Tag Archives: Evolution

It’s the differences that count

1 Dec

Have you heard these remarks?:

  • We, humans, share 98.8% DNA with chimps; so of course, Darwin’s theory of evolution is correct!
  • Rights for the transgendered is a civil right’s issue, just like it was for African-Americans!
  • Why is it NOT okay when a suicide bomber kills a bunch of innocent people, but the Bible condones Samson’s act of bringing down the crowded pavilion to which he was chained, killing many?

I heard this latter issue discussed the other day. The radio show host responded by putting aside the similarities and focusing instead on the differences.  As I was listening, I realized how often I had been subject to this confusion-producing tactic.  Obfuscation can occur when arguments highlight the points in common.  Often the distinctions and differences go unmentioned, yet they can quickly bring clarity to the controversy.

Trading on what appears to be a significant showstopper, the powerful appearance of similarities between examples, can be a case of redirection.  In informal logic, we name that fallacy the Red Herring.

What is a Red Herring?  It’s a tactic based on a tradition in northern coastal town markets (but likely to occur anywhere deception is needed).  Imagine a weekly farmer & fisherman’s market. A policeman spots a pickpocketer.  Blowing his whistle and gathering reinforcements, he sics his hound dogs after the thief.  Speeding by a fishmonger, our criminal grabs some mackerel or other fish and throws it behind him at the yapping dogs like a stick.  The animals change course, suddenly motivated by the prospect of a tasty treat!

So what are we to do when an opponent moves the spotlight to their defended case and how it’s no different than an example, 100 % accepted by current society?

Gently acknowledge the similarities; don’t dispute them.  But then YOU redirect the discussion to the fact that differences often are critical.   Offer this example:

  • Two glasses of clear liquid.  One contains nothing but water.  The other holds water and one teeny, tiny eye-dropper-measured partial milliliter of arsenic.  I think any reasonable person would say that the invisible drop of the poison WOULD make a difference!

If you can’t think on your feet to discern differences between examples, then ask your interlocutor some clarifying questions to uncover what he thinks the pertinent commonalities might be.  That will buy you some time so you can think clearly.  However, if nothing comes to mind, there is NO shame in saying with humility that you need some time to think about the issue he brought up.  Ask him if you all can revisit the topic in the near future.  The other person, someone whom God also created in His image with the ability to reason, will likely look at you with a tad more respect.  And that is gain.  Then go do your research and do follow up with him.  You’ll grow in your thinking skills and learn something about how your friend thinks.  And you might change his mind!

 

Your claim is arrogant!

17 Aug

“You’re arrogant!” or “That’s arrogant!”

Have you ever experienced this kind of attack following your stated view on a topic?

Recently while listening to a podcast, I heard about just such an encounter.  Listening to the details prompted me to think through how I might effectively respond, all the while employing a calm demeanor.  In my mind, I role-played a hypothetical conversation.

The podcaster relating the story had stated that ‘old-earth creationists’ were not evolutionists  (where the term evolution refers to a non-directed process of natural selection).

The man who disagreed then flung back the barb, “That’s arrogant!”

In the shock and heat of the moment, I can envisage how tempting it would be automatically to deny the hubris of one’s original statement – without thinking!   But that would be to succumb to a fallacy trap.  The attacker with this comeback has in effect employed a Red Herring fallacy, by sidestepping the truth or falsity of the premise he disputes.

If you can picture throwing an angry dog a piece of meat or fish to distract him from chasing you, then you understand the basic concept of the Red Herring.

It is immaterial whether the assertion ‘S is P’ is arrogant or modest. Premises are either TRUE or FALSE! A person may appear arrogant in how he presents a claim.  But to label a claim as arrogant is actually a category error.

What our name-caller actually is doing is making an entirely different assertion, one that is implicit:

Your claim is arrogant!  = People who hold your view are arrogant.

I don’t know if a calm discussion would be even possible, but IF it were feasible, this is how I imagined my follow-on question to the attack might unfold:

Me:  So let me see if I understand.  You are saying that my statement ‘Old-earth creationists’ are not evolutionists. indicates arrogance on my part?  Why is that arrogant? Isn’t what matters whether my premise is TRUE or NOT TRUE?

And why would not YOUR view that ‘old-earth creationists’ are evolutionists be equally arrogant, given your logic?

I can’t predict the rest of the conversation, but I wouldn’t bet on my phantom interlocutor settling down into a calm and rational discussion.  The accusation of ‘Arrogance!’ probably indicates an angry or heated speaker.  And that’s not an appropriate environment for exchanging rational ideas.

But having thought through how I might handle such a charge did strengthen my confidence!  Just as important as being equipped with the right knowledge IS our commitment to speaking with respect for the other human being.  After all, he or she is an image-bearer of our Creator.

If moral values evolve…….

16 Sep

Evolution

Where you ground or anchor moral values is the question of the moment.  Any time someone says, “You had better do this or that!” the logical question to pose is: SAYS WHO???????

Let’s exercise our critical thinking skills as we take up this ethical source pivot.

To start, what are the major alternative origins of ‘good and evil’ of ‘right and wrong’?  Some possibilities are:

  • individual preference
  • a society’s preference
  • DNA evolved responses in individuals or groups
  • a force within the created order that is more powerful than either individuals or groups
  • an impersonal super-natural being outside of the universe
  • a personal God who is outside of the created order

Let’s look at the 3rd possibility that a society’s values emerge in an evolving environment where the strong members’ genes get passed down and continue in the species.

If that premise is accepted as a grounding source of ‘the good’, then here are some questions that come to mind:

  • How can both the tendency to share (not hoard) resources with others AND steal from others co-exist?   Wouldn’t that be a binary trait?
  • If survival of the fittest culls a population, where do life-sacrificing heroic actions originate?  Wouldn’t they be considered anti-survival?
  • Where did our almost universal belief that killing innocent human beings is wrong originate?  How does DNA differentiate ‘good guy killing’ versus ‘bad guy killing’?  And if killing others were a desirable trait for survival, why didn’t we just kill ourselves off long ago?
  • If ‘good’ and ‘bad’ are defined as actions and beliefs that make a group flourish (Aristotle called it EUDOMONIA), why don’t all starving people groups practice cannibalism?  Who gets to determine which segments ‘flourish’?

You probably can think of other ramifications that would follow if we accept that values are just the built-in natural choices that a group’s members default to, based on evolving DNA.

Finally, going back to the source or grounding of our values, here is a question that bothers me:

Should moral outrage and remonstrance be taken seriously?  If so, why?

  • if we are just acting out of our DNA, then we are determined people like dominos.
  • if we are stating merely our preferences, who cares?  I have my own preferences just like you have yours.  Who gets to arbitrate?  Does ‘might’ make ‘right’?
  • if the outrage comes from a created element within our system, let’s try to demolish or avoid IT.  Maybe enough of US can eliminate IT!

However, if the outrage originates from a supernatural being, then we need to be concerned!

Question:  Can you see any other wellspring or root of morals or standards? 

Logical Gal – when pre-suppositions lead to different conclusions

20 May

suspicion

Listening to some commentary the other day, I learned that secular scientists now have data to prove that even babies draw back with hesitation when they see the face of a person of a different color.  Their conclusion was that racial bias is hard-wired into us through the evolutionary process.  These naturalists can even point to and impute a safety, survival benefit to being suspicious of ‘other’.

It turns out, that if one subscribes to the theory of evolution as a means of explaining human development over time, then one simply accepts racial distrust as something, although regrettable, at least natural.

Here’s the rub.  If we can explain the foundation for hateful behavior as something the evolutionary process has brought about, there is little we can do to eradicate, let alone curb, ugly actions at their root!

However, Christians evaluate the world through a different lens, that of Original Sin.  According to this foundational doctrine, we are pre-disposed, from the womb, to be sinful.  And in a racial context, that sin works itself out through suspicious behavior at its mildest to mean-spirited, cruel and downright evil actions at the other end.

But……(a life-giving 3-letter-word if there ever were one!) only one world view offers hope – Christianity.

If racial prejudice is part and parcel of species survival, then there is no significant hope for eradicating it permanently.  At most, one can TRAIN humans to act not in accord with their natural instincts.

However, if sin is the root cause of racial prejudice, then Jesus’ atoning death on the cross, His righteous record applied to believers AND His power through the Word to kill sin provide mountains of hope for change!

Power of God's word

When Christians see that we are ALL ‘other’, all alienated from a Holy God, then what we have in common is far greater than physical or cultural differences.  Therefore, we can begin to apply truths from the Bible to our hearts, to convict us of the sin of NOT loving our neighbor as ourselves. And since the FACT of being greatly loved by God at the cost of His Son comes before ANY of God’s commands about love for God and love toward neighbor, we can grow in our trust of what God says about all of us.

If ‘this’ is just the way I am, then there is no obligation on me to change.  Evolutionary explanations and beliefs, it would seem, challenge NO ONE to give up comfortable habits. In fact they actually talk out of both sides of their mouth. In essence, they preach:

  • You shouldn’t act like this, so don’t!
  • Due to evolutionary survival of the fittest, the way you are is how nature saw best to continue the species!

So which is it……?

Logical Gal and courage to ask some questions

17 Sep

Questions - ask them

As a woman, I’m sometimes overwhelmed by assertive naturalist types who claim that evolution IS the only rational explanation for the way life is.  I guess I’m taken back by their self-assurance and confidence.

But gradually as I’ve listened to podcasts by thoughtful, rational and well-educated /well-credentialed scientists and philosophers who are Christian, I’ve learned some questions that might come in handy.

Actually there is NO reason ever to feel intimidated by anyone because we can ALWAYS ask a question.  The more we learn about someone’s position, not only do we ‘buy time’, but we gain insight that can be very helpful in future conversations.

Here are a few questions I have learned to ask:

  • When a self-proclaimed materialist says: “Intelligent Design is NOT science!” Ask: What do you call a theory that is based on physical data and uses logical inferences? (Michael Behe of the Discovery Institute’s response)
  • When you encounter this claim: “Evolution accounts for all our human development” Ask: How can you trust reason if it comes from a non-rational source? (materialists claim we are just molecules in motion)
  • When up against the assertion,”There are no absolute moral values!” Ask: How can you be sure?
  • When someone is going on and on about the strength or beauty of the theory of evolution, Ask: If survivability is what ensures that species continue and evolve, then truth is not necessary.  And if truth is not necessary, why should I trust your theory of evolution?
  • When you encounter a resurrection-denier who says, “Dead men don’t rise on their own!” Ask: Do you believe in the theory of Cause and Effect?  (Christians don’t claim that Jesus rose on his own, but that God supernaturally raised him!)
  • When faced with pushback from someone who needs ‘logical certainty’ before he’ll believe the truth claims of Christianity Ask: Did you have that kind of certainty when you got married?  (Practical certainty is what most of us live by)

These are just a few questions I am adding to my ‘rational thinking tool bag’.  What about you?  Which questions have served you well?

Bag of tools

Logical Gal and Fairness

30 May

Not Fair

Very early we come up against boundaries that interfere with our desires.  And we learn to whine, wail and worm our way in and around circumstances, if we can!

Where does this presupposition come from, that life should be fair?

An evolutionist would argue that communities work best when its members treat each other equitably.  Therefore, this behavioral value was retained as beneficial for survival and passed down.

A theist would argue that since God created the universe and all that is in it, God has placed in our hearts this sense or shared value of desiring fairness.  After all, we are made in God’s image and as such, we long for justice.

As Abraham prayed back to God in Genesis 18:25:

  • Far be it from you to do such a thing–to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?

God is just

**

So given that ‘fairness’ is a human value, whatever the source, here is where this concept gets interesting.  Remember how I’ve written in the past that clarifying terms is 1st base in any discussion or debate?   I’m not joking.  Two people can both assert with confidence that they place a premium on fairness.  But just what they MEAN by fairness can leave them poles apart!

Standoff

It appears that when liberals think of fairness, they envision equitable outcomes as a measure of fairness, that people are treated the same way.

But when one asks conservatives what they intend by fairness, they will explain that it means giving people what they DESERVE  because they worked hard.  What conservatives mean

What is the result of a difference in the presuppositions?  It means that much work needs to be done hammering out REASONS for these presuppositions.

In the end, Logical Joe and Logical Jane can both be strong advocates for FAIRNESS but envision two completely different scenarios.  Welcome to Congressional gridlock!

Congressional Gridlock

Question:  when have you suddenly realized that your conversation partner had something different in mind than you realized?  And how did this effect the dialogue?