Friday, May 3, 2013

What Darwin Didn't Know- Ch 1 -The Scope of Challenges - Part 7: The Problem of "Gifts"


Book cover: What Darwin Didn't Know
I dove into Geoffrey Simmons' "What Darwin Didn't Know" (2004), to evaluate an anti-evolution book.

I'm maintaining an index of my responses here.

Today's Chapter - 1: The Scope of Challenges - Part 7:  The Problem of "Gifts"
Of "gifts", I inquisitively ask myself? It's a short section - one paragraph. It's a bit... odd.

These are attributes like laughing, singing, dancing, reading, playing, understanding, complex thinking, offering sympathy, and simply smiling. Experts on evolution rarely tackle these qualities because they can't explain them.
Wow, okay.

First, some are explained, at least to some degree, by evolution.

Laughing and smiling are due to the fact that we evolved to be a social species, and an important interface for interaction is our faces. We have a set of instincts that use this "interface" to facilitate our getting along... sort of like body language (much of which we also find in other species - like bearing fangs in wolves). Even sympathy has its roots in being a social species - something that's as rudimentary to social species, as the survival instinct. 

Our niche was working together, which requires sympathy to operate, so this would be easily selected for, as well as "complex thinking", and "understanding", when it comes to interaction and cooperation. 

Even playing has deep roots in evolution. It's a key developmental stage of offspring. How else are the creatures going to train/learn how to survive in their environment, beyond the basics of a few instincts? Of course play would arise from evolution. We've actually done research on this (link to publication).

There's no problem with evolution here.

The other attributes... let's just say that his understanding of the "scope" of evolution is malfunctioning. 

Yes, evolution doesn't explain singing, reading, etc. Is Simmons daft? He's deeply engaged in an Equivocation Fallacy here. Without any notice, he's slipped from talking about evolution, and started talking about culture - a phenomenon that exists independently of whether we evolved or not.

It isn't a problem for evolutionary theory to not explain cultural idiosyncrasies, than it is a problem for a toaster to not file your taxes. 

Here's some other things evolution is not responsible for explaining:
  • Why we rake our leaves (or should I say, other people... I should)
  • Why Nyan Cat exists
  • Why Americans drive on the right side of the road
  • Why we say "fuckstick"
  • Why I'm still even bothering to review this vast collection of logical fallacies from a person who has difficulty forming a single rational coherent thought
I think "masochism" explains the last one.

Is Albert Einstein a product of natural selection, or is he merely a product of many genetic mutations.
The answer isn't an either/or. Evolution has gotten us to a point where we have an average genome, with variation. Some people have more innate intelligence than others. The rest is, yet again, cultural - education. It's not like Einstein popped out of the womb spouting off crap about General Relativity.

The world literally has millions of near (or surpassing) Einstein-level intelligent people. The average human intelligence is actually increasing, due to increased availability to high-calorie foods, education, etc.

It doesn't take magic to get someone like Einstein, even if he is one-in-a-billion.


He lists off some other famous people.

What about "idiot savants" who can play thousands of songs on the piano with-out a lesson?
What about them? Do you think they need magic to exist too? People with photographic memory also exist - it happens, even if it intellectually or physically costs them in other ways. 

If smart people disprove evolution, do retarded people prove it? Why are some people handed "gifts", and others are metaphorically kicked in the nuts for life? I dare you to do a Google search for human deformities and tell me that these are "gifts".

... whereas both scenarios are compatible with evolutionary theory.

We have things that we don't have explanations for, yet. So what? We didn't know what lightning was, or how it worked, for literally a hundred thousand years. That doesn't, at any point in time, validate the claim that invisible sky king-ghosts are responsible. Again:

  • Not having explored a spot on a map we're working on doesn't invalidate the spots we do know.
  • Not knowing how a particular electrical component in the audio system of a car doesn't mean that what we know about how the engine/transmission works is false.
  • Not knowing what's in a particular room of a house does not mean that I don't know whether the structure I'm standing in is actually a house.
These are basic foundational logical errors he's making over, and over, and over. None of these are "problems" for the knowledge we do have.


So the sixth "problem" for evolutionary theory is: culture exists and some people are smarter than average, and here's some things we don't quite know yet.

... okay? How is this a "problem"? Was he going to explain, or merely grok at the idea that natural selection could have gotten us to the point where we could have intelligent, productive people?

Just another Argument from Incredulity.


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