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Author Topic:   Kenneth R. Miller - Finding Darwin's God
Minnemooseus
Member
Posts: 3669
From: Duluth, Minnesota, U.S. (West end of Lake Superior)
Joined: 11-11-2001


Message 16 of 94 (12936)
07-06-2002 11:56 PM


Food for thought - a quote from the book (pp. 172-173):

quote:
Are such opponents of evolution sincere? Several years ago, I was invited to Tampa, Florida, to debate the issue of evolution with Henry Morris, founder of the Institute for Creation Research and one of the most influential of the young-earth creationists. The debate had been occa­sioned by the passage of a curriculum mandating the inclusion of so-called creation science in high school biology. In front of a large audience, I ham­mered Morris repeatedly with the many errors of "flood geology" and did my best to show the enormous weight of scientific evidence behind evolu­tion. One never knows how such a debate goes, but the local science teach­ers in attendance were jubilant that I scored a scientific victory.17

As luck would have it, the organizers of this event had booked rooms for both Dr. Morris and myself in a local motel. When I walked into the coffee shop the next morning, I noticed Morris at a table by himself fin­ishing breakfast. Flushed with confidence from the debate, I asked if I might join him. The elderly Morris was a bit shaken, but he agreed. I ordered a nice breakfast, and then got right to the point. "Do you actually believe all this stuff?"

I suppose I might have expected a wink and a nod. We had both been paid for our debate appearances, and perhaps I expected him to acknowledge that he made a pretty good living from the creation business. He did nothing of the sort. Henry Morris made it clear to me that he believed everything he had said the night before. "But Dr. Morris, so much of what you argued is wrong, starting with the age of the earth!" Morris had been unable to answer the geological data on the earth's age I had presented the night before, and it had badly damaged his credibil­ity with the audience. Nonetheless, he looked me straight in the eyes. "Ken, you're intelligent, you're well-meaning, and you're energetic. But you are also young, and you don't realize what's at stake. In a question of such importance, scientific data aren't the ultimate authority. Even you know that science is wrong sometimes."

Indeed I did. Morris continued so that I could get a feeling for what that ultimate authority was. "Scripture tells us what the right conclusion is. And if science, momentarily, doesn't agree with it, then we have to keep work­ing until we get the right answer. But I have no doubts as to what that answer will be." Morris then excused himself, and I was left to ponder what he had said. I had sat down thinking the man a charlatan, but I left appreciating the depth, the power; and the sincerity of his convictions. Nonetheless, however one might admire Morris's strength of character; convictions that allow science to be bent beyond recognition are not merely unjustified - they are dangerous in the intellectual and even in the moral sense, because they corrupt and compromise the integrity of human reason.

My impromptu breakfast with Henry Morris taught me an impor­tant lesson-the appeal of creationism is emotional, not scientific. I might be able to lay out graphs and charts and diagrams, to cite labora­tory experiments and field observations, to describe the details of one evolutionary sequence after another; but to the true believers of cre­ationism, these would all be sound and fury, signifying nothing. The truth would always be somewhere else.


Moose

------------------
BS degree, geology, '83
Professor, geology, Whatsamatta U
Old Earth evolution - Yes
Godly creation - Maybe


    
Minnemooseus
Member
Posts: 3669
From: Duluth, Minnesota, U.S. (West end of Lake Superior)
Joined: 11-11-2001


Message 17 of 94 (17822)
09-20-2002 1:44 AM


Recently, in another topic (which I currently can't track down), the work of E.O. Wilson was brought up.

Quite a while back, I had intended to get into that area, but it fell by the wayside. Anyhow, here I'll post a good sized chunk of chapter 6, which is titled "The Gods of Disbelief". The quoted material is in a section titled "On Human Nature". The pages are 180-184.

quote:

One of the boldest extensions of Darwinian analysis has come from a biologist whose specialty is the study of behavior. This is not surprising for the simple reason that behavior; in the broadest sense, is everything that people do. Art, music, literature, and even science are all forms of human behavior. Throughout the ages, our ability to produce these ele­ments of high culture has been taken as evidence of the specialness of human nature. Such behaviors are the very things that distinguish us from the animals, that make us human, and can be used to mark us as the children of God.

Edward 0. Wilson is a Harvard University biologist whose own research deals with ants, wasps, and bees, a fascinating group of animals known as the social insects. Wilson and his associates have studied insect societies for years, and we owe a great deal of our understanding of these remarkable organisms to him. Wilson saw the exquisite behavior patterns of the social insects as a special case of inherited behavior; and coined the term "socio biology" to refer to the biological basis of social behavior. Wil­son is a brilliant man who has labored for many years to achieve a syn­thesis between his biological analysis of behavior and other forms of human endeavor.

On Human Nature, Wilson's 1978 Pulitzer Prize-winning book, applied a Darwinian analysis of human behavior to a variety of social institutions. It earned him praise, but no small amount of criticism, espe­cially from feminists, who saw his biologically based arguments as noth­ing more than sexist apologetics for an oppressive status quo. Liberal social theorists also were bothered by what they saw as his biological defenses of social inequality, and by his descriptions of Marxism as badly flawed and "mortally threatened" by sociobiology. Some of Wilson 5 sharpest barbs were reserved for religion. In his view, Darwinism had pro­vided nearly enough information to exclude the existence of God.

If humankind evolved by Darwinian natural selection, genetic chance and environmental necessity, not God, made the species. Deity can still be sought in the origin of the ultimate units of matter; in quarks and electron shells (Hans Kong was right to ask atheists why there is some­thing instead of nothing) but not in the origin of species. However much we embellish that stark conclusion with metaphor and imagery, it remains the philosophical legacy of the last century of scientific research.31

If science can exclude, or almost exclude, the Deity, then where did reli­gious belief come from? The core idea of sociobiology is that genetically determined behaviors are really just biological traits. This means that natural selection can act on those behaviors just as surely as it can act on the shape of a wing or the color of fur. Those behaviors that are most favor­able, that best aid their possessors in the struggle for survival and repro­ductive success are, naturally enough, the ones that endure. This allows us to understand why a female bird would give food to her babies even though it means reducing the food that is available for her own survival. If that food-giving behavior is programmed by genes (and it probably is), then there a good chance that these genes are helping copies of themselves to survive. How can this be true? Any gene present in the mother has a fifty-fifty chance of being present in any one of the chicks. So a gene that induces the feeding of offspring, which we might consider a fine and noble thing to do, is actually a "selfish" gene, that programs a behavior to help copies of itself (in the babies) to survive.32

This kind of analysis can be applied to the religious impulse, too. Not­ing that religions are widespread throughout the world, however much their specific rituals and traditions vary, Wilson concludes that the reli­gious impulse is a universal aspect of human nature. I certainly agree, and so would most sociologists and anthropologists. Wilson then steps back, as a biologist used to analyzing insect societies might, and asks what the adaptive significance of religious behavior might be.

The highest forms of religious practice, when examined more closely, can be seen to confer biological advantage. Above all they congeal identity. In the midst of the chaotic and potentially disorienting experi­ences each person undergoes daily, religion classifies him, provides him with unquestioned membership in a group claiming great powers, and by this means gives him a driving purpose in life compatible with his self-interest.33

In Wilson's view, it is essential to remember that we humans, even at our most primitive, are social animals. This means that any gene pro­gramming a behavior to make one small group or tribe more cohesive than another might be favored by natural selection. A band of slightly religious hunter-gatherers might be just a little bit better in hunting and gathering than one that was less cohesive. To put it another way:

When the gods are served, the Darwinian fitness of the members of the tribe is the ultimate unrecognized beneficiary.34

If this is true, as Wilson believes, then it is even possible to develop a Darwinian critique of social inequalities that have religious roots.

Consequently religions are like other human institutions in that they evolve in directions that enhance the welfare of the practitioners. Because this demographic benefit must accrue to the group as a whole, it can be gained partly by altruism and partly by exploitation, with certain sectors profiting at the expense of others. 33

There are problems, big problems, with this analysis. Not the least of these are the grand dimensions of Wilson's extrapolation from socio­biology to human society. Starting with biological fact-that all social behaviors in an organism (like an insect) that cannot learn must have a genetic basis-he leaps to conclusions that infer genetic causality to nearly all behaviors in humans, the very creatures that have taken learned behavior to new heights. At the very least, this kind of reasoning would allow Wilson to assign a genetic basis for any behavior observed in human society. While this is no doubt true for some behav­iors, the human ability to generate culture, tradition, and language makes this a problematic claim, to state it kindly.

On just this score, Wilson has been roundly criticized. To be sure, he has agreed that culture and learning make a difference, but even on this point he is unwilling to concede that the difference could be very large.

The genes hold culture on a leash. The leash is very long, but inevitably values will be constrained in accordance with their effects on the human gene pool.36

In other words, even cultural values are subject to natural selection, making them the products of evolution rather than of human con­sciousness. Not even Daniel Dennert was willing to go quite this far; especially with respect to religion.

Long before there was science or even philosophy, there were religions. They have served many purposes (it would be a mistake of greedy reduc­tionism to look for a single purpose, a single summum bonum which they have all directly or indirectly served).37

Wilson asserts that he has found the summum bonum, the highest good, the ultimate goal that religion serves. It cements the cohesiveness of the tribe, ensuring the survival of the group. The success of evolution in explaining how social behaviors can be the objects of natural selec­tion has led Wilson to a hubris in which all social behaviors are there­fore presumed to be the results of natural selection. It's important to note that this could only be the case if selection could have acted directly upon each social behavior; including religion. Despite Wilson's willingness to construct Paleolithic stories of religious cohesion favored by group selection, there is little genuine evidence to support that claim.

Edward Wilson is a great scientist whose contributions to the study of behavior have earned him a lasting place in the scientific pantheon. He is kind and generous, an inspiring teacher and a supportive mentor. I have nothing but admiration for the man and his scientific work, and most especially for the depth and imagination of his writings on nature. Nonetheless, if opponents of evolution wanted to point to the works of just one biologist to argue that evolution is inherently hostile to religion, they would be hard-pressed to make a better choice than Ed Wilson.

Not only does Wilson dispute the validity of religious teachings, morals, and institutions, he also contends that his explanation for the existence of the religious impulse is the death knell for belief.

We have come to the crucial stage in the history of biology when reli­gion itself is subject to the explanations of the natural sciences. As I have tried to show, sociobiology can account for the very origin of mythology by the principle of natural selection acting on the genetically evolving material structure of the human brain. If this interpretation is correct, the final decisive edge enjoyed by scientific naturalism will come from its capacity to explain traditional religion, its chief competitor; as a wholly material phenomenon. Theology is not likely to survive as an independent intellectual discipline.38

To Wilson, once an evolutionary explanation for the existence of religion has been fashioned, the very idea of God is doomed.39

Wilson never asks if there might be another way to view the religious impulse, that even if it is more the product of genes than culture, it still is fair to ask whether or not those genes might be the way a Deity ensured His message found receptive ground.

Wilson's reasoning is clear. Step-by-step, he has used the tools of Darwinism to explain every human behavior; including our sense of the divine, as the product of blind, uncaring natural selection. All of a sud­den, Gould's questionable truce between the nonoverlapping spheres of science and religion has come completely unglued. In Edward 0. Wil­son's hands, Darwin's idea has become dangerous indeed.


Moose

ps. I don't know how long I'll leave this message up, in it's full form. I'm probably taking excessive liberties as far as copyright considerations go. So quote your favorite bits now, while it lasts.

{Indentations added by edit on 12/10/02, to clarify where Miller is quoting Wilson - Moose}

[This message has been edited by minnemooseus, 09-20-2002]

[This message has been edited by minnemooseus, 12-10-2002]


Replies to this message:
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Minnemooseus
Member
Posts: 3669
From: Duluth, Minnesota, U.S. (West end of Lake Superior)
Joined: 11-11-2001


Message 18 of 94 (25779)
12-06-2002 7:28 PM


The following is a message just posted at the Yahoo Group "evolutionversuscreationism", at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/evolutionversuscreationism/message/13923

quote:
The question is whether evolution negates the existence of a soul or a spiritual component to man? Assuming man evolved from lower life forms, when did the soul enter the body of the evolving hominid or was it always there even when we "were" only a multicellular creature? Was it there in the same degree as it is now or do souls evolve or grow over time? If a soul was always there, doesn't that imply that all life has a soul?

I don?t think evolution negates the existence of a soul although it
certainly doesn't prove it either. There is a good book out called
"Finding Darwin's God" (by Kenneth Miller). Miller argues that
evolution has overlooked the role quantum mechanics and indeterminancy
plays in evoltution.

According to Miller, "The indeterminate nature of quantum events would
allow a clever and subtle God to influence events in ways that are
profound, but scientifically undetectable to us. Those events could
include the appearance of mutations, the activation of individual
neurons in the brain, and even the survival of individual cells and
organisms affected by the chance processes of radioactive decay." (p.
241). Miller later continues, "God, the creator of space, time, chance
and indeterminacy, would exercise exactly the degree of control He
chooses." (p. 242).

Since we can't explain quantum indeterminacy, nor breach the resulting
wall that hides an ultimate understanding of nature, we don't really
know what's causing the mutations that drives evolution. If we don't
know what's causing it we can't say it is being caused by PURELY
material phenomenon. Hence, God, or a spirtual dimension to existence
has NOT been ruled out of the evolution process. Nor has it been
proven that God is directing evolution but it is clear that the
quantum reality of physics with all its "Buddhist/mystical" overtones
is a driving force of evolution. Therefore, evolution does not
support the position of the materialists.

DTI


Moose


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Sepiraph
Inactive Member


Message 19 of 94 (26129)
12-09-2002 10:54 PM
Reply to: Message 17 by Minnemooseus
09-20-2002 1:44 AM


quote:
Originally posted by minnemooseus:
Recently, in another topic (which I currently can't track down), the work of E.O. Wilson was brought up.

We have come to the crucial stage in the history of biology when reli­gion itself is subject to the explanations of the natural sciences. As I have tried to show, sociobiology can account for the very origin of mythology by the principle of natural selection acting on the genetically evolving material structure of the human brain. If this interpretation is correct, the final decisive edge enjoyed by scientific naturalism will come from its capacity to explain traditional religion, its chief competitor; as a wholly material phenomenon. Theology is not likely to survive as an independent intellectual discipline.38

To Wilson, once an evolutionary explanation for the existence of religion has been fashioned, the very idea of God is doomed.39


Yes, that pretty much summed up the present and future state of religion. It's about time to get rid of the ignorant and superstitious dogma.

[This message has been edited by Sepiraph, 12-09-2002]


This message is a reply to:
 Message 17 by Minnemooseus, posted 09-20-2002 1:44 AM Minnemooseus has responded

Replies to this message:
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Minnemooseus
Member
Posts: 3669
From: Duluth, Minnesota, U.S. (West end of Lake Superior)
Joined: 11-11-2001


Message 20 of 94 (26136)
12-10-2002 12:36 AM
Reply to: Message 19 by Sepiraph
12-09-2002 10:54 PM


Looking back at my message 17, I now note that the formating does not make clear the attributes of the material.

The middle paragraph, of that quoted in message 19, is Miller's quoting of E.O. Wilson's words. The original source is page 192 of Wilson's book On Human Nature (as per the notes in Miller's book).

The first paragraph is my words; The third paragraph is Miller's comments on Wilson's words.

Moose

{Added by edit: I have edited message 17 to clarify things - Moose}
{More clarification by edit added to message 20, later 12/10/02 - Moose}

[This message has been edited by minnemooseus, 12-10-2002]

[This message has been edited by minnemooseus, 12-10-2002]


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forgiven
Inactive Member


Message 21 of 94 (26577)
12-14-2002 9:33 AM
Reply to: Message 19 by Sepiraph
12-09-2002 10:54 PM


quote:
Originally posted by Sepiraph:
quote:
Originally posted by minnemooseus:
Recently, in another topic (which I currently can't track down), the work of E.O. Wilson was brought up.

We have come to the crucial stage in the history of biology when reli­gion itself is subject to the explanations of the natural sciences. As I have tried to show, sociobiology can account for the very origin of mythology by the principle of natural selection acting on the genetically evolving material structure of the human brain. If this interpretation is correct, the final decisive edge enjoyed by scientific naturalism will come from its capacity to explain traditional religion, its chief competitor; as a wholly material phenomenon. Theology is not likely to survive as an independent intellectual discipline.38

To Wilson, once an evolutionary explanation for the existence of religion has been fashioned, the very idea of God is doomed.39


Yes, that pretty much summed up the present and future state of religion. It's about time to get rid of the ignorant and superstitious dogma.

[This message has been edited by Sepiraph, 12-09-2002]


this is the kind of post that really gets to me with its arrogance... how is "ignorant and superstitious dogma" defined? when a person acts as if all who hold opposing views is moronic, it's usually a good indication of a shallow thinker


This message is a reply to:
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Minnemooseus
Member
Posts: 3669
From: Duluth, Minnesota, U.S. (West end of Lake Superior)
Joined: 11-11-2001


Message 22 of 94 (27956)
12-27-2002 1:24 AM


Something I just bumbled onto:

http://www.msnbc.com/news/756350.asp

Da Moose

------------------
BS degree, geology, '83; Professor, geology, Whatsamatta U; Old Earth evolution - Yes; Godly creation - Maybe
My big page of Creation/Evolution Links


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Andya Primanda
Inactive Member


Message 23 of 94 (27957)
12-27-2002 2:07 AM
Reply to: Message 22 by Minnemooseus
12-27-2002 1:24 AM


Yes, and this quote is very interesting:

Professor Ken Miller: 'I think evolution is controversial for the same reason that you can start a fight in a bar by saying something about somebody’s mother. '


This message is a reply to:
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Mr. Davies
Inactive Member


Message 24 of 94 (27986)
12-27-2002 2:53 PM
Reply to: Message 21 by forgiven
12-14-2002 9:33 AM


snip arrogance:

quote:
how is "ignorant and superstitious dogma" defined?

Ignorant is when a person does not know something and is forgivable. It is "Willfull ignorance" that gauls me.

When a person believes something is true despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary because of a supernatural component, that would be the start of superstitious dogma.

If I were to go to location where the natives fear Gyro, the Lord of the spining wheel and forbade me to use a bike, a car, or basically anything with wheels I'd consider that superstitious dogma. It would be ignorant superstitious dogma if they had never seen Gyro or a wheel, and it would willfully ignorant if I broke their tradition, rode a bike and they averted their eyes like nothing ever happened.

quote:
when a person acts as if all who hold opposing views is moronic, it's usually a good indication of a shallow thinker

If it is an instant dislike, I would agree with you. For me however, I have seen many religions in action for long enough. I've concluded the only differnce, again to me at least, between the superstitious tribe who venerate Gyro and those that worship another diety is where they live.

How many times people are told that it is their divine right for this or that. Hell, today we hear Bush going on about "With God's help, we'll kill the terrorists". Well to terrorists and their supporters, their God already helped them strike a blow for their cause. I would also dare say that to them the reason Osama has not been captured or killed is because of divine favor. I don't agree with them at all but I can't disprove it to them either. They have their God and boy are they right.

If a person wants to believe in a diety that supports love, harmony, peace, and other good qualities, I have no problem with that at all. Too many times though it's not the God that's the problem but those who just know how to worship the one true God. Why they feel a need to shove their ideas down my throat, I just don't know. Just don't invoke your diety to say that your country, state, community, household is better. When a person states with great conviction that there's a higher law than the law of the land that'll you follow, it's time for him to move. I care nothing for theologies and will not live peacefully in one.

------------------
When all else fails, check the manual


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Minnemooseus
Member
Posts: 3669
From: Duluth, Minnesota, U.S. (West end of Lake Superior)
Joined: 11-11-2001


Message 25 of 94 (33114)
02-25-2003 1:09 AM


Good discussion on the book
I discovered this at rmwilliamsjr's site (http://www.fastucson.net/~rmwillia):

Yin and Yang of Kenneth Miller
How Professor Miller finds Darwin's God
By Amiel Rossow
http://www.talkreason.org/articles/Yin.cfm

Moose


    
Karl
Inactive Member


Message 26 of 94 (33135)
02-25-2003 6:41 AM


Interesting article.

I think the writer misunderstands what he calls the "Yin" part of the book. I don't think that Miller is trying to show that the universe as it is provides empirical evidence for God. I think he is saying that if you take the existence of God as a given, and he openly does not attempt to defend that if, then science tells you things about God that are in keeping with Christian theology. This idea is not new; the concept that God was revealed in the Scriptures, in Our Lord Jesus Christ and in the "book of nature" is older than evolution; Miller's aim is to apply that concept to evolution.


  
rmwilliamsjr
Inactive Junior Member


Message 27 of 94 (33144)
02-25-2003 11:03 AM


sociobiology
several messages have made reference to wilson and/or his book sociobiology. i recently obtained _defenders of the truth, the battle for science in the sociobiology debate and beyond_ by segerstrale. unfortunately i am behind in my reading and only skimmed it, but it appears to be a very good detailed discussion of the aftermath of the book. i'd be interested in discussing it with anyone else working on the issues.

richard williams


  
MrHambre
Member (Idle past 64 days)
Posts: 1494
From: Framingham, MA, USA
Joined: 06-23-2003


Message 28 of 94 (44047)
06-24-2003 11:57 PM
Reply to: Message 2 by Percy
05-27-2002 10:02 AM


I don't regard Christians like Ken Miller and molecular biology researcher Terry Gray as creationists (though Gray proudly wears the title), since they have no problem acknowledging either the basic fact of species evolution or its apparently mechanistic basis. Both have written articles criticizing Intelligent Design Theory as scientifically vacuous as well as philosophically absurd. To both, it seems obvious that it's futile to deny the facts they literally see daily in the lab out of some misguided notion of religious guilt. Are they merely adept at compartmentalization, allowing them to hold contradictory views at their convenience? Maybe, but then I guess we all are.

I was fascinated by "Finding Darwin's God," and I appreciated the logic of Miller's argument even though I disagree with it. He is sharp enough to make the pompous pronouncements of Dawkins, Dennett, and Pinker seem laughable in their presumption, even to a reader like me who agrees with the arch-atheists. I understand his point that quantum mechanics is the limit of scientific certainty, thus setting a border beyond which all is statistical inference. Since the advent of quantum uncertainty, we can no longer believe in the deterministic Newtonian universe, and that goes for atheists as well as believers.

Miller doesn't think evolution is God's way of creating, since the haphazard history of life on Earth is hardly a testament to a guiding wisdom or intelligent intervener. The Darwinian mechanism is simply the only way we have freedom, exactly what we'd expect to see in a universe where we were not expected.


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Minnemooseus
Member
Posts: 3669
From: Duluth, Minnesota, U.S. (West end of Lake Superior)
Joined: 11-11-2001


Message 29 of 94 (44058)
06-25-2003 1:40 AM
Reply to: Message 28 by MrHambre
06-24-2003 11:57 PM


Thank you for a very nice message.

It's now been quite a while since I read the book, so the memory is fuzzy, and I risk distorting Miller's position.

As I do recall, Miller supports that man was created in God's spiritual (not physical) image. I think he said something to the effect of "Had evolutions paths been different, the children of God might well have been decendents of the dinosaurs" (not remotely a direct quotation).

Moose


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DBlevins
Member (Idle past 1727 days)
Posts: 652
From: Puyallup, WA.
Joined: 02-04-2003


Message 30 of 94 (44088)
06-25-2003 5:24 AM
Reply to: Message 18 by Minnemooseus
12-06-2002 7:28 PM


Since we can't explain quantum indeterminacy, nor breach the resulting wall that hides an ultimate understanding of nature, we don't really know what's causing the mutations that drives evolution. If we don't know what's causing it we can't say it is being caused by PURELY material phenomenon. Hence, God, or a spirtual dimension to existence has NOT been ruled out of the evolution process. Nor has it been proven that God is directing evolution but it is clear that the
quantum reality of physics with all its "Buddhist/mystical" overtones
is a driving force of evolution. Therefore, evolution does not
support the position of the materialists.

But isn't this exactly what Miller was arguing against?

Putting it bluntly, the creationists have sought God in darkness. What we have not found and do not yet understand becomes their best - indeed their only - evidence for the divine. As a Christian, I find the flow of this logic particularly depressing. Not only does it teach us to fear the acquisition of knowledge (which might at any time disprove belief), but it suggests that God dwells only in the shadows of our understanding. I suggest that, if God is real, we should be able to find him somewhere else - in the bright light of human knowledge, spiritual and scientific.

It seems that again a limit is being placed on what we "can" know. We've only been around as a species for roughly 50k yrs. We are still young.
I just completed a research papaer on religion and evolution and i think there are good links to religion's adaptive benefits in regards to natural selection. I would be glad to discuss that anywhere and I did start a thread on the subject "Religion and Cognitive Adaptations of the Brain".

edited to fix quote boxes.

[This message has been edited by DBlevins, 06-25-2003]


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