RE: [asa] Question for all the theistic evolutionists

From: Brent Foster <>
Date: Fri Mar 16 2007 - 17:25:06 EDT

---- Glenn Morton <> wrote:


Brent Foster wrote:
>There are various opinions as to how this image is manifested, such as
ability to plan ahead as you mention, abstract
>language (as Jack mentioned), creativity, the ability to think from another
person's perspective.

Glenn wrote:
Chimpanzees can think from another's perspective. So can baboons
"Forming alliances is only the beginning. If it takes smarts for
a baboon or monkey to keep track of all the facts in his social
relationships, imagine how much intelligence is required when he
and his companions begin to lie."
"Take Paul, for instance, a young juvenile chacma baboon
observed in Ethiopia by Richard Bryne and Andrew Whiten of the
University of St. Andrews in Scotland. One day they noticed Paul
watching an adult female named Mel dig in the ground for a large
grass root. He looked around. There were no other baboons
nearby, though the troop was within earshot. Suddenly and with
no visible provocation, Paul let out a yell. In an instant his
mother appeared, and in a flurry chased the astonished Mel out of
sight. Meanwhile, Paul walked over and ate the grass root she
left behind." ~ Donald Johanson and James Shreeve, Lucy's Child,
(New York: William Morrow and Co., Inc., 1989), p. 274
Here the baboon had to think through the sequence of thoughts of his elders
and then through their expected actions. The problem of your definition is
that it includes baboons, chimps and gorillas.
Similarly with gorillas
"Monkeys and apes rely on this social knowledge in order to
learn manipulative tactics, like the use of deception to get what
they want. For instance, a female gorilla, living in a small group
with a powerful male who prohibits her sexual contact with other
subordinate males may use a number of tactics to give her the freedom
she desires. She may just 'get left behind' so that she is out of
sight of her leader male before she socializes or copulates or she
may invite the male of her choice to follow her, then carry out her
actions with unusual quietness, for instance suppressing the
copulation calls that she would normally make."Richard W. Byrne,
"Social and Technical Forms of Primate Intelligence," in Frans B. M.
de Waal, editor, Tree of Origin: What Primate Behavior Can Tell Us
About Human Social Evolution, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University
Press, 2001), p.154-155
Here is chimpanzees doing it:
When some primates copulate, the male (and sometimes the female)
gives copulation calls loud shrieks that attract attention from
all around Low ranking male rhesus macaques do not give these
calls as often as high-ranking ones, presumably to avoid being
bashed by a high-ranking male who does not approve of the mating.
But low-ranking male chimpanzees have been seen trying manually to
prevent their lips from parting in order to suppress copulation
callsan apparently conscious and forethinking attempt to deceive.
I once saw a Gombe chimpanzee employ tactical deception as a means
of gaining access to a female in the presence of the alpha..
Beethoven, a physically impressive but low-ranking adult male,
attempted to mate with a popular female, Gremlin. As a party of
chimpanzees sat in a clearing, he employed one of the courtship
gestures that male chimpanzees use to signal their expectations to
a femalerapidly shaking a small bush in view of the female. But
when Gremlin approached Beethoven, alpha male Wilkie interceded
and drove Beethoven off. Beethoven stayed on the periphery of a
cluster of chimpanzees in the clearing then abruptly did an
uncharacteristically bold charging display past Wilkie and Gremlin
and into the undergrowth beyond. Alpha males do not take such
insubordinate shows of machismo lightly. Wilkie followed
immediately with his own much longer charging display, which
carried him 20 meters away into a thicket, whereupon Beethoven
strolled back to Gremlin and they copulated safely out of sight of
the receding Wilkie." Craig B. Stanford, The Hunting Apes,
(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999), p. 174-175
I love this example of a chimp thinking from the persepective of others
One chimp was shown a box with food and another box with
a snake. When he was introduced to the enclosure with the rest of
the group, he took them to the box with the snake. They took
fright and retreated, whereupon he went to the box containing the
food and ate it alone. The capacity to deceive may lie as deep
within our primal ancestry as the capacity to share knowledge."
Lee R. Berger, and Brett Hilton-Barber, In the Footsteps of Eve,
(Washington, D. C.: National Geographic Press, 2000), p. 138

I write:
So? (I was going to say, "So what?", but I didn't want to be wordy ;) )
Brent Foster wrote:
 These may all indeed be
>the result of having the IOG, in which case the IOG certainly makes a
difference to behavior. But they can also be seen,
>and are by unbelievers, simply as natural properties of intellect, which is
in turn an emergent property of big brains.
Glenn wrote:
One of the arguments I was going to use against atheists, when they trotted
out the 'emergent property' argument is that calling intellect an emergent
property does not explain anything, it merely names it. There has never
been any experiment to show that if one grows a brain big intellect emerges.
Elephants have huge brains, but I suspect we are more intelligent than they.
I don't know your view of Neanderthals, but if you are going to say big
brains bring intellect, it means that Neanderthals should be more
intelligent than us--their brains were bigger.

I write:
Again this is a big so what. The point is the things you claim are indicators of the IOG, whether or not you include thinking from another's perspective, can be, and are ascribed to intellect, whether intellect is a product of big brains or whatever. Your use of natural observations to infer the supernatural IOG is akin to ID theorists using natural observations to infer a supernatural designer. It's stepping outside the bounds of science.

Brent Foster wrote:
>accept your assertion that the anthropological record can demonstrate
ability to plan ahead. But if you are saying that
>this is a sign of the IOG, then you seem to be saying that the IOG is
empirically detectible. I resp! ond to this the same
>way I respond to 1) ID claims that design is empirically detectible,
Glenn wrote:
I have gone back and forth about whether design is detectable. I have
decided that it is, but that the ID group look for it at our weakest
argument. Two things. Early in anthropology, there was a huge argument about
eoliths. These were stone tools that had one or two flakes struck off them.
Some said they were made by hominids, others said they were natural
breakage. The argument lasted for about 20 years, when one guy (forgot who,
but could look it up), created eoliths in cement mixers full of rocks. But,
the question still arose, how many flakes off a stone make a stone tool?
Some modern peoples use a single flake to cut things! It was eventually
decided that one can't be sure on a single flake, but one can know the
design based upon the angle of the flake--natural flakes have a different
angle of attack than those made by humans. So, yes, design can be invoked.
In physics, the anthropic principle is widely considered evidence of design
which is why those who don't want design have argued for the multiverse.
Here are physicists saying that the rare probability for the physical
structure of our universe is either evidence of design or of the multiverse.
Tegmark agrees that nature's fine-tuning cannot be passed off as a
mere coincidence. 'There are only two possible explanations,' he
says. Either the universe was designed specifically for us by a
creator, or there exists a large number of universes, each with
different values of the fundamental constants, and, not surprisingly
we find ourselves in one in which the constants have just the right
values to permit galaxies, stars and life." Marcus Chown, The
Universe Next Door, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), p. 103

I write:
I agree that design is detectable. And you give some good examples. I am also impressed with Dembski's use of the SETI example for empirically detectible design. But these are examples of design with a *natural* designer, that is the designer is part of the natural world. But ID theorists try to use criteria for design detection to infer a *supernatural* designer, and that's illegal for scientists. All we can say as scientists, in the event that natural evidence points to design is that we don't know. As Christians of course we see it as convincing. But as scientists we can't use natural evidence to make conclusions about the supernatural.

 Glenn wrote:
"This book is about a debate that is stirring the passions of physicists and
but is also part of a broader controversy, expecially in the United States,
where it has entered
the partisan political discourse. On one side are the people who are
convinced that the world
must have been created or designed by an intelligent agent with a benevolent
purpose. On the
other side are the hard-nosed, scientific types who feel certain that the
universe is the product
of impersonal, disinterested laws of physics, mathematics, and probabilitya
world without a
purpose, so to speak. By the first group, I don't mean the biblical
literalists who believe the
world was created six thousand years ago and are ready to fight about it. I
am talking about
thoughtful, intelligent people who look around at the world and have a hard
time believing that
it was just dumb luck that made the world so accommodating to human beings.
I don't think
these people are being stupid; they have a real point."
Leonard Susskind, The Cosmic Landscape, (New York: Little Brown and Co.,
2006), p.
Susskind is an atheist.
I had written:
and 2) athiestic claims that God is not empirically
>detectible and therefore does not exist. In other words by invoking the
impossibility of adequately addressing
>supernatural claims with natural evidence. In my opinion the IOG is not/can
not be empirically detectible.

I write:
Just because Susskind is smart enough not to use this argument doesn't mean that many atheists do.

Glenn wrote:
The IOG is empirically detectable if it is in the form of language. Our
language ability leaves marks on the inside of our brain--Broca's area,
brain lateralization etc, which we find in skulls from 2 million years ago.
Theologically I would point out that when God made Adam, the first thing he
did was have Adam name the animals. Names play a huge role in learning
language and without language, we are incredibly poor. Note the role of
names in the learning of language in both these cases below. Names are the
very basis of symbolic thought. The name is a SYMBOL.

I write:
I don't think the IOG is in the form of language. I agree that currently there is no convincing evidence that language exists in other animals. But that may not always be the case. I also agree that language is a feature that should be found in creatures with the IOG (except of course in abnormal cases of humans who are mentally deficcient), as is the ability to plan ahead. But if A is required for B, it doesn't follow that if you find A you've found B. It just means you've found a candidate for B. Of course if you find B you have found A.

In my opinion using empirically detectable characteristics of humanity as IOG detectors is somewhat of a "God of the gaps" argument. Since before Darwin's time there have been arguments along the lines of "That's what separates us from the animals", which is basically what you're saying. And as long as there are gaps between our natural abilities and characteristics, and those of the animals, everything is ok and there is room for God's image. But the problem is God's image gets pushed aside, just like God himself gets pushed aside when new discovers close the gaps in our knowledge of the natural world. It used to be tools, but that idea was demolished. I've heard some say it's the ability to think from another's perspective, but you've shown that some animals can do that too (BTW my dogs exhibit deceitful behavior similar to the chimps you mention above!). We may one day find there is absolutely nothing physical that separates us from the animals. In my opinion the only thi!
 ng that really does separate us from the animals is spiritual. Moral accountability is certainly one thing. There's no way my dogs are morally accountable, and they take full advantage of that!

BTW Glenn, I agree with 90% of what you write, which is remarkable because if I wrote a fraction of what you write, I wouldn't agree with myself 90% of the time.


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Received on Fri Mar 16 17:25:42 2007

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