Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Quote of the Day (39)

In his book Do We Need God to be Good? anthropologist C.R. Hallpike quotes mathematician Kevin Devlin:

“Whatever features of our brain enable (some of) us to do mathematics must have been present long before we had any mathematics. Those crucial features, therefore, must have evolved to fulfil some other purpose.”

This sort of statement is incredibly common among evolutionary psychologists and biologists, but “some other [undefined] purpose” is pretty much the best they have to offer the world. The gaping holes in their theoretical framework are orders of magnitude larger than the frame itself, calling their entire dubious intellectual structure into question.

Next to No Information

As Dr. Hallpike points out, assertions like “Our human abilities and traits are very specific adaptations to the problems of pre-historic life on the savannah in East Africa” fail to deal with the fact that we have next to no information at all about life on the African savannah or anything else pre-historic. By definition such things occurred prior to history. The one thing we absolutely CANNOT be about them is “specific”. Thus the psychologist’s house of cards is built entirely on conjecture. He is trying desperately to deduce known from unknown, reversing all accepted scientific procedure.

As an anthropologist and a Christian, Hallpike gets this:
“It cannot be sufficiently emphasized, therefore, that our profound ignorance about early humans is quite incompatible with any informed discussion of possible adaptations.”
“… is quite incompatible with” is awfully polite, but that’s the sort of thing one comes to expect from a Canadian Brit.

Perhaps … Perhaps …

But if Dr. Hallpike is correct, then statements like this one by Jordan Peterson in 12 Rules for Life have much less to them than Peterson is inclined to concede:
“Perhaps primordial Eve had more reasons to attend to serpents than Adam. Maybe they were more likely, for example, to prey on her tree-dwelling infants. Perhaps it is for this reason that Eve’s daughters are more protective, self-conscious, fearful and nervous, to this day (even, and especially, in the most egalitarian of modern human societies).”
By “much less” I mean to say “nothing at all”.

I point this out because only Hallpike seems to be crying foul about verbal excesses like those in which Peterson indulges regularly. (Technically, so are the feminists, horrified that the bestselling psychologist appears to be degrading women, but their objections are more political than scientific.)

Break Out the Popcorn

The Christian sits back in amusement. There is nothing in any of this flapping-about from the various great intelligences on the evolutionary side of the table to even remotely challenge his convictions.

From a scriptural standpoint, it is not inconceivable that an unfallen Adam had the greatest mathematical potential of any human in history. Why wouldn’t he? His mind was created directly by God. His capacity for abstract thought, though undisciplined by training or experience, was uncontaminated by false premises of any kind, on top of which he had direct access to Eternal Truth. By way of contrast, every thinker since Adam has wandered around in a sin-induced fog of erroneous suppositions and deliberate lies while battling a belligerent and contrary self-will.

Sines, cosines and cotangents were probably not a regular occupation for our first ancestor, but were we able to introduce them to him today in his unfallen state, he would undoubtedly excel at algebra, calculus or anything else he put his mind to in short order. That potential was all built in by God from day one (okay, technically Day Six).

For the believer, Devlin’s mystified “some other purpose” is more likely to provoke chortling than concern. It is precisely what a literal reading of Genesis leads him to anticipate.

Snakes and Trees

Likewise Peterson’s snakes chasing Eve and her progeny up into the pre-historic trees. If we Christians happen to observe that women have a greater tendency than men to be fearful, it is only because the word of God has already given us good reason to consider that possibility. If they are more protective of their infants, it is not in the least inconsistent with the role God has assigned them and the teaching of both Old and New Testaments about the godly outworking of motherhood. No snake story need be conjured up to account for these things.

Dr. Hallpike falls somewhere between a literal view of Genesis and outright fantasy, accepting certain assumptions common to evolutionary theorists but sufficiently sensible and Christian to recognize their glaring deficiencies and insist they be dealt with honestly, and that the evolutionary side say no more than that for which it can produce a modicum of actual evidence. As a result, he demolishes evolutionary psychology and several other pseudo-scientific constructions in a single volume. Hallpike’s case is considerably more powerful because he cannot be dismissed as a mere “cartoon creationist”.

Do We Need God to be Good? is only available in electronic form currently, but then Christian kids heading off to the Belly of the Beast university all possess a Kindle or other reading device anyway.

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