Posts tagged ‘Charles Darwin’

February 14th, 2013

Max Tegmark on Religion and Science

by Max Andrews

The bulk of my graduate research is focused on the work and thought of Max Tegmark, an MIT astrophysicist/cosmologist, who’s responsible for a tremendous contribution to multiverse models. In honor of Charles Darwin’s 204th birthday he did an article for the Huffington Post, “Celebrating Darwin: Religion and Science are Closer Than You Think.” There are some very interesting survey results regarding faith and conflict between evolution and big bang cosmology.

So is there a conflict between science and religion? The religious organizations representing most Americans clearly don’t think so. Interestingly, the science organizations representing most American scientists don’t think so either: For example, the American Association for the Advancement of Science states that science and religion “live together quite comfortably, including in the minds of many scientists.” This shows that the main divide in the U.S. origins debate isn’t between science and religion, but between a small fundamentalist minority and mainstream religious communities who embrace science.

June 29th, 2012

Neo-Darwinism

by Max Andrews

Evolution has many meanings.

  • Change over time
    • Evolution of the cosmos
    • Evolution of living things
    • Evolution of culture, technology, etc.
  • Changes within existing species
    • Morphological (anatomical)
    • Genetic (change in gene frequencies)
  • Common ancestry
    • Within a species
    • Descent of all species from a common ancestor
  • Darwinian evolution

Darwinism: Descent with modification through unguided processes

  • Descent:  “I view all beings not as special creations, but as the lineal descendants of some few beings which lived long ago.”
  • Modification:  “The preservation of favorable individual differences of variations, and the destruction of those which are injurious (natural selection).”
  • Unguided processes:  “There seems to be no more design in the variability of organic beings, and in the action of natural selection, than in the course which the wind blows. So I am inclined to look at everything as resulting from designed laws, with the details, whether good or bad, left to the working out of chance.”
    read more »

June 16th, 2012

Charles Darwin, Meet Friedrich Nietzsche

by Max Andrews

FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE AND NIHILISM

To attribute nihilism to Friedrich Nietzsche’s works would be a complete misunderstanding of his teleology.  Nietzsche’s Thus Spake Zarathustra is a calling and desire for the übermensch to create a transvaluation of values.  To categorize Nietzsche as a nihilist would be a misunderstanding and misinterpretation of his work.

When referring to nihilism there must be an understanding of all that the word entails.  Nihilism refers to nothingness and is a denial of all worldviews.  There are apparent problems with being consistent in rendering a nihilist understanding.  Referring to everything having no meaning renders a meaning of nothingness.  There is no objectivity, knowledge, truth, or virtue.  There is a claim of paradigm independent referents.  For the advancement of understanding Nietzsche’s teleology this self-referential incoherence must be set to the periphery.  To discard Nietzsche so quickly in such a manner would be to misunderstand his teleological claims.

Nietzsche’s paradigm for truth was based on biological development.  This, by all admission, was a relativistic understanding and rendition of truth; it was a social construct.  This was in response to the proclamation that “God is dead.”  In the fifth chapter of Twilight of the Idols Nietzsche deduces the implications of stripping God from Christianity [in reference to morality].  Under the Christian paradigm, morality is a command originating from a transcendent source.  Because it is a transcendent command it cannot be criticized, and it is only contingently true given the existence of God and that God is the source of all truth.  This worries Nietzsche because he believes that there is no reason for God to exist any more being that God is only a social construct that was once useful.  As a result, Nietzsche calls for the übermensch.

October 23rd, 2011

Nietzsche’s Paradox–Nihilism and Teleology

by Max Andrews

It would be an appropriate evaluation of Friedrich Nietzsche to state that his mere calling for the übermensch is a teleological claim.  To call for redemption of something and to set a standard model is a purposeful and meaningful proclamation.  The desire appears to be motivated by the very thing Nietzsche is often accused of, nihilism.  Nietzsche was in despair over the implications of Christianity with no God—that was nihilism, which was a catalyst to his philosophizing with a hammer.

Nietzsche never denied there being any meaning or purpose.  His qualm was that if Christianity continues without God, which would be meaningless and purposeless.  He understood that there had to be meaning and purpose.  The teleology, for Nietzsche, was a pursuit to overcome those things, which were life denying.  Christianity, God, idols, and false ideas were all life denying and life prohibiting concepts.  Nietzsche recognized the human nature and need for a teleology, but how?  In his pursuit for meaning and purpose he calls for the übermensch to do just that.

June 18th, 2011

Gravity: The Theory of Intelligent Falling

by Max Andrews

I’ve heard gravity used as an example as a means of mocking intelligent design by its equivocation to Darwinism.  I’ve dialogued with Darwinists and when I refer to their position on evolution as Darwinism some have retorted with, “I believe in gravity, does that make me a Newtonian?”  There are so many fallacious equivocations with comparing Darwinism to gravity that it’s a bit embarrassing for the mocker to make such a claim.  What spurned this post was question asked by a skeptic at the Glasgow Skeptics at the Pub talk with the University of Minnesota Biology Professor PZ Myers.  After a question by Jonathan McLatchie, an intelligent design proponent, Dr. Myers proceeded to ridicule McLatchie (I’ll comment on this in another post, you can read more on Dr. Myers’ reaction here).  The following question was asked by a skeptic right after McLatchie’s debacle with Dr. Myers.

Why do you think evolutionary biology is such a target for creationists? I mean, if you had been talking about general relativity you wouldn’t expect people to be here advocating intelligent falling [inaudible... "spaghetti monster"]. So why do you think it is that evolutionary biology is such a target?

Dr. Myers proceeded to answer the question by stating that physics and cosmology has been criticized by creationists.  This is true, many creationists (despite the categorical breadth of the term), do challenge the standard model of particle physics and big bang cosmology (among many other models).  Dr. Myers was correct in that but he failed to note the equivocation in the question and in his own response.  The equivocation is categorical, attempting to compare the strength of explanatory power and scope of Darwinism with gravity.  General relativity is, perhaps, the most well established scientific theory that sufficiently explains the relationship between two massive bodies.  Darwinism is the theory that all living things descended from an original common ancestor through natural selection and random variation, without the aid of intelligence or nonmaterial forces.  Here are my main contentions:

  1. Darwinism attempts to explain the origin of life in a prescriptive manner for the organization of information whereas gravity is a descriptive and is a means of transmitting information.
  2. Gravity could be an information component when aggregated with other constants and initial conditions to bring about a finely-tuned universe for the essential building blocks of life and environments required for life (at best to make Darwinism possible).  (See PCW Davies’ paper “How Bio-Friendly is the Universe?”).  When gravity is being used as an equivocation for being an information component the equivocation falls short because it is merely a part of a series of necessary components.  Again, Darwinism is a theory that takes information and organizes it to create life; gravity transmits information and has no ability to self-organize in a mechanistic manner to create information.
  3. There is information displacement in appealing to gravity as an equivocation.  Because of the descriptive and prescriptive differences between Darwinism and gravity the appeal to gravity does not sufficiently explain the aggregate information.  A sufficient equivocation would be the presence information fine-tuning of the universe’s initial conditions, laws, etc. with the information present in the Darwinian mechanism.  The only comparison that can be made is the presence of information (which is still debatable).  The origin and transmission of information cannot be appropriately equivocated.  Even so, if one wants to advocate a mere presence of information in the initial conditions then that information is, again, not self-producing and must have been caused by intelligence since no physical effect could self-produce information from the initial conditions. It creates a causal circularity.  (See Stephen Meyer on information in the physics and how this falls short in front-loading evolution from a theistic perspective).
In fairness, I suspect that the equivocation is supposed to correlate the sufficiency in explanatory power and scope of the data and how widely accepted or established the theories are.  Even so, one of two fallacies rest with this appeal (depending on intent).  Either’s it’s a slippery slope by suggesting that doubting Darwinism leads to doubting gravity or it’s an argumentum ad populum by appealing to its wide acceptance.  Either way, the attempt to intentionally correlate the two theories falls prey to fallacious reasoning.  All that one is left with at this point is fallacious mockery.  Dare I equivocate it to shooting oneself in the foot?