Let me lay some cards on the table, if only to provide a bit of context for what I want to say. I am a strong and unequivocal evolutionist who places Darwin at the very core of my philosophical mindset. My relationship to religion, on the other had, is …. complicated. I don’t think any of the standard categories unambiguously matches up with what I think and feel, and I’m somewhat okay with that. I just hope that these confessions serve to clarify rather than obstruct the conversation I hope to have. (more…)
One popular website running around on Favebook is Isidewith.com. It’s a website which asks you a few questions, then tells you how the candidates answered the same questions. One question is whether you believe in evolution. After you take the survey, you get to see how you align with the candidates. Just to make R. Gary’s head explode, here is Mitt’s response.
Question #1- What does that even mean?
Question #2- Should I be offended that it tells me I should vote Green Party?
A great deal of my thought surrounding the nature of (R)eligious, (S)cientific and (P)ragmatic (or pre-modern, modern and post-modern) approaches to truth is based in the premise that rule-following is the only path to truth. Empirical observation, logical deduction and everything in between only get us anywhere inasmuch as they are normatively constrained by rules of various kinds. In this post I would like to briefly unpack this position in terms of a familiar metaphor. (more…)
I have discussed the problem of evil in the past, and what I feel is the Church’s unique position on how the atonement itself acts as a theodicy, God responding with everything he can to our suffering. I still stand by the general premise of that post, that the universe is governed by eternal laws independent of God  and that man has free agency and thus God is not accountable for him.  I also still hold that through the Atonement of Christ, God is doing all he can to alleviate our suffering.
I’d like to speculate a little bit more about why God isn’t doing more to alleviate suffering. Here is where some theories associated with evolution come in.  (more…)
Stephen Finlan, Author of “Options on Atonement in Christian Thought” ends his book with a modest proposal. It is that our understanding of divine revelation is subject to a form of evolution. Finlan Suggests that “God always seeks to deepen and expand the revelation of truth, but we humans (including the biblical authors) only perceive a part of the message. We adapt and domesticate new ideas to old and familiar ways of thinking. We always pour new wine into old wineskins, but the new wine expands and bursts open our containers (Mark 2:22), our old ways of thinking.”  Finlan calls this “progressive development in religious conceptualization”. (more…)
Continued from here.
For those who are new, click here for all parts.
I’m going to keep this one short and sweet.
No doubt many of you have seen the movie Avatar which is breaking all kinds of box office records this winter. For the three of you who don’t know, in the film humans in the future are mentally connected to test-tube-grown alien bodies and essentially act as pilots to those bodies in the story. This idea of minds powering bodies is pretty common in religions around the world where the assumption is that each of us is a spirit piloting a mortal human body and as soon as our body dies our spirits essentially hit the eject button and move on. This concept is certainly at home in Mormonism where it is not uncommon to hear analogies about hands and gloves to describe the relationship between spirits and mortal bodies.
So with that as a backdrop, it is not entirely clear to me what the theoretical objection to the idea of human evolution among Judeo/Christian religionists would be. The stereotypical objection is that evolution means human bodies “evolved from monkeys”. As far as I can tell the awfulness of this prospect is supposed to be self evident. But of course the awfulness of the idea that our ancient biological ancestors were “monkeys” isn’t self evident. If we are just pilots of these present bodies then why should we care at all how these bodies came into existence in the universe? Now I can understand that Biblical literalists would be concerned about having to give up some hyper-literalism in their interpretations of the Bible to accept human evolution and they might not like that. But beyond that it seems to me humans shouldn’t really care much how our species came to be on this planet.
I am a pro-science guy and I believe in evolution. That said, it seems to me from watching the Discovery channel and reading popular science articles that it is easy to get carried away explaining things based on evolution to the point that we forget what evolution is in the first place.† Evolution is natural selection working on random mutation. Here’s an example from the NYT (hat tip: ZD sidebar) demonstrating how easy it is to slip from sound scientific reasoning into poppycock: (more…)
I have been fascinated by the theories and posts at this guy’s blog. I didn’t know much at all about evolutionary psychology before this week, though I was not surprised that such a field existed. Here is the definition of evolutionary psychology we get from the wiki:
Evolutionary psychology (EP) is a pseudoscience that attempts to explain mental and psychological traitsâ€”such as memory, perception, or languageâ€”as adaptations, that is, as the functional products of natural selection or sexual selection. Adaptationist thinking about physiological mechanisms, such as the heart, lungs, and immune system, is common in evolutionary biology. Evolutionary psychology applies the same thinking to psychology.
Evolutionary psychologists argue that much of human behavior is generated by psychological adaptations that evolved to solve recurrent problems in human ancestral environments. They hypothesize, for example, that humans have inherited special mental capacities for acquiring language, making it nearly automatic, while inheriting no capacity specifically for reading and writing. Other adaptations, according to EP, might include the abilities to infer others’ emotions, to discern kin from non-kin, to identify and prefer healthier mates, to cooperate with others, and so on. Consistent with the theory of natural selection, evolutionary psychology sees organisms as often in conflict with others of their species, including mates and relatives. For example, mother mammals and their young offspring sometimes struggle over weaning, which benefits the mother more than the child. Humans, however, have a marked capacity for cooperation as well. (more…)
Satoshi Kanazawa is an evolutionary psychologist and he blogs over at Psychology Today. Earlier this week he published a post called “How to be happy” (Hat tip to the BCC sideblog). Here are some relevant excerpts:
What can evolutionary psychology say about how to be happy? …
I would say that the best thing for people to do to become happier is to get in touch with their animal nature … Recognize and accept that we are animals. We are all designed by evolution to be certain way, and no amount of denial or fighting will change our evolutionary legacy and its implications.
One of the things that evolution has done is to make men and women very different. … One of the ways that men and women are different is in what makes them happy.
Forget what feminists, hippies, and liberals have told you in the last half century. They are all lies based on political ideology and conviction, not on science. Contrary to what they may have told you, it is very unlikely that money, promotions, the corner office, social status, and political power will make women happy. Similarly, it is very unlikely that quitting their jobs, dropping out of the rat race, and becoming stay-at-home dads to spend all their times with their children will make men happy.
The point of this post is not to give opportunity to arguing whether evolution or no death before the fall (NDBF)is correct. It is not to look at whether S. McMurrin and H. Eyring Sr. or J. Fielding Smith and B. Packer more accurately state the official position of the Church. If you have perspectives along those lines, table them, because those sorts of comments will be deleted here, even if you do have a fancy ™ on the end of your name.
The attempt here is to take the two positions, or for the sake of this post, assume BOTH are true. Then we can look at possible ways that both can work together.
[Jesus’ cures for medical illnesses] are all miraculous, and the same power was granted to the apostles—”power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease.” And more than this, not only the blind received their sight, the lame walked, the lepers were cleansed, the deaf heard, but even the dead were raised up. No question of the mandate. He who went about doing good was a physician of the body as well as of the soul, and could the rich promises of the Gospel have been fulfilled, there would have been no need of a new dispensation of science.
-William Osler, The Evolution of Modern Medicine
When I speak of “drawing valid inferences” or “making legal moves” in a language game, you should not automatically think that these inferences and moves could simply be made by anyone in the linguistic community. For example, in Foucault’s scenario, the patient’s submission to the psychiatrist’s authority is by no means enhanced by his ability to reason exactly as the psychiatrist would about his condition. On the contrary, such “simulations” of rational discourse would tend to underscore the depth and complexity of the patient’s mental disorder. Thus, not only must a psychiatric diagnosis be articulated according to a fixed set of rules, but it must also be articulated by someone who has been authorized to issue a diagnosis of that kind. And so, it is crucial to the patient’s having submitted to the psychiatrist’s authority that he remain silent while the psychiatrist speaks on his behalf.
-Steve Fuller, Social Epistemology
The first passage above illustrates the historical, zero-sum displacement of religious authority by science with regards to how we ought to behave and to whom we ought to look for such instruction. The second passage above illustrates the asymmetrical nature of scientific authority as it exists within society today. Before continuing I first must say that 1) I think and hope that we all treat modern medicine with the amount of respect that it has clearly earned and 2) I have no intention of pitting medical science against scriptural religion. I do, however, want to use our modern deference to the authority of medical science to illustrate the nature of priesthood authority. (more…)
Clark has mentioned in a couple threads how he thinks my position is very similar to that of Soren Kierkegaard. There are several important parallels between Kierkegaard’s thinking and my own, but this should not blind us to the important differences. At the heart of our differences is that Kierkegaard follows the Protestant thinking of his time – the same thinking that he so strongly disagrees with is other ways – in assuming that religion in deeply and irretrievably individualistic. This individualism is exactly what makes Kierkegaard the father of existentialism, while I on the other hand, am much more of a pragmatist of sorts.
A convenient way of looking at the differences between myself and Kierkegaard can be found in his reading of Abraham’s being commanded to sacrifice Isaac. For Kierkegaard, this story illustrates how God and our faith in Him is neither reasonable nor moral, at least not in any human-centered or social sense that Kant, Hegel or any other modern thinker would recognize. Abraham did not explain himself to Isaac for the simple reason that he could not explain himself. There was, quite frankly, no reasons to give on the matter. Any attempt at explaining, discussion or arguing, according to Kierkegaard, would have inevitably brought Abraham’s faith back into the realm of socially regulated reasons and morals. (It is very much worth noting what Sartre also noted: that Abraham never for a single second questioned his interpretation of God’s commandment.) (more…)
In this post I wanted to briefly sketch out some of my own thoughts and taxonomies regarding how we go about legitimizing claims and positions. I realize that the distinctions I make aren’t all that fine grained, but I prefer to sacrifice a certain amount of complexity for the sake of clarity. When somebody calls some belief, position or claim into question there are, I submit, 4 primary ways in which we legitimate such things:
- They look “up” to authority, office or some other person who is set apart to answer such questions
- They look “out” to nature through observation, experiment, measurement, etc.
- They look “inward” to feelings, promptings, instincts and passions, etc.
- They look “back” to the past in traditions, customs, sacred texts and other things that have stood the test of time.
“[After Newton t]he universe is one great harmonious order; not, as for Thomas and the Middle Ages, an ascending hierarchy of purposes, but a uniform mathematical system…
“Nature was through and through orderly and rational; hence what was natural was easily identified with what was rational, and conversely, whatever, particularly in human society, seemed to an intelligent man reasonable, was regarded as natural, as somehow rooted in the very nature of things. So Nature and the Natural easily became the ideal of man and of human society and were interpreted as Reason and the Reasonable. The great object of human endeavor was to discover what in every field was natural and reasonable, and to brush aside the accretions irrational tradition that Reason and Nature might the more easily be free to display its harmonious order.”
John Herman Randall Jr., The Making of the Modern Mind, p. 260,76
Within the scriptures we find very little, if any mention of some “problem” with interpreting (personal) revelation. While we do find numerous example of how problems arise from interpreting scriptures (JS-History), we also find that revelation is always the clarifying solution to such problems of interpretation. Why is it, then, that the interpretation of revelation is mentioned so often within the bloggeracle? What assumptions and values must be in place for interpretation to be construed as a problem and what was the historical emergence of these assumptions and values? In order to approach the “problem” of interpretation I will first draw a conceptual trichotomy and will then draw a brief historical sketch of how the problem of interpretation was invented. (more…)