Monday, March 24, 2008

Evolutionism versus Creationism - a diametrically opposed farce

Reposted from a blog discussion, please view the original video here.

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It is frustrating to me to see the argument presented as diametrically opposed; you're either a materialistic atheist and we evolved from primordial soup through the ape to current, or that the world is 6k years old and made by a dude named Jesus.

Both are scientifically unsound, and ignore significant amount data and evidence. At best our current lineage model of evolution (as its pushed by the majority of scientists, it seems), is a 3% fit. Now, this is a better fit than any other model presented, and it does seem to be a logical option. However we are indeed making a leap of faith in trusting our entire scientific paradigm on a 3% fit.

An unsettling trend that seems to be popular now is that "creationism" is necessarily tied with the fantasy of the 5-6,000 year old Earth. There is absolutely no evidence of this (the 3% fit of the "oppositional" model seems like divine light in comparison to this belief), either in material science or in the Bible. This seems to be not even a leap of faith, just plain blind laziness.

Evolution itself is an absolute fact, it has been proven, and even demonstrated several times, as has devolution and atrophy. But the idea we've evolved via mutation/adaption from primordial soup and into apes and then humans is a rather large assumption to be pushing as "fact." In fact, most, if not all of what we deem mutation that we experience in the natural world is completely deleterious to the organism if not the entire species. Evolution is fact - but there are more models than just the 3% fit.

What science in general seems to forget is that it is the pursuit of "facts", spirituality is the search for "truth." I'd ask you to really think about that one for a bit; what is fact versus truth. It is a fact that you have a father - that is a necessary requisite to explain yourself. This is provable by empirical data. The spiritual steps in with the question: "did you love him?" And if you did, "Prove it." (A great metaphorical application of this intersection of truth/fact from the film/story "Contact")

I would very much like to see a paradigmatic shift in the direction of cooperation. Science can take care of the physically observable universe, and spirituality can take care of our personal relationship to it. Both can feed into each other, and keep the other in check.

15 comments:

jaludtke said...

question: this 3% fit you are mentioning. As an evolutionary biologist, I have never, ever heard of it, so, do you have any papers that mention it you could point to? Wikipedia links? Something?

BEAJ said...

3% fit for evolution? There hasn't been one piece of evidence that doesn't fit evolution. And there is a 0% fit for young earth creation.

Just because you type something doesn't make it right.

And you really need to understand science better. You are making a mockery out of yourself.

ioTus said...

re: jaludtke

I did not include citations as its a blog post, not a scholarly journal or essay, but I will revisit my notes and provide you with my sources.

I do recall that a rebuttal to the argument was that there is enough genetic diversity on the earth today to account for every "level" of evolution, however that seems to me to be side-stepping the point: that we don't have an acceptably accurate fossil record back to single-cell organisms that fits with the belief that we have evolved from apes.

re: beaj

I agree, just because something is typed or written (even published) doesn't make it "right". (By "right" I'm assuming you're referring to what I earlier defined as "fact").

I believe you may have mis-interpreted my argument - I stated that evolution is absolute fact and has been proven, even demonstrated. I also stated (not in your exact words, however), that you are absolutely correct, there is 0% fit for young earth creation. It is an absolute ignorant opinion that is unfortunately pushed as fact by a very loud group of Jesus-ians.

I am always seeking to understand science better. I have tried to incorporate as much if it as I can into my intellectual development while pursuing my primary field of digital media and graphic design. If you have any books or lectures you would recommend, I am very willing to learn what I can from them.

I would suggest the avoidance emotional responses, name calling, etc - all petty tactics that hold no logical, intellectual, or scientific credence. Don't get me wrong, its good to be passionate about our chosen life and world views, but as soon as we shut our minds to a particular philosophy or viewpoint, we eliminate all possibilities of growth.

Except for the young earth theory. That's just silly - too many assumptions to be made in order for a tall premise to be accepted. And we're not just talking about "Assume a spherical cow", here!! ;-)

jaludtke said...

iotus,

Just as a hypothetical, let's assume that we do not have a fossil record that shows evolution of metazoans from prokaryotes or some other form of single-celled orgs.

Would this have any bearing on the quite separate question of whether humans are apes, or, to use a terminology some find more pleasing, that humans 'evolved from apes'?

Jeff said...

It seems to me that the problem highlighted in the first two comments is largely a matter of degree and of semantics. Saying that creationism and evolution are both "scientifically unsound" without further qualifying (with immediacy and clarity) might lead a reader of your blog to think that you are dismissing both to the same degree. It seems to me that the spirit of your post is to criticize fundamentalism and blind belief -- whether that comes in the form of Christian or Scientific.

Both systems rely on unexplained and yet unverifiable premises. In creationism, the premise covers much more than its scientific counterpart does for evolution. This doesn't make one or the other more or less correct, relatively. The moment of (or just before, depending on what you believe, if you're a sciencer) the Big Bang is considered a singularity. The first lines of Genesis, likewise, refer to a singularity (id est so as not to offend anybody: "The Singularity, namely God"). As an individual, nothing says you have to choose between creationism and evolution; however, choosing to believe in one singularity or the other will have a profound impact on your perception of and interaction with the world around you.

The conflict arises when two opposing camps butt heads. In the example Iotus discusses, the camp that believes exclusively in the Big Bang singularity refuses to accept the premise of the God singularity camp -- and the sentiment is mutual. The former views logic and empiricism as the higher virtues, while the latter holds faith and tradition above all else. The debate between evolution and creationism exists entirely as a proxy for the conflict between these two competing world views -- in exactly the same way Vietnam served as little more than a proxy for the Capitalists and the Totalitarians to duke it out, as far as each was concerned.

As far as the "3% fit" goes? I would question that, just as jaludtke has. Maybe there is a larger argument to back it up, but it certainly isn't common knowledge (at least not in that verbiage), and a link would be helpful.

@beaj: It's good that you know that "just because you type something doesn't make it right." The world needs more people like you (and I'm not being facetious). However, just because you haven't heard an argument before doesn't make it wrong.

Blogs are increasingly becoming an outlet for scientifically-backed articles, but let's not forget that before that they were little more than Op Ed sites. And before that, they were just random expressions of personal musings. Believe it or not, even the old war horses of the peer-reviewed journal industry often get things wrong, or mispublish the facts. Better to take jaludtke's questioning approach than that of beaj's condescending, accusatary response.

Great post, Iotus. It's a new blog, and I'm sure it will only get better. Keep it up!

[post script: I'd love to see a follow-up to jaludtke's inquiries, if you find the article about "3%".]

ioTus said...

jaludtke -

I don't think that it would necessarily have bearing on, as you said, the much different question of humans coming from apes.

My underlying intent of the post was to point out the fanaticism held by both sides at the extremes, both trying to push a single particular view as the absolute truth in a dogmatic fashion.

There are many possibly ancestral routes through evolution, and some of them may be a complete mystery to us, undetectable or in-accessible by our current views and technologies. Saying that we can either belong to one school or another - the diametrically opposed argument, seems to me to be a limitation of our scientific potentials, as neither of these opinions has room to grow.

Anthropology, as I'm sure you're aware, is a difficult field. We are continuously finding new evidence that totally throws our established opinions off - species of miniature humanoids that existed within the last 2,000 years, 45 to 60,000 year old Australian Aboriginee fossils, etc.

Thanks for filling in the gaps, jeff ;-)

ioTus said...

Additionally -

If there is a credible publicly accessible model of evolution that shows the lineage of humans that is established as the currently accepted truth, I would very much like to see it so that I may check and cross-reference the notes I've taken on the subject.

ioTus said...

and only slightly off topic, if you haven't yet checked out the web show Mr. Deity I HIGHLY recommend it!

jaludtke said...

jeff,

While I agree with you that evolution v. creationism is a proxy conflict for two competing world views, I draw the battle lines somewhat differently.

Creationism is a quasi-anachronistic worldview that is being pushed by religious fundamentalists. I say it is quasi-anachronistic to point out that its adherents believe in a worldview that sounds like it was once commonly believed, but it is actually fictitious. Creationist Christians (or Muslims, depending on whether these are creationists in the USA or Turkey) did not believe that the Bible (or Qur'an) was word-for-word truth until after Darwin had become scientifically commonplace reading. Religious fundamentalism is a reactionary philosophy that advocates the destruction of the modern world.

Essentially, evolution v. creationism is a fight that started in the late 19th century and is still going on today because some people are convinced that an old, evolved universe is a threat to their interpretation of scripture. It'd be hilarious if it wasn't so revolting.

To label myself appropriately, I totally value empiricism and logic as important qualities for humans to have, while faith and tradition are things that I think are, at best, neutral to the human mind. Which is why I have such a beef with creationists, and they I.

However, I do not think that it is impossible that divine powers have had an effect on the world/universe about us. Heck, to be more honest, most people believe in a combination of what religious dogma tells them and what scientific investigation tells them. I personally do not believe that, but I can see why most people choose to.

Now I better stop before I get more tangential.

Jeff said...

jaludtke,

"It'd be hilarious if it wasn't so revolting." Well said.

I couldn't agree with you more regarding the nature of empiricism and logic, faith and tradition. The line, however, may not be as clear for me. Nonetheless, I think your point is well formed.

Until that last paragraph in your most recent comment, this discussion was completely ignoring the middle ground between extremes, and I think it deserves its recognition. This because, at the very least, a significant middle ground weakens the "diametric" from the opposition in question.

Thanks for your stimulating input. Now, if iotus could just find that article regarding the 3%....

jaludtke said...

iotus,

Earlier you issued your frustration at this false dichotomy:

you're either a materialistic atheist and we evolved from primordial soup through the ape to current, or that the world is 6k years old and made by a dude named Jesus.

While there are some of us who do have one of these viewpoints (I got the first), I agree with you that the dichotomy is false because most people believe in some combination of religious dogma and scientific fact.

However, where I disagree with you is such: my thought is that scientific dogmatism is, for all intents and purposes, non-existent. Any person who really and honestly is a scholar of science goes where the evidence points them, acknowledging that "truth" in a scientific context is much, much different than what religious people deem truth.

I am a materialist. I am an atheist. I 'believe' in something you call scientifically unsound because I think that natural processes did not need divine help in order for life to form, become complex, or for the human species to join the ranks of the animal kingdom. Oddly enough, I 'believe' what I do because I accept the science that shows ways in which these processes could have happened.

If science shows a possible way that things could have happened naturally, is it necessary to think that only that possible way is true? No, of course not, there are always other ideas. I just am weirded out when they are somehow given equal billing to an idea that has scientific support.

The closest thing to a 'current' human tree is probably on wikipedia.

The Smithsonian website does not have as many species mentioned.

Talk.Origins discusses things...

this figure from a 2003 paper shows some of the hypothesized relationships within Homo

This page has a neat feature wherein it shows what three different paleoanthropologists think about hominid fossils.

jaludtke said...

jeff,

Well, as I said in the next comment, I am, apparently, not part of the middle ground. Instead, as an atheist, I am on the fringe. oh noes.

The odd thing about the ID movement is that most people, basically, agree with its main idea: that somewhere in the line between [organic molecules] and [humans], that a divine force did some work. Materialists like myself think this is unnecessary: natural processes are all you need, and the more we study, the more we can deduce about evolutionary lineages and experiment to see which hypotheses are right, and dig up fossils to support hypotheses, etc etc.

While I buy into the materialist party line, I do not think less of a person for being an ID proponent. I do, however, think that ID is not science, and, as already mentioned, creationists (eg, the fundie kind) scare me witless.

ID proponents (or theistic evolutionists, or whatever they want to be called) and materialists can both agree that life and the Earth are old and (to be totally selfish) paleontologists deserve to be funded. Creationists think paleontologists are all liars. That offends me on a personal level.

I mean, I like being able to visit museums and look at fossils. And be able to buy food. Is that wrong?

Innomen said...

I agree completely in general that science and religion need not fight.

science=how=fact
religion=why=truth

The two are only opposed when either one over steps its bounds. I talk about this in my upcoming book.

http://innomen.blogspot.com/2008/03/atheists-fundimentalists-two-sides-of.html

It is nice to see independent invention of this concept. I thought I was the only one.

I will add your philosophical distinctiveness to my own. Resistance is futile. :)

P.S. Your other page is magnificent. May I ask what you used to create it?

ioTus said...

jaludtke -
Perhaps it would help you to see that my approach is not that of a traditional Christian's.

I do not believe in One Dude sitting above the clouds who one day decided it would be fun to make a universe in 6 days. (7th reserved for a smoke break).

To me, I see divinity is a state of being, a state of consciousness or awareness, one that is not separate from anyone, and obtainable by all through practical methods such as meditation, self reflection, and transformation of impressions and energies from the world. Rather than go off on my own philosophical views (I'm not seeking converts, or trying to push my point as the only valid one here) I'll just leave it at that for now.

That said, I see no reason for there to be any "divine help" in the creation of the universe. In terms of universal scale, it seems to me that the universe makes much more sense as being "God" itself - this is called pantheism. Indeed, I would even then carry it further to say that the sum is more than likely greater than the whole of the parts, and that this "God" of the universe actually then goes beyond just the measurable/perceivable universe and has a higher state beyond that (naturally imperceivable by any means we would have in this dimension).

I abandoned religion at a very young age before I even started, calling myself atheist all through high school and the first two years of college. Religion has always seemed to me to be more or less a big joke, a terrible big joke that everyone's fallen for. And unfortunately the joke's on them (so I've felt at least). So why do i carry such philosophical and "un-provable" beliefs of the unverse? Because science provides theorems and facts, but still leaves me lacking. It does not make me go home at the end of the day, put my feet up and say "Ahh... energy is equivalent to mass times the speed of light squared. I am a complete man." Instead, i still feel a need to improve myself, make myself a better person, and take responsibility for my life and my actions. To me this surges through in the form of what i call "spirituality". It drives me to see the world more clearly, to question EVERYTHING (including the assumptions made by scientists). It drives me to question the mystical experiences that I have, even the not so mystical experiences I have.

It seems to me that science changes at such a rapid rate, that what we "knew" for "fact" 20 years ago is no longer deemed valid, and that today's science is the only valid world view. Well, tell that to the scientists 20 years ago, and they would probably respond as though you're a fundamentalist nut-job. Einstein himself was absolutely offended by the implications of quantum physics, and ironically enough his criticism of what implications quantum physics had to have in turn led to more validity to the science. For brief example, Bose-Einstein condensates (absurd right?).

Another example of this is plate tectonics, a paradigm shift within the last 50 years. Go back to the 1940's and suggest that mountains are caused by plates floating across a liquid magma (in fact radioactive, again a change within the last 5-10 years) core, you'd be thrown in the looney bin, and probably receive a nice lobotomy... a practice considered legit until the 1970's.

Gorillas - big monkeys larger than a man, did not exist to the Western mind until the 19-teens, when troops were out and encountered one. Panda bears, a Chinese myth (much like their dragons), until we went and saw one.

I'm not saying you personally are wrong. In fact I'd be willing to bet that we would agree on many scientific things. My point is to illustrate that pushing one scientific paradigm as absolute truth, or absolute fact, is as "dogmatic" as them religious folks.

Just because you believe in your religion, doesn't mean i have to.

jaludtke said...

wait did I not post a comment here? I thought I did. ...now I am confused.