I've been thinking about evolution, and it has occurred to me that there are 3 problems with it. 1.) evolution by definition is a reactionary process, so how can it look forward - eg how can we as end results of the process ask "what if?" 2.) humanity has the potential to self destruct - Ayn Rand in Atlas Shrugged recognised that we were the only species that could do that - how can an evolved / reactive process develop a self-destruct mechanism? 3.) At what point along the evolutionary process did it decide to split out into separate genders, and where can we point to to demonstrate this? Any thoughts?

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Telling other people how they're going to think and react is always an effective communication method :) Its like a more verbose form of the mind reading cognitive distortion.

I'm not in the least bit offended by your comments. My only suggestion would be that your definition of religious seems to be anyone who thinks more broadly than strict science.

The reason I started this discussion was honest research as you suggest - I have been recommended several books so far which I hope to read over the Christmas holiday period, but I still cannot reconcile humanities ability to look forward with blind evolution as it has been described - I'm still trying to get my head around that.

I must protest this; it's not a dichotomy between "religious" and "understanding of evolution"; it's quite possible to be both, and it's certainly possible to be neither.  I've run into many an atheist (but not here!) whose understanding of evolution lacked any real depth; and many who are unbelievers who, rather than looking into it, find their interests lie elsewhere than the sciences and simply defer to the experts.

It's certainly true that Eric James has shown his ignorance of evolution here, and he happens to be religious, but you cannot simply generalize to say "Only a religious person could have such a grotesque mis-understanding of evolution..."

I hate to call out a fellow atheist for bigotry, but... you are being a bigot here.

I wouldn't lump you in with the DP boycotters :) I had you pegged (like ~60% of Americans) as a Dr. Pepper fan, myself.

to create - the basis of art - to contemplate, to ask "what if" - aspects that are part of every day existence - how did they come to be? Even the ability to consider divinity, even if you choose to reject it, doesn't appear to me to be the natural outcome of a non-forward looking reactive process.

The ability to think abstractly, artistically, logically, etc. are all known to come from various areas of the brain, to be lost when those parts are damaged, or to be missing or enhanced depending on biological factors which sometimes come into play as early as birth.

We know that the brain is the source of these traits (i.e. for the reasons stated above) and that it operates entirely on cells and chemical signals and interaction. All of our biological matter (i.e. said cells and chemical emitters) is patterned and produced from the blueprints of our DNA, interaction from also evolving ribosomes, etc., and that blueprint changes with each generation.

In other words, given infinite time, these traits (abstract thought, artisticness, logic, etc.) are guaranteed to rise in the gene pool, but it just so happens that they rose in billions of years instead, alongside billions of other traits and combinations of traits. How complex brain cell activity can result in abstract thought or conscience is nowhere near a hard science as of yet, but the above facts supersede any explanation involving supernatural, planned or reactive process as causing the traits.

I'm not a fan of Dr Pepper - what little I've had of it I find too sweet - neither am I American. My beverages of choice are a nice dark beer (although I don't like Guinness), a solid black coffee, a decent Riesling or a decent Port.

I have no problem with our abstract cognitive abilities being formed as a result of chemical processes in our brain, patterned on our DNA etc, but I'm not convinced by your "guaranteed to rise" statement. I'm not being obtuse or obstinate, I just fail to see how a blind, non-looking forward, reactive process - no matter how much time you throw at it - can make that jump.

There are no "jumps" in evolution, that is the fundamental problem with your understanding.

Humans aren't the only species that can self-destruct. Any species can do that by becoming too prolific and exhausting its food source while at the same time poisoning itself with its waste products.

Eric,

Several posters have recommended reference books to aid you in gaining a better understanding of the  process of  evolutionary development. I applaud your willingness to read Dawkins, Harris and others. It could provide you with the insight needed to correctly question your current modes of thinking. The difficult part of your journey will be whether you can accept the realization that evolution exists and even galaxies are born, live, and die without supernatural influence. 

It is a journey Ed, and the more I learn the more my mind is becoming freerer and challenged. And it's great. I'll never stop reading and exploring - have you every read any of Francis Schaeffer's work? I haven't for a long time, but I'm about to begin again as I try to make sense of all these intellectual and free-ranging influences. And while I am definitely a Christian and see no reason at this point to abandon it, I am beginning to suspect that there would be very few churches that would accept me if they knew all that I am beginning to believe. I'm not liberal in the denial sense, but I do believe that the Christian Church - especially the Southern Baptist fundamentalist types - have done massive damage and our credibility is all but shot because of their ignorance.

I agree with your last statement 100%.

How can we ask 'What if'?    I think it has to do with the evolution of the ability to visualize multiple scenarios or choices in the mind.  Consciousness may be a byproduct of this.  http://www.klab.caltech.edu/~koch/crick-koch-cc-97.html   This is an old paper....  

#3  Why do males have nipples? (the link doesn't deal with this question.. I just thought it was a good question to ask considering we are thinking along those lines.)   http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/11/081120171328.htm

The paper by Crick is very interesting, but while he builds a very good case for anticipation / instinct - what he calls the on-line system of seeing based on essentially a combination of training and experience - see the sports examples - and I've always acknowledged anticipation doesn't require a future looking response - he also acknowledges that this is the realm of the philosopher as it is getting into the realm of meaning. He suggests some experiments that can contribute to its understanding, as he raises the issue that it relies on a combination of time, experience and memories and the brains ability to link together massive amounts of experiential data - this is getting into Michael Polanyi's area of tacit knowledge. But there is still no suggestion or indication as to how our consciousness can raise the question "what if" based on our experience and observations of differing aspects of life? Everything he discusses relies on the past - the accumulation of life - he offers no explanation for taking any of this forward into previously unperceived relationships of information, materials, or whatever aspect of life we are exploring at any given moment. His experiments would contribute to the understanding of the neurological functions of consciousness - what he calls the neural correlate of consciousness - but then he acknowledges that it cannot resolve the issues of consciousness itself. As far as I can tell, that remains in the realm of the philosopher at this stage. The senses can absorb vast amounts of information, the brain can process it into logical patterns and responses, but none of this contributes to the "what if" ability I am trying to understand. This is essential implying that the brain is a vast and complex relational database, but a.) they are designed, and b.) they don't have the ability to speculate.

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