The Evolution Debate

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths - what can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
User avatar
robertk
Posts: 3111
Joined: Sat Jan 03, 2009 2:08 am

Re: The Evolution Debate

Post by 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).

User avatar
tiltbillings
Posts: 23045
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 9:25 am

Re: The Evolution Debate

Post by 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?
>> Do you see a man wise [enlightened/ariya] in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.<< -- Proverbs 26:12

This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond. -- SN I, 38.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” HPatDH p.723

User avatar
robertk
Posts: 3111
Joined: Sat Jan 03, 2009 2:08 am

Re: The Evolution Debate

Post by 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.
Last edited by robertk on Mon Apr 16, 2012 7:19 am, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
tiltbillings
Posts: 23045
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 9:25 am

Re: The Evolution Debate

Post by 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.
>> Do you see a man wise [enlightened/ariya] in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.<< -- Proverbs 26:12

This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond. -- SN I, 38.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” HPatDH p.723

Kenshou
Posts: 1030
Joined: Sun Nov 15, 2009 12:03 am
Location: Minneapolis, MN

Re: The Evolution Debate

Post by 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.

User avatar
robertk
Posts: 3111
Joined: Sat Jan 03, 2009 2:08 am

Re: The Evolution Debate

Post by robertk » Mon Apr 16, 2012 8:53 am

Kenshou wrote:
robertk wrote:various quotes
It sort of looks like you are conflating "purposeless" with "non-random". These do not necessarily carry the same implications.
Maybe. Just as a matter of interest though:I quoted these two leading scientists:

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).

What do you think they meant by 'global accidents and pure chance?

User avatar
tiltbillings
Posts: 23045
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 9:25 am

Re: The Evolution Debate

Post by tiltbillings » Mon Apr 16, 2012 8:58 am

robertk wrote:
Kenshou wrote:
robertk wrote:various quotes
It sort of looks like you are conflating "purposeless" with "non-random". These do not necessarily carry the same implications.
Maybe. Just as a matter of interest though:I quoted these two leading scientists:

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).

What do you think they meant by 'global accidents and pure chance?
Ah, so there is a teleological "Divine Foot in the door."
>> Do you see a man wise [enlightened/ariya] in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.<< -- Proverbs 26:12

This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond. -- SN I, 38.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” HPatDH p.723

User avatar
robertk
Posts: 3111
Joined: Sat Jan 03, 2009 2:08 am

Re: The Evolution Debate

Post by robertk » Mon Apr 16, 2012 9:10 am

tiltbillings wrote:
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?
I don't think I suggested I want a divine foot in the door.
If you study the whole quote
Lewontin: We have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism[/u]. 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)

I think the underlined parts are the most relevant.

Buddhism is off the radar as far as the debate over evolution is concerned..
But if you take the time to discuss Buddhist ideas like kamma and rebirth with leading evolution scientists you will find they group it under 'magical thinking' and find it almost as silly, from their perspective, as the idea of a powerful God.

Give them examples like the beautiful story told by Mahasi Sayadaw about QUEEN UPARI ( http://www.aimwell.org/Books/Mahasi/Bha ... #PickingUp" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;)
who was reborn as a beetle and they would probably walk away laughing (knowing as they do that this is "impossible").


.

User avatar
robertk
Posts: 3111
Joined: Sat Jan 03, 2009 2:08 am

Re: The Evolution Debate

Post by robertk » Mon Apr 16, 2012 9:35 am

Jason wrote:[
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.

.
Thanks very much for your comments Jason. I might elaborate more on this in the book.
But do have a look at the quotes I gave from some secondary school textbooks that include the wider scientific view of the world, including 'biogenesis' in their chapters on evolution.
Maybe you are too young, but when I was at school the Miller-Urey experiment was cited as indisputable evidence for the materialistic beginnings of life.

User avatar
Jason
Posts: 474
Joined: Sun Jan 04, 2009 1:09 am
Location: Earth
Contact:

Re: The Evolution Debate

Post by Jason » Mon Apr 16, 2012 2:01 pm

robertk wrote:Thanks very much for your comments Jason. I might elaborate more on this in the book.
But do have a look at the quotes I gave from some secondary school textbooks that include the wider scientific view of the world, including 'biogenesis' in their chapters on evolution.
Maybe you are too young, but when I was at school the Miller-Urey experiment was cited as indisputable evidence for the materialistic beginnings of life.
The Miller-Urey experiment gave further evidence that organic molecules can form via natural chemical reactions in a form of molecular evolution, which is one of the necessary first steps for life to begin, and further evidence that these things have purely natural causes and don't necessarily need a creator or architect. Still, this particular experiment falls more into the realm of abiogenesis than biological evolution, which deals with changes in inherited traits of species over time. Certainly they're related as there's some relation and overlap between the two; but in my understanding, they're two distinct fields of study, with the former being the study of the naturalistic origins of life and the latter beginning with the assumption that life already exists and explaining how it developed. They're often taught together in school, but they're not the same as far as I'm aware.
Last edited by Jason on Mon Apr 16, 2012 2:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.
"Sabbe dhamma nalam abhinivesaya" (AN 7.58).

leaves in the hand (Buddhist-related blog)
leaves in the forest (non-Buddhist related blog)

Buckwheat
Posts: 960
Joined: Thu Nov 24, 2011 12:39 am
Location: California USA

Re: The Evolution Debate

Post by Buckwheat » Mon Apr 16, 2012 2:25 pm

robertk wrote:
Kenshou wrote:
robertk wrote:various quotes
It sort of looks like you are conflating "purposeless" with "non-random". These do not necessarily carry the same implications.
Maybe. Just as a matter of interest though:I quoted these two leading scientists:

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).

What do you think they meant by 'global accidents and pure chance?
Again, evolution is not a single theory. It is several smaller theories, such as one that states genes are randomly recombined during sexual reproduction (easily observable) and natural selection that prefers certain traits over others to survive and reproduce within a given biological niche (not very random).
Sotthī hontu nirantaraṃ - May you forever be well.

User avatar
robertk
Posts: 3111
Joined: Sat Jan 03, 2009 2:08 am

Re: The Evolution Debate

Post by robertk » Mon Apr 16, 2012 2:31 pm

Buckwheat wrote:[

Again, evolution is not a single theory. It is several smaller theories, such as one that states genes are randomly recombined during sexual reproduction (easily observable) and natural selection that prefers certain traits over others to survive and reproduce within a given biological niche (not very random).
Fair enough, but do you think that random recombing of genes fits well with Buddhist philosophy, or that kamma and rebirth fit into current scientific views on teh way evolution proceeds?

User avatar
Lazy_eye
Posts: 996
Joined: Fri Jan 23, 2009 3:23 pm
Location: Laurel, MD
Contact:

Re: The Evolution Debate

Post by Lazy_eye » Mon Apr 16, 2012 2:37 pm

robertk wrote: Give them examples like the beautiful story told by Mahasi Sayadaw about QUEEN UPARI ( http://www.aimwell.org/Books/Mahasi/Bha ... #PickingUp" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;)
who was reborn as a beetle and they would probably walk away laughing (knowing,as they do that this is "impossible").
If presented as a parable or fable, I'm not sure it would necessarily arouse objections from scientists. Are you saying it should be taken literally (i.e. a dung beetle can talk and has sufficient cognitive capacity to engage in a discourse on love)?
Last edited by Lazy_eye on Mon Apr 16, 2012 2:54 pm, edited 3 times in total.

User avatar
Jason
Posts: 474
Joined: Sun Jan 04, 2009 1:09 am
Location: Earth
Contact:

Re: The Evolution Debate

Post by Jason » Mon Apr 16, 2012 2:45 pm

robertk wrote:
Buckwheat wrote:[

Again, evolution is not a single theory. It is several smaller theories, such as one that states genes are randomly recombined during sexual reproduction (easily observable) and natural selection that prefers certain traits over others to survive and reproduce within a given biological niche (not very random).
Fair enough, but do you think that random recombing of genes fits well with Buddhist philosophy, or that kamma and rebirth fit into current scientific views on teh way evolution proceeds?
That's an interesting question. My first thought is to say that not everything is the result of kamma — which in my understanding is primarily psychological in nature and has nothing to do with the physical evolution of species over time — and Theravada does list five distinct causal laws or processes (panca-niyamas) that operate in the physical and mental worlds: seasonal laws (utu-niyama), biological laws (bija-niyama), psychological laws (citta-niyama), kammic laws (kamma-niyama) and natural laws (dhamma-niyama). If anything, I'd say that evolution would more likely fall under the category of biological laws, and that both kamma and evolution can be seen as two distinct processes working in tandem when it comes to a sentient being's experience of the present moment. (If you're interested, you can find more of my thoughts about Buddhism and evolution here.)
"Sabbe dhamma nalam abhinivesaya" (AN 7.58).

leaves in the hand (Buddhist-related blog)
leaves in the forest (non-Buddhist related blog)

Buckwheat
Posts: 960
Joined: Thu Nov 24, 2011 12:39 am
Location: California USA

Re: The Evolution Debate

Post by Buckwheat » Mon Apr 16, 2012 2:54 pm

robertk wrote:
Buckwheat wrote:Again, evolution is not a single theory. It is several smaller theories, such as one that states genes are randomly recombined during sexual reproduction (easily observable) and natural selection that prefers certain traits over others to survive and reproduce within a given biological niche (not very random).
Fair enough, but do you think that random recombing of genes fits well with Buddhist philosophy, or that kamma and rebirth fit into current scientific views on teh way evolution proceeds?
Whenever I hear or speak the word random I think "complex, possibly random" because I realize some things we think of being totally random may be controlled by a mind-bogglingly complex process. For instance, weather is pretty random, but where I live the weather forecasts are getting to very accurate even several days out. With enough understanding, some random processes may become predictable. Others, however, are truely random. I do not know for sure that random genetic variability is purely random. It may be influenced by some sort of kamma (or God), but when I check my gut, it says "random".
Sotthī hontu nirantaraṃ - May you forever be well.

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Baidu [Spider] and 78 guests