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Offline Gpannu

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Evolution AND Theism?
« on: 07/01/2015 17:23:26 »
Guys, i'm doing an essay on the compatibility of Evolution and the belief of theism.
so basically... IS EVOLUTION COMPATIBLE WITH THEISM??
I need opinions of all kind!
I already know the basic arguments but i need something beyond that. Also, if anyone has any advice as to what books i could read or Youtube videos i could watch, it would be great if you guys could point me in the right direction.


 

Offline chiralSPO

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Re: Evolution AND Theism?
« Reply #1 on: 07/01/2015 19:59:34 »
I'm pretty sure Darwin was a religious guy, but you should check that.

The theory of evolution says nothing about the existence or non-existence of God(s). The issue is really how strictly one wants to interpret religious texts--if one believes that God created all of the plants and animals and humans in less than a week then there is a contradiction.

Some have argued that the "six days" were not necessarily each one day long, and that this more flexible interpretation of the creation is compatible with evolutionary theory. (note that in Genisis there are two stories of the creation of man--one in which God created man and woman simultaneously on the sixth day and commanded them to be fruitful and multiply; and one in which Adam was created and had enough time to get lonely so Eve was created. This has been cited as evidence that the days cannot be strictly defined, but people have also theorized that there was another woman created before Eve...)

I don't know much about other theologies, but I think in general if an ancient text made a claim about how life came about/developed it probably contradicts modern theories. If the older ideas are taken as dogma there will be problems.
 

Online evan_au

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Re: Evolution AND Theism?
« Reply #2 on: 07/01/2015 22:46:20 »
Someone who promotes Evolution over Creation is Richard Dawkins in his book, The Blind Watchmaker. But Dawkins goes further in attacking Theism in his book, The God Delusion.

A web site that promotes Young-Earth Creation (6000-30000 years) is Creation Magazine - you can get a free copy of the magazine at their website. One observation about their position is that it assumes a rate and extent of evolution since Noah's flood which is so great that it would make most evolutionists uncomfortable.

Steven Jay Gould promotes the idea that Science and Religion are valid in their own, non-overlapping domains. However, the above protagonists are certainly making claims about the other's domain.

I guess part of the dispute is the age-old battle of politics - trying to win the allegiance of the general population. In political battles, the opponents will promote their own positions, and ridicule the opposition's position (often by distorting it). If they change their mind(s) on some point, they cannot possibly admit it.

I think that reasonable people will recognize that a political dispute exists, will expect distortions on both sides, and will expect positions to subtly change over time as additional information becomes available. Reasonable people will look at the evidence on both sides and will make up their own minds about what they can understand. As with all political debates, it is rare that one side has all the points and the other has none.

I wonder if, in another 200 years, the whole debate will seem as moot as Galileo's dispute with the church about the daily rotation of the Earth?
 

Offline CliffordK

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Re: Evolution AND Theism?
« Reply #3 on: 08/01/2015 01:16:45 »
I'm pretty sure Darwin was a religious guy, but you should check that.
Darwin apparently only discussed evolution of plants and animals, and left out any theories of the evolution of humans, although people quickly made that interpretation.

Spirituality (power of thoughts, minds, importance of humanity, etc) can certainly be separated from theism, and is not necessarily contrary to evolution and science.

There are some people who believe that deities are derived from either aliens, or a group of humans who developed significantly advanced technology, which isn't necessarily incongruous with science either.
 

Offline cheryl j

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Re: Evolution AND Theism?
« Reply #4 on: 08/01/2015 13:43:05 »
I'm not sure what you include as the "basic" arguments, but this is a good summary, in case there are some you haven't considered.

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/15-answers-to-creationist/

One of the arguments you often hear from Creationists is that evolution only explains small changes within species (since they are pretty much forced to concede this much) but that "macro-evolution" requires God or a designer. They claim there are no observable examples of speciation, which is not true. Although is it more difficult to observe this because of the generation times of most organisms, they do exist - with plants, fish, canines, insects, and others, both experimentally induced and naturally occurring. There are documented, recent, examples of species diverging to the point where one or both new variants are morphologically different and no longer  sexually and genetically compatible with the parent stock. I can provide some of those examples, or google "examples of speciation" or "examples of speciation observed" 

Also, when reading creationist's literature, beware of their tendency to selectively quote, or misquote Darwin (often by cutting off the end of the sentence!) Always track down the original quote to see the full context, and you can generally do this just by goggling it.
« Last Edit: 08/01/2015 14:02:37 by cheryl j »
 

Offline dlorde

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Re: Evolution AND Theism?
« Reply #5 on: 08/01/2015 15:04:03 »
Theism per-se can be compatible with evolution - even Pope Francis accepts evolution and the big bang theory.
 

Offline alancalverd

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Re: Evolution AND Theism?
« Reply #6 on: 08/01/2015 17:08:20 »
Evolution is an observation. Theism is an invention. They are compatible because they have absolutely nothing in common, therefore no possible conflict.

Scientists accept a hypothesis for as long as it is consistent with observation, explanatory, and predictive. There is a scientific hypothesis that evolution has been going on for a long time. This is consistent with observation, and is explanatory, but it is not particularly useful for prediction because the mechanism of evolution involves an enormous number of variables and the effects can take a very long time to appear: so far we have only been able to predict some generalities such as the emergence of antibiotic resistance.

Theism is not much concerned with observation, explanation or prediction. Nor, apparently, about selfconsistency, likelihood, or mechanism. It is about the presumption of authority.

Charles Darwin was a devout theist whose observations led to a fairly comprehensive model of past evolution. 
 

Offline dlorde

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Re: Evolution AND Theism?
« Reply #7 on: 08/01/2015 22:36:00 »
Evolution is an observation. Theism is an invention. They are compatible because they have absolutely nothing in common, therefore no possible conflict.

Scientists accept a hypothesis for as long as it is consistent with observation, explanatory, and predictive. There is a scientific hypothesis that evolution has been going on for a long time. This is consistent with observation, and is explanatory, but it is not particularly useful for prediction because the mechanism of evolution involves an enormous number of variables and the effects can take a very long time to appear: so far we have only been able to predict some generalities such as the emergence of antibiotic resistance.

Theism is not much concerned with observation, explanation or prediction. Nor, apparently, about selfconsistency, likelihood, or mechanism. It is about the presumption of authority.

Charles Darwin was a devout theist whose observations led to a fairly comprehensive model of past evolution. 
Excellent answer!
 

Offline wolfekeeper

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Re: Evolution AND Theism?
« Reply #8 on: 09/01/2015 02:42:41 »
Charles Darwin was a devout theist whose observations led to a fairly comprehensive model of past evolution. 
No.

He, early on he was certainly a theist, but by the end of his life was agnostic.

The word 'gnostic' means belief. The word agnostic means lack of belief. And Darwin identified as agnostic.

Since Darwin did not have belief, therefore he was not a theist. Technically he was an atheist.

However, he was not necessarily what might be termed a strong atheist though. You can be a gnostic atheist or an agnostic atheist. A gnostic atheist firmly believes there is no God. An agnostic atheist doesn't have a firm belief in the lack of God, but he doesn't believe either.
« Last Edit: 09/01/2015 02:47:14 by wolfekeeper »
 

Offline cheryl j

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Re: Evolution AND Theism?
« Reply #9 on: 09/01/2015 05:11:27 »
Science and religion have different epistemology, as alancalverd pointed out. So it would seem that they should no more conflict than math and literature, or art and major league baseball. But their "compatibility" relies heavily on neither making assertions about things that the other actually cares about, and feeling that the right answer genuinely matters.

I’ve often wondered why creationists don't get so bent out of shape by other scientific ideas that are not corroborated by the Bible - what is it about evolution that is such a bee in their bonnet? Why not electromagnetism? Why isn't gravity controversial? Christians, even those who identify as fundamentalists, have managed to reconcile their beliefs with other scientific concepts, or so it would seem. You don’t see heated debates in the state legislatures or school boards over teaching photosynthesis or even the heliocentric solar system. Some Christians might even feel that the Biblical description “And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light” is entirely compatible with the big bang. They can choose to see the Biblical description as an apt metaphor, or the big bang as the physical manifestation of God’s will.

The problem with Creationism isn’t really creation, or the idea of God as the ultimate cause of things - the prime mover. In Stephen Hawking’s book The Grand Design he says “Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist. It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going.” What I find remarkable, though, is not the conclusion he eventually comes to, but the seriousness with which he treats the question. He discusses the question of God in an entire chapter or more in a previous book, in relationship to an open or closed universe. He is definitely not dismissive of it, in the way that someone like Richard Dawkins is. Hawking does not treat it like a mass delusion that needs to be eradicated; it is not ridiculous to him to even entertain the idea. And that, I think, is worth noting.

But I'm not sure the Creationist movement has anything directly to do with religion or the Bible per se. I don't think theists actually care that the Bible says the earth was created in seven days or forgot to mention dinosaurs. I think the main reason for their opposition is that evolution forces one to confront mortality. If we are just another life form that has evolved from other life forms, at what point were we issued souls? With Homo sapiens sapiens? or a bit farther back with Homo heidelbergensis? Are there any neanderthals in heaven right now? Do other primates have souls? Do dogs, fish, chickens, and amoebas have them? Do they all end up in heaven with Grandma waiting for us?

The desire to not be dead is about as deep seated as it gets, as far as psychological motivations go, and anything that threatens it will likely result in a strong reaction of one kind or another. The conflict between Creationism and evolution isn’t about creation, or even God, – it’s about death. Evolution is much more difficult to view as just another thing in God’s creative tool box because of the inherent questions it raises about  souls and an afterlife. Evolution is not incompatible with the ethical or moral teachings of Christianity (do unto others, charity, forgiveness, etc) but evolution does seriously undermine belief in a man who rose from the dead and grants us eternal life. That is what Creationists are so bent out of shape about.

Evolution, miracles, and other forms of religion raised doubts in Darwin's own mind. He might have started out life a devout theist, but he stepped off the Beagle a different man:

"...Whilst on board the Beagle I was quite orthodox, and I remember being heartily laughed at by several of the officers... for quoting the Bible as an unanswerable authority on some point of morality... But I had gradually come by this time, i.e., 1836 to 1839, to see that the Old Testament from its manifestly false history of the world, with the Tower of Babel, the rainbow at sign, &c., &c., and from its attributing to God the feelings of a revengeful tyrant, was no more to be trusted than the sacred books of the Hindoos, or the beliefs of any barbarian.

...By further reflecting that the clearest evidence would be requisite to make any sane man believe in the miracles by which Christianity is supported, (and that the more we know of the fixed laws of nature the more incredible do miracles become), that the men at that time were ignorant and credulous to a degree almost uncomprehensible by us, that the Gospels cannot be proved to have been written simultaneously with the events, that they differ in many important details, far too important, as it seemed to me, to be admitted as the usual inaccuracies of eyewitnesses; by such reflections as these, which I give not as having the least novelty or value, but as they influenced me, I gradually came to disbelieve in Christianity as a divine revelation. The fact that many false religions have spread over large portions of the earth like wild-fire had some weight with me. Beautiful as is the morality of the New Testament, it can be hardly denied that its perfection depends in part on the interpretation which we now put on metaphors and allegories.

But I was very unwilling to give up my belief... Thus disbelief crept over me at a very slow rate, but was at last complete. The rate was so slow that I felt no distress, and have never since doubted even for a single second that my conclusion was correct. I can indeed hardly see how anyone ought to wish Christianity to be true; for if so the plain language of the text seems to show that the men who do not believe, and this would include my Father, Brother and almost all of my friends, will be everlastingly punished.
And this is a damnable doctrine.”  Autobiography of Charels Darwin


He did include man in evolution, if his book The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex is any indication.

"I am aware that the conclusions arrived at in this work will be denounced by some as highly irreligious; but he who denounces them is bound to show why it is more irreligious to explain the origin of man as a distinct species by descent from some lower from, through the laws of variation and natural selection, than to explain the birth of the individual through the laws of ordinary reproduction. The birth both of the species and of the individual are equally parts of that grand sequence of events, which our minds refuse to accept as the result of blind chance".
« Last Edit: 09/01/2015 05:59:04 by cheryl j »
 

Offline alancalverd

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Re: Evolution AND Theism?
« Reply #10 on: 09/01/2015 10:13:54 »
There is an interesting idea about that theism actually helped the development of scientific method (as distinct from Aristotelian philosophy).

Having been inculcated from an early age that Jaweh or Allah ruled over an organised universe, people began to look for that order and organisation, beginning with categorisation at the one end (the assignment of species) and mechanism at the other (experimental science), with a lot of measurement (Arabic astronomers in particular brought precision and algebraic tools to the physical sciences) going on in between.

Despite some notable departures from what we now recognise as scientific method (Linnaeus has been blamed for irrational racism, and we would have very little idea of the mechanism of genetics if Mendel hadn't cheated a bit with his statistics) it seems that modern science grew in minds that had been tilled if not fertilised by theism. 

Quite why so many modern theists decry the intellectual process their devout predecessors invented, is a mystery.     
 

Offline chiralSPO

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Re: Evolution AND Theism?
« Reply #11 on: 09/01/2015 15:31:02 »
As a follow up to cheryl j, who noted that evolution implies a fuzzy boundry between human and not:

I think it also important to note that it is pure hubris to think that we are in some way the pinnacle of evolution. Every life form on this planet is the culmination of approximately the same duration of evolution--so we are all equally "advanced." For some the rate of change has been very slow (sharks) because they are close to an "optimal solution" given their circumstances (niche/environment etc.) I wonder if certain forms of bacteria might be considered "most advanced" given their high rate of evolutionary change and extreme competition. Based on the amount of genetic material they have, many plants (and amoebas) might be considered most complex...

Also evolution will continue and we may eventually be superseded by others that fit our niche better (could be our descendants, but not necessarily so) or our niche could disappear.

I think very religious people also realize that our eventual (or current) inferiority is also implied by evolution, and this is highly disturbing for them.
 

Offline cheryl j

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Re: Evolution AND Theism?
« Reply #12 on: 10/01/2015 18:14:41 »
I wonder if certain forms of bacteria might be considered "most advanced" given their high rate of evolutionary change and extreme competition. Based on the amount of genetic material they have, many plants (and amoebas) might be considered most complex...
I read a funny comment the other day but can't find it to credit it. But it was "They tried to design a clean room for objects going to or coming from Mars. And what did they get? A bacteria that evolved to eat paint in clean rooms."

 

Offline wolfekeeper

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Re: Evolution AND Theism?
« Reply #13 on: 11/01/2015 00:08:14 »
I’ve often wondered why creationists don't get so bent out of shape by other scientific ideas that are not corroborated by the Bible - what is it about evolution that is such a bee in their bonnet? Why not electromagnetism? Why isn't gravity controversial? Christians, even those who identify as fundamentalists, have managed to reconcile their beliefs with other scientific concepts, or so it would seem. You don’t see heated debates in the state legislatures or school boards over teaching photosynthesis or even the heliocentric solar system. Some Christians might even feel that the Biblical description “And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light” is entirely compatible with the big bang. They can choose to see the Biblical description as an apt metaphor, or the big bang as the physical manifestation of God’s will.
It's because the Bible is deeply connected.

Original sin comes down from Adam and Eve and the fall of man. And in the new testament you have to accept Jesus in your heart to be forgiven your sins (including and especially original sin). http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/christianity/beliefs/whydidjesusdie_1.shtml

Make no mistake evolution says that Adam and Eve as the progenitors of the human race never existed. If there's no original sin, then what did Jesus die for? .... Oops...

There are some apologists that say that original sin wasn't actually due to Adam and Eve, it was due to free will or various other 'outs' but the creationists don't buy this and are very, very hung up on it.

It seriously freaks creationists out, and then they double down on the religion and toss out anything that calls it into question; specifically and especially evolution.
 

Offline alancalverd

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Re: Evolution AND Theism?
« Reply #14 on: 11/01/2015 00:22:22 »
It seriously freaks creationists out, and then they double down on the religion and toss out anything that calls it into question; specifically and especially evolution.

Evolution is nothing more than the observation that you do not (indeed cannot) look exactly like both of your parents. How can that possibly call anything into question, apart from the sanity of anyone who denies it?

There are some interesting theoretical extensions and derivatives of this observation,e.g that evolution  has been going on for a long time, and that over a long time it can produce significantly different descendants from a single ancestor. The first assertion seems reasonable unless you can produce evidence to the contrary or propose a mechanism by which evolution was triggered by a recent event, and  the second is a matter of direct observation in the case of some bacteria and insects. What this has to do with belief in fairies, not eating pork, or the repression of women, is beyond my comprehension. 
 

Offline wolfekeeper

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Re: Evolution AND Theism?
« Reply #15 on: 11/01/2015 02:47:07 »
It's because all major religions are carefully constructed houses of cards that try to force people to act in particular ways, using threats of supposed supernatural beings to keep people in line.

These religions originated before the discovery of evolution, and so they accidentally made statements that directly contradict it.

Eventually these religions may collapse and new ones spring up that don't have this problem, but that could take QUITE A WHILE. In the meantime, there's a lot of butt-hurt creationists.
 

Online evan_au

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Re: Evolution AND Theism?
« Reply #16 on: 11/01/2015 05:51:54 »
Quote from: Charles Darwin, around 1876
the clearest evidence would be requisite to make any sane man believe in the miracles by which Christianity is supported, (and that the more we know of the fixed laws of nature the more incredible do miracles become)
I saw a list of impossible miracles collated in the 19th century.

The ironic thing was that some of them could be approximated by our 21st century technology, and today's mainline researchers were busy implementing a few more.

I think that one function of the scientific process is to turn the impossible into the possible, in a repeatable way.
Quote from: Arthur C.Clarke
1. When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.
2. The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.
3. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
 

Online evan_au

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Re: Evolution AND Theism?
« Reply #17 on: 11/01/2015 05:55:08 »
Does anyone have any pointers to creation narratives from various religions?
 

Online evan_au

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Re: Evolution AND Theism?
« Reply #18 on: 11/01/2015 06:37:55 »
I have seen several theistic explanations of the Genesis creation narrative that do not directly conflict with evolution or each other. These tend to interpret the timescale figuratively, rather than literally:
  • Its textual form is one of poetry. So the main emphasis in the 7 days is on textual structure and rhythm, rather than on chronological precision.
  • If you look at various religions surrounding the Hebrews, they tended to have gods for the Earth, the Sea, Sun, trees, etc. In claiming that their monotheistic religion was superior to polytheistic religions, Genesis asserts that a single god created the Earth, the Sea, Sun, trees, etc.
  • There were many farmers amongst the Hebrew population. They all could understand 7 periods of time (which then parallel a weekly cycle of work and rest). It was not a prerequisite to be able to count up to a billion* to be a farmer, a Jew, a Christian or a Moslem; this suggests a small number of categories which were appropriate for the intended audience. However, today it is a prerequisite to be able to count to a billion in most areas of science, technology and home computers, so everyone should be able to comprehend the timescales required for evolution on Earth.

*The Hindu religion talks about 330 million gods & godesses, which is close to a billion. No wonder they developed the concept of "0" as a numeric place-holder!
 

Offline alancalverd

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Re: Evolution AND Theism?
« Reply #19 on: 11/01/2015 08:48:56 »
So are/were there any societies that worked a 5, 8 or 10 day cycle (based on the human hand) or 4, 14 or 28 days (alternative factors of the lunar cycle)?

7 days is very important to a maritime nation as it represents the periodicity of spring and neap tide, but unlike the Britons and our heathen trading partners, Hebrews, desert Arabs and Hindus were not great seafarers - indeed the Mediterranean is famous for its negligible tidal range.   
 

Online evan_au

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Re: Evolution AND Theism?
« Reply #20 on: 11/01/2015 10:59:18 »
Quote from: alancalverd
were there any societies that worked a 5, 8 or 10 day cycle?
In a frenzy of metrification, an attempt was made to introduce a decimal week following the French Revolution.

It had 1.5 days of rest every 10 days, which made it unpopular with workers (even though 1.5/10=15% and 1/7=14.3%). It also had problems with leap years. It only lasted 12 years before Napoleon reverted to the Gregorian calendar.

I have seen a vintage French clock marked with both decimal and duodecimal hours.

The metric weights & measures for length, mass and volume live on in Europe and in science labs around the world... and many countries now have currency divided into 100 units.
 

Offline Caleb

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Re: Evolution AND Theism?
« Reply #21 on: 13/01/2015 05:03:37 »
Take a look at Jonathan Haidt who wrote a wonderful book, "The Righteous Mind." He talks about how religion "Blinds Us and Binds Us" and how useful religion--and similar principles are--in getting groups of us to work together.

For example, he says that a single rower  may be able to beat other rowers, but a two-seat rowing scull can beat others, and more and more rowers in a rowing boat can beat lesser numbers of  rowers.

He talks about religion as being inherited in the last 50,000 years or so (something like that, but don't hold me to that number) and increasing our tendency to group together.

This really is a terrific book. The best book I've read in several years regarding the nature of human beings. Other great books are those by Ariely, Kahneman, etc. But this one is very, very insightful.

Yours,

Caleb
 

Offline alancalverd

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Re: Evolution AND Theism?
« Reply #22 on: 14/01/2015 22:20:06 »
And a thousand Christians can beat a hundred Muslims, hence crusades. And a thousand Catholics can torture a few Jews, hence the inquisition. And a million Protestants can disenfranchise  half a million Catholics, hence Northern Ireland. And so it goes on. Religion is the last refuge of perverts and scoundrels.
 

Offline Caleb

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Re: Evolution AND Theism?
« Reply #23 on: 15/01/2015 03:46:13 »
"And a thousand Christians can beat a hundred Muslims, hence crusades. And a thousand Catholics can torture a few Jews, hence the inquisition. And a million Protestants can disenfranchise  half a million Catholics, hence Northern Ireland. And so it goes on. Religion is the last refuge of perverts and scoundrels."

Yes, about large groups winning out over smaller groups no matter how correct their ideas are. But evolution doesn't care about the long range correctness of the views, I think. Just what survives in the short term.

Another very interesting observation by Jonathan Haidt is the idea that civilization now rewards people who "appear" to be good -- e.g., honest, knowledgeable, etc. -- in public, and therefore we are as lawyers arguing why our position is the best position as compared to all the others.

Yours,

Caleb
 

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Re: Evolution AND Theism?
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