How Students Should Deal with Evolution Evangelists
There are professors and leaders of special interest groups whose sole purpose is to draw students away from belief in a Designer and tempt them to embrace the aimless, purposeless, materialist processes of Darwinism. How can students prepare for the challenge?
If evolution were true, well, then— who wouldn’t want to embrace the truth, even if it means a radical change to one’s beliefs? Ay, there’s the rub. Any aimless material process has no necessary connection to truth. As Charles Darwin himself wrote to a friend the year before he died,
But then with me the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would any one trust in the convictions of a monkey’s mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind? (Letter to William Graham, 3 July 1881, posted at the Darwin Correspondence Project.)
What this implies is that the evolutionist, to be consistent, must abandon all reason. Yet paradoxically, they specifically employ reason in their attempts to dislodge “faith” (which they mean as anything that questions the science of evolution). Whether ignorant of or willfully ignoring this major self-contradiction, some of them charge forward anyway on their campaign to take students hostage for Darwin. Two of them show how they do it.
Eugenie Scott and the NCSE
Retiring this year from her 26-year headship of the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), an organization whose sole purpose is to prevent “anti-evolution” from gaining any headway in public schools, Eugenie Scott was honored by Science Magazine this week. Jeffrey Mervis described the NCSE as a “U.S. Center That Fights Antievolution Forces.” Whether that means creationism, intelligent design, or simply honest teaching of Darwinism with its pros and cons, Eugenie Scott has been a tireless advocate of Darwin-only in the schools, and a formidable opponent of even the academic freedom laws that attempt to prevent school boards from punishing teachers who teach evolution honestly.
Mervis’s article is filled with accolades for Dr. Scott from like-minded Darwin-only people. She herself long ago decided not to pose as anti-religious (after all, there are liberal theologians who embrace evolution, and lately she has tried to make overtures even to evangelical Christian groups to agree on some of NCSE’s goals). Aware of the political and cultural issues at hand, she relies on “powers of persuasion” to defend what Mervis calls “integrity in science education.” Uh— what was that Darwin quote again? It would seem hard to define “integrity” in Darwinian terms. To a Darwinian game theorist, cooperation evolves by the same aimless processes of natural selection that changes a finch beak, and non-cooperation is just part of the game. None of that appears dependent on truth.
Melvin Konner and Daniel Dennett
Melvin Konner is a self-proclaimed admirer of Daniel Dennett, a Darwinian philosopher (if that oxymoron can be resolved). Konner loved Dennett’s earlier books, but in a review in Nature, had a few problems with his latest, titled Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking. Konner usually appreciates Dennett’s dedication to “facts” and “clarification of discourse.” Strangely, he never seems to insist Dennett define those terms from materialistic processes of aimless selection. Maybe that’s because Konner disclaims any expertise in philosophy, which is obsessed with clarity.
In the course of his review, Konner described how he likes to disabuse his students of their doubts about Darwin. He had just puzzled about the usefulness of Dennett’s categories of “skyhooks” (“thinking-tools that hang an explanation on nothing”) and “cranes” (“concepts built on a solid factual foundation”). Predictably, Konner pigeonholed intelligent design as a “skyhook” for its “explaining too-intricate bits of biological machinery.” Anyway, here’s what he said he does to his students in class:
But are skyhooks and cranes comparable kinds of ideas? Symbiosis and sex are evolved processes like respiration or photosynthesis; each began with random mutation and, by gradual natural selection, produced a ‘design’ that changed the history of life. But what do skyhooks and cranes add to the basic principles of how we think about evolution? The next time I comfort a student struggling between faith and Darwin, it will not help me to say, “What you learned in Sunday school about evolution needing a ‘big boost’? That’s just a skyhook.” Rather, I will do what I do now: help the student to zero in on variation, inheritance, selection and, crucially, how very many generations there have been since evolution began. As Dennett states elsewhere in this book, the word for this is not ‘crane’ but ‘algorithm‘ — both more and better than a metaphor.
It’s nice that Konner wants to “comfort” his students instead of beat them over the head, but it appears he just helped himself to several immaterial, purposeful concepts that depend for their usefulness on truth and integrity: design, principles, thinking, comfort, learning, algorithm, and metaphor. Can he derive those from natural selection? He doesn’t feel he has to. Dennett has done it for him:
I share many of Dennett’s views: a ‘designed’ nature without a designer; the mechanistic, emergent character of consciousness; the rejection of the homunculus argument, or the idea that an entity (often characterized in discussion as a little person) watches a theatre consisting of the rest of the brain; and the compatibility of free will with determinism.
It would be interesting to ask Konner if he really agrees Dennett’s views are true, or if he considers himself a “cooperator” in some kind of evolutionary game. Incidentally, who is watching the watcher in the theater that doesn’t exist?
Students: understand what you are up against. People like Eugenie Scott (and her squadron of attack forces) and Melvin Konner are on a mission: a mission to destroy “faith” and replace it with “Darwin.” To them, “faith” means anything that doubts their own faith in Darwinism, which they consider to be “science” (in their thinking, synonymous with truth). What are you going to do when the Professor Konner in your college comes alongside you to “comfort” you in (what he perceives as) your “struggle between faith and Darwin“? Why, he just wants to ameliorate your worry about the conflict between what your Sunday School teacher said about evolution and the alleged “scientific” story of “variation, inheritance, selection” and long ages (“how very many generations there have been since evolution began”). He just wants to help you. What are you going to say to him?
The answer is so important that we want you to think about it for a day. Come back tomorrow for the continuation of our commentary. Write down some problems you see with the situation as described, and what some of your possible responses might be. The article contains some clues. If you don’t learn to think these issues through for yourself with clarity and conviction, reading our advice will not help that much. We are here to help you think in more cogent, clear, convincing ways than many Sunday School teachers do (speaking of the ones who say, “just have faith” or “maybe you can have your faith and Darwin, too”). Your convictions cannot survive Eugenie Scott or Professor Konner with that kind of pablum. Think about your responses and check back with us tomorrow. This is a good exercise for all readers, not just students.
How did you do? Our suggested responses are part pragmatic and part logical. First, the pragmatic part. Recognize that in class, it’s an unequal contest. The professor is in the power position, and has the power to make or break your grade, and possibly your career. In such cases, discretion is usually the better part of valor. You don’t have to agree with his views. Be respectful, try to fulfill the class requirements and get a good grade. Just make sure you know what you would say if it were an equal contest.
Logically, we hope you noticed that the Darwinian position is self-refuting. Self-refuting positions are not just misguided, they are necessarily false. They can never be true, now or ever. This realization doesn’t dawn on most Darwinians, but it did on Darwin himself (read that quote from his letter to Graham again). Darwin said that this “horrid doubt” always arises in his mind. He worried about this right up to his death, long after he had become famous for his theory of natural selection. How can the convictions of a man’s mind be reliable? In the letter, he had no answer! He never answered that doubt. As far as we know, he died with that doubt in his mind, that everything he had propounded was no more reliable than whatever “convictions” exist in the mind of a monkey or one of the lower animals.
To be consistent, Darwin would have had to admit that his views are glorified monkey screeches. They have no necessary connection to truth. What is truth? Ask the Konner-types if truth evolves. Everything else in Darwin’s world changes. If truth evolves, what is considered true today could be false tomorrow. Evolutionary game theorists continually publish articles in leading journals that claim all that we consider good, true and beautiful is the result of behaviors that arise by natural selection, not by purpose or intent. The aimless, mindless processes of selection produce “emergent properties” that only appear to be altruistic, truthful, and good. They really aren’t! They’re just arbitrary states of matter. Even yeast colonies exhibit these behaviors, they claim, trying to assert that human behavior is no different. So why should we view the NCSE as anything but an emergent property among human populations, that gains power for awhile, till the “religious” population grabs the ball? Who is calling what religious, anyway? In Darwin’s world, nothing has meaning.
This logical response is so crucial it is worth learning well. C. S. Lewis used it. G. K. Chesteron used it. Now Alvin Plantinga and other modern philosophers are using it. Understood and wielded well, this sword stops the Darwinist in his tracks. We cannot allow a Darwinian to “help himself” to concepts of truth or beauty, because it’s a form of theft. If we told them “get your own dirt” (see joke) they would be empty-handed. If they try to argue that Darwinism is true, we must rap their knuckles and tell them to stop and define truth. Does it evolve? If so, game over. A believer in God, by contrast, has the resources to justify belief in truth, because God, the eternal, unchanging One, is the source of Truth with a capital T. As finite humans we may not always get our views right, but we have the one and only pole star to hitch our arguments to. We can justify our belief in truth. (Note: this is why belief in an impersonal designing “force” is inadequate. A force like gravity does not deal in concepts, and concepts require personal communication.)
Some Darwinians try to wriggle out of the straitjacket by appeals to “evolutionary epistemology.” This is the notion that natural selection, to work, required that animals “get the world right” to survive and reproduce. That notion is easily dismissed by repeating the same point: survival has no necessary connection to truth. Survival is pragmatic. What helps an animal survive today might not tomorrow, so what a caveman thinks is true might be false in a million years. At no time would an animal or human know what truth is. Truth must be unchanging.
Once again we recommend the Discovery Institute’s recent book, The Magician’s Twin: C. S. Lewis on Science, Scientism and Society for an in-depth look at the “argument from reason” that defeats materialism. But what about theistic evolution? The argument works against that, too. Almost all theistic evolutionists capitulate to the Darwinian notion that natural selection is aimless and unguided. They refuse to think that God intervenes at any stage in the process, because they want to be accepted within the scientific community. But any unguided, aimless, purposeless process has no necessary connection to truth, whether or not they believe in a God behind it. What about those who think God set up natural selection as a “law of nature” that would fulfill His purposes? Sorry, no dice there, either. A law of nature that led inexorably to Adam and Eve would be a contradiction of natural selection’s aimlessness. It would be tantamount to a miracle—indeed, a whole sequence of miracles—so nothing would be gained by theistic evolutionists who want to depend on “secondary causes” (natural laws), not miracles.
The logical argument explained above is crucial to your surviving evolutionary evangelists in college, the media, or elsewhere, but there’s also an abundance of empirical arguments against evolution. In June, Stephen Meyer’s new book Darwin’s Doubt will discuss the problem of the Cambrian Explosion in detail. Illustra’s excellent documentary Darwin’s Dilemma provides a one-hour presentation of this problem Darwin himself recognized as a valid argument against his theory. Meyer’s earlier book Signature in the Cell, and our online book here, provide powerful, convincing arguments that work not only to refute evolution, but to provide positive evidence for intelligent design. There are so many empirical arguments against evolution at creation sites and intelligent design sites that our problem is knowing where to stop. Many good resources are available at a collection called True Origin, where you can find discussions about most issues in the creation vs. evolution debate. Naturally we also recommend you avail yourself of our Search bar and categories here at Creation-Evolution Headlines.
A final (but important) piece of advice concerning debate strategy. Don’t let the Darwinians define the issue or the terms. They want to corner you into a supposed conflict between “faith” and “science,” but that is a false dichotomy. If you accept their terms, the deck is stacked against you. The truth is, everyone has faith! The question is not faith vs. science, but their faith vs. your faith; their religion vs. your religion; their science vs. your science. You could even demonstrate to the Darwinian, using the argument from reason, that they believe in miracles and the supernatural. The key is to ask the right questions, as Phillip Johnson so ably argued in his book of that name. The debate should be stated, Can you arrive at human reason, and all the beauty and complexity of the living world, by a material process that is fundamentally aimless, purposeless, and unguided? Asked that way, the Darwinian is at the disadvantage. His arguments collapse into monkey screeches. Don’t let him say another word until he can justify the existence of truth, integrity, and morality. As soon as he opens his mouth to argue a point, you have won.
If you have additional points you’d like to make about how to respond to evolution evangelists, add a comment.