In part 1 and part 2 of the rebuttal to the Tall Friendly Atheist Dad’s objections to my original article: “Can Evolution Explain Altruism” we saw that he objected from the margins and never really addressed the meat of the article. He has shown himself to be verbose and persistent…and friendly. Let’s see if Part 3 of his objection will produce some positive criticism. As before, the tall friendly one will be referred to as TFAD, TFAD’s comments will be in red.
My original post included the line “So, scientists have recognized that it is counter-intuitive to assume that altruism fits within the evolutionary explanations”. And it’s not just scientists. There’s an inherent understanding that a mechanism (evolution) that’s taught as “survival of the fittest”, “red in tooth and claw”, and “culls the weak” has basic problems also explaining sacrificial giving to help the weak survive, empathy, and protecting the weak (even of other species) at the expense of one’s own reproductive success. But TFAD declares:
“This is wrong, as well as completely missing the point. No expert on the subject says that altruism is on the whole incompatible with evolution as a mechanism for human development or advancement. Nay, a cursory Google Scholar search for “evolutionary origins human altruism” brings up over 80’000 results which actually tie human altruism to evolution”
There are so many things with TFAD’s objection to dissect. Best start at the top:
- For him to declare someone to be wrong, he would have to have absolute knowledge, but an epistemology which assumes naturalism has no such foundation for the preconditions of intelligibility. This is not just me lazily saying “I’m right and you’re wrong!” He has recognized the deficiency in his own worldview
- AND, I am NOT wrong. People that TFAD would recognize as experts (no creationist links below) DO recognize the inherent contradiction of the mechanisms of evolution with altruism. While researchers think they may have answers, the point remains – Altruism is in conflict with evolutionary thought.
- “This behaviour is rare and appears to conflict evolutionary theory, as kin selection is unattainable“
- “From a Darwinian viewpoint, the existence of altruism in nature is at first sight puzzling“
- “As it attempts to explain animal behavior, evolution has a problem with altruistic behavior. Natural selection should not allow altruism to evolve“
- “The nature of cooperative, prosocial behavior and altruism among humans has been one of the most challenging questions in evolutionary theory“
- “Efforts to solve the evolutionary puzzle of altruism have a lengthy history“
- For more, just search evolution altruism, and read the abstract. It seems everyone but TFAD recognizes that there is a paradox that needs some sort of explanation
- “No expert” – While TFAD did not specifically define expert, it would not take long to infer what he means by expert. Are experts only those who have PhDs? What about PhDs who are Christians? What about PhDs who have different ideological assumptions than you? What about PhDs who are employed by companies that you consider biased? If a person does not have a PhD can they object or point out inconsistencies in a claim/idea? Since TFAD does not have a PhD (or recognized expertise beyond height/friendliness) why is his objection to my exposure of evolutionary deficiency worth considering? This is not to say that education is bad or that there are not people who are highly trained in specific fields. There are. And I am questioning the assumptions, processes, and conclusions of some of those experts because their reasoning (as I have shown) is questionable. People mustn’t be silenced because they do not have fancy letters after their name. No one would consider me an expert in biology, which exposes the inadequacy of the explanations of evolutionists for altruism, since a non-expert (me) has easily shown the flaws in their thinking
- TFAD found more than 80,000 results when searching for “evolutionary origins human altruism”, and he interpreted this as “See, evolution explains altruism”. This is what is called prejudicial conjecture. Rather than reading the 80,000 results or even a few of them, he just assumed (with his bias) that all of them are the answer. If we were to use the methodology of TFAD to try to answer the question “Is inflation good for the economy?” Google returns about 269,000,000 results. And following his progression of thought, I could claim “no, it is not! See, there are 269,000,000 articles telling me why.” I’m sure you all see the flaw TFAD’s argument, and it hath a name: prejudicial conjecture.
TFAD proceeds next down the well-worn “rabbit trail” of criticizing presuppositional apologetics again for a few paragraphs. It’s not really part of the discussion, but it gives TFAD warm fuzzies to be critical of philosophies with which he disagrees. But back to the real substance of the ongoing debate
I wrote “Essentially, he told me that science DOES have answers, and I’m ignorant of those answers because I’ve never read them” and TFAD countered:
“Not quite. I never said he was ignorant of the answers because he’s never read them. What I will say is that lousy epistomology (sp) utilising intellectually treasonous theology prevents people with theological blinders on from accepting the fact they could ever be wrong about something, particularly when that something challenges their deeply-held religious convictions. So ApoloJedi is not ignorant because he hasn’t read the answers – he’s ignorant (to use his word) because his chain of logic prevents him from ever being corrected on any topic he sees as contradictory to his theology.”
TFAD again has fallen into the trap of misunderstanding the entire purpose of the original blog post. I used the definitions of the evolutionists. I used the papers and books of the evolutionists. I used the links and assumptions of the evolutionists…all as an internal critique of their explanations of things (altruism) clearly seen. What remains unseen are their assumptions that natural selection acting on random mutations in the struggle for survival can produce behavior that is sacrificial to the reproductive fitness of the giver. TFAD says that I am opposed to “ever being corrected on any topic he sees as contradictory to his theology”. Should TFAD desire to take this path of argumentation, he needs to establish an epistemology with transcendent justification whereby his philosophical foundation is sufficient to correct others. As already shown and as he has already admitted, his philosophical foundation is unable to do so. Even if he does not want to go so deep as to engage in metaphysical foundations (as he really hates presuppositional apologetics), he could at the very least demonstrate (from his own perspective) the necessary evidence that evolutionary mechanisms can produce altruistic behavior in creatures where their direct ancestor did not behave altruistically. This glaring deficiency is what precipitated the original blog post in the 1st place, and TFAD would rather distract and pick at nits than demonstrate actual evidence that would put the whole issue to bed.
When, in my original post, I said “They (Fehr/Fischbacher) clearly recognize the counter-intuitive nature of the claim that evolution can sufficiently account for altruism”, TFAD almost shouted:
“No they don’t! ApoloJedi can quote an abstract, but not read it properly – it said “current gene-based theories” cannot explain, but it did not say evolution on the whole can’t account for it…All they said was that according to current gene-only evolutionary models, no theory sufficiently explains human altruism – hence why they believe the need for a co-evolutionary model that incorporates both genes and culture”
Gene-based theory IS the theory of evolution. Remember bullet points 2, 3, and 4 from the original post
There was nothing about culture, which TFAD now suddenly adds to the mix. TFAD never defines culture, but we can infer that he’s jumped down the Lamarkian rabbit hole of thinking that acquired characteristics can be passed on genetically. Lamarkism, the idea that a weightlifter will produce offspring with higher percentages of muscle or someone who pierces their ears will have offspring with pierced ears, is now generally dismissed, but there are rare exceptions. The theory of evolution is taught that beneficial heritable genetic traits persist while natural selection “weeds out” phenotypes that are unfit.
Moving on -> Many of you are familiar with the term “gaslighting“. TFAD attempts to gaslight the audience by questioning the reader’s understanding of reality. In the original post, I pointed out the redefinition of altruism made by Fehr/Fischbacher when in their definition of a new mysterious force they have defined as “Strong Reciprocity”, they talk about being rewarded for altruistic behavior “Reward? If there is a reward, it’s not altruism. Right from the beginning, they change the definition of altruism from something that is unselfish to appeal to the inherent selfishness”. But TFAD gaslights the reader by saying
“At no point do either of these definitons (sp) nor the SEP definition consider altruism as “doing something beneficial for no thought of reward””
When the very definition of altruism IS “Behavior by an animal that is not beneficial to or may be harmful to itself but that benefits others of its species”. When Fehr/Fischbacher introduce “reward”, they are not longer talking about altruism. But TFAD continues to say that selfish rewards and expecting “fair outcomes” are part of altruism, when we know in reality that altruism has nothing to do with selfishness or expecting fair outcomes. TFAD again tries to distract when he says
“I really don’t care about Merrian-Webster’s definition – I’d much rather use Stanford’s version because it is more academcially (sp) rigorous”
This reminds me of the objection from evolutionists that they have successfully refuted Michael Behe’s example of irreducible complexity in the standard mousetrap. In an analogy, Behe described the necessary components of the standard mousetrap (Model SM) as needing a base, spring, hammer, catch, and trigger all arranged in a very specific ingenious way that these pieces interact to kill mice. The analogy is that a blind/purposeless/atomic process (evolution) cannot produce the standard mousetrap (SM) that we see today, because it requires multiple interacting parts to be assembled in place with all proper tolerances, dimensions, materials, and initial conditions lest it not be preserved for lack of functionality. The evolutionists have said that there are mousetraps (not model SM, but model FF) that do not require the 5 interacting pieces. But that’s not Behe’s claim. Evolutionists have to account for what is seen, which is Model SM. Sure an intelligent objector can theorize Model FF that is designed to catch mice a different way, but Model SM (which is analogously seen today in complex interacting biological systems) is irreducibly complex. So, what TFAD has subtly done is propose a different definition of altruism (like Model FF) in an attempt to distract from evolution’s inability to explain real altruism (Model SM). And just like the evolutionist’s failed attempt to explain away irreducible complexity, TFAD’s attempt similarly fails.
In a last ditch effort to object to my questioning of evolution’s claimed abilities, TFAD distances himself from the very sources that he recommended. He posted a link from Google Scholar that he recommended I should analyze before questioning whether evolution could explain altruism, and Fehr/Fischbacher were 1st in the list.
“And you know why? Because Fehr & Fischbacher are economists with specialisations in human behaviour – not geneticists.”
Now that I’ve pressed back on his claims that evolution can explain altruism, it’s likely that he would not call Fehr/Fischbacher “experts” since they are just economists, even though he recommended them in the 1st place
While TFAD has been less than complimentary about creationist’s understanding of the theory of evolution, we now have to point out the TFAD does not understand the finer points of evolution
“Convergent evolution ain’t no mere assertion – it’s a demonstrable fact. Let’s think about it – if two separate primate species have overlapping characteristics and genetics, where do you think it’s pointing to?”
I had pointed out that the best that modern experiments can do when comparing common traits between widely disparate species would be to speculate that that it was the result of convergent evolution. Now convergent evolution is the description of the observation that two (or more) species that are not evolutionarily closely related have similar structures. An example would be wings. Birds, insects and bats have wings, but they are not closely related according to evolutionists, so evolutionists describe this marvel as convergent evolution. So, when TFAD says it’s demonstrable fact, it’s true that evolutionists have named an inexplicable observation as convergent evolution, but it doesn’t EXPLAIN anything. They could just have easily called it sorcery because those 2 terms have the same level of explanatory power – ZERO. TFAD thinks convergent evolution means “overlapping characteristics”, but as shown, it’s not overlapping traits from evolutionarily closely-related species. And it’s not a mechanism or a process. It’s just the assigned label of a mystery that’s devoid of explanation
Next TFAD takes aim at my analysis of Richard Dawkin’s book, The Selfish Gene. TFAD states:
“I’m curious as to why ApoloJedi chose The Selfish Gene instead of something like much more recent”
The Selfish Gene by RD is, according to the Royal Society, the most influential science book of all time. It has 4 editions, it’s written by the most well-known living evolutionist, and it’s sold over one million copies. The Guardian ranks it as the 10th best non-fiction book of all time. Why would I NOT choose to use one of the most popular science books written by one of the most popular science writers of all time in my article? If I had not, TFAD would have questioned why I DIDN’T use this popular and influential book. As noted in Part 1 of the Altruism Exchange, TFAD will have no end to the number of resources and books that I could have used. “Why not this one? Why not that one? Why not THOSE or THESE?!?!?” Ad infinitum
“Go tell Richard Dawkins that. He’ll be pleased a Creationist has been reading his books. But Dawkins is an expert in biology, not human psychology.”
Again with the “you’re not an expert” accusation. If nothing else, TFAD has shown that he’s the expert on who is NOT an expert. Well, maybe TFAD should go tell Richard Dawkins that despite all of the hours spent researching, writing, and publishing a book that attempts (and fails) to elucidate evolution’s ability to account for evolution, that he’s not an expert. Dawkins’ own words from the opening of his book tell us that he intended to write an account that explains clear examples of altruism via evolutionary mechanisms
Openstax Biology 2e
In his objection to the portion of my post that cited Openstax (the College Biology book), TFAD missed the whole point. In their chapter titled “Altruistic Behavior”, they gave examples and definitions of strong reciprocity and (like me) criticized the notion of a selfish gene being able to explain altruism. With the end of their examples, they proclaimed “Most of the behaviors described above do not seem to satisfy this definition (of altruism).” So they spent all that time trying to compose examples of why altruism is explained by evolution and then admitted, “but those aren’t TRULY altruistic”. And I agree. They were unable to give an accounting of observed altruism via evolutionary mechanisms. TFAD focuses instead on pulling the reader back to his preferred definition of altruism and opining that evolution is true.
TFAD: “Heritable traits that enhance one’s odds of survival – that sounds a heckuva lot like evolution to me”
Yes – heritable traits. But TFAD said that just after he quoted Openstax as saying “These instinctual behaviors may then be applied, in special circumstances, to other species, as long as it doesn’t lower the animal’s fitness.” But remember the definition of altruism? “behavior by an animal that is not beneficial to or may be harmful to itself but that benefits others of its species.” Astute readers will again see the raw contradiction…as I have been contending all along.
In the original article I said “In their first paragraph they invoke a sciency-sounding phrase, kin selection, as if merely naming an observation actually explains it…Kin selection like convergent evolution like strong reciprocity are terms that hide the explanation under the guise of science. People hear “kin selection” and assume, “well, it’s got a fancy name, so someone must have demonstrated that evolution is the only explanation for it.”” TFAD replies
“Got bad news for you, good sir – kin selection is an observed and documented scientific fact…Kin selection, strong reciprocity and convergent evolution are ALL documented phenomena in the scientific literature. Ignore it at your intellectual peril”
I never said kin selection wasn’t observed. I said kin selection doesn’t EXPLAIN altruism…or anything else. Like convergent evolution, kin selection is simply a label. It’s not an explanation. TFAD thinks that because the WhiteLabCoats have placed a label on something, that it has explanatory power, but AS I SAID in the original post, the label gives it no explanatory power.
TFAD put a lot of effort into his objections, and I appreciate the sharpening of thought and communication. But as shown, his objections never quite hit the core of the argument. His strong faith commitment to the theory of evolution prevented him from seeing the contradictions based on my internal critique of evolutionism, and his bias left my original contention completely intact that the theory of evolution cannot explain altruism.