Evolution, Creationism, and Intelligent Design


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William,

The thing I like most about the article is the method:

Q: Are you for A?

A: No.

Accusation: Then you are for B.

Q: Are you for B?

A: No.

Accusation: Then you are for A.

Final answer: Wrong on both counts. I am for neither. There is another alternative that falls outside that dichotomy. I use a different standard based on my observation.

Um, okay. I have no idea what this means, but okay. Me, I am for A, not B, if A means scientific understanding of the development of life on earth, and if B means Intelligent Design.

If A means scientists defending the margins of scientific teaching and discourse from religious infiltration, I am for A. If B means attempting to insert religious concepts into science education, I am against it. If A means Pharyngula and B means Uncommon Descent, then I am for A. If A is Eugenie Scott and the NCSE and B is the Discovery Institute, then I am for A.

Looking closely at Reese's piece, we find "I see no reason to include any discussion of evolution or creationism in secondary schools. There is a large volume of facts biology students need to learn without wasting their time on theories that have no practical value."

Huh? Biology students need to learn facts, but no theories? Stupid, wrong, ignorant.

First, Reese equivocates on the word "theory." In the context of biology, a theory is not a hunch, guess or speculation. It is not a hyppothesis. It is a comprehensive and integrated explanation that ties together observation and allows experiment. Other examples of theories in biology are the germ theory of disease, the cell theory of organisms, and so on. Theories are frameworks which undergird the actual work and fruit of biological studies. Without the theory of evolution, for example (and its extensions in DNA theory and population genetics, epidemiological theories, etc), where would be our abilities to immunize against influenza? Evolutionary theory undergirds the life sciences, Michael. Reese wants to excise it from science education.

Secondly, ID is not a scientific theory. It does not explain, make predictions, knit together sciences in a coherent framework. Read the Dover decision again if in doubt.

Thirdly, the practical problems of excising the theory of evolution from science education are profound. Think of a question from a student in Reese's biology class: "Ma'am, what is the significance of the fossil Tiktaalik?"

I admire this manner of thinking when I perceive it is sincere and is ones best effort. (I think this is Reese's case, but since I do not know the rest of his work, I might be mistaken.) Doing this takes courage when the issue excites strong passion and name-calling on both sides. What's more, such a person is open to rational persuasion (like physical evidence), but not peer pressure.

My apologies, but I still have not a clue what you are talking about with regard to Reese's op-ed. Passions and name-calling on both sides of what? A and B? In which case what does it matter what names are called and what passions are aroused? You come down on the side of coherent science education and Reese does not.

I don't understand what you mean when you say "Doing this takes courage." Not-A and Not-B methodology? Waffling and equivocating? Take a look at Reese's archives of op-eds for a taste of the rest of his work if you are wondering if he is indeed, as Robert, Laura and I urge you to see, on the subject of science v religion, poor in wisdom. For example, his article "Religion Essential" contains a signal remark:

I would rather live in a neighborhood of Islamic fundamentalists than in a neighborhood of atheists and agnostics. That's true. You can count on the morality that Islam teaches; there is no morality for atheists and agnostics, except what they arbitrarily choose.

Incidentally, Kat got me a present: The God Delusion by Dawkins. This will be my first Dawkins read. I look forward to it.

Glory be, Michael. Ba'ab the mighty avenger's recommendation of The Ancestor's Tale is a good one. Once you finish that book you will understand why Laure, Robert and I consider Reese to be an ignoramus on matters of evolution and the clash between A and B.

No offence, Michael, but I will have to replay your comment to Laure back to you:

I certainly do not think of you as a dishonest or stupid person. On the contrary, I have the highest respect for you and I value you greatly. You think with your own mind. But in the present case, I cannot relate to your thinking. And I am fully aware that you are expressing what is in your heart and mind and not trying to fool anybody or put on airs.

Where are you coming from? What is it I am not seeing?"

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William, The thing I like most about the article is the method: Q: Are you for A? A: No. Accusation: Then you are for B. Q: Are you for B? A: No. Accusation: Then you are for A. Final answer: Wrong

I would rather live in a neighborhood of Islamic fundamentalists than in a neighborhood of atheists and agnostics. That's true. You can count on the morality that Islam teaches; there is no morality for atheists and agnostics, except what they arbitrarily choose.

This is a fantastical statement. Dogma trumphs philosophy. Rationality gets trumphed by irrationality. Religion isn't arbitrary? The God of religion burned the God over all at the stake (Joan of Arc) for it was the instrument of the state. The morality of Islam is the state. Enjoy your neighborhood, but make sure to convert--and convert to the right Islamic sect while you're at it.

--Brant

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William,

Think of it this way. Who would you rather make laws that compel us to do things? A or B?

A = Scientists

B = Religious people

I use another standard. I don't want anyone making laws to compel us to do things.

That's oversimplified, but that's the gist of it.

Michael

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Too much selfishness and we risk peer retribution. Too much altruism and we risk too much detriment to the individual. The right balance maximizes the survival and proliferation of the individual AND the species.

Bob, you're so funny at times. Too much liberty. Too much honesty. Too nice a car. Too big a home.

:P

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Too much selfishness and we risk peer retribution. Too much altruism and we risk too much detriment to the individual. The right balance maximizes the survival and proliferation of the individual AND the species.

Bob, you're so funny at times. Too much liberty. Too much honesty. Too nice a car. Too big a home.

:P

The bottom line Wolf is that we did not evolve with solely individual attributes. Too much liberty? If you ask for an emotiional answer, the answer is "NEVER!". But the rational, scientific answer is indeed yes, there can be too much liberty. Or, more precisely, individual freedoms are generally curtailed somewhat for the collective good of the species. This is not a political statement, it's a scientific one. It's factual.

Your response borders on the "Rage against the facts" problem.

Bob

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Sacrifice as a moral/intellectual weapon to benefit the state and slavemasters by disarming the victims is the one, big, bad thing.

This is IT, right here! And I think this is where Rand's views on altruism originated. She saw the results firsthand in Soviet Russia. Rather than see her as a "sullen teenager", Bob, can't you cut her a little slack and see her as someone who saw altruism being used as a club by the Soviet thugs and who stood up and said "NO! I will not sacrifice." Perhaps Objectivism takes it to an extreme, going so far as to say that voluntary altruism is bad, too. But it's telling that when Phil Donahue asked her why it's wrong to be a self-sacrificing person, her response was "because they don't hesitate to sacrifice whole nations."

I understand her rage. But when should the truth take precedence?

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Bob,

Your altruistic behavior as behavior that costs something is not Rand's explanation of altruism: it's costing more than you get in return. Sacrifice. Now run your arguments off that.

--Brant

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Bob,

Your altruistic behavior as behavior that costs something is not Rand's explanation of altruism: it's costing more than you get in return. Sacrifice. Now run your arguments off that.

--Brant

That's right, that's my definition too - net negative. In biological terms, the 'cost' is often termed 'survival disadvantage' - same thing.

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It is my contention that man has an inherent altruistic drive, just as legitimate as any other facet of our being like sex, love, power... whatever, so that to live 'qua man' involves giving part of one's energy, time, money etc to the common good without expecting anything specific in return.

What goes with this is the enforcement either formal or informal that must be in place to minimize cheating. So if we wish to build an objective ethics (if this is even possible) then at the very least, we have to start here - in reality - and not where Rand started.

Bob

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William,

Think of it this way. Who would you rather make laws that compel us to do things? A or B?

A = Scientists

B = Religious people

Ah . . . the old who do you want to make laws gambit . . . or the old who shall be the lawmakers ploy. A or B answer demanded, I would choose A over B -- given the sad fact that most of us dwell in a thicket of laws with more laws a-coming.

Considering that most scientists describe laws of nature, rather than invent and impose them ("I oppose scientists' attempts to write the law of gravity and impose it upon me"), reality is the final arbiter.

I consider a real place like, oh, Vancouver, and a place like, oh, Qom. One with shariah, a theocracy, where I hang for homosexual behaviour. One without, where the law says I may marry. If forced to choose the lawmakers from column A or B, you can see my bias.

I use another standard. I don't want anyone making laws to compel us to do things.

Fair enough (though this reminds me of a tasteless Joan Crawford/Bette Davis exchange)† . You don't want anyone to make laws, period. That's a lovely, principled position, albeit one that posits an ideal world without zoning or traffic citations or sales tax. A lovely sun-kissed meadow where all is harmonious and compulsion is absent.

As I say, a lovely stance, but one that is mostly irrelevant to the concerns you already stated, concerns with scientists imposing on the rest of us innocent meadow-creatures.

Given reality, let's examine lawmaking with respect to evolution, creationism and intelligent design -- this is your issue.

Let's find an instance of some lawmaking that conforms to the plaint of Reese -- something that impacts education for example.

As you put it, Michael, "If a scientist wishes to become a politician and make laws, let him run for office like everyone does and become a politician. I think if a scientist wishes to impose his particular brand of science on others by law, but from the wings, I also say, "who do these scientists think they are?"

As Reese put it, "Theory becomes dogma. Dissenters are persecuted. The high priests of science want the government not only to fund them, but to enforce their dogmas with the power of the law."

How about the struggle over law in Dover Pennsylvania School District? Where the lawmakers (school board) made some educational policy:

Students will be made aware of the gaps/problems in

Darwin's theory and of other theories of evolution

including, but not limited to, intelligent design. Note:

Origins of life is not taught.

The policy required that all science teachers be compelled to read the following paragraphs to their secondary biology students:

The Pennsylvania Academic Standards require students to

learn about Darwin's theory of evolution and eventually to

take a standardized test of which evolution is a part.

Because Darwin's Theory is a theory, it is still being

tested as new evidence is discovered. The Theory is not a

fact. Gaps in the Theory exist for which there is no

evidence. A theory is defined as a well-tested explanation

that unifies a broad range of observations.

Intelligent design is an explanation of the origin of life

that differs from Darwin's view. The reference book, Of

Pandas and People is available for students to see if they

would like to explore this view in an effort to gain an

understanding of what intelligent design actually

involves.

As is true with any theory, students are encouraged to

keep an open mind. The school leaves the discussion of the

origins of life to individual students and their families.

As a standards-driven district, class instruction focuses

upon preparing students to achieve proficiency on

standards-based assessments.

So, you know what ultimately happened there in Dover, Michael, in the real world. I am curious as to how your standard applies to this situation. Maybe there shouldn't be state schools, maybe there shouldn't be academic standards, maybe there shouldn't be compulsion or laws or any of the excreta of civilization . . . but in the end, does your standard tell you that the content of the science class be dictated by religious people or by scientists? In the very instance alluded to by Reese, where do you come down?

Or is this not a good example of your awful scientist, who "wishes to impose his particular brand of science on others by law"?

What I particularly dislike about Reese's op-ed is that it is has no explicit references to reality, no illustrations, no concretes at all. This makes it easy to agree with a tenet or two ('No state education! No compulsion! No dang scientists imposing their dang speculations in law!") -- without examining pesky real-world examples that illustrate the tenets in action.

Consider again what Reese is talking about, Michael, and your statements in support of him:

"My main conflict with the evolutionists is that they wish to assert their theory as fact and to employ government power to ban discussion of creationism and intelligent design on the grounds that they are unscientific or, worse from their point of view, religious."

Reese's article implicitly comments on the clash in Dover, and similar clashes that reached higher courts.** It is obvious to me that you side with the evolutionists in Dover, and equally obvious that Reese is against. Thus I don't understand at all how you give him plaudits for expressing a view contrary to your own.

In any case, the matter of law was not decided by majority vote, but by a jurist. And it was those danged founding fathers who imposed that danged original compulsion -- the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States -- that has repeatedly hammered the creationist attempts to encroach.

_________________________

† Jane Hudson (Davis) has just served her sister Blanche a rat for dinner. Blanche cries, "You wouldn't treat me this way if I wasn't in a wheelchair!" Jane replies, with unerring logic and malevolence: "But you are in a wheelchair, Blanche, but you are."

** Epperson v. Arkansas, Edwards v. Aguillard

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It is my contention that man has an inherent altruistic drive, just as legitimate as any other facet of our being like sex, love, power... whatever, so that to live 'qua man' involves giving part of one's energy, time, money etc to the common good without expecting anything specific in return.

What goes with this is the enforcement either formal or informal that must be in place to minimize cheating. So if we wish to build an objective ethics (if this is even possible) then at the very least, we have to start here - in reality - and not where Rand started.

Bob

I'd say inherent social-epistemological drive. It has to do with generally valuing life and acting to protect that value. To say "no" to that in any particular respect is to say "yes" to being more alone, pretty difficult to a social being. That's why I don't refer to such behavior as "altruistic." Banishment, including self-banishment, is a terrible fate. Even most suicides need an audience, hoping for the immortality that comes from fostered off feelings of guilt.

--Brant

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Ah . . . the old who do you want to make laws gambit . . . or the old who shall be the lawmakers ploy. A or B answer demanded, I would choose A over B -- given the sad fact that most of us dwell in a thicket of laws with more laws a-coming.

Considering that most scientists describe laws of nature, rather than invent and impose them ("I oppose scientists' attempts to write the law of gravity and impose it upon me"), reality is the final arbiter.

William,

I do apologize, but I cannot resist. Is this person the kind of scientist you are talking about?

Dean H. Kenyon

Here are his educational bonafides:

Kenyon received a BSc in physics from the University of Chicago in 1961 and a Ph.D. in biophysics from Stanford University in 1965. In 1965-1966 he was a National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow in Chemical Biodynamics at the University of California, Berkeley, a Research Associate at Ames Research Center. In 1966 he became Assistant Professor at San Francisco State University until 1969.

But then again, there is that sticky little book Of Pandas and People that he co-authored which helped fuel the ID controversy from the creationist side.

If you don't like that scientist, what would your criteria be for a scientist to make laws about what should be taught in public schools? That he be an atheist? To me, that would be just as unconstitutional as requiring religion.

You took my gambit. Check.

:)

What I particularly dislike about Reese's op-ed is that it is has no explicit references to reality, no illustrations, no concretes at all. This makes it easy to agree with a tenet or two ('No state education! No compulsion! No dang scientists imposing their dang speculations in law!") -- without examining pesky real-world examples that illustrate the tenets in action.

Consider again what Reese is talking about, Michael, and your statements in support of him:

"My main conflict with the evolutionists is that they wish to assert their theory as fact and to employ government power to ban discussion of creationism and intelligent design on the grounds that they are unscientific or, worse from their point of view, religious."

Actually I do have a problem with Reese's argument, but it is not the same as yours. Reese did not specify how it should be taught. If ID is taught as religion or within a religion-based context, I see no problem with it. Why not? It's out there in society with best-selling books, etc., and the student will encouter it in life.

If ID is taught as science, though, I see a big honking problem. As I understand the prohibition based on constitutional grounds, it rests on separation of church and state. That means no religious premises unless they can be proven and validated by scientific testing. I fully agree with this.

As I understand it, and I may be wrong so don't quote me on this, religious teaching can be presented in public schools, as someone hinted earlier in this thread, in the same manner as Greek mythology is taught. I even remember learning religious dances and rituals from different religions cultures when I went to school back in the 60's. I see no problem with ID being presented that way. In fact, I think the ideas of all major religions should be taught like that, too, so that students can see one of the main reasons why adults constantly kill each other when they grow up.

Michael

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[my emphsis]

Or, more precisely, individual freedoms are generally curtailed somewhat for the collective good of the species. This is not a political statement, it's a scientific one. It's factual.

Hello? And here I'd thought you were talking about "selfish gene" theory. Are you aware that Dawkins, who coined that name for the theory, has been one of the staunchest critics of any idea that evolution occurs on the level of "survival of 'the species'"?

Mesuspects that you are drawing political conclusions from a misunderstood scientific theory.

Ellen

___

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I can see there is a great deal of misunderstanding of what the theory of evolution is about.

1. It is NOT about how life originated on this planet. Such theories are about abiogenesis or how life appeared in a place where there was no life prior. Nobody really knows how the original living beings on this planet came to be here. They may be emerged from physical processes involving non-living material or they may have been transported here on comets and meteors during the formation of the solar system. This latter hypothesis pushes the question of the origin of life back a step. If the original material of the cosmos was not living then life could only emerge by way of some natural process involving matter.

2. The theory of evolution is about how life changes from earlier forms and how it diversifies by adaptation and natural selection. The current living matter on Earth is quite different from what it was three billion (or so years ago). As recently as two billion years before present there were no multi celled living beings.

Now for a really fine lecture on the theory of evolution in its modern state (neo-Darwinism) I recommend you go to:

http://video.google.com/videosearch?q=Rich...amp;sitesearch=

The lecture is 72 minutes long so set aside an hour and a quarter. This is Dawkins at his best. He is not beating his atheism drum, but delivering a solid lecture on the development of the theory of evolution into its modern state. This is not your great-great-grandfather's theory of evolution. It seems the theory of evolution has evolved!

Ba'al ChatzaF

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It is my contention that man has an inherent altruistic drive, just as legitimate as any other facet of our being like sex, love, power... whatever, so that to live 'qua man' involves giving part of one's energy, time, money etc to the common good without expecting anything specific in return.

What goes with this is the enforcement either formal or informal that must be in place to minimize cheating. So if we wish to build an objective ethics (if this is even possible) then at the very least, we have to start here - in reality - and not where Rand started.

Bob

Bob -

What does this mean? Specifically, that is. Are you only saying that you believe individual people get pleasure from helping other people? What does "giving . . . . to the common good without expecting anything specific in return?" I do many things because I enjoy doing them, and don't expect some other person to give me something specific in return. I am certain all of us do. (Certainty level is Peikoffian + 1.) Nothing altruistic at all about doing something because you enjoy doing them.

Bill P (Alfonso)

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[my emphsis]

Or, more precisely, individual freedoms are generally curtailed somewhat for the collective good of the species. This is not a political statement, it's a scientific one. It's factual.

Hello? And here I'd thought you were talking about "selfish gene" theory. Are you aware that Dawkins, who coined that name for the theory, has been one of the staunchest critics of any idea that evolution occurs on the level of "survival of 'the species'"?

Mesuspects that you are drawing political conclusions from a misunderstood scientific theory.

Ellen

___

Just take him at face value. Collective good. Some people say public goods. He means government, the state, the tribe. Next it will be free medicine, food and computers for Africans, emergency loot for Burmese tyrants, windfall profits tax on oil companies. If I had to guess, I'd say Bob was a government employee.

<_<

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Ah . . . the old who do you want to make laws gambit . . . or the old who shall be the lawmakers ploy. A or B answer demanded, I would choose A over B -- given the sad fact that most of us dwell in a thicket of laws with more laws a-coming.

Considering that most scientists describe laws of nature, rather than invent and impose them ("I oppose scientists' attempts to write the law of gravity and impose it upon me"), reality is the final arbiter.

William,

I do apologize, but I cannot resist. Is this person the kind of scientist you are talking about?

Dean H. Kenyon

Um, no. You gave an A and B, a forced choice, a false analogy to the actual issues at head: evolution, creationism/intelligent design in science/biology curriculum. There are actually two sides, but you apply Kenyon to the wrong side of the equation, thus equivocating on the word scientist. Clearly in the context of creationism/intelligent design, Kenyon is a partisan. He rejects evolution.

Actually I do have a problem with Reese's argument, but it is not the same as yours. Reese did not specify how it should be taught.

Right. Reese says evolution should not be taught in high school biology.

If ID is taught as science, though, I see a big honking problem.

Really? Then you come down on the side of teaching evolution, against Reese and the creationists, and I can get back to gamboling in the meadow.

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William,

I have a few minor points (like thinking that Kenyon is a scientist), but they are not worth robbing the joy. Unlike Reese, I have no problem with teaching a scientific theory in a science class, so long as it is presented as a theory and not a preordained fact. Where I sympathize with Reese is in weariness with all the useless bickering and posturing this engendered, especially in the press.

Will you look at that? After saying that the minor points were not worth robbing the joy, there I go blabbering on and on about them. Dayaamm!

Don't pay it any mind. Frolic away.

:)

Michael

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Bob Mac:

~ I never implied that 'alien seeding' was incompatible with 'evolution.' --- I was implying that if 'Creationism' is to be considered by proponents as an alternative hypothesis, then, thereby, so should also 'alien seeding', but, you won't hear/see them bring that up. Indeed, Stanley Kubrick and Arthur Clarke did a movie on their own version of this idea re 'mental' (not even physical) seeding.

~ Interesting that Reese subtley boils all of anti-evolutionists probs down to the very single node and point of where/when/how 'life' starts (physically, however, if at all, 'defined'), and really seems to have no prob with the ideas about any later development/changes/stages. Most evolutionists (except reductionists) are more concerned with the latter, while their opponents seem more concerned with the former. --- Makes me wonder, if scientists ever create 'life' in the lab, how anti-evolutionists would regard this; religionists would consider it 'soul-less;' but, agnostics like Reese? Hmmm...

LLAP

J:D

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Natural selection can be observed, evolution cannot. 'Evolution' is what we think happens when natural selection occurs for long periods of time. This is the way I understand it. I think Micheal's idea of teaching comparative religion in schools is intriguing but I daresay he would find much resistance from religious parents who wouldn't want their particular brand of religion simply viewed as one type of "mythology".

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[my emphsis]

Or, more precisely, individual freedoms are generally curtailed somewhat for the collective good of the species. This is not a political statement, it's a scientific one. It's factual.

Hello? And here I'd thought you were talking about "selfish gene" theory. Are you aware that Dawkins, who coined that name for the theory, has been one of the staunchest critics of any idea that evolution occurs on the level of "survival of 'the species'"?

Mesuspects that you are drawing political conclusions from a misunderstood scientific theory.

Ellen

___

Yes, the "good of the species" is what I said, but you're right, that's not really the case. Let's see if I can clear that up, but keep it simple.

The ideas I'm trying to express come from evolutionary ideas, biology, and game theory combination research. We, again, are gene replicators. We are most successful at replicating genes when some of our actions are non-specificically altruistic, meaning not necessarily expecting reciprocity. We also know (or evidence suggests) that this type of behaviour is hard-wired as a result, or as a cause, however you might look at it. "For the good of the species" is not accurate, but simpler. Let me change that to "non-reciprocal, non kin-based, altruistic behaviour".

Bob

Edited by Bob_Mac
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Natural selection can be observed, evolution cannot. 'Evolution' is what we think happens when natural selection occurs for long periods of time. This is the way I understand it. I think Micheal's idea of teaching comparative religion in schools is intriguing but I daresay he would find much resistance from religious parents who wouldn't want their particular brand of religion simply viewed as one type of "mythology".

"'Evolution' is what we think happens "

Change 'think' to 'know'.

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[my emphsis]

Or, more precisely, individual freedoms are generally curtailed somewhat for the collective good of the species. This is not a political statement, it's a scientific one. It's factual.

Hello? And here I'd thought you were talking about "selfish gene" theory. Are you aware that Dawkins, who coined that name for the theory, has been one of the staunchest critics of any idea that evolution occurs on the level of "survival of 'the species'"?

Mesuspects that you are drawing political conclusions from a misunderstood scientific theory.

Ellen

___

Just take him at face value. Collective good. Some people say public goods. He means government, the state, the tribe. Next it will be free medicine, food and computers for Africans, emergency loot for Burmese tyrants, windfall profits tax on oil companies. If I had to guess, I'd say Bob was a government employee.

<_<

Collective behaviour is part of the 'qua' of man qua man. That's factual and that's a fundamental flaw in pure individualistic perspectives - reality denial.

Government employee? Nope, the exact opposite - small business owner. But I have worked for the government at the federal level in the past.

I have learned that Government is not stupid, stupid Government is stupid. I am very much a conservative, just not a loonie.

Bob

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"'Evolution' is what we think happens "

Change 'think' to 'know'.

Why? When enough scientists think some theory makes sense it's called knowledge and so we "know" it. This doesn't change the fact that we "think" it.

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Government employee? Nope... I have worked for the government at the federal level in the past.

I apologize profusely and stand corrected: ex-government employee.

Bob, I know you're an intelligent guy. I won't argue with you. But I have to sweep my side of the street, for the record:

I defy anyone to name a single instance of governmental action that succeeded in achieving its intended outcome. Above all, please don't tell me that you filed an honest tax return, or that you know someone who did. No public work was raised without delay, confusion, cost overrun, graft, or outright disaster as a final consequence. Every morning, the state mangles reason and justice to perform simple tasks that private actors ( a ) would not undertake because the project is stupid; or ( b ) could do faster, cheaper, and better than government; or ( c ) are implicitly required to do anyway, since the state has no competence except that which is supplied by private contractors. All the U.S. politicians and bureaucrats combined could not repair a flush toilet. Defacto Anarchy

:D

Edited by Wolf DeVoon
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