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Selling Evolution (an unwitting slam of Darwinism in the scientific journal, Nature)

Darwin With Halo

In a review of David Sloan Wilson’s book for popular audiences: Evolution for Everyone: How Darwin’s Theory Can Change the Way We Think About Our Lives, Mark Pagel, an evolutionary biologist, gives an unwitting slam of Darwinism. The review was published in the prestigious scientific journal Nature.

Selling Evolution

we discover that 54% of adults in the United States prefer to believe that humans did not evolve from some earlier species. What makes this figure surprising is that it is up from 46% in 1994.

The number of non-Darwinists is rising! Pagel then asks this rhetorical question, “Where have the evolutionists gone wrong?”

First answer:

One answer is staring them in the face but not often noticed. A double irony is that it derives from their own theory: if people differ in the strength or conviction of their religious beliefs, if children tend to acquire religious beliefs from their parents, and if religious people, for whatever set of reasons, tend to have more children, then it follows from Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection that religious belief will spread: quod erat demonstrandum.

Indeed. Even if ID were not true, I pointed out why resistance is futile for the Darwinists attempting to stop the onslaught of ID. [See Dennett gives scientific reasons ID will prevail.]

But Pagel gives the other reason people in his profession fail to persuade creationists and ID proponents:

The other answer is the one that evolutionary biologists, including Sloan Wilson, prefer and it provides him with the impetus for this agreeable little book: that if the evidence for darwinian evolution is presented clearly enough and often enough, any reasonable person will come around to the darwinian view. What is there to say? The usual answer, that we share more than 98% of our genes with chimpanzees, is becoming hackneyed. It is the strangeness of human behaviour that really puts the darwinian view to the test. And here there is much to discuss. We have enormous brains that make us shrewd beyond belief in comparison to other animals, we have the only fully developed symbolic language on the planet, we cooperate with and engage in elaborate task-sharing and reciprocal relations with people we don’t know, we help the elderly, give money to charities, put on matching silly shirts to attend football matches, obediently wait in queues, die for our countries or even sometimes for an idea, and we positively ripple and snort with righteousness and indignation when we think others don’t do some of these things. We even have a word for this sense of how others ought to behave — morality. Chimpanzees, and for that matter other animals, aren’t like this. No wonder the creationists don’t believe the darwinian account.

Pagel is right on! He cites reasons beyond religion that creationists and ID proponents disbelieve the Darwinian account.

[Pagel, whether he realizes it or not, echoes the pro-ID arguments in the first chapter of an upcoming college level, pro-ID textbook.]

And it should be instructive to note, even 13% of atheists and agnostics disbelieve Darwin and accept special creation. So there are definitely creationists who reject Darwin for non-religious reasons. (Note: Some people, like long-time professor of physiology and evolutionary biology, John Davison, believe God created life, but that God is now dead. To each his own I suppose….)

Pagel closes by posing a utilitarian question as to whether belief in a higher power or belief in natural selection is more beneficial to society:

which set of beliefs, on balance, will be more useful, religious ones (whether true or not) or a belief in natural selection?

I’ll let the reader make up his or her own mind on that one. But I’m glad at least one evolutionary biologist is leaving the question open regarding the utility of Darwinism.

Notes:

1. The 13% figure of non-theisitc creationists was reported by the National Center for Selling Evolution (NCSE), here. Specifically, the NCSE said:

Oddly, 13% of the agnostics/atheists who responded chose the “created in present form” option and 27% chose the “God guided process” option.

2. HT www.CreationSafaris.com

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17 Responses to Selling Evolution (an unwitting slam of Darwinism in the scientific journal, Nature)

  1. It all comes down to the complete and utter lack of any detailed, testable Darwinian account of any biological system, micro or macro; if anything like that were available, we’d not be having these conversations.

  2. One answer is staring them in the face but not often noticed. A double irony is that it derives from their own theory: if people differ in the strength or conviction of their religious beliefs, if children tend to acquire religious beliefs from their parents, and if religious people, for whatever set of reasons, tend to have more children, then it follows from Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection that religious belief will spread: quod erat demonstrandum.

    This seems to have ignored the possibility that people change their religious beliefs during their life time.

  3. “13% of atheists and agnostics disbelieve Darwin and accept special creation.”

    Huh? I’m having trouble parsing that. How do special creation and atheism comport with each other? In addition to the 13%, there was an additional 27% of the agnostic / atheist bunch that chose “God-guided process.” I’m trying to thing of some possibilities:

    1) Some, like John Davison, believe in a “God is Dead” sort of thing. I wonder how much of that comprises the 13%?

    2) I’ve heard some atheists suggest that maybe God does exist, but that he’s irrelevant, and for our purposes may as well not (which sounds to me more like a very weak sort of Deism rather than atheism, but then I’ve read at least one Christian author assert that Deism is actually a weak form of atheism. I guess it just gets down to symantecs).

    3) Maybe there weren’t enough choices on the survey. It appears from a quick glance at the NCSE piece that the choices were Evangelical Protestant, Non-Evangelical Protestant, Catholic, or Atheist/Agnostic. Well, what if you’re a Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim or Deist? I can’t imagine a Muslim selecting the “Atheist/Agnostic” category, but a Deist might.

    4) Some “Agnostics”–like DaveScot, for example–appear to be at least sympathetic to theism and lean more that way than to the atheist side of agnosticism. Perhaps there were some of those in the 13%.

    5) Some small fraction, I’m sure is due to error. Maybe a few mis-read one or two questions, or just absent-mindedly chose the wrong option. But that can’t account for such a high percentage, unless the questions were very badly worded.

    6) Some might be actually pantheists of some sort. In some ways pantheism is indistinguishable from atheism, so that might have been the closest choice for them.

    But still, that 40% of Atheist / Agnostics choosing either special creation or God-guided process is rather surprising!

  4. An atheist friend of mine had a great time the other day “crushing” my confidence in design. The fossil evidence, he explained, provides incontrovertible evidence for Darwin’s theory. He mentioned Lucy by name. I asked him to google 20 photos—an ancestor, 18 transitions, and a descendent of any specie. If such a thing exists, then Darwinists need to trumpet it a bit better, ’cause I’ve had trouble finding it. (Jonathan Wells says its impossible in principle to prove descent using fossils, but I’m letting that go for purposes of our “bar bet”)

  5. When I started studying the controversy of mans origin, I realized right off the bat that my belief in God could not be shaken by an evolutionary scenario since God could have ordained it that way. But atheist, as a primary rule, absolutely need for evolution, or some other principle of natural law based on blind chance, to be true in order to ultimately justify their non-belief in God. Yet much to my delight and to the consternation of my atheistic friends, the recent foundational evidence in molecular biology that has been revealed supports the principle of Genetic Entropy for parent species, which in plain terms means that information absolutely has to be introduced into the parent species of each family of sub-species. i.e. evolution is proven false from a first principle of science of how information acts in organisms.
    This queston of where this original information came from in parent species reminds me of this Bible verse;

    John 1:1-3
    In the beginning was the Word (information?), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God.
    All things were made by Him: and without Him was not anything made that was made.

  6. Note to jb: An atheist or agnostic might indeed be able to believe in special creation (irrespective of the value or otherwise of the poll cited).

    Consider the matter like this:

    Special creation essentially argues that somethng new comes in from the outside. It is not built up by gradual steps from what already exists, as Darwinism requires.

    1. The Big Bang is a special creation theory for the entire universe.

    2. If the universe can suddenly pop into existence, why could life forms not assemble themselves or transition very quickly?

    Of course, there may be good reasons why they cannot, but we must be clear about what those good reasons are. For many complex intracellular structures, the Darwinian explanation does not sound plausible to anyone but a fanatical Darwinist.

    (That is no different from the fact that Marxist economics does not sound plausible to anyone but a fanatical Marxist.)

    3. So far, the materialist attempt to show how human consciousness, for example, is built up by slow steps from whatever has been a complete and utter failure. Now that is another example of a feature of the universe that may well have simply appeared as an act of special creation – or something else for which we do not have a name. I don’t say that it has, but only that investigations of other accounts are so far fruitless.

    Thus, the choice before us is NOT, as some suppose, between theism and atheism. It is between a universe that is top down (which would admit of the injection of new information) or bottom up (which would not).

    The majority of atheists through history have not been materialists. That is a recent and somewhat bizarre blip in the interesting history of atheism.

    If you don’t believe me, try this simple test: Read materialist atheists’ accounts of human consciousness. But NOT while you are eating or drinking anything, okay? Laughter is dangerous at worst and unsightly at best under those circumstances.

    And, as for science, science must decide if it wants to follow evidence or ideology.

  7. How long do your give the PTers to start talking about how Sal “Completely misrepresented the article”? :D

  8. And to think that as a common descenter, I concede that man did evolve from some earlier species. Yet I am a dispicable IDer. That would indicate that the percentage of people who view biology teleologically is at least 54% + 1. Hey, if we can find 45 more like me, we’ll be at 100%. (Never was one for math.)

  9. “…even 13% of atheists and agnostics disbelieve Darwin and accept special creation”

    By whom? Aliens? I’ll buy that. But then, that would sorta make them semi-theists, or limited theists, or relative theists, which is a perfectly respectable view, and not considered nearly often enough, IMO.

  10. Interesting comments, Denyse. Thanks for that feedback. That helps deepen my understanding of the issues. The idea about top-down versus bottom-up is not something I had considered. You’re right, I guess if you could consider the whole universe popping into existence for no reason, why not anything else? What would be surprising to me, however, are how many people actually hold to that view.

    Mike1962: Have you ever heard of the Raelians? But, I have a hard time taking the aliens-created-us seriously, because it doesn’t explain anything. It just pushes the whole problem back several steps. Who created the aliens? And since it doesn’t explain the ultimate origin of everything, then why posit that at all?

    (And, yes I know Dawkins and the like are fond of asking “Who created God?” but that’s different because God by definition is the self-existent one who didn’t need anyone to create him. That’s one of the things that makes him different than us. He is of a whole different order than anything withing the universe. [I don't mean to derail the conversation onto that rabbit-trail, though] ).

  11. 11
    sagebrush gardener

    jb:

    It appears from a quick glance at the NCSE piece that the choices were Evangelical Protestant, Non-Evangelical Protestant, Catholic, or Atheist/Agnostic. Well, what if you’re a Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim or Deist?

    Not to mention one of the 2 – 3 million Orthodox Christians in North America.

  12. “(Note: Some people, like long-time professor of physiology and evolutionary biology, John Davison, believe God created life, but that God is now dead. To each his own I suppose….)”

    Hi Salvador, I don’t think that is quite right. John is a Roman Catholic after all, although he would contend that for the purposes of doing science, that should have nothing to do with it.

  13. Jason,

    Greetings. If I had to hazard a guess, John probably switches his position on the topic. He occasionaly seems to hope God is alive, but then, he occasionally says what he says here

    What nobody, except me of course, seems to realize is that God is dead and has been for a very long time. That is why we can’t expect him or more likely them to present themselves now. What we see now is the fruit of their labors which in my personal opinion must have completely consumed them.

    John Davison

    I suppose Davison holds out hope God is alive.

  14. Hey, if Davison says that God is dead then it is so. Like get real!

  15. “which set of beliefs, on balance, will be more useful, religious ones (whether true or not) or a belief in natural selection? ”

    what strikes me on the nerves is the arrogance of some evolutionists who pretend that evolution through natural selection can provide us an objective morality (because we all share a common appreciation of good and wrong in our DNA) and even a purpose for our life!

    They want not only to dismiss God in the field of science, but also in the field of morality.

    To my mind, darwnism if true would imply nihilism, as a matter of fact, we would be nothing more than an insignificant specie arised through the ongoing struggle for life in a gigantic and indifferent universe.
    How can we found then the human dignity, which is the ground of western societies?

  16. “In the beginning was Reason” – Pope Benedict XVI explains that this is (Logos) Reason that is capable of self-communicating precisely because it is Reason. In other words, it is “Reason that speaks” – the Word.

    Pope Benedict’s famous lecture at Regensburg U, , 12 September 2006 – that lecture that angered so many Muslims.

    “Modifying the first verse of the Book of Genesis, the first verse of the whole Bible, John began the prologue of his Gospel with the words: “In the beginning was the λόγος”. This is the very word used by the emperor: God acts, σὺν λόγω, with logos. Logos means both reason and word – a reason which is creative and capable of self-communication, precisely as reason. John thus spoke the final word on the biblical concept of God, and in this word all the often toilsome and tortuous threads of biblical faith find their culmination and synthesis. In the beginning was the logos, and the logos is God, says the Evangelist. The encounter between the Biblical message and Greek thought did not happen by chance. The vision of Saint Paul, who saw the roads to Asia barred and in a dream saw a Macedonian man plead with him: “Come over to Macedonia and help us!” (cf. Acts 16:6-10) – this vision can be interpreted as a “distillation” of the intrinsic necessity of a rapprochement between Biblical faith and Greek inquiry.”

  17. Hey, if Davison says that God is dead then it is so. Like get real!

    “Got that? Write that down.”

    LOL!

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