Friday, October 30, 2009

"Douchebags Are People Too"

In honor of Roissy's charming new essay, Ugly People Made Me an Atheist (yes, he's serious), I thought I'd post this amusing video: Douchebags are People Too [NSFW].

Quote of the Day

As part of Mangan's essay, The History of Science as Rejected Papers, "AngloAmerikan" wrote...

Those of us here who are labelled as Darwinian evolutionists simply suspect that living things are the result of an undirected process....Usually when things are designed there is ample evidence such as a little label that shows who made it, or plans or a workshop or a discussion with the maker. Most things that are designed are simple tools or even quite beautiful things like a Ferrari Dino. Life on the other hand is more like that half eaten meal left under the bed for a month – a seething mass of grotesqueness, quite clearly evolving. We are just fortunate that we only see the surface of things and the illusion of beauty because fundamentally life is ugly and stupid – just like what you would expect if it was evolving.

"Fundamentally life is ugly and stupid – just like what you would expect if it was evolving." And people wonder why the debate over Darwin matters...

Open Post on Game

Per Eumaios' fine suggestion, I am creating an open post on Game, where anyone can weigh in with their thoughts and feelings and (most likely) insults.

A few days ago, Welmer's article, How Game Secured America's Independence, created an aftershock in the Summer of '09 Game controversy. In light of that, I've been spending a good chunk of time at Ferdinand Bardamu's blog exchanging ideas with Eumaios, The Fifth Horseman, and a few others about what Game is, why it's counter-productive, and what better alternatives exist.

Today, my opinion of Game remains the same as it did on Aug. 25, when I wrote...

“Up until last week, I knew nothing of ‘Game.’ I began my research with an open mind. Having completed my research, I feel comfortable stating that Game is not the answer because it fosters an attitude in which men objectify women, casual sex is excused or even encouraged, and as it pertains to married couples, it doesn’t facilitate the emotional, spiritual connection that is the key to true happiness. Of course, knowledge is power, and it is worth knowing what makes women ‘tick’ inside. But that’s independent of Game, which has – for whatever reason – morphed into a chauvinistic pseudo-religion among the men who preach its gospel. The bottom line is: There are better alternatives to Game.”
When Chuck Ross
asked me, “What are the alternatives?” I replied...

The alternative is to take ownership of your life. Everything you need to build a happy and successful life is inside you – inside your mind. The power to think – and by that, I mean the power to think rationally – is the power to grow, and to be everything you wish to be. A rational man is a competent man…and a competent man is a confident man…and a confident man is a happy man. A man with that package (competent, confident, and happy) is extremely desirable to other women (or at least those women who are worthy of his love). And he can give that love to a woman because he is complete on the inside. There are no guarantees in life, but I’m confident that nearly every man who applied those principles would find more love and happiness than he would through Game. I can say that from experience.

Eumaios responded, “I think you should be arguing that what we call ‘Game’ should really be called something else. Then help us coin a name for it.”

To that, I answered...

Hmm, an interesting challenge. I actually like the term “Game” to describe the chauvinistic pseudo-religion that is advocated by Roissy and propagated by his allies with posts like “How to Use Your Penis to Show Her Who is the Boss.” The word “Game” itself sound manipulative and frivilous, which is precisely what that mindset entails. However, I’ve always said that to the extent that what is popularly called “Game” encourages men to learn what “makes women ‘tick’ inside” (and to use that knowledge to boost their relationship success) I am in favor of that.

Perhaps it is THAT knowledge which needs a new name. I’ll suggest “Strategic Romance” or the “Relationship Arts.”

The Fifth Horseman (TFH) then tried to convert me to Game indirectly...

Let’s take a step back : How much do you believe in evolution as a driver of behavioral psychology, as opposed to societally mandated values?

That made me smile. I answered...

That’s an excellent question, my friend, and I’m glad you asked it. My answer is: “Not much.” Most of what is supposedly true in ‘Evo-Psych’ is false. And the stuff that IS true has a habit of being misunderstood and abused.
Oh one note: The “good parts of Game” have been around a lot longer than the word “Game” itself. The original essay which started this whole tempest (Welmer’s piece on Ben Franklin) proves that “strategic romance” (for lack of a better term) has been around a lot longer than the Roissy school of relationships.

As I said above, to the extent, that this online Game community wants to be a positive force for men, it should distance itself from Roissy (and those like him), which – sadly – is probably impossible since Roissy is considered a hero in these parts.

TFH replied...
You seem to think Roissy is advocating something entirely different from "strategic romance."

To that, I answered...
Yes, I do. If Roissy is advocating the same thing as “strategic romance” than the word itself is corrupted and meaningless. There has to be boundaries on what “strategic romance” would recommend to men; Roissy’s lifestyle – by definition – would have to be outside that boundary...

The mere fact that the Game movement considers Roissy to be a hero gives me enough knowledge to make the judgment that the pluses of Game are outweighed by the negatives.

And with that, I open this post to everyone else...

Note: A full compilation of my articles on Game can be found here.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

New Poll on Darwinism


This week, The British Council released a survey that contains some interesting nuggets about people’s attitudes toward Darwinism.

What's the most important takeaway from the survey?

By a margin of 75-21%, people who “have heard of Charles Darwin and know something about the Theory of Evolution” believe that evolution – if it’s to be taught at all – should only be taught with “other possible perspectives, such as intelligent design and creationism.”

A few other questions and answers…

In the U.S. people were asked…

Have you heard of Charles Darwin?

84% Yes
16% No

To what extent do you agree or disagree that enough scientific evidence exists to support Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution? [Note: This was only asked of people “who have heard of Charles Darwin and know something about the Theory of Evolution"]

41% Agree
30% Disagree

Listed below are a range of different views, which people may or may not have about the origins of species and development of life on earth, which of these comes closest to your own view?

13% “Life on earth, including human life, evolved over time as a result of natural selection, in which no God played a part.”

32% “Life on earth, including human life, evolved over time in a process guided by a God.”

43% “Life on earth, including human life, was created by a God and has always existed in its current form."

10% "I have another view on the origins of species and development of life on earth, which is not included in this list."

Which, if any, of the following statements comes closest to you own opinion about how evolutionary theory should be taught in science lessons in schools?

21% “Evolutionary theories alone should be taught in science lessons in schools.”

51% “Evolutionary theories should be taught in science lessons in schools together with other possible perspectives, such as intelligent design and creationism.”

9% “Other perspectives on the origins of species should be taught in science lessons in schools and not evolutionary theories.”

14% “Theories about the origins of species and development of life on earth should not be taught in science lessons in schools at all.”

The Discovery Institute comments...

Head of the British Council’s Darwin Now program Fern Elsdon-Baker said, “Overall these results may reflect the need for a more sophisticated approach to teaching and communicating how science works as a process.”

While Darwin’s apologists might try to explain the poll numbers as an example of ignorance influencing people’s beliefs, the numbers themselves suggest a different picture.

Across the board, most respondents from the ten countries polled thought that “other perspectives on the origins of species” “such as intelligent design and creationism” should be taught in science class*. When the poll is weighted to include only those respondents who have heard of Charles Darwin and know something about his theory of evolution, the percentage supporting alternate theories increases, from 60% to 66% in Britain and 60% to 64% in the U.S.

A full compilation of Darwin polls can be found here.

Programming Note

I finally added labels to all 272 of my blog posts.

A full list is on the left side of the screen if you scroll about halfway down the page.

What are the most popular labels so far?

The top five are “Darwinism” (77), “Reductionism” (47), “Intelligent Design” (46), “Science” (38), and “Christianity” (37).

Quote of the Day

David Klinghoffer on his recent speech advocating Intelligent Design…

One lesson I took away with me is that out there in the real world, the evolution debate matters to people for reasons that may not be quite the same as the reasons it matters to many of us who are involved with it professionally. For them, it’s not about the scientific issue per se or about academic freedom. It’s about their children.

If you’re meeting with rabbis and speaking at a church, obviously faith is going to be front and center in the mind of your listeners. But it was not the theologically knotty problem of reconciling God and Darwin that was at issue so much as the effect of the cultural pollution pouring out of various smokestacks in public life, the media, and academia. One very tall and ominous smokestack is represented by Darwinism.

Our listeners were not fixated on science or theology, nor on the consequences of Darwin’s idea in the past (Nazis, eugenics, racist imperialism) but on how the culture right now is corrupted by animalism and nihilism -- the drumbeat of despair that tells young people they are animals just like our ape cousins, that life in the present, just like its origin and development in the past, is without meaning and purpose. Worry for their children is, I think, the chief reason that parents, unlike the California Science Center, won’t allow this debate to be canceled.

Why be worried? Exhibit A.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Quote of the Day

“There is no evidence against evolution.” – Biologist P.Z. Myers, protesting a survey

You hear that? No evidence! None! So don't dare ask any questions!

Reductionists Explain Consciousness!! Or Do They??

Earlier this month, I posted an interview with “Darwin’s pit bull” Richard Dawkins, in which Dawkins himself admitted that some “mysteries” of life remain beyond the reach of Darwinian theory – at least for now. One of those mysteries is the “origin of consciousness.”

According to the article…

Where does subjective consciousness come from? Dawkins sees this as the "biggest puzzle" facing biology. Scientists have their ideas, and one of the latest ideas is that consciousness serves as the Wi-Fi network for an assortment of "computers" inside your brain.

The article links to a 2007 MSNBC piece in which we are told that “psychologists and cognitive scientists” have reached a “consensus” in favor of the Wi-Fi/consciousness theory.

If you think of the brain as a set of different computers, each of which performs different complicated tasks and procedures, consciousness is like the Wi-Fi network that integrates the computers’ activities so that they can work together, Morsella explained.

For example, if you are carrying a hot plate of food to the table, one of your brain’s “computers” will tell you to drop the plate because it’s burning your skin, whereas another will tell you to hold on so the food doesn’t end up on the floor.

The brain requires the “Wi-Fi network” of consciousness so that the different computers can interact, hash things out and determine what you do.

Let me get this straight: According to the Reductionists, “consciousness” is a “Wi-Fi network" for the brain that emerged (presumably - like everything else in Darwinian theory) because it aided “survival of the fittest.”

This strikes me as typical Reductionist logic (or non-logic), and here's my analogy: For the Reductionists to claim that consciousness "emerged" because it aided “survival” is the equivalent of saying that "Oil emerged in Saudi Arabia because it aided survival.”

Of course, describing Saudi Arabia's relationship to oil in that way is ridiculous.

After all, the oil was already THERE!

That statement doesn't tell us WHAT the oil is or WHERE it came from.

And yet, that's precisely how the Reductionists explain the emergence of consciousness. We needed consciousness for "survival" (a Wi-Fi network for the brain ) and then - like a magic trick - it just "emerged."

And this is called "science?"

God, Evil, and Forgiveness

Luke “The Common Sense Atheist” has a new essay, Arguing About Evil.

After evaluating "Plantinga’s Free Will Defense" in favor of God, Luke writes…

Even if this is possible, it only explains a world in which there is some evil, not so much evil as we see in this world. In fact, it is easy to give examples of how God could have made a less evil world without ending human freedom. For example, he could have tweaked Hitler’s genes such that he still could have freely chosen the life of a fascist warmonger, but he would have been much more likely to freely choose the life of a peaceful gardener… Doesn’t the sheer abundance of evil in the world at least make God’s existence improbable?

I wrote back…

Even though I believe in God, I share the concern of atheists on this issue. The problem of evil is vexing. And more importantly – to paraphrase you, Luke – the problem is not just the mere existence of evil, but the vast amount of it. “Why so much, God?”

Where do I stand on this issue? Well, I’m tempted to say that even while God’s ways are mysterious, “We should have faith in God, because we know through Reason that God is worthy of that faith.” However, I’m sure many people would find that unfulfilling, and I don’t blame them. So I’ll try again…

We should be open to the possibility that God is not perfect, and more importantly, we should be open to the possibility that God WANTS us to acknowledge his imperfection.

When he’s made mistakes, he wants us to join him in an act of co-creation to fix them. And when he’s made gross mistakes – serious moral errors – then he invites us to do what we do for any worthy human being in that situation: Forgive Him!

Yes, forgive God! Seriously. I realize that’s a speculative, controversial idea, and I’m certainly open-minded to better alternatives. But atheism, in my opinion, is NOT one of those better alternatives. Why? Because it is false.

To this day, I still think my idea of “forgiving God” is the most controversial idea in The Mustard Seed.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Funny Pic of the Day

My Mom sent me a chain email with the funny picture above.

Actually, Mom, in Obama's defense, I would change the date to "Oct. 3, 2008."

Why? Click here.

Quote of the Day

"I agree with you that Darwinian beliefs would not make for a good society. I’ve said that they’ll make for a bad society." - Richard Dawkins

If "Darwinian beliefs" make for a "bad society," why do the Darwinists (especially Dawkins) always try to force those beliefs down our throat, without even the chance for an honest debate?

Which One of These Articles is NOT a Parody?

How Game Secured American Independence

How Thomas Jefferson Used Game to Write the Declaration of Independence

How Einstein Used Game to Create the Theory of Relativity

How Joan of Arc Used
"Girl Game" to Defeat the British at Patay

The answer can be found at Ferdinand Bardamu's website.

H/T: Lawrence Auster

Friday, October 23, 2009

Weekly Wrap-Up

Experimental Data Force Researchers to Admit There’s “No Such Thing As Junk RNA:”
"Originally, proponents of neo-Darwinian evolution lauded 'junk' DNA as functionless genetic garbage that showed life is the result of blind and random mutational events. Then 'junk' DNA was disproved by the discovery that the vast majority of DNA is being transcribed into RNA. Did the failure of this Darwinian assumption cause evolutionists to terminate their love affair with biological 'junk?' Of course not. They just shifted their argument back, claiming that the cell is full of 'junk RNA'—DNA that is being transcribed into RNA but still does nothing in the cell. Earlier this year we reported on a Nature paper suggesting function for 'junk' RNA. Now a Science Daily News article is confirming that finding."

A Tip of the Hat to an Honest Darwinist: “Incremental changes in an existing biological structure the alterations in beak shape of the finches that so impressed Charles Darwin during his voyage to the Galapagos Islands, for instance – can indeed be attributed to natural selection. Even most creationists do not deny this. But when it comes to the innovation of entirely new structures ('morphological novelties') such as segmentally organized bodies (seen in earthworms, insects, and vertebrates such as humans, but not jellyfish or molluscs), or the hands and feet of tetrapods (vertebrates with four limbs), Darwin’s mechanism comes up short.

New Interest in “Near-Death Experiences:”
On Oct. 16,’s lead story was about NDEs, although their headline was unfortunately titled, Doctor Says Near-Death Experiences are in the Mind. Umm, they’re not. But anyhoo, the is article is part of a series about NDEs called Cheating Death. One excerpt – a quote from Bob Schriever, co-founder of the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Association: "Why are so many people dreaming the same thing? How can so many people, and there's hundreds of thousands of people who have experienced this, how can we all be dreaming the same thing and describe the exact same thing?"

Poll: U.S. Belief in Global Warming is Cooling: "Just 57 percent think there is solid evidence the world is getting warmer, down 20 points in just three years, a new poll says…Only about a third, or 36 percent of the respondents, feel that human activities — such as pollution from power plants, factories and automobiles — are behind a temperature increase. That's down from 47 percent from 2006."

A Novel about Aristotle?
Annabelle Lyon’s new book,
The Golden Mean, looks very interesting. Unfortunately, the price at is a steep $32.95.

Oh Ida, Where Have Thee Gone!

Note: This is an update to the Ida Controversy. See here for my first article about it.

From Wednesday's Guardian, 'Eighth of the World' Ida Is Not Related to Humans, Claim Scientists ...

Her arrival was announced with unrestrained razzmatazz. She was the "eighth wonder of the world", "our Mona Lisa" and an evolutionary "Rosetta Stone", according to the researchers who unveiled her.

The female in question was Ida, a 47 million-year-old primate, whose exquisitely preserved fossil was touted as the remains of our earliest human ancestor. She was, they said, the "link" between us and the rest of the animal kingdom.

Writing in the journal, Nature, a team of palaeontologists from New York claim that Ida is not related to humans at all. Instead, they conclude, the $1m fossil looks more like a small lemur or maybe a loris...

"Our analysis and results have convinced us that Ida was not an ancestor of monkeys, apes, or humans, and if anything has more relevance for our understanding of lemur and loris origins," said Erik Seiffert, a fossil hunter at Stony Brook University in New York who led the Nature study…

The Ida fossil, which was found in the Messel Pit on the outskirts of Frankfurt, was revealed to the public in what amounted to the greatest publicity coup in modern science. The mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, appeared alongside the fossil, wearing a T-shirt carrying the TV tie-in logo, "The link." A book about Ida was already coming off the presses.

Ida was an immediate media sensation. The fossil received blanket coverage around the world and newspapers hailed her as the "missing link" between humans and animals.
The Guardian even gave away free wallcharts of "humanity's long lost ancestor..."

The controversy erupted after Seiffert's team unearthed the fossilised remnants of a similar, but much younger primate in northern Egypt... According to their study, neither Ida nor Afradapis have any living descendants, meaning they became extinct at the end of a sidebranch of the evolutionary tree.

**UPDATE, OCT. 25, 2009**

Casey Luskin recalls some of the outlandish media hype in The Evolution of “Ida”...

Ida was given quite a ride by the mainstream media, while it lasted.

Originally: Famed BBC broadcaster Sir David Attenborough got involved, making a documentary titled Uncovering Our Earliest Ancestor: The Link, to explain why Ida is “the link that connects us directly with the rest of the animal kingdom.” Co-sponsored by both the BBC and the History Channel, the program attracted a massive audience. …

  • Good Morning America and Nightline covered the fossil.
  • National Geographic called her the “critical ‘missing link’ species.”
  • ScienceDaily and a Discover magazine commentator praised Ida as our “47-million-year-old human ancestor.”
  • Skynews told the public that “proof of this transitional species finally confirms Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.”

With Google’s eager assistance, Ida went viral: One of the leading search terms that day was “missing link found.” Even the Drudge Report was reeled in by the media frenzy, briefly featuring Ida as the headline story…

The good news is that it seems that cooler heads are now prevailing regarding Ida. Wired notes that the current reporting about disagreements over Ida are an improvement, “the sort of dialogue that was missing from Darwinius’ overhyped debut.”

Demise of the Dollar, Part 2

Note: What does the dollar have to do with The Mustard Seed? See, for starters, my 2 essays, Will the Economic Crisis Inflame the Culture Wars or End Them? and The Wiley E. Coyote Economy.

In today's Wall Street Journal, Professor Allan Meltzer, who authored the multi-volume A History of the Federal Reserve, pens a great column warning about the demise of the dollar.

The United States is headed toward a new financial crisis. History gives many examples of countries with high actual and expected money growth, unsustainable budget deficits, and a currency expected to depreciate. Unless these countries made massive policy changes, they ended in crisis. We will escape only if we act forcefully and soon.

As long ago as the 1960s, then French President Charles de Gaulle complained that the U.S. had the "exorbitant privilege" of financing its budget deficit by issuing more dollars. Massive purchases of dollar debt by foreigners can of course delay the crisis, but today most countries have their own deficits to finance. It is unwise to expect them, mainly China, to continue financing up to half of ours for the next 10 or more years. Our current and projected deficits are too large relative to current and prospective world saving to rely on that outcome.

Worse, banks' idle reserves that are available for lending reached $1 trillion last week. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said repeatedly in the past that excess reserves would run down when banks and other financial companies repaid their heavy short-term borrowing to the Fed. The borrowing has been repaid but idle reserves have increased. Once banks begin to expand loans or finance even more of the massive deficits, money growth will rise rapidly and the dollar will sink to new lows. Do we have to wait for a crisis before we replace promises with effective restraint?...

It is far better to begin containing the problem before we blow a hole in the dollar and start another downturn…

We do need a fully specified, multi-year program to restore fiscal probity by reducing spending, and a budget rule that limits the size and frequency of deficits. Except for a few years in the 1990s, both parties have been at fault for decades, and the Obama administration is one of the worst offenders. Its $780 billion stimulus bill, enacted earlier this year, has been wasteful and ineffective…

High inflation is unlikely in 2010. That's why a program beginning now should start to lower excess reserves gradually so that the Fed will not have to make its usual big shift from excessive ease to severe contraction that causes a major downturn in the economy.

**UPDATE, OCT. 23, 2009**

Gillian Tett had an insightful piece in yesterday's Financial Times: Rally Fueled by Cheap Money Brings a Sense of Foreboding...

“Was October 2008 just a dress rehearsal for the crash when this latest bubble bursts?...”

Six months ago, the financial system was in deep distress, reeling from a meltdown. Now despair and panic have been replaced not simply by relief – but, in some quarters, euphoria…

No doubt many brokers would like to attribute this to fundamentals. After all, last year’s crash in asset prices was so extreme that some rebound was almost inevitable…

Yet, if you talk at length to traders – or senior bankers – it seems that few truly believe that fundamentals alone explain this pattern. Instead, the real trigger is the amount of money that central bankers have poured into the system that is frantically seeking a home, because most banks simply do not want to use that cash to make loans. Hence, the fact that the prices of almost all risk assets are rallying – even as non-risky assets such as Treasuries bounce too.

Now, some western policymakers like to argue – or hope – that this striking rally could be beneficial, in a way, even if it is not initially based on fundamentals. After all, the argument goes, if markets rebound sharply, that should boost animal spirits in a way that could eventually seep through to the “real” economy.

On this interpretation, the current rally could turn out to be akin to the firelighter that one uses to start a blaze in a pile of damp wood…

After all, much of the current economic rebound seems to reflect stimulus packages (and flattering year-on-year comparisons) that will end next year. And while there are still plenty of firelighters around – in the form of monetary stimulus and ultra low market rates – there seems to be a good chance of a future interest rate shock as central banks implement their exit strategies…

In the meantime, it is crystal clear that the longer that money remains ultra cheap, the more traders will have an incentive to gamble (particularly if they privately suspect that today’s boom will be short-lived and want to score big over the next year). Somehow all this feels horribly familiar; I just hope that my sense of foreboding turns out to be wrong.

God the Artist

Yesterday, ran an article, An Artist or An Engineer?, which evaluates how we should interpret God in light of the evidence found in the natural world. The author (who is strangely anonymous) isn't a fan of Intelligent Design, but even so, I liked some of the language in his essay…

The problem of imperfect design in nature raises serious concerns for the idea of God as the divine engineer...After all, if God designed each detail in the blueprint of life, why would he create mammalian eyes which have a blind spot?...

However, as Karl Giberson notes in his lecture "Wrestling with Darwin", perhaps such problems come from our choice of metaphor. "All of this [concern with design] is driven by a prevailing but kind of unexamined metaphor that we should think of God as an engineer and so we should bring engineering questions to creation and evaluate them as engineering projects," says Giberson.

Yet what if we view God through another metaphor, like that of an artist? Certainly, this does not solve the engineering problems, but it causes us not to look at them as engineering problems anymore. Furthermore, as Giberson notes, "We might begin to see the world as creative and extravagant in its beauty rather than red in tooth in claw."

In their book Questions of Truth, John Polkinghorne and Nicholas Beale raise a similar challenge to viewing God as an engineer:

"God is never spoken of as a 'designer' in the Bible; he is the Creator and Father, and a father does not 'design' his children. Even a great creative writer does not exactly 'design' his or her characters, and in any performance, whether of a play or a piece of music, the individual decisions and actions of the performer are vital elements in addition to the intentions of the playwright or composer. By endowing us with free will and giving us the capacity to love, God calls us to be in a limited but very important sense co-creators."

Yes, I’ve often called God an “artist” too (see The Mustard Seed).

Atlas Hugs

In the most recent issue of
Newsweek, South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford has a very insightful piece about the value of Ayn Rand's work...

When I first read The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged in the 1980s, I was blown away. Those books portray the power of the free individual in ways I had never thought about before. Since then, I've grown more critical of Rand's outlook because it doesn't include the human needs we have for grace, love, faith, or any form of social compact. Yet I still believe firmly that her books deserve attention…

Atlas has sold more than 6 million copies since it was published just over 50 years ago…Over the past year, we've seen Washington try to solve all our problems—chiefly by borrowing billions from future generations—to little effect. In that sense, this is a very good time for a Rand resurgence. She's more relevant than ever.

Yes, Ayn Rand is more relevant than ever, and I do share Gov. Sanford's critique of her philosophy (known as "Objectivism")." While Objectivism contains many vital and unique truths (which have greatly influenced me), it isn't sufficient for happiness and success. For that, Gov. Sanford is correct: A good philosophy must address the "human need" for "grace, love, and faith." That's why I created "Spiritual Rationalism."

One final note: These days, Gov. Sanford is probably best known for his affair with an Argentinian woman, but that's really unfortunate. While there's no excusing the Governor's behavior, he took full responsibility for his action and is trying to atone for it. Indeed, he's handled the situation about as well as any human being could under the circumstances.

Gov. Sanford's affair shouldn't preclude him from having a voice in our national affairs (pun intended). Throughout his political career, he has been a smart, fearless voice for freedom, individual rights, and limited government. One example: The piece above. Think about it: How many other politicians would choose to spend their political capital by defending Ayn Rand and advancing her ideas? With the exception of Ron Paul, I can't think of anyone else.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Why the Debate Over Darwinism Matters, Part 2

Note: The picture above is of Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, the Columbine Killers who murdered 12 of their classmates in 1999. They were heavily influenced by Darwinism and admired it. For more, click here.

Also, Part One of this series is here.

As I promised in Part One, I'd like to deconstruct Josh Sullivan's 18-page letter to his grandmother about why he abandoned Christianity and embraced atheism.

The 18-page letter is broken down into four sections:
1) Introduction, 2) Evolution, 3) Belief, and 4) Conclusion.

Leaving aside the “Introduction” and “Conclusion" (for obvious reasons) there are apparently only 2 issues that sparked Josh's religious rollback: “Evolution” and “Belief.”
What does he mean by “Belief?” Well, we’ll get into that later. But first, evolution…

On P. 4, Josh writes…

Evolution is a scientific fact in the same way that the earth’s roundness is a scientific fact. There is absolutely zero dispute among credible scientists that all living things are evolved.

This is absurd. Laughably absurd. In fact, you can tell a lot about the honesty of a Darwinist by whether or not he would make a statement like that. An honest Darwinist would never say such a thing, and would criticize those who did.

Why is it absurd? For a variety of reasons. First of all, anyone who truly understands the debate over evolution knows that the concept of evolution itself - if by “evolution” we mean “change over time” - is NOT controversial. Everyone understands that things change over time. I’m taller than I was 15 years ago. My father has less hair than he did 15 years ago. You get the picture. And no one disputes that. What IS disputed is the larger philosophy of “Darwinism.” “Darwinism” is different from evolution; it takes evolution to an extreme. And it's Darwinism – not “evolution” – which concerns “Mama Murphy.” Darwinism takes a fairly innocent, understandable concept of “evolution” (“change over time”) and perverts it into an extreme, unproven ideology.

As this 2-page paper by The Discovery Institute points out…

When Charles Darwin published The Origin of Species in 1859, it was already known that existing species can change over time. This is the basis of artificial breeding, which had been practiced for thousands of years. Darwin and his contemporaries were also familiar enough with the fossil record to know that major changes in living things had occurred over geological time. Darwin's theory was that a process analogous to artificial breeding also occurs in nature; he called that process natural selection. Darwin's theory was also that changes in existing species due primarily to natural selection could, if given enough time, produce the major changes we see in the fossil record.

After Darwin, the first phenomenon (changes within an existing species or gene pool) was named "microevolution." There is abundant evidence that changes can occur within existing species, both domestic and wild, so microevolution is uncontroversial. The second phenomenon (large-scale changes over geological time) was named "macroevolution," and Darwin's theory that the processes of the former can account for the latter was controversial right from the start. Many biologists during and after Darwin's lifetime have questioned whether the natural counterpart of domestic breeding could do what domestic breeding has never done -- namely, produce new species, organs, and body plans. In the first few decades of the twentieth century, skepticism over this aspect of evolution was so strong that Darwin's theory went into eclipse. (See Chapter 9 of Peter Bowler's Evolution: The History of an Idea, University of California Press, revised edition, 1989).

In the 1930s, "neo-Darwinists" proposed that genetic mutations (of which Darwin was unaware) could solve the problem. Although the vast majority of mutations are harmful (and thus cannot be favored by natural selection), in rare instances one may benefit an organism. For example, genetic mutations account for some cases of antibiotic resistance in bacteria; if an organism is in the presence of the antibiotic, such a mutation is beneficial. All known beneficial mutations, however, affect only an organism's biochemistry; Darwinian evolution requires large-scale changes in morphology, or anatomy. Midway through the twentieth century, some Darwinian geneticists suggested that occasional "macromutations" might produce the large-scale morphological changes needed by Darwin's theory. Unfortunately, all known morphological mutations are harmful, and the larger their effects the more harmful they are. Scientific critics of - 2 - macromutations took to calling this the "hopeful monster" hypothesis. (See Chapter 12 of Bowler's book.)

The scientific controversy over whether processes observable within existing species and gene pools (microevolution) can account for large-scale changes over geological time (macroevolution) continues to this day. Here are a few examples of peerreviewed scientific articles that have referred to it just in the last few years:

David L. Stern, "Perspective: Evolutionary Developmental Biology and the Problem of Variation," Evolution 54 (2000): 1079-1091.

"One of the oldest problems in evolutionary biology remains largely unsolved… Historically, the neo-Darwinian synthesizers stressed the predominance of micromutations in evolution, whereas others noted the similarities between some dramatic mutations and evolutionary transitions to argue for macromutationism."

Robert L. Carroll, "Towards a new evolutionary synthesis," Trends in Ecology and Evolution, 15 (January, 2000): 27.

"Large-scale evolutionary phenomena cannot be understood solely on the basis of extrapolation from processes observed at the level of modern populations and species.”

Andrew M. Simons, "The continuity of microevolution and macroevolution," Journal of Evolutionary Biology 15 (2002): 688-701.

"A persistent debate in evolutionary biology is one over the continuity of microevolution and macroevolution -- whether macroevolutionary trends are governed by the principles of microevolution."

It should be noted that all of the scientists quoted above are believers in Darwinian evolution, and that all of them think the controversy will eventually be resolved within the framework of that theory. Stern, for example, believes that new developmental studies of gene function will provide "the current missing link." (p. 1079) The important point here is that the controversy has not yet been resolved, precisely because the evidence needed to resolve it is still lacking. It is important for students to know what the evidence does or does not show -- not just what some scientists hope the evidence will eventually show.

Since the controversy over microevolution and macroevolution is at the heart of Darwin's theory, and since evolutionary theory is so influential in modern biology, it is a disservice to students for biology curricula to ignore the controversy entirely. Furthermore, since the scientific evidence needed to settle the controversy is still lacking, it is inaccurate to give students the impression that the controversy has been resolved and that all scientists have reached a consensus on the issue.

I don’t know whether Josh is ignorant of the difference between “macroevolution” and “microevolution” or if he is deliberately trying to confuse his grandma. But either way, he’s already lost a ton of credibility just 4 pages into the document.

In any case, the unsettled issue of “macroevolution vs. microevolution” is just one of several problems with the neo-Darwinian paradigm. On March 23, I wrote…

I've broken down neo-Darwinism into four main ideas: (1) life can be produced "by chance" in a soup of chemicals, 2) life can come from non-living matter, 3) random genetic mutations and environmental pressures can explain the creation of new species, and 4) there is a logical evolutionary continuum (known as "common descent") between apes and humans.

Literally 150 years after Darwin published
On the Origin of Species, there is still ZERO evidence for the first 3 tenets, and surprisingly little evidence for the final one. We should stop making excuses and admit that Darwinism isn't a science anymore; it's an ideology.

Josh is a nice boy, though. Later on, he pats his grandma on the head and basically says,
“You – as a Christian – can’t help your disbelief in evolution. After all, your brain is hardwired for faith! And why? Through evolution, of course!"

Josh writes…

Ideas are selected for fitness by humans through a non-random process akin to Darwinian natural selection in the same way that Cordyceps has managed to survive and reproduce. Ideas, including religious beliefs, either fade into extinction over time or evolve and are selected to live on in the minds of humans. Ideas that are transmitted from one mind to another are called memes…

By analogy with “gene” especially with the connotation that memes parasitize people into propagating them much as viruses do. Memes can be considered the unit of cultural evolution. Ideas can evolve in a way analogous to biological evolution. Some ideas survive better than others; ideas can mutate through, for example, misunderstandings; and two ideas can recombine to produce a new idea involving elements of each parent idea.The term is used especially in the phrase "meme complex" denoting a group of mutually supporting memes that form an organized belief system, such as a religion...

I have good reason to believe that the particular brands of Christianity that I am most familiar with, fundamentalism and evangelicalism, contain particularly harmful meme complexes that cause meme carriers to deny reality in favor of adhering to a context-free literal interpretation of scripture.

Ah, so Mama Murphy is infected with a "parasitic meme," and Josh is coming to the rescue with a new and better "meme." I'm tempted to ask, though: Do "memes" actually exist?

According to science journalist, Denyse O'Leary, the answer is "no."

As she wrote in 2 blog posts:

Do not bother to ask whether neuroscience has discovered any correlate of a meme. Of course not…

Are memes or memeplexes testable? Could we know if they were not a correct explanation? Not likely…We know that genes exist and we have even mapped the genome, but the meme is too vague a concept to generate anything except speculation, good graphics, culture vignettes - and hoaxes.
At, Greg Downey (who favors Darwinism) states…

I think ‘memetics’ is one of the bigger crocks hatched in recent decades, hiding in the shadow of respectable evolutionary theory’… What’s hard for me to understand is that I LIKE some of Daniel Dennett’s work, and I can’t cite Dennett’s other work confidently when he has picked up a ‘meme franchise…’

It’s one thing to reify a concept, it’s another thing to start attributing it a whole complex personality, drives, desires, and levels of different reification. If defining gene as ’self-replicating’ is playing a little free with the details, defining meme, as ’self-replicating’ beggars the imagination it’s so stupid….

Arguing this reveals so little understanding of how brains work, especially how hard it is for ANY pattern to repeat completely. That is, even repetitive action typically involves constant changes in patterns of neural activation; maintaining consistency requires constantly shifting neural resources, even slightly, to take account to changes even in the organism itself…

Has anyone, ever, anywhere, seen an idea ‘replicate’ itSELF? Although this may seem like a semantic point, I think it’s a bigger logical problem with reifying culture as ‘memes’ and then attributing agentive power to the memes.

For me, the problem with memes is two-fold: theoretical and observational.

On a theoretical level, the problem with memes is the same as the one with “selfish genes.” It assumes intent for something that – by definition – cannot have intent. Ideas are not conscious. They have no purpose…They have no desire to “replicate”…They are just, um, ideas!...You would think the Darwinists would understand that, but apparently not. They want to explain all facets of human behavior with their theory. Seriously.

Then, there’s the problem on an “observational level,” which is just a fancy way of saying “common sense.” To say that religion itself is a meme is absurd. Religious ideas are not “analogous to biological evolution.” And how do we know that? Because there is so much variety, diversity, and innovation in religious thinking! Think about it: Catholics require their leaders to be celibate. How is that ‘analogous to biological evolution?” Jews require their men to be circumcised. Muslims require a month of fasting (Ramadan). Many ancient cultures – like the Mayans – required human sacrifice, even by members of their own tribe. These religious practices (among many others) might be “good” or “bad,” but to say they’re required by a process “analogous to biological evolution” doesn’t pass the “common sense” test.

So once again, Josh is trying to pass crackpot theories onto a person who probably doesn’t know any better, and isn’t informed enough to rebut them. I’m almost tempted to say Josh is trying to pass on his own “parasitic meme” (atheism) onto his Mama Murphy, but I’ll bite my tongue.

What Josh is trying to do, though, is very common about Reductionists. Indeed, it sounds like Josh is a graduate of the “Frankfurt School of Reductionism.”

On May 29, I wrote…

In the same way that the Frankfurt School reacted to the failure of Marxism (by blaming the “distortions, errors, and blind spots in the consciousness of the underclass”), the Reductionists are reacting to their failure to earn the conviction of the American people (see these polls) by reveling in the idea that people themselves CAN'T make rational convictions – that “people often have little or no information about the real causes of their own behavior” and that “it has been hard to find any correlation between moral reasoning and proactive moral behavior…”

Subtly, this new “Frankfurt School” of Reductionism is hoping to pick up where the old cultural Marxists left off – by keeping the game going a little while longer – not by waging an objective battle for truth, but by denying Man’s ability to know Truth altogether.

Josh concludes…

The memes that I was able to put off looking into for so long are the memes that ultimately did my faith in. These memes, when I addressed their claims, simply couldn’t stand up. It bears pointing out that, in the beginning, I sought to strengthen my faith by supporting my beliefs with Christian literature, prayer, scripture reading, and meetings with pastors. Needless to say, that kind of confirmation bias worked for a while, but, as Valerie Tarico puts it, my hopper did eventually fill up. When I really laid my beliefs out on the table for examination in light of all the evidence I realized that the available evidence is woefully impoverished. It was then that I applied the same rules of reason to my personal beliefs that I do to the rest of my life. Slowly, as Christoper Hitchens says, what had been asserted without evidence was dismissed without evidence.

Eh, whatever. I’m not sure how to respond to all that except to repeat what I said on Jun. 10 about folks (like Josh) who were raised in oppressive Christian households and then discovered – later in life – that Christian fundamentalism…how can I put this nicely?… "sucks."

I think they’ve incorporated society’s overarching flawed assumption that there are only 2 possible sources of truth: 1) Christian Revelation, or 2) nihilistic atheism. And if the first choice is so obviously untrue, then the second choice is all that remains.
Could there be a third choice? A third way? [Short answer: Yes]

And with that, my analysis of Josh's letter comes to a close. Of course, I still haven’t answered the question I asked in my headline: “
Why Does The Debate Over Darwinism Matter?”

Hey, I’m building up to that! Patience, patience. Part 3 is coming soon…