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jangles's avatar

Does the fact that natural selection is inclined to bring about positive traits, prove a designer?

Asked by jangles (405points) January 24th, 2010
113 responses
“Great Question” (4points)

I recently had a discussion with someone about natural selection and the fact that cells are inclined to survive and to re-produce, to this person, was somehow an indication that god existed.

The way in which it was brought about, was in a why question form and the question was, “why do cells act in this particular manner, which has led directly to our existence?”

I thought it reasonable to suggest that perhaps this would be a situation where “why” would seem almost inappropriate to ask. One might just as well ask “why anything is at all?”

The reason being is because i felt, as i do now, that in this why there really wasn’t an alternative answer. Meaning that in which other way would cells be able to act?

If one were to ask the question “Why do planets revolve around other planets in an ovular fashion?” This I feel would be more relevant, because there are alternative ways (or shapes) in which planets could revolve around one another.

I am still not sure whether this answer really did justice to his point and so I wish to whoever has read all this, to help me understand better, the point being made in defense of creationism.

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Answers

Spinel's avatar

The process of natural selection by itself is not a no-nonsense indicator of God. Example: there are four coyotes on the prairie, in the middle of winter. This is a wild prairie with no human habitation nearby. Throughout the winter, these coyotes hunt and occasional contact each other. By the time the spring thaw comes about, only one coyote has survived. This does not indicate the divine, it simply indicates that the surviving coyote was physically stronger and more capable than the other three. He had the experience while the other three were to physically weak to survive. Simple as that.

However, your creationist friend is probably asking why this process originated, how it originated etc. For him, he has decided that God instituted the process rather than chance, so in his mind, it points to God.

jangles's avatar

@Spinel
I agree with you, however in being devil’s advocate, if you will, doesn’t the one coyote surviving signify something? I mean in regards to natural selection, it has been a positive progression. (Meaning that one coyote did survive in a kind of science-metaphor sense)
Why not a negative one (meaning nothing survived)? Could this not have been just as likely? Does this somehow indicate design?

Spinel's avatar

@jangles Nothing surviving wouldn’t be a strong support of design either. It would just mean all four coyotes were incapable, due to injuries, low populations within their food species, sickness, general weakness etc. Maybe next year, when pups migrate from another area, a coyote will survive. Nature moves on. :)

The health and experience of the coyote and the severity of the winter are really what matter. The better prepared a coyote is, the greater its chances of survival. When it’s out surviving the winter, there is not necessarily a divine guidance as which will live and which will die. Again, it’s mainly a matter of how capable the individual coyote is.

nebule's avatar

Um… no. not at all. Natural Selection is the theory that the survival of certain genes bring about traits that are appropriate for the environment at the time in which they are being produced. There is no foresight within a gene – or a cell… they are not strictly speaking ’inclined’ to do anything… they just happen… they just survive. There is no telos as such.. no teleology about natural selection, which is, in fact why so many people think that it supports the idea that there is no creator.

What your friend might want explore is the general idea that life does survive…. that by it’s existence; it’s very nature is to live…. but this is only temporary…life does die also… It is all a constant pointless struggle to survive…. at least in our consciousness… what is the point for animals? what must the message be there? Would this support or degrade your friends argument do you think?

jangles's avatar

@Spinel
I’m not saying that nothing surviving would be a strong support of design, quite the opposite.

I’m saying that the fact that something survived in the story (the strongest) might indicate the existence of a designer. Because the outcome was positive and not negative (in the story and in natural selection) that it indicates that there is a naturally positive progression in regards to life. Where if there were no god or designer the processes of whether it would be a positive or negative progression would be left up to chance and the fact that it is a positive progression by natrual law, would almost seem unlikely.

Spinel's avatar

@jangles Chance isn’t really an issue. Eventually the most qualified will win. Think of a player rolling a dice in the game of Yahtzee. Eventually that player will role a Yahtzee (all five dice showing the same face), if he continues to roll long enough, without intervention from some outer force acting on the dice.

augustlan's avatar

Well, what about all the species that have gone extinct? Not everything survives. Wouldn’t that count as a ‘negative’ outcome?

nebule's avatar

@augustlan quite! my point precisely… and @Spinel of course this is all assuming that this creator is ‘positive’

jangles's avatar

@augustlan
Indeed, I think that short answer was the one I was looking for. Though it is a quite simple one, I did not think of it in that way directly. Thank you, I can now live more comfortably with my argument.

Smashley's avatar

The flaw in the argument is placing the word “positive” alongside the random chance of survival and procreation. It is not positive that one cell survives when others do not, it just does and so may reproduce and pass its DNA on. Likewise is is not positive when an animal survives, though we have developed mechanisms to make survival and reproduction a goal, it just is.

The association that we have with survival and the positive is itself a creation of natural, random, selection.

jangles's avatar

@Smashley
I think positive is the appropriate word, because in terms of there being a designer, he/she would have some kind of purpose to design and the means to achieve that purpose working correctly would be therefore positive.

But in some sense you are right, in that there needs to be an initial assumption of if there is a creator and what that creator is trying to accomplish.

Smashley's avatar

@jangles
Precisely. You can’t make an argument assuming a designer to prove one. At best, I would say this argument could serve as a useful tool to people who already assume a designer, but have trouble reconciling their science with their religion.

Ron_C's avatar

I think that the question is phrased slightly wrong. Natural selection is a process where the positive traits survive. That is pretty much the point of the process. You don’t need a designer, the best traits survivem, poor ones don’t, You don’t need a designer, you just need a gene pool and lots of time.

Pazza's avatar

Just a quickie.

Evolution by natural selection doesn’t state that it offers an answer to creation. It merely says how something that already exists evolves. So the argument against evolution using creation is a bit of a miss match.

Ron_C's avatar

@Pazza I have seen that rationalization before. Actually, if you have natural selection, you don’t need creationism. You can add it if it makes you feel better but usually the correct answer to a question is the simplest. Adding a creator only complicates the answer and it is not needed.

The_Idler's avatar

I would say the fact that natural selection is inclined to continually punish and eventually kill all of its subjects, in the name of trial-and-error improvement, suggests that, if there is a designer, he certainly doesn’t give a shit about actually doing any “design”.

mattbrowne's avatar

No. There’s no conclusive proof for a designer. We can ask where the natural laws come from and there are at least two answers: the universe is self explanatory or there’s a metaphysical author. We will never know. Beliefs will have to do.

Some people think that evolution is random and blind and pitiless and indifference. This is in fact not true. In general we might interpret mutations that way. Natural selection however is not random.

germanmannn's avatar

The fact is that we do not yet know how the universe was created. Scientists have not figured it out yet. Which is not surprising 50 years ago no one knew what the structure of DNA was or how it functioned. Today we do. In a decade or three scientists will understand how the universe was created.

Creating an imaginary man in the sky does not explain how the universe was created. Just like creating an imaginary man in the sky sun gods did not explain how the sun rises every morning, or rain gods what causes the rain.

Even sillier is to then attach imaginary attributes to this imaginary man in the sky like, Homosexuals are evil and should be killed ,

The universe shows zero evidence for the existence of any god.

The_Idler's avatar

@Smashley I wouldn’t describe such a thing as a “useful tool”, but as an “anti-intellectual device of denial”.

What science has shown us is irreconcilable with traditional religion.
When people try to reconcile them, one of two things happens:
1. The science is distorted. Science doesn’t need magic or all-powerful beings. It’s what makes it science. Each new device added to a theory decreases its probability, according to the complexity of the device. As a conscious creator and master of the universe, God would be at least as complex as the entire universe and its history, making Him even less probable than the universe, and pretty much the stupidest thing to add to any explanation.
OR
2. The religion is distorted. I often see this in religious people, to whom I have recently spoken about their beliefs. They still believe in God, but God, to them, suddenly means ‘all the energy in the universe’, or some other equally ridiculous term, like Universal Love.
I say to these people,
“So, you do not believe in God, you believe in ‘all the energy in the universe’?”

mattbrowne's avatar

I often see young immature atheists who know for a fact that God doesn’t exist. I say to these people, “So, you do not believe in God, you believe in the omnipotence of science and that science can prove or disprove anything?” What science has shown us about its limitations is irreconcilable with naive forms of atheism.

dpworkin's avatar

How do you qualify “positive” traits? They are either adaptive or maladaptive, and have no hierarchical qualities that I know of. There is clearly no “reason” or “system” to evolution, and the most successful species on the planet are insects, other bugs, and bacteria. Do you feel that a “designer” would favor them for some reason? What reason would that be?

the100thmonkey's avatar

To take the original coyote example, now imagine that the successive summer is the hottest on record. The coyote that survived the harsh winter could now be at a selecrtive disadvantage. The traits that enabled it to survive the winter – a thick coat, a lower bodymass-surface area ratio, a tendency to put down fat as insulation – would tend to make it harder for the coyote to compete in the summer against other coyotes.

It might find that it is edged out by leaner coyotes better able to manage their body temperatures and mass.

Wouldn’t it be pretty stupid to design something very well for one situation, then change the environment the object is in to prevent it functioning as intended?

HasntBeen's avatar

There are many, many examples of “bad design” in nature. Evolution does not produce perfect organisms, and as long as a flaw does not cause a crippling survival disadvantage these bugs are tolerated.

Further, your friend is confusing two different meanings of the question “why?”: causality vs. intentionality. If you ask “why does natural selection do this?”, you could be suggesting intentionality, which is indeed inappropriate as your question suggests—natural selection is not a sentient being and is not capable of having intent.

The other legitimate interpretation of “why?” is “what is the mechanism of causation?”, and that is a reasonable question to ask about natural selection. That does not anthropomorphize a theory into a conscious being.

germanmannn's avatar

Recently there has been a remarkable change in the Christian community: Many members of the Christian faith are embracing evolution.this letter, signed by more than 10,000 clergy members,We the undersigned, Christian clergy from many different traditions, believe that the timeless truths of the Bible and the discoveries of modern science may comfortably coexist. We believe that the theory of evolution is a foundational scientific truth, one that has stood up to rigorous scrutiny and upon which much of human knowledge and achievement rests. To reject this truth or to treat it as one theory among others is to deliberately embrace scientific ignorance and transmit such ignorance to our children.
The interesting thing to understand is that when you accept evolution, what you are automatically doing is rejecting the concept of a soul. Here is why ,As soon as you accept that evolution is true, you also accept that the creation story in the Bible is false. It is pure mythology. The concept of the soul, which comes from the same book, is exactly the same sort of mythology.

HasntBeen's avatar

@germanmannn : it is not correct that accepting evolution is the same as rejecting the soul as a concept. The Bible is not the only religious text in the world, pretty much all religions (except Buddhism) have some concept which is similar.

Furthermore, Christianity in particular has a long history of “backing away” from claims to scientific knowledge and ceding territory to science, this letter is not a new trend. What is typically done is that the passages are re-interpreted and life goes on pretty much as before.

Belief systems are pretty resilient animals.

mattbrowne's avatar

@pdworkin – No reason for evolution? Not necessarily. The properties of our universe can be seen as a reason, because our universe is bursting with evolutionary possibilities. Just take the chemistry of carbon. Plus the fact that stellar evolution creates an abundance of carbon and also nitrogen and oxygen while lithium, beryllium, and boron are rare. Check out this

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_molecules_in_interstellar_space#Six_atoms

and the fact that planets around stars are a common phenomenon. We already know about 300 exoplanets just in the vicinity of our galaxy. Then consider there are more than 100 billion galaxies out there. I think evolution is bound to happen. There is a reason. It’s the nature of our universe. This does not mean that complex or even intelligent life is a common phenomenon.

dpworkin's avatar

No rhyme nor reason for the ways in which natural selection works, @mattbrowne. It’s purely a stochastic process.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

“Positive traits” are only in relation to a given ecological niche. A species can be superbly adapted to a given niche, when that niche disappears so, most likely, does that species. It has nothing to do with theology. Gradual adaptation via mutation and natural selection over many generations.

Ron_C's avatar

@mattbrowne I don’t think there is a reason for evolution either. Sure life, as we know it creates and uses various chemicals and elements, not out of design or selection, but because that was what was available. Evolution doesn’t need a reason, it just happens.

If life evolved in an environment high in metal content, it may have a silicon base and emit sulphur compounds. There is no reason, there is no guide, there is only life and natural selection.

The_Idler's avatar

@mattbrowne hurf-durf, that’s great bro.
what exactly have naive “believer” atheists got to do with this at all?
Are you putting words in my mouth and attempting to imply that I am naive and atheist?
I think you are.

Thanks a lot for that, but I better just tell you now, because you seem like the kind of person to make condescending and presumptuous comments based upon a tiny sample of a person’s character, that I do not “believe in the omnipotence of science and that science can prove or disprove anything”.

I know I didn’t suggest that at any point, but you latched on to that idea, so I thought I had better set you straight, the snidely judgemental arse that you appear to be.

I have come to believe only one thing, and that is that nothing can be known.
Science and experimentation and theorising allow us to logically construct probabilistic models. If these seem to “work”, they allow us to create new things and gain insight into the interactions between systems. The idea that we gain a greater understanding of the universe is slightly misleading, as the theories and models may only be crude reflections of reality, if there even is a reality.
Shadows on the wall of the cave.
I hope you feel the same way.

Like I said, I would never be so arrogant/stupid to suggest that I “know” there is no God.
I would not even say that I “believe” there is no God.
To me, literally everything is unprovable. (at least, in my present state)

As I have concluded that nothing can be known with certainty (beyond that), it stands to reason that all belief is utterly illogical.
I would consider belief in a God only slightly more ridiculous than belief in any particular scientific explanation for the universe, and only because God is the most unlikely thing I could conceive .

Just in case I got this aaaaaall wrong, and you were “just saying”,
I shall say that I, too,
often see young immature atheists who know for a fact that God doesn’t exist.
And that I, too,
say to these people, “So, you do not believe in God, you believe in the omnipotence of science and that science can prove or disprove anything?”

and, um, thanks for sharing that with us.

mattbrowne's avatar

@The_Idler – Well, since we know that any consistent system of axioms whose theorems can be listed by a computer program is incapable of proving certain truths, it’s reasonable to expect that any system of axioms describing the natural laws of the universe/multiverse is incapable of proving the existence or non-existence of God.

My point is, tolerant well-educated atheists should respect tolerant well-educated believers. Of course there are fools in both groups. There’s too much focus on religious fools for my taste instead of the (mostly) silent majority.

mattbrowne's avatar

Natural selection is NOT a purely a stochastic process. Mutation is, although there’s a dependency on environmental factors such as radiation or the ingestion of toxic substances, so it’s not completely random either. Check out the kids near Chernobyl. But we can interpret it as mostly random.

Have a look here at ‘misconceptions about natural selection’

http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/article/_0_0/evo_32

and I quote:

“Natural selection is sometimes interpreted as a random process. This is also a misconception. The genetic variation that occurs in a population because of mutation is random-but selection acts on that variation in a very non-random way: genetic variants that aid survival and reproduction are much more likely to become common than variants that don’t. Natural selection is NOT random!”

dpworkin's avatar

You just said the same thing I did, @mattbrowne. I didn’t claim that natural selection is random. I said the way it works is random. That’s what you just said.

Ron_C's avatar

@mattbrowne “Natural selection is NOT random” is exactly right and a statement that the creationists and I.D. people purposely ignore. If they could just understand that simple fact, most of the controversy would go away.

mattbrowne's avatar

@Ron_C – I was talking about cause and effect. Let’s take Newton’s apple. Effect: Falls to the ground of the Earth. Cause: Gravity. Likewise:

Effect: Evolution on a planet in the habitable zones of a solar system and galaxy. Cause: Properties of the universe. I’m not saying the effect was designed. I’m just saying we can expect this in a universe like ours. So there’s a reason for evolution. Our amazing universe. It’s not as pitiless as it might appear.

The controversy would also go away if tolerant atheists were a bit more creative in their choice of words when trying to explain evolution. There’s nothing wrong with a universe bursting with evolutionary possibilities.

Why do so many people think evolution is an atheist theory? Which it isn’t. It’s a scientific theory.

The_Idler's avatar

I was only referencing that tendency of people to come up with absurd statements, whilst attempting to reconcile, say, natural selection and God.

I think the real point is that natural selection ISN’T random, but IS only and entirely dependant upon the environment, in which it occurs. No need for God.

We talk about “selection pressures”.
If we will assume that life has evolved to its present state, through natural selection, guided by selection pressures (the alternative is a Creation story), we can also assume that, if there is a meaningful God, He must be manifest in those selection pressures, since they are the process for the creation and “design” of Life.

Too bad, for those attempting to reconcile their thoughts about evolution with their feelings about God, that God has never yet been required to explain any example of selection, has never been considered a probable or useful selection pressure, and is, indeed, still the single most improbable explanation for ANYTHING, be it the creation of the universe, or the pattern on Friesan cows.

The word “positive” is not appropriate.

Does the fact that natural selection is inclined to bring about advantageous traits, prove a designer?
No, it just works.

If, on the other hand, it didn’t, through each iteration, tend towards a system that is yet more effective at exploiting its environment and reproducing itself, only THEN would God be required to sustain it.

Ron_C's avatar

@mattbrowne were we arguing? I think I was seconding your opinion.

mattbrowne's avatar

@The_Idler – Agreed. Likewise, there’s also no need for getting rid of God. There’s a need to fight science illiteracy.

@Ron_C – No, not at all. Yes, you did. I think we only differ when it comes to seeing a reason or not.

HasntBeen's avatar

@mattbrowne : I endorse pretty much everything you’re saying (and applaud that it’s well said). But you slipped in “it’s not as pitiless as it might appear”... which slices well wide of scientific explanation. The laws of nature are indeed without pity: they truly do not care, as caring is a property of sentient beings, not natural laws. However, it’s true that theists often dislike evolution because it makes the universe sound cold and impersonal, while the idea of a benevolent God wrapping us up in compassion produces comfort.

But the solution to this “problem” isn’t to imbue natural laws with compassion, it’s to point people back to the mirror: if someone feels alienated and isolated from the rest of life, that’s a function of having conceived themselves as a separate / isolated entity, which produces a sharp contrast to “external” reality. I don’t need the universe to have compassion in order to feel like I belong… it is indeed wonderful to see the possibilities that natural law provides, but the basis of a sense of belonging is seeing my interconnectedness with all of it.

I know Mother Nature isn’t really a mom.

mattbrowne's avatar

@HasntBeen – Thanks for your feedback. To me the notion of pitilessness is a philosophical assessment of scientific observation and empirical data. So when we talk about science we should stick to scientific terms, like mutations are mostly random, natural selection is not random. There is no need to use emotive words like pitilessness explaining the science.

Of course we can ask deeper questions. What does this scientific evidence mean? Philosophy is wonderful and it’s enlightening as well. But we have to make it clear we’re on that level. Some atheists sometimes forget to mention this. Not everything they say is about science. Likewise, when I say “it’s not as pitiless as it might appear”, this is my philosophical (or metaphysical or religious) assessment. I prefer well-balanced debates. Fair enough?

dpworkin's avatar

Everyone does what he must to battle existential angst.

The_Idler's avatar

Not pitiless like a terrible dictator,
but pitiless like a blindfold race through a never-ending maze.

dpworkin's avatar

@The_Idler Well said.

mattbrowne's avatar

Blindfold race is a philosophical assessment as well. Not science. Sorry.

germanmannn's avatar

@hasentbeen Mice are multicellular organisms, but each cell is a little chemical factory very much like a bacterium. Dogs? Ditto. Chimps? Ditto.

So what about humans?

The human body is nothing but a set of chemical reactions. The chemical reactions powering a human life are no different from the reactions powering the life of a bacterium, a mosquito, a mouse, a dog or a chimp. When a human being dies, the chemical reactions stop. There is no soul mixed in with the chemicals, just like there is no soul in a bacterium, a mosquito, a mouse, a dog or a chimp. Why would there be an afterlife for the chemicals that make up a human body?

The whole notion of your soul is completely made up. The concept of a soul has been invented by religion because many people have trouble facing their own mortality. It makes people feel better, but the concept is a complete fabrication.

It is when you think about the chemical reactions powering your life and your brain that you realize how completely imaginary your soul truly is. And at that point, everything about religion comes unraveled.

HTDC's avatar

I love these questions, people using big words to try and sound like they know what they are talking about. Trying to use even bigger words to sound smarter than the previous person…awesome.

dpworkin's avatar

@HTDC Maybe you should use a dictionary, re-read the posts, and learn something, instead of dismissing what you apparently fail to understand.

mattbrowne's avatar

@pdworkin – We are all waiting for the smartest comment of all. Your turn @HTDC.

HasntBeen's avatar

@germanmannn : I don’t believe in a soul, and I didn’t claim to believe in a soul. My comment was just clarifying that the idea of evolution and the idea of soul are not mutually exclusive. Someone can (and many do) have some notion that God set evolution in motion, then waited for man to show up, and started inserting souls into each new baby (or embryo, depending on your take on abortion!).

So the theists who believe in evolution find a workaround. That’s natural selection working at the level of belief systems, I suppose :)

@mattbrowne : I’m not trying to constrain you to making only scientific statements. I think the point of that comment slipped by: the question from a philosophical standpoint is what to do about the fear of nihilism which arises when a theist considers evolution? Theism’s attraction (at least part of it) is the sense of comforting belonging that comes from the notion that God is in charge of it all and we all belong to him. By contrast, a universe of dead rocks bouncing around in accordance with natural law seems lifeless and meaningless.

So, atheists often try to fill this void with what I call the Carl Sagan Method: talking about how inspiring science is, as if Mrs. Blumley could leave the First Fundamentalist Baptist Church of Middleville and join her local science club and find the same succor there :) She can’t.

But why does she need comfort in the first place? Why is the dead rocks of the universe threatening or alienating? I say that the answer is because humans have a sort of cognitive defect… a side-effect of the way our minds have evolved… in which we tend to conceive of ourselves as isolated and separate entities, and lose awareness of the vast interconnectedness between ourselves, others, and the rest of life. That makes individuals feel alienated, and makes them seek comfort in the idea of deities—or prompts the need for the Caral Sagan Method.

But that kind of thinking is defective in the first place: if you don’t conceive of yourself as a separate thing, there is no need to “fix” the resulting alienation… either with belief in God or with attempts to get all inspired about the dead rocks bouncing around. We all belong already, there’s no need to remove the pitilessness from the universe.

HasntBeen's avatar

Someday I’m going to find the biggest, most impressive word that was ever worded, and I’m going to use it every sentence and everybody will think I’m a genius and then all my problems will be solved! You gotta dream!

germanmannn's avatar

It’s important to differentiate between beliefs and reasoning. The problem isn’t that people mistakenly assume that they are the same, but rather that people can assume that having good or right beliefs as ends in themselves, regardless of the reasoning process . but relying on unsound reasoning processes doesn’t leave much room for improvement and learning.

mattbrowne's avatar

@HasntBeen – The belief in God is not necessarily about comfort. Another reason can be that some people do not find the self-explanatory universe/multiverse very convincing. And religions for the most part are not just about the belief in a deity or deities. They are also about a code of conduct, about community, about meaning and purpose, about spiritual hunger, about answers to deeper questions. I’m not saying religions are the only way to ty to find answers. Atheist do find spirituality and they they do find answers in other moral philosophies such as humanism. Sadly, some of them view believers as immature kids who can’t grow up explaining their beliefs with the need for comfort. Well, it’s time that these atheists grow up as well. The world is not always just black and white.

I think Carl Sagan did the right thing. Science is mind-boggling. Science is inspiring. The universe is full of wonderful things patiently waiting to be discovered. But he also was a very tolerant atheists who avoided negative emotive words and polemics. There are better words than pitilessness.

germanmannn's avatar

Arguments can be separated into two categories deductive and inductive. A deductive argument is one in which it is impossible for the premises to be true but the conclusion false. An inductive argument is one in which the premises are supposed to support the conclusion in such a way that if the premises are true, it is improbable that the conclusion would be false.

HasntBeen's avatar

@mattbrowne : I agree with your comments about the breadth of theism, there’s more to it than seeking comfort. But focusing on that aspect, what is it that drives this desire in the first place? What makes us uncomfortable about being byproducts of unthinking natural law? Why would one need to solve this “problem”? There’s a presumption that a dead-rocks universe requires us to add meaning and belonging.

mattbrowne's avatar

@HasntBeen – To me the natural laws as such are unthinking. But how do we explain them? We can play around with the explanations a little bit. An infinite multiverse with an infinite combinations of different constants and natural laws. But how do we explain this? We can’t. Maybe we don’t want to. Maybe the universe/multiverse is in some way self explanatory.

dpworkin's avatar

It is certain the every scenario is annihilating to life and to intelligence, whether in the short or the long run, hence our wish to see pitilessness as something else.

nicobanks's avatar

I think you’re right: your Why question does lead to Why anything at all. But I don’t think it’s inappropriate to ask Why about anything. I think there are different possible answers to the question of why cells, organic evolution, natural selection, etc.

And I don’t understand why asking Why about something leads you to consider alternative ways of being. That’s not Why, that’s How else. There’s no way of knowing how else life on earth could be, or how else planets could revolve; what’s the point in asking?

About the why of cells, a common answer is that competition for survival (of the genetic material) is the basic driving force in all life, and thus the mechanism in evolution. That doesn’t indicate God – doesn’t negate God, either; simply doesn’t speak on the issue. Other people say that cooperation is as much a driving force as competition is. That doesn’t indicate/negate God either.

How does the inclination to survive and reproduce an indication of God anyway? I don’t see the obvious connection. (Although I do happen to believe in God and believe he is the creator behind life on earth and the systems by which life lives.)

nikipedia's avatar

The evolutionary biologist JBS Haldane is credited with saying that if we were to infer anything about a Creator based on evolution, it would be that he has an inordinate fondness for beetles.

VanCityKid's avatar

I would love to give a long answer for this, but no. Evolution would not “prove” that there is a designer. I don’t see how your friend would find that it does either. Understand though, that some religious people will use ANYTHING and everything they can to try and “prove” there is a God, all of it that I have heard so far, is completely ridiculous.

gasman's avatar

Why do cells act in this particular manner, which has led directly to our existence?

It’s often said that science seeks answers to ‘How?” while religion seeks answers to “Why?” But sometimes when scientists ask Why what they really mean is How, in the sense of, “By what mechanism?” For example, why is the sky blue? Rayleigh scattering, that’s why.

I think this was such a question.

You were supposed to answer, “Because of Darwinian evolution (variation + natural selection), which strongly influences even the simplest life. Or more specifically: Because of DNA and genetic encoding, which allows heritable changes to persist over generations, thus enabling Darwinism. You know, something to indicate that you get the basic unifying principle of biology.

There is no logic that implies the existence of a supernatural deity in order for Darwinism to function. A religious person can always make a ‘leap of faith’ that is arguably valid outside science—as long as they don’t deny physical observations & the logical inferences that follow.

HasntBeen's avatar

Agree with @gasman too—two different senses of the word “why”—causality vs. intention or purpose. Like so many “problems”, this one arises from ambiguity in language.

Shuttle128's avatar

@gasman Originally the asking of why was done in the light of trying to understand intention. The term stuck and changed its meaning throughout our usage of it. Today why means both, but within the context of mechanical systems “why” means by what mechanisms does it behave this way. In early philosophy things had natures and their nature was questioned with the intention form of “why.”

YARNLADY's avatar

I’ve read and enjoy this entire thread, but I’m still looking for @HTDC to tell me what it all means in small words.

dpworkin's avatar

Hah! @YARNLADY! GA!

HasntBeen's avatar

It means “nobody really thinks evolution provides evidence for God” and “there are a lot of people on Fluther who use big words”. The latter provides evidence that evolution likes big words.

germanmannn's avatar

@ Spinel Okay, do you realize that you are revealing what you “believe,” rather than what you or anyone else can prove or disprove, if you do not mind my asking? If so, then you are well aware that I do not challenge anyone’s beliefs on this forum, but rather challenge biblical claims that can be either substantiated or invalidated. You see, a “belief” is simply another word for an “unverified thought,” which are using based on faith or teaching, in my humble opinion.
Now as far as asserting a dichotomy between God and evolution, please know that there are some people who do not believe in either, in my humble opinion. After all, those who believe in the theory of evolution, usually based their belief on scientific discovery and knowledge, whereas those who believe in God usually do so based on the bible and faith, right (smile)?

The_Idler's avatar

To me, it matters little, whether the basis of a belief is:
thinking or feeling,
reason or emotion;
science or religion.

Either way, actually putting absolute faith in any one possibility, regardless of the basis of the explanation, is altogether rather arrogant.

Whether, you say:
“The science makes sense to me, so I believe it to be true”
or
“The religion feels right to me, so I believe it to be true”

the very fact that you are being so grossly self-assured, as to declare true these absolute and definite assertions about the nature of the universe, based on the workings of your minuscule and insignificant mind, will only make me laugh once again at the absurdity of religious faith or the hypocrisy of scientific faith.

YARNLADY's avatar

@HasntBeen thanks, now I got it

germanmannn's avatar

@The_Idler Religious people who believe that everyone worships something and has some sort of religion will at times conclude that atheists’ religion must be science. Science is not only secular and godless, but has also been responsible for overturning many of the myths, doctrines, and beliefs which have been fundamental to religions. Science conflicts with religions not because it is a religion itself, but because religions typically conflict with reality. No one worships science, though.

Science is probably the most important and influential institution in the modern world. Utilizing the scientific method, it has provided humanity with more knowledge, more benefits, and more advantages than anything else in the past including religion. Given the degree to which science structures out lives, our futures, and other social institutions, it’s perhaps not surprising that some religious people would come to see parallels between the two even to the point where they think that science is serving some or all of the same functions that religion does for them and used to do for all of society. These are all reasons to think highly of science and to try to protect it from possible threats. None, however, are reasons to think that people in any way worship science or treat it as a religion. It is even arguable that science is less a belief system than a methodology, a method and means for understanding what reality is rather than a set of doctrines and dogmas which we are morally obligated to believe upon .

mattbrowne's avatar

@germanmannn – Religions typically conflict with reality? Can you back up your claim? When you say ‘typically’ you probably mean the majority of religious people. I would argue that at least for contemporary Christianity worldwide only a minority still seems to follow pre-Enlightenment versions of it, for example young-earth creationists in the United States. Although I’m a European Protestant, I’d like to point out that the Catholic Church (the largest of all Christian denominations) supports the big bang and evolution. In fact it was a Belgium priest who disagreed with Albert Einstein first, suggesting that our universe had a beginning. A bit later this event was coined ‘big bang’ by Edwin Hubble who first thought that Georges Henri Joseph Édouard Lemaître’s idea was ridiculous. See

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georges_Lemaitre

and check out his biography. He was also a physicist and supported scientific method. But he also knew about the limitations of science and its ability to answer some of the deeper questions.

germanmannn's avatar

It’s always possible, in theory, that naturalistic science won’t be able to explain something but the chances of this being the case don’t appear to be very significant. We don’t have any examples of science concluding that something is, in principle, unexplainable, everything which science has investigated thus far has in fact become more and more explainable, and more understood.

It’s only possible that science might fail because the idea of such failure isn’t logically contradictory, the possibility of naturalistic science being unable to explain nature is not realistic though. Nevertheless, many people persist in arguing that some things are unexplainable but this means that they are predicting the future in a way that is completely unreasonable.

Such people certainly can’t claim to know enough about science and the universe to know that such events are unexplainable that would involve them knowing far more than the scientists studying the phenomena. Scientists acquire knowledge through careful study and testing of the universe we live in.

I’m sure that some clever theologians will be able to come up with justifications for theism even in the context of a fully explainable natural universe, but right now most theists don’t appear able to deal with this and, therefore, continue to rely on gaps in scientific knowledge where they try to hide their god. Those gaps keep growing smaller as scientific knowledge expands, though, and I wonder how much longer they will be able to lean on this fiction.

germanmannn's avatar

I cannot conceive of a God who rewards and punishes his creatures, or has a will of the kind that we experience in ourselves. Neither can I nor would I want to conceive of an individual that survives his physical death; let feeble souls, from fear or absurd egoism, cherish such thoughts. I am satisfied with the mystery of the eternity of life and with the awareness and a glimpse of the marvelous structure of the existing world, together with the devoted striving to comprehend a portion, be it ever so tiny, of the Reason that manifests itself in nature.

- Albert Einstein, The World As I See It

dpworkin's avatar

That just shows that Einstein was reassured by the idea of reason as much as any of us, and in fact it cost him the whole last half of his career which he spent chasing the unified field theory because quantum mechanics seemed unreasonable to him (frightened him.)

mattbrowne's avatar

I’d like to quote Dietrich Bonhoeffer during his time in a Nazi prison: “How wrong it is to use God as a stop-gap for the incompleteness of our knowledge. If in fact the frontiers of knowledge are being pushed further and further back, and that is bound to be the case, then God is being pushed back with them, and is therefore continually in retreat. We are to find God in what we know, not in what we don’t know.”

The_Idler's avatar

@germanmannn I have come across many people, who believe scientific theories.
They have faith in them, because they have faith in the scientific method.

This is really very bad practice and totally unscientific.
Only slightly more reasonable to me than having faith in one’s feelings, because I regard the scientific method with more respect than my own feelings.

I know good scientists don’t believe in their own theories (it’s what makes a good scientist), but there are still many people who reject religion as absurd (it does often come across that way), but then proceed to embrace one theoretical scientific explanation as gospel, which is something of a crime against humanity.

Perhaps it’s just the fact that my experience has been of, well, children, but I have noticed other things, which indicate a large section of the atheist population to be far more ignorant than many religious people.

Perhaps, though, there is a correlation between ignorance and unrestrained vocalism, which can distort, to some degree or another, the public image of either party.

Smashley's avatar

@The_Idler
I stand by the term “useful tool” rather than use your epithet which, though probably true, isn’t really what I was going for. Of course it is used for denial, but the religious live their lives in denial. It is useful to allow them their delusion if they can be brought to understand scientific fact as well, and allow its spread through their community.

To people who have a concept of their deity as an all powerful, all knowing being who is more or less like the god of the bible, the asker’s original argument would be useful if they could plainly see the evidence for natural selection, but were having trouble rationalizing it with their religion. In this case, using jangles’ argument, a person may alter their religious understanding, not their scientific (which you pointed out is an obvious logical error).

Religion is tempered against the intrusion of science, and it always follows a formula of rejection, flawed scientific rationalization, and finally acceptance in which the religious dogma is altered to accept that which is plain to the scientific community. The religion amends its beliefs into a form that can rationalize science and the cycle begins anew.

I’m not saying this is ideal, but we all have a certain amount of denial in our hearts. To a religious person, it does not compromise understanding of science to amend their religious beliefs to a point were both scientific ideas can co-exist, so long as those changes are not earth-shattering. It is a lot easier to get someone who dogmatically refutes natural selection to believe that their god may have enacted these processes we have observed rather than the premise that natural selection is true, therefore their god is false.

Shuttle128's avatar

@Smashley There are equally as many scientists who would defend their paradigm just as the religious would defend their interpretation of their religion. In order for science to even function you must have some adherence to, or belief of, a scientific paradigm. A good majority of people are dogmatic when it comes to scientific fields as well. As to your comment on the structure of religious rationalization of scientific discoveries I’d have to say that that is nearly identical to the structure of scientific revolutions. It simply depends on which position you are defending.

I think @The_Idler brought up some very good points about what we can expect of science and those who use it. Science is directed at the whim of those who use it. It only answers questions that we seek answers to and is limited in scope to what our current understanding of the universe shows. In the past it has been found that a great majority of our theories about science have been completely wrong. There is little reason to expect that our current theories are right…..not even approximately right. We may get predictions that are borne out, but these correct predictions have no bearing on the truth of what a theory proclaims. Science is under-constrained and ill equipped to logically determine truth. However, we use science because it continually gives us better predictions of phenomena. Even the idea that science will continue to give us a better picture of the world is suspect. We cannot fully justify believing that science will continually progress because this sentiment is based upon inductive reasoning which is not stringent enough to give us a straightforward answer. Even the use of probabilities (which was mentioned earlier) to determine theory choice is never a matter of truth but of which theory should be preferred.

There is surely dogmatism on both sides.

germanmannn's avatar

If i did believe in a creator i wouldn’t call it a “God” it would just be a higher form of Intelligence.

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

In simple straight forward terms:

Natural selection results in the increased likelihood that an individual with features better suited to the environmental conditions in that place at that time.

If natural selection favoured human males who kill their male neighbours and rape their female neighbours, then homicidal rapists would pass their genes onto the next generation. Our legal system is designed to prevent such biologically successful strategies from being selected for in our society.

In the Rwandan genocide, this strategy actually worked all too well!

Positive” has nothing to do with ”successful”.

Parasites that don’t kill their hosts quickly do better than those that quickly do.

As long as we allow the powerful to abuse the weak, the powerful not matter how evil or selfish, survive better than the worthy but weak!

Faulty assumptions lead to faulty theories and false conclusions.

Whatever your religious beliefs, you can’t successfully reshape the reality of how things work to use science to “prove” or “disprove” the existence of G_d or “evidence” of intelligent design.

Wishful thinking does not make things so!

gasman's avatar

I would add that natural selection is well-known for giving the illusion of a designer. That’s why it’s so important to teach the theory of evolution—to dispel this false notion by examining the voluminous evidence. Creationists still don’t get it.

The_Idler's avatar

Natural selection does not give the illusion of a designer.

brainwashing-from-birth is the primary reason for most people’s belief in Creation stories.

nicobanks's avatar

@The_Idler Why do you jump from natural selection to creation stories? Natural selection isn’t a creation story: it’s a development story.

The_Idler's avatar

gasman says natural selection gives the illusion of a designer, which is why we must carefully explain the idea of evolution to people.

My comment means this:
People don’t believe in Creation stories because natural selection has created the illusion of a designer, but because they have been brainwashed from birth.

This is the case, because natural selection does not create the illusion of a designer.
The natural world does not imply a designer.
The natural world does imply development through natural selection.
People do not believe in a Creation story, because it makes sense with the way the world works (it does not.)
People do believe in Creation stories, because they are brainwashed from birth.

So, people do not look at the world and think, “Genesis must be true, it makes so much sense.”
people do look at the world and try to fit in their idea of a designer, because they have been brainwashed from birth to believe that there is one, and letting go of that and admitting they have been deluded for their entire lives is very difficult and traumatic for the carefully conditioned religious brain.

Hence, the success of religion.

If we were to prohibit the teaching of religions to children, they would all fade into the background with all the other obscure kooky supernatural beliefs.
A non-religious 18 year old will read a Creation story and call it a joke.

If there is a perfect designer, why would life be iterative and sexual reproduction be genetically beneficial? God put them in, because sex is fun (or just another one of those sins-for-sin’s-sake?) and Death gives life meaning?

So that tiny fact that they constantly improve the efficiency of life, at exploiting its environment and propagating its genetics, is just a side-effect, rather than, like, yaknow, the entire meaning of Life?

Like any sane adult is gonna believe that.

mattbrowne's avatar

@The_Idler – Creation myths are a joke? A non-religious 18 year old will read a Creation story and call it a joke? Makes me wonder about the quality of his or her education.

There are hot-blooded atheists who have an opinion about religion, but don’t know the difference between a myth or a parable or a proverb or a historical event. There are also religious fundamentalists who have an opinion about science, but don’t know the difference between a myth or a parable and a science textbook. Both are an unfortunate phenomenon of human psyche.

I said this before. Michael Shermer once wrote: “Myths are about the human struggle to deal with the great passages of time and life—birth, death, marriage, the transitions from childhood to adulthood to old age. They meet a need in the psychological or spiritual nature of humans that has absolutely nothing to do with science. To try to turn a myth into a science, or a science into a myth, is an insult to myths, an insult to religion, and an insult to science. In attempting to do this, young-earth creationists have missed the significance, meaning, and sublime nature of myths (like creation stories).”

The_Idler's avatar

I did grimace when I wrote that, so thanks for pulling me up on it.

I was talking about the hypothetical situation, where they had been raised without hearing of religion, but you still made some good points.

I wouldn’t called a myth a “joke” until someone believed in its absolute truth.
I suppose the belief is ridiculous, but the myth is only a tool, which can obviously be used in either good or bad practice.

mattbrowne's avatar

Myths are treasures from the past. They tell us something about the people of the past. The same goes for parables. Some can even help us today. There are several warnings in the Bible about greed for example. Greed was a problem in societies of the past. Greed still seems to be a problem today. Who would have thought of the magnitude of the recent financial crisis?

In-group/out-group morality was a problem 2000 years ago when Jesus sat down with tax group collectors and prostitutes. In-group/out-group morality still is a problem today. Martin Luther King helped overcome segregation. He was a minister. He won the Nobel Prize. We should not picture every religious person as a stupid ignorant fool or really think the world would be a better place without it. We should try to eliminate ignorance and hatred.

gasman's avatar

@The_Idler It sounds like we agree on the basic points & disagree about how to express it. Natural selection is the driving force of evolution & makes for some impressive ‘designs’ in nature.

The classic old argument of William Paley is that if you examine a pocket watch you know it was designed. If you examine, let’s say, the human eye you might also conclude—due to its complexity and interdependent parts—that it, too, was designed. This the illusion of design I alluded to & much is written by evolutionary biologists on this point.

Speaking of Michael Shermer (a leading skeptic & writer), he describes what he calls the ‘belief engine’ that evolved along with our brains, giving us imperfect reasoning powers that have good for survival but bad for science. Hence religion & the unshakable belief (among most people) that there is an invisible deity in the background somehow pulling the strings to make the world work.

In a rational & naturalistic world view, this belief is rejected due to absence of evidence.

germanmannn's avatar

@mattbrowne mythological being. Man evolved from other species like every other living thing has for hundreds of millions of years. The Bible is a book written thousands of years ago by primitive men. A book that advocates senseless murder, slavery and the oppression of women has no place in our society today . It is time for us to recognize this simple fact.

mattbrowne's avatar

@germanmannn – Written by primitive men? Sorry to say this, but it would seem to me that only primitive present-day atheists would hold such primitive views. It’s true that the Bible contains passages which seem to promote genocide, murder and slavery. But it contains a lot of other passages as well. They almost never get mentioned by bitter and aggressive atheists. There’s a lack of credibility if Christianity is always depicted in the worst possible way and it make you wonder how people like Martin Luther King won the Nobel Peace Prize. Do you think he promoted genocide, murder and slavery? Or Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Christian who resisted Hitler and the Nazis and ended up in prison for his views.

My advice: try to unlearn your assumptions. I try to maintain a distance away from any idea. Too many convictions simply mean too few paths for new ideas. Actively seek out information that contradicts your worldview. I’ve learned a great deal about atheism here on Fluther for example.

We should ask the question how these horrible passages ended up in the Bible. I think this is because wars have the capability to turn humans into beasts. It happened 3000 years ago it. There were many wars. It does happen today. Just take the Iraq war. Why did Abu Ghraib happen?

A lot of wise men (and women who were not always mentioned) contributed to the content of the Bible. Just two examples: the Proverbs and the Sermon on the Mount. I can’t imagine that you really consider this to be primitive.

mattbrowne's avatar

@gasman – You might be surprised to learn that many believers are in fact skeptics and support the Skeptics Society as mentioned in Michael Shermer’s book ‘Why people believe weird things.’ Religious fundamentalists might create most of the noise, but this doesn’t mean they are a majority.

gasman's avatar

@mattbrowne Yes, I have no quarrel with devoutly religious people who recognize that belief in God requires a leap of faith not justified by physical evidence. It’s the fundamentalists—biblical literalists—who are totally whacked out, denying science and cheapening their own human intellect.

germanmannn's avatar

@mattbrowne @Smashley @The_Idler in my humble opinion If we had scientific proof of God’s existence, we would talk about the science of God rather than faith in God.
If we had scientific proof of God’s existence, the study of God would be a scientific endeavor rather than a theological one.
If we had scientific proof of God’s existence, all religious people would be aligning on the God that had been scientifically proven to exist. Do you believe in Leprechauns? there are lots of books, movies and fairy tales dealing with Leprechauns. People talk about Leprechauns all the time. By the way i am not an atheist I am a Rational Person I am not delusional. What are you? (smile)? If you do not believe in Leprechauns, what are you? Are you an aleprechaunist? Of course not. You are normal. People who do not believe in Leprechauns are completely normal.

The_Idler's avatar

I said earlier:
“As I have concluded that nothing can be known with certainty (beyond that in itself), it stands to reason that all belief is utterly illogical.”

I have been ridiculed (once) for saying that I do not believe in anything,
not scientific “fact”, nor religious “gospel”.
I cannot see this as unreasonable.

There is a difference between a belief and a useful assumption.
I can understand how physical equations or philosophical ideas about the self can be useful assumptions.
(we build bridges and have a sense of the nature of ourselves and how we interact with the world.)
I cannot understand how the existence of God can ever be a useful assumption.
(unless I have convinced someone else that I am His representative on Earth, in which case it is very useful, to me.)

gasman's avatar

@The_Idler Let’s invoke Occam’s razor (Wikipedia):

In the philosophy of religion, Occam’s razor is sometimes applied to the existence of God; if the concept of God does not help to explain the universe, it is argued, God is irrelevant and should be cut away (Schmitt 2005). It is argued to imply that, in the absence of compelling reasons to believe in God, disbelief should be preferred. Such arguments are based on the assertion that belief in God requires more complex assumptions to explain the universe than non-belief…

mattbrowne's avatar

Yes, the biblical literalists are the problem by denying science and cheapening their own human intellect. They are a minority.

Science does have limitations. The belief that the universe is self-explanatory is a belief and not a scientific finding. Where do the natural laws come from is a legitimate question. If people have a desire to find an answer they need to be content with beliefs. There won’t be any natural law capable of explaining the natural laws. If we try to search for such a meta-law (infinite multiverse?) we are soon faced with the question of a meta-meta-law trying to explain the meta-law. We have to acknowledge the limitations of science.

I said this before, we know that any consistent system of axioms whose theorems can be listed by a computer program is incapable of proving certain truths about arithmetic. We are also incapable of proving the answers to the much bigger questions.

gasman's avatar

@mattbrowne The belief that the universe is self-explanatory Well, the Scientific Method has been wildly successful so far! One idea, expressed by John Horgan in The End of Science, suggests that a future physical ‘theory of everything’ might close out an era of scientific discovery. (Everything else would be, in Rutherford’s words, “stamp collecting.”) Is this an arrogant, over-confident prediction? Maybe.

The opposite view is that there is always untold splendor lurking below the surface at smaller & smaller (or larger & larger!) scales, awaiting discovery. That you can forever peel back the onion’s layers to reveal new structure. This, too, cannot be known now.

Then there’s Gödel’s Undecidability Theorem, which suggests limits to how much information a complex system can deduce about itself. This might indeed have relevance to consciousness & artificial intelligence, but I’m not so sure about physics itself. Can a scientific hypothesis be analogous to a theorem that you can neither prove true nor false? Are there meta-questions we can ask but not answer? Is this one? :)

the biblical literalists…are a minority You wouldn’t know it in places like Georgia where I’ve lived & sent my kids to school. Young-Earth creationism is a venerated cultural value in blue-state territory, reinforced by weekly church sermons (the only form of adult education for most folk) and high-profile political figures who support Christian Fundamentalism—such as President George W. Bush.

Ron_C's avatar

The description of “The End of Science” reminds me of the preacher waving the bible saying that “this is the only book you need to read”. I, frankly, don’t care what biblical literalists have to say. Their arguments have been long disproved. Many of them are trying to revive the Scope’s trial and they waste valuable resources trying to prove that the bible is absolutely true and the source of all knowledge. As long as they stay out of my way, what they think is of little consequence.

The_Idler's avatar

That is also my attitude…

“Believe what you will, but don’t expect me to take you seriously.”

mattbrowne's avatar

Hasty generalizations based on observations in Georgia (or elsewhere in the bible belt) are not really meaningful. As I said there are over 2 billion Christians. Creationism for example virtually doesn’t exist in Europe for example. The Catholic Church supports big bang cosmology and evolution.

The unification of all elementary forces and quantum gravity do not explain natural laws as such.

Ron_C's avatar

@mattbrowne you are completely correct. There is a small religious majority that insists that creationism is serious science and that evolution and natural selection is just a myth. For come reason, American politicians feel the need to placate them. I think that they should be totally ignored and let natural selection take care of the problem.

ssteward's avatar

I’ve really enjoyed reading the thread. There’s been a lot of thoughtful comments (and not too many long words ;-).

@mattbrowne you’re right, we don’t have that much creationism in Europe. You might like the comedian Robin Ince, who can sum up this entire thread in 3mins 21 sec:

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

Dawkins’ ‘The Blind Watchmaker’ is probably the most accessible, elegant and passionate argument for natural selection, if you haven’t read it.

Nullo's avatar

Sadly, the function is more like trying to put a square peg into a round hole: everything that doesn’t fit gets bashed out of the way.

Ron_C's avatar

It turns out that if you look at natural selection, and random mutations, you can get along with or without a god. The nice thing is that you are free to believe or not and natural selection plus random mutations and go to church on Sunday, Saturday Friday, what ever, with a good conscience. I have heard natural selection as the way god created us and every other living thing. I can live with that.

Nullo's avatar

@Ron_C I spent a few months under the impression that God might indeed have guided evolution; I decided that if that were the case, the Genesis account would have said so. I suspect that the same would go for the other faiths.

Ron_C's avatar

@Nullo so, on which side do you fall? Is the bible exactly right or does science come closer to the correct answer?

I think of religious texts (not just christian versions) as stories told around the camp fire. Some truths, embellished, others out-right fantasy, never meant seriously.

The problem arises when fiction is presented as the infallible word of god. Religion that takes itself too seriously leads to danger for non-believers.

Nullo's avatar

@Ron_C I decided that Science is a man in a dark room, armed with an LED flashlight – bright, but the beam is narrow and the color is off. The Bible is an incandescent lamp parked near the important parts of the same room (like the furniture and the door) – bright, better suited to illuminating spaces, and with truer color. The Bible is exactly right, but I wouldn’t mind a little more detail – which is where the flashlight comes in.
The science that it has is sound, but the Bible isn’t a science book so you can’t really compare it to one.

The_Idler's avatar

@Nullo Nice analogy, but I reckon the Bible is more like a much modified and weathered ancient cave-painting of the room.

Nullo's avatar

@The_Idler That, of course, comes down to what you think about God.

Ron_C's avatar

@Nullo “That, of course, comes down to what you think about God.” That’s it exactly. People think that god is the answer to everything. I would submit that god is used as a filler when the facts aren’t known. God used as a scientific explanation is an admission that the writer doesn’t understand the problem. It is also a rather dishonest answer. Even worse when real scientists disagree with the “common sense answer” they are ridiculed as unbelievers and sometimes executed. The current fundamentalist establishment (not just Christians) would like nothing better than to start witch burnings with scientists and environmentalists in place of women that cured sickness with herbs and potions.

germanmannn's avatar

Evolution argues that we share a common ancestor with chimpanzees and gorillas. And indeed, one of our chromosomes is the result of a fusion of two primate chromosomes. Our chromosome #2 was formed by the fusion of two primate chromosomes, and scientists can prove this.

When presented with the evidence, Creationists are simply unable to respond.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BXdQRvSdLAsThis video proves our common ancestry.

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