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Questions I have for Evolutionists, Q1

August 30, 2007

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Question 1:

Evolution teaches that all of the existing creatures on planet earth today have evolved from nothing. In other words, all creatures, as they are today, are the result of many complex mutations. Our ancestors are liquid chemicals. We have gone from matter being arranged in a certain fashion, to our present state, matter being arranged in another fashion. My question is “have we progressed in our evolutionary stage or have we digressed?” If we have done either, then what is the criterion we consult to know? Or are we still no different than all other matter?

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22 comments

  1. There is no answer for that in science, because there is no absolute ranking system.

    Depends on which criteria you use to order. One example: We are way more complex in build than Protozoa, so we have to be on the top. There is far more mass in Protozoa than in the rest of all organisms, so they belong on the top.


  2. I agree there is no answer for this in science.

    Therefore, we may conclude that we are no different than all other matter. Since my questions are philosophical in nature I will come to a philosophical conclusion. If we are no different than all other matter then all is permissible.


  3. Your argument is not logical. You are taking the answer “There are several ways to order a list” into “All elements of the list are the same”.


  4. My original question is a trick question for Naturalists. Are you a Naturalist? If so, you have no criterion to judge whether something is progressing or digressing. You must first have a standard by which you judge the two. What is your standard?


  5. If you ask trick questions you know the answer beforehand. 😉

    I stated my standards in the first posting.


  6. Me knowing the answer is one thing. You admitting that the idea of “progress” is a metaphysical claim is another.

    Your standard only begs the question. Why does complexity = progress? You are using language that assumes the metaphysical.


  7. Where did I state that complexity equals progress?

    “Progress” is a question of definition. It’s putting a value to change. Where did I do that?

    I simply tried to say that “progress” is an idea that has no place in modern Theory of Evolution.


  8. I didn’t limit the question to the theory as you have done for some reason. The theory has philosophical implications. I follow all thoughts to their logical conclusions. Evolutionists don’t have too do likewise, but I urge them to.


  9. Every theory about something fundamental has philosophical implications. The Theory of Evolution has a lot, especially about how we see our species in nature.

    There are even people who use the Theory of Evolution in a very convincing way to explain the origin and evolution of religions.

    As I said above, there is no way to define “progress” scientifically. But of course I *feel* “pretty advanced” if I compare myself with a worm.

    How “advanced” we really are will determine if we as a species survive the next thousand years or go extinct in the wave of human induced mass extinction.


  10. You are advocating design when you say you are more advanced than a worm. In a purely Naturalistic universe, we are all arrangements of matter and electromagnetism. We are all ultimately made up of the same stuff.


  11. Have you seen the word “feel”? I even put it between stars to get it through to you.

    Is there no difference between something that you feel and something that you have thought about?

    I can feel pretty advanced compared to a worm and know in the same moment that we both are a result of Billions of years of evolution and are both really good adapted to the surroundings where we live.

    And yes, of course we are all made out of the same stuff as our whole world – Hydrogen and Star Dust.

    BTW, what’s “better” (definition up to you), a diamond or a spoon full of soot? Both are pure carbon, just in a different arrangement.


  12. Do you know what it *feels* like to be a worm? From a purely naturalistic stand point nothing is “better”. From a Christian worldview something can be “better” because there is purpose, not purposelessness.


  13. cameron,

    you are presupposing that we don’t have the ability to create our own purpose. you are defining naturalism or materialism based on your current worldview when in fact, materialism makes no statement as to the characteristics of material. you’re basically saying that because you can’t understand how we could develop the capability to live with purpose that we must force upon ourselves a model founded only on an opinion of where this purpose could come from.


  14. OK, then please explain to me how an immaterial thing such as “purpose” can really be accounted for in a purely material world? At least explain how this is rational to believe.


  15. i’m not fully convinced that purpose is immaterial. there is very strong evidence that those monsters that we call socio and psychopaths behave the way they do due to undeveloped or damaged frontal lobes, the region of the brain responsible for social behavior. now, i’m not smart enough to completely follow the evolutionary framework for higher brain function but there is a valid framework that is being used to develop current theories on volition. there is not yet a conclusion because we do not yet have a complete set of data, which we may never have. this doesn’t imply though that we ever need to fill in a gap in our knowledge with a story that seems reasonable to some, especially when that story is diluted with forced coercion or in other words, indoctrination. another point that is very easy to grasp is the fact that as far as we know, volition relies and is dependent on material. the only way to prove otherwise would be a universally observable afterlife. so until that happens, science will stick with what we can account for here and now.


  16. Umm… why are you equating “purpose” with psychopaths? Is that really your answer?

    another point that is very easy to grasp is the fact that as far as we know, volition relies and is dependent on material.

    So do you believe in free will since our volitions are nothing but a byproduct of atoms making us do what we do. If so, why are you arguing against me? I’m just a byproduct of my biological makeup.

    so until that happens, science will stick with what we can account for here and now.

    Science requires intelligent observers. I believe intelligence comes from intelligence. Do you believe this or that it can come from non-intelligence?


  17. just because a psychopaths purpose is horrible doesn’t mean it’s not a purpose. purpose is subjective to the individual, not determined by peers.

    i make no absolute statement on this point. i don’t know if we are more than material but but we do seem to have volition and it does rely on our material, as far as we know.

    there is some very interesting work being done on the evolutionary origins of higher brain function and volition. it’s still theoretical but the framework is there. i make no conclusions on this point, especially with an incomplete set of data. that’s why i say, “what we have to work with”, or “what we can account for here and now”


  18. So purpose is invented, thus nothing real at all. So that’s like saying I want to do science because of “lalala”. Lalala is just something I invented, but that’s why I do science. This is what you are saying if there is no real purpose and it’s just subjective from person to person.

    i make no absolute statement on this point. i don’t know if we are more than material but but we do seem to have volition and it does rely on our material, as far as we know.

    So you lean towards us having no free will. Why are you still discussing this with me and calling me arrogant and stuff? To you I’m just a byproduct of my biological makeup.

    there is some very interesting work being done on the evolutionary origins of higher brain function and volition. it’s still theoretical but the framework is there. i make no conclusions on this point, especially with an incomplete set of data.

    Yeah, and there is being done work on why the material can’t account for things such as intelligence based on what we presently know about information.


  19. no. because different people have different purposes and these purposes are subjective to the individual does not mean purpose isn’t real. if you defined your purpose as lalala, that would be fine other than you wouldn’t be able to communicate that purpose to anyone. subjectivity doesn’t negate reality.

    no i don’t lean towards us having no free will. from what i perceive we seem to have limited free will. i question your assertion that being material negates our ability to have volition. this is an opinion and one with no scientific basis. when working with what we have in front of us we can make a list like this;

    1. we appear to exist
    2. matter appears to be all there is.
    3. we appear to have volition.
    4. matter appears to account for volition.


  20. Cameron,

    Here is another one! You ask, as a trick question, have we progressed or digressed in our evolutionary stage? This is another misunderstanding of the framework and staging for evolution.

    However, you ask this “really” to assert that human beings either are or aren’t special.

    Cameron’s Erroneous Proposition 1:

    (1) Coherent theories must provide a metric for ‘progress’
    (2) Evolution does not provide a metric for ‘progress’
    (3) Evolution is incoherent.

    You must assume (1) in order for any of your arguments on this page to hold weight, which is interesting. Plenty of theories (that don’t disprove God) don’t measure ‘progress’ and function coherently without any squabbles from the theist camp. I’ve never heard any theist say “tectonic theory does not provide a metric for progress, so we cannot say dry land is ‘special’. But humans need dry land in order to worship God, so geophysics is incoherent.”

    Regarding (2), everything alive today has ‘progressed’ relative to common past ancestors in the temporal sense. You are inaptly applying the word ‘progress’ though to try and make a fly-trap a-ha! argument that falls flat, because ‘progress’ in the evolutionary sense has little meaning, but you want to apply it to singular species. But evolution does not ‘progress’ within a species. When human beings evolve or ‘progress,’ we wouldn’t be genetic homo sapiens any more! You seem to mean ‘progress toward the natural order,’ which is definitively stripped of a human context. We ARE products of evolution, but the implication does not follow that we are not ‘special’ in some evolutionary sense. But is evolution the ONLY means by which we can judge things to be ‘special’? That is absurd, truly. Which leads to…

    Cameron’s Erroneous Proposition 2:

    (1) Products of evolution cannot have intrinsic value.
    (2) Homo sapiens are products of evolution.
    (3) Homo sapiens have no intrinsic value.

    Well, Cameron, our species is certainly the BEST at doing some things. Is that not special? We have cultivated land more broadly and efficiently than any other species, we sit atop the food chain, and we have formulated ways to scientifically understand the world around us, all of which have tremendous evolutionary benefit. How does this not register as ‘special?’ Just because evolution doesn’t posit that we are special by divine decree does not mean we aren’t special by any other metric. Evolution is a scientific postulate. By introducing philosophy and metaphysics, you are introducing a burden of exploratory proof where evolution provides only explanatory merit. I don’t assert that because God knows all things his followers should be the best logicians! So reformulating what you really mean in Proposition 1, we get…

    Cameron’s Erroneous Proposition 1′:

    (1′) Evolution cannot explain what Cameron wants ‘special’ to mean.
    (2′) Evolution is incoherent.

    But are we then not special? Well, this is a murky question, because what you really seem to imply, is the following:

    Cameron’s Erroneous Proposition 4:

    (1) If human beings are not intrinsically valuable by virtue of having non-natural properties, then there is no ontological foundation for objective moral values.

    This is an absurd statement, especially since you are using evolution to ask it. Naturalistic evolution would assert AT MOST that our beliefs about morality were biological adaptations, NOT that morality only exists as a byproduct of naturalistic processes. Caroline West sums this up beautifully by saying that (emphasis my own) “Indeed, it could be true that there are moral facts ‘out there’ AND that natural selection has led us to believe that there are.” This is a dagger in the heart for your argument, because it shows there is no inconsistency in the relationship between moral ontology and moral epistemology with regard to the proposition “evolution is true.”

    Are we made of exactly the same atomic and molecular matter as every other living thing? Yes. Do we seem to inhabit the highest rung of the spectrum of consciousness? Yes. Does any of this stand if ‘all’ is or isn’t permissible? Of course. If you think morality is ontologically objective, then it WOULDN’T matter if human beings were special or not, because these objective values would still ‘exist’ absolutely, just like the concept of the number ‘three’ or the conventions of classical logic, independent of a human mind’s ability to process them. I think you are conflating ontological philosophy with hard science, and it’s muddy at best.

    Are we intrinsically ‘valuable’ or ‘special’ according to evolution? No! Evolution is an applicative description of the process by which organisms adapt, not a system by which we can judge your metaphysical or intangible definitions of ‘special’ regarding other species. I don’t ask you to use Schroedinger’s equations to prove that logic is ideal and absolute. I don’t assert that you use transfinite arithmetic to prove the problem of induction. Indeed, asking evolution to posit a definition of ‘special’ is a non-sequitur. So we are left with…

    Cameron’s final erroneous proposition:

    (1) The only theories with merit are ones that posit humankind as ‘special’
    (2) According to strict naturalistic evolution, humankind is not ‘special’
    (3) But humankind is special!
    (4) Evolution has no merit.
    (2′) Christian theism says humankind is special.
    (3′) Christian theism has merit.

    Evolution is not a worldview. Naturalism USUALLY has other qualifiers attached to it when considered as a worldview, like ‘epistemological’ ‘methodological’ ‘metaphysical’ etc…you’re attacking material naturalism without considerations for other worldviews’ propositions. This is the kind of scattershot rebuttal I would expect from someone FAR less academically invested in theism, but you are above this.


  21. You write way too much and assume too many motives. You could save yourself a lot of time by asking clarifying questions.

    I am arguing against Naturalism. It has no real bases to account for human dignity and value, by which we are by nature more special than a rock, etc.


    • I misunderstood your quest to argue against naturalism with this series of posts, as they are titled ‘questions I have for evolutionists’…I was trying meeting you on the terms of the question and the content of your replies to comments above.

      To agree with you up front, I agree that evolution has no basis to account for human dignity and value. I would say that naturalism does have a basis for those. Regarding value in particular, I would say that Christianity assumes many (ontological) values without explaining them (like moral values or ‘design’ for instance…see my other posts).

      To disagree, by imposing ‘progress’ on evolution, you commit a cognitive dissonance, like applying a metric of ‘temperature’ to how hungry you are…



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