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Friday, July 28, 2006

Thinkquotes of the day: Darwinism, "evolution," and the human being

Here’s a pair to consider side-by-side:

Darwinian evolutionist Ernst Mayr on a "scientific" approach to ethics (based only on personal or group survival):
"... Darwin provided a scientific foundation for ethics. The question is frequently raised-and usually rebuffed-as to whether evolution adequately explains healthy human ethics. Many wonder how, if selection rewards the individual only for behavior that enhances his own survival and reproductive success, such pure selfishness can lead to any sound ethics. The widespread thesis of social Darwinism, promoted at the end of the 19th century by Spencer, was that evolutionary explanations were at odds with the development of ethics We now know, however, that in a social species not only the individual must be considered-an entire social group can be the target of selection. Darwin applied this reasoning to the human species in 1871 in The Descent of Man. The survival and prosperity of a social group depends to a large extent on the harmonious cooperation of the members of the group, and this behavior must be based on altruism. Such altruism, by furthering the survival and prosperity of the group, also indirectly benefits the fitness of the group's individuals. The result amounts to selection favoring altruistic behavior. Kin selection and reciprocal helpfulness in particular will be greatly favored in a social group. Such selection for altruism has been demonstrated in recent years to be widespread among many other social animals. One can then perhaps encapsulate the relation between ethics and evolution by saying that a propensity for altruism and harmonious cooperation in social groups is favored by natural selection. The old thesis of social Darwinism-strict selfishness-was based on an incomplete understanding of animals, particularly social species." (Ernst Mayr, "Darwin's Influence on Modern Thought," Scientific American , Vol. 283, No. 1, pp.67-71, July 2000,
pp.70-71)

and now here's Billy Graham on "evolution":
I don't think that there's any conflict at all between science today and the Scriptures. I think that we have misinterpreted the Scriptures many times and we've tried to make the Scriptures say things they weren't meant to say, I think that we have made a mistake by thinking the Bible is a scientific book. The Bible is not a book of science. The Bible is a book of Redemption, and of course I accept the Creation story. I believe that God did create the universe. I believe that God created man, and whether it came by an evolutionary process and at a certain point He took this person or being and made him a living soul or not, does not change the fact that God did create man. ... whichever way God did it makes no difference as to what man is and man's relationship to God." Billy Graham, in D. Frost D. And F. Bauer, Billy Graham: Personal Thoughts of a Public Man, Chariot Victor Publishing: 1999, pp.72-74).

I have immense respect for Billy Graham as the premier (and scandal-free) Western evangelist of the twentieth century. But I think that - like so many of his contemporaries - he failed to appreciate that the point of Darwinism is to situate humans as mere animals and to situate human culture, including religious revelation, as the outcome of animal drives - as is abundantly evident in the Mayr quote above. The Darwinists make no secret of it. And Darwinism is "evolution" as understood by the science academies that promote it and demand that it be taught in school systems funded by the taxes collected from Graham supporters.

I am glad to see that, increasingly, religious leaders, such as the current Pope, are showing signs that they do understand this fact and are prepared to address it in a meaningful way. This is not a Catholic-versus-Protestant thing, by the way. I think that John Paul II did not realize that his 1996 statement on evolution would be selectively quoted to imply that he endorsed Darwinism. Christians would be better off if he had realized that, and had been as unmistakable as Benedict XVI has been in saying "no" to Darwinism.

(Note: I did not blog yesterday because my browser went on an all-expenses-paid vacation, and I was working to pay its anticipated lavish expenses.)
If you like this blog, check out my book on the intelligent design controversy, By Design or by Chance?. You can read excerpts as well.

Are you looking for one of the following stories?

A summary of tech guru George Gilder's arguments for ID and against Darwinism

A critical look at why March of the Penguins was thought to be an ID film.

A summary of recent opinion columns on the ID controversy

A summary of recent polls of US public opinion on the ID controversy

A summary of the Catholic Church's entry into the controversy, essentially on the side of ID.

O'Leary's intro to non-Darwinian agnostic philosopher David Stove's critique

An ID Timeline: The ID folk seem always to win when they lose.

O’Leary’s comments on Francis Beckwith, a Dembski associate, being denied tenure at Baylor.

Why origin of life is such a difficult problem.
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