Adoptionism and biology: an interpretation of Darwinism?
Posted 15 March 2009 - 11:07 PM
If I may:
Is it truly necessary that we disregard any and all data that Darwin brings to bear, on the grounds that the conclusions that he reaches are incompatible with a Christian view of human development? Can we not admit that the facts speak for themselves, and yet deny the force of his more obviously philosophical arguments?
Do we not admit that great artists can reveal fascinating things about the human condition, despite their questionable underlying philosophical aims? Was Homer less of a poet because he was a pagan? Joseph Conrad less of a storyteller because he was an atheist? I realize the analogy is imperfect, but I feel that we may be drifting into ad hominum territory if we say that Darwin gives us nothing, because of what he believed about the world, irrespective of what concrete material truths he brought to bear concerning it.
Even if he insists that his findings lead to certain conclusions, I don't think this is binding on us. The facts, so far as I am concerned, stand alone.
Posted 16 March 2009 - 02:00 AM
And by the way, what are the facts? It is still an undemonstrable theory. There are no facts that I am aware of to support it. If there are, I would like to see them. This is because it is not a biological theory, but an economic one, based on the theories of Thomas Malthus, and Herbert Spencer. Again, please, go to the text. Darwin says he has a lot of facts, too numerable to mention in the book, but he doesn't even mention one. He observes animals in their habitats quite well, but those are facts that can support the theory. The fact is there is no case study or case history of one species evolving into another. It is a hypothesis. Many of the original arguments used to defend it have been debunked, such as the development of the human fetus supposedly recapitulating the evolutionary schema.
Posted 16 March 2009 - 01:41 PM
There are a lot of unsolved encounters with UFO's. Does this prove that alien beings are routinely scouting the planet? Actually, probably better proof of that than fossils prove evolution. If anything, the fossil record disproves Darwinism. Under Darwin, you had to have randomness and gradualism. When they finally admitted that the fossil record, known at the time quite well (geologists issued the first critique of his theories) disproved gradualism, the Darwinists came up with something called "punctuated equilibrium" to overcome the objection. They will always do that. It's the same thing when Marxists come up with explanations as to why their economies are failing.
It's been a while since I read it, but The New Biology by Augros and Stanciu cover all of the problems with Darwinian proofs. These are not fundamentalist kooks. It seems to me that one is obligated to read the critical literature before one assumes without reservation that a theory is factually supported. I remember my high school biology teacher, who was an advocate of evolutionary theory, at least admitted that it was a theory, not a fact. What he did not know, because biologists do not study politics and history and philosophy and theology, is that Darwinism is an economic and psychological theory, not a biological theory.
Also, I am still wondering about any case in which the real science of micro-biology has made a discovery that is dependent on the Darwinist model.
Posted 16 March 2009 - 02:16 PM
Posted 16 March 2009 - 02:22 PM
For the Fathers nature provides the specific and irreducible character of each species. And the origin of each nature is from the pre-eternal counsel of the Word, each nature in image of Him as its Creator. It is through the specific characteristics of each species that their nature as image corresponds in distinct fashion to the Word.
In modern times however the Patristic understanding of nature shifted to that of component aspects. The understanding of the relationship between creatures in turn was greatly affected by the understanding that since we all share the same components then specific nature is no longer the irreducible starting point for what is created.
I think then that any discussion of evolution sooner or later must touch on these two visions- whether they are mutually exclusive and contrary to each other; or whether they could overlap.
First though we have to come to terms with what underpins each way of thinking about creation.
In Christ- Fr Raphael
Posted 16 March 2009 - 04:13 PM
Posted 16 March 2009 - 08:30 PM
Owen, forgive me if I'm misunderstanding you, but taken literally, this statement is nothing less than a repudiation of scientific inquiry. Taking brute facts and interpreting them in accordance with unifying theories are what scientists do. If there were no facts, no agreed-upon data points, empirical science would be fundamentally irrational.
So, when I say that I don't have to be a Darwinian to accept Darwin's empirical findings, I don't think that commits me to an absurd position. What Darwin would have wanted me to think upon examining the data he brought to bear doesn't concern me in the least-- many have reached different conclusions despite accepting the datum itself. The analogy to Freud is, I think, incorrect-- Freud, unlike Darwin, DID NOT rely upon objectively ascertainable data. He was therefore more of a philosopher than a scientist. I think there's a stronger case for throwing the baby out with the bathwater in such contexts.
The same could be said for Nietzsche, Voltaire, Spinoza, and their ilk. These men didn't purport to present facts; they presented ideas. I don't think you can take much from them without compromising your faith to a certain degree (well, I suppose you could acknowledge that they were intelligent men who could write well). I don't have any truck with such authors/writers/thinkers.
I fully acknowledge that we should be wary of thinkers of any stripe that hold anti-Christic views. Of course, such views color their work to some degree-- how could they not? But seperating the wheat from the chaff, in Darwin's case, I don't see as entirely impossible.
Posted 17 March 2009 - 01:52 AM
With respect, my Welsh cousin, you are arguing about something in the abstract. And I suspect, and forgive me if I am wrong, but I suspect that you are defending the scientific basis of Darwinism because of what you have been told, and not because of what you really know. And my argument is that to understand Darwin and Darwinism, you actually have to go to the text and read what he actually said. Like on every other topic here on Monachos, if we want to know what the Patristic commentary was on a topic, we go round and round on the subject until Dn. Matthew points out that it would be a good idea to actual go to the texts themselves and see what the particular theologian in question actually says, and sometimes there is agreement, sometimes there is disagreement, depending on the topic, sometimes there are different interpretations, etc., but if you don't start with the actual text, then it is not productive. So if we want to focus on facts as our starting point, let's use the factual data of the content of the text.
And I just want to assure Fr. Gregory that I don't wear a towel on the top of my head! I don't mean to be too cheeky about it, but I think epistemology did not become a separate discipline in philosophy until around the 18th century. Although the Theatetus is not a bad foundation, and of course Christ gives us a very good epistemological foundation when he says, "I speak only of the things I have seen and heard." Meaning to me that he does not spin theories.
Posted 17 March 2009 - 01:57 AM
"Nothing at first can appear more difficult to believe than that the more complex organs and instincts should have been perfected not by means superior to, though analogous with, human reason, but by the accumulation of innumerable slight variations, each good for the individual possessor."
So right off the bat he is dealing head on with the objection that God created us and positing the proposition that we are the sum of accumulated variations. The two are juxtaposed and it is clear that he deems them contradictory.
Posted 18 March 2009 - 01:41 PM
He repeatedly states that he is drawing inferences from his field data to support the proposition that all life is evolved from a single "prototype." He says that his propositions are self-evidently true, because the alternative -- special creation -- is too difficult to believe.
He admits that there are arguments against his theory. The two most important arguments are a) that if it could be shown that an organ could not exist apart from gradual changes then his theory would collapse and b) that if there is no evidence of linkages, then his theory collapses. In the former case, this is essentially what the whole intelligent design debate is about. For a good survey of the intelligent design argument, see the chapter on evolution in Godless, by Ann Coulter. Granted, it's polemical, but also a very excellent treatment of the subject. In the latter case Darwin admits that the geological record shows no linkages, but he argues that the geological record is incomplete and that he is confident that as the science of geology will progress to the point that these linkages will be found, and also that the geological strata of the earth is very chaotic and has been subject to disruptions over the eons which has distorted the clean evolutionary narrative that he describes.
As for Fr. Hallam's question, if I were to start with a Patristic understanding of what man is, I would have to say that there is a serious flaw in Darwinism, if for no other reason than that it commits the reductionist fallacy. Darwin and his followers define man in terms of being a sum of his evolutionary parts, and he implies that man can be understood completely in those terms. And as the profession of psychology absorbs his theories there will be significant breakthroughs in our understanding of our selves.
The Fathers of course look at man quite differently and I won't try to summarize their anthropology here. But let me suggest that if we are going to dismiss any discussion of theory in the matter of Darwin as irrelevant, then we have to be consistent and dismiss Patristic theory on the subject as well. And with that dismissal we are going to have to dismiss the fruits of prayer and the meditative experience as having any valid cognitive and scientific significance. It is reduced simply to feelings and opinions that is subject to invalidation by scientific "facts."
Of course this is exactly what has happened socially, culturally, in scientific AND theological education, and so on. Theology really has nothing to say about what man is, only what man opines about, and even that is reduced to a matter of taste, like what chocolate you might prefer. It has nothing scientific to say.
So I would argue, in sum, that as a result of my meditation on Scripture and the Fathers, to the best of my understanding, Darwinism cannot possibly be a true account of "human nature," quite apart from any discussion of the meaning of the field data of animals in their habitats. I assume we can have agreement that this is not a fundamentalist argument I am making. Not once have I relied on a fundamentalist reading of Genesis.
Posted 18 March 2009 - 05:58 PM
Guilty as charged. I am a law student, not a scientist, and I'm responding to what I see as problematic arguments that seek to blur the distinction between fact and theory until nothing is objectively true and even bare facts are suspect, so that we can dismiss a theory that's met with almost universal acceptance in the scientific community, including by believing Christians, because its proponent was an atheist.
Now, empirical science has a good track record-- a testament to which is the very fact of our communication. I am aware that there is hostility to Christian values in general within that community, but when Steven Jay Gould, a committed agnostic but a brilliant evolutionary biologist, tells me that we're dealing with Non-Overlapping Magisteria when we're talking about Christian theology on the one hand and evolutionary theory on the other --that the two are not in tension; when Francis Schaeffer, head of the Human Genome Project, agrees with him; when Father Gregory directs me to a discussion in which Kallistos Ware adds his vote; and when I really don't want to find myself worshipping a "god of the gaps," the truth of whose material workings rests uncertainly on the possibility that those fossil records may just be completed, I don't see the need to fight this battle. It certainly has the effect of scandalizing nonbelievers to deny the truth of evolutionary theory, which isn't a reason in and of itself not to do so (so does affirming the truth of the Resurrection, a scandal if there ever was one), but perhaps the need for such contentiousness is escaping me.
Here is an example of what I am reacting to:
"Darwin and his followers define man in terms of being a sum of his evolutionary parts, and he implies that man can be understood completely in those terms."
To which I say, who cares? If the facts which he brings to bear don't support that illegitimate leap from the fact of progressive physiological development to an understanding of man as solely being the sum of his parts, why are we bound to reject it all?
Edited by Evan, 18 March 2009 - 06:03 PM.
Posted 18 March 2009 - 07:31 PM
Second, Darwin did not just believe in progressive physiological development, he believed in progressive psychological development. And all modern psychology is based in one way or another on his theory of instincts, and of the psyche as a product of evolutionary development. This of course cannot be consistent with Christian teaching in any way. But it is not just some airy theory that has no impact on peoples' lives. These days, when people have mental and emotional problems, even the Church washes its hands and sends them to psychologists. The nature of the psyche is key. The Darwinist understanding and the Christian understanding are clearly at odds.
Under Darwinism, there really is no such thing as good and evil, or virtue and sin. There certainly is no such thing as demonic forces influencing behavior or thought. All human behavior, for good or ill, is defined in purely utilitarian terms as whatever preserves the best stock of the species. If you want to pick and choose, and say, well I believe of the facts of evolution, but not all of the theoretical stuff, then fine. Just be consistent and say the same about Christianity. Just be a good protestant, and throw out all of that theological junk. None of it was in the Bible anyway. I only care about the facts of Jesus' life.
Oh, but wait. Darwinism has historical, cultural, political consequences, just like Christianity. It is a vision that involves people, moves people to live and think differently, to take action. For example, it contributes to the ideology of racism, with eugenics having only gotten a bad name as a result of Hitler. But eugenics was widely accepted, even by most American presidents, prior to Hitler's attempt to rid the world of the inferior genetic types, and the intellectual proponenets of eugenics all take the cue from Darwin. And certainly there is a good deal of sublimated eugenics going on today, what with the arguments used for abortion, etc.
But let's not bring any of this up because we want Christianity to look respectable. A good little bourgeois religion that never ruffles anyone's feathers. Heaven forbid other people would accuse us of having a Talibanish epistemology!
I could go on and on. But, like you say, who cares? Just worry about your own soul and make sure it's going to heaven. God doesn't care about all of this other stuff, surely. He really didn't care about all those ancient heresies either. And we could have dispensed with all of the ecumenical councils as just a waste of a lot of manpower. Surely the Church would have been better off trying to impress the Roman Empire that it was only concerned about the souls of its small flock, and was not interested in calling into question the idols of the then prevailing culture. And when roman philosophers attacked Christianity, why, who cares? We just care about how our own little communities are doing. Don't want to get involved in all kinds of intellectual debates.
Posted 18 March 2009 - 08:26 PM
I could go on and on. But, like you say, who cares? Just worry about your own soul and make sure it's going to heaven. God doesn't care about all of this other stuff, surely. He really didn't care about all those ancient heresies either. And we could have dispensed with all of the ecumenical councils as just a waste of a lot of manpower. Surely the Church would have been better off trying to impress the Roman Empire that it was only concerned about the souls of its small flock, and was not interested in calling into question the idols of the then prevailing culture. And when roman philosophers attacked Christianity, why, who cares? We just care about how our own little communities are doing. Don't want to get involved in all kinds of intellectual debates."
Right. Now, we've fallen into caricaturing and distorting one another's viewpoints for the sake of... well, I'm not sure for the sake of what, since I've never supported any of the positions you're bloviating against. I thought Father Gregory might have been exaggerating to make a point in labeling your epistemology Talibanish, but it's hard to disagree when you're willing to engage in such argumentative techniques.
Look, you're perfectly within your rights to reject any and all contribution to the scientific corpus by men who believed that their findings undermined Christian doctrine, if that makes you feel more secure in your faith. I simply don't see why we can't approach Darwin like any other intellectual figure with an agenda, seperating what conclusions are clearly colored by his personal sympathies from those which have enough objective support to convince the greater body of the scientific community. The neat thing about empirical science is that it's by definition open to correction as new facts come to light. To suggest that said community has settled upon the truth of evolutionary theory because they're all post-Enlightenment deists, agnostics, atheists, etc. raises the question of what you know that they don't. Presumably, they've read Darwin, too.
Is it your contention that those scientists, Christian or otherwise, who have found that one can accept evolution in a more qualified way than Darwin himself may have wanted them to, while at the same time affirming the truth of Christian account of Creation, are simply ignorant of Darwin's agenda or, alternatively, are sticking their heads in the sand?
"If you want to pick and choose, and say, well I believe of the facts of evolution, but not all of the theoretical stuff, then fine. Just be consistent and say the same about Christianity. Just be a good protestant, and throw out all of that theological junk. None of it was in the Bible anyway. I only care about the facts of Jesus' life."
I fail to see the usefulness of this analogy. Maybe it would have an impact if, say, one of us was actually arguing that Christian doctrine emerged as an interpretation of a factual record, as opposed to, say, divine revelation.
Edited by Evan, 18 March 2009 - 08:35 PM.
Posted 18 March 2009 - 10:32 PM
The Archaeopteryx, the Sinosauropteryx, and the Epidexipteryx? The progressive modifications of the tetrapod skeleton, as evidenced in the fossil record? Homologies, both genetic and anatomical, shared among species? The fact that neither radiometric nor relative dating has been convincingly attacked, and thus the development within and across species in the fossil record can be accurately traced?
I've yet to see a Creationist argument that doesn't depend upon denying premises that are almost universally accepted within the scientific community, the accuracy of carbon-14 dating being the most popular "target." Of course, these secularists could all be wrong, and you could be right.
Edited by Evan, 18 March 2009 - 10:34 PM.
Posted 19 March 2009 - 12:43 AM
Regarding the age of the earth, I don't consider that dispositive one way or another, and so I haven't brought it up. But I understand that some pretty good mathematicians say that it is not only mathematically improbable but mathematically impossible that randomness over the current estimated time of the earth could produce anything like the complexity that we observe. Yet the age of the earth, again, is argued as some kind of proof of Darwinism. Again, it is a kind of fundamental necessity if the theory is true to have a very, very old earth, but it is not a proof. It only makes it somewhat easier perhaps to draw the inference. Again, the issue really is not proof so much as whether the case is closed on the subject. And I would say on this issue it is very much an open question -- that is to say, whether randomness can produce progressive development from the simple to the complex over time. Actually, it would tend to directly fly in the face of what we know about thermodynamics and the universe. The model there is, one might say, one of devolution, of a winding down, a slow death.
As far as progressive development that seems to be evident in the fossil record, from hominoids to humans, or the example that you gave, we now know of course that homo sapiens as the naturalists call us appeared quite suddenly relatively recently and in every case you still have the problem with a lack of linkages. It strikes me that this is a progressivist bias imposed on natural history, rather than proof. The fact that there are fossil records of human like beings whose skeletal remains do not appear to be as advanced as we are, does not serve as a proof that we have evolved from them or that we share a common ancestor. (incidentally, Neanderthals had somewhat bigger brains than we have). Rather, it is an inference that depends on the evolutionary model as the starting point, rather than the end point.
In fact, if anything, it seems to me that Darwinism is not simply an unverifiable theory, it is also non-falsifiable. There is absolutely no way you can set up any kind of model or experiment that could potentially falsify the theory. And of course this is the same objection to faith in God. You cannot set up any controlled experiment. And yet a controlled experiment that will allow for falsifiability is the cornerstone of modern experimental science that they all are absolutely adamant about. Yet why shouldn't it also apply to natural selection? Why not simply admit that it's a paradigm, but certainly not a scientific fact?
Finally, at least for now, I want to respond to the inference that if one is critical of Darwinian dogma, that means that one is something called a "creationist." I'm not sure what that word means but I suspect it has something to do with fundamentalism and Biblical literalism. So I am assuming your assumption is that I am a fundamentalist "creationist" or something like that -- forgive me if I have misconstrued your meaning. Sadly, there are perhaps many Christians who feel they are doing a service to the Church by saving it from fundamentalism and ridicule by accepting the premises of Darwinism, even though Darwinism strikes me as an alternative religion with all of the earmarks of fundamentalist dogmatism.
As for micro-evolution, it's much easier to make a case for it. There are people in Africa who have certain genetic defenses against malaria, which, sadly, also causes cycle cell anemia. And one can infer from this that it is a mutated trait that has survived because it has a survivability premium attached to it. Or the fact that negroes have dark skin and flared nostrils, and the women easily store fat in the buttocks. This cannot be proven, it is still an inference, because there really is no way to prove it, but I think it does not have the numerous problems, questions and obstacles that macroevolution obviously has. Clearly genetics is in its infancy, but we are better understanding things that go wrong and cause diseases and deformities and the like. You don't need God to have caused these by interfering in each specific case, any more than you need to be the proximate cause of every event that ever takes place. That was a medieval Catholic school of thought known as Occasionalism, if I'm not mistaken. Not that He couldn't, but it just appears that He doesn't work that way. In any case, I'm not sure that micro-evolution is properly labeled. I mean, it's not really evolution is it? Change, development, yes. Adaptation, yes. But I don't see that we can call it evolution.
Finally, I want to mention some of the more impressive critical literature:
Race and State, by Eric Voegelin
The New Biology, by Augros and Stanciu
Godless, by Ann Coulter. She is a polemicist, but that does not mean she hasn't done her homework or hasn't summarizes the Intelligent Design argument quite brilliantly -- she has. The ID argument, as I understand it, is largely centered around the problem of inherent complexity. An objection which Darwin raised as well. We now know that organs are a lot more complex than he ever imagined. His model was more like Newtonian building blocks. So you start out with one block, and you add another block and you eventually get a house. But the Newtonian model simply does not work or apply, either with respect to what we are learning about the function of genes, or the function of individual organs.
There is a lot more stuff that I don't pretend to understand that is available in the critical literature if one wants to go searching for it. One of the problems is that the critical literature is often a lot more difficult to follow than Darwin himself, because they have to deal with a lot of complex issues that Darwin over-simplified.
Posted 19 March 2009 - 01:35 AM
Yet an important question remains, the answer to which I think will vastly improve our dialogue:
"The fact that there are fossil records of human like beings whose skeletal remains do not appear to be as advanced as we are, does not serve as a proof that we have evolved from them or that we share a common ancestor. (incidentally, Neanderthals had somewhat bigger brains than we have)."
I ask this in all innocence: What precisely do you believe to be at stake here? If we admit a common ancestry, is it your contention that we are no longer uniquely and wonderfully made? Are we no longer made in the image of God?
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