The God Gene Redux

Darwinists of all stripes can hardly refrain from evolutionary storytelling when it comes to human psychology.  Not surprisingly, they focus largely on their opponents–those who have faith in God.  The recent work by archeologists Joyce Marcus and Kent Flannery seems to follow the familiar template.1  Start with an actual study, then speculate wildly about how natural selection brought about the observed results.

During 15 years of excavation they have uncovered not some monumental temple but evidence of a critical transition in religious behavior. The record begins with a simple dancing floor, the arena for the communal religious dances held by hunter-gatherers in about 7,000 B.C. It moves to the ancestor-cult shrines that appeared after the beginning of corn-based agriculture around 1,500 B.C., and ends in A.D. 30 with the sophisticated, astronomically oriented temples of an early archaic state.

This and other research is pointing to a new perspective on religion, one that seeks to explain why religious behavior has occurred in societies at every stage of development and in every region of the world. Religion has the hallmarks of an evolved behavior, meaning that it exists because it was favored by natural selection. It is universal because it was wired into our neural circuitry before the ancestral human population dispersed from its African homeland.

For atheists, it is not a particularly welcome thought that religion evolved because it conferred essential benefits on early human societies and their successors. If religion is a lifebelt, it is hard to portray it as useless.

For believers, it may seem threatening to think that the mind has been shaped to believe in gods, since the actual existence of the divine may then seem less likely.

In case you missed it before, I think John Cleese’s work in this area is as good or better than any other Darwinist speculating in this area.

Reference:
1. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/15/weekinreview/12wade.html

The 10 Commandments of Materialistic Naturalism

Commenter Mike weighs in on mynym’s recent post. I thought it deserved a post of its own.


Another thing I find typical (and the thread you linked to is typical of this) is that it’s always the Darwinist who wants to bring up Creationism and Genesis in an ID debate. Usually this is accompanied by accusations of trying to enforce your “religion” on them. Sooner or later they will bring it up and accuse you. It’s practically inevitable. Then it’s always followed by some form of: “Oh Yeah? Well, my god is better than your god! Watch me crawl back into her womb now so I don’t have to listen to you”.

Darwinists have no problem allowing themselves to admit “design” and “purpose”, as long as it’s attributed to Mommy Nature, and not any other god. The fact is that evolution is a theological pursuit. It is a creation myth, not science. That’s why it’s defended with such religious fervor, and why blasphemers are to be condemned:

The 10 Commandments of Materialistic Naturalism:

I am Mommy Nature, Who Self-Ascended from the Great Nothing, who created all that is seen and unseen (though the unseen existeth not), who affirms your randomly-generated illusion of the miniscule portion of reality you think you perceive.

Behold:

1. Thou Shalt Love Me with all thy brain synapse firings and chemical reactions (for that is what Love is)

2. Thou Shalt recognize No gods before Me

3. Thou Shalt make an idol of DNA, and shall worship thy genome as an omnipotent agent of “progress”

4. Thou Shalt refer to me as “nurturing” and “clever”, and shall attribute “purpose” to me, though I do have No mind or being

5. Thou Shalt Not attribute to thyself any rationale for rationality, for thou were formed blindly, and by accident

6. Thou Shalt live a Lie, as if concepts of Mind do have inherent meaning, and are not the chemical processes they are, for thou art matter only

7. Thou Shalt believe in Non-Existence, and shall enthusiastically embrace it upon thy Death

8. Thou Shalt cite thy Imagination as Evidence of My Work, and shall do this by drawing fancy pictures of hypothetical ape-like creatures connected by arrows

9. Thou Shalt Believe in Chance, and not refer to it as Ignorance

10. Thou Shalt Not Believe in Moral Absolutes, yet thou shalt also refer to this belief as Good

Behold, I shall send you Messiah, the Holy Scientist who will reveal all, Redeeming all believers and Condemning all Blasphemers to lobotomies!

Religious Artifact or Scientific Discovery?

The latest in the saga of nature worship is the discovery of a ’47 million year old’ fossil given the name Ida.  Hailed in the popular press as the long-sought-after ‘missing link,’ Darwinius masillae is being held up in some circles as the “Eighth Wonder of the World.”

Perhaps my impression that this is being held up with a religious artifact for naturalism is hyperbole, but perhaps not. You decide. Here is a quote:

“This specimen is like finding the Lost Ark for archeologists,” lead scientist Jorn Hurum said at a ceremony at the American Museum of Natural History.

“It is the scientific equivalent of the Holy Grail. This fossil will probably be the one that will be pictured in all textbooks for the next 100 years.”(1)

Lost Ark? Holy Grail? All that in one? It certainly seems like the whole question of human evolution is solved. However, things are not so wonderful. You know there’s a problem when someone from Scienceblogs (atheistblogs?) criticizes the findings.(2)

This shoddy scholarship is matched by a weak attempt to show that Darwinius has more anthropoid-like traits than tarsiers or omomyids do. In order for the authors of the paper to make a convincing case they would have to undertake a careful, systematic analysis of the anatomy of Darwinius in comparison to other primates, yet they did not do this. Instead they combed the literature for 30 traits that might help ascertain the placement of Darwinius in the primate family tree and filled in whether each trait was present or absent in Ida’s skeleton.

This find may be interesting and have some scientific value, but the primary value at this time appears to be as a religious symbol for naturalism.

(1). “Missing link found? Scientists unveil fossil of 47 million-year-old primate, Darwinius masillae”
(2). Poor, poor Ida, Or: “Overselling an Adapid”


Update: Others have weighed in on the issue.

ID: Darwinius masillae: The Religion in Evolution

IDA: THE HOLY GRAIL OF MISSING LINKS?

Creationism: Ida: the Missing Link at Last?


Update 2: It seems the Darwnists are running for cover after their bluff was called. New Scientist has posted an article today entitled, Why Ida fossil is not the missing link. Regardless, we can look for this to show up in textbooks as ‘proof’ of evolution.

What does Ida’s anatomy tell us about her place on the family tree of humans and other primates? The fact that she retains primitive features that commonly occurred among all early primates, such as simple incisors rather than a full-fledged toothcomb, indicates that Ida belongs somewhere closer to the base of the tree than living lemurs do.

But this does not necessarily make Ida a close relative of anthropoids – the group of primates that includes monkeys, apes – and humans. In order to establish that connection, Ida would have to have anthropoid-like features that evolved after anthropoids split away from lemurs and other early primates. Here, alas, Ida fails miserably.

So, Ida is not a “missing link” – at least not between anthropoids and more primitive primates. Further study may reveal her to be a missing link between other species of Eocene adapiforms, but this hardly solidifies her status as the “eighth wonder of the world”.

Instead, Ida is a remarkably complete specimen that promises to teach us a great deal about the biology of some of the earliest and least human-like of all known primates, the Eocene adapiforms. For this, we can all celebrate her discovery as a real advance for science.

The Religion of Evolution

Cornelius Hunter, author of book Darwin’s God and DarwinsPredictions.com writes at his blog Darwin’s God:

Religion in disguise can be the most dangerous kind. Sometimes religious movements veil their true convictions and instead present an appealing false front to searching souls. Even long-time members may not be aware of the true inner core of the movement where they place their faith. By the time they do become exposed to the truth of their movement, they are too ensconced to raise any doubts. And likewise outsiders have difficulty understanding the movement. While this may sound like a cult, it also describes evolution. It is a religious theory disguised as science, and adherents and opponents alike often fail to appreciate this. The latest example of evolution’s disguised religion comes in the form of this YouTube video that challenges viewers to find a gene that did not evolve.

Of course the challenge in the video is a false one. Here’s basically how it goes: find a gene that is unequivocally designed. Then they’ll run it through their database to see how similar it is to other genes. If it’s less than 20% similar then it’s designed (oh, and don’t forget, it can’t be a gene that’s part of an irreducibly complex system).

This is like saying find a motorized vehicle with wheels that has less than 20% of the components of other known wheeled vehicles. If you do so, we’ll agree that it’s designed. Otherwise, the vehicle was not designed.


The Outsider (DB) discusses similar issues today.
The “Gospel” of Darwin: By Another Darwinian Apostle, Richard Lewontin

An Example of Why I'm Not Impressed with The Ivory Tower-Part II

Why is it that I have hostility toward the Ivory Tower1? In fact, I spent enough time there to obtain a Ph.D., you’d think I’d pay homage. While I do appreciate that I had the opportunity, and a few things that I learned, I did not disengage my independent mind during the process (I seem to be incapable of doing so). It really would have been easier to get caught up in the pursuit of the intellectual. All my professors were pushing my toward academia (“You’re too intelligent to go into private practice. You should be in academia.” WTF? I took it as one of the worst insults I’ve had. In retrospect, I realize this was the best compliment the professor could possibly give. But it was from the perspective of one ensconced in the Ivory Tower. So, now with a bit more maturity and perspective, I can appreciate the compliment).

I don’t come from a background of intellectuals. My family was blue-collar, working class, middle-class folks, living out in rural America. A lot of my friends were farmers. We didn’t have any wealthy friends (they didn’t exist here), and there were no intellectual elite. The closest university is 65 miles away. So, I think it is a bit more clear to me when someone is detached from the basic reality of humanity and life, than it is for others with a different background.

So, this is a lot of lead up, and a lot of (possibly unnecessary), information about me. What’s this post all about? I’ll get to the point.

In Part I2, of this series I wrote about an example of why I’m not impressed with the Ivory Tower. I cited specifically, the work of Dr. James McGrath, a professor of theology at Butler University in Indiana. Dr. McGrath was kind enough to express his willingness to engage the discussion further, but only did so obliquely on his blog.

He wrote in a comment here:

Thank you for engaging my posts. I must confess, however, that I’m not sure what exactly you find lacking in my theological credibility. If you could be more specific, it would better enable me to respond and continue the conversation!

I responded, my coauthor, DB responded, and others responded. James, did not respond. Or did he?

My coauthor DB wrote in a comment:

This is a similar argument to that which Judas used to scold Mary M. for wasting money, “that could have been used to feed the poor,” on perfume to wash Jesus’ feet. It’s legalistic, and, as with Judas, manipulative in its intent, since he wanted that money for himself! “…by opposing science…” I don’t oppose true science, nor do most rational believers! What I do oppose, as others, is billions of dollars spent on science experiments like the LHC, which serves only the egos and desires of naturalist/materialist and atheistic scientists whose only goal is to disprove God. How could those billions have been used for humanity? How many people could have been fed, housed and clothed with 8 billion dollars? Also, unlike material science, the Creation Museum is funded by believers, not the government, which uses tax payer’s hard earned cash! I’m sorry, but your arguments seem to be manipulative and political in nature, which tells me something about what you do believe.

Dr. McGrath subsequently followed up on his blog with two posts.

Judas and the Field of Blood
30 Pieces of Silver

So, while I find obliqueness to be interesting, I find it to be a bit of a cop-out to direct communication. If you believe in your ideas enough to present them to the public, then why not defend them in a direct way instead of challenging the story of Judas. Perhaps the comments of DB hit home a bit?

1 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ivory_tower
2 http://www.intelldesign.com/?p=251

On Religious Beliefs, ID, and Science

Dave Scot, decidedly an agnostic, has written what I believe to be a very cogent analysis of theistic associations between ID and Christianity, and atheism and promoters of science. His views, I believe line up well, with how I see the issue. He also includes a logical rationale for design detection.

http://www.uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/response-to-gabriel/