A Naturalistic Fairy Tale-Part XVIII

And then did we, Most High Scientist, put to bed the mystery of the origin of sex. Sex did arise from hermaphrodites (praise Science), as we do now know from our study of strawberry plants.(1) Well at least in plants, but we’ll title the article as if the whole mystery we did solve, because it might as well have been the whole mystery, for we can generalize. We did learn, that genes at two different spots in the strawberry plant can cast that plant as a hermaphrodite, single sex, or neuter (praise Science).

“All of the animals and plants that are bi-sexual [praise Science; text added], or have two sexes, are theorized to have evolved according to a particular set of steps,” said researcher Kim Lewers, a plant geneticist at the USDA’s Genetic Improvement of Fruits and Vegetables Lab in Maryland. “Until now, no example had been found of the very earliest steps. Therefore, those steps were undemonstrated to be true.”

Please do continue to rely on us, the Most High Scientists, to solve whatever tiny mysteries do remain. We do think you now must be utterly convinced by the strawberry plant about the origin of sex in all of its variations.

(1) Scientists put sex origin to bed, MSNBC

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20 Responses

  1. So if sex started with hermaphroditic plants, then why do we, from the believer to the atheist, make such a big deal about its moral implications. How do we know that rape, incest and pedophilia aren’t just part of the natural process? We are what we eat!! Fruits!!!!

  2. DB, as you and I know, we are fruits! (metaphorically) God has written on our hearts, his law. However, we are not good, and cannot follow the law. He helps us to follow and corrects us by the Spirit. I am truly impressed that the naturalists can generalize from the genes of strawberries to everything else. They start out with the notion that common descent is true. Then they devise stories to explain how things happened based on what they believe is true. They worship the creation and not the Creator as you have quoted before.

  3. “They worship the creation and not the Creator as you have quoted before.”

    Has it ever occurred to any of you that perhaps naturalists don’t worship anything at all? Or do you suppose that everyone necessarily worships something? If the latter, what’s the psychological theory here, and how did you become convinced that the theory is true?

  4. Scientists put sex origin to bed, MSNBC

    Someone should research the headlines of stories which popularize the theory of evolution. I think what would be found is that the origins of sex was put to bed a few years ago, it was put to bed now, then in ten years it will be put to bed again and so on. In each case the general narrative will be, “There was a mystery here but now it has been solved by an advance in knowledge.” Given this pattern of confessing ignorance only after “progress has been made” the question arises, when were scientists actually ignorant? Now, then, again, when? I guess the headline: “Scientists have no idea how sex originated!” or “the origin of sex cannot be put to bed” don’t sell.

    Reporting on human origins represents this pattern even more clearly, the “progress” constantly being made in finding “missing links” for humans and not chimps or apes is curious. Apparently many hominid fossils along the human line of descent just happened to be preserved and yet there is virtually no evidence left for apes and their line of descent. Of course, apes don’t read newspapers and don’t seem interested in a narrative of Progress. Any admission or acknowledgment of ignorance only seems to emerge when supposed progress in knowledge is reported on. The narrative goes something like this: “Before we were ignorant but now given this breakthrough we know!” Yet often that was the same story just a few years ago and the same thing will probably be reported the same way in just a few more years.

    The mythology of Progress which Darwinism comports with is a powerful thing so it seems that people typically forget that given a thorough adherence to the narrative of Progress almost everything that we think we know now will be shown to be ignorant nonsense in the future. Not to mention the fact that if Darwinism is totally true then it’s likely that our biological brain events have more to do with the mating habits of ancient worms than some sort of inevitable and almost divine Providence or Progress towards truth written into natural laws and unveiled by science. (Indeed, that is the old view of Providence which has generally been discarded by Darwinists in favor of “panda’s thumb” theology.)

  5. The narrative goes something like this: “Before we were ignorant but now given this breakthrough we know!”

    or, in other words…

    They’re making it up as they go!

  6. “Apparently many hominid fossils along the human line of descent just happened to be preserved and yet there is virtually no evidence left for apes and their line of descent. Of course, apes don’t read newspapers and don’t seem interested in a narrative of Progress.”

    Also, modern great apes — gorillas, chimpanzees, and orangutans — live in environments which make for extremely poor fossilization. So it’s not surprising that there are so few remains. Every single tooth and chip of bone that has come down to us is an amazing gift, a message in a bottle.

    “if Darwinism is totally true then it’s likely that our biological brain events have more to do with the mating habits of ancient worms than some sort of inevitable and almost divine Providence or Progress towards truth written into natural laws and unveiled by science.”

    You know, I’ve seen this move made again and again, and the more I think about it, the less sense it makes.

    Consider our ability to perceive red. Surely, an evolutionist would say, our capacity to perceive red things is an adaptation (think of fresh meat, or fresh berries and fruit). It would be a strange move to say that since this capacity is an adaptation, that there aren’t really red things! Instead, it’s because there really are red things that we evolved the capacity to track redness.

    Similarly, one might very well argue that logic is as real as red (and why not?) — and that just as our minds evolved the capacity to perceive redness without that capacity infringing on the ontological status of red, one might hold that our minds evolved the capacity to perceive logical relationships, without that capacity infringing on the ontological status of logic.

    In other words: perhaps a Darwinist can be a Platonist!

  7. Instead, it’s because there really are red things that we evolved the capacity to track redness.

    Has Darwinism moved into the realm of metaphysics now? If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em, I guess… Seems to me that this is the nature of Darwinist thought. It commandeers whatever philosophy it needs to survive, and then declares that philosophy off-limits to its enemies.

  8. Has Darwinism moved into the realm of metaphysics now? If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, I guess… Seems to me that this is the nature of Darwinist thought. It commandeers whatever philosophy it needs to survive, and then declares that philosophy off-limits to its enemies.

    Well, I don’t know about this. Is it really a piece of metaphysical extravagance to assert that there really are red things?

    These are deep waters, and it’s crucial to move slowly.

    My principle motivation in my post above is to show that Darwinism can be disentangled from materialism, if by “Darwinism” we mean a family of theories about the history of life, and if by “materialism” we mean a metaphysical doctrine. Of course there are Darwinist who are materialists — Richard Lewontin is an excellent example, much better than Dawkins — but I want to explore alternative conceptual formations and associations. After all, that’s what philosophers do!

    I recently came across this very intriguing collection of essays: Darwinism and Philosophy. Another intriguing collection that explores the metaphysical and theological implications of Darwinism is Back to Darwin: A Richer Account of Evolution.

    I mention these works because I think they show ways of examining complexities that are concealed by the simplifications that abound in the media and in textbooks.

  9. Actually, I’m referring your implication of purpose. “We evolved x in order to achieve y.” The Darwinist has appropriated purpose (which, when talking about life, only derives meaning from the metaphysical concept of “good”, in my opinion) to suit his own argument. If a creationist counters with, “how come not to achieve z also?”, then the Darwinist reply is that there is no demonstrable purpose for it.

    Can you tell me why we haven’t evolved the ability to see into the higher frequency light spectrum? If you answer, “by chance, we didn’t”. Then I’m satisfied completely. But if you say “there was, or is not yet, a (life-affirming, good) purpose for it”. Then I’m not satisfied in the least!

  10. I’m not entirely allergic to the concept of “purpose” in some contexts. In fact, I’m inclined to think that the concept of “life” (or “life-form”) cannot be explicated without the concept of “purpose” or perhaps “purposiveness.” The more I consider these issues, the more I think that Aristotle (and Kant) were exactly right to insist that biological explanations cannot be divorced from teleology. The hard work involves in specifying very precisely where the teleology does and does not hold. (Many biologists prefer “function” rather than “purpose,” but this is a mere switch-and-bait.)

    Of course some animals can see into other parts of the electromagnetic spectrum, and some animals can even see polarized light. I don’t know what sort of explanation you’re looking for here, Mike, except to say that we — Homo sapiens — are not part of one of those lineages.

    But I wonder if perhaps you see some sort of intellectual puzzle or conundrum here to which I’m insensitive, or insufficiently sensitive.

  11. Here’s what puzzles me:

    We have two scenarios: function follows form, and/or form follows function.

    In the case of the former, pure naturalism as a claim of source for form is, to me, a satisfying argument.

    In the case of the latter, teleology, or design and purpose, does not explain anything to me if divorced from theism.

    So how can a non-theist subscribe to the latter position? Even the practice of, as you say, “specifying very precisely where the teleology does and does not hold”, does not make sense to me without theism.

    I guess I’m the one in the conundrum here.

  12. You know, I’ve seen this move made again and again, and the more I think about it, the less sense it makes.

    I said if Darwinism is “totally true” then one may as well focus blindly on natural selection and so on. I would say that it’s a satire but my supposed satires are often what Darwinists actually say. E.g. “In the last ten years we have come to realize humans are more like worms than we imagined.” (Bruce Alberts, National Academy of Sciences) It seems that when you begin imagining things about the past in that mentally incompetent way that Darwinists have then it begins to seem that humans are like worms.

    “…the worm represents a very simple human.” (geneticist Glen Evans) Imagine that! Of course it doesn’t make sense, that’s the point of making a satire out of it. Conceptually speaking you have to have sense to make sense and they don’t have any, that’s why they fall for nonsense.

    Instead, it’s because there really are red things that we evolved the capacity to track redness.

    Your reasoning departed from Darwinism there. That’s why I said if Darwinism is totally true then, etc. Given Darwinian reasoning as a total truth the main or only thing that governs organisms is natural selection, not external truths. So the only question that matters is does the capacity to perceive redness benefit survival and reproduction, not whether or not if it is true that redness exists and so on. Given a pure Darwinian focus the capacity to be dishonest or avoid the truth could just as easily evolve as the capacity to be honest and seek the truth but the Darwinian creation myth has generally been tied to a general mythology of Progress in knowledge and so on. That is certainly what Darwin himself believed, yet ironically natural selection is blind to progress and it doesn’t predict any progress towards the truth.

    Then there is the question of what Darwinism actually specified given that the capacity to see redness could evolve given the supposed truth of evolution or it may not evolve. Evolution may as well be a Rorschach test in which each subject imagines what they will about things.

  13. We have two scenarios: function follows form, and/or form follows function.

    Thomas Jefferson said of this:

    …the Theist pointing `to the heavens above, and to the earth beneath, and to the waters under the earth,’asked if these did not proclaim a first cause, possessing intelligence and power; power in the production, and intelligence in the design and constant preservation of the system; urged the palpable existence of final causes, that the eye was made to see, and the ear to hear, and not that we see because we have eyes, and hear because we have ears; an answer obvious to the senses, as that of walking across the room was to the philosopher demonstrating the nonexistence of motion.
    (The Faiths of Our Fathers: What America’s Founders Really Believed
    by Alf J. Mapp :14)

  14. My principle motivation in my post above is to show that Darwinism can be disentangled from materialism, if by “Darwinism” we mean a family of theories about the history of life, and if by “materialism” we mean a metaphysical doctrine.

    Unfortunately Darwinian reasoning is linked to materialism, this began with Darwin himself very early in his thinking (as his personal notebooks show) and continues on to this day. But everyone has their philosophy and it is possible to deal with Darwinian theory without focusing on the philosophy or theology of its proponents. It’s also possible to deal with ID hypotheses without focusing on the philosophy or theology of proponents of ID but this seldom happens.

    Much of Darwinian theory was and is constructed on philosophic naturalism combined with the belief that progress will inevitably verify naturalism and so on. If that is taken away and the focus is shifted towards actual empirical evidence and rational explanations rooted in knowledge based on our experience as rational creatures and so on then Darwinism may crumble.

    …I want to explore alternative conceptual formations and associations.

    That’s fine but I hope you won’t object when people focus on the Darwinian orthodoxy because it’s a more commonly known and relevant topic than alternatives. Some type of alternative creation myth generally rooted in a narrative of progress could be advanced as opposed to the Jewish creation myth but for now the Darwinian creation myth is generally established and promulgated as the equivalent of scientific knowledge and so on.

    It seems to me that most people could stand to be more philosophical on the issue of origins than they are but it’s also possible to be too philosophical.

  15. I don’t object to anyone here focusing on “Darwinian orthodoxy.” Everyone is free to discuss whatever is of interest to them. But such a discussion is of no interest to me, so if that’s where the focus is going to be here, I’ll find other ways of spending my free time!

    In any event, I was only interested in opening up some room for seeing things otherwise than as they are usually represented. In particular I want to pry apart Darwinism and materialism (i.e. Epicureanism). I’d like to see, eventually, to what extent Darwinism is compatible with Aristotelianism — because more and more I’ve come to think that some sort of Aristotelianism (though not a theistic version) is an indispensable starting point for thinking clearly about ethics.

    But that’s my project, and I certainly don’t demand that anyone here find it as interesting as I do!

  16. I’d like to see, eventually, to what extent Darwinism is compatible with Aristotelianism…

    It would probably be better to turn your question around and ask what Darwinism isn’t compatible with. Stripped of the Darwinian creation myth the theory of natural selection is compatible with nearly every philosophy and theology that I can think of. Darwinism isn’t compatible with Aristotelianism to the extent that it is linked to the philosophic naturalism and modern/mechanical philosophy from which it arose. The majority of its widely published proponents maintain this link, use it in their arguments and so on so it seems that it will not be dying out any time soon. In fact, Darwinian reasoning is often justified based on the modern/mechanical philosophy by which Aristotle was discarded so it’s not clear that Darwinism can be extracted from the philosophical milieu in which it arose.

    http://telicthoughts.com/ is probably the closest school of thought to Aristotle. Most there still maintain a progressive creation myth rooted in common descent and so on but their advocacy of the notion of “front loading” seems to me to comport with Aristotle’s notion of potentiality. The fact that their minimal advocacy of teleology and the like constantly puts them at odds with Darwinists in general shows that most Darwinists think that Darwinism does away with teleology.

  17. Carl, I hope you find that elusive synthesis you are looking for. But remember, one can easily spend a lifetime building, repairing, renovating and decorating his house, without ever giving thought to the foundation.

  18. I agree, Mynym, that front-loading is basically Aristotelian. So if I were simply an Aristotelian, and were shopping around for Aristotelianism dressed up in contemporary biological terminology, that’s what I would go with.

    But I’m not just an Aristotelian, and I’m deeply interested in a problem that Aristotle explicitly rejects from consideration, and that’s the problem of the origins of form — of morphogenesis. Aristotle argues that form (morphe) cannot come into being nor pass out of being — that’s the main aspect of his inheritance, via Plato, of Parmenides.

    Like Aristotle, and unlike Epicurus (and contemporary Epicureans), I think it is correct to say that form is real. (Or if you prefer, “structure” or “information”.) But unlike Aristotle, I think that we need an account of morphogenesis — of how form comes into existence, is transformed over time, and so on. (So I am not an orthodox Aristotelian. Perhaps I am a “heterodox Aristotelian,” which is how I read Dewey.)

    The other respects in which I’m an Aristotelian are in my commitment to (1) the tradition which insists on a distinction between rational animals and non-rational animals, though this too I mitigate in a “Darwinian” fashion by making it a matter of degree rather than kind, and (2) the tradition which conceptualizes ethics in terms of the exercise of virtues rather than in terms of obedience to absolute laws, and which ties the virtues to the expression of human capacities. To borrow a metaphor I’ve seen used, an Aristotelian regards a person without the virtues as like a house without a roof.

    But remember, one can easily spend a lifetime building, repairing, renovating and decorating his house, without ever giving thought to the foundation.

    A powerful metaphor, Mike, and one that I thoroughly reject. I sign off with the sort of “anti-foundationalism” developed by Wittgenstein and others — for which knowledge, and culture generally, is not like a house — something that needs a strong foundation — but like a ship in the middle of the ocean.

    A ship in the middle of the ocean can be repaired using materials on hand, and if other materials come into play, it could even be strengthened and extended, but what cannot be done is taken apart completely and rebuilt from the bottom up. (Whereas one can do with a house, and one could do that with knowledge, or with a world-view, if such things had a “foundation”.)

  19. So if I were simply an Aristotelian, and were shopping around for Aristotelianism dressed up in contemporary biological terminology, that’s what I would go with.

    Everyone dresses their philosophy up in different languages but there is also empirical evidence which can be compiled which tends to support such a view. Telic Thoughts mentions some of it occasionally but Leo Berg cataloged it in his book Nomogenesis.

    Like Aristotle, and unlike Epicurus (and contemporary Epicureans), I think it is correct to say that form is real. (Or if you prefer, “structure” or “information”.) But unlike Aristotle, I think that we need an account of morphogenesis — of how form comes into existence, is transformed over time, and so on.

    It seems to me that Aristotle did allow for and study transformation after form is sustained in being by the unchanged Changer or Mover. It is interesting that he believed in an eternal Cosmos and yet also essentially argued for the necessity of God’s existence.

    Apparently you think that logic which leads back to an unmoved Mover should be seen as a failure to account for something but in fact it may be the ground upon which all things can be accounted for. It is the ground upon which the study of transformation begins. And given that ground Aristotle spent a lot of time focusing on how form exists while change also takes place. It seems to me that his thinking leads to the beginnings of a scientific study of cause and effect (the study of change) combined with scientific classification schemes (the study of form).

    A short summary of Aristotle’s views:

    The ordinary objects of our experience are irreducible composites of potentiality and actuality, of the capacity for change and something that persists through the change. In particular, they are irreducible composites of matter and form. […] It is only the form and matter together that constitute the ball. Hence we have Aristotle’s famous doctrine of hylomorphism (or “matter-formism,” to convey the significance of the Greek hyle or “matter” and morphe or “form”).
    […]
    The form is not the matter and the matter is not the form. Even if, contra Plato, the form of the ball doesn’t exist by itself; neither is it true to say after the fashion of materialism that the ball is “just a piece of matter.” Nothing is just a piece of matter, for matter cannot exist without form, and form (being the principle that accounts for permanence) isn’t material (matter being the principle that accounts for change). (The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism by Edward Feser :58-59)

  20. Actually, I don’t have a serious objection to Aristotle. He sees a genuine problem and gives a carefully thought answer to it — what more could anyone ask from a philosopher? The genuine problem he sees, on my interpretation — please bear in mind that I’m not an Aristotle scholar and haven’t read much of him! — isn’t so much about existence of things, as it is about the order of things. The Unmoved Mover is not invoked in order to explain why each kind of thing changes as it does, nor in order to explain the origins of the cosmos — since it has none — but rather, the Unmoved Mover is invoked in order to explain why the cosmos is an orderly and good place, rather than a hodgepodge or chaos.

    There is a tradition that begins with Plato and Aristotle which demands that we attend to the fact that the universe is an orderly, harmonious, and beautiful place — and one that is intelligible to the human mind — and that we recognize that the very order and intelligibility of the universe is something that itself cries out for some explanation.

    Perhaps one way of putting my dissent from the other views represented on this blog is that I do not think that there is anything in the Modern Synthesis view of evolution which is inconsistent with the tradition as stated above.

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