For those who read the evolution debate. Thank you for your input….
Of course, I always get the final word. A couple clarifying remarks.
1) Neil wrote, “It’s as though you earmarked this special topic, because it challenges your religion, as safe ground to be skeptical.”
2) Fatmir wrote, “There is of course some individualistic selfishness, but I think feelings of guilt and angst about those actions evolved to temper those individualistic desires.” and, “There is also beauty in the chaos that you describe as nature. ”
Now all we need is a hookah, cigarettes (not for me, I prefer brisket) and a deck of cards.
Neil is right, I am with him a hundred percent about finding the best system of governance and rational model to harness this selfishness. I truly believe that best model is one based on the Austrian school of economics (give or take). Now, my bigger problem is that I see this vicious cycle of selfishness. Sure we have elements of teamwork ultimately out of self-interested goals but to take the econ-crisis model (thanks to Fatmir for a particularly insightful conversation): Home mortgagers lied on their income reports, bankers gave “predatory loans”, originators bundled these toxic assets etc.
Fine, we can argue the system is flawed, I agree it is. But I think its a rather incomplete solution. We can increase the scope of governance, but as Neil you should know this would only incentivize “rent-seeking”. My ultimate issue is a lack of satisfaction at our human condition, not that fact that I think evolution scientifically challenges my faith. I am not skeptical about the positive arguments for evolution as Longley noted. I am however disappointed at the end result. WE can’t have it both ways and discuss only the positive manifestations of our selfishness (i.e. self-interested teamwork) and say these show the benefits of evolution. We want to have our cake and eat it too, but then when the crappy side of selfishness creeps up again, we spit up the cake and start all over again. I agree with the arguments there partially; but it ultimately comes down whether we believe ourselves to be unchangeable monoliths of self-centeredness or whether we believe heart redemption is possible.
I argue for the latter and I see when we go against the grain of this natural order. We don’t behave like our lives are largely deterministic; whether its our own edification, our actions towards our children, our deeds towards loved ones. Perhaps attributing these emotions of love and conscience to God is a quite a leap, but I find the alternative impossible to live for. I don’t find that irrational at all….
Do I believe in God? Yes.
Do I believe in evolution the same way? No.
I get a lot of flak from my some pals because they’ll post the latest news about how Christians have gone off the deep end. For instance, they might ask me about a post like this: Majority of Republicans don’t believe in evolution. (thanks actually to David) For instance, they might say, “Do you want to see the exhibit on the T. Rex at the museum? OH wait…you think dinosaurs were buried 1000 years ago in a plot against Christians .” or “You know the DNA evidence against OJ is overwhelming, oh never mind you don’t believe in genetics.” Most people would call these kids a$$h*les, I unfortunately call them my friends.
But here’s the thing: I think evolution is a solid theory based on strong evidence that helps explain the world that we live in today. Although certain Christians might try to poke holes here and there, as if its a necessary means to defend the faith. I find that task largely distracting and a time-waster. This is where Christians, I think get it wrong. No, I don’t mind that we discuss theories like “intelligent design” and find those who dismiss it angrily unwilling to listen to the underlying existential questions. These opposing forces want to seemingly invade each others turf as if their survival depended on it; incongruous fighting as silly as if a Christian called a C-chord evil or if a scientist called romantic feelings meaningless.
You see, I can’t believe in evolution in the same way I believe in a higher power. I understand how it might explain the world: how natural selection eventually weeds out the respective weaklings of our species, the way it explains certain social constructions about “selfishness” and “greed” and “violence”.
It is not that I disagree with the mechanism of evolutions (positive arguments), those arguments I find pretty solid, its that I disagree that this is the way things should be (normative arguments). When Richard Dawkins wrote The Selfish Gene, he wrote to describe what actually occurred under evolution not arguing that they were in themselves morally good. So we understand this theory and it helps explain the way we behave, yet somehow I don’t think any of us BELIEVE in evolution.
For instance, Alan Jacobs writes:
Yet although Pinker and like-minded scholars feel they can account pretty well for the prevalence of selfishness and even violence across all human cultures, they have more trouble explaining why we remain uneasy, even guilt-stricken, about our most common tendencies – why selfish and violent are pejorative terms for us.
Its strange because reality presents a scene of constant struggle and change; an idea that dog eat dog is not necessarily bad and ultimately better for our species. Yet even the most libertarian of us were deeply disturbed by the “greed” of those around us. Nobody lauds a child for hitting a smaller child if he wants something from him. “Yes! Assert your genetic dispositions towards power and height because eventually this will marginally increase the possibility of species development.” This is common among all of mankind, yet none of us live as if we believe this.
Its interesting too, when I see those who romanticize the natural order of things. We hope to believe that by understanding nature’s mechanisms we could help explain the world. Unfortunately, for me, this leaves me more confused. Why is the natural order not just lilies and fresh spring air but also volcanic eruption, hurricanes and earthquakes? More importantly, why am I so bothered by it? Perhaps I need to train myself properly, so that I can stoically embrace the world for what it is, how my body will one day return to the earth and provide the organic material that will sustain this earth. This is the state of order on this earth; creation and destruction ebb and flow in a harmonic (chaotic?) cycle.
But this is not the order we embrace as humans; we fight it constantly. We fight it, when we find “protection” and create “cures”, and attempt at lengthening our impermanent state. We fight it when we foster relationships and nurture children or when we clutch the hands of our dying elders. Our heads informs us of this order, but our hearts remain unsatisfied. This is why I don’t believe in evolution or nature, because the science is SO correct. This internal struggle clues me towards the idea that perhaps I wasn’t made to fall alongside this order; that perhaps there is something more?
This is not a proof or argument for the existence for God. But, I am not convinced the redemption or perfection of mankind is answered by subtle mutations over the course of history. Not when its success remains rooted in self-centeredness. Not when its success is contingent on destruction. Not when death is the final state. Call it naive, but its not that I don’t believe evolution, I do; its just that I can’t.