Another Creationist
Trick Question
Kelly Bowles

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From: "Positive Atheism Magazine" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "Kelly Bowles"
Subject: Re: Positive_Atheism_Letters_Section
Date: Saturday, March 31, 2001 7:14 PM

What scientists call defective are the same thing that nature appears to call defective -- genes that do not replicate, but that produce something other than the original set (or a working semblance of that set -- seeing as how most of the information in the human gene set appears to be random and to have nothing to do with producing the organism).

Meanwhile, you misrepresent the entire concept of natural selection, in that natural selection is the opposite of an "accident." Natural selection, a form of intelligent design, weeds out what we would call "accidents" or "defective genes" and all that remains are organisms that will survive in the environment long enough to procreate. I don't know what you call this, but I do not consider it an "accident."

Cliff Walker
"Positive Atheism" Magazine
Five years of service to
     people with no reason to believe

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From: "Positive Atheism Magazine" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "Kelly Bowles"
Subject: Re: Positive_Atheism_Letters_Section
Date: Sunday, April 01, 2001 9:53 PM

Intelligent, in this case, means the non-random selection of random mutations. Deliberate is an accurate way to see the "will" to survive and procreate inherent in all DNA-based organisms.

I think you confuse intelligent with conscious, thereby eliminating for yourself the notion of artificial intelligence -- thus raising the question of why you use a computer.

So, DNA produces copies of itself, mildly randomized by radiation and entropy, and the cold hard reality of nature selects which ones will live long enough to repeat this process. Not one of your ancestors died young -- going back to the first self-replicating molecules (the "primordial ooze" that creationists so often accuse us of believing in).

Algorithms involving the natural selection of slight random variations have recently been used to explore possibilities in aircraft design, and have come up with designs that no human mind would have previously considered viable, but which would fly with more stability and efficiency than anything in the air today (although these jets look pretty weird). Of course, the notion of artificially intelligent devices designing themselves was pondered in the I Robot series written by atheistic science-fiction author Isaac Asimov, and is put to work daily at places like Intel.

Stay tuned: Intelligence has been shown to be mechanical, and we're not too far from describing the mechanism behind consciousness as well. At least nobody has yet shown consciousness to be non-mechanical (supernatural: i.e., "spiritual," etc.).

Cliff Walker
"Positive Atheism" Magazine
Five years of service to
     people with no reason to believe

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From: "Positive Atheism Magazine" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "Kelly Bowles"
Subject: Re: Positive_Atheism_Letters_Section
Date: Monday, April 02, 2001 12:55 AM

Natural selection is pure hindsight -- it is a creative method that completely foregoes any sense of planning. And if you study nature with this in mind, many "problems" such as you have raised begin to make perfect sense (or, at least, they no longer need to make sense).

A classic example is one that I deal with constantly:

What is the need for pain, once I have been alerted to the fact that I have a problem?

A conscious creator who had both foresight and compassion might have addressed this potential problem, designing it so that as soon as my body detects that I have addressed the problem, the pain somehow goes away.

But without foresight (and certainly without compassion), we see that pain exists the way it does because with it, certain species had an advantage over those who were without it. This probably works from both ends: those with not enough sensitivity to pain had certain disadvantages, while those with too much sensitivity to pain had other disadvantages. So, the general range of pain felt by humans is probably somewhere between these two disadvantageous extremes.
 

Back to the sex drive, extremely horny folks (like my friend the late Screamin' Jay Hawkins) tend to have more sex than people such as myself who never really cared enough about sex to make it my primary goal in life. Thus, Jay fathered between 60 and 70 known children, and I have fathered none that I know of.

Jay was an exception in that as a talented singer working in modern American society, he was more likely able to financially support children and bring them to adulthood (if that's what happened -- I don't know anything about his arrangements, or what role the communities or the women involved played in supporting all these kids: I do know that he lived the life of a man of humble means, not that of a singer who had already carved out his niche in history). He also had much more opportunity to meet prospective lovers because of his career choice. In other, more natural situations, the limitations of one's resources would put a cap on how many kids a person can raise to adulthood. The Hottentot character in James A. Michener's novel The Covenant addressed this issue quite vividly when he explained to the sailors on the boat where he worked why he had only one testicle: the superstition in his tribe was that with only one testicle, it was impossible to father twins (as twins would upset the population balance in the tribe), so they'd remove one testicle from each male child upon birth. But in between and in lieu of these two extremes (Jay Hawkins or an Arab Sheik versus the Hottentot), a person's sex drive plays the most important role in determining the number of offspring.

True, I grew up with sex education and birth control (1960s and '70s), and Jay grew up with neither (1930s and '40s), so I could have conceivably had as much sex as Jay had and still remain childless -- but that's not the point. The point is that without the sex drive, procreating is unlikely in humans, other mammals, birds, and many other species for whom the sheer joy of sex plays a role in how often an organism will procreate. Without the sex drive in the human male, procreation is next to impossible outside of the laboratory, although a human female can get pregnant wit hout arousal (such as being the victim of rape). But the male must become aroused in order to procreate.

Humans, like the animals, seldom consciously think about procreation when engaging in sexual recreation. However, the fact that the sex drive is so strong in all animals where it is a factor tends to favor handing that trait down to offspring, and those without sex drive (human males, anyway), tend not to have offspring and thus tend not to hand that trait down to anybody.

This, to me, is a classic example of natural selection at work.

Cliff Walker
"Positive Atheism" Magazine
Five years of service to
     people with no reason to believe

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From: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "Kelly Bowles"
Subject: Re: Positive_Atheism_Letters_Section
Date: Monday, April 02, 2001 6:16 AM

I appreciate that you can believe in spite of what you went through.

At least your brother got to have a portion of a life. My brother never got to learn how to talk, and died very painfully at about age six -- we think. We don't know because the State took him away long before the heartbreaking pain set in. This is certainly one of the most terrifying of childhood diseases; Mark Twain would have had a field day with it, trying to imagine what kind of monster-god would invent such a disease.

No man ever lifted a hand against my brother except in the Rain Man sense. And as far as I can tell, no god did either. If there was a powerful god, he'd be on my "list" from what I know about what my brother went through.

Our experience is not unique, and neither is yours. This probably accounts for the sheer power behind the Argument from Evil. My entire immediate family has been flat-out atheistic. Of the greater family near us, there are no fundamentalists that I know of -- only Spinoza types and people with thinking similar to that of Bishop Spong. A few of them pray and are Republicans, but that's about it. The kids I grew up with were all very religious until their brother was born blind. They couldn't reconcile what they'd learned in Catechism with what Nature was dishing out to their family. I saw their father recently, and he says that none of them are very religious these days -- including him. Too many of us have been afflicted by the hand of pain and have done nothing to deserve this fate. And from a Book of Job sense, none of us has learned anything from it, either.
 

Also, perhaps you are aware that everybody who was anybody during the pre-Hellenistic and Hellenistic period was born of a virgin and rose from the dead -- from the brilliant mathematician Pythagoras to the first-century monotheistic religious teacher Apollonius:

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In the first century of the Common Era, there appeared at the eastern end of the Mediterranean a remarkable religious leader who taught the worship of one true God and declared that religion meant not the sacrifice of beasts but the practice of charity and piety and the shunning of hatred and enmity. He was said to have worked miracles of goodness, casting out demons, healing the sick, raising the dead. His exemplary life led some of his followers to claim he was a son of God, though he called himself the son of a man. Accused of sedition against Rome, he was arrested. After his death, his disciples claimed he had risen from the dead, appeared to them alive, and then ascended to heaven. Who was this teacher and wonder-worker? His name was Apollonius of Tyana; he died about 98 A.D., and his story may be read in Flavius Philostratus's Life of Apollonius.
    -- from Randall Helms, Gospel Fictions, p. 9

 

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There's a whole lot more out there than my little world, that's for sure. I certainly don't want to have said yea or nay about anything unless I've done my best to see if yea is yea and nay is nay. This even colors my style of atheism in that I don't pronounce the non-existence of God; rather, I point out that no god claim has cut it with me. I did join the church out of sheer loneliness once. I was the most miserable of men for three years, trying to force myself to believe something that doesn't meet my innate sense of self-honesty. One thing doing this website for five-and-a-half years has done for me is test my doubt -- and my sense of humanity.

Cliff Walker
"Positive Atheism" Magazine
Five years of service to
    people with no reason to believe

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