Is Natural Selection a Conscious Process?

Curious George says:

I have a question concerning the theory of evolution – the natural selection of random mutations. My question is specifically concerning the belief that natural selection is not a conscious process and the apparent lack of intent in the conventional theory of evolution.

From everything I’ve read natural selection is not a conscious process. Certainly certain scenarios exist where the process of natural selection does a great job of explaining how that works. For example, natural selection tends to favor the survival of blond haired mice over dark haired mice on white beaches. Easy enough to understand that. It has been scientifically demonstrated that bird prey can more easily see the contrast of dark colored mice as opposed to blond colored mice against the background of white sand. So over time more and more dark colored mice fall prey to the birds seeking food until eventually there are fewer and fewer of them remaining to contribute to the gene pool and over time are virtually eliminated from the gene pool – in that environment anyway- altogether.

Evolutionists have done a great job of dunking the irreducible complexity argument with regard to the “complex” eye, showing that it evolved over time from something far less complex. But what they don’t explain is how at every turn there just happen to be just the right random mutations available to be selected from and how natural selection goes about making the selection of useful mutation or the analysis/assessment of which mutations to keep or discard. It seems to me that such analysis would need to be a conscious process. I’m not suggesting a “God” per say, just a consciousness or intelligence at some level directing the natural selection process.

Furthermore, human reproduction requires two sexes, each with their own distinct reproductive system. How does evolution explain the existence of two different but mutually dependent and complementary reproductive systems? The two different systems would have had to evolve in tandem from a particular point, separately and yet maintaining their complementary structure. How does chance mutation and natural selection explain these two very different but complementary systems? And you can’t use the “it look millions of years” explanation because with sexual reproduction if you get it wrong for even one generation – you lose. So how could natural selection work without the right-hand knowing what the left had was doing? Or how with natural selection can you explain that the right hand knew what the left hand was doing?

44 Responses to Is Natural Selection a Conscious Process?

  1. The Atheist says:

    If we trace the development of the eye back through evolutionary time to use your example, it seems uncanny that the right parts just happened to be available so that we could end up with an eye! But it is only uncanny because we are starting with an eye, and then we’re looking back to see what biological features had to be available.

    But that’s not how evolution works. There is no future goal toward which evolution is marching. There is simply the chance that any given mutation will be sufficiently beneficial to its carrier to give it the competitive reproductive edge. All evolution, except in the case of the very first life forms, builds on features that evolved earlier. This is true of most all physiological structures, not just structures like the eye.

    There is no decision to keep or discard a mutation. Most mutations are either inconsequential or even detrimental, and only a small percent are beneficial. The mutations that are inconsequential can remain in the gene pool indefinitely as they are passed on through generations. Detrimental traits tend not to be passed on, or they are passed on to a lesser degree and thus fade from the gene pool. Note that some detrimental genes do remain. An example is a mutation that is detrimental to the organisms longevity but not to its reproduction. Another example is a recessive detrimental gene that is only harmful to individuals that possess both recessive genes in the gene pare (the allele). Beneficial mutations are the ones that are propagated more vigorously in the gene pool precisely because they are beneficial. There is no analysis or assessment to decide which genes remain in the pool. The “decision” is made based on the reproductive success of the mutations carrier.

    Just like there are many more mutations that are not beneficial, so too, we should expect that there were many more missed opportunities to develop a complex structure like the eye, then there were seized opportunities. The opportunities would have been missed when all required features were not present.

    • William says:

      The thing that bugs me is that folks that do not believe or feel there is something more powerful than the human mind have nothing to fall back on when confronted with a very basic question. And that is “if the universe you know was born from the ‘Big Bang’ then how did that hypothetical and crazy dense thing that you can not prove ever existed come to be what you believe it was?”. It had to exist before the universe as we know it right? If it existed before the universe then where was it? How did it come to be? What happened before that theoretical particle came into being and how did it get there (without a universe to exist in) in the first place?

      That is what is awesome about people that think the “big bang” is a big deal and shows that God doesn’t exist. It is the same as people that believe God does exist.

      Neither camp has anything to base their beliefs on. And yes – science is just as much of a “belief” as religion. Seriously – science is based on mathematics and all theorems are tested against the known to see if they fail. There is nothing that can prove one to be true. Just tests to see if it fails.

  2. Don Severs says:

    We can propose Designers and go looking for them, but then we have to explain how they came to be, so it doesn’t help.

    In an unconscious universe, things are created from the bottom up. Any top-down designer (like a human) must itself have evolved from the bottom up. Designer theories are plausible; for example, there is nothing impossible about the idea that an advanced alien seeded life on Earth (although there’s no evidence for it). But that alien would have had to evolve via natural selection. The buck stops at bottom-up theories.

    • Ted says:

      The concept of God requires that God is self-existing. God does not need an explanation for where He came frome because there was never a time when God was not. God is an uncreated, self existant being that never began to exist.

      • Defined this way, God becomes possible, but we still have no good evidence for his existence.

        Further, even though the Big Bang suggests our local universe had a beginning, it could be part of a multiverse that is eternal and uncreated. In this case, we could just say that “the universe is self-existing and doesn’t need an explanation for where it came from because there was never a time when it was not. The multiverse is an uncreated, self-existing entity that never began to exist.”

        There is no evidence for either God’s or the universe’s “uncreatedness”, so we are not justified in believing either one. Moreover, this sort of God provides only the thinnest theism. From them, we still have no idea what God’s traits are. It means nothing to show that “God” exists without homing in on his traits.

        All these kind of arguments do is make such ideas possible. In that sense, they have arrived at the starting line, along with flying pigs, orbiting teapots and Bigfoot. All the real work of proving they are true remains in front of them.

  3. Ted says:

    You said my argument only conveys the thinnest of theisms. First, I did not intend for my post to be an argument for the existence of God, just a correction that the concept of God does not require a creator for God. But I do agree that if this is all that we know about God then all that can be established is a generic theism.

    There is evidence that the universe had a beginning. There is no evidence of the existence of a multiverse. There is evidence for the existence of the Christian God. Rather then write an extremely long post let me just list the evidence and arguments that I am familiar with. There is the beginning of the universe, the fine tuning of the universe for intelligent life, the moral argument for the existence of God, the argument from evil for the existence of God, the irreducible complexity of the cell, information in DNA, the argument to design, the Kalam cosmological argument, the Libnesian cosmological argument, contingent beings, and the historical argument for the resurrection of Jesus. These arguments home in on his traits and eliminate Bigfoot, flying teapots, flying spaghetti monsters and other straw man arguments.

    • AK in AK says:

      there is evidence of a universal scale event referred to as the big bang… but that does not equate to a “beginning” of the universe… maybe a beginning of the universe as we know it.

      I know of no evidence for the existence of the christian god…

      there was no fine tuning for intelligent life. that is precisely why intelligent life is so scarce because the universe was not fine tuned for it. the places life as we know it exist are very limited… the likelihood of other places where all the proper circumstances and pieces happened to be present at the right time to create life that eventually evolved in to a sentient species with measurable intelligence is pretty high simply because of the massive scale of the universe we live in. millions of such places could have existed and been wiped out and we may never know because we may never manage to meet them or their planet may have been sucked in to a black hole before we existed.

      the moral argument for the existence of god? I’m sure someone has written something that they believe proves this but I’m not familiar with whatever you are referencing here. people are “moral” for their own reasons… what motivates someone to be moral differs from person to person. some fear punishment for being immoral, be that from law enforcement or god. others simply want to be socially accepted. morality is a human created concept applied only to humans.

      the argument from evil or the existence of god? what does that even mean? evil is just a term used to describe undesired behavior… usually behavior that impacts others negatively. very few would disagree with me if I called the westboro baptist church “evil” even though they proclaim they are the holiest and most righteous people on the planet. they negatively impact so many people they interact with that they are very much considered evil.

      cell design… evolution has billions of years worth of work on this… if you had several billion years I bet you would have created far more complex things than cells and dna… look at the amazing things we have made with our intelligence in just the last 100 years.

      cosmological arguments… never read them so I can’t really comment on them.

      contigent beings… not familiar with that either.

      historical argument for the resurrection of jesus? in a society far less technical than the one we currently exist in there are many things that are certain. word of mouth is powerful. proof was not a high priority. any number of things are possible to make it seem someone “resurrected”… something as simple as dressing up a similar looking person to look like him and present to the public, or maybe an illness or poison that made him appear dead while simply catatonic… its certainly conceivable that someone tried to poison him to either end his suffering while being crucified or to attempt to be the hand that truly killed him. jesus was a real person but that does not mean he was the person the bible claims. in any case… I’ve rambled on enough…

      • Ted says:

        First, there is no evidence that time, space, matter, or energy existed before the big Bang event. Even if there were matter, time, space, and matter, this would not refute the fact that there is a first cause in the causal chain. An infinite regression of causes is impossible.

        The fact that the places in the universe where life can exist do not refute the fine tuning argument. Cosmologists, astronomers, and biologist agree that the requirements for life to exist in the universe are balanced on a razors edge. The fine tuning is found in gravity, the rate of the expansion of the universe, the strong and weak force in the universe, the universal constant and many other requirements for life to exist. If any of these things is changed slightly then life in the universe would cease to exist. It is as if someone moneyed with physics.

        The syllogistic form of the moral argument is as follows:
        1. If God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist.
        2. Objective moral values do exist.
        3. Therefore, God exists.
        I agree that the reason that individuals are moral differs from person to person, but this does not explain why there is such a thing as morality at all. What you are suggesting is a radical subjectivism. Each person decides what is right or wrong. But on this view no person has any moral grounds for telling some one that what they are doing is wrong. We can all agree that torturing babies for fun is objectively wrong. But on your view can you say why it is wrong? Not how you know, but why.

        I disagree with your definition of evil. Evil is “the quality or an instance of being morally wrong.” (I referenced dictionary.com) Here is my argument:
        Evil exists.
        If evil exist, then good must exist.
        If evil and good exist then there must be a moral law.
        If there is a moral law then there must be a moral law giver.
        On the view of atheism there is no evil Even Richard Dawkins admits this. He wrote: “In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.”

        Evolution has not been able to provide an explanation for many organelles within the cell. These things cease to be of any evolutionary value if one part is missing. All of these parts have to be assembled at once or these things do not work. Evolution requires these things to develop slowly over many successive steps. Also, evolution does not explain how the first cell came into existence; it assumes the existence of the first cell. In order to be an atheist on this point you have to believe that life came from nonlife. No one has ever observed that this can happen. Also, your example of me being able to design things quite complex given time still implies a designer, but that is who you are trying to disprove.

        Here are the arguments that I mentioned.
        The Kalam Cosmological argument.
        1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
        2. The universe began to exist.
        3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.
        The Libnizian Cosmological argument.
        1) Anything that exists has an explanation of its existence, either in the necessity of its own nature or in an external cause [A version of PSR].
        2) If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is God.
        3) The universe exists.
        4) Therefore, the universe has an explanation of its existence (from 1, 3)
        5) Therefore, the explanation of the existence of the universe is God (from 2, 4).

        The contingency argument.
        1. Every finite and contingent being has a cause.
        2. A causal loop cannot exist.
        3. A causal chain cannot be of infinite length.
        4. Therefore, a First Cause (or something that is not an effect) must exist.

        I will address your concerns about the resurrection later because I am out of time.

      • Ted says:

        How do you know that proof was not a high priority? Have you read the Bible? Here is the prologue from Luke: (1:1-4)
        Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.
        Luke was certainly concerned with evidence.

        You propose that someone else was dressed up to look like him. If this was done then the Sanhedrin would have produced the body to end the controversy. What would be the motivation to do this? The Apostles did not get fame or power. They were tortured and killed.

        The catatonic theory has been shown to be false by many doctors. Jesus would not have survived the night after the beating that he had taken that day. You also forget that the Roman executioners were experts at killing people. They knew how to tell when someone was dead.

        If Jesus was not resurrected then what happened to his body. You have not challenged any of the facts that I have presented. How do you explain them? You should also know that I believe in the Bible because of Jesus, not the other way around.

  4. >There is the beginning of the universe, the fine tuning of the universe for intelligent life, the moral argument for the existence of God, the argument from evil for the existence of God…the Kalam cosmological argument, the Libnesian cosmological argument, contingent beings

    None of these home in on Yahweh

    >, the irreducible complexity of the cell, information in DNA, the argument to design,

    These don’t even home in on a supernatural being. They are puzzles, but postulating a superbeing is not required to account for them. An advanced, wholly natural alien being could be behind them. There is no reason to believe there is, but it’s not impossible and it doesn’t involve the extraordinary, unjustified leap into supernaturalism.

    >and the historical argument for the resurrection of Jesus.

    The proper objects of the historical data are the stories of the resurrection, not the resurrection. We only have evidence that some stories exist. We have no evidence that a resurrection occurred.

    >These arguments home in on his traits

    Even if they did, they home in on Yahweh only as well as the Koran homes in on Allah or the Vedas home in on Vishnu. You still have the religious diversity problem. All religions make claims. They can’t all be right.

    Believers easily dismiss the claims of other religions, then make special pleading for their own. Quetzalcoatl is as likely as Yahweh. Just ask an Aztec.

  5. Ted says:

    It is not important that all of my arguments home is specifically on Yahweh because the case for Christianity is cumulative. So I do not dispute that all my arguments focus in on Yahweh. These are supporting arguments. The moral argument eliminates Allah. In Christianity God commands the good because the good is Gods nature. In Islam the good is good because Allah commands it.

    The complexity of the cell, information in DNA, and the argument to design lead to the conclusion that life was designed by an intelligent mind. This evidence combined with the previous arguments lead to the conclusion that there is an infinitely intelligent, that transcends space, time, and matter, and is the ground for all morality. We are down to Christianity and Judaism.

    Here are the facts that support the resurrection.
    First, Jesus was executed under Pontius Pilate. Most critical Biblical scholars agree with this.
    Second, Jesus was buried in the tomb of Joseph of Aramathea. This is an unlikely invention. Joseph was a member of the Sanhedrin, the religious governing body of the Jews. The Sanhedrin had just voted unanimously to condemn Jesus. If someone were to make up a story to try to trick someone they would not make up a story where someone who just voted to execute Jesus then provides a burial place fore him. If they made this story up then Joseph or someone who knew him would have refuted the claim.
    Third, Jesus’ tomb was found empty by a group of his women followers. Women were not respected in first century Palestine. Jewish law did not allow women to testify in any legal case. In that culture it would be unlikely that a story would be invented by Jesus’ followers. It would make more sense to claim that the men found the tomb.
    Fourth, Jesus appeared to his followers after the tomb was found empty. 1 Corinthians 15:1-8 contains a formula that has been dated by scholars as originating to three years after the Resurrection. This is to soon to be legendary embellishment. One of these appearances is to 500 people. This is too many people to be a hallucination. 500 people having the same hallucination at the same time is ridiculous. Paul was a persecutor of the Church before Jesus appeared to him. James was a skeptic before Jesus appeared to him. Both of these men became important leaders in the early Church. Other ancient non-Christian historians like Josephus and Tacitus have verified that there were appearances of Jesus. This is evidence of something more than stories and hallucinations do not explain what happened.
    Fifth, the Resurrection is preached in Jerusalem. If Jesus’ body were still in the grave then the Sanhedrin would have produced the body to end the controversy. The first Jewish polemic presupposes that the tomb was empty.
    Sixth, Christianity comes into existence in Palestine during the first century. These men were persecuted, beaten executed, and outcast. These were people who claimed to be eye witnesses. Men might die for what they think is the truth, but they will not die for what they know to be a lie.

    Cumulatively my arguments have eliminated atheism, paganism, pantheism, mysticism, Islam, and Judaism.

  6. >my arguments have eliminated atheism, paganism, pantheism, mysticism, Islam, and Judaism.

    What about scientific naturalism?

    Your case contains uncertainties at every step. The last thing you want to do is frame a cumulative argument which causes those uncertainties to multiply.

    But suppose we accept all your premises. That only gets us to plausibility. You still have the problem of adjudicating between the Christian theory and other theories that don’t invoke supernaturalism. A naturalistic explanation will always have this great advantage over any religious one. Supernaturalism is an extravagant leap that should only be considered when everything else is shown to be impossible.

    “No testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind, that its falsehood would be more miraculous than the fact which it endeavors to establish.” Hume

    And then there’s human suffering. A smart defense would claim your God was absent. Anything else places him at the scene of the crime. Even if he existed, he would be unworthy of our devotion.

    http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=72911444004

    • Ted says:

      Every argument I have provided by it self refutes naturalism of any kind. There is no plausible naturalistic explanation for the beginning of the universe, morality, the fine tuning problem, etc… You also have not shown that any of these arguments have uncertainties that are defeaters. Every worldview has its uncertainties, but what are the defeaters for the arguments that I have listed?

      You mentioned that miracles will always be unlikely. Why is that? You did not say. Hume did not think that the resurrection was likely. Most of Hume’s arguments are circular or self defeating. Hume is wrong on the probability issue. After Hume died philosophers developed what is known as Bayes’ Theorem. William Lane Craig explains:
      “Letting R = Jesus’ resurrection, E = the specific evidence for that event, and B = our background knowledge apart from the specific evidence, Bayes’ Theorem states
      Pr(R/E&B) = Pr(R/B) ⊆ Pr(E/R&B)_
      Pr(E/B)
      (Stay with me here! It’s not that hard!) The left hand side of the equation represents the probability of the resurrection given both our background information and the specific evidence for the resurrection. Now notice that on the right hand side of the equation one of the factors is Pr(R/B), which is the probability of the resurrection in isolation from any specific evidence. B may include the worldview assumptions one brings to the research. If B includes the fact that God does not exist, then Pr(R/B) is going to be drastically low. This probability is not in the eye of the beholder; everyone agrees with that estimation. Where the disagreement lies is whether God’s non-existence really is a fact and belongs in B.”
      The other arguments I have provided make the probability of the resurrection of Jesus at least as likely to happen as the probability of it not happening you are interested in reading the full article it is here,
      http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=5781. You may have to register, but that is free.

      Another thing to consider about David Hume is the last paragraph in “An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding” he writes:
      “If we take in our hand any volume; of divinity or school metaphysics, for instance; let us ask, Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number? No. Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence? No. Commit it then to the flames: for it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion.”
      But his book does not contain any “abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number” or “experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence.” By Hume’s own standards his book should be committed to the flames. It is a self defeating proposition.

      • Don Severs says:

        >But his book does not contain any “abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number” or “experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence.”

        Close, but exactly reversed. His book contains only those things.

        Lane’s probability argument can equally well be applied to any unproved, baseless proposition. If you are content with the Resurrection joining flying pigs and orbiting teapots at the starting line, then Craig is your man.

        Science lets ideas move off the starting line. We can adjudicate claims. When we leave the shores of empiricism, we are adrift in a sea of equals. Bon voyage.

        • Ted says:

          Hume’s book does not contain any references to numbers or experimentation. I have read the book. These things are not there. If they are provide textual evidence. You are wrong about Bays theorem. It is widely used now and was not known in Hume’s time.

          Empiricism is also a self defeating proposition. All knowledge can only be proved by empirical evidence. But can this statement be proved by evidence? No. It does not meet its own standard for knowledge.

          • Don Severs says:

            Hume acknowledges that empiricism is self-defeating. We should be agnostic about all matters.

            • Ted says:

              Why should we be agnostic about all maters? Should we be agnostic about agnosticism? What if there is evidence that leads to a conclusion? If this is your position why did you bring up scientific empiricism?

    • Ted says:

      I should also point out that you have not addressed any specific facts that I asserted were true.
      Suffering is a problem that every worldview must answer. Suffering is the result of evil breaking into the world as a result of human freedom. Suffering is not God’s fault, it is ours. Without human freedom love and justice would not exist. Suffering and the existence of God are not contradictory. As an atheist how do you explain suffering?

      • Don Severs says:

        Ted:

        You can readily see this when you look at the claims of other faiths. Craig-like arguments can be made for many supernatural claims. Religious faith of all kinds depends on special pleading.

        If you are able to and want to believe in the Resurrection, go ahead. I couldn’t believe in it if I was tortured, just as you couldn’t agree that I am Elvis. Beliefs must track with the evidence or they are subverted. They become wishes or delusions. Your and Craig’s approach is to say the Resurrection does track with the evidence, but you are inconsistent. If you admit the Resurrection, you must allow myriad other religious claims of other faiths.

        “The easy confidence with which I know another man’s religion is folly teaches me to suspect that my own is also.” – Mark Twain

        • Ted says:

          You have given no evidence to back up you claimed that my arguments are special pleading. I have also responded to this statement. Reasserting your position is not an argument. Where is your proof?

          You claim that I am inconsistent. But have you shown that I am inconsistent? What claims of others do I have to admit from other religions? I do not even have to admit other miracle claims to maintain the argument for the resurrection. You have not refuted any of my claims at this point.

          • Don Severs says:

            What I haven’t refuted, I can grant, and it still won’t get you to Yahweh/Jesus.

            • Ted says:

              This is not true. You have not refuted any of the facts that I have presented for the historical argument of the resurrection. How do you explain these facts? You also have not proposed any other interpretation or explanation for the other arguments that I have presented. You have offered no argument for anything at all. You also have refuted nothing.

          • >You have given no evidence to back up you claimed that my arguments are special pleading.

            1. You and Craig are focused on Christian claims. You haven’t approached the claims of other religions (like Mohammed’s ascent into Heaven) the same way. Every idea deserves a good defense, but it’s clear whose payroll you are on.

            2. You haven’t been critical of Christian claims. To be credible and consistent, you should be as hard on claims like the Resurrection as you are on empiricism or the guy who does your taxes.

            • Ted says:

              This is a red herring fallacy. If the facts I have presented stand then you need to explain the facts. You have not attempted to do this. You have not refuted any facts. In fact Dr. Craig has debated and written on Islam. As far as I know Mohammed died on June 8, 632, in Medina, at the age of 63. Here is a link to a Christian sight on Islam. http://www.answering-islam.org/muhammad/deification.html

            • Ted says:

              I have read the Koran and the book of Mormon. I took comparative religion at a secular college. I have also read the Book of Mormon. I have read parts of many other scriptures and read different viewpoints regularly. The Koran is historically inaccurate. It claims that Jesus was not crucified. This contradicts all of the evidence available. I do not need to reference the Bible to demonstrate that Jesus was crucified. I also think that the Koran is internally incoherent. One verse promotes peace with the Christians and Jews, the next promotes killing them.

  7. Don Severs says:

    >Suffering is not God’s fault, it is ours.

    What fault does a 2 year old, dying of gangrene, alone under the rubble in Japan, carry? Oh, I’m sure you can assign some to her, but it is not just or loving by human standards to do so.

    If God is not subject to man’s standards, then he is not loving or just by man’s standards. If God exists, he is weak or evil. A loving, omnipotent God is a square circle. We can rule it out.

    You can still have your God. But then you worship a sadist who uses kids for his great purposes.

    Ordinary human compassion requires us to reject any God who could reduce suffering and does not. It saddens me that otherwise good people will torture logic, and dishonor the suffering of innocent kids, to comfort themselves.

  8. Ted says:

    If God does exist why should he be held to human standards? You are asking the creator to act according to the creatures mandates. This makes no since. Man should strive to be loving and just by God’s standards.

    You have not answered my question. What is your explanation for suffering? What is your grounding for justice? How do you explain the existence of love?

    Your argument is based on emotion. Why does compassion require this? What about the evil in your own heart? What laws of logic have I violated?

  9. Don Severs says:

    >Man should strive to be loving and just by God’s standards.

    Please think like a parent for a moment. If we acted like God, we would stand by while kids are drowned, crushed and burned without even calling 911.

    Sure there’s some emotion at work here, but we aren’t discussing God’s existence right now. We’re discussing his goodness. Allowing kids to suffer is evil precisely because it engenders strong feelings of revulsion and condemnation in us. As it should.

    In this case, appeal to emotion is relevant. Love and evil are concerned with human feelings.

  10. Ted says:

    Yes, let us think like a parent. Children learn from stress and from pain. When you punish a child does the child understand why you are punishing him? Not always. Is it for the childes own good? Yes. I admit that I do not have specific answers to many question of suffering. I have general answers to why suffering and evil exists. These things are a result of sin. Your question about a little girl dyeing in an earthquake is assuming that I believe that her death is the result of her sin. But sin affects others, not just those who sin. Who sinned on 9-11? It was the terrorists that hijacked the planes, but their sin killed 300,000. Often we cannot even see the long term effects of sin and evil.

    You still have not answered my question. As an atheist how do you explain the existence of evil? Here is Richard Dawkins answer: “In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.” What is your response?

    • >When you punish a child does the child understand why you are punishing him? Not always. Is it for the childes own good? Yes.

      I don’t punish my kids by letting their lungs fill with seawater. Your observation is apt when the punishment doesn’t kill the child, and when the parent has no better way to teach him. I can’t tell a kid being slowly choked to death by a tumor that it’s for his own good. God has choices no human parent has. I sometimes let doctors stick needles in my 7 year old. He cries, but they have no better way to draw blood. God does. If I stuck my kid with needles when I didn’t need to, I would go to jail.

      I have granted that God doesn’t need to abide by human standards, but then he isn’t loving by human standards.

      >But sin affects others, not just those who sin.

      Even if this were true, it would not be just or loving. God could set things up so that innocents never reaped the punishment of others. When humans can protect kids from the bad actions of others, we do it. If God could do so and doesn’t, he is not loving in human terms.

      >no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.” What is your response?

      The universe has no purpose or evil, but humans do. We love our kids and each other. As biological beings, there are ways we can flourish and ways we can suffer. As atheists, we don’t need the cosmic imprimatur of Objective Morality to have meaning. That’s just religious grandiosity to us.

      • Ted says:

        Have you aver asked yourself: are people loving by God’s standards. The answer is no.
        We need to separate two things that are getting blurred, natural evil and moral evil. Natural evil is death and suffering as a result of natural disasters. These things happen as a result of living in a fallen world. Nature is not operating the way that it originally did. It has become infected with our sin.

        Moral evil is actual sin such as murder, lying, stealing, etc… This is the sin that is in your heart. A naturalistic worldview can explain the existence of natural evil; it has no explanation of moral evil. You have not yet attempted to address this issue.

        The only way that God could protect us from evil would be to take away our free will. But if we did not have free will there would be no love. You cannot love someone if you cannot choose not to love them.

        In a universe that has no purpose, how do people have purpose?

        • Don Severs says:

          >are people loving by God’s standards. The answer is no.

          And I wouldn’t want them to be. Even if God existed, we should rebel against him.

          >These things happen as a result of living in a fallen world.

          But God has choices. He could have set things up so that innocent kids didn’t suffer as a result of the sin of others. And how is drowning, crushing, burning or beating a fair or just punishment? Your God doesn’t meet human standards of justice or love. Your allegiance to him is making you a bad human. You’re defending him against sins against your tribe. One of the reasons Jesus is evil is that he makes us choose between God and our loved ones. He was explicit about this. We are supposed to want to join him in paradise, with the knowledge that many of our family won’t be there. That’s Sophie’s Choice.

          >it has no explanation of moral evil. You have not yet attempted to address this issue. In a universe that has no purpose, how do people have purpose?

          You’re just not listening. I acknowledged objective evil and purpose don’t exist on atheism. But humans are machines and there are better and worse ways to treat a machine. If you want your car’s engine to operate smoothly, you change the oil occasionally. The concepts of evil or purpose aren’t required to have preferences or make judgments.

          >The only way that God could protect us from evil would be to take away our free will.

          Humans do this all the time. When a kid is found covered with lice and bruises, we don’t stand back out of respect for the parents’ free will to neglect and abuse their kid. We remove the parents’ free will; we put them in jail. Why? Because it’s the loving thing to do.

          If a human acted the way your God does, you would condemn him.

          • Ted says:

            Why should we rebel against God? Do you know that he is not just?

            God does have choices, but in order to make the world the way you seem to want him to he would have to take away free will. You also have not listened to me, so I will repeat my self. Natural evil is the result of living in a fallen world. Sin entered into the world, and now there are natural evils. Moral evil is the result of human freedom. If there were no human freedom then concepts like love and justice would be incomprehensible.

            I am listening. I know that you have acknowledged objective morality. But objective morality is a self-contraction in atheism. Fredrick Nietzsche knew this. When you say that humans are machines you undermine objective morality. What you are calling morality is not moral at all. It is true that it is objectively better for my truck if I change the oil every 3,000 miles, but I am not evil or immoral if I do not. What I am asking you is what is the metaphysical grounding for your moral beliefs? Right now you are jumping off a cliff without looking.

            Do you really want God to violate your free will? As things are now, if God gave us what we deserve we would all be punished for the evil in our hearts.

  11. Ted wrote:

    >You have not challenged any of the facts that I have presented.

    Wm Lane Craig is a cheerleader. If you are aleady a fan of Jesus, then you’ll love him. If you are a scientist or a member of the Nobel Committee, he is irrelevant. I have refuted him before, and you can find responses to all your points online. Here’s a recent one: http://richarddawkins.net/articles/612104-dealing-with-william-lane-craig. I am just a guy on the internet. You don’t need me. This wheel has been invented many times already.

    The only reason civilization puts up with religious talk is that there are too many of you. It’s a political reality. So, the grownups have created licensing boards and exams to make sure that you keep your religious thinking out of your dealings with the rest of us. When an airline pilot, an surgeon or a CPA let religion creep into their work, we fire them. When politicians do it, you elect them. It’s very frustrating. And dangerous.

  12. Ted says:

    William Lane Craig is a cheerleader? This is an ad homonym attack. Craig has a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Birmingham. He also has a Th.D from the University of Munich. He has written over thirty books and regularly writes articles for pear reviewed journals. He is well respected in the philosophic community. Just ask Daniel Dennet.

    Scientists and members of the Nobel comity do not like him? Is that all scientist, or just atheistic scientist? Is this the same Nobel comity that gives peace awards to terrorists? I am not really concerned about that, I am concerned about truth.

    You are the grownups? Does that make me a child? How does a persons religious beliefs effect flying a plane, performing surgery, or accounting? This seems to be a bit much. I know of religious people working in all these fields. They are not getting fired. Why would it matter in these fields? This post is one big slander.

    Here is the point. You have not refuted a single argument that I have put forward. You have not shown that any facts that I have claimed are false. Then you resort to name calling. O.K. There you have it.

    Since you posted an article, which I am about to read, I thought I might leave you with Craig’s thoughts on Dawkins. Enjoy. http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=5493, and http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=6831, and http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=8515

    • Don Severs says:

      >William Lane Craig is a cheerleader? This is an ad homonym attack.

      Ok, fine. All I meant was that his arguments are only persuasive to the already persuaded.

      >They are not getting fired. Why would it matter in these fields?

      A pilot would get fired if he used faith to chart a course or choose airspeed. To work together, we must live in a shared reality using mutualy agreed-upon methods. Religious faith walls us off into walled gardens.

      http://www.atheismresource.com/2011/living-faith-v-s-living

      • Ted says:

        There are many people who say that they are Christians because of the arguments he uses. But whether or not these arguments convince people that already believe is a moot point. What I am concerned about is, are his arguments true? (There are other relevant Christian philosophers to discus as well.)

        You are using the term faith the way that you have defined, not the way the Bible uses it. Faith is trust. Its connection to charting a flight path is do you trust the flight path. If you trust the flight path then you have faith in the flight path. Christian faith is based on historical evidence, logical consistency and coherence, and experience. If these three agree then I am reasonable to believe what I believe. I must point out that you have not challenged directly any arguments or facts that I have listed.

  13. Ted says:

    You actually posted a review of that debate by Krauss. Here is another view to consider. http://randyeverist.blogspot.com/2011/03/review-of-craig-vs-krauss-debate.html

  14. Don Severs says:

    >You are the grownups? Does that make me a child?

    No, the grownups are the licensing boards. The key is they don’t follow religious rules, they follow scientific ones.

    In our dealings with each other, when it matters, religious thinking is actually illegal in many cases. This is because faith is a form of lying. When we don’t have scientific reasons for what we say we believe, we are cheating.

    Now, I love that you and Craig try to be scientific about zombie Jesus. But you are impostors. The evidence for the resurrection is not good enough. Outside of religion, you would agree with me.

    We would never buy a house or a business on faith. Should our religious beliefs be allowed a lower standard?

  15. Ted says:

    What cases is religious belief illegal? What is illegal is for the government to establish an official religion or prevent religious practice. Why is faith a form of lying? You have not made an argument for this. You whole line of reasoning here is based on an ad homonym fallacy.

    The case for the resurrection is stranger than most of the history that we know from the ancient world. There are over 5,700 Greek manuscripts of the New Testament. The oldest manuscript is less than 100 years after the original writings. Compare that to the ancient book with the second most manuscript evidence is Homer’s Iliad, with at least 643 manuscripts. The oldest manuscripts are 500 years after the original writings. The works of Aristotle are preserved in only 43 manuscripts and the oldest are 1400 years later. The amount and quality of the New Testament manuscripts is far superior to any thing else in the ancient world. The Gospel of Mark was written around A.D. 50-55. That is twenty to twenty five years after the events occurred. The first biography of Alexander the Great was written at least 300 years after his death. There is far more time for legend to crepe into the biography of Alexander than the biographies of Jesus. So, no, outside of religion I would not agree with you.

    Every time you by a house, or a business, or a car, you are acting on faith. Faith is trust. You are trusting that the house will not fall apart, the business will be profitable, or the car will run. My standards for religious belief are very high. Your reasoning here is a straw man fallacy.

    • Blackmane says:

      Should I buy a house or a car, I do not simply rely on the belief that the person selling said house or car to me is telling me the truth.

      I have the house inspected for damage or need of repair.

      If the car is used, I have it inspected by a licensed mechanic.

      If the car is new, I do research into the track record of the particular model and I investigate applicable warranties.

      If I seek to purchase a business, I look at its history and performance.

      In all cases, I gather relevant data points to determine if I should invest my money.

      It is not to say that these endeavors are without risk; there is always the possibility that something is missed, or the unexpected happens.

      Religion though, denies me this. In dealing with the specifics of the resurrection, I am told that a man died, was dead, and returned to the living.

      There are no other documents to support this, save for the biblical scriptures. There are no secondary documents, reports from soldiers, guards, townsfolk.

      When dealing with the history of Alexander the Great, we have letters, documents, paperwork. And historians do not assume that the full works of historical writers are 100% accurate, we piece together and come up with the best possible explanation.

      The bible however, is a singular document, with no corroborating evidence save itself and even then, does not contain an internal coherency. Dealing with the resurrection alone there are a plethora of inconsistent comments about how things happened.

      Because religion dictates that I must believe that this singular document is true, because I am told so is not enough evidence. To continue the analogy from above, I am to accept any and all risks involved in believing any particular religion (because they can’t all be right) without being able to have any evidence whatsoever to support the decision to throw my lot in with any of them.

  16. Ted says:

    If you read my earlier posts you will see that I have gathered relevant data to determine what my beliefs are. Religion does not deny you the use of your intellect. I want you to investigate my claims and see if they hold up.

    You said that there are no other documents outside the Bible to support the resurrection. This is not true. There are several ancient writers who mention Jesus. Julius Africanus, Flavius Josephus, Publius Cornelius Tacitus, Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus, and Pliny the Younger, are just a few of these writers. None of these men believed that Jesus did rise from the dead, but they all affirm that Jesus was executed under the authority of Pontius Pilate and that early Christians did believe that Jesus rose physically from the dead. What could have caused this belief? There is nothing in first century Jewish, Greek, or Roman beliefs that can explain why the Christians believed this. The ancient people believed that dead people stayed dead.

    It is also incorrect to view the Bible as a single document. The Bible is a collection of 66 individual documents. Mathew, Mark, Luke, John and Paul are all viewed as separate witnesses. Mathew, Mark, Luke, and John each authored a gospel. Luck is the author of Acts. Paul wrote 13 letters. All of these bear witness to the physical resurrection of Jesus.

    What inconsistencies are you referring to? If the stories matched in every detail would you accuse the Biblical authors of a conspiracy? Earlier in this thread I listed some facts. Which ones are you challenging? If you go back and read my earlier posts you will see that I am arguing from evidence and reasoned. You can say that my arguments and are false, but you cannot accuse me of not presenting them. To do so would be a straw man fallacy. Which arguments of evidences do you object to and why? Please be specific. I am not asking you to believe because the Bible says so.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Well, i read somewhere that when population runs low, The human brain produces more X sperm than Y sperm, so babies are more likely to be girls. Obviously its better for survival with 10 girls and 1 guy than with 10 guys and 1 girl. I dont know if this is accurate, but if any generation ever messed up somewhere, i think that would be what we would fall back on.

  18. mebel jati jepara…

    […]Is Natural Selection a Conscious Process? « Ask an Atheist[…]…

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