On the emperor’s 200th birthday, he is still wearing no clothes

(Update, November 29, 2011: The linked thread at Secular Right no longer exists. Other threads at that site from that period are still online, but not the one in which I posted my comments about Darwinism.)

In honor the Charles Darwin bicentennial, here are several comments posted by me last night at Secular Right in which I make some points in the Darwinism debate which I don’t think I’ve made before, or at least not in such direct fashion. Though the whole world is celebrating the triumph of the Darwinian theory of evolution, the truth of the matter, which is accessible to anyone who actually listens to what the Darwinians themselves say and who consistently applies the premises and first principles of Darwinism, not only to the problems of evolution, but to Darwinism itself, is that Darwinism is the greatest intellectual fraud in history.

I realize my comment sounds outrageously arrogant. But when the Darwinians themselves repeatedly admit that the Darwinian theory is not proved, when the New York Times in a special section on Darwin this week blandly notes that evolutionary scientists are still looking for the explanation of how species evolved, when the eminent biologist E.O. Wilson states (see below) that Darwinism has not explained how human consciousness evolved, and then the Darwinian establishment and society in general ignore these spectacular admissions of failure and go on declaring that Darwinism is the irrefutable truth, a “virtual law of nature,” as Wilson himself puts it, then we are witnessing doublethink on a global scale, and the phrase, “the greatest intellectual fraud in history,” is entirely appropriate.

Below I’ve copied four comments of mine at Secular Right. In the first comment I argue that Darwinians have no right to be hostile toward theists, since according to Darwinism religious belief is obviously a product of evolution.

In the second comment I argue that if Darwinism is true, then Darwinians are determined by their genes to believe in Darwinism. Also, if Darwinism is true, then there can be no intentional consciousness or freedom of choice, and therefore if the Darwinians observe those things within their own minds, then Darwinism is untrue and they must reject it.

Commenter Daniel Dare replies that genes do not make Darwinians believe in Darwinism, that many human attitudes are determined by environment, not genes. In my third comment I reply that the environment, meaning society, is itself a product of human genes which are all the result of past random mutations and natural selection and which determine us to be a certain way, and therefore there is no point in the process of biological or social evolution where human freedom, including the intellectual freedom to believe in a scientific truth because it is true, rather than because we are driven to believe in it by past genetic mutations and natural selection, can appear.

I also quote E.O. Wilson who in 2006 wrote that evolutionary science still has no answer to how the human mind evolved. I note that if Darwinian evolution cannot explain the supreme evolutionary question, the existence of human consciousness, then the Darwinian theory is not established as true and the Darwinians have no right to claim that it is. (I would add here that if the human mind is not the product of random genetic mutations and natural selection, then it is the product of some non-material, designing intelligence. If a non-material, designing intelligence exists, then Darwinism is false, since Darwinism assumes and is incompatible with the existence of any non-material intelligence driving evolution.)

Finally, in my fourth comment, I dispense with altruistic genes as an explanation for “higher” human behavior.

First comment by LA:


Now to a different subject.

Why the ugly, brutish hostility against theists that has been expressed over and over in this thread? I ask this question not on the basis of objective morality, since as Darwinians and atheists you don’t believe in any objective morality. I ask the question purely in terms of the Darwinian theory itself.

Darwinians say that everything about man and other living things has come into being exclusively through random genetic accidents and the natural selection of those genetic accidents that helped the possessor have more offspring. (You can throw in sexual selection if you like, but, as I’ve shown, sexual selection boils down to random genetic accidents and natural selection.)

Now according to Darwinism or evolutionary biology, human beings are totally determined by previously selected genetic accidents. They are automata controlled by their heredity. All of their features, qualities, capabilities exist because they helped their ancestors survive and reproduce.

Further, all human cultures that we know of through all of history, except for the secular parts of the modern West, have believed in some kind of deity or deities. Since religious belief is ubiquitous in humanity, the conclusion follows that religious belief has been overwhelmingly advantageous to its possessors. Also, the individuals who have religious belief did not choose to have that belief, they inherited it from their ancestors in whom that religious belief helped them have more offspring than the people who didn’t have that religious belief.

Therefore, since all human things—including the near total ubiquity of religious belief—are determined by Darwinian evolution, why do you atheists express such hatred and contempt toward people who have religious belief? From a Darwinian perspective, such contempt, bigotry, or negative judgment is the equivalent of condemning a lion because it chases a gazelle, or condemning a squirrel because it eats acorns, or despising an African tree frog because it has a bizarre method of reproduction. This hatred for believers makes no sense at all. It contradicts your entire world view.

You atheist Darwinians who hate religious believers are total hypocrites. To stop being hypocrites, you must do one of two things: (1) accept religious belief as the natural product of evolution and stop hating religious believers; or (2) give up Darwinian evolution with its material determinism and admit that man is a being who can choose his beliefs and is thus responsible for them, and therefore can be blamed for having wrong beliefs. But you can’t have it both ways. You can’t be an atheist materialist Darwinist and condemn people for beliefs that Darwinian evolution has planted in them.

Second comment by LA:

In my previous comment I wrote:

“I’ve also argued that if Darwinism were true, there could not be any objective good or any being with intentional consciousness and a love of the moral good.

“I believe such arguments are valid, but they are not my main approach to the question of the truth of Darwinism, because to be convinced by them, a person would already have to believe that God exists and that objective morality exists. But many people don’t believe in those things. So I don’t make them the basis of my argument.”

I want to add something to that. Many people may not believe in God or objective morality. But virtually all people believe in their own ability to make choices, to have intentions. If you believe that you can make choices,—that you can choose how you spend your time, choose what kind of work you do, choose where you live, choose the people you want to be with—then you believe that you are possessed of freedom.

Darwinism says that everything about living things including man is determined by genes that were previously naturally selected in one’s ancestors. If a male salamander deposits his sperm packet at the bottom of a pond, it’s because his genes make him do it. If a male elephant fights with other male elephants while the female elephants form a cooperate social group with each other, it’s because their genes make them do it. If a female peacock is attracted to a male peacock with a certain color feather in his tail, it’s because her genes make her do it. None of these creatures have any choice in what they do. And, according to Darwinism or evolutionary biology, the same applies to humans. If you believe in Darwinism, it’s because your genes make you believe in Darwinism. If you commit mass murder, it’s because your genes make you do it.

Now, if you don’t think the above is true, if you think that you have the freedom to make choices not determined by your genes, then you must reject Darwinism. If you have choice, then Darwinism is false.

And please don’t play games and say that choice doesn’t really exist, but that evolution plants in you the illusion that you have choice.

Don’t be wimps. Emulate the scientific hard-headedness you profess to admire. If you observe within your own consciousness the process of intentional choice, then Darwinism is false and you must renounce it. And if Darwinism is false, then some kind of non-material intelligence that organizes living things and guides evolution is true.

And speaking of evolution, it looks as though my own argument against Darwinism is evolving.

Third comment by LA:

I wrote:

“If you believe in Darwinism, it’s because your genes make you believe in Darwinism. If you commit mass murder, it’s because your genes make you do it.”

To which Daniel Dare replied:

“Nonsense. The genes at best control around typically 60% of human behaviour. Everything else is environment and in many cases it is all environment.

“I believe in Darwinism like all scientific theories because it agrees with all the evidence. Genes have nothing to do with it and if you think so then you are more clueless than I thought.”

Genes have NOTHING TO DO with whether a person believes in Darwinism or not? Then according to Mr. Dare, genes have nothing to do with any human beliefs, ideas, value systems. Or is Mr. Dare saying that there is a radical discontinuity in human “evolution,” that before a certain point in history, people were determined by their genes to have absurd, medieval, superstitious notions, but that after that point, they began to see objective truth, and, further, that their new disposition to be interested in objective truth and their ability to understand objective truth had nothing to do with their genes???

Talking about being clueless.

“…the genes at best control around typically 60% of human behaviour. Everything else is environment and in many cases it is all environment.”

But what environment are we talking about, when we talk about the environment that makes people believe in Darwinism? Obviously we’re talking about the social environment. What brought that social environment into existence? Human beings, who, according to Darwinism, have been controlled through all previous human and pre-human history by their genes. So the social environment is itself a deterministic expression of genes that propelled humans to create a certain type of environment. And those genes were themselves the result of past random mutations that were selected solely because they helped their possessors have more offspring. How do we get from a creature shaped solely by the traits that help its ancestors reproduce more than other creatures, to a sophisticated environment that makes people be interested in abstract scientific questions such as human evolution? There’s no way you can get from there to here. Darwinism can only explain the existence of people who believe in Darwinism as being the result of genes (plus perhaps a gene-determined social environment) that determine people to believe in Darwinism. There is simply no point in the Darwinian process where the intellectual freedom to see and believe a truth BECAUSE IT IS TRUE can come into existence. Genes determine what people are; and social environments created by these same gene-determined humans further determine what people are. There is no point in the process where the intellectual freedom to reject an untruth BECAUSE IT IS UNTRUE and to embrace a truth BECAUSE IT IS TRUE can enter the picture. But since we know that human beings DO have the ability and freedom to embrace truth for its own sake, Darwinism cannot explain the human intellect.

Indeed, E.O. Wilson, the eminent biologist, Darwinian thinker, and founder of sociobiology, agrees with me. In 2006 he wrote in USA Today:

“Although as many as half of Americans choose not to believe it, evolution, including the origin of species, is an undeniable fact. Furthermore, the evidence supporting the principle of natural selection has improved year by year, and it is accepted with virtual unanimity by the biologists who have put it to the test.

“The great question remaining is whether the human mind originated the same way. Many scientists, I among them, believe it did so evolve. Nevertheless, how all of the complex operations of the brain fit together to generate consciousness remains one of the major unsolved problems of science.”

So, Wilson BELIEVES that the human mind originated by random mutation and natural selection. But he DOESN’T KNOW THIS. It hasn’t been demonstrated. Since the Darwinian evolution of the thing that is most characteristic of man, the human mind, has not been demonstrated by science and indeed is a “major unsolved problem,” why should Darwinists be so arrogant as to say that Darwinism is an undeniable fact and that anyone who doubts Darwinism is a primitive idiot?

[The Wilson article has also been discussed at VFR, in the April 2008 thread, “More mysteries of evolution.”]

Now to another subject. Daniel Dare writes:

“What irritates is when you preachy people invade our fun space with your obsessions and try to force us to deal with stuff we have no interest in, and you won’t go away and play in your own playground. You challenge us with your medieval logic and your iron age superstitions and demand we have to deal with it. Well a few of us are irritated enough to try. Ego I suppose.”

My participation here didn’t start with any intention or action on my part to invade your space or start preaching an unwanted message. The reason I posted was simply to reply to someone who instead of acknowledging that I have reasons for having the views I have, said that I have some “emotional barrier,” i.e., an irrational force, a mental defect, that compels me to believe the things I believe. That’s what started this whole discussion rolling as far as my participation in it was concerned. It was not about a substantive discussion about the truth of Darwinism or atheism; it was about the crude lack of respect that people in this thread display toward those who have different views. Then the discussion, as often happens with discussions, evolved.

And look where we are now. Daniel Dare expresses the wish that I go away, even as he repeats exactly the same kind of gratuitous insult of my reasoning and intelligence that brought me into this discussion in the first place. Mr. Dare is unable or unwilling to say, in a civil manner, “Look, Mr. Auster, your views don’t really fit here, this website is not about Darwinism.” No, he has to insult me and others and say we’re incapable of rational thought. Which naturally triggers a further response from our side. If Dare sincerely wanted us to go away, he wouldn’t insult us and provoke further discussion.

Finally, I don’t see why a discussion about the truth or falsity of Darwinism is out of place here. This thread began with criticism of Ann Coulter for opposing Darwinism. So what is the justification for participants’ protest against me, Kristor and Roebuck discussing the truth or falsity of Darwinism?

Fourth comment by LA:

I should have added that altruistic genes are no answer to the question I posed about how do we get from creatures totally determined by maximum production of offspring to human beings who care about truth for its own sake. All that happens with altruistic selection is that my gene for altruism gets selected because my close relative who has the same gene sacrificed himself for my sake. But that is really no different from ordinary, selfish selection: a gene gets selected because it helps in survival. The altruistic behavior that gets passed down to descendants has nothing to do with choice, morality, intention; the individuals who engage in that altruistic behavior do so, not because their reason tells them of the goodness of altruism, but because they are determined by their genes to engage in that behavior.

The upshot is that “altruistic” selection doesn’t get us any closer to the human impartial interest in truth for its own sake than does ordinary, “selfish” selection. Darwinism has not only failed thus far to explain the human intellect, as E.O. Wilson himself has admitted. By its very logic, it cannot explain the human intellect.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at February 12, 2009 11:26 AM | Send

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