Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Irrelevance of Evolution

"If a minister believes and teaches evolution, he is a stinking skunk, a hypocrite, and a liar." -- Billy Sunday, 1925Well, there are few stupid arguments as stupid and stupidly hot as "evolution," with the very name of the debate telling lies and the participants occupying increasingly weird positions in order to have absolutely nothing to do with the other. Instead of extending an open ear or mind to one another, they begin from the assumption that the other is either an agent of evil or intolerance and then proceed to revile and ostracize.

I, of course, have no real problem with the idea of the Origin of Species in adaptation to environmental pressure and the morphological and genetic changes necessary to create greatest fitness for an environment. I don't have a problem with the earth being quite old. I don't have a problem with God working over a very long time. I don't worry about it much, either.

I don't worry about the "theory" part, either, because there have been multiple adaptations to environment in my lifetime that have generated new organisms, if not new species (speciation is slow, even for bacteria, because we talk about species in terms of sexual reproduction and viability of young, and I don't think bacteria get it on). The moths adapting to soot.... Meh. I'm not a bird. If someone "proves" evolution tomorrow, my beliefs in the Advent won't change, and my belief in the resurrection won't change, and my belief in a single God won't change. If someone "proves" creation tomorrow, my beliefs will be similarly unchanged.

Does this mean that "the Bible is wrong?" Well, my illustration, above, is of Noah's Ark, and you can read Augustine's Civitas Dei for his allegorical reading of the Ark. To him, the Ark was the human body, and it would be saved by the dove, as Christ would save us in the sea of sin and death. If that argument by analogy bothers you, you can look at it another way entirely and ask whether or not God made a Covenant with the human race that, although they had sinned in Eden and shown that they were going to go for the sinful path every time and build every city on the master plan of Sodom, He would agree to tolerate the wickedness of the world if His people held true to Him? Does that seem like a valid understanding? Is it fit cosmology? In fact, if you put a time line out, where the events are spiritual rather than chronological, you have generation, choice, degradation, choice, degradation, choice, salvation, choice....

I was talking to a group the other day about sex and gender. The group had within it some people who don't believe in Evolution. They will not tolerate anyone who mentions evolution from the podium, either. That does not hem me in as much as you might think, I find. Why would I need to talk about it? What on earth do pre-humans have to do with any topic I'm going to discuss?

Do these students believe in genetics? That is all they need. They only need to have been to a farm, or had dogs, or seen children. They only need to know about primitive animal husbandry. If parents have an innate trait, or even an epigenetic trait from their environments, there is a strong chance that the same epigenetics (through gender) will be at play in their same sexed offspring and genetics will be at work as well.

The point I was getting to was the debatable science about masculine and feminine brains. According to this research, exposure to testosterone in vitro causes the brain to go off towards war toys and logic (and rape, of course, because men are all rapists). Lacanian "research" agrees that women's "polymorphous perversity" means that their egos are amorphous and marshmallow-like and therefore non-linear. The masculine is arrows and sticks and guns and spears... especially spears. On the brain side, the masculine is plot that moves strictly and rigidly from 1 to 10, while the feminine wanders and floats. Lyric poetry is feminine, and epic poetry is masculine. Masculine is Stephen King, and feminine is ... well, no one agrees.

When I've had these sessions with these skeptical students, I have pointed out, over and over again, that it is always possible that these people make correct observations and have silly explanations for them. I.e. it is possible that Freud's description of the "anal retentive" personality is spot on, that there are loads of folks who fit it precisely, but it's really unlikely that all of them are secretly clenching their sphincters and enjoying it.

Anyway, it occurred to me that I could go at sex and gender and brains and bolster this stuff, overcoming their reluctance, with evolution-ish explanations. I said, "Just think back to all of us living in tribes. We don't know anything about germ theory, and we don't know anything about machine guns. We don't know about viruses, and we don't know about advanced flight. Now, it makes sense that the men who go out to kill the bear without worrying about how the bear feels are going to be the best men in the village, doesn't it? It also makes sense that women who worry constantly about how clean their tents are are going to have the healthiest food, the healthiest children, the healthiest husbands, and the healthiest homes, and if they worry always about the health and emotions of the children that their mates are ignoring, they're going to be better mothers. We don't need evolution for that to get passed on, do we?"

I just thought I would share this. Everyone shrieks in horror, but "evolution" has to do with the derivation of species and genera. Genetics and inheritance is something I don't think even the most radical literalist would deny.

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