God and Evolution

 

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From: Scott Vigil
Sent: Friday, December 13, 2013 9:28 AM
To: Casey Luskin
Subject: Finkelstein and Stavrakopoulou on Jewish Early History

Hello Casey,

I saw your talk, Casey Luskin: Why the New Atheists Won't Be Appeased [God & Evolution]. My son is now thirty. You know you’re getting old when you can look at a video of someone such as yourself and think, “That’s a cute kid.”

This is off the topic of evolution. However, it’s exactly onto the topic of your presentation. It may be that science is incompatible with religion. It’s sad that you feel under attack by the scientific community. However, your fears may be completely correct. And, it may be far worse than you imagined.

I have recently seen a series on the Jews and the bible. The content was written by Israel Finkelstein, an Israeli archaeologist and academic at Tel Aviv University. He is also the co-director of excavations at Megiddo in northern Israel.

If the Israeli’s can show that the archeological evidence backs up their story, that will greatly enhance their bargaining position! So, they have every motivation to show the historicity of the Old Testament. Along with Christian archeologists, they have dug with “bible in one hand, pick ax in the other”. Between 1880 and 1980, the evidence seemed fully compatible with the OT stories. Then, the whole thing collapsed like a deck of cards.

This is gorgeously produced and has helped me to understand the lives of the Jews as they sought to survive amongst neighboring super powers of the day: Egypt, Assyria and Babylon. Also in the playlist are a couple episodes of another series from Francesca Stavrakopoulou. She is Professor of Hebrew Bible and Ancient Religion in the University of Exeter's department of Theology and Religion.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t440bxhn1qA&feature=share&list=PLF6F4CB6DBFD7B9EA

This link misses one episode from Stavrakopoulou’s series, however, that I thought was wonderful.

The Bible's Buried Secrets [BBC] Episode 3 - "The Real Garden of Eden"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fei91b_Uqk8

 

But, watch this last. I think it’s conclusions are least compelling from a historical perspective. However, if you can let go of your need to dominate the historical narrative, and want to see the people of Genesis and their lives from an aesthetic perspective as real and once living human beings, this is the most beautiful of them all.

Personally, I am willing to accept whatever the truth really is. Though different from my understanding of Christianity, this makes me feel closer to my beloved Israelites and Judeans. It depicts them as real people trying to make their way in a dangerous world.

Best,

Scott

 

Section below was clipped from Step Functions in the Record.

Scott Saturday, December 14, 2013 7:33 AM:

So, if I was leading the DI and wanting to attack it, I would organize teams to go after each and every individual sample. There would have to be many teams and they would have to work in parallel in order to keep up catch up with the current rate of discoveries. However, without the resources of a small army, I can’t imagine what you would do. In this case, the church does have the resources. However, if it is seen as the source of these resources, your credibility as a science organization would be nullified even with the faithful. You can’t get university help because they all disagree with you. You can’t get government assistance because it would be supporting a religion. I presume you’re going after wealthy Christian donors as we speak. Maybe you could get money from some rich Moslems. They’re fighting the same battle  :^)

Casey Tuesday, January 14, 2014 4:13 PM: Dude what are you talking about?  

Just remember though. When you receive money from the religious, you are proving to yourself that you are not a scientist.

Casey Tuesday, January 14, 2014 4:13 PM: Again, what are you talking about?  

Rather, you are an apologist. Here’s a question. Is there any money that the DI receives that does not come from Christian donors? If so, what percentage of the funding would that be?

Casey Tuesday, January 14, 2014 4:13 PM: I have no idea because (a) I have nothing to do with fundraising at DI, and (b) even if I did, we don’t ask our donors about their religious beliefs.  Your argument seems to be, however, that the religious beliefs of funders somehow makes our ideas unscientific. Here, your argument is deeply misguided.

Scott 5/17/14: Here’s a statement with no evidence whatsoever. I say, “Follow the money.”

If having funders who are “religious” makes DI religious, then why aren’t you upset that pro-evolution groups have many funders who are ANTI-religious?!? For example, the leading evolution-advocate in the U.S, Eugenie Scott (executive director of the NCSE) is a signer of the Third Humanist Manifesto? Isn’t she mixing metaphysics with science? To claim that a pro-ID person or group cannot be scientific if they have funders who are religious is flawed because (1) It hypocritically ignores the NUMEROUS ID-critics who have religious (or anti-religious) beliefs and motives; (2) It wrongly assumes that religious interests are necessarily in opposition to scientific interests; (3) It ignores the fact that a person’s personal religious views or interests are irrelevant to what the scientific evidence says or whether their scientific views are correct.

Scott 5/17/14: I see this as a dodge.

Here’s a definition for religion.

: the belief in a god or in a group of gods
: an organized system of beliefs, ceremonies, and rules used to worship a god or a group of gods
: an interest, a belief, or an activity that is very important to a person or group

Here’s a definition for science:

: knowledge about or study of the natural world based on facts learned through experiments and observation
: a particular area of scientific study (such as biology, physics, or chemistry) : a particular branch of science
: a subject that is formally studied in a college, university, etc.

Of course people who believe in science are going to support institutions that support a scientific theory! And religious people are going to support a think tank promoting a religious theory.

So, one can figure out a lot about an institution by asking about its funding. You dodged this, Casey.

Are there atheists supporting scientific institutions promoting scientific research in evolution? There probably are! Those institutions certainly aren’t going to be able to rely on the Southern Baptist Convention!  :^)

Are these organizations promoting adherence to ancient religious dogmas or to the scientific method. This isn’t rocket science, Casey. “Follow the money.”

For a discussion of this please see: http://www.discovery.org/a/7081 as I will now explain:

Scott 5/17/14: I’m just a private citizen. I do not have the resources to address every word you direct toward me. Nobody’s paying me for this. Probably my love for my son is my greatest driver. But here are a few thoughts.

The anti-evolution crowd never ever acknowledges the effect of the slow, painful death of Darwin’s daughter on his thinking. I wish I had a reference for this. But anyone who wants to find this can. Darwin was an enthusiastic believer in God. However, he lost his faith after the death of his daughter. He could not believe that a loving God would allow his daughter to die as she did. There was some malady of the stomach.

It was his understanding of nature and his personal experiences that drove Darwin to lose his faith in God. After that, he could no longer set foot in a church. Rather, he would walk his wife to church and wait for her at the door.

I resonate with that. Listening to religious dogma now makes me crazy. You can’t debate it. You can’t discuss it. If you do, you become an outcast. So you just have to walk away.

If ID was a scientific institution, why would it feel compelled to write the paper you reference? Why would it care about religion? But it has to care. It has God, the “Intelligent Agent” at the center—the core—of its theory.

Many critics of intelligent design (ID) have argued that ID is not science due to the alleged religious motives, beliefs, and affiliations of its proponents. Critics may trot out quotes from ID proponents discussing their own personal religious beliefs, motives, and affiliations, or discussing the larger philosophical implications they draw from ID, to allege that ID is not science, but religion. These common attacks against ID[17] are both logically fallacious and highly hypocritical.

Scott 5/17/14: Why did you write this? That’s all included in your reference…

First, in science, the motives or personal religious beliefs of scientists don't matter; only the evidence matters. For example, the great scientists Johannes Kepler and Isaac Newton were inspired to their scientific work by their religious convictions that God would create an orderly, rational universe with comprehensible physical laws that governed the motion of the planets. They turned out to be right--not because of their religious beliefs--but because the scientific evidence validated their hypotheses. (At least, Newton was thought to be right until Einstein came along.) Their personal religious beliefs, motives, or affiliations did nothing to change the fact that their scientific theories had inestimable scientific merit that helped form the foundation for modern science.

Second, ID does not have religious premises. If it did, then the famous (now former) atheist Anthony Flew would not have been able to state, as he announced in 2004, that he was convinced that "the findings of more than fifty years of DNA research have provided materials for a new and enormously powerful argument to design.”[18] Thus, ID is a scientific argument and not a faith-based argument: “nothing critics can say--whether appealing to politically motivated condemnations of ID issued by pro-Darwin scientific authorities, or harping upon the religious beliefs of ID proponents--will change the fact that intelligent design is not a ‘faith-based’ argument.”

Third, if critics want to harp upon the religious beliefs, motives, affiliations, and implications associated with ID, then they should realize that what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. Leading proponents of neo-Darwinian evolution frequently discuss their views of the cultural and metaphysical implications of neo-Darwinian evolution. Moreover, many of them have expressed anti-religious beliefs and motives for advocating evolution, and have close ties to atheist and secular humanist organizations.

When critics object to ID based upon the alleged religious motives, beliefs, or affiliations of its proponents, they make a highly hypocritical argument, for many leading Darwinists have blatantly anti-religious motives, beliefs, and affiliations. This observation does NOT thereby disqualify evolution from being scientific. Rather, since neo-Darwinism is a bona fide scientific theory, it shows that the religious or anti-religious motives and beliefs, motives, or affiliations of scientists do not disqualify their scientific views from holding scientific merit.

After reviewing just a few examples of the anti-religious affiliations, beliefs, and motives of many leading proponents of neo-Darwinism,

Scott 5/17/14: You use this term all over the place, “neo-Darwinism”. I take it this means, contemporary evolutionary theory.

it be will difficult to seriously maintain that the religious (or anti-religious) motives, beliefs, or affiliations of scientists, or the larger philosophical implications of a scientific theory, can disqualify a theory from being scientific:

Richard Dawkins is Oxford University’s Charles Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science and is probably the most famous evolutionist in the world. Yet Dawkins argues that belief in God is a “delusion”[19] and that "Darwin made it possible to become an intellectually fulfilled atheist.”[20] Dawkins has stated his goal is “to kill religion”[21] and has asserted that “faith is one of the world’s great evils, comparable to the smallpox virus but harder to eradicate.”[22]

Scott 5/17/14: I concede that you have a point here. You don’t like it when I psychoanalyze you (with my ample layman’s knowledge of the human mind… easily enough to be dangerous :^) So, let me take a stab at Dawkins for a moment. Is he studying evolution because he hates God or is he fighting religion because he thinks it’s leading us to wrong conclusions on the science?

I’m going to argue the latter. And I’ll have to say that I can see how religious people would despise the man. When I was religious, I would not even listen to such a person. There was a whole class of scientists and philosophers and non-believers that I wouldn’t even listen to. I was too afraid of going to hell, frankly. It was as if I was going to catch a virus I couldn’t get rid of. ‘not too far off in a metaphorical sense…

Dawkins grew up in Africa and he loved nature. He started off as a believer and he just came to not believe anymore. It wasn’t as if anything awful befell him. When he was fourteen or fifteen, it just didn’t hold water anymore for him. However, he now complains of people sheltering their kids from evolution and promoting non-scientific beliefs in the science classroom. That’s enough to make some scientists, myself included, fighting mad.

Because of the resistance to science from the religious right, ­Dawkins has studied religion more. He has become exposed to atheistic thinkers due to experience from a common antagonist: the religious zealots that oppose science. Over time, he has decided that he needs to fight religion itself.

Now, at his core, I think there is a non-scientific belief: the world will be a better place without religion. I think we should think very carefully about this before we go about squashing religion. What do they say?

Be careful what you ask for. You might just get it.

The benefits of religion are non-zero. The costs of religion are non-zero. I’m talking all religions, not just Christianity. The contribution of religion to society is a monumentally complex subject. Even if you decide all religion is false. You cannot go directly to the conclusion that life will be better without religion. That would be entirely irrational and non-scientific!

For one thing, religion adds a social cohesion that I do not see in scientific and atheistic circles. Don’t laugh. However, I see a similar cohesion in the dance community and a certain cohesion provided by Yoga communities and certain clubs. There’s a ski club in Cincinnati that myself and my Sweetheart associate with. We’re not members, but we’re a friend of a member and they let us come along. We don’t ski, but we ride bicycles with them. (So why don’t we call it a bicycle club? The answer to that question is out of scope for this conversation.) I’m just saying that maybe we can look to other communities for social cohesion. Maybe we can do without religion. But maybe we can’t. Let’s study the whole question in a rigorous manner! Let’s be scientific about the question, ha ha ha!

For many years, I felt evolution was the method God used for our genesis. Now, I think it and other scientific disciplines don’t leave much for him to do. And I agree with Dawkins, Krauss and others that it’s more likely that genesis of creation coming from something incredibly simple is more likely than coming from something that started off as complex.

But I do think that religion has to get out of the way of science. We might just have to deflect a killer asteroid or deal with a pandemic or feed the starving or repair our climate or leave this earth. Maybe we will have to stop fighting. I feel that these things are self-evident and that the scientific method is our best hope. But I have a lot of religious friends. They confound me and I confound them. No religion “thinks” that it is a made up myth. Every single religion has at its core that it is the true reality. And no body of belief that has that is going to get out of the way of some other similar body just because it calls itself “science”.

Nobody conducted a scientific inquiry to determine if pagan belief systems should be eliminated. Yet, there were to a large degree. And for the most part, we did ok. Perhaps religion must be eradicated also. But maybe the best way for that to happen and the most benign way is simply to educate people in science and allow the false beliefs to fall to the floor.

And really, religion is completely out of scope for science. However, we continually are dragged back to it because ID has this near-deity, the “Intelligent Agent” at its core. I’ll try to leave this alone and refer you back to other discussion on the topic we’ve already had, GodAndEvolution.

America’s great champion of evolution, the late Stephen Jay Gould, similarly announced that “[b]efore Darwin, we thought that a benevolent God had created us,”[22.5] but because of Darwin’s ideas, “biology took away our status as paragons created in the image of God.”[23] Gould repeatedly discussed the "radical philosophical content of Darwin's message" and its denial of purpose in the universe:

"First, Darwin argues that evolution has no purpose. . . . Second, Darwin maintained that evolution has no direction. . . . Third, Darwin applied a consistent philosophy of materialism to his interpretation of nature. Matter is the ground of all existence; mind, spirit, and God as well, are just words that express the wondrous results of neuronal complexity."[24]

Darwin-defenders sometimes like to pretend that Gould and Dawkins are outliers in their views. If only that were so.

A 2007 editorial by the editors of the world's top scientific journal, Nature, stated that "the idea that human minds are the product of evolution" is an "unassailable fact," and thus concluded, "the idea that man was created in the image of God can surely be put aside.”[24.5] A very popular college evolutionary biology textbook (which I used for one of my upper division evolutionary biology courses during my undergraduate studies) declares that "[b]y coupling undirected, purposeless variation to the blind, uncaring process of natural selection, Darwin made theological or spiritual explanations of the life processes superfluous."[25]

Similarly, in the prestigious scientific journal, Proceedings for the National Academy of Sciences, leading evolutionary biologist Francisco Ayala celebrates that "Darwin’s greatest accomplishment” was to show that the origin of life’s complexity “can be explained as the result of a natural process--natural selection--without any need to resort to a Creator or other external agent."[26] Just to make sure that his readers don’t try to invoke some kind of “God-guided” evolution, Ayala writes that "[i]n evolution, there is no entity or person who is selecting adaptive combinations.”[27]

Scott 5/17/14: Sure, it sucks! It means that we are not immortal. We will die. We won’t see our favorite uncles and grandmothers. Let’s all just go to our neighborhood shrink. Deal with it. And then, let us spend as much time as we can with those cherished oldsters in our lives because when they are gone. They will really be gone. And we are not going to see them again! I’m sorry!

I wish I could see my Grandma Liz just one more time…

Cornell University evolutionary biologist William Provine has similarly stated that "belief in modern evolution makes atheists of people" and that "[o]ne can have a religious view that is compatible with evolution only if the religious view is indistinguishable from atheism."[28] Provine states that there are severe philosophical implications of Darwinian biology:

"Naturalistic evolution has clear consequences that Charles Darwin understood perfectly. 1) No gods worth having exist; 2) no life after death exists; 3) no ultimate foundation for ethics exists; 4) no ultimate meaning in life exists; and 5) human free will is nonexistent."[29]

Scott 5/17/14: Sure! Just what do we do with ethics? I agree. It’s a mess! I’m with Dawkins and Harris and Hitchens. Let’s figure it out!

But really, if you’re like me, evolution doesn’t create this problem. If you stipulate like I do that any deity would have to be just as much a part of nature as we are, then you still have the same problems of morality. Who says God is right? Maybe he’s just a great big fuckin’ bully. As Hitchens put it, “a dictator who is running his own celestial North Korea”. This quote is from memory. Hopefully I’m not too far off.

Also noteworthy is the fact that key public defenders of Darwin have strong ties to secular humanist groups. For example, Eugenie Scott is a physical anthropologist who now serves as Executive Director of the National Center for Science Education and was called by the scientific journal Nature “perhaps the nation’s most high-profile Darwinist.”[30] But Scott is also a public signer of the Third Humanist Manifesto, an aggressive statement of the humanist agenda to create a world with “without supernaturalism” based upon the view that “[h]umans are … the result of unguided evolutionary change” and the universe is “self-existing.”[31] Another leading pro-evolution activist, Barbara Forrest, believes that “philosophical naturalism” is “the only reasonable metaphysical conclusion.”[32] Dr. Forrest also sits on the Board of Directors of the New Orleans Secular Humanist Association,[32.5] an associate member of the American Humanist Association, which publishes the Humanist Manifesto III.[33]

5/17/14 Evolution is cruel. The materialism affects our philosophical discourse. Ok… Yeah, evolution seems to drive us in that direction. So show me something about ID that makes all this go away, ha ha ha!

If ID is true, then there’s at least some near-deity out there and maybe there’s a loving god out there. So get busy and give us some good science that demonstrates your theory. You can’t use God to prove ID and at the same time use ID to prove God. You’re going to have to prove one of those two independently. So do a lot more thinking about what nature tells you about this near-deity we keep talking about. I think by studying in this direction, you can know almost all there is to know about this individual.

And this goes back to some of the first scientists. They studied to learn about God. By doing what I suggest, you will be following in their footsteps. Good luck. Now get busy and do some real science. I’m rooting for you  :^)

Even the widely-touted theistic evolutionary biologist Kenneth Miller has claimed in five editions of his highly popular high school biology textbooks that the implication of evolution is that it works “without either plan or purpose” and is “random and undirected.”[34] Two other versions of Miller’s high school biology textbooks contain a striking discussion of some of the potential philosophical implications of evolution:

“Darwin knew that accepting his theory required believing in philosophical materialism, the conviction that matter is the stuff of all existence and that all mental and spiritual phenomena are its byproducts. Darwinian evolution was not only purposeless but also heartless . . . . Suddenly, humanity was reduced to just one more species in a world that cared nothing for us. The great human mind was no more than a mass of evolving neurons. Worst of all, there was no divine plan to guide us.”[35]

Scott 5/17/14: I saw this on an outhouse wall onetime. “Life sucks and then ya die.” That was right next to, “Tried to shit but only farted.”

Harvard paleontologist and author Richard Lewontin explains how materialism is a key assumption propping Darwinian thought:

“[W]e have a prior commitment … to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to … produce material explanations … [T]hat materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.”[36]

Finally, leading Darwinian philosopher of science Michael Ruse admits that “for many evolutionists, evolution has functioned … akin to being a secular religion” whose main doctrine is “a commitment to a kind of naturalism.”[37]

It is not possible to seriously dispute the fact that neo-Darwinian evolution is surrounded by a cloud of leading proponents with anti-religious motives, beliefs, and affiliations, who have plainly declared that the theory can have anti-religious implications.

5/7/14: It’s not just evolution. Cosmology, philosophy, neuro-science can also get you there. Other religions can get you there. Study what the Israeli archeologists are discovering and you’ll certainly lose your faith in your religion if you believe in one of the big three. The famous philosopher Bertrand Russell who was an atheist all his life was asked, what he would say to St. Peter if he was confronted at the pearly gates. His response was, “You didn’t give us enough evidence!”, Searle 11, 1:00:20. Listen to this story. Look, we’re all humans. None of us like this any more than you do. We’re in the boat together. Searle’s account is light hearted and humorous.

I do not list these examples to argue that one cannot believe in evolution and religion. In fact, I firmly believe that people can accept evolution and religion. Nor do I list the anti-religious affiliations of leading Darwinists in order to contend that the anti-religious beliefs, motives, affiliations, and implications associated with neo-Darwinism make it unscientific. I accept and grant that neo-Darwinian evolution is a scientific theory, and thus I list the anti-religious affiliations associated with the theory to demonstrate that scientific theories must be tested independently of the beliefs, motives, and affiliations of their proponents, or the larger philosophical implications that some draw from the theory. In science, motives don't matter, only the evidence does.

Scott 5/17/14: God, I’m so slow. I just realized you included the whole damned paper into your email. Couldn’t you just summarize and leave it to me and my friends to follow the link? Casey, you’re killin’ me. I think you have control issues.

Casey, I can’t respond to every point in every paper you ever wrote. I’m not like you. I’m not going to live in heaven forever. I’ve got a few more years on this blue ball and then I’m history! Please tell me when you include the whole paper into your email that you just linked us to!

Pro-ID scientists should be able to stake out scientific positions on ID without being judged on the basis of their private religious beliefs, motives, or affiliations, including those of their donors. Furthermore, pro-ID scientists should not have their views about ID disqualified from being scientific if people interpret ID’s scientific claims to have larger philosophical and metaphysical implications. In fact, three U.S. Supreme Court justices essentially recognized this very point in the 1987 Edwards v. Aguillard ruling, stating that “A decision respecting the subject matter to be taught in public schools does not violate the Establishment Clause simply because the material to be taught 'happens to coincide or harmonize with the tenets of some or all religions.'"[38]

Scott 5/17/14: The near-deity is part of your central claim. There is no science to be found.

To argue that a concept cannot hold scientific merit simply because of the private religious beliefs, motives, or affiliations of its proponents, or because of its larger philosophical implications, destroys the very concept of First Amendment religious freedom that our country was founded upon.

Oh brother. Now, we’re into melodrama, Casey  :^)

Likewise, to argue that a pro-ID person or a pro-ID group or person is “religious” and not “scientific” because of the religious beliefs of their donors is wrong because:

(1)          It hypocritically ignores the NUMEROUS ID-critics who have religious (or anti-religious) interests

(2)          It wrongly assumes that religious interests are necessarily in opposition to scientific interests

(3)          It ignores the fact that a person’s personal religious views or interests are irrelevant to what the scientific evidence says or whether their scientific views are correct.

Scott 5/17/14: I work with lots of religious people in the aircraft industry. But when they’re working on airplanes, they have to check their religion at the door. And that’s what you guys need to do with your ID theory.

And I think that can be done. As I stated above, study this near-deity using scientific techniques based on the data that nature gives you. I actually provide you with an example of this in Designing Deities. It’s admittedly tongue in cheek. But mirth aside, the structure is as serious as it can be.

That may sound threatening. However, tone can be misread in textual form. Keep in mind, you are where I was. I may not have been a believer in creation, but I was a bible believer. So I understand you.

Casey Tuesday, January 14, 2014 4:13 PM: Actually I’m not feeling threatened at all because I just showed through extensive documentation why your argument that I’m not a scientist holds no water.

Best regards,

Scott

 

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