This phrase arises a lot among those who deny evolutionary processes. I’ve seen evolution-deniers literally sneer with disgust at the alleged audacity of scientists who describe “blind and mindless” processes. Many are appalled at the thought that “blind and mindless processes” could be responsible for the diversity of living things.
Nevertheless, I never hear such contempt towards “blind and mindless processes” like radioisotope decay, solar fusion, oxidation, fermentation, photosynthesis, osmosis, or mitosis. Why?
Every one of us arose from the blind and mindless processes by which countless sperm competed to reach and penetrate an egg. [Yes, I realize that that is an oversimplification. We know that some sperms have other purposes, even “cooperative” ones. Of course, those also are blind and mindless processes.]
Is the contempt toward the “blind and mindless process” simply an ingrained fear that “random chance” could in any way determine the life and world we know?
[To be clear, I have no problem with “random chance” because the Bible states that all that we consider “chance” is determined by God. Proverbs 16:33 says “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.”]
Of course, if mitosis is not actually a “blind and mindless process” because it was created by God, could not the same be said about evolutionary processes which were created by God?
I’m replying to this using my computer. And, when I think about it, the operating system of my computer is a blind and mindless process.
Yes, the critics of evolution do often use the “blind and mindless” expression in their criticism. But perhaps they cannot help themselves, because of the way that they have been caught up in a blind and mindless way of reading their Bible.
In my experience, some people need humans to be separate from nature in order for humans to be special. They seem to reject the idea that God can act through nature, and instead view God as only being able to act against what nature is doing. There also seems to be some cognitive dissonance in this stance since those same people will talk about how beautiful and wonderful nature is, all the while trying to distance themselves from it.
As one who is (has been) guilty of this, I’d like to chime in. For me, personally, the issue has to do with being able to envision the process of evolution resulting in the wondrous flora and fauna that we observe today. It’s not ignorance of the science that is so clearly articulated here. It is the absolute inability to envision these facets of creation arising on their own. It is not an unwillingness to learn something new, it is the inability of the narrative to resonate that causes the problem. This is why I participate here. To read, learn, listen and observe. Some are visual learners, some auditory and some tactile. It doesn’t mean that any “teaching style” is wrong, per se, it just means that people learn differently.
Oxidation, as you mention is a natural process. It’s very easy for one to visualize this kind of change over time, because we see it daily and it makes sense to everyone. Oxygen burns things.
The contempt factor is a very good point. Everyone should try to be more understanding. We (some, many) make choices to respond in particular ways. Some are positive and some are negative. We may not have a choice as to what we can comprehend, but we do have a choice as to how we respond.
Ironic… I have studied the Bible for years. Never mindlessly. Always intentionally. I have found that it speaks to me in a way that I can comprehend. Hopefully, over time, the scientific community will be able to similarly articulate a message that I, and others like me, can understand and embrace.
For me, and I suspect many others also, there is no problem with envisioning God acting through nature, or even separating man from nature. The obstacle, really, is the ability to look at the evidence that you see and accept, and see it as possessing the ability to result in all that we see now. That’s really the crux of the issue. Obviously speaking for myself alone, but suspecting that there are others who feel similarly.
That brings to mind the ways in which some theologians reacted to Kepler, Newton, et al. They had traditionally believed (and taught) that the heavenly bodies move as they do because God commanded angels to push them around. (After all, how could they otherwise in such orderly ways?) So when Newton described the law of universal gravitation and Kepler drafted equations which “reduced it all” to “mindless processes”, it sounded God-denying to them!
I think we all are amazed at times when we learn about processes that are new to us.
There’s a lot of trial and error going on. Biology is trying things out, and what is successful is what is kept. The expression “natural selection” leads people to think it is blind and mindless. But what is selected by “natural selection” are the successes in that trial and error experimentation. So it really isn’t as blind as the critics try to make out.
Part of that obstacle could be understanding the evidence itself. I would imagine that it is really difficult for the average person to understand the details of biology and the evidence that exists. In my own interactions, it is rare that I find non-biologists who really understand what phylogenies are and how they impact biology at all levels. Instead, the average person is left with their own incredulity and a reflexive distrust of experts they don’t understand. That would certainly seem like a normal human response.
I certainly agree with you about the parallel. One cannot know for sure, but for me, honestly, it is not a reaction in which I want to “protect God”… but rather that I cannot comprehend the process in the same context as others. Gravity is a good example. I still remember seeing the 3D grid in physics class, visually depicting space bending around an object. It was a visual that transcended an otherwise incomprehensible concept. Some might not have an issue “visualizing” gravity… Others of us can only see that things fall. You (I believe, or Neil) mentioned cognitive dissonance… this is a _ huge aspect_ to this misunderstanding situation. We all want to avoid (and / or resolve) cognitive dissonance. For some, it comes in the form of contempt toward an idea, just as you have described.
That it is blind or not isn’t the issue, though. It is the ability to comprehend the degree to which it is blind or not. So, while I gracefully accept your explanation, it is the problem, not the solution. Don’t misunderstand, I don’t disagree with you. I just have yet to cross the threshold wherein I can see it the same way that you see it.
This is the nail on the head. And maybe, even moreover, that it is not only the comprehension of the facts, but the ability to apply those granular facts to a concept that results in an eyeball, for instance. It’s become an icon (no pun intended) representing this conversation as a whole, but it is a valid one. Not because you cannot see it as being able to evolve on its own, but because I, and millions like me, cannot. It doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. It doesn’t mean it did. I just means that there’s a gap in understanding.
For most humans understanding the effects of long term probability distributions is not an intuitive thing. That’s why people keep losing money at Vegas playing roulette despite knowing the green 0 and 00 give the house an unbeatable long term 5% advantage. People see the short term and assess their chances as 50/50, I win or the house wins. They just don’t grok the long term effects. it’s the same with NS and populations. People will think any one animal survived just due to luck not understanding the whole population is subject to the slightly uneven long term probabilities.
I totally agree. And that is because I understand the difference between science and philosophy. Do you?
Yes, that is why we don’t look to science for answering philosophical/theological questions like “What is the ultimate purpose in our being here?”
As a Christ-follower, I believe God designed everything and did so intelligently. Nevertheless, I don’t affirm “ID theory” because I’ve yet to see anyone use the Scientific Method to establish a comprehensive theory of Intelligent design. So far, all of the “ID theory” I’ve read has been ID philosophy hoping (but failing) to use science to establish an intelligent designer belief. (Nevertheless, I would be delighted if they would succeed. I’m just not holding my breath.)
Right! 100% agreed. And a casino is really just numbers applied to gaming. With this particular realm, it is even less intuitive to imagine that “something comes from nothing”… (admittedly a gross generalization, but similar to how we see it.) Evograd or T_Aquaticus once explained how a hand became a fin (or something similar, again a gross generalization.) As they described how this happened, it was clear that they also could visualize it happening. For me, it was (and still is) utterly beyond reach.
So, the point here is (as far as I’m concerned) that, when someone seems to be unreasonably unable to accept some of the aspects of evolution that are abundantly accessible to others, be empathetic to their experience. (I’m not speaking to you, directly, Tim, but to anyone.) Most of us are truth seekers, but cognitive dissonance avoiders.