…much of present-day biological knowledge is ideological. A key symptom of ideological thinking is the explanation that has no implications and cannot be tested. I call such logical dead ends antitheories because they have exactly the opposite effect of real theories: they stop thinking rather than stimulate it. Evolution by natural selection, for instance, which Charles Darwin originally conceived as a great theory, has lately come to function more as an antitheory, called upon to cover up embarrassing experimental shortcomings and legitimize findings that are at best questionable and at worst not even wrong. Your protein defies the laws of mass action? Evolution did it! Your complicated mess of chemical reactions turns into a chicken? Evolution! The human brain works on logical principles no computer can emulate? Evolution is the cause! Sometimes one hears it argued that the issue is moot because biochemistry is a fact-based discipline for which theories are neither helpful nor wanted. The argument is false, for theories are needed for formulating experiments. Biology has plenty of theories. They are just not discussed—or scrutinized—in public. The ostensibly noble repudiation of theoretical prejudice is, in fact, a cleverly disguised antitheory, whose actual function is to evade the requirement for logical consistency as a means of eliminating falsehood.— Nobel Prize-winning physicist Robert B. Laughlin, quoted by Vern Poythress
The authors of this book are very straightforward about the assumptions underlying their approach to science: they believe the Bible is true and authoritative, that it should be interpreted literally, and that it should inform every aspect of one’s life, including forming your paradigm for approaching science. Even if you disagree with their starting points (or conclusions), it’s refreshing to hear scientists articulate their a priori assumptions so clearly and unashamedly from the get-go. I wish everyone in this debate would do so. There is, in truth, no such thing as totally neutral science.
The most valuable lesson that any reader can take away from this book, whether he is sympathetic to it’s viewpoint or not, is the recognition that paradigms are integral to one’s view on any subject. Paradigms provide the entire intellectual framework for how one evaluates data and what “makes sense” to classify something as reasonable or not. In other words, paradigms provide a context for understanding the world. They are inescapable, but they are often unrecognized. For more, see Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.
Anyway, in the paradigm of these researchers, the history in Genesis is all true, the Flood really happened, and the Tower of Babel was the source of human civilization’s spread throughout the globe. If you accept this premise and work your way outward from it, the book argues, all of a sudden a lot of otherwise unexplainable historical anomalies make sense and find a place in science and history. The modern naturalistic evolutionary worldview, which assumes a linear progression of human cultural development over millions of years, cannot account for the evidence of advanced civilization at many of the places in history that we find it, nor can it make sense of the similarities among ancient cultures that arose—apparently independently—thousands of miles apart, separated by oceans and continents. For example, there are scores of ancient architectural works that today’s scientists still can’t explain how they were built because the degree of advanced knowledge and understanding required is far ahead of what the evolutionary paradigm allows for. Another example is the commonality of various creation myths and religious laws. If Babel is true, and if this diaspora was indeed the headwater of a global expansion of highly civilized man, these commonalities make sense.
This book was obviously prepared by a team of college students overseen by one or more professors. The voice and writing quality varied by chapter. I also found some pretty unforgivable typos. This may be nit-picky, but a book about rigorous and intellectually honest science should set the bar high.
This book is neither a comprehensive defense of creationism nor a complete dismantling of evolution. It’s simply an exploration of an sideline approach to some of the issues involved, and an exposition of how a different paradigm from the “mainstream scientific consensus” can explain the otherwise unexplainable. It definitely stretched my thinking
The basic thesis is pretty self explanatory from the title alone; what makes it extra fascinating is that Nagel is an atheist. He argues that evolutionary natural selection has enormous obstacles to overcome in plausibly explaining man’s consciousness, his ability to reason, and his recognition of objective moral values—both in how they can currently exist within its framework of natural and unintelligent processes, and in explaining how they came about at all. These are obstacles that, Nagel argues, naturalistic Darwinism simply hasn’t adequately addressed (yet)—and likely never will. He teases the “secular establishment,” wishing it would
wean itself of the materialism and Darwinism of the gaps—to adapt one of its own pejorative tabs. I have tried to show that this approach is incapable of providing an adequate account, either constitutive or historical, of our universe. (127)
He calls the naturalistic materialism of the day “a heroic triumph of ideological theory over common sense.” (128) Of course, the philosophical contender at the opposite side of the ring is some form of theism, which Nagel also denies as insufficient. He does discuss some of the challenges facing theism, but since the reigning consensus (at least among professional scientists and philosophers) is that of naturalistic materialism, this is where Nagel spends most of his time.
I will readily admit that a good bit of this 128-page book was over my head. Nagel is not writing popular-level philosophy, and I had to read and digest it slowly. But it’s valuable to engage and follow arguments advanced by an intellectual heavyweight, especially from someone outside the fold of theism.
The main barrier is the scientism that pervades our mentality and our culture. We are prone to think that if there’s a serious problem, science will find the answer. If science cannot find the answer, then it cannot be a serious problem at all. That seems to me altogether wrong. It goes hand in hand with the thought that philosophy is in the same business as science, as either a handmaiden or as the vanguard of science. This prevailing scientism is manifest in the infatuation of the mass media with cognitive neuroscience. The associated misconceptions have started to filter down into the ordinary discourse of educated people. You just have to listen to the BBC to hear people nattering on about their brains and what their brains do or don’t do, what their brains make them do and tell them to do. I think this is pretty pernicious – anything but trivial.— Peter Hacker (via ayjay)
Correlationstonone didn’t like this image I posted mocking climate change:
”Circular reasoning” or “begging the question” is not the issue in play, here. The problem is that people on both sides of the so-called debate keep chucking dogshit (if I may be so impolitic) like your absolutely garbage argument here. I mean, using absolutely idiotic oversimplifications like “snow = global warming is a lie” only perpetuates the foolish perception of global warming as merely some polar-bears-on-ice-floes sob story for sad liberals. Do you have any idea how complex weather is? Just developing lousy guesses about whether or not it will rain in Spain is the chief use of supercomputers!
These moronic graphical gestures don’t allow for frank understandings of the real risks; for example, the fact that we’ll be long starved from global warming before anyone drowns. Which implies the person advancing the argument is ignorant, or that maintaining the ignorance of the audience is the interest at hand. That may not sound like a nuanced or fair assessment of the OP, but “fair nuance” is not exactly someone’s strong suit. Hint: someone is you.
One of the problems with the debate (yes, it actually exists) on climate change is that the believers tend to claim any and all weather as evidence supporting their position. If it’s too hot, it’s because of global warming. If it’s too cold, it’s because of global warming. If it floods, guess what? You know. Sea level moves in any direction…yep. To the extent that the image I posted mocked the “everything supports our position” tenet of many global-warmists, it fulfilled my purpose and was not intended to advance an argument according to the rules of rational debate. Sometimes you just have to laugh and throw poop back at the crazy monkeys.
That being said, there are some serious points to be made. I am asked, “do you have any idea how complex weather is?” Yes, and that’s precisely the point. Earth’s climate is far too complex, with literally millions of variables, to even begin to predict changes with any accuracy, let alone pinpoint (i.e blame) a worldwide phenomena on the actions of a single minor variable (humanity). If one listened to the global warmists alone, you’d think our climate was a linear system of A+B=C. Man creates tons of C02, burns a hole in the ozone, and now we’re all gonna die. It’s like Chicken Little without the brains. Also, it turns our we’ve seen this movie before.
A couple things I often remind myself of:
Science is far less objective than we often think. When it comes to climate science, the East Anglia emails overwhelmingly illustrate this point. The whole thing reads like Mean Girls at the doctorate level: one group of scientists, invested in a particular “consensus,” connive and strategize against other scientists who don’t toe the official line, even going so far as to prevent research from being peer reviewed, cover up data ranging from the doubtful to the disproved, and destroy the credibility of an entire branch of science.
Any time there is an attempt to silence debate, a fog horn should go off in your mind that we have now burst through the double doors of Demagoguery. In the media, this tripe has become a trope, but fortunately the public hasn’t bought into it. Even if it all turns out to be true, we’re pretty much doomed anyway, and in the meantime there other problems that are surmountable: world hunger, clean water, economics in the third world, stopping Dave Matthews’ tour bus from dumping human waste into the Chicago river. You know, stuff we can tackle.
Had the Pope said what Hawking did, the media would be screaming about the Catholic War on Science or ridiculing Benedict as a medieval boob terrified that ET was going to dislodge us from our Most-Favored Species status in the eyes of the Almighty. But since it’s Hawking saying these silly things, the press sits around and pulls its chin at the wisdom of this great Arch-Priest of Science.The modern world will accept no dogmas upon any authority; but it will accept any dogmas on no authority. Say that a thing is so, according to the Pope or the Bible, and it will be dismissed as a superstition without examination. But preface your remark merely with “they say” or “don’t you know that?” or try (and fail) to remember the name of some professor mentioned in some newspaper; and the keen rationalism of the modern mind will accept every word you say. – G.K. Chesterton
Post-modern culture still has a lot of lingering faith in the Enlightenment Project floating around in it. Big Name Scientists still get treated as Priestly figures capable of mediating All Truth to us on whatever subject they choose to hold forth on, rather than as specialized technicians who know a lot about a very narrow spectrum and, on the rest of life, are as prone to ignorance, stupidity, and sheer daftness as the rest of us. You’d think Richard Dawkins would have taught us better, but lots of people still believe that specialized knowledge of wasps confers upon Arch-Priests of Science the knowledge of the deepest truths of existence.
In the last analysis, scientism can only measure how fast we rot. Knowledge of the final judgment and how men as men will stand there before a great throne does not come from dissecting frogs.— Douglas Wilson
Judgments based on scientific evidence, whether made in the laboratory or a courtroom, are undermined by a categorical refusal even to consider research or views that contradict someone’s notion of the prevailing ‘consensus’ of scientific opinion… Automatically rejecting dissenting views that challenge the conventional wisdom is a dangerous fallacy, for almost every generally accepted view was once deemed eccentric or heretical. Perpetuating the reign of a supposed scientific orthodoxy in this way, whether in a research laboratory or in a courtroom or opinion depends on the strength of its factual premises and on the depth and consistency of its reasoning, not on its appearance in a particular journal of on its popularity among other scientists.— Stephen Jay Gould, quoted by Stephen C. Meyer in Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design (chapter 18, end note 62, p 550).
In 1994, pro-ID scientist and writer Forrest M. Mims III submitted a letter to the journal Science (which was rejected) predicting function for junk DNA: “DNA that molecular biologists refer to as ‘junk’ don’t necessarily appear so useless to those of us who have designed and written code for digital controllers. They have always reminded me of NOP (No Operation) instructions. A do-nothing string of NOPs might appear to be ‘junk code’ to the uninitiated, but, when inserted in a program loop, a string of NOPs can be used to achieve a precise time delay. Perhaps the ‘junk DNA’ puzzle would be solved more rapidly if a few more computer scientists would make the switch to molecular biology.”— Stephen C. Meyer in Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design.
In 2004, Jonathan Wells argued that the theory of intelligent design provides a fruitful heuristic (guide to discovery) for genomic research precisely because it predicts that noncoding DNA should have latent function. As he explained: “The fact that ‘junk DNA’ is not junk has emerged not because of evolutionary theory but in spite of it. On the other hand, people asking research questions in an ID framework would presumably have been looking for the functions of non-coding regions of DNA all along, and we might now know considerably more about them.”
Other scientists have noted how materialistic evolutionary theories have impeded scientific progress in the study of the genome. In 2002, Richard von Sternberg reported extensive evidence for functional junk-DNA, noting that “neo-Darwinian ‘narratives’ have been the primary obstacle to elucidating the effects of these enigmatic compounds of chromosomes” and concluding that “the selfish DNA evolutionary theory that, despite their variance with empirical evidence, nevertheless persist in the literature.” (Chapter 18, end note 39, p 548)
…chemical evolutionary theory and neo-Darwinism raise unavoidable metaphysical and religious questions…Yet this fact has not prevented Darwinism from being regarded as a scientific theory. Nor does anyone think that the possible implications of the theory should determine its scientific merit or invalidate the evidence in its favor. Yet if the religious (or antireligious) implications of materialistic evolutionary theories do not make these theories religion or invalidate the evidence in support of them, then neither should the religious implications of the theory of intelligent design negate the evidence in its favor or make it a “religion”—with all that implies to the modern mind.— Stephen C. Meyer in Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design.
via Stephen C. Meyer in Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design.
Of course, Meyer explains/defends all these in detail.
I just finished Signature in the Cell by Stephen C. Meyer.
Before I read Meyer, I was someone who sympathized with the philosophical implications of intelligent design, but was uncertain as to its scientific merits—whether it was on the same competitive plain as evolution. Meyer’s book leaves no doubt whatsoever that intelligent design is totally valid as a scientific theory, and that it answers certain questions much more satisfactorily than the theory of evolution.
Anyone looking to understand what exactly ID is—and why it’s a legitimate scientific theory—should read this book. I plan to post a few quotes during this week.