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SimianOverlord's Journal: Creation and Evolution: A Collision of World Views 27

Journal by SimianOverlord
What do you call it when two different people can look at the same data set and come to two completely different and largely incompatible conclusions? Moreover, two conclusions that implicitly depend on the way they view the world around them, the path they have travelled, their experiences and attained knowlege, their upbringing, their highs and lows? For want of a better word, I would call it a collision of worldviews. And I believe I detect it in specific instances of the Creationism/ Evolution debate.

Let's explore this intellectual abstraction, bearing in mind it is a only a vehicle to tune our minds for thinking in a particular way about this particular debate, and will, like all analogies, fit some situations well and some situations ill.

I guess I would call these two worldviews Religious and Scientific. A religious worldview holder looks over the wonder of the world around them, and sees the seemingly random little choices they have made in their life that have turned out for the better, and detects in them the hand of the divine, intervening in a million small miracles everyday to shape the lives of friends, loved ones and him; or her;-self. There is magic in the world that confounds or supplements the rational basis of God's creation.

A scientific worldview holds that the universe around him is shaped by rational laws set down at the birth of the universe and varying only slightly since then, events in someone's life are the result of a intricate network of interrelationships, the wonder of the world is appreciated in the complex interplay of physical laws and condensations of matter, and best understood by the aristotlean method of hierarchies, by division of physical objects or forces into smaller and smaller atomies, catagorising, understanding and aiding fine manipulation of these forces.

On the face of it, a Scientific and a Religious person could cohabit peacefully without rancour, though both might pity the other for what they percieve as their narrow minded and stunted appreciation of the world around them.

But in certain debates, data from the scientific community of individuals impacts on the worldview of those who hold a religious way of looking at things. And it impacts on sub categories of those who hold religious viewpoints differently depending on when they believe divine intervention occurred.

For example, if one were to believe God created the Universe and set it spinning off into the void with conditions carefully selected to produce these laws, this earth, and this people, then essentially left it alone thereafter, evolution is a dead duck - it impacts not at all on this belief system. These people are rare, but are over represented in science.

Most religious worldviews I am familiar with hold that God not only went through this initial creation, but also intervened in key periods in human history, as outlined by one of their holy books. Evolution impacts on these people depending on how holy they consider their truth, how dogmatic they are about their scripture. There is a spectrum within the spectrum therefore, from people who believe, say, the Bible IS Gods work, but transcribed through the faulty hand of man, and full of metaphor which is often mistaken for literal truth. This group can accept evolution, and explain away biblical conventions, though perhaps are not fully comfortable in doing so.

At the other end of the spectrum is the fully dogmatic, who believe every literal word of the Bible, that Methuslah lived to 720 years old, that the earth was created in 6 days (nearly wrote 7), only a couple of thousand years ago, and it is with these people that Scientific worldview holders have the greatest arguments with.

For one thing, science hates dogma. It continually attacks it, trying to find places where an apparant fact or theory breaks down, looking for chinks in its armour, eroding away its conclusions. Only the best dogma, that which corresponds closest to the truth, survives this process, and it is embraced at the end of it as Fact, written in textbooks and taught to the next generation. Thus holding to one particular set of facts without investigation or critical thinking is especially galling to scientists.

For another, dogmatics appear to believe turnabout is fair play. If scientists are attacking their beliefs, it is perfectly fair to take the battle to science on its own scientific ground. Witness the plethora of sites attacking evolution on seemingly rational, scientific bases. Sadly, there is little scientific evidence to counteract the Theory of Evolution, so too often the arguments of the Sophist come into play, misdirection, undue emphasis and outright lying. Again, this infuriates scientists, who view it as a form of cheating, or intellectual dishonesty, which is not tolerated in science (but sadly happens) because of the faith one scientist must hold in another. No scientist can repeat every experiment or test every theory leading to their own work, they must take it on faith that the scientist themselves was rigorous in their experiments, truthfully reported what they found, and were evaluated correctly by the community at large. Set against this background, no wonder science has a natural inbuilt hatred of charlatanism.

But this idea of worldviews shows just how futile the dogmatic / rationalist argument is - while scientists can refute arguments based on science by the usual process of quoting evidence, or informed opinion, arguments based on faith - "I believe it because I believe in God" for instance - cannot be refuted by any sort of rational analysis. Any argument based on logic is also based on the worldview of a rational universe with set laws and no 'magic', no 'god', no incredible miracles or divinity. And this worldview is implicitly never accepted by the very person you are trying to argue against.

So I would say, a large (or perhaps a small, but very vocal) part of the creationist / evolutionist argument is impossible to resolve through debate.

So to the point of this essay. It is the worldviews in competition here, one version will die out or transform and one will not. Therefore you must treat with the greatest hostility and suspicion any attempt to impose a worldview on people by the control of teaching to kids, because it is an attempt to perserve a rancourous debate, and to pass ones own dogma to a new generation.

And here I hit the limits of my understanding. Because the way schools are, and have always been set up, is to teach the rational view of the universe for example in the fields of physics, mathematics and biology. Creationism can't be taught in this framework. So the dogmatics appear doomed, and although from my own biases I would not be sorry to see them go, I can't help but feel a sense of loss that something that people believe in and have faith in should be inevitably steamrollered by a state institution, and a societal emphasis since the 1950s on science and its transforming powers. Who could have forseen it?

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I apologise for the mind-dump, I attempted to give it what structure I could. Also, I tried to eliminate bias towards a scientific viewpoint, apart from the meta-bias that is the whole essay itself; the division of the creationist / evolutionist argument into a hierarchy with defined and described subdivisions. I can't take out that bias, it's how I was taught to structure essays.

Just as a general note, I'd say its too easy for those with a scientific viewpoint to sneer at religious people. I try to remind myself that there is no way for me to tell if a more fufilling and enjoyable life is to be had through a spiritual or a rational life, which is all that matters in the end.

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Creation and Evolution: A Collision of World Views

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  • Eg. On Lawn's [slashdot.org], but I'll have to admit, that as a Brit, this all appears to be a rather strange focus. Particularly as many Christians (notably the Catholic church) believe in evolution plus intervention by god, and outside the States, Creationism is a non-runner.

    To my eyes, this kind of focus is a worrying symptom of the growth of fundamentalism in the States, compounded with the development of ignorance, as evidence for [talkorigins.org] macroevolution (and not just "change with time") is immense. Evolution plus is stil

  • I would say that the majority of Christians in this world, approximately 1.1 billion out of the 2 billion Christians in this world, being Catholic, have had this set for them. And have NO problem with evolution AND intervention. You see, the Catholic understanding of God's intervention is largely spiritual- conversion based. People being enlightened by visions, relationships, and events between INDIVIDUALS. This has NOTHING to do with evolution, and EVERYTHING to do with human relationships and control
    • A 'why' question presumes an answer, but what makes you so sure that there is one? Religion may give us why - as long as the question is meaningful.

      People might need an answer to their 'why' questions, but psychological necessity is no proof of existence, surely?

      • A 'why' question presumes an answer, but what makes you so sure that there is one? Religion may give us why - as long as the question is meaningful.

        Philisophically, this is an "I think therefore I am" question. As long as there is a need for a why, the question will be asked- and certainly there should be an answer, even if it's a nonsensical one to a solipsist.

        People might need an answer to their 'why' questions, but psychological necessity is no proof of existence, surely?

        And likewise, lack of psyc
        • And likewise, lack of psychological necessity in a single individual is also no proof of non-existence. If the need is there, then there is some evolutionary reason for that need- even if a few mutants don't share the need.

          "An evolutionary reason" need not have any relation to truth: self-advantage in supporting the priest class could be as powerful a reason, or else another more subtle social order, maybe even a beneficial one: this still doesn't make the reason true.

          I agree that this isn't a dispr

          • "An evolutionary reason" need not have any relation to truth: self-advantage in supporting the priest class could be as powerful a reason, or else another more subtle social order, maybe even a beneficial one: this still doesn't make the reason true.

            True- but it does make it advantageous. Why do you think human societies evolved the priest class to begin with? The need to answer the question "why" was there first- or there wouldn't be any priest class. Chicken and the egg- evolutionally the egg was the
            • Perhaps what you need to consider is that there is more than one form of truth- and more than one set of reference points.
              I will concede that not everyone means the same thing by the word "truth".
              • I will concede that not everyone means the same thing by the word "truth".

                It's often more than that- the same individual often has different meanings for the word "truth" in different situations. "Scientific Truth", "Philosophical Truth", "Economic Truth" and "Theological Truth" all have different meanings for me- and different logical proof processes associated with them, different modes of thinking almost. There's some overlap- but not a whole lot. Scientific Truth can never answer why questions, any
            • True- but it does make it advantageous. Why do you think human societies evolved the priest class to begin with? The need to answer the question "why" was there first- or there wouldn't be any priest class. Chicken and the egg- evolutionally the egg was there first because something that was not a chicken laid it.
              Too easy - self-advantage for the priests.
              • Too easy - self-advantage for the priests.

                Not enough by itself- without the belief in the supernatural, the priest class would not have been able to gain power. Societies like species, evolve to fit niches. The environmental niche that the priest class fits is the human need for the answer to the question "why". The self-advantage for the priests is the reason why the adaptation was successfull. The priest class did not invent the need to believe- they merely filled the need to believe with a structur
                • To complete the circle: the need for "why" need not have anything to do with truth.

                  For example: finding causes to cause-effect relations is likely to have high survival value. This does not mean that an event has a cause, nor does it mean that we do not overgeneralise. That "why?", in general, has utility (in particular in helping to guess others' motives) does not mean that the question always has an answer.

                  The high evolutionary utility that we get from when the question does have an answer means t

                  • For example: finding causes to cause-effect relations is likely to have high survival value. This does not mean that an event has a cause, nor does it mean that we do not overgeneralise. That "why?", in general, has utility (in particular in helping to guess others' motives) does not mean that the question always has an answer.

                    True enough- but it has utility in that it is usually correct- guess the wrong why, and you get the wrong motive, and a war results, for your example.

                    The high evolutionary utility
                    • For example: finding causes to cause-effect relations is likely to have high survival value. This does not mean that an event has a cause, nor does it mean that we do not overgeneralise. That "why?", in general, has utility (in particular in helping to guess others' motives) does not mean that the question always has an answer.

                      True enough- but it has utility in that it is usually correct- guess the wrong why, and you get the wrong motive, and a war results, for your example.

                      We see plenty of war, and o

                    • We see plenty of war, and observe much fighting between tribes; clearly evolution hasn't eliminated such conflict. In fact, a war ideology can be fit even when its hosts are not, for conquerors add rapidly onto their numbers. Prevalence simply isn't sufficient. Similarly with other ideologies of power. As we accept a variety of 'why's, it's actually highly probably that of the acceptable reasons, the one that we've accepted is of the highest utility to those who'd want to rule us: holding the wrong politica
                    • by Morosoph (693565)
                      Reality, as opposed to perception, is singular. It has to be, or else there would be no medium in which our minds could interact. To draw a physical analogy: we measure velocities and accelerations as relative (respectively special and general relativity), yet space exists regardless. We can use the theory of relativity to transform between perspectives, but if space didn't exist, such transformation would be impossible.

                      When I refer to truth, I am not refering to theory, but rather this underlying rea

                    • Reality does not necessarily have to be singular to encompass that transformation- a mere matching of frame of reference, and the ability of the human mind to switch between frames of reference even when those frames are contradictory, provides enough of an ability to create the transformation between disparate logic systems.

                      Reality is only real as long as you trust your senses. And the senses can be so easily fooled, that our collective grasp on anything resembling a universal truth is likely to be so wr
                    • You're missing the point: there is no other if there is no single reality that embraces both self and other.

                      Reality is only real as long as you trust your senses.
                      No. Reality is only real if you exist. Your senses have nothing to do with it, hallucinations or otherwise are irrelevant to this point. Collective opinion and consensus are likewise irrelevant.
                    • I cannot prove that I think- therefore I cannot prove that I exist. At all. My existance depends upon me proving to you that I think- and I cannot do that without involving one of the five senses.

                      By that logic- that reality is only real if we exist- well, we can't prove that we do exist without involving the five senses. So therefore, we DON'T exist from a purely rational standpoint- that's why atheism so easily breaks down into solipsism.
                    • I cannot prove that I think- therefore I cannot prove that I exist. At all. My existance depends upon me proving to you that I think- and I cannot do that without involving one of the five senses.

                      You have just communicated with me. I do not lean upon Descartes. This communication is only possible given otherness, and a medium of communication. This medium is part of reality.

                      By that logic- that reality is only real if we exist- well, we can't prove that we do exist without involving the five senses.

                    • You have just communicated with me. I do not lean upon Descartes. This communication is only possible given otherness, and a medium of communication. This medium is part of reality.

                      Ah- that changes things. In that case- all four logic systems that I'm familiar with determine reality- four different truths, but each one of them is reality in it's own way, because it encompasses a different set of refference points that is in and of itself a part of the medium of communication. Without the common referenc
                    • Maybe there's a linguistic barrier here. I do not need to know reality for it to exist according to my use of the term; it seems to me that you're using "reality" interchangably with "knowledge". Am I right?
                    • More like existance is almost interchangeable with knowledge. In that way I have something in common with the atheists, but on a more subjective level- something I have no knowledge of does not exist for me. Thus, for reality to exist, I need knowledge of it. Existance is in the realm of Scientific or Theological truth- both have this thing called the scientific or councilar method, in reality peer review, which defines existance entirely on a communally agreed level. That which the community agrees to
                    • More like existance is almost interchangeable with knowledge.

                      It's going to be hard to make progress. There might be an abstract way in which existance is information, but for existance to be synonymous with knowledge is an extreme position that I don't buy, myself: the world exists when we don't look at it IMO. At root, the universe might indeed be quantum, but "observable" in this context is a technical term, and doesn't refer to knowledge in the usual sense.

                      something I have no knowledge of does

                    • The problem I run into with existance that is independant of knowledge transfer is that it's unprovable. It might be so- it might not- and since there is no quantum observer, it's like asking if Schrodinger's cat is alive- there is litterally no way to know that reality exists, for the very observing of reality changes that reality to the observed. Therefore EITHER definition of existance comes down to being entirely unprovable- by observing existance you change it's state.
                    • The proof is simple: irrelevant of the content of communication, "self", "other", and "medium" are all presupposed by the act. Your words are as meaningful as the reality (medium) you are in: thus the existance of another reader implies the existance of a medium (carrier) of communication.

                      To communicate to others without assuming reality is pointless, since the only message that will be received will be one that has been transmitted through the medium. This doesn't eliminate the individual problem wit

                    • The proof is simple: irrelevant of the content of communication, "self", "other", and "medium" are all presupposed by the act. Your words are as meaningful as the reality (medium) you are in: thus the existance of another reader implies the existance of a medium (carrier) of communication.

                      That's pretty funny when you consider the fact that we are communicating through cyberspace and by the Turing argument, have no idea if the other person really exists or is software. Pretty unreal medium to be discussin
                    • The proof is simple: irrelevant of the content of communication, "self", "other", and "medium" are all presupposed by the act. Your words are as meaningful as the reality (medium) you are in: thus the existance of another reader implies the existance of a medium (carrier) of communication.

                      That's pretty funny when you consider the fact that we are communicating through cyberspace and by the Turing argument, have no idea if the other person really exists or is software. Pretty unreal medium to be discussin

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