Friday, July 01, 2005

When Worldviews Collide

“Darwinist educators cannot afford to acknowledge to either their students or the public that there is a distinction between the data or testable theories of science, on the one hand, and philosophical or religious claims that are made in the name of science, on the other. All Darwinist propaganda depends on blurring that distinction so that a credulous public is taught to accept philosophical naturalism/materialism as inherent in the definition of “science.” On that premise scientific knowledge is deemed the least implausible naturalistic mechanism for creating complex life and therefore true.”

Philip Johnson – “The Right Questions – Truth, Meaning, and Public Debate”

I finished the first chapter of Benjamin Wiker’s “Moral Darwinism – How We Became Hedonists” this morning. Then, this afternoon I read a bit from Stephen J Gould, who was one of the foremost proponents of Darwinism until he died in 2002.

We Kansans who question the authority of Charles Darwin and his disciples are being pilloried almost endlessly these days. There are times the attacks seem pointless and quite amusing to me and there are times they seem to have some guiding rationale. It’s almost as if they were guided by some form of intelligence.

I remember a time when I didn’t believe the question of our human origin was important. But, now with the battle joined, I’m seeing that this really is a very critical battle in what has been painted as a war between rationalism (science) and fundamentalist religion (creationism).

When I finished the first chapter of Wiker’s book this morning it became even clearer to me. “Why?” I’ve wondered, “Have the Darwinists been so strident in their attacks against the Intelligent Design movement?” Riker must have asked the same question of himself, because he came up with what I believe is a very good answer:

“The greater charge of intellectual suppression I level at the moral Epicureans who are not scientists, but keepers of the culture, those who have gained cultural power through a variety of institutions from funding agencies and various media, to academia. They are protectors and promoters of materialism in science. Their desire to suppress or ridicule intelligent design arguments is purely moral in origin. Their support for materialist science is in no small part fueled by the realization that if the materialist cosmology were to crumble, the Epicurean moral world would crumble with it.” (Page 57)

The Darwinists understand what’s at stake, and they are going to do everything in their power to ensure that they maintain their grip on the culture. And, why not? They have a great deal to lose.

The rhetoric has been heating up for some time, and now it’s about white hot. I’ll follow with a couple of examples, one from a fellow Kansan named Jason Miller and one from the now deceased Stephen J. Gould to illustrate. First, there is this from my fellow Kansan

“Yes, Phineas Taylor Barnum would be green with envy. The master of the hoodwink would be in awe of the Religious Right were he alive today. Snake-charming, beguiling, conning, and flimflamming are at the heart of their repertoire, and their leaders leave Barnum looking like a bush leaguer. If the religious conversion business cycle hits a lull, there will be a glut of highly talented salespeople looking for work. This week, this Evangelical movement is flexing its muscle, and flashing its propagandistic cunning, as it soaks up the spotlight of national media attention in Topeka, Kansas.”

And then there’s this:

“Intelligent Design is a cleverly packaged form of Creationism which the Religious Right is attempting to sneak into public classrooms through a variety of means, including this farcical "hearing" in Kansas. In 1991, Phillip Johnson, a Berkeley law professor, kicked off the movement by authoring Darwin on Trial. The premise of Intelligent Design is that mere observation of the complexity of the universe provides “evidence” that there was an intelligent designer. In virtual unanimity, the scientific community rejects the credibility of Intelligent Design. Lacking the support of scientific evidence, research, or peer review, Intelligent Design only qualifies as a “theory” in the minds of those who are desperate to "prove" the existence of their version of the Christian God, and manipulate our children into believing in their version of the Christian faith.”

But it’s not just the “ordinary” man like Jason Miller who has been on the attack. The Darwinist scientists are also at it, as this from Stephen J.Gould illustrates:

“Punctuated equilibrium, catastrophic theories of mass extinction, hopeful monsters, and a variety of hypotheses about rapid rates of change in continuous sequences, not about unintelligible abrupt appearances, are part of scientific debate and bear no relationship to the nonscientific notion of abrupt appearance, despite pernicious and willful attempts by many creationists to distort such claims by misquote and halfquote to their alien purposes. Punctuated equilibrium, in particular, is a claim that evolutionary trends have a geometry that resembles a climb up a staircase rather than a slide up an inclined plane. It is, in other words, an alternate theory about the nature of intermediate stages in evolutionary trends not, as creationists have claimed, a denial of these stages. As a term, ‘creation science’ is an oxymoron, a self-contradictory and meaningless phrase, a whitewash for a specific, particular, and minority religious view in America—Biblical literalism.”

And what did Gould believe in terms of origins? Was there any room in his cosmology for God? Read this excerpt from his work and judge for yourself:

“It seems the height of antiquated hubris to claim that the universe carried on as it did for billions of years in order to form a comfortable abode for us. Chance and historical contingency give the world of life most of its glory and fascination. I sit here happy to be alive and sure that some reason must exist for ‘why me?’ Or the earth might have been totally covered with water, and an octopus might now be telling its children why the eight-legged God of all things had made such a perfect world for cephalopods. Sure we fit. We wouldn't be here if we didn't. But the world wasn't made for us and it will endure without us.”

Some cosmology! Gould was glad to be here, but he believed that it could just as easily have been an octopus explaining how the world works rather than him.

Now you’d think that the Darwinists would rely on their science as an answer, but they don’t. Their principle weapon is the “ad-hominem.” While I give him credit for being an ordinary Kansas citizen like myself, I have to admit that Jason Miller has a very refined sense of the personal attack. Here, for example, is one from the same piece I cited earlier:

“Our three “ring-masters” here in Kansas are “poster children” for the Intelligent Design movement, and its insidious purposes. Elected by the people of Kansas to represent the educational interests of our children in our secular public schools, Kathy Martin, Steve Abrams, and Connie Morris are selling our children out to advance the cause of the Religious Right. In a state where there is currently a dearth of funding for public schools, they chose to spend $10,000.00 on the “Scopes II” spectacle simply to provide a vehicle to support their denigration of Evolution, one of the most widely accepted theories in the scientific community. By choosing to help employ The Wedge Strategy to transform public school classrooms into religious pulpits, they are complicit in violating the First Amendment of the US Constitution and in trampling the rights of America’s 75 million non-Christians.”

Do you get the point? The Intelligent Design movement is at the heart of a plot hatched by “the religious right” to take over America and “trample” on the rights of everyone else in doing so.

Now that’s about as accomplished as ad-hominems can get!

I’d really like to hear a debate between the Darwinist and Intelligent Design camps, but I know it won’t happen until the rhetoric cools down. Even knowing that it will probably never take place, though, I have to admit that the arguments Darwinists are making these days are very persuasive. They’re persuading me that there may not be much merit to their arguments at all. If there were, I reason, they wouldn’t spend all the time and energy attacking those who question them.

Why the personal attacks? Philip Johnson put it this way:

“In this imperfect world an ad hominem argument sometimes performs the legitimate function of showing that a person has bias and hence that his or her arguments should be examined carefully. The argument is misused if it does more than that, causing us to ignore worthwhile arguments because of what we think of the person making them.”

That’s the essence of what men like Miller and Gould have done.

Not to be content with the personal attacks, the Darwinists have also been expertly using the “straw man” to great advantage:

“Many Darwinists want to pretend that the only people who doubt their theory are the most extreme religious fundamentalists. They know how to win a debate when the issue is framed as “science versus the Bible,” and so they want to keep the debate framed that way.”

As for me, I’m not a “religious fundamentalist” as described by Miller and Gould. I’m pretty well educated. I have a bachelor’s degree in linguistics and a master’s in theology. I’m sure that Miller, Gould, and other Darwinists would say that would qualify me as a “right wing fanatic.” But I, and many like me who question Darwinism, are not the men and women they’ve made us out to be. All we want is for the personal attacks to cease and the real debate to begin.

Mr. Miller argued in his piece that faith and Darwinism aren’t incompatible:

“Meanwhile, the mainstream scientific community has elected to boycott this charade. Their position is that by participating in “The Greatest Show on Earth”, they would be lending credence to the assertions that there is a controversy over Evolution, and that those who believe in Evolution are atheists by default. The truth is that the theory of Evolution has grown and changed significantly since its assertion by Charles Darwin in 1859, and scientists do disagree over some details. However, the majority of the scientific community agrees over the principal aspects of the theory. Conflict over the validity of Evolution is a sham perpetrated by the “showmen” of the Religious Right. Keith Miller, of Brown University, author of Finding Darwin's God, is a living example of one who believes in both Evolution and a Christian God. People like Miller, who are not uncommon in the scientific community or the general population, dispel the myth that Evolution demands that one embrace atheism. The scientific community is not denying the existence of God; they simply believe that proving the existence of God is beyond the scope of science, and discussion of the subject belongs in philosophy classes.”

While I don’t think it’s productive for those questioning Darwinism to assume that all its adherents are atheists by proxy, I don’t believe that Darwinists can continue to play a bait and switch game with the public and continue to get away with it. Darwinism is a religion! In 1959, zoologist Julian Huxley, remarking on the centennial of Darwin’s introduction of his theory, said this:

“In the evolutionary pattern of thought there is no longer either need or room for the supernatural. The earth was not created, it evolved. So did all the animals and plants that inhabit it, including our human selves, mind and soul as well as brain and body. So did religion.”

“Evolutionary man can no longer take refuge from his loneliness in the arms of a divinzed father figure who he has himself created, nor escape from the responsibility of making decisions by sheltering under the umbrella of Divine Authority, nor absolve himself from the hard task of meeting his present problems and planning his future by relying on the will of an omniscient, but unfortunately inscrutable Providence.”

“Finally, the evolutionary vision is enabling us to discern, however incompletely, the lineaments of the new religion that we can be sure will arise to serve the needs of the coming era.”

It’s come full circle now for me. Riker asked the right question and came up with the right answer. The debate going on in Kansas, despite the mighty protestations of the Darwinists, is critically important. And, contrary to what the Darwininsts are saying, it’s not a battle between science and the Bible. It’s a conflict of world views. The Darwinists do not want the debate to take place. There’s too much at stake for them; there's the risk that they might lose their high perch in society. But for the rest of us there’s something even more important to be determined. It’s the truth! With that as the goal, I say let the real debate begin!


James Fletcher Baxter said...



"True science knows NO FINAL ANSWERS; only ongoing questions."
Prof. Henry Margenau, Yale University

Dear Reader,
One (or more) of these statements describes you. Which?

ariadneK, Ph.D. said...

I am a science professional (immunology/cancer vaccine development) and find this post of interest.

Since science does NOT provide final answers in the course of research investigations (even newer and more exciting leads follow from the data)

I would have to say that, as I value truth, it is after all my duty to engage in an ongoing debate: nothing is ever either "right" or "wrong" in its own right, and passionate interactions supporting the opposing thoughts will allow more progress than anhything else can.

Ed Darrell said...

Phillip Johnson's claims against Darwinian science and theory are just calumny from a guy who doesn't understand it, and who won't make the effort to understand what is going on. His assault on science is unworthy of a Christian.

For example, Johnson is absolutely in error about the philosophical groundings of Darwin's theories in biology. Darwin looked at nature as a testament of God, reflecting the views of Christians of his time. What nature showed, therefore, was simply another view of the majesty of God's creation. Johson's claims against naturalism and materialistic philosophy simply miss the mark. Darwin was Christian, as was Wallace, and neither ever denounced the church or renounced his faith. In fact, most of the major theorists of Darwin since that time have been Christian.

Johnson confuses his failure to understand science with moral failures in others. That is, in a way, a moral failure of Johnson.

Ethical educators cannot afford to allow pseudo-science or claptrap into the classroom under the guise of science. "Intelligent Design" has no body of science behind it. The opposition to allowing it into the classroom is simply sticking to long-held policy that only tested and proven science should be in science books. As of this date there is not a single laboratory on Earth working to prove intelligent design, or using any part of any intelligent design idea as a basis of research. Thee is not a single hypothesis of intelligent design that can be tested in a lab, or by field observations, except whether things "look" to be designed -- and the only tools proposed by ID advocates to distinguish design from not-design fail to work on living things which we know to have elements inserted artificially.

ID is kept out of science classes because ID has failed to withstand any tests of whether it is science (let alone useful science). Johnson's claims otherwise are either grossly in error, or grotesquely designed to lead others into misunderstanding.

Ed Darrell said...

Suppression? Creationists and ID advocates have, since 1925, asked more than 100 times that state legislatures ban or dilute the teaching of science. Requests to school boards are probably as numerous, though it is difficult to get good figures.

Not once in the past 80 years has any scientist asked for any law against creationism or intelligent design creationism. The only rule is that what goes into the science books must be science.

When creationism was ruled religious dogma and not science, in 1982, Judge William Overton noted that all that was necessary to get an idea into the science books was to have a significant body of research behind the idea. The challenge in 1982 was to do experiments that showed Darwinian theory to be in error, or to support other theory.

Since 1982 there has been no such paper published in any journal.

Why do critics of Darwinian theory suddenly ask for a relativistic view of science when they want to sneak in stuff that cannot meet the standards of what is real, in science?

It is ironic that those standards were created by Christians, largely. But when a small minority of people misinterpret science, they ask that the standards be relaxed for them, and for them alone.

And when the standards are not automatically relaxed, they ask the suppression of Darwinian theory.

Get the facts straight before you start questioning the moral underpinnings of the parties, please.

Ed Darrell said...

No, Phil, questioning Darwin is where every biologist should start. It's not "treason." Most ID advocates I've met at school board hearings can't tell you what Darwin really said, or why it's the basis for cancer research in the world. They have never questioned Darwin, nor could they in their ignorance.

Failing to question Darwin, and failing to follow through on one's questions is academic sloth. That's the crime the ID folks are guilty of.

Phil, call every university you have in Kansas. Ask them if they have any research program in intelligent design in the biology department. You'll find none. Kansas' economy depends on the evolution-based research done at those schools -- but even among the ID advocates, there is not a research program into ID.

How could there be one? There is no hypothesis of ID that could be made into a theory, even were there experiments that verified ID over evolution.

Were Kansas to decree ID to be taught in public schools, it would discover (as Ohio did) there is no body of research to use to write a curriculum.

Science is done in the laboratory, and in the field. Intelligent design has a $2 million budget to write op-ed pieces and design websites, and to harrass school boards and legislatures. There is no intelligent design research being done anywhere on Earth, not even at the Discovery Institute.

What is treason is to sell this claptrap as science, and claim that, when the rest of us point out it is devoid of content, that we are "oppressing" them.

Ed Darrell said...

I dare you to quote Gould, or any other scientist, saying that a chief goal of Darwin theory is to replace religion. That's false.

Darwin remained a faithful Christian his entire life, by the way. He was buried with a state funeral in Westminster Abbey, with hymns written just for that occasion. He's interred in the Abbey, near Isaac Newton -- as a hero of the church.

Evolution says nothing against God. That's fiction.

Phil Dillon, Prairie Apologist said...

Ed Darrell

I already quoted from Julian Huxley. He was a scientist, and he was from a famous family of scientists.

There are others, but I don't believe it's my job to do your investigating for you. Dig and you'll find it.

As for Darwin, he studied theology, but he repudiated Christianity (see his autobiography (1876)

"By further reflecting that the clearest evidence would be requisite to make any sane man believe in the miracles by which Christianity is suppoted, -- that the more we know of the fixed laws of nature the more incredible do miracles become, -- that the men at that time were ignorant and credulous to a degree almost incomprehensible by us, -- that the Gospels cannot be proved to have been written simultaneous with the events, -- that they differ in many important details, far too important as it seemed to me to be admitted as the usual inaccuracies of eyewitnesses; -- by such reflections as these, which I give not as having the least noveltry or value, but as they influenced me, I gradually came to disbelieve in Christianity as a divine revelation."

"At the present day the most usual argument for the existence of an intelligent God is drawn from the deep inward conviction and feelings which are experienced by most persons. But it cannot be doubted that Hindoos, Mahomadans and others might argue in the same manner and with equal force in favour of the existence of one God, or of many Gods, or as with the Buddists of no God. There are also many barbarian tribes who cannot be said with any truth to believe in what we call God: they believe indeed in spirits or ghosts, and it can be explained, as Tyler and Herbert Spencer have shown, how such a belief would be likely to arise."

Ed Darrell said...

The quote from Julian Huxley you offered was way, way out of context. In point of fact, Huxley was urging higher morals, not lower ones (do you defend lower morals?). That may be a discussion for another thread, but surely you don't endorse child labor, women working 16 hours a day with no child care (kids in the factories), or allowing meat packers to sell tainted meat -- just three of the sorts of improvements of morality that are due in very large part to the spread of evolutionary science (and over the objection of preachers way too often).

I don't ask you to do my research. I ask you to back up your claim. And you can't, if you try. I had hoped you would discover that. It is simple falsehood to claim that evolution is designed to replace religion. That was not the goal of the Christians Darwin and Wallace, nor the Christian Dobzhansky, nor the Christian Asa Gray, nor the Christian Francis Collins, nor any of the other major thinkers of evolution, almost all of whom were Christian.

We Christians recognize that there are two versions of the creation story in Genesis, let alone the other versions sprinkled throughout scripture. Darwin was arguing against a claim that either Genesis story is the only "right" one. That there is a minority in Christianity today who still argue against the rest of us does not make evolution evil, or wrong.

There are no creationists in the cancer wards, nor in the infectious disease wards. Evolution gives us cures for disease, and food to feed the masses. If we can, as scriptures tell us, judge a tree by its fruits, these simple observations of the support evolution lends to two of the greatest ministries of Jesus should be compelling.