Harmonia Philosophica Facebook page
Religion-Science Philosophy articles series
Main Thesis: Harmonia Philosophica [English] (Credo quia absurdum!!)
The limits of science
Religion and Science unification - Towards religional science
The Dark Side of Technology
The dictatorship of the science of psychiatry
The Source of Ethics
State - Science separation: Is it time?
Why you can't be an agnostic
Human Consciousness and the end of Materialism
What is the theory of Evolution
Theory of Evolution is correct! But for everything?
Such a clarification is of the utmost importance. Most public debates on evolution are caused by the denial of the validity of the theory of evolution by people who believe in God. What I want to clarify here is that the theory of evolution is a correct and valid biological theory that has nothing to do with philosophical problems of existence, or with problems of life in general (we do not even know what "species" is, see below). Many geneticists (like Francis Collins) practice biology and at the same time believe in God!
It is actually a pitty that some narrow-minded people today "use" the idea of Christianity to promote ideas like the "God created the world in 6 actual man-days". We should not confuse Christian tradition and old texts with religion philosophy and with scientific facts. Please refer to my Knol What a Christian is NOT for more details on these issues and an analysis of how one can be a Christian with no such "conflicts".
Some common misconceptions
Not one single "Theory of Evolution" exists
Common ancestor Gradual evolution Population-based speciation Natural selection Lammark No Yes No No Darwin Yes Yes Yes Yes Haeckel Yes Yes ? Partially New-lamarcians Yes Yes Yes No T.H. Huxley Yes No No No de Vries Yes No No No T.H. Morgan Yes No No Insignificant
Not one universal definition of "evolution" exists
- Naturalistic evolution: Evolution happened according to purely natural forces and processes without any (divine or not) guidance.
- Theistic evolution / Intelligent design: Evolution happened and its mechanism was/is created/guided by God. These two terms are oftenly misunderstood and used wrongly. The ID movement is a movement that attempts to prove the theory of evolution wrong, while theistic evolution accepts the validity of the theory of evolution while at the same time accepts God as the source of its mechanism. Francis Collins has proposed the term "BioLogos" (see below).
- Creationism: Species were created separately by God.
When a person is asked in polls if they believe in evolution, they might interpret the question as belief in naturalistic evolution only. Alternately, they might consider it as asking whether one believes in either naturalistic or theistic evolution. Pollsters tend to like simple yes and no answers. Sometimes they do not handle questions well where there are more than one discrete positions.
To what does "Evolution" finally refers to?Almost all biologists use the term "evolution" to talk about two different things: the evolution of a species being the first and the creation of new species being the second. This confusion could be a result of a mistake or ignorance, but it almost certainly is the result of bad intentions: Because hard scientific data that prove the creation of new species are difficult to find (if any), scientists (or better "scientists with a hidden agenda") use the same term for both these notions in order to base their belief in the second to evidence they have for the first. Clear evidence for the evolution within a specific species do exist (micro-evolution). However evidence for the creation of new species (macro-evolution) do not exist in the extent some scientists would want. For example various experiments with thousands of generations of fruit-flies have not resulted in the creation of a new fruit-fly species. That is why they deliberately (?) use the same term for both - so that confusion may make some people think evidence for the first also support the second. You can visit the very insightful Knol on that subject Evolution - Facts, Theories, and Fiction. I will concentrate my efforts to make you understand the misuse of the abovementioned sound biological theory in philosophy.
The "Species Problem" - About the definition of "species"
"... that stage of evolutionary progress at which the once actually or potentially interbreeding array of forms becomes segregated into two or more separate arrays which are physiologically incapable of interbreeding." (Dobzhansky 1937)
However the application of that biological species concept (BSC) to a number of groups, including land plants, is problematical because of interspecies hybridization between clearly delimited species . Many times completely different species of plants have been mixed together to produce a new one.
Many of the debates on species touch on philosophical issues, such as nominalism and realism, as well as on issues of language and cognition . Realism and Nominalism are philosophical subjects that come up in debates over whether or not species literally exist. From one perspective, each species is a kind of organism and each species is based on a set of characteristics that are shared by all the organisms in the species. This usage of "species" refers to the taxonomic sense of the word, and under this kind of meaning a species is a category, or a type, or a natural kind.
This view of a species as a type, or natural kind, raises the question of whether such things are real. The question is not whether the organisms exist, but whether the kinds of organisms exist. There is a school of philosophical thought, called realism that says that natural kinds and other so called universals do exist. But what kind of existence would this be? It is one thing to say that a particular giraffe exists, but in what way does the giraffe category exist? This question is the opening for Nominalism which is a philosophical view that types and kinds, and universals in general, do not literally exist .
If the nominalist view is correct then kinds of things, that people have given names to, do not literally exist. It would follow then that because species are named types of organisms, that species do not literally exist. This can be a troubling idea, particularly to a biologist who studies species. If species are not real, then it would not be sensible to talk about "the origin of a species" or the "evolution of a species". As recently at least as the 1950s, some authors adopted this view and wrote of species as not being real  .
Oscar Wilde, The Critic as Artist, part 2, 1891
Darwin himself was very much against the idea of the very notion of "species" and the clear distrinction between "species" based on the species defined as a group of individuals with similar characteristics. For Darwin, since all individuals evolve continuously the definition of distinct species is something completely arbitrary and based upon the subjective opinion of each taxonomist! He was actually proud that he had solved the problem of the definition of "species" by pointing out that the evolutionary mechanism continuously changes the characteristics of populations and where one "draws the line" to define a new/different species is completely subjective!!! 
Language mistakes and the Tree of Life
|The "classic" view of the Tree of Life|
Having a simple tree-diagram with brances that only move up without cross-sections can create the wrong impression for the reader. First of all it must be noted that according to new theories the tree is not so simple and it consists not of simple tree-like branches but of a more complex grid of lines going in many directions. What is more, scientists agree that we know very little about the lower levels of the tree: that levels could be consisting of a group of primitive cells rather than just one - so the ancestor of all species could be more and not one as many scientists today believe. Moreover, versions of the Tree of Life created based on the rRNA do not have roots at all! As strange as it may sound, the tree of life is not as simple as Darwin thought. 
|The rRNA-based Tree of Life. Notice that no "root" exists as in the classical veiw / approach.|
But it must be noted that whatever form the Tree of Life has, we must be very careful not to extract the wrong conclusion from it. The proximity of two organisms in the tree could say very little about the actual proximity of these organisms in reality. For example in the Tree of Life humans are very close to chimps. However that says nothing concerning the true in-life differences between the two: as I analyze in the end of the article (see "Explanation of evolution mechanism is not explanation of human nature"), humans have many unique characteristics that no animal has at all. So claiming close relationship between humans and chimps is not a solid "truth" (whatever that word means) but more a category mistake - a language error. In the same way "living matter" is a "branch" that sprung out of "lifeless matter" - does that mean that life is closely related to stones and dirt? It is unfortunately very easy to make language mistakes. Lets define "thing" as "something that exists". Does that make us all humans "things"? Yes! Or...no?
Scope of Theory of Evolution is limited
Can a watch exist without a watchmaker?
Humans against "Evolution"
For example Huxley, prominent figure of modern evolutionary biologists who was one of the people who formed the new evolutionary synthesis  was also in favour of eugenics:
I do not claim to make any arguments based on Huxley. I am sure that many many evolutionary biologists are nice people who do not want to kill the weak and the poor. But wait a minute…WHY would they not want that? Is not that what the Theory of Evolution tells us? Could we decide something different that what “Nature” has decided, i.e. that the death of the weak be the source of all life and of humans? It seems that we do. And good for us!!! Before going any further, evolutionary biologists should answer those hard questions. Because love and compassion are basic for humans (at least for the…evolved humans) and if the theory of evolution cannot explain that, it must change. Maybe not completely change, but at least the basic part of it.
Evolution does not explain everything...
And it is unfortunate that some people use the findings of evolution theory to claim that “Species evolved” => “No Grand Designer needed” => “God doesn’t exist / Purpose doesn’t exist”. It is a very popular line of thinking among atheists and one of the reasons for the conflict that some people wish to exist.
In other words: even though I think the theory of evolution is correct for the explanation of species evolution and biodiversity, I don’t think it applies to the beginning of life (how inorganic matter turned into living organisms), the existence/non-existence of purpose or to other grand metaphysical questions.
To quote the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy “The more general philosophical issues associated with evolutionary theory—those surrounding natural teleology, ethics, the relation of evolutionary naturalism to the claims of religious traditions, the implications for the relation of human beings to the rest of the organic world—receive no single solution from evolutionary science”. 
Human altruism and love make evolution obsolete?
The problem of ethics
The "poison" of materialism
Be careful to know the underlying foundation of the other opinions, so as not to confuse "opinion" with "scientifically validated truth"...Everyone has pre-assumptions in his mind when speaking. The point is to make them publicly known in order to have an honest dialogue...
Great scientists' objections for evolution
- Alfred Russel Wallace: Wallace was the person who first publicly promoted the idea of evolution via means of natural selection, one year before Darwin published the same exactly theory. He was elected head of the anthropology section of the British Association in 1866, president of the Entomological Society of London in 1870 and head of the biology section of the British Association in 1876. In his work 'The Limits of Natural Selection as Applied to Man' (S165:1869/1870) [http://www.wku.edu/~smithch/wallace/S165.htm], he argues that the theory of evolution cannot explain 'higher' human properties. He proposed the existence of a 'Higher Intelligent' being' to explain such things as the passing of inorganic matter to living matter or the existence of consiousness .
- Francis S. Collins: A genetist that was the head of the Human Genome Project. He is a believer in God and does not believe that the theory of evolution can explain everything. He has also published a book to provide 'evidence for belief' (see Bibliography).  
BioLogos schema is actually a line of thinking that is in favour of the existence of a Designer (God) in cosmos. That Designer is the source of the laws and every complexity in Universe. The existence of a Designer does not mean that Evolutuon theory is wrong - quite the contrary. The world is designed by a Designer and then it evolves based on the physical laws (e.g. evolution mechanism) established in its design. What that Designer does and if he/she/it unterferes with the everyday life is a point that is not clear up to now and mostly irrelevant to the basic principle advocated by BioLogos Theory (at least up to the point I have understood): that a purpose exists in the Universe.
Arguments in favour of BioLogos
- If causality exists in the world (i.e. everything happening has a prior cause), then everything must have a cause. So the Big Bang must in turn have a prior cause, that cause another cause and so on. However it is not logical to say that the Universe exists for ever without any reason. It is not logical to say that there is no initial cause to the existence of the cosmos, because you would then deny the fact that causality exists: it is not logical to say that everything has a cause, but that the existence of universe has not! So there must be an initial cause that would 'break' that indefinite chain of causes (this is the "First Cause" argument - see Religional Science for an analysis of the argument). The initial cause proposed by the theory of theistic evolution / BioLgos is a divine creator, since only such a being can play the role of an initial cause (since that divine creator is outside the bounds of time and space - thus not requiring a prior cause for its own existence). In the same way the theory of Evolution proposes (but has not proven scientifically) that there is no initial cause. None of these arguments can be proven with hard data. However the proposal of the Intelligent Design theory is more logical (and logic is a scientific tool).
- Most things in life seem to have a purpose for their existence (teleological argument). Many aspects of human life propose that we have a higher purpose in life. We everyday strive to improve spiritually and intellectually, we write and read poetry, we cry when we hear a favourite song, we choose to give our precious life for abstract noble ideas (like freedom or dignity or love), etc. If our life as dust particles is the only thing we have, then we would never choose to commit suicide. No hard evidence can be found for the existence of purpose in the Universe. However it is a logical thing to say such a thing. Claiming that existence is an accident seems highly illogical and, thus unscientific, for a species that creates art, thinks, loves, cries... We everyday try to improve ouselfs and go past the strict boundaries of our mortal bodies, everyday we try to improve our spirit and our souls, so telling that we have the same purpose in the world as a banana sounds rather 'not correct'.
- The Achilles’ heel of the theory of evolution seems to be "goodness". Humans have the tendency to be altruistic, do good to other people not for gaining profit but just because they want to do good. This is impossible to be explained in a world were the "survival of the fittest" rule (i.e. theory of evolution) exists. Despite numerous attempts to explain altruism and goodness as a result of evolution, no such thing has ever been acomplished. Male apes or lions may kill the offsprings of other males so that they can dominate, females may eat the males after reproducing, monkeys of a team may attack monkeys in another team, but humans may do good to other humans EVEN THOUGH that will gain them nothing (consider for example altruistic actions that happen in private without the one doing good wanting to say publicly what he/she has done). Only the existence of a higher purpose and a 'Designer' who has embedded in us the sense of Moral Law and the tendency to be good can explain such a behaviour.
- The Universe itself has been proven scientifically that it is specifically designed to support life. Some 10 basic universe parameters (like the gravitational constant, the electon charge etc) have exactly the value they have to so as to support life: a minor change to the 200-th decimal point to any of those parameters would condemn us to non-existence. This looks like design - and the existence of a designer the only logical explanation for such a thing to exist.
- Modern developments in molecular biology strongly indicate that the concept of 'design' is inherent in nature and the various species. Darwin did not know about the concept of DNA, which on its own shows that many traits of humans are coded into genes. Above all, the fact that we are beginning to design new forms of life on owr own (e.g. imrpove the human genome, create new viruses for biological weapons etc) clearly shows that the idea of 'design' in life is more than just a theological idea - it is rather part of reality.
Important thing to note about logic: Even Aristotle, the founder of Logic, did not know what logic was useful about. He could not say whether logic is a tool to find the ultimate truth or just a tool to discover the limits of our language. Post-modern philosophers have thought much on that. To be precise, we do not even know whether such a thing as 'ultimate truth' even exists! As Wittgenstein once said, we cannot know the boundaries of our thought, because in order to do that we should be able to think of what we cannot think!
Debate over BioLogos
The difficulty in explaining *everything* with one theory (e.g. theory of evolution) is clearly depicted by the following video of Richard Dawkins interview.In that interview Dawkins was asked to name one biological process that increases the information in the genome, thus leading to new more evolved species. Richard Dawkins simply did not answer…
Concerning the "nature" of the Theory of Evolution
Being logical is the only way to reach truth - and logic says that when you play at a casino your chance will finally give you up and you will loose all your money...
Explanation of evolution mechanism is not explanation of our human nature
2. 'The Origin of Human Races and the Antiquity of Man Deduced From the Theory of Natural Selection', Alfred Russel Wallace (S93: 1864).
- The Growth of Biological Thought: Diversity, Evolution, and Inheritance, Ernst Mayr, Cambridge, Mass: Belknap Press. ISBN 0-674-36446-5.
- Modern evolutionary synthesis [Wikipedia article]
- Boraas, M. E. 1983. Predator induced evolution in chemostat culture. EOS. Transactions of the American Geophysical Union. 64:1102.
- Phagotrophy by a flagellate selects for colonial prey: A possible origin of multicellularity
- Phenotypic and Genomic Evolution during a 20,000-Generation Experiment with the Bacterium Escherichia coli, Richard E. Lenski, Center for Microbial Ecology, Michigan State University.
- McCourt and Hoshaw 1990, Mishler 1985.
- Budd and Mishler 1990.
- The Species Problem [Wikipedia]
- Gregg JR. 1950. Taxonomy, language and reality. American Naturalist 84:419-435.
- Burma BH. 1954. Reality, existence, and classification: A discussion of the species problem. Pp. 193-209 in Slobodchikoff, CN, ed. Concepts of species. Dowden, Hutchinson & Ross, Stroudsburg, PA.
- Charles Darwin, On the Origin of Species:484.
- Revealing the roots of the Tree of Life, W. Ford Doolittle, American Scientific, Greek edition, April 2000.
- Evolution, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
- Physicalism (Materialism) [Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy]
- Russel Wallace and Evolution Theory
- Francis Collins
- "I’ve found God, says man who cracked the genome", The Times, June 11, 2006
- BioLogos [Wikipedia]
- The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief, Francis Collins, Free Press, USA, 2006.
- French scientists find giant new virus
- The Evolution of Evolutionary Theory
> Main articles / Κύρια άρθρα > Limits of Science > Όρια της Επιστήμης
> Religion & Science Unification > Φιλοσοφία Επιστήμης & Θρησκείας