August 31, 2008
David Friedman On Evolution And Human Nature
David Friedman says that while Leftists generally accept that evolution occurred they reject all implications evolution has for human nature.
People who say they are against teaching the theory of evolution are very likely to be Christian fundamentalists. But people who are against taking seriously the implications of evolution, strongly enough to want to attack those who disagree, including those who teach those implications, are quite likely to be on the left.
I think he is right on his basic points. The bulk of the (fairly unscientific) attacks on the idea of genetic causes of differences in intellectual performance come from the Left. The argument for the primacy of social environment as the biggest force determining our intelligence comes from the Left. Yet some genetic theorists find evidence that local selective pressures exerted even over several hundred years can cause big changes in cognitive function. Friedman starts out focusing on differences between the sexes in cognitive function.
Consider the most striking case, the question of whether there are differences between men and women with regard to the distribution of intellectual abilities or behavioral patterns. That no such differences exist, or if that if they exist they are insignificant, is a matter of faith for many on the left. The faith is so strongly held that when the president of Harvard, himself a prominent academic, merely raised the possibility that one reason why there were fewer women than men in certain fields might be such differences, he was ferociously attacked and eventually driven to resign.
Yet the claim that such differences must be insignificant is one that nobody who took the implications of evolution seriously could maintain. We are, after all, the product of selection for reproductive success. Males and females play quite different roles in reproduction. It would be a striking coincidence if the distribution of abilities and behavioral patterns that was optimal for one sex turned out to also be optimal for the other, rather like two entirely different math problems just happening to have the same answer.
Human male and female brains differ in fundamental ways. For example, women have a higher ratio of white matter to gray matter than men. The scientific literature on male-female differences in cognition is now enormous. Yet a president of Harvard (Larry Summers) can still get forced from office in part because he took that scientific literature seriously.
Speaking as someone who thinks the evidence for the theory of evolution is overwhelming I am very disappointed at how evolution has been walled off from most discussions of human nature in the political sphere. Among most secularists (who like to fancy themselves as more scientific than the Christians) I see widespread embrace of a sort of modern Cartesian dualism where instead of placing the mind in a supernatural realm the genes that code for the mind are viewed as immune to evolutionary selective pressures. We are supposed to believe that humans have evolved so far that they've escaped the genes that code for their minds and that at birth the human mind is a Blank Slate (tabula rasa) almost totally molded by its environment.
I see the Left's Blank Slate as an even worse model for understand human nature than the fundamentalist Christian Original Sin view of human nature. The Original Sin model maps closer to what evolution produced: selfish desires that got selected for in order to cause behaviors that boost reproductive fitness. In the Original Sin model the idea that evil can be defeated in this world is laughable because the devil is whispering in everyone's ear and the battle between good and evil is constant. The temptations of sin are the desires and instincts placed in us by millions of years of natural selection. So the idea of Original Sin hits a lot closer to the truth than the view that we can perfect humans with smarter social policies. New Soviet Man is the antithesis of what a Darwinist ought to think is possible to achieve in human societies.
A June 2007 article from Plos Genetics, Localizing Recent Adaptive Evolution in the Human Genome, provides examples of localized evolution of cognitive function.
Several genes with functional roles in the development and function of the nervous system show very strong evidence (CLR p < 10−5) for a recent selective sweep. For example, SV2B, a gene encoding a synaptic vesicle protein with highest expression during brain development , exhibits strong evidence for a selective sweep in the African-American sample. Likewise, the protein encoded by DAB1 plays a developmental role in the layering of neurons in the cerebral cortex and cerebellum , and exhibits strong evidence for a selective sweep in the Asian sample. Other nervous system genes with strong evidence for a selective sweep include two candidate genes for Alzheimer disease (APPBP2 and APBA2) that bind the amyloid-beta precursor protein, two genes (SKP1A and PCDH15) with a role in sensory development, and several others with various roles in nervous system development and function (PHACTR1, ALG10, PREP, GPM6A, and DGKI).
A March 2007 article from Plos Biology, A Map of Recent Positive Selection in the Human Genome, finds plenty of signs up local cognitive evolution.
Recent articles have proposed that genes involved in brain development and function may have been important targets of selection in recent human evolution [8,9]. While we do not find evidence for selection in the two genes reported in those studies (MCPH1 and ASPM), we do find signals in two other microcephaly genes, namely, CDK5RAP2 in Yoruba, and CENPJ in Europeans and East Asians . Though there is not an overall enrichment for neurological genes in our gene ontology analysis, several other important brain genes also have signals of selection, including the primary inhibitory neurotransmitter GABRA4, an Alzheimer's susceptibility gene PSEN1, and SYT1 in Yoruba; the serotonin transporter SLC6A4 in Europeans and East Asians; and the dystrophin binding gene SNTG1 in all populations.
This all is unsurprising and I expect much more evidence to be uncovered of cognitive adaptations to local environments. For example, fishermen had different cognitive demands placed on them than farmers. With a boat one is in constant danger of death and one needs to be much more careful. The ideal personality for a crew member of a fishing boat is probably different than the ideal personality for a sheep herder and the ideal personality for a sheep herder is probably different than that for a tiller of soil. So an area with lots of coastlines and little farmable land probably have different average personality types than areas with lots of tillable soil.
While some will rush to dismiss these speculations evidence has already begun to emerge that genetic variations that affect cognitive function make people more adapted in some environments and less adapted in other environments. For example, a genetic variation that contributes to hyperactivity boosts success of nomadic tribesmen but makes them less successful when they move into urban environments. A lot of people with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) probably have what we consider a disability in industrial society because their ancestors did better by having the genes that cause these cognitive states. Today ADHD causes people to be more violent and criminal.
While politically correct dogma would have us believe that humans are extremely similar excepting for appearances the latest genetic research shows that human groups are evolutionarily diverging from each other and in many ways. But these insights from research are entirely missing from political discussions.
As my regular readers know, I think we are on the verge of an enormous explosion of discoveries about human genetics and the roles genes play in causing differences in cognitive function, athletic performance, health, and other aspects of human function. People who anchor their political beliefs in either supernatural religious or secular religious belief systems are going to find the foundations of their beliefs blown away by this coming torrent of discoveries.
Very interesting article, I do enjoy learning about & applaud the advances science is making. One thing I'm not sure that I could agree with is your last sentence. If we think from a "supernatural religious" perspective, one of the foundations of religious peoples' beliefs is creation. Now if God created everything then all scientists are doing is discovering more about how this was done. The coming torrent of discoveries are then likely to be seen as further revelation of God's greatness and potentially further support for a creationist view based on the ever increasing degree of complexity and thereby minimising the likelyhood of "pure evolution" i.e. that without any "creative input".
You don't reference Steven Pinker's The Blank Slate which as far as I can see definitely refutes the blank slate hypothesis.
I do think it's important to distinguish between gender- or race- linked traits and those that merely covary. Body shape is clearly gender-linked. Lack of sickle-cell susceptibility doesn't make you any less African.
"People who anchor their political beliefs in either supernatural religious or secular religious belief systems are going to find the foundations of their beliefs blown away by this coming torrent of discoveries."
Hardly. Genetics cannot prove God exists nor that Christ died for humanity, to name two rather supernatural foundations. In fact, we've been hearing for 400 years that something is going to finally "free" humanity from religion yet somehow, religion manages to adapt. Nothing that genetics could discover would threaten my faith and I have no problem with whatever discoveries are there. In light of that, your statement, so full of assurance, makes me sit back and smile.
Once again an interesting blog. For different reasons than Nick, I disagree with your last sentence. I am a Christian who sees nothing in science that disproves belief in God. Science, despite some rather overblown assertions, is not very good with beginnings. It breaks down when it tries to describe the origins of life, the rise of consciousness or the beginnings of the Universe. (Yes, I do follow the Big Bang theory but what happened before that?)
In other more important matters such as how a person should live or what constitutes good and evil I don't think science has anything to say.
Science is a wonderful mechanism for exploring the Universe and increasing our understanding of al of Creation, whether God had a hand in it or not. But science, a purely human construct, has no impact on my faith.
A truly thought-provoking entry in your blog. Thank you.
"I am a Christian who sees nothing in science that disproves belief in God."
Well, yeah. See "unfalsifiable"; It's not a virtue in a belief.
Great observation that the left and the right are uncomfortable with evolution in very different ways. I think that conservative American Christianity has more room to honor social theories that draw from the strong social Darwinist traditions of the last century and more, and theological practices of compassion that refuse to give Neo-Darwinian empiricism the last word. By contrast, secular ideologies don't have any stable way to check the horrorible trajectories of social Darwinism that led to modern racism, sexism, communism, robber-baron capitalism, and national socialism. So they have to impose a moratorium on following evolution through to many (though not all) of its possible implications.
I too disagree with your conclusion. Augustine's theory of original sin depended on a premodern understanding of conception that was "blown away" by Gregor Mendel, and his biology was wrong in many other kinds of ways. Yet his chief insights have largely survived the scientific matrix in which he envisioned them. Thomas Aquinas' theology of sanctification was an effort to reconcile Augustinian Christianity and revived Aristotelian cosmology that won the day and still forcefully shapes Catholic theology, even though much of Aristotle's cosmology is dated. Catholics and evangelical Protestants who affirm evolution face what I think is a similar challenge. Fundamentalistic creationism is no solution, because it has to dismiss way too much sound data and elegant theory. And facile syntheses such as "God directed evolution" aren't adequate either, because of many problems that Darwinian and Neo-Darwinian theories of evolution pose for traditional Christian accounts of human nature and the goodness of creation. However, the Christian faith (like its Jewish and Muslim sisters) is fully capable of engaging responsible evolutionary biology, psychology, and sociology without capitulating to its ideological manifestations. While it will have to adjust (as will the science, which is more ideologically guided than many scientists want to admit publicly), I haven't seen any reason to assume the fundamental incompatibility that you assert at the end. The juxtaposition of good Neo-Darwinian biology and paleontology with evangelical Christianity is a fascinating and invigorating theological problem that deserves the increasing attention it is getting.
I think we are on the verge of an enormous explosion of discoveries about human genetics and the roles genes play in causing differences in cognitive function, athletic performance, health, and other aspects of human function. People who anchor their political beliefs in either supernatural religious or secular religious belief systems are going to find the foundations of their beliefs blown away by this coming torrent of discoveries.
I disagree. Somehow the fact that our genes have much more of an impact on our human function than previously thought is supposed to be convince me that Creation is false? I think the opposite would occur -- the fact that our genetic information is much more complex and intricately implemented than initially thought argues more strongly against evolution, a random series of events, than against Creation. In fact, I have a stronger issue with the premise of your argument -- namely that Creation and evolution are mutually exclusive. While evolution is proven to occur (why do you think we have to get a flu shot each year?), evolution as the origin of life must be accepted purely on faith. The correct comparison would be Creation v. The Big Bang. Show some conclusive evidence of the Big Bang and you might start shaking some foundations.
I'm a grad student currently studying HIV (the most rapidly evolving virus ever!) and I strongly believe in creation. Much of the evidence in favor of evolution as the origin of species (heh) relies the conservation of genetic information, protein pathways, etc. across species (as examples of divergent evolution) that can be theoretically be "traced back" to a single source. To me, this only argues more strongly for Creation -- if you've got a single designer, why reinvent the wheel for each species? If you can reuse some of the basic "life-supporting" stuff that needs to be present in all life forms, why not save yourself some work?
Science has been the enemy of religious dogma for a 1000 years. Don't be too sure that molecular biology will extend that streak. True, a lot more religious tracts will be discredited, but the impossible and growing odds against random creation will likely deal severe blows to the atheists. It will require a lot of blind faith to hold those beliefs. Almost sounds religious...
"People who anchor their political beliefs in either supernatural religious or secular religious belief systems are going to find the foundations of their beliefs blown away by this coming torrent of discoveries."
Ummm... Not so much. "Secular religious belief"? What the heck do you think those who believe science will solve ALL our problems are practicing?
There hasn't been any scientific discovery yet that calls into question creation by God or an Intelligence. Darwin's evolution just overstated it, but even most of that fits into a design (I agree you can't prove God scientifically). And some pronouncements of scientists are as religious as any scripture. Take your statement above.... That takes a lot of faith -- it's a prophecy if you will that your god will vanquish other gods. Get over yourself and put science in its proper context. Science leavened with the humility true religion brings is great. Science as the end all be all is just another form of religion -- and sometimes dangerous.
We're on the verge of a preference cascade. In the 1970's most of the Soviet Communist Party knew it didn't work, but it took Reagan, Thatcher, and Pope John Paul to finally break the rotten tree, and Gorbachev to decide that his faith wasn't worth dying for, and that destroying the world for a lie was silly.
Thus the Berlin Wall fell, and things happened that not one in a thousand of qualified observers expected.
So it is now.
I'm not sure if we're in the Seventies or the Eighties when it comes to Evolution, but I tend to think the Eighties.
Many alive today are going to tell their grandchildren "Of course I never believed in Evolution." And many of them will be telling the truth because the vast majority of Americans are creationists. Others will be truthful to a point because even now most of the evolution supporters don't really believe it. Others, a still smaller segment, will remember their pasts through rose-colored glasses like Grace Sick saying 'feed your head' means 'read a book'. And the last smallest group will be like the American professors of literature who believe 'communism has never been tried' and will remain ardent supporters of materialism and evolution even as the world leaves them behind.
One of the key elements in sustaining a dictatorship is fear. Fear of losing a job, or of losing grant money. Fear of being social ostracized. Fear of being the only one who thinks so. But the Internet lets people know they are not alone. It gives a place for those in fear to speak their mind in safety. Thus the Internet is a dissolvent of dictatorships of guns, and a dictatorship of job loss and social shaming.
And once an ordinary man with ordinary logic realizes 'hey, pretty much everyone else agrees with me despite what the State organs of propaganda say. I am not alone!' he then stands up. And so does everyone else. And thats the preference cascade.
I only pray that there is a Gorbachev on the Darwinists side because change is coming one way or another.
If one ignores the clear logic of philosophy, and the overwhelming proof of the Bible, and merely looks to scientific evidence, well then Evolution is clearly doomed. There is no need to compromise the Bible with Evolution, no more need than to compromise the Bible with Ptolemy which is supposed to have been the RCC's problem in Galileo's day.
You claim that genetics will do in the Bible. Two historical figures rebut this: 1) Voltaire: His house is being used by a Baptist printing service. He thought to do in the Bible. Clearly, he failed. 2) Darwin: He thought that the cell was a black box. The cell is a simple item that gives rise to the effects we see. Science has advanced beyond this simplistic notion of Darwin's, and subsequently my teachers taught me how fearsomely complex the cell was. And the time since then has only reinforced that point. Your researches you reference will only reinforce that point. The cell is fearsomely complex; Darwin was wrong about the simplicity of the cell.
Science is continually making the case for Creationism stronger and stronger despite the best efforts of government supported grant-worshipping 'scientists'-propagandists. It is time, and past time, for there to be a Separation of Science and State. Science has been corrupted by government money and bad philosophy.
As Galileo supposedly said to the Bishops in the popular version of his life...
"Yet it moves."
Just call me Galileo, my Lord Bishop.
I linked to an interview of Steven Pinker in my second link on the keywords Blank Slate. I've read that book, btw, and recommend it. Though I think he holds back from making the strongest case possible against the Blank Slate view.
Religions make falsifiable and unfalsifiable claims. Scientific advances can (and do) undermine the falsifiable claims. But science can never disprove unfalsifiable claims.
I am less interested in the Big Bang or early development of the cosmos than I am in human nature. In the case of human nature most religious claims about it are falsifiable. It will be hard to argue for Original Sin if we can identify genes that, for example, make people more likely to lie or kill (and we already have mutations for the latter). The religious believers will find it necessary to at least rework Original Sin to claim that God put genetic coding into us that causes us to sin when he threw us out of Eden. The realm for Free Will is going to shrink.
Galileo, i have to take that entire passage as satire.
The author's idea that Christianity teaches we will someday "Get it together" is not doctrinally correct. We are "de-volving" and will continue to, until God re-establishes a physical prescence on the earth.
The author says.. "New Soviet Man is the antithesis of what a Darwinist ought to think is possible to achieve in human societies." This statement also continues in the de-evolution model.
The funniest thing about this article is that the author says the "Original Sin" model is closet to the truth and then just discounts it because it is religious. Maybe, just maybe, the reason it is closest to the scientist's observations is because it IS THE TRUTH!
It's one of the most interesting posts at this blog in some time. To get right down to it, the naturalistic explanations for life all should make us deeply happy to know that we are actually random, pointless phenomena. Yet I have never met anyone who told me he was deeply satisfied to think of himself so. We have laws to prevent people from acting as if others are truly without significance. Why would a random living thing deeply desire to be significant, to mean something? Even, perhaps to long for some small "eternal significance"? When a Darwinian can make a truly good case for this ultimate cognitive dissonance, i.e., why random, pointless, accidental beings would deeply, stubbornly desire to be significant in some way, and even also try to keep a measure of compassion for other utterly insignificant fellow men, then perhaps Darwinian thought will have achieved something significant. But it still will be wrong. You see, people have within their hearts an acutely perceptive sense, not duplicable by our little science, which sees farther and resolves more sharply than Chandra or Hubble. A sense which is most simply explained by its placement there by a Creator.
A significant, non-random human being
This is the best statement of how both left and right view evolution I've seen. I will try to commit it to memory. After reading how much dumber I'm getting in your previous post about brain degeneration in the last 15 years of life, I better hurry before I turn into a dope.
I fear you are attacking a strawman. Where do I say that Christianity believes we will "Get it together"? The point I was making is that Christianity does not view humans as perfectible in this world. Original Sin prevents that. Whereas secular Leftists tend to think we can manipulation social environments and economies in order to make a more perfect world. Since they hold a less realistic view of human nature they promote ideas that are more likely to cause failure when implemented.
Why did Darwinian natural selection create designs of human minds that cause to think we are significant? I think the answer is pretty obvious: believing our actions matter causes us to struggle to survive. The deception increases reproductive fitness.
I thought the Leftists would show up to argue. Instead the Christians find most to take issue with. Interesting.
We can't prove how life got started because we can't go back and observe it. Also, we can't prove why the universe exists. Why should anything exist at all?
But when it comes to the human mind science continues to make advances in understanding how it works and how to manipulate it. If Descartes' dualism between the mind and the body worked in its strongest version then we wouldn't be able to use drugs and other treatments to change emotions and behaviors. Also, genetic variants wouldn't cause different cognitive phenomena. But they do. The brain acts like it exists in this universe governed by the physical laws of this universe.
Maybe science will hit walls in understanding how the brain works. But so far it is on a continual advance toward describing more and more of what the mind does as a result of physical phenomena.
HellRaiserKyo: "It will be a fad that will pass... especially if there are means to rectify the disadvantages of such differences such as cognitively enhancing drugs.
Give it a few more decades and this fad will surely pass."
There is only one scenario out of many in which your "few more decades" prediction works: that within a few decades we find ways to make low intelligence mature adults more intelligent, but largely fail at making high intelligence mature adults more intelligent.
Any other scenario means we will be dealing with differences in sub-populations for timescales far closer to a full century than a few decades. If universal adoption of genetic engineering of new births for intelligence came in 15 years then it would be 33 years before they became 18. It would be decades more before they largely supplanted the old unequal workforce. So I think your confidence in your "few decades" prediction is misplaced.
You ask an interesting question: Why did the Christians show up, but not the 'secular' Left? Perhaps its because the Left is afraid of you, and the Christians are not. I suspect the Left ought to be afraid of you, that Darwin's Universal Solvent would destroy what they and most others regard as an attempt at a decent society.
I have sympathy for Dawkins when he says he believes in Darwinism, but does not want to have a society founded on it.
Its intellectually incoherent, but its humane. And that is what one generally ought to do when faced with monstrous logic--follow your heart until your mind catches up.
I suspect that for the Left's collective mind to catch up, its going to have to largely cease from being the Left.
So, I thank you. You may end up destroying the Left and making them all fundamentalists, but first, you have to get them to stop sticking their fingers in their ears and say 'wa-wa-wa-wa I can't hear you.' Best of luck with that.
Aside: I find the Christians are more polite than the Leftists when arguing online.
I think that the evidence of biology is probably more problematic for the secular ideologues than for the religious believers for a couple of reasons. First off, as I've already mentioned Original Sin and selfishness as a genetic product of natural selection are not so far apart. But the Blank Slate is out in left field and is not supported by the evidence. Also, some religious beliefs are not falsifiable by science. Whereas this world beliefs about political and economic systems can be falsified by accumulating scientific evidence.
To get right down to it, the naturalistic explanations for life all should make us deeply happy to know that we are actually random, pointless phenomena. Yet I have never met anyone who told me he was deeply satisfied to think of himself so.
I don't have a problem thinking of myself that way. When you consider how many babies come into existence because somebody forgot to stop by the drugstore on the way to his hot date at the drive in, I don't see how you can view natural human conception as anything other than a haphazard process.
The babies conceived in the laboratory, by contrast, have a better claim to some intelligent design and purpose in their origins.
Well, if these comments are any indication, it looks like you've inadvertently shown how powerful the force of willful ignorance is.
Though you are clearly right in your blistering attack on dogma, I seriously doubt that ANY amount of evidence will convert the believer. Blind faith needs no solid evidence to support it, nor can it be refuted through evidence since at the core it relies upon the baser parts of the brain, which are not logical. The quasi-logical apologetics come after the fact.
n fact, we've been hearing for 400 years that something is going to finally "free" humanity from religion yet somehow, religion manages to adapt.
Religious belief has spontaneously imploded in most developed democracies. In fact, the number of nonbelievers alive today (around 1 billion) approximately equals the entire, nearly 100 percent religious human population living at the time of Thomas Jefferson's presidency. By premodern demographic standards, we have the equivalent of a world full of infidels in our midst:
Why the Gods Are Not Winning
These are issues that have troubled me for years. It finally made sense to me when I read a report that brain scanning & electrode triggering had been used to successfully identify where certain areas of the brain that carried out certain functions. There are specific sections in the brain that have been shown to relate to a religious feeling/belief. Some people have more or less sensitivity (awareness?)than others. I began to realize that the Christian religions associate love of God with being ethical, caring, etc. The truth is that having a feeling of religiosity/something greater than & beyond yourself- is not necessarily related to love of others, respect for human rights, etc.
Certain people(s) appear to have a far greater sense of religiousity - yet they many times have the history & reputation for being violent merciless warriors in the name of their god.
This clan binding belief can be of great value when your tribe/nation/etc is threatened. Combined with the virtue of you being right and the others being infidels makes it far easier to be cohesive and far easier to eliminate the infidel as an agent of the devil.
Our genetic distance from the tribal clans is exceedingly little. Pizarro on behalf of Spain conquered the vast Inca nation with 170 men. Simple -- he killed the Inca God/king and declared himself to be the God.
The belief in the devine power is an innate part of our biological computer / brain.
From the the left,
Why the focus on changing social conditions not changing genes? Because it has historically been easier to change the social environment than the genetic makeup. And it has been incredibly successful -more and better food, proper sanitation, public education, better medical care, cleaner air and water, All of these environmental changes have had a huge and positive impact on quality of life and the level of intelligence in the population.
Although I enjoy straw man bashing occasionally, the Blank Slate theory has been discredited 40-50 years ago, I took cognitive psychology 20 years ago nobody believed it then. The orthodoxy was "Its not gene vs the environment - genes and the environment are all ways interacting simultaneously." Now if you want to challenge that orthodoxy with a Dominate Gene Theory i would be willing to listen.
Yes, social scientists will claim that the attack on the Blank Slate is an attack on a straw man. But every time I come across a new report by sociologists about education, crime, etc they never try to adjust for genetic factors. All their competing hypotheses are environmental. The Standard Social Science Model continues unabated.
You wrote, "I think the answer is pretty obvious: believing our actions matter causes us to struggle to survive. The deception increases reproductive fitness."
But if life were merely a random event, why would any living thing begin to care about survival? That would not be a reality-based outlook. To what point would it be? None. But perhaps rather, there could be posited a "mission statement" somewhere in the DNA of living things: "Be fruitful, multiply. Fill the earth." Do you have a better description to offer of what life tries to do? But how would that mission statement get there?
And I do not take issue with the article you referenced, I think it was deeply perceptive, in a way comparable to "existential despair". But if the existentialist or the naturalist should have an incorrect evaluation of the data, then his existential despair, if he follows his reasoning to its logical conclusion, would be tragically wrong.
Living things care about survival because it is beneficial to the propagation of a species to care about survival.
Only those living things that survive long enough to reproduce will propagate their genetic code.
Anything that increases the desire to survive, including belief in benevolent supernatural beings, is beneficial to the natural selection process.
So if believing in a divine destiny for yourself increases your desire for survival, then go ahead and believe it. Just don't expect to convince others of the validity of your belief through logical argument.
And most certainly don't take your cue from the Christians, Jews, and Muslims that harming others for their unbelief is okay.
People care about survival for the same reason that they find sweets and fats taste good: genetically determined instincts.
Your comments could be for the "supernatural religious" or the "secular religious" or both though I have assumed for the former only. I'm not convinced of your assertion of wilful ignorance or blind faith. If this was true then why are so many people reading Futurepundit and likely other theory & evidence based websites? The above string seems to indicate a fair depth of knowledge in a variety of subjects. Surely this shows they are interested in theory, evidence and dialogue? Now if this is true then I would postulate that they are like me and have at some point or will at some point investigate the evidence for their beliefs. The last time I looked I found the list for Biblical evidence to be massive, I'm not even going to try type it up, and in some cases quite literally lying around in the near & middle east. I encourage all to continue their studies in their preferred subject matter but to also honestly consider the opposing opinion(s).
I don't mean any offense by this, but I'm suspecting that the supporting evidence you are thinking about comes from secondary or more likely third sources, in the form of christian books (not to disparage christian books in general - some are quite insightful). You would do well to actively investigate their sources. I've found too many times that people will cite sources that either do not support their claims, or even worse, directly contradict their claims.
Though the Bible does contain references to real events, this cannot be used as evidence to truth in other areas. Many religious texts from many religions make use of natural or popular phenomena to "prove" their validity.
Upon truthful and diligent research, you will find the evidence against to be quite staggering. An example would be the issue of Nazareth, purported birthplace of Jesus the Christ, which in fact did not exist until the second century AD, and does not have any nearby cliffs or precipices from which an angry mob might throw a prophet. Not only this, but there is no archeological evidence of any settlements near any cliffs in the area.
I have done the investigation myself, but I wouldn't ask you to take my word for it. Do the research. The truth is out there.
Maybe it's better to put it this way: Think of the reasoning you use to dismiss Islam and Buddhism and Mormonism and Scientology, and apply it to your own religion. Your claim to Truth is no greater than theirs.
As a side note, my comment on dogma is not restricted to the religious and supernatural. There is plenty of "scientific" dogma going around as well.
Interesting take on Friedman's article. Depressed Metabolism and Al Fin blogs also had interesting commentary on the same topic. If science is under threat from left secular religionists the problem is quite huge. Those are the folks who decide who gets tenure, who gets funding, who gets published, and who can work and who can't.
Your boat:farmer analogy is backwards. Point still holds. But boating required great preperation and high congnitive ability and more risk tolerance; the ability to react quickly. Farming requires more care.
No offense taken, I was hoping my above comment was written without a "ranting" (is there such a word?) style. In the same vein how can I question, challenge or discuss someone else's beliefs without them pushing back on my own? Regarding the evidence, sure enough some of it is written by Christians but there is plenty "secular" evidence too e.g Tacitus a Roman historian, as you say all we need to do is the research. I end this entry with the same last sentence as my prior entry. I encourage all to continue their studies in their preferred subject matter but to also honestly consider the opposing opinion(s).
Quoth Telford Work:
By contrast, secular ideologies don't have any stable way to check the horrorible trajectories of social Darwinism
<snort> Social Darwinism was most popular among "conservatives", and lots of religions have gone so far as mass suicide.
The maladies you describe are due to cultism, either of religion or personality. Secular skepticism is almost entirely immune, as it demands factual support before assenting to a proposition. (I'd love to see Telford or "Galileo" defend the nonsense of Todd Bentley.)
I'm very much amused by the creatonuts coming out of the woodwork here, especially ones pointing at "professors of literature" as the core supporters of evolution. They've been predicting the demise of evolutionary theory for at least a century. I suppose, like hypnotically reciting a mantra, it gives them comfort. They should avoid reading any modern biology (esp. current research by actual biologists), because the cognitive dissonance is likely to be painful; evolution was and remains its central organizing principle. And they should especially avoid reading Pharyngula, not just the skepticism but anything related to molecular biology and human disease.
Nick, I'm not quite sure you appreciate the significance. I have no doubt that the Christian religion began with a charismatic man (it takes a charismatic personality to get these things going), and that he was killed in the traditional Roman way after one of many Jewish revolts.
What I'm speaking of here is Matthew being caught out in a lie. In order to add authenticity to his claim regarding the divinity of Christ, he attempted to attribute ancient messianic prophecies to him (in this case, from Zechariah and Isaiah). It is an understandable mistake, since he wrote his gospel so long after the events he purports to describe, and simply assumed that Nazareth had been there at the time of Christ as well.
Since we know without a doubt that Matthew lied about this particular prophecy, this makes Matthew himself a liar, and his works suspect.
This kind of deception is not unique to Christianity. We have more contemporary examples in the book of Mormon, where Joseph Smith writes about horses in America, not realizing that horses had not yet set foot on the new continent at the time he is writing about (once again, an understandable mistake).
L. Ron Hubbard is even more blatant, telling, among other whoppers, of his blood brother ritual with the Blackfoot tribe, not realizing that the Blackfoot never practiced such a ritual.
It is always the little things that catch out a liar.
Actually, the radical Fabian socialists such as Beatrice and Sydney Webb supported eugenics. They wanted to eliminate poverty by eliminating the genes that cause it.
Leftist opposition to eugenics came later.
I predict that lots of people on the Left will once again support eugenics once the genetic basis of intellectual differences becomes extremely hard to deny. We are within 5 years of when lots of IQ influencing genetic alleles become known.
War does not work for humans, but it does work for evolution, because all species deploy survival strategies. Predator creates prey and prey creates predator.
Perhaps the best survival strategy for our species would have been an increase in brain complexity so that language became possible. Future survival strategies must be the ability to control our immune system, or an independent defense mechanism that we can control. Best survival strategy for other species must go to the wolf. From hated despised enemy to indispensable friend.
I would have come back to you earlier but was distracted by a variety of other events. Biblical evidence has been challenged by various critics both professional and armchair over the years using the current archaeological evidence of the day. A few cases were: that writing hadn't been invented by the time of Moses, that camels were not in use in Solomon's time and that there is no evidence of the conquest of Canaan to name a few. I’ll consider the last critique and more specifically the key event of the destruction of Jericho which could be similar to your above statement about Narareth. The Old Testament says that Jericho was destroyed, a curse pronounced on the site and the city was not/could not be rebuilt, yet in the New Testament Jericho is mentioned and we could all visit modern Jericho today. Another attack was made from a different direction saying that Jericho had already fallen by Joshua's time. So is the Bible wrong? Following further research by archaeologists and scientists it was discovered that the original site of Jericho (the one which Joshua destroyed & cursed) has not been built upon, the Jericho of New Testament times and the Jericho of modern times were new cities built nearby but not on the original site. Regarding the time line of the destruction of Jericho, tablets have been found from the Kings of Canaan requesting help from Pharaoh of Egypt which correlate with Biblical dates. So the essence here is with the many challenges thrown at the Bible the Bible has been coming out on top. Using what I would call a longitudinal argument to say Matthew has been caught out in a lie is quite risky as it does not take all evidence into account. At best you could say it suggests an error, however I am convinced that similar to prior challenges the Bible, in this case Matthew, will be proved to be correct in due course. That’s enough for now I’ll try get to your second statement about Jesus at a later date. Have a great week.
My last comment. Far be it from me to try to get someone to "reason his or her way to God". It takes immeasurably more than words to do that. ("Yikes, he must be a bloomin' Calvinist!") Yet it seems to me that my point stands: the strong implications of Darwinian thought on the origins of life generally, and human life in particular, are that we should, to be in harmony with materialistic reality, see ourselves as we "are". We don't. We see ourselves, live our lives, and relate to others in a way we feel to be better than that, even if there is some cognitive dissonance involved. We desire to be significant.
To put it bluntly, Darwinists must admit that if they are right then we all are somewhat crazy, unhinged from reality, as are all living things which strive to live.
Christians at least have a world view which is internally consistent. We feel significant because we believe we are, having have been "ordained by our Creator" with significance.
To those like Randall, who can disagree politely, respectfully, and thought-provokingly, thanks for the exchange of thoughts. You are acting significant, even if you don't believe you are. To the other folks, you are at least acting in a manner consistent with your world view. Congratulations on that accomplishment, I suppose.
I don't think leftist views are being well understood here. The left acknowledges that evolution has created differing traits in individuals, it simply contests the notion that any defining group characteristics exist which are universally transferable to individuals. It specifically contests the notion that evolution has created genetically homogenous groups called "races", which we can accurately characterize based on some notion of genetic or racial "purity" that tells us how individuals will act or be. The science backs them up on this for the most part. The recent developments in genetics do NOT support race-based notions about intelligence, for example - or any other characteristics. One simply fact that helps with this is the discovery that there is more racial diversity in a typical African village than in the whole rest of the world outside Africa put together. The notion that the "negro race" exists as a genetic group is thus sheer non-scientific farce. The left acknowledges this scientific truth. Thus, there is no serious comparison between the current leftist view on genetics vs the creationist view on evolution. The "blank slate" hypothesis is certainly what the old leftists once thought, long ago, but it no longer characterizes the left's views on these matters.
To put it bluntly, Darwinists must admit that if they are right then we all are somewhat crazy, unhinged from reality, as are all living things which strive to live.
Christians at least have a world view which is internally consistent.
You mean, believing in an invisible and completely unverifiable trinity which is "saving" humanity from an equally unverifiable (and unbelievable) Original Sin via personal faith, instead of just correcting the original mistake and forgiving everyone everywhere... that's being well-grounded?
Folks who accept (not "believe in") evolution (nobody takes Darwin's original theory seriously any more, so "Darwinist" isn't at all correct either) know that humanity ain't perfect, just better than everything else we beat out to come to the top of our niche. Human imperfection is inherent and obvious, not some consequence of a nosh on forbidden fruit. We don't need your mental gymnastics just to get back where we're already standing.
We also have concrete notions of how humanity might improve, based on evidence. Millennia of failure prove that you have neither.
I don't think leftist views are being well understood here.
No, we understand it all too well.
The left acknowledges that evolution has created differing traits in individuals
You mean, like "blank slate theory"? Sorry, you deny established fact.
it simply contests the notion that any defining group characteristics exist which are universally transferable to individuals.
Wrong again. The prevailing model denies that any genetic characteristics which affect mental ability have any difference in distribution among the groups called "races", which is why we have affirmative action, bans on pre-employment IQ tests because of "disparate impact", and other measures which impose heavy penalties for having anything less than equal representation in hiring, etc.
It specifically contests the notion that evolution has created genetically homogenous groups called "races", which we can accurately characterize based on some notion of genetic or racial "purity" that tells us how individuals will act or be.
How many strawmen can you squeeze into one sentence?
- Nobody said races are homogeneous. Hell, cousins differ significantly.
- "Racial purity" runs up against examples like Tiger Woods.
- Nobody said we can accurately characterize any individual's traits without measuring them. We can, however, accurately predict that Mexicans will average much shorter than the English, and Askhenazim will average smarter than both.
We can also accurately predict that certain ethnic groups will be more prone to various diseases... or violence. And that's what you cannot admit, because it brings down your entire house of cards.
"You mean, like "blank slate theory"? Sorry, you deny established fact."
Blank slate theory is ancient history. Current liberals don't subscribe to that idea. You might actually find out what current liberals think, rather than argue against liberals from bygone eras.
"Wrong again. The prevailing model denies that any genetic characteristics which affect mental ability have any difference in distribution among the groups called "races", which is why we have affirmative action, bans on pre-employment IQ tests because of "disparate impact", and other measures which impose heavy penalties for having anything less than equal representation in hiring, etc."
What "prevailing model" are you talking about? Perhaps you could give some references? Affirmative action is not based on genetic equivalence, but on the history of discrimination that requires some corrective in the realm of opportunity. Opportunities were denied African Americans, so the liberal solution has been to compensate by giving extra opportunities to them. Liberals are essentially agnostic about the distribution of intelligence, and suggest that it's too complicated an equation to make simplistic assumptions about. What is clear is that opportunities have been denied to certain minorities, and that is a social problem and not a genetic one. Belief in the genetic intellectual inferiority of some minorities persists in spite of a lack of evidence that any difference in achievement is actually due to genetics. Signficiant evidence points in the other direction.
"Nobody said races are homogeneous."
Nobody? Are you sure you don't want to qualify that statement? I can think of quite a few exceptions.
"Hell, cousins differ significantly."
Exactly. Individuals can't be characterized by the group(s) they may belong to.
""Racial purity" runs up against examples like Tiger Woods."
Exactly. There are no genuine "races". Tiger Woods is not the exception, he is the norm. People have been migrating and interbreeding since the dawn of humanity. The differences between individuals within any group vastly exceed the differences between groups.
"Nobody said we can accurately characterize any individual's traits without measuring them."
Not so. It has been demonstrated that people will automatically discount the abilities of black people based purely on the knowledge of their race, and elevate the abilities of white people, even when independent tests indicate equal ability. The point is that people do think, inaccurately, that they can evaluate people's abilities based on race. This is called "soft racism". Such people will deny being racist, but their judgments show otherwise.
"We can, however, accurately predict that Mexicans will average much shorter than the English, and Askhenazim will average smarter than both."
Height is an easy metric to measure. Intelligence isn't. Ashkenazim are better on average at certain kinds of mental skills, such as abstract computation, and worse at others. There are trade-offs in everything. But the difference between Ashkenazis even in these skills is greater than the difference between their group average and the group average of Mexicans and English. Thus, it's essentially a meaningless statement when it comes to telling us whether any particular Ashkenazi is "smarter" than any particular Mexican or Englishman. A liberal doesn't assume that Mexicans are stupider than Askenazis, because a liberal looks at "Mexicans" as a collection of individuals, rather than as a single mass grouping, and he knows that there will be many Mexicans who are smarter than many Askenazis, even at computational skills.
"We can also accurately predict that certain ethnic groups will be more prone to various diseases... or violence. And that's what you cannot admit, because it brings down your entire house of cards."
If you could demonstrate a group propensity towards violence, scientifically, based on genetics, I would certainly agree with you. But you cannot. You simply assume that if the science were done, it would affirm your own prejudices. Which is exactly how science is NOT done. You conflate very simple genetic matters, such as being prone towards certain genetic diseases, with a propensity towards violence, which is not governed by any single gene or set of genes, but is an extremely complex interaction between all kinds of genes and their expressions, and the complexities of environment. If you are trying to eliminate the environemental and social factors from the equation, you run up against the problem that even genetic expression is intimately tied to actual environmental and social conditions. Human beings are not simple creatures, and a huge part of our genetics is shaped by our social adaptations, which feed back into our genetic selection. Violence is not merely programmed into us, it is programmed by a contingent set of factors that include far more than mere genetics. But if you want to set up camps for certain ethnic groups based on your ideas, I welcome you to give it a try.
I agree with E-P that you've set up a straw man. What do you mean when you say "universally transferable to individuals"?
The reality is that there are average differences between the races in a large number of alleles for many different significant functional purposes. If you would read the Plos Biology and Plos Genetics research papers that I linked to in my post you'll see a small subset of the differences are already known. More are getting discovered all the time due to the rapidly declining cost of DNA sequencing and DNA testing. Those differences in allele frequency include genes that code for cognitive function. These are signs of localized selective pressure. There aren't just differences between the races but also between different regions within each race.
Variations of Prion Protein gene influence cognitive ability. At the same time variations of Prion Protein gene vary in frequency geographically. This one gene upsets the assertions of the Left about the unimportance of natural selection in determining human nature.
"I agree with E-P that you've set up a straw man. What do you mean when you say "universally transferable to individuals"?"
Not a straw man, but I am generalizing about liberal views that criticize global racial notions such as "black people are stupid". That's certainly not a straw man, it's unfortunately been a very common belief. Liberals are critical of such beleifs, and the thinking that goes into them. Genetics has unfortunately been used by people to support such ideas. I think liberals react to such usages unfavorably.
What I mean by the phrase you quoted is very simple: that a genetic statistical propensity for a given trait in some population does not mean that most, or even many, individuals in that group possess that trait. Moreover, most human traits are not specific genetic traits. Intelligence, unlike say hair color, is not a single genetic trait, but is an extremely complex collection of genes that interact in many ways and get expressed in even more complex ways. It is so complex that we do not have hardly a clue as to how intelligence is produced by our genes. That being the case, it's impossible to look at an individual's genes, and say how intelligent they might be, or what their IQ score should be.
"The reality is that there are average differences between the races in a large number of alleles for many different significant functional purposes."
Yes, there are average differences in certain measurable performance factors. Linking those differences to genetic differences is much more difficult than you might think, especially in that there have already been large changes in the performance of groups such as American blacks within the last century alone, during which time one could not expect to see significan evolutionary changes. Simply assuming that a varying group performance average is due to genetics rather than other factors is assuming the very principle we are trying to prove or disprove.
"If you would read the Plos Biology and Plos Genetics research papers that I linked to in my post you'll see a small subset of the differences are already known. More are getting discovered all the time due to the rapidly declining cost of DNA sequencing and DNA testing. Those differences in allele frequency include genes that code for cognitive function. These are signs of localized selective pressure. There aren't just differences between the races but also between different regions within each race."
I haven't had time to read your links, but I've seen things like this before, and it's all very interesting. But as you say, it doesn't amount to more than a tiny subset of genetic differences, and it doesn't tell us how these genes get expressed and contribute to specific abilties in the overall picture of a human being. Yes, further research will tell us many things, and probably some day resolve these issues. Until they do, we can't presume to know what the results will be. The liberal "position" on this is that we should not presume some sort of major or intractable genetic difference in complex traits like intelligence or propensity for violence until serious evidence for such things comes to the fore, and it certainly has not thus far, and we certainly should not base social policy on the presumption of such genetic differences.
"Variations of Prion Protein gene influence cognitive ability. At the same time variations of Prion Protein gene vary in frequency geographically. This one gene upsets the assertions of the Left about the unimportance of natural selection in determining human nature."
Yes, but there are all kinds of genes which influence cognitive ability, and they too are geographically variable. How are we to know which combinations of these genes are "best"? Well, we can't, certainly not now or in the foreseeable future. We can only judge any individual's cognitive ability by their actual cognitive performance, regardless of what their genetics might suggest. We have witnessed a collossal amount of prejudice in recent centuries based on the notion that people from certain geographic and genetic backgrounds are innately inferior in intelligence, and this has resulted in massive injustice that hardly needs to be repeated here. This is not a "straw man", but the basic facts of history. Liberals have not forgotten that, and I think that is to their credit.
As for what we will know in the foreseeable future: Within 10 years we will know most of the alleles that contribute to intelligence and various personality factors and we will know the geographical distribution of those alleles.
The rapidly declining cost of DNA sequencing and DNA testing has created an ever increasing flood of genetic data. We are soon going to know these answers that have seen unreachable for so long. The assertions by political believers about human nature are going to get demolished by real facts based on real science. If you follow the research you can already see the outlines of what is coming.
As for what we already know before looking at the DNA sequencing info: We know the results of twins studies, intra-racial adoption studies, trans-racial adoption studies, and other similar work. For example, the result of adoption of Korean kids by white Americans does not support the idea that socio-economic status (SES) of parents helps give a big leg up for kids. (and more on it here). Yet the power of SES is a basic element of liberal faith to explain inequality.
I don't doubt that scientific discoveries in the coming years will upset a number of liberal ideas about human nature and politics. But I also have no doubt that these same discoveries will upset a number of conservative, religious, and every other kind of idea. I also don't doubt that various people and political movements will resist the science behind these ideas, and I doubt that the scientific findings will be conclusive for a fairly long time. It's one thing to find all the alleles, it's another thing to find out precisely what they do, how they function, how they interact, and how they are expressed.
The issue, however, is what liberal ideas that have already been disproven that liberals won't let go of. I'm aware of some of the studies you point to, and the results are still inconclusive. Socio-economic status alone isn't determinant, but it is an important factor. Nor do liberals suggest that the ONLY factor in inequality in our country is socio-economic status. The liberal view is far more complex than you give it credit for. Of course, since socio-economic status is the general measure of inequality, it's hard to suggest that it has nothing to do with it.
I also expect many belief systems will get their oxes gored by discoveries about human nature. Tons of opinions will get overrun.
Liberals hanging onto false beliefs in the face of evidence: If I'm to believe Judith Rich Harris' summary of the evidence the influence of parental behavior and parental SES is pretty small. Peers are more influential than parents. Also, environmental noise (random events, Brownian motion, etc) are more important. Genes are much more important. The adoption studies show that. The twins studies do too.
The liberal view is complex. But it is complex like the models that tried to show the Earth had everything else revolving around it.
FYI- I think some of the religion-science sub-debate MIGHT be a little easier if people were a little more precise with their terms. Also I sense a skewed blog readership to either the atheism or Christian direction... Or did I miss any comments from Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, Baha’I, Sufis, Sikhs, Jains, etc… Would their comments MIGHT make a difference?
Anyway, would it be fare to say that OFTEN (but not always) the term ‘God’ is used synonymously for religious people with the term ‘Faith’ and even the names of their religion (Christianity, etc… )?
Anyway, this imprecision is a bit of a problem since it makes a difference which terms one uses. For while I have no knowledge of papers ‘proving’ the existence of god., and I certainly know of numerous instances where science has ‘debunked’ specific teachings or lore of specific religions, I also know that science has overwhelming evidence supporting the idea of ‘faith’ or ‘trust’ (albeit supporting evidence is not the same as ‘proof’). For not only is there overwhelming evidence supporting faith in human primates (for instance seeing frontal lobe ‘bright spots’ on PET scans of the brain when test subjects are asked to think about issues of ‘faith’), there is evidence for ‘faith’ in most animal species (including non-mammalian species). Even social Darwinists strongly support the idea on economic-religious grounds (I produced a PowerPoint at the following link: http://lookingthruadifferentlens.blogspot.com/2008/01/i-be-giving-following-talk-to-business.html if you are interested. You will need to substitue the word 'faith' for where I have used the word 'trust' to see my point.)
And Randall, have you also considered that in the same way evolution is a problem for many (and, I agree, especially liberals), have you ever considered how much the conservation of energy keeps them awake at night?
Thai, I do not understand your reference to the conservation of energy. Are you saying they think about it or that they don't think about it?
"I see the Left's Blank Slate as an even worse model for understand human nature than the fundamentalist Christian Original Sin view of human nature."
Ha, that's rich.
Invisible cloud being vs. "we're not sure." You're actually saying that Adam and Eve is a BETTER idea than a blank slate? Are you serious? Aren't you embarrassed?
I can see why you might want to feel comforted rather than unsure. Most people who are afraid of the world see it that way.
Obviously the Left only pretends the "we're not sure." as a rhetorical device. Their policy arguments are all based on the Blank Slate. They are quite sure about that when it comes to policy.
The recognition of the reality of (average) racial differences in mental or other abilities does not necessarily imply any specific social policy, or more generally, any particular organization of society. To the extent that the Left cedes all discussion of scientific discoveries about our species to the Right, the Left will be increasingly forced to withdraw to obscurantist positions. The Left has shied from Darwinism since the beginning of the 20th Century, of course without attacking it by name as the religious/reactionary forces have done since the 19th century. It was not always this way. Marx was a great admirer of Darwin, and in fact wanted to dedicate his masterpiece Capital to Darwin, an honor which Darwin declined. Marx of course recognized that there were differences in ability between individuals, (and it is likely that he believed, as Darwin did, that there were racial differences as well, although this is a subject about which he said little since it was not directly relevant to his central concerns). The fundamental question Marx posed is: What is the best organization of society? His answer: socialism, or "From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs." This famous phrase recognizes that not all individuals are equal; some are more talented or productive, some less so; Marx also recognized that, like abilities, needs also vary individually. Believe it or not, Hernstein and Murray pose the same fundamental question about what would be the best organization of society, given what humanity is, when they examine the way in which socioeconomic and technological change in recent decades has made it increasingly difficult for American (capitalist) society to provide employment to--and thereby take advantage of the potential contributions--of the left half of the bell curve. Even from their rightist perspective, they clearly see the growing problem of unemployability of half the United States' population AS A PROBLEM, although their suggested solutions are pretty lame in the face of the problem.