Why Darwin Matters

Recently I came across an e-mail exchange that occurred between my father and his missionary companion/trainer. My dad had asked his companion’s input on the subject of Biological Evolution and Mormonism, since I had been raising questions about it at home. I had finished reading Evolution and Mormonism: A Quest for Understanding, had studied Evolution in College and was very convinced of the strenth of the theory. Currently, there is really no scientific debate about Evolution as a theory- there are debates about the details, but not about the theory itself. It is accepted by most scientists. Today I ordered Why Darwin Matters: The Case Against Intelligent Design, by Michael Shermer. I have read other books by Michael Shermer and find him a great critical thinker. Last night I listened to a podcast interview where he talked about his book (you can subscribe to the Skeptic Podcast here or listen to the interview here). Anyways, here goes the e-mail exchange- I found it to be very interesting. Enjoy!

(A conversation on Evolution between my dad and his mission companion, *****. I had brought the subject up several times with my dad to help him open his mind to it, and this is what his former companion said when asked about it)

From [my father]:

“Evolution, interesting subject. So, what do we know about evolution, you and I? I know very little. Do you know more? What do you know, I’m interested?

 

Response from [his former companion from the mission]:

First, most scientists who believe in Evolution are believers. They just don’t believe that A & E started as perfect people in the garden because there is no evidence to that effect. NONE

Second, all mainline scientists have to believe in all or part of evolution because there isn’t another answer to how all this came about. Astronomy cannot predict or explain what they see in their telescopes. Geologists can’t explain how the G. Canyon was made. I know, “it was made in the flood”. There was no world wide flood. It was impossible on all levels. The problem with the scriptural account is that since all the animals died in the flood, except for the ones on the arc, how did an animal like the platypus get from mount Arat to the southeast coast of Australia without leaving any babies. The fact is that the islands of the sea have 75% of all the species on earth. The Tasmanian Devil is just one of those. He lives as far from Mt. Arat as you can get. How did Noah get him there? And no place else? So the Genesis scriptures can’t be relied on as a history lesson, but as a spiritual lesson it has some power certainly. Few people realize that the author must have been a farmer. He was concerned with weeds. But a hunter gatherer doesn’t even understand the word. All the plants are good in some way for him. So there is a built in prejudice right from the start. Interestingly, the idea that Eve would have greater pain in child birth, begs some questions: greater than what? She had not had children at that point. Greater than if she hadn’t eaten the fruit?

That’s what the rest of the world thinks, but we don’t . How about greater than the animals? It is interesting to note that because we are human and our heads are so big that we have the most
trouble of all animals on earth bearing children because many times the head won’t go through the birth canal as happened with my niece.

She would have died without modern medicine. It is also interesting to note that with civilization came clothes, farming, domesticated animals, writing and everything that makes A & E modern day people.

Without evolution, Biologists can’t explain why our DNA is 98% like the chimp DNA as they have just confirmed after completing the chimp genome project. And neither can the people who insist on interpreting Genesis literally.

Third, BYU teaches E as does Notre Dame. That’s because there isn’t another why or how alternative, just a who, and that answers no questions and does allow us to make predictions.

We Mormons have the perfect solution, and why we insist on doing the fundamental thing is beyond me. The first creation story is the spiritual creation, the one that starts with man is second creation story and has no time in it at all. Why not tell the world we don’t believe the world was created in 6,000 years. It obviously wasn’t and those that insist that it was are the flat earth believers of today.

Lastly for today, our bodies are not perfect. Approximately 1/3 of men have penises that are too big for their spouse. That doesn’t happen anywhere but in humans. All the other species the genitilia of the male fit the genitilia of the female. 1/3 of women report pain in intercourse. 20% need medical attention. Why? How come if you are European, you have to have your wisdom teeth pulled? Black people don’t. But my daughter had 6 teeth pulled just to make room for her teeth. Blacks and aborigines and Hawaiians don’t have to have this done, but 90% of Europeans do. Why? Why are we built with built in obsolescence? When you and I turn 60, the chances that we are going to have prostate problems start to rise. If we masturbated a lot as kids we are better off than if we didn’t. If we’re getting some now, it will stave off difficulties. But the prostate is wrapped around the urethra and when it gets old it swells and cuts off the bladder. People used to die early all the time from this but today we live longer, not because God wills it, but because of modern medicine. God wants us dead after we are done having children. By the way, that is how all the other animals in world are programmed, to die after they are finished having babies.
These are just a few problems with the perfect body theory of the Genesis creation story. There is a very long list and one that gets longer the more we know about our bodies. For instance, for
everything the body does, there is a genetic disease. From cystic fibrosis to werewolf’s syndrome. You name it and it can go wrong.

One scientist who was Christian, said most people on earth would burn the creator to the stake if they could put their hands on him.

And he listed the ten most insidious diseases. There is one that is caused by a parasite that causes a million cases of blindness in children a year. Who would purposely make a parasite like that?

Evolution gets God out of a tough spot.

That’s my take.

Anyways, I thought it was a great take on Evolution. What do you think?,

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~ by bonoboi on September 28, 2006.

4 Responses to “Why Darwin Matters”

  1. I have to say that this tirade is very interesting, other than the typos, and it is a good summary of a lot of talking points.

    First, the Book of Genesis tells the Who part of where we come from. There is very little science (the how) in Genesis and most science that people see, they imagine. For instance, some believe the Bible says there were Dinosaurs when man was upon the earth because it says “In those days there were giants in the land”. To relate that to dinos is a real stretch.

    Second, although there is no “how“, there certainly is a lot of “who”. It is obvious that God is making a point to make sure we know who the boss is. In defense of the ID people, our plant is perfect for the life we know. We live in quiet part of the Milky Way, in a pleasant part of the solar system, protected by the moon and the outer big gaseous planets, the moon making sure the crust is stirred so the earth stays new and viable. So we can thank God for the space we have to live on, but that still doesn’t tell us anything about our universe and how it works.

    As members of The Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter Day Saints it is important to be science aware. It is the height of irony that we believe so strongly in things that cannot be proven and are so suspect of things that have been proven over and over with reams and tons of evidence. There is no physical proof that God made a virgin pregnant with His Child, who grew up to be a Superhero and then died for everyone’s sins. There is testimony and we “feel” it is right to believe the way we do, but so do Muslims and Hindus. So let’s give the scientists a break. They have to amass tons of information before anything is considered a theory. We are sure of our beliefs if we read a few scriptures and pray.

    We LDS people need to stop being anti-science. I remember one General Conference when the prophet felt he had to stand up and tell the church to get their shots. That’s so embarrassing. We are herb loving, chiropractic adoring, people and some of us really believe that adjusting your spine can stop whopping cough. Half the scams that are pulled in US start in Utah. That’s not an accident. We are very suspicious of a good back-round check. We seem to abhor proof.

    And we don’t like facts. A few years back the entire state of Utah took a collective sigh of relief when a book about sex was published by a church book publisher, which made it OK for people to educate themselves about sex for the first time in church history. Before this, the unofficial church position on sex books was that everything was porn. In the manual, it states that the clitoris is not in the vaginal canal and is positioned several inches away from the action and that it is this appendage that provides a woman with a male- like orgasm. Further, the clitoris must be, in most women, stimulated separately from coitus in order for the woman to become satisfied. This was the first time that people could hear from a semi-church source that most women didn’t orgasm in intercourse, a fact revealed by Kinsey and Masters and Johnson 60 years ago. The fact that everyone in Utah was afraid to acknowledge, that the clitoris is nowhere near the vaginal canal, was known to the rest of world and intelligent people everywhere, but if you were a good Mormon, this was forbidden ground. With this new information, rules for love-making have to change and that collides with old school feelings of puritan morality that we have in the church. But facts are facts and the cat is out of the bag! Finally!

    So in my opinion, our lack of confidence in things proven or scientific is hurting the people in the church, the church and the country. The members don’t take advantage of the opportunities in science because they don’t want be apart of apostate groups. The church loses because we lose credibility with the rest of the world and its academic community. The US is losing the tech war in the world today, largely I believe, because we don’t like scientists. We think they are not cool. They are geeky. They are not glamorous. Newt Gingrich has the answer; Pay kids to take up the hard subjects. Pay kids to become scientists. Most of the scientific community is Jewish or Hindu. What a shame to be like third world country and have import intelligent people instead of growing them at home. (We like to go to the moon, but doing science to learn something is so boring. We need to go and conquer Mars. But the worst thing we do is pay them so much less than less necessary professions, like lawyers. We don’t respect our scientists because they believe in evolution. That’s my take.)

    About 49% of Americans believe in the creation story as the only way the earth was created. Only 15% of these people have read Genesis and less than that can tell you any detail about it at all. About the same amount believe in the world-wide-flood story including 90% of LDS. (a world wide flood is impossible on every level). The only place we shine is on the astronomy side because our understanding of the line “HE made the stars also” in Genesis means “Oh by the way I also made the stars, but not necessarily today”, instead of the traditional interpretation which is that it took six days to make the earth and one day to make the entire universe. Every one of these people are taking the word of their minister. No one does any reading on their own.

    We are nothing but sheep. If the President of the US says that global warming is no big deal, (this man said “the French don’t have a word for Entrepreneur” ) than that is good enough for them. They don’t take the time to find out the facts because that might change their preconceived idea of how the world works.

    Facts change behavior. Superstition and hearsay aids the status quo.

    In order for us to have the facts so that we can continue to have the life style Americans have grown used to, we need to do real science. Pure science is free of prejudice, religious or otherwise. Science must be allowed to learn and present the facts as they are gathered regardless of the fact that they collide with some one’s belief system. It took years to break down the tobacco lobby in Congress. Young people don’t realize that scientists had the proof that cigarettes caused cancer fifty years ago but no one listened. They put some warning labels on them, while at the same time allowing the murderous cigarette executives to claim publicly that there wasn’t really enough proof and to not worry about it. The facts made people mad, and people died because they didn’t listen.

    This line works for the church as well. The church has been telling people for six-thousand years not to mess around sexually or you could die physically and spiritually, but many didn’t listen. Now they’re dead.

    I’m glad for people who decided to question the prevailing wisdom of the day. When I was a kid, we put butter on burns. Thank you who ever got that stopped. We had to wait 30 minutes after eating before playing in the hose. Something about cramps. Stupid people who fell for that one. Every 3year old knew that was wrong. But the one I love the most is snake bite. The old Boy Scout manual had you cutting the bite and sucking out poison. The cure was far worse than the bite in all cases since most snakes in the US can’t kill you, you can’t suck out the poison, and the cut would get infected. Infection was far harder to fight than the snake bite. There are hundreds of people today who are convinced that the procedure saved them, even though it has been scientifically shown that it is useless.

    Concluding, we need to think. That’s why I am a member today, because I asked questions about the prevailing religions of the day. We have certain preconceived notions in the church and every one of them should be constantly examined for its basis in fact. If something doesn’t stand up to scrutiny we need to dump it like butter on burns.

  2. Very well said! Thank you very much for this comment, and for the original e-mail in this post.

  3. Not what i expected to read!

    I’m quite anti religious but that doesn’t mean i don’t beleive in a spiritual God of some form.

    It is however great to see that some religious people have the common sense to question what they are told by their elders.

    The way i see it the more we understand as scientist and the mystries we unvale, we’ll be left with 2 options.

    1, the Perfection of the universe is proff or a creator.

    2, God is the perfection that we see in the universe.

    One’s religious and the other is spiritual (thats what i think anyway) but really they amount to the same thing.

  4. Saw this online: Intelligent falling (IF) is a supernatural explanation for the tendency of
    masses to attract each other that has its roots at least as far back as
    Isaac Newton. It has recently been brought to public attention as a
    satirical response to the ongoing “intelligent design” (ID) debate. It
    proposes that the scientific explanation of gravitational force cannot
    explain all aspects of the phenomenon, so credence should be given to the
    idea that things fall because a higher intelligence is moving them.

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