An Atheist Questions the Logic of Darwinism (Part 1)

Evolution, as understood in the popular circles as purely random physical mutations filtered by natural selection, is increasingly under attack. It’s defenders must continue to climb further onto a limb and make explanations that taste more and more like just-so stories.

One recent attack on evolution comes from atheist philosopher Thomas Nagel who wrote the book Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False. Nagel’s explanations are reasonable, but written as a philosopher who sometimes paints in broad strokes. His conclusions, however, are strong enough to deserve attention from the Darwinists.

Nagel is no religious zealot, for he clearly states what he would conclude if left to his own personal desires: “My preference for an immanent, natural explanation is congruent with my atheism.”(p.95) He denies any arguments that require a Designer (p.12), yet calls for intelligent design proponents to be treated more fairly and given serious evaluation (p.10). Nagel is an atheist who follows his reason to a logical conclusion.

He describes the direction from which he starts:

With regard to evolution, the process of natural selection cannot account for the actual history without an adequate supply of viable mutations, and I believe it remains an open question whether this could have been provided in geological time merely as a result of chemical accident, without the operation of some other factors determining and restricting the forms of genetic variation. It is no longer legitimate simply to imagine a sequence of gradually evolving phenotypes, as if their appearance through mutations in the DNA were unproblematic — as Richard Dawkins does for the evolution of the eye. With regard to the origin of life, the problem is much harder . . . The coming into existence of the genetic code — an arbitrary mapping of nucleotide sequences into amino acids, together with mechanisms that can read the code and carry out its instructions — seems particularly resistant to being revealed as probable given physical law alone. (p.9-10)

Indeed, it would seem that much of modern Neo-Darwinism is based on assuming the process is valid, then seeking to sequence the data to fit the model, often convincing us that the process is valid by imagining how a sequence might work. We are reminded of the statements by Dr. James Tour, who has stated “when it comes to the often gross extrapolations between observations and conclusions on macroevolution, scientists, it seems to me, permit unhealthy leeway.” (see the full article here)

Nagel is honest enough to point out a fact that is quite obvious but not given much attention by most modern biologists:

I find it puzzling that this view of things should be taken as more or less self-evident, as I believe it commonly is. Everyone acknowledges that there are vast amounts we do not know, and that enormous opportunities for progress in understanding lie before us. But scientific naturalists claim to know what the form that progress will be . . . (p.20)

Indeed, such an idea is more amazing when we consider the many changes in theories that have occurred in the annals of science. The college science textbooks that we studied a generation ago are so outdated as to be good for not much more than a doorstop, yet the current batch of scientists are just as convinced of their current accuracy as the previous ones were.

Nagel goes on to elaborate on the significant problem Neo-Darwinism has in explaining the areas of consciousness, cognition, and value. The next posts will examine some of Nagel’s claims in these areas.


About humblesmith

Christian Apologist & Philosopher
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6 Responses to An Atheist Questions the Logic of Darwinism (Part 1)

  1. Linda Lee says:

    Many years ago when I was agnostic, almost an atheist, I went to nursing school. One day, I was invited to observe open heart surgery, a quadruple bypass. While standing on a foot stool at the patient’s head, after the surgeon opened the man’s chest and retracted the rib cage, I stared in awe at the beating heart flanked by breathing lungs.

    Then I began to lose faith in my doubts. 🙂

    • nawdew14 says:

      Wow Linda, that is a powerful illustration. The human body is such an awesome creation.

      When my first child was born, he had to be birthed by way of C-Section. I was not permitted in the operating room when the surgeon made the incision, but after this, I was permitted to enter and witness his birth. Like you, I was in awe. Watching the surgeon move some of her organs to the side and remove him from the birth canal. Witnessing all this expressed to me how wonderfully and fearfully we were created. The human body is so complex that only from the mind of a Creator, ours, could such a thing exist.

      It is amazing how God will use so many different ways to get our attention and show us His love, even if it means opening the human body and revealing all complexity that exists within it.

      • Linda Lee says:

        Your words just gave me goose bumps. I also witnessed a c-section during my nurse training. The mother, an Amish women with four other children, had a bad reaction to the anesthesia. Her heart and respiration, everything, suddenly stopped. The anesthesiologist asked me to hold her arm up in the air to keep the IV line flowing, while he pumped air into her lungs with a bag to keep her blood oxygenated. Meanwhile, the surgeon was calmly, methodically, removing the child from the uterus.

        As I was holding up the woman’s arm, I looked into the her open, lifeless eyes. Her pupils were dilated. She was gone.

        I said a silent prayer, just in case…. and then I SAW the LIFE come back into her eyes!!! She survived the surgery, and so did her baby. It was an awesome thing to see!!

        • nawdew14 says:

          Awesome. See, it is these testimonies that the atheists just do not get. The wonder and awe over God’s willingness to reveal His power to humble hearts is beyond words. We cannot express in full detail the wonder and amazement what God does when He intervene’s right in front of us. We see God, atheists see a natural explanation. Which do you think brings the greatest joy to our lives and in turn glorifies Him? (Rev 4:11)

  2. dwwork says:

    Reblogged this on Reasons For The Hope Blog and commented:
    This post from my friend Glenn is a great fit with my previous posts on evolution. David

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