Tyranny and the Complacency of Scientism

This is a supplement to the piece I posted on Sunday about Hitler and Christianity. Going through Hitler’s private thoughts on Christianity and religion, as noted down by Martin Bormann, it’s remarkable how close they are to contemporary religious sceptics and the New Atheists like Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and the Rational Response Squad. Hitler wasn’t an atheist, but he believed in a kind of Spinozan god, who consisted of the operation of natural laws throughout the universe. Richard Dawkins, speaking at the Cheltenham Festival of Literature promoting his book, Unweaving the Rainbow, stated during the question and answer session with the audience that ‘God’ was only the name scientists gave to the interrelatedness of physical laws. Hitler denounced the Bible and Christianity as a ‘fairytale’ produced by ‘filthy Jews and epileptics’. He sneered at Christians for being stupid, and stated that the reason why the Finns had a higher rate of mental illness than anywhere else in Europe was because they took the Bible seriously. ‘Christianity’, he declared, ‘is an invention of sick brains!’ 1 You can compare this to the RRS’ assertion that religion is a ‘mind disease’, and similar attacks on it by Harris and Dawkins. Christianity was intolerant and anti-science, and he looked forward to scientific progress eradicating Christianity. Indeed he felt the state should support science education to this end, and so recommended establishing an astronomical observatory in every district to promote scientific rationality.

Fascism has been described by some historians as an anti-tradition, a reactionary rejection of the Enlightenment and the progress of European history towards greater human freedom, dignity and democracy. Yet in his philosophical pronouncements, Hitler was himself a product of the Enlightenment, praising the philosophers Kant, Schopenhauer and Nietzsche. He admired Kant for his attack on the Christian philosophical heritage of the Middle Ages:

‘His complete refutation of the teachings which were a heritage from the Middle Ages, and of the dogmatic philosophy of the Church, is the greatest of the services which Kant has rendered to us.’ 2 While his regime bitterly cracked down on its ideological and political opponents, Hitler himself praised and advocated the freedom of scientific and philosophical enquiry:

‘I do not agree with the idea that liberty of research should be restricted solely to the fields of natural science. It should embrace also the domain of thought and philosophy, which, in essence, are themselves but the logical prolongation of scientific research. By taking the data furnished by science and placing them under the microscope of reason, philosophy gives us a logical conception of the universe as it is.’ 3

Dawkins, Harris and the Rational Response Squad similarly have attacked religion by presenting a spurious contrast between religious dogmatism, and the continually changing nature of science as it uncovers new data and refines its concepts. So too did Hitler:

‘To open the eyes of simple people, there’s no better method of instruction than the picture. Put a small telescope in a village, and you destroy a world of superstitions. One must destroy the priest’s argument that science is changeable because faith does not change, since, when presented in this form, the statement is dishonest.

Of course, poverty of spirit is precious safeguard for the Church. The initiation of the people must be performed slowly. Instruction can simplify reality, but it has not the right deliberately to falsify it. What one teaches the lower level must not be invalidated by what is said a stage higher. In any case, science must not take on a dogmatic air, and it must always avoid running away when faced with difficulties. The contradictions are only apparent. When they exist, this is not the fault of science, but because men have not yet carried their enquiry far enough.’ 4

‘Religion draws all the profit that can be drawn from the fact that science postulates the search for, and not the certain knowledge of, the truth. Let’s compare science to a ladder. On every rung, one beholds a wider landscape. But science finds that it has to revise one or another notion that it had believed to be definitive, at once religious gloats and declares: ‘We told you so!’ To say that is to forget that it’s in the nature of science to behave itself thus. For if it decided to assume a dogmatic air, it would itself become a church.’ 5

There isn’t anything in these comments which you can’t hear from ordinary religious sceptics today, and Hitler’s opinion of a war between science and religion, which religion must lose, is precisely the same as Dawkins, Stephen Weinberg, Sam Harris, Neil de Grasse Tyson and the other self-proclaimed atheist ‘Brights’ who attended the La Jolla ‘Beyond Belief’ conference.

Now I’m not suggesting here for a single moment that by sharing these beliefs Dawkins, Harris, Dennett and the others are somehow Nazis or Fascistic. Clearly they’re not. Richard Dawkins has always stated very clearly that he vehemently non-Darwinian in politics, while Carl Sagan was definitely a political Liberal who attacked sexism, racism, militarism and imperialism and colonialism.

I am simply suggesting that Hitler’s own religious scepticism, and faith in science undercuts their naïve view that somehow a rejection of faith makes one less likely to commit acts of terrorism and atrocity.

Dawkins has repeatedly claimed that faith is belief without proof, something, which actually the Bible does not teach. Nevertheless he and his fellow misotheists state most vehemently than people of faith, simply by being people of faith, promote the unquestioning acceptance of authority, a situation that leads to atrocity. Hence, even those who are moderately religious are lumped in with the most splenetically fanatic. Dawkins makes no distinctions.

Hitler raises a very large question mark over this. He believed in almost exactly the same things they did, to the point where you can place some of his pronouncements on religion and Dawkins’ and Sagan’s side by side and you wouldn’t know the difference unless you were told. Yet Hitler’s regime was one of the most brutally authoritarian the 20th century endured, responsible for the organised, systematic extermination of millions of innocent men, women and children.

Clearly, religious scepticism was absolutely no preventative against a regime whose atrocities now continue to stagger the imagination.

Neither is the statement that science must be superior to religion because science is changing and self-correcting.

Historians and scientists commenting on the scientific racism of the Reich make the point that it was utterly wrong. This is undoubtedly true, but at the time all too many scientists did feel that it was correct, and acted with the consciousness that science is changeable and that they could be proved wrong, without ever believing they were. Furthermore there is the moral problem that even if the racial science upon which the Reich was based had been correct, that still would not have made the atrocities of the Reich any less odious and culpable.

Here Dawkins’ own belief in the flexibility of morals undercuts his own arguments for atheist moral superiority. When the British journalist Rod Liddle questioned him about the ‘wishy-washy’ liberal nature of his revised list of 10 Commandments Dawkins’ placed in his book, The God Delusion, Dawkins stated in reply that he left it deliberately so, so that it could be revised according to the zeitgeist. However, if morality is only a matter of temporary fashion, and are not eternal, then Dawkins has no argument against the perverted morality which planned and executed the enslavement and butchery of millions on an industrial scale with scientific precision.

Thus, the atrocities committed by the Third Reich, engineered by people like Hitler, who espoused Enlightenment religious scepticism and the same faith in science that informs the New Atheists, utterly refute the New Atheist claim that somehow religious people are more inclined to brutality, intolerance and atrocity. No doubt the New Atheists genuinely believe that their religiously sceptical scientism will save the world from similar horrific regimes, but history does not bear this out. Indeed, violence of supposedly secular, rationalistic regimes in the 20th century has shown this to be a hollow doctrine, that should now be rejected by anyone who genuinely believes in human dignity and freedom, whatever their own view of the existence of God.

Notes

  1. Hitler’s Table Talk: Hitler’s Conversations recorded by Martin Bormann (Oxford, OUP 1953), p. 144.
  2. Hitler, Table Talk, p. 720.
  3. Hitler, Table Talk, p. 719.
  4. Hitler, Table Talk, p. 323.
  5. Hitler, Table Talk, p. 84.

21 Responses to “Tyranny and the Complacency of Scientism”

  1. JOR Says:

    “Fascism has been described by some historians as an anti-tradition, a reactionary rejection of the Enlightenment and the progress of European history towards greater human freedom, dignity and democracy.”

    It often is portrayed as that, and I agree that that portrayal is wrong because it takes an extremely simplistic idea of what the ‘Enlightenment’ was to the table. Fascism and Nazism were reactionary rejections of some strands of thinking of the Enlightenment, just as much as they were the enshrinement of other strands.

  2. beastrabban Says:

    Yeah, I’m learning more and more about that, JOR. I was at a research seminar at Uni the other day given by Andy Wells, a research student at Oxford University, on the idea of genocide in the 18th century. It was really interesting, despite, or perhaps because of, it’s horrific subject. One of the things Wells said which particularly interested me was that just after the war, in 1947 or perhaps the early 1950s, Adorno and Horkheimer published a book in which they traced the origins of the Holocaust in the Enlightenment’s desire to taxonomise, classify and control nature, all enterprises which had been instrumental in the construction of the murderous industrial and scientific aspects of the Shoah .

    One of the lecturers there criticised this, stating that Horkheimer’s work on the radical French Enlightenment was ‘cr*p’. Wells replied that despite its failings, the Enlightenment and its spirit of enquiry was nevertheless a good thing that deserved ‘two cheers’, but that it covered more than just the radical Enlightenment of Spinoza, Kant and co. and that there were various strands involved in the Enlightenment that nevertheless had an effect, but which have been little studied by historians because of the exclusive restriction of the idea of the Enlightenment to mean only the radical Enlightenment.

    I have to say that while I’m no historian of the Enlightenment, my guess is that the radical Enlightenment itself had profoundly anti-democratic and anti-humanitarian philosophical implications that have been far less explored because of the undoubted positive aspects of the Enlightenment. Nevertheless, I think the Positivism of Enlightenment has increasingly taken on a disturbingly negative quality and now threatens genuine human freedom and dignity. I intend to blog a bit more on this sometime later.

  3. JOR Says:

    Of course it’s important to keep in mind that the various and distinct strands of thinking of any age – antiquity, medieval, modern, postmodern – were (are) often messily tangled up in the work of actual thinkers of any given period.

  4. beastrabban Says:

    Yeah, I agree with you there. Postmodernism, for example, takes its idea of hermeneutics from Biblical exegesis, and one of the female founders of Phenomenology was strongly influenced by St. Augustine.

    Actually, I’ve a feeling that some of the influential artistic and philosophical movements of the 20th century did nothing more than took basic ideas that had been around for a long time in human culture throughout various points in history, and took them to their logical conclusion. For example, for existentialist despair and questioning, the Book of Ecclesiastes is up there with anything Camus and Sartre ever wrote. As for some of the literary games explored by Postmodernism, there’s a 12th century Old French poem which declares that it is ‘a poem about nothing’, and then goes on to expand on this point, stating verse by verse what it isn’t about. And somebody pointed out last year, when the British film industry or what passes for it came to try to make something based on The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy that even here, the 18th century got there first and was pulling all the tricks – weird digression, experiments with page layout – at one point the entire page was left blank or printed black to make a narrative point – which later emerged in 20th century literary games.

    ‘The sun goeth down, and the sun also ariseth, and there is nothing new under the sun’, as Ecclesiastes says. It certainly seems to be the case in some branches of philosophy.:)

  5. JOR Says:

    One example of two concepts that seem bound up together in our own era psychologically, but are really philosophically distinct, are consequentialism and utilitarianism. Another I guess would be metaphysical naturalism and methodological naturalism.

    It’s definitely true that the successful philosophical movements are the ones that, consciously or unconsciously, work through and with what has been done before. You see something like this going on if you habitually read scholastic philosphers and analytic philosophers, much as some of the latter might take offense at the comparison (I’m a fan of both, so I mean no offense to either).

  6. beastrabban Says:

    I think you’re right about the confusion of certain philosophical concepts, like consequentialism and utilitarianism. I’ve also observed the way metaphysical and methodological naturalism have been confused, despite Michael Ruse’s best efforts to keep them distinct.

    As for the similarity between scholastic and contemporary analytic philosophers, I’ve seen that remarked on by others. I’ve got a feeling that there are one or two analytic philosophers who have expressed an admiration of the work of the scholastics. Going further back, to the ancient hellenistic world, it’s been remarked how close certain aspects of Stoic philosophy regarding language is to contemporary analytic philosophy.

    I did find a really good quotation once by a Roman author, who remarked that as soon as you came up with what you thought was a really good idea, totally new, you only had to look it up to find out that someone centuries ago had the same idea. I’m afraid I’ve forgotten who that particular Roman author was, but he’s right. Sometimes looking at the stuff the ancients produced, unaided, I feel like Picasso staring at the staggeringly ancient, yet remarkably modern rock art of northern Spain: ‘We have invented nothing.’

  7. Wakefield Tolbert Says:

    Greetings, Beast. Thanks for your time in advance. This is a whopper here but you have been knighted with the ability, unlike myself, to be able to tackle these briar patches head on. The New Atheist armed with Scientism certainly holds religion the host of all horrors big and small. But their justification is somewhat more complex than saying that its the dumb dogs that bite the hardest. Obviously we (and they) know that intelligence and proper brain function are not in and of themselves indicators of moral suasion. History teaches that venal slobs who are just immoral to their immediate relatives are not nearly as dangerous as moral prigs who deign to make others suffer to make a better world. Having said that, there are still some thorns in the flesh here from Atheist/Secular claims: More on that momentarily.

    (Keeping in mind, of course….“The worm is the spice, and the spice IS the worm!” )

    Side notes: On your commentary about nature being good as not necessarily safe–yes, I agree. ‘Safe’ and ‘good’ are often too different adjectives with differing goals. True. The Book of Job speaks of the Leviathan, probably the Nile Crocodile, and mocks the reader with ideas about hooking his nose and making pleas and treaties with him. The issue here was God’s transcendent power over mere mortals as manifested in the dangers of some creatures, according to some scholars. CS Lewis spoke of the natural world’s danger even to humans when it was known that Aslan the Lion from Narnia was certainly good, but certainly NOT safe at all times. So apparently nature is free to act out. This begs the question, though, of those Genesis literalists who insist that meat was not eaten and death not found before the Fall. As one commentator quipped, surely bugs got stepped on and mosquitoes swatted flat even in the Garden Of Eden. And surely we can see from the tooth structure of most animals to reveal what they ate going back millennia. Not sure how it all fits together there…..

    As to the notion of inferences and “seeing patterns”, I think you’re spot on that such would be advantageous whether caused by God or God via evolutionary processes and that this would be more dependable than “mere illusion” of the mind (for the MOST part, not always) in seeing things that often are not there, like ghosts, specters, apparitions, psychic connections not really extant or the images of angry gods battling in the sky constellation patterns. This last one is interesting to me, as if you could see the pictogram of the actual look of, say, Orion’s Belt, you’d see of course there is no “belt” or warrior as the Greeks saw but just stars that are in themselves vastly different from one another and separated by hundreds of light years of space-time. HOWEVER, the Atheist/Skeptic will always just default to the notion that with faith, mind, religion, and other ethereal notions we are still fooled by patterns not actually revealing much in the same way a nervous reader reads a highway map falsely and takes a bad left turn onto Sunset Blvd. Elsewhere, in the realm of science, the pattern seeking is more accurate since we have to hold to “higher standards of discipline. (see below from one scientist). Thus science can describe religiosity (as it is called by Dr. Dean Adel) but the reverse is just jibber jabber according to this school of thought.

    As to your commentary from before about modern psychology finding that gender and sex are separate realms that merely work together, this might be the case for gender persona, but the problem is that modern psychology has gone through many “phases” from time to time. I remember VERY distinctly the “fast” some authors had in a 1986 psychology book on the topic indicating their “proven” and “researched” finality to the idea that sexual identity is LEARNED. Only. Today we know via common sense from raising kids that boys and girls are vastly different, contrary to feminist notions of making boys play with Barbie dolls to calm them down and giving girls construction trucks. Where even if you do they paint flowers on them. 🙂

    But the updated take on this by year 2000, perhaps because of the influence of the homosexual lobby and its research support, is that gender identity as well as sexual partner choice is GENETIC and has NOTHING to do with societal influence, free will, desire, etc. Wow. What a change in less than 20 years about the “hard facts” of gender identity. The other problem here however, is that the Darwinian crowd simply points out that gender identity and sexual issues are hardwired into the brain like everything else, and being mere “gene machines” (to borrow from Dawkins colorful prose again!) then certainly our outward appearances of masculinity and femininity and the accompanying sexual organs and desires and usual years of torment (especially in the teen years for girls–for those of us who had to live with sisters) are symptomatic of nature’s push for the ‘Prime Directive’ (Star Trek fans know this term well) of biology. Thus gender and sex are interwoven intimately and co-related.

    NOW—-some knottiness distinctly unlike the other stuff I’ve mentioned.

    (All emphases below is mine except for all-caps letters from original blog posts)

    Have some follow up here from the Dawkins Amen Gallery, beginning with:

    “The Age of Darwin” by David Brooks in the NYTimes

    Notable passage du jour:“God may exist and may have set the process in motion, but he’s not active. Evolution doesn’t really lead to anything outside itself. Individuals are predisposed not by innate sinfulness or virtue, but by the epigenetic rules encoded in their cells.”

    Also, this came in from another recent blog posting presumably by a researcher of sorts on the matter, or claiming to be such:

    “Saying something is possible doesn’t mean it happened or exists, and doesn’t make it science. Anything is possible. The Spaghetti Monster is possible. The Matrix is possible. Science is about explaining phenomena, not speculating about possibilities.

    FACT: There is no evidence for intelligent design. There is evidence for evolution. ID suffers from a common problem of bad science: it begins with a conclusion, and structures its findings to support that conclusion. Science works the other way. When Darwin developed the Theory (that’s a capital T… it means something special in science) of Evolution, he began with observations and arrived at conclusions. The evolutionary explanation for the similarity of things is that changes are very small and on extraordinary time scales. Organisms aren’t “coded” to have certain characteristics; they have no direction in their genetic development. They simply develop based on their genes, try to survive, and reproduce. There would never be a discontinuity where “the stuff of life” (I assume you mean DNA or the proteins it encodes) suddenly change. Speciation happens incredibly slowly. Changes happen over hundreds of generations. And when the changes are done, the new species will still have a lot of similarity to the species it evolved from. It’s why some snakes have vestigial leg bones, lungfish have gills, and people share over 95% of DNA with chimps.”

    Another poster sums up: “PS–Don’t pray in our (mine also) public schools, and we atheists won’t bother you with thinking in church. How’s that? Deal? Leave science to people with something more than room temperature IQs”

    The FIRST idea here being that while God might very well exist, it is no more sensible to posit His existence than the Magical Flying Spaghetti Monster or the great cabbage headed Ramathar or the elephants in Persia that held up the world on their backs, who in turn perched on a big tortoise. IE–that is to say, while I accept your explanations (and your handy references to Scripture) to demonstrate God COULD have used obscure and unseen forces that give the appearance of a “hands off” policy, the problem here for some of us (both theist and non-theist) is that there appears that God has little to do with His time. Second, His apparent lack of concern for earthly beings fraught with a horrid development that is apparently directionless, much less “coded” by DNA and happy happenstance. Some scientists like the aforementioned I told you of before in the other post may be missing your point and relying too heavily on Darwinian Descent crutches for what appears to be a materialistic/secularist ideology. True. But this begs another question altogether: What evidence should suffice for the believer and to convince the unbeliever alike (like Richard Dawkins and his Darwin crusaders, or men like biologist William Provine and physicist Steven Weinberg, who think the Universe is a sour place exactly because it looks directionless and “pointless”).

    SECOND, from another blogger—-Christians are a bunch of dumbbunnies who can’t grasp complex scientific issues. Period. So they fill in the unknown parts for the layman with some vague God-talk and hope that is just enough to keep the offering plates full and faith intact. We elsewhere we dummy Christians are on the wrong sides of human history, human dreams and aspirations, and true material and scientific progress. We can’t even get the definitions of atheism correct. See below–then they tell us humanity’s aspirations will be fulfilled by science and social progress and see God as no more relevant to human history than the old saw about knocking on wood and throwing salt over the shoulder or avoiding the jinx of stepping on cracks in the sidewalk.

    This is the position taken by those calling themselves, like Dawkins, the “true, definitional” atheists. IE–we cannot of course prove there is no God whatsoever, however, we find insufficient evidence for such a presence in the Cosmos based on scientific observation. God may or may not be there, but for OUR purposes (according to this crowd) He is largely irrelevant to human relations, goals, sufferings, aspirations, etc. Thus why even bother?? We can’t prove the nature of Ramathar the Great Cabbage, either.

    How then do we prove God and His Omniscience/Providence and His concerns? The Dawkinsonians are correct: You can’t DISPROVE anything, not even Ramathar, or that Barney the purple Blarney Monster stomps around pubs looking for great suds in between eating little kids and patrons. I can’t disprove that. But no doubt Scotland yard will be happy to inform you that the is no convincing evidence that pubs are unsafe due to dragons.—-just due to the regular drunks and brawlers. See the problem there? Why not posit God as Mitrhas, or a large melon that rules the melon patch with utter disdain? I’m not being smart-alecky here. Just to point out what is typical fare from Skeptic sites like those of Michael Shermer, et al.

    EO Wilson and Stephen Jay Gould called this “exhilarating, even if frightening.” To some, it merely looks frightening.

    As I agree with you (as you state elsewhere) that mere “gene machines” (as you point out) that have no ulterior motive other than making copies of large molecules and eating things along the way have no more moral suasion than the mockery of old time tent preachers mocked in Hollywood telling little girls to keep their dresses long. But we need to answer this “God is not found in the evidences of things” position. A lack of answer will cause what I’ll show below with one blogger who insists that faith is mere nonsense talk due not to his knowledge of absolutes about said issue but rather DEFINITIONAL in that religion is just metaphysical jibber jabber and makes no real statements or conclusions whereas science along does both. You see, it looks like God has nothing to do with His time.

    So, so-called “theistic evolution” has its issues. Chief among these thorns is the problem that modern biologists smirk at such notions of God having something to do here. There is little for God to do, they say. Most prominent Darwinists may pay outward courteous homage to such notions, but they regard them as quaint and droll at best; bad science at the worst. Or, “getting in the way” of the hard, “cold” realities of a Cosmos without the Cosmos-maker. They use this as comfort when changing policy or assuring that schools can teach Darwin unfettered with no “superstitious” or “Creationist” input, but if you REALLY listen to “science” defenders like the American Biology Teachers (NABT) union or Ms. Eugenie Scott and her “anti-creationist” organization, the disdain for organized religion is hard to miss except for a tin ear, and dripping with sarcasm. The notion of compatibility of science and religion to these folks or being “separate but equal” is little more comforting than the days in this country when racial segregation was justified with that same phrase under the anti-Negro Jim Crow laws of the Deep South.

    Not sure about Britain. I know other members (like those of the European Union) have started to outlaw homeschooling as well as certifying “non creationist” text in order to stamp out “superstition.” See, for example, Germany, which outlaws home instruction COMPLETELY, out of fear that the kiddies are not going to be made into good members of society if reared in “authoritarian” (RE: religious) homes, which admittedly is the primary reason for homeschooling. (I do this myself for my three sons).

    In the USA, school administrators are attempting this in roundabout ways—though politicians and the “official” spokespersons for ABT and the like always hedge and say there is no “inherent” conflict between Darwin and the faith at home many of us grew up with in either Sunday school or Mass or whatnot.

    But better men than myself (and I won’t belabor this too much) have pointed out that the accompanying secularization of public schools here (even in the Deep South “Bible Belt”) is married to ideas on sexuality, moral looseness, socialism, “government as nanny state”, moral decay, moral relativism, radical leftist, anti-traditionalism, gender bending, and historical revisionism and other left wing causes that are odious to many of us and threaten the moral stability of our faith and our children.

    Now then, back to the more ethereal notions about God. How does the churchman answer the quip “OK–so which one, Mr. Smarty-pants!?”

    Observe another blogger’s commentary to me:

    Okay, if we’re going to teach that someone or something created all of us, WHICH creation story is to be told? The Christian one, the Hindu, the Navajo, the Maori? Each group fervently believes that ITS story and ITS ALONE is correct, so how can one be chosen as true and all the others false? The only answer is not to launch religious wars, but to use our rationality to understand the objective science of life rather than resorting to myths.

    Nor can one try to sugar-coat religious views by selectively choosing or rejecting specific scientific findings. Science is not a smörgåsbord, where you pick what you want. If for example you hold to the peculiar idea that the Earth magically came into existence 6000 years (or 6000 days or seconds) ago, you have to reject carbon dating. If you reject carbon dating, you have to reject a big chunk of what we know about basic physics. If you reject that, you have to conclude that either all the stars in the sky are lights on some giant celestial bowl, or that our physics is so inaccurate that every measurement of the speed of light since Galileo’s time is inaccurate by a factor of billions, so all of our astronomy is wrong, too. Sorry, gang, but it’s all interconnected.

    Let’s posit for a moment that there IS some creative force in the Universe who kick-started us at some point in the past, and gave us the intelligence and curiosity to explore the universe. If all of our resulting science is wrong, that creator hasn’t really watched over and nurtured us; he/she/it has simply played a monstrous cosmic joke on humanity. I prefer the world of science to a world “created” by such an entity!

    Theh above poster is claiming that with all else going on, even IF you posit the existence of some putative Higher Power we still have the issue of…well…WHICH ONE to honor? The tribesman’s? Or the Church’s? How to decide?

    Then we have the even nastier tome of THIS person, who said:

    …. religious fanatics can’t make a dogma into a theory just by putting “-ism” on the end of a word. “Creationism,” in fact, is not a theory at all (as has been pointed out). And “intelligent design” boils down to a teleological non-explanation: things are the way they are because God made them that way doesn’t explain a damned thing. The question-begging involved in any teleology rendered the so-called “science” of meta-physics irrelevant nearly two centuries ago, regardless of how much Kant tried to gloss over that conclusion. And without metaphysics, religion cannot be “scientific.” The modern breach between faith and science is the result, as is the fact-value split. No matter what they say, these intelligent design bozos are not scientists, they are dogmatists, believers trying to pass off their values as if they’re facts and their religious beliefs as if they are legitimate theories, Which they are not.

    By the way, that bit of “sound advice” you like so much is called “Pascal’s Wager,” after Blaise Pascal, an Enlightenment French mathematician who turned his back on modernity and ran snivelling back into the arms of the Catholic Church. You can find the complete “argu-ment” in his Pensees, in which Pascal attempts to use reason to defeat reason and shore up faith. As Nietzsche and other philosophers have pointed out, though, Pascal’s Wager is nothing but “bad faith”-in the same way that all these creationist idiots are engaging in “bad science.”

    Also: you’re wrong. Though religion cannot make any valid comments about science, science can defi-nitely make valid statements about religion, if by the term “valid” is meant a justi-fiable statement. Of course, according to a strictly logi-cal view, religion (as an illogical activity) doesn’t makes any valid statements, nor, properly speaking, are any of its metaphysical state-ments either true or false. They’re non-statements, or rather, nonsense. A scien-tific analysis of religious assertions would be a rhetor-ical analysis of metaphors and analogies, and a scien-tific analysis of religious practices would have to be either a psychoanalysis of individual neuroses and psychoses or a sociological study of the various ways in which groups tyrannize individuals and other groups, to ostracize them or to force them to conform.

    A “religious” study of any science, however, would still be yet more religious nonsense.

    And even uglier, to boot, from an alleged brain expert:

    ” What misses the point is that creationism and ID are just the last gasp of religion trying to make itself relevant in an increasingly liberal, materialistic, technological world. And it’s failing. Globally religion is in decline as peoples’ needs are being met by economic prosperity and better social safety nets.
    Disbelief now rivals the great faiths in numbers and influence. Never before has religion faced such enormous levels of disbelief, or faced a hazard as powerful as that posed by modernity. How is organized religion going to regain the true, choice-based initiative when only one of them is growing, and organized religion is doing so with reproductive activity rather than by convincing the masses to join in, when no major faith is proving able to grow as they break out of their ancestral lands via mass conversion, and when securely prosperous democracies appear immune to mass devotion? The religious industry simply lacks a reliable stratagem for defeating disbelief in the 21st century.

    Religious geeks can fight all they want, their grandchildren will still be playing with genetically engineered pets, popping trait enhancing pills, driving cars powered by human invented organisms that synthesizes fuel with gene spliced proteins while speculating on the implications of organic and probably non-organic life that will have been detected throughout the cosmos, by big telescopes or robotic probes. Religion can’t touch that, it provides no mechanism for progress, just bronze age mythology and antiquated moralizing.

    Oh, and the simplistic notion that morality comes from religion will be considered trite nonsense in the face of neuro-anatomy and brain science that already shows that empathy, altruism and consequence evaluation are all evolved, upgradeable, transplantable brain functions.

    Their grandchildren will live in a world where those who understand evolutionary biology and it’s influence on human behavior will have a decisive advantage in a more manipulative, over-stimulating world.

    Religion will be one of many refuges for spirituality but not a basis for educating children on cosmology or biology.”

    Beast, these last two, above all, are to date for me the most devastating answers to CS Lewis’s idea that brain function, qua function, cannot be used to explain the “how” of morality and human aspiration. Granted not all is solved yet, but the posters above point out two things, respectively: First, that definitionally, faith means very little or nothing. It is a NON-statement. Second, the more we learn about the brain the more it appears that morals are not freestanding ideas in themselves but are in fact in tune with consequential “lookout” behaviors probably stemming from early human evolution evaluating situations of danger, neglect, child care, animal hunting, predation avoidance, etc. Now I know there is a way to blow that notion out of the water. Something to do presumably with the facts of life as to how they relate to everyday decision–that word being key–and how we actually escape our supposed evolved genetic bonds in order to make choices (another key) that may or may not be in the right, may only seem correct at the time for self interest, but that are not necessarily the best things to do for the plupart or majority of humanity. In other ones we have free will elements that OBVIOUSLY DO escape the bonds of genes every day (as opposed to the analogy of the brain being like a computer’s DNS server that ludicrously says NO when asked to register its IP address, except for malfunction. But of course no brain researcher would DARE make the “simplistic” claim that proper brain function=moral reasoning, good decision-making, or even sound reasoning. When obviously very normal people can be horridly immoral. There is no correlation between IQ and morals, although perhaps a slight correlation of intelligence to the TYPE and scale of crime one might try and get away with or plan….). But how to say it succinctly escapes me at the moment. The worst of all this from above is the poster who claims that faith is simply outmoded in any case, regardless of moral input, has no place in the glorious future of man, and from the other we see that while religion has nothing to say about the workings of science and is laughable when it tries, the reverse is not true, in that scientists are closing in using brain scans to find out the true nature of the brain’s actions during things like prayer and other “faith based” activities and consequentially has determined so far that little is going on but wishful thinking to escape pain, etc, and other delusion created to avoid the hard facts of life., etc.

    Then there is the common charge from some ID proponents about the Second Law of Thermodynamics. To wit, the entropy of the universe prevents lower complexity to higher in molecular organization. Darwinians respond by arguing that this applies only to a tightly closed system, of which the Earth is not, and thus with fresh transfusions of energy from the Sun almost any complexity of organization is possible by chance and time and molecules simply hanging around in different combinations that when hit with energy transformed to complex structures, etc, etc. That is to say, the ID notion of “Specified Complexity” of living things being akin to information rich objects in need of constant boosting and planning is incorrect. It happens quite naturally, as the DNA is of natural origin and not akin to the alphabet or any kind of organization theory.

    Well?

  8. beastrabban Says:

    Hi Wakefield – thanks for taking the time to post all this. I’ve come across just about all of the atheist rants – and most of them are rants, rather than reasoned positions – before. Here’s my angle on some of the issues.

    Let’s deal with some of the easiest first, like that rant about Pascal turning his back on reason and running snivelling back into the Roman Catholic church. Actually, from what I gather, he never left it. He did, however, have a profound religious experience woke him up to the reality of a life lived truly in Christ. His relations with the Roman Catholic church, though, were controversial. He belonged to the Jensenists, a party within Roman Catholicism strongly influenced by St. Augustine and very similar in its emphasis on election and grace to Calvinism. It always struck me that Pascal came to faith in Christ because of his intelligence, not despite it. You’re going to find a lot of sneering about him, however, because in his Pensees he ruthlessly exposes the inadequacies of human reason. This doesn’t mean that he’s anti-intellectual, or anti-science. Almost all scientists in this period were Christians, and science has been described as being, for the people of the 16th to 18th centuries, the project to know the mind of God quite literally through His physical creation as part of the tradition of the Two Books. The comments about Pascal are quite literally rubbish.

    As for insects in the Garden of Eden, well, the Bible doesn’t say anything about them, so there’s no particular reason to believe they existed, at least in the Garden.

  9. beastrabban Says:

    Now let’s discuss the thorny issue of gender and sexuality. Actually, I do agree with you on this – there is a lot of evidence that gender and sexuality are deeply connected. However, I am sceptical of statements that scientists have found a particular gene for homosexuality. Sexuality might be genetically determined, but there is more going on than a single gene. I have come across the theory that some homosexuality may be caused by a biological suppression of genetic sexuality, so that the child’s sexuality is wholly learned, rather than predetermined.

  10. beastrabban Says:

    Now let’s go for the long rants about ‘Bronze Age’ mythology. That’s a favourite sneer – I’ve seen that repeated countless times. It says absolutely nothing, however. All the sceptical arguments against God were dreamed up not long after – about in the 5th century BC. So, by that standard of name-calling – and it is only name-calling – we can dismiss atheism as ‘Iron Age mythology’. If you go back and read the Wisdom literature of the Ancient Near East, it’s abundantly obvious that they weren’t any thicker than we are, and my guess is that Judaism grew and developed, and Christianity after it, because it was based on an experienced reality that people knew and revered with all their heart, mind, soul and strength. I intend to say a bit more about this sometime in my blog.

    Now regarding the supposed decline of religion, actually it seems to be the other way on. Until 9/11 atheist groups were in serious decline, and Denyse O’Leary on her blog pointed to research by the University of Vienna which says that the number of atheists in Europe is now so low that they can’t be used for sociological purposes. What you have instead is a return to Paganism and a kind of ietsism to use an expression coined by a Dutch secularist. People believe in something, but don’t know quite what.

    As for science’s ability to critique religion, that seems to be an angry assertion rather than backed up by any kind of argument. All the evolutionary arguments I’ve seen for religion are deeply flawed, and are basically rationalist myths: Just So stories, in the words of Stephen Jay Gould. Just because the explanation is ‘rational’ doesn’t mean that it’s true, and if it has no basis in reality then it is not to be preferred to the irrational.

    As for the origin of virtue all connected to Consequentialist actions, there’s a long discussion about this in Keith Ward’s Pascal’s Fire , as well as Ian Barbour’s Nature, Human Nature and God . These authors take the view that although evolution may have moulded certain human actions and morality, this is merely the way in which God has actualised the human potential for moral instincts. It does not explain away human morality, and by relating it all to the ‘selfish gene’ certainly does not make it moral. To be moral, something has to be transcendentally ‘right’, not just advantageous. And I do like your rebuttal to it citing human free will.

    Now let’s discuss that bit about evolution showing that God’s not involved. Now there are a number of arguments against that. Firstly, God is present in the Creation supporting it and its laws, so that God is not absent from the process. Furthermore, there are ways in which God can direct the process which would not be obvious to an observer within it. For example, John Polkinghorne has pointed out that God could alter and shape the process of events without altering their statistical probability. Moreover, there are trends and recurrent features within creation which means that individual features, aren’t by chance, and I don’t believe that creatures like humans arose by chance either, based on that evidence.

    As for Creationism not being science, I’m probably the wrong person to ask about this, as I’m not a Creationist. However, one could make the case that merely by stating that there are different creation myths doesn’t say anything about the comparative truth claims, nor why a secular mythology, such as evolution, should be preferred. Again, it might be rational, but if it does not correspond to reality, then it should be rejected. As for why the Christian origins story should be taught, and not Maori and so on, one could argue that the Christian origins story is preferable as it seems more reasonable. The Christian God is a god who acts in history, this is born out through the witness of the Bible, which could support the Genesis account as history, rather than mere myth.

    As for science not being a smorgasbord which one can pick and choose at will – this might be somewhat problematic. Science has progressed through theories being refined and discarded, which automatically entails someone picking and choosing. Now Sagan in Cosmos praised Anaximander, the Greek philosopher who first produced something like a theory of evolution, not for being particularly original in his theory, but for ‘leaving God out’. So there’s a double standard there. Atheists are allowed to pick and choose bits of mythology to support their views, but the religious aren’t allowed to treat science the same. Also, picking and choosing doesn’t really mean anything, good or bad, unless one has a good justification for doing so, and my guess is that you could find rational arguments to support such sifting of scientific, or rather, scientistic rationalism.

    As for Kant, my guess is that his metaphysics, although very well respected and influential, aren’t the last word in the religious debate that your interlocutor clearly believed they were. Nor do statements that religious statements don’t actually mean anything hold water any more. For example, you can’t point to ‘society’ as a concrete object either, but society still makes sense as an explanation for human collective action. As for ID and Creationism merely being religion trying to remain relevant, I got the impression that ID, at least, was the product of scientists coming to the conclusion that Darwinism really didn’t suffice as an explanation. I’ve got a copy of Denton’s Darwinism: A Theory in Crisis and it’s quite definitely not religiously based.

    So, all of these arguments are rather less impressive than they actually look. I do intend to take a deeper look at some of them later, when I have the chance.

    As for homeschooling, I got the impression that the laws against it in Germany were originally laid down by the Nazis to stop people with a shred of decency and commonsense avoiding having their kids indoctrinated with their rubbish. I’ve got a feeling that there’s going to be more of this as the EU clearly seems to feel that its secularist basis is being challenged. I have to say I think this is largely scaremongering, based on the larger number of Islamic immigrants in Europe which hold Creationist views than Christian Creationists.

    I do know people here in England who’ve homeschooled, though they were actually very secular. I don’t know what their religious views were. They chose to educate their children at home because of the appalling state of the local state schools, especially after an outbreak of what looked to them like racist bullying.

  11. Wakefield Tolbert Says:

    Hi again, BR.

    I will keep this one somewhat shorter. Thanks for your patience and insights. I just get carried away sometimes and wanted in this case to wrap up several irritants at once.

    I think on the history of science the smear about “Bronze Age Morals” came from a poster who was finding a dirty mudball to throw and had no specific historical period in mind just so long as the point got made that we Christians are idiots. But you tackled that one, I see. As to the notions of “smorgasbord”, I think that blogger was suggesting that we can’t “diss out” evolution or other insights from science and at the same time find value in everything from advanced medical devices to computers and new kinds of airplanes, etc. This the man of faith is seen as a hypocrite for “relying in all things on God above, since God feeds the crows he’ll feed us too, according to Proverbs” and yet at the same time none of us want to revert to the prescience world for building campfires for protection from bears and cold. These days we chop wood for fun, not mere survival (less fun!). And so it goes in his argument……

    As to homeschooling, I think while its true that scaremongering has some input in the Continent (and no doubt Islam is filling in the gaps in both work and ethics in some large areas), overall two points to make. Europe for the most part is sadly getting more secular in the native populations. Homeschooling is seen as a threat by some to secularization. I think faith of the organized kind IS in decline in Europe, especially in Scandinavia and the Continent (not sure about the UK). This has other consequences that have come to the attention of demographers who’ve mentioned that secularism leads to hedonism and to be blunt, childless or relatively childless sex, filled nursing homes of the aging older populations of Europe but relatively empty maternity wards. The radical environmentalists are happy but demographers analyzing the immigration of Muslims (and ONLY Muslim Albania of all of Europe is gaining in babies overall) are worried about labor shortages, private and public pension plans, the more extensive cradle to grave welfare and health care apparatus that Europe is used to. The glaring contradiction here is overwhelming to this writer.

    The ultimate secular experience in the age of Darwin? Extinction. At least of certain faith free lifestyles.
    Thought that was funny. Well, in a gallows humor way…. 🙂

    So perhaps that’s a contraindication of the value of atheist values?

    http://wakepedia.blogspot.com/2006/03/liberals-doomed-to-extinction-darwin.html

    http://wakepedia.blogspot.com/2007/05/atheists-wont-save-europe.html

    Many other things I’d address mention but I’ll limit this one to the issue of morals. Glad you appreciated the input about free will. The Argument from Reason CAN take that form and maybe others have done that but as far as I know that is my little addition. As you surely know the original argument dealt only with decision-making and rational thinking, not to be confused with rationalization (which we all do and is not necessarily moral, but a defense mechanism in the brain). CS Lewis version of this declared that if the mind evolved from purposeless forces that have no transcendent goal in mind then all is mere material assessment and input and we are tuned in to action/reaction statements that might serve in some cases but cannot be relied on for the value of reason qua reason. One must be free to trust or postulate a statement on its own logical merits and not because of what the mind forces upon you for some survival or pragmatic mode or to be weighted to “see” things in a said manner automatically.

    You mentioned the possibility of evolution of the physical mind to a point at which decisions and morals could be better processed. In my estimated there is nothing wrong with that per se except for ONE tiny thing. Let me explain. In the classic argument from reason, henceforth called AFR, CS Lewis declared that we all know it is FALSE to claim, as some materialists seem bound to do, that PROPER, AVERAGE BRAIN FUNCTION=PROPER REASONING.

    I simply declared that, going one step further, PROPER BRAIN FUNCTION=MORAL REASONING, is likewise a FALSE statement.

    No doubt truly troubled people and those with psychotic illnesses and manic disorders as well as even milder forms of personality disorders will have SOMETHING show up on brain scans. But I am willing to bet the store that just as with reason and clear thinking not necessarily flowing from normal brain function as some measurable moment (and we all make errors in judgment and get fooled, whether by social influences, slick salesmen, emotions, and others), we also cannot say that all ill behavior would show up on some brain scan. No doubt even the best minds are capable of great evil, and this would not be obvious from brain scans alone. In fact it has been suggested that venal slobs of the regular type are not nearly as dangerous to the commonweal as those whose brains can conjure justifications for certain kinds of actions on behalf of either self or allegedly for the betterment of mankind. Absolutely no doubt that in point of fact native intelligence might even increase the immoral liability to one so inclined and that no scan or analysis of the physical brain would show this ill trait. Since as with decisions, the process of induction, or going beyond biological inputs, is also the free will component of moral suasion.

    Now as with your take on the “just so stories”, some are inclined to believe that science will show us the inner self as explained by the genes soon enough.

    See the latest excerpts from TIME on Dec 3rd, wherein the author smugly says that the above issue has been solved by declaring that we all have this evolutionary mix of ill and good from the distant past–

    ”Morality and empathy are writ deep in our genes. Alas, so are savagery and bloodlust. Science is now learning what makes us both noble and terrible.”
    “The deeper that science drills into the substrata of behavior, the harder it becomes to preserve the vanity that we are unique among earth’s creatures.”

    “Sociobiology has been criticized as one of the most reductive of sciences, ascribing the behavior of all living things — humans included — as nothing more than an effort to get as many genes as possible into the next generation. The idea makes sense . . .”

    “The brain activity that most closely tracked the hypothetical crimes . . . occurred in the amygdala, a deep structure that helps us make the connection between bad acts and punishments.”

    —thus all human action can now be digested and explained via the genes. No doubt this is their (secularists) answer to the “moral” problem, explaining that (as you suggested, though for a different direction) from evolution we have an “emergent” property that explains the Lewis quandary and answers it in that while our genes control everything, just as with hydrogen and oxygen combining to have an “emergent” property of water (which is unique in the cosmos and cannot easily be predicted from the more volatile natures of the component atoms until joined in the weird hydric bond), so too the human mind may have evolved but the “emergent” property of “free will” can now be explained via evolution of purely material forces without the need for transcendent meaning. The goal is still survival, but encoded into the genes are mechanisms for dealing with trouble, etc. Now the problem of “induction” is thorny and difficult and some neuroscientists step around the issue by using the “emergent” argument but at the same time it is curious that all of this supposedly flows from “gene machine” replication. I agree with one of your earlier statements to the effect that if gene replication is goal number one of any creature, then the human mind’s involvement to this end is no more and no less moral than the billions of other mechanisms that evolved on earth to deal with survival, eating, and reproduction.

  12. Wakefield Tolbert Says:

    One more moment:

    As to the issue of Creationists, I certainly realize that in a strict sense of the word you are not that, and that’s OK. But I mentioned the charge only to point out that many darwinian faithful have widened their scope for attak by declaring the all purpose term “creationist” applicable to anyone who thinks God had something to do with the known universe. Thus all who follow that line are “anti-science” in this view. (Some philosphical leanings coming out of the closet there, no doubt). Likewise in some snide tones the Skeptic more commonly these days simply declares that anyone who goes beyond “God talk” and talks of an active, Grace giving God is a “fundamentalist” wacko. I’m sure I qualify. When in fact there are shades of belief and activism just as there

    Regarding another issue in “picking and tasting”, I agree this is too loose a canard, as many ideas and theories like phlostegen and heat fluid and the stubborness against things like plate tectonics and bad research “findings” on things like polar bears, ADD, and global warming among other contraversies all come to mind. All too true.

    As to the decline of religion, I think overall I must disagree. Europe has never been more secular. In America the mainline churches have been in decline for decades. Now the other side of this coin is that perhaps as one commentator said churchgoers are looking for more “meat” in the sermons than the usual fare that some more liberalized congregations dish out in what are derided as “sermonettes” and feel good bumper sticker sloganizing of the type you might see on the high school counselor’s wall “today is the best day of your life!!–live it!” and other such platitudes. I have been to many a church where the message was almost devoid of even the first Scriptural reference or mention of Christ. For this reason perhaps this explains a partial transfer to the more fundamentalist churches in the deep south of the USA, which is more theologically conservative. But overall, outside the so-called Bible Belt, while faith and God and country and kids and kitchen are all given lip service, my nation has never been more secular in its everyday pragmatic outlooks on matieral wealth aquisition and sexual mores, etc. Which are rampantly going ape and far removed from the Victorian age.

    Thanks!

  13. Wakefield Tolbert Says:

    Hi Beast:

    Hope the day finds you well.

    You mention Scientism, and I assume by this you mean the modernist notion that all human goals, aspirations, mental states, religious leanings, values and morals can be distilled to the common denominator of some primal past or other materialist explanation currently to deal with life. Sans Faith.

    And indeed many have died –more in fact than on behalf of religion–under the stated goals of human, social, secularist and scientific progress than all religious wars in known history. True. But the usual retort is that Darwinians had nothing to do with this. Other than the nuttiness of Social Darwinism the bizarre legal theories of Oliver Wendell Holmes and some other standouts like HL Mencken who hated the average man (apparently), the evidence they say, is thin that a “Darwinian” ethic emerged over all that attacked mankind’s moral sensibilities. Rather, they say, politics and hubris and just plain insanity paved the usual way for human atrocity and murder in the 20th century. Darwin was not a killer of men, thus it is unlikely any philosophical outlook or fallout from his findings being made into a philosophical or ethical outlook are not his fault, but of lousy and lazy interpretations.

    Thus for example one typical retort from an acquaintance of mine on the Web:

    “Stalin and his Lysenkoists punished Darwinists. Hitler had numerous erroneous beliefs that had nothing to do with evolution and used anything he could to achieve his political ends. Nothing in evolution justifies either of these, except when one has a comic book understanding of them. Evolution doesn’t “justify” anything – good or bad.”

    Now granted, many men, including but limited to that handy list I showed you before of “great thinkers” like Weinberg, Sagan, Wilson, Stephen Jay Gould, BF Skinner, Crick and Watson, Michael Ruse, Richard Rorty, John Dewey, Francis Fukuyama and of course your favorite piñata to hit, Richard Dawkins, have all made SOME kind of case from one degree or another about the “meaning” of evolution and the strange and even dire consequences for human morals and interaction. The cat is already out of the bag on these guys. But still, the above quote is the more common feeling on this matter. And yes its true that William Provine now gets speaking fees touring college campuses with a projector highlighting things like “life therefore has no transcendent meaning.” Others have had a more toned down approach to this, as with Sagan and Gould, who simply say that ethical input must come from “the human experience” and other encounters of pragmatism and compassion, etc.

    Continuing his line of assault on faith, he also had this to say:

    “moral arguments” of Darwinism are arguing against your perceived consequences of Darwinism. First, belief in the existence of higher powers doesn’t prohibit bad morality – disagree? take it up with Osama bin Laden. Second, being a materialist doesn’t inevitably lead to the things you say it does. what you’re doing is making an assertion which you don’t back up. There is no “ideology of Darwinism.” This is a boogey man cooked up by the guys who haven’t done their homework and can’t come up with a good argument against evolution. As they are unable to refute Darwinism with actual science, they want to turn the argument into an emotional one – and to do that you need a boogey man.

    You have confirmed a simple fact: Creationists can’t refute the science with science, so they resort to sloppy philosophy and comparisons of Darwinism to communism and worse in an attempt make it an emotional argument.

    I thought this last part even more prescient as it deals DIRECTLY with the charge of “scientism” as does your recent post.

    First this common retort suggests that the “moral” issues regarding Darwinism are highly selective to the point of sloppiness.
    Second, he and others of his ilk claim that what is really going on is that we “Creationists” (a term he applies broadly to anyone of faith) cannot ANSWER the findings of science and thus must resort to this sloppy philosophical “meaning” of Darwinism as our laziness and ignorance prevent us from tackling the issues head on…..so with piddle with bad rhapsodizing and navel gazing about the purported horros of Darwinian descent.

  14. Wakefield Tolbert Says:

    I forgot to add this one. Oops:

    Secularism is not logically related to evolution – what you erroneously term ‘Darwinism’. You’re doing great with the rhetoric, “When you hear ‘evolution’, think Darwin, Hitler, Stalin, secularism, and materialism.”

    Evolution isn’t necessarily materialistic and probably most evolutionists have some sort of religious belief.

    There is no issue with induction. It’s not a logical belief. There is no logical basis and it could be wrong. This is why modern science has rejected verificationism and accepted falsificationism. (Some dense philosophers with reading comprehension problems have asserted that falsificationism merely moves the induction. They make this assertion for one reason – they fail to understand falsificationism and attribute reasoning to its adherents which they do not hold.)

    With all of the bluster about brain research, we nevertheless have made amazing strides in that arena. I recently attended a talk by Jim Olds (from GMU’s Krasnow Institute) at the Smithsonian Castle where he updated us on where he sees the technology going. We don’t have all the answers, but we’re getting there.

    Free will is a separate issue from falsification and induction. At this point it is a mystery. But it has nothing whatever to do with evolution. If it makes you feel better, you can believe that a god imbued some sufficiently evolved forms with free will. That’s got nothing to do with what science can tell us, but beliefs don’t have to be scientific.

    I didn’t say free will was doubtful from the standpoint of emergence. I said it was a mystery – it’s unknown.

    My argument with Islamic terror lords is that claiming absolute knowledge about morality does not equate to being moral. I understand it’s repugnant to think that personal ethics or cooperative agreement might be the highest form of morality. Unfortunately, I suspect that it’s the only thing that happens anyway. Some people say they know what god wants and some other people agree with it. It’s still human judgment – and for all of the whinging and hand-wringing, religionists can’t avoid that what they call divine morality is really their fallible human estimation of that fact.

    Evolutionists are hardly the “school yard” bullies. What we have is a group of people who adamantly REFUSE to do any actual homework on the subject of evolution – most of whom, in fact, have a comic book understanding of science in general and evolution in particular – attempting to criticize it based largely on their comic-book version of it and have kids taught that creationism is the intellectual equivalent.

    Phlogiston is better science than Intelligent Design. It may be disproved science, but it has the virtue that it’s ACTUAL SCIENCE.

    You Creationists bring politics into it, God into it, history into it – much of it quesitonable – but you stay safely away from the science. Hmmm.

  15. beastrabban Says:

    Hi Wakefield, thanks for the comments. I’m sorry if I’ve been somewhat tardy answering them. As I’ve said, I’ve been somewhat busy. There were also some other issues that I felt I had to blog about as well before too long. Like the wretched movie of Pullman’s book that’s coming out, and which hit the news earlier this week

    Regarding the increased secularisation of Europe – yes, you’re right. Europe is becoming increasingly secular, including Britain. However, this doesn’t necessarily translate to a total abandonment of spirituality. The same sociologists who are talking about the decline of atheism in Europe point to the flourishing of occult and Neo-Pagan religions. There are occult and Pagan bookshops in nearly every city in Europe, and only Paris, so the research goes, remains very secular in France.

    As for the demographic crisis created by secularism, you’re quite right. Politicians over this side of the Atlantic are indeed worried about the falling birthrate not producing enough future taxpayers to support the aging population. And about a year ago Prospect magazine said exactly what you said – that atheism was going to decline dramatically because atheists don’t breed as much as people of faith. I’m also not surprised that Albania has a higher birthrate than anywhere else in Europe. It was one of the most backward countries in Europe, and by and large the countries with the lowest living standards and highest rates of illiteracy have higher birthrates. Muslims in Europe tend to be less educated and occupy lower status, mostly working-class jobs than other religions, and so their higher birthrate is partly a product of their lower socio-economic status. Demographers have noted that even in Muslim countries with a high birthrate, like Bangladesh, there’s been a fall in the birthrate. Some of them are talking about a population crash sometime in this century.

  16. beastrabban Says:

    Regarding the use of the term ‘Creationist’ by atheists to describe just about anyone who believes in a God who actually created the universe, by whatever means, I’ve definitely come across that one. Robert Lanza, a biologist who got in the news for his biologic theory of the origins of the universe, uses the term ‘Creationist’ in that sense. Lanza has decided that the universe was created by life selecting the conditions necessary for its emergence through the observer effect of Quantum Physics. He came up with this theory, which I very much doubt is accepted by many scientists, because he didn’t like the way the Big Bang and the origins of the cosmos were ‘hijacked’ by ‘Creationists’. Now theo-evolutionists will describe their view of evolution as ‘evolutionary creation’, so I can see where he’s coming from. Sort of. Nevertheless, it’s still a sloppy use of language, and just abuse.

  17. beastrabban Says:

    Regarding the morality of Darwinism, I’m not impressed by your associate’s arguments. Yeah, Lysenko was a notorious fraud. Yeah, he wasn’t a Darwinist, and his ideas owed more to Lamarckianism than to Darwinism. There was also very strong Lamarckian trend in the idea of evolution adopted by the Fascist regimes, like the Nazis in Germany and the British Union of Fascists under Oswald Moseley over here in Britain. This does not mean that Darwinism did not have a bearing and an influence on the Holocaust.

    Firstly, Darwin himself in subsequent editions of his book retreated into a more Lamarckian position as criticisms of Natural Selection as the primary motor of evolution mounted. By the 1920s many academic evolutionary biologists had adopted a more Lamarckian approach because of the apparent defects in Darwinism. Furthermore, Darwin himself, although a kindly soul, had remarked favourably on the way primitive peoples preserved and improved their stock through letting unfit children die, and while he was anti-imperialist, he shared the belief that Natural Selection meant that inferior peoples would eventually perish. Either his son or his nephew became the head of the Eugenics Society in Britain, and his cousin, Francis Galton, was responsible for the creation of eugenics. Now William Provine might be making his money now by stating that Darwinism has no transcendental meaning, and there is indeed a constant statement from Darwinists that Darwinism is not an ‘ideology’. Nevertheless, it was taken to be so in the 19th century. The Social Darwinist movement did use its arguments to block welfare and safety at work legislation. It might have been ‘comic book’ Darwinism, but it was adopted and promoted by some of the leading intellectuals and political and industrial leaders of the 19th century. My own feeling is that attempts by Darwinists to disown the connection between the science and the atrocities that accompanied it are profoundly misplaced, and come from a profound refusal to face the connection between their ideology and its consequences.

    As for Creations trying to use moral outrage against Darwinism because their scientific case is so bad, I don’t think that’s quite true. There is clearly a case for Intelligent Design, even if many aren’t convinced by it. Objecting to Intelligent Design because God creating things isn’t scientific, while phlogiston is, is merely importing philosophical materialist presuppositions into science.

    There are also real problems with falsificationism. While most scientists have adopted this, rather than verificationism, nevertheless the criticism has been made that even here the criteria for truth is so strict that many scientific theories would never pass it. Some scientists instead opt for argument to the best explanation.

    Paradoxically, in giving that answer about verificationism and Intelligent Design, your debater has actually proven Philip Johnson and William Dembski right about Darwinism resting entirely on unprovable materialistic assumptions.

  18. beastrabban Says:

    Now let’s deal with the comments about brain research. Yes, there’s a lot of interesting stuff coming from there as well, and indeed great strides are being made. However, the philosophical gap between brain activity and the creation of consciousness still remains, and really isn’t answered. I noticed that when perusing a book on the brain from an entirely materialist perspective Material Minds: How Matter Learns to Think in one of the bookshops over here. Despite detailed discussion of brain activity and the localisation of brain function, they didn’t give an account of the connection between consciousness and brain function. So all the talk about explaining consciousness is effectively, in my view, a statement of faith.

    Now let’s discuss that rant about Osama bin Laden somehow disproving the superiority of religious morality. Now not being a radical Muslim, I would agree. And it’s a truism that quite often those who claim they are acting in God’s name are highly immoral indeed. No-one doubts that. The problem is that rationalism and Naturalism, by themselves, can’t offer an alternative. If there are no Transendental moral values, then everything is permissible, as Dostoevsky said. And if morality really is only the product of evolution, without any necessary connection to Transcendental truth, then it can be contested that whatever twisted morality Osama bin Laden has, it nevertheless cannot be proven wrong. His morals – twisted and loathsome as they are – might be best, or at least the next step in evolution if there is no progress up the Panglossian elevator. Reason has its limits in being able to tell right from wrong, and can be used to justify immoral acts. I suspect that if pressed, bin Laden would be able to justify his noxious position through rational argument rather than just rely on pronouncements from the Qu’ran. This doesn’t mean that rationalists are immoral, only that rationalism by itself does not automatically lead to morality.

  19. Wakefield Tolbert Says:

    Not a problem, Beast. I have to get around to some other things momentarily too far less interesting than all this…..

    I’ve heard of Pullman, but never read any of this stuff. I can’t speak to the quality of his stuff as I’ve not read it. But from my understanding a few years back from some articles on him he seems to have some kind of vendetta against CS Lewis regarding the charge of racism and sexsim (The “Northerns” vs. the more primitive Arabian types of the South and their Rabadash—and of course with Lewis, the girls are not as warrior-like as the boys in Narnia, but then the same charge could be made regarding Tolkien. And of course the other funny thing here is that Lewis pulled some of those archetypes from stories like the Arabian Nights actually written by that culture……so) and whatnot all he identified as flowing naturally from Christianity.

  20. Wakefield Tolbert Says:

    And if morality really is only the product of evolution, without any necessary connection to Transcendental truth, then it can be contested that whatever twisted morality Osama bin Laden has, it nevertheless cannot be proven wrong.

    I agree–the most that one could ever say is that his actions are deemed UNPLEASANT by most people. But then so is going to the dentist or having to do manuel labor or just facing discipline in school. Of course we cannot equate morals with avoidance of pain or desire for comfort alone. True enough.

  21. Bradley Walsh Says:

    Too true . . . too true.

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