My Brethren without Christ, I have to let you know you're all a bunch of Darwinian primates. (Just hit the link below to get the joke.) I just got back from the September 28, 2010, Dinesh D'Souza/Michael Shermer debate at USF in Tampa. They took questions at the end of the session and I got a chance to ask the following question in front of around a thousand attendees.

The opening comments by Dinesh were very similar to the debate a couple of years ago. At first, I was going to ask him about the old Dostoyevsky conjecture he mentions in his opening remarks: there's no morality without God. To an atheist this conviction is an insult and I knew he probably answered it many times, so on the queue I thought of a better question. I knew he couldn't possibly answer without time-lines and equations and a blackboard to write on.

In his opening remarks, Dinesh stated that he “accepts” the theory of evolution as valid, and that there's no conflict with Biblical thought. So I switched my question to, ”Since you accept evolution, could you explain why it took over four billion years for intelligence to arrive on the planet?”

Actually, dinosaurs and early mammals evolved some intelligence in the Cretaceous Period, but I knew he would take a anthropocentric view—being a Christian. For a few seconds he seemed to take the question in stride, as Shermer sat complacently smiling like the Mona Lisa. Dinesh gave it some thought, then squirmed in his armchair and proceeded to get into a circumlocutory rant. I wish the response were recorded because Hamlet somehow got in there (no bull), and I think it all came down to the old catchall “God works in mysterious ways.”

This is a complex technical question. The most conspicuous answer, to me, is the eons it took to progress from prokaryotes (bacteria with the genetic material dispersed throughout the cell) 3.6 billion years ago, to early eukayotes, (bacteria and algae with a distinct nuclear membrane that houses and protects the genetic material) 2.5 billion years ago. That's over 1.1 billion years where our beautiful planet was the habitat for nothing more than germs. The protective nucleus was the springboard to the Cambrian Explosion around 540 million years go. That's another two billion years before complex microorganisms (plants and animals) came on the scene. This is why Carl Sagan in his Cosmos TV serious states that space probes like the Explorer were likely find life in the universe, but only at the microbial level.

I think this is an important question and would bet it shows up again in future debates. This consideration destroys Pope John Paul II's explanation in 1996 that “God infused a soul” as in Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel rendition of God and Adam touching index fingers. If humans were the centerpiece of God's plan, why did heck did it take so long? It's pretty evident that evolution moves at it's own speed and the human genome is a digital book that wrote itself. With all the junk in there—around 30%—the human genome manifestly contradicts “intelligent design.”

As always I welcome any comments on this blog. The link is the debate with Shermer from two years ago. It's pretty much what I heard Tuesday night, so I guess these guys have been playing this road show for quite a while. It gives A/N members a chance to discuss and analyze what Christians are trying to put forth as reasons to believe. .

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Comment by Rich Goss on October 1, 2010 at 10:40am
Brett, on the slavery issue, I remember a lecture series some years ago by a UCLA history professor. I think his name was Dr. Ruis.

Here's the logic and rationalization of the Conquistadors used when they landed in West Africa.

1. The land belongs to God.
2. These half-naked savages are not living in God's grace.
3. We are living with God because we celebrate mass, take Holy Communion and give gold to the church.
4. God would want us to take these primitives and show them the way to heaven. The soul is what counts.
5. We have the right and moral obligation to enslave them.
Comment by Brett W. Miller on October 1, 2010 at 10:01am
What do you want to bet that someday Christians will be bragging about their few leaders who supported gay rights and excuse their historic homophobia, just like they excuse their historic support of slavery?

Looking back through history that does seem to be the pattern: Deny it until it become undeniable, then claim credit. To be fair the church was divided over the issue of slavery, the difference between the two being the pro slavery side could use scripture, Collossians 3:22 for example, (Slaves obey your masters) the other side had more trouble with biblical support.
Comment by Diana Agorio on October 1, 2010 at 1:41am
Here is a sign that Shermer is right: that someday soon the anti-gay marriage campaign of the Christians will be forgotten. A high ranking mormon just apologized for prop 8:

What do you want to bet that someday Christians will be bragging about their few leaders who supported gay rights and excuse their historic homophobia, just like they excuse their historic support of slavery?
Comment by Jo Jerome on September 30, 2010 at 11:21pm
If god set it up what does a 99% extinction rate say about his quality control department? How did all of these faulty designs evolve in the first place?

Ooh, good question Brett.

Plus, if I'm so intelligently designed, explain my 20/400 vision and the fact that we run slower than just about any other animal.

And where are my mutant superpowers dammit? A little telekinesis or the ability to walk through walls. Is that so much to ask? But I digress.
Comment by Brett W. Miller on September 30, 2010 at 10:50pm
If I might play Christains advocate for a moment. *Shudder* Dinesh could have responed with "Well who are we to say what is a long time to a timeless being? True to our puny flawed human view of time 4 billion years seems like a while, but to god a day is like a thousand years, so 4 billion years is nothing to him."

Instead of focussing specifically on the amount of time taken I would suggest all focus being put on the obviously meandering stumbling path of evolution. If god set it up what does a 99% extinction rate say about his quality control department? How did all of these faulty designs evolve in the first place?

Every debate I see with Dinesh makes me wonder why Christains invite him to defend the faith at all. You'd think it would have gotten embarrassing by now.
Comment by Jo Jerome on September 30, 2010 at 2:27pm
The compulsive shit-stirrer in me would first jump up and demand a definition for "intelligence." I like to argue that the simplest of single-celled organisms can exhibit a degree of intelligence.

But, considering the question was asked of a Christian apologist, their definition of intelligence is usually "homo sapien."

Homeless-hobo me has spent the last several nights camped alongside a guy who I don't believe is lying about the vast amount of education he's had on various subjects, including Anthropology and human evolution, which he says are exactly the same subject (at which point he starts to sound less like the wise old hippie in the camper and more like the crackpot old hippie in the camper. But he's replacing my alternator belt for next to nothing so I feel obliged to indulge him a little).

Anyway, he came out the other night with the ID explanation that the sudden leap in evolution (I think he was talking about the Cambrian Explosion but it was hard to tell) is empirical proof of "outside influence" which he also referred to as the "hand of god." I was trying to clarify that what he's talking about is not evidence but lack of evidence: I.e.; high odds and missing links. But he seemed to think there was a solid, testable positive proof in there somewhere of this hand-of-god/outside-influence.

I'd love to get with someone more coherent and clarify exactly what this hypothesis and supposed evidence is.
Comment by Diana Agorio on September 30, 2010 at 2:05pm
Is Dinesh poorly educated or just a liar? His bias and distortions of history are outrageous.



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