Thursday, January 24, 2013

Evolution is False - Existence of Constant Virtues


Chipmunk
Someone decided to list 10 reasons why evolution is false. I decided to go through them. Here's my list addressing them so far:

10. Pagan Origins of Evolution
9. Planetary Habitability of Earth
8. Hoaxes
7. Irreducible Order of Life
6. DNA
5. C-14 Dating in Fossil Fuels
4. The Law of Cause and Effect
3. Law of Biogenesis


Here's today's argument as to why evolution is false.

2. The Existence of Constant Virtues: Why believe someone who claims to be an ape, who has the morals of greater ape, and lays aside a constant standard of virtue? Why trust the person who believes humans are animals, who invented their own morals? Why not reason that we are all animal, and so let all act like animals? Why undermine all human rights by there being no definite right and wrong? Why believe those who see the virtue of honesty as an invention of man and not constant? This is their basis of prejudice by rejecting virtues, because the guilty conscience prefers this position as comfortable, appealing, and pleasing. Rather, why not believe that virtues are eternal and essential to personality, an eternal Creator? Compare Jesus’ words of the equality and value of every person as opposed by Charles Darwin’s words. In “The Descent of Man”, Darwin refers to “negroes”, Australians, and Polynesians as savages, who are not evolved as Caucasians. Darwin promoted the idea of the limited “intellectual powers” of women, whose intelligence according to Darwin does not compare to the “attaining to higher eminence” and “inventive genius” of men.
Maybe someone can explain this to me - what does any of this have to do with whether the theory of evolution is true or false? Someone who believed in the theory of gravity was mean so therefore the theory of gravity is wrong? Or is the author trying to make a case for a god with the underlying unspoken assumption (which is ironic given how much he asserts scientists are making assumptions) that evolution and God can't both be true?

It's a total red herring.


The beginning of this word salad starts with asking a bunch of seemingly rhetorical questions, but let's look through them.

In order to answer these questions in a coherent manner, let's assume for the sake of argument that we don't live in a universe where a god is establishing morality, and it's up to us to figure things out. I'll address the questions under that light.

Why believe someone who claims to be an ape, who has the morals of greater ape, and lays aside a constant standard of virtue?
I'm not sure what author means by "laying aside a constant standard virtue" . Does he mean Biblical values? That would be odd, since I don't find them to be constant, standard or virtuous, so he must be talking about something else.

I'm not sure what being an ape, or a mammal, or a vertebrate has to do with morality. If I find myself in a group with other generic intelligent entities, regardless of their taxonomy, I have to be able to get along with them. I have to find a way to build a trusting community, so that we can all manage to survive. It involves building what are essentially cease-fire and mutual defense treaties with the other entities. After awhile, as we each build up reputations with each other, we'll start to trust each other, because we've demonstrated that we can be trusted. Once we lay down laws/rules for this little society, and police those laws/rules, if someone makes a bad judgement call and attacks another member, the others, in this alliance, comes to the victim's aid.

This is how the world demonstrably works.

The idea that some brainless mind from a parallel dimension writes a book, and everyone just automatically trusts each other, because they aren't connected to the local evolutionary tree, is nothing short of insanity.

Why trust the person who believes humans are animals, who invented their own morals?
For the first part, I'm still seeing no connection, between acknowledging the fact that we're mammals, vertebrates or a part of the animal kingdom, and anything to do with establishing morality. It seems to be the most nonsensical objection.

As for the second part, under our hypothetical scenario of a god letting us figure it out (or a god not existing), we would have to trust the person who "invented their own morals" because we have no other choice. If we want to survive, we need to get along with other people. It's not like one has to trust the other person right off the bat, but in following the recipe I outlined above, this can be achieved.

Like I mentioned before, as it turns out, this is demonstrably how the world tends to work.

Why not reason that we are all animal, and so let all act like animals? 
A better question would be - why would you? This is definitely an is/ought problem.

My moral framework is based upon harm versus benefit analysis on all sentient lifeforms. It's not even limited to humanity. If we meet aliens, it would extend to those people as well (which is one reason why my moral framework is superior to the author's). It's practical, objective, robust and demonstrably effective. One should note a high percentage of vegetarians and vegans within the secular/atheist communities. That's typically because some of us have decided to extend morality to animals, because we recognize that we're not all that different.

The fact that I'm an animal vertebrate mammal primate hominid simply has zero influence on my construction of morality. I see no logical reason why it would. I only find this line of thought from the heavily religious, and I have no idea why they think that way.

From another angle, I suggest the author looks into the fact that many animal species have rudimentary morality too. Heck, sometimes they outshine humans in that regard, so maybe human morality could be improved by behaving like animals.

The author is operating under a massive assumption that our biological lineage is mutually exclusive with a wholesome moral framework.

It's daft.

Why undermine all human rights by there being no definite right and wrong?
Again, I don't see the connection. The fact that human morality has "evolved" over the millennia doesn't contradict human rights. If anything, we have human rights because we developed an advanced enough morality to come to the realization that we should establish it.

If "human rights" were from a god, they would be ubiquitous and inalienable. Looking at actual reality, we see this is not the case. "Human rights" only exists when humans force it to be so.

That's what we'd expect to see in a world with secular morality. It's not perfect, but within our hypothetical, it's the only thing we've got - and we're making it work.

Why believe those who see the virtue of honesty as an invention of man and not constant?
Alright. I do not understand the question. It could probably use to be rephrased.

This is their basis of prejudice by rejecting virtues, because the guilty conscience prefers this position as comfortable, appealing, and pleasing.
Is this where the author is going? The tired old trope of "atheists deny God because they want to sin?" No? It has to do with prejudices.

Rather, why not believe that virtues are eternal and essential to personality, an eternal Creator?
... because there's no evidence of this, and in fact there's plenty of evidence and direct demonstration of secular morality? Maybe because of that?

Is this a trick question?

Compare Jesus’ words of the equality and value of every person as opposed by Charles Darwin’s words.
You mean like, "Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ." Ephesians 6:5-9 (New International Version).  Jesus had exactly zero to say about advising people to give up slavery. He wasn't that thrilled with a Canaanite woman either.

I'm not interested in having a quote-mine war (I would probably lose anyway), but it's not like Jesus was perfect at this. Hell, Paul has misogynistic rantings in 1 Corinthians, so already we're having to cherry pick from the Bible, which is not a great basis for declaring moral high ground.

It's also starkly ignoring the racism/sexism of the people who follow the Bible/God's word, so clearly this system the author is proposing doesn't really work, ultimately.

“The Descent of Man”, Darwin refers to “negroes”, Australians, and Polynesians as savages, who are not evolved as Caucasians. Darwin promoted the idea of the limited “intellectual powers” of women, whose intelligence according to Darwin does not compare to the “attaining to higher eminence” and “inventive genius” of men.
Darwin was actually quite progressive, and was using evolution to argue why "negroes" are equal to Caucasians. He had fights with the captain of the Beagle over slavery and whether it was Biblically supported.
Racist religious people against interracial marriage

But what does this have to do with whether evolution is true or false? Lots of people, including the religious, were racist and sexist back then. It's been an ever-ongoing struggle to improve on those faults of society, with religion constantly holding us back.

There's a disturbing amount of people claiming that racism started with the theory of evolution, which I find to be utterly unhinged, as an idea.

Let's look at what some atheist communities/groups have to say, on their stances on racism and sexism:


"Atheism+ is a safe space for people to discuss how religion affects everyone and to apply skepticism and critical thinking to everything, including social issues like sexism, racism, GLBT issues, politics, poverty, and crime." - AtheismPlus

The Atheist Community of Austin has a lot to say about racism/sexism, although I couldn't find any official statement, their actions are unequivocally opposed to racism/sexism. They have an affiliated podcast "Godless Bitches" that's dedicated "to focus on feminist issues from a secular perspective ..."

Dave Silverman of the American Atheists, when addressing harassment at atheist/skeptic conferences, demanded a rule that there should be no "racism, sexism, homophobia, or other stereotyping."

These are people who accept the theory of evolution and don't believe in God, but are opposed to racism and sexism. Why do you suppose that is? It's because it's not contingent on religion.

As an aside, I sunk way too much time into digging up the above citations to the point I have to move on. I expected to find declarative statements from many atheist groups about their opposition to racism/sexism/etc, but found little to none. The Atheist Community of Austin, for example, has been so active as to be criticized from within the atheist community for being too liberal - and yet, they have no official statement. Atheists don't merely sit around and make statements. They do.

Of course, one can find racists and sexists within the atheist community. We are a diverse group of people, after all. Just the fact that one can find an abundance of people, who shouldn't be opposed to racism/sexism, according to this argument, but one can find them, is a rebuttal.


Anyway, let's look at the rest of the argument.

...

Wait, that's it? This argument doesn't even have a thesis for how this ties into whether evolution is true or not.  It sounded like an Argument from Morality that assumed that if a god exists then evolution can't be true, or something. 

Even if Darwin was the single most racist and misogynistic jerk in the history of the universe, the fact remains that he dug up scientific evidence for a theory that the scientific community then confirmed as true, and has since become the cornerstone to all of modern biology.

If I'm a jerk, does that mean that if I say that "2+2=4", that I'm wrong?

This is #2 on the author's list of top ten reasons why evolution is false, and it literally has zero connection with whether evolution is factually false.


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I award no points for having a logical connection to evolution. I award no points for addressing evolutionary theory (it brushed on whether evolutionary theory had to do with racism, but the moral aspect of it doesn't make evolution correct or incorrect). I award no points for successfully making the argument.

Argument score: 0 out of 10
Total score: 6 out of 90

I'm not really satisfied with addressing the racism topic, so I may take another stab at that later.


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