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Book Review - God- or Gorilla?, Chapter 26

This entry is part of a series. For a bit of an introduction and an index of all entries in the series, go here.

God or Gorilla PicThis installment covers Chapter 26, The Evolution of Evolutions, which is also the last chapter of the book.

This bit reminds me of the 'documentary', Expelled.

Charles Darwin, a youth of twenty-three years, embarking, 1831, as a naturalist on a surveying vessel, the H.M.S. Beagle, and looking forward to a voyage of five years in the South Sea Islands and Brazil, did not realize, as he became more and more interested in the ideas of Sir Charles Lyell, concerning the geological evidences of the "antiquity of man," what a tremendous impetus he was to give to the forces of war. (McCann 314)

Even back in McCann's time, people were trying to tarnish Darwin's reputation by associating him with war. Of course, this is an argument from consequences, which has no bearing on whether or not evolution is true.

I thought this passage was a bit humorous, just because it reminded me of that mindset where the world's 'going to Hell in a handbasket', or how things were so much better in the good old days.

Owen died, 1858, as Darwin's work was about to be given to the world, and with it a new conception of "conscience" destined to corrupt such morals as civilization could still boast of. (McCann 318)

Because morality was so much better prior to 1861, when slavery was still legal in the South, or prior to 1954, when school segregation was still legal. Or you could go further back to the Spanish Inquisition, or even further to the Romans, and consider how they fought wars. I've never quite understood the people who think modern society is so immoral compared to previous societies. From my point of view, it's been a slow progression.

I'm guessing McCann meant for this passage to make Darwin look bad, but it certainly seems reasonable to me.

Darwin's argument was that conscience proceeded from the dissatisfaction instead of the dissatisfaction proceeding from conscience. This argument was necessary if biology and evolution were to take the place of conscience and God. (McCann 319)

It's the old argument - are there any truly selfless acts? Do we do good deeds to help others, or do we do them to avoid guilt and/or get some pleasure from pride.

This is getting a little outside what most of what I've discussed in this series, but this complaint against Huxley certainly reminds me of the modern complaints against New Atheists. It almost makes it seem that there's really nothing all that 'new' to the New Atheism.

Like Herbert Spencer, he [Huxley -jrl] championed "The New Darwinism," and set out with the avowed purpose of attacking the foundation of revealed religion, declaring that "there is no evidence of the existence of such a being as the God of the theologians," rejecting Christianity with no appreciation of its historical effect as a socializing and civilizing force. (McCann 320)

But just to reiterate what I've been saying about arguments from consequences - whether or not Christianity has been 'a socializing and civilizing force' does not speak to the truth of Christianity's claims.

Once again, McCann has conflated abiogenesis with evolution.

Haeckel realized that this demonstration of Spallanzani completely shattered the evolutionist's theory of spontaneous generation. There was nothing to do but face the fact and to describe sympathetically what Haeckel himself must, therefore, characterize as "the famous experiments of Pasteur," which ended in the maxim, "Spontaneous generation is a myth." (McCann 324)

There's a big difference, though, between the concept of spontaneous generation that Pasteur, Spallanzani, and others disproved, and the start of life on the planet. Prior to Pasteur and others, it was thought that complex life would spontaneously arise out of certain non-living materials. For example, it was thought that maggots simply arose out of rotting meat. Notes from chemist Jean-Baptiste van Helmont even had recipes - a piece of soiled cloth plus wheat for 21 days for a mouse, and basil, placed between two bricks and left in sunlight for a scorpion. This is not nearly the same concept as abiogenesis, where very simple life would have gotten started given just the right circumstances.

Also, as I wrote before when reviewing Chapter 14, "There is... a very good reason why we don't see new life springing up any more - advanced life is already here. When life was first getting started on this planet, it had no living competition. There were no hungry critters to gobble up organic molecules floating about, or to gobble up any incipient life. Now, bacteria are everywhere. There's practically no nook or cranny with the conditions where new life could get started that isn't already inhabited by bacteria."

Here's another passage that would have fit right in in Expelled.

Marx insisted that society as we now know it has been evolved gradually out of many class struggles of the past; that the course of history has always been determined by economic factors, and that the present capitalistic society will inevitably be evolved into socialism. Thus Marxism became to social science what Darwinism became to natural science. (McCann 326-327)

I've said this over and over, but it still bears repeating. Consequences of an argument have no impact on the truth of the argument. Nobody would think to use the awful consequences in Hiroshima and Nagasaki to say that nuclear physics was erroneous.

Besides, 'Darwinism' only describes what is, not what ought to be. Nobody thinks you should go around pushing people off buildings because Newton's theory of gravity says that things will fall.

McCann discussed several military types praising Darwin, but made the same mistake as above.

Carrying "the survival of the fittest" idea into its most brutal but none the less inevitable conclusions he says, page 35: "The state (which realizes the highest form of the culture of the race) can realize itself only by the destruction of other states which, logically, can only be brought about by violence." (McCann 329-330)

How is this an 'inevitable' conclusion of a theory that describes how things came to be?

Finally, here's the closing paragraph of the main body of the book.

That there should be no weakening of the fascination of "Darwinism," as the theory of man's ape-origin, is, to the writer, the most disquieting and at the same time most inexplicable phenomenon of the twentieth century, for the simple reason that the preponderance of scientific evidence, including all the established data and all the opinions based on truth as it has been stripped of error, have come into court solidly against the ape, whereas, on the other hand, there remains on the side of the ape nothing but the old inferences and assumptions, nothing but the old hypotheses and unsupported theories based on erroneous or deliberately fabricated premises, nothing but the old conflicts and contradictions, nothing but the old falsifications and exposures. In their choice the nations have the alternative of chaos or Christ. (McCann 331-332)

Although he's stated it before, by making this the closing paragraph, McCann certainly emphasizes why he rejects evolution. He thinks it goes against Christianity, and he doesn't want to be an ape. It really all comes down to his emotions, since anyone looking at the evidence objectively can't help but accept evolution.

However, McCann's not done with us yet. There are still the appendices, which I'll tackle in the next installment.

Proceed to Appendices, Part I

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