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Evolutionary materialism is constructed upon the following two premises: (1) there is no spiritual dimension to the world, and (2) evolution proceeds by natural selection. Based upon these premises, evolutionary materialism reaches the following conclusions:
1. [B]The most important feature about living creatures is the information that is tied up in their genes.[/B]
2. [B]Evolution is not progressive.[/B] There has been an obvious increase in the complexity of beings over time but this does not involve any progress. The word “progress” implies an increase in value over time, and since it doesn’t matter to genes whether they populate an amoeba or a human, evolution has not produced an increase in value. Hence, evolution is not progressive.
3. [B]Consciousness is an emergent property.[/B] This view contends that a creature’s brain must contain a certain density of neurons before consciousness can arise. Once the human brain reached this threshold, consciousness appeared. In this view, consciousness is a feature that is present only in humans, though perhaps to some extent in the higher mammals. It is an epiphenomenon produced by electrical and chemical activity in the brain and has no spiritual significance.
4. [B]Evolution is a random mechanistic process.[/B] Evolution involves a random change in the genetic makeup of beings. Because it is a random process, evolution is meaningless. As a result, human life is also meaningless.
5. [B]Humans arose by chance.[/B] Because evolution progresses through chance mutations, the appearance of humans on this planet is simply a stroke of luck. Rewind the tape, play it back, and humans might not appear again.
Not only did Lamarck present his theory fifty years before Darwin, he offered a much less harsh theory of the mechanisms of evolution. Lamarck’s theory suggested that evolution was based on an ‘instructive,’ cooperative interaction among organisms and their environment that enables life forms to survive and evolve in a dynamic world. His notion was that organisms acquire and pass on adaptations necessary for their survival in a changing environment. Interestingly, Lamarck’s hypothesis about the mechanisms of evolution conform to modern cell biologists’ understanding of how immune systems adapt to their environment as described above.
Today Lamarck’s theories are being reevaluated under the weight of a body of new science that suggests that the oft-denounced biologist was not entirely wrong and the oft-lauded Darwin not entirely correct. The title of an article in the prestigious journal Science in 2000 was one sign of glasnost: Was Lamarck Just a Little Bit Right?
One reason some scientists are taking another look at Lamarck is that evolutionists are reminding us of the invaluable role cooperation plays in sustaining life in the biosphere. Scientists have long noted symbiotic relationships in nature. In Darwin’s Blind Spot [Ryan 2002, page 16], British physician Frank Ryan chronicles a number of such relationships, including a yellow shrimp that gathers food while its partner gobi fish protects it from predators, and a species of hermit crab that carries a pink anemone on top of its shell. Fish and octopuses like to feed on hermit crabs, but when they approach this species, the anemone shoots out its brilliantly colored tentacles, with their microscopic batteries of poisoned darts, and sting the potential predator, encouraging it to look elsewhere for its meal. The warrior anemone gets something out of the relationship as well because it eats the crab’s leftover food.
But today’s understanding of cooperation in nature goes much deeper than the easily observable ones. Biologists are becoming increasingly aware that animals have coevolved, and continue to coexist, with diverse assemblages of microorganisms that are required for normal health and development, according to a recent article in Science called We Get By With A Little Help From Our (Little) Friends. [Ruby et al, 2004] The study of these relationships is now a rapidly growing field called Systems Biology.
Teilhardism starts out with a different set of premises: (1) we are enveloped in a spiritual world that is reflected in our consciousness, and (2) evolution proceeds by natural selection. Note that the second premise is the same as the second premise in evolutionary materialism, but because of the first premise, Teilhardism reaches entirely different conclusions about the significance of evolution:
1. [B]The most important feature in living creatures is their consciousness. [/B]Genes may play an important role in controlling our body structure and our health, but it is consciousness that gives each of us a personality.
2. [B]Evolution is progressive. [/B]The increase in the complexity of beings over time, especially the increase in neurological complexity, reflects an increase in consciousness and hence an increase in value. Therefore, evolution manifests progress; it represents the opening of life to the spiritual dimension.
3. [B]Consciousness has transcendent properties.[/B] There is an aspect of consciousness that ties us directly to the spiritual realm. Although our brain clearly produces certain features of our consciousness, other aspects such as inspiration, intuition, and creativity arise from outside our body. Consciousness is thus a phenomenon that may extend to some extent to all beings.
4. [B]Human life has great meaning. [/B]Because evolution involves the opening of life to the spiritual dimension, the goal of each human should be to manifest that spiritual dimension.
5. [B]Humans did not arise by chance.[/B] Self-consciousness is an important niche in nature. Life was certain to exploit this niche, as it also exploited all the other niches available. Just as the ability to fly evolved at least four times (as in insects, pterosaurs, birds, and bats), it is certain that evolution would have found a way to occupy the niche of self-consciousness.
Originally posted by EthanT
It focuses more on communities and their interdependencies, rather than "survival of the fittest".
I'm thinking that since you folks are using the phrase "survival of the fittest", that you're not evolutionary biologists. Perhaps you should study what evolutionary biologists think before tossing out their theories. They don't like to even use that term, and it's somewhat of a misnomer, that's not really the basis for evolution:
Originally posted by Tephra
None of the above, minor fluctuations and adaptations are driven by survival of the fittest,
Understanding the theory you are rejecting should be a prerequisite for rejecting it. I'm not sure either of you understand what you are rejecting.
The phrase "survival of the fittest" is not generally used by modern biologists as the term does not accurately convey the meaning of natural selection, the term biologists use and prefer. Natural selection refers to differential reproduction as a function of traits that have a genetic basis. "Survival of the fittest" is inaccurate for two important reasons. First, survival is merely a normal prerequisite to reproduction. Second, fitness has specialized meaning in biology different from how the word is used in popular culture. In population genetics, fitness refers to differential reproduction. "Fitness" does not refer to whether an individual is "physically fit" – bigger, faster or stronger – or "better" in any subjective sense. It refers to a difference in reproductive rate from one generation to the next.
An interpretation of the phrase "survival of the fittest" to mean "only the fittest organisms will prevail" (a view sometimes derided as "Social Darwinism") is not consistent with the actual theory of evolution.
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Originally posted by Arbitrageur
Do you think you're smarter than evolutionary biologists? It's fact that they don't all agree with each other. EthanT, you even post an external source describing the Darwin view, and it says nothing about survival of the fittest. And yes it's pretty widely accepted now that Darwin's views were not perfect, but then nothing in science is static, that's what makes it science, it can be influenced by new discoveries and evidence. That's what you need to present to convince evolutionary biologists that they're wrong. They may be wrong about something, but without evidence you probably won't have much luck convincing them of that.