Correcting Pre-Suppositionalist Misunderstanding Of Evolution - Part 4

Apologies for the lengthy delay in getting this post out. There's a reason.
Some time back, this blog used to be at the URL "idontneedfaithtobeanatheist.com", which was a response to the book by Frank Turek & Normal Geisler. Then, as I expanded my online activities, I decided to change the URL to "tallfriendlyatheistdad.com". The problem that then arose was that every link I had in every draft reverted to an admin page in my Blogger account - this is OK for me because I'm the admin, but that meant that whenever a reader tried to click on a link, they'd get a blank page.
However, I only noticed this AFTER the URL change and hadn't saved an offline copy of my word. I was able to rescue (somewhat) previous drafts I had, but this draft I wasn't able to - and when you're discussing something as scientifically meaty as the theory of evolution, and you're trying to counter scientific ignorance writ-large in the form of Fundamental Evangelicalism combined with Presuppositional Apologetics, dotting your i's and crossing your t's is a good practice - especially because you want to remove any scope for anyone to highlight a flaw and act as if they've defeated your entire case.
After much consternation, I've decided to release the 4th and final part, but with most of the links removed. Not that Creationists care much for them, but they are there to show you, the audience, that the theory of evolution is well-substantiated by the science and that human altruism and the theory of evolution are intertwined.
So here goes - the fourth and final instalment of "Correcting Pre-Suppositionalist Misunderstanding Of Evolution"
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In the previous 3 parts of 'Correcting Pre-Suppositionalist Misunderstanding Of Evolution', I discussed what I though were the errors with old mate ApoloJedi's blog article wherein he states why he doesn't believe the theory of evolution can account for human altruism - as if that defeats the theory of evolution itself.
The feedback so far from ApoloJedi directly has been that I have engaged in misdirection and nitpicking, a charge I take umbrage at because, as is evident from the fact that this is a 4-part series, I've actually taken the time to engage the argument as strongly as I can, and I have quoted directly from ApoloJedi's blog.
You can find the previous entries here: Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - As well as links to ApoloJedi's blog and original article so you can compare the two sides of the argument to see if I am strawmanning and nitpicking.
In this last entry, I tackle ApoloJedi's last sections in his blog post, as well as get to the heart of the topic: can the theory of evolution explain human altruism?


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Can Evolution Account For Altruism?

 

No. Those who believe in evolution recognize that altruism exists, and in an effort to create post hoc theories for its existence, they must either redefine altruism, revive classic Lamarckism, disregard their own definitions of what evolution means or some chimera Frankenstein fantasy combination of all three distractions.

 

Which is a bit rich, considering that ApoloJedi has only used a social definition of altruism, 'good done for no thought of reward', not an academic one. If ApoloJedi is trying to convince like-minded believers of his position, mission accomplished, but has he done enough to convince rational skeptics like me? No.

One big mistake so far has been to use the term "those who believe in evolution". No-one believes in evolution. I, alongside numerous other people, accept the theory of evolution as the most scientifically-replete explanation for the biodiversity we see on earth today - but this does not mean we 'believe in it'. We make no decisions about our daily lives based on the theory of evolution; we don't pray to Darwin or Dawkins or Miller as gods; and when a loved one cries, we don't stop and ask "what will help their DNA replicate in a population competing for limited resources?".


I don't even know what Lamarckism is in any great detail, let alone anyone who espouses it as superior to Darwinian mechanisms, so I'll let that slide.


And evolution is actually a multi-factored phenomenon and multi-disciplinary study that incorporates numerous mechanisms and works at many levels. While it boils down to genetic variation in populations, it is a rich and complex field that actually has applications outside of biology as well (see here).


Unfortunately, ApoloJedi's strongest argument AGAINST evolution is to criticise a paper by two economists writing about evolution from a cultural perspective; a book written over 40 years ago; a college textbook, and then (as we'll see shortly) quote Fundamentalist Protestant theology. This is not the academically rigorous discussion of evolution that ApoloJedi needed to make to convince scientifically-literate atheists such as Jackson Wheat or Professor Dave that they're on the wrong path.

The next section is what I feel is the actual heart of the matter: theology, not science.
 

Many of you know that this is a blog dedicated to the truth of God’s eternal revelation.
 

…it is my intent to always revere Christ Jesus as the authority in all matters…


In all mattersespecially scientific? But why? Why would anyone hold as a scientific authority a person who - despite being the one who created the universe (Colossians 1:16) - didn't know or care to teach about bacteria or atoms or DNA? What was Jesus' knowledge about electricity or vaccines or neurochemistry? The delicious irony of this is that electricity powered Jesus' body, but he said not one thing about it. Jesus' body hosted approximately 10 trillion bacteria, but somehow rated no mention. Neither the presence of a planet over 300 times larger than Earth just nearby with almost 70 moons - as if Jesus was completely unaware and aloof.


Jesus may have been a nice guy, but he's certainly no authority on anything outside of theology, and he's definitely not the guy I want vetting my scientific beliefs.

 

…and not put the God-denier in the judge’s seat as if he/she can correctly judge evidence in accordance with a perfect perception of reality. Only God has a perfect perception of all of reality…

 

This is a common line from Pre-Suppositionalists that I believe actually betrays why they're reluctant to apply the same standard to God as what they happily do every day to everybody and everything else. 

"When man judges something, they're putting 
themselves in the judge's seat, and no-one is allowed to judge God!" is the ultimate in special pleading, and they need this out BECAUSE the evidence from philosophy, morality and especially the natural sciences all defeat the case for God's existence and his superior qualities when considered strictly on their merits. So the battlefield is shifted away from the merits of the argument at hand, and instead gets moved to weird concepts like having to account for things and proving you're not a brain in a jar.

It's funny - Pre-Suppositionalists, and even most Protestant Evangelicals, will happily sit in judgement over other people's behaviour, over the morality other religions, the existence of their associated deities, and over the morality and judgement of certain presidential candidates and their families - yet when it comes to their deity, suddenly being in the judge's seat is wrong. You can't have it both ways. Either judge nothing on its merits, or judge everything on its merits.


So now let's ask: does God have a perfect perception of reality? We can't say, because God has never spoken in a way that can be objectively verified in order to ascertain his ability to perceive reality. 


But let's assume for arguments sake that God wrote every single word of the Bible and that it has been translated perfectly so that when we read it in English, it's as if we're back in ancient Israel reading from the scrolls. 

Now, let's ask the question: from the Bible's perspective, how accurate does God perceive reality? Badly is the answer. For example, Genesis 1:6 describes a firmament, a crystalline dome that divides the sky from outer space and has windows to let the rain in (Genesis 7:11) and covers the earth. And let's be clear: the Hebrew word for firmament, "raqiya", means a solid dome, not simply the atmosphere. Genesis also describes the moon as a "lesser light" in contrast to the sun being the "greater light". The problem? The moon has no capacity to generate light, only to reflect it. The other problem? The moon is only visible at night for a portion of the monthly lunar cycle (think about why we see the moon during daylight hours).

But let's continue to evaluate God's perception of the reality he supposedly created. Isaiah 11:12 refers to the four quarters of the earth, which is a reflection of a classic belief that the earth was a circular disk, not a globe. Job 38:19 asks "What is the way to the abode of light? And where does darkness reside?". Light doesn't live anywhere - light is an electromagnetic wave in certain bands of wavelengths, and darkness is not a thing, it's merely the absence of light.


And the Bible is without any description of our local solar system. God, not once, mentions any other planets or that any of them are up to 300 times larger than ours, or even something as trivial that a smaller planet like Mars has two moons compared to our one. God, not once, mentions that the sun as a very large fusion reaction. God doesn't even mention atoms, molecules, protons, neutrons, bosons…you know, the stuff that makes the stuff!

 

…but God, who is the source of all knowledge, has revealed some of his knowledge so that we can know those things with certainty


Only if we are willing to cede our intellect (as well as our humanity) to a book written by men who wondered where the sun went at night.
 

This article could have been very short: Does a mechanism which purportedly replaces God (evolution)… 


ApoloJedi now lets slip why he argues about evolution so much - because he thinks the theory of evolution by common descent usurps the giver of his moral authority. Which is strange - why are we using theology to discuss a scientific principle? This is completely backwards - we usually use science to discuss theology, not the other way around.


But no. Evolution is simply a theory that descibes the genetic diversity of life on earth. Also, it has to be said that ApoloJedi is in a minority of Christians who reject evolution. People like Pope Francis accept evolution. Billy Graham accepted evolution. C.S. Lewis accepted evolution. Dr. Francis Collins, head of the National Institutes of Health, is both a Christian and a professionally-qualified biologist.


So, does evolution replace God? Not at all. Even ardent Christian philosophers such as William Lane Craig accept human development through evolution.

 

…sufficiently account for behaviors that God commands (altruism)?

 
Does God command altrusim? Only when he's not commanding genocide (1 Samuel 15), endorsing slavery (Exodus 21), literally de-valuing women (Leviticus 27), having his people kidnap little girls after their parents and brothers have been murdered (Numbers 31), and much, much more. The Fundamentalist whitewash of God commands altrusim - not the God we actually find in the Bible.

 

No – evolution cannot account for altruism. So, evolutionists are wrong about altruism being consistent with evolution not only because of the Christian worldview…
 

1. God’s Revelation in creation and scripture are true

2. Evolutionism is discordant with God’s Revelation

 

I will actually get in to a proper evolutionary case for altrusim shortly, but what I want to highlight here is ApoloJedi's reasoning for why he says evolution is false:

ApoloJedi isn't saying the theory of evolution is unscientific because he has conferred with those with professional qualifications and done a comparative study of numerous genomes to come up with a competing data set that has withstood scientific scrutiny to the point that it attracts academic attention. No. He is saying evolution is false because it is discordant with his theology.

This is not just a bad argument - this is William Jennings Bryan-levels of intellectual defeat.


ApoloJedi continues the attack:

 

…but evolutionists are ALSO wrong about altruism because of the inherent contradictions contained within their own worldview
 

1.   Altruism is selfless

2.   Evolutionary biologists propose that genes are selfish

3.   Genes are unchanged by learned behaviors

4.   Altruism is a learned behavior

5.   Natural selection is survival of the fittest

6.   Altruism is artificial intrusion that prevents the least fit from succumbing to natural selection

 

Is ApoloJedi correct in his six-point takedown of evolution?

 

1.  Altruism is selfless

No. Selfless acts are a form of altruism, but remember, altrusim is just "behavior…motivated by a desire to benefit someone other than oneself for that person’s sake." (as per Stanford), so it not true that altruism is is strictly defined as selflessness.

ApoloJedi is correct in a social sense, but not an academic one.
 

2.  Evolutionary biologists propose that genes are selfish

No, they don't.

One evolutionary biologist, writing almost 50 years ago, using a word to employ an analogy of genes having an inherent moral and intellectual capacity, did, but as Stephen J. Gould wrote, "
Dawkins knows as well as you and I do that genes do not plan and scheme; they do not act as witting agents of their own preservation. He is only perpetuating, albeit more colorfully than most, a metaphorical shorthand "

 

3.  Genes are unchanged by learned behaviors

No. There's a whole field of study called behavioural epigenetics that looks at the link between behaviour and genes, both ways.

 

4.  Altruism is a learned behavior

Yes and no. There is great debate in the field of psychology over how innate altruism is. I agree that the effective application of human altruism has to be learned, but this is not to say that human kindness is not somewhat innate or that evolutionary mechanisms have nothing to do with it.

ApoloJedi is somewhat correct.
 

5.  Natural selection is survival of the fittest

Fittest...in regards to the environment. That is all. It does not refer to notions of value, worth, desirability, or anything else.

ApoloJedi is not the first to confuse the notion of "fitness for the environment" with "perceived social value". He won't be the last.
 
 

6.  Altruism is artificial intrusion that prevents the least fit from succumbing to natural selection

Wrong, on two counts. First, altruism is to do with individual acts, whereas natural selection acts at a population level, and second, natural selection is to do with organisms surviving in their surrounding environments.

 

So out of six points ApoloJedi uses to debunk evolution and evolutionary explanations of altruism, he gets two of them half-right.

 

This article entered into the worldview of the God-denier and using their own assumptions, their own research, and their own conclusions to show that they cannot account for altruistic behaviors as a result of evolutionary processes

 
The article didn't enter the worldview of the God-denier, for the simple reason that ApoloJedi's article was a theological hatchet job, and evolution is a science issue - not a theological one. Christians such as Dr. Francis Collins, Dr. Theodosius Dobzhansky and Pope Francis see no threat to their faith when looking at the theory of evolution, so why does ApoloJedi?


To be clear, they cannot account for ANYTHING without humble submission to the LORD of glory, who is worthy of all praise.


Again, this is William Jennings Bryan-levels of intellectual defeat.

So with this mind, how about I take you through the science instead to show you what it actually says on the topic on the link between altruism and evolution.

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Let's see what the Oxford Handbook of Prosocial Behaviour, in a chapter titled "The Devlopment And Evolutionary Origins Of Human Helping & Sharing" (p. 111) says:

 

"…these factors are ontogenetically ordered: children begin with biologically evolved cooperative tendencies…and then various processes of socialisation work on these…both natural selection and social selection have worked and do work against individuals who do not help and share with others, which means, conversely, they have worked and work for individuals who do. Both phylogeny and ontology thus conspire to temper human's natural self-serving impulses with altruistic impulses that enables them to live in interdependence with others"

 

What about The Evolutionary Origins Of Human Generosity (Komter/2010, as part of International Sociology Vol 25(3), pp 443-464)?

 

"The origins of generosity are explored by combining biological, psychological, anthropological and sociological evidence. Kinship altruism, reciprocal altruism, ‘strong reciprocity’, cultural norms and gene-culture co-evolution prove to be major explanations of the evolution of cooperation in human beings." (abstract)


"Since the 1960s and early 1970s evolution theory has acquired two kinds of extensions: the theory of genetic kinship altruism and the theory of reciprocal altruism. The first theory stipulates that by helping one’s relatives one contributes to spreading one’s own genes – which is supposed to increase survival chances – whereas the second theory allows for the explanation of altruistic behaviour among genetically non-related individuals of the same species or even among members of different species. William Hamilton was the first to mathematically model the genetic evolution of social behaviour. He argued that sacrifices involved in parental care can maximize the ‘inclusive fitness’ of the organisms involved because more adult offspring are left as a result; this way, the genes causing its possessor to give parental care will leave more replica genes in the next generation than genes having the opposite tendency (Hamilton, 1964)." (p445)

 

Or, Neural, Cognitive, And Evolutionary Foundations Of Human Altruism (Marsh/2015)?
 

"This article considers three forms of altruism from both a psychological and a neural perspective, with an emphasis on homologies that can be observed across species and potentially illuminate altruism's evolutionary origins. Kin‐based altruism benefits biological relatives and, according to the theory of inclusive fitness, is ultimately beneficial to the altruist from a genetic standpoint"

 

And remember when this God-denier told ApoloJedi in the very beginning:


Altruism is a beneficial trait in social species.

 
The prosecution rests its case, your honour.

The science is not hard to find. In this day and age where information is shared at the touch of a screen, it's not availability that is the issue - it's the willingness to have your beliefs moulded by the most robust investigation tool mankind has invented. If we care about where the evidence leads, we have to understand it may take us some places we're not comfortable with - and we have to be consistent: we can't say for all these areas of life, evidentialism is best, but then when it comes to theology, pre-suppositionalism is the ONLY way to know about God. 

Either the case for God stands on its own merits, or it doesn't. Just like the case for evolution.

Evolution has been tested and tried and honestly examined. Can we say the same about theology?


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I hope you have enjoyed reading through this series.

Please leave your comments below, and be kind to one another.



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