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Atheist Biology Professor Asks if There is a Role for Intelligence in Evolution


His answer is “Yes!”*


*so long as by “intelligence” you mean something other than “intelligence,” and by “evolution” you mean something other than “evolution.”

In this article, atheist Kevin N. Laland, Professor of Behavioral and Evolutionary Biology at the University of St Andrews, argues that human culture affects evolution of the human genome.  Here are a couple of his examples:

Individuals from populations with high-starch diets have, on average, more copies of the salivary and pancreatic amylase genes (AMY1 and AMY2) that improve the ability to digest starchy foods. . . .

There is a strong correlation across cultures between the frequency of lactose tolerance in the population and a history of dairy farming: populations with a long history of consuming milk have high frequencies of tolerance.  Diverse lines of evidence have also established that milk-drinking began with early Neolithic humans, who were, as a result, exposed to a strong selection favoring those alleles for lactose tolerance. These societies typically have high LCT frequencies

From these examples Laland concludes:

In these and other instances, it is not as if we humans have deliberately imposed selection on ourselves in a conscious effort to enhance our capabilities to metabolize or detoxify the foods we have chosen to consume. But we appear to have imposed a direction on our own evolution nonetheless.

Nonsense on a stick.  Read the conclusion again.  The second sentence flatly contradicts the first sentence.  Intelligence implies purposeful goal-directed choices of an agent.  In the examples given, the agents chose to produce and consume certain foods.  They did not choose to increase their amylase genes or their LCT frequencies.  Their choices had the indirect effect of increasing their amylase genes or their LCT frequencies, but they manifestly did not establish those effects as goals and set out to accomplish those goals through purposeful, goal-directed choices.  To call the process by which the alleles were increased “intelligent” is a misuse of term.

Laland also equivocates on the term “evolution.”  His examples concern the process by which gene variants (alleles) become more or less common in populations.  No one disputes that under selection pressures such as those Laland describes alleles can become more or less prevalent in a population, but that is not what most people mean by the word “evolution.”  How preexisting alleles get shifted about may be interesting, but it tells us absolutely nothing about how the alleles were constructed in the first place.  Is the process capable of causing true evolutionary novelty?  That is the key question, and Laland’s examples don’t even address that question, much less answer it.

I am willing to put my money where my mouth is.  I will bet $100 that Laland can be pushed off his position of “shifting allele frequency” equals “evolution” in humans with one simple question.  Here is how:

  1. Most evolutionary biologists believe humans originated in Africa. Assume this to be the case for the sake of argument.
  1. Assume that when humans originated they had the alleles for darker skin and hair as do modern Africans.
  1. If this is the case, then humans who have light skin and hair (as in most populations in northwest Europe), have such characters as a result of increased alleles for such attributes.
  1. Thus, Laland’s argument leads to the conclusion that lighter skinned humans “evolved” from darker skinned humans as a result of alleles for lighter skin and hair becoming more frequent in a population.

So, Dr. Laland, do you believe white people are more evolutionary advanced than black people?

Darwin appears to have believed this, which is why he is today justly condemned as a racist crank.



I think it is necessary to be a materialist if you are an atheist, and as atheists have no mythical, magical, creation myths, we must necessarily adopt a materialist answer; hence evolution. ‘Scientism’, fits within this definition, I am a proud scientismist, if such a term exists. And your ‘Darwinist’ badge also fits; not sure about the multi-verse, but as it is just as plausible as God, why not?
Well, one reason why not is that you just stated that atheists do not have mythical, magical, creation myths. But that's exactly what a multi-verse idea is. Silver Asiatic
TWSYF, there is a new category of atheist, and that is the anti-theist. Those atheists who are tired of the two thousand year dominance of theism, and actively work to promote the life of living without a God. I am not one, but I am an atheist. We have worked so hard to loosen the grip of religion, that the prospect of going back to Wahabist Arabia, or Puritan America/Geneva, is not at all appealing. Indeed I hope you aren't yearning for a return to that medievalism? I think it is necessary to be a materialist if you are an atheist, and as atheists have no mythical, magical, creation myths, we must necessarily adopt a materialist answer; hence evolution. 'Scientism', fits within this definition, I am a proud scientismist, if such a term exists. And your 'Darwinist' badge also fits; not sure about the multi-verse, but as it is just as plausible as God, why not? rvb8
bill cole:
Darwinian Horror Story: Lamarck Back From the Grave - podcast - January 5, 2017 On this episode of ID the Future, Ray Bohlin interviews biologist Cornelius Hunter about the growing problem that epigenetics poses for Neo-Darwinism. Modern evolutionary theory has long insisted that genes and genetic mutations are where the evolutionary action is, and dismissed the early 19th century naturalist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck for suggesting that new environmental pressures could drive heritable changes in a population within a single generation. But as Hunter explains, recent experiments reveal that this does happen and epigenetic sources in the cell are the key drivers. Worse for mainstream evolutionists, this epigenetic machinery is not easily domesticated into the Darwinian agenda of keeping teleology out of the picture. http://www.discovery.org/multimedia/audio/2017/01/darwinian-horror-story-lamarck-back-from-the-grave/
semi OT:
Scientists discover a molecular motor has a 'gear' for directional switching - January 4, 2017 Excerpt: The research revealed a totally unexpected behavior about a "motor" protein that functions as chromosomes are segregated during cell division.,,, They discovered that KlpA is able to move in opposite directions -- an unusual finding. KlpA-like motor proteins are thought to be exclusively one-way vehicles. The researchers also discovered that KlpA contains a gear-like component that enables it to switch direction of movement. This allows it to localize to different regions inside the cell so it can help ensure that chromosomes are properly divided for normal cell division.,,, https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/01/170104103552.htm
Cornelius hunter most recent article argued this point very well. The bottom line is adaption does not equal evolution. We know animals can adapt to their environment but this does not explain how these adaptive mechanisms arose. Evolutionists require "just so" stories to explain the emergence of complex biology.. bill cole
TWSYF, I don't know how close this is to what you want, but here it is anyway:
The Waning of Materialism Edited by Robert C. Koons and George Bealer Description: Twenty-three philosophers examine the doctrine of materialism and find it wanting. The case against materialism comprises arguments from conscious experience, from the unity and identity of the person, from intentionality, mental causation, and knowledge. The contributors include leaders in the fields of philosophy of mind, metaphysics, ontology, and epistemology, who respond ably to the most recent versions and defenses of materialism. The modal arguments of Kripke and Chalmers, Jackson’s knowledge argument, Kim’s exclusion problem, and Burge’s anti-individualism all play a part in the building of a powerful cumulative case against the materialist research program. Several papers address the implications of contemporary brain and cognitive research (the psychophysics of color perception, blindsight, and the effects of commissurotomies), adding a posteriori arguments to the classical a priori critique of reductionism. All of the current versions of materialism–reductive and non-reductive, functionalist, eliminativist, and new wave materialism–come under sustained and trenchant attack. http://www.oup.com/us/catalog/general/subject/Philosophy/Metaphysics/?view=usa&ci=9780199556199 Dr. Robert C. Koons — "The Waning of Materialism" - video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GZLHKlwue20
On the other side of the coin, here a many different arguments for Theism:
Baylor ISR- Alvin Plantinga Interview: (2 Dozen or So Arguments) - (Nov. 7, 2014) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OxtyY2bp78E Table Of Contents for TWO DOZEN (OR SO) ARGUMENTS FOR GOD: THE PLANTINGA PROJECT (the book is due out Summer 2017) I. Half a Dozen (or so) ontological (or metaphysical) arguments (A) The Argument from Intentionality (or Aboutness) • Lorraine Keller, Niagara University • "Propositions Supernaturalized" (B) The Argument from Collections • Chris Menzel, Texas A&M • "The Argument from Collections" (C) The Argument from (Natural) Numbers • Tyron Goldshmidt, Wake Forest • "The Argument from (Natural) Numbers" (D) The Argument From Counterfactuals • Alex Pruss, Baylor University • "Counterfactuals, Vagueness and God" (E) The Argument from Physical Constants • Robin Collins, Messiah College • "The Fine-Tuning for Discoverability" (F) The Naive Teleological Argument • C. Stephen Evans, Baylor University • "An Argument from Design for Ordinary People" (H) The Ontological Argument • Elizabeth Burns, Heythrop College • "Patching Planting’s Ontological Argument by Making the Murdoch Move" (I) Why is there anything at all? • Josh Rasmussen, Azusa Pacific; and Christopher Gregory Weaver, Rutgers University • "Why is There Anything?" II. Half a dozen Epistemological Arguments (J) The argument from positive epistemic status • Justin Barrett, Fuller Seminary • "Evolutionary Psychology and the Argument from Positive Epistemic Status" (K) The Argument from the confluence of proper function and reliability • Alex Arnold, The John Templeton Foundation • "Is God the Designer of our Cognitive Faculties? Evaluating Plantinga’s Argument" (L) The Argument from Simplicity and (M) The Argument from Induction • Bradly Monton, Independent Scholar • "Atheistic Induction by Boltzmann Brains" (N) The Putnamian Argument (the Argument from the Rejection of Global Skepticism)[also, (O) The Argument from Reference and (K) The Argument from the Confluence of Proper Function and Reliability] • Even Fales, University of Iowa • "Putnam's Semantic Skepticism and the Epistemic Melt-Down of Naturalism: How Defeat of Putnam's Puzzle Provides a Defeater for Plantinga's Self-Defeat Argument Against Naturalism" (N) The Putnamian Argument, (O) The Argument from Reference, and (P) The Kripke-Wittgenstein Argument from Plus and Quus • Dan Bonevac, Universitiy of Texas • "Arguments from Knowledge, Reference, and Content" (Q) The General Argument from Intuition. • Rob Koons, University of Texas at Austin • "The General Argument from Intuition" III. Moral arguments (R) Moral Arguments (actually R1 to Rn) • David Baggett, Liberty University • "An Abductive Moral Argument for God" (R*) The argument from evil. • Hud Hudson, Western Washington University • "Felix Culpa!" IV. Other Arguments (S) The Argument from Colors and Flavors • Richard Swinburne, Oxford University • "The Argument from Consciousness" (T) The Argument from Love and (Y) The Argument from the Meaning of Life • Jerry Walls, Houston Baptist University • "The God of Love and the Meaning of Life" (U) The Mozart Argument and (V) The Argument from Play and Enjoyment • Philip Tallon, Houston Baptist University • "The Theistic Argument from Beauty and Play" (W) Arguments from providence and from miracles • Tim McGrew, Western Michigan University • "Of Miracles: The State of the Art and the Uses of History" (X) C.S. Lewis's Argument from Nostalgia • Todd Buras, Baylor University and Mike Cantrell • "A New Argument from Desire" (Z) The Argument from (A) to (Y) • Ted Poston, University of South Alabama • "The Argument from So Many Arguments" V. "Or so": Three More Arguments The Kalam Cosmological Argument • William Lane Craig, Houston Baptist University • "The Kalam Cosmological Argument" The Argument from Possibility • Brian Leftow, Oxford University • "The Argument from Possibility" The Argument from the Incompleteness of Nature • Bruce Gordon, Houston Baptist University • "The Necessity of Sufficiency: The Argument from the Incompleteness of Nature"
OT: Does anyone have a list of all the different views within atheism, a list of "atheist denominations" if you will? I am thinking along the lines of multiverse theory, scientism, neo-Darwinism, etc. Truth Will Set You Free
[...] Kevin N. Laland, Professor of Behavioral and Evolutionary Biology at the University of St Andrews[*], argues that human culture affects evolution of the human genome.
What professor Laland points at is just examples of the effects of the designed built-in robust -and at the same time malleable- control framework within the biological systems, which allows relatively easy spatiotemporal addition of adaptive functionality in response to stressful environmental physicochemical changes or thermodynamic noise variations. In the hypothetical (implausible?) case that one could answer the myriad outstanding questions related to the origin of basic biological components, we still have to deal with many difficult unresolved mysteries related to the actual controlling procedures within the biological systems. What recent research is discovering about these mysteries points to intelligently designed biological systems. One feels sorry for the Darwinian folks. Poor things. BTW, here's an almost 15 years old quote from the journal Nature:
“In view of the large number of variables involved and of the complexity of feedback processes that generate oscillations, mathematical models and numerical simulations are needed to fully grasp the molecular mechanisms and functions of biological rhythms.”
Computational approaches to cellular rhythms. Goldbeter A Nature. 420(6912):238-45. DOI: 10.1038/nature01259
This was 15 years ago. Have the outstanding questions been answered? Have new questions been raised? There yet? Work in progress... stay tuned. :) Complex complexity. Unending Revelation of the Ultimate Reality (c) PS. (*) My wife and I enjoyed walking around the University of St Andrews last March. The campus is right by the coastline. Simply beautiful and quiet. It is definitely a pleasant campus. I would not mind being a student there, but I guess it's too late now. Anyway, most probably I would not have qualified to get admitted into such a prestigious university. They only take good students. I was far from being counted among them. Dionisio

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