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April 21, 2010

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Well, if we evolved, then no, it doesn't matter because as you've explained, nothing matters if we evolved.

The error here is the unjustified leap from the claim that since what we do doesn't have eternal meaning therefore it has no meaning at all. Ultimately my life won't matter in the sense that the heat death of the universe will eventually happen and nobody will know what my life was about. By my life is meaningful to me and to my loved ones right now. That's meaning too.

"[But] my life is meaningful to me and to my loved ones right now. That's meaning too."
The problem here is that you have to multiply this by billions of competing versions of meaning held to by individuals who band together in groups to snuff out other groups' meanings. Who is to say that one meaning is better, worthy of pursuit, or true?
The point stands: only with ultimate/eternal meaning does one's personal meaning find meaning.

None of what you claim follows from evolution's being true actually does.

Humans share ancestry with other organisms. Where do you go from there to "there is no purpose or meaning to life, there is no morality, there's no qualitative difference between humans and animals, there's no life after death, and there's no purpose to human history?"

“Being ignorant is not so much a shame, as being unwilling to learn.”
--Benjamin Franklin

Tony,

All of those things follow from materialism and Darwinism. Show me how you could get objective morality from a materialistic perspective. I don't believe it can be done.

To quote Jean Paul Satre, once we lose the illusion of eternity, life has no meaning.

If you don't find purpose and value in the first cause, there is not purpose and value. You can cook-up whatever purpose you want to attribute to your life - but ultimately it is meaningless.

Forgive me for going off topic just a bit. I'm going to paste in something here that I wrote on my blog last month....

All the talk with evolution is centered around the hunt for transformational fossils that will prove beyond a doubt that you evolved from a fish. I have never heard anything said about transformations that are going on right now. If evolutionist think we are just a couple turns from being apes, I'd like to ask them what's next on the screw for mankind? What about people like Shaun White having wings or the likes of Jacque Cousteau developing fins? And why don't intellectuals and artists have larger heads (due to all the brain power) than say those who are mentally disabled? If we have evolved, then where are we headed? Is this it? I'm thinking that if we are so close from being an ape, what are we close to becoming next?

According to the New World Encyclopedia, the oldest homo fossils date back to 2 million years ago and all other forms of homo genus are extinct accept for homo sapiens. So, if it's true that I'm a byproduct of "survival of the fittest" (due to all the other kinds of humans being extinct) and humans evolved from apes, why are there still apes around but not Neanderthals? And because apes still exist, how come there aren't any transformational ape-to-human bipeds walking around my neighborhood?

Is it though? How are your feelings about your life up for rational discussion? It just seems like all you can posit is subjective feelings, not cognitive statements of fact about the answer to the question "Does life have meaning?". Why isn't that different from me answering the question "Does God exist" with "well to me He does"?

If evolution, or any other event, happened in God's universe, and if God created a universe with the intent that things happen it it, then meaning can be attached to things that happen.

I think what Greg means is that there is no objective meaning and purpose, no end to which our actions are moving. We do have the experience of meaning and purpose. We all know that things are meaningful, and even if our sense of meaning differs from one another, we still all have that sense of "meaning". It is that sense that Greg is saying must be attributed to something externally objective to all of us. The very idea that I have meaning or that there is meaning makes no sense in a strictly material universe in which we are just chemistry and neurons. Nerves and molecules do not ponder the why, the how or the when. In that case, they would just do.

How do you derive meaning from the mechanism? If God just picked up some dirt and went POOF! there's man in an instant or if he went "hum-da-dee-dum" and molded him over millions of years, what follows from either of these? It's not the mechanism that gives meaning, it's the who that did it. I would agree that purely naturalistic Darwinian evolution with no "hand of God" presents a problem for the question of morality, meaning, etc. BUT morality doesn't come from the mechanism, it comes from God. To be fair, I don't think theistic evolutionists would say that the evolution they speak of is purely naturalistic or Darwinian and that God takes part in the mechanism. However, I think Gen 2:7 would be a problem (I'm willing to be challenged on this on the basis of "never read a bible verse") for a Christian who wants to believe in evolution as well.

I think meaning in a material universe is an attempt at grand scale intentionality. If we're purely physical objects explainable in the language of physics and chemistry, what you see with science is what you get, literally.

This kind of material is responsible for creating and augmenting confusion, not diminishing it. Like I’ve said before, these sorts of fly-by remarks fail to make very basic and important distinctions. For instance, consider the following theses:

Empirical Hypothesis of Macroevolution: All forms of life have descended from a single living organism by means of a non-miraculous process consisting at least partly in genetic mutation, sexual selection, and heredity.

Naturalism: The physical world ultimately and completely explains the mental world and so it is false that the physical world is causally explained by the causal activity of an immaterial being.

Koukl throws around the terms ‘Darwinism’ and ‘evolution’ quite freely, never explicitly stating whether is referring only to the Empirical Hypothesis of Macroevolution, Naturalism, or the conjunction of the two.

Suppose by ‘evolution’ Koukl means only to refer to the Empirical Hypothesis of Macroevolution. In that case, his conditionals are all plainly false, as C.S. Lewis and William Lane Craig clearly see. It just does not follow from the Empirical Hypothesis of Macroevolution that there is no God or morality. That is a very basic blunder. It is just not true that the Empirical Hypothesis of Macroevolution entails Naturalism. God is powerful enough, after all, to create a world where the Empirical Hypothesis of Macroevolution is true. But if that’s the case, then theism is plainly consistent with the Empirical Hypothesis of Macroevolution.

Suppose by ‘evolution’ Koukl means to refer to Naturalism. That is a dishonest use of language. Though some scientists are sloppy with their language and discuss evolution as though it entailed naturalism, most use the term to refer to the Empirical Hypothesis of Macroevolution, which is neutral with respect to naturalism. Besides, the fact that naturalism is not consistent with theism is as obvious as anything ever has been, and was known to be true long before Darwin.

Suppose by ‘evolution’ Koukl means to refer to the conjunction of the Empirical Hypothesis of Macroevolution with Naturalism. In that case his objections are really only objections to the Naturalism conjunct and completely fail to undermine the Empirical Hypothesis of Macroevolution. Of course it is true that the conjunction of the Empirical Hypothesis of Macroevolution and Naturalism is not consistent with theism. The conjunction of Naturalism and any proposition at all is not consistent with theism! There’s nothing remotely insightful about that, nor is the conjunction of theism and the Empirical Hypothesis of Macroevolution at all undermined by that.

This strikes me as an issue of intellectual integrity. It is simply dishonest and intellectually lazy to conflate the Empirical Hypothesis of Macroevolution with Naturalism and conclude with the question, “Now, are you trying to tell me that it doesn't really matter if people believe we evolved or not?” This sort of sloppy thinking is uncharitable towards theistic evolutionists such as C.S. Lewis and Richard Swinburne and encourages confusion instead of opposing it.

Kelly, here are your fossils;
Taxonomy, Transitional Forms, and the Fossil Record

From Land to Water: the Origin of Whales, Dolphins, and Porpoises

Young-earth creationists trained in paleontology admit they exist.

The hominid fossil record is actually quite good, just see the clear increase in cranial capacity over the last 5 million years

Attention Malebranche,
Greg prefaces everything with the term Darwinism, which by definition excludes God and involves the very things you are railing against. So you might begin with your own sloppy thinking and intellectual integrity. Perhaps in your haste to disagree, you left the house with your pant's down.

Tony, there are no links per se, since that in itself is the theory. You cannot prove anything by them. They are only useful if the theory is true and it is irrational to posit naturalism.

If Darwinism is true, then boo hoo.

This is an 'appeal to consequences' fallacy or as my friend, Al, likes to call it "the inability to come to an unpleasant conclusion".

Not only that, but the consequences don't follow. If Darwinism is true then theistic theories of purpose and morality go out the window - not the things themselves.

RonH


"If Darwinism is true, then there is no purpose or meaning to life, there is no morality, there's no qualitative difference between humans and animals, there's no life after death, and there's no purpose to human history."

I'm not sure that's right, unless you define Darwinism as by definition excluding God. But in that case, you've begged the question.

Moreover, some form of evolution could be true and human beings could be qualitatively different than animals. Suppose, for example, human beings evolved from apes, but the move from ape to human being was the consequence of a substantial change in nature. In that case, evolution could be true and distinctions true as well. If, of course, one believes that nature merely consists of efficient and material causes, then you have a point. But if nature includes formal and final causes inherent in it, hierarchies of beings could be present while evolution is true.

I understand, of course, that today's garden-variety naturalist does not embrace this view of evolution. But why assume that their account of evolution is the only one?

As Dallas Willard points out in his book Knowing Christ Today, evolution requires certain principles that are not themselves the product of evolution. These principles, including scientific laws and the natural ends of organisms (i.e., the need to survive), bespeak an intelligent source of being.

Just thinking out loud.

Attention Patrick

"Greg prefaces everything with the term Darwinism, which by definition excludes God and involves the very things you are railing against" Utterly incorrect. It *might* exclude YOUR God, but it doesnt exclude God. Deism.

Secondly, only maths and the law courts look for 'proof'. Science looks for evidence, and theories become better when evidence is piled up that does not falsify the theory. What you have in the case of evolution is a mountain of evidence, and no observation has yet contradicted the central tenents.

"If Darwinism is true, then there is no purpose or meaning to life, there is no morality, there's no qualitative difference between humans and animals, there's no life after death, and there's no purpose to human history. Now, are you trying to tell me that it doesn't really matter if people believe we evolved or not?"

We did evolve. Get used to it.

RandomPunter

From The Washington Post:

http://tinyurl.com/y3y95yb

An excerpt:

"Cupp presents evolution -- and science more generally -- as the enemy of religion. Reporters' "propping up of science," she writes, is an "attack on Christianity." If anything, it is Cupp's approach which insults Christians. Research detailed in Elaine Ecklund's forthcoming "Science vs. Religion," shows that many scientists are religious themselves and do not generally regard science and religion as enemies.

Nor do Christian non-scientists, as illustrated by a string of powerful statements from the leadership of Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist, Episcopalian, and Presbyterian denominations, among others. Their views were put eloquently in a letter signed by more than 12,000 Christian clergy: "We the undersigned, Christian clergy from many different traditions, believe that the timeless truths of the Bible and the discoveries of modern science may comfortably coexist. … [T]he theory of evolution is a foundational scientific truth…. To reject this truth or to treat it as 'one theory among others' is to deliberately embrace scientific ignorance … We believe that among God’s good gifts are human minds capable of critical thought and that the failure to fully employ this gift is a rejection of the will of our Creator. To argue that God’s loving plan of salvation for humanity precludes the full employment of the God-given faculty of reason is to attempt to limit God, an act of hubris. … We ask that science remain science and that religion remain religion, two very different, but complementary, forms of truth.""

Jon,

Re: heat death
John Hartung has asked physicists if this is really inevitable. This video gives the answer.

RonH


Just as atheists claim that religion is an emotional crutch to provide meaning, atheists on this thread exhibit denial by saying their life has meaning in the face of no God. They do this to soothe their soul -- they can't tolerate a meaningless world so they manufacture "limited temporal meaning". Why do this? Just admit existence is pointless without eternal meaning. But atheists can't because something is telling them there should at least be a modicum of meaning in our lives. The good news is there is a real God and he is eternal and he gives our lives real, eternal meaning; and with eternal meaning there are real consequences to the real choices we make.

Atheists say "there is no eternal meaning -- let's make up our own!" As the French poet Charles Baudelaire intimated, "the greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he [and by extension, God] didn't exist."

If atheism (which follows from strict evolution) is true, then the world has no eternal meaning.

"We did evolve. Get used to it.'

Odd. What if we evolved in such a way that we cannot get used to it. That is, it is easy to imagine that our survival depends on our having doubts about evolution. So, perhaps that is the case. On the other hand, if you believe evolution is the truth, then why should one accept that truth? There is a missing premise you need to defend: people ought to accept the truth. But that normative guideline itself cannot be a consequence of evolution, since evolution is a theory concerning material organisms and normative guidelines are immaterial. Moreover, normative guidelines seem to imply awareness of an ideal state of being. But ideal forms of being are not empirically detectable.

How do you account for these queer objects of thought?

Here is a kind of life after death you can be sure of...
http://www.whatwasdone.com/Age.php?&Age=-1

"What if we evolved in such a way that we cannot get used to it. That is, it is easy to imagine that our survival depends on our having doubts about evolution. So, perhaps that is the case."

Odd. Frank makes an utterly unsupported assertion followed by an utterly specious conflation of the nature of truth and evolution. Sounds clever; isnt.

@ Ivan

"If atheism (which follows from strict evolution) is true, then the world has no eternal meaning."

Why do you assert this?

1. Atheism does not follow from strict evolution. False causality.
2. What eternal meaning? Christianity's? Islam's? Zeus's? Religions evolve too. You dont have evidence for any of the above. You have faith. Stop worrying.

Patrick,

"Attention Malebranche, Greg prefaces everything with the term Darwinism, which by definition excludes God..."

I suppose that comment would be a little easier to evaluate if either you or Koukl had clarified exactly what it is that the term refers to in the fashion outlined in my previous comment. But probably that would have either swiftly exposed to the falsity of the claims Koukl makes or render them trivially true to the point that they are not worth saying.

RandomPunter
It *might* exclude YOUR God, but it doesnt exclude God. Deism.

Of course it excludes God. Darwin did not allow for a mechanism other than that which involves random mutation and natural selection. Random selection does not get off the ground without the two entities it takes to get genes into next generation. Darwin's theory cannot account for it and that is the sum total of his theory.

You are entirely wrong of course about your presumption of evidence. You have not one shred of evidence of natural selection as the means of getting the thing off the ground, as I mentioned. Neither will you. The theory is dead. Darwin would be ashamed of himself today and repent in sackcloth and ash at his own silliness.

"Odd. Frank makes an utterly unsupported assertion followed by an utterly specious conflation of the nature of truth and evolution. Sounds clever; isnt."

And how isn't this more of the same? We got your feelings, not why it isn't "clever", or better yet it isn't sound.

Malebranche
"I suppose that comment would be a little easier to evaluate if either you or Koukl had clarified exactly what it is that the term refers to in the fashion outlined in my previous comment."

It is not Greg or I that made the assumption you did. Darwinism can only be interpreted by Darwin. His theory cannot get started since the sum total of his theory is that natural selection produces the variation in the species. The problem is you have no starter. The priobiotic soup is universally rejected as meaningful, and there is no first entity upon which natural selection may act, if it takes natural selection to get you there in the first place. Nether can anyone change the rules and toss up ad hoc explanation. Darwin would run as fast as he can from his own theory today.

Finally, your "Empirical Hypothesis:" does not get off the ground. It is another ad hoc attempt at explaining what is quite plain. Darwinian processes CANNOT get the whole things going. It will never be proven because it is self refuting.

Patrick,

Again, feel free to state clearly how you are using the term 'Darwinism' and perhaps then we can talk about how Darwinism as defined relates to evolution and whether or not it entails naturalism.

Creationists,

Set aside philosophy and 'worldviews' for a minute and bring us something that answers the biochemical evidence for the common descent of men and chimps.

That is: what is your answer to: our chromosome #2, ERV's, cytochrome c, etc.?

RonH

@ Patrick

"The theory is dead." Thats very funny.

@Chris

I pointed out that what Francis says is a string of unsupportable assertions. What do I have to do? Take each of those assertions at face value and try and dissect them? Discourse doesnt work that way. However, I note that you write things like "You Can Lead Some Non-believers to Evidence, But You Can't Make Them Think", so there is zero hope of you understanding that. You clearly dont even understand waht evidence is.

@Patrick

From your amusing website:

"The cross is more than an ancient symbol of an ancient religion." Quite. Its a symbol of torture. Had you not realised that?

And you obviously dont know what is meant by a deist god.

Evolution and God are not mutually exclusive. There is a difference between the science of evolutionary biology and "Evolutionism," which contains actual evolutionary science, but fallaciously extrapolates materialism, determinism, and/or atheism from this science.

Who's to say that evolution isn't part of God's grand plan? He created the earliest life forms, far less complex than ourselves, but far too complex to have arisen from chance alone. Think of the creation of life itself as like tipping over the first domino, and evolution as the increasingly intricate trails of falling dominoes. It was all part of the initial plan.

fallaciously? maybe. how do you know?
far too complex? maybe. how do you know?
initial plan? maybe. how do you know?

""If Darwinism is true, then there is no purpose or meaning to life, there is no morality, there's no qualitative difference between humans and animals, there's no life after death, and there's no purpose to human history."

I'm not sure that's right, unless you define Darwinism as by definition excluding God. But in that case, you've begged the question."


Yeah, I agree with this. Evolution does not prove atheism, materialism, etc. Evolution could be true, and God can still exist.

"Evolution could be true, and God can still exist."

Yup. But evolution makes Adam, and therefore Jesus, figureheads.

It's a tough call for the theist: either go down with guns blazing (stick with special creation) or let the truth on the porch for a tense talk the outcome of which will be confusion in the pews and one surrendered dogma after another.

The bad thing is while he makes up his mind time is running out. We need to put an end to war before it takes us all down and there are enough real sources of conflict without adding religion.

RonH

Hi Ron

No, not really. The story in Genesis doesn't have to be literal, and Jesus can still rise from the dead. In fact, where evolution is true or not, I wouldn't take the story in Genesis as being literal.

In fact, evolution can be true, and we can still have some supernatural events, like the beginning of the universe, and the first life. As well as non-material things like love, good, evil, thoughts, etc.


"Jesus can still rise from the dead"

But what for?

RonH,

You ask what Jesus' resurrection is for:

""Jesus can still rise from the dead"

But what for?"

Perhaps in order to elevate humanity out of ignorance, despair and darkness and grant them an immortal flourishing that enables them to achieve the supernatural end for which they were created and which they so deeply desire. That sounds pretty close to Christian doctrine. And how, exactly, does human evolution undermine our need for or the significance of such a deliverance? Is the idea that such a glorious deliverance and transformation is valuable only if our current misery has no evolutionary history? Why should that matter?

Here is something that interests me in the whole evolution of man deal. I always ask, "Why haven't we seen man evolve into something else over the years"? Or, "Why haven't I seen a monkey or ape like being making the transition to man right now"?

I figure since man has been walking around for a while there might be a welcome package for the newcomers to humanity. You know a welcome kit or something?

But when I ask the question, I always hear man muddled up the evolutionary process with all the changes he made so we wont see it.

Why does man have a strong desire to worship something when all the other animals don't?

Hi Ron

Evolution doesn't say anything about real good and real evil. Sin and evolution are two different topics.

So, it's true Jesus died for our sins. But it's not true that Adam brought them into the world? What would make us think that?

RonH,

I don't see anything in evolutionary theory that has the consequence that Adam did not bring sin into the world (though of course he did not bring suffering into a world). Even if evolution is true, there was still a first human and for all we know that first human committed the first act of human wickedness. So, I'm just not seeing the problem I guess.

If the story is not literally true, it still teaches that there is one Creator, Man is like him, yet is in rebellion against him and separated from him, and man is unable to reach paradise. Sound familiar?

@ Robert G

"Who is to say that one meaning is better, worthy of pursuit, or true?"

It doesn't matter to me if others find meaning in ways different from me. If others find meaning in different ways I'm happy for them. I don't see why everyone needs to derive meaning in the same way I do.

Hi Jon

That sounds good, but the problem we are seeing right now, is that people find meaning in their life in ways that are truly destructive and wrong. For example, people going into a crowed market, and blowing other people up.

Ron H
"Set aside philosophy and 'worldviews' for a minute and bring us something that answers the biochemical evidence for the common descent of men and chimps."

No, you bring the biochemical evidence. Your posture assumes that creationism needs a more robust defense in areas that science has failed to evince. Common ancestry can entail common morphology and biochemistry, but so can't intelligent causation use similar body plans and chemistry as it pleases that intelligent agent, or that agent can also use come combination thereof.

You can demand from creationists what you like, but let those demands also be satisfied from your philosophy. The question of philosophy cannot be left out, because both creationists and naturalists have a philosophical content.

So again, you bring some evidence about human chimp commonality. Better yes, explain the equally significant differences without begging your conclusion that is not supported by any know science yet.

Malebranche and Todd,

It sounds like evolution's story of human origins is, for you, close enough to the stories in Genesis. But these odd events and others are presented by the Bible as history - at least that's what a lot of people think.

By what criteria can you decide which are history and which are not? For evolution, there is evidence. So maybe you don't think Eve was made from Adam's rib. But what about other odd events for which the Bible is the only evidence. How will you decide about those?

RonH

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