[extropy-chat] Reverse Evolution ?

Russell Wallace russell.wallace at gmail.com
Fri Mar 3 02:56:06 UTC 2006

On 3/1/06, spike <spike66 at comcast.net> wrote:
> A big part of the reason why so many report not believing in evolution is
> that it is so widely misunderstood.  This has been shown in surveys, where
> test takers reported having learned more about evolution by taking the
> survey than in any other exposure to the discipline.  Evolution is widely
> caricatured by fish crawling out on land, becoming an ape then a human, as
> if evolution has a particular direction.  Cartoon images can have enormous
> impact, as we have seen.  Stephen J. Gould has written extensively on this
> misconception and its affect on the public.

I'm quite disappointed at the direction this conversation is taking here.

I'm going to copy some paragraphs I wrote on another list:

"Western civilization has followed Christianity for the last two thousand
years, but lately many people are finding that religion no longer works for
them, and are either formally leaving it or merely paying lip service. (I
think this is at least in part because, while there is much that is good in
Christianity, it is unfortunately often lumped in with belief in the literal
truth of myths like the Garden of Eden and Noah's Ark, which do not appear
to be consistent with the way the world we live in works; but that's another

Contrary to the hopes of some prominent atheists, this has not led to an era
of enlightened rationalism, but to disaffectation, superstition and
nihilism. Yet contrary to some cynics, I don't believe this is by and large
due to stupidity (the average disaffected teenager effortlessly grasps
social situations I was still struggling with in my 20s) or lack of
education (we have a grinding surfeit of that, at least quantitatively). I
think it's because the modern world view is presented so badly.

There is plenty of beauty in real science and technology, and plenty of hope
if they are employed by wise and rational ethics. There should be no need to
resort to superstition as a psychological defense mechanism or resign
oneself in despair to the idea that only what one can grasp for oneself at
this moment is of any account; and there would not be, were the world
described by science not so often wrongly portrayed as empty and

Of all the places I would have hoped to see the meaning and beauty in the
real world remarked on, it would be extropy-chat, the mailing list of the
philosophy of progress itself. Yet I see it said or implied that evolution
has no direction, that humans are no better than chimpanzees, that Gould's
empty nihilism corrects a misconception.

Most people aren't specialists in science. (If they were, we'd all have
starved to death long ago.) They reasonably rely on those of us who are, to
tell them what science says and implies.

If even Extropians claim that science describes a meaningless world, using
evolution as the edge of the axe, is it any wonder that people who still
want to believe in something worthwhile reject evolution? Can you really
blame them?

- Russell
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