On Darwin.

I often think we’ve yet to fully absorb the revelatory insights of Darwinian theory. I’d like to discuss his impact, his importance. What follows are five brief interrelated, revolutionary points to initiate discussion. Some of these theses do not originate with Darwin, but most find their highest articulation in his writing.

  1. Nature is not supposed to be anything. This is perhaps the fundamental Darwinian insight: nature is non-teleological; it is without purpose. This means that nature cannot tell us anything about how entities should be. Homosexuality is not unnatural, and neither is transhumanist futurism. The claim that homosexuality is unnatural is the claim that over and above individual organisms preside forms or species functioning as norms that govern and measure what an organism ought to be and what it ought not be. This claim works to sneak teleology in through the back door. Things are not supposed to be anything; they simply are. Nature is itself endless deviation; we can never deviate from nature. Accordingly, there can be no real distinction between nature and culture. To separate one form the other is to claim that there are qualities that belong to the thing itself, and that are therefore genuine, authentic and natural, and that there are qualities that are fabricated, developed, constructed, and are therefore inauthentic, unnatural, or cultural. Darwin slaughters this conception of nature. This isn’t to say that all is culture, but rather that all is nature–culture included. There is only the way things are and the way things are becoming. Things are defined by the genus of their evolution, the trajectory of their fabrication or change. There is no non-fabricated; there is no unpolluted. Species are no longer norms that measure the degree to which individual entities approximate or deviate from the ideal form. A species is a regularity, a concentration of similarities in a population. Individuals departing from the concentration of similarities are like veins of granite in a field: they aren’t unnatural, they aren’t abominations, they aren’t at all–they simply are, and they are as much as all else. Nature is no longer a term used to beat the different into submission. Nature does not prefer one thing to another; it doesn’t prefer at all.

  2. Difference is creative, not deviant. On the outdated picture of nature, difference was understood as a deviation from norm or essence. Far from being a deviation from an essence or ideal form, difference, with Darwin, becomes the very engine that drives the movement of nature. It is now difference, and not God, that creates. The endless process of differentiation is without purpose or goal, it is without foresight. It simply moves, as if blindly. Difference is random–not without cause, but without goal. Further, it’s not just that nature produces variation, but rather that every copy, every reiteration, every instantiation of every thing, stands testament to the all-pervading different. Repetition, to speak with Deleuze, is always repetition with a difference. There are no perfect copies, no original from which all subsequent movement departs hopelessly. Rather, all is copy, all is repetition. Nature is a moving simulacra.

  3. Nature itself is creative. Matter can no longer be understood as lifeless, formless clay upon which intelligent beings stamp their designs. Matter is not sterile or inert. With Darwin, God is murdered, and humans are decentered. God is no longer needed to account for creativity and life. And humans are no longer called upon to mold the lifeless stuff of the world. Rather, everything that exists is always-already molded, and always-already in the process of molding itself. Humans are but another term in the endless proliferation of difference and becoming, variation and reciprocal affect. We now know that matter is capable all on its own of generating pattern, of self-organizing, and of maintaining patterns across time, of differentiating itself, of affecting and shifting and adapting. Matter isn’t simply stuff, but is also movement, force, flows of energy that animate systems of production and dissolution and all the rest. And it is all this without need of recourse to vitalistic, animistic, or theistic/deistic hypotheses. At the center of Darwinian thought is the thesis that matter has the capacity to self-organize, to form pattern, and to generate life.

  4. Design no longer requires a designer. Adaptation, selection, differentiation, variation, inheretability–all this takes place immanent to nature itself. We no longer need to refer to a transcendent designer, intelligence or purpose to account for the endless complexity of nature. I don’t think I need to explain this much more, as this is perhaps the Darwinian insight most widely spoken-of. For the theologian, form is treated as pre-existing in the mind of the creator, and matter is conceptualized as awaiting-form, as lifeless and inert. Form is then impressed upon matter. But to take a claim like this seriously, one must reject every insight of contemporary biology. The Intelligent-Designers will have no friends here, and for this reason–I’ll keep this point short. If you’re still holding on to a vestige of hope in intelligent design, then this isn’t the thread for you.

  5. Humans are animals. This point goes without saying. And yet, I feel the need to say it–again and again and again. We are animals, we are in and of the world–we do not stand over and above it. We do not hold dominion over it, we are not its shepherds. We are of its stench and viscosity, its materiality and corporeality, its movement and flux and becoming and change. We are stuff impacted by other stuff that impacts other stuff still. Humans arose without aim, without intention, as the product of a blind and stupid conjunction of processes. As the well-known saying goes: were we to re-wind the tape of evolution and play it back, it could never happen the same way twice. Human beings were an accident, just as everything is an accident. There is only what comes to be and what doesn’t–there can be no pre-thought direction, no goal to serve as a ground for the process. It is often said that evolution can be reconciled with theism. To do so, one must thoroughly misunderstand the principles of evolution. No goal. Blind, stupid processes. Ceaseless difference. Lots and lots of death. There is, without any room for argument, absolutely no room for God on this account. Humans certainly have their own unique capacities, but the same goes for every other organism as well. We are but one term among many in the shifting network of our environment. We affect the world, and the world affects us. Ceaselessly. We are not, above all else, sovereigns of being. We are 90% bacteria. We are not even ourselves. The majority of species on this planet that have ever existed are extinct. There have been many different ecosystems (in the precambrian era, for example, the atmosphere was hypersaturated with oxygen, causing great fires during thunder storms and giant insects to evolve). Nature has no preference for Earth and its rich ecosystem over Mars and its desolate wasteland. Nature just is what it does… Including what it does through us and our technologies.

Just to point out, your first thesis is in conflict with Einstein’s theory of space-time.

Things move towards a goal, which is it’s future state. This future state already exists. For example, my death, however it happens, is already existing. This means that before life showed up on earth, it was meant to show up there. Everything moves to what it is suppose to move to. It cannot do otherwise, it already exists. Not to mention that Einstein’s ideas mean that there is no change and Darwin’s theory is about how species specifically change. So there goes Dawrin’s insights with Einstein’s insights.

I’m not sure whether or not you’re jesting. I am less familiar with Einsteinian theory, but I am basically positive that you’re just wrong in your characterization. Nothing exists before it exists, nothing moves toward an already-existent future. This is just nonsense. No change? How is it you conceptualize the fact that I was 145 lbs this time last year, but am now 118 lbs? I’m not sure what else I can devise in response to your comment, and I’m slightly bitter about having it contaminate this thread at all.

Yes, no change.

“The idea of reality being four-dimensional is strange and counter-intuitive. Even Einstein himself at first had difficulty accepting Minkowski’s suggestion-though later he was won over and declared ‘henceforth we must deal with a four-dimensional existence instead of, hitherto, the evolution of a three-dimensional existence’…One of the disconcerting features about four-dimensional spacetime is that nothing changes. Changes occur in time. But spacetime is not in time; time is in spacetime (as one of its axes). It appears to be saying that all of time-past, present, and future-exists on an equal footing. In other words, events that we customarily think of as no longer existing because they lie in the past, do exist in spacetime. In the same way, future events which we normally think of as not yet existing do exist in spacetime. There is nothing in this picture to select out the present instant, labeled ‘now’, as being anything special-separating past from future…We are dealing with a strangely static existence, one that is sometimes called ‘the block universe’.” Russell Stannard

“There is no dynamics within space-time itself: nothing ever moves therein; nothing happens; nothing changes…In particular, one does not think of particles as “moving through” space-time, or as “following along” their world-lines. Rather, particles are just “in” space-time, once and for all, and the world-line represents, all at once the complete life history of the particle.” Robert Geroch

“In space-time, nothing happens or changes because it contains all time at once.” Max Tegmark

“…for us physicists believe the separation between past, present, and future is only an illusion, although a convincing one.” Albert Einstein

“The distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion” Albert Einstein

Like I said, Einstein’s insight trumps Darwin’s insight.

Frankly, I see absolutely no reason to accept such an account. What does it do? Is it empirically viable? It’s certainly counter-intuitive. Does it match the observable phenomena? Does it account for anything at all? It seems unacceptably mystic. Does it cohere with the rest of the matrix of contemporary theory? It seems rather unhelpful as a theory. Darwin, on the other hand, has the whole weight of observable phenomena behind him, the whole kingdom of the scientific enterprise to support his theses. And you propose that Einstein’s insights ought to disqualify Darwin’s? Moreover, when I asked you for a clarification of changelessness, I wasn’t asking for a few quotations from physicists I’ve yet to hear of, as if that might somehow support the lunacy of what you’re proposing.

I want you to account, without quoting, for observable change. I want you to explain evolution in terms of the time-block. I want you to make yourself intelligible.

I would see much potential reason to accept the account. The theory has not been shown to be false as of yet through any observation or experimentation. It matches all the observable phenomena that we have had when it has been applied. There is no empirical reason to reject it, or appears to be any logical reason to reject it.

It is actually not very hard to imagine this either. IT is like a movie, the movie is completed and you just watch it unfold. We notice frame after frame, and so we just come to experience new frames. Get a flip book and rip each picture out and put it in front of you. That is the whole life of the being in the flip book. Watch as it changes from one frame to the other.

So your problem appears to be that Einstein’s theory destroys your belief.

Is this indicative of the level of argument I should expect here? I had a much nicer time conversing earlier with Flannel Jesus. I put quite a bit of thought into my opening post and am really rather sad to see the way this thread has gone.

Regarding the thesis that change does not exist, my observation that I lost a significant amount of weight over the past 12 months seems to stand antithetical to the validity of the thesis. Account for this if you are to continue to assert its legitimacy. Further, my cat has recently learned to stop urinating on the carpet. As he used to urinate on the carpet, and as he no longer does, I count this as a change in his behaviour. Account for this. I could go on, but I’m getting bored. It seems rather obvious to me that you are not arguing in any sort of good faith.

And what, exactly, might be such phenomena? The theory certainly doesn’t match the fact that I’ve grown from a small child into a taller boy into a relatively awkward teenager and into a somewhat well-adjusted 21 year old. What does it match?

Do you read English? There are an endless amount of empirical reasons to reject this theory. Namely: I observer change everywhere. Evolution has proved exceedingly successful experimentally, explanationally, and predictively. That your thesis contradicts the theory of evolution seems reason enough to reject it. Logically, it’s absurd. In what sense does the present contain the future and the past? In what sense is change illusory? Was the invention of the cellular phone contained implicitly in the first emergence of bacteria or in the first breath drawn by a bird? In what sense? Logically, this claim seems rather fantastical.

Well, this certainly doesn’t constitute even the slightest evidence for the legitimacy of your thesis. It’s not so hard to imagine that I’m sitting in an airplane as I type this, but that doesn’t change the fact that I most definitively am not.

Really? That’s what you took from my responses? Incredible, honestly.

This is a theological argument. What’s it based on? Did Darwin actually say this, or is this yours or somebody else’s interpretation of what he meant?

Nothing that exists is unnatural. Genocide is a natural recurring behavior of human beings. Your point as well, correct?

Doesn’t Darwin tell us that nature prefers traits that enhance survival? I believe this is the point of view homophobia is based on, amongst other things.

Difference is creative, agreed. In evolutionary terms, deviant might be described as traits that take a species away from a successful adaptation to it’s environment.

Yes, agreed.

More unfounded theological assertions. It’s as easy to argue that a God is using the mechanism of evolution to create.

More unfounded theological assertions.

More unfounded theological assertions.

More unfounded theological assertions.

More unfounded theological assertions.

More unfounded theological assertions.

And yet, you seem perfectly comfortable with your own speculative theological hypotheses.

Apologies, didn’t read the rest. Your writing is quite intelligent and articulate, but you seem to be making the classic mistake of arguing for a religion you don’t realize is a religion. Weed out the wild speculative leaps, and you’ve got something.

For the occult world, the future can be predicted by some types of creatures and spirits.
Does this mean fate is sealed? Or does it just mean some things are set in stone while other things aren’t?

I’m sorry, I had hoped to get something out of a contribution to this website. I was, quite obviously, completely mistaken. Have none of you taken an introductory science class? A class in critical thinking? It’s as if I’m struggling to reason with fools. I didn’t say I was arguing on behalf of Darwin, I said that I would summarize his insights to begin a discussion in the vein of Darwinian evolutionary theory. I fully concede that I don’t consider Darwinian biology in need of substantiation. It’s well-known, well-substantiated, and well-taken. There have certainly been important developments since, but to call the evolution-generating engine of difference a theological assertion is frankly quite hilarious.

Deny the validity of space-time and you have refuted what I have brought up, but what I have brought up how the world is, as physicists view it.

What phenomena? The phenomena of experience, like experimentation and observations of the stars and etc. It matches the phenomena of grown from a small child. The life of a child is a line and the line has parts, and these all exist. You just happen to see the past and present, but have not experienced the future of that line. So you just view change when there is none.

I do read English, but you appear to not understand English. Einstein’s theory has proved exceedingly successful experimentally, explanationally, and predictively. And as anyone who observes science, will notice that physics is the top science. There is no biology without chemistry, and there is no chemistry with out physics, and Einstein’s theory is a stable of physics. So again, your appeal to all these things work against you because they are the same things to be presented for Einstein’s theories. So do you reject what Einstein says, which means reject that it is exceedingly successful experimetnally, explanationally, and predicitively?

Sure, it does constitute evidence. It shows that we may at least think about it and talk about it. And we have also corroborated this theory with experimentation and observation.

That is your response. Your only appeal is that it contradicts Darwin’s ideas. No one cares about Darwin when those ideas are subordinate to physics. This is what physics says, so what your beliefs say, which are subordinate to physics, does not matter. Deal with it. Your belief is wrong under physics.

You are a fool. To engage with you further would be a waste of my time.

So you reject what modern physics says because it goes counter to what Darwin said? :open_mouth:

Am I a fool too?

In short term things can be predicted, and are predictable.
If we had infinite calculative abilities, wouldn’t we be able to plot reality as if it were linear and of fate?

Richard Leakey has given non-Darwinian theories a very short future lifespan:

I really don’t think a belief is so easily broken by irrefutable evidence, however. Everyone holds tightly to their beliefs.

No, it doesn’t. On the quantum level and around singularities, it fails to make useful predictions.

But in any case, granting that space-time is a valid model of reality, I don’t think that justifies talking of “goals” and things being “meant to exist” in the teleological sense of the OP is other than misleading. If my pen rolls off the desk, it doesn’t mean to do so, nor does it do so with the goal of hitting the floor. Intentionality isn’t called for, and is likely to be abused by people arguing in bad faith, so I’d recommend it be avoided.

Similarly, there is no conflict where you say “Einstein’s ideas mean that there is no change and Darwin’s theory is about how species specifically change” - Einstein doesn’t claim at all that things don’t change, unless you are talking specifically about a space-time frame of reference. Things still change with time; evolution isn’t untrue if you look at it in a space-time sense, you just have to use different language to talk about it.

As I understand it (and I may be wrong) the universe doesn’t contain enough information to allow us to use such a calculative capacity. It’s not that we can’t measure (e.g.) position and velocity beyond a certain accuracy, but that the information simply isn’t available.

anthropo - please note that “you are a fool” is not acceptable discourse for this forum.

Given that you are such a brilliant high functioning individual, perhaps you could down off your juvenile teen age high horse and explain why the statements I’ve highlighted in your post are not theological assertions.

Examining the details how the “evolution-generating engine of difference” works is not theological. But all the wild speculation you’ve added to such a discussion is.

I have no objection to theological assertions, I’m just suggesting that if you wish for us to acknowledge your incredible brilliance, you will accurately label your speculation as speculation.

Well, quite simply: since they don’t concern theology, they aren’t theological. You seem to have trouble with the claim that difference is itself creative. You’re working on the 18th-century model of matter whereby the material world lies still, in wait of a higher mover to animate it. But life naturally differentiates itself. Genetic mutation is an easy example. Environmental adaptation: after a long enough time in the dark, a species may “learn” to develop a sort of night-vision, or a better sense of hearing, and so on. These processes are wholly immanent to nature; there’s nothing transcendent being evoked to account for them. It just so happens that those life-forms better adapted tend to survive and pass on their genes, their adaptations. Those unable to adapt, or those whose mutations are unhelpful, simply die off. Think of it this way, Typist: birds fly because they have wings; they do not have wings to fly. There is no teleology in the development of wings; they simply happen to serve a purpose. And here lies a significant distinction: nature, itself non-purposive, is capable of producing purposes. Wings were a non-purposive differentiation spread across a number of organisms. Their purpose, now, is to facilitate flight. Again: a wholly immanent development. Stop me when you locate the theology.

You’ve also labeled unfounded and theological my claim that difference, and not God, creates. But refer to what I’ve written above: life naturally differentiates itself, we know this. This differentiation is sometimes unhelpful, but often immensely productive–as in the case of a bird’s wings. It is difference, and difference alone, that works to produce the capacity for flight. We need not invoke a transcendent God to account for this production. This is the foundation of my assertion. Where’s the theology? The rest of the claims you’ve highlighted as unfounded seem to revolve around the Darwinian murder of God. I take it that you are a theist incapable of accepting the fact that evolutionary biology needs no recourse to transcendent principles to explain the creativity and self-organization of matter. Let me put it differently: on the evolutionary account, any God posited will be ultimately superfluous, and will Himself require more explanation than the invocation will provide.

Humean: I appreciate your response to ZenKitty, and I apologize for my lack of manners. I was frustrated. I see no reason why “modern physics” might imply a teleology in nature. ZenKitty has been unable to provide for me such a reason, short of a shotty picture-book metaphor and the ceaseless insistence that space-time already contains the future and that therefore the purpose of the present must be to move toward that future. He has also been unable to account for change in the examples I’ve offered him. And yet, I’m lambasted for rejecting his theories only because I’m afraid to let go of my own misguided views. Surely, you can understand the frustration.

Claims about God, one way or the other, are theological. Use any semantics that you want, the infinite scale type claims you’re making aren’t supported by anything.

You seem to have trouble with the idea that this proves nothing about whether or not there is some kind of intelligent agent which did or didn’t create the process of evolution. I agree difference is creative. I don’t agree that either you or I know what the source of this creative process might be.

No, I’m operating on a 15th century concept called reason, which you aren’t yet using.

I agree with this. Agreeing on this fact tells us nothing about gods. As example, I could code a web robot which automatically replicates itself across the web. Knowing the mechanism by which my robot works in great detail does not prove I don’t exist. It proves only that you understand how the robot works.

I know all this. Everybody does. Has nothing to do with whether gods exist or not.

Now we’re back to theological assertions.

You’ve learned something about evolution, and now you think that qualifies you to be an expert on gods too.

Describing the mechanism by which evolution works is not theological. Stick to that, and you’re doing good. But you don’t wish to stick to that, but keep jumping off in to wild infinite scale speculation.

Who or what created the mechanism you are describing? You claim to know the answer to this question, but you’re just pulling it out of your butt.

You really don’t get this, do you? You are doing the same thing, exactly the same thing, as the theists you think you are debunking. Making infinite scale assertions that you can’t support with anything close to credible evidence.

I don’t care if you know more about the mechanics of evolution that anybody on earth. Describing the mechanical workings of evolution says NOTHING about whether gods exist or not.

I take it you’re actually a pretty poor reader, and probably a college sophomore at best. No where have I said I’m a theist, and no where have I argued with the mechanics of evolutionary biology. What I am instead is somebody capable of using reason alone to debunk your juvenile claims of superiority. You are of course free to return the favor if you can.

Let me put it differently too. You’re talking out of your butt.

If you don’t think the legitimacy of Darwinian evolutionary theory has any impact at all on the question of God, then you’re deluding yourself. Do you understand the phenomena of a hurricane? Do you feel the need to recourse to transcendent principles to explain the way the hurricane self-organizes when the conditions in its environment are right? Or do you think our grasp on its principles preclude an appeal to God? If all you’re trying to say is that evolutionary theory makes no positive claims against the existence of God, then I fail to see the force in any of your words. No science at all makes a positive claim against the existence of secretive demons that emerge when humans sleep in order to stimulate our brains and provide us with dreams. What science does is to make these concepts implausible indirectly, by providing alternative accounts that are rooted in empirical observation, that account for given phenomena, able to predict future behaviour of said phenomena, and that cohere well within the matrix of already-accepted theory. This is precisely what Darwin has done. Instead of your childish refrain: but nowhere does self-differentiation rule out the existence of God, try providing an alternative account within which your God plays an active, coherent, empirically viable, phenomenally accountable, and predictively sufficient role. In the absence of such an account, I will continue to insist that a working knowledge of evolution and its mechanisms renders implausible the existence of God–or, in any case, superfluous to the point of comedy.

My claim that differentiation, adaptation, and self-organization take place immanently are overwhelmingly supported by the scientific community at large, by the given phenomena, and by the wealth of experimental information that we’ve accumulated.

You’re quite clearly strawmanning my argument. God has been traditionally invoked to explain features of the world left untouched by scientific inquiry. If an alien (the example is too convoluted with humans, since we humans are the ones doing the inducing) has been traditionally invoked to explain the replication of a web-robot, and if we suddenly discover the mechanism by which this web-robot is able to replicate itself, then the alien-hypothesis is consequently weakened. If your retort is the claim that the alien may still be invoked to explain the origin of this web-robot, then you’re simply seeking refuge in a poorly articulated “god of the gaps” type-argument. We’ve proven we don’t need God to explain this, so let’s invoke some other indeterminacy and throw the God-hypothesis there. Although it might be arrogant to claim that we know absolutely how it is that life started on Earth, we do know quite a bit about it, and we are accumulating more and more information toward such an end. Nowhere has anything like a transcendent principle been touched upon. To insist on screaming “but you just don’t know!” over and over again amounts to an infantile refusal to accept the best-fitting hypotheses. There are a lot of things we just don’t know absolutely, and yet–recourse to transcendent or supernatural explanations will continue to prove illegitimate, as they have done categorically in every realm into which they’ve been naively introduced. Your claim that it is I who remains unreasonable is laughable at best, but deeply disappointing at worst. Tell me, reasonably, rationally, logically, given an empirically viable, experimentally substantive, theoretically consistent, account of evolutionary biology, given the whole weight of scientific inquiry and conclusion, the whole network of background theory, given all this, tell me where the concept of God is to fit in, tell me where the concept is made plausible, believable even. Any one capable of reading over our engagement here will be struck with how much explaining I’ve been doing, how much argument and substantiation of claims, and how little explanation you’ve provided, how strong-headed and unreasonable your consistent refrain, and how you shy ceaselessly and unashamedly from providing any kind of evidence for your position. At their most charitable, your posts are reducible to a stubborn and ultimately futile “god of the gaps” argument. Now, please. Stop.