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Saturday, December 15, 2007

What would happen to science if Darwin ceased to be God?

Recently, I received and published this comment on this post about Oxford mathematician John Lennox's book, God's Undertaker, from "curwen":

As an historian, with some background in the cultural and social history of Darwinism, I'm interested in how philosophy effects scientific practice. In my search for current material on the subject, I ran across this post, and became interested in your blog.

I am interested in your opinion on this: in what ways would scientific practice change if materialism, as a philosophy of science, was eventually replaced by design? In other words, would research and experiment be structured differently? Would standards of evidence change? Does Lennox comment on this? I apologize if this is something you've already dealt with at length, so even if you responded with relevant posts that would be helpful.

I told curwen that it is an excellent question, and I'd answer it.

I am also going to ask around and post other answers.*

My area of interest is the popular culture that grows up around science (not surprising given my background as a journalist, author, and blogger), so here are my thoughts on that:

1. First, let me summarize my approach to the question: If you already know that, scroll down to 2.

Prior to the rise of materialist (as opposed to non-materialist) atheism, most scientists thought that the universe and life forms show evidence of design. A majority probably thinks so today. How materialist atheism became a default position at universities in spite of the evidence is a story in itself, a story that needn't detain us here.

In spite of the evidence? Yes, indeed. With any luck, my next book will explore the considerable effort to explain away the fine tuning of the universe and get rid of people who add to the growing stockpile of information about it.

And if the universe, why not life? There is something comical about the amiable Francis Collins insisting that the universe shows evidence of design but life somehow doesn't. But Collins is not, after all, a deep thinker.

Put simply, materialist atheists are the only people who cannot live with a designed universe, and they currently dominate science faculties (not necessarily scientists at large). Their materialist views are formed without any reliance on evidence because the evidence is actually against them.

The increasingly persecutory way they follow up on their views is explained by a simple fact: Materialist atheism cannot admit of any exceptions - it is a monistic creed, and a single exception would destroy it. It's universe must be bottom up, not top down.

Darwinism is important primarily as materialism's creation story. It is force fed to children in tax-supported schools as "science." It is also constantly reinforced in the pop science media as explaining everything from why you cheat on your squeeze to why your kid likes ice cream better than raw broccoli.

Given what we now know about (1) the life inside the cell, (2) the small amount of time in which life got started, shortly after the planet cooled, and (3) the pace at which Darwinian evolution actually works, belief in Darwinism is belief in magic.

Faced with design or magic, I would go with design, but I am not a materialist.

Incidentally, I don't think design is an apologetic for Christianity, it is only an apologetic against materialist atheism. Anyone other than a materialist atheist (Christian, Moonie, Wiccan, Hare Krishna, Taoist, deist ...) can point to design as support for his or her view. Even a non-materialist atheist can point to design! It's public domain.

And, as I said above, design is so obviously true that materialist atheists increasingly resort to witch hunts to deal with people who add to the evidence for design.

2. If the hold of the materialist atheists is broken, we will see evidence restored to its rightful place as the hallmark of science. Instead of hearing empty rhetoric like "Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution", we will hear "Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evidence." How will this affect research? Well, for one thing, people will be able to follow the evidence without fear of losing their positions. That will - necessarily - lead to the discovery that many materialist truisms are poorly supported. Honest discussions will be possible again. I reasonably believe that advances in knowledge will result.

Note: George Hunter's Science's Blind Spot meticulously records the decline of the importance of evidence in science, as opposed to ideology. See also Evolution in the light of intelligent design for a list of at least some topics on which reasonable discussion can become possible.

3. Another key change I expect is this: Promissory materialism will cease to be obligatory mental furniture - the monstrous overstuffed sofa that lurks in the picture window of the minds of most educated people today.

As a result, people who insist that

- computers are going to become conscious - soon!
- apes can write autobiographies with appropriate training
- the mind is a user illusion
- there must be aliens out there because otherwise we would be special (and we "know" we're not special)
- there is a "God spot" in the brain which explains religious convictions and experiences
- there is no free will and you are controlled by your selfish genes

will slowly cease to be treated as authorities by popular media, as they presently are. They will come to be seen for what they in fact are: Materialist cranks flogging up ideas that do not withstand scrutiny or evidence - people whose positions are largely maintained by the organized ridicule or persecution of the holders of better supported alternative positions.

4. Some unproductive projects will probably be simply abandoned. For example, origin of life research is presently handicapped by the fact that such research MEANS research on how life came about by chance. Virtually everyone I have read in the field stoutly defends the view that that is what OoL research means - and the only thing it can ever mean. They would actually regard any other conclusion as a failure - even though, as Design of Life demonstrates, their efforts have gone nowhere and come up with nothing for the better part of a century. Unable to consider the possibility that life didn't come about that way, they battle each other over theories that are probably all incorrect. I suspect that human evolution research suffers from the same problem: Researchers search for a hairy, half-conscious proto-human who may never have existed at all. But he must exist according to materialist theory, and therefore he does. And in the present state of science, materialist theory trumps honest examination of the evidence.

5. Last and best, science may be separated from religion, to the benefit of both. Much that is called "science" in the popular media is simply the metaphysics of materialist atheism, using science as stage props. We will no longer endure experts who claim to know things like "the cave man was unfaithful to his mate so he could spread his selfish genes" Oh, was he now? That expert knows what cave men did in the same way that a witch doctor knows when my ancestors are displeased with me and a local fundamentalist knows exactly what God wants me to do.

When general acceptance of the religious view that drives any form of non-evidence-based knowledge declines, it ceases to be considered knowledge. Atheistic materialism is long overdue for that.

Well, Curwen, that's my stab at it. Now I will go look for other views*:

*For this project, I am only interested in hearing from people who think that design is a legitimate inference. If you think otherwise, go to the Thumb and hold forth as you wish.

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