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Introduction: The Pillars of Creationism 
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Post Introduction: The Pillars of Creationism
This was an interesting little section, but there are a few points that I think are worth pulling out and paying closer attention to.

Threaded throughout the section are some of the consequences that evolution had for "traditional Christian religion", as Scott puts it. Here's a partial list that I've put together from the section -- feel free to add more:

* that the Genesis account of Creation might be fallible or incomplete;
* that God's Creation might be imperfect (eg. as evidenced by extinct species);
* that death preceded Original Sin;
* that the painful and "wasteful" process of natural selection might contradict the assertion of a benevolent God;
* that the Biblical conception of special (in the sense of "species") "kinds" might not hold true.

Those considerations probably did (and do) play a part in resistence to evolutionary theory, but they don't seem, to me, sufficient to account altogether for the persistence of the controversy. After all, evolution wasn't the first idea to draw into question the benevolence of God or the perfection of Creation -- people hardly needed Darwin to tell them that there was pain and suffering in the world. And people had already pointed out problems with taking the Genesis account literally -- if nothing else, there's the problem of Genesis actually presenting several creation stories, not just one. The idea that death preceded Original Sin might be more problematic, but that doesn't exactly crop up very often in Creationist debates. And the problem of "kinds" was problematic for just about everyone when Darwinian evolution first started making the rounds, so if that's the big issue then we have to ask, why is it still an issue for Creationists, when everyone else has moved on?

A different point altogether: I've been reading a lot about evolution and Creationism over the last year or so, and one thing that has continually bothered me is the language that some evolutionary writers use in describing evolution. An example in the introduction occurs between pages xxii. and xxiii. (I'm assuming that we're all using the same edition here), where Scott writes that "natural selection is a wasteful mechanism: many individuals fall to the wayside". The thing that bothers me about terminology like that used here is that it plays into the moral and aesthetic anxiety that people have about Darwinism. Yes, many individuals do fall to the wayside, but we knew that before we ever conceived of natural selection. The only thing that makes evolution seem wasteful, in that regard, is our perception of evolution as a kind of competition with a winner. And that's a term of evolution that goes right back to Darwin. But the competitive element of Darwinian evolution is, in an intentional sense, incidental to the effects -- very few individuals are thinking about their evolutionary fitness when they "compete" for food.

What I'm getting at is, that terms like "wasteful" and phrases like "fall by the wayside" are evocative as metaphors, but they also fuel the controversy by painting a dramatic rather than functional view of evolution. These are value-laden terms, and by virtue of carrying these values they invite controversy. Scott isn't particularly guilty here, and in some ways it may be truer to the controversy that she's lapsed into this way of speaking. I've seen it in just about every evolutionary writer I've read, from Darwin's "nature red in tooth and claw" to Dawkins' "selfish gene". It's unfortunate, and entirely self-perpetuating.

Lastly, I wondered what everyone thought about the tiny gesture at the end of the chapter to the question of "fairness" in educational curriculum. That seems like a good jumping off point for a broader discussion: should educational institutions strive for fairness in their presentation of information? What are the advantages? What are the disadvantages?




Mon Oct 09, 2006 7:08 pm
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Post Re: Introduction: The Pillars of Creationism
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What I'm getting at is, that terms like "wasteful" and phrases like "fall by the wayside" are evocative as metaphors, but they also fuel the controversy by painting a dramatic rather than functional view of evolution. These are value-laden terms, and by virtue of carrying these values they invite controversy.


Well this only matters to those who value which words are used over the idea being forwarded. People who CANNOT drop their beliefs in order to grasp the subject matter.

Your nit-picking Mad. Evolution/Natural Selection IS wasteful in that it is a process that is constantly creating, but not all the creations are viable. There is no value statement here. It is what it is. People read too much into it BECAUSE of thier beliefs, so it is not the 'certain writers' that are doing anything confusing here, IMO.

Metaphors are useful, and may be a very important way in which humans explain complicated concepts to each other. Why deny the use of such to scientists? They are only human...trying to explain themselves and the research to other humans.

I do not have the book yet. The library has it on order for me.

Mr. P.

Edited by: Chris OConnor  at: 10/11/06 3:44 pm



Wed Oct 11, 2006 9:26 am
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Post Re: Introduction: The Pillars of Creationism
Natural selection is both wasteful and indifferent.

I ran a search and found this little article. As opposed to not posting anything at and just sitting back and silently agreeing with Nick I'll copy and paste this info...

www.skepticwiki.org/wiki/index.php/Evolution_is_unpleasant

The allegation the evolution is unpleasant is used as an argument against it by some creationists.

"Evolution is a cruel and wasteful process. The Bible is the true and accurate history book of the universe."

This argument would hold no weight unless we could argue that nothing cruel or wasteful exists in nature. This is simply not so.

If we examine what, in particular, seems to be cruel or wasteful about evolution, the argument looks sillier still. Let us argue that evolution by natural selection acting on random mutations is cruel and wasteful, and see how far it gets us.

Natural selection would seem to be both cruel and wasteful, for it depends on the fact that, most organisms will not successfully reproduce, which is wasteful; and the specific reasons why involve such factors as starvation, disease, et cetera, which are cruel.

But, if there is no evolution, then it is still true that most organisms will not successfully reproduce; and the reasons why still involve such factors as starvation, disease, predation, et cetera.

The wastefulness and cruelty of the "cruel and wasteful process" would still remain. But if it does not cause evolution, then it is also completely pointless. It would be cruel and wasteful still: but it would no longer constitute a process.

Again, the random mutations on which natural selection acts also seem wasteful: most mutations will be worthless and will be culled by natural selection. But creationists don't deny that mutations take place. They do often deny that any mutation can be beneficial. This would be more wasteful still.

Those creationists who claim that "microevolution" is possible and "macroevolution" is not have further questions to answer if they wish to employ this argument. If a "cruel and wasteful process" can account for events that do not conflict with their religious dogma, then why, save for their prejudices, should it not account for something which does?




Wed Oct 11, 2006 2:51 pm
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Post Re: Introduction: The Pillars of Creationism
I don't see anything wrong with Scott's descriptions of evolution.

For instance, in your quotation where she describes evolution as a wasteful mechanism, I'm not so sure this is really problematic language. As a mechanism that leads to order or complexity, then it is surely true that evolution is very wasteful.

Can we ever describe something without using words that do not have various negative or positive connotations for people? I'm not so sure about that. I think we should worry less about the connotations of the words used to describe evolution and worry more about the fact that some people only hear what evolution connotes and then plug their ears when someone tries to tell them what the word actually denotes.




Wed Oct 11, 2006 11:57 pm
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Post Re: Introduction: The Pillars of Creationism
Chris:

Why the edit?

Mr. P.

Mr. P's place. I warned you!!!

The one thing of which I am positive is that there is much of which to be negative - Mr. P.

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Thu Oct 12, 2006 7:22 am
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Post Re: Introduction: The Pillars of Creationism
Are you not seeing the 60 x 60 square below your name? Is anyone else seeing this? Or is it just visible for the Administrator? I'd appreciate if other members answered this so I know!

I don't want empty images on the site. It looks horrible. All you to have to to fix that is right before you make your post you uncheck the "Include personal photo" box. You can edit your profile preferences so that you don't have to uncheck this in every post.

I'm going to log out of my admin account to see what everyone else is seeing. Maybe that ugly box is missing for everyone else.

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Thu Oct 12, 2006 7:55 am
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Post Re: Introduction: The Pillars of Creationism
Nick, I see that you got rid of the image in your signature. This helps. But I was referring to the missing image over in the left margin. I logged out and saw that the image placeholder is where the image should be. Please don't make this a bigger deal than it needs to be. For over 5 years now I have edited everyones posts whenever they have image placeholders. It looks bad.




Thu Oct 12, 2006 7:58 am
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Post Re: Introduction: The Pillars of Creationism
I unchecked that yesterday Chris. Please dont make this a bigger deal than it really is.

:\

I dont know why it is still showing up.

Mr. P.

Mr. P's place. I warned you!!!

The one thing of which I am positive is that there is much of which to be negative - Mr. P.

The pain in hell has two sides. The kind you can touch with your hand; the kind you can feel in your heart...Scorsese's "Mean Streets"

I came to kick ass and chew Bubble Gum...and I am all out of Bubble Gum - They Live, Roddy Piper




Thu Oct 12, 2006 9:13 am
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Post Re: Introduction: The Pillars of Creationism
I see. I unchecked the box in my profile, but that was not where the main image was, just the little "P" I had.

Is this better Chris? I am sorry I made you all ::97


Mr. P.

Mr. P's place. I warned you!!!

The one thing of which I am positive is that there is much of which to be negative - Mr. P.

The pain in hell has two sides. The kind you can touch with your hand; the kind you can feel in your heart...Scorsese's "Mean Streets"

I came to kick ass and chew Bubble Gum...and I am all out of Bubble Gum - They Live, Roddy Piper

Edited by: misterpessimistic at: 10/12/06 10:29 am



Thu Oct 12, 2006 9:20 am
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Post Re: Introduction: The Pillars of Creationism
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should educational institutions strive for fairness in their presentation of information? What are the advantages? What are the disadvantages?


I oppose the "fairness concept" of evolution being taught in our education system. It should be mentioned that evolution is not a proven scientific claim, but I feel that is the only "fairness" it be given.

Other than it isn't proven, the only other anti-evolution argument is based on religious belief and evolution contradicting those beliefs. To present a "fairness" to the teaching of evolution, we must present religious dogma into our education system.

I see a great disadvantage to this in that religious leaders will take advantage of that "small foot in the door". I wonder what else they would be able to come up with to counter other scientific teachings.

I feel that if religious parents wanted their children to receive the best education possible, they would see the importance of teaching evolution in our school systems. Regardless of what they believe, the theory and study of evolution is here to stay as a scientific principle. Any smart individual should be able to grasp this concept, and therefore encourage their children to learn it for the sake of knowledge and education in our modern society.




Thu Oct 12, 2006 8:12 pm
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Post Re: Introduction: The Pillars of Creationism
misterpessimistic: Well this only matters to those who value which words are used over the idea being forwarded.

My point is, words are how you forward the idea. If you pick imprecise words, you might end up forwarding an idea you didn't mean to forward.

Metaphors are useful, and may be a very important way in which humans explain complicated concepts to each other. Why deny the use of such to scientists?

I wouldn't. In fact, science wouldn't work without metaphors. But you have to be careful which metaphors you use. In "The Selfish Gene", Dawkins used a metaphor which presented humans as robots driven by their genes. That's a metaphor that's likely to bother a lot of people, and the idea they get from it isn't necessarily the idea he intended to present. It certainly would have contributed less to the antievolutionist controversy if he had presented his ideas using a less dystopic metaphor.

Chris OConnor: This argument would hold no weight unless we could argue that nothing cruel or wasteful exists in nature.

I think there are better reasons to dismiss the argument. The best, to my mind, is this: what unpleasant thing is presented by evolution that we didn't know about before? Didn't people always know that living things died? Didn't they always know that those deaths were sometimes painful? Didn't they always know that some individuals were better equipped to deal with adverse circumstances? Evolution itself didn't bring anything new to the table in those regards, so it's hardly a threat to any utopic vision of nature.

But it looks to me as thought the people arguing for the side of evolution fall into a trap by discussing evolution in least common denominator terms. Creationism doesn't offer a less hostile alternative to the natural world proposed by Darwinian evolution, so why make a point of saying that evolution proceeds by waste and pain? Isn't it just as accurate to say that evolution proceeds by adaptations that allow individuals to live longer, more productive lives? I'd say it's more accurate, in fact, to say that evolution is the process whereby traits that encourage reproductive fitness are passed on to successive generations rather than suppressed by a death which both Creationism and evolution take for granted.

It seems likely to me that Darwin's poetic passages on the cruelty and ruthlessness of nature were in part the typical reaction of Victorianism to the Romantic view of nature. Strangely, his insistence on the violence of evolution persists in modern popularization of evolution, and I think it's doing more to fuel the controversy than it is to help people understand Darwinian evolution.

If we examine what, in particular, seems to be cruel or wasteful about evolution, the argument looks sillier still.

I thought you were agreeing with Mr. P? This looks like you're close to agreeing with me.

But creationists don't deny that mutations take place.

Some do, to a degree. They deny that there could be any mutations that would breach the boundaries of species -- or "kinds", as the distinction runs.

Saint Gasoline: I don't see anything wrong with Scott's descriptions of evolution.

There may be nothing technically wrong with it. What worries me is the propensity of the language to cause confusion or distort the crucial points. If what we're looking for are ways to quell the controversy, then I think looking at the language both sides use to present their cases is a solid first step.

As a mechanism that leads to order or complexity, then it is surely true that evolution is very wasteful.

There's one point on which we might object to the quoted passage: that it seems, to some people, to frame evolution in terms of order. Is that really a focus for evolutionists? If those are the points on which antievolutionists tend to make their objections, then what good does it do to make them a part of a pro-evolution stance?

tomiichi: To present a "fairness" to the teaching of evolution, we must present religious dogma into our education system.

What about fairness as a general concept? Put aside the evolution/creationism debate for a second; I'm interested in whether or not we think fairness should ever be a criteria for determining curriculum. Take another example: how would you feel about a group lobbying to have a Native American account of American history presented in public schools, particularly one that presented a contradictory view of history? Would it be enough to invoke "fairness" as a justification for such an inclusion?




Fri Oct 13, 2006 12:47 am
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