January 28, 2008

"Apes or Angels?"

From my new VDARE.com column:

Apes or Angels? Creationism and Race Denial

By Steve Sailer

The pioneering German sociologist Max Weber coined a useful term: "status symbol."

This refers not just to the distinctions in clothes and furniture lovingly catalogued by novelists such as Tom Wolfe. There are also status symbols in the realm of ideas.

Perhaps the two doctrines currently most de rigueur for entry into intellectual polite society:

1. That humanity evolved from lower animals according to the process of natural selection outlined by Charles Darwin.

2. That humanity has not evolved any patterns of genetic variation corresponding to geographic ancestry … well, none other than the obvious ones that we can all see.

These two concepts are directly contradictory, as former UCLA professor of science education Cornelius J. Troost points out in his new book Apes or Angels? Darwin, Dover, Human Nature, and Race. Troost's title refers to how the British politician Benjamin Disraeli wittily rejected the first proposition in his day: "Is man an ape or an angel? My Lord, I am on the side of the angels."

Yet, the two doctrines, self-annihilating as they may be, are tests of sanctity among the self-righteous of our day. [More]

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

45 comments:

Graham Asher said...

Steve, the Chesterfield quote ("when a man stops believing in God, he doesn't believe in nothing, he believes in anything.") really won't do. Apart from being trite (something I don't expect from you) it goes against the whole rationalist, evidence-based tenor of your column and your writing. When a man stops believing in God he gives up an irrational belief, just as he does when he stops believing in creationism, the non-existence of human racial differences, homeopathy, or water divining.

Topiary Utopia said...

Another famous angel-related quote was supposedly uttered by Pope Gregory I.

Stephen J. said...

It's a clever argument - and as a Catholic I do in fact believe there is more to our development than random natural selection - but the problem is it isn't actually accurate.

Homo Sapiens as a distinct biological species is provably less than half a million years old. Our explosive distribution over the planet's surface happened only within the last hundred thousand years, and many of the population groups have separated from the others for far less than that. On an evolutionary timescale, that isn't nearly enough time to create even the minor species differences between, say, lions and tigers, or horses and donkeys. It should be born in mind that for a genetic difference to be "significant" from an evolutionary or biological point of view it has to be of such a nature that it affects how different subspecies breed with one another: such changes often take far longer than a mere few tens of thousands of years to show up.

So - although I don't believe myself this is true - it's not in fact contradictory to assert that we evolved from random natural selection, and yet that we have not evolved significant (remembering what that word means in this context) differences between subgroupings in the time since our emergence as a distinct species.

Cleverness is fun, but accuracy is better.

Φ said...

Steve: you describe only 3 of the 4 possible permutations of ideas. What would you say to (or about) the person who believes:

1. that God created the world by fiat (ie. no shared ancestory between His original species) over some period in the past, but not later that 50K years ago; and also

2. that evolution worked on this creation to give us further speciation and biological diversity, including among humans.

It may well be that it is not what the evidence supports, but this combination does not strike me as self-evidently absurd in the manner that its inverse does.

icr said...

On the Chesterton quote:
Yeah, it's been overused-that's why no one uses that famous Santayana quote anymore. But I thought it was a commmonplace that the vacuum created by the loss of Christian belief(among the intellectuals) led to rise of murderous ideologies like Marxism and nationalism.

Lester said...

Steve, the must read book on the Scopes trial is Edward Larson's Summer for the Gods.

Joshua Ko said...

the chesterfield quote is correct in that people are programmed to seek out meaning in their lives, and "something to live for" and all that stuff... and so in the absence of christianity they'll seek out something else, perhaps something equally ridiculous.

but the point is that whatever they seek and find can't *possibly* have less truth value than christianity. (it could of course be more dangerous, but that has nothing to do with truth value)

this was one of steve's weakest articles... he just seemed to be hedging a bit instead of hitting hard ... could it be that steve's a christian? i've gotten that impression in the past... but why wont he mention it?

Anonymous said...

"... as he does when he stops believing in creationism, the non-existence of human racial differences, homeopathy, or water divining."

Homeopathy? How about acupunture and Herbal medicine? Are they off the "woo woo" list because mainstream doctors now do it?
Washing your hands before surgery? Doctors used to think that was poppycock.
You'd think with all the mistakes and revisions in medical doctrine over the years would encourage a little humility and openness about methods of treatment.
(yo Steve, I am aware that mainstream medical science saved your life, so I'm not knocking it. I'm just annoyed at pre-taped dismissals of alternative treaments)

David Davenport said...

When a man stops believing in God he gives up an irrational belief ...

Since there is no God, then everything is permitted, right?

Anonymous said...

@ Graham Asher

Believing in God is not an irrational belief; your statemet about it is itself irrational. To claim that belief in God is contradictory to reason demonstrates that you don't know much about the subject. Try Googling "science and chrisitianity" or "christianity and reason". You have also conveniently overlooked the paragraph on St. Augustine in Steve's column--it is there on purpose.

Anonymous said...

Graham Asher, dear sir:

I'm speaking only on my behalf and not Steve's but you seem to be almost allergic to this idea.

Let me do a bit of hermeneutics for you.

God, in traditional language, represents Universal Law. 19th century philosophers -- most of whom were atheists (like yours truly) -- replaced that with the notion of Necessity.

Do the substitution in that quote and see if you can live with it: when a man stops believing in Necessity, he doesn't believe in nothing, he believes in anything.

The trouble with substituting rationality in God's place instead of Necessity is rationality is a mental quality we -- knowing subjects -- possess and frequently almost animistically project unto Nature. Unfortunately, most of our rationality is a social construct -- which doesn't mean that it is entirely made up with no reference to Reality, but that it is bounded by our historical degree of advancement in science and technology, by the norms of our language (in both the grammatical and socio-historical sense), and therefore has a tendency to be very partial, piecemeal, and quite unreliable. You can bet something we take for granted these days as necessity -- such as 1 lb of cotten and 1 lb steel falling from a tower to the ground at the same time -- would have been considered "irrational" by say an ancient culture from 1000 BC.

Necessity exists independent of human Rationality (our social and cognitive "symbol manipulation" capability). It may be safest to assume that Reality is non-Rational.

Now skip to modern day liberalism, and you'll find that Science and Rationality are used almost interchangeably. And you won't find one leftie smart alec who won't give you that lecture on "how irrational racism is." How do they arrive at this idea? Well, through silly, high-school debate-level sophistry like this: if a man says 2 x 2 = 4, this is true regardless of the skin color of the man who says it. There, rationality for ya.

So, these days, I hate to break it to you, Science is almost interpreted as "anything that can happen, once we drop our irrational prejudices." In other words, some kinda Magick. "The sky is the limit," "we are only limited by our imagination," etc. etc. You'll hear these tiresome, stultifyingly bland new age palliatives as "policy principles" again and again.

Well, sorry if I come out as a pessimist asshole, but Reality is not a boundless pool of combinatorial possibilities. That is what the fools who stop believing in Necessity believe in. There are an endless number of things humans can imagine and fantasize none of which has EVER been possible and NEVER will be possible, period.

What constitutes Reality is not modifiable by us. We can at best utilize Reality. This is a very subtle difference that never occurs to lefties. For example, that fact that we have figured out how to fly does NOT mean we have beaten gravity. In fact, if it weren't for the Laws of Gravity (Necessity) we wouldn't be able to fly -- at all. Worse, those who are utilizing those immense forces of nature (such as an F-22 Raptor pilot) are, far from beating Reality, even more radically subject to the break-neck impact of It. Check out the last plane crash site and see how pretty it looks.

Call it what you will: belief in God, or belief in Necessity. It is in the end to stop believing in Magick.

Fools who play more-rational-than-thou games to belittle Reality and Realism are the ones who have practically chosen to believe in Witchcraft: that if we only enacted laws to force people to integrate and mix with "lesser" races, those races will be equally fine and dandy as the rest of us. This is practically indistinguishable from mixing a frog's foot, goat's beard, a mouse tail, a snake head etc. to brew a concoction that will allegedly make this prince fall in love with that princess.

Get off your high atheism horse and try to face the childish thinking that liberalism has buried civilized culture in.

And people like Sailer aren't writing up these articles because they find it "rational" to be "racist" (?) (although a leftie would have an orgasm claiming that this is what they are doing), but it just so happens that RACES ARE REAL, and that THIS REALITY HAS CONSEQUENCES -- whether the limit of our imagination is the sky or a skyscraper or just our bathroom window.


JD

Dutch Boy said...

Creationists do not deny natural selection, they deny that species diverge by an accumulation of mutations or that the irreducibly complex nature of biological structures and systems could have arisen from incremental changes of any kind. A creationist need not necessarily deny the reality of race, only how races came about. They would arise according to natural selection by environmental conditions (which involves the loss of genetic information) and not by mutation (which would involve the creation of genetic information). For example, white people are "white" not because they have a gene for whiteness but because they have lost the gene for brownness (by natural selection for low sunlight conditions). Populations differ in average intelligence because environmental conditions (e.g.,harsh climates) selected against low intelligence.

Graham Asher said...

Sorry, I meant Chesterton, not Chesterfield - what an absurd error! Lord Chesterfield was subtler by far. I regret any harshness in the previous post, which was caused by far too much exposure to the Chesterton quote lately.

Shouting Thomas said...

Christianity is so obviously the engine of the rise of the English speaking West to world dominance that I wonder how any sane person can fail to notice.

The urge among intellectuals to discard tradition as useless because they cannot perceive in the immediate moment the purpose of tradition has been the political and moral catastrophe of the past century.

Tradition and custom (and Christianity is a complex mix of tradition and custom), developed through hundreds, if not thousands, of years of human experience.

God, the father, is a brilliant summation of the reality of the correct dynamic of a healty human society.

When a man stops believing in God, he begins to think of himself as powerful enough to stand alone, apart from human experience. And, that is the way to madness.

The arrogance of the intellectual, who believes that he knows how to re-order society along rational lines... well, that's been the horror story of the past century, hasn't it?

David Davenport said...

For example, white people are "white" not because they have a gene for whiteness but because they have lost the gene for brownness (by natural selection for low sunlight conditions).. .

No, I don't think that's how genetics works. Whiteness is NOT the absence of a gene for brownness.

manindarkhat said...

It should be borne in mind that for a genetic difference to be "significant" from an evolutionary or biological point of view it has to be of such a nature that it affects how different subspecies breed with one another...

Nonsense. Sex is a supremely significant biological difference, so there's your rule broken at the start. Children of a single racially identical couple will have "biologically" significant genetic differences.

fifi said...

"the chesterfield (CHESTERTON) quote is correct in that people are programmed to seek out meaning in their lives, and "something to live for" and all that stuff... and so in the absence of christianity they'll seek out something else, perhaps something equally ridiculous."

From the psychology research, this ridiculous belief in meaning, an imaginary (yet certainly stupid & untrue) purpose is what separates the healthy from the depressed, the living regenerative types from the dying dead-enders. I know you think you're intellectually superior b/c you believe what your high IQ professors tell you but there are limits to human knowledge. When people spout Evolution Orthodoxy w/ the smugness of the dogmatic, how are they different from these "irrational" theists. No one knows what came before us. Even what we know from recorded history has been distorted by the very minds that have interpreted events. (Read Wallace Stevens "Anecdote of the Jar" to get a feel for this idea.)

I know you want to feel superior b/c you have the "truth" that the rest of us are too stupid to comprehend but you really don't know anything other than what some academic authority has told you - and that we're mostly taking on faith these days b/c any challenge is met with mockery, ridicule and smugness such as yours.

Chesterton also wrote about Eugenics, I've downloaded but not read the essay. Are you even open-minded enough to read his thoughts on evolution? You might discover he's not what you think. Or are you unable to think critically about the version Theory of Evolution you memorized to pass an AP exam? Heck, if you look again, what you have taken as gospel might not even be what Darwin said or meant.

chestertonneversaidit said...

the best rebuttal to the probably bogus chesterton quote (i forgot who said it), went something like:'if you believe that a cracker is human flesh when a man waves his hand over it and says some mumbo-jumo, you'll already pretty much believe anything.'

Snoopy said...

This is off topic, but I would love to know Steve's opinion of the Obama / Larry Sinclair affair.

Anonymous said...

graham asher: Chesterton was correct. Loss of belief in Christianity has led to substitution of all sorts of absurd and harmful religions: PC, Multiculturalism, Gaia-worship, neo-paganism, UFO-ology, Scientology, "Global Warming" and of course Islam.

People are hard-wired to have religion, it is the social glue that keeps people together in wide-trust networks (as Steve has pointed out). Since our emergence from Africa 50,000 years ago, behaviorally early modern humans have ALWAYS had some sort of religion to keep the social peace and not stick a spear in your neighbor to take his wife. Religion is an evolutionary adaptation for highly social, intelligent, and dangerous animals who can and do prey on each other.

Of course some religions are more adaptive than others, Christianity because it encouraged monogamy, and reproduction beyond Big Men eliminates the genetic bottleneck of other religions where only Big Men reproduce.

But Steve misses the point. Watson was punished because people are afraid of the implications of discussing racial IQ differences. In America people are afraid it will lead straight to eugenics and forced sterilization, and in Europe to a repeat of Bergen-Belsen. This fear is not particularly rational but out-of-power groups have been victimized in well-documented ways in the past so it's understandable.

Politically, any discussion will have to neutralize those fears.

Qliphah said...

But I thought it was a commmonplace that the vacuum created by the loss of Christian belief(among the intellectuals) led to rise of murderous ideologies like Marxism and nationalism.

As an atheist I am doubtless biased, but all the same, I don't agree. Instead I aver that Marxists gravitated to atheism because they understood that science would trump religion in the event of any conflict between the two camps, and Marxists wanted to be seen as scientific although they in fact had (and still have) goals that ran counter to the pursuit of empirical knowledge. I find this idea that atheism equates with Marxism to be similar to the much trotted out aphorism that power corrupts, etc., which is another scientifically incorrect cliche. What really happens is that when people with latent corrupt tendencies get power, their is no longer and restraint on their corruption and their true colors emerge upon the acquisition of power, and of course bad people are always in the market for power, and bad people have a vested interested in being seen as good, which motivates concealment of negative tendencies when its expedient.

I'm starting to get a bit irritated by this continually recycled meme that if you won't join the Yaweh and sons circus, you must therefore be some kind of Marxist or Marx sympathizer, and by the way, if you want to know where to find Marxists, visit your local Catholic or Episcopalian church. By all accounts those places are hotbeds of competitive moralism and trendy PC.

I guess I'm rambling here, but another point is that I think that the number of gods one happens to believe in is often of exaggerated importance. To plagiarize some famous quote (i forget whom I should credit), I believe in one less god than theists do, but why is that datum sufficient to conclude that my values our significantly different from theirs? Rambling a bit more, I think that to exaggerate the importance of such things is evil (in my book), and if you are going to use this belief in God (or vice versa) as a political litmus test for behavioral pliancy, then I guess our values really are different.

Half Sigma said...

Good article Steve, one of your best.

Anonymous said...

qlipah you might read Dalrymple's "Life at the Bottom" to see how lack of moral standards set by religion affects people. They believe in a hodge-podge of Liberal PC. Or as Sailer puts it, those who are vulnerable need a strict moral code to abide by. In order to lift their standards of living and be productive.

"Religion" can be found in the stupid, made up "Paganism" or Wiccan nonsense. Or conversions to Islam (often by white, upper-class atheists in Britain). Or Gaia worship like Al Gore. Or weird cults like Scientology or Heaven's Gate or what have you.

Destruction of Judeo-Christian religion does not mean atheisim which will appeal to only a tiny few. But rather worshipping Xenu or some made up Earth Goddess or Allah or David Koresh or what have you.

Sideways said...

Homo Sapiens as a distinct biological species is provably less than half a million years old. Our explosive distribution over the planet's surface happened only within the last hundred thousand years, and many of the population groups have separated from the others for far less than that. On an evolutionary timescale, that isn't nearly enough time to create even the minor species differences between, say, lions and tigers, or horses and donkeys. It should be born in mind that for a genetic difference to be "significant" from an evolutionary or biological point of view it has to be of such a nature that it affects how different subspecies breed with one another: such changes often take far longer than a mere few tens of thousands of years to show up.
Stephen J...
Sure, if you redefine "significant" to mean "indicative of being of different species" then you've got a point. It would be silly to do so, however. No one uses that as a definition, and there's no reason for us to use such a definition here.

Lions and tigers mate together just fine, by the way. I'm not sure how the fertility rates of such matings are, or how willing they are to perform them, mostly because they no longer have overlapping ranges.

Sideways said...

And your dog, if intact, will quite happily mate with a red wolf, gray wolf, or coyote, and can do so successfully with all 3. (wolves are a bit more picky)

Qliphah said...

qlipah you might read Dalrymple's "Life at the Bottom" to see how lack of moral standards set by religion affects people. They believe in a hodge-podge of Liberal PC. Or as Sailer puts it, those who are vulnerable need a strict moral code to abide by.

I was talking about theism, not religion specifically. Theism is but one belief, and moral codes (strict or not) can exist with or without it, and I've noticed that PC is a very strict authoritarian moral code, and that churches have not shunned it in the least.

Steve was interested in new catch phrases. I've got one that isn't particularly clever but (I consider) worthy of repetition: opportunistic atheism, which is defined as atheism which is motivated by a political personal agenda (parts of which may be concealed). The other type of atheism I call "sincere atheism", which is atheism motivated by a desire to have a consistent set of beliefs that accord with experience. I believe that opportunistic atheists would be theists if it suited their purposes. I don't see much effective different between Moses killing off the golden calf worshipers and Stalin purging dissenters. They were both on the lookout for people evincing non-sheep-like characteristics. Tyrants do have good reason for investing lots of energy into identifying and eliminating potential threats, because they are so hated by the people they have ill-used.

JohnB said...

It may be true that without God all things are permitted. But why does nobody ever point out the reverse -- that God permits all things?

Seriously, can you think of any horrible thing that people have ever wanted to do that God has not permitted? When has he ever stopped anybody? In fact, he doesn't merely permit all things, he permits all things to be done in his name!

(They say that the opposite of a great truth is another great truth... :-)

cranky matron said...

Lion-tiger male hybrids are all sterile, if I recall correctly. Female "ligers" CAN produce fertile offspring, though.

Private menagerie owners used to experiment with this stuff all the time.

I wonder whether Christianity is really all that adaptive, though, or if the people using the religion made all the difference.

One wonders, if the Koran had made it big in Europe, what would Islam today look like?

And how would Christianity be a different religion if it had been primarily transmitted by generations of Arabs, for instance?

While I think multiculturalism/cultural marxism are mostly wrong-headed and delusional, I also know plenty of multi-cultural-marxist people who somehow manage to make pretty wise decisions for their own families.

That they can insist on nobly repudiating their white privilege while sending their children to lily-white private schools is a never-ending source of private amusement to me. Every religion is filled with hypocrisy of one sort or another. ;)

Derek said...

this was one of steve's weakest articles... he just seemed to be hedging a bit instead of hitting hard ... could it be that steve's a christian? i've gotten that impression in the past... but why wont he mention it?

What and spoil all the fun? In uncertainty lies a certain pleasure.

Anonymous said...

Steve wrote.

1. That humanity evolved from lower animals according to the process of natural selection outlined by Charles Darwin.

2. That humanity has not evolved any patterns of genetic variation corresponding to geographic ancestry … well, none other than the obvious ones that we can all see.

Other examples of these untruthful and disfunctional thought processes would be the undisguised Marxist doctrines being promoted by that abhorrent collection of perjured individuals who are the unelected officials of the European Union.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2008/01/27/nbook127.xml


Were anyone to take the time to read all the posts at

http://eureferendum.blogspot.com/

they would find a beacon of light that I hope will become a cleansing fire and rid us of these turbulent priests of cant and hypocrisy who want nothing more than the total destruction of the British way of life.

Thankfully, the writings of Stephen Oppenheimer and Brian Sykes are probably unknown to the likes of Prodi, Barroso, Stavros Dimas and the finger nail biting, arch coward P.M. Broooon, so that these treacherous, illegitimate ponces will not be aware of the 9000+ years that we inhabitants of the Isles have had, to become the peoples we are. British we are and so shall remain. We don't mind Europe, but we loathe the EU!

Thus, the ground swell of opinion that will topple New Labour, now builds in blogs like
http://thehuntsman2007.blogspot.com/

and

http://www.order-order.com/

Orwell got it more right than he thought.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doublethink

Perry

Daniel said...

The athiests here are very rude. It would be one thing to say that another side in a debate has not convinced you of an admittedly extraordinary claim, or that you could disprove the other side's position. However, it is no argument to point at another side's claim and sputter "Irrational!", and just leave it at that. That's like learning debate skills from the enthusiastic people at colege football games that paint their bellies.

Martin said...

"Stephen J. said...

It should be born in mind that for a genetic difference to be "significant" from an evolutionary or biological point of view it has to be of such a nature that it affects how different subspecies breed with one another: such changes often take far longer than a mere few tens of thousands of years to show up."

The first part of your statement is wrong, the second, unsupported. The only thing that makes a genetic difference significant is that it lead to greater fecundity.

"Qliphah said...

I find this idea that atheism equates with Marxism to be similar to the much trotted out aphorism that power corrupts, etc., which is another scientifically incorrect cliche."

In so saying, you have disqualified yourself as untrustworthy to hold power, in my view. The wisdom of the founding fathers of this nation was that NO man was to be trusted with great power. Not one. Not even the best amongst us.

"Shouting Thomas said..."

Very well said, sir. I agree entirely.

Johnson said...

Interesting article, but it seems that people are more willing to accept HBD than atheism. That is the strangest thing ever. Like an argument we had long ago, why would a just and caring God create different races with unequal intelligent, leading to wars, slavery, and oppression?


Politically, any discussion will have to neutralize those fears.


I think the doctrine of human equality will be challenged by HBD. Even political equality.

Peter Frost said...

"For example, white people are "white" not because they have a gene for whiteness but because they have lost the gene for brownness (by natural selection for low sunlight conditions).."

Wrong. The whitening of European skin is caused by a new allele (a genetic variant) that arose some 11,000 years ago. There are many alleles that have arisen in some human populations and not in others. Creationists are simply dead wrong if they believe that the human species has just been spending its original stock of genetic material.

With respect to "stephen j.", there are many anatomically distinct species that have arisen since the last ice age some 10,000 years ago. You don't need aeons of time to produce evolutionary change. Populations can genetically diverge from each other over as little as ten generations.

fifi said...

"Like an argument we had long ago, why would a just and caring God create different races with unequal intelligent, leading to wars, slavery, and oppression?"

Ironically, the atheists concept of God has stopped at the idea of a father god which is just a metaphor. You can get beyond anthropmorphizing God without losing a respect for religion. Also, I think you should realize that most theists, Christians or otherwise, don't believe God is a giant, albeit kinder Thor meting out punishments and rewards. What you're seeking as evidence of the existence of God is the utopia your Marxist fellow travelers are trying to create on Earth in the form of a global nanny state. Yet many Christians aren't hindered by this need to dummy-proof their world believing that character is often formed in the act of coping with adversity and that they live in a world created so that they have the opportunity to choose good or ill with an act of free will.

The religious often aren't as simple minded as those with deterministic views of the universe.

SFG said...

It's possible for Christianity to both be (a) good for society and (b) false, you know.

Bill said...

It's possible for Christianity to both be (a) good for society and (b) false, you know.

-sfg


I'm not so sure about that, sfg. It depends on what your notion of good is, and also what exactly constitutes truth.

For example, if people believe in God and creationism, and act according to the commandment to "be fruitful," and others are atheists and refuse to have children but strongly believe in evolution, which group, regardless of what they profess, is acting in accordance with biological truth, and which group's behavior is "good" from a genetic POV?

Is it possible that we can perceive truth yet deny it by our behavior? On the other hand, can we be ignorant yet act according to principles of truth? This mixes up the definition of truth, IMO.

SFG said...

For example, if people believe in God and creationism, and act according to the commandment to "be fruitful," and others are atheists and refuse to have children but strongly believe in evolution, which group, regardless of what they profess, is acting in accordance with biological truth, and which group's behavior is "good" from a genetic POV?
Who ever said the truth shall make you free or even be good for you? Biological truth just states having kids means you get to pass your genes on. You might argue that the Christians are doing what's better biologically without being right as to the reason why. You can do the right thing for the wrong reason.
You're conflating 'true' (the statement describes reality) with 'good' (believing the statment is good for you or your genes). There is no biologically 'true' thing to do, though there are behaviors that pass on your genes.


Is it possible that we can perceive truth yet deny it by our behavior?
Sure, people believe what they want to in defiance of the evidence every day.
On the other hand, can we be ignorant yet act according to principles of truth? This mixes up the definition of truth, IMO.
Sure, people have known that objects fall for thousands of years and acted accordingly without understanding gravity.

fifi said...

"It's possible for Christianity to both be (a) good for society and (b) false, you know."

SFG, it's obvious most of you science guys don't care much about religion. Your comment reeks of condescension. Anyone who "needs" religion must be weak/and or stupid. Then, you erroneously use Darwinianism to prove that God doesn't exist. Yet it's not a tool for proving/disproving the truth about religion. We're not even close to any sort of scientific study of religion. All we have is anecdotal evidence from atheists or believers claiming the truth for one side or the other.

If you want to use the tools of scientific inquiry to analyze the worth of religion (b/c it's not something that can be proved true or false), you'd have to know specific details about individual religions . I seriously doubt you're that interested but in the meantime you could stop with the non sequiturs that science has said anything about religion other than the fact that a literal interpretation of Genius doesn't seem possible.

Christians in particular aren't so antagonistic to science in general (i.e., most seek medical advice from MDs) but rather to the idea that humans, said to be made in God's image, are descended from apes. I don't think it's all that illogical for a group of people not to want to have monkey ancestry, do you?

Why don't you stop mocking people who value religion while at the same time claiming Evolutionary Theory has anything definitive to say about Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, etc.

fifi said...

"We're not even close to any sort of scientific study of religion."

My statement still stands, Marcus. I haven't read the evolutionary biology books but my guess is that they focus mainly on ritual which is a component of but not the total of religion, also belief in the existence of God or a supreme being ordering the universe isn't necessarily the same as religion. And there are many differences between religions - do these guys go so far to develop knowledge of Buddhism vs Christianity vs Islam or abstract them all into something along the lines of creation myth, punishment/reward, eschatology?

A brief look at even Darwin's loss of faith shows he had a surprisingly literal view of Christianity - probably just as well he abandoned theology. Which may be evidence that those who embrace science somewhat religiously are more literal minded than those of us who don't find it all that fulfilling.

Also, I get defensive about religion b/c it's difficult to enjoy the benefits of practicing one while at the same time believing God is just a figment of the imagination or that religion is only for the weak. Maybe it would help to describe the result of faith as an altered mental state similar to the experience of "flow" during concentration at work or while performing. That would make it have adaptive value in an evolutionary biological sense, wouldn't it?

Bill said...

There is no biologically 'true' thing to do, though there are behaviors that pass on your genes.

-sfg


Can't something be "true to its nature?" I'm not trying to pick a fight here, but rather to illustrate that we implicitly recognize a dual meaning in the concept of "truth:" one being reason and the other reality.

The Creationists reject the former but live the latter, while the trendy Darwinists do the opposite. Therefore each side can say with conviction that the other is wrong, and I would have to agree.

Getting back to Chesterton's point about belief:

Truth exists even outside of our understanding and perception. When you restrict truth only to what we can articulate, comprehend, or even prove, it is necessarily reduced to human proportions and becomes malleable: any magician can be messiah, any tautology reasonable.

Belief in God is belief that there is truth - and by extension reality - above and beyond our comprehension. If you take that away, as JD pointed out in his articulate post, people lose all sense of limits and anything is possible or acceptable, which ultimately has a degenerative effect.

It brings to mind the Amazonian tribe that had no concept of the world beyond what they could see:

To Everett, the Pirahã’s unswerving dedication to empirical reality—he called it the “immediacy-of-experience principle”—explained their resistance to Christianity, since the Pirahã had always reacted to stories about Christ by asking, “Have you met this man?”

The Pirahã's argument against religion (can't see it, so it must not exist) is suspiciously similar to those I frequently hear from the ubiquitous pop-atheists in Seattle (not that I bother engaging them -- they offer their opinions as though they were gratuities). Perhaps the Pirahã, who have no interest beyond the fleeting moment, are the penultimate atheists.

Bill said...

SFG, it's obvious most of you science guys don't care much about religion...

-fifi


Many scientists are believers. Steve mentioned a George Price who supported Creationism, but there's another George Price who came up with a new mathematical model for natural selection (had to redeem the family name there). He credited his inspiration to God, rejecting atheism and becoming a theoretical biologist all at once.

Also, I get defensive about religion b/c it's difficult to enjoy the benefits of practicing one while at the same time believing God is just a figment of the imagination or that religion is only for the weak.

For the weak?! Read up on the Reconquista, if you have the stomach for it that is. ;)

MensaRefugee said...

To say this is a weak article is wrong.

It is quite clear that Religion, bad evil dirty thing that it is (even if there is a God!) can be better than the alternative

Because if people need something to believe in, selection pressure would choose one that is not too damaging over time (aka Religion) or even one that provides positive returns.

You guys are just concentrating on the negatives of religion - how do you know what its absence would be like? Its like the communists making a brave new world with an untried idea.

This is a topic where hedging is mandatory.

Anonymous said...

The Chesterton quote, while not exactly what he said, is apt. Chesterton, in his time a world renowned writer and philosopher, was well acquianted with the leading athiests and scientific thinkers of his day such as H.G. Wells and George Bernard Shaw. He understood the ideas these men had, and he accurately predicted the effects these allegedly scientific ideas would have on society.

The quote, far from being trite (perhaps annoying for certain enthusiastic athiests), is validated by its predictive insight.

There is a risk in reflexively tossing off the accumulated wisdom that has sustained and ordered our civilization. Old ways should be scrutinized, but innovations based on imperfect human reason should be scrutinized as well. Einstein said, the difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits.

Daniel

Anonymous said...

This may be the most unbearable Comments section ever produced on iSteve!