Fallacy Friday!

Today's Logical Fallacy is...Shifting the Burden of Proof!

(related to “appeal to ignorance”) This fallacy occurs when the burden of proof is placed on the wrong side of an argument. In a logical...

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Common Creationist Complaint: How did blind chemistry create mind/intelligence, meaning, altruism and morality?

Common Complaint: How did blind chemistry create mind/ intelligence, meaning, altruism and morality? If everything evolved, and we invented God, as per evolutionary teaching, what purpose or meaning is there to human life? Should students be learning nihilism (life is meaningless) in science classes? [1]

Logical Fallacies:
  • Argument from Adverse Consequences (just because the result is something that might not be easy to think about – like, no meaning in life – doesn't mean that it isn't real) 
  • Straw Man: (equating evolution with "blind chemistry" as a means of dismissing evolution is a straw man fallacy) 
  • Slippery Slope (the claim is essentially that 1) because evolution can explain why religion is so important to humans that 2) evolution means that God isn't real and 3) that that means that life has no purpose or meaning and 4) that that means that we should teach nihilism in science class is a huge slippery slope fallacy. Every step along that path is invalid.) 
Answer: For one thing, evolution isn't "blind," nor is it restricted to "chemistry." In fact, it is far from blind because it acts on traits that are seen – are somehow displayed – by the organism. Evolution can't react to something unless that "something" makes an impact on that organism or it's environment.

Additionally, chemistry isn't "blind," either. Chemistry doesn't work through happenstance; molecules don’t randomly bond with other molecules; they bond and interact based on energy levels and bonding sites, among other things. It's a very structured, organized, mathematical system, and it's very reliable and predictable. Individuals who complain about "blind chemistry" and evolution apparently forget that that same supposed "blind chemistry" can cause an embryo to grow into a full-grown adult; no one has a problem with "blind chemistry" doing that.

The author's initial question is trying to ask how evolution could be responsible for the creation of intelligence, meaning, altruism, and morality. Much of these are controlled by higher brain functions, and the evolution of a brain is pretty clear. The brain controls the central nervous system, the system that is responsible for communication information to other parts of the body, and organisms that can better control their CNS are more likely to reproduce in greater numbers than those that can’t. It’s adaptive. Intelligence is along the same lines: the brighter an organism is, the better they can adjust to their environment, the more likely they will survive, and the more likely their genes will be found in future generations.

Altruistic behaviors are present in many social species because it benefits the society as a whole. This is adaptive for two reasons: one, your community is usually more closely related to you genetically, especially if you don’t have airplanes and cars, and thus by helping your community, you are helping your genes, even if they are distant; and two, your community then helps you in return, and your chances of survival increases. Morality is also adaptive for the same reasons. If a society is amoral, then it is in turmoil and cannot function. Thus, amoral behavior would not be adaptive and would not survive in a social species.

Yes, evolution can explain why religion is so important to humans, but that doesn't mean that God isn't real. Evolution can also explain why you love your children; that doesn't mean that your love isn't valid. If God did, in fact, use evolution to create this world and our existence, don't you think that he would have made us so that we would have an evolutionary drive and need to seek him? If we are to come to know God, if this is one of our primary purposes on this earth, then it makes absolute sense that that purpose would be inherent in our makeup, in our genes, and evolutionarily adaptive.

It is a large misconception that those who believe in evolution have no purpose or meaning in life. Meaning is not a scientific concept; it’s a philosophical and theological one. People of all faiths and belief systems, and even those who have no faith or belief system, find meaning in their lives because meaning can be found in lots of ways. It can be found in helping each other build a community of cooperation and respect; it can be found in raising children with a sense of humility and dedication to help those around them; it can be found in work that will benefit mankind long after you have left. In fact, I would venture to say that if the only meaning you have in life comes from the idea of getting to heaven once you die, then I'm not convinced you're a good person to begin with. If the only reason you're nice to people is because you're afraid of eternal damnation, then I'm not convinced that your presence of a belief in God is doing you any good. I live my life striving to be the best person I can be. If it just so happens that that is also what is necessary to get into heaven, great. But I’m not moral because God tells me to be. I’m moral because it’s the right thing to do.

And because meaning isn't a scientific concept, then we absolutely shouldn't teach nihilism is science classrooms. Philosophy classes, sure, but not science.

[1] 15 Questions for Evolutionists. Evolution: the naturalistic origin of life and its diversity (The General Theory of Evolution, as defined by the prominent past evolutionist Kerkut; see introduction to Origin of life.) by Don Batten

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