Thursday, April 23, 2009

Did Darwin Kill God, Part 1: Religion

So, I managed to watch a copy of Did Darwin Kill God, put out by the BBC. Where Conor Cunningham walks around with a bizarre view of the world making outlandish claims and being utterly and completely wrong about everything from every side. This 'philosopher and theologian' (perhaps only worthy of the second title) tried to force an utterly and completely stupid set of arguments and insinuations down our throats for the length of the program. It was utterly disappointing, not simply because it was completely wrong but because it was a good question which if properly explored would have been absolutely delightful.

The debate has been hijacked by extremists... cue Richard Dawkins, the flagbearer of Ultradarwinists! Cunningham must be uninformed that there actually is something called ultradarwinism and it heavily surrounds the idea that Darwinian evolution would produce no junk DNA. That it would have every nucleotide in our genetic code useful for something, it's fairly and utterly debunked and the only actual flashes you get of it come from creationists who suppose that that is what evolution demands and therefore junk DNA disproves evolution. What scientific support there was for the idea and assumption vanished decades ago. He uses the term to be the same to as the term "Darwinian Fundamentalist" as he also uses later on in the program.

Conor believes that Christ was risen from the dead but Creationists are wrong to read Genesis literally. So apparently Christ died to free everybody from original sin originating from a figurative story. So spends the first half of the program hammering on the idea that Christians never *really* believed Genesis. He does this by lying through his teeth, whitewashing history, and pointing out that science disproves much of Genesis so clearly nobody could have believed it.

His arguments throughout are paperthin and anybody with a cursory understanding of history and the arguments and events involved will easily detect a large array of various problems with his arguments.

He starts off by pointing out that Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 are contradictory, so clearly it's all figurative. Philo suggested that the Bible always has two meanings and there's some allegorical sub-meaning. Clearly, because there were some apologetics even very early on it must be the case that the 'Tillich-ish everything is figurative' explanation must be right. This is absolutely dishonest. Philo was not widely accepted and the insinuation that early attempts to rectify Genesis with proper science means that nobody took it literally is worse than even an outright lie.

While it is certainly that the first chapter is far more outlined and far more detailed it doesn't mean that they are allegorical or descriptive of the fallibility of man or how ex nihlo was a gift from God. There are some changes in the order between the two versions, but the standard apologetic is probably correct: Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 are the same story with Genesis 2 going into more detail about Adam and Eve. This doesn't remotely suggest that it is therefore allegory than the fact that the Prologue in Romeo and Juliet quickly tells the entire story you're about to see makes Romeo and Juliet allegory.

If Cunningham wishes to argue that a few odd contradictions between two different versions means it's allegorically perhaps he'd like to read the Gospels side by side! It's telling the same story with varying details... this clearly means that everybody reads it as if it's false, right?

"Reading the Genesis as myth and metaphor is not a modern trend, this has always been the mainstream view." - FUCK YOU, LIAR!

To defend this indefensible claim he suggests that Augustine agrees with him. While Augustine did suggest that the Bible should not be treated like a science book, that doesn't remotely suggest that he thought it was metaphor. He just said they should avoid the parts that are scientifically wrong.

It not infrequently happens that something about the earth, about the sky, about other elements of this world, about the motion and rotation or even the magnitude and distances of the stars, about definite eclipses of the sun and moon, about the passage of years and seasons, about the nature of animals, of fruits, of stones, and of other such things, may be known with the greatest certainty by reasoning or by experience, even by one who is not a Christian. It is too disgraceful and ruinous, though, and greatly to be avoided, that he [the non-Christian] should hear a Christian speaking so idiotically on these matters, and as if in accord with Christian writings, that he might say that he could scarcely keep from laughing when he saw how totally in error they are. In view of this and in keeping it in mind constantly while dealing with the book of Genesis, I have, insofar as I was able, explained in detail and set forth for consideration the meanings of obscure passages, taking care not to affirm rashly some one meaning to the prejudice of another and perhaps better explanation.

Augustine was saying that they should keep the parts that are clearly wrong on the DL. Not that they aren't part of Genesis or that Genesis isn't how the universe was made. Just that some parts are clearly wrong and don't scare off the converts by sounding like an idiot when it comes to these parts. It's not scientifically accurate and you should try to avoid sounding like a dumbass in front of the potential converts. Augustines explanation was that God just didn't share those details with us because they weren't important:

In short, it must be said that our authors knew the truth about the nature of the skies, but it was not the intention of the Spirit of God, who spoke through them, to teach men anything that would not be of use to them for their salvation.

God knew how the skies worked, but simply didn't teach men because they don't need to know how the skies work, they need to know how to get saved. You don't need to be curious about the world or to progress in understanding. All you need is salvation, and the Bible is all you need to be saved. God didn't include a lot of science in the Bible because the Bible is about getting saved not understanding the world.

Cunningham then makes the claim that many of the Church fathers were transmutationalists. I find this utterly unbelievable and frankly considering how loose and fast he plays with the facts, think it is largely false.

There were a great number of scientific arguments from God and quite often the argument from design and perponderence of evidence fell squarely at the feet of religion. The early evolutionists and transmutationalists like Anaxamander and others had completely nonsensical theories about life progressing, whereas religious defenses from scientific points of view such as those of Galen and others were straightforward and showed that life was simply too complex to happen in the ways suggested by the early evolutionists. The early church fathers were often dismissive of science and scientific virtues but others were scientifically minded and they too were largely religious.

Cunningham is suggesting that nobody ever treated the Bible as literal because many of the early church fathers didn't treat the Bible as scientific. They still argued that that was how God made man, but that the science wasn't needed. It was the way to salvation and science doesn't help with salvation.

Early church fathers dismissed the couple little snafus that cropped up in the centuries after the Bible was written by pointing saying it wasn't written to convey science but to convey what God wanted us to know to be saved.

Cunningham draws this out to imply that they would be absolutely fine dismissing every damned word of Genesis as being false. This is completely unacceptable. Dismissing a few silly things like calling the moon a lesser light when really it reflects light from the sun, is forgivable because God just didn't want to share science with man, only salvation. Using this to conclude that, therefore, the Church fathers would be okay with reading it all as absolute fiction is not acceptable.

"Avoid the silly parts when you're trying to convert people" != "It's all bullshit".

Usher believed the Bible. He calculated the start of the universe as 4004BC, this "eccentric speculation" as Cunningham calls it is actually very robust. Usher, to his credit, did the math correctly. The Bible actually does give all the dates needed to make the calculation. Cunningham dismisses this as a bizarre and freakish misappropriation of the Bible because the Bible should be read as something false rather than something true and nobody has ever believed it. Usher is an anomaly. If you don't realize the utter idiocy of this, you need to hit the books.

Victorians had fossils and had uncovered dinosaurs, so clearly they would avoided doing anything as silly as interpreting Genesis literally. This middle of the line claim seems a bit stupid on a number of levels. Cunningham suggests that dinosaurs and fossils didn't contradict Genesis (because nobody really believed Genesis), rather it kept Christians on the straight and narrow of not really believing Genesis.

However, those fossils did contradict Genesis and the theory of extinction took a good while to become accepted. It was widely expected that these large fossil animals had to be alive somewhere (they survived the Ark after all) and it wasn't until we explored a lot of the world that it started dawning on people that they were dead and gone. It took a while to convince very influential and brilliant geologists that there never was a global flood. They believed Genesis literally and it took a large mass of evidence to pry those beliefs away from the scientific establishment. There's a reason why history starts in the Middle East around 4000 BC, because it use to start with the Bible. There's a reason why human fossils and primitive migrations aren't taught in history class (they are classified as prehistoric because they occurred before history that started with the Bible).

Simply because some of the early church fathers were okay with the moon not emitting light itself, doesn't mean that they would be fine with all life on this planet evolving over billions of years.

Cunningham is lying himself into a corner, suggesting that dinosaurs and other things that contradict Genesis are actually evidence in favor of his theory that the mainstream understanding was to 'read-Genesis-as-false'. His argument seems to be that Genesis has always been false, so when a scientific explanations come around and take huge chunks out of Genesis that's fine. Sometimes better than fine because it shows how obvious it must be that it wasn't actually read as literal.

When Origin of Species came out, it explained the intricacy, development, design, and understanding of life and demolished Genesis... or so Cunningham tells us we've been told. But, Cunningham has been arguing for the last 18 minutes that nobody ever read Genesis literally! Not Philo who was unpopular and non-influential, not Augustine who suggested maybe if you're trying to convert people you should read the silly bits, not Victorian England which already had plenty of stuff that contradicted Genesis. So why would anybody make this outlandish claim (other than having read any bit of the debates and arguments going on at the time).

However, England was going through the Industrial Revolution and a new idea of God came around about God who's main proponent was William Paley who compared life to a watch. And argued that it was so complex it could only have been made by God. --- Cunningham is so utterly full of shit. -- First off Paley 18th century, not 19th century, the argument had nothing to do with the industrial revolution and the argument was very old (several thousand years). Hume in the 17th century (writing before Paley) addressed the argument in depth in Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion. Paley was required reading when Darwin went to college and rightly so. Darwin himself was very influenced by Paley and the parts that Paley failed to explain were the parts that troubled Darwin the most and helped him come to the conclusions he did. Why should each island have a different set of nearly identical finches or turtles or lizards?

The argument was and still is quite compelling. Basically Paley outlines all the rather amazing bits and things in life today and says 'show me how this could possibly happen without a designer, how could you possibly do any of this marvelous detail without God?', to which Darwin responded: 'here's how'.

The argument from design was not only widespread but it was the foremost theory as to how life could have possibly originated. When Galen challenged the evolutionists of the 2nd century, he did so by showing the intricacy for which no theory of evolution could account. The argument from design is *still* the best argument for God to ever be made (it falls short on a number of points but still clearly ranks best) and it was the foremost explanation for thousands of years and the fact that it went hand in hand with religion is actually fairly moot. Paley is more an explanation of life than an argument for God.

"Darwin killed God, but only Paley's God, who was at odds with the founding fathers of the Church." Conor Cunningham is a lying stupid piece of shit. That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard. It's insulting to Darwin, Paley, and the Early Church fathers. I have much respect for each of these three groups and the suggestion the Cunningham makes is wrong on a number of levels. Putting Paley as a silly-misguided footnote is beyond pathetic, beyond dishonest, and missing a very valuable set of points.

Cunningham now cites some apologetics start to develop concerning evolution by natural selection in the church. As these apologists suggest that Darwinism doesn't necessarily lead to atheism, clearly it must be true. We are treated to the idea that if there's an apologetic for something it simply must be true! They are doing exactly what Augustine suggested they should do, when some embarrassing bits of science come up and make your religion look silly, sweep it under the rug as best you can.

Darwin lost his faith because his daughter died not because of evolution. While this is clearly true, that his daughter's death lead to his lost of faith, it isn't true that evolution played no role. His ignoring the what Richard Dawkins so aptly noted: Evolution allows one to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist. This is the sense in which Darwin killed God. This glanced over point, should have been the core of the program. Evolution doesn't lead a person to atheism, but it lets their theism lapse without any nagging thoughts. I'll come back to it in Part 3.

He glances over a later copy of Origin which included the word "Creator" at the end due to the public outcry that Cunningham suggests never happened. If nobody cared up until then why would do people think they did... because, "the war had not yet begun."

It's really that the battle started in the US as the Scopes trial and had "nothing to do with science or religion and everything to do with politics and morality!" Really? Cunningham at this point seems to try to outdo himself on the stupidometer. When the scopes trial started everybody was shocked, SHOCKED, because they all accepted evolution... THE STUPID IT BURNS!

Part 2... coming soon.

No comments: