To begin with, the findings of science entail that the belief systems of all the world’s traditional religions and cultures—their theories of the origins of life, humans, and societies—are factually mistaken. We know, but our ancestors did not, that humans belong to a single species of African primate that developed agriculture, government, and writing late in its history. We know that our species is a tiny twig of a genealogical tree that embraces all living things and that emerged from prebiotic chemicals almost four billion years ago. We know that we live on a planet that revolves around one of a hundred billion stars in our galaxy, which is one of a hundred billion galaxies in a 13.8-billion-year-old universe, possibly one of a vast number of universes. We know that our intuitions about space, time, matter, and causation are incommensurable with the nature of reality on scales that are very large and very small. We know that the laws governing the physical world (including accidents, disease, and other misfortunes) have no goals that pertain to human well-being. There is no such thing as fate, providence, karma, spells, curses, augury, divine retribution, or answered prayers—though the discrepancy between the laws of probability and the workings of cognition may explain why people believe there are. And we know that we did not always know these things, that the beloved convictions of every time and culture may be decisively falsified, doubtless including some we hold today.—
This paragraph is a pitch-perfect example of assuming what you are trying to prove.
— Douglas Wilson, blogging through Jerry Coyne’s Why Evolution Is True.
Now this scientific racism (in which Darwin fully participated) got all tied up with the eugenics craze, as well as tied up with the increasingly accepted theory of evolution, and lots of scientific, chin-stroking words like biogeography. In the Introduction to The Descent of Man, Darwin said that one of the three goals of his book was to show “the value of the differences between the so-called races of man.” He needed that as part of his argument.
This was before eugenics and the rest of all this foolishness covered itself with dishonor in the heyday of scientific racism, the German version, and so it was still possible back then for scientists to talk about differences in humans the way Coyne talks about finches. Since they could, they did. Since Coyne can’t, he doesn’t, but I would love to be present at a Q & A session where for some reason they couldn’t turn my microphone off. I will put it this way — on the principles Coyne has been arguing for here, the theory of evolution justifies scientific racism as a clear possibility. It must be on the table. If we all evolved from a common ancestor, and if there are diverse populations of us, and if the rate of evolution is not a fixed constant like 9.8 meters per second squared, it follows that somebody could easily be a lot closer to that common ancestor than somebody else. Follow the argument wherever it leads, man. I thought scientists were supposed to be courageous.
The problem with the theory of Natural Selection is similar to the concept of utility—both claim to be an all-explaining cause of human behavior or social and natural development. Even in the case of natural selection—be it biological or social—are we not able to say in advance what would have to happen for this theory to not be valid? In other words, how would it look if the market (nature) did not select the most adatpable? It is actually a bit of a tautology: Those who survive are always those who are the most adaptable. But who actually are (how can we tell?) the most adaptable? Well, those who survive. We can only know this expost, from hindsight. So, if we only paraphrased this famous saying slightly, it would say only this: Those who survive are the most capable of surviving (instead of the word adaptable). In other words: Those who survive are those who survive. And so it happens that everyone who survives is pronounced the most adaptable. It is therefore necessary to agree with this “theory” because it cannot be disagreed with. So Social Darwinism is a truism. (263-264)— Tomas Sedlacek in Economics of Good and Evil: The Quest for Economic Meaning from Gilgamesh to Wall Street.
The problem is that if a certain approach is recognized as scientific by the scientific community, then it becomes a scientific topic. The opposite is understandably true; scientific truth is not, then, a matter of some kind of objective appraisal, but a matter of appraisal by its own academic community. Here, too, it is certainly possible to suspect the scientific community of a tendency leaning toward the political or scientific fashion. In this respect, we should be careful with trendy ideas. And we are not at all discussing how it is the scientific community that “creates” the truth and those who “appraise it” are one and the same. In the scientific world there is none of the division of power we know and carefully watch over in the world of politics. For this reason, Marxism-Leninism and, in the long run, even racism were entitled (at the time) to appropriate the title of “scientific.” The fact that our scientific era is among the bloodiest in history was one of the serious cracks in the religion of secular progress. The sociologist Zygmunt Baumann argues that the Holocaust was not a mistake or misstep of modernity, but its direct result. (239)— Tomas Sedlacek in Economics of Good and Evil: The Quest for Economic Meaning from Gilgamesh to Wall Street.
You and I might be looking at the same deck of cards, but if I’m playing spades and you’re playing poker, Occam’s Razor looks completely reasonable to me and utterly absurd to you, and vice versa.
The place where modern scientific hubris really kicks in is with the whole subject of “junk DNA.” and “dead genes” (pp. 66-73). How long have we even known about DNA? Since April of 1953, which means that our knowledge of the existence of DNA is two months older than I am. For pity’s sake! It is as though a couple archeologists discovered that the library of Alexandria didn’t really burn down, because they found the whole thing buried under sand, got into the first chamber, read two books, and declared the rest of the library worthless. They knew it was worthless because there were countless languages in there that they didn’t understand. Just a bunch of gibberish. For an example of some of the pronouncements that ought not to have been made about this, you can check out the book trailer here.— Douglas Wilson, blogging through Jerry Coyne’s Why Evolution Is True.
Now make the final adjustment [to this thought experiment]. Ten changes from species to species is absurdly low. A one in ten chance for the mutation to be beneficial is absurdly low. The chances that we will get identifiable survival advantage in less than a week is absurdly low. Get yourself a real calculator, one that goes up to the decillions, and enter the real numbers. The one thing you will not be able to do after that point is dismiss as an idiot someone who has trouble believing in this high speed miracle of yours with no God around. For mark my words, once the real numbers are entered, observing the process of evolution would be like watching a hummingbird fly.— Douglas Wilson is blogging through Jerry Coyne’s book, Why Evolution Is True.
The trouble for evolutionists is that they set the evolutionary chronology back when we had no idea of the staggering complexities that go into even one-celled organisms. The chronological framework was set for them, and poured into concrete, back when we thought 600 million years was plenty of time. It reminds me of the time when I had a computer that had 10 megabytes of memory, which I thought cavernous. And the more complexity we find, which we are doing all the time, the more we have to fit into our 219,000,000,000 days [allotted by modern mainstream science].
What scientists say in research papers vs what they actually mean
…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.