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Rev. Michael Dowd: Thank God For Evolution
Posted: 18 August 2008 08:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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Another great idea how to sell books and make money.

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Posted: 18 August 2008 08:13 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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Humans are the anti evolutionary species. We inoculate ourselves to prevent natural selection for disease resistance, and we do much, much more.
And then we invented war. We should, by rights, be selecting for ‘war resistance’ (not the political variety).

I am not sure this is so. It could be argued that innoculating ourselves IS disease resistance. Consider polio..humanity has not been made more vulnerable to polio because polio has essentially been wiped from the face of the planet. I don’t care how you keep score, polio did not win.
Supporting a policy whereby “unfit”(lets say blind or diabetic) individuals survive means the odds of the survival of my genes, on average, go up because there’s a random chance I will be “unfit” or that my children will be. An additional selective benefit of this information age is that some blind, diabetic, or immunodeficient person could cure blindness, diabetes, or aids resulting in my survival or that of my offspring.

As far as war… well that’s merely an advanced, systematized form of violence that is nowhere more typical than in “nature”. Man did not invent violence and brutality.. he invented something far more precious..  sadness and horror in response to it.
(with perhaps some level of exception for some higher mammals)

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Posted: 19 August 2008 05:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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A Voice of Sanity - 17 August 2008 12:06 PM
sate - 17 August 2008 11:29 AM

... Also as noted elsewhere there does seem to be a current of “evolution is great, learn its rules, follow its example” so that we can survive. ‘cept that we know evolution were it ranked in a moral way is at least as bad as it is good… an amoral destroyer of countless species… a designer who set up endless bloody, brutal, horrific warfare between predator and prey to last millions of years. ie natural = good. ...

Humans are the anti evolutionary species. We inoculate ourselves to prevent natural selection for disease resistance, and we do much, much more.
And then we invented war. We should, by rights, be selecting for ‘war resistance’ (not the political variety).

Saying that evolution is great and we should follow its example is like saying cancer is great, we should learn by example.

Evolution is more about the species that die off than the species that survive. Dodging bullets is nearly impossible.

And human beings are hardly anti-evolutionary. We, just like every species, have developed our own ways of fighting disease and controlling populations. It is a truism that a characteristic that is adaptive in one context is maladaptive in another. Allergies arise from an overly effective immune system. Wars arise from deficiencies in food, water, sexual partners, etc. (and community leaders’ attempts to manage such shortages). We’re a social species, so it makes sense that we don’t just kill our nest-mates, as do many birds and mammals, but as a group attempt to murder another group that “threatens” us (or rather, threatens our leaders).

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People often argue over the term “god” without defining it. It is almost as if they are using the same term to refer both to a penguin and to a quiche. While both may contain eggs, that’s hardly their most salient characteristic.

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Posted: 19 August 2008 09:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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NH Baritone - 19 August 2008 05:31 AM

Saying that evolution is great and we should follow its example is like saying cancer is great, we should learn by example.

Evolution is more about the species that die off than the species that survive. Dodging bullets is nearly impossible.

And human beings are hardly anti-evolutionary. We, just like every species, have developed our own ways of fighting disease and controlling populations. It is a truism that a characteristic that is adaptive in one context is maladaptive in another. Allergies arise from an overly effective immune system. Wars arise from deficiencies in food, water, sexual partners, etc. (and community leaders’ attempts to manage such shortages). We’re a social species, so it makes sense that we don’t just kill our nest-mates, as do many birds and mammals, but as a group attempt to murder another group that “threatens” us (or rather, threatens our leaders).

They have found examples of human skeletons several thousands of years old with defects like spina bifida or serious injuries. In animals these would quickly lead to death but humans have cared for each other enough to save lives. This does, of course, allow for reproduction which would not occur in animals.

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Posted: 19 August 2008 07:16 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
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A Voice of Sanity - 19 August 2008 09:59 AM
NH Baritone - 19 August 2008 05:31 AM

Saying that evolution is great and we should follow its example is like saying cancer is great, we should learn by example.

Evolution is more about the species that die off than the species that survive. Dodging bullets is nearly impossible.

And human beings are hardly anti-evolutionary. We, just like every species, have developed our own ways of fighting disease and controlling populations. It is a truism that a characteristic that is adaptive in one context is maladaptive in another. Allergies arise from an overly effective immune system. Wars arise from deficiencies in food, water, sexual partners, etc. (and community leaders’ attempts to manage such shortages). We’re a social species, so it makes sense that we don’t just kill our nest-mates, as do many birds and mammals, but as a group attempt to murder another group that “threatens” us (or rather, threatens our leaders).

They have found examples of human skeletons several thousands of years old with defects like spina bifida or serious injuries. In animals these would quickly lead to death but humans have cared for each other enough to save lives. This does, of course, allow for reproduction which would not occur in animals.

I think you misunderstand evolution. The fact that a species continues to survive is testimony that it has adapted. Perhaps human caring has spread to compassion for ill individuals, but that is simply an artifact of the community spirit that originally allowed us to survive against predators, hunt large beasts that would feed an entire village, and build languages to impart information across generations.

Just because an instinctual behavior or characteristic can have alternative outcomes does not make it contra-evolutionary. It simply means that some things that aid in adaptation can be used in a variety of ways. (For example, because a canine instinctively chases small animals, they can also play fetch. The same basic activity feeds them in one context and builds a social bond in another.)

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People often argue over the term “god” without defining it. It is almost as if they are using the same term to refer both to a penguin and to a quiche. While both may contain eggs, that’s hardly their most salient characteristic.

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Posted: 19 August 2008 07:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
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NH Baritone - 19 August 2008 07:16 PM

I think you misunderstand evolution. The fact that a species continues to survive is testimony that it has adapted. Perhaps human caring has spread to compassion for ill individuals, but that is simply an artifact of the community spirit that originally allowed us to survive against predators, hunt large beasts that would feed an entire village, and build languages to impart information across generations.

Just because an instinctual behavior or characteristic can have alternative outcomes does not make it contra-evolutionary. It simply means that some things that aid in adaptation can be used in a variety of ways. (For example, because a canine instinctively chases small animals, they can also play fetch. The same basic activity feeds them in one context and builds a social bond in another.)

If we adapted by evolution, we would develop a resistance to diseases like polio, AIDS and the like. Instead we search for and sometimes find ways to prevent the diseases from occurring. This is a different response than evolution.

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Posted: 19 August 2008 08:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]
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A Voice of Sanity - 19 August 2008 07:33 PM
NH Baritone - 19 August 2008 07:16 PM

I think you misunderstand evolution. The fact that a species continues to survive is testimony that it has adapted. Perhaps human caring has spread to compassion for ill individuals, but that is simply an artifact of the community spirit that originally allowed us to survive against predators, hunt large beasts that would feed an entire village, and build languages to impart information across generations.

Just because an instinctual behavior or characteristic can have alternative outcomes does not make it contra-evolutionary. It simply means that some things that aid in adaptation can be used in a variety of ways. (For example, because a canine instinctively chases small animals, they can also play fetch. The same basic activity feeds them in one context and builds a social bond in another.)

If we adapted by evolution, we would develop a resistance to diseases like polio, AIDS and the like. Instead we search for and sometimes find ways to prevent the diseases from occurring. This is a different response than evolution.

Again, you have an entirely too small view of evolution. Our intelligence is an evolutionary advantage to fight off such diseases, in just the same way that a skunk’s scent is an advantage for it to fight off my Golden Retriever. You’re argument is engaging is special pleading, that somehow evolution stops when it involves intelligent problem solving. If you define intelligence out of evolution, you define humanity out of nature. And quite frankly, that is nonsense.

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People often argue over the term “god” without defining it. It is almost as if they are using the same term to refer both to a penguin and to a quiche. While both may contain eggs, that’s hardly their most salient characteristic.

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Posted: 19 August 2008 08:56 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]
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AVOC while we are creating new vaccines and antibiotics to combat these diseases, they continue their evolution to survive as well. Life dances with many partners! Or look at it as a chess game, we make a move, create a new antibiotic, the organism makes a move to develop resistance. It’s all evolution!

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Church; where sheep congregate to worship a zombie on a stick that turns into a cracker on Sundays…

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Posted: 19 August 2008 09:14 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]
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NH Baritone - 19 August 2008 08:24 PM

Again, you have an entirely too small view of evolution. Our intelligence is an evolutionary advantage to fight off such diseases, in just the same way that a skunk’s scent is an advantage for it to fight off my Golden Retriever. You’re argument is engaging is special pleading, that somehow evolution stops when it involves intelligent problem solving. If you define intelligence out of evolution, you define humanity out of nature. And quite frankly, that is nonsense.

We are different from the other creatures. Note that we even develop treatments for our animals, domestic and domesticated. I’m merely pointing out the difference between intelligence and knowledge and the means to record it; and the sort of learning some mammals impart to their offspring or inherit from their parents.
There is a qualitative difference between us and the rest of species, and how we deal with diseases.

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Posted: 20 August 2008 04:39 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]
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A Voice of Sanity - 19 August 2008 09:14 PM
NH Baritone - 19 August 2008 08:24 PM

Again, you have an entirely too small view of evolution. Our intelligence is an evolutionary advantage to fight off such diseases, in just the same way that a skunk’s scent is an advantage for it to fight off my Golden Retriever. You’re argument is engaging is special pleading, that somehow evolution stops when it involves intelligent problem solving. If you define intelligence out of evolution, you define humanity out of nature. And quite frankly, that is nonsense.

We are different from the other creatures. Note that we even develop treatments for our animals, domestic and domesticated. I’m merely pointing out the difference between intelligence and knowledge and the means to record it; and the sort of learning some mammals impart to their offspring or inherit from their parents.
There is a qualitative difference between us and the rest of species, and how we deal with diseases.

... in the same way that there is a qualitative difference between bacteria, maggots, and pumas consume a corpse, a qualitative difference between how giraffes reach the leaves they eat and how how monkeys reach the leaves they eat, a qualitative difference between how marsupials are born & suckled and how other mammals are born and suckled.

Every creature must adapt to its environment in order to effectively produce later generations. Humans have done so amazingly well, but all we need to throw a kink into that hose is a meteor of sufficient size, a warrior whose ambition & firepower overwhelm his judgment, or a virus whose destructive power is matched by its ability to evade detection and treatment. (The only reason HIV has not risen to that level is that it remains relatively difficult to contract. We would not have been so lucky if it ever developed the capacity to be airborne.)

Every creature that survives has beaten nature’s blunt instruments of destruction, but only for now.

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People often argue over the term “god” without defining it. It is almost as if they are using the same term to refer both to a penguin and to a quiche. While both may contain eggs, that’s hardly their most salient characteristic.

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Posted: 20 August 2008 10:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]
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NH Baritone - 20 August 2008 04:39 AM

... Every creature must adapt to its environment in order to effectively produce later generations. Humans have done so amazingly well, but all we need to throw a kink into that hose is a meteor of sufficient size, a warrior whose ambition & firepower overwhelm his judgment, or a virus whose destructive power is matched by its ability to evade detection and treatment. (The only reason HIV has not risen to that level is that it remains relatively difficult to contract. We would not have been so lucky if it ever developed the capacity to be airborne.)

Every creature that survives has beaten nature’s blunt instruments of destruction, but only for now.

You’ve just proved my point. If a disease like airborne HIV was attacking, say, wildebeest, those with no resistance would all die out. If it was attacking humans we would learn about it, communicate to each other and, failing a better method, would start to use masks or other methods to protect ourselves. Even in the days of the Black Plague and the like people knew enough to flee, although not enough to make the best decisions about it. We are different.

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Posted: 22 August 2008 06:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]
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I don’t get it.  I understand the intent, but I don’t understand the scaffold on which the intent is built.  Seems like a lot of slight of hand to me.  The emperor’s new clothes may be cut from cloth that is real, but in this context, the clothes are still ..... well, invisible!

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Posted: 22 August 2008 06:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]
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A Voice of Sanity - 20 August 2008 10:18 AM
NH Baritone - 20 August 2008 04:39 AM

... Every creature must adapt to its environment in order to effectively produce later generations. Humans have done so amazingly well, but all we need to throw a kink into that hose is a meteor of sufficient size, a warrior whose ambition & firepower overwhelm his judgment, or a virus whose destructive power is matched by its ability to evade detection and treatment. (The only reason HIV has not risen to that level is that it remains relatively difficult to contract. We would not have been so lucky if it ever developed the capacity to be airborne.)

Every creature that survives has beaten nature’s blunt instruments of destruction, but only for now.

You’ve just proved my point. If a disease like airborne HIV was attacking, say, wildebeest, those with no resistance would all die out. If it was attacking humans we would learn about it, communicate to each other and, failing a better method, would start to use masks or other methods to protect ourselves. Even in the days of the Black Plague and the like people knew enough to flee, although not enough to make the best decisions about it. We are different.

Animals also change behaviors to adapt to diseases in their environment. Wild dogs did not die out from distemper, or rabies which are invariably fatal. Chimpanzees are also susceptible to Ebola, they are still around. Sure, they can’t manufacture antibiotics or antivirals, but they do change their behaviors to adapt as we do. Antibiotics give us another weapon, but so much more disease can be stopped by just and improvement in hygienic conditions, and antibiotics don’t always save us from even the most mundane of diseases. Jim Henson died of pneumonia as a rather young man—a nasty pneumonia that you would have had no reason to believe he would ever acquire and medication could not stop.

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Posted: 22 August 2008 07:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]
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asanta - 22 August 2008 06:41 PM

Jim Henson died of pneumonia as a rather young man—a nasty pneumonia that you would have had no reason to believe he would ever acquire and medication could not stop.

Didn’t he fail to avail himself of good medical care?

On May 12, 1990, Henson traveled to Ahoskie, North Carolina with his daughter Cheryl to visit his father and stepmother. The next day, feeling tired and sick, he consulted a physician in North Carolina, who could find no evidence of pneumonia by physical examination and prescribed no treatment except aspirin. Henson returned to New York on an earlier flight and canceled a Muppet recording session scheduled for May 14.

Henson’s wife Jane, from whom he was separated, came to visit and sat with him talking throughout the evening. By 2 a.m. on May 15, 1990 he was having trouble breathing and began coughing up blood. He suggested to Jane that he might be dying, but did not want to bother going to the hospital. She later told People Magazine that it was likely due to his desire not to be a bother to people.

At 4 a.m., he finally agreed to go to New York Hospital, at which point his body was rapidly shutting down. By the time he was admitted at 4:58 a.m., he could no longer breathe on his own and had abscesses in his lungs. He was placed on a mechanical ventilator to help him breathe, but his condition deteriorated rapidly into septic shock despite aggressive treatment with multiple antibiotics. Only twenty hours later, on May 16, 1990, at 12:58 a.m., Henson died from organ failure at the age of 53.

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Posted: 23 August 2008 04:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]
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Part 2 - Rev. Michael Dowd: Thank God For Evolution

I haven’t seen a new thread started, but I just listened and had a few thoughts.

I found this to be an extremely interesting conversation.

I suppose my first question would be; if we take the argument for the importance of communicating the fact and theories of evolution, then by extension the understanding that humans are story telling animals - as a twain component then to incorporate a co-evolutionary insight - is there not a danger when creating a more factual interpretation, to relate in a deep way thus provide real world consequence while retaining the recognized capacity to ‘tell stories to teach’ -  of forwarding this idea from what sounds like a purely Christianized perspective? What I mean, by providing the language of one belief system to incorporate these insights, are we not asking for others who do not interpret the world this way to find another reason to question evolution? Given the fact that the largest segment in U.S. that does not accept evolution by natural selection is Christian, and the personal beliefs of the Rev., this may be an inconsequential question.

I was a bit surprised that Dawkins allowed that letter to be published in the book. Here’s why, without going into a complete comparison and taking large chunks of how he thinks on the issue, let me offer an example. When the respected scientist, evolutionary biologist, Joan Roughgarden presented her ideas that she highlights in her book, Evolution and Christian Faith: Reflections of an Evolutionary Biologist, which were essentially to take Biblical myth stories and relate them in a way for those who share her faith tradition to better come to grips with and accept evolution - Richard reacted with a fair amount of disdain (nearly mocking the enterprise - this was at Beyond Belief ‘06). His point basically was, as he said; “Why bother”, the science speaks perfectly well for itself. I will admit that I am sometimes confused by Richard’s position in some respects on this issue. For example he will recommend Kenneth Miller’s book, Finding Darwin’s God, to certain creationist.

I think part of my confusion to the above issue is do to how we take certain perspective in a larger context. For example, even though Richard would do the above, I have not come into contact with criticism going back and forth, due to Sam Harris saying; “There is no question but that nominally religious scientists like Francis Collins and Kenneth R. Miller are doing lasting harm to our discourse by the accommodations they have made to religious irrationality.” Now, I realize we are talking about different people, but, and a large but I think, what Sam is saying in the larger context of religion is diametrically apposed to what Richard does. Am I wrong? To further extrapolate than, I would surmise that Harris would have the same tone towards Dowd’s book. It would almost seem to me that what Harris does on some occasions is to say we must accept their (the religious) rules to engage in the battle. In this way then it is to state that since the religious do not accept certain principles that the discourse then must accept that the religious hold one overarching truth and thus the only way to engage is a bottom down approach. Thus a blurred line becomes evident when in moral debate, where the belief is that a structure must be mainly dismantled in order to see real change in morality. The problem then becomes, as in criticisms Sam has leveled towards secular scientist and the religious scientist alike, that some of his targets take much of the same moral stand, such as in Collins’ forwarding of not only evolution, but stem cell research. The dialogue then that must be engaged starts from a position of either or, when in fact it appears quite different. This leads inevitably in my opinion to a side debate about “appeasement”. The appeasement debate is problematic only in that it paints a stark picture without the subtleties we find, such as Richard’s and Collins’ stand. (I am in no way drawing anyone here in a painted corner, only expressing what I see and using example).

To further the above point, we have seen many people lately defining certain religious language in rational naturalistic terms (such as Harris in that he forwards words such as mysticism and spirituality - he is then in his way creating a narrative by admitting the usefulness of such terms). Daniel Dennett has done this with the word soul, by redefining the term in light of scientific discovery, he to is creating a narrative. To take the word God, Stuart Kauffman seems to be forwarding an idea that sounds like what Dowd is saying, but eliminating all context to a ‘supernatural’. But, here we find Shermer and Harris in an agreement in that the criticism here is that even though this may sound good, the term God is so connected to religion that the enterprise is in trouble from the start. My response to this (but not a statement of disagreement entirely) is that; so what? Shermer and Harris will redefine certain terms that are laden with religious meaning, but not the big one….

The Rev. brought up Robert Wright and E. O. Wilson which reminded me of this conversation between the two - HERE - they touch very much on issues brought up by Michael.

[ Edited: 23 August 2008 04:56 AM by jholt ]
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