World History

Evolution or Intelligent Design: Which is Correct? Part 2

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The World of Charles Darwin

Charles Darwin, the Man

Darwinian Evolution: Hypothesis or Theory?

Evolution or Intelligent Design: Which is Correct? Part 2

The World of Charles Darwin, the Father of Evolution

Charles Darwin was baptized into the Anglican Church, although both the Darwins and their cousins the Wedgewoods (makers of the famous pottery) were actually Dissenters.

The Wedgewoods were Evangelicals. The Darwins were Unitarians, with considerable enthusiasm for the scientific position of the Enlightenment.

Charles was the son of a squire, although he was the “spare” and would not inherit the estate. So, he lived the life of gentry but needed to find a way to support himself financially.

There were three acceptable professions: lawyer, physician, and clergyman. Charles’ father did not consider the first. Perhaps his father noted Charles’s lack of logic. Charles became sick at the sight of blood so he couldn’t be a physician. He was finally settled in at the Anglican university of Cambridge, Christ’s College, studying to be a priest.

While this didn’t thrill Charles, he noted that his father could afford to buy and influence a clerical post with a generous stipend in an Anglican country parish. Thus, Charles could be free to engage in his favorite subject: natural history.

After graduation, Charles boarded the ship named the Beagle. He served as naturalist for five years.

When he returned to Britain, he decided that he would make a living with natural history. His would develop his grandfather’s scientific philosophy. This would become evolution.

Charles was in the last generation of “gentlemen scientists.” These were wealthy men who could devote immense amounts of time to their hobby: collecting and curating natural history collections.

They spent additional time at their clubs “philosophizing” about their findings.

To philosophize is to make a proposition as a basis for reasoning (presenting arguments) without any assumption of its truth. In other words, they were just “spit balling.”

This is what Charles’s grandfather had done. Charles determined to go further.

During his lifetime, Enlightenment extremists shouted louder than anyone else and often resorted to violence. Revolutions were toppling monarchies and the churches bound to them.

Charles was afraid his work on evolution would be appropriated by the extremists to overthrow his life of privilege. He was right on the first part. The leftists appropriated his work as supporting their belief in reason alone: no state, no church, no privilege.

However, Charles lived out his life in comfort.

Charles Darwin, the Man

Darwin’s autobiography is fascinating. It was written for his children and seems to be his true recollection and opinion of himself.

As the authority on evolution, his character and skills are important to assess. Let me share what I discovered.

  1. Darwin trained himself to be a meticulous observer.
  2. He was a terrible student. Charles reports that as a child, his family considered him “slow.” I wonder whether he had an undiagnosed learning disability.
  3. He associated with professors who used anecdotal and observational sciences, not controlled experiments.
  4. Darwin seems to have been a hands-on learner. He said that education that isn’t “practical” (functional) is useless and boring.
  5. He could not think abstractly, such as in doing any math with ease and competence except counting.
  6. Charles had a prodigious memory especially for dates. He crammed for his examinations and his memory often carried him through “without cribs” (cheat sheets), he boasted.
  7. He was addicted to excitement and receiving adulation even as a child.
  8. He had an estranged relationship with his father, which he duplicated with his own family.
  9. “Science consists in grouping facts so that general laws or conclusions may be drawn from them.” Wrong. Science consists of looking at all of the data and observing naturally occurring groupings. Then one draws conclusions.
  10. Darwin was unable to transfer knowledge from one subject to another. He did well on Euclidian proofs but the logic they supposedly taught (according to my geometry teacher) did not make the jump to natural science.
  11. Charles did not have skills in logic. Regardless of topic, he makes leaps of logic.

One example is that he continuously extols barnyard animals as examples of evolution. Wrong. The selective breeding is purposeful (Intelligent Design) by the farmer and has nothing to do with the survival of the animal.

  1. He also had poor skill in dissection because he didn’t attend dissection class while in medical education.
  2. He expressed unmerited pride in his thinking ability.
  3. He had a fertile imagination.
  4. Even in his books, he still entangles belief and logic. If you are truly using the Enlightenment model, you cannot use words such as “I believe” or “I feel that….”
  5. Darwin was incredibly self-centered. Here are some examples:
    1. He attended lectures he preferred and skipped others to go hunting or foraging.
    1. He expected his wife’s undivided attention especially during his frequent bouts of stomach illness.

(As an RN who taught Psychiatric Nursing, his ailment sounds to me like a psychosomatic illness stemming from conflict between the church and his work.)

His wife also had to care for their 10 children and manage the house!

  • His compliment to the children to whom he wrote the autobiography: “You never caused me a moment’s trouble.” (The emphasis is mine.)
    • Eleven of the 79 pages in his autobiography are filled with name-dropping.
  • He says that one day he decided to become a theorist.
    • Excuse me, but to be a scientific theorist, you need skills in math and logic!
    • This is not a decision to be made alone.

As a graduate student, I developed a model of nursing and defended it before my professors. My thesis was experimental in nature, demonstrating the understanding and proper application of statistics.

It was my professors who noted that I had the skills to progress to becoming a theorist, and who submitted my name to Who’s Who in Nursing as “future nurse theorist.”

  1. Darwin is a very poor writer both in organization and content.
  2. He had all of the biases of a Victorian gentleman and total ignorance that he possessed them.
  3. When he wasn’t ill, Charles was a hard worker. He wrote several books and curated his massive collection of natural history.

     Desmond and Moore describe Darwin’s performance in his final examinations like this:

When Taken (3 hours each)Content of examination Performance

Day 1 morningEssays on Homer in Greekmediocre

Day 1 afternoonEssays on Virgil in Latinmediocre

Day 2 morningEssays on Paley’s theologyexcellent

Day 2 afternoonEssays on Philosophyexcellent

Day 3 morningMathematics

Euclidian proofswell



Day 3 afternoonPhysicsbarely passed

In short, there was no hope for an honors degree, but his overall performance was tenth in his class of ordinary baccalaureate candidates.

He was just relieved to have passed.

Darwinian Evolution: Hypothesis or Theory?

We are talking strictly about Charles Darwin’s work now. Was it a theory? Or was it a hypothesis?

Actually, since he often used words such as “I feel” and “I believe” it could be left as a philosophy, except that he was not just spit balling. He was searching for truth.

Hypothesis Theory

Proposed explanationA system of ideas to explain something

Based on limited evidenceBased on principles unrelated to explanation

One of the things that is fascinating about Darwin is that he doesn’t fit into any of the boxes. He is a hybrid.

Philosophy: He continues to use the vocabulary of philosophy so it is likely he actually thought and worked within the Traditional Model of science, regardless of how enlightened he tried to be.

Hypothesis: Darwin did make a proposed explanation.

Together with other naturalists, he developed a great volume of observational data and one experimental study.

His knowledge was limited to British and French science. For instance, he did not know Gregor Mendel’s Theory of Heredity.

Also, his extensive work was all in a few select portions of his proposal, leaving great holes unexplored.

Altogether, the evidence is significant in depth, but limited in variety.

Theory: Darwin developed his explanation into a set of hypotheses that he organized into a loose system of ideas.

I will leave you with a reading list in chronological order and continue with the story of Evolution vs. Intelligent Design next time.

Darwin, Charles. The Origin of Species

Darwin, Charles. The Descent of Man

Darwin, Charles. The Autobiography of Charles Darwin

Desmond, Adrian and James Moore. Darwin: the Life of a Tormented Evolutionist (This is considered the foremost biography on Darwin)

Happy reading!

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World History

Evolution or Intelligent Design: Which is Correct? Part 1

Evolution or Intelligent Design

Two points of View

A Treasure Hunt for Facts

Facts “Everybody Knows” that have not been disproven

What can folk legends tell us?

The Split between Science and Religion

Evolution or Intelligent Design: Which is Correct? Part 1

I’m not going to tell you.

Instead, I’ll walk you through pros and cons of each position and let you make up your own mind.

Two Points of View

Throughout the years, Darwinian evolution has been polished and refined in a half-dozen directions, but they all agree that everything existing today was caused by natural means.

We could call these positions “Materialism Theory.”

Intelligent design also consists of a group of theories. The creator could be any of the following:

The Judeo-Christian God

A creator god or goddess within a pantheon of gods such as Gaia

Mother Nature

An unknown creator who devised a computer game in which we live or a situation similar to the movie Matrix.

The commonality among Intelligent Design theories is that everything that exists is the result of a consciousness. We could call these theories “Mind Theory.”

A Treasure Hunt for Facts

Of course, we want to base our decision on facts; but where do we find them?

As a reminder, a fact is something known or proved to be true. A “known” fact is sometimes unseated by a “proven” fact.

Where does this treasure hunt take us?

“Known facts” existed long before the scientific process was determined, so let’s start there. Are there any facts that “everybody knows” that have not been disproven?

Well, yes, there are.

Facts “Everybody Knows” that have not been disproven

  1. Living matter is not made from non-living matter.
  2. The proof of a mind is the work it produces. In other words, if you see a beautiful clock but don’t see anyone working on it, you still know that it was made by a human somewhere at some time.

What can folk legends tell us?

They don’t tell us much.

Each culture has legends of the first human. The stories are remarkable similar. A god or other supernatural being created the first human by intelligent design.

Rule: Many similar stories indicate some truth within.

Being the most ancient sources, a rule kicks in that highlights another strength.

Rule: The closer a witness is to the actual event, the more reliable the source.

The weakness is that we don’t know if these legends were meant to be believed literally or merely told as moral stories. It could be both, of course, but there is no way for us to know that.

Also, most of us have played telephone. We know that within a few minutes a message can be warped out of recognition. Even given that storytellers were highly esteemed and very capable of memorizing these legends, we don’t know if the version we have heard is the original.

Overall, it seems to be a wash. We lack important facts.

The Split between Science and Religion

The earliest cultural legends are bathed in religion in an attempt to explain the world. Early temples were centers of both learning and religion. This did not change until the works of scientist Francis Bacon.

During the Middle Ages, science was encouraged “to the glory of God” by the Catholic church. This continued with the Anglican church of Britain.

Scientists whose results differed from the standing science supported by the churches and their dogmas were harassed and excommunicated.

Dissenters, who claimed that each person could interpret the Bible with the help of the Holy Spirit, often disagreed with official interpretations. For instance, some disagreed with the position that the world of their time was identical to the original creation.  

Dissenters could accept dinosaurs. Good Anglicans and Catholics could not.

During the reign of Queen Elizabeth, philosopher and politician Francis Bacon declared that scientific inquiry should be inductive. That means that precise observations should be gathered then considered logically before forming an explanation.

Inductive reasoning can be used to study philosophy, the natural world, and proofs of the existence of God, according to Bacon, but God’s specific attributes can only be learned from the Bible.

A century later, the Enlightenment demanded that the only authority for knowledge was reason. Its supporters taught “reason over superstition, and science over blind faith.” They reserved the right to define “superstition” and “blind faith.” They applied both to religion.

But they don’t allow “superstition” and “blind faith” to be applied to evolution, although I have met many people whose belief in evolution is really “blind faith.”

This, then, is the split between science and religion we see today. Only evolution is taught in public schools and some private schools. Christian schools teach intelligent design.

Why aren’t we studying both theories? The answer in both cases is bias.

Suggested reading:

Behe, Michael J. Darwin Devolves.

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World History

Are You Smarter than a First-Grader?

9 Ways a First-Grade Child Can Teach You History

Are You Smarter than a First-Grader?

Adults bring massive piles of baggage to learning the history of humans. We could make faster progress if we come to it as a child. So, let’s listen to a child in first grade.

1. “You always start reading a story at the beginning.”

History is one continuous story. Yet, our educational system chops it into chapters and assigns them out of order to various age groups. How ridiculous!

A story told in order does not have to be memorized because it naturally makes sense. Cause and effect learning is absorbed painlessly.

2. “People of long ago are just like us! This guy is like my Uncle Frank.”

People, as a whole, have not changed over the ages in anything but technology. And that is an important thing to remember.

If Hammurabi or Cleopatra or Alexander the Great was a human just as we are, we can better understand them.

And in understanding them, we better understand ourselves and those around us.

We learn not to make their mistakes. But we also learn from their triumphs!

3. “I like to ask questions about the stories. I like to ask who and what and when and where and how. But I especially like to ask why.”

Now, there is a future journalist!

Children love to ask questions and they like their questions to be respected. History is a place where all questions are welcome and taken seriously. No question is off limits. What’s not to like?

Kids are aware of an adult who is trying to change the subject. They don’t like limits put on questioning. And they especially don’t like people who refuse to answer a question.

What is so hard about saying, “We don’t know that yet.”

However, adults will often go to great lengths to avoid admitting an honest lack of knowledge.

4. “Learning dates is stupid.”

That’s somewhat true. It is a rare case when knowing the precise date has any importance to anyone’s life as a whole.

However, it is interesting to know what else was happening in the world at the same time. What was happening in the United States and Russia when Victoria became queen of Britain?

Did a woman on the throne affect these other events?

5. “I like learning the history of people my way. But I like to find out what other kids learned, too.”

When I homeschooled my girls, it quickly became clear what parts of history they liked best.

Rachel loved fashion. By assembling and wearing outfits of the time, she connected people and events in her mind and did not have to memorize related information.

Bethany liked to cook, so she concentrated on the kinds of foods the people ate and recipes they developed. We would partake in authentic food of the culture and era.

Rachel and Bethany enthusiastically declared that history was fun! No other child in the neighborhood agreed.

One day, my kids invited all of the neighborhood children to play broom hockey in the street. We were studying the invention of the sport of hockey, but unfortunately it was summer.

“We need your help. It’s our history assignment, and we only have two players.”

Dubiously, everyone showed up with brooms. At the end of the game, I proclaimed that Rachel and Bethany had each received an A for their assignments.

“This is history?” one of the kids asked, shaking his head. “I guess if my class was like this, I’d like history, too.”

So, find your own way to study history, a way to hang the whole culture on the one thing you love to do.

6. “There’s always new things to learn!”

And because they are young, it’s true.

But adults have a lifetime of accumulated knowledge. Baggage can weigh you down. There is a time to use this knowledge, but it is after you have learned all you can about this place or person.

If you are learning about Hammurabi’s law code and your brain jumps to Cousin Anita always “laying down the law,” you will make other connections that aren’t there.

The oldest culture that has been discovered was promptly named Göbekli Tepe. It has been popularized as the World’s First Temple. It reminded the archeologist of later structures that are known to be temples.

This is a terrible mistake!

Because this is the oldest structure of this type, and the excavation is not complete, we don’t know if it is a temple! Indeed, unless we find and interpret writing that refers to cult practices, we will never prove it’s a temple.

But because of the popularized description, the connection between the location and the word “temple” is pounded deeper into my brain. Now, I have to fight to consider other options.

Your knowledge of other ancient temples could prove valuable, but only after it is established that this location is undoubtedly a temple also.

7. “That’s not fair!”

Children are very perceptive about fairness. They will accept a D in music, only one cupcake, or extra homework if they think you are being fair.

That’s not to say they won’t complain!

In a class that is learning about cowboys, someone is sure to ask about “the Indians.”

In a high school class learning about the initiation of school bussing and the police protection of the first black students in all-white schools, someone will ask if white students bussed to black schools also had police protection.

Because that’s fair.

8. “That’s the answer. Everybody knows that.”

Just by living life for a few years, kids know some simple logic such as these:

“If a lot of people say something happened, it probably did.”

“The simplest answer is usually the right one.”

Adults get into complex logical or philosophical discussions and forget that the simplest rules are most often correct.

9. “Why do you think the cave man was stupid?”

We adults reek of bias.

The younger a child, the less bias she has, which makes her a better historian.

If you want to look at history fairly, like a child, you must get your biases under control. Which of these do you have?

“A person/group is superior if that person/group is the same _____ as me.”

  1. Race: negroid, occidental, oriental
  2. Ethnicity/Culture: This is often confused with race.
  3. Politically: system, party, philosophy
  4. Age: This bias is usually against the very young or the very old or teenagers.
  5. Philosophy and/or Religion or lack thereof
  6. Sex/gender
  7. Technological level: Cultures with the highest level of technology and knowledge are believed to be comprised of superior people.

Exploring History like a Child

If you have unloaded your adult baggage, and have become mentally and attitudinally like a child again, you are ready to explore history fairly.

We’ll begin in the next blog.

Of course, we will begin at the beginning!