An Honest Evolution Question

Ok, I took the bait.  I couldn’t help myself!  A blogger recently featured on a Christian blog I follow is an atheist who answers questions from Christians.  So, I asked a question.  An honest question.  He answered this week and here is the link, please check it out:
Do I Believe In A Soul
(I wanted to reblog it but I don’t actually know how to do that.  Technology and I have never been besties.  Let’s learn to deal.)

So anyway, I appreciate him taking the time to answer, but my question went largely unanswered.  Or maybe I worded it wrong and didn’t get my real question to the forefront.

Of course if you’re an atheist you don’t believe you have a soul!  That’s common sense.

And fully in line with that doctrine and world view.

But what I need answered for me is why, why is it that humans have become what we have become?  How is it possible?  And when did it happen??  I want what I’m always told people who don’t believe in God want: proof.  Little known fact: I hold a bachelor’s degree in physical anthropology and psychology.  I wasn’t a believer in Christ when I was in college and I just remember thinking that the more I learned about evolution the less any of it really made sense.  My questions piled up a lot faster than my answers as I dug deeper into it.  It seemed like once I was in the nitty gritty of it, there was no proof of anything; that it was all a bunch of best guesses pieced together by a bunch of very smart people all looking for the same thing, and, in my opinion, it takes as much faith to just hear it and believe it as it does to believe in God, in a creator.  Like I said, just my lowly opinion there. 

So that’s what I wanted to know and I figured his blog was a great place to ask because I knew there would be very learned and highly educated atheists who would weigh in. 

I’m not looking for a fight, I’m looking for an answer.

So I guess my real question is this, if you believe in evolution:
Why did humans evolve so differently than other animals?  Why do we need a higher consciousness – one so high that we can even debate the existence of souls?  Why have we “evolved” so far beyond what we would ever need just to survive?  It is all about survival, isn’t it??  Why do we exhibit creativity, imagination, and understanding (just to name a very few qualities on an endless list) when it’s truly unnecessary for our survival?  What happened in human evolution that created a completely different type of evolution than any other animal on the planet?  In short: scientifically speaking, what makes us so freaking special??  You think a chimp ever wondered about the big bang theory or a dolphin ever pondered Dawkins or Darwin?  They’re smart animals too, but why are we in a whole other ball field?  (<— we even invented ball fields.  Just sayin.)  Why are we capable of not just imagining, but building and creating things completely unimaginable to any other species?  Why are we capable of things that go so far beyond just survival that it's almost laughable?

Why are we the only ones who search for meaning in life beyond just spreading our genetic seed? Oh, and not just why, WHEN did we begin this? When, when is what I want to know.

I'm NOT trying to start an internet fight and I moderate comments, so anything nasty or condescending (from EITHER SIDE) will not be allowed through.  I enjoy civil discussion, seeing things from other points of view, and learning new things.  I am not anti-science or anything like that.  In fact I give science much credit as I'm a success story cancer lab rat of sorts and I can certainly give credit where credit is due.

I'm earnestly seeking a satisfactory response.  I realize this isn't some people's cup of tea and that's ok!  No pressure to like, comment, or share.  I'm ok if this gets largely ignored, I just want an answer.  (And I'll know if you went to Google, I've read all there is there already ;)).

**Update: I wrote this late last night so I wanted to clarify a little, my belief is that we have witnessed certain instances of adaptation, mutation, and natural selection and then based on that made huge guesses and assumptions on human evolution based on this With no proof and essentially because we KNOW there isn’t a God so there had to be another way and this makes sense. Ok, but is that science? It takes a lot of faith in humans to believe that. I’ll still wait though and hear people out

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23 thoughts on “An Honest Evolution Question

  1. Hi-
    Good stuff you bring, and great background to your story by the way. I know a man (I’ve said this before) who is PhD in a University who happens to be a believer.

    He says his colleagues know life springing from evolution is a farce, but they simply cannot tolerate the alternative. And a soul? Ha. There is a reason we do not keep genealogies for warthogs………….

    Man is the crowning jewel of God’s creation, and your thoughts on imagination and understanding pretty much agree. πŸ˜‰

  2. I’m not sure what you mean by those abilities being “beyond our survival.” To the contrary, they seem to enhance our survival a great deal. What other species is capable of modifying the environment to its own benefit to such a large extent? What other species is capable of transmitting the combined knowledge of its forebears so efficiently? Are you suggesting that, despite the obvious benefits this confers, it doesn’t improve our prospects of survival?

      1. God. A protective hand over His chosen people (the Jews) up until Jesus opened the door for all to enter in, provision, guidance. Without God, as more and more people reject Him and what He truly offers (of course some people destroy or wage wars in His name but this is unacceptable) the more we will head towards our own destruction. Of course, this isn’t testable and there’s no proof, but from what I can gather there isn’t any proof from the other side either so

      2. I’m sorry to say, but that doesn’t quite answer my question. In fact, it doesn’t even seem relevant to the discussion. You asked why human beings evolved so many traits that are seemingly beyond what is necessary for the survival of the species. I noted that such traits confer certain benefits that would enhance our survival as a species. Now you seem to be saying that God is necessary for our survival. That statements comes out of left field. I’m not sure what relevance it has to the discussion. From my perspective, I think your question has been answered satisfactorily: our unique abilities give us particular benefits that do in fact enhance our likelihood of surviving.

  3. Why are humans the way we are? That’s a tricky question to answer as there are probably thousands of pressures that have influenced our evolution.

    Specifically though you ask about the brain. Again, there were several different forces involved; but one of the most prominent is sociality. Living in groups is helpful, but requires intelligence. Humans began living in bigger groups so needed bigger brains.

    And why didn’t this happen to anyone else? Well it did. Amongst other primates there is a link between brain size and group size, suggesting the same force is at work. However, none of them wound up with groups (and brains) as large as ours.

    To figure out why you have to look at the environment of Africa. Early in human evolution east Africa – where we lived – began to change forcing us to adapt and develop new things, perhaps including large groups. However West Africa, where all the other apes (except orangutans) live remained unchanged. They didn’t experience that same pressure to change.

    I hope that answers your question a bit. If you’re interested in more I’ve written a few articles on it over at my site, evoanth.com

    1. Yes thanks for the reply, seriously! I do understand all of this as I have a good working knowledge of the theories. I was looking for proof in the fossil record to support this. So you happen to know any sources? I’m not being confrontational, I just get made fun of by atheists all the time claiming there is no proof of God. Well, if your understanding is that we need proof to believe then where is the proof of all of this? Maybe not so much WHY we are the way we are but when did this happen and why? Ya know what I mean?

      1. Some of the best evidence for the importance of sociality stems from studies on living primates. There is a clear association between brain size and group size. Humans also fall into this correlation with social networks of ~150 people, which is what you’d expect for a primate with a brain our size.

        Finding evidence in the palaeoanthropological record is a bit trickier since things like group size doesn’t really fossilise. In fact, my PhD project will be an attempt to circumvent this issue. Hopefully I’ll have more for you on the subject in 4 years πŸ˜‰

        That said, the path our brain took as it evolved is very well understood because skulls to preserve. You can easily track the increasing brain over time. Do a search for the cranial capacity of our ancestors if you’d like to learn more.

        As for the time periods in question, we split from chimps ~7 million years ago. Our bodies began evolving on a different course almost immediately. However, our brains didn’t really undergo significant changes until about 2.5 million years ago. They reached full human size around 500,000 years ago. There is some debate over what that means though, with some people arguing that just having a big brain didn’t mean that these early humans were as smart as us. Something else may have needed to happen for proper human intelligence to emerge.

  4. Hey Kim

    Hey, this is great stuff. I have been following the comment thread over next door, and your questions were great. Of course, I won’t be answering, because I have the same question you do. But, I am eager to see what shakes up over here. Well done!

  5. You are proposing a bit of a false dichotomy between the capabilities of species and between the inherent capabilities of humans and the acquired capabilities of humans.
    The first divide derives from your metric. If space flight is your yardstick, then our species is way ahead, and likely to stay there. If your metric is stable, efficient integration into the environment across multiple habitats, then we are way behind any number of insect species or nematodes, and likely to stay there. We have some unique social abilities, but we are bound by them as much as other species are bound by their unique abilities. If you plopped down the average resident of LA in the woods by himself, he would not last long.
    Which leads to the problem with the second divide. People have been around (if you believe the archeologists) for about 200,000 years, anatomically speaking. All the cited wonders have been around for about 6% of that time. We don’t have a great record of the 94% of our early history, but we have a decent record of the recent 6%. It isn’t a record of neurological, cognitive innovation. It is a record of social and technological evolution, and I mean evolution as in change responding to change, not progress toward some predetermined end. Inherently, we are highly dependent on our society and very good at creating culture. Acting over time, those basic traits have gotten us where we are. I don’t think a chimp ever contemplated the big bang theory, but I don’t expect that a Neolithic farmer did either.
    In other words, I think what you are putting forward really is an argument from incredulity. It succeeds only as long as you accept its premise (the human perspective is privileged) which is what it sets out to prove in the first place.
    Can I ask a question? This is not rhetorical; I am really interested in what people think about these things.
    What is a soul? What does it do and how? How do we know about it?
    OK, one question broken into three sub-sections.:)

    1. Hi Keith (I’m assuming that’s your name) thanks for taking the time to respond! I understand what you’re saying and I don’t believe I put forth my best thought out piece but I was getting frustrated at the lack of proof. Plain and simple. When I’m made to feel ignorant or stupid by non-believers it is almost always a “how could you believe something with no proof??” my point here is that there is little to no proof of how modern humans evolved but we have made great jumps in conclusions as to how this happened based on what we’ve observed (adaptation, natural selection, etc) and pieces together a “well this makes sense based on what we know” sort of history for humanity. My point is neither “side” has proof but I am regularly made to feel dumb because I don’t buy it. Ya see what I mean?

      Anyway sorry I’m rambling I hope this made sense! My understanding of a soul based on my reading of scripture and what I feel God leading me to say is that simply it’s the part of us that lives on after we die. Its the part of us that is unseen but makes us who we are at our core. It’s our essence and what makes us each completely unique. I guess it’s an abstract concept but it’s one found in probably every culture no matter where they are. I believe God built that knowledge into us so that we would seek Him, knowing innately that this world that this life is not all there is.

      1. I see. Well, evolutionary theory has made some predictions which panned out. I think Adam has pointed out a few, and is more qualified than I to flesh out the details. Scientific theories are always provisional, as you know. I’m not sure that is a big worry. You have an alternative proposal with a testable mechanism?
        Interesting, about souls. I certainly do not have that feeling, and I don’t know how one might account for such a thing. If you say, “I feel it’s so”, and leave it at that, OK. As long as you don’t start trying to explain away my lack of sensus divinatus. πŸ™‚

      2. Exactly! Thank you! You get it at least. There is no testable proof of what I believe, nor is there for what you believe. Yet those of us who credit God are called brainwashed and ignorant, deniers of facts and science. I’ve been on both sides of this and I tell you, I feel a lot less brainwashed on this side than where I was before.

      3. I’m with you on souls, at least the way that you’ve stated it – in epiphenomenal terms. You either believe it or you don’t, end of story.
        Evolution does make some testable predictions, and those have been pretty successful. Successful predictions count as support for the theory and drive the scientific consensus on evolution, which is substantially different from the social consensus with which it is frequently confused.
        The theory of evolution is never going to stand before you and ask you to put your finger in its wounds. Neither is quantum mechanics. If that’s the sort of proof you want, then yeah, it is not forthcoming.
        There are all sorts of unassailable alternatives – occasionalism comes to mind – to account for biological diversity and its apparent change over time, but they are philosophical ones. Again, that’s OK, it just doesn’t provide solid ground for a fight.
        The pseudo-scientific alternatives to evolution, like intelligent design, are internally inconsistent and easily dispatched on that basis alone, unless one simply chooses to believe that they are true. That’s a different story, and not the one which I hear you telling. Is that correct?

    1. I love that! I have a friend with a similar experience at hospice, she said what she has seen and felt in people’s last moments is…tangible…I guess for lack of a better word. Thanks for sharing!

  6. It’s ironic you post this……or may not! I’m sure you heard or maybe not of the exhibit at the Ephrata Library on “What it Means to Be Human” through the Smithsonian which I did go to see. It was a very well displayed, scientific display one I would expect from the Smithsonian. Unfortunately, evolution/creation isn’t something I think about on a daily or even monthly basis. I believe what I do that God created us and that’s it!! However, looking at this and thinking (I think too much sometimes) ok, so if the archaeologists find different bones, etc. how do you explain that?! What about the dinosaurs?! My son questioned the dinosaurs and I told him he may have to wait till Heaven when he sees Jesus to ask him that question! As for the soul I think that is what will live on for eternity in Heaven with the Great Creator!

  7. I approach this from documented “out of body” experiences. I witnessed my own car accident when I was 16 from about 200 foot above the wreck. I saw a matchbox sized jeep slide across the rode and begin to ride up a bank and then roll over. The next instant seeing the rest of the wreck with my head against the steering wheel. I did not know the bank was there until after getting out of the jeep and other things were not apparent until visiting the scene the next day. If we are just flesh then how could I have had this experience?

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