Does Darwinism conflict with religion?

#1
C C Offline
https://areomagazine.com/2020/10/14/does...-religion/

EXCERPTS: Natural selection is the core of the modern theory of evolution. [...] One standard assumption in modern science is that ... the present can only be caused by the past. For the present to be caused by some future circumstance would be a case of teleology. To take a schoolbook example, the giraffe’s neck is long because those ancestors who had longer necks preferentially passed on their genes, not because it desires to reach higher branches and so stretches its neck. But in the strictest reading of Darwinism, the giraffe can’t even desire to reach higher branches. It can’t have any designs on the future at all, because desires are the kinds of teleological things that cannot cause anything to happen. The giraffe’s behaviour -- just as much as the makeup of its genome -- can only be caused by past events. It certainly looks as if animals, including humans, have desires or goals, but, for some Darwinians, natural selection is an all-purpose explanation of how all purposes can be explained away. Darwinism, in this scheme, banishes all designs along with a designer.

Ever since the publication of The Origin of Species, people have debated how much natural selection supplants religious or traditional views of nature. At least, that’s the standard historical narrative: everybody believed in the story in Genesis until Darwin came along and the world bifurcated into credulous fools and champions of reason. In reality, there were many versions of what we would now call evolution floating around in Europe in the hundred years preceding Darwin.

[...] Darwin’s natural selection-based theory also proved divisive among Christians. ... if you read a book by Richard Dawkins ... or a book by Michael Behe ... you could be forgiven for thinking that everyone believed the argument for design until Darwin came along, and that everyone’s been arguing over that point ever since.

This is a big part of what historians of science call the conflict thesis or conflict narrative. It frames all the major signposts along science’s journey from the Enlightenment to now as a series of clashes with religious authorities. The classic examples are Copernicus, Galileo and Darwin. But it’s a lot more complex than that. In the case of Darwin, in particular, the conflict with religion was never a pitched battle: instead his books met with a range of receptions...

[...] Dawkins and other well known Darwinians, like Jerry Coyne, say there is a conflict between religion and science. Their interlocutors on the faith side (intelligent design advocates, young earth creationists) say there is a conflict. Even Dawkins’ secular critics (philosophers like Mary Midgley, John Gray and Thomas Nagel) say there is a conflict. And yet, when the general public are polled about their attitudes towards the compatibility of religion with science, and with evolution in particular, most don’t perceive a conflict. Some do -- mainly atheists -- but most believers, unsurprisingly, think their religion is compatible with the theory of evolution and a lot of people have simply never thought about it.

To some extent, a conflict is based on perception. If disputants think they’re in conflict, they are. [...] Religious authorities aren’t actively trying to crucify biologists or ban evolution. Admittedly, in certain school districts in America they are trying to ban the teaching of evolution, but that’s something of an anomaly. Overall, people’s views are insulated from the content of scientific theories -- as we can see with attitudes towards climate change.

This disconnect between the rhetoric of spokespeople for Darwinism or intelligent design and mainstream attitudes raises a bigger question. Rhetoric generally has less impact than we often suppose. The Darwinism versus intelligent design debates are just one example of the way in which commentators often mistake what is written by experts -- who are, by definition, more interested in and motivated by a topic than the general populace -- for a reflection of public opinion. Either that or they assume that any reader who encounters these books will be helplessly swayed by their framing of the argument. It’s the same impulse that makes people worry about the influence of video games, pornography, fake news, conspiracy theories, school syllabuses, advertising, politicians’ gaffes, etc. Those things may have some effect, but a growing body of research is sceptical of the basic model whereby people simply imbibe what they’re exposed to.

This boils down to an is versus ought question. Is there a conflict today between Darwinism and religion? The answer seems to be no. Ought there to be one? The answer is evidently yes for most of the people who spend a lot of time thinking and writing about it. This is fitting because the whole debate hinges on an is–ought dilemma of another kind. Science is said to provide answers to the is-questions, the ones that concern neutral facts about how the world is. Religion is said to be in the business of oughts: how should we live? what are our values? how do we want the world to be?

[...] Evolution is a particularly spiky issue. Not only is it a field in which you can find support for many different ideologies, but it arguably determines what ideology, morality, politics and the entire normative realm can be. Dawkins says it’s natural selection all the way up, until you hit human purposes. But other Darwinians say that the acid burns through everything. In Darwin’s Dangerous Idea, Daniel Dennett argues that the Darwinian algorithm (replication plus variation) accounts not only for the origin of species but for the origins of anything interesting: cultures, languages, technologies, reasons, norms, meanings. Alex Rosenberg takes an even starker view. He says Darwin’s algorithm explains all the seeming design in nature—including that which is expressed in our thoughts and actions—in a purely physical way, thereby precluding all the human stuff we care about. In a Darwinian world, even human purposes are illusory.

In other words, depending on your own worldview, you might think Darwinism itself is a worldview or that it actually negates other worldviews. This raises an awkward question for science communicators and educators. What should be taught in schools and communicated to the public? There is a pretty good consensus about how evolution works. [...] So what should be said about Darwinism’s implications? Here are some options.
  • It can only describe the natural world, so keep it separate from human concerns, which you learn about in civics class or Sunday school. (Gould’s view.)
  • It explains everything in nature and rules out God, but we can make our own purposes because we evolved to do so. Phew. (Dawkins’ view.)
  • If Darwinism were true it certainly would destroy all human purpose and meaning, and we’d be left with nihilism. Luckily it isn’t true and the irreducible complexity of living things is evidence of a designer. Phew. (Intelligent design.)
  • The neo-Darwinian orthodoxy is too harsh. We need to promote a non-supernatural but still more expansive version of Darwinism that allows for life’s creativity and agency. (Some advocates of a scientifically respectable version of vitalism and some people’s take on the extended evolutionary synthesis.)
  • Darwinism appears to be nihilistic because it is. Its baleful implications for politics and morality are an important part of the theory and the sooner we take the bitter pill the better. (Rosenberg’s view.)
Most science communicators would defend a version of 1 or 2. A lot of science communication is underwritten by a democratic ethos. The public ought to be informed about science so that they can have more agency in their lives and participate in a scientifically advanced democracy. Admirable. But this is exactly the kind of ought statement that science is supposed to be silent about and also the kind that Darwinism—if the hard cases are right—eliminates...

[...] For more mundane reasons, I think the traditional science outreach position is misguided because it’s very difficult to get the public engaged in anything -- rhetoric generally doesn’t work. So why bother writing this article? Frankly, because I assume that my readers are self-selected, already interested in the topic and probably have an opinion on it. That makes science outreach something of an elite discourse, communicating only with a group who already have access to roughly the same information as the communicators... (MORE - details)
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#2
Syne Offline
(Oct 15, 2020 10:27 PM)C C Wrote: https://areomagazine.com/2020/10/14/does...-religion/

[...] Dawkins and other well known Darwinians, like Jerry Coyne, say there is a conflict between religion and science. Their interlocutors on the faith side (intelligent design advocates, young earth creationists) say there is a conflict. Even Dawkins’ secular critics (philosophers like Mary Midgley, John Gray and Thomas Nagel) say there is a conflict. And yet, when the general public are polled about their attitudes towards the compatibility of religion with science, and with evolution in particular, most don’t perceive a conflict. Some do -- mainly atheists -- but most believers, unsurprisingly, think their religion is compatible with the theory of evolution and a lot of people have simply never thought about it.
That's because most atheists believe in a caricature of believers.

Quote:This boils down to an is versus ought question. Is there a conflict today between Darwinism and religion? The answer seems to be no. Ought there to be one? The answer is evidently yes for most of the people who spend a lot of time thinking and writing about it. This is fitting because the whole debate hinges on an is–ought dilemma of another kind. Science is said to provide answers to the is-questions, the ones that concern neutral facts about how the world is. Religion is said to be in the business of oughts: how should we live? what are our values? how do we want the world to be?
Seems like this article has come to Gould's conclusion.

Quote:[...] Evolution is a particularly spiky issue. Not only is it a field in which you can find support for many different ideologies, but it arguably determines what ideology, morality, politics and the entire normative realm can be.
It obviously does not if so many see no conflict at all, including people who understand evolution and theology very well.
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#3
Zinjanthropos Offline
As an atheist I never understood why a theist would argue against evolution. Is evolution still a theory? Why can't a theist/creationist just say that's how their deity set things up? What is so hard about that? Believe whatever the hell you want but please don't throw out facts. I don't for a minute believe Darwin or Dawkins wrote their books to start an argument with religion. Religion taking on evolution is like two guys in a rowboat thinking they can take out the Royal Navy.
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#4
Syne Offline
(Oct 16, 2020 04:06 PM)Zinjanthropos Wrote: As an atheist I never understood why a theist would argue against evolution. Is evolution still a theory? Why can't a theist/creationist just say that's how their deity set things up? What is so hard about that? Believe whatever the hell you want but please don't throw out facts. I don't for a minute believe Darwin or Dawkins wrote their books to start an argument with religion. Religion taking on evolution is like two guys in a rowboat thinking they can take out the Royal Navy.

Yes, evolution is still a theory. There is some evidence, but it's not irrefutable fact, like gravity (that anyone can test and see the effects of for themselves). Like the OP said, "when the general public are polled about their attitudes towards the compatibility of religion with science, and with evolution in particular, most don’t perceive a conflict". So clearly most do say that's just how god created things. Atheists not only pretend that the conflict comes from the majority of religious people, but they also contribute the most to the conflict, by overstating the evidence, like calling it "facts". Dawkins certainly did write several books (The Blind Watchmaker, The God Delusion) to thumb his nose at religion. Dawkins explicitly argues against the watchmaker god, who set up the rules, including things like evolution, and just let it run without intervention. So it's atheists like Dawkins who explicitly deny that evolution can be the least bit compatible with religion. You thinking any scientific theory has the entire weight of all science behind it (like one lone sailor somehow bring the force of the entire navy to bear) is just as dogmatic as any religious person might be. Different scientific theories have differing degrees of evidence to support them.

You shouldn't begrudge anyone not believing evolution unless you can provide irrefutable proof, just like any atheist would demand to believe in a god.
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#5
Zinjanthropos Offline
(Oct 16, 2020 05:47 PM)Syne Wrote:
(Oct 16, 2020 04:06 PM)Zinjanthropos Wrote: As an atheist I never understood why a theist would argue against evolution. Is evolution still a theory? Why can't a theist/creationist just say that's how their deity set things up? What is so hard about that? Believe whatever the hell you want but please don't throw out facts. I don't for a minute believe Darwin or Dawkins wrote their books to start an argument with religion. Religion taking on evolution is like two guys in a rowboat thinking they can take out the Royal Navy.

Yes, evolution is still a theory. There is some evidence, but it's not irrefutable fact, like gravity (that anyone can test and see the effects of for themselves). Like the OP said, "when the general public are polled about their attitudes towards the compatibility of religion with science, and with evolution in particular, most don’t perceive a conflict". So clearly most do say that's just how god created things. Atheists not only pretend that the conflict comes from the majority of religious people, but they also contribute the most to the conflict, by overstating the evidence, like calling it "facts". Dawkins certainly did write several books (The Blind Watchmaker, The God Delusion) to thumb his nose at religion. Dawkins explicitly argues against the watchmaker god, who set up the rules, including things like evolution, and just let it run without intervention. So it's atheists like Dawkins who explicitly deny that evolution can be the least bit compatible with religion. You thinking any scientific theory has the entire weight of all science behind it (like one lone sailor somehow bring the force of the entire navy to bear) is just as dogmatic as any religious person might be. Different scientific theories have differing degrees of evidence to support them.

You shouldn't begrudge anyone not believing evolution unless you can provide irrefutable proof, just like any atheist would demand to believe in a god.

Just human nature then? Anyone can postulate, hypothesize, theorize etc and somebody will disagree, claim no evidence, etc? The following are just thoughts, not saying they're true....

That's why I've always professed, keep beliefs to yourself. However if you can't then one should be prepared for a counter claim and not be upset when it happens. Personally I find Dawkins' a poor defender of evolution so maybe he should just shut up, state what's been discovered and don't offer any opinions re his detractors. Somebody or maybe everybody in the room is wrong. You don't like being wrong, not many do, human nature. And if you think its human nature to argue my point then I guess I win Smile .....maybe.
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#6
Magical Realist Offline
"You've been told that "evolution is just a theory", a guess, a hunch, and not a fact, not proven. You've been misled. Keep reading, and in less than two minutes from now you'll know that you've been misinformed. We're not going to try and change your mind about evolution. We just want to point out that "it's just a theory" is not a valid argument.

The Theory of Evolution is a theory, but guess what? When scientists use the word theory, it has a different meaning to normal everyday use. That's right, it all comes down to the multiple meanings of the word theory. If you said to a scientist that you didn't believe in evolution because it was "just a theory", they'd probably be a bit puzzled.

In everyday use, theory means a guess or a hunch, something that maybe needs proof. In science, a theory is not a guess, not a hunch. It's a well-substantiated, well-supported, well-documented explanation for our observations. It ties together all the facts about something, providing an explanation that fits all the observations and can be used to make predictions. In science, theory is the ultimate goal, the explanation. It's as close to proven as anything in science can be.

Some people think that in science, you have a theory, and once it's proven, it becomes a law. That's not how it works. In science, we collect facts, or observations, we use laws to describe them, and a theory to explain them. You don't promote a theory to a law by proving it. A theory never becomes a law.

This bears repeating. A theory never becomes a law. In fact, if there was a hierarchy of science, theories would be higher than laws. There is nothing higher, or better, than a theory. Laws describe things, theories explain them. An example will help you to understand this. There's a law of gravity, which is the description of gravity. It basically says that if you let go of something it'll fall. It doesn't say why. Then there's the theory of gravity, which is an attempt to explain why. Actually, Newton's Theory of Gravity did a pretty good job, but Einstein's Theory of Relativity does a better job of explaining it. These explanations are called theories, and will always be theories. They can't be changed into laws, because laws are different things. Laws describe, and theories explain.

Just because it's called a theory of gravity, doesn't mean that it's just a guess. It's been tested. All our observations are supported by it, as well as its predictions that we've tested. Also, gravity is real! You can observe it for yourself. Just because it's real doesn't mean that the explanation is a law. The explanation, in scientific terms, is called a theory.

Evolution is the same. There's the fact of evolution. Evolution (genetic change over generations) happens, just like gravity does. Don't take my word for it. Ask your science teacher, or google it. But that's not the issue we are addressing here. The Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection is our best explanation for the fact of evolution. It has been tested and scrutinised for over 150 years, and is supported by all the relevant observations.

Next time someone tries to tell you that evolution is just a theory, as a way of dismissing it, as if it's just something someone guessed at, remember that they're using the non-scientific meaning of the word. If that person is a teacher, or minister, or some other figure of authority, they should know better. In fact, they probably do, and are trying to mislead you.

Evolution is not just a theory, it's triumphantly a theory!"

https://www.notjustatheory.com/
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#7
Syne Offline
(Oct 16, 2020 09:23 PM)Magical Realist Wrote: "You've been told that "evolution is just a theory", a guess, a hunch, and not a fact, not proven. You've been misled. Keep reading, and in less than two minutes from now you'll know that you've been misinformed. We're not going to try and change your mind about evolution. We just want to point out that "it's just a theory" is not a valid argument.
No one here said evolution was "just a theory". Zin asked if it was "still a theory". I would hope most on a science forum would already know what constitutes a scientific theory. I know, that's overly optimistic.

Quote:In everyday use, theory means a guess or a hunch, something that maybe needs proof. In science, a theory is not a guess, not a hunch. It's a well-substantiated, well-supported, well-documented explanation for our observations. It ties together all the facts about something, providing an explanation that fits all the observations and can be used to make predictions. In science, theory is the ultimate goal, the explanation. It's as close to proven as anything in science can be.

And therein lies the rub. Evolution has never made any specific predictions that could be tested. In fact, it has made a lot of errors before things like DNA analysis corrected its many faulty assumptions.
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#8
Ben the Donkey Offline
That's because natural selection occurs in response to changing conditions. If all things were to remain equal, you wouldn't see any changes at all.
In order to predict anything using natural selection, you'd have to first know everything that will occur in the future which might effect species adaptation. Which is clearly a fool's errand. 
In spite of this, I've seen plenty of thoughts on what humanity might look like... say, in the year 2525. I've seen plenty of articles concerning one species or another which is going to meet it's demise soon due to changing conditions, and what might need to be done to save it. I've seen some regarding the ways in which others have survived changing conditions. And I've seen some describing the demise of some species which didn't develop a survival mechanism at all.

To say that "Evolution" has never made any predictions which could be tested is rubbish.
Rose and orchid breeders alone use it all the time (knowingly or unknowingly), by way of example.
Dogs, Cows. Sheep. All examples of line-bred animals developed to suit a specific environment or requirement. How could you do that without making a prediction? Although hypothesis might be a more accurate term in many examples, it's still a form of prediction.

The pharmaceutical industry relies heavily upon it - evolving responses using technology to an increased ability for some pathogens to survive our attempts to eradicate them. You don't "predict" the evolution of pathogens (unless by "predict" you mean "somethings going to come along soon we don't currently have a cure for, and its possible it'll be an evolution of the X virus"). You try to anticipate them, but more often you're going to be responding to evolved ones which survived the last weapons you used, and the how and why are the overriding concerns.
https://www.cdc.gov/drugresistance/about...ppens.html

It's not about prediction in the case of evolutionary theory, it's about understanding how and why changes occur, and sometimes using that knowledge to effect change more rapidly than it might occur under normal circumstances. Hypotheses.

But I feel I should point out that there isn't any need to confine evolutionary theory to natural selection, either.
Theists only need look at themselves and their religion convictions to see evolutionary theory in action. Religion evolves too, same as anything else. The prevalence of the acceptance of evolutionary theory among theists in general, being an example.

Good post, btw, MR. Clarifying the discussion framework helps.
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