I Have This Book (Here’s How I Got It)

I Have This Book (Here’s How I Got It) July 28, 2016

I have this book

The above image comes via a post on Jerry Coyne’s blog, “The Truth About Creationism vs. Evolutionism.”

Would it be fair to say that the biggest reasons for the debates about evolution among Christians, and between religious fundamentalists of various stripes and everyone else, stem from people not understanding how either of the two books in the top part of comic came to be? Failing to understand how science works, and failing to recognize the equally human processes at work in the production of the Bible, create all sorts of problems.

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  • Matthew Funke

    To some extent. I think there’s also a problem with assumptions concerning what kind of authority can be ascribed to books and their authors. For example, the creationist who thinks that trusting the contents of the Bible means trusting it to be infallible and trusting in the goodness and nobility of its Author (singular!, at least in their minds) often also thinks that the “evolutionist” who trusts the contents of Origin means trusting it to be infallible and trusting in the goodness and nobility of its author.

    In other words, they treat evolution as if it is a personality cult, and marshal arguments to show Darwin in a bad light or perceived mistakes in his book — believing that in so doing, they will make evolution itself appear shaky or untrustworthy.

    It’s related to the problem of not understanding the source of books, but slightly different in direction and impact, making the problem a little broader than it would be if it were only a question of ignorance about Origin‘s origins.

  • MadScientist1023

    I think that’s true for some Christians. Some just were never taught evolution particularly well, or were never taught science particularly well in general.

    On the other hand, it seems like most of the Christians who participate in this “debate” don’t care about the science. If they pay any attention to it, it’s to cherry-pick facts to “poke holes” in Evolution. In reality, they just come up with questions they think help their argument, and then ignore all answers to those questions. Some of these Christians even know what the answers are, but they immediately dismiss them by saying they don’t believe it.

    There’s no point in talking to Christians from the latter group. They have their ideas, and nothing in the world will convince them of anything else. No evidence, no argument, no experiment will ever be good enough for them. You can list a hundred transitional fossils, they’ll still claim no transitional fossils have ever been found. You can explain to them the timescale needed for evolution, but they’ll still demand that you show them one type of creature evolving into another. You can give them a dozen examples of beneficial mutations, they’ll claim they aren’t mutations because that diversity has always been there. Heck, I tried to make a point to one about how childbirth is difficult for humans because of various evolutionary factors. She insisted that when she gave birth it wasn’t bad, therefore my point couldn’t be true. I mean, when you’re talking to someone who won’t even concede the point that humans generally have a hard time with childbirth, there’s just no possible way to make progress.

  • I spent many years–most of 55 years–unlearning, relearning, new-learning on the whole controversy of Creationism versus Evolution. There are lots of small battles that can be ended if one looks fairly objectively at the evidence (whether biological or textural).

    The huge charging elephant in the center of it all, however, is philosophical. Daniel Dennett’s book, Darwin’s Dangerous Idea (with its central metaphor, that of evolution being an acid that eats through all forms of theism and meaning) seems to be the best description of the central difficulty in all of this.

    At least for me, Dennett’s evidence shows why BioLogos’ site (and other such attempts by both sides to work out a compromise) doesn’t work.

    • John MacDonald

      Can you give an example of important evidence that Dennett marshals?

      • It’s complicated, 521-pages worth. One of 5 most powerful books I’ve read in all my years as a reader (though I disagree with Dennett’s central conclusion).

        Basically, he marshals scientific and historical evidence to show that evolution proves there is no meaning or purpose to existence.

        His effort is impressive and (in my educated opinion) does show that liberal Christian scientists (such as those at BioLogos) and the moderate atheistic side, (such as NOMA by Stephen Jay Gould) are engaging in compartmentalization, not seeing the elephant in the center, the acid.

        Dennett thinks the increasing evidence of evolution will continue to mount until evolution proves atheism.

        • I fail to see why Dennett’s assertion that evolution is universal acid, dissolving our confidence in all the perceptions that we as products of evolution have – apart, apparently, from Dennett’s own – seems powerful to you, or even merely compelling. I certainly didn’t find it to be such when I read it. It was ultimately a mere assertion about the implications and the scope of explanatory power of evolution, and one that if correct would be self-defeating.


          • I don’t think that evolution proves there is no meaning. Contrary to Dennett, I am an intellectually convinced theist.

            What the book does seem to show is that the view of sites such as BioLogos that the Christian God of Infinite Love spent over 3 billion years of creature suffering and mass extinctions such as the dinasaurs, etc. to create humans seems highly improbable.

            As I recall that is why professor Kenneth R. Miller, author of Finding Darwin’s God, a cell biologist and Darwinian evolutionist, says he’s not a theistic evolutionist, because the term makes no biological or religious sense.

        • John MacDonald

          Kant also wrote a long book full of complex arguments, but if needed I could supply an example that illustrates his point, for instance, on causality. Can you not briefly describe the argument behind one of Dennett’s central points?

          • I could do neither. I studied Kant 50 years ago and read Dennett’s book about 16 years ago.

            Heck, my memory is fading me–as an oldster. The other day I couldn’t even remember the name of one of my favorite poets. When my wife sent me downstairs to get her tea, I turned off the light and came back up the stairs.
            Where’s my tea?

          • John MacDonald

            Above in response to Dr. McGrath you wrote: “What the book does seem to show is that the view of sites such as BioLogos that the Christian God of Infinite Love spent over 3 billion years of creature suffering and mass extinctions such as the dinasaurs, etc. to create humans seems highly improbable.” I would think that this gives us an idea about what Dennett is aiming at!

          • I agree.

            But I don’t have any more to share than I already have.

            It seems to me that Dennett’s lucid argumentation for Darwinian evolution pretty much shows that there is no Christian God of infinite love.

            However, Dennett uses all the scientific facts to ride his philosophical hobby-horse, (which I already explained is where I disagree).

            The Brown University biologist Kenneth R. Miller tries to do an end run (philosophical) around Dennett’s conclusions, but I don’t think he succeeds.

          • John MacDonald

            Apologists may use heaven and the afterlife to excuse human suffering, but it doesn’t work with other creatures.

          • John MacDonald

            I would just add that while apologists may debate whether such a scenario seems “improbable” or not, when it comes to the history of creation’s suffering leading up to man, it seems unnecessarily sadistic.

        • Occam Razor

          So scientific facts about fossils and DNA and the like “proves” questions about values and meaning?

          First of all, one is not like the other. Facts are facts and should not be open to debate. How one interprets those facts to come to conclusions about values is open for debate. One can reasonably come to different conclusions about values and meaning.

          That said, it doesn’t speak well of the anti-evolution faction that in order to maintain their views about values and religion, they have to deny provable facts. Put another way, a person who rejects facts because those facts do not support his or her metaphysical opinions is on shaky ground.

          • I agree.
            But then I was never a Christian who rejected facts to support my beliefs.

            See my comment to James as far as atheists go, trying to show that facts prove there is no value.

    • The very stance that embracing science is “compromise” reflects assumptions that are dubious from the outset.

  • ashleyhr

    Meanwhile from a hardline YEC (he even denies natural selection exists):

  • John MacDonald

    With a graduate degree in Philosophy, it has always been an interest of mine to analyze how people disagree and debate. I particularly like the Socratic method where you ask a series of leading questions to lead opponents into a reductio ad absurdum.

    • John MacDonald

      The trick is that incorrectly held positions or foundation-less positions often have internal contrariety in them, so the role of the interlocutor is to, through questioning, tease out the contrariety and the assumed points the opponent is holding without ground. As Socrates pointed out, it is an effective teaching method because through successive questions from the teacher, the student is prompted to concede a series of points which, when taken together, suggest the student’s position is untenable.