Victor Stenger reminds us that theistic evolution is not scientific evolution

I may be wrong about this, but I thought Victor had posted on this topic before, and at HuffPo, too. Never mind, for it’s good to be reminded that most Americans who accept evolution accept a form of evolution that scientists don’t buy.

That is theistic evolution: the notion that somehow God guided the process. The scenario takes different forms, from the Catholic church’s insistence that evolution indeed occurred, but that humans were special in being the only recipients of God-installed “souls” (but the Church’s believes in a literal Adam and Eve, too!); to the idea, buttressed by people like philosopher Elliott Sober, that God might have made special but undetectable mutations allowing the evolution of H. sapiens; to the view that God set up evolution and then didn’t intervene, but planned it so that that humans would result.

All of this comes from the religiously-based view that humans are special: made in the image of God.

Victor’s column on Saturday, “Is evolution compatible with religion?” (the answer, of course, is “no”), reminds us that although 40% of Americans “accept” evolution, less than half of those (16% in toto) accept a process that is purely naturalistic, without the intervention of God.
That is not the way we scientists see evolution. It’s as if people accepted chemistry, except in the case of organic molecules, in which God’s action was necessary to form carbon bonds. As I’ve emphasized while writing on this topic before, one of the primary forces driving evolution is called natural selection, not supernatural selection.
Stenger quotes Francis Collins, founder of BioLogos, as one of these theistic evolutionists:

In his 2006 bestseller The Language of God, in a section on “Theistic Evolution,” Collins writes:

“God, who is not limited in space or time, created the universe and established natural laws that govern it. Seeking to populate this otherwise sterile universe with living creatures, God chose the elegant mechanics, of evolution to create microbes, plants, and animals of all sorts. Most remarkably, God intentionally chose the same mechanism to give rise to special creatures who would have intelligence, a knowledge of right and wrong, free will, and a desire to seek fellowship with Him (pp. 200-201, first edition).”

He doesn’t tell us how he knows all this.

Most scientists and science organizations in America wish to stay on good terms with the believing majority, and so the fundamental incompatibility between random evolution — which is what science says happened — and divinely-guided evolution — for which no evidence exists — is kept under wraps. However, the time has come for scientists and their societies to face up to the fundamental incompatibility between naturalist and theistic evolution.

By the way, when Collins is talking about “free will” here, you better bet he doesn’t mean compatibilist free will. He means the kind of free will that allows you to truly choose if you follow Jesus.
Stenger is right here.  You are either a materialist about science or you are a supernaturalist.
There is only a difference in degree—not in kind—between a theistic evolutionist and an undiluted young-earth creationist. You still need God’s intervention to get humans, just not everything else. It enables supernaturalism and, worst of all, sets us apart from the rest of the animals as possessors of a soul, free will, and God knows what else. That is a science-stopper, impeding studies of the origin of many of our behaviors, including morality, in humans. And that’s the reason why Collins thinks that morality could not have evolved, or arisen via secular and cultural processes, but must have been installed in our brains by God.
Laplace said it best centuries ago: we have no need of that hypothesis.
And I don’t care what the National Academy of Science, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the National Center for Science Education says—theistic evolutionists are not our allies. They are foes of pure, undiluted science, and enablers of superstition.
_________
p.s.: Be sure to read Eric MacDonald’s piece at Choice in Dying inspired by Stenger’s: “The incompatibility of democracy and religion.

105 Comments

  1. Jim Sweeney
    Posted October 8, 2012 at 10:49 pm | Permalink

    The problem for believers is that God is ultimately responsible, which means that He has to do something. Evidently it doesn’t matter that He doesn’t have to intervene to keep the planets in their orbits, but the notion that He wasn’t involved in hundreds of millions of years of evolution is inconceivable.

    • Bebop
      Posted October 9, 2012 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

      I think that God is more a process than a responsible creator. And like any process, he is just processing…

      • Posted October 10, 2012 at 4:02 am | Permalink

        The word you’re looking for isn’t “process” … 

        Hint: Dawkins didn’t write a book called The God Process.

        /@

        • Bebop
          Posted October 10, 2012 at 9:56 am | Permalink

          Process
          From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

          Process (philosophy), unifying principles which operate in many different systemic contexts

          • Posted October 10, 2012 at 11:02 am | Permalink

            I’m not at all certain that you understand – or could explain – that definition. That’s definitely a Wikipedia article in need of attention from an expert!

            But, following the links, we come to this definition:

            A process is an action which we see as a sequence of constituting sub-actions.

            So, if God is a process, what are the constituting sub-actions?

            /@

            • Bebop
              Posted October 10, 2012 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

              Everything…

              • Posted October 10, 2012 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

                You mean, everything “beyond time and space”?

                If God is, then surely his, its, **’s constituting sub-actions are! :-D

                /@

              • Bebop
                Posted October 10, 2012 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

                There is no difference between what is beyond time and space and what is limited by time and space just like there is no difference with a screen and what is projected on.

                You need that limitless eternal no-thing in order to have time and space.

              • lisa
                Posted October 10, 2012 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

                I don’t follow you’re logic

              • Posted October 10, 2012 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

                “There is no difference between what is beyond time and space and what is limited by time and space…”

                Hmm… “‘Oh, that was easy,’ says [Bebop], and for an encore goes on to prove that black is white and gets himself killed on the next zebra crossing.”

                /@

              • Bebop
                Posted October 10, 2012 at 8:14 pm | Permalink

                @lisa
                When you watch a movie, you don’t see the white screen because the movie is being projected on it. But that doesn’t prevent the white screen to still be there. We can say that the movie and the screen are one and separated at the same time.

                Or take a whirlpool. We would be like whirlpools in the ocean, thinking that we are separated from the ocean. But that would be an illusion created by movement, while it is at the same time true that it is in a way separated from the ocean.

                So an uncreated process that at its base is beyond time and space would have no problem to be present in a finite material space/time plane just like an immobile empty white screen can become a movie full of noise, movement and colors.

              • Posted October 11, 2012 at 1:25 am | Permalink

                @ Bebop

                You keep wanting to have your butter and the money too.

                You say this “uncreated consciousness” is “beyond time and space” so we can’t test or validate its existence scientifically.

                But then you say it’s also “present in a finite material space/time plane”, which clearly would be necessary for us to experience it, but that also puts it in the realm of scientific testing and validation (strictly, falsification).

                So, if this thing is “present in a finite material space/time plane”, what does it mean to say that it is “beyond time and space”? (An outstanding question that you still haven’t answered directly!)

                And, btw, you can certainly see the white screen a movie is projected on by shining a torch on it. Or detect its presence in other ways; say, by throwing peanuts at it.

                /@

              • Bebop
                Posted October 11, 2012 at 7:18 am | Permalink

                Ant: “But then you say it’s also “present in a finite material space/time plane”, which clearly would be necessary for us to experience it, but that also puts it in the realm of scientific testing and validation (strictly, falsification).
                So, if this thing is “present in a finite material space/time plane”, what does it mean to say that it is “beyond time and space”?”

                When consciousness is experienced on a time/space plane, through organic machines like we do, it is hard to not believe what our senses are telling us, that time and space have an absolute reality. Night follows day everyday, we are getting older, we were born one day, etc… And we test what we can test about it. But as you know, no one has found a bit of consciousness yet. Many theories about what is consciousness are made, but nothing convincing enough that would prevent people like Nagel for example (who is atheist) to endorse a definitive reductionist approach of consciousness.

                Like many, I believe that consciousness can’t be reduced or explained because it is at its source uncreated. So if the source of consciousness itself is beyond time and space, it means that it is here right now, and not affected at its core by how time and space “wraps” it. Beyond space and time means, by the way, that it can’t be far from you since no distance is appearing when something is beyond time and space. Beyond space and time is everywhere AND nowhere at he same time, a paradox that our dual mode of grasping prevents us to conceive.
                But the tv analogy can help to illustrate this well. My tv may get older and older, it doesn’t change anything to the signal, even if my kids throw a ball at it and break its glass.

                Now, I’m not saying that this is how it works. I’m giving an example of how something can be subjected to space and time without changing anything to what it should transmit. When it comes to what is beyond space and time, analogy are always limited for many reasons, one of them being that language can’t really speak about it because it is beyond our default mode of grasping.

              • Posted October 11, 2012 at 8:21 am | Permalink

                @ Bebop

                Thanks for that wonderfully flocculant disquisition.

                “no one has found a bit of consciousness yet”

                Well certainly, no-one has found this “uncreated consciousness” of yours, but we certainly have found brains.

                Against Nagel I’ll put Deutsch:

                And yet ‘originating things’, ‘following analysis’, and ‘anticipating analytical relations and truths’ are all behaviours of brains and, therefore, of the atoms of which brains are composed. Such behaviours obey the laws of physics.

                Very matter of fact. And the fact of the matter is, we have no reason to look for any unphysical origin of consciousness. Just because “no brain on Earth is yet close to knowing what brains do in order to achieve any of that functionality” doesn’t mean we have to indulge in fantasies about supernatural origins of consciousness “beyond space and time”.

                /@

              • Posted October 11, 2012 at 8:25 am | Permalink

                PS. And that’s a far as I’ll indulge your fantasies. All future claims will be met with the response, “Poop!”, which, as any fule know, is an incontrovertible rebuttal.

                /@

              • rlwemm
                Posted October 14, 2012 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

                Bebob, you spend a lot of time presenting us with analogies about things that you fail to prove by valid means. Analogies are only illustrations; they are not arguments.

                You also fail to define what you mean by “consciousness”. And what you understand by “unconsciousness”. If I am given a certain class of drugs that knock out particular parts of my brain then I lose consciousness. If I am given another class of drugs that affect different regions of the brain then I don’t lose consciousness but I have no memory of what happened and what I said, did and felt while they were operating. This is what happens during some unpleasant medical procedures. Was I “unconsious”, or not?

                There are also different levels of consciousness. How do you factor that into your equation? We have a certain measure of “free will” when we are partly conscious but we may never remember what we did. Are we fully responsible for it? Or are we partly responsible for it?

                There is also evidence that human-style “consciousness” is not clearly separated from the level of awareness of other animals, especially ones to which we are genetically related. The clear distinguishing feature is the ability to use speech to communicate rather than grunts and screeches. But language concepts are not unique to humans; they are found in varying degrees in species that have no capacity to vocalize them.

                There is a very fuzzy line between humans and the other animals. If some supernatural power made humans from a different pattern then why do so much experimenting on the way there? And why use genetic material from related species, including a lot of broken genes, useless genes and genes that are lethal if turned on by the environment? The more you know about genetics the more you realize how incompetent a creating god would have to be to make the mishmash that functions like modern humans.

      • gbjames
        Posted October 10, 2012 at 5:31 am | Permalink

        I prefer John Lennon’s: “God is a concept by which we measure our pain.”

  2. Posted October 8, 2012 at 10:52 pm | Permalink

    Thales, Strato, Mayr,Weisz, Coyne, Stenger and I are right : no divine intent.Whilst Aristotle is a naturalist, his own science and his teleology held science back.
    Stenger revels in settig the record right: no divine intent. That intent is just animistic-superstitous.-WEIT sets the record right in this regard.
    That intent is just a superfluity that causes people to murder.

  3. Brian Ashton
    Posted October 8, 2012 at 11:17 pm | Permalink

    I don’t understand what all the fuss is about. I see no reason for Abrahamics to deny evolution.

    Surley they are so well practiced in cognitive dissonance that they can embrace the idea of evolution whole; and still believe in the word of god, after all, it’s all His doing.

    Perhaps this is a more recent phenomenon; that Abrahamics require themselves to take a badly written book that strangely, was not written to address a modern world; to be definitive.

    Bad authorship, not sinful readers.

  4. Posted October 9, 2012 at 12:26 am | Permalink

    “the Catholic church’s insistence that evolution indeed occurred, but that humans were special in being the only recipients of God-installed ‘souls’”

    Ah… souls!

    /@

  5. lisa
    Posted October 9, 2012 at 12:49 am | Permalink

    “Seeking to populate this otherwise sterile universe with living creatures, God chose the elegant mechanics, of evolution to create microbes, plants, and animals of all sorts. Most remarkably, God intentionally chose the same mechanism to give rise to special creatures who would have intelligence, a knowledge of right and wrong, free will, and a desire to seek fellowship with Him.”

    And then humans showed up and messed up the whole thing

  6. Miles_Teg
    Posted October 9, 2012 at 2:00 am | Permalink

    I, and some other believers, think that the evolution of intelligent life was inevitile, probably more than once. Since there is no way of knowing if God intervened in evolution it’s pretty much pointless to give theistic evolution much thought.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted October 9, 2012 at 2:49 am | Permalink

      What are you a believer in Miles? God? Which God? You don’t say.

      Why do you claim that “there is no way of knowing if God intervened in evolution”? If God had indeed tinkered with Homo sapiens [just as one example] there may be some sign of this meddling if it was extreme enough.

      • Miles_Teg
        Posted October 9, 2012 at 3:12 am | Permalink

        There might be irrefutable signs of God’s intervention in evolution but I’ve never heard of any nor do I care to go looking for them. And yes, I am a theist who also believes in science and evolution.

        • Posted October 9, 2012 at 3:58 am | Permalink

          What is the basis of your “belief” in science and evolution, Miles?

          And what is the basis of your “belief” in God?

          Do you think that “belief” really has the same meaning in both cases?

          /@

          • Miles_Teg
            Posted October 9, 2012 at 9:13 am | Permalink

            No, scientific belief has a rational basis and religious belief doesn’t. That doesn’t make religious claims false, it just means that science can’t adjudicate the sort of religious claims that I think may be true, such as miracles. Science can refute religious claims, such as creationism and ID.

            • gbjames
              Posted October 9, 2012 at 9:38 am | Permalink

              You have not the least bit of reason for believing in miracles. And to claim that there is no way to refute miracles with evidence is, frankly, nonsense. Unless you are just playing with words and not being serious.

              Claims, for example, about the “miracle” of prayer have been demonstrated to be false. Claims of the “miracle” of weeping statues have been proven false. Evidence proves miracles to be nothing of the sort.

            • Posted October 10, 2012 at 4:01 am | Permalink

              Hmm… “scientific belief has a rational basis and religious belief doesn’t.” It seems rather disingenuous to use “belief” to describe your views in both cases, as it tends to suggest they’re on the same footing.

              So, you kind of answered the third question, and partly answered the first (a “rational basis”), and implicitly admit that you belief in God is irrational… So, what is the basis for that belief. If, by your own admission, it’s irrational, why do you believe?

              I’d also agree with GB, any religious claims about phenomena in the real world — even ostensibly “miraculous” phenomena — certainly can be refuted by science. And consistently are.

              /@

              • Ichthyic
                Posted October 10, 2012 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

                , scientific belief has a rational basis and religious belief doesn’t.

                how do you personally measure the value of each then?

                it’s pretty obvious what the value of the scientific method has been.

                what is the value of religious belief? what, specifically, does it contribute?

        • gbjames
          Posted October 9, 2012 at 4:36 am | Permalink

          Makes sense to me, Miles_Teg. In fact the same sentences work for me with only a small couple of edits.

          “There might be irrefutable signs of the Invisible Pink Unicorn’s intervention in evolution but I’ve never heard of any nor do I care to go looking for them. And yes, I am a Unicornist who also believes in science and evolution.”

          • lisa
            Posted October 10, 2012 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

            Do the invisible pink unicorns hang out with the invisible flying pigs in the trees?

            • gbjames
              Posted October 11, 2012 at 4:21 am | Permalink

              Indeed they do. In fact the pigs will ride on the backs of the unicorns in the great battle to come. It is the pink that attracts them to one another.

              • lisa
                Posted October 12, 2012 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

                Sounds like a party to me. Must be one of those October pink things.

        • Posted October 9, 2012 at 8:26 am | Permalink

          I’m betting you don’t care to go looking for them because you already understand that the process can be completely explained in terms of the natural and material, and because (as you originally noted) we can’t test for a god’s intervention, anyway. What would that test look like? How could we devise a test when we wouldn’t know what we’d be looking for? If we don’t have any concrete, specific, tested knowledge about this god, how can we assert it’s existence?

          Now do some extrapolation; apply this (your own) reasoning to everything. The conclusion is unavoidable.

          • Miles_Teg
            Posted October 9, 2012 at 9:19 am | Permalink

            The thing is we don’t know, from a scientific point of view, whether God exists, and if so whether or not he intervened in evolution. If I was a working scientist I wouldn’t go near theistic evolution because there’s no effective way to tell if it has happened. I just like to keep science and religion separate to avoid God-of-the-gaps pitfalls.

            • gbjames
              Posted October 9, 2012 at 9:44 am | Permalink

              But we do know. When statements about how deities act on the universe are made, we can derive testable hypotheses about those supposed actions. We can then check to see if these claims are verified or not. They never have been. The only refuge for the theist who wants to maintain belief is a constantly shrinking god who is less and less important humanity. Oh… and in the refuge of word-play and obfuscation, a.k.a. Sophisticated Theology™.

              • Bebop
                Posted October 9, 2012 at 9:02 pm | Permalink

                Something that would be beyond space and time, an uncreated no-thing, can’t be tested or verified. It is truly a technical issue caused by our limitations.

                Unless you believe humans have access to absolute knowledge.

              • lisa
                Posted October 9, 2012 at 10:50 pm | Permalink

                I think you put that very well.

              • Posted October 10, 2012 at 4:06 am | Permalink

                What does it mean to be “beyond space and time”?

                How can anything that is “beyond space and time” impinge on things (such as us) “within” space and time?

                /@

              • Posted October 10, 2012 at 4:07 am | Permalink

                Oops: Those questions were @ Bebop (October 9, 2012 at 9:02 pm).

              • gbjames
                Posted October 10, 2012 at 5:37 am | Permalink

                “Beyond space and time”. Very sophisticated, indeed. And perfectly meaningless.

                Assertions about entities for which there is no evidence aren’t made stronger by saying they are “beyond evidence.”

                And why on earth should anyone pay the least bit of attention to someone claiming to know what they claim is unknowable?

              • Bebop
                Posted October 10, 2012 at 8:23 am | Permalink

                @ Ant
                Since beyond space and time is a concept that we can’t grasp because of our finitude, the analogy of a white screen that allows the movie to be projected might help to get the idea. You need an empty screen if you want to see something.

                As for the interaction with what is limited by space and time, I don’t see the problem since it is one of perspective only. It is not because we don’t see the screen while the movie is playing that the screen isn’t there. The screen is always there no matter what is projected or not.

              • Posted October 10, 2012 at 8:41 am | Permalink

                @ Bebop

                If “beyond space and time is a concept that we can’t grasp because of our finitude” how can you possibly know that that’s a helpful analogy?

                It’s certainly not a meaningful one!

                /@

              • Bebop
                Posted October 10, 2012 at 9:57 am | Permalink

                Do I need to explain what an analogy is..?

              • lisa
                Posted October 10, 2012 at 8:09 pm | Permalink

                Just to be certain I understand you correctly.

                *When statements about how deities act on the universe are made, we can derive testable hypotheses about those supposed actions.*

                You are saying that science bases all evidence of a god’s existence or nonexistence on statements made about a deity? Your ‘scientific’ testable hypotheses are based on hearsay?

              • gbjames
                Posted October 10, 2012 at 10:18 am | Permalink

                I don’t think anyone here needs an explanation of “analogy”. I would, however, suggest you go review the word “meaningful”. Because rambling about projection screens does not make the confused notion of “beyond space and time” any more useful.

              • Bebop
                Posted October 10, 2012 at 10:36 am | Permalink

                That is why I wrote above (or below..?) that
                “something that would be beyond space and time, an uncreated no-thing, can’t be tested or verified. It is truly a technical issue caused by our limitations.

                Unless you believe humans have access to absolute knowledge.”

                But while having in mind that the nature of the process can’t be grasped by our average default mode, an analogy might help to understand what is the process and why we can’t grasp it.

                But an analogy can only make bridges between what is known and an hidden known (a known that you are ignoring you know), not an unknown known. Since you don’t know how to go beyond the average default mode of grasping, there are limits to what the analogy can do, not to forget that language itself is useless for talking about what is beyond our default mode.

                It would like trying to explain depth to a bi-dimensional being. Depth is an unknowable known for a bi-dimensional being, empirically speaking.

                And please, don’t tell me that the analogy doesn’t work because bi-dimensional beings don’t exist…

              • Posted October 10, 2012 at 10:44 am | Permalink

                @ GB

                “I don’t think anyone here needs an explanation of ‘analogy’.”

                Well, maybe Bebop.

                @ Bebop

                No, that “analogy” doesn’t work because you can, in fact, explain a four-dimensional tesseract to a three-dimensional being (ie, another person).

                /@

              • Ichthyic
                Posted October 10, 2012 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

                Something that would be beyond space and time, an uncreated no-thing, can’t be tested or verified. It is truly a technical issue caused by our limitations.

                what you just said is only limited by your own imagination.

                and in exactly the same way, no matter what you imagine.

                your input here is literally inane.

              • rlwemm
                Posted October 14, 2012 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

                There is no clear difference between the action of the supernatural and the action of chance. Nor is there a way to distinguish between fantasies of the imagination that cannot be verified and claims about supernatural beings that cannot be tested.

              • lisa
                Posted October 14, 2012 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

                It all comes down to the old “Are we the dream or the dreamer; are we the author or the book? But we will all be dead soon, and then we’ll know who is right. So who cares?

              • lisa
                Posted October 14, 2012 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

                well said.

              • gbjames
                Posted October 14, 2012 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

                “But we’ll all be dead soon and then we’ll know who is right.”

                Uh…, well, right about the first half of the sentence. The “then” part, not so much.

              • lisa
                Posted October 14, 2012 at 8:00 pm | Permalink

                Well, once we die, we either know that we continue to exist in some way or another, or we cease to exist and learn nothing since we will be just more nothing

              • Posted October 15, 2012 at 12:49 am | Permalink

                @ lisa

                “Who cares?”

                Anyone who cares about truth (ie, having the best model of reality that we can) cares.

                Especially when erroneous, unfounded beliefs about salvation and an afterlife lead people to make bad decisions that damage others’ lives.

                /@

              • lisa
                Posted November 8, 2012 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

                There are a lot of ‘truths’ running loose out there. Obviously mankind ‘needs’ to ‘know’ that someone is in charge. A lot of people ‘need’ to believe that death isn’t final. A lot of people need to feel the good they have done in their lifetime will be rewarded. This has been so since we crossed the barrier dividing mankind from animals, so it appears that in must be somehow inherent in our makeup. Unfortunately there have been people inventing religions for about the same amount of time there have been people. And from the beginning, people have used religion to further their own need to control wealth and power, usually to the detriment of their followers. No matter who created the religions, how caring or noble at the start, eventually they are all corrupted. Humans just can’t handle power. These are just the facts. But having them built on a foundation of a fundamental human need pretty much assure that you will never be rid of them. I hate war; I think it is a ridiculous way to solve political and jurisdictional arguments. Do I think there will ever be a lasting peace on this planet? No. Unless everybody ends up dead. War and religion are just part of our fundamental makeup. This won’t change as long as there are people.

              • gbjames
                Posted November 9, 2012 at 5:39 am | Permalink

                lisa: The world of human society changes over time. Stephen Pinker shows it becoming a less warlike world. Europe (especially) and other countries show that we can have a less demon-infested world.

                I don’t know many people who harbor the fantasy of religion a world totally devoid of religious belief. (Well, we harbor the fantasy, but recognize it to be fantasy.) But your statement is asserts an unchanging and unchangeable humanity that is far more dismal than warranted, IMO. It sounds to me like that old mistake of making perfection the enemy of the good.

              • lisa
                Posted December 6, 2012 at 4:35 am | Permalink

                I do not believe that humans are static and I believe that we are evolving, hopeful into something better than we are now, less belligerent and more reasonable. But I’m not sure if we will could still be really human. I do believe that the extreme and rapid advances in communication have shone us all quite a bit more about the world and about the horrors of war, and that this knowledge is helping us all see how horrible (not to mention illogical and counterproductive) war is. I cannot support Mr Pinker’s assertions. Unfortunately, war, like religion is very lucrative for many people, companies and governments. And these people will fight for this money. South and Central America, Africa, the Middle East and Eastern Asia do not seem to be any less warlike that they have been for thousands of years. And The USA and Western Europe have never stopped increasing their military and weapons research. I do hope very much that you are right. I think that humans are inherently good. But we will have to wait until history unfolds.

            • Notagod
              Posted October 9, 2012 at 10:52 am | Permalink

              You don’t answer questions regarding which god and what the characteristics your god has, so Miles_Teg, what is your purpose in spitting up your god on this website – just so you can bring a little hell to earth, as you fantasize your god might do? What is the difference between your god’s thoughts and your thoughts, do you ever disagree with your god? Give examples if you do, if not how do you know the difference between what you think and what your god thinks?

              • Bebop
                Posted October 9, 2012 at 9:22 pm | Permalink

                This thread is about theistic evolution so it is predictable that you’ll have theist comments…
                You have a very anthropomorphic idea of what God should be even if he doesn’t exist… I wouldn’t expect God to think. At least not like humans do… God is a process.

                “Maggid of Mezrich (1704-1772), held that while God is the foundation of all ideas, the very significance of divine thought is contingent upon its making its appearance in the mind of man. For the Maggid, God is the source of thought but actual thinking can only occur within the framework of the human mind.”

                What is said in this kabbalistic essay
                ( http://www.newkabbalah.com/CoincJewMyst.htm )
                gives a good definition of what God would be like. Similar views are offered in buddhism, sufism and by mystics like Eckhart.

              • Posted October 10, 2012 at 4:09 am | Permalink

                @ Bebop

                And what was Maggid smoking?

                /@

              • Notagod
                Posted October 10, 2012 at 7:17 am | Permalink

                How do you know Its a “he” even if It doesn’t exist? How do you know your god is a process? How do you know the references you point to know the nature of your god? For instance is your god exactly as Maggid of Mezrich describes It? Do you ever disagree with Maggid of Mezrich? Is Maggid of Mezrich your god?

                The host for the content of this website is an atheist. Those that participate in the comments are largely atheists. Since theists have no evidence or factual understanding of the creatures they worship, it is predictable that theists comments are not considered to come from a reputable source with respect to the character of any proposed god thingy.

              • Bebop
                Posted October 10, 2012 at 8:39 am | Permalink

                I used he but I could use it, or ** if you prefer…
                And if God is a process, it wouldn’t be just mine… As for you mantric questions, I don’t see where that leads… That Maddig quote was a good response to your comment about God’s thought. This is also why I find that your version of what God should be in order to not exist is very anthropomorphic.

                And as the paper from where I took the quote from Maggig says:

                “The doctrine of coincidentia oppositorum, the interpenetration, interdependence and unification of opposites has long been one of the defining characteristics of mystical (as opposed to philosophical) thought. Whereas mystics have often held that their experience can only be described in terms that violate the “principle of non-contradiction,” western philosophers have generally maintained that this fundamental logical principle is inviolable.”

                http://www.newkabbalah.com/coinc.pdf

                So those principles can be seen and experienced, but not accordingly to the scientific method as described above.

              • Notagod
                Posted October 10, 2012 at 9:53 am | Permalink

                Well, you are throwing out a lot of peoples gods by your statements. Their gods do not function in the same way your god does. However, you are very elusive about the god that you worship, you seem to put the responsibility for explaining your god in the hands of others yet you won’t take a stand on whether your god is the god that is being described by those that you reference. If you are unwilling to take a stand what is your purpose? Anyone can string words together, you aren’t unique in that regard. Are you willing to make a commitment to a clear and certain “process god” or will you forever pick and choose a new god to guide you each morning as you arise? Or, will you choose your god based solely on the content of the comment that you are currently replying to?

              • Bebop
                Posted October 10, 2012 at 10:25 am | Permalink

                First, I don’t worship any God.

                Second, if God is a process, uncreated, beyond space and time, it is just normal that you’ll find different interpretation of that process, due to cultural and historical different contexts. So there is no problem in borrowing to different people or culture the way they explain God. Science does that a lot by the way. This is how we ended with the Standard Model.

                So if God is a process, it is not surprising to find a lot of similarities between different traditions when it comes to their mystic branches, because mysticism is the way you can get empirical knowledge about the process.
                The buddhist assertion “the form is the void and the void is the form” is like a copy-paste of the kabbalistic assertion “the Nought is the Being and Being is the Nought.”

                As for the specificities you are asking, they are contrary to the nature itself of the divine process since it is beyond time and space. Language just can’t deal with that.
                And since english is not my main language, I’ll prefer to quote what follows because it explains in a very clear way what I mean:

                “Traditional mystics have been even more clear in their rejection of the possibility of articulating, let alone defending, their unitive experiences via rational means. Scholem translates “achdut hasvaah” as a “complete indistinguishability of opposites,” the term “achdut hashvaah” connotes “two contradictions within a single entity.” It is “the divine element that encompasses contradictions and reconciles their existence.”

                “…that mysticisms of many, if not all, cultures develop a paradox in which the “absolute,” “universal self,” or “truth” of the world is understood as both vacuum and
                plenum, as both absolutely nothing, and the totality of all things. In addition, several other paradoxes are characteristic of mystical thought; for example, the validity of both a ‘truth’ and its negation, the reality and unreality of space and time, and the substantiality and illusory character of the self. Such paradoxes are present in the mysticisms of Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity and Islam as well as in the Kabbalah, where, for example, the infinite godhead is regarded simultaneously as both nothingness (Ayin) and the infinite (Ein-sof). However, the mystical paradoxes, which are a pervasive if not dominant theme in the Kabbalah, achieves their supreme expression in the philosophy of the Chabad Hasidim, where they become the governing principle for both God and the world.”

                http://www.newkabbalah.com/coinc.pdf

                Voilà.

              • gbjames
                Posted October 10, 2012 at 10:35 am | Permalink

                “Language just can’t deal with that.”

                In which case, all of those babbling on about “nought is being…” and such should save us all the bother and shut up about it. There is no point in running on about things that are claimed to be indescribable in language. It is by definition unworthy of the time spent listening.

              • Bebop
                Posted October 10, 2012 at 10:37 am | Permalink

                Even if they exist for real and are at the basis of existence?

              • Bebop
                Posted October 10, 2012 at 10:40 am | Permalink

                But you are right, I’ll stop it. I made my case…
                I just wanted to explain how it is not foolish or impossible that something that would be beyond space and time, an uncreated no-thing, wouldn’t have the possibility to be tested or verified.

                It is truly a technical issue caused by our limitations.

                Unless you believe humans have access to absolute knowledge.

              • gbjames
                Posted October 10, 2012 at 10:51 am | Permalink

                Bebop, the only person here who seems to be making claims related to “absolute knowledge” is you. You are claiming to have knowledge about the unknowable and using weak analogies as evidence of unknowable somethingness.

                You ask “Even if they exist for real and are at the basis of existence?” which is a profound absurdity. Frankly, I question the sanity of someone who wastes time talking about unknowable things that are real bases of existence. These are non-concepts whose only value is to dismay anyone who tries to make sense of them.

              • Posted October 10, 2012 at 10:54 am | Permalink

                @ Bebop

                “I just wanted to explain how it is not foolish or impossible that something that would be beyond space and time, an uncreated no-thing, wouldn’t have the possibility to be tested or verified. It is truly a technical issue caused by our limitations.”

                But if it cannot be “tested or verified” how can you determine anything about it? Claiming to do so — claiming that this God “beyond space and time” is a process, for example – is clearly not impossible, but is very likely foolish.

                /@

              • Bebop
                Posted October 10, 2012 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

                Because it can be experienced. That is what mysticism is all about.

              • Posted October 10, 2012 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

                Again, if it can be experienced it necessarily exists “within” space and time (ie, where our brains exist) and thus can be tested and verified. GB, Ben and I have made this point repeatedly.

                Mysticism is taking experiences like OBEs and NDEs for what they seem to be; scientific testing and verification shows these experiences for what they are.

                Again, how is your experience of an “uncreated consciousness” different from these? You’ve said that we’d have to experience it for ourselves, but that’s irrelevant. Susan Blackmore, a one-time NDE/OBE researcher, had had a “long and dramatic [out-of-body] experience” herself; nevertheless, her research showed that these experiences have mundane neurological, physiological and sociological explanations. That is, the experience is real, it is just not actually what it seems to be to the experiencer.

                /@

              • Bebop
                Posted October 10, 2012 at 8:32 pm | Permalink

                @Ant
                When I dream, time isn’t suspended. Even if strange things happen while dreaming, the dream still obey to the flow of time. It isn’t a forever now where the notion of time disappears because the default dual mode of grasping has ceased. Again, you can tell cold from hot because they are opposites.
                So you can only know that time isn’t absolute and has an opposite when you experience it. And this is very funny because you know this since the “start”. Because being conscious can only be done in the now. But space, matter and time are always there to distort that impression.

              • Bebop
                Posted October 10, 2012 at 8:38 pm | Permalink

                @ gb
                It is not because those “things” can’t be verified in a scientific way that they are unknowable. They can be experienced.

              • Posted October 11, 2012 at 12:37 am | Permalink

                “you can tell cold from hot because they are opposites”

                No. No, they’re not.

                You keep making outrageous metaphyical claims when your grasp of physics is stalled somewhere in junior high school.

                /@

              • gbjames
                Posted October 11, 2012 at 4:50 am | Permalink

                Bebop, you confuse fantasy and reality. Study up on the nature of delusion.

            • Posted October 9, 2012 at 11:02 am | Permalink

              There are an infinity of “unknown unknowns.” Surely you’ve heard of Russell’s Teapot? Why simply decide (for no good reason) that one of these unknown unknowns does in fact exist? You can’t just decide things like that.

              And the thing is, vague and incoherent as their conceptions of it are, god(s) as understood by any of the world’s religions should not be an unknown unknown. Often, absence of evidence is evidence of absence.

            • papalinton
              Posted October 9, 2012 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

              Miles
              “If I was a working scientist I wouldn’t go near theistic evolution because there’s no effective way to tell if it has happened.”

              Then the corollary to this statement is that religion is clearly an ineffective way to tell that theistic evolution occurred.

              The persistence of theists to promulgate such delusional nonsense, as Francis Collins does, is utterly antithetical to reasoned and measured thought. One can only conclude that our evolutionary susceptibility to unchecked and undisciplined teleology, our capacity to detect agency everywhere, that even the best of scientists are not immune to this seemingly intractable and instinctive vector for magical superstition.

        • JonLynnHarvey
          Posted October 9, 2012 at 8:48 am | Permalink

          The founder of Humanistic Judaism, Sherwin Wine, coined the term “ignosticism”.

          It asserts that a coherent definition of God must be presented before the question of the existence of God can be meaningfully discussed. And since no one seems able to adjudicate between rival concepts of God, why then bring in the issue of theism in and of itself?

          If there is a sentient spirit behind the cosmos, I don’t think anyone knows anything about it, and it’s well-hidden.

  7. pktom64
    Posted October 9, 2012 at 2:12 am | Permalink

    God intentionally chose the same mechanism to give rise to special creatures who would have intelligence, a knowledge of right and wrong

    UH? I thought that acquiring this knowledge was the beginning of the end for mankind, according to Collins’ religion.

    • gbjames
      Posted October 9, 2012 at 4:38 am | Permalink

      The search for consistency in religion is a trick of the devil.

      • pktom64
        Posted October 9, 2012 at 6:38 am | Permalink

        +1 but you know, can’t really help myself… that’s a byproduct of this thing, argh, how do you call that… thinking!

  8. jose
    Posted October 9, 2012 at 3:07 am | Permalink

    “As I’ve emphasized while writing on this topic before, one of the primary forces driving evolution is called natural selection, not supernatural selection.”

    Exactly… the thing about selection is that it explains adaptation in a purely scientific -that is, materialistic- way! It was the final blow to natural theology. Their attempts to bring back some kind of watered down version of it is just sad.

    ‘Look at how wonderful life is. Animals are gifted with traits that benefit their way of living. Isn’t that proof of God’s love for all his creatures?’
    ‘No, here’s how it happened. *explains natural selection*
    ‘Well… HE DID IT ANYWAY, K?’

  9. Posted October 9, 2012 at 3:30 am | Permalink

    We will conjure up anything so long as it shows that we will survive our deaths. Most of us can not fathom the nothingness that will come. Read Sartes,”Being and Nothingness.” You will get the picture of reality.

  10. Blondin
    Posted October 9, 2012 at 5:14 am | Permalink

    For some there seems to be more than just the desire to live after death. I’ve had discussions with some people who just can’t grasp the concept of having no ‘purpose’.

    “If there is no intelligent designer then there is no meaning to our existence”.

    “Yeah. And…?”

    “Everything has to have a purpose!”

    “Why?”

    “It just does!”

    …and so on.

    • Posted October 9, 2012 at 6:58 am | Permalink

      That’s my perspective also. Though fear of death certainly plays a role in why people embrace superstition, another part is fear of life. We don’t come with operating manuals. Life is messy, confusing, and challenging.

      • whyevolutionistrue
        Posted October 9, 2012 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

        Except for Dayo!

  11. jeffery
    Posted October 9, 2012 at 7:20 am | Permalink

    Believing in the process of evolution AND a literal Adam and Eve, and believing that God “set up” evolution to produce it AND then sat back and didn’t interfere (as if God hadn’t, already; big-time) are notions that are easy for the faith-based mind to swallow. The only type of “cognitive dissonance” that bothers them stems from ideas coming from OUTSIDE their belief system. What was it that the White Queen said to Alice? “Sometimes I believe in five impossible things before breakfast.”

  12. Siggy
    Posted October 9, 2012 at 8:52 am | Permalink

    “theistic evolutionists are not our allies. They are foes of pure, undiluted science, and enablers of superstition.”

    While they may not be the allies of those who have shed the crutch of superstition, “foes” sounds a bit harsh.
    The fall of religion will not be sudden or abrupt. It’s taking place right now. This sort of soft religion is just a sign of society gradually letting go of it all together.
    As each generation believes in a more watered down version of their parents delusions, it becomes easier to shed it all together. I see those believe in this sort of soft religion as parents of future non-believers.
    So yeah, while it would be nice if everyone would just see that evolution doesn’t need God to work. That’s probably being a little unrealistic to expect it to happen. So I’ll take the soft religious over those who actually believe that God took a lump of clay and made a man out of it.

    • Posted October 15, 2012 at 10:17 pm | Permalink

      New Atheists make “foes” of the soft religious because those masses are enabling christian leaders to undermine scientific teachings the world over.

      The 84% of Americans telling the story of human evolution in terms of a historical miracle are taking the god of the bible far too strictly.

      Monotheism is the reason why children are being taught Genesis 1:1-3 instead of a miracle-free version of the Big Bang.

  13. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted October 9, 2012 at 8:54 am | Permalink

    I fully agree with Dr. Coyne that making humans “special” is a science-stopper and we can’t rope off the quest for the origins of morality (or reason) as something that can’t be investigated.

    I still however have a problem with the assertion that “There is only a difference in degree, not in kind, between a theistic evolutionist and an undiluted young-earth creationist.” It’s a little like saying there’s only a difference in degree, not kind, between a prairie kingsnake and a water mocassin.

    • Posted October 15, 2012 at 10:27 pm | Permalink

      New Atheists have embraced the framing of Science Vs Religion that’s been made famous by monotheism in general, and catholic doctrine in particular.

      In you analogy the “snakes” are those who insist that historical contains biblical miracles. Those still saying that are living in a world that is pre- scientific revolution.

      Technology is speeding up and the descendants of said out-of-date snakes are finding themselves further and further behind secular institutions. It’s produced an explosive mix. Quite literally on that fateful day.

  14. catsmeat
    Posted October 9, 2012 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    Collins says…”… and so the fundamental incompatibility between random evolution — which is what science says happened — and divinely-guided evolution —”

    I thought evolution was non-random natural selection. Am I in error?

  15. First Approximation
    Posted October 9, 2012 at 10:25 am | Permalink

    “He doesn’t tell us how he knows all this.”

    A frozen waterfall told him.

    • MadScientist
      Posted October 9, 2012 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

      I was thinking it’s more like a message god sent via the rape of family member.

      • Posted October 9, 2012 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

        God communicates telepathically, yet Stenger and Rothman deem that physics says no. Ah, science is anti-God.

  16. MadScientist
    Posted October 9, 2012 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

    I can understand Vic’s frustration. I’ve frequently been criticized for calling Francis Collins a Creationist precisely because his brand of evolution is simply not scientific – it’s just another Goddidit story which is attempting to steal phrases from science to make itself appear legitimate to folks who don’t really understand the subject. For me it is merely another brand of Old Earth Creationism.

  17. Posted October 9, 2012 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

    All theism is creationism in the wide sense and thus anti-scientific- no intent.

  18. DV
    Posted October 10, 2012 at 10:06 am | Permalink

    >>By the way, when Collins is talking about “free will” here, you better bet he doesn’t mean compatibilist free will. He means the kind of free will that allows you to truly choose if you follow Jesus.

    What is the implication here – that compatibilist free will doesn’t allow you to truly choose? What is “truly choosing”? It is either the ordinary non-magical sort of choosing that we do, or the magical contra-causal sort of choosing that doesn’t exist. You get into this problematic definition that “real choice” is the one that doesn’t exist in the real world, whereas the choices that actually exist in reality are not “real choices”.

    In any case, I would bet that Collins is actually a compatibilist. He obviously believes humans have free will. I doubt he believes in contra-causal free will, despite his faith in Jesus, and belief in souls. The man believes in evolution despite Jesus already so he has demonstrated his capacity to believe contradictory things.

  19. marksolock
    Posted October 13, 2012 at 11:19 am | Permalink

    Reblogged this on Mark Solock Blog.

  20. Posted October 15, 2012 at 10:38 pm | Permalink

    From my reading Bebop and Ant are talking passed each other.

    B has in mind a theory that our universe’s history contains at least one miracle, that is an action of a God, though non-anthropomorphic (even beyond for a brain to).

    A is explaining that the sciences have been investigating all categories of biblical miracles. And found them to be incredible.

    This gets us nowhere because any SPECIFIC miracle remains paradoxically believable (to B) and unbelievable (to A), and credible (to monotheism) and not credible (to science).

    • Posted October 15, 2012 at 11:09 pm | Permalink

      So the believers are credulous. Faith doth that to people.Believers have to have that superlfuity to give their lives meaning and purpose.
      What a blasphemy against humanity. We’re not God’s playthings!
      ” Life is its own validation and reward and ultimate meaning to which neither God nor the future state can further validate.” Inquiring Lynn
      ” God is in a worse situation than the Scarecrow who had a body to which a mind could enter whilst He has neither. He is that square circle. No wonder,He is ineffable!” Ignostic Morgan
      Morgan-LynnGriggs Lamberth

      • Posted October 15, 2012 at 11:35 pm | Permalink

        Except that believers needn’t be gullible nor “excessively” trusting, nor innocently misled by the (mistaken) teachings of monotheism.

        H. sapiens are sufficiently misled by their own brains. And not just “them” either, that well-meaning (but mistaken) subset we’re calling believers.

        We don’t need religious Faith to have in mind a creator god and his historical miracles. The ancients sure didn’t.

        • Posted October 15, 2012 at 11:35 pm | Permalink

          *pagans

          • Posted October 15, 2012 at 11:40 pm | Permalink

            Point being: those are concepts that live in minds. In books. But not historical figures/events of our expanding universe (read: reality).


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