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Evolution

Is There an Evolutionary Foundation for Human Morality?

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I am going to talk about the question of whether we can find an evolutionary basis for human morality. I am not a scientist, but a philosopher. So I am not going to try to pass judgment on the theory of evolution itself, as it applies to human beings. I do not regard philosophers as professionally competent either to pass a positive or negative judgment on the theory, except insofar as there are philosophical commitments embodied in it. However, I do regard myself as having made some progress in understanding human morality. In particular, I have been interested in and have written about the gap between the demands of morality on us and our natural capacities to meet those demands. This gap presents the problem of how we can be held accountable or responsible for a standard we are not equipped to meet either by innate capacity or natural development. So I want to ask the conditional question: if we assume that the theory of evolution as it applies to human beings is correct, does this help us answer the questions of whether we can be morally good and why we should be morally good? The first question, whether we can be morally good, is the question raised by the moral gap between the demands of morality and our natural capacities. It is only after answering this first question, “yes, we can be morally good,” that the second question arises of why we should be morally good, for we can only be held accountable or responsible for standards that we are able to reach. The burden of my presentation will be that we do not get an answer to these two questions from the theory of evolution. I am not arguing here that the theory is false, but that even if it is true, it doesn’t give us an answer. I will be looking at a number of recent attempts to provide such an answer from the theory, but I will claim that all of them fail.

Darwinism, Design, and Public Education

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There are two controversies surrounding neo-Darwinian evolution – one scientific about Darwin’s theory itself and the merits of intelligent design theory, and a second over whether our education system should expose students to this controversy. "Darwinism, Design and Public Education" is a stellar volume that will prove to be of great influence and significance in the years ahead, as this debate continues and intensifies. This peer-reviewed book collects several excellent essays that were previously available in separate, difficult-to-find publications, as well as some entirely new scientific material. Leading proponents of design theory, from multiple disciplines, are represented, as are some of the leading critics of design theory. ~ Seth Cooper

The Blank Slate

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In The Blank Slate, Steven Pinker, one of the world’s leading experts on language and the mind, explores the idea of human nature and its moral, emotional, and political colorings. With characteristic wit, lucidity, and insight, Pinker argues that the dogma that the mind has no innate traits-a doctrine held by many intellectuals during the past century-denies our common humanity and our individual preferences, replaces objective analyses of social problems with feel-good slogans, and distorts our understanding of politics, violence, parenting, and the arts. Injecting calm and rationality into debates that are notorious for ax-grinding and mud-slinging, Pinker shows the importance of an honest acknowledgment of human nature based on science and common sense. ~ Product Description

Lynn Margulis on the Limits of Natural Selection

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We agree that very few potential offspring ever survive to reproduce and that populations do change through time, and that therefore natural selection is of critical importance to the evolutionary process. But this Darwinian claim to explain all of evolution is a popular half-truth whose lack of explicative power is compensated for only by the religious ferocity of its rhetoric. Although random mutations influenced the course of evolution, their influence was mainly by loss, alteration, and refinement. One mutation confers resistance to malaria but also makes happy blood cells into the deficient oxygen carriers of sickle cell anemics. Another converts a gorgeous newborn into a cystic fibrosis patient or a victim of early onset diabetes. One mutation causes a flighty red-eyed fruit fly to fail to take wing. Never, however, did that one mutation make a wing, a fruit, a woody stem, or a claw appear. Mutations, in summary, tend to induce sickness, death, or deficiencies. No evidence in the vast literature of heredity changes shows unambiguous evidence that random mutation itself, even with geographical isolation of populations, leads to speciation. Then how do new species come into being? How do cauliflowers descend from tiny, wild Mediterranean cabbagelike plants, or pigs from wild boars?

Dallas Willard on Evolution

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Evolution, whether cosmic or biological, cannot — logically cannot! — be a theory of ultimate origins of existence or order, precisely because its operations always presuppose the prior existence of certain entities with specific potential behaviors, as well as of an environment of some specific kind that operates upon those entities in some specifically ordered (law-governed) fashion, to determine which ones are allowed to survive and reproduce. Let us quite generally state: any sort of evolution of order of any kind will always presuppose pre-existing order and pre-existing entities governed by it. It follows as a simple matter of logic that not all order evolved. Given the physical world — and however much of evolution it may or may not contain — there is or was some order in it which did not evolve. However it may have originated (if it originated), that order did not evolve, for it was the condition of any evolution at all occurring. We come here upon a logically insurpassable limit to what evolution, however it may be understood, can accomplish.

The Structure of Evolutionary Theory

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The culmination of about 25 years of research and study, this book traces the history of evolutionary thought and charts a path for its future. After Darwin wrote The Origin of Species in 1859, scientists created a synthesis of genetics, ecology and paleontology to explain how natural selection could produce change and form new species. Gould thinks that this "modern synthesis" has hardened into a dogma stifling the science. Gould claims that an obsession with "selfish genes" and simplistic versions of natural selection blinds researchers to the significance of new discoveries about how evolution really works. The rules by which embryos develop, for example, create constraints that channel the flow of evolution. Asteroid impacts and other catastrophes can send evolution off on unpredictable trajectories. And selection, Gould contends, may act not just on individuals or their genes, but on entire species or groups of species, and in ways we’ve only begun to understand. This book presents Gould in all his incarnations: as a digressive historian, original thinker and cunning polemicist. It is certainly not a perfect work. Gould gives short shrift to the tremendous discoveries spurred by "Darwinian fundamentalism," while he sometimes overplays the importance of hazy theoretical arguments that support his own claims. But even Gould’s opponents will recognize this as the magnum opus of one of the world’s leading evolutionary thinkers. ~ Publishers Weekly

The Evolutionists

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Evolution is a fact: of that there can be no dispute. But, writes Richard Morris in this lively overview of modern biology, scientists have been arguing about most other aspects of Darwinian thought for generations, and the battle is growing ever fiercer with the advent of "evolutionary psychology" and other new approaches. Following the biologist Ernst Mayr, Morris identifies at least five subtheories in the theory of evolution: "evolution as such," or the idea that evolution takes place at all; "common descent," the notion that all life originated in a common ancestor; "multiplication of species," or the splitting of one species into two or more species over time; "gradualism," the idea that evolutionary change happens slowly over a long period of time; and "natural selection," the idea that favorable genetic characteristics prevail over less desired ones. These subtheories are widely debated these days, with controversial scientists such as Stephen Jay Gould advancing ideas of "punctuated equilibrium," whereby change happens suddenly and often catastrophically; Gould’s nemesis Richard Dawkins advancing orthodox Darwinism under the "selfish gene" metaphor; and other scientists turning up bits and pieces of evidence of environmental determinism and parallel evolution in nature that alternately undermine and support Darwinian thought. The arguments among these contemporary scholars are lively, often acrimonious, and amply fueled — after all, Darwin himself puzzled over whether natural selection was the driving force of evolutionary change. Morris offers an evenhanded account of the many schools of thought at work today, and his book will be of great interest to students of the life sciences. ~ Gregory McNamee of Amazon.com

Icons of Evolution: Science or Myth?

Go The author retraces the reasoning of proponents of evolution from Darwin to the present to show what he sees as their empirically false, and frequently faked conclusions. He contends that these conclusions are presented to the public so many times and in so many ways that they become irrefutable "icons." The information conveyed by these icons is never questioned and is in fact promoted with tax dollars in many contexts. Wells is a postdoctoral biologist (with Ph.D.s from both Yale and the U. of California at Berkeley) who is currently affiliated with the Discovery Institute, Seattle, Washington) ~ Book News, Inc.

Academic Fray over Kansas Decision

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Following the recent Kansas decision eliminating Evolution from state testing, Time Magazine invited Stephen Jay Gould to reaffirm a complementarity view of the interaction between science and religion and the unflagging support for Evolution by the scientific community. After a furious call to arms in the Wall Street Journal editorials, the dauntless Phillip Johnson explained what he sees as the real issue. Leadership University has reprinted Johnson’s article as part of a special focus on Evolutionary hegemony. Nancy Pearcey attempts to clarify the decision and lessen the hysteria in, “The Sky is not Falling.” *Also see: “We’re Not in Kansas Anymore”

Evolutionary Origins of Morality

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Four principal papers and a total of 43 peer commentaries on the evolutionary origins of morality. To what extent is human morality the outcome of a continuous development from motives, emotions and social behaviour found in nonhuman animals? Jerome Kagan, Hans Kummer, Peter Railton and others discuss the first principal paper by primatologists Jessica Flack and Frans de Waal. The second paper, by cultural anthropologist Christopher Boehm, synthesizes social science and biological evidence to support his theory of how our hominid ancestors became moral. In the third paper philosopher Elliott Sober and evolutionary biologist David Sloan Wilson argue that an evolutionary understanding of human nature allows sacrifice for others and ultimate desires for another’s good. Finally Brian Skyrms argues that game theory based on adaptive dynamics must join the social scientist’s use of rational choice and classical game theory to explain cooperation.

Phillip E. Johnson on Darwinism as a Pseudoscience

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In the final analysis, it is not any specific scientific evidence that convinces me that Darwinism is a pseudoscience that will collapse once it becomes possible for critics to get a fair hearing. It is the way the Darwinists argue their case that makes it apparent that they are afraid to encounter the best arguments against their theory. A real science does not employ propaganda and legal barriers to prevent relevant questions from being asked, nor does it rely on enforcing rules of reasoning that allow no alternative to the official story. If the Darwinists had a good case to make, they would welcome the critics to an academic forum for open debate, and they would want to confront the best critical arguments rather than to caricature them as straw men. Instead they have chosen to rely on the dishonorable methods of power politics.

Gene Edward Veith on Cosmology

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Scientific evidence for the "Big Bang" becomes more and more theological. According to "cosmic inflation" cosmology, as Mr. Easterbrook explains it, "the entire universe popped out of a point with no content and no dimensions, essentially expanding instantaneously to cosmological size. Now being taught at Stanford, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and other top schools, this explanation of the beginning of the universe bears haunting similarity to the traditional theological notion of creation ex nihilo, "out of nothing".

The Darwinian Revolution

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Originally published in 1979, The Darwinian Revolution was the first comprehensive and readable synthesis of the history of evolutionary thought. Though the years since have seen an enormous flowering of research on Darwin and other nineteenth-century scientists concerned with evolution, as well as the larger social and cultural responses to their work, The Darwinian Revolution remains remarkably current and stimulating. For this edition Michael Ruse has written a new afterword that takes into account the research published since his book’s first appearance. "It is difficult to believe that yet another book on Darwin and the Darwinian Revolution could add anything new or contain any surprises. Ruse’s book is an exception on all counts. Darwin scholars and the general reader alike can learn from it." ~ David L. Hull, Nature

Academic Integration and the Christian Scholar

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Thoughtful Christians are agreed that an important component of Christian scholarship is the integration of faith and learning, as it is sometimes called. Because Christians are interested in the truth for its own sake and because they are called to proclaim and defend their views to an unbelieving world and to seek to live consistently with those views, it is important for members of the believing community to think carefully about how to integrate their carefully formed theological beliefs with prominent claims in other fields of study. As St. Augustine wisely asserted, "We must show our Scriptures not to be in conflict with whatever [our critics] can demonstrate about the nature of things from reliable sources."1 However, the task of integration is hard work and there is no widespread agreement about how it is to be done generally or about what its results should look like in specific cases. In what follows, I shall do three things to contribute to the integrative enterprise: 1) describe the relation between integration and spiritual formation; 2) discuss current integrative priorities for the Christian scholar; 3) analyze the epistemic tasks for and models employed in integration.

Darwinian Natural Right

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This book shows how Darwinian biology supports an Aristotelian view of ethics as rooted in human nature. Defending a conception of "Darwinian natural right" based on the claim that the good is the desirable, the author argues that there are at least twenty natural desires that are universal to all human societies because they are based in human biology. The satisfaction of these natural desires constitutes a universal standard for judging social practice as either fulfilling or frustrating human nature, although prudence is required in judging what is best for particular circumstances. The author studies the familial bonding of parents and children and the conjugal bonding of men and women as illustrating social behavior that conforms to Darwinian natural right. He also studies slavery and psychopathy as illustrating social behavior that contradicts Darwinian natural right. He argues as well that the natural moral sense does not require religious belief, although such belief can sometimes reinforce the dictates of nature.

Phillip E. Johnson on What We Know About Natural Selection

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If the matter were considered open to question, there would be plenty of reason to doubt that natural selection has the vast creative powers Darwinists attribute to it. What we actually know from scientific investigation is information like the following: artificial selection can produce diverse varieties of dogs and monstrous fruitfly variants; the relative frequency of dark and light peppered moths in a population was observed to vary as the trees became lighter and darker; differential survival causes bacterial populations to develop resistance to antibiotics; living forms share a common biochemical basis and genetic code; new body plans tend to appear in the fossil record fully formed with no record of the transitional intermediates that should connect them to presumed ancestors; and finally, the prevailing pattern of fossil species is stasis, meaning that observed evolutionary change is limited and directionless.

The Blind Watchmaker

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Oxford zoologist Dawkins (The Selfish Gene, The Extended Phenotype) trumpets his thesis in his subtitle almost guarantee enough that his book will stir controversy. Simply put, he has responded head-on to the argument-by-design most notably made by the 18th century theologian William Paley that the universe, like a watch in its complexity, needed, in effect, a watchmaker to design it. Hewing to Darwin’s fundamental (his opponents might say fundamentalist) message, Dawkins sums up: “The theory of evolution by cumulative natural selection is the only theory we know of that is in principle capable of explaining the evolution of organized complexity.” Avoiding an arrogant tone despite his up-front convictions, he takes pains to explain carefully, from various sides, why even such esteemed scientists as Niles Eldredge and Stephen Jay Gould, with their “punctuated equilibrium” thesis, are actually gradualists like Darwin himself in their evolutionary views. Dawkins is difficult reading as he describes his computer models of evolutionary possibilities. But, as he draws on his zoological background, emphasizing recent genetic techniques, he can be as engrossing as he is cogent and convincing. His concept of “taming chance” by breaking down the “very improbable into less improbable small components” is daring neo-Darwinism. ~ Publishers Weekly

Darwin’s Dangerous Idea

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Darwin’s idea is very very simple; it goes like this. 1) Organisms pass their characteristics on to their descendants, which are mostly but not completely identical to their parent organisms. 2) Organisms breed more descendants than can possibly survive. 3) Descendants with beneficial variations have a better chance of surviving and reproducing, however slight, than those with non-beneficial variations. 4) These slightly modified descendants are themselves organisms, so repeat from step 1. (There is no stopping condition.) That’s it. That’s all there is to Natural Selection: a simple four step loop; a mindless algorithm that displays no intent, no design, no purpose, no goal, no deeper meaning. This simple algorithm has been running on Earth for four billion years to produce every living thing, and everything made by every living thing, from the oxygen atmosphere generated by plants to the skyscrapers and music created by man. Dennett writes that it is the algoritm’s complete mindlessness that makes Darwin’s idea so dangerous. Dennett devotes the major portion of his book to aggressively arguing the above. He reviews how the algorithm could have “primed life’s pump” eons ago and spends some time on describing evolution and biology. He argues that biology is engineering and thus reducible to algorithms. He also explains how simple algorithms can lead to computers that play brilliant chess and here he makes an important distinction: brilliant chess doesn’t have to be perfect chess. ~ Vincent Poirier at Amazon.com

Scientific Naturalism and the Unfalsifiable Myth of Evolution

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Scientific Naturalism is a worldview that is powerfully influencing our culture today. So much so that even believers in one and the same God struggle with conflicting views. J.P. Moreland begins the first of his four part series with a clear examination of its belief system and the role theistic evolution plays to perpetuate its ends. Here are parts II, III, IV.

Niles Eldredge on Paleontology

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No wonder paleontologists shied away from evolution for so long. It never seemed to happen. Assiduous collecting up cliff faces yields zigzags, minor oscillations, and the very occasional slight accumulation of change — over millions of years, at a rate too slow to account for all the prodigious change that has occurred in evolutionary history. When we do see the introduction of evolutionary novelty, it usually shows up with a bang, and often with no firm evidence that the fossils did not evolve elsewhere! Evolution cannot forever be going on somewhere else. Yet that’s how the fossil record has struck many a forlorn paleontologist looking to learn something about evolution.

William Lane Craig on the Importance of Worldview

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It is imperative that we turn the whole intellectual climate of our culture back to a Christian world view. If we do not, then what lies ahead for us in the United States is already evident in Europe: utter secularism. Throughout Europe, evangelism is immeasurably more difficult because the intellectual climate and culture there are determined by the conviction that the Christian world view is false and therefore irrelevant. Therefore, Christian missionaries often must labor years to get a handful of converts. If we lose the theoretical issues, then in the end our practical application will be fruitless.

Darwin on Trial

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In his own era, Darwin’s most formidable opponents were fossil experts, not clergymen. Even today, according to the author, the fossil record, far from conclusive, does not support the presumed existence of intermediate links between species. A law teacher at UC-Berkeley, Johnson deems unpersuasive the alleged proofs for Darwin’s assertion that natural selection can produce new species. He also argues that recent molecular studies of DNA fail to confirm the existence of common ancestors for different species. Doubting the smooth line of transitional steps between apes and humans sketched by neo-Darwinists, he cites evidence for “rapid branching,” i.e., mysterious leaps which presumably produced the human mind and spirit from animal materials. This evidence, to Johnson, suggests that “the putative hominid species” may not have contained our ancestors after all. This cogent, succinct inquiry cuts like a knife through neo-Darwinist assumptions. ~ Publishers Weekly

Phillip E. Johnson on Darwinists Craving to Be Right

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Darwinists took the wrong view of science because they were infected with the craving to be right. Their scientific colleagues have allowed them to get away with pseudoscientific practices primarily because most scientists do not understand that there is a difference between the scientific method of inquiry, as articulated by Popper, and the philosophical program of scientific naturalism. One reason that they are not inclined to recognize the difference is that they fear the growth of religious fanaticism if the power of naturalistic philosophy is weakened. But whenever science is enlisted in some other cause — religious, political, or racialistic — the result is always that the scientists themselves become fanatics. Scientists see this clearly when they think about the mistakes of their predecessors, but they find it hard to believe that their colleagues could be making the same mistakes today.

S. Lovtrup on Darwinism

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Micromutations do occur, but the theory that these alone can account for evolutionary change is either falsified, or else it is an unfalsifiable, hence metaphysical theory. I suppose that nobody will deny that it is a great misfortune if an entire branch of science becomes addicted to a false theory. But this is what has happened in biology: … I believe that one day the Darwinian myth will be ranked the greatest deceit in the history of science. When this happens many people will pose the question: How did this ever happen?