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Reconciling Faith with Evolution

Discussion of everything related to the Theory of Evolution.

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Re: Reconciling Faith with Evolution

Postby charles brough » Sun Nov 04, 2007 6:43 pm

genovese wrote:"Killing,stealing,cheating,raping". Natural Selection has given us these traits so as to survive and procreate. Communal living means having to control these traits. Laws and Rules of behavior attempt to do just that.
Laws are not permanent however and only obey national boundaries. "Moral codes" or "God-given laws" are more substantial and not so easy to disobey.

Could Natural Selection have favored those societies with supernatural beliefs over those with no beliefs? Are Moral Codes better than simple Laws
for the survival of primitive societies?

If so, then belief in the supernatural could well be in our genome.


I personally have never heard of a "society" with no beliefs. Have you? ALL people have a world-view and way of thinking or belief system. With language and speech, we HAVE to. Also, there is no reason why such a belief system has to involve "spirits" in order to have a moral code. We have even accumulated new and better moral precepts in our secular belief system that are not in the Bible---such as not committing rape, enslaving others, stalking, kidnapping, torture of prisoners, etc.

As an evolutionist, I see natural selection working on our belief systems instead of on our biological makeup. Our belief system have evolved. They are, in other words, expendable. When a religion grows so old that it is no longer able to meet the need---such as how the present world's mainstream religions keep the world divided---they are eventually replaced. "Heaven" (or "hell") is filled with ancient religions that we read about only in our books on ancient history.
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Postby AstusAleator » Sun Nov 04, 2007 9:39 pm

(let me preface by stating that I'm not trying to focus arguments against Charles. He just has the most interesting and arguable things to say)

"I personally have never heard of a "society" with no beliefs. Have you?"

That doesn't preclude the necessity of a "god-gene" since no society would have existed without it, according to genovese's hypothesis.


"We have even accumulated new and better moral precepts in our secular belief system that are not in the Bible---such as not committing rape, enslaving others, stalking, kidnapping, torture of prisoners, etc."

It could be argued that those ideals are extensions of moral codes rooted in supernatural belief-systems and adapted to new cultural norms. They have certainly been adopted by religions, whether or not they are part of a canon.


"As an evolutionist, I see natural selection working on our belief systems instead of on our biological makeup. Our belief system have evolved. They are, in other words, expendable. When a religion grows so old that it is no longer able to meet the need---such as how the present world's mainstream religions keep the world divided---they are eventually replaced."

I'm having a hard time envisioning how evolution is orchestrating a shift in ideologies from religious to secular... When the basic elements of evolution - fitness, competition, reproduction - aren't exerting notable forces in any one direction in this regard.

If you are arguing that societies and ideologies are evolving in a similar matter to organisms and populations, you are in conflict with your fellow secular humanists such as Dawkins.

The genes are what matter. Ideologies are all limited by the parameters of our biology, and thus our genome. Genovese argued that perhaps our genetic predispositions encompass the need or sense of "god" and that societies were advantaged by keying into this natural instinct.

I think that you may be correct in hypothesizing that with the advent of technology and science, societies may begin to become more advantaged by having secular views. However, I don't think that evolution will necessarily play a large role in that, barring holy wars, genocides, etc. I don't think that you, an atheist, are much different genetically from me, an agnostic, or alex, a catholic.
Our genomes encompas a broad spectrum of ideological capacity. If there truly is a God-gene as genovese hypothesizes, I doubt it will ever truly go away. Whether that's good or bad is what I feel you're truly trying to argue.
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Postby alextemplet » Sun Nov 04, 2007 10:11 pm

charles brough wrote:We have even accumulated new and better moral precepts in our secular belief system that are not in the Bible---such as not committing rape, enslaving others, stalking, kidnapping, torture of prisoners, etc.


Those moral beliefs are all clearly stated in the Bible. I suggest you make sure you know what you're talking about before you go off antagonizing everyone again.
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Postby AstusAleator » Mon Nov 05, 2007 5:11 am

Well without citing specific sources, I can't think of any part of the Bible telling a man he can't rape his wife...
Yes there are rules against lust, fornication, adultery, etc... But the above isn't mentioned as far as I can tell. In fact, wives are told to submit to their husbands, so if the above happened, not only would the wife be getting raped, but she would be sinning for not submitting to her husband. Sucks for her.

Slavery... Really it doesn't address it (that I know of) in the New Testament, aside from talking about the equality of man in God's eyes.
http://www.religioustolerance.org/sla_bibl2.htm

As for the others I can't really think of any passages directly condemning them. Here's an interesting article I found when doing a search on the subjects.
http://www.rtforum.org/lt/lt118.html

So anyway, I don't think Charles was entirely out of line in saying what he said. There's no doubt that contemporary religions do denounce these things. Even so... why is it that the "godless" liberals of America are the ones fighting waterboarding? In fact, alex, I remember a certain rant you gave in favor of torture.

I'm probably opening a can of worms here :) Bring it on!
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Postby charles brough » Mon Nov 05, 2007 9:20 pm

alextemplet wrote:
charles brough wrote:We have even accumulated new and better moral precepts in our secular belief system that are not in the Bible---such as not committing rape, enslaving others, stalking, kidnapping, torture of prisoners, etc.


Those moral beliefs are all clearly stated in the Bible. I suggest you make sure you know what you're talking about before you go off antagonizing everyone again.


You hopefully interpret the Bible that way but the fact is that there are no commands against such things in the Bible. I mean to refer to a moral code while you are limiting it to general moral principles such as "do unto others as . . . I consider Christianity and Islam far superior to the much older and less advanced Hindu faith because it has no moral code, only the loose umbrella of reincarnation. I believe Hinduism is more advanced than the old animisms of pre-history. Don't you think religion has progressed? Despite its erroneous economic doctrines, DM, etc., atheistic Marxism is yet another step foreward. But it stumbles and fails with corruption because Marx gave it no Marx moral code.

ASTUS, biologists have had no success in finding any gene related to religiouness and gods. Also, anthropologists have found no biological evolution visible in our almost 200,000 years here as Homo Sapeins other than now being a little smaller and with a little smaller brain cavity.

I don't bother reading Dawkins just because he is an atheist! I am really not concerned about his thoughts on evolution. I prefer to go to the anthropological and other social science data sources. My intrepeting is based only on them and explains why it is new to you and everyone else.
We are instinctively evolved to live in small primate, then hunting/gathering size groups. Isn't that right? The only way we could adapt to living in large societies was to develop language/speech and then religions so common belief systems could bind us into such much larger groups, "societies." How else do you say we did it?

So, the FUNCTION of religion has nothing to do with "gods,""spirits," at all. It is just that the first religions had to be based upon them because we did not have any better explanations for what went on around us.

In my website download, I clearly explain the type of questions an effective mainstream religion has always had and the way they are effectively answered.
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Postby alextemplet » Tue Nov 06, 2007 7:11 am

Well Astus I never said I agreed with everything the Church says. Yes I did give a recent rant in favor of torture, but the simple fact is that the Bible denoucnes all of the things that Charles also condemns, so he is clearly only trying to stir up more argument without first making sure he knows what he's talking about. It's very easy for me to say "You're wrong!" and then stand by it to the death, without ever bothering to find out if you're wrong in the first place. That is precisely what Charles is doing; his is the triumph of blind faith over logic.
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Postby genovese » Tue Nov 06, 2007 10:15 am

Thank you Astus for expounding my ideas during my absence, which you did better than I could have hoped to do.

The issue then, as I see it is: could we have developed moral codes without a belief in the supernatural (as Charles maintains), or did a belief in the supernatural come first?

There are two main reasons why I think that the “God “ gene might be operating.

1 Secular Moral codes tend to evolve and change too rapidly for Natural Selection to have any part in the process. (You only have to look at the change in abortion laws, within my lifetime to verify this fact). I cannot see how they could be part of our genome.

2 Secular laws can, in the main, be discussed without too much emotion and with logical debate without the need for self-deception. Beliefs in the supernatural however do not seem to obey the same rules. They are held very strongly even when confronted with convincing opposing views and create much more emotion in believers.


It is for these reasons, that I think it probable, that beliefs in the supernatural are genetically encoded and will remain with us. It is interesting to speculate that with weapons of mass destruction which we now have, whether religion (driven by fanatics) could in fact lead to mass destruction of the human population? Natural selection would then have been seen to have favoured the wrong type of gene. Perhaps this would then lead to a Homo Spiens version 2, more intelligent and without any supernatural beliefs.
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Postby alextemplet » Tue Nov 06, 2007 6:09 pm

I partly agree with you, genovese. I do agree that humans seem to have a very strong instinctive urge to believe in the supernatural, but I don't think it's the result of any one gene. Rather, I believe it's the outcome of a several different genes interacting together. I believe there are three main influences to our desire to believe.

First, humans are by nature curious and (relatively) intelligent. Curiosity has very obvious evolutionary benefit since a curious creature will want to know more about its environment, and the more it knows, the better able it is to adapt and survive. The advantages of curiosity are only multiplied by intelligence.

Humans also instinctively want to be happy. Again I do not think this is the work of any single gene but rather the end product of all of our other instincts working together. We need food; we are much happier when we're eating then when we're starving. We want to reproduce; sex, falling in love, and raising children can all bring us happiness. We are curious and want to learn; finding answers to these questions can bring us happiness in its own way.

Lastly, humans can be both benevolent and evil. Some of us seek to help our brother men; others seek to exploit them. Most of us are quite capable of switching back and forth between those two extremes. The desire to help others is probably an evolutionary adaptation to living in groups; the desire to hurt others is probably an evolutionary adaptation to competition within the group or species. These two instincts work together and against each other to produce the broad range of morality and immorality that we see in the world today.

The way that I believe these three influences have worked together to produce religious belief is as follows. First, being curious, humans always want to learn and understand. It was as obvious to the first humans as it is to us today that there is more to the world than meets the eye. The first primitive religions were more than likely based on early man's direct encounters with the supernatural and his experiences with the divine.

The problem was that early man's ability to investigate the supernatural was limited; he could not, for example, conduct DNA analysis on the Shroud of Turin, nor could he write and record ancient prophesies and compare them to current events. This limited early man's ability to investigate the supernatural, and opened the floodgates for those who seek to exploit their fellow humans. The weakness of humanity's desire to be happy is that we are very likely to believe whatever we want to believe, without first bothering to consider if that belief is true or not. This is especially obvious in the field of religion. No doubt many have preyed on this desire to be happy at the expense of reason, and doubtless many ancient religions were born out of the intention of the founder to exploit this basic human desire to his benefit. Scientology is a perfect modern-day example of such a faith.

However, not all humans are so gullible, and there are many who would rather help than hurt. It is probably out of these that the great mainstream religions of the world were born; faiths such as Judaism, Christianity, and Buddhism, among others. Religions such as these are much more heavily based upon reason and logic, and seek to help humanity rather than exploit it. They offer all the happiness of other faiths but have a much more real chance of delivering; this probably explains the dominance of these religions in the world today.

Today the conflict between different faiths is very obvious. Mainstream religions such as Catholicism preach a very strong moral stance based on love-thy-neighbor, and praise the virtues of reason and truth above all other human endeavors. On the other side, religions such as the various New Age belief systems take much more relative stances on these issues that make it easier to exploit rather than to help. And of course, there's the fanatics of every belief system, whom I like to refer to collectively as the First United Church of the Extremists of Virtually Everything. These are the gullible types who get brainwashed into doing some very irrational things (such as suicide bombing) because they are being manipulated by some very intelligent and very evil people.

I agree with you, genovese, that a more intelligent version of humanity would no doubt be an improvement, but this would not destroy belief in the supernatural. Indeed, considering that we know that the supernatural and the divine does in fact exist, it would take a less intelligent person to lose this belief! However, a more intelligent human should perhaps also value logic and reason and not be willing to believe simply anything that promises happiness. This would mean the extinction of the less beneficial religions and hopefully the end of extremism. However, the more beneficial faiths, that are founded on the principles of intelligence and reason, would continue to thrive as they have, and hopefully would grow stronger.
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Postby genovese » Tue Nov 06, 2007 8:41 pm

Crikey Alex - we are almost in agreement! I certainly agree that a genetic predisposition to belief in the supernatural is likely not to be in just one solitary gene, but between several, plus or minus a few switches here and there.

I am not well enough educated in the old religions to know whether they took more advantages of the population than present day religions. I do not think that this would hold for the old main religions. However, when you look at the Cathedrals and lovely churches filled with treasures, how can you say that modern religions have not sucked the people dry of their wealth and hard labor?
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Postby alextemplet » Wed Nov 07, 2007 4:39 am

Keep in mind that most of today's mainstream religions are very ancient. Buddhism started around 600bc and Christianity is strongly rooted in Judaism, which began between 1000-2000bc. A large part of why these religions have been around so long is because they are so beneficial to their believers. They do have some very elaborately decorated cathedrals, but those very same religions also do more charity work than any other organization in the world. Just the Catholic Church alone operates hundreds of thousands of charity hospitals, aid stations, food banks, soup kitchens, homeless shelters, schools, and so on and so forth. Governments seem to be too worried about power and greed to do much about world poverty; it is the great religions of the world that are fighting the brunt of the battle against poverty.
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Postby AstusAleator » Wed Nov 07, 2007 10:37 pm

(I wrote a fairly large post, thought I submitted it, but apparently I didn't. *cries* So here's the abridged version)

Charles: Clearly there is a disconnect between what you and I identify as evolution. What you call evolution, I call cultural and ideological shifts. To me (and any other biologist) evolution is a change in gene frequencies. So, for you to say that our cultures are evolving towards a secular paradigm, translates to me that there is some sort of genetic change taking place that is predisposing us to this. Your statements make it clear that this isn't what you mean, exactly.
Perhaps to prevent confusion, you should try to only use terms such as "adapt" and "evolve" in their proper biological context, unless of course you feel like adding on qualifier statement to make your meaning clear.

Alex:
Regardless of current church policies, Charle's statement referred to the Bible, not contemporary religion. As I said in my prior post though, I doubt whether those "moral precepts" were established through purely secular means.

Genovese:
You're welcome :)

All:
Really this "God-gene" (we established it's not just a single gene in the first page of this discussion) is likely part of a greater matrix of genetic predispositions including social behaviors, abstract logic, morality, perception of self, etc (the things that we like to think define us as humans).

It wouldn't surprise me if we found the genetic sequence responsible for these predispositions, and found that every human on the planet had the exact same sequence. In other words, the wide array of human behavioral patterns past and present may not represent any genetic difference whatsoever.

So, in that regard, I would suppose that humans are probably capable of living (morally even) without any form of spirituality, though history tells me it's unlikely to happen on any large scale, and it wouldn't necessarily be the result of evolution.
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Postby AstusAleator » Sat Nov 17, 2007 4:18 am

what... no more takers?

Do I just bore the crap out of everyone? Is that why my posts seem to always kill threads?
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