RE: [asa] social evolution for Jon Tandy

From: Jon Tandy <>
Date: Tue May 12 2009 - 12:04:24 EDT



You have brought together several different kinds of evolution, or rather
change. In my e-mail, I asked, "If there is anything even remotely related
to the use of the term evolution in these two genres, what is it? I submit
it's the use of the term 'evolution' as 'change over time', which is such a
vague usage that I believe it is equivocation to relate the two." I'm
curious of your answer to my question about "whether God evolves," since his
methods of dealing with mankind seem to have changed over time.


Would it be fair to say that a person "evolves" through stages of fetus
development, childhood, adolescence, and so on? As with all the other
examples given, this technically fits the broadest definition of "evolution"
as change over time, or your definition of getting to point C by going
through points A and B. But does this use of the term "evolution" provide
any value to the conversation, either from a scientific or a metaphysical
understanding of human development? We all know that we change over time.
And neither does "evolution" even in human development always mean
"progress", as our bodies wear down over time, and eventually die and decay.


So my previous response on this thread was about your use of the term
"evolution" as it applies to social concepts. Your comments, in turn, were
to Gregory's statement that ethics don't "evolve naturally" as biological
entities evolve naturally, because they are not "natural" entities. I'm
sure there are valid critiques of Gregory's position, and I've provided
some, but in many ways the type of response that you (and social Darwinists,
for instance) are offering is not necessarily helpful to the discussion. If
social evolution simply means change over time, or going from A to C through
point B, then it applies to regress in social morals or enlightened ideology
as well as progress, does it not? I believe it's easy to establish that
social morals don't simply progress to more advanced and developed, but
sometimes go backward. In either event, regression or progress (setting
aside for a moment how should we define "progress" in moral issues), how
does this answer the question about whether ethics are "natural entities" or
not, and whether their change over time is purely "natural" in the same
sense as a natural scientist would define it?


I offered some suggestions as to how social concepts, such as anti-slavery
or ethics in general, might have "evolved", which I'll elaborate further


1. Random changes in human thought, which might imply the absence of any
higher direction - running the tape again might lead to different sets of
ethics in various human cultures. Anti-slavery was just a happy accident, a
random thought that happened to take hold of our society;


2. Inevitable consequence of human history, such as convergent evolution
suggests for biology - maybe there are either divinely frontloaded "laws" to
which ethics must inevitably have migrated, or else fundamental properties
of nature (absent a divine purpose) that serve the same end;


3. Exercise of human agency to purpose and enact certain moral standards
(with or without any underlying divine guidance, depending on one's
philosophy) - if this be the case, can you say the outcome is "natural"
since it requires human will to stand against the flow of the status quo


4. God's providential guidance over the affairs of men led to the
development of certain societal ethics, just as the suggestion of full
divine Providence might apply to cosmology and biology, as Ted has
elaborated previously. This idea is not necessarily mutually exclusive of
any of the above "mechanisms" of change, except perhaps #1.


5. God's overt influence over the development of ethics, such as revealing
His law to Moses or through the revelation of Jesus Christ.


There may be others that I haven't thought of. I would venture to guess
that many on this list would reject #1 and possibly #2 for the development
of social concepts including morality and religion, without a healthy dose
of #3, #4 and/or #5 being included. I see #3 as a human design inference,
#4 as a divine design inference, and #5 (direct revelation of God) is the
equivalent of a "miracle" that has been discussed more in the context of the
natural sciences. If so, can such influences be studied in the context of
social sciences? If I'm correct in my guess, why are we more willing to
consider design or miracle in social issues than in the natural sciences?


Jon Tandy


From: [] On
Behalf Of Dehler, Bernie
Sent: Monday, May 11, 2009 3:16 PM
To: 'ASA'
Subject: RE: [asa] social evolution for Jon Tandy


Hi Jon- I changed the subject title to reflect this post and the old one was


Social evolution is different from biological evolution just as it is
different from cosmological evolution.


Evolution defined my way means "to get to point c you have to travel from
point a through point b." Things just don't pop-out of thin air.


In biological evolution, man came from apelike creatures, which eventually
game from sea creatures, etc.


In cosmological evolution all the elements of the periodic table can be
traced back to the explosion of stars.


In social evolution all of the advanced social traits can be traced


Example: in finance (an institutional machine created by society which is
invisible), we recently had 'credit default swaps' (which some blame for the
current credit crisis) These could never have been invented without the
backbone of mortgages, bonds, etc. first existing.


Slavery vs. freedom. Freedom is a superior thought, and that it why it took
awhile to arise and be predominate in advanced civilizations. Lower forms
of life practice and condone slavery, as well as racism (unequal rights
based on race).


Nuclear power is not good or bad. How it is used is good or bad. Nuclear
power may be a good energy source (I'm not educated in that debate). Maybe
nuclear weapons are good for deterrence, but bad in actual use. like the gun
your neighbor has.


You say:
"Or did these social concepts evolve naturally, with God's providential
guidance over the affairs of men. "


What's wrong with nature if God made it? Your body heals itself. Plants
can grow on their own without your help. Does that detract from God in some





From: Jon Tandy []
Sent: Monday, May 11, 2009 7:42 AM
To: 'ASA'; Dehler, Bernie
Subject: FW: [asa] fall of Satan logic questions (racism)


Bernie, I'm not sure whether you received this originally through the ASA
list. No one seemed to comment on it, but I was curious of your reaction to
my comments. Here it is again, with a few corrections that I sent just
after the original.


If this didn't come through the ASA list originally, I'm curious to know why


Jon Tandy


From: [] On
Behalf Of Jon Tandy
Sent: Thursday, May 07, 2009 11:25 AM
To: 'ASA'
Subject: RE: [asa] fall of Satan logic questions (racism)




Did those things "evolve" naturally, through random changes in human
condition, as either a happy accident (truly random mutation) or an
inevitable consequence of human history (sort of as is proposed
biologically, with convergent evolution being set up to converge on certain
outcomes)? If humanistic sociologists tell you that anti-slavery policies
or women's rights naturally evolved as a consequence of larger brains
developing their own standards of moral fairness, in the absence of God or
an absolute moral law, how will you answer them?


Or did humans exercise the choice to take a stand to change the status quo,
in response to a sense of moral obligation to some higher law of justice,
equality, and fairness? Did they willingly choose to exercise free will,
even to suffering the consequences, to stand up against the seemingly
"natural" status quo of mankind's oppression and subjugation of other
groups? Think of Wilbur Wilburforce, Abraham Lincoln, Susan B. Anthony, and
many others who have exercised great labor and sacrifice to bring about
these changes in social thought, and tell me whether this has anything to do
with evolution - at least anything even remotely related to the term
"evolution" as used by the natural scientists in the field of biology. Men
fought and died in the United States both defending slavery and opposing it;
one side prevailed, and slavery is now illegal. How can this be said to be


Oh, and by the way, what about slavery as still practiced in other parts of
the world? Have they not evolved as far, socially, as we in the "developed"
world have, as evidenced by our attention to human rights of life, liberty,
and the pursuit of happiness? Is this not just a bit rosy-eyed and biased
toward the so-called developed world? How many of those in the
underdeveloped world have dropped nuclear weapons or Agent Orange or carpet
bombed populations of civilians, or bilked billions of dollars from unwary
citizens and third-world governments? (all things that our non-slavery,
women's suffrage, minority rights culture in the United States has done over
the last 60 years) What does "evolution" mean in this context?


If there is anything even remotely related to the use of the term evolution
in these two genres, what is it? I submit it's the use of the term
"evolution" as "change over time", which is such a vague usage that I
believe it is equivocation to relate the two. Everything changes over time,
doesn't it? Oh, except God. But that's not even true. Okay, theologically
I believe that "God changes not." But if you look at God's dealing with
Israel (law of Moses, Abraham-centric religion) vs. His dealing with the
ancient prophets of Israel (who spoke against the law in some ways, calling
the people to a higher law of the heart) vs. His dealing with the early
church vs. later Christian religion - one might make a good case that God
does change in His dealings and even His explicit legal requirements for
believers. I could provide an answer to that for the critics, but if you
are going to use such a broad definition of evolution that takes in any
change over time, then God evolves. Are you willing to deal with the
theological consequences?


Or did these social concepts evolve naturally, with God's providential
guidance over the affairs of men, in the same way that natural scientists
have proposed for God's governance over the biological and cosmological
history of the universe? I find this a very attractive belief, both in the
natural and social sciences - God typically interacts with the cosmos below
the surface, so to speak, to providentially direct its development in
certain directions, while allowing the natural forces of cause and effect
(and human free will) to act independently in many ways (and not ruling out
overt dealings, such as miracles). Again, the meaning of "evolution" in a
social sciences context seems meaningless other than "change," and seems
more related to the goal of atheistic social scientists to preach a
non-theistic philosophy of human development. Even if providence is true,
just as in the natural sciences the concept of providence is a theological
construct, not something that is provable or meaningful in a scientific
context. Oh, one more - if evolution is simply "change over time", then the
water evolved into wine at the marriage of Cana. Does this have any meaning
or positive value, biologically, socially, philosophically or theologically?


Jon Tandy


From: [] On
Behalf Of Dehler, Bernie
Sent: Thursday, May 07, 2009 9:32 AM
Subject: RE: [asa] fall of Satan logic questions (racism)


"Ethics, well, they just 'don't evolve' in so far as they are not biological
or otherwise 'natural' things."


All of these ethics have evolved (changed for the better):

-- Slavery (was universally condoned, now shunned by developed nations)
-- Women's rights (equal pay for equal work, for example)
-- Minority rights (for African Americans, as an example)


That's a small listing. Another huge category is Military operations.
Example: carpet-bombing a city was a natural tool of war- now it is
denounced as immoral (replaced with "surgical strikes"). Notice the
negative connotation of WMD. probably used to be good as a show of strength,
as "we have WMD's, don't mess with us!"


You can't put religion in science because there is no common understanding
of religion. There are different religions, and different flavors within
religions (Catholic, Protestant, Pentecostal, etc.). There's also no way to
measure anything with religion, because it is super-natural (it has to be
natural to measure).




To unsubscribe, send a message to with
"unsubscribe asa" (no quotes) as the body of the message.
Received on Tue May 12 12:05:10 2009

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Tue May 12 2009 - 12:05:10 EDT