BioLogos Foundation’s “suggested reading”

Francis Collins’s accommodationist website BioLogos, funded by our friends at The Templeton Foundation, features this book prominently on their website:

Lamoreauyx

All well and good, until you get to the publisher’s description:

“In this thought-provoking book, born-again Christian Denis O. Lamoureux argues that the God of the Bible created the universe and life through evolution—an ordained, sustained, and design-reflecting natural process. In other words, evolution is not the result of blind chance and our creation is not a mistake. Lamoureux challenges the popular assumption that God disclosed scientific facts in the opening chapters of Scripture thousands of years before their discovery by modern science. He contends that in the same way the Lord meets us wherever we happen to be in our lives, the Holy Spirit came down to the level of the inspired biblical writers and used their ancient understanding of origins in order to reveal inerrant, life-changing Messages of Faith. Lamoureux also shares his personal story and struggle in coming to terms with evolution and Christianity.”
- Wipf and Stock Publishers

Sounds like directed evolution to me: “ordained and design-reflecting”.  This is supported by the thesis of Lamoureux’s earlier book Evolutionary Creation, which is described on his own website as follows:

“Evolutionary creation claims the Father, Son and Holy Spirit created the universe and life through an evolutionary process. This position fully embraces both the religious beliefs of conservative Christianity and the scientific theories of cosmological, geological and biological evolution. It contends that God ordains and sustains the laws of nature, including the mechanisms of evolution. More specifically, evolution is ‘teleological,’ and features plan, purpose and promise. In particular, this view of origins asserts that humanity evolved from primate ancestors, and during this natural process the Image of God arose and sin entered the world. Evolutionary creationists experience God’s presence and action in their lives. They contend that the Lord meets men and women in a personal relationship, which at times involves both dramatic and subtle miraculous signs and wonders.”

Walks and quacks like creationism. . Do Collins and Templeton really want to be in bed with this kind of person?When are Collins and his minions going to realize that this is CREATIONISM and not the theory of evolution as it is is understood by scientists?  An evolutionary process that is guided, and aimed at evolving specific species, is a form of supernaturalism.  Darwin himself recognized this in a letter to the geologist Charles Lyell:

I entirely reject, as in my judgment quite unnecessary, any subsequent addition ‘of new powers and attributes and forces,’ or of any ‘principle of improvement’, except in so far as every character which is naturally selected or preserved is in some way an advantage or improvement, otherwise it would not have been selected. If I were convinced that I required such additions to the theory of natural selection, I would reject it as rubbish. . . I would give absolutely nothing for the theory of Natural Selection, if it requires miraculous additions at any one stage of descent.

Templeton claims it will have no truck with creationism or intelligent design, but that is precisely what is being promoted on BioLogos’s website.   More blurring of the boundaries between faith and science, but of course that is Templeton’s (and Collins’s) agenda.  Dr. Collins is a scientist, and should know better.  And I wish that Templeton would keep its prosperous paws away from evolutionary biology — they always muck it up!


106 Comments

  1. Dave
    Posted May 10, 2009 at 11:23 am | Permalink

    Yes, I agree, pretty well garbage. These attempts at reconciliation are pointless and often reveal embarrassingly sloppy thinking and as you point out, creationist leanings. I’d rather see simple metaphor employed by the “believers” if they’re going to play this game. You almost sound Gouldian in some of your arguments, especially the great dismantling you did of Miller’s claim of the inevitability (or likeliness) of humans. I like Shermer’s line on that; “Historical experiment after experiment reveals the same answer: we are a fluke of nature, a quirk of evolution, a glorious contingency.”

    • Corey
      Posted May 28, 2009 at 6:51 am | Permalink

      Wow. “Pretty well garbage” and “sloppy thinking.” Other than learn that “well” can apparently be used as an adjective, I also learned that fair-mindedness is not your forte. How is this sloppy thinking? As an atheist, I can’t find any fault. Teach me.

      “When are Collins and his minions going to realize that this is CREATIONISM?” Um. . .maybe they realized it when Lamoureux says fifty f***ing times that his books are about “Evolutionary Creationism.” Just for the record, Templeton claimed to have “no truck” with special creationism, not creationism. So what’s the problem?

  2. santitafarella
    Posted May 10, 2009 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    Prof. Coyne:

    I am at a loss to understand why you feel that you must drive religious people into a corner on this. Collins, insofar as I can tell, is promoting a book to Christians that argues that Genesis is not to be read for scientific content, and that the earth is old and plants and animals have changed over time.

    This is progress! Christians—and the religious in general—are not likely to take one grand leap from their “two world” (material/spiritual) hypothesis to your “one world” (material) hypothesis. Thus books like this function as ways for conservative religious people to slowly adjust to the reality that science has set before us, and yet not abandon their faith practices entirely (which obviously gives them some degree of comfort in life). If every conservative Muslim and Christian in the world would just ease their way this far in acknowledging evolution, the world would be a more rational and better place. Maybe you would like them to come the full way to atheism, and don’t feel that meeting people halfway is useful, but I certainly don’t agree (if this is your position). Once a Christian or Muslim says—”I accept that the earth is old and that plants and animals have changed over time”—I can have a reasonable conversation with them.

    And I don’t think that the Christian or Muslim who says—”I accept evolution, but I think there is a God or Mind that started the whole Big Bang thing going”—is saying anything especially irrational.

    It’s an old canundrum. Which came first—mind or matter?

    That you regard the issue as closed is fine. But it’s not closed for everybody—including me as an agnostic.

    As Woody Allen once said: “You ask me where the universe comes from? I don’t know how my toaster works!”

    And talking about the ontological mystery—the mystery of being—is different from denying evolution or the age of the earth. You are right to be indignant at know-nothing fundamentalists—but not right, I don’t think, to argue that people who want to talk about “ultimate things”, and keep the ontological mystery in play, and maybe even God’s existence, are being irrational or intellectually unproductive.

    Theology will always be somewhat interesting because it is focused on “ultimate things” and how we know them, which brings us up to the edge of our knowledge.

    As an agnostic, for example, I still think it is valuable to read Niebuhr and Gabriel Marcel. And John Caputo, as a religious interpreter of Derrida, is interesting, as is David Loy, an interpreter of Buddhism. In all of these cases, you have sophisticated intellectuals thinking about the limits of ontology, epistimology, and human meaning from a liberal religious/philosophical vantage.

    And you said in an earlier post that science and literature are not incompatible, but science and religion are. But many of the concerns of religion overlap literature—and are prosaic attempts to articulate issues that literature might raise poetically. Wallace Stevens, for example, wrestles with ontological issues, as does a poet like A.R. Ammons. Sophisticated religion and poetry are ways of coming up against, and trying to talk about, the mystery of being.

    I think that God talk is often just a trope for trying to talk about the ontological mystery.

    (Sorry for the long response.)

    —Santi

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted May 10, 2009 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

      It has been 2000 years for the Christians and 1200 years for the Muslims “to slowly adjust to the reality that science has set before us”. Especially the last 150 years that they haven’t “ease their way this far in acknowledging evolution”. Its time to speed up, don’t you think? Otherwise it might take another 10,000 years to get to reason.

      How does the corners of religion overlapping the corners of literature have anything to do with the complete incompatibility of religion and science? The sky is blue and some people have blue eyes who also have noses. Does that mean noses can smell the blue in the sky?

      • santitafarella
        Posted May 10, 2009 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

        NewEnglandBob:

        I think of Barack Obama. After the assassination of King, who’d have thought that there would be, forty years later, a black president? I think that there is reason to hope that, over the next 30 years, most U.S. Evangelicals will have a “tipping point” moment, and accept at least some version of theistic evolution, and maybe even gay marriage. On my own blog, I dialogue with a 20-something Evangelical who accepts evolution and buys civil unions. I think it may be generational, and that the next few decades will find more and more U.S. Christians making peace with evolution. Maybe I’m wrong, but books like the ones that Collins promotes might be a catalyst for this shift.

        And the more Christians out there—like Collins and Miller—who Christians see being Christians and accepting evolution—the more likely that other Christians will come around. To drive Collins from Protestantism and Miller from Catholicism is probably bad strategy. If Christians look around themselves and see only young earth creationists, they might not have any good models for alternative ways of being Christians in the world. Collins and Miller function as bridges to a more reasonable view of evolution among conservative Christians.

        As for your comment that Christians have had hundreds of years to make the shift, I don’t see it that way. Many conservative Christians make the shift every day to more reasonable and moderate views about evolution. And both Protestantism and Catholicism have mellowed considerably over the centuries, chastened by the Enlightenment. They’ve come pretty far, actually. Islam’s relationship to evolution is another matter, and a problem of a different order.

        —Santi

    • pdiff
      Posted May 10, 2009 at 11:44 pm | Permalink

      “I am at a loss to understand why you feel that you must drive religious people into a corner on this.”

      I don’t believe he is. He is driving a “Scientist” and Tempelton into a corner for trying to promote spirituality as science. It is not and they are both being dishonest in their promotions.

      “This is progress! Christians—and the religious in general—are not likely to take one grand leap from their “two world” (material/spiritual) hypothesis to your “one world” (material) hypothesis.”

      Who cares! Conversion of this type is what religions do, not science. You can believe in 5 worlds for all I care, but if you want to call them science, then you need to back them up with evidence.

      “Thus books like this function as ways for conservative religious people to slowly adjust to the reality that science has set before us …”

      Again, you are worried about converting people, we are worried about keeping science, science.

      “And I don’t think that the Christian or Muslim who says—”I accept evolution, but I think there is a God or Mind that started the whole Big Bang thing going”—is saying anything especially irrational.”

      Irrational is strong, but poor logic is more apt. The obvious, and oft used, objection would be “who made your god, then?” This explanation explains nothing, but just moves the goal posts.

      “It’s an old canundrum. Which came first—mind or matter?”

      Minds are made of matter; Matter trumps mind.

      “That you regard the issue as closed is fine. But it’s not closed for everybody—including me as an agnostic.”

      Not sure what you are referring to here: Creation or accommodation.

      “And talking about the ontological mystery—the mystery of being—is different from denying evolution or the age of the earth.”

      Ummmm, yeah.

      “You are right to be indignant at know-nothing fundamentalists—but not right, I don’t think, to argue that people who want to talk about “ultimate things”, and keep the ontological mystery in play, and maybe even God’s existence, are being irrational or intellectually unproductive.”

      Big ol’ strawman here. Who’s said that? No one’s trying censor talk. They are calling out people who try to pass off unverifiable, illogical ideas as scientific. Talk about it all you want, but don’t do so under the veil of science until you have the data to back it up.
      As for your ontological mystery or God hypothesis,people have tried to insert that (keep it in play,as you say) into explanations of nature for hundreds of years, and yet, the more we learn on each subject, the less necessary it becomes, until THE GH is completely obsolete. We are able to model the world without it.

  3. 386sx
    Posted May 10, 2009 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    “He contends that in the same way the Lord meets us wherever we happen to be in our lives, the Holy Spirit came down to the level of the inspired biblical writers and used their ancient understanding of origins in order to reveal inerrant, life-changing Messages of Faith.”

    So in other words, when the Lord meets us, we don’t know if the Lord is telling us true stuff or not. The Lord only tells us true stuff if we already know it’s true. But if we know false stuff, then the Lord will tell us false stuff. Makes perfect sense!

    • MelM
      Posted May 10, 2009 at 10:20 pm | Permalink

      A new edition of the Bible is long overdue.

      • MelM
        Posted May 10, 2009 at 10:23 pm | Permalink

        A new edition of the word of God–with no pages in it.

  4. Hempenstein
    Posted May 10, 2009 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    This may reveal their new strategy. Highlighting from that description, “Lamoureux argues that … God … created …life through evolution— [a] design-reflecting natural process.”

    Thus, concede evolution AS BEING intelligent design, and, I suspect (from other input) put God in the atoms. Far easier to find chemists with no biological background who will back them on that one.

    Continuing, “….our creation is not a mistake.”

    I have a hard time understanding the arrogance that demands reassurance of having arisen purposefully.

  5. Yakaru
    Posted May 10, 2009 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    Santi,

    I disagree. Science isn’t a “one world” hypothesis, as you suggest. Rather, scientific method simply concerns itself with searching for natural causes for observed phenomena. It isn’t concerned with actively denying a second world. (Criticising evidence-free theories of nature is another matter, of course.)

    If I understand Dr Coyne’s position, he wouldn’t be complaining about such a book appearing on a Christian website (though he might argue about its contents). His complaint is that this website presents the book as if such ideas are compatible with science.

  6. MelM
    Posted May 10, 2009 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

    The book is concerned to reject naturalism and support theistic causation in the universe. A god that did not create the universe and has nothing to do with it, isn’t a very worthwhile god at all. If “god did it” then “god did it” is the true explanation of an event and no naturalistic (scientific) explanation can be found–because none exists. Such attempts must necessarily fail. In cosmoloy and everywhere else, science and religion are in conflict and believers can’t leave their god completely out of nature. On top of this, we need reason in ethics and everywhere else; unsupportable fantasies can provide a rational foundation for nothing.

    You are right Jerry and I hope other scientists will come to join you in the fight.

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted May 10, 2009 at 8:16 pm | Permalink

      Melm, I agree with all your stated points.

  7. Paramecium Brain
    Posted May 10, 2009 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

    I was recently given a book called “Finding Darwin’s God” by Kenneth Miller, and I was wondering if you knew of it, or of the author. The little summary on the front says it’s a scientist’s search for common ground between god and evolution, but it doesn’t seem to be advocating anything like directed evolution. Just wondering what your opinion of the book is, if you’ve heard of it or read it.

    • CharlesInCharge
      Posted May 10, 2009 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

      I can tell you the conclusion of pretty much every biologist who’s ever read the book.

      The first half is one of the most effective eviscerations of intelligent design creationism I’ve ever seen. The second half is mind-numbing stupidity in which he claims that the Judeo-Christian God hides in the quantum foam or some such nonsense.

      It was very disappointing. I enjoy watching Miller talk, and I think he’s a brilliant man. It’s sad that he can’t turn his scientific scepticism against his own lame arguments for the existence of a personal God.

      • Paramecium Brain
        Posted May 10, 2009 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

        Hmm, that’s really unfortunate. I’m still in the first half of the book, but I’ll probably finish it anyway. Thanks for the comment though! I haven’t found anyone else that’s read it.

      • Reginald Selkirk
        Posted May 11, 2009 at 7:13 am | Permalink

        I have also read it, and my opinion matches that of CiC. When you turn the page and Miller switches from battling ID to defending his Jesus-belief, you will know.

        BTW, Miller is rather cagey about this; he doesn’t claim that God hides in the quantum foam, only that He could if He wanted to, or something like that.

        As for myself, I feel that any God who is indistinguishable from random chance is not worth my effort to attack, and is certainly not worthy of belief or worship.

  8. Scarlet Letter
    Posted May 10, 2009 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

    santitafarella

    You quote Woody Allen as saying

    “You ask me where the universe comes from? I don’t know how my toaster works!”

    Woody Allen is not an authority on science. He is a comedian; he is not a scientist. Collins is a scientist; he should know better than to try to insert his god into scientific explanations. Collins behaviour will not lead Christians to accept evolution; it will give them further support to be able to say, see god did it.

  9. santitafarella
    Posted May 10, 2009 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

    Yakaru:

    You said, “Science isn’t a ‘one world’ hypothesis, as you suggest.” I’d ask you to think about that. Insofar as I can tell, naturalism is the belief that we live in one world, not two. Supernaturalism is the belief that there are two worlds, not one. I hope that this is not an oversimplification, but I think that science goes better with the first idea, and tends to discount the possibility of the second. It’s hard to imagine science functioning very well if there are constant miracles intruding upon this world from the other one. But if one believes that a mind started the laws and existence of the universe, and it is now playing itself out according to her foreknowledge, I suppose science could still function under those circumstances. I think that the position of Collins and Miller is that a mind outside the universe makes things go, but (with very, very rare exeptions—perhaps the resurrection of Jesus) does not interfere in a direct way with the processes of life or the laws of the universe. This is, for Collins and Miller, an affirmation of faith, not something that interferes with their science. It is an expression of hope that at the heart of the universe is something “human like”—and not, as it were, a mechanical blind spider.

    A blind spider at the center of the universe. Creepy.

    —Santi

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted May 10, 2009 at 8:23 pm | Permalink

      Santi:

      Science does not “discount the possibility of the second”. Science is objective and open to all possibilities. Science has found no evidence of the supernatural. It does not discount it, but has found no proof of it at all. If evidence comes along, most scientist will gladly change their minds (unlike many religious people, who have beliefs in spite of evidence to the contrary).

      • Yakaru
        Posted May 11, 2009 at 4:13 am | Permalink

        Santi, thanks for the reply. Mind or consciousness may well be permeating the universe – subjectively it can seem like that sometimes, and plenty of inspiring and fascinating philosophies and meditation techniques have grown from that idea. But until there is evidence for it, it will remain outside science.

        Science has succeeded for 2500 years or so without supernatural thinking. Do you know of any “other-worldly” theories which have contributed to scientific progress during that time?

  10. Posted May 10, 2009 at 6:36 pm | Permalink

    I haven’t read Lamoureux’s book that is the topic of this post, but I have read some work by Collins. There is a difference between saying “God guided evolution because it couldn’t do much by itself” and “God created a fully-gifted creation that was capable of things like self-organization and natural selection to produce everything from bacteria to humans.” The first statement is compatible with ID but the second one is not. The second statement is more in line with Collins.

    Collins doesn’t believe that evolution needs any help from God. Instead, he believes that God created the universe in such a way that evolution could happen. What he is saying isn’t any different than what Simon Conway Morris says in Life’s Solution.

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted May 10, 2009 at 8:26 pm | Permalink

      God created a fully-gifted creation that was capable of things like self-organization and natural selection to produce everything from bacteria to humans.”

      Where is the proof of that? Nope. It has no proof for that statement.

      Instead, he believes that God created the universe in such a way that evolution could happen.

      Not fact, not evidence, but belief. Still a non-starter.

  11. santitafarella
    Posted May 10, 2009 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

    Scarlet Letter:

    You said: “Woody Allen is not an authority on science. He is a comedian; he is not a scientist.”

    Non-scientists are not the only ones who can speculate about ontology—the mystery of being. Actually, such reflections tend to be belong—not to the scientist—but to the realm of the philosopher, the poet, the theologian, and the artist. Allen is a cinematic artist—not just a comedian in the common or vulgar sense of that term—and his meditations on life and being in his films often cut to the quick, and bring as much light to human existence and experience—and even the nature of the universe—as scientific pronouncements. If they did not, we would not need poetry, or cinema, or religion, or literature. But we still need these things (or at least some of us do).

    I notice that you call yourself “Scarlet Letter”—which suggests that you respect the insights that come from literature (Hawthorne). One of those insights is that human beings might be wise to show at least some caution and humility in pronouncing on the mystery of being.

    By the way, I have one of those scarlet letter “A” Dawkins’ tee-shirts too; but I got it in part for its Hawthorne echo.

    —Santi

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted May 10, 2009 at 8:28 pm | Permalink

      wow, it must be nice to be able to assign everyone else to certain buckets and that you know all about them.
      /sarcasm

  12. Tim
    Posted May 10, 2009 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

    In fairness, it’s difficult to tell from that description whether the book advocates intelligent design or a deism along the lines of God set up the universe and left it alone. If the latter, I don’t see it as particularly objectionable. The main reason for accepting naturalism over that kind of deism is Occam’s Razor. And, sure, Occam’s Razor is a useful principle within science, but its application doesn’t prove than an argument is wrong, merely that it’s less likely.

    Remember that naturalism is part of the philosophical basis of science (which has obviously been very successful) rather than a proven fact. Scientists in previous eras with more deistic philosophies discovered things about the world.

    You will not convince most people about natural selection unless they already have a fundamental bias towards naturalism/deism. I think, though, that most people do not have clear philosophical commitments or biases, and can be convinced, but they won’t be convinced by philosophical or scientific arguments – they’re more likely to be convinced by appeals to the terrible state of the world, etc (Hitchens’ arguments, for example).

    • MelM
      Posted May 10, 2009 at 10:48 pm | Permalink

      Remember Georgia Purdom–the PhD (molecular genetics) “scientist” working for the AIG creation museum? She’s a YEC and twists everything to fit that view. In that respect, her YouTube interview with Michael Shermer is one of the most chilling things I’ve ever seen; e.g. “Pathogenic microorganisms didn’t exist until after the fall.”

  13. CW
    Posted May 10, 2009 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

    santitafarella:
    I am at a loss to understand why you feel that you must drive religious people into a corner on this.

    If religious people are being driven into a corner it is a corner created by the inflexible limits of their own world view. There is simply no adequate justification for asking that we actively pretend that reality is other than it is simply so that some people don’t feel pressure to give up their conceits and preconceptions.

    When the evidence contradicts your preconceptions you reconsider them. Complaining that the evidence (and those who keep pointing it out) are hurting your feelings is not a valid response from an adult.

  14. santitafarella
    Posted May 10, 2009 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

    CW:

    I don’t think that there needs to be universal civility with regard to the way that we talk about religion. “Hurting feelings” should not be a restraint on free speech, and mockery can be an apt and valid rhetorical tactic for shaking up rigid people and positions (in my view). I’m not asking for the rigor of your arguments against theism be dampened. I just don’t see, with regard to evolution, why you feel the need to badger religionists beyond a certain point. From my vantage, if a person accepts the basic facts of science (the earth is old and plants and animals have changed over time by a process of natural selection), I really don’t care what non-violent religion they may (or may not) practice.

    Beyond this limit, it seems ridiculous to try to drive religionists into a corner, and force them to say that if they accept the basic facts of earth history and the life sciences that they must also believe in naturalism, and that the universe has no “telos” behind it, and was not created by a “mind” (or God). Believing in evolution need not necessarily drive a person to this fuller conclusion (as both Collins and Miller attest).

    —Santi

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted May 10, 2009 at 8:40 pm | Permalink

      It is generally the religious who are attacking evolution and trying to force their supernatural fantasies on everyone else. This needs to stop. It is abusive and has been for thousands of years.

      Fighting back is not ridiculous at all. No one is trying to force religious people to believe in naturalism. You have it backwards.

      • santitafarella
        Posted May 10, 2009 at 8:54 pm | Permalink

        NewEnglandBob:

        You use the word “force” as a blanket condemnation of religion. Of course, nobody should force anyone. I agree that one does not dialogue with people committed to force. The Templeton Foundation is devoted to intellectual TALK. You don’t boycott people who are talking. You talk to them.

        —Santi

      • NewEnglandBob
        Posted May 10, 2009 at 9:02 pm | Permalink

        You used the word ‘forced” before I did. You used it to condemn atheist trying to force acceptance of naturalism (although they do not do that).

        Many scientists have talked to Templeton before and they still have their agenda to force accommodation of science to religion. There is nothing further to talk to them about. Templeton is trying to corrupt scientific research. They admit it clearly.

      • Reginald Selkirk
        Posted May 11, 2009 at 7:20 am | Permalink

        The Templeton Foundation is devoted to intellectual TALK.

        Ha ha ha! They only seem interested in listening to people who say things compatible with their pre-drawn conclusions. That is not compatible with honest scientific inquiry. I will believe in the reality of their intellectual nature when they award a Templeton prize to someone like Dawkins or Stenger, who argues for a non-compatibilist view.

      • Posted May 11, 2009 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

        @ santitafarella

        You really want people to talk to people from an organization which “primary spokesman and ‘ambassador’ to the world of opinion-makers”, Gary Rosen, manipulate comments text and censor contradictory opinions?
        What kind of talk is that?

  15. CW
    Posted May 10, 2009 at 8:34 pm | Permalink

    From my vantage, if a person accepts the basic facts of science (the earth is old and plants and animals have changed over time by a process of natural selection)

    The point is that they (in the case of this book) have emphatically not accepted that. So called “Directed evolution” is not a process of natural selection but one of supernatural manipulation. It’s just a slightly more subtle version of Creationism and a not very subtle co-opting of the term evolution.

  16. santitafarella
    Posted May 10, 2009 at 8:49 pm | Permalink

    I don’t think that evolutionists who are atheists should be boycotting and demonizing religious evolutionists (like Collins and Miller). I think that the Templeton Foundation is a bogey. There’s very little reason (so far as I can tell) not to talk about the limits of epistimology and whether the universe might have a telos behind it. The “case closed” attitude of atheists, and the claim that “it degrades science” to even talk about these matters in public forums, strikes me as narrow minded, and displays an impatience with nuance and dialogue.

    Jerry Coyne thus strikes me as like the vegetarian at the Steak House who orders a salad and makes everyone around him feel unprincipled, compromised, or unenlightened. I think Coyne should go to the New York forum, participate, and stop acting like religious people are, a priori, disqualified from public dialogue on science.

    If Templeton has an “agenda,” so what? What is the harm in stimulating talk with committed people?

    Think about it. E.O. Wilson will be there. Brian Greene will be there. Harvard University Press (which has actually published at least one book of papers from a Templeton sponsored event) will be there. Religion is an inherently interesting topic. It shouldn’t be an off the table subject when scientists gather. And it’s not a zero sum game.

    —Santi

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted May 10, 2009 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

      There you go again! Telling everyone what they <should do.

      This post of yours contains mostly idiotic statements. You analogies are complete nonsense. Your use of names smells of the argument by authority.

    • Reginald Selkirk
      Posted May 11, 2009 at 7:24 am | Permalink

      I don’t think that evolutionists who are atheists should be boycotting and demonizing religious evolutionists (like Collins and Miller).

      Who is doing so? Both Miller and Collins have respectable jobs doing real scientific work. They are not being boycotted.

      What you are actually asking is something different: that these persons not be called out for saying and writing stupid things when they do so, that they be exempt from criticism on certain topics.

      Be honest about what you are asking for.

  17. J.J.E.
    Posted May 10, 2009 at 9:56 pm | Permalink

    Personally, I’m in favor of pushing along the theists towards accepting scientific methodology and its attendant theories as fast as possible, up to but not including a pace that would inspire backlash.

    In cases like Collins, Miller, and those like them, I think it is very much fair game to heap praise on the portions of their work which is clearly compatible with science and to take a measured but uncompromising approach to criticizing the rest. In this case, I think we need to be very careful about how we calibrate the temperament of our responses without actually compromising the content.

    I know this is like juggling while walking a tightrope, but it is worthwhile, because backlash isn’t just hypothetical, it is a real possibility.

    In the case of Collins’ quantum nonsense, I think it is fair game to point out one crucial aspect about his version of things: there is no difference between the understanding the world which Collins posits and the world which neglects a god hiding in the quantum woodwork. In fact, I think it is incumbent upon us to constantly point this out.

    As a private citizen, everyone is free to view the world in any number of arbitrary ways, as long as they have no implications for the way we interpret actual observations. (Sports fans and art lovers do this all the time.) But when somebody steps into the scientific realm, they should be required to strip propositions about the world if they are irrelevant to science, no matter how innocuous they may seem. And we should hold them to this. After all, what business does a love of the Steelers or belief in quantum gnomes have anything to do with the theory of evolution?

    So, kudos to any Christian who claims that accepting a fully naturalistic version of evolution can be compatible with a version of Christianity they choose to peddle, especially if they spend a lot of their time bashing anti-scientific alternatives like ID. However, those same Christians must also be willing to admit that failing to accept such a flavor of Christianity has no consequences whatever for science, and as such Christianity is better left at the door when embarking upon scientific questions.

    Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to coddle the religious. I would however ultimately be satisfied with trading 85% religious people for Y% watered-down-deists (who leave their watered-down-deism at the door when doing science) and 85% – Y% atheists/agnostics. Of course, I make no room for fundamentalists of any persuasion. That crap’s gotta stop.

  18. RichardW
    Posted May 11, 2009 at 12:36 am | Permalink

    The difference between intelligent design and theistic evolutionism is that the former claims to be _supported_ by the scientific evidence, while the latter only claims to be _consistent_ with the scientific evidence.

    I’m not saying that TE’s claim is correct, but it’s a more modest claim than ID’s.

  19. Scarlet Letter
    Posted May 11, 2009 at 5:59 am | Permalink

    Santi says

    “Religion is an inherently interesting topic.”

    Religion is not an inherently interesting topic. “Religion Poisons Everything” including literature.

    “I think Coyne should go to the New York forum.”

    It was Jerry Coyne’s decision to make; he made the decision to refuse the invitation. Some people agree, others don’t. Let it go.

  20. Posted May 11, 2009 at 7:30 am | Permalink

    Well, stepping back for a second. We have had only one argument against Theistic evolution so far in the whole debate and that was ‘Australia evolved no counterpart to primates’. The rest has just been a load of righteous indignation and chest-beating.

    As regards the evolution of intelligence I would point to the so called ‘triangle of cognition’ between Primates, Cetaceans, and Corvids. Primate levels of intelligence appear to have evolved independently, most strikingly in the new Caledonian crows, but also in Whales and Dolphins. Organisms which have passed the mirror test now include elephants, Orcas and European Magpies. We now know that certain organisms are vastly more intelligent than once thought.

    Jerry argues that our big brained intelligence is a one off and that our colossal increase in brain size which began around about 6 million years ago is a unique evolutionary trajectory. However, I don’t think that is the case. The dolphins and porpoises, experienced a vast increase in brain size before ours and have maintained it. Our brain only overtook theirs at some point around one and a half million years ago. What is remarkable is that they show all sorts of similarities in their cognitive landscape to us, including social play, communication, the ability to recognise themselves in mirror (the mirror test) and tool use; this despite an oceanic habitat rather than an arboreal one.

    As regards the contingent nature of certain events, the earth’s climate changes over millennia to force evolutionary change and create the kind of situations (the drying out of the African forest and the development of grasslands) which led to the emergence of human intelligence. The cognitive triangle shows that we need not even look in a similar context to the development of human intelligence to find other potential inhabitants of the ‘humanoid niche’. For example, a New Caledonian crow has a similar theory of mind to a chimpanzee despite a vastly different brain structure, research into sperm whales shows that diverse social group can combine to produce a form of culture, this is remarkable similar to elephant societies which have similar practices, despite being in very different ecosystems.

    I would also point to Robert A Foley’s conclusion in a recent article in which he said:

    “Rather the adaptive process which is driven by selection does have some law like properties that may well – under the right circumstances – lead to more purposive behaviour as a means of increasing or coping with complex adaptive integration and greater complexity and lead to contained directional trends. These characteristics can be said to give evolution a repetitive and, hence, to some extent. inevitable pattern….The final conclusion I would draw is that evolution on other planets – or a rerun of evolution on this one – will lead to many similarities because of the law-like nature of these processes…In a distribution of intelligences in the universe, or on a sample of one, we might speculate that conscious, purpose driven intelligence represents the mode”

    • Posted May 11, 2009 at 7:41 am | Permalink

      Instead of implying human beings are inevitable consequences of evolution (which is certainly not the case) you could say something like this:

      From the origin of life to the present day, organisms have become, larger, multicellularly complex, taxonomically diverse, and energetically intensive. One significant trend that has emerged in life’s history (and might emerge again if the tape were re-run) is what is known as selective interorganismal investment which is represented by high degrees of parental care and social reciprocity. This is effectively a directional trend that selects for reduced fertility, higher consumption, greater investments in juveniles, and longer life. Among some primates this has resulted in larger brains, and increased capacity for attachment, altruism and moral commitment (but also manipulation, spite etc). In our particular species our brain has evolved into an advanced higher order system and we have the hard to define properties of ‘awareness’ and ‘understanding’ which increases our capacity for freedom of choice.

      I think most moderates would be happy with that, and as far as I can see it is roughly compatible with science and doesn’t introduce any supernatural bogeymen.

  21. santitafarella
    Posted May 11, 2009 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

    Yakaru:

    You said: “Science has succeeded for 2500 years or so without supernatural thinking. Do you know of any ‘other-worldly’ theories which have contributed to scientific progress during that time?”

    Actually, I do. The religious belief that there is a mind that established certain “laws” by which the world goes functioned as a premise underlying Newton’s pursuit of science. He wanted to discover those “laws.” And Francis Bacon spoke of the religious idea that God has written two books to be read: the book of the Bible and the book of nature, and that, therefore, Bacon believed it our duty to read out what the second book told us with the same diligence as one might read the first book. And if you open up your copy of Darwin’s Origin of Species, you will find this very quote of Bacon’s leading off Darwin’s introduction of the subject.
    These are two examples of religious ideas that have stimulated the imaginations of scientists to study nature in a scientific way.

    —Santi

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted May 11, 2009 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

      Of course, Santi, you ignore one of the other quotes just before Bacon’s quote:

      “But with regard to the material world, we can at least go so far as this—we can perceive that events are brought about not by insulated interpositions of Divine power, exerted in each particular case, but by the establishment of general laws.”

      It was Darwin’s science studies that led to his doubting religion. It seems that he only held onto his religion because his wife was so devout.

      • Posted May 11, 2009 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

        ‘It was Darwin’s science studies that led to his doubting religion’

        Sorry to be pedantic but, while his science did play a role in disposing him against an intervening deity, it was really the problem of pain and suffering that appears to have done for Darwin’s Christianity; in particular the deaths of his daughter Annie and his father. He appears to have been a deist at the time of writing the origin and then retreated into agnosticism in later life.

  22. ngl
    Posted May 12, 2009 at 8:16 am | Permalink

    When will people realize that evolution and christianity ARE NOT compatible? I you accept that evolution is a fact, that means there was no Adam and Eve. If this is so, then there was no original sin, no spiritual death, and no need for Jesus to die on the cross.

  23. santitafarella
    Posted May 12, 2009 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    NGL:

    I agree with you that fundaentalist brands of Christianity are incompatible with evolution, and that Adam and Eve never existed.

    And I think that liberal versions of Christianity are salvaging a religious system that is unappealing to me personally.

    But this does not mean that Christians like Collins and Miller can’t square the circles for themselves and still be evolutionists.

    I just don’t understand, once someone accepts the basic facts of earth history, that one has to then be an all or nothing atheist. It simply doesn’t follow.

    —Santi

  24. santitafarella
    Posted May 12, 2009 at 11:44 am | Permalink

    New England Bob:

    I don’t ignore the quote before the Bacon quote. Darwin, with these two quotes, is obviously trying to make a space for his inquiries that would not offend the religious. My point is that there is a way of reconciling religion with science, and Darwin offers it with the two quotes that begin the Origin of Species: Conceive of God as someone who lays down general laws at the beginning, then read them out by scientific study, and without the presumption that God is intervening in the creation by miracles.

    It’s not a fundamentalist position. But it is a religious position. And, as Darwin makes clear, it is a position that he regarded as tolerably compatible with his inquiries—and need not interfere with them.

    —Santi

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted May 12, 2009 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

      Conceive of God as someone who lays down general laws at the beginning…

      Once again, there is no evidence of this. I reject it and take the position that there is no evidence of any god whatsoever. I am open minded and await evidence. Darwin may have taken a position then, but that was a long time ago when hardly anyone could deny a god. Even his position changed later in his life, for many reasons, as Lord Kitchener pointed out above.

  25. santitafarella
    Posted May 12, 2009 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    Lord Kitchener:

    Your point that the problem of suffering—and not evolution—was his stumbling block to faith is well taken. This is the position of Janet Browne’s excellent biography of Darwin.

    But I suppose that evolution—being red in tooth and claw—doesn’t help the suffering issue (if God exists).

    —Santi

    • Posted May 12, 2009 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

      Dear Santi,

      Maybe you haven’t see my question concerning JTF conception of talk:

      What kind of talk is that?

      I really would like to have your opinion on Gary Rosen’s behavior.

    • Posted May 13, 2009 at 7:19 am | Permalink

      ‘But I suppose that evolution—being red in tooth and claw—doesn’t help the suffering issue (if God exists).’

      Well, its a bit more complicated than that. For example,Lewis Thomas states that:

      Lewis Thomas a biologist states:

      ‘a century ago there was a consensus about this: nature was ‘red in tooth and claw’, evolution was a record of open warfare among competing species, the fittest were the strongest aggressors, and so forth. Now it begins to look different…..the urge to form partnerships, to link up in collaborative arrangements is perhaps the oldest, strongest and most fundamental force in nature. There are no solitary, free living creatures, every form of life is dependent on other forms.’

      Mary Midgely concludes in a similar vein that:

      ‘Evolution is therefore a much wider process which has produced sociality, generating love and altruism just as much as competition. If it had not done so, there would be no such thing as a human ethical process.’

      That isn’t to deny the suffering and evil in nature; but there have been many theodicies formulated to reasonably cope with these.

  26. CW
    Posted May 12, 2009 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

    I just don’t understand, once someone accepts the basic facts of earth history, that one has to then be an all or nothing atheist. It simply doesn’t follow.

    It’s not that you don’t understand, it’s that nobody said or even suggested any such thing.

  27. Posted May 13, 2009 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    Dear Jerry,
    Greetings from Canada. You may not remember me, but we were on a Canadian TV program back in 07. In that show I said that we could enter the lab and come up with the identical evolutionary theories, but outside the lab we would differ on the metaphysical implications of evolution. Just a few thoughts:

    (1) Regarding your comments about my recent book, it seems you haven’t read it and are basing these comments on two short paragraphs on the cover of the book. I apologize if this is not the case. But if you read the book, you’ll see that I NEVER use the word “guided” with regard to evolution [nor do I use that word in my 500 page Evolutionary Creation: A Christian Approach to Evolution (2008)]. Like you and Darwin, I am completely opposed to the God-of-the-gaps (ie, a God who tinkers and meddles along the way in creating the world).

    My view of evolution is somewhat similar to Darwin’s in his Origin of Species. He wrote:
    “Authors of the highest eminence seem to be fully satisfied with the view that each species has been independently created. To my mind it accords better with what we know of the laws impressed on matter by the Creator, that the production and extinction of the past and present inhabitants of the world should have been due to secondary causes like those determining the birth and death of the individual.” (First Edition), p. 488.

    I really love this quote, and have placed it as the first epigraph (before those Billy Graham and Pope John Paul II) in my book Evolutionary Creation.

    (2) In fact, Darwin himself, late in life (1879), wrote to John Fordyce and said:
    “It seems to me absurd to doubt that a man may be an ardent Theist & an evolutionist.”
    So evolution, according Darwin, is not necessarily atheistic. For that matter, he said this to Asa Gray in 1860 following the publication of the Origin of Species:
    “Certainly I agree with you [Gray] that my views are not at all necessarily atheistical.”

    So Jerry, between the two of us, if there is anyone who is closer to Darwin’s views about evolution or the relationship between science and religion, it would be me (ironically).

    (3) Finally, on to your comment about Templeton supporting Francis Collins’ BioLogos Foundation. Not sure why this seems to be a problem for you. Is America not a free country to do this? Did you complain when software tycoon Charles Simonyi endowed an Oxford chair for Richard Dawkins? Maybe you did. The chair was suppose to be for “public understanding of science.” But everyone well knows that Dawkins has used this post as a platform from which to pontificate his secular metaphysics [or better, secular religion].

    Best wishes Jerry,
    Denis
    Denis O. Lamoureux DDS PhD PhD
    Associate Professor of Science & Religion
    St. Joseph’s College, University of Alberta
    Edmonton, Alberta Canada T6G 2J5

    • Posted May 13, 2009 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

      Opps,
      Forgot to add something:

      Best wishes Jerry,
      Denis
      “AN ARDENT THEIST & AN EVOLUTIONIST”
      Denis O. Lamoureux DDS PhD PhD
      Associate Professor of Science & Religion
      St. Joseph’s College, University of Alberta
      Edmonton, Alberta Canada T6G 2J5

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted May 13, 2009 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

      But everyone well knows that Dawkins has used this post as a platform from which to pontificate his secular metaphysics [or better, secular religion].

      This, of course shows that you have little understanding of logic and reason, Lamoureux. Did you also fail at the dentristry part of your education also?

      • Posted May 13, 2009 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

        NewEnglandBob,

        Could it be that Lamoureux’s denistry background led directly to the successful completion of a PhD
        program in biology, in which he specialized in dental development and evolution?

        Let’s stop with the ad hominems, shall we?

    • whyevolutionistrue
      Posted May 13, 2009 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

      Sorry, but I have it on expert opinion sympathetic to YOU that your book is similar in thesis to Evolutonary Creation, which is described on YOUR WEBSITE (http://www.ualberta.ca/~dlamoure/3EvoCr.htm) as follows:

      “Evolutionary creation claims the Father, Son and Holy Spirit created the universe and life through an evolutionary process. This position fully embraces both the religious beliefs of conservative Christianity and the scientific theories of cosmological, geological and biological evolution. It contends that God ordains and sustains the laws of nature, including the mechanisms of evolution. More specifically, evolution is ‘teleological,’ and features plan, purpose and promise. In particular, this view of origins asserts that humanity evolved from primate ancestors, and during this natural process the Image of God arose and sin entered the world. Evolutionary creationists experience God’s presence and action in their lives. They contend that the Lord meets men and women in a personal relationship, which at times involves both dramatic and subtle miraculous signs and wonders.”

      You, sir, are a creationist.

      • Bethany
        Posted May 13, 2009 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

        Of course Lamoureux is a creationist, in the sense that he believes that the universe has come about through the creative activity of God! He is not denying that, nor would any evolutionary creationist. Rather, they are saying that the whole process of evolution is God’s method of creation, that it does not need to be “guided” or “channeled” or “put together in one fell swoop” in order to achieve the purposes of God in using it.
        If he wasn’t a creationist of some type, he wouldn’t be a Christian. However, evolutionary creationists have as little to do with Young Earth Creationists, Progressive Creationists or IDMers as you do, as far as pure science is concerned. As to what meaning we ascribe to the evolutionary process, that is open season. As far as I know, there is no scientific measurement that can be made to measure purpose and metaphysical meaning in the universe. Until there is, saying that the natural processes of evolution are fulfilling the purposes given to them by God is quite as justifiable as saying that there is no purpose. But we are now talking theology and philosophy, not science.

      • Posted May 14, 2009 at 9:44 am | Permalink

        Judging from his reply to Mr Lamoureux I fear Jerry Coyne is suffering from ‘Bertrand Russell Syndrome’. For those who don’t know this is the phenomenon whereby highly intelligent people’s brains metamorphose into jelly whenever they talk about religion. Not to mention that fact that his habit of labelling anyone who disagrees with him a ‘creationist’ is somewhat reminiscent of McCarthyism.

      • Pdiff
        Posted May 14, 2009 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

        Bethany: “… they [evolutionary creationists] are saying that the whole process of evolution is God’s method of creation, that it does not need to be “guided” or “channeled” or “put together in one fell swoop” in order to achieve the purposes of God in using it.”

        Not according to Collins. His “quantum” fluff directly implies a “guided”, interventionist process. It is not standard “light the fuse and walk away” Deism.

        Bethany: “… saying that the natural processes of evolution are fulfilling the purposes given to them by God is quite as justifiable as saying that there is no purpose.”

        Justifiable only in making you feel better about yourself. There is no parsimony in God hypotheses. They are completely superfluous to explaining the observable world and anything out of the blue could be substituted in their place with no consequence. The only place you can even remotely consider inserting such things are areas where there is insufficient data. But all of human experience with explaining unknowns in the universe has shown that “God” becomes unnecessary once enough information is available. There is no rational reason why we should expect this pattern to change.

        Bethany: “But we are now talking theology and philosophy, not science.”

        Quite right, it is not science, but it promoted as such to the public eye. And it is perfectly justifiable to question the motivations and reliability of the people making and supporting such claims.

    • Pdiff
      Posted May 14, 2009 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

      Lamoureux: “So Jerry, between the two of us, if there is anyone who is closer to Darwin’s views about evolution or the relationship between science and religion, it would be me (ironically).”

      No, not really so ironic. You are gleefully aligning yourself with a viewpoint that is ignorant of 150 years of revolutionary science. I’m not impressed, no matter how many letters you feel necessary to put behind your name.

      Lamoureux: “Finally, on to your comment about Templeton supporting Francis Collins’ BioLogos Foundation. Not sure why this seems to be a problem for you. Is America not a free country to do this?”

      Once again, this is NOT the argument. It’s about keeping science as science. The promotions of Tempelton and Collins are fraudulent. They try to use their clout and public recognition to pose non-science as science.

      Lamoureux: “…everyone well knows that Dawkins has used this post as a platform from which to pontificate his secular metaphysics [or better, secular religion].”

      This is a sure indication that you are not really familiar with Dawkin’s works and are relying on hearsay. Dawkins uses his post to promote the teaching of pure science without the supernatural woo. And please, don’t start with the “atheism is a religion” crap. It just points out that you have no clue what “secular”, “atheist”, or “religion” actually mean.

  28. santitafarella
    Posted May 13, 2009 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

    Lord Kitchener:

    You suggested above that cooperation in nature obviates (at least to a degree) the suffering in nature (“nature red in tooth and claw”).

    But from my vantage (and I think Darwin’s), evolved cooperative groups actually heighten suffering! Nature is not only red in tooth in claw in many cased, but it also separates animals that have evolved to love one another’s company from each other (via death or illness). That’s the worst kind of suffering you can imagine. Darwin actually suggested that the most disturbing event in nature (emotionally) is when a wounded pack animal is abandoned by its herd. I am certain that I’ve read Darwin’s exquisite example either in the Origin of Species or the Descent of Man. Those who know their chapter and verse of Darwin more proficiently than I, please tell us.

    In any case, evolved sociality is another form of suffering (as Darwin’s grief for his daughter attests).

    —Santi

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted May 13, 2009 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

      evolved cooperative groups actually heighten suffering

      That is one of the dumbest statements I have seen here. It’s nor even wrong!

      …evolved sociality is another form of suffering

      Oh wait! Another stupid one! Wow. Asinine!

      • santitafarella
        Posted May 13, 2009 at 10:19 pm | Permalink

        New England Bob:

        Not to sound dense, but could you please tell me why the loss of connection to one’s cooperative group is not a form of suffering? I drew the example from Darwin’s discussion of a wounded animal abandoned by its herd. He was reflecting on why God would let such a form of horrible suffering occur in His creation—and Darwin regarded the animal’s suffering in this way as the most horrible of all.

        —Santi

      • NewEnglandBob
        Posted May 14, 2009 at 5:28 am | Permalink

        sorry, I do not discuss nonsense like this.

    • Posted May 14, 2009 at 6:34 am | Permalink

      Yes that’s correct. The price of having such advanced faculties is the heightend sense of pain and loss, and it gets worse the higher up the chain of complexity you go. Life is a package of both good and bad. But that’s nothing we didn’t know before the publication of the Origin.

  29. santitafarella
    Posted May 13, 2009 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

    Oldcola:

    I got a chance to look at what you directed me to. First, Gary Rosen should not have been censoring you from a thread at Templeton. I don’t like public relations fronted media outlets either.

    BUT having said that, Gary Rosen’s bio suggests that he’s an intellectual with whom one can obviously have a spirited conversation in a public forum, or in other venues.

    I’m a subscriber of Commentary, and have been for a long time. It’s not because I’m a neoconservative (I’m a liberal). But I like to read diverse intellectual opinion. Commentary has a decided bias, no doubt. It’s also interesting to know what smart people who disagree with you have to say (even when they do so in a lawyerly and sometimes disengenious fashion). I’m just not afraid of talk—and I’m willing to give people the benefit of the doubt.

    —Santi

    • Posted May 14, 2009 at 12:22 am | Permalink

      Don’t thank Rosen for the chance to read of what I had to say.
      Whatever his bio suggest should be adjusted by what his actions reveal and I offered you a nice example, fully documented, that you can’t trust Rosen or in general the Templeton people for a “talk”, as you suggested. In general, as Charles Harper, Clio Mallin, Pamela Thompson and Kenneth Miller accepted Rosen’s behavior.

      That’s one more reason for Jerry Coyne, or any sensible person, to avoid JTF sponsored events.

      Next time, when you read whatever published and commented at JTF’s website, keep in mind that I’m not a particular case and probably other comments vanish in the cyberspace due to JTF’s policy. That’s more than a bias.
      The same is true for at least one organization associated with JTF, the Paris based UIP, dedicated to the dialog between Science and Religion. Same behavior of censoring opposing opinions in the forum praising a book from Jean Staune, UIP founder and JTF’s minion.

      How could one trust JTF for a “talk”?

  30. santitafarella
    Posted May 13, 2009 at 10:28 pm | Permalink

    Lord Kitchener and New England Bob:

    I looked up the Darwin passage. It comes from the beginning of chapter 3 of the Descent of Man. It’s seven paragraphs in. Darwin calls the expulsion of a wounded animal from a herd “almost the blackest fact in natural history”—presumably because the abandoned animal, if it feels “sympathy” (Darwin’s term) and connection to the herd, must suffer abandonment. Further, the rest of the herd must behave callously toward the wounded companion. Darwin believed in a continuity of feeling developing in mammals on their way to evolving into man. Setting man on a contiuum with animals is one of the large things that Darwin is concerned to achieve in his Descent of Man. Thus it raises the question of suffering in nature, and so the problem of evil. What is it that social mammals feel that is akin to humans?

    —Santi

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted May 14, 2009 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

      From Origin of Species, Chapter V, page 61 in the 6th edition:

      All that we can do, is to keep steadily in mind that each organic being is striving to increase in a geometrical ratio; that each at some period of its life, during some season of the year, during each generation or at intervals, has to struggle for life and to suffer great destruction. When we reflect on this struggle, we may console ourselves with the full belief, that the war of nature is not incessant, that no fear is felt, that death is generally prompt, and that the vigorous, the healthy, and the happy survive and multiply.

      This is just after he discusses the competition being the greatest between same or similar species.

  31. santitafarella
    Posted May 14, 2009 at 8:38 pm | Permalink

    New England Bob:

    I assume that you recognize that Darwin wrote the epidural passage you cite above (and the others in The Origin of Species like that one) in 1859. His Descent of Man, written in the 1880s (as I recall) represents the evolution of Darwin’s thought on the matter of suffering in nature, and the problem that it poses for coming to terms with evolution. The Darwin in the Descent of Man represents someone with a harsher view of nature than the one he seems to have publicly entertained in The Origin of Species. If you doubt this, read the last couple of pages of the Descent of Man, and its callous and hard nosed advocacy of eugenics.

    —Santi

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted May 14, 2009 at 9:08 pm | Permalink

      No, Darwin did NOT believe in eugenics; From Decent, CHAPTER XXI:

      There should be open competition for all men; and the most able should not be prevented by laws or customs from succeeding best and rearing the largest number of offspring.

      also:

      For my own part I would as soon be descended from that heroic little monkey, who braved his dreaded enemy in order to save the life of his keeper; or from that old baboon, who, descending from the mountains, carried away in triumph his young comrade from a crowd of astonished dogs—as from a savage who delights to torture his enemies, offers up bloody sacrifices, practises infanticide without remorse, treats his wives like slaves, knows no decency, and is haunted by the grossest superstitions.

      This is all positive and the opposite of eugenics. You are delusional, Santi.

  32. santitafarella
    Posted May 15, 2009 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

    New England Bob and Lord Kitchener:

    I read the Descent of Man over the summer, so it is fresh in mind. Unfortunately, I am not at home at this moment, and so don’t have my copy of the book with me. But if you read the last three pages of the Descent of Man you will find an explicit statement by Darwin of his support for at least some of his cousin’s more repugnant eugenic views. I’d ask you to simply read those couple of pages before stating emphatically that Darwin rejected eugenics.

    Darwin believed that you could improve the human race by concerted and conscious use of selective breeding techniques, as well as other methods. Again, read the last couple of pages of the Descent of Man before asserting that I am full of shit on this. And if you interpret Darwin’s statements differently, or wish to defend them, I’d be curious to read your takes on them.

    —Santi

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted May 15, 2009 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

      Bullshit! Santi.

      You have it all wrong. Darwin did not advocate any of that stuff.

      I quoted from the last pages of Descent of Man and proved that you are 100% wrong. You are totally full of shit.

      Darwin never proposed selective breeding on humans.

      Darwin was against slavery. He believed in equality for all men.

  33. santitafarella
    Posted May 15, 2009 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

    Lord Kitchener, New England Bob et.al.:

    Wikipedia, just so we’re working with the same definition of eugenics here, defines it this way:

    Eugenics is “the study of, or belief in, the possibility of improving the qualities of the human species or a human population by such means as discouraging reproduction by persons having genetic defects or presumed to have inheritable undesirable traits (negative eugenics) or encouraging reproduction by persons presumed to have inheritable desirable traits (positive eugenics).”

    If you have a different way that you are using the word “eugenics” please let me know (so that we are not talking past one another).

    —Santi

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted May 15, 2009 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

      We have it correct, Santi, You are completely 100% wrong. Darwin neither supported positive or negative eugenics.

  34. NewEnglandBob
    Posted May 15, 2009 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

    For truth about Darwin read:

    Darwin’s Sacred Cause: How a Hatred of Slavery Shaped Darwin’s Views on Human Evolution by Adrian Desmond, James Moore

    Leading apologists for slavery in Darwin’s time argued that blacks and whites had originated as separate species, with whites created superior. Darwin abhorred such “arrogance.” He believed that, far from being separate species, the races belonged to the same human family. Slavery was therefore a “sin,” and abolishing it became Darwin’s “sacred cause.” His theory of evolution gave all the races—blacks and whites, animals and plants—an ancient common ancestor and freed them from creationist shackles. Evolution meant emancipation.

  35. santitafarella
    Posted May 15, 2009 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

    New England Bob et. al.:

    Your insistence that Darwin rejected eugenics is hard for me to square with the ending of the Descent of Man. I went to the Gutenburg Project website to see if they have the Descent of Man digitized, and they do. I went to the last chapter and found one of the relevant passages at the end of Darwin’s book. Please share with me what you think Darwin is saying here. It sounds to me like he is supporting eugenic research—”the laws of inheritance—so that one day what is learned can be applied to society at large, an so eugenically directing human evolution. He even expresses scorn for legislators who resist wanting to know what can be learned from the directed methods of human evolution. And he seems to be supporting his cousin’s application of selection to human races. He is also suggesting that overpopulation is good because it puts selective pressure on humans as they struggle to obtain (rather than share broadly) scarce resources.

    Read it:

    Man “might by selection do something not only for the bodily constitution and frame of his offspring, but for their intellectual and moral qualities. Both sexes ought to refrain from marriage if in any marked degree inferior in body or mind; but such hopes are Utopian and will never be even partially realised until the laws of inheritance are thoroughly known. All do good service who aid towards this end. When the principles of breeding and of inheritance are better understood, we shall not hear ignorant members of our legislature rejecting with scorn a plan for ascertaining by an easy method whether or not consanguineous marriages are injurious to man.

    The advancement of the welfare of mankind is a most intricate problem: all ought to refrain from marriage who cannot avoid abject poverty for their children; for poverty is not only a great evil, but tends to its own increase by leading to recklessness in marriage. On the other hand, as Mr. Galton has remarked, if the prudent avoid marriage, whilst the reckless marry, the inferior members will tend to supplant the better members of society. Man, like every other animal, has no doubt advanced to his present high condition through a struggle for existence consequent on his rapid multiplication; and if he is to advance still higher he must remain subject to a severe struggle. Otherwise he would soon sink into indolence, and the more highly-gifted men would not be more successful in the battle of life than the less gifted. Hence our natural rate of increase, though leading to many and obvious evils, must not be greatly diminished by any means. There should be open competition for all men; and the most able should not be prevented by laws or customs from succeeding best and rearing the largest number of offspring.”

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted May 15, 2009 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

      Now it is obvious that you, santitafarella, are one ignorant imbecile.

      How can you read those paragraphs and say those are eugenics?

      Read the last line 25 times until you understand it

      DARWIN IS SAYING THE EXACT OPPOSITE OF WHAT YOU SAY.

      I already quoted above the relevant part of the last paragraphs. I am so sorry you can not comprehend his very clear language.

  36. NewEnglandBob
    Posted May 15, 2009 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

    Look up Darwin in Wikipedia and go to the Eugenics section:

    Darwin was interested by his half-cousin Francis Galton’s argument, introduced in 1865, that statistical analysis of heredity showed that moral and mental human traits could be inherited, and principles of animal breeding could apply to humans. In The Descent of Man Darwin noted that aiding the weak to survive and have families could lose the benefits of natural selection, but cautioned that withholding such aid would endanger the instinct of sympathy, “the noblest part of our nature”, and factors such as education could be more important. When Galton suggested that publishing research could encourage intermarriage within a “caste” of “those who are naturally gifted”, Darwin foresaw practical difficulties, and thought it “the sole feasible, yet I fear utopian, plan of procedure in improving the human race”, preferring to simply publicise the importance of inheritance and leave decisions to individuals.

    Once again, this is Darwin stating that it is improper to intervene.

  37. santitafarella
    Posted May 15, 2009 at 8:58 pm | Permalink

    New England Bob:

    I’m sorry, but I believe that you are misreading the passage. Perhaps you don’t know what the word “consanguineous marriage” means (and which Darwin uses in the passage I presented above). Consanguineous marriage means that you have married a blood relation. Clearly, Darwin is telling upper class people to STOP doing this because it can produce mental and physical disabilities. What he regards as Utopian is a law by the legislature forbidding, say, near family members (such as cousins) from marrying for the purpose of keeping estates, as it were, “in the family.” It is utopian that this would stop because the practice is connected to aristocratic custom and tradition, and will not change soon. Darwin regards the people at the top of the social ladder, though still superior to the masses, as weakening themselves physically and mentally. Darwin wants intellectually accomplished and morally “superior men” to marry women who clearly have no birth defects or close blood relations to the men, and he wants them to have lots of children so as to push humanity into a better future. I’m sorry, but this is eugenic planning—whether you call it “just a suggestion” or try to make it into a law. Darwin is clearly implying that laws should exist against consangueneous marriage, at minimum, and that there might be ways for tracing blood relations that are too close in the future. That’s a relatively mild form of eugenic tinkering, but it is eugenic tinkering. Why else would Darwin speak of the legislature if he wasn’t thinking that consangueneous marriage should be illegal?

    This is not to say that Darwin did not have conflicts over eugenic ideas. Obviously, he did.

    Darwin had a CONFLICT between competing interests—evolved sympathy traits (““the noblest part of our nature”)—and evolved competitive survival traits. He believed that, in the name of enhancing one set of traits (such as social and “civilized” ones) we risked losing others (such as competitive hardiness ones), and vice versa. Darwin looked at the human organism holistically.

    Darwin’s example: If you choose, say, a child raising strategy based on your financial ability to support your child well, then you risk being overrun by those who are unconcerned with issues of provision, but pick a many child producing strategy and leave their survival to chance (as Darwin thought that the masses did).

    Darwin’s solution is sympathy for a eugenic one. He clearly states (in the above passage I quoted) that Galton has a point: the more intelligent and better classes of people were not as fecund as the lower classes, and were weakening the overall stock of humanity by not having larger families.

    This is a repugnant way to talk in the 21st century, but it wasn’t in the 19th. Darwin is speaking as a man of his time, and before he knew the consequences of 20th century eugenics.

    Darwin’s (and Galton’s) concern is the same canard that Fitzgerald talks about as a concern of the wealthy American classes in his classic novel, The Great Gatsby. In this instance, Darwin is talking like a Victorian aristocrat who assumed that it was obvious that Galton-like eugenics, once evolution was fully understood, might be in our future, and he did not necessarily disapprove.

    —Santi

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted May 15, 2009 at 9:07 pm | Permalink

      No, santitafarella. You are fabricating complete fucking nonsense.

      He clearly states that he disproves of it in the final paragraphs.

      Go to Google and type “Darwin eugenics” and read all the sane people who say he was against it.

  38. santitafarella
    Posted May 15, 2009 at 9:58 pm | Permalink

    New England Bob:

    I’m happy to look at what others say, and I’ve read my share of books on eugenics, but we also have a passage from Darwin’s own writings to talk about directly. How, for example, do you interpret his use of the phrase “consanguineous marriage”? What’s he saying there—if you think I have misread him? Rather than just pointing me to go do a google search for the broader perspective, I’m asking you a simple, narrow, and direct question. What does Darwin mean by “consanguineous marriage” in this passage of his book? It’s not a hard question. It doesn’t need a google search. You’ve accused me of misreading him. What then does he mean, if not what I’ve said? In the context of the passage, does Darwin support or disapprove of “consanguineous marriages”? And what is the rationale for his position?

    —Santi

    • Posted May 16, 2009 at 2:58 am | Permalink

      Let me see if I understand you correctly here: wherever someone is against consanguineous marriage you see an eugenics stance?
      Example: Is Leviticus 18 an eugenics manual ?

  39. santitafarella
    Posted May 15, 2009 at 10:24 pm | Permalink

    The peer reviewed Public Library of Science journal online says this about Darwin:

    Darwin had “worries that consanguinity had affected the health and fertility of the intermarried Darwin and Wedgwood families, and of his and Emma’s offspring in particular.” Here’s the link: http://www.plosbiology.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pbio.0060320

    —Santi

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted May 16, 2009 at 6:30 am | Permalink

      More fucking nonsense from santitafarella.

  40. santitafarella
    Posted May 15, 2009 at 10:59 pm | Permalink

    New England Bob:

    You asked me to look at what “sane” people say about the Darwin passage that we are discussing.

    I did.

    Here’s the historical context that James Moore offers for the Darwin passage that we are discussing. Moore provided this historical context in the journal Natural History (Nov. 2005). Yes, the writer is the same James Moore who wrote, with Desmond Morris, the famous biography of Darwin, as well as the book about Darwin’s opposition to slavery. Here’s what Moore says:

    “In the 1860s Darwin’s own half-first cousin Francis Galton, who compiled Darwin’s plant data, proposed to improve Britain’s human “stock” through selection in marriage. Darwin thought the scheme “Utopian,” but he knew the importance of statistics about fertility. A national census was to be conducted in Britain in 1871, and Darwin asked Parliament to insert a simple, relevant question, asking whether the respondent was married to a first cousin. That information, together with the number of surviving children listed in the census, would be telling. If cousin couples could be shown to produce fewer surviving children than unrelated spouses, there would be a scientific basis for a social policy banning close-cousin unions.

    In Parliament a hot debate erupted. Members declared the question “inquisitorial” and “the grossest cruelty ever thought of.” Imagine children being “anatomised by science,” like “plants and animals”! First cousins might be banned from marrying, causing “mental torture” to couples. Darwin’s question was thrown out by a margin of two to one.

    The snub hurt. In his 1871 book, The Descent of Man, Darwin berated the “ignorant members of our legislature [for] rejecting with scorn a plan for ascertaining by an easy method whether or not consanguineous marriages are injurious to man.”

    Moore, in other words, says exactly the same thing I did about the passage: Darwin was seeking to limit consanguineous marriages, by direct legislation, and for purposes of improving England’s breeding stock.

    Put differently, Darwin actively sought, with his cousin Galton, to improve the “breeding stock” of England by direct public policy intervention into who could marry whom. Darwin wanted to document and track, via census, human breeding patterns so that the government could nudge people in a reproductive direction that favored the statistical accumulation of advantageous traits. Unless we are going to engage in Orwellisms here, that means that Darwin supported an early eugenics policy in England that was proposed by his cousin Galton.

    Here’s the link to Moore’s article online: http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1134/is_9_114/ai_n15855369/pg_2/?tag=content;col1

    —Santi

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted May 16, 2009 at 6:26 am | Permalink

      Complete nonsense. I will no longer correspond with someone who misreads plain simple English.

      You apparently have a nonsense agenda and will say and do anything to misrepresent reality.

      Next, you might tell me that Mein Kampf is a children’s bedtime story or that breast milk is a carcinogen.

  41. santitafarella
    Posted May 16, 2009 at 8:45 am | Permalink

    Oldcola:

    In reply to your question, I would define eugenics very simply: If you seek to improve the human family, or a particular “race” or nation—intellectually, morally, or physically—by encouraging or discouraging breeding practices—or by laboratory methods—or by infanticide etc.—then you are engaging in eugenic practices. Obviously eugenic activity has a very broad spectrum of procedures that can be associated with it—from California’s once infamous “nobel prize winners” sperm bank to the killing of the disabled—to the refusal to give people innoculations so that only the “strongest” survive a viral outbreak. I am not saying that Darwin was a Hitler advocating all methods of eugenics, or that he did not have ambivalence about eugenics. My claim is that he was sympathetic towards eugenic ideas, entertained seriously the idea that humanity could be improved by eugenic measures, and was sympathetic to his cousin’s ideas just enough to ask Parliament to investigate kin marriage practices via census, presumably for the purpose of making it illegal if its deliterious effects—its weakening of the “breeding stock” of England—were scientifically established.

    Darwin could not, obviously, have known the history of the 20th century, or how eugenics would play out during that century. And obviously, I believe that Darwin would have thought of Hitler as an emotionally warped monster.

    As for Leviticus, the ancient Hebrews obviously had no theory of human improvement via artificial selection to work with, so they were not eugenicists (which means “good genes”). They were genocidal toward the Canaanites, and they didn’t have biological theory about it, but they believed that they were directly cleansing the land of polluted people. Genocide can be another form of eugenic practice if done with the intent of making “biological improvements.” Eugenics is a specifically biological notion of improvement—not a cultural one.

    Lastly, we have not yet played out the eugenics card fully in human history. In the 21st century and beyond, the degree to which scientists should use their biological knowledge to raise human intelligence or physical power or longevity will be debated. I don’t think it is necessarily evil to be a supporter of some—maybe even many—forms of eugenic improvement, and obviously Darwin didn’t either.

    Darwin as eugenicist, however, is explosive right now because creationists try to exploit it as an evil and evolutionists (like New England Bob) try to then wall Darwin off from any eugenic notions whatsoever. They imagine that they are assisting “the cause” by distorting history, or playing it down, or rationalizing it away.

    But, as I say, eugenics is not a chapter of humanity’s past—it is a live issue—and needs to be reflected upon honestly and with nuance—not just as something to score points against creationists on.

    So yes, kin marriage bans can be instituted with eugenic intent. Of course.

    —Santi

    • Posted May 16, 2009 at 9:52 am | Permalink

      santitafarella,

      I was expecting a simple yes or no response, I haven’t found it in the 475 words of your comment.

      I don’t see what Darwin has to do with my question:

      Let me see if I understand you correctly here: wherever someone is against consanguineous marriage you see an eugenics stance?
      Example: Is Leviticus 18 an eugenics manual ?

      On the other hand you try to explain to a greek what a greek word means. Let me help you with that, there were a lot of eugenics practices by my ancestors and Plato prescribe them in “The Republic“. This is quite old stuff from Athens, and there was older practices from Sparta.

      Now, my question, again: is, for you, avoidance of “consanguineous marriage” an eugenics practice, yes or no.

      (As you mentioned Darwin: )
      if “yes” then Leviticus 18 is an eugenics manual,
      if “no” then Darwin’s concerns about “consanguineous marriage” cannot be qualified as eugenics.

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted May 16, 2009 at 11:26 am | Permalink

      Oldcola:

      santitafarella is completely full of bullshit. Don’t expect a real answer. He is incapable of understanding.

      • Posted May 16, 2009 at 11:45 am | Permalink

        Hi NewEnglandBob,

        thanks for the warning, I already had a taste of santitafarella reasoning on the subject of Gary Rosen’s (of JTF) behavior.

        So, I’m trying something much simpler here: he can answer just with “yes” or “no”. I would like to have a better appreciation of the person ;-)

  42. santitafarella
    Posted May 16, 2009 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    New England Bob:

    I understand why you want to wall off Darwin from eugenics. Really, I do. I accept evolution every bit as much as you do. (See my blog, Prometheus Unbound, if you doubt this).

    But I think your insistence on walling Darwin off from eugenics constitutes misplaced zeal on your part. If we are to have a serious discussion of eugenics, and not one driven defensively on how the “kids” (creationists) might be hearing that discussion, then we must look at things with nuance, and not as black and white—all or nothing—propositions. We are, as a species, going to have to think very clearly about eugenics over the next century, and to distort its history is not a good way to conduct that discussion. Our first obligation is to be honest about both eugenics’s potential benefits, its dangers, and how the past has dealt with the issue. It is not a matter of partisan setting of blame, but of thinking clearly, honestly, and with nuance about a very complicated subject.

    —Santi

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted May 16, 2009 at 11:29 am | Permalink

      Once again, santitafarella, you put intent to me completely out of context to anything I say. You are a maniac. Fuck you and your proposal for eugenics. I see you as mentally sick. You are the one distorting history.

  43. santitafarella
    Posted May 16, 2009 at 9:02 pm | Permalink

    Oldcola:

    You asked me if opposition to consanguineous marriage is a eugenic stance in all cases, and wanted a yes or no answer. You also referred me to Leviticus 18 and asked whether I thought it was “a eugenics manual.”

    I’m sorry I’m verbose. I thought I was clear in my longer previous answer. I’m not interested in equivocating. So in direct answer to your question: NO. I do not think that opposition to consanguineous marriage is done for eugenic reasons in all cases. But YES, I do believe that Darwin opposed consanguineous marriage for eugenic reasons (to statistically reduce birth defects in the English population).

    As for Leviticus, I do not know if the author was motivated by biological considerations or simply a general incest taboo revulsion—or some other reason.

    In my view, INTENT helps us determine whether an action is eugenic or not. For example, is abortion a eugenic practice? Obviously, for contemporary people who support the right to abortion, it is not a eugenic practice, but an affirmation of women’s rights. But abortion can also be opted for after an amniosentesis that reveals birth defects. Any formal program that might try to systematically eliminate human traits discovered in the womb would be eugenic.

    Again, INTENT counts here.

    —Santi

    • Posted May 17, 2009 at 6:10 am | Permalink

      Santitafarella,
      Thank you for your reply.

      It’s clear that you consider that “intent” is a more strong indicator of eugenic stances than just recommendations or acts and you are not willing to qualify Leviticus 18 as a “eugenic manual” because you aren’t aware of the intent of the authors.
      Plato’s Republic on the other hand can be clearly qualified as an “eugenic manual”, the intent of amelioration of the human kind by selective breading being explicit. [link points to chapter V]

      You offer your belief that Darwin opposed consanguineous marriage for eugenic reasons, that is “to statistically reduce birth defects in the English population“. Personal beliefs are not very interesting stuff, especially when one want to prove something . So, I’m expecting that your belief is supported by something Darwin said/wrote concerning this very subject.

      Would you oblige us by offering the citation, eventually linked to the appropriate URL? [C.R. Darwin's work is online, as well as his correspondence. ]

  44. santitafarella
    Posted May 17, 2009 at 8:59 pm | Permalink

    Oldcola:

    I provided the Darwin quote from the end of the Descent of Man in comment #35 above. And if you look at comment #40 above, you will see that I provided the context for the passage that you ask for, as well as a link to the original Natural History article being quoted. It’s clear that the historian that I’ve quoted above says that Darwin, under the influence of his cousin, Mr. Galton, asked Parliament to add a question to the census that would discover, statistically, the effect of kin marriages. It is also clear that Darwin wanted this information for contemplating eugenic remedies (making close kin marriage illegal or to publicize its ill effect and discourage it). Why else would Darwin or Galton regard the information as important to discover, but to warn people off (by law or persuasion) from kin marriage? Darwin worried about his own marriage in this regard (whether he had weakened his descendants).

    I understand why eugenics, even relatively mild forms such as Darwin entertained, are taboo to contemplate. But I can just say that when I read The Descent of Man over the summer, I was struck by the conclusion (as well as other parts of the text). The Descent of Man reads differently from his earlier works. It has a harsher edge to it, and that surprised me. He is less sanguine about the violence of nature, and doesn’t dance around it (as he does in the Origin of Species). And I have directed you to at least one historian who reads Darwin’s conclusion in the way that I have (as a desire to at least contemplate the reduction of disease and mortality among British couples by changing the culture of close kin marriage).

    If you read these passages differently than I do, please explain what you see that I don’t, and please do not just cuss me out (as is New England Bob’s habit). I’m happy to engage in dialogue with thoughtful, and dare I say, even polite, people. I come to forums such as these (when I do) for purposes of reflection with thoughtful people who will alert me to angles on a subject that I am not seeing or exploring. I think of threads, when treated with civility, as Socratic walks in which smart people talk about interesting subjects, probing for faults in thought, and trying to arrive at some nuanced understanding of the truth of a matter.

    Also, I’m in no way a creationist or Intelligent Design advocate. You are free to explore my blog if you doubt this. My blog is called Prometheus Unbound and my name is Santi Tafarella. If you put these together in a google search it will take you right to it.

    I obviously don’t agree with those of you who take an anti-accomodationist stance with regard to religion and science. I’m more in line with Stephen Gould on this than Richard Dawkins. But I don’t think that this should be a litmus test for civil discussion with me.

    —Santi

    • Posted May 18, 2009 at 1:06 am | Permalink

      santitafarella,

      I read the excerpt of “Descent of Man” you posted above (#35) and think that it doesn’t support your stance.
      With intent to avoid births with homozygous morbid recessive alleles avoiding consanguineous marriages educating people, on the basis of statistical data, so they will decide to avoid them, is a common attitude as GW discuss below. More than the churches laws there are states laws that forbid them. You consider that as eugenic practices if I understood your previous postings.
      By this definition I’m an eugenist myself, and a large part of my pro-choice support is due to avoiding giving birth to children with genetic defects, in general and not only in the case of consanguineous marriages. That doesn’t mean I would like to see neutering or killing be practiced to improve the species. I do prefer improvement of medical support of genetic defects.

      On the other hand, in the cited paragraphs, it is obvious that Darwin expected people “[...] to refrain from marriage if in any marked degree inferior in body or mind” and he wasn’t willing to see this enforced by laws (“There should be open competition for all men; and the most able should not be prevented by laws or customs from succeeding best and rearing the largest number of offspring.“).

      As you certainly know, by these times the “laws of inheritance”, wasn’t known. Somehow data had to be collected to understand if not the mechanisms of inheritance at least the laws of.
      Your interpretation “It is also clear that Darwin wanted this information for [...] making close kin marriage illegal [...]” is simply contradicted by the last of Darwin’s phrases you quote.
      That’ss why I asked for an appropriate citation, this one isn’t in favor of your reading.

      This is the second subject in which your point of view seems to me illogical (the first one being the indirect support to G. Rosen censorship practice). I’ll avoid spending time on a third one.

      • santitafarella
        Posted May 18, 2009 at 1:37 am | Permalink

        Oldcola:

        You didn’t address the historian’s quote. I assume you think he misunderstood Darwin also.

        You also said: “That doesn’t mean I would like to see neutering or killing be practiced to improve the species. I do prefer improvement of medical support of genetic defects.” I now see why you object to my use of the term eugenics applied to Darwin. You obviously think I mean killing or forced sterilization. I obviously don’t think that Darwin, or any sane person, would support that. Only Nazis and other emotionally distorted racists would support such forms of eugenics.

        —Santi

  45. CW
    Posted May 17, 2009 at 11:36 pm | Permalink

    Santita:
    “It is also clear that Darwin wanted this information for contemplating eugenic remedies (making close kin marriage illegal or to publicize its ill effect and discourage it).”

    I’m sorry but exactly what does this have to do with anything at all? Is it just your effort to trade on the Nazi ties with the word eugenics in order to rather nastily disparage Darwin? If so, what possible difference does it make whether Darwin did or did not support eugenics? Who cares? We are not, despite the claims of so many creationists, actually “Darwinists”. Evolution is a fact regardless of what personal opinions some specific individual may or may not have held during the nineteenth century. Bashing Darwin may feel significant to you, but it’s about as petty and thoroughly meaningless an activity as a person could possibly engage in.

    Since we’re on the subject though (ad nauseum) maybe you could explain to us what’s so terribly evil about consanguinity laws? Such laws are applied by (just for example) the Church of England, the Catholic Church, every single state in the US and every province and territory in Canada. So Darwin would also have agreed with such laws, so what?

  46. santitafarella
    Posted May 18, 2009 at 1:02 am | Permalink

    CW:

    First, I revere Darwin. He is perhaps the most admirable man of the 19th century. Lincoln might almost be his equal, but certainly not greater, and Huxley was an extraordinary man also. I also revere Hardy and George Eliot and Mark Twain—all atheists or agnostics. Second, I would never bash Darwin. I share Darwin’s views on all substantial matters. Like Darwin, I’m an agnostic. I share his religious views, I share his evolutionary views (absent his occasional expressions of racism).

    You think that by me talking honestly about 19th century eugenics, and the ideas that might have been entertained by Darwin, that I am putting Darwin down. This, to my mind, is because you are being didactic, thinking of discussions of Darwin only in the terms of how it impacts upon the contemporary creation-evolution antagonisms, and who’s scoring points against whom.

    Darwin, obviously, could not have anticipated the 20th century. And so he bears no personal responsibility for Hitler. Period. Likewise, the fact that Einstein discovered E=MC squared does not make him responsible should a terrorist ever acquire a nuclear bomb. The 20th century German eugenicists treated evolution like a terrorist might treat a nuclear bomb. They abused the knowledge, and were indifferent to human suffering in the pursuit of their racist experiments and aims.

    And, in my view, there was nothing wrong with Darwin advocating against close kin-marriage in England for eugenic purposes (he obviously had a desire to see a healthier, happier population of English people, and to reduce human suffering). I would have agreed with him in the nineteenth century, and I would support laws discouraging such couplings today for exactly the same reason, to statistically reduce human suffering. I also support, in contemporary times, amniocentesis for any woman who wants one before choosing to give birth, and I think Darwin would too. And I support genetic research that might lead to the reduction of disease in future humanity by manipulation of the genome.

    I support these things because I am hopeful that 20th century Hitlerism was a fluke in history, and not representative of how 21st century humans will make use of reproductive and genetic technology in the future. The fact that evolutionary science may give us an opportunity to direct our own evolution in the future is a very nervy thought, and potentially extremely dangerous, but one that I think will happen, and that needs to be talked about. The obligation to democratically distribute the benefits of the technology and to develop it without causing human suffering, and to apply it only in the relief of human suffering, is an enormous responsibility. But I assume that a hundred years from now most humans, on average, will be smarter, healthier, and live far longer than we do—precisely because scientists will have manipulated the genome to global humanity’s general benefit. If it turns out, however, that nations become greedy with this science, and try to hoarde the discovered advantages for their group alone, then humanity faces a bleak, ugly, and horrific future.

    In short, it’s not an insult to Darwin to say that he entertained reflections on eugenics, was conflicted about it, and supported it with regard to close kin-marriage. The discovery of evolution forces us all to confront such issues. All of us who live very far into the 21st century will have to come to an opinion on how far we will support eugenic (genetic) technology, and I understand that it is not an easy question. Like nuclear energy and the nuclear bomb, genetic technology can be an enormous force for good or evil. Thinking about how Darwin, and other 19th century scientists and philosophers, thought about eugenics can help us think about the pitfalls that they fell into, and hopefully help us avoid them. As Santayana said, If you don’t study history, you’re doomed to repeat it.

    I personally, don’t see how this technology can be reasonably stopped, and so we have to figure out how to use it responsibly and ethically and without excluding people (so as not to create radically divergent genetic populations of humans). We don’t want Huxley’s Brave New World.

    —Santi

    • newenglandbob
      Posted May 18, 2009 at 6:48 am | Permalink

      There is no intelligent discussion with santitafarella. He does not comprehend simple English, especially that written by Charles Darwin

  47. santitafarella
    Posted May 18, 2009 at 1:23 am | Permalink

    For those interested:

    I haven’t read it yet, so I can’t say whether I agree with it or not, but there is a book that I’m planning to read on eugenics. It’s published by Princeton University Press and is by John Harris. It’s called “Enhancing Evolution: The Ethical Case for Making People Better”.

    Santi


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