Friday, November 11, 2011

Darwinism Defined...

Charles Darwin, photographed by Julia Margaret...Image via WikipediaThe term darwinism has both scientific and metaphysical dimensions. Metaphysically, it assumes materialism is true and then posits a theory consistent with this assumption. The problem arises when, because of this assumption, arguments are made to the effect that because materialism is true, we know darwinism is surely true and the only truth possible. Because it is true, we know it happened, and when inconvenient facts contradict it (like the demonstrably feeble creative power of undirected random mutation, the improbability of the butterfly, or the exquisite intelligence-laden complexity of the cell), it is because we don't know enough yet. In other words, a belief in Darwin of the gaps.

At any rate, here is cute definition of darwinian evolution designed by Tom Gilson over at Thinking Christian. You may design a clever response.
"Naturalistic Evolution (def.): the marvelous (presumed) capacity of nature to create the appearance of design, and to produce beings who have the ability to design and to detect design; but which itself has no ability to design, or if it does have that ability, it is forever undetectable."
The last bit is presumably a nod towards theistic darwinian evolutionists. Well done, Tom.

30 comments:

Alex said...

Hahah! Darwin of the Gaps. Your ability to trick yourself is astounding. Really. You try and flip the "God of the gaps" criticism in a very amusing way I must say.

So does god exist because of complex cell structure now? If there is one hilarious routine this argument reapeats its where a creationist points to something and says "yeah God is right there in the gap of what we know." Only to reatreat to some smaller gap yet again.

Don't bother responding either. Eventually you mash your keyboard as an answer. You've done it to me twice now. (lkaheirhljnaeuad)

One thing that I appreciate about you is that you stop me from being so overconfident in my assertions. I worry that, like you, I might be stubbornly wrong because I just don't want it to be that way. I'm a global warming skeptic for example but I have to keep the idea that I might be wrong close at hand. You are a cautionary tale. Thanks.

RkBall said...

You are welcome.

Anon1152 said...

"Metaphysically, it assumes materialism is true and then posits a theory consistent with this assumption. The problem arises when, because of this assumption, arguments are made to the effect that because materialism is true, we know darwinism is surely true and the only truth possible. Because it is true, we know it happened, and when inconvenient facts contradict it..."

You leave out the overwhelming evidence in favour of evolution by natural selection. Evidence about the age of the earth, the relationships between species, the fossil record, molecular genetics, and so on.

And one can believe in all of this without believing that everything can be explained through materialism. There were times and places where the sun and moon were thought to be gods, or closely associated with gods. We now accept scientific explanations (the sun is a natural fusion reactor, a dense ball of gas, mostly hydrogen and helium... the moon is a sphere of rock that orbits the earth).* It's quite possible to believe that the sun and moon are as science describes them, while still believing that God is ultimately responsible for them being there.


*I am sure these are not the best explanations, but I hope you get my point.

Anonymous said...

You mean as opposed to the religious lunatics' option of filling in anything that they don't know with "oh, it must be the work of our invisible magic man in the sky", right, Richard? Since that hasn't worked out for anything ELSE that it's been tried on (lightning, disease, tides, seasons, or anything ELSE, for that matter) why do you think it somehow becomes "true" in this case?
SDC

RkBall said...

SDC -- what part of Tom's definition, exactly, do you object to?

RkBall said...

Anon1152: "You leave out the overwhelming evidence in favour of evolution by natural selection. Evidence about the age of the earth, the relationships between species, the fossil record, molecular genetics, and so on."

You offer four evidences. None of these, in and of themselves, demonstrate evolution by undirected, goalless, purposeless natural selection. In the case of evidences 2, 3, and 4 -- there are serious conflicts between the actual data and the theory.

Anon1152 said...

Alex: I think you and I probably agree with each other more than either of us would agree with RkBall on the topic of evolution. But I want to respond to a few of the things you said:

"So does god exist because of complex cell structure now?"

- Well... I think you've got RkBall's argument (and the creationist argument) backwards. Complex cell structure exists because of God, not the other way around. (At least that's the argument as I understand it... I'm not saying I endorse it).

*

"If there is one hilarious routine this argument reapeats its where a creationist points to something and says "yeah God is right there in the gap of what we know." Only to reatreat to some smaller gap yet again."

- Well... My [admittedly limited] reading on the matter has led me to believe that they don't really locate God "in the gaps." Some of the Intelligent Design stuff is fairly sophisticated, especially insofar as they try to see God in what we *know* (or think we know) about the universe. It's not at all like Bill O'Reilly's famous argument for the existence of God (God has to exist because we--and by "we" he meant "he"--do not understand how the tides happen).

*

I agree with you that it's good to be reminded of the dangers of overconfidence, and to look for evidence of overconfidence in oneself, especially at the time one identifies it in others. "Why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that s in thine own eye?" (Matthew 7:3). Good question to ask oneself.

I realize that I might be pointing out a mote in your eye without seeing the beam in my own.

That said.

You might want to reconsider your global warming position. The evidence that human activities are altering and may significantly alter the climate in less-than-desirable ways for most of us is overwhelming. Yes, we can debate the scientific details too. Scientists certainly do. But that there are such things as greenhouse gases, that we have increased the atmosphere's level of greenhouse gases, that this is having significant effects and will continue to have significant effects... that is not in dispute scientifically speaking (and would require A LOT of data to dispute).

The ideological debate should be over how to deal with it, not whether or not it's happening.

Anon1152 said...

"You offer four evidences. None of these, in and of themselves, demonstrate evolution by undirected, goalless, purposeless natural selection. In the case of evidences 2, 3, and 4 -- there are serious conflicts between the actual data and the theory."

I should have included a footnote here saying that I am sure those are not the best scientific explanations, as I did for the sun and moon.

I am glad to see that you seem to accept that the earth is a few billion years old, rather than a few thousand years old. Is that correct? I thinking about asking that as a separate question, but not sure how to word it, since "how old is the earth?" is sortof like "do you believe in evolution?"... questions for which simple answers are expected, and which do more to locate someone on one or the other side of a political divide...

Anonymous said...

"SDC -- what part of Tom's definition, exactly, do you object to?"

Simply that his "definition" replaces OBSERVABLE phenomena with an imaginary "explanation", no different than "it must be magic"; how is this any more believable than (for example) "the invisible refrigerator pixies musta done it"?

RkBall said...

An imaginary explanation? Where is there an imaginary explanation in his definition? Are you perhaps confusing or conflating his definition with my commentary?

Anonymous said...

He posits that because something appears to work well, it MUST somehow be designed, which is an absolute leap in logic that isn't supported by anything at all; having made that illogical jump to a conclusion, he simply plugs in an imaginary invisible magic man in the sky as said "designer", no different than an ancient Greek who saw lightning and said "oh, it must be Zeus who's throwing lightning down from the clouds".

RkBall said...

"He posits that because something appears to work well, it MUST somehow be designed, "

He does no such thing.

Anonymous said...

That is exactly the assumption inherent in his suposse "definition"; maybe you need to read through it again?

RkBall said...

He makes no mention whatsoever of "things working well". That is not part of his definition.

What specific part of his definition are you objecting to? Is it

"the marvelous (presumed) capacity of nature to create the appearance of design"?

Or are you quarrelling with the statement that nature produces beings who have the ability to design?

Or perhaps you are quarrelling with the statement that nature produces beings with the ability to detect design?

Or perhaps you are quarrelling with the statement that nature itself has no ability to design?

It's really unclear exactly what your quarrel is with this definition, because you are arguing against thoughts and expressions that aren't in it.

Anonymous said...

What exactly do you think "to create the appearance of design" means, Richard, if not to "create the appearance of design"? Or are you simply going to play silly bugger some more?
SDC

RkBall said...

Yes, but what does this have to do with your objection? It's not clear what you are objecting to. Do you find the statement that darwinian evolution creates the appearance of design objectionable, or false, or not believed by darwinists? What is your point?

Joe said...

Truth be told, Darwinian Naturalism is to sustainable scientific theory what planting a post in St Johns NFLD and another in Victoria BC is to erecting a picket fence all across Canada. It looks great if you ignore the voids.

Anonymous said...

Darwinism and philosophical materialism have nothing to do with each other - that relationship was created by, well, people like you, to give you grounds to attack science. Evolution assumes absolutely nothing, especially metaphysically, as science makes no comment on the supernatural (because it can't be tested, which is why delusion and faith are required to believe in it). Everything you said in this regard is nothing but dishonest. I often question whether people who share your convictions know that they are misrepresenting what Darwinism actually is, or if you just genuinely don't understand. At any rate, claiming that evolution only arose because it was consistent with materialism is an outright lie. Darwin himself believed in god for much of his life, nearly went to seminary, and even referenced "the creator" in later editions of "Origin of Species." He merely was admitting that the dogmatic religious idea of special creation makes no sense when applied to what we see in the real world. I understand that you aren't a scientist - neither am I - but, in the same way that I was a christian for 15 years before I stopped believing, you should attempt to gain an understanding of what darwinism REALLY is before you accept creationist propaganda in its place. You should not wave your lack of understanding of science around like a badge of honour - especially as you use your computer (a product of the application of scientific theories) to write your misinformation.

RkBall said...

*"At any rate, claiming that [belief in evolution] evolution only arose because it was consistent with materialism is an outright lie."

Well, it might be. But I never claimed this. Evolutionary theories existed prior to Darwin. And Wallace, who is credited with co-discovering evolution by natural selection, was definitely not a materialist.

*Darwin himself believed in god for much of his life, nearly went to seminary, and even referenced "the creator" in later editions of "Origin of Species."

The evidence is that Darwin nearly went to seminary not because of religious conviction but because he was a bit of a layabout and his father thought that studying for the ministry could, at that time, lead to a fairly comfortable life.

As far as referencing "the creator", the evidence is that he did so as a nod to the existing culture, and later loathed himself for so doing.

Furthermore, it is an error to conflate Darwin's beliefs with darwinism -- which I have specifically defined as a belief system that has both philosophical and scientific dimensions.

Sorry about your loss of faith. But, before you go around accusing others of lying, you might do a better job understanding their position, and knowing more about the background facts and evidences.

Thank you for commenting. I hope you will reconsider your position.

Anonymous said...

The point is, Richard, that you and your ilk jump to a supremely ilogical position in asserting that something MUST have been designed if it works, while we have no evidence to suggest that this is the case, and an overwhelming amount of evidence to show that if something doesn't work, it merely dies out as an ill-suited mutation; hence "appearance of design". And, worse yet, to use Joe's analogy, you simplyn CLAIM that there is an invisible magical fence across Canada, that no-one can see, feel, test, or otherwise discern, and that we must somehow simply surrender any critical thought we might possess and just imagine that it's there.
SDC

Joe said...

Oh dear Richard it would appear that you have pricked the pretensions of an anonymous former believer who by his own admission is not a scientist. That however does not disqualify him from believing in scientism. Evidence his reference to one of his idols with which you spread your message.

Do you suppose said anonymous realizes that being a Christian and being a scientist are not exclusive of each other? I have several people that attend my church that direct and work on cutting edge medical and nano-technological scientific endeavours at the U of Alberta. Any time I have asked them they identify themselves as Christians first and foremost. I know one fellow who won the Nobel prize in physics a few years back. He works out of the US and regularly attends church.

I'm don't know about you Richard but I practice science in my Christianity. We are told to test to be sure. In all my testing I have only come away more sure.

harebell said...

Darwinism is to evolutionary theory as Daltonism is to atomic theory.
The term is an historical one, an important one no doubt about it, but that would like be arguing about quantum theory and calling it Daltonism.
Things have moved on since then. Evolution exists has been shown to occur and can even be used to solve complex problems.
In fact a lot of religious folk accept evolution as is and others seek to restrict acceptable evolution to something called micro-evolution.
Far from the science not being in, the reality is the religion isn't in yet and that is hardly surprising considering what passes for evidence in those circles.

Augray said...

My objection to Gilson's definition is that if one accepts it, a snowflake would qualify as being the product of "Naturalistic Evolution". His definition is obviously so broad as to be useless.

My objection to your post is that you claim that "darwinism" "assumes materialism is true and then posits a theory consistent with this assumption". Coming up with your own personal definitions may be amusing, but trying to pass them of as correct is embarrassing for anyone who reads it. Your post goes downhill from there.

RkBall said...

*"My objection to Gilson's definition is that if one accepts it, a snowflake would qualify as being the product of "Naturalistic Evolution". His definition is obviously so broad as to be useless."

"Biological" is understood, but it could be added in to be explicit.

*The term is an historical one,

The term is not merely historical; it is still current.

RkBall said...

*Evolution exists has been shown to occur and can even be used to solve complex problems.

Can solve complex problems? There you go again -- using the language of teleology where no teleological abilities are admitted. Perhaps you should say, "the appearance of solving complex problems", because naturalistic evolution knows nothing, thinks nothing, tries nothing, "solves" nothing; it just "is".

In fact, the actual present-day evidence fits a conclusion that evolutionary processes are algorithmic, and problem-solving abilities are built-in from the get-go. Quite the opposite of a blind, directionless process. Pre-coded with the dexterity and flexibility to adapt, evolve, survive and thrive. But then, this is not naturalistic evolution.

The only reason this conclusion is not "allowed" is not evidentiary; it is philosophical -- because of the presupposition that naturalism is true.

Which was the point of the post in the first place.

So, if you want to argue, either ditch the teleological language, or drop the metaphysical presupposition of naturalism. You can't have both.

RkBall said...

*Evolution exists has been shown to occur and can even be used to solve complex problems.

Can solve complex problems? There you go again -- using the language of teleology where no teleological abilities are admitted. Perhaps you should say, "the appearance of solving complex problems", because naturalistic evolution knows nothing, thinks nothing, tries nothing, "solves" nothing; it just "is".

In fact, the actual present-day evidence fits a conclusion that evolutionary processes are algorithmic, and problem-solving abilities are built-in from the get-go. Quite the opposite of a blind, directionless process. Pre-coded with the dexterity and flexibility to adapt, evolve, survive and thrive. But then, this is not naturalistic evolution.

The only reason this conclusion is not "allowed" is not evidentiary; it is philosophical -- because of the presupposition that naturalism is true.

Which was the point of the post in the first place.

So, if you want to argue, either ditch the teleological language, or drop the metaphysical presupposition of naturalism. You can't have both.

RkBall said...

I've still heard very little by way of actual objections to Tom's definition (apart from one vote for adding the word "biological" for clarity).

An undesigned process capable of producing (the appearance of) functional designs of breathtaking and exquisite complexity, including intelligent, conscious agents capable of design and design detection. (Not to mention free will, consciousness, moral sense etc.)

What a grand, dumb, blind process!

Anonymous said...

Once upon a time, Joe, you claimed that you could "test" your cult, and when I asked how, you refused to elucidate; have you got any more information on how you "tested" your cult, or do you just expect me to take the word of someone that believes in zombies and talking snakes and mules?
SDC

Augray said...

"An undesigned process capable of producing (the appearance of) functional designs of breathtaking and exquisite complexity, including intelligent, conscious agents capable of design and design detection. (Not to mention free will, consciousness, moral sense etc.)

What a grand, dumb, blind process!"

Your argument boils down to one of incredulity. If you can't imagine that it could happen, then it didn't happen. Nevertheless, all the evidence points to common descent, and even Michael Behe agrees with *that* aspect of things. One might as well complain about Isaac Newton's spooky "action at a distance" and dismiss gravity.

Now, if you want to debate the *mechanism* of common descent, go right ahead, but Tom's definition makes no mention of it. Not only is he ridiculing known natural mechanisms, but he's ridiculing potential *unknown* natural ones as well! Talk about chutzpah.

RkBall said...

The best, most direct criticism so far.

However, I don't see Tom's definition as ridicule. I see it as being pretty close to accurate. That's why I'm asking what aspects of it, exactly, a darwinist would object to.

And credulity, at some point, becomes an entirely rational position.

"... nothing intellectually compelling or challenging.. bald assertions coupled to superstition... woefully pathetic"