Grey Thoughts
Intellectual Snobbery in Evolution
Alan Grey asks why should be tolerant of the sets of untruths on which Robin Holliday's article is based.

Robin Holliday, Cambridge PHD (in genetics) has written an article on ‘The Fundamental Incompatibility between Science and Religion’ which has the charming page title of ‘Robin Holliday asks why we should be tolerant of the sets of untruths on which all religions are based’

Of course, it appears from the outset that Robin is pushing the atheistic science line that all religions are false. Here it takes the form that there is a set of untruths on which all religions are based. I have to wonder Robin, how do you know this? I suspect that you have simply decided that the physical world is all there is and all there ever will be in a Sagan-like fashion and so obviously your conclusion stems from your assumption. This is not rationality though, this is begging the question. It is a leap of faith.
The publication of Darwin's Origin of Species was followed by bitter controversy between those who believed in the divine creation of species, and those who were persuaded by the logic and power of Darwin's arguments.
Wow. There is a rather lame attempt at poisoning the well. Obviously, the creationists just ‘believed’ and the evolutionists where ‘persuaded by logic’. Lame rhetorical tactics do not an argument make.
This controversy seemed to die down in the 20th century, and it was then common to assert that science dealt with the material world and religion with the spiritual.
This is unequivocally false. The controversy has never died down. With the Scopes trial in 1925 followed by teaching both creation and evolution for decades, and teaching creation was ruled illegal in the 60’s/70’s/80’s causing the creation side of the debate to move into different areas to put forward their view. the controversy has always been there. It is true that many (Such as Stephen J Gould) have asserted that science and religion deal with separate worlds, however this claim is about what some people were saying and not about whether the statement is true, so it is hardly useful.
It was also implicit in this view that science and religion were in some way complementary to each other. Although most of those who were religious accepted the ancient origin of life on this planet and organic evolution, many believed that this evolution was all part of God's plan, presumably for the final appearance of Homo sapiens.
Another falsehood from Dr Holliday. Even today, the majority of Americans and I assume Muslims consider recent creation to be correct.
At the same time genetics, and in particular population genetics, were explaining how Darwinian evolution could occur, and there were many contemporary examples of natural selection in action. It became clear that mutation and natural selection could explain complex adaptations. This has now been reinforced by DNA sequencing, which is a very powerful tool for illuminating the origins and diversity of species.
It is important to understand the difference between natural selection, mutation, and common descent evolution (CDE). Robin jumps directly from natural selection and mutation to CDE without basis. No explanation or example of the solution to Haldane’s dilemma in population genetics is given, leaving us to rely merely on Robin’s authority to accept his claim. Robin gives no examples of how mutation and natural selection have explained complex adaptions. It is also important to note that DNA sequencing has not reinforced any of this as the comparisons are done on the basis that CDE is correct and the phylogenic tree from evolution is constantly being revised as previous notions of the relationship between the various species are found to be in error. Of course, in all these revisions, CDE is never questioned. If DNA sequencing finds different things than to what is expected and yet CDE is not questioned, then on the occasions that DNA sequencing agrees with expectations it CANNOT be considered evidence for CDE. All Robin is doing is pushing the similarity implies common descent argument from the phylogenic to the molecular level. The argument has not been tested at either level.
Now, at the beginning of the 21st century, there has been a resurgence of creationism, either in the guise of "science creationism" or "intelligent design". The old arguments about gaps in the fossil records, and the problem natural selection has in explaining the appearance of complex structures, are brought up over and over again.
As previously noted, there has been no resurgence. The old arguments have still not been addressed, so whilst Robin tries to deride the arguments as ‘old’ all he really does is show that there are still no satisfactory answers to problems that have been around for many decades.
The simple fact is there is an enormous knowledge gap: between evolutionary biologists who are familiar with the wealth of evidence in favour of Darwinian natural selection, and those who are unfamiliar with this evidence, and indeed most often do not even feel there is a need to examine it because they have blind faith in a divine creator.
So now we get to the crux of the matter. Robin feels that anyone who disbelieves in his fairly tale of CDE is obviously ignorant and it is just blind faith that sustains most of them. Robin doesn’t seem to deal with those who do understand the evidence and still disagree with his materialistic pronouncements. Whilst there are any who don’t feel the need to investigate, even these do so on the basis of authority. Ironically, Robin has not offered anything substantially different in asking us to take his article on authority. Thankfully, I don’t have blind faith in atheistic pronouncements.
This is one of the divisions between religion and science, but by no means the only one. Most religions seem to have the following characteristics:a belief in an omniscient god or gods:
• a belief in miracles;
• a belief that the material human body is separable from a non-material soul;
• a belief that humans have free will, a conscience, and the God-given ability to choose between good and evil;
• a belief in an immortal after-life, sometimes in the form of reincarnation; and
• a belief in the efficacy of prayer, which assumes that direct contact between humans and a deity exists.
I suspect this is the list of ‘untruths’ which the page title alludes to. Lets wait to see what he says about each.
There is an enormous knowledge gap between evolutionary biologists who are familiar with the wealth of evidence in favour of Darwinian natural selection, and those who are unfamiliar with this evidence.
I guess Robin’s genius doesn’t extend to avoiding duplications based on the cutting and pasting job done to put this article on Online Opinion.
The belief in a non-material soul or spirit implies that it arises at some stage in human development, and this can be linked to the view that life itself is a mystery, and by implication, outside the realm and understanding of science.
That non-material soul does not ‘arise’ at all. It is created.
Commonly it is thought that the fertilisation of an egg by a sperm initiates life, and the embryo is therefore already a human being.
Modern molecular biology has effectively solved the so-called "mystery of life." The genetic material, DNA, is a polymeric chemical, with enormous coding capacity. It directs the synthesis of RNA which in turn is translated into proteins, consisting of one or more polypeptide chains (linear arrays of amino acids). Many proteins are enzymes, and thousands of these have been characterised. The major components of metabolism are well understood. In short, living cells consist of complex chemicals, and their even more complex interactions. There is absolutely no place for a "vital force" or any non-material entity either in the egg, the sperm, the fertilised egg, the embryo, the child or the adult. Thus, there is no non-material soul, nor an afterlife.
What a bizarre argument. That because DNA creates RNA which creates protein, which are used in metabolism and complex interactions there is no room for a soul, hence there is no soul? It seems Robin’s argument is
P1) DNA creates RNA
P2) RNA creates Protein
P3) Protein controls ALL interactions in the body
C) There is no room for a non-material soul to do anything

The major issue is premise 3. There is no way scientifically to prove that chemical reactions control every interaction in the body. That requires exhaustive knowledge of the process and exhaustive knowledge is something that science cannot give.
Again, the vast amount of biological information that has been gathered in the last 50 years cannot be communicated to those who continue to believe in a soul and an afterlife
Just in case you missed it the first time, Robin thinks those who believe in a non-material soul are not just uninformed, but stupid, as they cannot even have the information communicated to them. Thanks for the intellectual elitism Robin, it does a great job of discrediting your authority to all but the faithful evolutionist followers.
The next fundamental difference between science and religion is the issue of free will. In fact, most individuals believe in free will because it is a matter of common experience that they feel free to make their own decisions. For the religious, free will is God's gift to man. However, once it is accepted that we are complex organisms composed only of molecules, a completely new light is thrown on the supposed existence of free will.
In making a simple choice, for example, between moving one's right or left arm, we feel completely free, but the fact remains a signal is transmitted to the muscles that comes from the brain. The brain is not capable of spontaneously creating energy, because if it did it would contravene the law of conservation of energy, so the signal must come from somewhere else. Because we are conscious of feeling free, the signal must come from another part of the brain which is part of our unconscious brain function. Thus, there are forces at work of which we are not aware.
These forces are determinants of our behaviour, and free will is no more than an illusion. Of course, some decision making is complex and may depend on knowledge, experience and external factors of which we are well aware, but this does not affect the basic conclusion that we do not have free will.
Here is a news flash, not all religions think we have free will. Of course, we can understand that Robin is merely acting as he has to, because he has no choice. I wonder if Robin is married and whether his wife knows that his love for her is just chemical signals that FORCE him to want to spend time with her. It is also interesting to note that even though Robin feels that no one has free will, he still feels the need to bring in moral concepts such as ‘tolerance’ into the discussion. Surely he can understand that those who don’t agree with him have no choice in the matter and so he shouldn’t take them to task for it.
The concept of two cultures is very much alive, in spite of the best efforts of contemporary science writers to explain new advances to the public. This cannot be better illustrated than by the current discussions of organic evolution.
The second cut and paste error. Genius. Pure Genius.
Decades ago C.P. Snow wrote about "the two cultures" drawn from his own experience as a scientist in the 1930s and his later career as a novelist and writer. Discussion about the two cultures has gone out of fashion, but there is no disputing the fact the divide between modern science, and particularly modern biology, and the general public remains immense.
Indeed, the divide between modern biology and the general public is immense. Perhaps it isn’t because the general public is dumb, but because the biological science community is working on a completely different set of assumptions about the universe and the science community is so blinded to their own faith that they cannot see their own sandy foundations.
Today's molecular and cellular biology is of enormous sophistication and complexity, and well beyond the comprehension of an intelligent layman. A glance at a modern scientific journal shows even the titles of research papers (which normally document a further advance in knowledge) are for the most part completely incomprehensible to anyone not actually working in the field. The concept of two cultures is very much alive, in spite of the best efforts of contemporary science writers to explain new advances to the public.
Yep. Keep the intellectual snobbery coming Robin. You continue to ignore many experts in the field who disagree with you, e.g. Jonathan Wells.
This cannot be better illustrated than by the current discussions of organic evolution. On the one hand there is a mass of information documenting the reality of Darwinian natural selection acting on mutations that are most commonly single changes in DNA sequence. On the other hand there are those who are totally ignorant of this evidence, and who can simply assert there are "gaps" in evolution (most commonly gaps in the fossil record), and that biological structures are too complex to be explained by mutation and natural selection.
Once again, Robin moves from simple natural selection and mutation to the assumption of CDE. The ‘gaps’ are real and is asserted by people who work with the evidence (e.g. Colin Paterson)
The argument can be turned on its head, and I have argued elsewhere that a creator could easily include wheels or propellers in animal design. Yet no wheels or propellers exist in the animal kingdom. The Darwinian explanation for this is perfect: it is impossible to evolve a wheel by stages, because only a whole wheel has function.
Now this is a laugh. Robin is saying that Michael Behe’s irreducible complexity argument is a valid argument. Maybe he only thinks it is valid when it supports CDE? Laughably, Robin’s example of something impossible to evolve is a wheel. Considering the poster child of the Intelligent Design movement is the Bacterial Flagellum, a ROTARY motor. Rotary, you know, goes round in a circle, essentially a wheel.
There is a huge difference between those who may believe in an omniscient deity who was responsible for the initial creation of the universe, and those who also believe that this deity is in direct contact with human beings, and may influence their behaviour or respond to their prayers. Atheists believe there is no god who has any contact, influence or interaction with man, whatever the true origin of the universe may be. For religion they substitute humanism, and a belief that the problems of mankind can only be solved by the inhabitants of this planet.
Indeed. At least Robin admits he has a belief, i.e. faith that there is no God.
It is said to be politically correct to be tolerant of all religions, but why should we be tolerant of the sets of untruths on which all religions are based?
Well firstly Robin, you have not shown them to be untruths. Secondly, you have not shown them to be the base of ALL religions. Thirdly, why should we tolerate your atheistic beliefs given that they require a lot more faith than a theistic belief?
It is therefore not good enough for scientists to accept this political correctness. They should believe in the reality of what science has demonstrated over several centuries. To act or believe otherwise is not intellectually rigorous, and is indeed a betrayal of the achievements of their own discipline.
Intellectual rigor would probably be evaluating the assumptions that have remained untested. Heck, you can’t even give a rational reason about why your mutated ape brain has any propensity to apprehend truth. The ‘reality’ of science is that it is based on Christian assumptions that you and many like it have removed without providing a rational basis for anything.
Experimental science has established itself as rational and reproducible, and there is no place for the contravention of natural laws, such as miracles, superstition and the occult.
And there you have it. Because Robin says so, there can be no contravention of natural laws. That isn’t a rational or reproducible argument. It isn’t a scientific statement, it is a faith statement. All Robin is trying to do is assert his own faith system without support. Perhaps I should say that because Robin does not have a PhD in philosophy, he is too ignorant to understand that he is speaking irrational nonsense? Does anything think that my statement is valid? I hope not. Yet, I have done exactly the same as Robin has, simply appealed to my own authority.

Finally, it is often pointed out that religious scientists exist. It seems that these are individuals who can in some way compartmentalise contradictory viewpoints, but this is an ability that I for one find extremely hard to understand.
I.e. Even though they have the knowledge, they are still wrong. Neener neener neener!
Robin Holliday obtained his Ph.D. at the University of Cambridge, England. In 1988 he moved to a CSIRO laboratory in Sydney, Australia, where he continued to study ageing, and his book Understanding Ageing was published in 1995.

Update: Links Fixed. Darn MS Word!
Your link to 'The Fundamental Incompatibility Between Science and Religion' didn't work for me. I was able to read the article at
Post a Comment

<< Home

Powered by Blogger Weblog Commenting and Trackback by