In a 2013 article in Mother Jones magazine by scientific journalist Chris Mooney, the author gives 7 reasons you don’t believe in evolution. Mooney claims that there are several scientific reasons why 150 years after Darwin first introduced his theory of neo-Darwinian evolution; only 4 in 10 Americans believe it to be true. What’s going on here? Evolution is an open and shut case, right? Why are those stubborn non-science types still turning a deaf ear to the gospel of Darwinism? Mooney gives seven reasons why he believes people have a hard time believing evolution is true. We’ll take a look at the first for in this post, and the last 3 in the next post.
According to Mooney, essentialism is the default style of thinking in which we recognize that animals of the same species share common traits. They also produce offspring of the same species. This leads us to conclude that this is the way things work. Mooney quotes Robert N. McCauley who says “Little kids as young as my 2 and a half year old granddaughter are quite clear that puppies don’t have ponies for mommies and daddies,”. This type of thinking is seen as a clear obstacle to believing the neo-Darwinian synthesis. Because we don’t observe cross species changes, we reject it out of hand.
But why do we think this way in the first place? The problem with this line of argument is that we draw these conclusions from what we observe to be true in nature. McCauley’s granddaughter may be 2, but she gets it right. Puppies don’t have ponies for parents. This is not a trick our brains are playing on us, this is an observable scientific fact. It’s as if the author is telling us “Don’t believe what you see to be true, but follow what you can’t see and believe that”.
Teleology is the acknowledgement that things serve a purpose or are designed with a goal in mind. So why do we see design or purpose in things? Mooney speculates that this may be a “side [effect] of a socially intelligent mind that is naturally inclined to privilege intentional explanation.” In other words, our brains developed for thinking about what people are thinking, and people have intentions and goals.
Again, I think this argument comes up short. To borrow an analogy from Frank Turek, imagine you are walking on the beach one day. You look up and see the words “Drink Coke” written in the sky. What are you going to think? Huh, weird cloud formations today. No! No one would think that that would appear naturally, they would assume someone wrote it there. We see information and recognize that it comes from an intelligent mind. DNA is information. Each cell in your body has enough information to fill 1000 sets of encyclopedias. I don’t see a good reason to assume this was a cosmic accident. If our brains have conspired to keep us from knowing the truth, how can we trust them?
Overactive Agency Detection.
Here the author claims that our tendency to anthropomorphize (big words, stick with me here) objects leads us to attribute things to God. We yell at our computers, name our cars and kick a wall after smacking our elbow on it. This seems to come naturally to us, and therefore Mooney sees this as another impediment to us accepting Darwinism.
Are you starting to see a pattern here? The author is claiming that we have these natural tendencies. These tendencies are getting in the way of us understanding the way things really work. They inhibit us from believing the truth. But think about this for a minute. If all these natural tendencies are leading us from evolution and towards a designer, isn’t it reasonable to assume our senses and brains are trustworthy?
Dualism simply stated is the belief that the mind/soul is separate from the physical brain. This is a threat to Darwinism because it states that there is something beyond the physical realm. If there is something that can’t be explained physically, that opens the door to the supernatural.
Making a case that your mind is more than your physical brain seems to be rather easy. Some people reject it out of hand however. Take a look at some object in the room you are in for a few seconds. Now close your eyes and think of the object. Can you see it? If I cut your brain open at the exact moment you were thinking of the object, would I find it there? No, because our minds are immaterial.
Ah, you might say! Scientist can now actually see what we are thinking. Actually, they can’t. They might be able to detect physical processes in your brain. But without you there to tell them what you are thinking, they would not be able to make heads or tails of what they were observing. Here is yet another trick our brains are playing on us to keep us from belief in Darwinism if you believe the author.
Are you beginning to see some problems here? In the next post, I’ll finish responding to Mooney’s final three points.
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