Anglican Samizdat

February 6, 2010

A valuable onslaught on neo-Darwinist simplicities

Filed under: evolution — David Jenkins @ 11:08 am

A poke in the eye to atheist fundamentalism à la Dawkins:

Charles Darwin complained quite crossly in his autobiography that, despite many denials, people still kept saying he thought natural selection was the sole cause of evolutionary development. “Great is the force of misrepresentation,” he grumbled. Had he known that, a century later, his alleged followers would be promoting that very doctrine as central to his teaching, and extending it into the wilder reaches of psychology and physics, he might have got even crosser. Darwin’s objection was surely not just that he could see other possible causes. He saw that the doctrine itself did not make sense. No filter, however powerful, can be the only cause of what flows out of it. Questions about what comes into that filter have to be just as important. The proposed solution bears no proportion to the size of the problem.

Since his time, biologists have discovered a huge amount that is really interesting and important about internal factors in organisms that affect reproduction. This powerful little book uses that material to challenge sharply the whole neo-Darwinist orthodoxy – the assumption that, essentially, all evolution is due to mutation and selection. Its authors do not, of course, deny that this kind of classical natural selection happens. But they argue strongly that there is now no reason to privilege it over a crowd of other possible causes. Not only are most mutations known to be destructive but the material of inheritance itself has turned out to be far more complex, and to provide a much wider repertoire of untapped possibilities, than used to be thought. To an impressive extent, organisms provide the materials for changes in their own future. As the authors put it, “Before any phenotype can be, so to speak, ‘offered’ to selection by the environment, a host of internal constraints have to be satisfied.” Epigenetic effects, resulting from different expressions of the same genes, can make a huge difference. And genes themselves are now known not to be independent, bean-like items connected to particular transmitted traits, but aspects of a most intricate process, sensitive to all sorts of internal factors, so that in many ways the same genes can result in a different creature. Recent work in “evodevo” – evolutionary developmental biology – shows how paths of development can themselves change and can change the resulting organism. And again, forces such as “molecular drive”, which ­rearrange the genes, can also have that effect.

Besides this – perhaps even more interestingly – the laws of physics and chemistry themselves take a hand in the developmental process. Matter itself behaves in characteristic ways which are distinctly non-random. Many natural patterns, such as the arrangement of buds on a stem, accord with the series of Fibonacci numbers, and Fibonacci spirals are also observed in spiral nebulae. There are, moreover, no flying pigs, on account of the way in which bones arrange themselves. I am pleased to see that Fodor and ­Piattelli Palmarini introduce these facts in a chapter headed “The Return of the Laws of Form” and connect them with the names of D’Arcy Thompson, Conrad Waddington and Ilya Prigogine. Though they don’t actually mention Goethe, that reference still rightly picks up an important, genuinely scientific strand of investigation which was for some time oddly eclipsed by neo-Darwinist fascination with the drama of randomness and the illusory seductions of simplicity.

This book is, of course, fighting stuff, sure to be contested by those at whom it is aimed. On the face of things, however, it strikes an outsider as an overdue and valuable onslaught on neo-Darwinist simplicities.

As this article notes “no filter, however powerful, can be the only cause of what flows out of it.” Christians have always known the force that drives the filter: God.


November 25, 2009

Richard Dawkins must be gnashing his teeth

Filed under: evolution — David Jenkins @ 10:14 am

From the LA Times:

Today, a century and a half after Charles Darwin published “On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection,” the overwhelming majority of scientists in the United States accept Darwinian evolution as the basis for understanding how life on Earth developed. But although evolutionary theory is often portrayed as antithetical to religion, it has not destroyed the religious faith of the scientific community.

According to a survey of members of the American Assn. for the Advancement of Science, conducted by the Pew Research Center in May and June this year, a majority of scientists (51%) say they believe in God or a higher power, while 41% say they do not.

Furthermore, scientists today are no less likely to believe in God than they were almost 100 years ago, when the scientific community was first polled on this issue. In 1914, 11 years before the Scopes “monkey” trial and four decades before the discovery of the structure of DNA, psychologist James Leuba asked 1,000 U.S. scientists about their views on God. He found the scientific community evenly divided, with 42% saying that they believed in a personal God and the same number saying they did not. Scientists have unearthed many important fossils since then, but they are, if anything, more likely to believe in God today.

This isn’t particularly surprising since the ability to make rational deductions from evidence presupposes the reliability of mankind’s capacity to reason. Without the rationality of a Designer, human thought is nothing but the meaningless firing of a collection of neurons accidentally produced by the universe it is trying to make sense of; why trust it?

November 6, 2009

The impending extinction of Darwinians

Filed under: evolution,The fall of the West — David Jenkins @ 3:10 pm
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From the BBC:

Europe is facing a population crisis because of attacks on religion by secular writers, Britain’s chief rabbi has said.

Lord Sacks blamed Europe’s falling birth rate on a culture of “consumerism and instant gratification”.

He said the continent was “dying” and accused its citizens of not being prepared for parenthood’s “sacrifices”.

He made his comments in a lecture for Christian think tank Theos in central London on Wednesday.

The 61-year-old, who took his seat in the Lords last week, said: “Wherever you turn today – Jewish, Christian or Muslim – the more religious the community, the larger on average are their families.

“The major assault on religion today comes from the neo-Darwinians.”

There is a message here: secularists believe in evolution, so if evolution is true, it programs those who believe in it to stop reproducing; they have been naturally selected out and are not fit to survive.

If evolution is not true, those who believe in it are deluded. The delusion leads to the conclusion, as Richard Dawkins says, that the universe has “no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference”; this is sufficiently depressing to cause Darwinians to abort and birth-control themselves into extinction.

Either way, evolutionists lose.

November 5, 2009

Morality is more about what you should do than what you actually do

Filed under: Atheism,evolution — David Jenkins @ 12:45 pm
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And this is why an evolutionist’s attempts to lay claim to a moral framework – as Dawkins and Hitchens are fond of doing – fail. Atheistic morality does not distinguish “is” from “ought” and without cosmic justice, there is no “ought” and no morality.

This article by Dinesh D’Souza is most illuminating on the subject; the whole thing is well worth a read here:

Cosmic Justice
If evolution cannot explain how humans became moral primates, what can?

By Dinesh D’Souza
All evolutionary attempts to explain morality ultimately miss the point. They seek to explain morality, but even at their best what they explain is not morality at all. Imagine a shopkeeper who routinely increases his profits by cheating his customers. So smoothly does he do this that he is never exposed and his reputation remains unimpeached. Even though the man is successful in the game of survival, if he has a conscience it will be nagging at him from the inside. It may not be strong enough to make him change his ways, but it will at least make him feel bad and perhaps ultimately despise himself. Now where have our evolutionary explanations accounted for morality in this sense?

In fact, they haven’t accounted for it at all. These explanations all seek to reduce morality to self-interest, but if you think about it, genuine morality cannot be brought down to this level. Morality is not the voice that says, “Be truthful when it benefits you,” or “Be kind to those who are in a position to help you later.” Rather, it operates without regard to such calculations. Far from being an extension of self-interest, the voice of the impartial spectator is typically a restriction of self-interest. Think about it: If morality were simply an extension of selfishness, we wouldn’t need it. We don’t need moral prescriptions to tell people to act for their own benefit; they do that anyway. The whole point of moral prescriptions and injunctions is to get people to subordinate and curb their selfish interests.


Now let’s make the supposition that there is cosmic justice after death and ask, Does this help to explain the great mystery of human morality? It seems clear that it does. Humans recognize that there is no ultimate goodness and justice in this world, but they continue to uphold those ideals. In their interior conscience, humans judge themselves not by the standard of the shrewd self-aggrandizer but by that of the impartial spectator. We admire the good man, even when he comes to a bad end, and revile the successful scoundrel who got away with it. Evolutionary theories predict the reverse: If morality were merely a product of crafty and successful calculation, we should cherish and aspire to be crafty calculators. But we don’t. Rather, we act as if there is a moral law to which we are accountable.

October 17, 2009

Richard Dawkins and his merry band of bigots

Filed under: Richard Dawkins — David Jenkins @ 12:16 pm
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English eccentricity is a time-honoured and necessary part of what used to make Britain such a likeable culture. Patrick Moore, whose TV programme The Sky at Night I enjoyed many years ago, is a typical eccentric: he is an astronomer who was a member of the Flat Earth Society.

This impulse for self-mocking comes from a gentler time when people who held strong opinions (Patrick Moore doesn’t believe the earth is flat) still had a sense of humour. Oh that Dawkins and his ilk were as civilised. Here is a typical Dawkinism:

It is absolutely safe to say that if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid or insane (or wicked, but I’d rather not consider that).

Now the assertions of young-earth Creationism may have the appearance of being scientifically untenable – and I don’t subscribe to them – but Dawkins consistently lumps anyone who questions evolution’s dogma into one category, that of mindless folly.

Dawkins enthusiasts take their cue from their master:

By the way, the reason biologists ridicule and insult creationists is because they are too lazy to learn anything, and too bloody stupid to understand anything.

That’s funny that a believer in magical creation would call the basic facts of evolution “pseudo-scientific nonsense”. You obviously don’t know what you’re talking about.

Humourless, arrogant, unreasonable, tedious and bigoted.

October 16, 2009

Dawkins insulting Creationists

Filed under: evolution — David Jenkins @ 9:57 pm

ht/ Reformed Chicks Babbling

Richard Dawkins in discussing his new book, describes creationists thus:

“I don’t think they read books anyway, except for one book”:

Doesn’t that make it difficult for a creationist to read this book without feeling insulted? Won’t that hurt your goal?

No, I’m not really aiming it at creationists. I don’t think they read books anyway, except for one book. It’s aimed at the intelligent layperson who does read books and who vaguely knows a little bit about evolution and who vaguely knows that there are creationists and maybe even vaguely thinks that he’s a creationist himself, but who is curious and wants to know the evidence.

It’s just that the evidence is so enthralling, it’s so exciting. It is so wonderful that here we are on this planet and we understand why we’re here. And it’s just a sort of ecstatic feeling to understand why you exist, and I want to share that feeling with other people.

In spite of his claiming always to appeal to reason and evidence, Dawkins more often than not simply resorts to insulting those who disagree with him, presumably because he believes anyone resistant to the force of his ego is irretrievably lost and unworthy of attention.

The last paragraph of the quote is interesting in that it displays a degree of ecstatic rapture that is normally associated with mysticism, confirming my suspicion that Dawkins is indeed launching a religion. It also enshrines some pseudo-scientific nonsense: science is capable of deducing from evidence whether common descent occurred and what the mechanism was that achieved it. Science can tell us how the material universe functions; it cannot tell us why because “why” implies purpose and science knows nothing of purpose.

October 9, 2009

Bill O’Reilly calls Dawkins’ approach to education fascism

Filed under: evolution — David Jenkins @ 11:54 pm

And about time. The fact that Dawkins would like to suppress any exploration of intelligent design in the classroom is a particularly repulsive example of totalitarian scientism.

September 6, 2009

Wired to believe

Filed under: evolution — David Jenkins @ 3:37 pm

It seems that we are programmed to believe in God:

Humans are programmed to believe in God because it gives them a better chance of survival, researchers claim.

A study into the way children’s brains develop suggests that during the process of evolution those with religious tendencies began to benefit from their beliefs – possibly by working in groups to ensure the future of their community.

The findings of Bruce Hood, professor of developmental psychology at Bristol University, suggest that magical and supernatural beliefs are hardwired into our brains from birth, and that religions are therefore tapping into a powerful psychological force.

There are two possibilities:

God does actually exist and he designed us; it should come as no surprise that we are inclined to believe in him.

God does not exist and the proclivity to believe he does is a product of evolution: evolution has programmed us to believe a lie. If evolution predisposes us to believe something to be true that isn’t, we cannot trust our ability to deduce from evidence; therefore, no amount of evidence can prove evolution to be true.

August 20, 2009

Richard Dawkins’ website hacked

Filed under: evolution — David Jenkins @ 1:43 pm

Why was Dawkins’ site chosen? Natural Selection.

No Intelligent Design for Dawkins forum…

Richard Dawkins, the evolutionary biologist and popular science author, famed for his no-holds-barred approach to what he sees as the unsubstantiated claims made by religion, certainly has all the proof he needs to believe in the cybercriminal underground.

Members of the discussion forum over at all received a message, purporting to be from the forum admin which incongruously invited them to join a warez site.

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March 17, 2009

The New Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

Filed under: Christianity,evolution — David Jenkins @ 9:21 pm
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The 21st Century’s Inquisition at work:

Science minister won’t confirm belief in evolution.

Researchers aghast that key figure in funding controversy invokes religion in science discussion.

Canada’s science minister, the man at the centre of the controversy over federal funding cuts to researchers, won’t say if he believes in evolution.

“I’m not going to answer that question. I am a Christian, and I don’t think anybody asking a question about my religion is appropriate,” Gary Goodyear, the federal Minister of State for Science and Technology, said in an interview with The Globe and Mail.

A funding crunch, exacerbated by cuts in the January budget, has left many senior researchers across the county scrambling to find the money to continue their experiments.

Some have expressed concern that Mr. Goodyear, a chiropractor from Cambridge, Ont., is suspicious of science, perhaps because he is a creationist.

The interesting part of all this is that the headline in the Globe shrieks its outrage that Goodyear won’t confirm his belief in evolution. Obviously if evolution is a simple empirically verifiable fact, it wouldn’t be necessary to pull out Mr. Goodyear’s fingernails to extract a statement of belief: it would be impossible for him to deny it. For example, it is highly unlikely that Mr. Goodyear would cling to the potentially suicidal notion that he is immune to gravity and is capable of stepping off a high story building without hurtling to his death.

The truth is, evolution is a theory that describes the mechanism behind how species change; it does not explain life’s origin or its purpose. It has no way of determining whether the emergence of mankind was supernaturally guided or accidental; clearly a Christian would not believe it to be accidental. The rhetoric of scientism would deny the possibility of supernatural intervention, but that denial is an act of faith not of science, since the supernatural is outside the realm of science’s competence.

Now, back to pouring molten lead into Mr. Goodyear’s nostrils:

Jim Turk, executive director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers, said he was flabbergasted that the minister would invoke his religion when asked about evolution.

Jim Turk needs to do a little self-examination. For many scientists, evolution is a religion.

February 14, 2009

Valentine’s Day: testing the saliva

Filed under: evolution — David Jenkins @ 1:50 pm

There are a number of different ways to look at Valentine’s Day. This one, for example:

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Look out and see the pretty birds
How each doth chuse his mate,
To kiss and coo, and Jove pursue,
Their kind to propagate

And for the Dawkins dogmatists, this one:

She said men like “sloppier kisses” because they are testing the saliva to see how fertile a woman is.

“The hypothesis is they’re trying to get small traces of oestrogen to see where the woman is in her menstrual cycle to indicate the state of her fertility,” she said.

She said women used smell as they are kissing to deduce some things about the man’s immune system.

This gives us a perfect illustration of the contrast between meaning and mechanism.

The latter is undoubtedly an accurate description of how Dawkins and his wife met – a combination of sniffing and saliva analysis – but for normal people, believing that love is little more than an attraction to a superior immune system would be the recipe for a one way trip to the funny farm.

Personally, I avoid Valentine’s day altogether.

February 4, 2009

How to substitute offence for sense

Filed under: evolution — David Jenkins @ 6:58 pm

Read it all here

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Comedian Ben Stein Cancels Speech Over Evolution Controversy

Comedian Ben Stein has withdrawn as the University of Vermont’s commencement speaker because of complaints about his critical views on evolution in favor of intelligent design.

UVM President Daniel Fogel said he chose Stein based on the warm response to a lecture he gave on campus last spring. Fogel said, however, he was deluged with e-mail messages from people offended by Stein’s views of science.

It seems that Richard Dawkins, in the spirit of free scientific inquiry, emailed Fogel to pressure him into turning down Stein for this engagement. What’s the matter, Richard? Afraid that an opposing view might expose the truth?

How can anyone be offended by a view of science? It sounds as if this comes from  people who don’t have the mental wherewithal to muster a rational argument for their position, so they have to fall back on the “I am offended” plea.

You are offended? Good.

January 31, 2009

How to get up Richard Dawkins’ nose

Filed under: evolution — David Jenkins @ 5:13 pm

Disagree with him:

Poll reveals public doubts over Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. Belief in creationism is widespread in Britain, Add an Imageaccording to a new survey.

Prof Dawkins expressed dismay at the findings of the ComRes survey, of 2,060 adults, which he claimed were confirmation that much of the population is “pig-ignorant” about science.

“Obviously life, which was Darwin’s own subject, is not the result of chance,” he said.

“Any fool can see that. Natural selection is the very antithesis of chance.

“The error is to think that God is the only alternative to chance, and Darwin surely didn’t think that because he himself discovered the most important non-theistic alternative to chance, namely natural selection.”

It seems that Richard Dawkins thinks that the great unwashed  in the UK are pig-ignorant about science in much the same way as Dawkins is pig-ignorant about theology. Except that Dawkins displays his ignorance with more fanfare and gets paid for it.

As for “Natural selection is the very antithesis of chance”, the antithesis of chance is a plan; which means  Dawkins is claiming that natural selection is somehow planned. He goes to great lengths to ridicule the idea that life was designed and yet can’t bring himself to admit that it occurred through chance; which means it must have been planned and, therefore, designed. And he calls Christians illogical.

He has anthropomorphised natural selection, imbued it with purpose and intent and turned it into a god. A god that he worships.

Very scientific.

November 24, 2008

Born to believe

Filed under: Christianity — David Jenkins @ 2:29 pm

From the Telegraph

Children are born believers in God, academic claims

Dr Justin Barrett, a senior researcher at the University of Oxford’s Centre for Anthropology and Mind, claims that young people have a predisposition to believe in a supreme being because they assume that everything in the world was created with a purpose.

He says that young children have faith even when they have not been taught about it by family or at school, and argues that even those raised alone on a desert island would come to believe in God.

“The preponderance of scientific evidence for the past 10 years or so has shown that a lot more seems to be built into the natural development of children’s minds than we once thought, including a predisposition to see the natural world as designed and purposeful and that some kind of intelligent being is behind that purpose,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“If we threw a handful on an island and they raised themselves I think they would believe in God.”

“Children’s normally and naturally developing minds make them prone to believe in divine creation and intelligent design. In contrast, evolution is unnatural for human minds; relatively difficult to believe.”

Almost looks like a Divinely planted predisposition, doesn’t it? Richard Dawkins would have to claim that the genetic inclination to believe in God is a product of evolution; in which case, he and Christopher Hitchens must be throwbacks.

October 21, 2008

The promise of Eternal Nothingness

Filed under: Christianity — David Jenkins @ 10:38 am
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From the Telegraph

Prof Richard Dawkins drives support for London’s first atheist bus advert

Campaigners believe the messages will provide a “reassuring” antidote to religious adverts that “threaten eternal damnation” to passengers.
The routes on which the atheist buses could be placed have not yet been fixed, but they would travel through the central London borough of Westminster and so could pass close to Westminster Abbey, a Christian place of worship for more than 1,000 years.
Prof Dawkins, Oxford University’s Professor of the Public Understanding of Science, said: “Religion is accustomed to getting a free ride – automatic tax breaks, unearned ‘respect’ and the right not to be ‘offended’, the right to brainwash children. Even on the buses, nobody thinks twice when they see a religious slogan plastered across the side.
“This campaign to put alternative slogans on London buses will make people think – and thinking is anathema to religion.”

When was the last time you saw an advertisement on a bus threatening eternal damnation?

Leaving aside for a moment the question of the truth, or otherwise, of Christianity, how – I almost said ‘in heaven’s name’ – can the promise of no eternity be ‘reassuring’. Without God and life after death, loved ones will be gone forever, morality has no anchor and love itself is a meaningless chemical reaction. If nothingness follows death it makes all that appears before of no consequence – ‘a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing’. Jesus promises neither eternal nothingness, nor eternal damnation, but eternal life ‘with joys that earth cannot afford’.

And if Dawkins is suffering under the illusion that ‘thinking is anathema to religion’, clearly he has learned nothing from his encounters with John Lennox.

In a characteristically western spirit of self-flagellation, the British Methodist Church is welcoming the ad campaign. From Here

Rev Jenny Ellis, Spirituality and Discipleship Officer, said, “We are grateful to Richard for his continued interest in God and for encouraging people to think about these issues. This campaign will be a good thing if it gets people to engage with the deepest questions of life.”

Bravo, the British Methodist Church, a very Anglican statement; like you, the Anglican church has difficulty distinguishing between loving its enemies and agreeing with them.

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