CPBD 033: Zachary Moore – Evolution 101

by Luke Muehlhauser on April 7, 2010 in Podcast,Science

cpbd033

(Listen to other episodes of Conversations from the Pale Blue Dot here.)

Today I interview Dr. Zach Moore about:

  • evolutionary theory
  • why there is more Christian resistance to evolution than to, say, Big Bang theory
  • the evidence for evolution
  • the implications of evolution for Western religion

Download CPBD episode 033 with Zach Moore. Total time is 38:36.

zach mooreZach Moore links:

Links for things we discussed:

Finally, I would like to clarify something I said early in the interview. I said that philosophers generally treat humans as special because “it makes the equations simpler.” But I think this sounds too dismissive of what philosophers do. Most philosophers do philosophy in total acceptance of evolution and what it says about the nature of human identity and moral value. In fact, few scientific theories have impacted philosophy as greatly as Darwinian evolution. If a philosophical theory does not fit well with evolutionary theory, this is counted as a serious objection to the philosophical theory.

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{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

J. Quinton April 7, 2010 at 6:55 am

“If a philosophical theory does not fit well with evolutionary theory, this is counted as a serious objection to the philosophical theory.”

I’m unable to listen to this podcast at the moment, but do you think this applies to the philosophical positions of Plantinga and WL Craig? AFAIK both of those philosophers develop philosophical arguments that are contrary to accepted evolutionary theory (I’m actually unsure of Craig’s position on evolution, but I have read about Plantinga’s objections to the theory of evolution).

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Bill Maher April 7, 2010 at 7:16 am

Quinton,
Plantinga’s objection as been answered a thousand times.

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Briang April 7, 2010 at 7:22 am

I saw the title and at first I thought it was about Zachary Morris from Saved by the Bell.

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Bill Maher April 7, 2010 at 7:42 am

Carl Baugh’s show was hilarious. You guys should watch it. Imagine Kent Hovind with a slightly nicer demeanor.

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Scott April 7, 2010 at 9:46 am

Quinton,

WLC is a fellow of the Discovery Institute, the loudest proponent of “Intelligent Design”. http://www.discovery.org/p/85

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Josh April 7, 2010 at 10:07 am

Like all things he does, Plantinga’s objection to evolution is simultaneously hilariously stupid and remarkably deep. I think it actually deserves a lot of attention.

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Justfinethanks April 7, 2010 at 10:11 am

Carl Baugh’s show was hilarious.

My favorite thing Baugh ever did was try to look for Pterodactyls on Papa New Guinea, based upon scattered eyewitness reports.

I really, really, hope he succeeds one day. Because, while the discovery of living pterodactyls would not actually discredit evolution, it would however be ball-shavingly awesome.

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Bill Maher April 7, 2010 at 10:17 am

Josh, I do not see what is deep about misunderstanding evolution.

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Bill Maher April 7, 2010 at 10:18 am

Justfine, I am an amateur cryptozoologist myself.

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Rob April 7, 2010 at 10:36 am

Re: Plantinga’s EAAN. Luke, find someone to interview about this! It the argument I most love to hate. A close second is the ontological argument.

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Mark April 7, 2010 at 10:39 am

Josh, I do not see what is deep about misunderstanding evolution.  

Out of curiosity, what about it do you think he misunderstood?

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Charles April 7, 2010 at 12:11 pm

Brilliant podcast, Luke. But then, you already know I think evolution is the smoking gun.

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Bill Maher April 7, 2010 at 1:02 pm

Out of curiosity, what about it do you think he misunderstood?  

He doesn’t think evolution can create a good reasoning engine unless it guided.

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Mark April 7, 2010 at 1:21 pm

He doesn’t think evolution can create a good reasoning engine unless it guided.

He thinks that (perhaps) there are more bad belief-forming mechanisms that lead to reproductive success than good ones, and draws from this an epistemological conclusion. It’s not clear how this constitutes a misunderstanding of evolution.

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lukeprog April 7, 2010 at 2:47 pm

Charles,

What do you mean ‘smoking gun’?

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Reginald Selkirk April 7, 2010 at 4:40 pm

Out of curiosity, what about it do you think he misunderstood?

Crikey, I have addressed this at length in comments to earlier posts.

For starters: Plantinga says that selection of beliefs is indirect, and therefore cannot happen. But anyone with the most meager understanding of evolution knows that almost all selection is indirect.

In addition: Plantinga says we could not survive if our perceptions and our cognition were imperfect. And yet they are. Perceptual and cognitive illusions abound. One who believes perception and cognition must be perfect must believe that almost all of existence is an ongoing miracle.

I agree with BM that Plantinga’s efforts in this regard are not deep, except in the sense that cattle effluence can be deep.

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Mark April 7, 2010 at 4:52 pm

Plantinga says that selection of beliefs is indirect, and therefore cannot happen. But anyone with the most meager understanding of evolution knows that almost all selection is indirect.

I’m not sure what you mean by “indirect” here, or why you think this constitutes an objection to EAAN.

Plantinga says we could not survive if our perceptions and our cognition were imperfect.

What? That’s the polar opposite of what he’s arguing!

I agree with BM that Plantinga’s efforts in this regard are not deep, except in the sense that cattle effluence can be deep.

Not to be self-righteous, but I think you could stand to gain some intellectual humility. Don’t judge arguments to be idiotic until you can be sure you understand what they are. This is coming from an atheist who disputes all versions of EAAN, by the way.

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Bill Maher April 7, 2010 at 5:44 pm

He thinks that (perhaps) there are more bad belief-forming mechanisms that lead to reproductive success than good ones, and draws from this an epistemological conclusion. It’s not clear how this constitutes a misunderstanding of evolution.  

some bad beliefs, such as religion, have been more or less malign. others, such as eating poisonous berries have ended in people dying. having good beliefs, such as understand that fertilizer grows crops and how to hunt animals forms a belief engine, results in better survival. thus the “belief engine” genes get passed on.

this can be seen in a primitive form in many animals. Skinner’s paper, superstition in the pigeon is a classical example.

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Mark April 7, 2010 at 6:04 pm

some bad beliefs, such as religion, have been more or less malign. others, such as eating poisonous berries have ended in people dying. having good beliefs, such as understand that fertilizer grows crops and how to hunt animals forms a belief engine, results in better survival. thus the “belief engine” genes get passed on.

Plantinga agrees that good (i.e., veridical) belief-forming mechanisms are good for survival. What he denies is that bad (i.e., falsidical) belief-forming mechanisms need be any worse for survival. Some bad belief-forming mechanisms, he contends, are as good for survival as good belief-forming mechanisms.

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Bill Maher April 7, 2010 at 6:30 pm

Plantinga agrees that good (i.e., veridical) belief-forming mechanisms are good for survival. What he denies is that bad (i.e., falsidical) belief-forming mechanisms need be any worse for survival. Some bad belief-forming mechanisms, he contends, are as good for survival as good belief-forming mechanisms.  

there is only one belief engine… once the reason engine is built, it is used to investigate things. no, many bad beliefs are awful for survival because they get individuals killed before they reproduce.

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Thomas Reid April 7, 2010 at 6:39 pm

Mark,
You wrote:

Don’t judge arguments to be idiotic until you can be sure you understand what they are. This is coming from an atheist who disputes all versions of EAAN, by the way.

I’m working my way through it right now. So I’m interested, why do you dispute all versions?

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Charles April 7, 2010 at 7:52 pm

Luke,

By ‘smoking gun’, I mean the following,

Pauline Christianity is true.
Evolution is true.

If proposition 1 is true, then Adam and Eve were real people. They literally existed. But if proposition 2 is true, the whole story is a myth. Pauline Christianity is false. There is no such thing as Original Sin and therefore no need for Atonement. Without Adam, Jesus was just some guy who (maybe) did some miracles and said some things (that had pretty much been said before).

That’s a huge problem for most of the people who self-identify as ‘Christian’.

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Kiwi Dave April 7, 2010 at 7:53 pm

Mark

Some bad belief-forming mechanisms, he contends, are as good for survival as good belief-forming mechanisms.

Since you appear to be familiar with Plantinga’s work – I’m not – would you like to give some examples? The examples I’ve seen were given by hostile critics and, if accurate, were too implausible to be taken seriously.

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lukeprog April 7, 2010 at 8:19 pm

Charles,

Ah. Okay.

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Chris April 12, 2010 at 4:33 pm

Charles,

I fail to see how the falsity of a literal Adamic concept of original sin entails the falsity or negligiblization (yeah, made it up) of the atonement. Of course, Augustine worked it out in this sort of way, but there are all kinds of ways that Christians have understood sin and the atonement that avoid these difficulties.

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danielg April 16, 2010 at 3:17 pm

1. When science and religion agree, religion must back down or look stupid.

Not so. While one or both may be wrong, this is the error that the earlier church made in adopting the terra-centric theory of Aristotle, since that was the prevailing science.

When the US medical profession adopted a Darwinian view to justify eugenics, it was primarily the Christians who objected to the ‘logical scientific’ justification.

When scientists postulated a timeless universe, Christians rejoined that time and space began with a creation event, and will have an end. Now scientists have found that the Biblical cosmology was closer to reality than their theory.

Where religionists resist scientific or scientific-ethical claims, they may be incorrect, but their track record is pretty good (unless you buy the legends of Christianity’s opposition to science as enshrined in such hit pieces as Inherit the Wind or the embellished story of Galileo).

I think that IDers and creationists are justified in disagreeing with Darwinian origins for life, and I think that ethically speaking, Christians are justified in opposing abortion.

That is no shame, even if the scientific and moral orthodoxies of the day disagree.

2. Your amazement at people who still don’t buy evolution

As I said in my email to you, I think you are amazed because you still don’t understand our thinking process on this.

Religious lies and ideological resistance.

3. Evolution is ‘change’

Already he’s off on the wrong foot. Something so ambiguous can of course be true. Anti-evo’s like myself don’t argue that there is no change over time, only over what kinds.

Specifically, we of course argue that macro-evolution of novel proteins, genes, and species does NOT happen, and in fact, that is the exact OPPOSITE of what we see in nature.

The only way to believe that macro-evolution happens is to read that into the historical fossil record.

4. Are humans special?

Certainly, Darwinism removes the special value of human life, and this is one of the many ideological and ethical impacts of Darwinism which many evo’s are unwilling to admit.

For other ideological reasons to not like evolution (as opposed to the scientific one), see
Why Most Evangelicals Don’t Like Evolution
Evolution and Religion: Not Compatible?
Can Darwinism Provide a Positive Moral Framework?

For a mix of ideological and scientific objections, see
13 Misconceptions About Evolution

5. The fall of man

What your speaker misses the point that not only did mankind fall with the fall of Adam, but all of CREATION. This is important.

6. Young earth creationists

We are not marginalized, only in the thinking of anti-creationists. Seriously, most evangelicals I know are YECs, not OEC’s.

7. Flat earth and creationism

Dammit Luke, that is totally unfair pejorative and untrue. Not only did Christians NOT teach that the earth was flat, this type of historical lie is what perpetuates the myth of the opposition of Christianity with science. Please read at least one book by Rodney Stark on this, as well as Alvin Schmidt’s book, which will probably be his magnum opus – How Christianity Changed the World

For a brief overview of the origins of this myth, you can read Who invented the idea of a flat Earth?

8. Tiktalik, archaeopterix, etc.

While creationists do contend that these are not transitional, their main point is that these are weak evidence at best, and there are contentions even among evolutionists about what these mean.

In addition, other supposed transitions or missing links (like the now famous Lucy) get debunked by secular scientists, and you never hear about it.

9. Alternate theory to evolution

You haven’t seen this because it has

10. Pink light

You and your guest mocked, but why not laud him for developing a model to test and then look for evidence?

Your guest’s proposed experiment has a problem – things wont’ revert to their public state because you can’t find an organism in it’s pre-flood state.

I would give your guest the same look because he is full of crap snark, but creationists should do real experiments.

But your guest’s contentions about the science of creationism is partly true, but partly it’s ignoring the real work being done.

11. The irreproducability of evolution

Your guest fell right into the same error that all do – they fail to recognize the difference in value between historical and empirical evidence. Creationists are partially correct in saying that (macro)evolution can’t be observed.

But in another sense, it CAN be tested – we’ve done billions of generations of mutation on fruit flies, simulating random mutation, and we have YET to produce a new, novel protein or creature.

We also see regression back to a genetic mean which

12. Testability

ID and creationists both make predictions which can be tested.

The predictions of evolution are weak, if not counter to what is real.

Junk DNA? Vestigial organs? Idiotic predictions, and typical of evolution, which has failed to really conctribute anything to science or medicine. See:
Darwinism Impeding Science
Evolution Contributes Nothing to Medicine

13. Entropy and disorder

Blah blah closed v. open systems. Weak argument. Already been answered.

14. Statistical challenges to evolution

Even evolutionists have agreed that the creation of life is unlikely, hence such theories as multiverses, panspermia, and other theories that try to overcome this glaring defiency. I don’t know why evolutionists can’t admit this.

15. Speciation

Speciation is not really at the center of objections. Rather, it’s macroevolution, that is novel features created from the genetic level.

One of the main objections you missed is the disarray of the phylogenetic trees. Comparing homology has failed, and genetics continues to debunk this method as meaningful. See
How molecular biology has ‘annihilated the tree of life’
Evolutionary Trees – In Flux or Broken and Bogus?

Christians posit that modern species descended from a common ancestor (which genetics has seemed to corroborate, but which evolutionists extrapolate to descent with modification and one ancestor for all).

The discipline is called baraminology.
Baraminology
A baraminology tutorial with examples from the grasses (Poaceae)

You can also see the NCSE’s attack on Baraminology.

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danielg April 21, 2010 at 2:30 pm

Man, nobody cares.

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