Statesboro, GA, USA
Now, I am not certain that these things provide hard evidence of a theory of origins, although there is I believe hard evidence that these things have happened. It appears we both have agreement on that last point. There may, I believe, and I am reasonably certain you do not, be a beginning to life without a Beginner in the same way that our universe can be of finite size without saying that there needs to besomething outside its edges.
Okay, so we agree that natural selection works to the degree that it affects some amount of change within a species. But that is not the main premise of Darwinistic Evolution, which is the theory of Common Descent.
Your second point has to do with abiogenesis which has nothing to do with natural selection, since there has to be replicating life already in place. Abiogenesis is not a part of Evolutionary Theory, strictly speaking, though it is taken for granted by many who believe it. Very interesting stuff to talk about, and to question. But perhaps the main point I would like to bring out, is that there is much about contemporary Evolutionary belief (a mixture of a belief in Darwinism, methodological naturalism, and dialectical materialism) which is religious-like in nature.
To illustrate this, I'll provide a couple of quotes, one by Michael Ruse (an agnostic who is a proponent of Darwinian Evolution), and the other by evolutionary geneticist Walter Fitch.
"One should be sensitive to what I think history shows, namely, that evolution just as much as religion--or at least, leave "just as much," let me leave that phrase--evolution, akin to religion, involves making certain a priori or metaphysical assumptions, which at some level cannot be proven empirically. I guess we all knew that, but I think that we're all much more sensitive to these facts now. And I think that the way to deal with creationism, but the way to deal with evolution also, is not to deny these facts but to recognize them and to see where we can go, as we move on from there." (Michael Ruse, from the AAAS 1993 Boston meeting)
"By a metaphysical construct I mean any unproved or unprovable assumption that we all make and tend to take for granted. One example is the doctrine of uniformitarianism that asserts that the laws of nature ...have always been true in the past and will always be true in the future. It is the belief in that doctrine that permits scientists to demand repeatability in experiments. I like the word doctrine in this case because it makes clear that matters of faith are not restricted to creationists and that in the intellectual struggle for citizen enlightenment we need to be very clear just where the fundamental differences between science and theology lie. It is not, as many scientists would like to believe, in the absence of metaphysical underpinnings in science" (Fitch, from "The Challenges to Darwinism Since the Last Centennial and the Impact of Molecular Studies" Evolution 36 (1982))
At least such pre-commitments are being acknowledged, more than they have been in the past.
What I said was that to talk about the "necessity" of God is a large problem with language. "Necessity" is a way of stacking the deck, you see. For whom is this a "necessity?" For many people of belief, yes; and urgently so. People of belief would insist for everybody.
... I am filled with terrible contradiction. I find it hard to live with myself about this sometimes, for I would certainly say to you with utter sincerity that human rights are a necessity, and I have a responsibility to insist on those for everybody. And yet here I am firmly saying I will not accept you insisting on your God for me: That I accept this benevolent necessity. What am I to make of myself here, Stephanos?
Perhaps there are different kinds of necessity on different levels of abstraction. This might get me off the hook with myself, but I simply don't know right now.
Your insistence on the "Necessity" of God, simply the putting of that into language, you see, gives me fits. You see my problem here? And I am a guy who mostly does believe.
You are right in saying that your insistence upon "rights" is the same kind of insistence as that of God. For when you ask how "telling others how to think" may be justified, my answer is similar to what yours would be for insisting on the recognition of rights. I'm not so sure that your idea about 'different levels of necessity' can change that. But I'm open to hearing more on your idea if you're willing to explain it.
I would like to ask you, since you say you "mostly believe", whether it would offend you if the nature of God, were somewhat like the nature of "rights" or morality, in that human acknowledgment is obligatory, or that he is indispensable to human nature? For the Christian belief is that we are not independent beings, but dependent ones. The fact that much current support and help goes unrecognized, and doesn't instantly dry up with our piety, shouldn't be used to deny that. The reason I ask that, is because I think our main problem has always been the desire for autonomy; so the suggestion of dependence rubs us the wrong way. And even though you might imagine that I'm chiding you, I have the same problem ... if not conceptually, practically. For even after one accepts God intellectually as necessary, or even becomes a 'Christian' by personal commitment, there is still the struggle of obedience and trust.
Me: I am referring to Evolution as believed in an atheistic paradigm. It would not be rational to think that irrational matter and irrational processes could give rise to something that had real "rights"
BobK:This still makes absolutely no sense to me. The French Existentialists, Bertrand Russell, many of the Union of Concerned Scientists are atheists and solid and convinced believers in human rights. These folks certainly believe that human rights are rational. Far as I can tell, most if not all of them would sign on to being Evolutionists. Your notion of what's rational and theirs may be very different. Good people come in all flavors.
I never said that atheists couldn't believe that being moral is rational, or even that they couldn't be moral. But that doesn't mean that their philosophy is able to sustain that idea. Absolute morality of any kind is extraneous to dialectical materialism and must be held in spite of it. The existentialist philosophers saw this too.
Since you mentioned the French Existentialists, you may recall that "overstepping rationality in order to find meaning" was one of their main themes. Why? Because in a godless universe, rational thinking cannot arrive at the necessity of moral behavior. They probably inherited this realization from the first Existential writer, Fyodor Dostoevsky, who wrote "If there is no God, all things are permissible". And though they didn't accept God and Christ as the solution (as Dostoevsky definitely did), they accepted the basic dilemma. But tensions existed within their existentialism. And though Sarte once wrote that "Atheism is a cruel and long range affair: I think I've carried it through, I see clearly, I've lost my illusions", he later said during an interview, "I do not feel that I am the product of chance, a speck of dust in the universe, but someone who was expected, prepared, prefigured. In short, a being whom only a Creator could put here; and this idea of a creating hand refers to God". Albert Camus also greatly criticized Sartre for his activism, for its philanthropic leaning was somewhat inconsistent with the things he typically wrote.
Also, Bertrand Russell's later years were plagued with a profound skepticism (hint ... everything was in doubt, even his very own being and significance). In contrast to his atheism he also once wrote the following: "The root of the matter is a very simple and old-fashioned thing, a thing so simple that I am almost ashamed to mention it, for fear of the derisive smile with which wise cynics will greet my words. The thing I mean—please forgive me for mentioning it—is love, Christian love, or compassion. If you feel this, you have a motive for existence, a guide in action, a reason for courage, an imperative necessity for intellectual honesty" (from 'The Impact of Science on Society')
As far as being "good" is concerned, I honestly think that there is no one wholly good except God. But what goodness there may be is due to the fact that we were created in his image, and so the desire for "good" is often there despite wrong beliefs. That is not to say that belief is unimportant, or that it doesn't affect one's morality.
I think you're conflating The Theory of Evolution here, which, as I understand it, is a theory that has been tested and forged for over a hundred and fifty years and been modified as needed to fit the data that confirms or disconfirms pieces of it, and Evolutionary Biology, which is a reasonably recent grafting onto the scientific tree. Whether evolution can be adapted to use in this particular fashion is not at all clear, though people are making very free with that particular theory right now.
I was using the term "Evolution" in the most widely held fashion, the contemporary equation of it with the theory of Common Descent, or Common Ancestry. If you make a distinction between this and Evolution, I am fine with that, and would like to do the same. Though the most popular proponents today (not just lay people) use it in the much more ambitious sense ... the so-called scientific explanation of all of life.
You take your heart and your brain and your friends and whatever other pieces of help you need, scientific method or bible or Tao te Ching and you do what you can. There are atheists who believe in rights, I've named some of them above, and if you look around cautiously enough, there may even be one or two others someplace worth getting to know. All logic to the contrary.
Get help from where you may indeed. And inconsistency between someone's philosophy and their beliefs or actions, is certainly no reason for disdain.
You bring up many good points and questions,
[This message has been edited by Stephanos (02-06-2008 12:19 AM).]