Saturday, 15 May 2021

Flaxen, Waxing Lyrical about Evolution, Again


The bête noir of fundamentalist Christians is the 'The Theory of Evolution'. They loath the concept with a passion verging/bordering on madness. There is nothing more hilarious than watching a Christian commentator explain why evolution is not a valid mechanism for species' change. Their ignorance concerning the action and the fundamental principles of evolution is breathtaking.

I can understand the venom directed toward evolutionary theory by the 'fundies' for it undermines a key tenet of their Christian theology. If evolution is true, then god's intervention in biology is irrelevant and  redundant.  Most Christians have assimilated the theory into their religious landscape and dogma. They argue that evolution is a 'god given' mechanism for the underpinning of nature. This a sensible move as the evidence supporting evolution is varied and voluminous. For the fundamentalist the 'gathering of evolution unto the religious fold' will not do. They imagine that evolution diminishes god's majesty and miraculous workings. I think they are right to be frightened by evolution. What the religious 'assimilators' often forget is that evolution works without the intervention of an omnipotent and omniscient deity. The presence of god is not a necessary prerequisite for evolution to work. In fact it adds an extra layer of complexity that goes against the parsimony of 'Occam's Razor'. Indeed, the addition of an irrational, supernatural, so called 'spiritual', dimension has no role to play in the scientific process; it obscures and adds no new intellectual substance or light concerning the topic in hand.         

The denial of evolutionary theory by select religious groups borders on hysterical fanaticism. It is in their interest to trivialise and misrepresent the mechanisms involved. The classic example, cited ad nauseum, concerns the imagery of a tornado in a workshop containing the composite parts of a jumbo jet. In this scenario the tornado is likened to the action of natural selection. The reader is led to believe that the action of natural selection is akin to the random action of the tornado. The point: it is impossible for a tornado to result in the complete construction of a working jet plane from individual parts and therefore, natural selection, a random process, could never result in a new species. The analogy is laughable and is only plausible to an unsophisticated simpleton. Tis a gross misrepresentation of how evolution works. However, fundamental Christians rarely refer to primary biology texts in reference to evolutionary theory, but instead rely on theologically motivated explanations written by their fellow believers.

I've stated this before on this blog, but its importance is worth repeating: The evidence for evolution is virtually overwhelming and is not restricted to the discipline of biology. Evidence from geology, paleontology and even physics provide independent witnesses willing to attest and testify to evolution being the best explanation for life's diversity and mutability. Until a better, scientific theory arises, evolutionary theory, will remain ascendant. And to be fair, the 'Theory of Evolution' has stood for 170 years and is unlikely to be supplanted by a completely new model 'of life'. During those 170 years evolution has undergone various tweaks and modifications as new evidence and discoveries have come forth. That said, the fundamental tenets of evolution, of genetic variation and the modifying force of biological and environmental selection has remained, unmolested/unsullied. And therefore, baring a total revision of of the 'Science of Biology', I boldly predict that 'Evolutionary Theory' will remain solid, transcendent and perched upon a pedestal of unassailable majesty. Only time will tell.

   



       

17 comments:

  1. I am sure that most of your readers feel the same, although your closing sentence almost conveys a religious fervour that leaves me a bit uncomfortable. It reminds me of Richard Dawkins - I admire the bloke greatly & agree with most of what he says, but he has managed to turn atheism itself into a religion.

    Many who share your views write in the context of Christian Fundamentalist (CF). I can't argue with your own experience, but I haven't seen or heard of a CF personally for decades. What I have seen lots of, in virtually every British and many other European cities, is Islamic Fundamentalism (IF). Even at a motorway services you're quite likely to see strange looking men performing superstitious rituals, whilst cluttering up pavements, parking spaces & walkways. They seem to have a similar aversion to real science & evolution - but argue with them here & you run a risk of having your head cut off. Maybe the risk is lower in NZ, so you could give it a go.

    Have you any thoughts on 'Horizontal Gene Transfer' (HGT) & how it plays out in Evolution?

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    1. Edwin Poots has been elected this month as the next leader of the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party. He is a Young Earth Creationist.

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    2. No surprise. In general, politicos are self serving fools.

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  2. Good morning Anon. I suspect you are new to the blog. Where have you been? As for my prose, I make no apologies. My florid flourishes are an integral part of my whimsical nature. Some folk consider that I'm insane. My psychiatrist would disagree. Anyway, I also admire Prof Dawkins. His book, 'The Selfish Gene' affected me profoundly and changed my world view. However, I'm not a fan of his fanatic attack on religion. Belief in supernatural deities is in decline, at least in the Western world. His proselytising does no good. Debating with religious folk is pointless. Islam is a problem. I despise the religion. Tis barbaric and primitive and pandering to Muslims is a grave mistake. Freedom of speech is something we must cherish and maintain. Muslims are very 'prickly' when it comes to criticism. Heads do role. I say: "Fuck them". If they live in our world then they should adapt. Free speech is paramount and is to be protected vigorously- even if it means 'drawing the sword'. I'm sure you get my meaning. In NZ the problem is not so acute. I do believe NZ is the best country in the world. We are tucked away deep in the south pacific far away from the madness that has infected the rest of the West. As for horizontal gene transfer, you can view my article on this very topic, here. Thank you for your intriguing comment. Please come again.
    https://flaxensaxon.blogspot.com/search?q=horizontal+gene+transfer.

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  3. "The bête noir of fundamentalist Christians is the 'The Theory of Evolution'. They loath the concept with a passion verging/bordering on madness."

    And you should see the rationalists treat flawed evolutionary theory as though it is dogma, then act like a high priesthood. One deals with one subject and one with the other - there need be no conflict, except between fanatics of both camps.

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    1. 'Flawed evolutionary theory.....'. I don't agree with you here. How is it flawed? Certainly biologists don't always agree on some finer points of theory. However, virtually ALL biologists agree that evolution is the best explanation for variation and speciation. The evidence is overwhelmingly in support and the tenets are secure. I can't emphasise enough how important evolutionary theory is in support of all aspects of biology. There is no other explanation to explain the facts. So called 'Intelligent Design' is no explanation at all and is tantamount to magic. In essence: A supernatural deity by means unknown causes things to happen. As for conflict. None should occur except that fundies venture into the world of science by offering alternative explanations of their own which are ludicrous. In such circumstances scientists are honour bound to reply. Frankly, it is a waste of scientist's time and effort to comment on this nonsense except that it has important political and policy considerations, particularly in the classroom.

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  4. I think the thing about evolution, never mentioned in explanations, the sad thing to a sentimental, anthropomorphic lover of Disney style nature, is that lots of mutated cuddly animals, insects, bugs, plants have to die before they breed because they are failures. Only the successful mutants survive and breed. We modern humans are only here because way back in history an ancestor survived when his/her siblings, cousins, guys in the next village died. Again and again.
    In our town of mainly white houses the squirrels are turning white. This is not because the squirrels decided that this year they would have pale offspring. No, the dusky ones were easily spotted by the cats and whatever else kills little furry animals.Like hedgehogs turning white because they show up better in car headlights.
    Even now our MSM, pollies and "experts" tell us that The Virus mutates.As if the cunning virus consciously does this just to be nasty. Not that billions of Virus mutations were just not good at surviving and only a tiny, totie percentage got to replicate.
    The jumbo jet hurricane analogy should be countered with the million monkeys banging away on a million typewriters eventually producing the works of Shakespeare. In a few million or billion years. Plus a huge heap of waste paper.

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    1. Folks like to attribute 'purpose 'to evolution, as if IT is directed to some ultimate end. Not so. I recommend a close reading of Prof. Dawkins book, 'The Selfish Gene'- all becomes clear for those that can see.

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    2. Quite so. Humans try to extract order out of chaos to better predict the future and the English language is riddled with teleology supporting this. 'Things happen for a reason' - nope. 'The appearance of Design means there is a Designer' - nope. 'The purpose of [name your favourite biological function]' - nope.

      People should read up on E Prime - English that excludes all forma of the verb 'to be'. See Wikipedia. Kellogg and Bourland describe misuse of the verb to be as creating a "deity mode of speech", allowing "even the most ignorant to transform their opinions magically into god-like pronouncements on the nature of things".

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    3. We are programmed to seek patterns/purpose in our life and existence. Life has no higher meaning or purpose IT just is. Many find this viewpoint extremely uncomfortable. That doesn't mean we can't have purpose, as long as we are willing to accept that it is our own construct, without meaning except within our narrow framework of being. Make of existence as you will but don't expect existence to reciprocate.

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  5. Looking at our current complement of politicos world-wide, perhaps I could accept "design", but "intelligent"? You must be joking!

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  6. The Bible was not written by one author and is not a single book; Christians follow (or should follow) the teachings of Jesus who had nothing to say about Creation or evolution. Fundamentalists are off-beam; and in the USA their attitude to the poor, blacks seem un-Christian; their attitude to Jews seems insane, bearing in mind that Jesus was a Jewish rabbi.

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    1. Not just any Jewish Rabbi but an Apocalyptic Jewish Rabbi. Assuming he actually existed as a single person rather than some starting point for myth creation.

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    2. Yes. Christians seem to forget that Jesus was Jewish. In all imagery and art work we see Christ portrayed as blue eyed and fair haired. His features are 'North Western European. This portrayal is clearly absurd.

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    3. @DiscoveredJoys:

      'The most detailed record of the life and death of Jesus comes from the four Gospels and other New Testament writings. “These are all Christian and are obviously and understandably biased in what they report, and have to be evaluated very critically indeed to establish any historically reliable information,” Ehrman says. “But their central claims about Jesus as a historical figure—a Jew, with followers, executed on orders of the Roman governor of Judea, Pontius Pilate, during the reign of the Emperor Tiberius—are borne out by later sources with a completely different set of biases.” '
      https://www.history.com/news/was-jesus-real-historical-evidence

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    4. I have no doubt that Jesus was a real historical figure. The 'evidence' is overwhelming in this regard. Although there are those who doubt this. I think they are being driven by by ideology not the evidence. The four Gospels are not history. The writers were not interested in writing history, as we know it. Their account was not first hand and was primarily a testament of faith. However, it does contain 'history', if you can pick it apart from the mythic and devotional addons. For instance any miracles without a natural explanation can be dismissed. Walking on water and raising of the dead did not happen. There is a skein of history within but sadly the thread is very thin and well hidden. It is a testament (no pun intended) to the skill of modern scholars, and methodology employed, that they are able to tease out what they can.

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