Creationist Wisdom #607: Former Darwinist

Today’s letter-to-the-editor appears in the Roanoke Star, a bi-weekly newspaper from Roanoke, Virginia. Technically, what we found isn’t a letter-to-the editor. It’s a column, but we’ll treat it as a letter. It’s titled Reflections of A Former Darwinist. The newspaper has a comments feature.

Unless the letter-writer is a politician, preacher, or other public figure, we won’t embarrass or promote him by using his full name. But today it’s a little bit different. The writer is Dennis Garvin, who describes himself in his first paragraph:

I am a reasonably educated man. Valedictorian of my college class, honors graduate of medical school, product of a surgical subspecialty training program ranked in the top two in the nation.

We Googled around, and it looks like he’s a urologist. That’s enough for full-name treatment. Excerpts from the column will be enhanced with our Curmudgeonly commentary and some bold font for emphasis. Here we go!

I was an intellectual, scientific, Darwinist atheist. Yet it was a deficit in the Darwin doctrine that drove me to question my atheism and, ultimately, to my belief in a Creator.

How intriguing! What was the deficit in the “Darwin doctrine” that changed Dennis’ mind? He tells us:

In my mid thirties, I was vexed by a question that, to many, might seem small. But it drove me crazy. Altruism. It existed. I had seen proof of its existence. Yet, it was completely counterintuitive to a Darwinist. Why would a man endanger himself to rescue a child he does not know? He is risking sacrificing himself (thereby denying the gene pool the benefit of his input) for a human creature with unknown genetic potential.

What a brilliant insight! According to Darwin, when a child not your own is imperiled, the sight should elicit laughter, or at least a shrug. No one should do anything to help anyone except his own offspring. Why didn’t this ever occur to us before? Let’s read on:

This is what set me off. By contrast, I had to conclude that, while altruism was nonsense in Darwinian terms, it was exactly consistent with the major religions of the world. So, with as open a mind as is possible in a smug atheist, I investigated my previous bias against religion and, effectively, a Creator.

Isn’t this exciting? What did Dennis learn from his investigation? We continue:

I learned that you can scientifically support Deism or atheism only if you allow yourself to be mired in the Newtonian concept of universal laws. The six days of Genesis’ creation is easily explained by Einstein’s theory of time dilation and the application of the Common Background Radiation left over from the Big Bang. It shows how the 15 billion years of the universe and the 6 days of Genesis are in perfect, even frighteningly precise, accord.

Whoa! How fast would the Earth need to be moving, relative to the rest of the universe, so that its inhabitants would experience 15 billion years in only six days? It’s a straightforward calculation. But our calculator can’t handle 365 days times 15 billion years, so we don’t have a good figure for the amount of time dilation. If we had that figure, we could plug it into a routine that will tell us out how fast Earth had to be moving. Anyway, it’s gotta be more than 99% of the speed of light. Maybe 99.9%, or even faster. Here’s more from Dennis:

Even the mystery of the Trinity has scientific logic if you apply slit lamp experiments, quantum mechanics and specifically the idea of phase entanglement. None of these generally accepted advances in science and physics proves the God of the Bible. But they do make it hard, indeed impossible, to scientifically reject Him. This still leaves you free to be an atheist; even God gives you that prerogative. Just don’t claim that modern science backs you up. It makes you look like a fool, just like I was.

We’re only about halfway through, but we’ve given you the good stuff. Go ahead, click over there to read it all. It will forever change you.

Copyright © 2015. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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23 responses to “Creationist Wisdom #607: Former Darwinist

  1. His use of “Darwinist atheist” says he never was an atheist or a evilutionist.

  2. Our Curmudgeon wails and gnashes his teeth:

    But our calculator can’t handle 365 days times 15 billion years, so we don’t have a good figure for the amount of time dilation.

    You really are suffering from the loss of The Time Cube!

  3. And I continue to suffer from inept html handling…😦

  4. Altruism has several benefits:

    1) it help preserve the human species;
    2) if successful, the altruistic rescuer is revered as a hero;
    3) it makes you feel good about yourself, thus combatting low self-esteem, depression, etc.;
    4) it builds community and tribal unity.

    The doc is short-sighted if he couldn’t figure this out.

  5. Megalonyx complains: “And I continue to suffer …”

    I think this describes your problem: Man suffering from constipation for 10 years has 11-pound stool removed.

  6. You go surfing for weird stuff, Curmy.

  7. retiredsciguy says: “You go surfing for weird stuff, Curmy.”

    I’m lost without the Time Cube.

  8. >”I’m lost without the Time Cube.”

    Patience Curmie, now there is an available niche in the ecosystem of buffoolery, and something will evolve to take its place.

  9. Another altruism benefit:

    5) The very same quick reaction and reflexes that serves to rescue one’s kinfolk doesn’t take the time to stop and weigh whether or not to act based upon one’s degrees of genetic linkage to the one who is in peril.

    Moreover, that response is heightened even more when a vulnerable child is imperiled. We’ve probably all seen analyses of Disney animation/cartoon characters with which Disney artists are told to infuse visual triggers for the unconscious recognition of child-like anatomical characteristics: Thus, the young Bambi cartoon character began as a toddler’s skeleton doing various movements, such as slinking along the ground and slowly climbing over a log. Much like artists of the Renaissance, Disney artists knew that anatomy is the key to appearance and realistic movement. Once “fleshed out” with muscle and skin/fur—along with the overly large eyes-to-head ratio and small nose—the audience naturally and strongly empathizes with such a character because human protective emotions and reactions are heightened in general..

    The “cost” of everyone in a tribe or people group rescuing all vulnerable children and not just their own progeny is apparently outweighed by the benefits. Reacting to save without taking the time to discriminate raises the infant-survival-to-adulthood rates and that means less wasted tribal resources (especially food) on individuals who become old enough to “give back” to the tribe in terms of being a producer and not just a consumer. And that’s good for everybody. (After all, consumed food is not just a cost in itself. Tribal members may have been killed by the animal “donor” of that food. Fewer skilled hunters may mean less success in downing the next beast being pursued for what sometimes required days of pursuit.)

    Thus, today’s denialist who thought that “[altruism]…was completely counterintuitive to a Darwinist.” should have said, “Altruism is completely counterintuitive to a science-ignorant denier of evolution who thinks real scientists are as ignorant of the topic as he is.”

    Wherever there’s “creation science” and ID, there’s a lot of Arguments from Personal Incredulity and Arguments from Ignorance. And Dunning-Kruger appears along with that ignorance.

  10. Conversely, it was in part being raised to believe that altruism only made sense in a religious context, and finding out later how wrong that was, that was part of why I gave up being a creationist.

  11. I think this describes your problem: Man suffering from constipation for 10 years has 11-pound stool removed.

    Now the restroom voyeur finally has a perfectly legitimate excuse for the unexpected placement of his camera! “Your Honor, we all know why a good fisherman takes along his camera: so that when he catches ‘the Big One’, he can prove to naysayers the record-breaking size. After all, seeing is believing.”

    As to “…has 11-pound stool removed.”, I sure hope for his sake that it was one of those collapsible musician’s stools that folds up easily. (I’ve not had the courage to read the linked webpage and hear the bad news. And yes, ambiguity of “stool” was exploited to make a point.)

    Thankfully, the obvious punchlines for the SC’s interesting link were just too obvious. Accordingly, I’m very impressed that everyone resisted going the easy route to a few cheap laughs.

    And considering that a urologist and constipation were involved, you might say that everybody just “would not go there.” Especially the distressed patient. (And that is yet another example of humor involving the ambiguity of language, which often depends upon an idiom, where the overall phrase can have a different meaning than the sum of the words within it. A lot of the confusing phrases and words in ancient texts are due to suspected idioms which we can’t always figure out. But the discovery and analysis of papyri preserved in the desert sands of Egypt has led to many lexicon improvements. And that has greatly aided the hermeneutics and exegesis of all Koine Greek literature.

  12. @Prof Tertius: Your comment is similar to what I was going to say, only more detailed and complete. What Dennis clearly does not understand is that natural selection shapes populations, not individuals. Some individual humans may ignore others who are in danger, but if a reasonable percentage of the population helps others survive, that population benefits. To the extent such “altruistic” behavior is genetically determined, natural selection should reinforce it. And by they way, you can see similar behavior in many non-human animal populations. In addition to not knowing much about natural selection, Dennis doesn’t seem to have a very good grasp of physics, either. To be fair though, you certainly don’t need to know anything about physics or evolution to operate a surgical laser or guide it to the prostate.

  13. Altruistic behavior can be observed in many creatures: I once saw a small flock of sparrows swoop across the street directly in front of a car. One was struck and to me seemed dead, and some of his fellows came back and stood around him chirping gently. As I heard another car about 30 seconds away , they became increasingly frantic, pecking and pulling at his wings and legs, and dancing around and chirping madly as he groggily came around when the car approached. It seemed certain death awaited the brave and determined group when at the last possible micro-second the flock seemingly exploded in every direction in a blur of feathers, leaving no one behind!

  14. This writer claims to be a doctor – apparently educated at a medical school. And yet so willfully ignorant, if not stupid, or both. As James Randi has demonstrated – even Mensa has some very stupid people.

  15. It is difficult to understand nowadays how an educated person cannot know that there is a resource, Wikipedia, which may have some information which would be worth exploring on a topic which is interesting to one. In this case, there is an article on “Altruism (biology)” and a section discussing its relevance to evolution. It may be totally wrong-headed, but it is worth at least a look, and at the references cited.
    It is perhaps understandable when this correspondant was in his thirties that it would not have been obvious where to look for information. But even at that, I would think that one of the responsabilities incurred by education is that one should expend some effort before speaking as an educated person.

  16. Tom S:
    “…one should expend some effort before speaking as an educated person.”

    Well-said.

  17. “But it drove me crazy. Altruism. It existed. I had seen proof of its existence. Yet, it was completely counterintuitive to a Darwinist.”
    Now only if our urologist had heard of the research done by Piotr Kropotkin in Siberia he might have kept his mental health. Instead he dived into the dark with “I had to conclude that, while altruism was nonsense in Darwinian terms.”

  18. Btw MNb stands for Mark Nieuweboer.

  19. Whoa! How fast would the Earth need to be moving, relative to the rest of the universe, so that its inhabitants would experience 15 billion years in only six days? It’s a straightforward calculation. But our calculator can’t handle 365 days times 15 billion years, so we don’t have a good figure for the amount of time dilation. If we had that figure, we could plug it into a routine that will tell us out how fast Earth had to be moving. Anyway, it’s gotta be more than 99% of the speed of light. Maybe 99.9%, or even faster.

    And at that speed, the dust particles pervading all of space would hit the planet like the worst cosmic-ray blast imaginable, blasting the atmosphere and oceans away and of course vaporizing every living thing.

  20. Charles Deetz ;)

    Are there really folks who go from understanding evolution to being a six-dayer? It be nice if the DI would make a list of those folks, couldn’t take much more than a page or two.

  21. The sequence of events in Genesis 1 is different from the scientific account. Merely compressing the time scale is not going to make them compatible.
    For example, the Sun, Moon and stars only get mentioned on day 4.
    Flying and swimming creatures are mentioned together before the land animals. (Does this mean that the butterflies were created before the caterpillars and the tadpoles before the frogs? Not to mention the birds before the reptiles, and the whales before most of the mammals.)
    And there is no provision for the majority of life, the microbes.

  22. Flying and swimming creatures are mentioned together before the land animals. (Does this mean that the butterflies were created before the caterpillars …

    Remember: translations generally use the closest approximation to the original meaning when there is not an X=Y 100% equivalence between language. I think you will find that the Hebrew word for “flying creatures” doesn’t include insects—but no translators wants to double the size of the resulting translation by rendering “flying creatures minus the insects”. And if we had an ancient Hebrew to question, he’d probably say “Of course not. Insects are not NEPHESH [soulish, “creatures with personalities.”] so an insect is not a “winged creature” even if the insect has wings. (I can’t remember if any of the rabbis talked about butterflies but I think they classified it as a “creepeth along the ground” type of creature, that is, an insect which happened to have wings during part of its cycle. The ancients did notice pupae becoming butterflies and moths but I can’t remember the terms they used. But I doubt that they ever used the same word as that used for birds (a NEPHESH type of creature.)

    Students new to this who have no translation background often assume that “ancient languages were flawed” or the people confused. But we have equally confusing and illogical names for things. For example, we talk about “panda bears” and “koala bears”, yet neither is a bear at all! Yet nobody claims that our culture is “ignorant of taxonomy”. And as always, “etymology is not lexicography.”

    The organization as well as what is included and not included in Genesis 1 helps support the various Framework Hypotheses explanations of the creation account. Rather than being a chronological account for YOM 1 to 6, the Hebrews probably saw it as a response to the polytheism among the neighboring cultures. Each YOM/day establishes God as the one deity standing by each of the “domains” of the natural world which was governed by a god or goddess of the neighboring pantheons. (There is also a 3 & 3 chiasm, which one can Google.) A good example is the day where God is declared the creator of the sun and the moon, two VERY IMPORTANT deities of the neighboring cultures. By the standards of the times, lowering the sun and moon to being subservient created things under the one God was a radical defiance of polytheism, where the sun and moon were very important deities. Genesis 1 places everything under Israel’s God ….and that is the main purpose of Genesis 1. Any perception of chronology was limited to that which came with the mnemonic device.

    Notice also that each YOM/DAY comes with its own CHORUS after each verse: “And the evening and the morning was the Nth day.”

    The ancient Hebrews had a cosmology much like other ancient peoples. But the monotheism theism of Genesis 1 is a theme which continues right through to the call of Abraham (who was called out of a polytheistic, idolatrous culture to be a monotheism worshipping YHWH ELOHIM.) Unfortunately, Young Earth Creationists refuse to care about any of that. Cherished TRADITIONS must be upheld, even if they don’t make sense in the context and culture.

  23. @Prof. Tertius
    My comments were meant tongue in cheek, in teasing those who are trying to make the Biblical language to fit modern scientific concepts.
    But seriously, I think that there was a concept of “equivocal generation” in which living things could arise from different living things. An example of that would be metamorphosis. A butterfly would be considered as a different creature from the caterpillar. I don’t know whether that concept was common in the Biblical culture, but it seems that there was acceptance of the related concept of spontaneous generation.