Sunday, October 26, 2008

"Mind & Spirit" -> Exposed: Christianity as an Evolutionary Advantage

Well Ben Stein is right.

I have to admit it, I was prepared not to like the Ben Stein film "Expelled." After all, I am an evolutionist. I have grave issues on intelligent design ("ID"), and if ID is a conjecture or a science. I was ready to see a vitriolic and mindless anti-evolution diatribe. Even before seeing the film, I had read anti-Expelled web sites that talked about how Ben Stein had twisted the truth. I was ready to see through this because I had been prepared.

I was surprised.

Now mind you, Ben Stein does over represent that there are scientists on both sides of the issue. To be in the ID camp, you will probably be in the 1% of those with Ph.D.s. In reality, because saying that you'd like to study ID is a bit like saying that you're into picking your own nose and saving the results, even those that might consider ID in the academic environment would never admit to it.

However, there are just enough academics that hold to ID that it allows it to be discussed. Into this fray, Ben Stein inserts himself.

Stein's thesis is very simple:

1. To say that you base your belief system on a creator is political suicide in academic environments.

2. However, in almost all other areas of life we have the right to at least debate the issues.

3. The ID proponents are not babbling idiots.

4. Therefore, there is something amiss in the system. We should be able to question the prevailing system no matter what is the question.

Now, if Stein had stopped here, he would have only created a minor uproar, but what pushed his message into the red zone is his contention that Darwinism can lead to the idea of Social Darwinism, which helps to directly foster events like the Holocaust.

It is this last point that I agree with the most, and the point that is the most highly disagreeable to those in the academic environment. I have written some of this before, but allow me to again summarize the reasons that there is religion in the world. The following statements are mostly exclusive in their ability to reflect truth.

Hypothesis 1: Religion is around because there are gods or God that created the world. These deities that may ask us to somehow follow them. We have religions because an external force caused us to have religion.

Hypothesis 2: Religion is a construct that was created by natural forces.

Anyone that does not believe in a religion as an external force must believe hypothesis 2. However, the formation of religion or evolution of religion becomes problematic. Why was it created if it was not created by an external force?

The common sense answer to the average Joe is that "when early man didn't understand something, he would be comforted by the idea that there were gods or God behind everything." If this is true, that having religion makes one feel better, then religion is a necessary advantage to those that have it. Getting rid of religion is counter productive because it removes something that gave an evolutionary advantage over those that did not have religion. The common trait of religion is what gives a people group strength.

(This point is not mine, but I steal it here. The above thought is so obvious that many atheists spend hours trying to explain away the helpful nature of religion by saying that religion must be a spandrel or a meta-meme, both of which weak hypothesis when compared to the idea that religion results in an evolutionary advantage for those that hold onto it.)

You have two sets of conflicting hypothesis:

1. This world was made by a personal creator

2. This world was made by a fortuitous series of events.

If this world was made by a series of fortuitous events, there is no reason to help others out other than yourself. In reality, in a system that is based on evolution, you simply cannot explain how you can have free will. After all, you are a constructed being that is programmed with a certain programming. Perhaps, there was some core of chance in the way that your DNA sequences were fulfilled, but at the end of the day "it'll be all about the genes."

Evolution leads to the strong devouring the weak. It leads to fatalism. It leads to lack of control. The best of the atheist's philosophers, Dan Dennet in Freedom Evolves (and yes, I have yet to read the book, but I have read summaries) tries to argue that while man is predetermined, our ability to make informed choices--even though we are wired to make those choices--means that we have free will. Classically this is call Compatibilism. This mean that human beings may be predetermined to make a choice, but the fact that the person make the choices himself means that predetermination and free will are compatible.

To step one more time into this hole: You may determine that you don't like the weight that you are at. In fact, over 90% of people that go on a diet immediately gain back the pounds in two years. This would indicate that your programming of weight over rides your will. However, even in this case, you could pay somebody to starve you until you hit the proper weight. This is freedom. You can make a choice regardless of how you are wired.

So, by jumping through a tremendous amount of mental gymnastics, we get to an illusion or a type of free will. However, from a practical standpoint, the total population will never hear this message.

For the average Joe, all they will hear is that "we evolved to this state." There is no free will. Our wiring determines how we will react. Now, wrap this back into the idea of how we treat others. I have many discussion with atheists where they say that they are more moral than all the Christians they know. I may even agree with them, but my point is that their morality is driven by a desires to show that they are good. In more of the cases where I have asked an atheist why they are good, they have no answer.

The reason should be obvious to anybody that understand their own human nature: there is no reason that you should do good. Why help the weak and deprived if it won't help you. As a matter of fact, those that can't pull their own weight should be discarded. If you remember my last post, which can be found here, I pointed out somebody that I knew that was talking about "upgrading the team." The idea is that you should be going through the team and throwing away some individual and upgrading the rest. This is a bit of the survival of the fittest right in the work environment. I clearly see this thought process of the work upgrade as coming directly from the influence of evolution. The strong will survive.

Now if we don't like this mess of a philosophy, we can construct a very simple counter set of hypothesis to the evolutionary one. These are the other set that we started this section with:

a. There is a God.
b. He made you in his image, therefore you have free will
c. It is your choice to do the right thing

If you are a good Christian supervisor, you understand the following:

*The Lord is your master
*The Lord gave you responsibility for those under your care
*You are to be a good supervisor, and plan for the success of your people

This does not mean that we pay everybody the same. This doesn't mean that if a layoff comes that you fire people at random. It doesn't mean that somebody with a bad attitude should not be fired. What is does mean is that you are responsible for your people, and there are expectations that are given by the Lord for you to be fair and right. I would argue that in my experience that those that build this type of an organization are the ones that go to the top. A well led group of B-String players will outperform a warring class of A-String players every time.

Now. let us look at beyond the work place.

In reality, the advent of Christianity has done more than anything to make our nation powerful and great. Unfortunately, the world tries and says that this nation was not founded on Christian principles. This is a ludicrous statement. I was reminded of this by a High School friend that sent me a video that can be seen here. In a very short course in this link, David Barton gives a quick lecture on the culture of America. There is a straight line from how we were founded to the worldview of the Christian.

Over the last 50 years, the United States has been trying to dissolve this bond. Only the future will tell us how much it will hurt.


Phil said...

Ted: could you send me or Trude your preferred email address? Phil

-jacob said...

Along your point, Luke 16: 8-10 seems to indicate that we are to be kind now, in this world, so that it will benefit us later.

Theologic said...

See you Standford email for my email.

tmm said...

Uncle Ted - my apologies for never replying to anything. It has been brought to my attention that my energies have been... er... focused to the extent of neglecting other people in my life.

I was surprised by your take on the movie, and I appreciate your ability to trim fluff and cut to the core of arguments. My family is good friends with a man who is a tenured professor, actively publishing in molecular biology, and a leader in his field of study. The flack he gets for ever having run along with the idea of Intelligent design is absolutely ridiculous. In personal discussions with other members, he quotes them as saying "You know, off the record, you could be right about intelligent design. But I don't like the implications that the existence of a God would have on my life."

Having participated in enough of academia now, and seeing the enormous pressure people are under to bring in money and/or write papers that pass the gate-keepers, I mean, reviewers, it is no wonder to me that popular opinion holds so much sway.

Hmm... I could write a lot more about this but it's in your comments section