Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Account of Nature is Almost Certainly False

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The mind-body problem is not just a local problem within the human person.  Rather, the answers to this question are analogous to the entire cosmos. Nagel asks, “Can a Darwinian naturalist account explain the phenomenon of mind, consciousness, reason and value?”  Can we integrate the concept of “Mind” within a modern outlook (Nagel 8)?

He states the problem:  whatever explains the existence of organisms must also explain the existence of mind (14). Most of the book is a survey of how Neo-Darwinian Naturalism fails to explain “why” and the like.  Throughout he echoes challenges by Plantinga and others: “If two faculties in us are both natural, why should we privilege our belief-forming mechanism to correct other cognitive faculties” (28).  He doesn’t say it here (though he does later), this is the problem of value. How does a purely natural account posed in the problem above explain value-judgments?

His section on consciousness was a bit weaker. He argues that naturalism can’t account for mental phenomena that is evident from the first person inner point-of-view of the conscious subject (38).  I agree but I don’t think Nagel gives the strongest argument. For a better treatment consult Moreland and Swinburne, especially the latter’s Evolution of the Soul. especially the latter’s Evolution of the Soul.

Nagel does advance the following argument:

Let Ψ = a mental event

Let φ = a physical event

On the naturalist account Ψ = φ .  But here is Nagel’s problem with it:  what is it about φ that makes it also  Ψ ? Nagel says it must be some property conceptually distinct from the physical properties that define φ.  In other words, if you look at a mental state like a sensation (or intention or the like). It can’t simply be the same as a physical event.  It will always be (φx), where x is the perspective of the thinking agent. If that’s the case, then Ψ =/= φx.

What Nagel needs is something like Leibniz’s law of the Identity of Indiscernibles:

(x)(y)[(x=y)—>(P)(Px<–>Py)]

For any x, and for any y, if they are identical to each other, then for any property P, P will be true of x iff P is true of y.  And if they aren’t identical, then they aren’t the same thing.

Criticisms

*Nagel says substance dualism leaves biology with many unanswerable questions (49n12). So what if it does?  If Nagel holds to this criticism, then it’s hard to see exactly how his position differs from naturalism at the end of the day.  

* As critics have noted, Nagel rejects naturalism but he also rejects theism of any form (and with it, mind-body dualism).  As such, he hasn’t given us anything resembling a coherent alternative. It’s like he is a naturalist gadfly. By still insisting on a biological/physical account of everything, he hasn’t really moved beyond naturalism–certainly he hasn’t moved beyond it given that he also rejects theism.

Conclusion

Nagel has advanced important criticisms of naturalism.  One hopes that the Regime will take these criticisms seriously and remove naturalism from its vaunted pedestal where it is politically immune to any criticism.  With that said, Nagel offers nothing in terms of an alternative.

 

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Blogging through Darwin (3): Darwin admits his difficulties

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Chapter 6: Difficulties of the Theory

Darwin is very honest about some difficulties in his theory: if species have descended from other species, then why do we not see evidence of this in the fossil record (80)?  He does attempt an answer along the lines of the following:

1) These varieties would have been rare to begin with (81).

2) New varieties are slowly formed

There is no proof for (1).  He could be correct, but it’s a supposition either way.  

(2) is more interesting. It seems that between A and B there is A1 A2, A3, A4….Az, then B.  This doesn’t remove the problem.  Now we have to find evidence for A1 A2, A3, A4….Az.  Therefore, between A1 and A2, we need to find the following schema: A1, A1α, A1β, A2., and so on.  But the question remains:  why isn’t this really evident in the fossil record?

I really do appreciate that Darwin lists the main problems with his theory.  Not only does he mention the fossil record, but he mentions the problem of the eye.  Darwin:

“To suppose that the eye with all of its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances….could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree” (85).  

So how does he get around it: each gradation of the eye offers a small advantage to the species. But this simply isn’t how the eye works. Every piece not only needs to be there, but needs to be there simultaneously.

Other problems:  Darwin really didn’t understand the complexity of a cell.  Scientists then, Huxley in particular, thought it was just a blob of goo that had electricity shot through it.  Furthermore, this problem is only worse when we consider the information encoded in DNA.

Darwin ends this chapter on a rather strange note.  If the diversity in creation is due to one species not getting killed better than another, then how does one explain beauty in creation?  Darwin says beauty is subjective and only exists for man. Further, man is what imparts beauty, and since even on biblical accounts, creation preceded man, there could have been no beauty.

This ignores the fact that creation is primarily for God’s glory, not man.  And in any case, Darwin is unaware of the mathematical ratios in the cosmos.

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Wolfhart Pannenberg on Body-Soul Unity

Systematic Theology vol. 2.

WP urges that we are psychosomatic unities, rather than two juxtaposed essences.  So he rejects substance dualism, which is a problem, but he also refuses to reduce the soul to the body, unlike tendencies of some at Calvin College.

He argues that the soul is deeply rooted in the body (182).  I agree. In older language we would say the body “traduces” the soul. He begins with Genesis 2:7.  We are ensouled bodies, a nephesh hayya.

What is a Spirit?

WP is very clear that spirit/Spirit means vital creative force, not merely intellect (185). Whenever we have ruach, we are alive. If God were to withhold his ruach (Job 34:14ff), we would die.

Further, a ruach or a pneuma is not the independent creaturely station.  While Paul does speak of human beings as spirit, soul, body, he makes several moves which prove difficult for seeing spirit as soul.  

In 1 Cor. 15 he mentions the life-giving Spirit (pneuma zoopoioun), not at the original creation, but as a feature of the eschatological man.  How is this possible, since the first Adam clearly had the spirit? WP suggests Paul is drawing upon a Wisdom tradition that links Spirit and Wisdom (188; Job 32:8).

Pannenberg doesn’t clinch that argument, though I am sympathetic to it.  He does argue from a different angle, though. He notes that “neither the description of Adam as a living soul in Gen. 2:7 nor the view that life is a work of the divine breath of life gives humans any uniqueness as compared with other living creatures.  Animals, too, rank as nephesh hayyia (Gen. 2:19) and have the spirit of life in them” (1:20; 6:17; 7:22; Pannenberg 189).

There is something to that.  If nephesh hayya means an independent constitutive element of man, then it is rather odd to see that animals have it, too.  Of course, one could say that the nephesh hayya in animals is the “animal spirit.” Of course, the text never says that and it really strains the reading of it.

To shore up: Pannenberg is correct on his reading of spirit.  It can’t simply be identified with “soul.” Contra trichotomists, however, neither is it a constitutive element in man. But Pannenberg also wants to reject the traditional understanding of the soul.  This isn’t necessary. He is on the right track in that he avoids materialistic reductions. But if we go that route, and if we affirm things like life after death before the resurrection, then we are committed to the idea of the soul.

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the science of god (Alistair McGrath)

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Alister McGrath defends the idea that creation (or “nature”) is a real entity that discloses knowledge in such a way that shapes the knowledge it discloses.  In other words, ontology structures epistemology without negating the latter. Echoing Thomas Torrance, we know “kata physin.”

He begins with his own life-journey from studying chemistry at Oxford to studying theology–and becoming a Christian along the way.

Contra Hellenism and Orientalism, since creation is contingent, the real can be found by acknowledging nature’s contingency (McGrath 51).  For Greeks, to get to the real was to get beyond appearances and nature. For the creation-tradition, however, the opposite was the case. The natural order possesses its own goodness and rationality.

Creation (or “nature”) finds itself within an interlocking network of divine and human rationality (62).  Following the Hebrew writers, particularly Job (38ff), creation is linked with the idea of God’s “ordering.”  This ordering is not the result of God’s being under necessity, but is rather contingent.

McGrath defends natural theology but in a new way.  Natural theology isn’t looking at a squirrel and then deducing God’s simplicity.  Rather, it begins with revelation and sees the natural world as disclosing real truths.

The book then moves from “nature” to “theory.”  McGrath criticizes communitarian approaches like Lindbeck and to an extent, Barth.   He also interacts with John Milbank and Alasdair McIntyre.

This book is a summary and popularization of his larger Scientific Theology.  It succeeds in channeling key aspects of Thomas Torrance (on epistemology and ontology) while leaving Karl Barth behind.

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Pannenberg, Systematic Theology (Vol. 1)

Some important sections. Largely eclipsed by his student Robert W. Jenson. Outstanding remarks on the Vincentian canon, the spirituality of God, and Gregory Palamas. He gives critical reflection on the Cappadocian fathers.

Evaluation: Hard to recommend to most students and pastors. WP is certainly not an evangelical, and while he affirms creedal conclusions, he perhaps surrenders to much to historical criticism. Further, even when he is right, as in his discussion of God as ruach, he mutes these victories by reverting back to German idealism.

He Gives the standard arguments against liberal Protestantism (See Feuerbach) and shows Barth’s own limitations.

Natural theology: does a good job in carrying the discussion back to pre-Christ Roman theorists, all of which highlights the various strands of natural theology. I have no problem with a natural theology of sorts, provided we understand that the term is by no means universally understood as meaning the same thing (of course, which sort of defeats the purpose of modern natural theologies). Pannenberg points out that older divines, both Protestant and Catholic, saw natural theology as meaning “in accord with the nature of God” and the God-world relation (81). Now it means in accord with the nature of the world.

Natural knowledge of God: He is not entirely clear. WP hovers around Romans 1:20and suggests something like “infinity” as the natural knowledge of God. He develops this thought more in Metaphysik und Gottesgedank.

Revelation: WP tries to steer between the Barthian claim that God reveals himself as revelation and other claims. Eventually settles on the claim that revelation is the announcement and event of the future in the first coming of Jesus. I have no problem with that–I think there is some truth to it; I just don’t see how that is more plausible than some of the views WP criticizes as “implausible.”

The God of Jesus and the Trinity: The Spirit is the presence of mediation between the Kyrios and God the Father. WP notes the very close similarity (yet not identity) of pneuma and Kyrios (drawing heavily on 1 Cor. 15:45 and 2 Cor. 3:17). This ties in nicely with this discussion of pneuma and ruach. If pneuma means “ghostly stuff” ala Middle Platonism and today’s jargon, then we are in theological trouble when Paul calls the second Adam a life-giving pneuma. But if we anchor Paul’s thought in Hebrew, this problem perhaps answers itself.

The Kyrios is the risen and exalted Jesus whose return the community awaits. The Spirit is the form and power of his presence and of the relation of believers to him (I: 269)

Interestingly, WP notes that early Christian reflection on the Trinity (though they didn’t call it that) was not dissimilar from late Jewish reflection on God’s transcendence and immanence (277).

Pace the Cappadocians:

Distinction and Unity of the Persons: The Son is posited as a self-distinction from the Father (310-311). Fine, but I don’t see how this is different from Athanasius. And then, one wonders how stable is Athanasius’s argument.

On another note, WP advances the argument that the self-distinction of the Son is not merely in his being begotten, but in his “handing over the kingdom to the Father.” This doesn’t solve all of the problems but it is a superior move in that it roots the Trinitarian movement in eschatology.

WP raises a point I’ve always wondered: can we honestly speak of mutual self-distinction of the three persons if no distinction is made between subject and object in God (320 n. 184)? In other words, how many subjects are in the Godhead?

~Palamas: much to commend his project; quite beautiful, really, when we see the energies as the power-glory and the kingdom of God. Something like that should be retained, whatever critiques may follow. However,

Further,

Is there a connection between Dionysius’s construction of the qualities via delimitation and elevation and the critique of Feuerbach that we are projecting our views onto God (363 n. 58; cf. Barth CD II/1, 339).

What does the Bible call God?

When Paul calls God pneuma does he mean it in the sense of Middle Platonism’s understanding of God as nous?

But what is ruach? “Ruach is decribed as a mysteriously invisible natural force which declares itself in the movement of the wind” (373). “The breath of Yahweh is a creative life force.” Very seldom does this relate to what we call “spirit,” the thinking consciousness. Ties it in with Psalm 139:7 as the field of God’s activity.

Capitalizes on these insights into Trinitarianism. There was always the difficulty of seeing the divine essence–Spirit–as a subject alongside the three persons. WP, while not going into great detail, suggests his models gets beyond this impasse (386).

WP does say that the three persons are the one subject of divine action (388). This means he cannot be accused, pace Letham, of Social Trinitarianism. I think it is easier to follow Jenson’s reading of the Cappadocians via the essence as the divine life.

The future of the world is the mode of time that stands closest to God’s eternity…The goal of the world and its history is nearer to God than its commencement (390).

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Evolution of the Soul (Richard Swinburne)

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Swinburne, Richard.  Evolution of the Soul.  Oxford.

terminology

person: anyone who has the facets of consciousness which men possess, whether human or not (Swinburne 4).

substance: a component of the world which interacts causally with other components (5). They have properties (whether monadic, relating to themselves, or polyadic, relating to others).

event: states of substances.  They are tokens, particular occurrences.

properties: universals that are instantiated in many different substances in many different occasions.  Properties can be either mental or physical. Physical properties are publicly accessible. There is no privileged access to them (6).

mental properties: only the subject has privileged access to them.  Someone can look at me and see a cut and deduce that I am cut, but not necessarily that I am feeling pain. Or, they can’t know what I think about the pain.  

mental events: events which involve  instantiation of mental properties (John was in pain yesterday).  

Different Views on the Mind-Body Problem

  1. Hard Materialism; mind-brain identity theory.  
  2. Soft Materialism: property dualism.  Mental properties are different from physical properties.  
  3. Soft dualism: distinct from Plato and Descartes.  Makes no assumption on soul’s structure or immortality (10).  

Thoughts

A thought is not the same thing as a belief.  I can have a belief without being conscious of having a belief.  Not so with thoughts (63).

Beliefs

criterion of belief:  Have a lively (as opposed to faint) idea of it (Hume, Treatise of Human Nature, 1.3.7).  It seems Hume confuses “belief” and “thought.” I can have a belief without being aware of it.

To believe p s to believe p is more probable (greater than ½ ) than ~p.

Structure of the Soul

If we say the person can continue if the body is destroyed, we mean it is logically possible (146).

basic argument: knowledge of what happens to bodies and their parts will not necessarily give you knowledge of the persons within them (147).   Cf., B. Williams, “Mad Surgeon Story.” Further, a man’s mental properties are not necessarily the same as his physical properties (155). At least, we have no reason for thinking so and those who hold to materialism have far more to prove.  

sub-argument: these claims for the soul should be verifiable.  Continuity of brain and apparent memory do not constitute personal identity, but they can provide evidence for it (155).  

The Evidence for Personal Identity

memory.  Fallible but reliable.  A source of belief-justification, if not the strongest form.

Origin and Life of the Soul

problem: can the soul function when it is not having conscious episodes (sleep, etc)? Swinburne makes the distinction that the soul cannot “function” without a properly functioning brain, but it can exist without the brain (176).   

I am not so sure Swinburne’s evolutionary narrative accounts for morality. He asserts with Darwin that those who evolved have well-marked social instincts which would eventually acquire morality (224).  The only evidence he offers is that animals demonstrate altruism towards their kin (except for those animals who eat their young and eat their mates, no doubt). The universality of morality, therefore, can be attributed to some “core principles” (226).

I am not persuaded and neither was T. H. Huxley.  Swinburne admits with Huxley that the “practice of what is ethically best…is opposed to that which leads to success in the cosmic system” (quoted in Swinburne, 227).  

His argument for free will is along the lines that Quantum Mechanics has ruled out a universal physical determinism, which would be our wills aren’t determined by our brain-states.  So far, so good. The rest of the chapter consisted of mathematical formulas before which even the mightiest reader would quail.

The Structure of the Soul

Agents have belief-desire sets.  Per Quine, our beliefs “form a net which impinges on experience only at its edges” (see Quine, From a Logical Point of View, 42-46).  Our beliefs have to “mesh” with other beliefs (though there can be inconsistencies that aren’t obvious).  Swinburne takes Quine’s correct thesis and adds to it: desires interact with our belief network (Swinburne 263-264).  

Desires require beliefs.  If a man desire heroin and knows the effects of heroin, and you inject him with heroin, then as the effects wear off he will desire more heroin.  If you inject a sleeping man with heroin, as the effects wear off he will feel uneasy but won’t desire heroin (not knowing what to desire).

There are three ways to change desires: bodily change, a belief change, and a change of other desires (270-271).  Swinburne gives an extended and fascinating account of how our beliefs and desires function. The upshot of this is our beliefs can’t always be “changed” by neural procedures.  If one did succeed in “switching” beliefs, my other beliefs in the “web,” themselves not changed, would “conspire to restore” that former belief which gave unity (281). Granted, this isn’t a powerful stand-alone argument for the existence of the soul, but it is a difficulty for materialist views.  

The person tempted to suicide might go to counseling.  This reveals conflicted desires within his psyche. He is exhibiting a desire not to have a desire to commit suicide.  

an argument against determinism: insofar as our beliefs which require reasons for their justification do not have acceptance of those reasons among their causes, they are unjusified (290).

Future of the soul:

Can the brain be reactivated?

Will the soul function without the brain’s functioning?  Three arguments

  1. parapsychology.  Swinburne rejects mediums talking with the dead and opts for the clairvoyance argument.  He gives more weight to near-death experiences (NDE) since those can be verified. However, he rejects them because in most cases there is no evidence the brain stopped functioning even though the heart did.  (???)
  2. natural survival.  

His conclusion: the soul cannot survive the body simply on its own powers.  I suppose that’s true, but Swinburne comes dangerously close to (if not actually affirming) “soul sleep.”

Excellent discussions on supervenience.

Pros

*Swinburne offers lots of penetrating suggestions on the mind-body problem and how hard materialism really can’t account for it.  

*Excellent, if incomplete section on beliefs and belief-formation.

 

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Is There a God? (Richard Swinburne)

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Swinburne, Richard. Is There a God? New York: Oxford, 1996.

Richard Swinburne doesn’t so much argue for the existence of God. Rather, he posits God as the only viable cause for the universe. The intellectual rigor in this book is top-notch. (There is a reason the New Atheists do not go after Swinburne). I will disagree with some of his conclusions at the end, but this is a useful text that is worth your time.

God

Swinburne outlines the doctrine of God in its classical terms, though he will balk on issues like eternalism and foreknowledge. If we say that God is a person/personal being/One God in Three Persons, then we need to have some idea of what a person is. A person is “an individual with basic powers (to act intentionally), purposes, and beliefs” (Swinburne 4).

Swinburne begins well by noting that God is an omnipotent, omniscient, and free person (6). Further, God can’t do the impossible. So far so good. Unfortunately, Swinburne says it is impossible to know what a free creature will do tomorrow (7). Omniscience for Swinburne simply means that God knows everything which is logically possible to know. We’ll come back to this claim.

He also rejects divine eternalism. God, for Swinburne, is everlasting but not timeless. He does not simultaneously cause the events of 587 B.C. and 1995 A.D., since that would interfere with the future free actions of his creatures. Rather, God exists in each moment of time. There is an obvious problem: Is God limited by time? Does God exist outside of time in any way?

The rest of the chapter on God is fairly good, especially his defense of divine essentialism (i.e., God has all of his essential properties necessarily).

How We explain things

Swinburne argues that the best explanation for an event is:

(1) It leads us to expect many and varied events which we observe.

(2) What is proposed is simple.

(3) It fits well with background knowledge (but only when background knowledge is available).

(4) We would not otherwise expect to find these events.

With these criteria, Swinburne argues that only God understood in the classical sense can make sense of the universe. Materialism cannot, since it can’t explain abstract objects, mental states, etc. A finite god cannot, since it would need to be explained by something else (hence violating (2) above).

The World and its Order

While he gives an unfortunate defense of Darwin, Swinburne does raise some problems for Hawking and Dawkins. If time is really cyclical, and if, ex hypothesi, we could leave 1995 and eventually come back to 1994, then the following bizarre results entail:

* My acting can be the cause of my not acting (64ff).

How the Existence of God Explains the Existence of Humans

Good defense of substance dualism. Substances have properties and particular relations to other substances. A mental event, as opposed to a material object, is that which the subject has privileged access (72).

Analysis

His argument for limited omnipotence comes at a high cost. One response to it is that even on Arminian grounds, models like Middle Knowledge at least attempt to preserve God’s knowledge of future free actions. I do not hold to MK, but there is a respectable amount of top-level literature making the case. Swinburne makes no such attempt.

But there is an even easier response. The Bible makes numerous predictions about the future free decisions of moral agents. Did Mary and Joseph have human freedom? Yes. Did Mary freely choose to remain a virgin before Jesus was born? Yes. Could it have been otherwise? It’s hard to imagine that it could have been. And that’s only one of many.

I think we can end on one more interesting angle. Can God have false beliefs? Obviously not. Can God have false beliefs about the future? I think every theist has to answer no. However, God appears throughout Scripture to make a number of statements concerning the future, and it is safe to say He at least thinks He has knowledge about them

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Darwin on the Trial (Phillip Johnson)

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“The very persons who insist upon keeping religion and science separate are eager to use their science as a basis for pronouncements about religion” (Johnson 8).

Natural selection is a tautology.  It predicts the fittest organisms will produce the most offspring, “and it describes the fittest organisms as the ones that produce the most offspring” (20). To be fair, there are deductive arguments for natural selection, and Johnson lists one on p.23, but even those arguments don’t establish whether an organism will change into another organism.

Darwin wanted to avoid anything that looked like a “sudden jump” from one species to another, and for obvious reasons.  Any such jump looks a lot like a specific creation. But that raises another difficulty: it’s hard to see how some variations in an organism (a wing or an eye) can function incrementally.  Contra Dawkins, 5% of an eye does not equal 5% more vision. “Many complex parts must be working together” (34).

So we see the problem: there must be intermediaries in the chain, but the fossil record is mostly absent of any such intermediaries.  Birds and bats appear in the record fully developed.

The Problem of the Fossil Record

Like pagan Greek philosophy, evolution needs a chain of being with intermediaries between species.  The problem is simple: there are very few examples of such intermediaries. But Darwin’s problem is deeper than that: it’s not so much the absence of transitional fossils, but that the record is supposed to be mainly transitional fossils (again, see chain-of-being ontology).  Yet that’s what we do not have.

Neo-Darwinists have given several responses to this problem:

“Punctuated equilibrium:” the problem here is that it makes the process of change nearly invisible (61).

“Saltationism.” A middle ground between creationism and evolution

The next few chapters deal with molecular biology and vertebrates.  This wasn’t Johnson’s strong suit. The material isn’t wrong, per se, but it has been surpassed on both sides.

The final section of the book is where Johnson shines.  He brings his legal analysis into more worldview areas. Get the naturalists to own up to the metaphysical implications of their system.  Let’s end by revisiting the Arkansas court case, which ruled that “creation science” is illegitimate. Real science, by contrast, is the following:

(1) It is guided by natural law.

(2) It has to be explained by reference to natural law

(3) It’s conclusions are tentative.

(4) It is falsifiable.

It’s clear that the judge who issued this ruling was clueless about science and philosophy.  These are easily rebuttable.

~1. Indeed, that is the very thing under discussion.  What constitutes natural law?

~2. See above.

~3. This is nice in theory but laughably false in reality.  Tentatively suggest that Naturalism can’t explain the origin of life and you will see how “tentative” these conclusions are.

~4. Exactly.  The fossil record falsifies Darwin, as he himself feared.

This isn’t the final word in the debate.  Much of it is dated and has been surpassed on both sides.  Still, it is an important opening shot in the ID debate.

 

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Blogging Through Darwin (2)

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In this chapter Darwin deals with Natural Selection.  Granting the fact that science has improved and that many of his speculations about cross-breeding aren’t all that interesting, what I did find fascinating was that every case he brought forward proved microevolution.  Not a single case proved macroevolution.

He gives us the recipe for how this works:

Thesis: Natural selection is the preservation of favorable individual differences and the destruction of those which are injurious (40).

Darwin admits his term “Natural Selection” is misleading.  Evolution posits a blind, unguided process and natural selection implies an active guider. And Nature’s evolution takes place over “long periods of time” (49).  This is key because it will create huge problems with the Cambrian fossil record.

This chapter also has his famous “tree” which tries to point toward common ancestry.

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Quoting Jonathan Wells Lee Strobel writes:

“His theory predicts a long history of gradual divergence from a common ancestor, with the differences slowly becoming bigger and bigger until you get the major differences we have now. The fossil evidence, even in his day, showed the opposite: the rapid appearance of phylum-level differences in what’s called the ‘Cambrian explosion.’
“Darwin believed that future fossil discoveries would vindicate his theory—but that hasn’t happened. Actually, fossil discoveries over the last hundred and fifty years have turned his tree upside down by showing the Cambrian explosion was even more abrupt and extensive than scientists once thought” (Strobel 43).

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The Case for a Creator (Lee Strobel)

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Strobel, Lee.  The Case for a Creator. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2004.

We should not critique Lee Strobel for doing what he set out to do.  Yes, this is a popular account and while it sometimes reads like Evangelical spy-fiction, it does a good job in putting abstract concepts into conversational language.

Some methodological concessions before we begin. If I don’t specifically endorse a position, please don’t think I am endorsing that position.  I endorse Moreland’s arguments full stop, for example.  I probably endorse Stephen Meyer’s.  Further, this review won’t touch on the issue between “Faith and Reason” or “Faith and Science.”  I’m largely uninterested in that discussion.

Finally, any criticisms I make about Darwin have little to do with overt theological presuppositions.  Yes, I have them and they are probably functioning right now.  But that’s not the main reason I raise objections.

Finally”, I am not young-earth, so don’t lob that at me.

“Doubts about Darwinism”

Miller experiment:  Miller claimed that his experiment could produce amino acids, which would be life.  The problem is that the early earth atmosphere is probably different from what he imagined.  “The best hypothesis is that there was very little hydrogen in the atmosphere because it would have escaped into space” (37).

Darwin’s problem:  the fossil record shows spontaneous appearances of life, which is not what Darwin predicted.  

  • Cf Cambrian explosion–major phyla appear suddenly in the fossil record, yet his “tree” products slow modifications (43).

Sins of Haeckel

  • a lot of the woodcuts were faked.  Gould calls it the “academic equivalent of murder” (Gould, “Abscheulich! Atrocious!” Natural History March 2002).

Berra’s blunder:  merely having a succession of similar forms does not provide its own explanation.  

“Where Science Meets Faith”To say that science is the begetter of truth is self-contradictory, because that statement in itself cannot be tested by the scientific method (73).  

NOMA: Non-overlapping magisteria.  This can’t work because it is always the evolutionists who are the ultimate magisteria.  Further, the Bible makes specific claims about facts and history.  Anyway, the very positing of this claim is something outside the bounds of science.  The claim is not empirically testable.  It is a philosophical claim, or even worse, a theological one.

The Evidence of Cosmology

This is a summary of William Lane Craig’s kalaam argument, which I generally endorse but I’ve dealt with elsewhere.

The Evidence of Physics: The Cosmos on a Razor’s Edge

Good discussions of the anthropic principle, cosmological constant, and the like.  Indirect argument on why aliens probably don’t exist.

The Evidence of Biochemistry

Natural selection struggles to explain the how (194).

Darwin: “If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not have possibly been formed by numerous successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down” (Origin of Species, sixth edition, 154).

Behe: if you remove one of the components of an irreducibly complex system, the system would no longer work (197).  You can’t just have all the parts. You have to have all the parts in the right spatial relationship. Evolution can’t produce this all at once because it’s much too complicated.

The cell isn’t just a highly calibrated machine.  Every part of the cell is controlled by highly calibrated machines (199).

The Evidence of Biological Information

It is the information that makes the molecules into something that actually functions, which suggests the role of an intelligent agent (225).  The reproduction involved in natural selection only explains cell division, which “presupposes the existence of information-rich DNA and proteins.  But that’s the problem–those are the very things they’re trying to explain” (231)!

The rest of the chapter is quite technical yet fascinating.

Conclusion

There is another interview by JP Moreland on the nature of consciousness.  It’s worth your time, as all of Moreland’s stuff is, but I won’t go into it here.   Suffice to say, mind =/= brain and consciousness cannot arise from inert matter.

The book is written with kingdom-power and will make a great asset in small-group studies.

Key take-aways

Irreducibly complex systems: natural selection only preserves things that perform a function.  ICSs only perform a function when all the parts are present and working together in close coordination with one another (79).

Cumulative Case

Possibility #1: The Darwinian Hypothesis

  • Nothing produces everything
  • Non-life produces life
  • Randomness produces fine-tuning
  • Chaos produces information
  • Non-reason produces reason.

Possibility #2: The Design Hypothesis

  • Evidence of cosmology (Craig’s essay)
  • Evidence of physics
  • Evidence of astronomy
  • Evidence of Biochemistry (Behe).
  • Evidence of biological information
  • Evidence of consciousness
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