Darwin’s Horrid Doubt

Charles Darwin argued that the species (humans among them) arose by a process of natural selection. Under this argument, an organism is a machine. It is run by genes which “desire” to reproduce themselves in the next generation. (No, genes dont really have hopes and dreams, they dont desire things. But they act as though they do. Consider Dawkins’ work. He backs this up a lot.) 

It follows (as Darwin admitted) that our lives, experiences, and subsequent actions are simply actions that aim to reproduce our genetic code. The central nervous system, advanced though it is, therefore is nothing more than a machine designed to take stimuli and order them in such a way as to reproduce our genes. 

With me, the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or are at all trustworthy. Would anyone trust the convictions of a monkey’s mind, if there are any such convictions? (Charles Darwin, Life and Letters, vol 1 written in 1881.  Interestingly this was the year before Nietzche declared that God was dead.)

This was Darwin’s horrid doubt. Under the naturalistic worldview (Darwin’s worldview), there is no reason to believe that the purpose of our CNS is to tell us accurately what is going on in the world around us, for their is no reason for us to know anything about our world. The purpose is to manipulate us into reproducing and spreading our genetic codes.  

Patricia Churchland (an influential modern philosopher who works at the University of California at San Diego) asks what the nervous system is for. She says it enables us to succeed in the four “F”s: Feeding, fighting, flighting and reproducing (sorry.). It is to get the body parts where they should be in order that the organism may survive. Evolution guarantees – if it is successful in that organism, if that organism is naturally selected – appropriate behavior, but not true beliefs. It just makes behavior appropriate for survival.

Darwin therefore doubted that our CNS could give us a reliable picture of the world around us. There is no reason for it to do so. All it does is take stimuli and spit out responses that help us survive and reproduce.

Consider this idea with cows or fish or dogs first, and not with people.

Then consider that we humans arose the exact same way. There is no reason to believe that our reasoning or perception are reliable are any more reliable than a monkey’s.

Naturalistically, then, there is a problem with epistemology. There is no reason to believe that we can actually know anything for sure. (It follows, somewhat ironically, that there is therefore no reason to believe that we can know that natural selection, evolution, etc are true.)

This is what Alvin Plantinga calls an evolutionary argument against evolution. It is based on Darwins very own “horrid doubt” (his words).  I care little however for the way it is an argument against evolution. That is merely a small, somewhat humorous, sidenote. The real concern here is what it says about naturalistic epistemology.  But that hardly has the same ring as “an evolutionary argument against evolution.”

The Christian Worldview breaks with Darwin. It holds that we are created by God in his image, and that he gave us the ability to think and reason and perceive the world around us so that we could accurately perceive Himself and worship Him. We cannot worship what we cannot know, so God has given us a way to know.

The Battle At Kruger: These Water Buffalo Are NOT Darwinists

Here is a YouTube video I saw recently with a friend. Its pretty amazing. It isn’t your typical “When Animals Attack” video. Check it out (and turn the sound down if you don’t want the colorful commentary.)

Some Notes:

Richard Dawkins writes about the “selfish gene” – his words, not mine. He makes a great argument. He’s a very intelligent man. And the Selfish Gene is a comment on natural selection. Dawkins argues, and the majority of evolutionary biologists today concur, that natural selection selects, not for a population or species or individual organism, but for a gene. Its almost as if the gene itself is selfish and wants to reproduce itself in the next generation.

If the gene is for a desirable trait – a beneficial protein – that increases the chances of reproduction for the organism that carries it, then that gene will be naturally selected for.  Over time, that gene will persist in the population.  That gene may increases an organism’s survival rate by making it run faster or increase its reproductive rate by making it more attractive to a mate or increase its ability to thrive in its environment by allowing it to digest a different food source.  But if the gene is a negative factor, then it will be lost.  Now its not the gene itself that is lost, but the population that carries it.  

For example if there are two populations of an organism, and one has a gene that allows it to blend in with its surroundings while the other has a gene that makes it stand out, the theory goes that the one that blends in will reproduce more young.  It will thrive meanwhile the other population will die out.  Thus it is the gene that is reproduced and essentially stays alive throughout many generations.

This mechanism is commonly referred to as the survival of the fittest.  A good gene would allow survival if it aided in the four Fs – feeding, fleeing, fighting or … reproducing.  (so says Patricia Churchland in almost as many words).  Survival of the Fittest makes a lot of sense.  The one who runs best from the lion or the tiger or whatever the case may be, will survive to reproduce again, and thus continue the line.

Dawkins argues, and most evolutionary biologists concur, that this idea of acting for the benefit of the population is hogwash – my word, not his.  It is not populations that want to survive.  It is genes.

If you’ve watched the video, The Battle at Kruger, you will see something quite amazing, in light of this reasoning.  You will see water buffalo putting themselves in the way of danger, stepping up to fight lions – the most fierce-some of the the wild beasts – on behalf of another.  

These buffalo seem to have forgotten that the world operates on Darwin’s idea of the survival of the fittest (note the sarcasm).  They are not killing the lions so that they will never be bothered again by the pesky cats.  They are merely running them off, one at a time.  How long will it be before these hunters regroup and attack again?  No one can say.  But chances are, it will be much sooner if they are hungry than it would have been if they had just devoured a nice juicy buffalo.  Chances are the herd would be further away had they run from the lions and left their calf to the jaws of its predator.  

But alas, it seems that these buffalo have forgotten the rules of nature.  It seems that there isn’t a darwinist in the entire herd.

Published in: on September 28, 2008 at 9:03 pm  Comments (3)  
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Peppered Moths or Peppered Truth

In dealing with Worldview, one of the key concepts is Origin. Every worldview has to explain our origins. Where did everything come from? How did the earth get here? How did people get here? If a worldview is to be even remotely complete, it must answer the great question of Origins.

The dominant secular theory of our day, which is the basis for what is taught in schools, is evolution. Now the term evolution is thrown around a lot to mean many different things. That is OK as long as we know what we are talking about. But what we are talking about with respect to Origins is naturalistic Darwinistic evolution: that is that genetic mutation and natural selection are solely responsible for the variation of the different species, they are the mechanics of how we humans came to be.

Just a few weeks ago, in a conversation I had with a guy, he sited the Peppered Moths as being pretty amazing proof for evolution.

Above is a photo of a sign in the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. If it’s a little too small to read, this is what it says:

Change happens when genetic traits are passed on, in different combinations each time, from generation to generation. In the last 100 years the population of peppered moths in England went from being mostly light to mostly dark, because pollution darkened the bark of their favorite trees. There are many examples of evolution in action, but this one is often referred to because it has been so well documented. (italics added)

Here is a common picture of the moth’s on “their favorite trees.”

The argument goes that before factories were producing so much pollution, the trees were white, enabling he light colored moths to blend in. Once the factories started polluting, the trees were stained a darker color, so the moths, in turn, evolved to become much darker so that they could still conceal themselves on the trees. This a great story. The evidence seems undeniable.

It seems undeniable. Nancy Pearcy describes a bit of a discrepancy however:

In recent years, however, a small problem has come to light: Peppered moths don’t actually perch on tree trunks in the wild… How then do we explain the photographs we see in textbooks? It turns out they were staged: To create the photos, scientists glued dead moths onto the tree trunks. One scientists… acknowledged that he glued dead moths on the trees.

I know. Its crazy. But the moths are still used as proof, as evidence to convince people who know no better. Textbook writer Bob Ritter explains “The advantage of this example of natural selection is that it is extremely visible… Later on, they can look at the work critically.”

This is a classic case of pulling the wool over someone’s eyes. This case is so well documented – or mis-documented – that it must be used to prove a false theory. The problem here is that this is the evidence. Its not that this is just an illustration to prove a theory. Without the evidence, there is no theory. There is merely a failed hypothesis.

Granted, this one instance does not disprove evolution. It does however show that the evolution proponents will go to extreme lengths including lying and faking scientific evidence in order to defend their ideas of origin. And without an atheistic origin to stand on, there is no worldview to be built.

Published in: on August 30, 2008 at 12:55 pm  Leave a Comment  
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