The Professor and the Madman - Evolution News & Views

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The Professor and the Madman

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While the establishment media look to fundamentalist Christianity and various right-wing sources to explain the ideology of Norwegian mass-murderer Anders Behring Breivik, they have completely ignored his virulent scientific fundamentalism and Social Darwinism, including a far-ranging proposal for a revival of eugenics inspired by Princeton University evolutionary biologist Lee Silver.

In his 1518-page "European Declaration of Independence," Breivik reveals himself as an unapologetic champion of modern biology and the scientific worldview. Indeed, despite his right-wing views in some areas, he does not believe that the progress of science can be left to private enterprise. Instead, it requires lavish and permanent support by the state. He argues that 20% of government spending must be devoted to scientific research (pp. 1188, 1386), and he insists that funding science is more important than government help for the poor. "Welfare expenditure should not take precedent over the 20% fixed sum dedicated to science/technology, research and development." (p. 1195)

Science also trumps religion according to Breivik: "As for the Church and science, it is essential that science takes an undisputed precedence over biblical teachings." (p. 1403)

Breivik lists Darwin's Origin of Species as one of the "important" books he has read (p. 1407), and Social Darwinism is never far from the surface in his discussions of social policy. At one point he laments that "Social-darwinism was the norm before the 1950. Back then, it was allowed to say what we feel. Now, however, we have to disguise our preferences to avoid the horrible consequences of being labeled as a genetical preferentialist." (p. 1227) Breivik's vision for "a perfect Europe" also involves Social Darwinism, which he identifies with "logic" and "rationalist thought": "'Logic' and rationalist thought (a certain degree of national Darwinism) should be the fundament of our societies." (emphasis added, p. 1386)

Breivik's Social Darwinism rears its ugly head yet again in his discussions of global ecology and overpopulation. He argues that "radical policies will have to be implemented" to reduce the human population by more than half, or 3.8 billion people. (p. 1202) He writes that if "second and third world countries" cannot curb their production of human offspring, "nature will correct their suicidal tendencies as they are unable to feed their populations." (p. 1202) He further argues that Western countries should not interfere in this natural process, even if it results in mass starvation. "If starvation threatens the countries who have failed to follow our [population control] guidelines we should not support them by backing their corrupt leaders or send any form of aid." (p. 1202) Indeed, "[f]ood aid to 3rd world countries must stop immediately as it is the primary cause of overpopulation." (p. 1203)

Perhaps the most blatant example of Breivik's Social Darwinism is his endorsement of "reprogenetics," a form of "positive" eugenics to allow human beings to take control of their evolution and produce better humans through genetic engineering. According to Breivik, "[t]he never-ending collective pursuit for scientific evolution and perfection should become the benchmark and essence of our existence." (p. 1199) He explains further:

The Nazis destroyed the reputation of "eugenics" by combining it to scientific racism and mass extermination. But seeking biological perfection is still a logical concept and I don't see why we should abandon it. We just have to make sure that we offer it as a voluntary option to everyone or at least start by legalising it (promotional voluntary reprogenetics or private reprogenetics). We should legalise reproductive technologies that will allow parents to create off spring with biological improvement (reprogenetics). This must be a non-coercive form of biological improvement which will be predominantly motivated by individual competitiveness and the desire to create the best opportunities for children. (p. 1200)

Breivik advocates "[t]he commercialisation and state/media encouragement of reprogenetics favoring the Nordic genotype" and "[t]he usage of large scale surrogacy facilities as a secondary reproduction option for countries to compensate for non-sustainable fertility rates. The donors of eggs and sperm will then exclusively carry the Nordic genotypes." (p. 1192)

Breivik is clearly a madman and/or a moral monster, and his Social Darwinism did not "cause" his murderous rampage. Nor am I trying to suggest that modern Darwinists are somehow responsible for his heinous acts. Of course they aren't.

But Breivik's call for a new eugenics--as opposed to his murders--is another matter. The most disturbing thing about Breivik's eugenics proposals is that they are not simply inspired by his own private demons. Instead, they largely spring from "mainstream" Darwinists, past and present.

The part that comes from the past is Breivik's obsession about the preservation of the "Nordic" race, which he believes features "rare characteristics that have been acquired through an evolutionary process which has taken more than 1 million years." (p. 1158) Breivik claims that new cultural attitudes toward "race-mixing" are leading people of Nordic ancestry to act unnaturally and undo what a million years of evolution has produced. Here Breivik is echoing the concerns of leading Darwinian eugenists from the early twentieth century like Madison Grant, who is cited by name in Breivik's manifesto. (pp. 1152-1153)

In The Passing of the Great Race (1921), Grant denounced the American ideal of the "melting pot" and insisted that the inevitable result of race-crossing was the degeneration of the "superior" race. "The result of the mixture of two races, in the long run, gives us a race reverting to the more ancient, generalized and lower type." Grant was especially concerned about the degradation of the "Nordic races," because he believed that Nordics were naturally "rulers, organizers and aristocrats." passingofrace.001.jpgAs I write about in Darwin Day in America, some contemporary scientists distanced themselves from part of Grant's rhetoric, but on the whole he was far from a pariah in the American scientific community. He served as chairman of the New York Zoological Society, as a board member of the prestigious American Museum of Natural History, and as councilor of the American Geographical Society (in fact, you can find some of his articles in old issues of National Geographic). Grant's book The Passing of the Great Race, meanwhile, went through multiple editions, each with a congratulatory preface by leading zoologist Henry Fairfield Osborn of Columbia University. Many of Grant's concerns about race-mixing were echoed by leading evolutionary biologists of the era such as Edward East at Harvard and Charles Davenport, head of the prestigious research lab at Cold Spring Harbor, Long Island. East and Davenport were both members of the elite National Academy of Sciences, and Davenport is widely regarded as one of the founding fathers of the discipline of genetics. Fortunately, although Grant, East, and Davenport were not pariahs in the early twentieth century, they are now. But they are also an example of how "mainstream" Social Darwinism of the past can still exert a pernicious influence on the present.

However, Breivik does not simply draw on Darwinian thinkers from years gone by. His proposal for "reprogenetics" comes from a mainstream evolutionary biologist currently on the faculty of one of America's most prestigious Ivy League institutions.

The biologist's name is Lee Silver. He is a Professor at Princeton and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Silver is the scientist who coined the term "reprogenetics," and his 1997 book Remaking Eden: How Genetic Engineering and Cloning Will Transform the American Family features prominently in Breivik's lengthy manifesto in a passage that appears to have been cut and pasted from Wikipedia:

Reprogenetics is a term referring to the merging of reproductive and genetic technologies expected to happen in the near future as techniques like germinal choice technology become more available and more powerful. The term was coined by Lee M. Silver, a professor of molecular biology at Princeton University, in his 1997 book Remaking Eden.
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In Silver's formulation, reprogenetics will involve advances in a number of technologies not yet achieved, but not inherently impossible. Among these are improvements in interpreting the effects of different expressions of DNA, the ability to harvest large numbers of embryos from females, and a far higher rate of reinsertion of embryos into host mothers. The end result, according to Silver, is that those parents who can afford it will be able to pick out the genetic characteristics of their own children, which Silver says will trigger a number of social changes in the decades after its implementation. Possible early applications, however, might be closer to eliminating disease genes passed on to children.

According to Silver, the main differences between reprogenetics and eugenics, the "science" of improving the gene pool which in the first half of the 20th century became infamous for the brutal policies it inspired, is that most eugenics programs were compulsory programs imposed upon citizens by governments trying to enact an ultimate goal. 

Reprogenetics, by contrast, would be pursued by individual parents, who would be trying to improve their children with the same motivations that compel them to purchase expensive courses in preparation for standardised testing (e.g. the SAT).

Unlike Breivik, Silver does not advocate using genetic engineering to preserve the "Nordic" race. But he does argue that "reprogenetics" will allow human beings to take control of their evolution and evolve themselves into higher beings. Although he is concerned that wholesale genetic engineering could lead to a chasm between those who can afford genetic enhancements and those who cannot, Silver spends much of his book dismissing most objections to the new eugenics, which he regards as "hollow." As he explains in his prologue:

Throughout, I will explore the ethical arguments that have been raised against the use of this technology. In most instances, I will attribute opposition to conscious or subconscious fears of treading in "God's domain." Indeed, I will argue that nearly all of the objections raised by bioethicists and others ring hollow... (Remaking Eden, p. 13)

In his chapter on "The Designer Child," Silver sounds like eugenists from a century ago, arguing that we now have it in our power to direct our own evolution and asking why we should not seize that power:

While selfish genes do, indeed, control all other forms of life, master and slave have switched positions in human beings, who now have the power not only to control but to create new genes for themselves.

Why not seize this power? Why not control what has been left to chance in the past? Indeed, we control all other aspects of our children's lives and identities through powerful social and environmental influences and, in some cases, with the use of powerful drugs like Ritalin or Prozac. On what basis can we reject positive genetic influences on a person's essence when we accept the rights of parents to benefit their children in every other way? (Remaking Eden, p. 277)

Silver does add a caveat that "[t]he effects of these technologies seem beneficial in the here and now; it is the future consequences that are worrisome." But, again, he spends most of his book discounting objections to "reprogenetics" other than the disparities that will result between rich and poor because of a lack of equal access to genetic technologies. Moreover, in the epilogue to his book, he offers a utopian vision of the future that would make even some earlier eugenists blush. Writing a hypothetical history of reprogenetics from an undetermined date in the future, Silver discusses how man has been able to use genetic engineering to evolve himself into a God-like creature:

It was a critical turning point in the evolution of life in the universe. For when the first generation of cognition-enhanced GenRich matured, they produced among themselves scientists who greatly outshone geniuses from all previous epochs. And these scientists made huge advances in further understanding the human mind, and they created more sophisticated reprogenetic technologies, which they then used to enhance cognition even further in the GenRich of the next generation. In each generation hence, there were quantum leaps of this kind. Throughout it all, there were those who said we couldn't go any further, that there were limits to mental capacity and technological advances. But those prophesied limits were swept aside, one after another, as intelligence, knowledge, and technological power continued to rise.

A special point has now been reached in the distant future. And in this era, there exists a special group of mental beings. Although these beings can trace their ancestry back directly to homo sapiens, they are as different from humans as humans are from the primitive worms with tiny brains that first crawled along the earth's surface. It took 600 million years for those worms to evolve into human beings. It has taken far less time for humans to self-evolve into the mental beings that now exist.

It is difficult to find the words to describe the enhanced attributes of these special people. "Intelligence" does not do justice to their cognitive abilities. "Knowledge" does not explain the depth of their understanding of both the universe and their own consciousness. "Power" is not strong enough to describe the control they have over technologies that can be used to shape the universe in which they live. (Remaking Eden, p. 293)

While the murderous rampage of Mr. Breivik is obviously not the responsibility of Prof. Silver, the same cannot be said about Breivik's chilling call for a new eugenics. There Prof. Silver served (albeit via Wikipedia) as an intellectual mentor to Breivik, who embraced Silver's program of "reprogenetics" wholesale as well as his scientific utopianism.

Ideas really do have consequences.


49 Comments

"I would be interested in any citations you can provide of mainstream conservatives who are advocating the ending of all help to the poor, the handicapped, and the sick because they think such support undermines natural selection and will destroy the human race."

This is a strawman John. I'd be equally interested in citations of ANYONE in the mainstream advocating any of that. Social Darwinism isn't either 'withdraw all help for the handicapped' or nothing. [as a side-note, most physically disabling traits are not passed on to offspring anyway. Another reason why so-called Social Darwinism is generally ignorant of mainstream science].

Meanwhile, if there's a news pundit fear-mongering about 'whites being out-bred by Hispanics', or the evils of 'socialised medicine', or 'the wrong people having the kids', or that the poor are poor because they're lazy and stupid - yes, most likely they'll be on the Right.

Breivik quoted from plenty of right-wing columnists too, from Melanie Phillips to Brigitte Gabriel, and right-wing groups like the EDL. The Right was all over any claims that such quoting had any significance at all. But you obviously feel Silver is an exception.

Would you think the following would be an important comment, or just an attempt to smear through 'guilt by association':

"While the murderous rampage of Mr. Breivik is obviously not the responsibility of neoconservative Islamophobe Frank Gaffney, the same cannot be said about Breivik's chilling call for a war on Islam. There Gaffney served (albeit via Wikipedia) as an intellectual mentor to Breivik, who embraced Gaffney's etc etc.

Ideas really do have consequences."

You admit that we cannot pin any murders on Silver, and yet "...the same cannot be said about Breivik's chilling call for a new eugenics".

...Well, what exactly is Silver calling for that you disagree with, and do you see it on any level as being similar to what Breivik actually did?

Now, I haven't read Silver's book, but nothing you quote from him comes anywhere close to 'ending all help to... etc'. You quote him as speculating on what technology might one day allow. You quote him discussing people lessening the likelihood of disease for their children. You quote him talking about picking traits for their kids such as improved intelligence.

Whether you or I agree with all or any of that, there's nothing there about not helping the poor, or the handicapped, or the sick. Nothing about the destruction of the human race. Nothing about killing people off with undesirable traits.

It basically comes down to a smarter version of Abraham's desire that the "wife of his ‘only beloved son’ should not come from ‘the daughters of the Canaanites,’ but from the seed of a superior stock.", as I've already quoted from Rabbi Max Reichler.

If a madman quoted the story of Abraham to justify murdering 'undesirables', you'd rightly deny any connection. Wanting to pick desirable traits for your offspring is not the same as killing off others with traits you don't like. No similarity in degree OR kind.

". Even the supposedly “damning” quote you cite from January 1942 indicates that Hitler believed in the changeability of plants and animals in general"

As pointed out already John, farmers have known this for thousands of years - broccoli, cabbage, kale, sprouts etc were all bred from the same wild vegetables, and people have been breeding dogs for as long as history records.

That Hitler accepted these indisputable facts says nothing to support your claim that he rejected the immutability of species. Even creationists are forced to accept the above paragraph and they still echo Hitler's line about the fox remaining a fox - "they're all still dogs though, aren't they".

So yes, you're still stuck with ideas predating Darwin. Anyone who thinks reducing the gene pool aids evolution simply has not been paying attention in their biology class.

I could go on pointing out the problems with your arguments all day, but it's beginning to seem pointless, and I'll swiftly start wasting time repeating myself.

Jeffrey, one cannot dismiss quotes from the 1940s as being about 'supporting his rise to power'. He was very much the leader by that point!

And I already anticipated and answered your objection at the end of my post anyway.

But if your point is that it's pointless trying to prove Hitler's influences by quoting him, then take that up with John West -he's the one claiming to be able to that, not me. I'm just pointing out how problematic it is for theists to go down that path.

Andrew,

No one denies he said many things in public that would encourage people to support his rise to
power.

There is a term generally used by people in the Darwin lobby to refer to taking individual quotes
out of context to attribute views to the person that they themselves never had. That term
escapes me at the moment...

David S: "If morals were field tested, how great a price would such an evolving society pay if it got it wrong!"

And indeed this is precisely what we've seen - thousands of societies dying out that 'got it wrong'.

Btw, please feel free to call me Andrew or Mr Ryan if you must, but not 'Ryan' unless you have to.

'favoured races' doesn't mean what you think it means; that's the kind if misunderstanding that makes people indignant.

Here are some references for you too:

HItler as creationist:

"The most marvelous proof of the superiority of Man, which puts man ahead of the animals, is the fact that he understands that there must be a Creator."

[again] "The fox remains always a fox, the goose remains a goose, and the tiger will retain the character of a tiger."

""For it was by the Will of God that men were made of a certain bodily shape, were given their natures and their faculties."

Most damning of all:

"From where do we get the right to believe, that from the very beginning Man was not what he is today? Looking at Nature tells us, that in the realm of plants and animals changes and developments happen. But nowhere inside a kind shows such a development as the breadth of the jump , as Man must supposedly have made, if he has developed from an ape-like state to what he is today."

Hitler as influenced by religious belief:

"The anti-Semitism of the new movement (Christian Social movement) was based on religious ideas instead of racial knowledge."

"I believe today that I am acting in the sense of the Almighty Creator. By warding off the Jews I am fighting for the Lord's work."

"I believe today that my conduct is in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator."

"What we have to fight for...is the freedom and independence of the fatherland, so that our people may be enabled to fulfill the mission assigned to it by the Creator."

"And the founder of Christianity made no secret indeed of his estimation of the Jewish people. When He found it necessary, He drove those enemies of the human race out of the Temple of God."

"I am now as before a Catholic and will always remain so" [in 1941]

"To them belong, not only the truly great statesmen, but all other great reformers as well. Beside Frederick the Great stands Martin Luther as well as Richard Wagner."

Yes, all from Hitler. Many more here:

http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2010/09/list_of_hitler_quotes_in_honor.php#more

Objection! Hitler was merely cynically manipulating the German people by using their beliefs in God.
Reply: I'd say something similar of his misuse of scientific theory. Further, it hardly lets Christianity off the hook if the majority of those who carried out Hitler's crimes - the German people - were doing so for religious reasons.

@ Ryan

It really amazes me how ardent the Apologists are in their defence of Darwin’s theory; and the twisted facile reasoning employed as counter argument. No serious Religious leader today, from any denomination, would claim the innocence of its organization; history would slap his face seventy times seven. We all accept that Religion has bloodied the pages of history; not just in warfare but in the massacre of innocent men, women and children. Yes, we all hold our hands up and admit that main stream organized Religion, have built its Cathedrals and Temples on the bones of the dead and betrayed. It’s really not hard for us. Yet, Darwin’s adherents become utterly indignant, when one even hints that Eugenics may have, possibly, been rooted in the notions of a book which has part of its title the bare proposal of “Favouring Races.”

The bottom line in answering the Christopher Hitchens question, is that morality has to function immediately. It would be deleterious on any society to develop morals on a trial bases. “Not killing your fellow man, maybe good or maybe not, we shall wait for the outcome in a 1000 years?” somehow does not bare any resemblance to historical data. If morals were field tested, how great a price would such an evolving society pay if it got it wrong! Richard Dawkins’ revision of the 10 commandments was incredibly simplistic and ultimately he contradicts one command in his intolerance towards ID believers: not even debating with them. Maybe, we need to give Richard more time to evolve his new commandments? Perhaps. But the trial and error method in the Eugenics proposition clearly shows that morality cannot be evolved, whether by natural or artificial means. People’s lives are involved, and playing God is not in the remit of any Scientist.

". Showing that there were inhumane people before Darwin who engaged in ethnic cleansing or genocide is completely irrelevant. "

It's completely relevant if it shows that all the same justifications existed before Darwin. It is the justifications that you are using as evidence.

" Darwinists thought that eugenics was a "kinder, gentler" way of getting the benefits of natural selection without being as brutal"

You're being very vague here using the word Darwinists. Do you mean 'a tiny minority of people who claimed to be influenced by Charles Darwin's discoveries'? If so, you can't complain about people referring to the Norwegian killer in phrases like "Christians believed they should murder other people".

Do you seriously think the Nazis thought the murdering 6 million Jews was 'kinder' than just leaving them alone? And if they did hold such a view, so what? That's about a contrary a position as one can imagine. Blaming mainstream biology for that is like blaming Newton for the crimes of a madman who thinks 'gravity theory' demands one goes round dropping heavy objects on people's heads.

Finally, if you hold the 'social Darwinists' on the right as a negligible minority then that is a relief. Unfortunately they all seem to be the ones in the media and in power. But of course it was ever thus with the Far Right.

John, we can trade quotes, but if Hitler insists that species cannot change, then you're left with Hitler quotes endorsing the belief in a 'law of the jungle' you mentioned before, and that was not originated by Darwin.

Meanwhile, we've got hundreds of troublesome quotes from Hitler explaining how his religious beliefs influenced him! Never does he quote Darwin, or even mention him. In fact Darwin's books were banned under the Nazis.

Thanks for the links John. If it helps, I can respond with links debunking Weikart's claims.

"Rabbi Max Reichler, one of the authors of Jewish Eugenics and Other Essays (New York: Bloch Publishing, 1916, pp. 7-8) tells us:
To be sure eugenics as a science could hardly have existed among ancient Jews; but many eugenic rules were certainly incorporated in the large collection of Biblical and Rabbinical laws. Indeed there are clear indications of a conscious effort to utilize all influences that might improve the inborn qualities of the Jewish races, and to guard against any practice that might vitiate the purity of the race or ‘impair the racial qualities of future generations’ either physically, mentally, or morally...The very founder of the Jewish race, the patriarch Abraham, recognized the importance of certain inherited qualities, and insisted that the wife of his ‘only beloved son’ should not come from ‘the daughters of the Canaanites,’ but from the seed of a superior stock."

A thorough addressing to most of Weikart's claims regarding eugenics being influenced by natural selection:

http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2008/06/avalos-contra-weikart-part-ii-weikarts.html?m=1

John G West: "As for Hitler, he did not reject Darwinian evolution."

I fear you have been misinformed. If one insists on the immutability of species, as Hitler did, then one is indeed rejecting 'Darwinian evolution', regardless of what Richard Weikart would like to believe. What you are left with is simple artificial selection, which, as explained already, was around for thousands of years before Darwin.

". Eugenists believed that society was sinning against natural selection"

That's like saying we're 'sinning against gravity' by flying planes. Natural selection is a process; it's nonsense to say one can 'sin against' it.

Artificial selection by definition is not natural selection. The latter has no goal in mind. There is no 'law of the jungle' either. Some animals let their weaker members die, some more social species support each other.

As you point out, Darwin concluded that his compassion lifted him above the level of an animal that would let his fellow man suffer. His views are distinct from many on the right who reject his discovery, and also say society should be set up in a so-called 'social Darwinist' fashion where safety nets for weaker citizens is dismissed as socialism and evil.

How do you know that species did not reach certain limits in the Cambrian? I said that there are limits. As an example, there is a limit to how large a peacock's tail can get before it is too cumbersome to carry around. At a certain size, birds can't fly. At a certain head size, it human birth becomes extremely hazardous. These are not controversial statements! I could give a hundred other examples.

I was specifically replying to someone talking about unlimited improvements in human brain power. And yes, research suggests we have reached a limit. The aforementioned head size problem is just one part of it.

Andrew:

You wrote:

"Present biological thinking is that the human brain can get no smarter. It accounts for 4% of your body weight, but consumes 20% of your energy. The 'micro-technology' it uses (to use a metaphor) can get no smaller. You can't pack any more into it. We've reached our evolutionary limit as far as the smarts go."

How is it that bees can solve the Traveler's Problem whereas we humans need to write computer programs?

You're giving us the typical "just-so" story that Darwinists are famous for.

Andrew:

You say: "For a start, it is not a scientific notion that species are infinitely plastic. All evolution is a trade-off, and species reach their limits."

Let's just blow this little piece of wisdom to pieces: Why didn't "species" reach their limit in the Cambrian? Or the Ordovician? IOW, what "limits" are you talking about?

Darwin did, indeed, believe in an unfettered plasticity---because he didn't know any better.

Bruce David: "The first is the Darwinian idea that species are infinitely plastic in their evolvability, that it is possible to engineer people with brains of ever greater intelligence and ability to understand. This is the assumption that, at present at least, has not been verified by any kind of scientific observation or experiment"

Hi Bruce, this is actually false. For a start, it is not a scientific notion that species are infinitely plastic. All evolution is a trade-off, and species reach their limits.

Present biological thinking is that the human brain can get no smarter. It accounts for 4% of your body weight, but consumes 20% of your energy. The 'micro-technology' it uses (to use a metaphor) can get no smaller. You can't pack any more into it. We've reached our evolutionary limit as far as the smarts go.

This was all reported earlier this week, based on neurobiological research at Cambridge University. Google "professor simon laughlin" if you want to research further.

Most of the posters here seem to be operating on the assumption that eugenics has anything to do with Darwin's theory of natural selection.

It does not.

Eugenics is artificial selection, by definition the opposite of natural selection. Artificial selection has been practiced by man for thousands of years. The whole point of Darwin's discovery is that selection happens naturally in nature.

It should also be remembered that Hitler himself rejected evolution. "The fox remains always a fox, the goose remains a goose", as he famously said.

David S: "But on what bases does [Hitchens] judge the Church as evil? "

David, Hitchens has pointed out that the Catholic Church systematically allowed its Priests to carry out the abuse of children for decades. If we can't agree between us that abusing children is in general 'not a good thing' then I really don't know where we are! I don't find it hard to explain to my three-year-old daughter why hurting others is not good. She understands this basic concept without any reference to God (or evolution for that matter).

Hope this helps.

@anon

You’re right, there are various interpretations, and more contradictory than consolatory. There are many Jesus; blue-eyed and somewhat effeminate is the classic portrait; but that surely has no solid scriptural bases. Christianity has been a victim of politics, the dominant culture that adopted it and deliberate Apostate teachings and the prevailing popular philosophy. Plato for instance – was a strong advocate for the idea of the immortal soul, capable of transcending death. That idea contradicts Jesus’ God given ability to perform Resurrection; if a soul transcends – why the need to return it to a physical body as in the case with Lazarus?

But to drastically simplify my argument; a true Christian should be the most inoffensive, peaceable and helpful citizen any State could ever wish for. He wishes only to be left alone to pursue his Christian course. However, this is not always possible, as was exemplified by Christ himself; he was convicted and executed by the Government under false charges promulgated by the Religious establishment. His pattern of life was followed by his early disciples and they too experienced similar fates. It’s when this pattern of life becomes diluted that “Christianity” becomes a political force; and that’s when problems arise. That’s when so called Christians commit atrocities; historically this is true as well as in modern times.

As for the information issue - basic Shannon information is not the type found in DNA. Stephen Myer on C-Span explains that ID requires Specified Information. That’s what I mean.

Hi David,

It may be simple. But I still think it's easier said than done. Many people think they are using the Bible as the basis for doctrine, but they come up with very different doctrines.

For example, "the Lord our God is one" may or may not be compatible with the concept of "the Trinity." Of course that question is, to me at least, fairly trivial when it comes to how we should treat each other. And when it comes to that, the Bible is ambiguous. Are we to demand "an eye for an eye" or should we "turn the other cheek"? One earth (as in the Bible) circumstances seem to matter. But it's hard to get people to agree on exactly how they matter.

*

"In cases of explanatory difficulty, ID always returns to the fundamental injunction that random processes cannot generate information."

I think I need to find and read a book or two on ID. I have a book that talks about the self organization of complex systems, and the idea that life is not a random chance occurrence... But the idea there doesn't bring in a "designer". I need to know more about what you mean by "random processes" and "generate information."

For example... you know the game Boggle? The one where cubes with letters of the alphabet are shaken up, and fall randomly, and the game involves looking at the letters and trying to find words? (Just found a wikipedia entry here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boggle). That seems like a random process that generates information (once a bit of energy is added, from the shaking). Perhaps analogous processes are evident in the natural world...

@ anon "How does one know what "the true orthodox teaching of the faith" is exactly, given that there are so many variants?"

It’s really simple; just have the Bible as the basis alone for doctrine. Where there are gaps or apparent contradictions, we let the strongest inferring parallel passages in script to have the last say. Similar approach to ID, where we have an overarching picture of life’s progressive development; yet there is no point blank evidence for the actual creative agent in action. In cases of explanatory difficulty, ID always returns to the fundamental injunction that random processes cannot generate information. Likewise, when a Bible passage appears contradictory or a victim of spurious insertion, we return to basic statements in the Old Testament; such as “The Lord God is one.” Or when it comes to social practicalities, “You must love your neighbour,” should cause us to reassess actions which would contradict such a command. But I am in no way suggesting that the world today can be “fixed if only we practiced true Christianity”; it’s too distorted, like the financial system; it needs serious “deconstruction,” which I believe can only be done by the Creator himself.

Hi Bob,

I agree with you. Or at least, want to agree with you. But what I agree to in principle may not be possible in practice. How does one know what "the true orthodox teaching of the faith" is exactly, given that there are so many variants? There are many different sorts of Christianity, and many different sorts of Islam. John Locke said that "every church is orthodox to itself." I find it hard to disagree with that.

-anon1152

So, we are all coming to the same conclusion that really, it’s us human beings that have the flaw; a problematic strain is interspersed amongst us. From a Religious vantage point, the homicidal capacity of man is certainly most unwelcome. I also would propose that from a Darwinian view point, there is really no genetic advantage in one individual causing random casualty amongst the majority: and in any case – would such a self-destruct gene be of benefit in the long run? What would be the benefit of a “madman” gene? Human beings have become dominant, since as a collective we form a super-organism capable of achieving more than a single individual: the “madman-gene” would threaten that supremacy. Religion and Neo-Darwinism must surely agree on that point, and both stare back at us accusingly. If we gave birth to the two belief systems, then surely they as our “children” can only wag a disapproving finger or stick up a single finger “salute” at us.

Also, the point that is often resisted by the “New Atheist,” is that when they attack Religion, it always ends up as a criticism about the hypocrisy therein. It’s always a moral issue; and the likes of Christopher Hitchens grinds his teeth at the litany of Church atrocities committed over centuries. But on what bases does he judge the Church as evil? By the Ethics of Neo-Darwinism? There is no good or evil as far as Evolution is concerned, it’s all just one gigantic genetic baton-race after all. So for me, Religion that is accurately practiced, devoid of political manipulation and firm in its insistence on neutrality as Christ laboured to be, would still be a positive influence on mankind. Readers of the Gospels often overlook that Christ attack one institution alone and remained politically neutral. Christ attacked the Religious establishment; and condemned its hypocrisy. It’s ironic, that the likes of Hitchens, often cite the Authority of the Jewish records in order to attack Christ’s authenticity. The very type of people he denounces today, he would procure as support in his anti-Christ speeches.

Good article... but, whether or not any person claims to the a "Christian" is irrelevant when discussing his or her crimes against humanity, unless - and ONLY UNLESS - that persons actions are in direct compliance with the true orthodox teaching of the faith.

The leftists will always try to defame "real" Christianity with the actions of those who are NOT acting according to the true teachings of the faith. And the majority, being ignorant of those teachings, will go along with the lie to satisfy their inherent nature to distance themselves from God.

anyone can CALL themselves a Christian, but by their "FRUIT" you shall know them.i believe we see a flaming "TARE" here!

love of YHWH -> love of others

Is it really true that 'Breivik's attitudes reflect modern evolutionary theory no more than do they reflect true Christian belief'?
Christianity has some important commands and obligations, such as loving your neighbour as yourself. When Breivik killed his neighbours, he ignored this command.
The problem with evolutionary theory here is that it offers a world view where humans are no more than animals. (Animals do not have have moral obligations.) And if this is true, then there is nothing wrong with treating them as such.

I agree that both Religion and Atheism can equally be blamed as the root of homicide and mass genocide. So really, one could argue, that given the perfect belief system, without moral or ethical flaws, some humans will still propagate discord leading to the deaths of others. But given that Biblical Christianity, straight off the pages, has an inordinate amount of ethical “safety” protocols, what can we say about Darwinian Evolution, which is fundamentally Atheist? In other words, if you had a perfect human being, and you needed it to follow an ethical/moral “program,” which system of belief would be best for it to follow? Religion is replete with moral values; whilst pure Darwinian Evolution has none. One could then argue that Evolution is not about examining facets of human morality, yet invariably, it has implication for such. If only Richard Dawkins, for example, stuck to Science and research, all would be well; yet he is ploughing ahead like a bull in a China shop into territory he is ill qualified to peruse.

To me, Atheism in the head of a madman is more dangerous, than in the head of a Religious fundamentalist. Because the former has no need of creed to remind him what he is doing is wrong.

Regardless of this murderers ideas and presumptions the great line must be held that murderer is unrelated to ideas invoked.
I see all the time some murder event is traced back to common opinions in the public.
Whether evolution or Christianity or anything is a part of the killers foundations has no influence on his killing actions.
Its a different species of motive and malice that animates murder.
darwin or evolution had no relevance to this murderer in his decision to do such evil.
Yes the establishment tries to say he is a fundamentalist because they hate fundamentalists as opponents of liberal agendas.
Yet they and us must demand no connection between evil and ideas held commonly must be drawn.
Its just more injustice and foolishness.

If your fat and someone calls you fat and you murder them society must not ban fatness or fatness accusations.
its just the murderers evil value. not the issues involved.

Breivik's attitudes reflect modern evolutionary theory no more than do they reflect true Christian belief. To blame his actions on the theory of evolution or those who teach it is as irresponsible as blaming it on Christianity. Evolutionary theory postulates a way that species developed into other species, period. Social Darwinism, eugenics, etc. are not part of evolutionary theory. Even if those who subscribe to those beliefs also believe in evolution or use it to support their views, that doesn't mean the underlying theory is wrong, any more than someone murdering someone in the name of Christ proves that Christianity is wrong.

This is "applied" SILVER-DAWKINSISM. This guy was no Christian; this was no follower of Jesus Christ. Off the edge and into the abyss!!!!

The problem here is that the media is more concerned with labels such as "Fundamentalist Christian" than actually delving into the thoughts and influences of Breivik. They tend to accept the judgment of officials; in this case a police officer in Norway who first labeled him a Christian.

Also, I sense a tendency to base such assessments on a contradictory methodology. On one hand Breivik is a Christian because he says so in his manifesto; while on the other hand his manifesto is irrelevant because we don't know for certain that he wrote it.

Genesis 3:4-5
"But the serpent said to the woman, "You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, AND YOU WILL BE LIKE GOD, knowing good and evil."" (emphasis mine)

Since the beginning mad has tried to become a god in his own image. Reprogenetics is just another attempt with a different name. It too shall fail resulting in misery and death.

Our Creator will not be mocked gentlemen.

Yet all we hear from the media and liberals is that Mr. Breivik is a "Christian fundamentalist." Another example of how completely untrustworthy and unscrupulous the mass media is. Unfortunately, they now have the power to determine what is perceived as reality by many people. For this reason, I've stopped listening to or watching news to the degree possible.

And they claim ID has a hidden agenda? Well, the creation of the Superman, must surely be the ultimate agenda behind all this diatribe against Religion. We don’t need to discuss the utter insanity of these proposals. What is more pressing is that it’s conceivable that behind the scenes policies are already being laced with notions of population curtailment. To me the unfolding tragedy in South Africa is just another stage rehearsal for the world’s governments to remain numb and callous to the desperate plight of vast swathes of humanity. There is absolutely no excuse for mass starvation in today’s world economy; there are surpluses that can be used to combat such events. But the lack of decisive action is surely not simply due to issues of logistics or even financial compensation; it’s preparation for taking expedient measures, rehearsal for cold heartedness on the part of each of the political leaders.

We have the U.N busy implementing Codex Alimentarius: which is meant to organize our food for better management. Yet, will it cater for the nutrient needs of Africa? Not, if the ultimate goal is to lower the world’s population to bellow a billion. You have the World Bank stepping forward as savior from the global financial meltdowns we recently experienced. But will the World Bank assist Africa’s finances, even writing off huge national debts? No, not if the ultimate goal is to lower the world’s population to bellow a billion. And what use does the New World Order have for Religion, when it causes division, terrorism and sexual subjugation? The Global Federalist has money as his god, and trust in Evolution as an inescapable fact. It’s all building into the perfect storm. One day soon, the U.N will usher in a “New World” – but be assured – it will not have the Bible as its founding ethics; you can rest assured that Origin of the Species will sit proudly as center stage in their Libraries. And Richard Dawkins will finally be able to embrace in public, dispose his current moral attire, and preach that human need not give two hoots about each other: it’s unnecessary.

I personally don't find Silver's views morally repugnant. If it were possible to evolve ourselves into a race of super beings, then why not, as long as there is no coercion involved? However, I think his vision is based on two assumptions, one of which is unsupported by any evidence, and one of which is false.

The first is the Darwinian idea that species are infinitely plastic in their evolvability, that it is possible to engineer people with brains of ever greater intelligence and ability to understand. This is the assumption that, at present at least, has not been verified by any kind of scientific observation or experiment, but rather comes from the Darwinian belief that humans with our superior brains evolved from remote ancestors that had no nervous systems whatsoever, an assumption that also has no observational or experimental support.

The second is the assumption that intelligence and understanding is a function of our brains. This, I believe, is false. The work that has been done by Pim van Lommel and others showing that consciousness and intelligence continue even when the brain is completely non-functional argue strongly for the truth of the spiritual position that our intelligence resides in our non-material spirit or soul, and that the brain is merely a "transceiver" that communicates between the physical body and our non-corporeal essential Self.

It is obvious from his manifesto that Mr. Breivik is no Christian. He is a committed materialist. His belief system is antithetical to Christianity and is not much different from the Nazi experiments.

Most in the pro-Darwinian camp don't take responsibility for the consequences of their ideas that they promote, including our state mandates. How ironic that state promoted evolutionary teaching is often the underlying belief system that justifies outbreaks of violence and murder by those who commit it.