Even though the adherents of evolutionary naturalism claim cool scientific objectivity and attempt to color the opposition with shades of religious ignorance, the composition of the evolutionary side is not always empirically detached as some would think.
Quite frankly, none of us are completely objective, especially in regards to the question of the origins of life; we all have been indoctrinated to one degree or another, often to the point of inability to listen to coherent engagements of an alternative point of view.
We have our presuppositions. On one hand, one finds a naturalistic worldview that allows for nothing beyond the mindless and ultimately entropic dance of matter and energy. On the other hand, one finds a presupposition that there is something greater than the material world, something above and beyond the natural, something not necessarily confined to the limits of the scientific method.
The crux of the matter is that materialism will always be, without regards to observation, constrained to a naturalistic explanation for life in all its beautiful complexity. There are no options to evolution if a supernatural Creator is excluded a priori. Evolution is not a scientific theory at all, but more it is a metaphysical construct; it does not bear the hallmark of a scientific theory because it is not falsifiable. Not only is it not falsifiable due to the aforementioned and unprovable naturalistic assumptions, neither is it repeatable, and thereby not purely empirically scientific, because of the non-repeatable nature of the process; it happened unobserved in the past., and macro-evolution, if true, occurs too slowly to be observed. If evolutionary theory is not purely scientific, neither is the alternative, special creation. It is not observed to occur and happened in the past unobserved.
When we talk about the origins of life, we leave the world of pure science and enter the realm of the metaphysical, of philosophy. So, the often strident rhetoric of evolutionists attempting to frame the debate as one of science in opposition to religious myth is just that, emotionally manipulative and inflammatory rhetoric, a deceitful myth of objectivity. Both sides bear a heavy cargo of moral and religious implications. To ban one side from the world of academic debate, of academic credibility based on the subjective, un-provable metaphysical bias is pure censorship driven by the status quo. Open the doors wide open to critique. Now, we have only those rotating bars such as those found on a subway entrances that only allow passage in one direction. The only reason to not to open the door is to shield the weakness of the evolutionary framework from public view.
I understand how absurd one view appears to the other. I have been on both sides of the divide. Not to be churlish, but what instigated my doubts about evolution was sex. Before the phrase ‘irreproducible completely’ and ‘intelligent design’ entered the lexicon of the controversy, I wondered how two complex and mutually dependent reproductive systems could have arisen by natural processes. Try hard as I might, I could not fathom how random mutations and natural selection could produce two complex reproductive systems in parallel. Both male and female systems have to be completely functioning for sexual reproduction to occur. It seemed utterly absurd to think that complementary reproductive systems could have evolved by genetic mistakes and natural selection.
From there, I began to think about abiogenesis, of how life could arise from non-life. I found the odds against life arising from non-life stagger the imagination. The further I dug, the more evidence I found that seemed to argue against a purely naturalistic explanation for the origins and complexity of life.
What the naturalist will do when faced with data that seems to undermine macro-evolutionary theory is trot out the hoary ‘God of the gaps’ argument. It used to be that supernatural forces were used to explain natural phenomena. When lightning flashed and thunder rumbled across the night sky, the atavistic man could only suppose that some deity directly caused the phenomena. When pre-scientific people wondered why they became sick, they supposed spirits, the supernatural, was the cause. When ancient people observed someone who behaved bizarrely and claimed to have seen visions, it was supposed that the afflicted were possessed by a spirit rather than suffering from a malfunction of brain chemistry.
As science began to find natural causes for previously unexplained natural phenomena, the realm where the supernatural ruled began to diminish. Soon, science would be able to explain everything, leaving no room, no gaps, for God as an actor on the natural stage.
While the ‘god of the gaps’ argument is superficially effective, if fails on more than one level. First, it seems that evolutionary theory is becoming more a ‘metaphysics of the gaps.’ Given the increased understanding of the complexity of the simplest of single-celled organisms, it becomes increasingly difficult to explain the rise of RNA, of DNA, of the intricate cellular machinery, by natural processes. In light of the increased understanding that so many biological entities exhibit structures that seem to defy naturalistic origins, it is hoped that future developments in scientific understanding will reveal how these structures could have evolved. The problem is that more and more evolutionary myths are falling by the wayside as discovery marches on. Evolution becomes increasing based on the hope that validation will be found in future discoveries.
Secondly, I believe there has been a bit of a false dichotomy in regards to religion and science. The ‘god of the gaps’ mindset infers that natural causes are the base for natural effects and thereby eliminate a place for God in the natural order. What we have to ask is why there is a natural order to begin with. From whence do these natural laws come? Why is there order instead of chaos? Why is there something rather than nothing? Again, when dealing with origins, we enter another realm of inquiry.
Thirdly, we all admit that life exhibits the characteristic of design. Richard Dawkins would say that millions of years of gradual accumulations of genetic errors and natural selection mimic design. I think Occam’s razor would infer a designer behind the design. When I view the Pyramids of Giza, I do not reflect on how amazing it is that eons of natural forces sculpted such magnificent and ordered structures. Rather, I reflect on the creative and ingenious skills of the builders and designers.
The bottom line is this: ideas have consequences and the more profound the idea, the more profound the consequences. I can think of no other arena in the world of thought that carries more ideological, metaphysical, and moral freight than that of the origins of life. I wish that people would care more about this issue and become equipped to understand the ramifications of the debate.
Though I am not a scientist, I have entertained a deep interest in the subject of evolution, of origins, for quite a long time. I have read quite a bit on the subject and I have some thoughts regarding Darwinism. First, I have, to the best of my ability, followed the truth to where ever it might lead, even if the trajectory is counter to the status quo. Here, in a thumb-nail, is where, a number of years ago, I landed . That life could have risen by natural processes and, by descent with modification, grow in complexity, in speciation, is absurd. If honestly examined, the hypothesis of macro-evolution is ultimately believed not because it is observed to occur – which it is not - but because the alternative, creation by Divine fiat, invalidates the preferred worldviews of western humanism and neo-pagan new-age mysticism.
Here is what I find profoundly revealing: that humanity may have been created, that life may be the supernatural work of a divine Creator Who breathed life into humanity is seen to be a far less attractive alternative to the affirmation that life arose by meaningless and random natural processes. One may have thought the world would, at very least, have let a collective sad sigh, would have mourned a bit, if it found that humanity was no longer was the work of divine breath and hands. Instead, the world, for the most part, seems to rejoice in the fact that we arrived on the scene by unconscious natural forces. What does that say about us?
Ultimately, I think the evolutionary hypotheses is accepted not because of unquestioned empirical evidence, but because it is an unquestioned a priori. There are no other alternatives if you start with an unquestioned acceptance that there is nothing beyond matter that acts on matter. You find yourself with such a pliable hypotheses that it fits any observation. It cannot be invalidated; it cannot be falsified. Given such, the question of origins is perhaps not a matter of science, but of metaphysics. It has been stated that evolution is the foundation of science, especially the life sciences. I would say that the discoveries of science are blind to evolutionary presuppositions. Such is parasitically laid on top of that which is discovered. When all is said and done, we will find that macroevolution is a vestigial organ, a broken, obsolete, and failed leftover of the metaphysics of materialism. Wring your hands over the flawed science behind anthropocentric global warming, if you wish, but stand in fearful awe at how quickly we, by blind acceptance of evolutionary philosophy, embrace the created over the Creator.
Over the years, I have done a bit of thinking about evolution, on the issue of the origins of life. I have also followed the issue of anthropogenic global warming, albeit not nearly so closely. I find some interesting parallels between the two issues.
First, there is an amazing plasticity to both. It seems that evolution explains everything. Ultimately, and painting with broad strokes, the declarations of evolutions veracity do not ultimately rest on observed phenomena. The theory is so plastic in its ability to predict that any observation can be made to fit the theory; ultimately, it is not falsifiable. If “A” is observed to occur, a reasonable evolutionary explanation can be made to fit the observation. However, if the inverse of “A” is observed, or “A” is not observed, another reasonable evolutionary explanation for such can be made. It is a malleable template that can conform to whatever it is laid upon. If we had found in the fossil record a gradual progression of speciation, such would dovetail nicely into an evolutionary theory. If the fossil record does not reveal a gradual progression of speciation ( and it does not…think about the Cambrian explosion), then we can formulate a hypothesis to explain that, also. In fact, we a have the theory of punctuated equilibria to explain the fossil records paucity of transitional forms.
The same seems true, albeit to a lesser degree, for global warming enthusiasts. I read an article this morning wherein, ironically, the record cold temperatures observed in many areas is an indication, an effect, of anthropogenic global warming (AGW). AGW theory is still a youngster on the scene compared with evolutionary theory, but it too is developing a dogma that fits any observation, no matter how contradictory to its overarching premise. I remember hearing reports of global warming induced localized increases in sea level that has forced thousands to flee their homes.
Second, both are, in essence, a potential breeding ground for hubris. By way of impersonal natural processes, we arrived on the scene and are now the dominate species because of our fitness, our ability as a species, as essentially apex predators, to survive and surmount. Because of our ability to compete for natural resources, we have apparently developed the ability to outstrip the sun’s influence on the global climate system.
Third, both evolutionary theory and AGW theory are beyond question by their academic and political high priests and adherents. Both resort to ad hominem attacks on those who question the prevailing dogma. Both have vested interests in perpetrating their dogma because so many for so long have based careers and reputations on sustaining dogma. They cannot turn back. Countervailing data, not matter how inditing, is reduced to anomaly.
Finally, both are, to some degree, wrapped around the specter of extinction. What we end up with in the end, when it is all said and done, is essentially the deification of nature.
If I swallow the scientific cosmology as a whole, then not only can I not fit in Christianity, but I cannot even fit in science. If minds are wholly dependent on brains, and brains on bio-chemistry, and bio-chemistry (in the long run) on the meaningless flux of atoms, I cannot understand how the thought of those minds should have any more significance than the sound of the wind in the trees. And this to me is the final test. This is how I distinguish between dreaming and waking. When I am awake I can, in some degree, account for and study my dream. The dragon that pursued me last night can be fitted into my waking world. I know that there are such things as dreams; I know that I had eaten an indigestible dinner; I know that a man of my reading might be expected to dream of dragons. But while in the nightmare I could not have fitted in my waking experience. The waking world is judged more real because it can thus contain the dreaming world; the dreaming world is judged less real because it cannot contain the waking one. For the same reason I am certain that in passing from the scientific point of view to the theological, I have passed from dream to waking. Christian theology can fit in science, art, morality, and the sub-Christian religions. The scientific point of view cannot fit in any of these things, not even science itself. I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen, not only because I can see it, but because by it I see everything else. – C.S. Lewis, “Is Theology Poetry” in The Weight of Glory
HT: Tabula Plena
Stephen Snobelen Assistant Professor of History of Science and Technology,
University of King’s College,
Here is a final paradox. Recent work on early modern science has demonstrated a direct (and positive) relationship between the resurgence of the Hebraic, literal exegesis of the Bible in the Protestant Reformation, and the rise of the empirical method in modern science. I’m not referring to wooden literalism, but the sophisticated literal-historical hermeneutics that Martin Luther and others (including Newton) championed. It was, in part, when this method was transferred to science, when students of nature moved on from studying nature as symbols, allegories and metaphors to observing nature directly in an inductive and empirical way, that modern science was born. In this, Newton also played a pivotal role. As strange as it may sound, science will forever be in the debt of millenarians and biblical literalists.
Some brief thoughts, skeletal in scope, on the above quote:
I have participated in more than one conversation wherein the assertion is made that Intelligent Design (ID) is no more than a sophisticated ‘God of the gaps’ argument. Further, I have been told that ID has no practical application; it predicts nothing, and, in fact, science could not have arisen from a milieu where religion, inferred to be synonymous with superstition, predominates.
In counterpoint, I find it interesting that many of the fathers of modern science were Christian. They inferred that natural laws pointed towards a Law Giver. They understood on a fundamental level that the universe was coherent and, given time and application of proper methodology, understandable because there was a Divine origin to the material world. Indeed, could science, dependent on, among other things, repeatability of phenomena, have risen in a milieu where the universe was understood to be random and driven by chaos? Quite frankly, much of modern physics seems so counter-intuitive and bizarre (to me), but, and again, I do not think we could not have gotten to where we are in our understanding of the created order without a foundational inference of a Creator. Could ramble for hours and flesh these thoughts out more (and, given I will have some time off for the holidays, perhaps I will), but it is 4:00AM, I am sick, and the cold and sinus meds are kicking in. Becoming soooo sleepy……..
Psalm 19:1 (English Standard Version)
The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
In years past, when I was quite young, I briefly entertained thoughts of atheism. I could never embrace full-fledged atheism, and agnosticism was not satisfying on a number of levels, but I guess I lived as if I were a deist. Oddly, one of quite a few factors that restrained me from embracing atheism was my love of music.
It all boils down to the identity that we embrace. If I am, as a materialist would affirm, the end result of, over eons, collisions of blind natural forces, then by what, if anything, am I imbued with value and meaning? By what standard can I call anything beautiful in a universe impersonal and driven by nothing but implacable natural laws? Coltrane should mean nothing more than the noise of a boulder falling into a crevasse. Bach should carry no more weight than the croaking of a frog. How do I reconcile a deep love for music when those that create what I perceive to be beauty are, in the final analysis and after all the superficial romanticism is stripped away, no more than puppets of meats? Materialism, atheism, is so reductionist that the only meaning available is that which aids in the propagation of the species, and even the urge to survival is a less than satisfying absolute.
Beauty becomes utilitarian. Beauty – music – becomes, at best, defense mechanism that perhaps serves to protect us from harsh truths implied by a reality where God is dead and the universe is all that is.
Only One who transcends the created order is able to lend meaning to our creative efforts. It is the fact that we, though desperately fallen and rebellious creatures, were purposefully created in the image of our Creator that lends foundation for our creativity.
It is without a measure of irony that one of my favorite composers/artists, Brian Eno, is an atheist.
I am green. In fact, I am so green, the following post has been recycled, with some modification, about three times since I originally posted it on my now fallow Stumbleupon blog. I have thought a bit about the “new atheism” that has been gaining traction for some time as evidenced the works of Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, et al, on the the best seller lists. Below are some brief thoughts on secularism and its claims on environmental stewardship. More broadly, there is the question that seeks an answer as to what foundation can a secularist build a substantial moral framework. I would assert, in reference to the aforementioned question, that materialists essentially piggyback onto the ‘moral bandwidth’ of the Judeo-Christian world-view.
Where exactly does humankind reside in the natural hierarchy? If, as the materialist would assert, we are merely a hairless ape with no more importance or than an amoeba in the greater scheme of things, how can our impact on nature, on the environment, for better or worse, be given an ethical value when that of other natural phenomena is not? Is a volcano evil when it spews ‘toxic‘ gases into the atmosphere? Does the beaver wrongly exploit the environment when it fells trees and builds dams? I have cats for pets and have observed them stalking, catching, and then toying with chipmunks that they found in the backyard. Are they cruel or are they acting in accordance with their nature? How is the drilling for oil in the ANWR wrong? How can an oil spill be `wrong‘? How can the deforestation of a rain forest be condemned? All the aforementioned are natural results of a natural action by a natural entity.
What can truly be defined as ‘unnatural‘? How can a materialist, for all intents and purposes, deify nature and then place humanity outside of nature? The point is this: Unless nature is the effect of a transcendental cause and humanity occupies a position of ascendancy over nature, one cannot coherently and rationally make moral judgments concerning humanity’s stewardship and impact on nature. Indeed, how can one derive any moral imperatives from a naturalist framework? The foundation is so plastic, so pliable, that any act can be justified within the confines of natural selection.
Think on this: Zoology Professor Pianka of the University of Texas seems to endorse the elimination of ninety percent of the human population, perhaps by Ebola, in order to preserve sustainability. He has received accolades for his ideas.