I suppose I should be honored that my small blog has relevance enough to merit a response to the arguments that I have presented. But a FOUR-part response with thousands of words to one of my posts deserves kudos, if for nothing else than the amount of time spent, to the Tall Friendly Atheist Dad (TFAD)
If you’ve not had a chance, I encourage you to read the blog post in question, Can Evolution Explain Altruism? Its defines evolution, altruism, and then analyzes the arguments of 3 evolutionary authorities, who claim to have explained why they think that the theory of evolution can indeed account for altruism
TFAD begins with some posturing and attempts a “poisoning of the well” in his opening of part 1, and perhaps I’ll circle back at the end of this response to address those, but let’s get right into the meat of the argument – Can Evolution Explain Altruism?
Definitions are important. I defined altruism using two sources that both defined altruism the same way.
TFAD: “I prefer Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy’s definition.”
TFAD decided he didn’t like those definitions and thrust his own definition into the fray, and in the end, he has made a distinction without a difference. We can all agree that altruism is unselfish behavior that benefits another person or another creature without any expectation of personal benefit. I gave examples in my original blog post, which would fit with the definition that I gave and that TFAD gave
At this point, I need to jump ahead in the discussion just a little, because in our conversations I noted that some of the objections the TFAD gives are nitpicking and distractions. He took “umbrage” to my identification of many of his objections as such. His addition of an additional definition of altruism is nitpicking. I’ll denote future examples of nitpicking with *NP* moving forward
I must stress the importance of the following points, because the entire argument hinges on it, but TFAD strays from the point throughout his 4 posts. They are basic to this discussion, and other considerations are distractions:
- The theory of evolution is taught as if its mechanisms can explain everything (except its origin) about life
- Altruistic behavior has been observed and requires a consistent explanation via evolutionary mechanisms
- When I asked how does evolution explain altruistic behavior? TFAD posted a link to “scientific” papers that he felt gave answers to my question. I took the top result and analyzed it. This is significant, because in part 4 of his objections, TFAD tries to distance himself from the scientific papers that he himself recommended as sufficient.
- My analysis of these three evolutionary sources-of-explanations is based on the assumptions and definitions of the evolutionists. While I note my beliefs at the beginning, I am not bringing my own assumptions into the analysis of their work. Their works need to be able to stand or fall on their own – and as I have shown, by their own assumptions, they fail miserably at trying to explain observations of altruistic behavior via evolutionary mechanisms
- When TFAD tries to show how creationism is wrong, he is distracting from the argument
- When TFAD tries to attack me or my lack-of-credentials, he is distracting from the argument
Back to the discussion. I noted in my original post that “altruism is seen in ant and bee colonies”
TFAD replies: “however you want to define altruism, you then have to admit that altruism is not a behaviour seen only in humans, which means that the mechanism for how altruism developed in humans is just as applicable to how it developed in non-human mammals”
Possibly, unless it is another asserted example of “Convergent Evolution”. TFAD’s response has absolutely nothing to do with this post. Nobody assumes that humans evolved from bees or lions. Nobody says altruism doesn’t exist in other creatures. My question from the beginning is “Can evolution explain altruism?” So, for TFAD to say as a critique that some mysterious/unknown mechanism (which nobody has quantified or elucidated) could be the same in humans as in other animals is pointless. Regardless, it’s the explanation that has been given by evolutionists that I am critiquing. So, TFAD is either distracting from the main point or does not understand evolution
TFAD: “But if we ignore the scientific research and look to an Intelligent Design/Creation model”
Distraction. I’m not proposing a different model in this post
TFAD: “One of Intelligent Design’s fatal flaws…”
Another distraction. I’m not proposing a different model in this post. Stay on target!
TFAD: “not only has evolution been established as the primary driving factor behind biodiversity, but it also helps explain how altruism is found mostly in mammals, in particular social primate mammals, but only in a handful of other species – in short, it simply wasn’t a trait that was developed and inherited across the animal kingdom”
Interesting assertion, but again his lack of explanation is notable especially since he claims “it helps explain” without giving an ACTUAL explanation. Another note to TFAD, I am not critiquing your assertions here. I am critiquing the specific “explanations” presented by evolutionary authorities.
TFAD: “The detailed answer lies in genetics, which is not my field, but feel free to read a book literally titled The Genetics Of Altruism if you want the granular detail”
It’s doubtful that he has read it, but I’m not opposed to analyzing that book too. Undoubtedly, its “explanations” will be similarly impotent and full of assumptions. It’s available for the bargain price of $60 US. If someone wants to send it to me, I’ll be happy to expose its contents as empty as well. In the end, I made known the authorities that I was analyzing, one of which was the principle suggestion from TFAD. NOW, he expects me to analyze another source. Doubtless, were I to analyze this authority and 5000 other sources that claim to have the answer, it would *never* be enough. He would always be able to say “Well, have you analyzed THIS one? This one? This one? AHA!”
The paragraph that begins with “This is not too far off the mark…” is almost completely nitpicking.
Back to my comments from the original post “For evolution to have explanatory power, there must be uncountable sequential individual heritable changes that are preserved solely by natural selection”
TFAD replies “Firstly, natural selection isn’t the only mechanism proposed”
…but no explanation of additional mechanisms is proposed by either Darwin or TFAD
TFAD continues: “evolution is a process that happens to populations, not individuals”
It appeared to TFAD that I was contending that a single individual has to survive while all other individuals perish, when the emphasis is on the change/trait. This should have been clear to TFAD, because this is not what I was contending as my wording is clear
TFAD persists: “Thirdly, it is not quite uncountable”
The phrase that TFAD is concerned about is my paraphrase of Darwin’s famous line “If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down”. Online thesaurus confirms that uncountable is indeed a synonym of numerous. Therefore *NP*
TFAD: “This is almost correct. If ApoloJedi took out the word supposedly in the last sentence”
In my original article I wrote: “the mutation of which supposedly provides for novel traits”
TFAD critiqued: “But saying ‘supposedly provide for novel traits’ is, again, shows that he is either unaware of the research, or is discarding it because of theological bias to do with the subject matter”
This is beyond the scope of critique for this particular blog post, but I’ll be happy to read and analyze any peer-reviewed paper that he thinks is airtight evidence of random mutation and natural selection producing in a creature novel traits that did not exist in its supposed directly previous ancestor. TFAD should be aware that antibiotic resistant bacteria, sickle-cell anemia, wingless beetles on windy islands and nylon-eating bacteria are not examples of evolution-producing-novel-traits as has been shown and explained time and again. Those well-worn examples are evidence of BROKEN (less-functional & loss-of-information) proteins providing a survival advantage in constricted environment. It would be the same as saying that if your survival depended on avoiding being handcuffed, those without hands would have a survival advantage. But you would never be able to produce highly dextrous pianists with a population of handless humans. In the same way, the mechanisms of evolution
cannot have not demonstrated the ability to turn a beetle into a bird by removing its wings. The only “evidence” for such a fable is in assumptions and artwork
TFAD has been known to say (in his awesome Australian accent) “Evolution is the best working explanation we have for the diversity of life on earth today”. But remember, I’m NOT critiquing TFAD’s personal definition of evolution. For use in this blog post I’ve been open about the definition of evolution I’ve used from Charles Darwin, Wikipedia, OpenStax college textbook, and RationalWiki (none of those are bastions of creationist thought). Evolution must be able to EXPLAIN all of life: functionality, traits, reproduction, metabolism, predation, camouflage, instinct, migration, hibernation…and altruism. But as has been shown, evolution’s proponents are devoid of demonstrable evidence showing that the mechanisms of the theory of evolution can explain altruism.
TFAD continues his response to my article in part 2, and I answer his responses here
But for those who want to stick around while I circle back and answer a few of the more petty elements in his 1st response, see below
TFAD: “I interact with a lot on Twitter who goes by the handle of @Apolojedi_, so handled because he is an apologist who finds your lack of faith disturbing. (Apologist Jedi – get it? But since it was Darth Vader who said “I find your lack of faith disturbing”, his handle should actually be ApoloSith)”
I’ve answered this little dig directly to him before, but he seems to have forgotten or ignored it. It’s just a simply mash up of apologetics and Jedi (one who is patient and wise). We must remember that Star Wars is the story of the redemption of Anakin Skywalker. Vader, once a Jedi and turned to the dark side, heroically gave his life to save his son, Luke. In the end of this story, he was redeemed and earned the (fictional) “after life” with Obi-Wann and Yoda as a Jedi.
Now naturalists have no consistent place in their worldview for morality, sin, or redemption. They do try to taxidermy the idea of secular humanism or moral realism into a cosmos of particles, but these ideas are in direct conflict with their base assumption of naturalism. So, it is no surprise to me that TFAD would not resolve the redemption of Anakin Skywalker as a Jedi for my handle as there is no logical categorization for redemption in the mind of the naturalist.
TFAD: “the core skill of Pre-Suppositionalists is uncritically assuming that they’re correct, then dismissing atheists because they are apparently self-deceived fools who can’t even know for sure if the sky is blue”
TFAD: “I would also add that because he is a Biblically-Literal Creationist, I feel that he feels that he is theologically-obliged to not accept or understand evolution* no different than the standard Creationist tropes of it, then to attack that Creationist straw-man of evolution as if he is criticising evolution as actually understood in the scientific literature”
The accusation from TFAD is that I do not understand evolution, but in our exchanges, he’s never been able to articulate exactly what it is about evolution that I do not understand. He’s simply making an unwarranted assertion. I have taken the definition of evolution from the leading prevaricators of the theory, and I have demonstrated more than sufficiently a working knowledge of the theory. TFAD assumes that since I find the theory of evolution to be absurd, then I must not understand it. It’s like Stalin saying, “You just don’t understand communism if you don’t accept it.” Rubbish. It’s because I understand both the theory of evolution and communism that I reject them. TFAD also has his own private definition, that we talked about just above, and I understand that one too. Neither of which can sufficiently account for altruism. Secondly, I have corrected TFAD on this point – I am not a biblical literalist. I am a biblical contextualist. The mischaracterization of a biblical literalist is easy to bludgeon because in the view of the atheist, a wooden, literal interpretation of scripture must be adhered to in all reading of the Bible despite the context, genre, or overarching theme. So after purposefully misinterpreting my position in an attempt to make it easier to defeat, TFAD subtly poisons the well by essentially saying that “ApoloJedi is unqualified to criticize anyone wearing a white lab coat…or anyone who accepts evolution because of things he accepts.”
TFAD: “All of this is in stark contrast to myself”
After setting up and bludgeoning the strawman, TFAD polishes his own image as pure and knowledgeable. At least he’s friendly and very tall.
TFAD: “Accepting the theory of evolution just means that I acknowledge what I regard to be the evidentially unescapable (sp) fact that the species homo sapien is a member of the wider primate family (which itself is the result of a long line of forebears who are now extinct) as well as the fact that all organisms on earth are inherently related”
Evidentially inescapable? As noted before, I do not regard artwork or assumptions as evidence. When what gets put forward as evidence of the Grand Theory of Evolution is critically analyzed rather than blindly assimilated, the “evidence” is exposed as impotent artwork and assumption
After analyzing the “objections” from TFAD from the initial post, we see that nothing substantial has been produced. Mostly picking at nits and distractions. In my next blog post, we’ll see if TFAD’s Part 2 can provide something with more teeth