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Sunday, September 18, 2011

Woefully Inadequate Darwin

Timothy Birdnow

I weary of the Darwin debate. The sides are largely intractable, and especially the high holy defenders of Darwin will tolerate absolutely no criticism of either their man or their theory in any fashion. As we are dealing with vagueries here there is no resolution.

Still, let me again wade into the troubled waters of this debate.

First, as Nemo over at Darwiniana (a man I agree with about as much as the Pope agrees with Richard Dawkins) points out that we really do not have a theory of evolution. What we have is a vague hypothesis, something untestable (and, given the failure to find the "missing links", those transitional fossils - it's part of what led Stephan Jay Gould to postulate punctuated equilibrium, the notion that species undergo sudden changes rather than the slow, steady changes Darwin believed) the only real test of Darwinian theory has largely failed. Darwinism makes no predictions, and refers to itself to explain the profusion of life. Ask a Darwinian biologist why a species evolved a certain way and he will tell you "because evolutionary pressures favored that direction". Ask him why and he will say "because it made the species more fit to survive". Then ask why that particular trait made the species more fit to survive and he will say "because evolution took that direction". It comes down to A = B = C = A; round and round we go with no real answer. A true theory would be able to say "the 6th postulate of Darwin says that A leads to B under conditions x,y, and Z. It should be possible to show that certain common traits evolved under very similar conditions and to explain why that should be. It's true that sometimes they do; fish and cetaceans both have fins and similar forms, because they both live in the water. But why do cetaceans live in the water? What survival benefits confered this rather bizarre return to the seas? The Darwinian biologists have no answer but to drool. The "theory" cannot explain these things. A theory is SUPPOSED to explain these things.

Not, please do not misunderstand; Darwinian theory is not just evolution, but an explanation of the mechanism of evolution. There were theories of evolution before Darwin (the most noted was Lamarckian, which argued that certain external stimuli caused something in the creature to mutate.) Darwin suggested that speciation occurs by random mutations confering survival on the mutant, and that the competitors die out and the mutant gene passes along to the organism. Sometimes the older form does not die out and the species diverge. Gorillas and Chimpanzees are said to be from the same ancestor, for instance.

(Interestingly, Lamarckian evolution is coming back )

But this argument is not, and never has been, about the science but about religion. Darwinism was seized upon by atheists early on because, to them, it offered a solution to the concept that life was created by God; they could now say that God is unnecessary for life to arise. This is foolish, given the extremely low probability of life coming spontaneously into existence (Fred Hoyle posited a 10 to the 40th power chance, although others have suggested a ten to the 24 power. You are still talking about 100000000000000000000000 chance.) It also requires the suspension of the law of entropy; information being encoded on the DNA molecule in opposition of the tendency of things to run down and not up. Granted, Darwinism is about the evolution of life and not about abiogenesis, but a theory of evolution should start at the beginning, and Darwin is woefully inadequate in that regard.

But the problems in Darwin's theory are too often glossed over or excused by proponents because of religion. A heated argument has been waged over whether Darwin was a believer or an atheist. Richard Weikart, author of the groundbreaking From Darwin to Hitler: Evolutionary Ethics, Eugenics, and Racism in Germany wades into the fray, arguing that at best Darwin was an agnostic.

What is striking is Darwin's childish arguments against a Creator; he is convinced the problem of pain negates any possibility of God, or at least of a personal God. He believed evolution and natural selection were better explanations of suffering and pain.

But why would that be? If we are evolved to fit our environment, wouldn't we be likewise evolved to accept suffering and pain as part of the nature of things? Why do we think it unfair that there is pain? Wouldn't we rather have a built-in understanding that this is the order of things and while we may not like pain we simply roll with the punches? Suffering is arguably evidence of God. We KNOW that suffering is often unjust. We have a standard that is completely illogical from a naturalistic point of view. We reject the notion that suffering is just part of our existence. We resist it. Why should that be?

There seems to be an inborn knowledge of something better.

Of course, I am hardly original in this; C.S. Lewis devotes a considerable amount of Mere Christianity to this, as well as to the whole concept of justice and natural law and why a material explanation for Man makes no sense. And it is no idle speculation; the early Christian Church suffered terrible persecution, which is precisely what made it grow. The Apostles were all executed save John, who was exiled to a prison mine. These were simple men, uneducated, yet they went willingly to their deaths for their belief in Jesus. Any one of them could have turned, said that Jesus was a fake and would not just have spared their own lives but would have received honor and likely money. Suffering is what made Christianity. People flocked to it because it was antithetical to a "natural" existence. Pain and suffering often bear good fruit for the sufferer. But pain and suffering have to be put into context; if this Earth is all there is then it is a cruel, cruel joke. Why couldn't we simply have evolved to not suffer?

I know; suffering helps us survive. Sometimes. But what does, say, grief profit an organism? There are many forms of pain that do absolutely nothing beneficial from a material standpoint. How man broken-hearted lovers have taken their lives because they were jilted by the object of their affection? Where is the survival value in that? What of the frustrations of life? Is, say, the respect of a cold father really worth the pain that seeking said approval engenders? What value is there in shyness?

Things of the mind, and indeed the mind itself, are enormous arguments against Darwin's own theory and for theism. The brain, too; research has shown that human beings can alter their brains through force of will. (Read the works of Jeffrey Schwarz.) This means that, rather than being the creator of human consciousness as materialists claim it is a mechanism, a tool used by the mind to manipulate the perceptual universe. There are huge clues suggesting that our understanding of our own nature and the nature of the universe is far too unidimensional. Quantum physics, with the importance of the observer to collapse the wavefront, for instance, suggest that consciousness has nothing to do with matter, or at least is not simply bound by matter, but matter is bound by consciousness. Why should an observer matter a wit to quantum states? The observer is critical to the passage of time, too, as Einstein pointed out.

Darwinian theory can explain none of this, and Darwin's objections to religion founder on the shores of the unexplored country. We are learning that our understanding of reality - and especially our understanding during the 19th century where we thought we knew most of it - is woefully inadequate.

And that about sums up the value of Darwin's theory.

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