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Robert Wright and the New Pragmatism

In recent years evolutionists have been trying to pin down the theological implications of evolution. If evolution is true–and of course evolutionists believe it is true–then what does this tell us about god? From blogs to books to conferences at the Vatican, the “fact” of evolution is being integrated with our theology. The latest example of this science-informs-religion movement is Robert Wright’s op-ed piece in today’s New York Times which resurrects Charles Peirce’s pragmatism. It is yet another example of evolution’s abuse of science.

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22 Responses to Robert Wright and the New Pragmatism

  1. Believing that good deeds should be rewarded and bad deeds should be punished isn’t abstract. It’s concrete. Why punish anyone for anything if no behavior is actually wrong?

  2. evolutionary psychologists have developed a plausible account of the moral sense.

    The lesson here is that it behooves us to be suspicious when “science” just happens to produce theological truths we want to hear, regardless of how bad is the science.

    Since when did “a plausible account” become the same as a “theological truth”.

  3. Barb @ 1

    Believing that good deeds should be rewarded and bad deeds should be punished isn’t abstract. It’s concrete. Why punish anyone for anything if no behavior is actually wrong?

    A belief might be concrete if you regard it as a property of the physical brain, perhaps a measurable pattern of electrical impulses, or it might be abstract in the sense that the meaning of those impulses exists only in the mind of that person.

    In other words, are good and evil intrinsic properties of entities in objective reality as, say, the color red is a property of rose?

    If they are such properties then we should all be able to observe them just as everyone with normal color vision can see a rose is red. In that case, we have no need for a god to tell us what is right or wrong any more than we need to consult the Bible to know whether or not a rose is red.

    If they are not objective properties but rather value judgements each of us makes in the privacy of our own thoughts, like whether or not the rose is beautiful as distinct from being red, what is to prevent any of us from deciding for ourselves what is good and evil?

    If you argue that every man for himself could lead to anarchy, I would agree. The evidence, however, is that human beings, whether guided by Christian belief or not, have managed to organize themselves into societies that, while far from perfect, have achieved varying degrees of stability and prosperity. I think religions of all types have had been a significant force for that social cohesion, which may be why they have survived for so long, but that doesn’t make them all true.

  4. Then why are unselfish mutations so persistent?

  5. evolutionary psychologists have developed a plausible account of the moral sense. They say it is in large part natural selection’s way of equipping people to play non-zero-sum games – games that can be win-win if the players cooperate or lose-lose if they don’t.

    These kinds of statements make me want to jump off a cliff in frustration. The elephant in the room concerning evolution* is “natural selection,” which has no creative or innovative power whatsoever, yet it is advanced as a magical “explanation” for every mystery concerning the mechanics of living systems, all of life, and all of human experience and wonderings.

    Natural selection is death. Let me repeat that for those who put their faith in the creative powers of natural selection: NATURAL SELECTION IS DEATH. Death does not produce anything new. Yet, in the minds of Darwinists, differential death can somehow mysteriously create life in all its complexity and information content.

    This is not science. It is a cult-like, nature-worshipping religion that is running headlong into ever-increasing conflict with the evidence and logic of real science.

    *I, like Phil Johnson, don’t like the words evolution and evolutionist. They are too vague. When these terms are used in the popular media and in the “scientific” academy, they are assumed or implied to mean random variation (random mixing and matching of existing genetic information, or random mutation and other genetic accidents), filtered by differential death.

  6. 6

    Cornelius,

    Thanks for the link. This is certainly a good example of religion posing as science. If you replace “natural selection” by “Zeus” everywhere it appears, this editorial would be equally “scientific”.

  7. GilDodgen,

    You may be interested in PBS video titled “Music Instinct: Science and Song.” I got it from Netflix.

    It is about music and the brain. Very interesting but one of the funny absurd things is to watch the many theories about how evolution developed our musical abilities and our reactions to it.

    Knowing your background, I think you will enjoy it but be amused at the occasional absurdities of how they try to explain how it developed in the human mind.

  8. A while ago Mickey Kaus suggested that Robert Wright is a kind of neo-Marxist. And (as has been pointed out here before)

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....t-as-well/

    Marxists have in general been stricter about the dialectic than the materialism in their dialectical materialism whenever the two pull against each other. I haven’t read much of Wright so I can’t be sure, but from what I have read of him and about him I wonder it the same isn’t true of him: like most TEs, he may not really have purified himself of the heresy of design.

    But then who among us is truly without teleology? Darwin may have been a materialist atheist, and certainly had much less zeal for the primacy of the Golden Rule than Wright does. But it seems he retained his faith in the metaphysic of good, necessary and inevitable progress, and even advanced it as an ultimate justification for evil. The New Atheists seen to have reached outright cognitive dissonance on the matter. I suppose there’s Adorno-style nihilo-Marxism, but as Pope Benedict noted those ideas seem to have disappeared from view in the latest round of the God Wars.

  9. GilDodgen (#5) wrote: “I, like Phil Johnson, don’t like the words evolution and evolutionist. They are too vague.

    Then why do intelligent design proponents continue to use the words “Darwinism” and “Darwinist,” which are far more vague? (As well as meaningless, other than their primary porpose as code words which identify anti-evolution writers and readers to each other.)

    Gil continued: “When these terms are used in the popular media and in the “scientific” academy, they are assumed or implied to mean random variation (random mixing and matching of existing genetic information, or random mutation and other genetic accidents), filtered by differential death.

    Simplistically stated, changes caused by random mutation and natural variation, mediated by natural selection and genetic drift, are commonly called evolution. Natural selection is differential survival, not differential death – death is usually not passed on to the next generation.

  10. Paul, if macro-evolution were true, death (entropy) would be exactly what would be “passed on”. And we wouldn’t be here to discuss this.

    There are no real world scenarios in which a simple organism could survive long enough in a hostile primordial environment to allow the changes necessary for upward development.

    Not that that was evolutions ‘goal’ or anything. Just saying.

  11. Gil, I share your frustration. It would seem “natural selection” is the “race card” (excuse) for non-reason.

  12. There are no real world scenarios in which a simple organism could survive long enough in a hostile primordial environment to allow the changes necessary for upward development.

    Real world scenarios? Simple organisms survive and thrive everywhere, from kilometres down in rocks to hot chimneys on the ocean floor. Maybe the real world back then was just what was needed?

    Hostile primordial environment? Maybe the environment was just right for the purpose?
    Babies develop in an environment that most people would find very hostile if they tried to live in it.

    A different conclusion might perhaps suggest itself after further study of the subject?

  13. “IRQ Conflict” (#10) wrote: “Paul, if macro-evolution were true, death (entropy) would be exactly what would be “passed on.”

    Most actual scientists don’t use the terms “microevolution” and “macroevolution” much any more – it’s all just evolution, looked on at a closer or larger scale.

    Many creationists accept microevolution but do not accept macroevolution. This is like believing in inches but not miles; teaspoons but not gallons. The two terms are really the same thing, but have evolved into an artificial construct – just another code word – used by creationists.

    And if death can be “passed on” once, why can’t it be passed on indefinitely? If death is somehow supposed to be “passed on” before breeding success, it won’t be passed on. But if death is successfully “passed on” by breeding success to the next generation, why can’t it continue?

    “IRQ Conflict” continued: “There are no real world scenarios in which a simple organism could survive long enough in a hostile primordial environment to allow the changes necessary for upward development.

    That’s a wonderful example of the logic fault called “argument from incredulity” (I’ll be polite and not call it “argument from ignorance”). As “Cabal” correctly points out, the world is literally crawling with energy-rich / entropy-avoiding environments which helped primitive organisms evolve.

    Remember the biosphere of the earth is literally billions of cubic miles of atmosphere and ocean, with “hostile” energy inputs from sunlight, gravity, ionizing radiation, tides, hydrostatic pressure, vulcanism, winds and waves, etc. And in those many cubic miles’ capacity Petri dishes, it only took one microscopic spark of life to catch hold and prosper and evolve.

  14. Actually this article shows that Bob and his friends are very, very afraid–of ID. More here:

    http://freshsensibility.com/

  15. I enjoyed that article allanius.

  16. Paul Burnett,,,
    you state: “the world is literally crawling with energy-rich / entropy-avoiding environments which helped primitive organisms evolve.”

    And why are they not evolving now? And why can we not find transition of one kind to another kind whether it be bacteria or higher life forms? And why has not life spontaneously generated in one of the entropy defying environments more than once,,, or even in this “normal” environment of which, according to you, higher life forms have no problem generating information??? Why do bacteria never show an increase in functional complexity? Why are fossil always missing in all the key places? Why do you believe in something that has no foundation in physics? And if you can even a few of those I would also like you to answer this one,,, Why do Darwinists lie so much to the general public?

  17. GilDodgen @ 5

    Natural selection is death. Let me repeat that for those who put their faith in the creative powers of natural selection: NATURAL SELECTION IS DEATH. Death does not produce anything new. Yet, in the minds of Darwinists, differential death can somehow mysteriously create life in all its complexity and information content.

    This is silly. All living things die sooner or later, whether selected or created. Shall we also cry that Creation is death? Natural selection means just that: environmental pressure ‘select’ some lucky individuals to live longer than others and be able to pass on their genetic good fortune to their descendants, that’s all.

    As for biological information, see my previous comment.

  18. Seversky states:

    “This is silly. All living things die sooner or later, whether selected or created. Shall we also cry that Creation is death?”

    That is the whole point seversky,,,Entropy grandest claim in all of physics is that no creature,,,no matter how “supposedly evolved” it may become, will ever overcome the death that entropy guarantees with a vengeance ,,,,Even at first glance, even without Sewells and kairofocus’s math, why should we expect a law which has such a stranglehold on life to begin with, to ever allow life a foothold in the first place??? The prior assumption,,,with no prior philosophical bias whatsoever,,,,would automatically have presumed a “force” greater, and transcendent, of the force of decay we see pervade, and dominate, this universe to create life within it! Only a unfounded bias would rule it out prior to investigation.

    —————–

    The Future of the Universe
    excerpt: After all the black holes have evaporated, (and after all the ordinary matter made of protons has disintegrated, if protons are unstable), the universe will be nearly empty. Photons, neutrinos, electrons and positrons will fly from place to place, hardly ever encountering each other. It will be cold, and dark, and there is no known process which will ever change things. —- Not a happy ending.

    http://spiff.rit.edu/classes/p.....uture.html

    Psalm 102:25-27
    Of old You laid the foundation of the earth, And the heavens are the work of Your hands. They will perish, but You will endure; Yes, they will all grow old like a garment; Like a cloak You will change them, And they will be changed. But You are the same, And Your years will have no end.

    Big Rip
    Excerpt: The Big Rip is a cosmological hypothesis first published in 2003, about the ultimate fate of the universe, in which the matter of universe, from stars and galaxies to atoms and subatomic particles, are progressively torn apart by the expansion of the universe at a certain time in the future. Theoretically, the scale factor of the universe becomes infinite at a finite time in the future.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Rip

    Thermodynamic Argument Against Evolution – Thomas Kindell – video
    Part 1 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nI1RiTOQ4do
    Part 2 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PgzWMccWOe8
    Part 3 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JQBjguaBueE

    Romans 8:18-21
    I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.

  19. As well Seversky:
    Entropy guaranteed a beginning for the universe long before the big Bang was discovered;

    In mathematics, in overlapping congruence with entropy, the mathematical impossibility of a temporal infinite regression of causes demanded a beginning for the universe; i.e. the existence of a material reality within time called for an “Alpha”, an “Uncaused Cause”, for the material universe that transcended the material universe.

    Does God Exist? – Argument From The Origin Of Nature – Kirk Durston – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ncttu3p0RlY

  20. Pual @ 13 wrote:

    “Most actual scientists don’t use the terms “microevolution” and “macroevolution” much any more – it’s all just evolution, looked on at a closer or larger scale.”

    This is becoming the norm yes. Scientists have always tried to blur and distort the lines between reality and fantasy. A spoon full of deceit helps the lies go down what?

    “Many creationists accept microevolution but do not accept macroevolution. This is like believing in inches but not miles; teaspoons but not gallons. The two terms are really the same thing, but have evolved into an artificial construct – just another code word – used by creationists.”

    Comparing volume and distance to events doesn’t work. Do you have evidence that shows an event of micro>macro?

    No, you don’t. You have a conclusion based on a presupposition.

    “As “Cabal” correctly points out, the world is literally crawling with energy-rich / entropy-avoiding environments which helped primitive organisms evolve.

    Remember the biosphere of the earth is literally billions of cubic miles of atmosphere and ocean, with “hostile” energy inputs from sunlight, gravity, ionizing radiation, tides, hydrostatic pressure, vulcanism, winds and waves, etc. And in those many cubic miles’ capacity Petri dishes, it only took one microscopic spark of life to catch hold and prosper and evolve.”

    Actually, all that wonderful ‘potential’ is negated by it’s highly toxic and destructive properties. Bio-organisms that thrive in these environments need to have subsystems in place in order to survive in it.

    There is no chicken-egg paradox here. There is only one way to get an organism to survive beyond mere seconds. Divine Providence.

  21. GilDodgen:

    NATURAL SELECTION IS DEATH. Death does not produce anything new. Yet, in the minds of Darwinists, differential death can somehow mysteriously create life in all its complexity and information content.

    I disagree. In the first place, natural selection is differential reproductive success rather than (just) differential death. All else being equal, having six children and dying should confer greater fitness than having no children and living indefinitely.

    More fundamentally, you can say that it would be paradoxical, surprising, and unpleasant if it turned out that differential death can create new things. I don’t believe it’s possible to argue – from this – that differential death can’t produce new things. There are many paradoxical, surprising and unpleasant things in the world. That argument seems to be the kind of soft anti-naturalistic-evolution case (‘it’s counterintuitive’, ‘it’s depressing’) that Daniel Dennett loves to turn around, using a physics analogy to argue that these things in fact prove naturalistic evolution’s scienceyness. Meanwhile other people will wheel out the panda skeletons and parasitic wasp specimens to make the soft theological counterarguments in favour of unguided evolution. If ID is to win it will have to be on the basis of the hard arguments.

  22. bornagain77 @ 18

    Seversky states:

    “This is silly. All living things die sooner or later, whether selected or created. Shall we also cry that Creation is death?”

    That is the whole point seversky,,,Entropy grandest claim in all of physics is that no creature,,,no matter how “supposedly evolved” it may become, will ever overcome the death that entropy guarantees with a vengeance ,,,,Even at first glance, even without Sewells and kairofocus’s math, why should we expect a law which has such a stranglehold on life to begin with, to ever allow life a foothold in the first place??? The prior assumption,,,with no prior philosophical bias whatsoever,,,,would automatically have presumed a “force” greater, and transcendent, of the force of decay we see pervade, and dominate, this universe to create life within it! Only a unfounded bias would rule it out prior to investigation.

    And what shall we say of the ‘benevolent’ Creator who designed a Universe in which all living things – old or young, good or evil – are doomed to die, often in very unpleasant ways?

    And what purpose could all this suffering possibly serve?

    And if the notion of an infinite Universe is as intolerable as one that “poofed” into existence out of nothing, why should the same not be true of a god?

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