an atheist viewpoint

thoughts from a non-theist


“Did you look up lamarckianism yet? You were preaching it, Matt was describing it, you were disagreeing and putting words in his mouth. Again. Dolt.”

Those are the words of RIght Wing Sense Vacuum Stormbringer, trying to score one past me in the comments on his blog.

Once again the guy is wrong.

Let’s look at this though, he’s referring to the discussion I had with Matt Slick a couple of nights ago, where I tried to explain the basics of evolution to him. Matt tried to say that I was preaching Larmarckism, the notion that offspring can inherit traits from their parents that the parent has developed during its lifetime. Though there are some studies that show that some traits *may* be inherited this way, it’s not what I was saying at all.

Matt tried to use the example of a giraffe, claiming that giraffes stretched their necks upwards, getting longer as a result. This is not what happens – the ‘arms race’ between the giraffe and its food is the prime cause here. Basically a giraffe that already has a neck that’s long enough to eat the food that’s out of reach of its neighbours will more likely be around long enough to reproduce, passing that trait on to its offspring. It’s mutation and variance that causes the slightly longer neck, and natural selection that pushes it forward.

Look at it this way – trees get eaten and die because giraffes are eating the leaves, after a while the only trees left are the ones that grow too high for the giraffe to eat. The only giraffes that can then eat are the ones that happen to *already* have longer necks. As these giraffes are the only ones who can eat well they are the ones that survive, which means that the long neck trait is passed on to the next generation.

Imagine a supermarket where all the food is on the top shelf. Short people won’t get taller by stretching to reach it, they’ll just starve (unless they’re bright enough to use a tool like a ladder), leaving only pre-existing tall people around to pass on their genes.

Where Lamarckism *may* have some credibility is in the area of Memes, ideas being passed from generation to generation. This is probably what happens in societal groups, the tribe that doesn’t kill, rape, or steal from, it’s fellow members is more likely to survive than the one that does. Likewise it’s more likely to attract others who are already, through genetics, predisposed that way. The combination of the Meme and the increasing number of people who share that trait being together in the gene pool makes it possible for the very basic building blocks of ‘morality’ to become ‘hard wired’ into the group.

So, yet again, Stormbringer has failed to understand a very simple concept, has then accused me of preaching it, even when I was CLEARLY saying to Matt that I didn’t agree with that viewpoint. In fact Stormbringer has got his point entirely the wrong way round. I WASN’T preaching Lamarckism, Matt claimed I was, and was then describing it, and I pointed out that I DIDN’T agree with that. I then, very clearly, went on to explain the actual mechanisms used.

As a final thought, Stormbringer is also claiming that it’s a logical fallacy to demand that he calls the Atheist Experience just because I’ve called Matt Slick – no Stormy, it’s not a ‘fallacy’, it’s a challenge. I’ve proved to you that I DO have the courage to take on some one you thought I wouldn’t, and now I’m challenging YOU to have the courage of your faith and take on a well prepared atheist. It’s not an ‘A therefore B’ situation, it’s a ‘I’ve called this guy, twice, do you have the courage to do the same?’ challenge.

Of course, Stormbringer won’t call the Atheist Experience, because he’s not bright enough to take them on, would probably get all flustered and angry, making an arse of himself, and (and this is the main reason) because he lacks the courage to have his beliefs placed under extreme scrutiny by people who will spot even the slightest error in his ‘logic’ and tear him to shred.

The man is a coward, and has no credibility at all.

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9 thoughts on “Lamarckism

  1. I like the Ghost Who Walks' description of Stormbringer: friendless loser looking for any kind of attention.

  2. Yeah, Ghost is spot on there!The Dunning-Kruger is regularly thrown around as an insult in the 'debate' between atheists and theists, but I think in this case it's accurate. Bob is far less intelligent than he thinks, but lacks the insight to see this. As for his claims that he's 'spanked' me and that I've made 'logical fallacies'….I'm starting to think he doesn't actually know what a logical fallacy is. Certainly if he thinks that me challenging him to call Atheist Experience is one, then he hasn't a clue.

  3. No dumbass, he kicked you good. So did Slick. Stupid sods can't see anything but there own venom and then have joyful circle jerks. I'm gonna start a blog called atheists are assholes. Actually your doing it for me.

  4. "No dumbass, he kicked you good"When? Please supply a single example."So did Slick"Again, when? Was it when he claimed to know the mind of his god, even though part of his TAG arguments depends upon man NOT being able to know the mind of that god? Or was it when he tried to say I was preaching lamarckism when I wasn't? Perhaps it was when he was unable to imagine a situation where he wasn't 'saved'? Don't you agree that claiming to know the mind of your god with absolute certainty is something ONLY YOUR GOD can do? Claiming to know even a part of his mind is extreme arrogance and borderline blasphemy – or do you disagree?

  5. BTW, Mr Gordons, before you start calling other people 'stupid' you might want to run a spelling and grammar check over your replies.

  6. Alex,I've just listened to both of your discussions with Matt Slick. I think you made some good points, but I think there were also a few occasions where you failed to capatalise on some of Matt's inaccurate statements. I don't mean to criticise you at all, as I admire you for calling him, but here are a few of my thoughts for whatever they are worth…With respect to the Lamarckism issue, I think you missed the essence of what Matt was actually saying. He likened your explanation of how moral behaviour gets passed from generation to generation to Lamarckism. What he meant was that, in his understanding of your argument, if a person comes to believe that murder is wrong, then the children of that parent will automatically also think that murder is wrong. Matt then explained that this is Lamarckism and gave a common example of Lamarckism (the giraffe's neck), presumably to inform his listeners what Lamarckism is. The important point here is that he was not actually advocating this position, i.e. he clearly stated that Lamarckism is not correct. It seems that you thought he was stating that Lamarckism is correct, and so you repeatedly explained (correctly) how the giraffe's neck actually evolved. If you listen back to the audio, Matt keeps trying to tell you that he agrees with you and that he doesn't accept the Lamarckism giraffe neck explanation, but I think in the heat of the moment you missed this. His point was that your argument about evolutionary morality had Lamarckish qualities (which it didn’t, more on this below), not that Lamarckism is correct. Anyway, moving on, your explanation of evolutionary morality is of course correct. I have blogged about this subject before, and am strongly of the opinion that it all comes down to the golden rule and game theory (see here for more).As I see it, Matt made two fundamental errors in his criticism of evolutionary morality…Firstly, he said you were using argumentum ad populum. That is, he said that your position was that because everyone in a population thinks murder is wrong, then that makes it true. But of course, it's not that it necessarily makes it 'true', but instead it just becomes accepted 'as true'. There is an important distinction between the two. Furthermore, even if you were saying that the moral behaviour evolves because everyone in a population thinks it is true, this isn't argumentum ad populum, because you are not using the populous opinion to promote your explanation of how moral behaviour evolved. If you argued that your position on how evolutionary morality evolved was right because everyone thinks it is right, then you would be committing argumentum ad populum, but this was clearly not what you were doing. Matt was simply wrong on this point.Secondly, he said that if your argument is that ‘children automatically think that murder is wrong if their parent does’, then you are advocating Lamarckism. But I don't think that is what you were saying. In my understanding, you were speaking in terms of a population, not individuals. A child who grows up in a society where the majority of people think murder is wrong, will come to accept murder as being immoral. But crucially, they will not be born already knowing that murder is wrong – this is what Matt wrongly accused you of promoting.My explanation for how a child comes to know that murder is wrong is that they are simply conditioned to hold that opinion, owing to their upbringing and environment. We are all conditioned to many things without really knowing or understanding why (see here for an example), so a moral society conditions us to be moral. It could loosely be called group Lamarckism, but only very loosely.Cont…

  7. Cont…As an aside, the concepts that Lamarck believed contributed to evolution are not as outrageous as was once thought. The field of epigenetics is proving to be very interesting. Many (if not most) genes are regulated by non-genetic components, such as histones and methyl groups. These regulatory elements can begin to silence or activate genes at any time in a persons life, and since they directly bind to DNA, they are stay attached to the DNA during cell division and so can pass from a parent to a child. This means that a parent who undergoes an epigenetic episode prior to reproducing will pass on non-genetically caused traits. For example, it has been shown that stress (brought on by exposure to the Holocaust or famine) can pass through generations due to epigenetic mechanisms. Fascinating stuff!All the best,Rhiggs

  8. Thanks for the feedback, I can't fault a single point you've made, and I thank you for posting!I agree, in the heat of the moment I almost certainly missed a couple of points, I think part of the problem was that both Matt and I talk at a right pace so things were missed!No sure if I'll call him again, but if I do I'll try and run at a slightly slower pace, and see if I can spot Matt's errors as he's making them.

  9. Aha, I see you have the bile of Mr Gordons on your blog too.I can't help but wonder whose sock puppet he is.

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