General Question

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Atheists... Are you worried about the new wave of Spiritualism that is sure to come as a result of worldwide economic downfall?

Asked by RealEyesRealizeRealLies (30946points) July 10th, 2009

I’ve heard it claimed that when times are tough, the Church gets filled. Likewise, materialism prospers when times are good. I don’t have much faith that our economy will turn around any time soon. In fact, I suggest it will get much worse.

Turning to God is supposed to be turning away from materialism. Correct me if I’m wrong please, but doesn’t Atheism define itself by what is knowable from the material world alone?

By default, a bad economy means less materialistic exploitation and expression. Does it not follow then, that many pulpits will preach to a greater number of listening ears in the coming months? And I don’t want to limit this to only the Christian church. It should be well accepted that many new forms of Spiritualism are on the rise, no matter how bogus they may seem.

Will the bad economy cause a rise in Theism. I might even call it “Wayward Theism”. If so, as an Atheist, are you prepared to deal with that notion?

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48 Answers

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

If people turn to spirituality in their lives, it’s none of my concern so long as they don’t hurt others by practicing their spiritual belief.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar


Hurt is subjective. Religion can be extreme.

Well known are those who would return society to the days of old to avoid God’s wrath.

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies When belief turns into violence, it’s everyone’s problem. Most religious people are not so extreme. Those that are, tend to have other underlying problems or conditions.

marinelife's avatar

You simply do not understand atheism at all if you think atheists think about or worry about things like that.

tyrantxseries's avatar

couldn’t care less

lazydaisy's avatar

I would love it if people put their faith in something other than money.

seekingwolf's avatar

I don’t see why an atheist would be “worried” about this new spiritualism. How does it really affect you if you’re an atheist and don’t believe in such things? Why the heck do you care if other people’s beliefs are different from your own?

Just go with your beliefs and don’t worry about things that are outside your sphere of control or influence; it’s a waste of energy.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar


On the surface, live and let live seems very doable. But do you not see the underlying possibilities of how public policy can change at the very core when Theists become extreme?

If things get bad enough, then Theists will become extreme.

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies A “what if” scenario is no reason to go on the offense against religion. That would be infringing on the rights of people to practice their own religion. That would be tantamount to tyranny.

seekingwolf's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies @RealEyesRealizeRealLies

Theists are already extreme. People are extreme in general and this is not just limited to Christians. “Live and let live” is really the only thing I can see myself doing. I am not a theist and I have no authority in saying what people should do with themselves, nor do they have any authority over my beliefs.

laureth's avatar

I worry about people taking away the livelihood or rights of me or my loved ones (or, heck, anyone else) because we’re seen as the cause of misfortune because of or religion, lack of religion, race, etc.

It’s happened before in the world. Wouldn’t be that hard to do again.

marinelife's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies History shows in times like these there is an increase, but it is not as significant as you are making it out to be. I do not see it making a dent on public policy.

lazydaisy's avatar

politics and policy is already saturated with religion, it is hard for me to imagine it would become more so.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

@Marina @lazydaisy

Perhaps we disagree about “times like these”.

I feel it is much worse and will get become even more dour.

Mandelbrot I trust…

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar


To your first comment…
I have faith in you.

I cued you in to my last comment cuz I thought you’d be interested in the vid. Time to get plan B going immediately. The personal plan B…

JLeslie's avatar

Not worried if it gives people peace. Worried if it causes hate and blame of “other people” who may not be a part of a particular religion. And worried if people put all faith in a religion, preacher, or God, and don’t take real action in their lives, but I think that is not the norm, most religious people understand they need to make things happen and not just sit around and pray for it.

PandoraBoxx's avatar

mwwwaahhhahahhahahahahhaahhhahaaahaaahaaa. Thanks for a good laugh. People lie about their religious participation.

tiffyandthewall's avatar

assuming that i’m atheist, i don’t see what other people adopting religious beliefs out of desperation has to do with me.

dannyc's avatar

If the world economic order comes to an end, then we will be worried about eating, not religion. My prediction in such a cataclysm is God will have been called upon to solve the mess from religious types, found wanting, and will be cast aside, thus leading to less Spiritualism.

augustlan's avatar

As long as their beliefs don’t cross over and impact my life, I’m fine with whatever gives people hope and peace.

Grisaille's avatar

1. I’ve heard it claimed that when times are tough, the Church gets filled.

Sure. I can imagine that people naturally seek out a “higher authority” when they have no control over their lives. I don’t blame them.

2. Likewise, materialism prospers when times are good.

Correct I suppose, but see point 5.

3. I don’t have much faith that our economy will turn around any time soon. In fact, I suggest it will get much worse.

This is an assumption. Why do you believe this?

4. Correct me if I’m wrong please, but doesn’t Atheism define itself by what is knowable from the material world alone?


5. By default, a bad economy means less materialistic exploitation and expression.

Okay, here’s where I have a bit of an issue. Which form of materialism are we talking about here? You’re jumping back and forth between two. The economic definition of materialism “refers to how a person or group chooses to spend their resources, particularly money and time.” – Wiki

Philosophical materialism is the belief that all things are caused by physical stimuli and “all phenomena (including consciousness) are the result of material interactions; therefore, matter is the only substance.” – Wiki

Which one are you speaking about?

6. Does it not follow then, that many pulpits will preach to a greater number of listening ears in the coming months?

Yes, but if speaking of economic materialism, it’s not because people don’t have ads blinking in front of their eyes to purchase the new iPhone. It’s because they’re pleading with a God to give them a few extra dollars to feed their children.

Philosophical materialism? Not that, either. If you’re appropriating both terms on two ends of the same spectrum, and you can be either materialist or spiritual: Would a materialist – Atheist, even – disregard physical evidence and turn to pseudoscience in hopes of changing their financial position? The weak-minded, perhaps. But I can’t see any reason why a materialist would choose to do such a thing, lest there is some massive spiritual event happening in 2012 and God proves Himself to exist.

7. Will the bad economy cause a rise in Theism. I might even call it “Wayward Theism”. If so, as an Atheist, are you prepared to deal with that notion?

You call it “Wayward Theism”. I call it “Atheists Don’t Really Care”.

Atheism is not a religion; it is not a grounded ideology. It’s an anamorphic term describing a rudimentary philosophical construct. We don’t meet every Sunday and preach for Theists to be saved from the ways of Christ.

Are there those that want the downfall of religious institution? Sure. But just as we wouldn’t peg all practitioners of Islam to be radical suicide bombers, don’t think we all follow that route. In fact, I’m inclined to believe many of us “chose” Atheism (really, there isn’t any choosing involved. You cannot choose what you believe – you only choose to follow. Following doesn’t make you a Theist… or Atheist) out of apathy. We don’t believe in a God, so we believe there is no God. Realizing that that is the general term for “I don’t believe in God”, then yeah – I suppose that makes us Atheist; A term that is, again, as flexible as it gets.

Besides, most people of the world belong to some sort of religious institution. Atheists have been persecuted for most of recorded history. Wouldn’t change a damn thing if more people started to follow… whatever it is they want to follow.

Now, that’s assuming that you are asking Atheists, “what will you do with all these Theists around?” It changes nothing.

If you, however, assuming that we’ll see all the happy Scientologists frolicking about and say to ourselves, “Holy hell, maybe I should join that because everyone else seems to be doing the same thing” – it goes back to an early point – then you’ve massively underestimated the human will. More so, you are assuming that people will “fall” into Theology just as they fall into economic materialism (if that is what you’re talking about). Wanting a cool car is one thing; ignoring physical evidence, rewriting your brain to believe in something you don’t for the sake who-knows-what is another.

As for the actual question you presented:

8. Atheists… Are you worried about the new wave of Spiritualism that is sure to come as a result of worldwide economic downfall?

A. You’re assuming that the world will plunge into a (worse) economic downfall. Stating the question in absolutes nullifies it from the get-go.

B. You’re assuming that philosophical materialism and economic materialism move parallel to one another. They are not connected; they are faintly related. One refers to the belief in matter above spiritual entity, the other refers to mass adverts and the over-saturation of relatively worthless objects onto the public. Just because someone with a fancy to shiny things is likely to start going to Church in the hopes they may be able to afford a heart transplant does not mean that someone that believes in physics will start to believe in God.

C. You’re assuming that we give a shit.

Thammuz's avatar

Diregarding your mixing up materialism and atheism as if they were absolutely tied up together (Which is not always true, Taoists don’t necessarily believe in a god but they’re far from materialists, and the same goes for Buddhists), no, i’m not worried.

Why? First and foremost i’m in Italy: you have to understand that when a state religion is extablished and the priests get a montly salary they tend not to be hellbent in getting new proselites. Our churches have been getting emptier and emptier and nobody’s been giving a shit for a LONG time. And Things aren’t gonna change that radically, some hundred dumbasses will start going to churhc, and they will stop after the paychecks start being sufficient for survival again.

The second reason why i don’t care is that Catholics aren’t ever dangerous. Catholicism in Italy has become so blad and indefinite that they might as well be saying they believe in doing good to eachother. No Italian catholic has ever given half a shit about somebody else’s belief. In that sense we are a lot like england: Our people ranges from wishy-washy bland catholicism to wishy-washy bland agnosticism (in the common sense of the word, not the correct one). The average catholic hasn’t ever read the bible in its entirety, and certainly hsn’t read the books of the law, also thanks to some much enlightened pope (John Paul II) no italian catholic questions evolution since the pope himself declared that “Evolution is no longer a theory”, so their beliefs don’t even think about stepping in on scientific ground. (after Galileo and Giordano Bruno they learned the fucking lesson: Don’t mess with science, you can’t stop us.)

So you see why i really couldn’t care less. It’s an All-American problem.

whitenoise's avatar

Thank you @Thammuz for helping me in pointing out the false linkage of materialism with atheism, especially given the connotation in normal language of materialism with consumerism and a need to amass as much material things as possible.

I am an atheist and I am deeply concerned about the environment we leave our children, actively seek to reduce my footprint and definitely do not assiociate myself with the popular association of materialism: “to consider material possessions and physical comfort as more important than other values.”

Furthermore, to answer your question: spirituality as such does not worry me at all. I worry about people looking for easy answers to allow them the – often false – comfort of certainty. Religions often scare me. Not so much because of their simple essence, but more because they are often used by people as a vehicle for power. Furthermore, religions often act as catalysts in defining in-groups versus out-groups.

Ingroup thinking brings intolerance, moral highgrounds and excuses to hurt others. That worries me sincerely. Actually, that worries me more than anything.

Thammuz's avatar

@whitenoise: You’re welcome!

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

@Grisaille said:

“This is an assumption (about the economy). Why do you believe this?

“Mandelbrot I trust…

@Grisaille said:

“Which form of materialism are we talking about here?”

Yes I see the difference in the two forms of materialism that you speak of and I’m glad you pointed it out. I was wondering if anyone would catch that.

The root essence of meaning is the same, and though the distinctive definitions can splinter off, their core refers to the same notion of… Belief only in that which is material.

I distinctly avoided using the word “consumerism” for this reason. In this light, the materialism that I refer to is connected and covers both spectrums of your provided definitions.

The materialist is by definition prevented from looking to spiritual resources for relieve their suffering. Philosophically, they believe in only material existence, and thus must rely upon material economic resources to improve or sustain their quality of life.

@Grisaille said:

“…they’re pleading with a God to give them a few extra dollars…”

That’s what I mean. If the hard materialist becomes dissatisfied with how the material world can provide for them, some will consider notions of spiritualism by default. More so if the church is successful in getting their message out during difficult economic circumstances.

I don’t know if you’ve ever suffered before, but the church has a way of inducing spirituality into those who are on their last leg. It’s like telling people what they want to hear. A suffering ear is a receptive ear. After loosing a job, house, possessions… many find it comforting to learn that Christ had none of those things. They receive the message as relief to learn they are closer to heaven. You know the message… Many possessions on earth and no reward in heaven. Little possessions on earth brings great reward in heaven. Right or wrong, this is comforting to those who have lost, especially when combined with the “all God’s plan” rap.

@Grisaille said:

“You call it “Wayward Theism”. I call it “Atheists Don’t Really Care”.
“Atheism is not a religion…”

Wayward Theism only in the sense that some will come to spirituality by default of circumstance, and not by conscious choice. I agree that Atheism is not a religion, but they are very hard materialists by definition. If materialism doesn’t satisfy their needs, then some might “care” about spirituality. History should support this trend… not just for economic collapse, but for disasters also. Apparently religions did very well after the World Trade Towers were attacked.

@Grisaille said:

“Wouldn’t change a damn thing if more people started to follow…”

Are you sure? Atheists currently enjoy more respect than ever before in history. If politicians take advantage of a suffering public mindset, by claiming God’s will, then public policy could change very quickly. Prayer in school, return God to the pledge of allegiance, openly public religious displays on government property, religion in politics, abortion, stem cell research, gay rights… Hard fought battles that Atheists would not like to see reversed.

In case you’re not aware, I keep a good eye on religious movements in this country. There are many calls for our nation to induce a religious revival. That means more voters for more religious politicians. That means current public policy could be threatened.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar


Please note my comments to @Grisaille in connecting the different definitions of materialism.

I distinctly avoided using the term “consumerism” to separate it from the “popular association of materialism” that concerns you. Atheists are by default, hard materialists, believing only in the material realm. That material realm includes the material things that they count on to sustain and improve their lives. That realm is the only thing they can count on, so by definition, Atheists embrace materialism. Please don’t confuse this with consumerism… Many Theists embrace that as well. It was not meant as an insult to the Atheist.

In tough times, the Materialistic Atheist can look only to material assets for supporting themselves. The Spiritualist can look beyond material assets. This is an attractive notion to the Materialist who has lost it all, that something of value presents itself beyond that of which they can actually see. The overall message of Spirituality is to abandon placing value upon any materialism, and receive the spiritual/eternal benefits of doing so.

When people are on their last leg, they historically have turned to the Church. I do NOT equate Spirituality with Religion. But many suffering people will, and by default believe that the religion that comforts their poverty has somehow brought/bought them spirituality.

This by default (as you say) promotes in-group thinking, with all the errant notions that worry you.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar


I asked from the beginning to be corrected if my connections to Atheism and Materialism were unfounded. Please don’t disregard it. Tell me where I’m wrong to note that Atheists are by definition: Hard Materialists… in that, they only believe in that which is of the material realm. Please note my comments to @Grisaille in connecting the different definitions of materialism.

You will also notice that I referred to all forms of Spiritualism. This includes Buddhists, Taoists, and many others. Spiritualists being those who believe in an immaterial realm. God is not a necessity for this prompt. But I must admit, that I’ve always considered Buddhism to be an off shoot of Hinduism, much like Mormonism is an off shoot of Christianity. Hinduism does profess God. Taoists have their ancestor spirits and immortals, Buddhists have their Bodhisattva’s and Bardo. Both speak to spiritualism, and both directly conflict with Atheistic materialism.

Don’t get me wrong, and please don’t be offended by my statement. I study many religions/philosophies and find great underlying truths that connect them. I’ve always found it interesting that Christ described himself as “the way…”, suspecting that he disappeared into Asia in those thirteen missing years, either to learn or teach. Also noting that he distinctly refused the Disciples to enter Asia when spreading the Word, claiming that it was not their time yet.

Also interesting is the Pope declaring that Evolution is no longer a theory. That’s almost funny to me. I’m unfamiliar with the Law of Evolution, and I don’t know of any middle ground purgatory to place that notion within. Which version of Evolution does he speak of? I thought the Theory of Evolution was itself… Evolving, with new discoveries every day that rewrite the theory. Many of those discoveries support my Theism. Yes, I believe in Evolution… Intelligent Evolution.

@Thammuz said:

“Don’t mess with science, you can’t stop us.”

Sounds like a crusade. If it can’t be stopped, then it must be going somewhere. Where is science going I wonder?

@Thammuz said:

“It’s an All-American problem.”

Would you not concede that many “All-American” problems may eventually become a world wide problem?

walterallenhaxton's avatar

No What I am worried about is destruction of the world economy by the FED and its imperial backers in the USA government.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

No, I have no reason to be worried. People may go to church if they wish, as long as they don’t try to impose it on others by pretending it is universal fact.

Thammuz's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies I noted your corrections, and you weren’t exactly wrong, most “scientific atheists” (for a lack of a better term) do favour material over spiritual, but that doesn’t prevent many of us from having our principles and our non-material satisfacions. (i for one do enjoy conversation and the love of my girlfriend, both things which money can’t buy, and i enjoy them purely because of the good feelings i get from them, materialism can’t change that because wether they are products of chemical reactions or of my soul having fun doesn’t really matter, and i don’t think that would matter to anybody except, maybe, for the most exasperated people)

As for the Pope: I assume you’re american so you might have a lot of misinformation going around on the theme of evolution but here’s the deal: There is NO debate about the core principles and mechanics of evolution. Where the debate actually is is when new discoveries are made, where do they fit and so on but the base is rock solid and widely considered as fact in Europe. What pope John Paul II said was basically that genesis was a symbolical account of the creation of the world and the universe, like any other creation myth, and that the tenets of christianity don’t need it to be true to be true themselves. I, for one, disagree with the idea that you can pick and choose which parts you consider symbolical or not, but with genesis i have to cut them some slack since not even the jews took that part seriously.

So essentially the Roman Catholic Church accepts the big bang and evolution as fact, putting god in the safe uninquireable area BEFORE the big bang (God of the gaps)

As for science being a crusade: It is, in a sense, more of a quest (I’m a D&D player, does it show?). It is a quest to know all that is knowable of this world in order to better understand the universe and to make our lives better, and so far the method we’ve come up with has demonstrated its reliability. It isn’t a crusade but it does have a purpose.
What i meant by that phrase is that even if you burn someone at the stake (Giordano Bruno) if his ideas are sound somebody else WILL come up with his ideas again sooner or later, because observable truths are just sitting there, waiting for someone with the appropriate means to observe them.

As for the All-American problem part: I would concede that, generally, but i will not on this part. Spirituality is only a problem in the us because it is able to run amok and do whatever the fuck it wants, because protestants don’t have someone to answer to. Catholics and protestants with more of a theological base than “god talks to me” and some bullshit diploma from a trailer park university have that much more sense in their heads not to be a problem, while people like Fred Phelps and Ted Haggard are actually taken seriously by some of your people.
Christianity has been forced to assume a tolerable attitude in Europe in order to allow coexistence between the enlightment that we managed to reach and the religion we incidentally have. In the US there is not going to be this compromise becaue you will not and can not have a state religion while, ironically enough, most of the states who DO have a state religion are those who are least religious, the reason of which i already pointed out.

On a side note: I never get offended, don’t worry, you could call me dipshit every other word and only have me insult you back, never had a problem with people calling me like they saw me, if that was the case.

whitenoise's avatar

You do not seem to understand that atheists can have and cherish non materialistic values in the same way theists can, such as love, care for family and children and enjoyment from other non-materialistic sources, such as humor and an intelligent discussion. An atheist has the same human drive as the theist that will make him save a drowning child at the peril of his own live.

You claim to define materialism in one very specific philosophical way and the very next sentence you state: “The Material Atheist can look only to material assets for supporting themselves. The Spiritualist can look beyond material assets.” It is just foolish to imply that only theists can do that. I could just as well claim that the atheist is probably capable of even looking further since his gaze is not fixed through his religious beliefs. You can make as many personal definitions of materialism as you want, but when you subsequently display that you don’t stick to them, then what’s the point?

I feel it rather annoying that you seem to offer 90% sensible answers that border on wisdom and then come up with these kinds of moral high-grounds that have no foundation. You cannot state that atheists have to stick to the material realm, since God and religion do not have the exclusive ownership of that realm.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar


Understood and mostly agreed.

”...NO debate about the core principles and mechanics of evolution.”

Not exactly true. Random Mutation was NEVER mentioned in Origin of Species. Yet it somehow was put forth as an acceptable mechanism to re-author code.

Thankfully Barbara McClintock and James Schapiro use the term Controlled Mutation, yet biology is reluctant to embrace that position as a whole.

As well, where did the original source of Information come from the beginning? Biologists typically accept that it “just happened”... Yet Information has never once shown itself to arise by chance and no mechanism has ever been shown to allow for that.

I would consider this to be a “core” principle of evolution, both traditional and Neo Darwinian.

whitenoise's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies I saw you started up a new thread on Atheistic spiritualism…. interesting. I will start one up as well and look forward to your input. I realize that even though I reacted somewhat abrasive, you do make me think more on the topic. Thanks!

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar


The hard materialist considers emotion to be a product of biochemical processes, nothing immaterial about it. It must be expressed with materialistic processes.

But, noting an immaterial realm does not immediately suggest the existence of a spiritual realm. A spiritual realm must include some form of sentient entity.

Please don’t mistake my usage of “materialism” with the idea of “consumerism”. I assure you, no insult was intended.

Thammuz's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies Derailing the thread for just a second i have to remind you this:

1) Evolution is a scientific theory not a religious dogma. It changes. Darwin’s theory was good but far from perfect. And the current version is constantly being perfected, changed and adapted to fit new data. That doesn’t invalidate the theory at all, if anything it makes it more reliable.

2) Random mutation can and does occur, again, i don’t know where you get your data from, come to any european university and there’s no chanche for you to find someone who claims evolution is “just a theory” (mostly because theory and fact are practically the same in science) or that random mutation is debated. If you want an example of random mutations, just look at down’s syndrome. The fact that down’s isn’t a positive mutation (by our standards) doesn’t mean that it doesn’t add information, it’s up to a whole chromosome more than a normal homo sapiens.

3) Evolution doesn’t deal with the origin of LIFE. That’s something creationisns spin around saying that evolution claims that “everything came from nothing”. BULLSHIT. Evolution deals with the diversity of life. PERIOD. The origin of life, is covered by abiogenesis, the origin of the universe by physics. None of these theories NEED eachother.
(As for abiogenesis there is an interesting video on youtube which could give you a better insight on the matter, if you’re interested. In fact there’s a shitload of videos on youtube explaining evolution in a really competent way, expecially the series Foundational Falsehoods of Creationism by AronRa and Why do people laugh at creationists? By thunderf00t. the former explains how evolution works by debunking the common misconceptions exploited by creationists to get their point across and the latter points out the most ridiculous cases of blatant ignorance in creationist “science”)

Also, again, “neo darwinian” is redundant. Almost no theory has ever been conserved completely unchanged, and you don’t call the theory of gravity the “theory of neo newtonian gravity”, do you?

Evolution is just Change over Time. And that’s a fact. The Theory explains HOW change over time works. Just like gravity is a fact and the Theory of Gravity explains HOW it works. The fact that theories change over time (evolve) is just proof that they’re up to date with the most recent discoveries, And mind you, the theory of evolution had to undergo very little changes after the first serious ones (the inclusion of DNA and the like) which means its predictions are quite accurate as far as evidence is concerned.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar


I’m not a Creationist. I believe in Evolution… Intelligent Evolution. Many people like to call that a form of Creationism, or another angle, a different spin on the same notion. But Creationists do not accept Evolution at all. I do.

Gravitational Theory also has certain Laws associated with it. Specific formulas that accurately describe observations for a specific set of circumstances. I know of no Laws associated with Evolution. There probably could be though because there is much that cannot be refuted.

More information does not guarantee more beneficial information, as in down’s syndrome, and a grape has a larger genome than a human being does. It’s obviously not about quantity of information. It’s about how that information arises.

The battle has been going on since the studies of Barbara McClintock. She is the woman who discovered the transposition process of DNA. The way DNA rewrites itself. She was originally vilified for her research and forced to go underground with it for twenty years. Ultimately she was praised as a genetic heroin and awarded the Nobel Prize for her discoveries.

People didn’t like the fact that she refuted “random” mutation. Here’s what she had to say about it.

“Over the years I have found that it is difficult if not impossible to bring to consciousness of another person the nature of his tacit assumptions when, by some special experiences, I have been made aware of them. This became painfully evident to me in my attempts during the 1950s to convince geneticists that the action of genes had to be and was controlled. It is now equally painful to recognize the fixity of assumptions that many persons hold on the nature of controlling elements in maize and the manners of their operation. One must await the right time for conceptual change.”

More and more geneticists are confirming her ideas that gene mutation is controlled and not random at all.

James Shapiro writes:

“The conventional view is that genetic change comes from stochastic, accidental sources: radiation, chemical, or oxidative damage, chemical instabilities in the DNA, or from inevitable errors in the replication process. However, the fact is that DNA proofreading and repair systems are remarkably effective at removing these non-biological sources of mutation.”

“Evolutionary genomic change occurs largely by a process of Natural Genetic Engineering.”

”…the degree to which these genome reorganization activities are not random is poorly appreciated. Non-randomness is evident at three levels: mechanism, timing, and sites of action.”

“These examples make it clear that natural genetic engineering occurs episodically and non-randomly in response to stress events that range from DNA damage to the inability to find a suitable mating partner.”

“Molecular genetics has amply confirmed McClintock’s discovery that living organisms actively reorganize their genomes (5). It has also supported her view that the genome can “sense danger” and respond accordingly (56).”… />
And much more here:

Thammuz's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies Ok, i’m no biologist but i can tell you this: An extinction rate as high as we have on our planet (even before we started fucking it up) doesn’t work with your scheme.
According to this reasoning if mutation was not random but instead piloted by some form of conscience (which by the way i find preposterous, but i’m open to evidence, providing it isn’t circumstantial like the one you provided in the quotes, since the link doesn’t work) we’d have entire groups mutating in the same direction and way less evolutionary dead ends. This whole idea, as far as i can see, doesn’t take in account that for each positive mutation there are ten that fail (really ballpark numbers but you get the point).

And for the record “mechanism, timing, and sites of action” don’t prove shit, because it’s blatantly obvious that ANY successful mutation needs to be in the right place at the right time, otherwise it doesn’t work.

Giraffes have evolved longer necks for reasons of survival: is it because they wanted to survive so they started stretching real hard to get to the higher plants or because the ones born with a longer neck managed to survive more often than the others? Since not all giraffes did evolve longer necks (survival of the fittest implies a certain number of deaths between non-fit individuals, or, at the very least, a longer life span due to the inherited trait that will be passed down) i’d say the latter.

So you could say that the longer neck had “mechanism, timing, and sites of action” in the right place, sure, but that same mutation could have happend at any time and simply stagnate in the giraffe genepool (without being lost) because at the moment it didn’t matter.

Individuals with longer or shorter necks are born indipendently of need, but the fact that longer necks turn out to be an advantage make those individuals who have them more likely to survive, reproduce, pass on their genes and give birth to other giraffes with a long neck, among which those with an even longer neck survive even better and so forth is a contingent situation, that arose but wasn’t necessarily going to arise. It was an accident that favoured a particular mutation.

And by the way if this was true mutations would generally have fewer drawbacks, but giraffes (i’m a fan of the giraffe because it’s the most obvious example of survival of the fittest) risk their life every time they drink since they risk a cerebral hemorragie.
If there was some sort of intelligence behind that you’d think it would have thought about something as necessary as “not making my brain explode for the blood pressure created by the heart i need to pump all this blood up a vertical pillar of vertebrae”

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar


The Giraffe is an excellent example, still very close to the Finch example. In the rainy climate, larger birds with shorter beaks could reach the berries better. In the dry climate, smaller birds with longer beaks could pick them out of small cracks in the rocks better. Neither one is better or worse than the other, long/short necks or beaks. Mutations must always be put into context with how they react to the environment. Natural Selection promotes the proper reaction accordingly.

In the case of the birds, the environment changed consistently enough that a particular mutation was needed to survive only for a set period of time, then another mutation adjusts for a new environment. In the case of the giraffe, the environment continued to direct mutations on a single course, thereby promoting that sole mutation through natural selection, and never needing to change it since. It’s not a happy accident, rather genes are reactive to their circumstances. If a consistent plentiful non competitive food source was found lower to the ground, and the higher food source became competitive, I suggest that environment would foster controlled and reactive mutations for shorter and shorter necklines. Natural selection would encourage this by quickly weeding out those which did not.

The point being, that controlled mutations react accordingly to these environments and make adjustments that are designed to be beneficial. Less and less randomness is being found in transposition. I do not claim that genes are intelligent, only that they react to stimuli.

The intelligent part is directed at the original source of genetic information. It is common knowledge that codes can rewrite themselves (reacting to stimuli), but in every case, that code was designed to do this from the beginning by the original programmer. AI, robotics, and the computer sciences confirm this every day. The genetic code is a code. All codes have authors. Authors are intelligent.

Try this link for Shapiro’s paper… most places want you to pay $40 for it but it is around…

If that doesn’t work, do the Google for:
A 21st century view of evolution: genome system architecture, repetitive DNA, and natural genetic engineering
James A. Shapiro

sap82's avatar

A real atheist wouldn’t give a shit about the new spiritual uprise due to an economic fall. If they did care that would mean there belief in nothing would become a faith in nothing, which would imply that there might me a God. That in turn would be out of the nature of being an atheist. @RealEyesRealizeRealLies If you are seriously worried about this and you think yourself an atheist, you should seriously rethink your priorities. Because, it seems you are just afraid of what might be real instead of what does or does not truly exist. God bless you, by the way.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar


I am not an Atheist. But I am deeply worried about a new wave of spiritualism.

Thammuz's avatar

@sap82 That doesn’t make a lick of sense. An atheist can be worried about the eventual wave of spirituality without this worry concerning his position. See the question “what is wrong with religion?” for a shitload of reasons why atheists can be and are worried about excessive religiosity.

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies While the paper you linked is interesting (i read it in a hurry, but i will get back to it), i doubt this theory has any actual value, so far.
No link (as far as my first impression goes) is drawn between the possibility to do this change procedure in particular cases (like the antibody production cells mentioned in the paper) from the cells actually doing that to perfect the species.

Furthermore it fails on providing any explaination as to how cells would be able to produce qualitative judgements on the utility of any kind of evolutionary change (longer beaks etc) considerng cells haven’t been proved to be sentient beings capable of making judgements or predictions.

And if this whole thing is gonna fall back to “the original programmer”, i’m sorry but first cause arguments don’t work.

Grisaille's avatar

@sap82 Holy hell. That made no sense. We don’t believe in “nothing”. We believe in facts and science.

Even if that were the case, knowledge and proof is still knowledge and proof, no matter how few people believe in it. Conversely, a “truth” built upon fallacies, lies and philosophical construct is still bullshit no matter how many millions of believe it to be true.

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies I’ll get back to you on this. I totally forgot this thread existed. I need sleep now. Later today.

JLeslie's avatar

A large percentage of North Americans used to believe tomatoes were poison—wouldn’t eat them. Just because a lot of people believe something doesn’t make it true. I will allow that just because something isn’t proven doesn’t make it not true. But why does it matter? Sounds like a crappy God that would be punishing just because I did not worship him, even if how I lived my life besically followed his advice. Sounds kind of narcissistic to me.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar


I make no claims as to the nature of the original programmer. It’s easy to jump to the God conclusion. All I’m saying is the original programmer is a must. Information has never once shown itself to arise by chance. Yet support for it’s authorship is confirmed in spades ten billion times a day for the past six thousand years.

I do not deny the possibility for a black swan. But I have no reason to believe in them until one is empirically proven. Especially when other sources of codified info are all around us.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar


There are other threads more suitable for your opinions about what a God is supposed to be like. This thread is about something else.

JLeslie's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies then why are you talking about evolution? I was just responding to Grisalles statement, rather piggy backing the statement “philosophical construct is still be bullshit no matter how many millions of believe it to be true.”

Doesn’t matter how many people believe something is my point, if it is not proven. I already said above if I would be worried about wave of spiritualism.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar


My sincere apology. Speaking before thinking is to be discouraged, especially with myself.

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