The Evolution Debate

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The Evolution Debate

Postby robertk » Sat Apr 14, 2012 3:36 pm

Some of you might like to read an article I wrote on this:

http://www.sciencebuddhism.com/
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Re: The Evolution Debate

Postby daverupa » Sat Apr 14, 2012 4:27 pm

One problem is that evolution has nothing to do with cosmogenesis or biogenesis, but it is often treated as if it does. This conflation occurs in the first paragraph, and throughout, and muddles the topic. Evolution has also been directly observed, so it's no longer based solely on inferential evidence. It also has a strict definition in biology, and does not require an analysis of the dictionary (p. 5). It also isn't called "Darwinism". Bringing in 'after death' issues is wholly unrelated to the theory of evolution. The Christianity section is merely anecdotal. And, finally, that this science doesn't have all the answers doesn't mean that non-scientific responses to these issues are appropriately robust, nor does it mean that they are better than "we don't know yet".

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Re: The Evolution Debate

Postby David N. Snyder » Sat Apr 14, 2012 6:15 pm

The article looks good.

Do you think animals have a soul?
De Laeter: I don't know. They might have. I don't think so.


:D

And I think this is one of the most significant aspects of evolution/Darwinism to the world. If humans have a soul, then animals must have a soul (in my opinion). We all evolved from the same beginnings, have common ancestors, DNA, etc. There is no way around it. Of course, in Buddhism we don't say soul, but suffice it to say for conventional language that we all have consciousness, mind, aggregates, or whatever; but we are the same as animals in that regard.

The only way you can justify that animals are soul-less or don't have rebirth would be to say that creationism is true. And we all know that it is not true, so the only conclusion we can come to is that animals are just as much a part of the spirituality if there is any at all (that is if there is any truth to any religion, it must include animals as spiritual beings, which Buddhism does).
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Re: The Evolution Debate

Postby rowboat » Sat Apr 14, 2012 6:57 pm

The only way you can justify that animals are soul-less or don't have rebirth would be to say that creationism is true. And we all know that it is not true, so the only conclusion we can come to is that animals are just as much a part of the spirituality if there is any at all (that is if there is any truth to any religion, it must include animals as spiritual beings, which Buddhism does).



***

Refracted rearwards along the course of evolution, consciousness displays itself qualitatively as a spectrum of shifting shades whose lower terms are lost in the night. - Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

***
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Re: The Evolution Debate

Postby Buckwheat » Sun Apr 15, 2012 4:43 am

daverupa, you make several great points, and to add to that....
daverupa wrote:...[evolution] also has a strict definition in biology...


In a book by Richard Dawkins, he points out that evolution is not one theory, but several theories. The core theories have so much support they have moved into the realm of "fact" for any rational individual.

As far as consciousness goes, I think it's limited to mammals, but I could easily be wrong. That being said, it is clear that several mammals have at least as much "soul" as humans (IMO). I saw some giraffes at the zoo today and looking into their eyes you can just sense there is more to them than a bundle of material.
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Re: The Evolution Debate

Postby robertk » Sun Apr 15, 2012 6:41 am

daverupa:One problem is that evolution has nothing to do with cosmogenesis or biogenesis, but it is often treated as if it does. This conflation occurs in the first paragraph, and throughout, and muddles the topic.
GO to page 49 (in the journal) and you will see I list the 6 ways that Evolution is used in books/journals and textbooks.


Evolution has also been directly observed, so it's no longer based solely on inferential evidence.
Yes, as the article says:
"[it] is a fact that Microevolution can be observed directly."



Bringing in 'after death' issues is wholly unrelated to the theory of evolution.
I think it is related: leading scientists/sociologists use the theory to conclude that the world is entirely material and that any future existence after death is laughably wrong.
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Re: The Evolution Debate

Postby Ben » Sun Apr 15, 2012 9:21 am

Hi Rob,

First of all - congratulations on the article.
I apologise as I haven't read it yet. In your comments above it appears you are asserting that evolution and rebirth are mutually exclusive. I apologise if I have my wires crossed. If I haven't could you kindly explain briefly why that is so?
Many thanks,

Ben
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Re: The Evolution Debate

Postby robertk » Sun Apr 15, 2012 11:21 am

Dear ben
Eugenie Carol Scott,the executive director of the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) since 1987 explains what " evolution means to the mainstream biologists.
Materialistic evolution is the position of acceptance of biological evolution, combined with the position that the supernatural does not exist


Eugenie C. Scott (2004). Evolution vs. Creationism: An Introduction. Berkley & Los Angeles, California: University of California

Of course for the man in the street evolution can mean as little as the undisputed fact that all species change and develop.
But the Scientific Picture of the World is rather more encompassing, comprising a materialistic, chance driven origin of species begining with the big bang.
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Re: The Evolution Debate

Postby Buckwheat » Sun Apr 15, 2012 2:51 pm

robertk wrote:...chance driven origin of species begining with the big bang.


No, evolution is not random. Natural selection is the opposite of random. It means that there is a genome, and how that genome fits within an environmental niche determines weather the individual survives and procreates. For the population, this means a drift toward states (genomes) that better match survival and reproduction to the ever changing environmental niche.

The fact that there is a very non-random force involved is the very reason scientists use this as an argument against a creator or intelligent design. The "intelligence" is the need to survive and reproduce, not some outside God. Since natural selection is a much simpler theory than God, it is the logically preferred conclusion.

Evolution does not explain how the universe came to be, but it does describe how, once organic material came about, it evolved into complex mechanisms such as human beings. There is very little mystery in that aspect of how we came to be. Plenty of room for amazement and studying of details, but the foundation is very clear.
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Re: The Evolution Debate

Postby Jason » Sun Apr 15, 2012 6:57 pm

robertk wrote:Some of you might like to read an article I wrote on this:

http://www.sciencebuddhism.com/


Definitely an interesting article. I especially like how it addresses the issues of how a person's worldview can influence their interpretation of evidence, and vice versa, and there being more than just two options or lenses to view these issues from (i.e., creationism and strict materialism). That said, I agree with the majority of daverupa's criticisms.

For example, I agree that evolution has nothing to do with cosmogenesis or biogenesis, and definitely shouldn't be conflated with either, in my opinion. Your use of the word 'evolution' throughout the article is extremely loose, and you often bounce from one definition to another; whereas science (particularly evolutionary biology) is generally very strict about applying it to changes in inherited traits of species over time and nothing else.

Moreover, I think the section on rebirth is a weak link overall. While I disagree that the 'after death' issues is wholly unrelated to the theory of evolution, as immaterial rebirth mechanisms could theoretically influence the evolutionary process in some way, you don't really discuss this in any detail, and the evidence for rebirth — the presence of desire as a motivating force in the present — is as convincing an argument as the 'cyclical argument' used by Socrates in Plato's dialogue, Phaedo. It's logically sound; but that in and of itself doesn't make it true, and you, like Plato, present absolutely zero empirical evidence to back it up.

Furthermore, the suggestion that greed, hatred, and delusion will condition rebirth if not eradicated suffers from the same problems. For one, it rests on a number of unaddressed assumptions, the main one being these mental components aren't strictly contingent upon the brain. Science has done a lot of research into the connection between the mind and the brain; whereas Buddhism mostly provides theoretical and internally consistent explanations for the rebirth process with little to no supporting evidence that essentially have the same footing as creationist ones in that they're ultimately untestable.

Objectively speaking, the non-material forces posited in Buddhism are as ethereal, and as yet unprovable, as the creationist's God; and until they can be, I don't see why they should have any place in a biology or physics class, which is the real question, i.e., Why should these kinds of arguments or explanations have any relevance in the classroom where hard science is being taught? A philosophy course, certainly. But a biology or physics class? Not so much, in my opinion; at least not from the level of argumentation you've provided.

That doesn't mean I think you're on the wrong track, however, by suggesting that the possible existence of non-material forces should be taken seriously, or for advocating more debate and open-mindedness when it comes to exploring these issues and presenting them in the classroom. But I do think you need to flesh out your arguments more to better make your case, as well as offer more actual 'evidence' when you invoke that word.

All in all, my criticisms aren't meant to attack your article, but to help make it (or future ones) stronger.
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Re: The Evolution Debate

Postby kirk5a » Mon Apr 16, 2012 12:05 am

Jason wrote: whereas Buddhism mostly provides theoretical and internally consistent explanations for the rebirth process with little to no supporting evidence that essentially have the same footing as creationist ones in that they're ultimately untestable.

Not true. They are untestable by an external observer, which is the way of science, just as the reality of Nibbana is untestable by an external observer. They are completely testable by the individual for him or herself, within themselves directly, and the methods are fully explained.
"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230
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Re: The Evolution Debate

Postby Buckwheat » Mon Apr 16, 2012 12:12 am

kirk5a wrote:Not true. They are untestable by an external observer, which is the way of science, just as the reality of Nibbana is untestable by an external observer. They are completely testable by the individual for him or herself, within themselves directly,

testable? What kind of tests are you running on "memories of previous lives"?

kirk5a wrote:and the methods are fully explained.

Where?
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Re: The Evolution Debate

Postby Jason » Mon Apr 16, 2012 2:44 am

kirk5a wrote:They are untestable by an external observer, which is the way of science, just as the reality of Nibbana is untestable by an external observer.


Precisely, which is why these things have no place in the realm of science or science education.

They are completely testable by the individual for him or herself, within themselves directly, and the methods are fully explained.


The focus of the article is on science and education, particularly the teaching of evolution. In that context, these things are effectively meaningless. I'm sure someone who has had the experience of God speaking to them believes in God's existence just as much as someone who has had the experience of past life memories believes in the reality of rebirth; but I personally don't think that either untestable claim has any place in a science class teaching about evolution.
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Re: The Evolution Debate

Postby kirk5a » Mon Apr 16, 2012 3:08 am

Buckwheat wrote:
kirk5a wrote:Not true. They are untestable by an external observer, which is the way of science, just as the reality of Nibbana is untestable by an external observer. They are completely testable by the individual for him or herself, within themselves directly,

testable? What kind of tests are you running on "memories of previous lives"?

What kind of tests are you running on memories of when you were 9?
kirk5a wrote:and the methods are fully explained.

Where?

The Visudhimagga.
"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230
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Re: The Evolution Debate

Postby kirk5a » Mon Apr 16, 2012 3:18 am

Jason wrote: I'm sure someone who has had the experience of God speaking to them believes in God's existence just as much as someone who has had the experience of past life memories believes in the reality of rebirth;

I don't believe you are sure about that. Having had neither experience for yourself, how are you in a position to equate them?

but I personally don't think that either untestable claim has any place in a science class teaching about evolution.

That's fine, as far as I'm concerned.
"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230
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Re: The Evolution Debate

Postby robertk » Mon Apr 16, 2012 6:48 am

Buckwheat wrote:
robertk wrote:...chance driven origin of species begining with the big bang.


No, evolution is not random. Natural selection is the opposite of random. It means that there is a genome, and how that genome fits within an environmental niche determines weather the individual survives and procreates. For the population, this means a drift toward states (genomes) that better match survival and reproduction to the ever changing environmental niche.

The fact that there is a very non-random force involved is the very reason scientists use this as an argument against a creator or intelligent design. The "intelligence" is the need to survive and reproduce, not some outside God. Since natural selection is a much simpler theory than God, it is the logically preferred conclusion.

Evolution does not explain how the universe came to be, but it does describe how, once organic material came about, it evolved into complex mechanisms such as human beings. There is very little mystery in that aspect of how we came to be. Plenty of room for amazement and studying of details, but the foundation is very clear.


Some of these quotes, most of which are from the leading biologists of recent times, were in the article:

Douglas Futuyma: “By coupling undirected, purposeless variation to the blind, uncaring process of natural selection, Darwin made theological or spiritual explanations of the life processes superfluous. Together with Marx’s materialist theory of history and society and Freud’s attribution of human behaviour to influences over which we have little control, Darwin’s theory of evolution was a crucial plank in the platform of mechanism and materialism – of much of science, in short – that has since been the stage of most Western thought.” (Futuyma, 1986, p.2).

Lewontin: “We have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.” (Lewontin, 1997).

William Provine: “Evolution is the greatest engine of atheism ever invented” (keynote address at the 1998 Darwin Day celebration at the University of Tennessee). He also suggests trying to join evolution with theology, as in beliefs that God(s) somehow started creation but is now out of the picture as being “worthless.” Those type of God(s) “don’t give life after death, they don’t answer prayers, they don’t give you foundations for ethics. In fact they give you nothing” (ibid, 1998).

:
George Gaylord Simpson: “Man is the result of a purposeless and natural process that did not have him in mind.” (1967, pp.344-345).

Richard Dawkins writes that in a universe governed by materialistic evolution (as he claims our universe to be) “some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice.” (1995, pp.132-133).

Stephen J. Gould: “We are global accidents of an unprecedented process with no drive to complexity” (1997 p.214).

Jacques Monod thinks that “Pure chance, absolutely free but blind, lies at the very root of the stupendous edifice of evolution ...” (Monod, 1972, p.110); and “Man at last knows that he is alone in the unfeeling immensity of the universe, out of which he emerged by chance.” (p.167).
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Re: The Evolution Debate

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Apr 16, 2012 6:56 am

robertk wrote:. . . a Divine Foot in the door.” . . .
So, you want a Divine Foot in the door? What would the Buddhist version of a "Divine Foot in the door" look like?
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Re: The Evolution Debate

Postby robertk » Mon Apr 16, 2012 7:10 am

In my upcoming book, tentative title, Buddha,Science,Christ: the evolution debate and education, I note some of the problems, as I see it, with both the Christian and Scientific arguments:

Here is one example, from the evolution side, of what seems to be a philosophically important area stated almost without explanation:

Peter Atkins:
"a great deal of the universe does not need any explanation. Elephants for instance. Once molecules have learnt to compete and to create other molecules in their own image, elephants, and things resembling elephants will in due course be found roaming through the countryside" (cited appovingly in Richard Dawkins popular book, The Blind Watchmaker, 1986, p.14).

That molecules should have these capacities to compete and create is taken as pretty much granted , and yet isn't this exactly where the debate lies.
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Re: The Evolution Debate

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Apr 16, 2012 7:17 am

robertk wrote:In my upcoming book, tentative title, Buddha,Science,Christ: the evolution debate and education, I note some of the problems, as I see it, with both the Christian and Scientific arguments:

Here is one example, from the evolution side, of what seems to be a philosophically important area stated almost without explanation . . ..
You seem to be missing the point here, but I am still waiting for you to tell us what a Buddhist "Divine Foot in the door" looks like.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
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Re: The Evolution Debate

Postby Kenshou » Mon Apr 16, 2012 7:26 am

robertk wrote:various quotes


It sort of looks like you are conflating "purposeless" with "non-random". These do not necessarily carry the same implications.
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