Reality is tough on evolution OR when the data doesn’t fit your theory, the data must be wrong.

Stephen Gould laid out the reasons for believing in evolution over 30 years ago.

Well, evolution is a theory. It is also a fact. And facts and theories are different things, not rungs in a hierarchy of increasing certainty. Facts are the world’s data. Theories are structure of ideas that explain and interpret data. Facts do not go away while scientists debate rival theories for explaining them. Einstein’s theory of gravitation replaced Newton’s but apples did not suspend themselves in mid-air pending the outcome. And human beings evolved from apelike ancestors whether they did so by Darwin’s proposed mechanism or by some other, yet to be discovered.[i]

Creationism, however, he says, is “a self-contradictory, nonsense phrase precisely because it cannot be falsifised.”[ii]

With such strong testimony from one of evolution’s strongest proponents, why would anyone doubt that it is true? The evidence is, however, as far as I have read, many times sketchy. Additionally, I have come to the conclusion that one of the primary reasons belief in evolution persists is that things (whether they be facts, ideas, common sense, evidence, or anything else) that conflict with evolutionist belief are denied. These things I just mentioned are often so obviously true that they are impossible to deny – for to deny them would be to deny reality. One of these aspects of reality that are impossible to deny is that we know what is and what is not designed or, at least, have a very good handle on knowing it. This applies to the genetic as well as morphological nature of life as well as mechanisms humans create.

On this topic, Dawkins says that “Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.”[iii] Notice that if you take Dawkins at his word, then it is impossible for anybody, whether creationist or evolutionist, to arrive at a belief that any god or any kind of designer created any life. If God, say, created DNA and inscribed on it the phrase “Yahweh made this DNA” you would, if you take Dawkins seriously, be unable to attribute even this to design.

Yet, Dawkins apparently often does think the design hypothesis is valid and uses his concept of what God would do to level complaints against God. He complains that God would only create cheetahs that prey on antelope because He (God) loves blood sports and that a good designer would not create trees that grow larger than others. He also infers that no divine creator would create junk DNA.[iv] The only way he can detect bad design is if he knows what good design is, but he denies the ability to know good design and even know God.

Yet, to know when there is A is to know when there is not-A, and vice versa. This is one of the most foundational reasoning abilities humans have, and to explain further I put it to you this way. Suppose I came up with a theory that Dawkins is a horrible philosopher committing logical mistakes in each of his writings. (This is true, of course, but we may put that fact aside for now.) Then, suppose that people were to test that theory, examined Dawkins’ writings, and found them 100 percent error-free. Then suppose that I explained that Dawkins’ writings only give the appearance of being error-free, and, in fact, Dawkins is a horrible scientific philosopher, but we can’t explain why his writing doesn’t reflect that. Evolutionists devoted to Dawkins would, of course, loudly complain about my reasoning. They would say I had clearly proposed a theory that could be proven false and refused to allow my theory to be falsified. They would, of course, be right. However, when the shoe is on the other foot, Dawkins won’t allow himself to be wrong about his evaluation of the evidence for design.

The design inference has been most prominent regarding DNA. Stephen Meyer explains:

As it turns out, specific regions of the DNA molecule called coding regions have the same property of “sequence specificity” or “specified complexity” that characterizes written codes, linguistic texts, and protein molecules. Just as the letters in the alphabet of a written language may convey a particular message depending on their arrangement, so too do the sequences of nucleotide bases (the A’s, T’s, G’s, and C’s) inscribed along the spine of a DNA molecule convey a precise set of instructions for building proteins within the cell. The nucleotide bases in DNA function in precisely the same way as symbols in a machine code. In each case, the arrangement of the characters determines the function of the sequence as a whole. As Richard Dawkins has noted, “The machine code of the genes is uncannily computer “like.” In the case of a computer code, the specific arrangement of just two symbols (0 and 1) suffices to carry information. In the case of DNA, the complex but precise sequencing of the four nucleotide bases (A, T, G, and C) stores and transmits the information necessary to build proteins. Thus, the sequence specificity of proteins derives from a prior sequence specificity” from the information” encoded in DNA.[v] 

royal society intelligent design

As far as I can tell at this time, the consensus seems to be shifting toward the view that DNA is information. A resource website, run by Nature Publishing Group – publisher of Nature magazine – features resources on genetics and cell biology. An article it features claims that DNA is a structure that encodes biological information.[vi] An article by Science magazine says “DNA is among the most dense and stable information media known.”[vii] Royal Society Publishing put out an issue of the “Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A” on the topic of DNA as information in the March 2016 issue.[viii] Fazale Rana’s book The Cell’s Design features evidence of design in the cell including error-correction capabilities in DNA.[ix] It would be difficult to pass off such ruminations as those of semi-intelligent goofs.  

In this case, information by definition comes from an intelligent source, not a random mixture of chemicals, because it implies purpose.

In this case, information by definition comes from an intelligent source, not a random mixture of chemicals, because it implies purpose. Yet, even today, evolutionist science has not moved away from its originalist bedrock belief that DNA originated in a simple “pool” of ingredients. Darwin, in a letter to Joseph Hooker, suggested that the first molecules evolved in a “warm little pond.” Ernst Haeckel one of Darwin’s chief defenders, believed in an intermediate life form between the non-living and the amoeba that was composed of nothing but formless protoplasm. According to the Scientific American blog, some scientists claim the first life evolved in volcanic pools while still others suggest it did so in hydrothermal vents. The article is noteworthy for admitting that scientists favor these environments because they are chemically closer to that of the cell. [x] In other words, today evolutionists insist that if we at least have a simple chemical soup, then evolution will naturally happen, much like claiming Shakespeare can happen if we at least have a mixture of ink and paper. When given an analogy between a book and the “book of life” (DNA) and when asked if he can believe that this book of life can originate by chance, Lawrence Krauss, who thinks DNA is no more complex than a snowflake, says that DNA can come about from the laws of physics and chemistry just as a snowflake can.[xi]

Evolutionists don’t admit defeat, and to cope with a perilous situation they rely on continued agnosticism. This can continue for years without the realization that at one point they should admit they are wrong. Dawkins’ writing on the origin of life is a case in point. In 1986, Dawkins noted that “chemists have failed in their attempts to duplicate the spontaneous origin of life in the laboratory.” He has also noted that “We still don’t know exactly how natural selection began on Earth.”[xii] In 2006, not much changed. Dawkins says “The origin of life is a flourishing, if speculative, subject for research . . . I shall not be surprised if, within the next few years, chemists report that they have successfully midwifed a new origin of life in the laboratory.” It hasn’t happened yet, he says, and he maintains that the probability of it happening is extremely low although we can, he says, have confidence it happened at least once.[xiii] Perhaps the reason that life is so improbable and that researchers can’t create life is that there is something missing in these attempts that make it impossible to do so. Maybe intelligence is needed; perhaps even divine intelligence.

Dawkins greatest showDawkins, sneaks just such intelligence into his writing though he cleverly disguises it. Christian creationists frequently claim that the origin and evolution of life cannot happen as a result of random processes. Dawkins, however, retorts with an argument such as this: Random changes happen to DNA; Those that increase survival are selected by natural selection, a process that is not random; As each change occurs, the selections are compounded until natural selection creates greater complexity climbing “mount improbable.” Dawkins says “Darwin’s special genius realized that nature could play the role of selecting agent. . . . But it was Darwin who first spotted that you don’t have to have a choosing agent. The choice can be made automatically by survival – or failure to survive.”[xiv]

The idea of “selection” mostly, if not always, involves a conscious intelligent (as in man) or semi-conscious semi-intelligent choice (as in animals). We often say that a thief may select which house to rob, a chef may select the ingredients in the soup of the day, and a woman may select which man to marry. We never say that a fire selects which house to burn and a hurricane selects which state to hit. To select is to make a non-random choice, a choice made by intelligence. However, natural events are normally thought of as random things not planned or orchestrated by intelligence, and those things that are random are those not orchestrated by intelligence. When Dawkins says that nature selects, he appears to smuggle intention into natural selection, and hence he thinks (although he would deny it) that nature builds animals, reaching higher levels of improbability, using a process that has a particular mind or intention to it.

If people like Dawkins can realize that some kind of conscious planning is involved in the creation of animals, they can accept a divine hand in that creation once they can release themselves from their philosophical predispositions against theology. They can also acknowledge that DNA has information. The crazy thing is that creationists accept this evidence while materialist science does not because it hasn’t changed since Darwin’s day.

Free will is an illusion – we’re all just robots anyway

 

This isn’t the only case of evolutionists denying the obvious. It crops up regarding free will also. Witness these words:

The astonishing hypothesis is that “You,” your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules. As Lewis Carroll’s Alice might have phrased it: “You’re nothing but a pack of neurons.” This hypothesis is so alien to the ideas of most people alive today that it can truly be called astonishing.”[xv]

If the brain really is a Darwin machine then the thoughts, perceptions, ideas, memories, and so on, that go on inside it must all be competing for the brain’s limited processing resources.  Natural selection will have ensured that the brain’s attention mechanisms generally devote most resources to the processing that helps the genes that made it.  Within those constraints, all the thoughts and ideas will compete for attention and the chance to get copied.  However, they are limited to one brain and subject to the pressures of natural selection.[xvi]

The argument of this book is that we, and all other animals, are machines created by our genes. Like successful Chicago gangsters, our genes have survived, in some cases for millions of years, in a highly competitive world. This entitles us to expect certain qualities in our genes. I shall argue that a predominant quality to be expected in a successful gene is ruthless selfishness. This gene selfishness will usually give rise to selfishness in individual behavior.[xvii]

The brain and the kidneys are both physical organs. Both have anatomical structures and physiological processes that generate particular things. And, yes, the output of one is urine and the output of the other is thought.[xviii]

That should do it for now. Oddly, it never occurs to these authors that when making such arguments, they are cutting their own legs out from under them. Unless their thoughts are dependent on more than just brain chemistry and physical laws, they only will say what comes as a result of their brain chemistry and the limitations of physical laws. Actually, to be honest, there is one time, and the only time, that I know evolutionists faced this dilemma and that demands a story from John Horgan’s The End of Science.

In the spring of 1994, Australian philosopher David Chalmers gave a talk at the University of Arizona on the scientific basis of consciousness. Chalmers suggested that subjective experiences cannot be scientifically explained. For instance, science can explain how and why we hear a particular sound but never the nature of the experience or the meaning of it to each person. There is a quality to each experience that transcends the physical and chemical nature of the mind. Chalmers suggests that information is a basic property of matter, and Horgan questions how information can be a basic property when only matter and energy, not information, were present at the beginning. Horgan’s account offers little to help us understand Chalmers’ view, but apparently whatever Chalmers said damaged the ideas of Christof Koch, a collaborator of atheist Francis Crick. Koch tracked Chalmers down at a cocktail bar to chastise Chalmers for his speech because Koch believed information-based ideas, like all philosophical ideas, are untestable and useless. “Why don’t you just say that when you have a brain the Holy Ghost comes down and makes you conscious!” Koch proclaimed, and sputtered in the end with the question “How do I even know you’re conscious?”[xix] This question should be turned around to Koch who should be asked how he knows he is conscious. Are Koch’s ideas merely the result of the particular chemistry in his brain, or are they the result of more than just that? To probe further, I would ask him if his materialist philosophy is the result of the material in his brain and nothing more.

Just as in the design hypothesis discussed previously, evolutionists find it rational to avoid problems with their beliefs when it comes to the soul. This shows up in Francis Crick’s discussion of qualia. The best way to explain qualia is by an example. We may see the color red or hear a trumpet sound, but our inner feelings about such experiences are greater than just the sensory perceptions of the events. There are subjective personal feelings we experience that cannot be reduced to only what goes on with neurons. Crick admits there may be things science cannot explain but “we have learned to live with such limitations in the past” and “we may have to live with them again.”[xx] In other words, when his theory cannot account for everything we ignore those things it can’t explain in order to save the theory and keep it from being falsified or at least deemed insufficient or incomplete.

Atheists, such as Greta Christina, argue that the mind is based entirely on the brain because “The evidence supporting the ‘biological product of the brain’ explanation comes from rigorously- gathered, carefully- tested, thoroughly cross-checked, double-blinded, placebo- controlled, replicated, peer-reviewed research. An enormous mountain of research. A mountain of research that is growing more mountainous every day.”[xxi] Because such correlation is found, she assumes then that all human behavior derives from chemical changes in the brain and ignores research that shows people can change brain patterns by will alone. Mario Beauregard and Denyse O’Leary explain that men are able to suppress their sexual responses to erotic films by activating right lateral prefrontal cortex and the right anterior cingulate cortex.[xxii] This same type of evidence convinced Jeffrey Schwartz, research professor of psychiatry at UCLA School of Medicine, that there was some type of independent consciousness that could interact with the brain and change it. He witnessed such changes in people with OCD who were able to rewire their brain through brain plasticity.[xxiii]

Lawyer and critic-of-Darwinism Phillip Johnson highlights the problems of claiming one can rationally think about anything if our thoughts are based merely on the physical and chemical properties of the brain. Stephen Hawking, quoted by Johnson, explains that evolution rewards those organisms that are best at drawing the correct conclusions about the world, and correct-thinking individuals would obviously be better at reproduction and spreading their genes to the next generation. Johnson, quick to the punch, points out that “Darwin’s theory is just another product of the human mind, whose reasoning is still governed by the hypothetical theory of everything, so the problem of reliability is merely displaced rather than solved.”[xxiv] What Johnson means is that Darwin’s theory is a product of the mind which is a product of the physical and chemical nature of the brain. How can we trust our mind if it is only controlled by its chemical and physical properties which can produce error as well as truth? Johnson also points out that making smart deductions has nothing to do with reproduction, and the ill or less intelligent can reproduce as well as those who are not like that.

How can we trust our mind if it is only controlled by its chemical and physical properties which can produce error as well as truth?

One evidence for an immaterial soul and life after death is the near-death experience. The video The Evidence for Heaven features such evidence and also briefly interviews skeptic Michael Shermer who avoids decades of this evidence when declaring that “outside of religion, there is no scientific evidence whatsoever of an afterlife or a place where any of us go.”[xxv] I’ve noticed that skeptics of NDEs tend to attribute them to chemical changes in the brain which, unfortunately, do not explain how some people can view activities outside their bodies while unconscious or near-death. Their avoidance of the evidence is dictated by their materialist philosophy. Barbara Bradley Hagerty, writing for NPR (National Public Radio) concludes her survey of NDEs by suggesting that “And almost invariably, where a scientist stands on that issue has little to do with the clinical findings of any study. It has almost everything to do with the scientist’s personal beliefs.”[xxvi]

thetus tenney
 

Thetus Tenney, one who experienced an NDE, from the video The Evidence for Heaven

 

If evolutionists can make reasonable judgments, then their thoughts must not be determined by the chemical and physical properties of the brain alone because to reason is to transcend what the material properties of the brain alone move us to do. This is important since sometimes brain chemistry leads people to think erroneous things. Perhaps mind is more than just matter. To deny this fact is to deny reality and the ability to even reason about anything.

Charity is an Illusion; If you’re a Darwinian, you’re not supposed to be nice

           

Why are we nice? Why are we moral? How many people have asked that question? If you are a convinced evolutionist, that question is and should be one of the foremost questions on your mind. We have a sense that we are obeying someone or something when we behave morally, and this is a strong reason to choose the theistic account of morality over anything else. J. P. Moreland, citing H. P. Owen, puts it this way:

it is often rational to have guilt feelings in the face of moral failure even when no human is present toward whom one feels shame, or even if someone is present, the sense of shame goes beyond what would be appropriate if only another human were involved.  Owen goes on to argue that guilt feelings do not make sense if abstract moral principles are all there is to moral failure. Guilt feelings makes sense if one feels shame in the presence of a Person. So if the depth and presence of guilt feelings is to be rational, there must be a Person toward whom one feels moral shame.[xxvii]

Atheists have tried to undermine this moral argument for God’s existence by offering different moral systems that all have a fundamental flaw in them because they ignore, on purpose perhaps, facets of humanity that refute atheist moral systems. Some atheists think that moral rules are simply consensus; as humans evolve they change what they believe is or is not moral. However, morality is not simply consensus; moral obligations are not simply the actions that get the most votes. In fact, we judge what our society should do by prior moral knowledge, and this moral knowledge must come from something other than society for us to judge what society should morally do.

One system is utilitarianism that supposes that we should always maximize the joy of each person. However, the joy of one person might outweigh the joy of another. I might take something from my neighbor, and my joy increases proportionally to his misery. How do we judge it as moral or immoral then? Without any other transcendent moral code to rely on, this moral philosophy can lead to people doing evil and is therefore incomplete.

Frank Zindler’s “enlightened self-interest” proposes that “The person who practices ‘enlightened’ self-interest, by contrast, is the person whose behavioral strategy simultaneously maximizes both the intensity and duration of personal gratification. An enlightened strategy will be one which, when practiced over a long span of time, will generate ever greater amounts and varieties of pleasures and satisfactions.”[xxviii] What Zindler is saying is that we can enhance our own happiness through cooperation, and moral behavior is predicated on what each of us personally get from cooperation. What happens, though, when someone discovers that they can, without penalty, maximize their personal gratification by cheating others of their property? Zindler assumes that his philosophy will always bring about cooperation, but it’s a recipe for debauchery if a person or a group of people find cooperation does not satisfy them or they don’t fear any reprisals from the people they cheat out of their property. As with utilitarianism, we need another transcendent moral code – God’s will perhaps –  to decide when to avoid maximizing our self-interest so that the common good can be served.

I cover more of Ruse’s arguments in my chapter “The Vacuum of Darwinian Ethics” as part of my online book The Wastelands of Unbelief.

Michael Ruse just simply denies that we can infer that some intelligent agent his imparted a moral code on our hearts.

 The point about morality . . . is that it is an adaptation to get us to go beyond regular wishes, desires and fears, and to interact socially with people.  How does it get us to do this?  By filling us full of thoughts about obligations and duties, and so forth. . . . In a sense, therefore, morality is a collective illusion foisted upon us by our genes.  Note, however, that the illusion lies not in the morality itself, but in its sense of objectivity. I am certainly not saying that morality is unreal.  Of course it is not!  What is unreal is the apparent objective reference to morality.[xxix]

What Ruse is saying is that you feel like you are obeying someone when behaving morally, but that is an illusion. Notice the use of the same tactic as Dawkins. Just as Dawkins denies the scientific possibility of discovering God through design, and Crick avoids discussions of qualia because it would upset his materialist beliefs, Ruse denies the possibility of knowing God through conscience. In all cases, the standard method of following the evidence where it leads is denied, and their atheism survives by denying the possibility of following the evidence where it leads. If atheists were to simply adjust their philosophy they would quickly discover evidence that confirms Christian theism.

Just as Dawkins denies the scientific possibility of discovering God through design, and Crick avoids discussions of qualia because it would upset his materialist beliefs, Ruse denies the possibility of knowing God through conscience.

The same problem arises when it comes to altruism. Evolutionists suppose that the fittest are the ones that survive, and traits that aid survival are traits that get passed from generation to generation. Thusly, animals should struggle rather than aid each other because the ones that struggle and win are the ones to leave evolved descendants. This becomes a problem when you consider people, though, because people are the exception to the rule. We do struggle, of course, sinfully at that, but as a rule cooperation and altruism have been more prevalent, for without altruism people in many ways could not survive.

The problems with an evolutionist account of altruism is revealed in Alvin Plantinga’s article in the intelligent-design journal Origins & Design. Plantinga quotes evolutionist Herbert Simon who questions why Mother Teresa spent so much of her time (possibly all of it) doing charitable works instead of doing the rational thing – from an evolutionist perspective – of maximizing her fitness. Simon proposes two answers. First, docile individuals learn and believe what they think others want them to learn and believe. Because of bounded rationality, docile individuals can’t distinguish socially prescribed behavior from altruistic behavior.[xxx] To summarize, Mother Teresa should be behaving selfishly but doesn’t know she should be behaving that way.

This problem is not limited to her but exists among all people. Humans can be horribly cruel, but obviously our cooperation outweighs our cruelty and obviously exists in my kindness, for instance, toward coworkers or the vast amounts of money donated by people or a corporation toward a local charity. To say that Teresa is irrational for behaving altruistically is to say that all people are behaving irrationally. Another way to say it is that evolutionist theory proposes we avoid accepting people as they are and instead believe in people as they should be if evolution were true.

Religion is an Illusion –  no place for Jesus in the church of Darwin

What is up with this religion thing? According to evolutionists, religion should be fading away despite the fact that secular humanists have wrapped a religious blanket around their own beliefs.

Religions, or perhaps the religious impulse (the impulse to be religious) has been in existence thousands of years, and perhaps even among the Neanderthals.[xxxi] What is the evolutionist explanation for this persistence? The previously quoted Susan Blackmore suggests that stubborn ideas (memes) continue to vex us.

          

These religious memes did not set out with an intention to succeed.  They were just behaviors, ideas, and stories that were copied from one person to another in the long history of human attempts to understand the world.  They were successful because they happened to come together into mutually supportive gangs that included all the right tricks to keep them safely stored in millions of brains, books, and buildings, and repeatedly passed on to more. They evoked strong emotions and strange experiences. They provided myths to answer real questions and the myths were protected by untestability, threats and promises.  They created and then reduced fear to create compliance, and they used the beauty, truth, and altruism tricks to help their spread.  That is why they are still with us, and why millions of people’s behavior is routinely controlled by ideas that are either false or completely untestable.[xxxii]

Steven Pinker suggests religiosity is a byproduct of brain evolution. The tendency toward religious belief, he says, is a scientific puzzle and suggests that “There is an alternative explanation, namely that religious psychology is a by-product of many parts of the mind that evolved for other purposes.”[xxxiii]

So, in both of these cases, religiosity is attributed to some other cause other than the simple fact people need the answers that religions provide. Memes don’t make people religious; people choose religions because of what religions give the believers. Why would we think that religiosity is any less normal than other tendencies or desires that have lasted for thousands of years? Christianity offers an explanation for that desire while atheist materialism does not. Atheist materialism avoids human intentionality in both cases.

inspiring philosophy

The Inspiring Philosophy Youtube channel has a video suggesting that atheism is not natural and that atheism involves “hard cognitive work” to deny things that are obviously true – a point I make in this essay. From this site, I learned of Justin Barrett’s book Born Believers that suggests that children, until age four, normally develop a tendency to accept supernatural explanations for things. Children in atheist households even develop this predisposition. What this means is that human nature is normally religious, but atheist evolutionists can’t accept this but must explain religiousness as some side-effect of brain development or memes forcing ideas upon us.

This site led me to find an article by Matthew Hutson in The Atlantic. Hutson suggests that even unbelievers are capable of “magical thinking.” In one study, self-professed nonbelievers began to sweat when reading out loud sentences asking God to do terrible things and were stressed as much as believers when doing so. This suggests unbelievers have an unconscious awareness of God and try to mask that awareness. Scientists at MIT and other elite schools, when hurried, were twice as likely to attribute natural events to purpose than if they were allowed to think about what they would say. This shows that it is natural to assume that things exist for a reason – an assumption compatible with Christianity. Hutson summarizes “Magical thinking is not just a result of ignorance or indoctrination—it appears to be a side effect of normal, socially adaptive thinking: we attribute intentions to the natural world in much the same way that we attribute intentions to other people.”[xxxiv]

As far as secular humanism, a religion based on evolution, I have long suspected that it exists to fill the religious hole in the soul left by unbelievers abandoning traditional faiths. You certainly get that idea from reading Julian Huxley who has said that “Thus the evolutionary vision, first opened up for us by Charles Darwin a century back, illuminates our existence in a simple but almost overwhelming way. . . . Evolutionary truth frees us from subservient fear of the unknown and supernatural, and exhorts us to face this new freedom with courage tempered with wisdom, and hope tempered with knowledge.”[xxxv] Humanist Manifesto I and II established the existence of a secular humanist religion based on evolutionist presuppositions. It was Pierre Teilhard de Chardin who replaced Christianity with a Christianity dependent on evolution and was embraced by the New Age religion. Little wonder that lawyer, and critic of Darwinism, Phillip Johnson can say that

The continual efforts to base a religion or ethical system upon evolution are not an aberration, and practically all the most prominent Darwinist writers have tried their hand at it. Darwinist evolution is an imaginative story about who we are and where we came from, which is to say it is a creation myth. As such it is an obvious starting point for speculation about how we ought to live and what we ought to value.[xxxvi]

It’s obvious the reason such intellectuals embrace these religious movements is because they need the benefits religions like these provide – which is to say they, too, are normally religious.

Christianity, the dominant religion in the West for years, is obviously shrinking in prominence among secularists. What to replace it with? I’m convinced many liberals wish to have a belief system that mirrors the historical development Christianity has had.  The way they accomplish it is by imagining that the dominant Western tradition with it’s supposed sexism, capitalism, patriarchy (and so forth) is their Roman empire they hope to rebel against ever so much as the first Christians rebelled against the Roman empire their day. Only this time, secular liberals make the moral rules and not God. The liberal left identifies with victims of the culture they hate ever so much as today’s Christians identify and sympathize with martyrs of the early Church, and the left hopes to gain moral superiority from this victimhood just as religious martyrs did. This is why victim status is so highly prized among liberals today. To my knowledge, I’m the only one to advance such a theory as this.

I have noticed that the primary function of many, if not all, religions is to assuage the guilt people feel. Christianity has the answer to this in the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. The left’s religious answer to the problem of guilt is to force others to adopt the left’s puritanical beliefs, and this serves the interests of those in the left rather than the people they are supposedly helping. Reason magazine argues third-party outrage (moral outrage at the moral wrong done to another person) “is often a function of self-interest, wielded to assuage feelings of personal culpability for societal harms.” Bowdoin psychology professor Zachary Rothschild and University of Southern Mississippi psychology professor Lucas A. Keefer argue that “research shows that individuals respond to reminders of their group’s moral culpability with feelings of outrage at third-party harm-doing.” Moral outrage, thought to be grounded on concerns about justice, are perhaps efforts by some to maintain a proper “moral identity.”[xxxvii] The left, it seems, is desperate for its new liberal religion to become dominant because its success will alleviate the guilt liberal secularists feel.

Humans have a conscious awareness of God, seek an overarching ideology that answers the same questions a religion would, and have an enduring sense of guilt that needs to be assuaged. These are all religious predispositions, compatible with Christianity, that suggest to me humans are religious by nature. Humans obviously have no need for such concepts if materialism is true, but they do need these concepts if they are created by someone or something to need them and seek the god that gave them to us. With the acknowledgement that DNA is coded information, information needs an intelligent source, and life needs some type of intelligence guiding its development (as Dawkins admits to when he argues that nature “selects”) we can accept that people are religious because some intelligent agent programmed or created us to be religious.

Missing Fossils are an Illusion

Lastly, I focus on the fossil record not to engage in a scholarly approach to it but to show its place within the scope of what I’m talking about. When Darwin wrote his Origin, he noted that the fossil evidence many times did not support his theory. His bandage on the matter was to claim that the fossil record was incomplete. Perhaps missing fossils would be found later. He, at least, suggested that the evidence could be found and that the fossil record one day could provide the evidence he sought.

Note that this way of dealing with evidence is not totally uncalled for. Christians do it also. For instance, Christians have at times suggested that the reason few Romans wrote about Jesus is that most Romans did not bother writing about local Jewish affairs. But note, though, that if you continue to dig for clues to the past that validate your beliefs, you should find more of them. The evidence might be missing now, but if you, say, dig another 10 feet you might find the additional fossil or clay tablet or ark you seek (or whatever it is depending on what you are researching). The test of a correct historical theory is that the more you search the more evidence you find. The test of a false historical theory is that the more you dig the more you continue to find no evidence, little evidence, not enough to validate your theory or evidence that contradicts your theory.

Fast forward to the 1970s, slightly over 100 years after Darwin wrote his book, evolutionists were beginning to write about Punctuated Equilibrium (the fast evolution of animals leaving few transitional fossils). The reason they did so is because the fossil record did not document the missing links evolutionists were looking for.

Why propose Punctuated Equilibrium? Dawkins is honest in saying

For example the Cambrian strata of rocks, vintage about 600 million years, are the oldest ones in which we find most of the major invertebrate groups. And we find many of them already in an advanced state of evolution, the very first time they appear. It is as though they were just planted there, without any evolutionary history. Needless to say, this appearance of sudden planting has delighted creationists. Evolutionists of all stripes believe, however, that this really does represent a very large gap in the fossil record, a gap that is simply due to the fact that, for some reason, very few fossils have lasted from periods before about 600 million years ago. One good reason might be that many of these animals had only soft parts to their bodies: no shells or bones to fossilize. If you are a creationist you may think that this is special pleading. My point here is that, when we are talking about gaps of this magnitude, there is no difference whatever in the interpretations of ‘punctuationists’ and ‘gradualists’. Both schools of thought despise so-called scientific creationists equally, and both agree that the major gaps are real, that they are true imperfections in the fossil record. Both schools of thought agree that the only alternative explanation of the sudden appearance of so many complex animal types in the Cambrian era is divine creation, and both would reject this alternative.[xxxviii]

The important part of this paragraph is where Dawkins says that evolutionists accept only evolutionists explanations because of their bias against creation. I once quoted this part to an evolutionist I was debating online and was told he (the person I was debating) had no idea why Dawkins would say such a thing. This remark was obviously a cover-butt suggestion. Dawkins is aggressively anti-Christian and anti-religious, and, given the fact most evolutionists feel that way, it would make sense that what Dawkins said is true.

Evolutionists have proposed that the gaps would eventually be filled. Then they proposed that the gaps aren’t filled because animals evolved so fast they didn’t leave the required ancestors. They also proposed that intermediates evolved and were buried where researchers cannot find them. They also proposed that some ancestors were soft-bodied and hence would not be fossilized. One can think whatever one wants to think about these claims, but there seems to be a pattern of not accepting the fossil record as it is. Why not accept that intermediate fossils never existed as the fossil record often shows? This truth must, instead, be explained away because it does not confirm evolutionist belief, which, as Dawkins suggests, comes from stubborn prejudice against creationists belief. If evolutionists could unsheathe themselves from their philosophical beliefs they could accept that the fossil record confirms creationist explanations just as the other things mentioned in this essay do. Only the “hard cognitive work” mentioned in one of the Inspiring Philosophy Youtube videos keeps them from admitting to what is obvious while arguing for things that can’t possibly be true.

Jeffrey Stueber

*** Note – this will be the last essay I write for this year and next year I will be taking a year off to pursue other activities. ****

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[i] Stephen Gould, Hen’s Teeth and Horses Toes (New York: Norton, 1983), 254.

[ii] Ibid, 256.

[iii] Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Design, 2nd ed. (New York: Norton, 1987), 1

[iv] See my essays on Dawkins at https://wastelandsofunbelief.wordpress.com/chapter-two-genes-memes-and-matter-oh-my/ and also my essay published earlier this year at https://thesecularleftcritique.wordpress.com/the-delusional-dawkins-a-review-of-the-greatest-show-on-earth/

[v] Stephen Meyer, “DNA and Other Designs,” First Things (April 2000), https://www.firstthings.com/article/2000/04/dna-and-other-designs.

[vi] https://www.nature.com/scitable/topicpage/dna-is-a-structure-that-encodes-biological-6493050

[vii] http://science.sciencemag.org/content/337/6102/1628

[viii] http://rsta.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/374/2063

[ix] I cover Rana’s book in a 2011 edition of the Lutheran Science Institute Journal. See http://www.lutheranscience.org/home/180015283/180015283/180153808/Journal%202011-CellsDesign.pdf

[x] Stephen Gould, The Panda’s Thumb (New York: Norton, 1980), chap. 23. Lucas Brouwers, “Did Life Evolve in a ‘Warm Little Pond’?”, Scientific American blog, Feb. 16, 2012, https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/thoughtomics/did-life-evolve-in-a-warm-little-pond/.

[xi] “The Atheist Delusion Movie (2016),” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ChWiZ3iXWwM&t=231s

[xii] Dawkins, 164-165.

[xiii] Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2006), 164-165.

[xiv] Richard Dawkins, The Greatest Show on Earth, (New York: Free Press, 2009), 62-63.

[xv] Francis Crick, The Astonishing Hypothesis: The Scientific Search for The Soul (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1994), 3.

[xvi] Susan Blackmore, The Meme Machine (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 40.

[xvii] Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene, 2nd ed. (New York: Oxford, 1989), 2.

[xviii] Thomas Kuhn, Close to Truth: Challenging Current Belief (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2000), 20.

[xix] John Horgan, The End of Science: Facing the Limits of Knowledge in the Twilight of the Scientific Age (New York: Addison-Wesley, 1996), 180-183.

[xx] Crick, 258.

[xxi] Greta Christina, “Why Near Death Experiences are a Terrible Argument for the Soul,” http://gretachristina.typepad.com/greta_christinas_weblog/2010/08/near-death-experiences.html

[xxii] Mario Beauregard and Denyse O’Leary, The Spiritual Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Case for the Existence of the Soul (New York: HarperCollins, 2007), 131-132.

[xxiii] Jeffrey Schwartz and Sharon Begley, The Mind & The Brain: Neuroplasticity and the Power of Mental Force (New York: HarperCollins, 2002).

[xxiv] Phillip Johnson, Reason in the Balance: The Case Against Naturalism in Science, Law & Education (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1995), 61-62.

[xxv] “Evidence for Heaven: Afterlife and Near Death Experiences,” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O2vACjcke20&t=1562s

[xxvi] Barbara Bradley Hagerty, “Decoding the Mystery of Near-Death Experiences,” https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=104397005

[xxvii] J. P. Moreland, Scaling the Secular City (Grand Rapids: Baker House, 1987), 123.

[xxviii] Frank Zindler, “Ethics Without Gods,” https://www.atheists.org/activism/resources/ethics-without-gods/.

[xxix] Michael Ruse, Taking Darwin Seriously (New York: Basil Blackwell, 1986), 253.

[xxx] Alvin Plantinga, “Methodological Altruism,” Origins & Design, 18:1, http://www.arn.org/docs/odesign/od181/methnat181.htm.

[xxxi] Barbara King, “Were Neanderthals Religious,” https://www.npr.org/sections/13.7/2016/12/07/504650215/were-neanderthals-religious

[xxxii] Blackmore, Meme Machine, 192-193.

[xxxiii] Steven Pinker, “The Evolutionary Psychology of Religion,” https://ffrf.org/outreach/awards/emperor-has-no-clothes-award/item/20327-steven-pinker.

[xxxiv] Matthew Hutson, “The Science of Superstition,” The Atlantic, March 2015, https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/03/the-science-of-superstition/384962/

[xxxv] Julian Huxley, Evolutionary Humanism (New York: Prometheus, 1992), 88.

[xxxvi] Phillip Johnson, Darwin on Trial, 2nd ed., (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1993), 133.

[xxxvii] Elizabeth Brown, “Moral Outrage is Self-Serving, Say Psychologists,” https://reason.com/blog/2017/03/01/moral-outrage-is-self-serving

[xxxviii] Dawkins, Blind Watchmaker, 229-230.

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