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Posts Tagged ‘evolution’

It can be tough being a Christian. You have to believe all sorts of unbelievable things. You have to go to church every Sunday and listen to some preachy dude beg for money. You have to put up with brilliantly-written, riotously-funny, expertly-argued books patiently debunking your faith. (I suppose this one doesn’t really distinguish you from believers in any other religion.) And you have to tie yourself into knots trying to explain why the latest scientific discoveries explaining how the world works don’t actually contradict your millennia-old, rooted-in-superstition, alternative “explanations” of how the world works.

But you’re not alone in your struggle. The BioLogos foundation is there with you every step of the way (and when you see one set of footprints, that’s where they were carrying you).

Today, for instance, they’re offering “Three Ways to View the Fossil Record [that aren’t incompatible with your religious faith, even though (if you want to get technical) the fossil record isn’t compatible with your religious faith].”

  1. God created each species “individually from nothing” as time proceeded. (Note: not actually compatible with fossil record.)
  2. God created species in “bursts” over time. (Note: not actually compatible with fossil record.)
  3. Evolutionary biology is the proper explanation for the history and diversity of species, but god has been continually doing the work behind the scenes. So, for instance, he’s always choosing which genetic material crosses over during meiosis, and he helps ducks decide which other ducks to rape, and he helps misdirect mooses he doesn’t want reproducing into having sex with horses instead.

Although the third theory is (vacuously) compatible with the fossil record, it presumes a level of perversity on the part of god that’s really more compatible with the jealous, kinky Old Testament god, not the effeminate, hippie New Testament god.

Accordingly, New-Testament-believing Christians might be better served by a fourth way of viewing the fossil record:

  1. Your religion is false.

This explanation does have the drawback of not being exactly “compatible” with the Christian faith. But this is almost surely outweighed by its virtue of being the correct explanation.

Make sure to come back next time, when we discuss “Five (Incorrect) Ways To Explain The Existence of Suffering”!

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Friend of the blog Enemy of the blog (and anti-evolutionist, and Discovery Institute waterboy, and loathsome human being) David Klinghoffer gloats that the Holocaust Museum shooter was an “evolutionist,” based on his demented writings:

As with ALL LIBERAL ideologies, miscegenation is totally inconsistent with Natural Law: the species are improved through in-breeding, natural selection and mutation. Only the strong survive. Cross-breeding Whites with species lower on the evolutionary scale diminishes the White gene-pool while increasing the number of physiologically, psychologically and behaviorally deprived mongrels.

Unfortunately for his disgusting gloating, the cited passage demonstrates misunderstandings of evolutionary theory on par with the ones that Klinghoffer and friends routinely propound. Shall we count the ways?

1. “Natural Law” has nothing whatsoever to do with “miscegenation” — it mainly promotes Chopric practices like Transcendental Meditation and Yogic Flying

2. Inbreeding does not typically improve a species, unless you consider having only two toes (like Cletus) an improvement.

3. Lots of the “non-strong” survive. In fact, in today’s Web 2.0 economy, the Super Crunchers and the AJAX programmers are totally outsurviving the strong, most of whom work at soon-to-be-defunct government-owned automobile manufacturers.

4. There is no such thing as “lower on the evolutionary scale.” In fact, there is no such thing as an “evolutionary scale.” There is an evolutionary tree, which I am surprised that the Discovery Institute has not tried to deface; however, its different levels refer not to different species but to different granularities of species-grouping. Species can be closer on the evolutionary tree. They can be farther. They cannot be higher or lower.

None of this stops Klinghoffer from his demented accusations:

No, he doesn’t cite Darwin by name in the part of his book that’s readable online — the first 6 of 12 chapters. But do you get the general drift?

Yes, we get the general drift. The general drift is that a white-supremacist jackass who doesn’t understand evolutionary theory in the slightest (but who haphazardly and illogically appropriated some of its concepts to buttress his terrible pre-existing racist theories) went on a shooting spree. And also that there is apparently no depth that Klinghoffer, as part of his tireless crusade to impugn any science that contradicts the superstitious beliefs bequeathed to him by his cavemen ancestors, will not stoop to in order to promote his nonsense.

That’s the “drift” you had in mind, right?

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Anti-evolutionist and friend of the blog David Klinghoffer has another gem this morning, coming up with a theory to explain why a Chinese friend of his converted to Judaism:

[Maybe] God imprints a certain kind of religious preference, one of numerous possible imprints, on each person.

This theory has a number of virtues. For instance, it’s non-falsifiable. And also it allows Klinghoffer to take shots at the god gene theory, which casts doubt on his twin dogmas of “god is true” and “evolution is false.”

However, off the top of my head I can come up with a number of alternative, non-supernatural explanations for his friend’s conversion:

  • Attracted by Jewish love of Chinese food
  • Shared history of interest in Communism
  • Asian obsession with Woody Allen
  • Want to get into movie industry but creeped out by Scientologists

I know what you’re thinking: none of these theories explain Klinghoffer’s second stylized fact, which is that Marvin Olasky converted from Judaism to Atheism to Christianity. I guess maybe Klinghoffer’s theory that god “imprinted” Olasky with a preference to be atheist for a while could explain this. But why would god do such micro-meddling?

Maybe God makes us this way to keep humanity safely divided into discrete peoples and nations. The Tower of Babel story, which comes shortly after, shows the danger of a world state with a world-spanning ideology. We would abuse its power, tyrannizing each other.

To keep us “safely divided”! That makes perfect sense! Good plan, god!

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Poor Darrel Falk. Not only is he stuck being executive director of the ludicrous BioLogos project, but also his granddaughter has noticed the obvious parallels between the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, and Jesus.

This is great for us, however, as we get to read his “yes, we were lying about the tooth fairy, and also we were lying about the easter bunny, and also we were lying about santa claus, but Jesus is totally different and here’s why!” essay.

He makes the following points:

1. Some of the data underlying evolutionary biology is “historical” in nature. Some of the arguments for Christianity are also “historical” in nature. This makes belief in Christianity just as data-driven as belief in evolutionary biology!

2. “There are some theologians who I consider just as brilliant as some scientists!”

3. Not only has Jesus never been “falsified,” there are plenty of good reasons to think he exists. For instance, check out the New Testament book Romans, which (unlike The Da Vinci Code) is too packed with “sincere emotion and veneration” to be fiction.

4. If you don’t read every pro-Jesus book with “the open mindset that is supposed to be the trademark of any scientist,” you’ve committed an “unforgiveable sin.”

Now, unlike his granddaughter, I am not a 6-year-old girl, and so it’s hard to say which of his arguments she will find compelling. I’m guessing she’ll reject the first, as even little girls understand that — while studying history helps us understand evolutionary biology — there is also genetic, anatomical, geographical, biochemical, epidemiological, and current biological evidence. I’m also guessing that she’ll reject the second, as little girls tend to put more weight on the opinions of J.K. Rowling and Stephanie Meyer than the opinions of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Karl Barth. Along similar lines, the Baby-sitters Club books are packed with “sincere emotion and veneration” yet are clearly fiction, making me suspect she’ll reject his third argument. And although his granddaughter sounds pretty smart, a number of the books he propounds still seem above her reading level, making it tough to condemn her for not reading them.

However, although he didn’t mention it in his article, he’s also got a fifth argument in his pocket:

5. If you don’t believe in Jesus, then after you die you’re going to get thrown into a Lake of Fire and tortured forever. It’s worse than anything you can imagine. Remember how bad you felt that day at school when all the other girls were making fun of you? Remember how much it hurt when you fell on the playground and broke your arm? Remember when you had the flu and you kept throwing up everything we fed you and we had to take you to the hospital where they stuck a tube in your arm so you wouldn’t get dehydrated? Remember how sad you were when your dog Pepper died? This is so much worse than all those combined, and if you don’t believe in Jesus you’ll feel it all day, every day, forever and ever.

And I’m pretty sure that this one is the kind of argument that resonates with six-year-olds.

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Over in the Huffington Post, writer Kamran Pasha has landed the coveted “I’ve got a book to sell, and so I’ve been invited to write a poorly-argued essay about current events that will allow me to repeatedly plug my book over the course of several thousand words” slot.

Today’s essay is all about how Angels and Demons (38% fresh, “too often wavers between implausible and ridiculous”) is “great storytelling” and a “very human picture of characters who are motivated by faith and committed to struggling with ‘demons,’ both in others and within themselves.”

I am sure that the movie would be entertaining enough to watch on an airplane; nonetheless, I find it hard to believe that a Tom Hanks movie could present a “very human picture” of anything (except maybe for “what it’s like to fall in love with a mermaid” or “how fantasy role-playing games can destroy your life.”

The really exciting part of the essay, of course, is where Pasha takes another brave stab at arguing for the compatibility of science and religion:

A Christian friend of mine once asked how I reconciled the story of Adam and Eve in the Qur’an with the scientific consensus on evolution. I smiled and said to him that I didn’t bother. It’s like comparing apples and musical notes. The scientific theory and the scriptural story serve totally different purposes. Science is about how. Religion is about why.

Of course! HOW vs. WHY! Why didn’t I think of that? Anyone can play this game:

Man Less Hairy Than Apes
HOW: Evolution.
WHY: God also less hairy than apes.

Lights in the Sky
HOW: Nuclear Fusion.
WHY: To mark seasons and days and years.

Women Different from Men

HOW: Chromosomes.
WHY: Women intended as “helpers”.

Snakes Crawl on Belly

HOW: Evolutionary pressures possibly related to burrowing underground.
WHY: Punishment for apple-related trickery

Childbirth Painful

HOW: Large baby passing through small birth canal.
WHY: Punishment for falling prey to apple-related trickery.

Farming Difficult

HOW: Distorting effects of Agricultural Subsidies.
WHY: Punishment for listening to wife.

I could continue, but I think you get the point. Science is helpless to provide valuable moral lessons about god’s hirsuteness, telling time, women’s proper place, and supernatural justifications for life’s difficulties. All praise religion! (And buy Pasha’s book about Mohammed and his seven-year-old bride!)

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If you’re a Christian (or a Jew), you’ve probably noticed that it’s hard to believe in both science and the Bible. Human Genome Project leader (and evangelical Christian) Francis Collins has noticed this too:

After his best-selling The Language of God came out three years ago, Collins began receiving thousands of e-mails — primarily from other Evangelicals — asking questions about how to reconcile scriptural teachings with scientific evidence. “Many of these Christians have been taught that evolution is wrong,” Collins explains. “They go to college and get exposed to data, and then they’re thrust into personal crises of great intensity. If the church was wrong about the origins of life, was it wrong about everything?

You’d like to think a “scientist” would conclude, “yeah, probably.” I mean, if I were to show up at a scientific conference and present my several-hundred-page “Grand Theory of Everything,” and if the first few chapters were filled with obvious falsehoods, you’d hope that the other scientists would laugh me off the stage, tell me to take a long walk off a short pier, or tar and feather me. And you’d certainly hope that they wouldn’t run off to their little science lairs and try to come up with harebrained justifications as to why the rest of my theory was probably still true.

Which is why, although I have great respect for the Human Genome Project (a scientific achievement on par with the Alan Parsons Project), I find myself wondering just how rigorous it was. And looking at Collins’s BioLogos website isn’t doing much to reassure me.

Here, for instance, is how he sums up his answer to “Question 11: Is there room in BioLogos to believe in miracles?”

This response provides a simple answer to the question of miracles, namely that BioLogos does not in any way remove the logical possibility of miracles. However, for the universe to behave in an apparently ordered fashion, such events must be rare. BioLogos is thus compatible with many faiths that have miraculous events at the center of their doctrine. Finally, although a scientific explanation does in fact take away a phenomenon’s miraculous status, it does not establish that God was not involved in the process.

In other words,

  • The fact that the laws of science are regular and predictable seems to leave no room for miracles; however, there could still be miracles as long as they didn’t happen very often.
  • Also, even though any given “miracle” may have a perfectly natural scientific explanation, god may have been involved somehow.

I am not sure what the word is for “let’s add an element to our theory that makes it more complicated and doesn’t actually explain anything, but that makes our theory more palatable to the superstitious,” but I’m pretty sure it’s not “science.”

Still, I’ll keep checking the BioLogos site, because I want to see what their answer is to “Question 39: This whole website is just a gigantic prank, isn’t it?”

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