Analysis: Creation or Evolution -- Society's Dramatic Shift

PZ Meyers challenged atheist bloggers to request the Good News Magazine booklet on evolution, and to write up an entry about ... what we learned? Or, an entry tearing into little pieces -- something like one of the two. Anyway, after we got the booklet, we were supposed to go through it.

I got the booklet on Friday, and it's long enough to warrant several entries. This entry is about the first chapter called: Society's Dramatic Shift. You can read the text for this section here.

If I want any hope of finishing, I have to pick and choose the pieces I'll go after.

Section: Human reproduction argues against evolution

"If human beings are the pinnacle of the evolutionary process, how is it that we have the disadvantage of requiring a member of the opposite sex to reproduce, when lower forms of life—such as bacteria, viruses and protozoa—are sexless and far more prolific? If they can reproduce by far simpler methods, why can't we? If evolution is true, what went wrong?"

Let's start with the hypothetical statement at the beginning: "If human beings are the pinnacle of the evolutionary process..."  You mean how evolution has been aiming for something that is the highest peak of awesome since the beginning of time -- and that peak is humanity -- right? It's a nice thought, perhaps, but it's not based off of the science of evolution. Now, I'm going to try and be careful, because I do not consider myself an expert on evolution. That being said, I think that I have a fair grasp of the basics (and gladly take correction if I make a misstep).

So, the condition statement is false -- let's analyze the consequent just for fun anyway. "... how is it that we have the disadvantage of requiring a member of the opposite sex to reproduce, when lower forms of life—such as bacteria, viruses and protozoa—are sexless and far more prolific?"

Good question. I recently read a book that addressed this topic specifically: The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature by Matt Ridley. I recommend the book if you are interested in the topic. I'd mention that I think Ridley does a fair job of being careful to separate the parts of the book that are well established from the more speculative parts. Another book that I recommend looks at human sexuality through an interesting conflict: Sperm Wars: Infidelity, Sexual Conflict, and Other Bedroom Battles by Robin Baker. In any case, the question of why sex instead of sexless is an interesting one, and manifestly not necsessarily a disadvantage in general.

"Regrettably, such obvious flaws in the theory are too often overlooked."

The book moves from asking questions, to assuming the questions are unanswerable and flaws of the theory of evolution. The questions are not asked because the authors are curious and want to know whether they have been answered (they have); they are being asked to score rhetorical points without a care to the truth of the matter.

Section: A worldview with far-reaching implications

Now, the implications of a worldview have nothing to do with the factual claims being made by or within a worldview. The fact of the matter is a separate issue from the consequences of those facts.

"Now, almost a century and a half after the publication of Darwin's Origin of Species, we can see where his thinking has led. In Europe in particular, belief in a personal God has plummeted."

Post hoc ergo propter hoc. Although I'll give it to them, having a plausible naturalistic answer to the questions that previously had "god did it" as the most easily conceivable answer probably does play a role.

"In the United States, court decisions have interpreted constitutional guarantees of freedom of religion as freedom from religion—effectively banning public expression of religious beliefs and denying the country's rich religious heritage."

When I see statements like these in published works, I can't decide if the writer is actively being deceptive, or if he is just a moron. It is a question for the ages.

Has the government shut down a church's signs -- effectively banning any church's public expression of religious beliefs?

I would argue that the government should not be in the business of making theological decrees.

When the government started printing paper money with the words: In God We Trust on them for the first time in 1957, was the government acting within its rights to make a proclamation about God?

This question can go one of two ways: yes or no.

I would answer, no, the government was acting inappropriately by adding this proclamation.

If you would answer yes, then, they must not have a problem with the government changing the text in the future at some point to say, "God is Imaginary".  A statement that I also think would be inappropriate to add to the currency. I've had interesting conversations where a person actually starts to see how, with every transaction, the US government taking the time to remind both parties that God is not real is odd, presumptive and inappropriate.  Often, the person has only considered just removing the words "In God We Trust" -- and the government being neutral toward theological claims is interpreted as being pro-atheistic.

Truly pro-atheism slogans on money ought to make everyone as uncomfortable as pro-theism slogans on money.

"Meanwhile, the world languishes in the sorrow and suffering that results from rejecting absolute moral standards."

Sigh. So many ways to respond to this one ... how about I choose this way:

Absolute moral standards -- all right, I'll bite.

There are moral absolutes, like: genocide is wrong. I'm not some 'moral relativist'. On this basis, I judge God to be immoral: 1 Sam. 15:2-3. If you are a Christian, do you condemn God as ordering immoral acts, or are you a 'moral relativist' that thinks that genocide is only sometimes wrong?

"What you believe does matter."

I couldn't agree more.

Supernatural faith-based religions create undue fears and worries in the minds of children and adults about terrors that don’t exist. Religion redirects time, money, resources and people wanting to do good into useless endeavors. Faith promotes magical and superstitious thinking. It gives respect and credence to religious leaders and religious ideas for no good reason other than blind faith – and often with terrible results.

It matters what you believe?

Yes, it is one of the main reasons why I engage in religious debate.

I'll post about the later chapters in the coming weeks.

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