Mohler on Darwinism

Click here to read a column written by Dr. Albert Mohler on the issue of Darwin’s Durability.

While on this topic, there’s something that has always confused me which is somewhat related. Whatever your political views, we can all agree that the Native Americans were swept away in the name of ‘Manifest Destiny’? Are we all agreed on that? They wanted to continue living off the land but the European settlers had other plans and thus prevented the Indians from their way of life, right? Even staunch revisionists like Howard Zinn will agree to this though his rhetoric might be more fiery than what I used here.

Let’s say that I’m a naturalist (for a definition of this worldview click here) and I’m upset by how the ‘white man’ brutalized the noble savages that were the Native Americans. I’m upset at the arrogance of these Old Worlders thinking they can come in here and wipe out a people (thought there was more than one tribe) just because they believe that thus saith the Lord.

There are folks like this and if I was in this crowd why would I be so upset at the near eradication of the Native American and his culture? Is it not merely ‘survival of the fittest’? The Native Americans were unfit to continue their way of life when their environment changed and thus they nearly perish. The artificial selection argument doesn’t work because isn’t man from nature? Thus isn’t anything that man does a result of natural selection? Anyway I could never reconcile the naturalist worldview with the outrage shown towards ‘Manifest Destiny.’

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15 Responses to Mohler on Darwinism

  1. edarrell says:

    No, shooting Native Americans is not “survival of the fittest.” As Darwin noted in several places, but especially in Descent of Man, it’s survival of the idiot Europeans with guns, over the more fit-to-the-environment aboriginals. Darwin first noted the potential for the phenomenon with inhabitants of Tierra del Fuego, Fuegians — on the voyage, the Beagle returned to his native land a Feugian who had been captured on a previous voyage, taken to England and “civilized.” Darwin lamented the situation in Tasmania, where a quarter-century war against the native Tasmanians by Europeans with guns had decimated the Tasmanians.

    Darwin likely would have said the Native Americans were the more fit for life in the outdoors, on the plains, or in the mountains and deserts of America. Their eradication, by use of disease, guns, relocations and destruction of their food sources and culture, might qualify by the creationist notion of “survival of the fittest” as espoused by the orginator of that phrase, Herbert Spencer — but Darwin didn’t like the phrase, and he despised the social claims made by Spencer and his allies.

    If one reads Darwin and understands, then one realizes that the outrage toward the stupid eradication of peoples is natural, noble and good, in people who believe that genetic and cultural diversity is a clear survival advantage.

    Have you read Darwin? It’s not really clear, but it appears as though perhaps you have some ideas about what Darwin said that are less than accurate.

  2. edarrell says:

    Mohler, arguing for elitist religionists, appears also to have not read Darwin, nor much science at all. What is it he has against accuracy in lab experiments and reports?

  3. Lazaro says:

    you’re right it’s not survival of the fittest, my mistake, it’s natural selection or is it?… for some reason or another the Euros’ interaction with their environments (in Europe that is) resulted in the phenotypes needed to develop weapons to conquer the natives, so how can their actions be bad? I say this because often the Euros are demonized on the strength of what they did to the natives… Are they liable for the diseases they brought with them upon their migration? Nature hadn’t supplied the natives with the genotypes to protect them.

    Of course what I said is null and void if natural selection doesn’t apply to human interactions, but if it doesn’t why doesn’t it? if we are products of nature why doesn’t it apply to us? Does Darwin make this clear? What is his basis for this thought?

    guilty as charged my friend… i tried reading ‘on the origin of species’ when I was a staunch naturalist but I had to put it down, found it too boring…

  4. Lazaro says:

    As for Dr. Mohler not reading Darwin, that you must ask him, don’t know the man personally… what makes him an elitist religionist?

  5. Lazaro says:

    How many years after “Origin..” was “The Descent of Man” written? The scenario I posed was from a naturalist not from a Darwininan point of view, I’m guessing that there’s a difference, isn’t there? Surely, naturalism was around before Darwin was a gleam in his father’s eye, no? Darwin just gave naturalists a solid theory on the diversity of species, right?

  6. edarrell says:

    No, it’s not natural selection either. That was Darwin’s point. The Tasmanians had been wonderfully fitted for their life in Tasmania before the Europeans came, by natural selection. The Tasmanians were, by any measure, the “fittest.” But they were wiped out by Europeans who coveted their lands, and who had guns and the wherewithal to wage a war against a much less armed people.

    It was artificial selection at its closest to evolution, but probably more aptly described as genocide. And, as Darwin noted, it was a terrible loss in species diversity, which is generally necessary for the survival of the whole species.

    So a naturalist would properly mourn the loss of the aboriginals. Our experience is that diversity in a species and diversity of species offers the most advantages both to survival of those species in the long run, and to our own survival.

    Intermarriage probably would have been wiser.

    I’m not sure what makes Mohler an elitist religionist, but he speaks from an ivory tower where medical care and cancer cures are not a concern, where crop development is not an issue, and pest management only a call to Orkin. His views are not traditional Christian views, but he speaks as if he were anointed to slam science and biology, even though his arguments are woefully negligent in their portrayal of science.

    Plus, without cause, he calls the hard-working people in medical care and agriculture “elitists.” He likes throwing around labels, so I thought I’d stick one on him, more accurately than he sticks them on others.

  7. Lazaro says:

    OK so it’s not natural selection fine… Something (unnamed) enabled the Euros to develop weapons and diseases that thus enabled them to conquer aborigines who for some reason or another did not develop things to fight off the white barbarians.

    I was taking the worldview of a naturalist. If I’m a naturalist how does this debacle in Tasmania differ from say one species of animal eradicating another simply because the former is better suited to the surroundings? A naturalist would say that humans are animals no? Would he not also say that chance looked favorably upon the Euros and enabled them to conquer and not be conquered? Ok so he would mourn from the diversity standpoint because of the survival aspect… One could argue that the aborigines could really offer nothing if they were just content to run in the bush in their loinclothes but then that’s the Westerner in me speaking, right?

    Maybe Mohler believes he is anointed to slam science, do you know for sure that he isn’t? Whatever science means of course, which is , as far as I understand it, hypothesis, experiment, observation, conclusions, and these must be reproduced in a lab, no? If you can’t reproduce it in the lab then is it science? Well maybe not, Lewis’ description also fits, about pointing the telescope at some point in space and recording what you see.

    Do you recommend reading the descent of man w/o first reading origin?

  8. edarrell says:

    Jared Diamond wrote about the “something” that enabled Europeans to develop weapons and resistance to diseases — accident of geography. Europeans had the metals and minerals to make guns and powder, Tasmanians didn’t.

    The worldview of the naturalist, as I noted, is that the Tasmanians were better fitted for Tasmania, and an artificial transplanting of Europeans in their place, coupled with the eradication of the Tasmanians, limits the human gene pool to our detriment. Competition for resources in natural selection almost never includes murder of one’s own species. You’re talking about murder as if it were natural somehow. Murder does occur in the wild, but it’s rare, even among other chimpanzees.

    We don’t know what diseases the aboriginals were immune to. We don’t know about their metabolism, or gross anatomical features that might offer advantages. All that was lost — and at what gain?

    There’s no particular need to read Origins before Descent of Man, except that one really needs to understand evolution by natural and sexual selection before diving in. You might get that better from Ernst Mayr (What Evolution IS) or Weiner’s book.

    In any case, chapter 5, on the development of morality, is an easy read, and is readily available on the internet. It’s worth reading.

  9. Lazaro says:

    accident of geography huh? so it was chance (unless chance is not the same as accident) So if it was an ‘accident of geography’ can the Euros be faulted for making use of the blessings of Lady Luck?

    No I don’t think murder is natural I do think it is one more consequence of the Fall… so if murder occurs in the wild how does a naturalist not view it as natural? it’s part of nature isn’t it? a lion that takes over a pride murders his predecessor’s cubs, are we going to hold the lion accountable for his actions? so how can the naturalist hold the Euros accountable?

    well as far as diseases, I started out with the Native Americans, you invited the Tasmanians to the party…. the Native Americans I think were susceptible to smallpox, for whatever reason, chance didn’t bless them with the immunity to smallpox or whatever diseases contributed to their demise. So why blame the Euros when they merely migrated in search of better hunting grounds or what not?

    Yeah I understand that evo was around before Darwin proposed natural selection as a mechanism for it… Darwin though (correct me if I’m wrong) came to the conclusion that the Earth was not a few thousand years old after reading Lyell’s book, Principles of Geology, did he not? So didn’t this presupposition aid in his model for evolution?

    I’m assuming Darwin was an atheist so it’ll be interesting how he explains the development of morality without belief in God… I’ll check it out

  10. edarrell says:

    Homosexuality occurs in the wild far more often than murder, and in many more species. Where were you planning to go with that argument?

    Sure Europeans can be faulted for murder. Murder is destructive, and certainly it’s counter to the notion of survival of the species.

    As to smallpox, we blame the Euros for sending blankets infected with smallpox as a weapon of genocide.

    Darwin was trained as a geologist. Lyell’s publication of a summary of modern geology only squared with what Darwin himself had seen in the previous two summers tramping the moors with the greatest geologists of the age. Lyell’s explanations relied solely on observations of activities that were known to occur. While they suggested great age, they did not suggest the age required for evolution. In fact, while Lyell became a friend and remained in that status, Lyell rejected evolution of animals as too much a violation of creationist scripture.

    Darwin concluded that evolution would have required several hundred million years; this was a problem when Thomson, Lord Kelvin concluded that the Earth was in the tens of millions of years old, and the sun only 200 million years old. Darwin was troubled by those calculations, as he respected the views of the eminent scientist behind them. Darwin died before the discovery of radioactivity, which squared Darwin’s observations almost exactly, and showed the error of Thomson’s calculations. (Ironically, creationists like to claim Lord Kelvin as a great creationist.)

    Darwin was Christian, through and through. Buried with full church honors in Westminster. Better not to assume anything.

  11. Lazaro says:

    What I was saying with the lion argument, was that naturalists (maybe you know some that would) don’t hold the lion accountable for murdering cubs but would (correctly) hold a human accountable for infanticide. But on what grounds? If lions and humans are products of chance events why are they held to different standards?

    Yeah I’ve seen the homosexual chimp footage. How is THAT behavior not counter to the notion of survival of the species?

    Did Darwin read Lyell’s book during his voyage on the Beagle? From Campbell’s Biology 4th ed:
    “By the time the Beagle sailed from the Galapagos, Darwin had read Lyell’s Principles of Geology. Lyell’s ideas, together with his experiences on the Galapagos, had Darwin doubting the church’s position that the Earth was static and had been created only a few thousand years ago. By acknowledging that Earth was very old and constantly changing, Darwin had taken an important step toward recognizing that life on Earth had also evolved.”

    So before reading Lyell, he had already concluded that the Earth was old?

    Radioactive dating methods are reliable?

    Are you sure Darwin was a Christian? What is a Christian by the way? Someone who is buried at the Abby?

  12. edarrell says:

    How, exactly, would we hold lion males culpable for their killing their cubs? Are you suggesting that lions are wholly analogous to humans? I wonder because in a pride of lions, there is one mating male, and a harem that will eventually go to the next top male. The pregnancy of lions is less than humans, as I recall, and maturity is much quicker. So there are none of the real biological adaptations in lions that make monogamy such an important part of human development. In sum, a lion cub isn’t an investment of 20 years to maturity. Under such circumstances, different animals do different things.

    There are, in short, any number of reasons to hold lions to different standards of justice on infanticide, from humans.

    How is chimp homosexual action counter to the notion of survival of the species at all? Bonobos appear to use homosexuality to defuse aggression, to keep peace. Murder among bonobos is almost completely unheard of , though observed or common in the other close cousin species — other chimps and humans.

    Lyell’s big geology survey was published in three volumes, beginning in 1831. Darwin was able to get an early copy of the first volume to take with him aboard the Beagle, and had the other two sent to him during the voyage. Campbell notes that it was after sailing from the Galapogos that Darwin had read Lyell, about two years into the voyage as I recall. It’s important because the Galapagos is so active geologically. Darwin’s notes say he was avid creationist when he sailed. His assigned task, incidentally, was to assemble once and for all the evidence from nature to confirm that Genesis was correct. After getting the evidence, however, a different story emerged. Resisting calls to tell fibs, Darwin instead told the facts.

    Radioactivity is the most accurate clocking system in the universe — God’s clocks. Deadly accurate, one might say.

    Yes, Darwin was Christian. He had planned to be a preacher, but was advanced in science after his voyage. He tithed to his death, raised his children as Christians, was active in parish affairs, financed several Sunday school classes, etc., etc. By any rational measure, he was a firm Christian. He never spoke a word against the church, only against those who insisted on making scripture abominable.

  13. Lazaro says:

    I don’t know how man, I wouldn’t hold the lion accountable, never said that I would. I just don’t see how a naturalist does, is all. NO I don’t suggest that animals are analogous to humans. Man is made in God’s image, animals are not. I don’t understand how a naturalist separates humans from animals. Why hold humans accountable but not animals? So apparently have their reasons so please lay them out.

    Did not know the chimp’s reason for same-sex behavior, thanks for the info. I guess that behavior isn’t counter to survival… so we should all do it when we feel like punching someone, that way no one gets hurt…

    I must give you props on your knowledge of Mr. Darwin, you obviously have read his works at length. So he went out to confirm that Genesis was correct? Where is that in all the bio books?

    How is radioactive dating accurate? What makes you so sure?

    Speaking of bio books. In our discussion I have quoted from Campbell’s Biology, a text I used in high school and in freshman bio in college. In the 3rd edition the author interviewed Ernst Mayr, let me give you a sampling (you might have the book so feel free to look it up) of this interview:

    Campbell: Speaking of Darwin’s time, if you could go back to that time and actually visit with Darwin, what would you ask him?

    Mayr: I would ask him about his relation to religion, to a belief in a personal God. Did his loss of belief precede or follow his development of the concept of natural selection? What went on in his mind, particularly in relation to general things like belief in religion, is something that he always carefully concealed in his writings, particulary since his wife Emma was a deeply devoted person. BUT IT IS RATHER OBVIOUS FROM HIS HANDWRITTEN NOTES THAT HE DIDN’T BELIEVE IN A PERSONAL GOD. FURTHERMORE, TO ME IT SEEMS OBVIOUS THAT HE LOST HIS BELIEF IN GOD AT LEAST A YEAR, IF NOT TWO, BEFORE HE DEVELOPED HIS THEORY OF NATURAL SELECTION.

    So did you and Mayr read 2 different accounts of Darwin’s life? After all you say Darwin was Christian, Mayr obviously believes different, who to believe?

  14. edarrell says:

    Mayr was over 100 when died last year — not quite old enough to have personally known Darwin, but certainly one who knew Darwin’s work better than most. Mayr appears to be talking from having studied notes that, to my knowledge, are unpublished still.

    The Desmond and Moore biography, and others, note that Darwin struggled with the idea of religion for much of his adult life. The struggle was, first, over a literal interpretation of Genesis and much of the rest of the Bible. Darwin is crystal clear that he assumed a literal reading was required, at least until his summers with Rev. Adam Sedgwick. He is also crystal clear that he was quite devout even after that — Sedgwick apparently having assured him that geology could not conflict with the Bible, since the Bible was never intended as a geology text and did not offer much if any geologically sensible or useful information. There is no published work from Darwin where he ever takes issue with anything in Christianity. There is no published work from Darwin where he ever expresses any even slight difficulty with any part of Christian faith. It is clear from his writings that he knew scripture well — the sly reference to Genesis in the last paragraph of Origin of Species, the direct references to Jesus in the chapter on morality in Descent of Man, etc. In one letter, he used a newly-invented work — agnostic — to describe his religious views in later life, views that he rarely discussed with anyone and never in public. He said that, after having studied living things so much, he could not walk again through the Amazon and think that each leaf was personally designed and monitored by God.

    Is that what Mayr refers to? I don’t know.

    Certainly the death of Annie Darwin was the great religious crisis in Darwin’s life. She died, at age 10, in 1851. I think Mayr’s chronology may be off some. Darwin started the journal on evolution in May 1837. He had the theory sketched out much as it was published, by 1838. He spent much of the next 18 years in hard experiment, trying to disprove evolution (unsuccessfully). If Darwin’s religion died, it died with Annie, and at that time the theory was already fully sketched, though not published for another 8 years.

    Now, what do you think Mayr means by “personal God?” Darwin continued to attend church, though less often as his diseases progressed. He continued to tithe, he raised his children as Christian, and he was active in parish affairs. He continued to support missionaries, he continued to support Sunday School classes financially.

    Mayr is right, though — it would be spellbinding to have Darwin explain his religious views.

    His most famous statement about religion is one that is often misused by creationists — he complained about clergy who insisted that evil people go to heaven if they get the proper rites, while the best people on Earth — such as Darwin’s father and brother — would be denied entry to paradise, though they were models of Christian morality, because they did not participate in Christian rites. Darwin called such faith “abominable,” and most Christians agree.

    You may want to pick up one of Mayr’s last books, What Evolution IS, for some good indication of what Mayr thinks.

  15. Lazaro says:

    Makes me wonder what Mayr had access to. Personal diary? I guess I have to pick who to believe, the biographers you mention or Dr. Mayr, though Campbell could have misquoted him and the good Doctor was far along in age at the time of said interview. So how did Darwin go about trying to disprove evolution?

    I don’t know what Mayr meant by a ‘personal God’ I can’t really ask him. It’s possible He meant YWHW, the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the Father of Jesus Christ) who is personal (“I AM”), cannot be sure what he meant though.

    “evil people”, now that my friend is a loaded couple of words… “Christian morality” is even more loaded, for Jesus’ morality was not that much different from any other moral teacher that came before Him.

    I have heard of this book by Dr. Mayr had given some thought to checking it out.

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