RE: [asa] social evolution for Jon Tandy

From: Dehler, Bernie <bernie.dehler@intel.com>
Date: Tue May 12 2009 - 16:31:42 EDT

Hi Jon-

 I usually don't take the time to read such long emails. Usually if it is over three paragraphs I don't read them. Here's my response:

Jon: "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."

If God is eternal, then I don't think it makes sense to say he evolves (he would have been done evolving a lot time ago if there was an infinite regression). We can't comprehend an eternal being.

Jon: "Would it be fair to say that a person "evolves" through stages of fetus development, childhood, adolescence, and so on? "

I don't think so. That seems like simple development. Like building a house, starting with the foundation and ending with a paint job. But going from a basic shelter design to a mansion design (two types of radically different shelters) would go thru many steps of evolution. Things would be invented along the way, such as plumbing, wiring, etc. You don't just jump from a civilization to knowing how to build a shelter to the next day building a mansion (with wiring, plumbing, etc). The idea on how to build a shelter evolved- those are memes.

Jon: "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. "

What's the alternative to ethics evolving naturally- them evolving supernaturally?

Yes- some things evolve downwards, but my point is you can't have the finer things from evolution without passing through previous stages- building upon them.

Your point 1: No- I'm not saying thoughts are random. Not at all. Thoughts should be logical to progress.

Your point 2: Maybe it is inevitable we will do the right thing. If we don't, we will exterminate ourselves. Nature will probably start over with cockroaches.

Your point 3: "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 ethos?;" Is your alternative to 'natural' being 'supernatural?'

Your point 4: There is a participation with God and man to do God's will on Earth. Moses could have entered the promised land 40 years earlier if the people would have obeyed, and all of history on planet Earth would have been different.

If you have more correspondence- please try to keep it to 2 or 3 paragraphs, or I can't participate.

...Bernie
________________________________
From: asa-owner@lists.calvin.edu [mailto:asa-owner@lists.calvin.edu] On Behalf Of Jon Tandy
Sent: Tuesday, May 12, 2009 9:04 AM
To: 'ASA'
Subject: RE: [asa] social evolution for Jon Tandy

Bernie,

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 here:

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 ethos?;

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: asa-owner@lists.calvin.edu [mailto:asa-owner@lists.calvin.edu] 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 tired.

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 backwords.

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 way?

...Bernie

________________________________
From: Jon Tandy [mailto:tandyland@earthlink.net]
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 not.

Jon Tandy

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

Bernie,

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 evolution?

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: asa-owner@lists.calvin.edu [mailto:asa-owner@lists.calvin.edu] On Behalf Of Dehler, Bernie
Sent: Thursday, May 07, 2009 9:32 AM
To: ASA
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).

,,,Bernie

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Received on Tue May 12 16:35:46 2009

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