Anti-Evolution IIa: Closedmindedness (continued…)

ANTI-EVOLUTION II (a): CLOSEDMINDEDNESS (cont.)

Plus, even the commonly held notion that “all” scientists believe in evolution doesn’t hold up. Look closely the next time you hear that argument.  Notice that much of the evidence given is not about the science itself, but about the credentials of the scientist.  A scientist is supposedly closer to the truth the more accolades he or she has received.  Thus, you may see a letter supporting more evolution education in schools, signed by seventy-five Nobel Prize winners.  Signed by leading professors at Stanford, MIT, Harvard, Michigan.  But notice the circularity of that measure.  Those accolades come from within the dominant scientific paradigm.  By definition, such prizes and honors represent not some objective truth, but rather the opinion of other scientists that someone has done something praiseworthy.

The next time you hear that all scientists believe evolution, try sampling from the list below:

  • Fred Hoyle: Hoyle has suggested that current thinking about materialistic evolution is a crock.  Most memorably, he has suggested that the
    chances of life on earth developing on its own was about as likely as the chances that a hurricane blowing through a junkyard would assemble a Boeing jetliner.  In other words, life on earth is entirely too complex to have simply happened.  It needs some source, some cause.  In Hoyle’s case, this is not an argument based on a previous intellectual commitment to the Bible.  In fact, Hoyle’s preferred explanation for the origins of life are not from divine intervention but rather through the seeding of this planet by interstellar viruses containing the basic forms of life.  And even by the standards of mainstream science, Hoyle’s credentials are hard to ignore.  He is often credited, for instance, with coining the term “Big Bang,” although he did not accept the notion himself.  He did not win a Nobel Prize
    himself, although many people think he was unfairly denied one in 1983 despite his contributions to the project that won.
  • Chandra Wickramasinghe: Wickramasinghe was a student of Hoyle, and collaborated with him.  Like Hoyle, Wickramasinghe’s  mainstream scientific credentials are hard to ignore.  He has published dozens of articles, for instance, in the journal Nature.  He holds a professorship at Cardiff University and was the youngest person ever to receive such a professorship.  Like Hoyle, Wickramasinghe is not a biblical Christian.  He does not try to disprove the notion of materialistic evolution out of a commitment to religious ideas.  He is
    simply an innovative scientist able to rest on his credentials enough to publicly doubt the orthodoxy of evolution.  His unorthodox ideas have occasionally cost him funding.  Nevertheless, he has continued to study the idea that life on earth developed from cosmic dust, rather than simply springing into existence on its own.
  • Michael Behe: Behe is a biochemist.  He has argued that some organic functions, such as the mechanism for blood clotting, demonstrate what Behe calls an “irreducible complexity.”  Such complexity cannot have been evolved by a random process, since the entire mechanism needs to have developed all at the same time in order to offer any evolutionary benefit.  In other words, the evolutionary idea that some mutations offer a selective advantage to some individuals of a species, and that those advantages can lead to new species, does not account for some of the complex organic mechanisms.  It would do a simple species no good, in other words, to mutate one part of the blood-clotting mechanism.  It would have to mutate all the parts of it at once in order to derive any evolutionary benefit.

Evolutionists will point to the shortness of this list as evidence that such ideas are the realm of the kook, the crank.  But a balloon only needs a tiny pinhole to explode.  If even a few scientists doubt the evolutionary orthodoxy, that is enough to explode the myth that all scientists agree on the idea.  It is enough to demonstrate that scientific experts, even one expert, can evaluate the scientific evidence and find compelling alternative explanations.  The fact that the great majority of working scientists agree with the idea that life evolved on its own does not prove that it is true.  Before Einstein, the vast majority of working scientists did not understand the theory of relativity.  That does not mean that relativity was not true.  It simply means that most scientists were not able to come up with that idea on their own.  They were trained in other ideas and they  conducted all their research based on the ideas in which they were trained.  The vast majority of scientists at one time worked with the  assumption that phlogiston explained combustibility.  The vast majority also assumed at one time that human races were linked in a hierarchical chain with sub-Saharan Africans at the bottom and Nordic Europeans at the top.  Such orthodoxies are not convincing simply because they can conjure up large majorities of scientists.  Such majorities are, rather, just result of such ideological dominance.  They demonstrate nothing about the fundamental truth of evolution or any other scientific idea.

Even Darwin, in a famous closing passage to his 1859 Origin of Species, invoked the notion of a Creator as the ultimate source of life.  “There is grandeur in this view of life . . . having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one.”  But wait, you might say, Darwin said that to soften the blow of his controversial book.  As he delved further into the idea, he largely discarded the notion that any Creator had been involved in any way, even to initially breathe life into the evolutionary process.  Such notions only got in the way of his understanding of life.  But look at it from a different angle.  When Darwin started, he was open to the idea of a creator.  As he explored the idea of organic evolution, it only made sense if he eliminated the creator part.  That is, once he decided there was no creator, he realized he didn’t need a creator.  Circular logic.  Not due to evidence, but due to preliminary assumptions about the evidence.  You can do the same thing in reverse.  Assume a young earth.  It will lead you to conclude that such a thing is not possible without a supernatural creator.  Also circular?  Yes.  But it is better, more scientific, to leave all the options on the table.  To examine evidence without first presuming that there are or are not supernatural causes.  Science should mean open minded inquiry, not materialistic inquiry.  If you include that possibility, nine times out of ten the best explanation for life on earth is not due to chance but to design.

When Galileo agreed to recant his support for a heliocentric earth, according to legend, he did so only with an ideological wink.  “E pur si muove,” he allegedly said, “It still moves.”  In other words, in the origins of the modern scientific project, Galileo asserted that whatever humans might say about the physical universe, that universe went on heedlessly.  It didn’t matter, to Galileo, whether or not he recanted his statement, the earth still rotated around the sun.  It seems that Galileo’s position is the one of ultimate faith: It doesn’t matter what I say or do, the truth of my position
is larger than my own being.

The fact that Galileo’s would-be successors in the modern scientific establishment can no longer muster his sense of calm confidence is revealing.  If scientists today really were as confident in their evolutionary ideology as they purport to be, they would not be as insistent that all scientists agree with their position.  In other words, if the notion that life evolved in all its forms without a guiding intelligence really had the same
intellectual weight as the notion of a heliocentric solar system, scientists should be able to muster Galileo’s calm notion that “It still moves.”  They ought to be able to allow other ideas to be considered, knowing that theirs was the truth.

But they can’t.
Mainstream scientists today enforce a rigid evolutionary ideology.  The ideological—as opposed to truly scientific—roots of this kind of closedmindedness become evident in those few cases when scholars have attempted to present alternative ideas in academic settings.  Creationist Jerry Bergman collected cases of such discrimination in his 1984 book The Criterion.  Bergman, who claimed to have been denied tenure at Bowling Green University in the early 1980s due to his creationist beliefs, describes the stories of academics such as Clifford Burdick.  Burdick was allegedly refused his PhD at the University of Arizona in 1960 for including a consideration of divine creation as an explanation for  discrepancies in the fossil record.  Bergman argued that such attitudes had no place in a university setting.  Firing a creationist for speaking to students about his or her beliefs, Bergman argued, would be like “if a black were fired on the suspicion that he had ‘talked to students about being black,’ or a woman being fired for having ‘talked to students about women’s issues.’” In a similar case, Dean Kenyon was reprimanded by his
institution for his work with the notion of intelligent design.  Kenyon had co-authored one of the most influential textbook supplements in the intelligent-design field, Of Pandas and People.  In 1992, his school, San Francisco State University, ordered him to cease teaching scientific creationism as part of his biology classes.  Kenyon had been teaching such ideas as part of his curriculum.  He had been teaching evolutionary ideas as well, but had included other notions about the origins of life.  Such open-mindedness was anathema to the administration of the purportedly open-minded university.  To be fair, the rest of the faculty voted to allow Kenyon to keep teaching such ideas, as part of their right to academic freedom.  But the sentiment in favor of muzzling such ideas was significant.

Similarly, intelligent-design advocate Michael Behe’s university department felt forced to publish a disclaimer of Behe’s work that strayed beyond mainstream orthodoxy.  In embarrassment, apparently, that one of its faculty members could question the reigning scientific ideology, his academic department felt obliged to post the following disclaimer on its website: “The department faculty . . . are unequivocal in their support of evolutionary
theory. . . . Behe’s . . . views . . . are his alone and are in no way endorsed by the department.”  Why is this sort of statement necessary?  Because evolution’s dominance of mainstream science is maintained through social, not scientific, rigidity and control.

However, there is a heavy price to be paid for such control.  Such attitudes not only enforce
the evolutionary orthodoxy, they also demonstrate its fundamental intellectual weakness.  When scientists feel they must resort to such heavy-handed ideological enforcement, it is evidence that their emperor really has no clothes.

 

ANTI EVOLUTION IIa: FURTHER READING

Michael J. Behe, Darwin’s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, 2nd edition (New York: Free Press, 2006); Dean Kenyon and Percival Davis, Of Pandas and People: The Central Question of Biological Origins, 2nd edition (Haughton, 1993); Fred Hoyle and Chandra Wickramasinghe, Evolution from Space: A Theory of Cosmic Creationism (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1984).

Anti-Evolution II: The Argument against Closedmindedness

ANTI EVOLUTION II: CLOSEDMINDEDNESS

One of the most convincing intellectual weapons in the arsenal of evolution supporters is that evolution has won over scientific opinion.  This is the argument that convinces me, for instance.  I admit that I don’t really understand the deeper science behind evolution, but when I see that every mainstream scientist endorses the idea, I am willing to be convinced.  But if we step outside that consensus, it is easy to see that such a consensus can actually be an argument against the simple truth of evolution.  And for the purposes of this blog, remember that I am not trying to convince or convert committed evolutionists to the opposite point of view.  All I hope to do is to show that there are respectable reasons why people might hold that opposite point of view.  I would like each side only to acknowledge that those on the other side might not be wicked, ignorant, or crazy.  In the case of the scientific consensus about evolution, it is easy enough to see how such a consensus can be proof of the
untruth of evolution, as much as it can be proof of its truth.  Here’s what I mean:

For most regular people, science is still understood to be a matter of deducing the objective truth about the nature of life and humanity.  Something is more scientific, in this view, when it comes closer to that objective truth, and less scientific as it edges away.  Thus, if evolution is
science, then those who oppose evolution must oppose science.

But scientists and those interested in the nature of science offer a much more complex view, especially since works like Thomas Kuhn’s
influential 1962 book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.  Since that time, the nature of scientific truth has been understood to be more of a social construction.  To create scientific truth, scientists engage in a social process that constructs an orthodoxy.  The word Kuhn used has made it into everyday usage: scientists construct a paradigm that guides their explanations.  Those who fall outside that paradigm must be forbidden from calling their work “real” science.  However, due to the nature of this process, the next scientific revolution can only come from those at the
outer boundaries of the current dominant paradigm.  Only by challenging the existing paradigm can scientific revolutions take place.

To clarify this process, consider an example that Kuhn himself used.  In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, European scientists agreed that combustibility resulted from an ineffable substance they called phlogiston.  When something burned, it was the phlogiston in that material being released.  This concept guided their research.  They argued about phlogiston’s nature; they disagreed about the implications of experiments in which different elements were burned in the air or under glass lids; they created a scientific consensus about the nature, meaning, and  implications of phlogiston.

By the end of the eighteenth century, a scientific revolution had rejected the idea of phlogiston.  Until that time, however, any notion that contradicted the dominant scientific paradigm would have been rejected.  Why did some materials gain weight, for example, when they rusted and supposedly emitted phlogiston?  During the reign of the scientific consensus about phlogiston, such disconfirming evidence was explained within the paradigm of phlogiston.  Scientists wondered if phlogiston might have negative weight, for example.  But they generally did not consider the idea that phlogiston itself was utterly imaginary.

The implications of this understanding of scientific truth are obvious.  In the case of evolution, the fact that mainstream scientists all agree on evolution does not prove the merit of evolution.  Rather, it only proves that such evolutionary scientists are trapped by the intellectual
constrictions of that dominant paradigm.  They do not need to be wicked, ignorant, or insane to do so.  In fact, most of them would love to come up with a powerful new idea that would revolutionize scientific knowledge.  Most of them would drool at the thought of having their name ranked up there with the other scientific revolutionaries, Lavoisier, Newton, Darwin, Einstein.  It is not that they are trying to enforce an orthodoxy.  Rather, they are fundamentally unable to think beyond the restrictions of their current paradigm.  They cannot think of ideas, in other words,
that build on ideas they do not think.  It will not be until a scientific revolution overhauls current understandings that scientists will be able to see the flaws in their evolutionary thinking.

Perhaps the example of phlogiston is too far removed from current thinking, however.  It might be easy to acknowledge that scientists back in the seventeenth century would fall prey to such unscientific notions, but to take solace in the idea that more recent science would not do so.  An
example from the twentieth century, then, might be more convincing.  For a few decades at the beginning of the twentieth century, one dominant idea was that of scientific racism.  Experts explored the differences between different types of humanity.  Races were graded on a scale from robust, vigorous, intelligent Anglo-Saxons at the top, to indolent, brutish Sub-Saharan Africans at the bottom.  The qualities of each race were
scientifically delineated.  Readers were told that such notions had been agreed upon by a consensus of leading scientists.  To doubt it would be to
express ignorance and reactionary stubbornness.  The policy implications of this kind of science were obvious.  If there were greater and
lesser races of humanity, it made sense to avoid cheapening the better races with the traits of the lesser.  Breeding between different races would lead to a deadly downward spiral of stupidity and weakness.  It made sense to promote racial eugenics, the discouragement of breeding of less advanced races and the utter prohibition of breeding between races.  The people who promoted these ideas were not cranks or outsiders.  They included scholars such as Madison Grant, who testified as an expert before US Congress as they debated passing newer, stricter immigration laws in 1924.

Before such ideas were kicked out of mainstream science by scholars such as Franz Boas, they dominated thinking about the nature of man
and society.  It took people with a previous commitment to an alternative understanding of humanity to challenge that view.  Among those challengers were evangelical Protestants.  James M. Gray, for example, in his career as president of the Moody Bible Institute of Chicago
(1904-1934), challenged the notion of scientific racism, just as he challenged the notion of human evolution.  For Gray, both ideas conflicted with the truth of Biblical teachings.  The Bible, Gray believed, described a common origin for all of humanity in the Garden of Eden.  Thus notions that some races were higher or lower contradicted God’s teaching.  The fact that scientists with impeccable credentials scoffed at Gray’s supposed
intellectual naiveté didn’t deter him.  He was able to think outside the dominant paradigm because he was committed to his understanding of an inerrant Bible.  Indeed, he was forced to think that way.  He could not have accepted the ideas of scientific racism, just as he could not accept the idea of evolution.

It is easy enough for some to reject the logic of Bible-based anti-evolutionists, but such rejectionists should be humbler in their assertions of confidence in the scientific consensus.  Such consensuses have in the past bound mainstream scholars to reprehensible ideas such scientific racism, or incorrect ideas such as phlogiston.  Simply because there is a consensus doesn’t make something true.

Those who support evolution often make another criticism of their opponents.  They point out that creationists’ claims violate the most fundamental principles of modern science by requiring a supernatural cause.  Such arguments, evolution supporters insist, go against the nature of true science, in which supernatural causes are rejected in favor of digging out the true material causes of things.  Science, at its heart, must reject such explanations, or else risk falling into a muddle in which every event can be explained away as the result of divine activity.  Take a simple example.  Thunder can be explained as the noise made when angels are bowling.  Such an idea is comforting to young children frightened by the noise of a storm.  But if adults were to seriously contend that thunder might in fact be caused that way, it would require fundamental violence to the notion of science.  Scientists know that thunder is really caused by the rapid movement of air to fill the void left by electrical discharges of lightning.  What if the Bible declared that thunder were caused by angels bowling?  Then anti-thunderists might declare that scientists arrogantly assumed that every roll of thunder was caused that way, when in fact some of the thunder might be due to angels bowling.  There is no proof, they could say, that angels did not bowl some of the thunderbursts.  No scientist could ever prove the cause of every single thunderburst.

But those who oppose the idea of evolution are not talking about thunder.  Their case is much stronger.  Thunder is observable.  Thunder can be studied as it happens.  In the case of the origins of life, evolutionists will admit that they have no direct proof of what occurred.  They infer from a body of evidence what they think makes sense, but in doing so they privilege an enormous package of pre-existing ideas about the notion of causation.  In other words, when they look at evidence from fossils and embryos, such evidence confirms their evolutionary hypothesis.  But in order for it to do so, evolutionary scientists must assume that there is only a material cause.

So, for example, evolutionists note that the basic structure of human hands is very similar to the bone structure of a bat’s wing, or a whale’s flipper.  From that they conclude that each of these mammals must have evolved from a common ancestor.  Makes sense.  But that conclusion has already assumed a material, evolutionary cause.  Consider, for instance, what can happen when you open your mind to consider a divine cause.  The conclusion of divine creation makes just as much sense.  Take a look underneath the hood at the engines of a Ford, a Toyota, and a Hyundai.  You will see very similar structures.  Each of them uses very similar mechanisms for generating power and translating that power into movement.  Each of them also has some similar additional parts, such as a reservoir for windshield-washer fluid.  Does that mean that they were not designed?  Of course not.  It means that the designers worked with structures that worked well.  If we assume a designer for life on earth, then we might conclude that the designer found that the same basic structure worked well for whales, bats, and humans.  The point is that evolutionists put the cart before the horse.  They assume a material, evolutionary cause for life, then when they look at evidence, they find their assumption confirmed.  At the very least, if we assume a divine, intentional cause for life, we can find our assumptions similarly confirmed.

ANTI EVOLUTION II: FURTHER READING

Thomas S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 3rd edition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996); Jerry Bergman, The Criterion: Religious Discrimination in America (Richfield, MN: Onesimus Press, 1984); Madison Grant, The Passing of the Great Race (New York: Scribner’s, 1916).