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Posts Tagged ‘survival of the fittest’

I don’t really understand why I am even having to write this post, still the subject keeps coming up in debates that religious people have with Dawkins, Harris and Hitchens to name a few, the disbelief is that some people consider this an argument against atheists when it clearly is not. The thing that really gets me is people also use the notion that Hitler had about the idea of “survival of the fittest” as demonstrating that science without religion can only lead to completely negative things. This is not true and please don’t for any moment consider what I am saying as support for the crimes the Nazi’s committed against all of us. Let’s first decide that the term atheist does not mean much at all, read my earlier post [https://therationalunderstanding.wordpress.com/2008/05/15/there-is-no-church-of-atheism-%e2%80%93-what-does-atheism-mean-with-the-help-of-sam-harris/], in short everyone is an atheist about something and Harris puts it right when he rejects this term. Just because you apply the term atheist to describe yourself it does not mean you belong to some sort of group, on the other hand if you are a catholic and you do certain things which are mostly justifiable because of that faith then you do belong to a group and the group should be held accountable. Ignoring the technical definition of atheist let’s just use the idea that it just means you don’t belong to a group as a working hypothesis, the only thing that atheists agree upon is the rejection of religion. I like to also consider what “science” means, for a start it is not an alternative belief system and there is no church of science. Although science can provide a reason to why religion is wrong, it does not aim to replace it as it deals with a completely different set of constructs. Although the rejection of the ideas of science and atheism in certain terms makes the point, what I want to argue is that rational understanding is the best way, something which includes the rejection of magic (religion) and unfounded ideas but includes in part accepting the tools of science as long as it is rational.

 

Did religion play any part in the final solution? It would be wrong to assume that just because Hitler rejected the Catholic Church as something very distasteful that it had nothing to do with it, after all he wanted to be the God so there was no need for any others, the centuries of discrimination towards Jewish people was a feature of religion. There are many reasons to why the regime came about but it must have not been helped by this, it actually becomes a justification in one of Hitler’s speeches about why the Jewish people are the cause of all known problems it ended in ‘… as a Christian I have also a duty to my own people’, he also cited Christian Love and the need to fight the Jews in the same speech (Cited in Letter to a Christian nation, Harris). It was yet another reason to why the politics of Germany could be helped by religion, has religion ever been outside politics? Well no this time, the Catholic Church agreed to make Hitler a saint upon his death and also ordered that on his birthday all churches in Germany to offer prayers for him. Why would the church care about the final solution since it achieved more in a few years than they had gotten done in centuries, it’s clear that between 40 & 50% of the SS, the ones that were responsible for the most killing and the final solution, were practicing Catholics none of them got kicked out of the church because of their part in such crimes. It is important to remember that Hitler was just one man and the SS were about 6 million strong, so the reason to why the Jewish people were considered subhuman thus making them not treatable as humans is in part due to the Church. The dogma helped to create the regime and their inaction against such a thing speaks towards what would have been the moral thing to do.

 

image.guardian.co.uk

image.guardian.co.uk

 

Were Hitler and the Nazis rational? The German archaeologists of the first part of the 20th century fronted the way offering new methods and massive advancements, still during the time when the Nazis were in power none of these scientists would dare speak out against the notion of the Arian race. Nazi racial theory believed that the Arian race were descendants of the lost city of Atlantis, the blonde blue eyed survivors were the pure race, Atlantis was destroyed when the earth went through its last cycle and the moon crashed into the earth. When it comes to science the evidence must support the theory, it did not and this moves the theory away from rational belief and towards dogma. There is also another side to the wrongful claim of science and that is the notion of “survival of the fittest” which is also claimed that Hitler in particular was thought to believe in strongly and which also went towards the racial theory. This is an assumption based on the idea that we are still subject to that rule, which we are not in most part. Humans have been outside of this natural law for a long time; we take care of our grandparents for example, even past the point where they don’t provide a use. Altruism is common enough and is also outside of this simple survival of the fittest model of explanation. From this we can conclude that racial theory is not rational at all, it’s based on assumptions and fear which is never a real reflection of things. Science is often seen as rational and powerful, still science means knowledge and this is useful when trying to understand other regimes. For example Hitchens argues that the people of North Korea are kept away from knowledge as this is dangerous to the leadership. The knowledge that the Nazis did not want people to know is that there are no genetic differences between groups of people. Neither true science nor rational thought played much of a part in the Nazis creation of racial theory.

The new atheist movement is not just about pointing out that religion is wrong it is also about inquiry, Sam Harris in a debate with David Wolpe said something which was very powerful; the sorts of regimes that cause endless suffering and death are not the result of vast inquiry rather none at all. So to point the finger at atheists blaming them for such regimes is wrong since it is not what the discussion is about, the atheist discussion is examination. Religion is closest to the regimes than it is to the inquiry provided by the new atheist movement, most religious people feel more comfortable about just accepting and using speculation rather than trying to find the real answers. There are lots of examples of this; one is that of Stem Cell research, people that argue that it is wrong are often concern for a small number of cells than about human suffering because they have not been through the inquiry that strongly suggests stem cells are just cells and don’t have a soul. Religion helped create the final solution, it certainly did not help to stop it and of course rational understanding is not promoted within religion. These are the reasons to why not only atheism cannot be criticised for such regimes and more guilt, although admittedly not all, can be placed upon religion. Last of all Dawkins puts it like this, such regimes are not performed in the name of atheism, and in fact they are done in the name of unchallenged belief. So it is up to us all to challenge the non-rational and that includes religion.

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Humans by our very nature really don’t understand what random chance means, still let me provide an introduction to the topic. What set of numbers are more likely to win the lottery you can pick either 7 13 17 23 32 41 or 1 2 3 4 5 6? Ok you might try to catch me out here, but be honest the first set of numbers, at least to most people, would be considered to more likely be the winning lottery numbers even though both sets have an equal chance of winning. They are statistically equal in their likeliness although most people would pick the first set as a less risky and more likely to win than the second set of numbers. I was introduced to randomness by a lecturer who got the whole room to put 20 random dots on a blank piece of paper, being of course a lecturer in psychology the results were rather predictable, either the dots where all in one corner of the paper or pretty much equally spaced throughout the page. No one decided that randomness would result in all 20 dots being in the same position or that they could be clusters. In all humans have a hard time understanding what random really means, this is much like evolution in many ways.

evolution vs creationI recently got hold of a magazine named “Creation or Evolution” produced by the United Church of God, which has members across the world [EV/0511/1.1], although there are a lot of things which I object too I will pick the one I am most confused by. Overall the whole thing directs you to either the acceptance of either creation or the blind chance of lucky accidents which is cheerfully named ‘evolution’. I‘m sure I will talk about some of the other issues that came to me while reading this magazine at another time, still statements like Blind chance and this, which I will quote confused me greatly: “..upon thousands of lucky chance mutations happened coincidentally so that the lens [and the eye could work]..” Now I understand that it has been argued that the eye could have only come to existence if the whole thing came about at the same time, this is not the issue that I want to focus on really and since many scientists have already discussed this I will settle with talking about blind chance of evolution and natural selection. Natural selection has never been the same as blind chance. Chance is the idea that you gain something positive from random events or possible events that could occur; it is in effect the end result of randomness. Blind is also a puzzling word in this sense it is the unguided and unthought-of process that we happen to follow, there are no rules and whatever happens just happens. So according to the United Church of God evolution is the result of an unguided random process that just happened to produce the living things that we can see today, is that a true reflection of evolution?

Well the answer is a little no here – around half of all pregnancies in humans result in the natural abortion of the embryo or fetus which is the consequence of abnormalities, where maladaptive combinations or growth results in it simply not working. Extra or missing genetic material can also lead to natural abortion. The human body and indeed most other living things will not bare or produce young if there is not a strict following of the rules which allow for the normal growth of the embryo or fetus. Only smaller variations will result in successful birth of young, if there is something really wrong with the genetics then it will never end in successful reproduction. In this way the occurred changes must be more gradual and build up over time. Darwin never really discussed this quite like that, still this is not an unguided process, and the laws of nature provide the rules in which adaption must take place. This also means that randomness is excluded since abnormalities of genetic combination have to take place within this process. The conclusion here is that natural selection is not an unguided or random process.

Well the answer is a big no here – there is one big condition that exists within the theory of evolution, that is environment is the most important factor in the development of species, living things must be able to live and survive in the environment that they are born into otherwise they will not bare young and the species will die. Darwin called this process adaptive, this implies that there is some intelligence to the change which there is not; its more like the environment is changing & developing and the resulting effect are successful changes within a line of ancestors resulting in successful reproduction. This is how we got to the level of many species on earth; it’s the changing environment which includes things like the temperature, oxygen level and also the level of food available. The slow change is the creator of species and anything that counteracts successful living in a particular the environments means the likelihood of a successful survival is diminished. Since the environment governs natural selection, natural selection is therefore, not a random and unguided process. It has specific rules.

Let’s now turn to the building up process, I said before I don’t really want to discuss the eye so I will just give you an outline to how such things as eyes or anything else can build up over time. This from Richard Dawkins book the blind watchmaker, he provides an interesting and powerful analogy; let us take the case of a monkey through random chance being able to type the sentence ‘Methinks it is like a Weasel’, the odds of the monkey being able to do that successfully are so unlikely I can’t even count the zeros. Needless to say it is very unlikely to happen within 100 years of non-stop monkey typing. This is effectively what the United Church of God is suggesting and thus the argument of natural selection having odds for success which is far past me being able to write all the zeros down in my life time. Now let’s use the true non-random and guided process of evolution to suggest that every time the monkey gets a letter right, it works and therefore, it stays. So the first letter of ‘Methinks it is like a Weasel’ is M – since it’s a successful letter, it works in the sentence and the M stays; this is a 1in27 chance of the monkey hitting the M key (26 letters and the space bar). At some point the monkey will hit the second letter E since this is again successful it will also stay, the odds of that happening is 1in27 by 1in27. Each time the monkey gets a letter right it stays and the odds & necessary time for the whole sentence to be completed is reduced significantly, rather than millions of years perhaps a few weeks of non-stop monkey typing. This is how natural selection works by each successful change adding up over time to create an overall successful difference, each change being governed by rules of success.

www.extremefunnyhumor.com

So when creationists argue that Coelacanth fish which was found recently although thought to be extinct 70 million years ago thus proving evolution is therefore wrong, we can simply argue that the main condition of evolution, being that of environmental change being the driving force, was not present for these populations of fish. Crocodiles are thought to be around 200 million years old overlapping with the dinosaurs that became extinct 65 million years ago. Why did the Coelacanth and Crocodiles survive all this time? The answer is once again this was not random chance. Both are suited for their environments, they are so well adapted that they have not changed, any change would be of negative effect and such variations are less suited so they have pretty much stayed the same. Random chance plays very little in the particulars of evolution and natural selection, so the conclusion that random or blind chance has anything to do with it is always a wrong assumption. We must reject this notion of blind chance!

A little more on this matter…

I’ve found a blog post that deals with some of the other issues that tends to pop up in regards to evolution, in particular the writer addressed some of the common anti-evolution ideas that are around. I like the idea that the blogger suggests that most creationists that become critics of evolution have never actually studied biology in any form. Great blog post read it here:

http://naontiotami.wordpress.com/2008/05/17/revolution-against-evolution-the-limits-of-microevolution/

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