remain underwhelmed, among others. I won’t speak for everyone, just myself—why is this little guy holding out against the crowds of evolutionists, who undoubtedly know a lot more about biology and genetics than I could ever hope to? Why won’t I put my trust in evolutionary science?
In this part 1, I contend that the current scientific institutions are not set up to honestly consider the possibility of divine creation.
Evolution in one limited way is compelling: if there is no God, then evolution assuredly is the only conceivable explanation of the development of life as we see it.
However that “if there is no God” is a very big “if”. So my next question is, what is science doing to figure out that “if”? The answer as far as I can see it is: very little. Which is surprising. One reason given is that anything that must be attributed to miraculous or beyond-nature explanations is, by definition, not able to be explored by science. TalkOrigins summarises it here, and seems to make some good points. However, in the discussion of origins, it seems science is still not being honest with the big questions.
Evolution, as portrayed to the general public by David Attenborough and many others, attributes life and its marvels to evolution alone. The implication is that no God is needed—evolution can do just fine by itself. That betrays an anti-God bias, which isn’t good science.
When I look at the amazing and complex structures, functions, and communities of organisms that we see, personally it seems to so positively suggest a designer. Not only a designer, but a fabulous one. Humans, who are intelligent and focused on an outcome, cannot create anything as magnificent as what is in nature. Humans frequently find inspiration in nature when trying to break new technological ground. So why is the super designer option not given attention as a viable possibility? It just doesn’t make sense to ignore it, despite special creation being awkward to “test with science”. Rather, it seems to be an axiom of evolutionary science: there is no super designer; look for a naturalistic explanation. But that’s bad science. If you start with that axiom, inevitably you’ll come to a naturalistic conclusion.
Even if creation by God is hard to test, it’s sensible science to ask the question of whether evolution is a feasible explanation. Is it probable or possible for evolution to make what we see, in the time that was available, with the conditions available? Again, I don’t see this question being honestly asked; rather it appears that it is assumed as axiomatically true. That’s bad science.
The way evolutionary science pushes ahead without considering these basic questions, makes me think that evolutionary science doesn’t really want to ask these questions. The way it pushes ahead, confident that evolutionary science will eventually find all the answers, makes me think that the minds are closed to the possibility that evolution isn’t viable; that we actually needed a God to put us here. There is an anti-God bias. That alone gives me confidence that they could well be making a grand error. They’ve already made up their minds. If God made everything, then evolutionary science as it is being practised is not going to discover it. And that is bad science.
In part 2, I examine the idea that “religion is scientifically untestable”, and the consequences of that philosophy.
It is not the only conceivable explanation, just the best one.
What do you mean by ‘big’? Is it in terms of relevance? Explanatory power? Or is it just important to you because god must have a role somewhere.
No it isn’t surprising. Why investigate something that is unnecessary or irrelevant and provides no explanatory value?
Logic = fail. Maybe I can attribute this to your engineering leaning or background. Buildings, watches and televisions are all designed. They cannot evolve into place. Living organisms reproduce and are subject to forces of natural selection. Add huge amounts of time and voila – diversity of life. QED. The addition of god adds nothing to the explanation or the predictive power of the theory.
Tell me how to test for it. If it cannot be disproven and there is no evidence for it what is the point? Pardon me I state there is no evidence for it. If there is please enlighten me.
Oh where do I start? You clearly do not understand the scientific method nor do you state correctly the reasoning employed by scientists. If anyone is starting with a predetermined belief it is you.....there is a god......no let’s try to fit him in somewhere.
You are entitled to your opinion. I disagree strongly because all the evidence supports the theory. You accuse scientists of being dishonest (or incompetent). It seems that you, who have not studied science, are qualified to state what is and is not good science.
You are intensely interested in questions that evolutionary scientists consider irrelevant and unhelpful. You accuse scientists of having closed minds. I think that maybe you think that everyone who doesn’t believe what you do is closed minded. I suggest that the answer ‘god’ is used by people who are uncomfortable living in a world of chance and without an ultimate purpose and who need to feel special and not merely a product of evolution, but who have a personal god looking out for them, to comfort them and tell them how to behave (as if we didn’t know already).
Hello. A few responses to your comments...
I meant “big” as in relevance. “If there is no God” vs “if there is a God” has profound consequences on how we view the world and live, and so how the course of human history goes.
When and how did we collectively decide that God is unnecessary, irrelevant and of no explanatory value? My point, which your comments seem to back up, is that this is assumed as an axiom.
It’s true that human-engineered creations don’t evolve, except the systems which have been designed to evolve (so far, computer simulations only, because we haven’t yet managed to develop technology to make self-replicating machines). Also true that living organisms reproduce, have mechanisms for genetic variation, and are subject to natural selection. Creationists say these mechanisms themselves had to be created, and couldn’t arise naturally without God.
Sure, the Bible isn’t intended as a science textbook, but we can still make some testable predictions. Here are a few:
So, to say “creationism makes no useful predictions” seems a strange claim. A caveat: the Bible’s purpose is not a science textbook, but a text on God and the spiritual purpose of life, so to complain that it doesn’t make useful contributions to science is like complaining that a chemistry textbook doesn’t make useful contributions to morality. But in the scope of the question of origins, certainly the creationist view makes testable predictions.
Well, I am biased as we all are (I have a Christian upbringing). On the other hand, all through my life I’ve been regularly confronted with evolution and humanism, and can’t avoid seriously asking, “So, is God there or not? Is the Bible true, or not?” So I think I have seriously considered the opposing view. When I try to seriously consider the evidence, I see problems with the theory: e.g. when I consider the fossil record, and ask “does it match the evolutionary theory?” the lack of transitional fossils stands out as a problem. Secondly, evolutionary explanations make a huge philosophical leap from demonstrating genetic variation on a small scale, to claiming that the same mechanisms on a large time scale can create life as we know it from goop. In the science domain, much of the evidence is “evidence against evolution”, and we would agree that negative evidence has certain limitations. Meanwhile, I also have evidence for my beliefs. In other domains besides traditional science, there is evidence, as I say in Part 2.
“I meant “big” as in relevance. “If there is no God” vs “if there is a God” has profound consequences on how we view the world and live, and so how the course of human history goes.”
I can see how this is relevant to many people. However the question as put isn’t relevant to the scientific investigation of reality. The theory of evolution doesn’t require consideration of the question of god. Neither does the theory of gravity or any of the thousands of other scientific theories. Belief in the supernatural has been the subject of investigation but the actual existence of the supernatural, having no credible supporting evidence, is often said to be beyond science. As such I find it amusing that believers often suggest scientists are negligent in not considering god in their research.
“When and how did we collectively decide that God is unnecessary, irrelevant and of no explanatory value? My point, which your comments seem to back up, is that this is assumed as an axiom.”
I didn’t say that we collectively agreed to the relevance of the god question. The statement is my view and my generalised understanding of the view of the scientific community. However I do not speak for anyone but myself. I do not see it as an axiom, merely as an irrelevance as it adds nothing to the explanatory power of any scientific theory, so we obviously disagree on that point.
“Creationists say these mechanisms themselves had to be created, and couldn’t arise naturally without God.”
Which god? How did this god come into existence? Again I get back to the question of it adding nothing of use to the understanding of the situation.
“Sure, the Bible isn’t intended as a science textbook, but we can still make some testable predictions. Here are a few:
These biological systems, even given huge amounts of time, can’t produce a net increase in complexity.”
Increasing complexity is observed all the time in biological systems and other systems. This assertion, often cited by believers, is due to ignorance of basic biological mechanisms. The observation is so commonplace it would be considered superfluous be the subject of an investigation.
“The fossil record will never reveal the significant intermediates predicted by evolution, because there aren’t any. I’m talking about the big changes like reptiles to birds, whales to/from whatever, critters that transition from cellular blobs to the “cambrian explosion”.”
Again this assertion is often cited by believers and similarly has no foundation. Intermediate or transitory fossils are abundant. All fossils are in some way “intermediate”. Though the fossil record isn’t complete, the fact is that it is entirely unnecessary. Fossil evidence is very interesting but has been overtaken by evolutionary genetics as the field delivering the best understanding of the evolution of life.
“Dog breeders, given huge amounts of time and the full range of dogs as a starting point, will be unable to produce a cat (never mind a bird from a lizard).”
Production of a cat from a dog or a bird from a lizard is not an evidential requirement of evolution by natural selection. I hope you are not going to raise the “crocoduck”. Evolution is happening as we speak. Our lifespan is unfortunately too short to appreciate the process in animals but it is readily observable in less complex organisms.
“While I don’t think the earth is 6,000 years old, I do think the Bible says human beings originated with a single human couple (Adam and Eve) about 6,000 years ago. Genetic analysis should be consistent with this. .g. “mitochondrial Eve” and “Y-chromosomal Adam”. (Actually Y-chromosomal Adam should date from the global flood.) These analyses have already been done, and I realise the ages given clash with this prediction.”
Genetic evidence unquestionably blow these predictions out of the water.
“Bible’s purpose is not a science textbook, but a text on God and the spiritual purpose of life, so to complain that it doesn’t make useful contributions to science is like complaining that a chemistry textbook doesn’t make useful contributions to morality.”
A valid point.
"But in the scope of the question of origins, certainly the creationist view makes testable predictions."
How so? An example please.
"When I try to seriously consider the evidence, I see problems with the theory: e.g. when I consider the fossil record, and ask “does it match the evolutionary theory?” the lack of transitional fossils stands out as a problem."
The transitory fossil argument is a strawman.
"Secondly, evolutionary explanations make a huge philosophical leap from demonstrating genetic variation on a small scale, to claiming that the same mechanisms on a large time scale can create life as we know it from goop."
Evolutionary explanations do no such thing. The theory completely explains the observable genetic variation, and more importantly the observable genetic similarity of all life on earth. It does so on a time scale consistent with evidence obtained from other scientific fields.
"In the science domain, much of the evidence is “evidence against evolution”, and we would agree that negative evidence has certain limitations."
Please give examples of the evidence against evolution.
"These biological systems, even given huge amounts of time, can’t produce a net increase in complexity."
"The fossil record will never reveal the significant intermediates predicted by evolution, because there aren’t any."
"While I don’t think the earth is 6,000 years old, I do think the Bible says human beings originated with a single human couple (Adam and Eve) about 6,000 years ago."
Please read Richard Dawkins new book - The Greatest Show on Earth. He shows why the above are silly points raised over and over by people who do not (or don't want to) understand the science. His target audience is the scientific illiterate so he goes to great lengths to explain the science. Read objectively it should make you rethink your misconceptions. Or you may just want to keep chanting the same mantra and keep denying the overwhelming evidence. Option (a) learn about reality or (b) live in willful ignorance .... your choice.
I've always thought that a god would want his people to use the brain he gave them.
Sure, I should probably have a read. Most of my research has relied on pro-evolution materials available on-line. TalkOrigins web site for example. I've read one Stephen J Gould book ("Wonderful Life") and thought it was very interesting, but the Cambrian explosion seems to support a creation event more readily than a sudden evolutionary event.
I read a review of Greatest Show on Earth which compared it to Jerry Coyne's book Why Evolution is True, and preferred the latter. Might have a look at either I guess.
I have read Dawkins’ book
I read Dawkins’ book a few years ago, following your advice, and I’m in the process of recording my thoughts on it.
Christian concept of 6,000 year human history
I previously commented:
However, after learning more about Biblical genealogies (refer to William Henry Green), and also considering scientific evidence of the age of human history, I am persuaded that a 6,000 year date of human history should not be inferred from the Biblical genealogies, Ussher-style.
G'day, Craig. Well-reasoned and compelling. To Allan and others who say, "Show me the evidence against evolution", I say, "Show me the evidence against intelligent design". Show me one fact of nature that argues against creation by a supremely intelligent designer. Sure, some facts of nature fit the evolution theory, but in no way do they favour evolutionism over creationism. Look at DNA and the genetic basis of inheritance, including the ability of populations to adapt to changing environmental conditions -- positively reeks of intelligence if you ask me.
I understand the theory of intelligent design to be as follows.... lets take all the wonderfully complicated natural phenomenon that science is in the process of explaining (often in contradiction to the established religious explanations)and tack on the end... "God did it". It doesn't add anything to our understanding of the facts. It merely provides a place for a god for those people that require it. People who are emotionally secure and mature are generally happy to admit they don't know everything or may never know something or may change their views as new evidence presents itself. These people are often called arrogant by some religious people. I understand my place in the universe. I take responsibility for my own actions. Life is not fair and has no underlying purpose. I don't need a promise of a reward to do good or to act ethically. My moral code is surprisingly simple, try to do do as much good and as little harm as possible. Of course you are free to add a god to your worldview to fulfill your needs. Good for you.
Rod, show me one fact of nature that argues against the thousands of non-biblical accounts of creation. Show me one fact of nature that argues against the existence of fairies or any other superstition. How can you be certain that your particular belief is correct and all other incompatible religious beliefs are incorrect. Any reference to ‘faith’ or an attempt to use the bible as ‘evidence’ of the truth of the bible just doesn’t cut it. By the way, what is the evidence against evolution? Just saying it exists doesn't means it does in fact exist. You have to provide the evidence. The onus is on you.
Rule out fairies
Comparing God to fairies and Santa Claus... they're worlds apart, because the Bible is an extraordinary book. The Bible puts Christianity worlds apart from all other religions too.
As far as the Bible containing significant scientific content to add to scientific knowledge, there's not a lot there. But still the question of origins involves both science and religion.
As for evidence against evolution, I'm probably starting to repeat myself, but here we go:
Muslim's hold the same beliefs about their book and religion. Had you been born in the middle east you would believe in the divinity of Allah and the teachings of Mohammad.
I do not intend any insult by comparing god to Santa or fairies. But the evidence of their existence is equally compelling to those would hold a belief of their existence. There is of course significant cultural and historical differences.
Regarding the scientific validity of the bible, had it remained silent on such matters and confined itself to spiritual matters I could understand your comment. But it contains so many factual errors and misinterpretations of the natural world how can anyone believe the author was the creator of the universe. It should have been very easy to dictate a factually correct account of the creation that would accord with subsequent scientific investigation. It borrows so much from other religions and its directives are often immoral to our standards. I cannot understand how you reconcile this to get to your current belief position.
Regarding your evidence against evolution I don't think I can progress this discussion. Your argument appears to be (1) because there is a small gap in one aspect of the evidence then it's all wrong, therefore... god really did it. (2) because one minute bit of evidence appears to contradict some other minute bit of evidence then it's all wrong and therefore...god did it. Nature is a puzzle that science is solving. Science is a process. It's often wrong, but eventually it gets it right. Faith is a denial of human intelligence. I have no need for faith or belief in invisible magical father figures.
Religions, errors, morals, evolution
Yes a point to seriously consider. One argument is, “There are so many religions, and they contradict each other, so they can't all be right. Actually, they are all wrong.” Something I had to question as I grew up. But the Bible's contents are unique (qualitatively different to all other religions) and compelling I reckon.
Factual errors... do you mean:
None of which are legitimate complaints.
Perhaps we 21st century humans will go down in history as being a bunch of primitive savages, because our literature speaks of the beauty of a sunset, which will show how we ignorantly thought the sun revolved around the earth. If we had any scientific knowledge at all, our literature ought to be speaking instead of the beauty of the earth's rotation bringing our location on the earth's surface to the point of tangent with the sun's rays, and the resultant selective atmospheric absorption and scattering of optical wavelengths. (let the reader understand)
Hmm, in 25 words or less? The Bible says “don't divorce” and “stay faithful to your spouse for life”. My experience is that these principles are part of a winning formula for real contentment, and it seems that society is suffering significantly for thinking these moral principles are obsolete.
Fair enough. My opinion is that the gaps are not small and the contradictory evidence is not minute. New fossils are apparently being discovered all the time, all over the world. Surely, according to evolution, we should be discovering every imaginable form of intermediates (well, a lot anyway) on the spectrum between reptiles and birds, wherever some ancient localised mudslide blesses us with a snapshot of life at that time and place. Ah faith... faith says that eventually these intermediates will be found.
“But the Bible's contents are unique (qualitatively different to all other religions)”
Please provide one example from the bible that demonstrates its unique qualitative property.
“None of which are legitimate complaints.”
They are legitimate complaints if it is claimed that they were dictated by the infallible creator of the universe. But I take your point that most are somewhat trivial. However I think the pi error is colossal for the supreme mathematical Pooh-Bah. Also fowls do not creep and hare do not chew the cud and mustard seeds are not the smallest of all seeds. It is harder to explain how Jonah was in the belly of a fish for 3 days and survived. Also the world is neither flat nor stationary and doesn’t have corners. The account of the flood is impossible to scientifically explain and diseases are not caused by demons nor does prayer heal illness (both beliefs have contributed to untold human misery). The point is that all these are understandable errors for bronze-age authors, but not for god. I expect a higher standard from a god. And we haven’t considered all the internal inconsistencies and unfulfilled prophesies and described miracles.
Please provide one piece of evidence that proves the bible could not have been authored by men of that time.
“Perhaps we 21st century humans will go down in history as being a bunch of primitive savages, because our literature speaks of the beauty of a sunset, which will show how we ignorantly thought the sun revolved around the earth. If we had any scientific knowledge at all, our literature ought to be speaking instead of the beauty of the earth's rotation bringing our location on the earth's surface to the point of tangent with the sun's rays, and the resultant selective atmospheric absorption and scattering of optical wavelengths. (let the reader understand)”
And your point is?.... or just obstrufication! I thought we were discussing the scientific veracity of the bible. How is the interpretation modern literature relevant? Why all the mystery?
“The Bible puts Christianity worlds apart from all other religions too”
I replied: “It borrows so much from other religions and its directives are often immoral to our standards. I cannot understand how you reconcile this to get to your current belief position.”
Now you state “The Bible says “don't divorce” and “stay faithful to your spouse for life”. My experience is that these principles are part of a winning formula for real contentment, and it seems that society is suffering significantly for thinking these moral principles are obsolete.”
How does the bible put christianity worlds apart from all other religions? Please provide objective evidence.
I’m not saying the bible doesn’t contain any virtuous advice. I’m saying it doesn’t contain any moral advice that isn’t also suggested in other religious texts or teachings (predating the bible) or isn’t obvious to our naturally evolved consciousness. Furthermore it contains many divine commands that are unquestionably immoral by today’s standards (I can cite evidence but I think you already know these). So I don’t disagree with your statement about being faithful to your spouse if that is your mutual agreement. I could argue about the appropriateness of divorce in many circumstances. But how do you reconcile the existence of the immoral and unscientific content with the claim that the author is the infallible creator and caretaker of mankind?
Another puzzling fact is the degree to which christianity borrows from other religions. The following concepts all pre-date christianity and could be claimed to be borrowed: young and beardless shepherd saving mankind by performing sacrifical deeds, virgin birth, celebration of the birth of god on the winter solstice, sharing of presents, the use of (Christmas) trees with candles, and nativity scenes that included shepherds attracted by a sacred light, a first human couple having been created, a major flood, mankind's redemption resulting from a sacrificial death followed by the god's ascent to heaven, resurrection through sacrifice, a Last Supper linked with the blood sacrifice whose symbolic recreation by eating bread and wine provided salvation for all worshippers, purification through baptism, Sunday to be sacred, asceticism - resist sensuality and to abstain from eating certain foods, charity, emphasis of a rock, a cosmic rivalry between a God and Satan figure, good and bad angels, importance of an immortal soul that survives the body, a judgment day, when mankind would once and for all be divided into those accepted in heaven and those consigned to eternal punishment in hell, hell in the underworld and heaven in the sky, where God was located.
“Surely, according to evolution, we should be discovering every imaginable form of intermediates (well, a lot anyway) on the spectrum between reptiles and birds, wherever some ancient localised mudslide blesses us with a snapshot of life at that time and place.”
The theory of evolution by natural selection requires no such thing. It is surprising that any fossils exist at all given the conditions necessary for them to form. The fact that they do exist and they support the theory and they also agree with evidence from other fields of science and they can be used in predictive studies (your other blog contributor “Faith” is quite mistaken in her beliefs on this) points clearly to one conclusion if you choose to employ rational thought.
“Ah faith... faith says that eventually these intermediates will be found.”
Firstly, I have some expectation that they exist, but it is unlikely they will be found and frankly I do not require it. I cannot think of another theory in biology that has more evidence in support of it. Had the theory not directly questioned existing religious beliefs there would be no debate about its veracity at all.
Secondly, I could interpret this statement to be extremely offensive. Or maybe you don’t know what the word “faith” means.
Faith by definition is a belief not based on reason or logic or on evidence but often held contrary to the evidence. The belief held, often with absolute certainty, without any scientifically verifiable supporting evidence makes such belief irrational. It may be that there is absolutely nothing, no evidence whatsoever that would shake your belief in a god. For belief in a supernatural god is based on faith. People that seek to understand the universe via the application of reason and logic and do not believe with certainty in things that cannot be supported by credible evidence. Those who remain open-minded to the possibility they may be wrong and adapt their thinking to new evidence are n my opinion most likely to be atheists. That is, they hold the opinion that there is insufficient evidence for anything of supernatural existence or consequence in the universe. Atheism is a position reached by critical analysis and rational thought, not faith.
All sorts of topics...
Hmm hard to adequately briefly summarise. There are a few key themes which work together:
Jesus Christ is a huge topic though, and takes many words to explain.
I think I see what you're saying, but I don't see errors where you see them.
For me, I am impressed by the thematic integrity of the Bible over authorship of many people and long periods of time. Secondly, the fulfilled prophecies are impressive. Especially in Daniel, although atheists would unsurprisingly say that Daniel was written after the events it claimed to predict.
Sorry! I thought it would be clear. In modern times, we often talk about things in terms that are, if we want to be pedantic, non-scientific. That doesn't mean we're wrong, but the scientific literalism is unnecessary (and maybe actually more trouble than it's worth) at that moment. So we talk about sunsets because most of the time it's more natural and convenient to describe things from our ground-based perspective, even while we all know what's really going on. I'm sure even astronomers talk about waiting 'til after sunset to check out something in their telescope, without a colleague saying, "Hey peanut, what do you think you mean, 'sunset'?" In modern times we might also talk of "shooting stars" even though we know they're not really stars. And we call those critters "centipedes" and "millipedes" even though we don't think they have 100 or 1,000 legs. We use our language differently depending on whether we want to communicate scientific concepts or chat with a friend. Likewise the Bible, and the Bible's purpose is not to preserve ancient scientific insights.
Yes I was focusing on the "directives are often immoral" bit.
Well hopefully I've explained my thoughts on the scientific angle. As for the moral angle, I guess I'm not so impressed at the moral capabilities of secular humanism. Divorce being a good example. Abortion being another. On those two topics, secular humanism values human freedom, at the expense of other human beings. Under secular humanism, I could apparently divorce my wife for a wide range of nebulous reasons, regardless of the impact on my wife and children, as long as it "seems best" which is a most ineffective moral basis. But the Bible expects me to dedicate whatever effort it takes on my part to build a happy marriage, and face up to my personal responsibility. One of the most significant claims of the Bible is that human beings are incapable of working out and then living by successful morality without God.
I appreciate that you bring these up. Ironically and frustratingly for some of us, many of those things you list (e.g. Sunday worship, Christmas, winter solstice, immortal soul, eternal punishment in hell) are not actually Biblical, and are borrowed from other religions and/or Greek philosophy. There are those of us who reject all these non-Biblical intrusions of other religions into Christianity. For example, we go to church on the 7th day of the week as the Bible actually says, and don't do Christmas. I can't comment on the other items without spending more time. (some time!)
I can't really add much more at this stage. I thought I'd raised a significant point. I'll have to think it through more.
Well I wasn't trying to be rude. My working definition of the word "faith" is evidently different to yours. I take faith to mean something more like "trust in promises made, or assertions yet unproven, based on a foundation previously established". I think that describes both of us.
We've covered a lot of ground. Several large topics, and many more words could be dedicated to these issues. I appreciate that you've taken the time to argue your view rationally and patiently. You've stated the case quite clearly I think, and really got to the heart of the matter.
Suppose the following scenario. A couple has 2 children. The mother is the breadwinner. The father is an invalid with no means of financial support. The mother learns she is 4 weeks pregnant and that the baby has a 75% chance of inheriting a gentic disease that will result in severe deformity. There is also a 75% chance the mother will not survive the pregnancy. Do your morals allow her the option of terminating the pregnancy?
Yes, that is rather hypothetical. What percentage of the 42 million abortions per year is that hypothetical scenario meant to justify?
Draw the line
The question is aimed at trying to understand your rationale (ie where do you draw the line if at all) rather than justifying anything. You are presuming you know my position.
A tough scenario, I agree, but since you asked—I think my morals don't allow for an abortion.
It is an unfortunate scenario. I understand your view is based on either (a) god's law, and/or (b) the right of the embryo to develop. Please correct me if I misrepresent your view.
The rights of the mother to life and to deal with her body as she desires, the children to have a mother, the husband to have a wife, the family to be maintained and sustained are all subordinate. All their rights are subordinate to the rights of a small collection of cells, no organs and no consciousness. I have more empathy for living people than potential people.
View based on
Yes it's based on God's law—6th commandment out of the 10. The Bible doesn't clearly say (that I'm aware of) that an embryo, foetus or baby on the verge of birth (or an infant or child for that matter) should have all the rights of an adult. But there are scriptures that imply that God has vested interest and care in people before they're born, so I'm inclined to consider human life at all stages as precious and under God's jurisdiction.
The Bible also implies that we must ultimately take responsibility for our own actions, not the actions of others, so it's not appropriate for someone to impose such decisions on another person against their will (e.g. a husband/man on a woman's decision).
The question of choosing the life of a human vs the sustenance of a family isn't limited to the abortion question. We could well consider it in the case of a family who has a child who becomes disabled through illness or accident. That's likely to have a huge impact on the life of the whole family—inconvenient, financially imposing, emotionally straining—yet we would consider it wrong to take away the child's life "for the sake of the family". That would be horrible and criminal according to society and the law. I would just say that the Bible indicates that reasoning should also extend to the life of a baby not yet born.
Incidentally, I've had the joy of hearing the heartbeat of two of my children now, from the age of 23 weeks' gestation, with my ear directly. And also feeling and seeing the kicking and turning of the baby-to-be. It really impressed on me that this was a real living human being tucked away in there, well before birth.
"so it's not appropriate for someone to impose such decisions on another person against their will (e.g. a husband/man on a woman's decision)."
If everyone followed this advice I would care much less about what superstitions others believed.
Craig, religion has corrupted
Craig, religion has corrupted your natural human values. It probably effected you in your childhood and crippled your ability to grow beyond the dictates of your superstitions. It's dogma has defeated your ability to reason against it and warped your morals. Of course you wont see it that way. So sad. So damaged.
Hello. Interesting that you should choose to say that. I am interested to see how much atheists who care to comment on these issues might choose to do so according to the noblest secular values. I beg you to try to make constructive contributions.
Craig, I don't believe atheists would find the situation as described less difficult than those of your faith. If anything the decision making process (not the situation itself) is more difficult because there is no instruction manual. Ultimately it is a personal/family decision. To deny the mother/family the choice to resolve the problem as they decide, or to impose a solution would be unconscionable.
Please explain further
"As for evolutionary genetics, it unexpectedly contradicts anatomical indications of evolutionary descent"
Evolutionary genetics compared to anatomy
Try, for example, the results of the "Early Bird Project", discussed in National Geographic April 2009. Here is a blog post.
I don't see how this causes even the slightest problem. The fact is that early classification methodology was based mostly on anatomical features. This has been superseded by classification based on genetics because it is more specific. Evolution should not be seen as a process having any particular direction. Early classifications grouped whales with fish. The genetic information now revealed simply gives us more information and allows correction of previous misconceptions. That’s the benefit of the scientific process - it is self correcting. Nothing is proven, only disproven. It doesn’t start out with the answer and then ignore or deny the evidence.
As far as I understand, evolutionary theory would predict a high correlation between closeness of kin and closeness of anatomical features. Likewise, high correlation between closeness of kin and genetic similarity. Therefore, high correlation between anatomical features and genetic similarity.
However (as said in the link), that prediction is not being upheld in the findings of the "Early Bird Project". This seems like an important bit of evidence that needs serious consideration of its implications. There are some significant implications that need to be nutted out. So I am surprised that you say it doesn't cause the least problem. The article in the link says that it's "sure to cause a flap" which seems more realistic.
But still, it appears that there's a pre-determined commitment to evolution to be maintained. So I question who it is who is denying the evidence.
Oversimplification of predictions
Any prediction of a high correlation between closeness of kin and closeness of anatomcal features must also factor in the effects of distance and time and the resultant variability of environmental pressures acting on populations. This is why whales look like fish but are more closely related to man and why some birds have lost the ability to fly but swim beautifully. As I said earlier, evolution has no direction. It is merely a result. Theoretically environmental factors may act on genetically disimilar populations and result in similar anatomical outcomes. Genetically more similar populations in other areas may be unaffected by these pressures. These concepts are not difficult to understand. Evolution is a process with no purpose. We are more likely the result of chance and natural selection than the creation of a magical god. I have no predetermined commitment to the theory of evolution - it is not a religion, just an explanation. Provide a better explanation to fit the evidence and I will believe it. Evolution simply makes more sense to me than believing in supernatural causes. I do not suggest that the process of evolution is simple and that all is known. However science has a very good track record of discovery, far better than religion. Trusting that science with find the truth doesn't require any faith, just appreciation of the efforts of many dedicated scientists and the knowledge that they are on the job. So when I write that your point do not cause me the least of concerns it is because either the effects are easily explained by current scientific knowledge, or will be the subject of more investigation but it doesn't in any way move me in the direction of accepting supernatural explanations (until you provide some credible evidence).
"Evolution simply makes more
"Evolution simply makes more sense to me than believing in supernatural causes."
Creationists don't explain what exists on the basis of supernatural causes except for the original Creation itself. Some living things did "evolve" from others, that is, they are varieties of a Species that were potential in the genome from the beginning.
Science has a great track record when it focuses on the facts right in front of it; but when it theorizes about origins it can go very wrong and have no way to correct the error because there is no way to test the past. So it takes for granted what is really no more than a prejudice, just like you, accepting what "makes more sense to them" although there is no way to establish it on a truly scientific footing.
"Creationists don't explain
"Creationists don't explain what exists on the basis of supernatural causes except for the original Creation itself."
OK, but what was originally created and when? The early universe or young earth genesis? The claims vary greatly.
"Some living things did "evolve" from others, that is, they are varieties of a Species that were potential in the genome from the beginning."
I understand from this that you believe god created an "original genome". I believe the "original" genome(s)evolved and have been evolving ever since.... mutating, becoming more or less complex and disappearing completely. Some genetically determined characteristics found in human populations today are clearly advantageous to survival/reproduction in certain conditions. This is evidence of genetic mutations happening within recent history (entirely new genetic material, not simply recombination).
"but when it theorizes about origins it can go very wrong and have no way to correct the error because there is no way to test the past".
You may not be able to directly test the past but you can make hypotheses about past events with reference to available evidence and make predictions that fit that evidence. New evidence will either support the predictions or not. And yes, some things cannot be tested and may never be. It is important to distinguish the scientific process from the actions of scientists. Not everything scientists do are scientific. Scientists theorise, science doesn't. But having said that even strict observance of the scientific process may not deliver correct information (consider sample sizes and available technology). However, as a collective process it is self-correcting, requiring only intelligence and effort. Science never says anything is proven, only disproven. It doesn't say evolution is 100% true. It says it is by far the best explanation so far.
"So it takes for granted what is really no more than a prejudice, just like you,"
Should something that was incorrect be taken for granted, application of scientific testing would likely reveal the error. Prejudices are discredited by honest application of scientific testing. Is it a prejudice to hold a belief in the truth of things strongly supported by evidence? If so, then rather that than believing things lacking any evidence or not fitting all the available evidence.
"accepting what "makes more sense to them" although there is no way to establish it on a truly scientific footing."
Not everything needs to be subjected to scientific testing before they are accepted. But important things usually should be when they can be. Things that don't fit the evidence, especially when they are important to ones life, should be subjected to honest evaluation.
By the way, my test for truth is not simply that it "makes more sense to me". Intuition is often wrong... developed to improve our chance of survival (poor wording) rather than predict the truth. And our senses are very limited and inferior to other animals. Reality is often counter intuitive.
That makes sense. But, it seems then that evolution's predictive powers are limited—if it's so flexible it can “explain” anything: It can explain how everything is related on a grand tree of anatomical similarities. Oops, no it can explain how everything is related on a grand tree of genetic similarities.
Science does have a great record of scientific discovery. The scientific method is most excellent and I'm grateful for the benefits we enjoy from it. Christianity mostly has no conflict with science. Christianity does have a great conflict with secular humanism however, and the essence of my original article was that evolution and its related statements on origins seems heavily influenced by secular humanism.
"Christianity mostly has no conflict with science."
Christianity most certainly does conflict with science. Science is reality. Religion is superstition. The christian doctrine requires one to suspend rational thought and accept the existence of the supernatural, miracles, virgin births, resurrections, world-wide floods, witches, demons et cetera. Clearly all nonsense to intelligent and educated people.
"Christianity does have a great conflict with secular humanism however, and the essence of my original article was that evolution and its related statements on origins seems heavily influenced by secular humanism."
I'll take secular humanist values over christian morals anyday. The most offensive thing about religion is that it is imposed on the young before the development of the ability to reason. I agree with Dawkins when he equates this to child abuse. Religion also seeks to impose its codes of behaviour on others. It doesn't seem they can be happy keeping to themselves.
Axiom in action
Understandably, science seeks to understand the laws of nature and physics etc with the scientific method. Your comment does seem to demonstrate the approach described in the original article. Why is it nonsense to accept the existence of these things? After reading the Bible, I'm persuaded by it. It's not according to the scientific method but it's rational.
The thing about the Bible is that it says that there is a God, who made us, and therefore understands what's good for us better than we do. Smarter than us, with a highly vested interest in our success collectively and individually. Significant, I think.
Looking at this rationally:
So the accusation pretty much applies to all parents, and everyone putting out their message. Richard Dawkins seeks to impose his views on others. It seems he just isn't content to keep his opinion to himself. :) But seriously, accusation of child abuse is a pretty serious accusation... how about we say secular humanists abuse their children with their views and we'll call it a stale mate. But personally, I'd rather aim to have a rational discussion rather than throw around such ridiculous accusations.
“Why is it nonsense to accept the existence of these things?”
It’s a double standard to demand conclusive proof from scientists and not demand a similar standard from your church. This applies especially to beliefs that have significant consequences to our way of life.
You can't use reason to talk someone out of a position they didn't use reason to arrive at. When asked what they would do if scientists were to disprove a particular religious belief, nearly two-thirds (64%) of people say they would continue to hold to what their religion teaches rather than accept the contrary scientific finding (October 2006 Time). The mind-boggling part of this is that they consider this attitude to be a virtue. That's where early education in critical thinking is important: children shouldn't grow up believing that stubbornly clinging to an idea despite all the evidence against it makes them look heroic. It makes them look stupid.
“The thing about the Bible is that it says that there is a God, who made us, and therefore understands what's good for us better than we do. Smarter than us, with a highly vested interest in our success collectively and individually. Significant, I think.”
The MO is to convince people they are broken and then offer a fix. “We are all sinners in need of salvation! We can’t be moral without God!” Of course the “fix” comes at a price – subservience and unquestioning faith. “God works in mysterious ways!” (he obviously hates amputees but loves the occasional cancer sufferer). Having played on our insecurities (usually indoctrinated during childhood) the follow up threat of eternal damnation in hell is the clincher. All this without the slightest bit of proof! Just a feel-good story extracted from a book of illogical fantasy, atrocity and threat. OK, the Bible has some good bits but other contemporary writers were far more eloquent and moral.
“So the accusation pretty much applies to all parents, and everyone putting out their message.”
No it doesn’t. When children are taught by their parents and teachers how to think rationally, evaluate the evidence for themselves, determine their own conclusions, argue their case and be flexible and reasonable in their thought processes – that is not child abuse. To teach a child reality is not child abuse. To teach that your particular flavour of superstition is reality is certainly child abuse as it causes great injury to the child’s ability to distinguish reality from fiction. This is an abuse of the power of authority and trust. Of course, religious parents usually do not see it in this light. They love their children and want the best for them (or what they think is best). I don’t say they do this out of malice but the detrimental effect is not lessened by good intent. They don’t want them to burn in hell forever - the cycle is perpetuated.
“Richard Dawkins seeks to impose his views on others. It seems he just isn't content to keep his opinion to himself.”
There is a huge distinction between stating an opinion, backed with evidence, to “imposing a view”.
“how about we say secular humanists abuse their children with their views and we'll call it a stale mate.”
No. No doubt some secular humanists do abuse their children if they simply impose their opinions without teaching their child how to think rationally. Rational thought does not come naturally. It must be taught – the scientific method, philosophy – as we are predisposed to using intuition and accepting the beliefs of others we trust.
I'm not so much interested in religion as conceived by 64% of some group of people. Likewise I'm not interested in religion as embodied by some guy who claims to be religious and then does outrageous things. Such people don't speak for the religion of the Bible any more than the elections in Zimbabwe speak for democracy. For what it's worth, for the same reason, I don't see the benefit in pushing the argument that Hitler was just following evolution to its logical conclusion.
Personally, I'm quite interested in looking at the Bible and its claims rationally. I don't see the Bible as demanding that I give up rationality. There are big challenges especially as there are a number of debates (origins, existence of God, morality) that are fiercely argued in a highly polarised debate. But I don't buy the claim that Christianity is a religion contrary to rationality. The claim is often made, but I don't think it holds up to scrutiny. I too desire to teach my children the importance of rational thought.
The whole point of these blog posts, especially part 2, is to discuss rationale for Christian belief that is outside the scope of the scientific method. The proof is in the Bible, unless you reject it outright for being outside the scope of the scientific method.
As for eternal hell—that's another topic in itself.
I keep hearing of all the wonderfully intelligent design seen in nature. What about all the anatomical screw ups? Vestigeal organs, poorly designed organs like our eyes etc. Why do some animals have inferior anatomical parts compared to others. They just don't make sense if they were created that way - but they make a lot of sense from an evolutionery viewpoint.
Why do whales have remnant bones of a pelvic girdle and leg bones? Seems stupid to incude them by design.
Rod, you really need to read more comparative anatomy books to understand that many animals, if designed, have a claim of negligence against the architect.
I keep hearing of all these poor designs. E.g. the famous "panda's thumb", and the web site named after it. But I'm sceptical of these poor-design claims. I've read the article about the eye. I doubt we are really qualified to make a commentary on the eye design of humans and squid, given that human technology is not capable of making an equivalent.
From what I've heard, we call fewer things "vestigial" than we did 50 years ago. The phrase "junk DNA" is likely to be abandoned as an unfortunate misnomer as we learn more about DNA. Biologists are undoubtedly knowledgable and clever, but we've got an awful lot to learn about biology. So it's good not to get too self-confident in our ability to accurately assess the quality of the design of the biological world.
You obviously don't suffer from bad back pain. It was very inconsiderate for this God fellow to give us a spine designed more for for horizontal rather than upright performance.
“I keep hearing of all these poor designs. E.g. the famous "panda's thumb", and the web site named after it. But I'm sceptical of these poor-design claims.”
It’s good to be sceptical. Maybe you could apply the same approach to your church’s claims of magical realism.
“I doubt we are really qualified to make a commentary on the eye design of humans and squid, given that human technology is not capable of making an equivalent.”
I fail to see why I can’t have an opinion on something unless I can achieve better. There goes my right to assess and comment upon just about everything I experience.
“From what I've heard, we call fewer things "vestigial" than we did 50 years ago. The phrase "junk DNA" is likely to be abandoned as an unfortunate misnomer as we learn more about DNA. Biologists are undoubtedly knowledgable and clever, but we've got an awful lot to learn about biology. So it's good not to get too self-confident in our ability to accurately assess the quality of the design of the biological world.”
At what point are humans allowed to have an opinion or be confident in our knowledge? We are the most intelligent beings on this planet! Must be know everything before we can discount the ridiculously fallacious? Your writing reeks of the submissive, subjugated and servile posturing that pervades Christianity (only when it suits it of course). “We are all wretched sinners! How feeble and pathetic we are compared to God!” It’s not a good look.
Us and God
True, you are welcome to have an opinion. I'm just not sure whether to take your word on it.
As for how we think of God... if the Bible is true, it seems eminently sensible to honour God both for power and moral greatness. Grovelling isn't the ticket—more along the lines of loving and trusting a wise parent.
“I'm just not sure whether to
“I'm just not sure whether to take your word on it.”
I suggest you don’t take my word on anything. Examine the evidence yourself and use your own reasoning abilities. If they don't take you any further well so be it.
“if the Bible is true, it seems eminently sensible to honour God both for power and moral greatness. Grovelling isn't the ticket”
If the bible is true then on any objective reading God is simply horrid and unworthy of any honour. By today's standards he would be guilty of crimes against humanity. But for your childhood indoctrination you would see that too.
It's true that God has killed people, including children whose fate was determined mostly by their ancestors' conduct. Also, God allowed people to die through accident and sickness, including many children. If that was it, according to the human concept of death—permanent, finality, end of hope—then I could agree with you. But if God can and will resurrect, as He says, and if Christ did die for all of us, and if God has a plan cleverer than commonly described, so that the vast majority of humans will end up being able to live forever in peace in a huge unified family—then God is good. A large blocker in this is the common concept of eternal hell, an idea which come from some other place besides the Bible (Greek philosophy?).
Nothing left to say
Your thinking is logical although your morals deplorable. Atheists are often accused of preaching an evolutionary survivalist morality (an inaccurate cheap shot in almost all circumstances) but your last comment encompasses an ends-justifies-the-means morality better than any 'Darwinist' could. If you can accommodate these beliefs within your concept of a 'loving' god (because he had no other options did he?) then the train has left the station. It is a small step (and one often taken) for this type of thinking to justify ones 'righteous' inhumanity to others.
"Why do whales have remnant bones of a pelvic girdle and leg bones?"
Why indeed? Is this merely an example of God's imaginative creativity? Seems very odd.
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