Re: [asa] Nothing_in_Biology_Makes_Sense_Except_in_the_Light_of_Evolution

From: George Murphy <>
Date: Tue Aug 04 2009 - 11:13:58 EDT

Several things need to be borne in mind about Teilhard.

1st, he wasn't allowed by his superiors to publish anything in theology. This means that what we have of his that deals with evolution is his own reflections, circulated perhaps privately. That means that he didn't get the kind of criticism that would have enabled him to sharpen his ideas & presentation. (As one of my sem profs said, "Teilhard did not major in clarity.") This also accounts for the repetitive character of many of his now-published essays.)

2d, Teilhard didn't like the Darwinian version of evolutionary theory very much, which isn't surprising given when & where he grew up & was educated. (I suspect, though I've bnever checked this out, that Bergson had some influence on him.) He seems to accept the idea that natural selection is what drives evolution rather grudgingly, & I get the impression that he'd really prefer Lamarck but realizes that that doesn't work in the biological realm. A lot of his theological reflections have to do with cultural rather than biological evolution & he's right in pointing out that in culture, education has a Lamarckian character.

3d, while Teilhard was certainly a TE in the broad meaning of the term, he is hardly typical, especially of TEs today. OTOH his approach is a version of process theology, so if one makes the relatively small step of equating "process with evolution", the 1st sentence you quote below is almost axiomatic. OTOH his discomfort with Darwin that I mentioned above & the Roman Catholic tradition on natural theology suggests that today he'd be comfortable with some aspects of the ID movement.

(& 4th, mentioning the RC tradition here may seem odd to some who think of Teilhard as being at odds with the church. But in important ways he was a traditional RC - something that Protestants may see more easily that Catholics.)


  ----- Original Message -----
  From: David Clounch
  To: David Campbell
  Sent: Tuesday, August 04, 2009 12:35 AM
  Subject: Re: [asa] Nothing_in_Biology_Makes_Sense_Except_in_the_Light_of_Evolution

  The wiki article quotes de Chardin:

  "(Evolution) is a general postulate to which all theories, all hypotheses, all systems must henceforward bow and which they must satisfy in order to be thinkable and true. Evolution is a light which illuminates all facts, a trajectory which all lines of thought must follow this is what evolution is."

  Ahem, well, biological evolution does not explain cosmological history. Indeed, these are entirely two different topics.
  So de Chardin's statement is patently untrue. (It is difficult to see how this does TE any kind of favor.)
  De Chardin's statement is untrue except in one case: where evolution is defined in the broadest possible sense to mean "any physical change". But then it is so broad that it cannot be anything but true. It then is difficult to see how it supports, say, theism, and rejects non-theism. Why? Because it is not specific enough to differentiate the two. It is the kind of theory one can always adapt to make true no matter what. It cannot fail. Everything always changes.

  So building a philosophy based on this type of statement seems a very weak argument. It then becomes mind boggling that the NCSE started building on a house of cards. Not even the New Atheist movement seems that inept to me.

  If one defines creationism as "a concept of origins involving theism" then TE is clearly creationism. The only way to not be creationist is to be non-theist (there are none of those) or anti-theist (which is what atheism really is).

  OK, so then define creationism as something other than "a concept of origins involving theism". But what exactly?
  How is it that creationism must be excluded from schools if it *isnt* aligned with theism? Explain that please.

  This seems like a rock and a hard place.


  On Mon, Aug 3, 2009 at 10:19 PM, David Campbell <> wrote:

>> But in the past few years, what I've started to find odd is the insistence that evolution is the single most
>> important scientific claim in town...

    Obviously, there's the fact that it is the about the most vigorously
    contested (in the popular arena) scientific claim that is generally
    accepted in the scientific community (though global warming is
    similar). There's also the fact that many are trying to push
    evolution as part of a more or less atheistic agenda.

    On the other hand, Wile's YEC middle school science textbook tries to
    attack the credibility of science (except YEC claims) across the
    board, and more generally a lot of other scientific errors generally
    are promoted as a part of antievolutionism.

    However, public grasp of other issues is probably about as bad if not
    worse. Science News several years back had a comparison of views on
    science from a survey taken at a fairly conservative Christian
    gathering and at a neopagan-type gathering; the latter overall were
    further from scientific reality (even often on age of the earth).

> Because the NAs need evolution to be true with only natural causes so that they can be intellectually fulfilled atheists.<

    Many "new atheists" try vigorously to give the impression that their
    intellect is weak enough to be fulfilled by evolution, such as when
    they claim that evolution allowed one to be intellectually fulfilled
    atheists. On the one hand, I doubt that Dawkins really wants to claim
    that all the pre-evolution atheists were idiots who should have been
    theists instead. On the other hand, biological evolution fails to
    provide intellectual fulfillment for atheists on two counts. First,
    NA's are assuming scientism. Evolution provides a good explanation of
    how biology works. But in claiming that evolution provides
    intellectual fulfillment, they are assuming that a scientific
    explanation of origins is all that they need for intellectual
    fulfillment. Second, even if you grant that, evolution was not the
    last missing link in providing a scientific explanation of origins.
    20th century developments in physics and cosmology (e.g., fusion as a
    stellar energy source) are necessary to provide a reasonably complete
    scientific model of origins.

    Dr. David Campbell
    425 Scientific Collections
    University of Alabama
    "I think of my happy condition, surrounded by acres of clams"

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Received on Tue Aug 4 11:15:11 2009

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