Friday, July 28, 2006

Is "Nature" All There Is?

"Man is the result of a purposeless and natural process that did not have him in mind." - George Gaylord Simpson

The recent discussions here revealed to me that those who adhere to philosophical naturalism (a.k.a. materialism)* often have a hostile dislike for supernatural creation. Since the evolution believers generally have the "microphone of the public's attention" in their favor, most of the listeners hear the usual mantra that falsely draws an unmerited conclusion that says, "religious fundamentalists are attacking science again."

I have experienced this myself. Many times in fact. But the most notable (for me, personally) occurred back when Intelligent Design was basically an unknown challenge to Darwinism. In 1999, after attending a forum on ID, we were encouraged to write letters and/or opinion pieces to our local newspapers. We were told by the leaders at the forum to be prepared for rejection. I was pleased (and, quite frankly, surprised) to find that the first paper I submitted an article to actually published it!

A year later, I submitted my second article and that was also published. Of course, there was a flurry of letters to the editor with all the typical accusations flying against the argument from design. However, what I found quite curious was that many of the letters were simply the "attack the messenger" type that didn't have answers to the questions being addressed.

My third article was rejected by our local paper. By this time (2003) the controversy over ID had become much more noticeable due to several lawsuits brought up by individuals who were staunchly against even "teaching the controversy" idea. This time, my article was only accepted and published by The Christian Times (now called The Christian Examiner).

What had changed?

The subject had since become another hated challenger that was now considered a "politically incorrect" position in the debate. The ultimate message was, "don't mess with Darwinian exclusivity in the public schools."

Phillip E. Johnson wrote a book called Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds. In this book he asks several pertinent questions, one of which often gets unanswered, ignored, or outrightly dismissed:


What should we do if empirical evidence and materialist philosophy are going in different directions?


Some challengers who frequent this blog might claim that the two are not going in different directions. But I see this as something that cannot forever be denied.

Johnson writes:


The biologists have to tell us candidly whether they are asking us to believe in materialism because of what they know from studying the facts of biology or whether they are so devoted to the philosophy that they are willing to disregard evidence that doesn't fit it.

If the materialist domination of the intellectual world is seriously called into question, it will be possible for the next generation of Christians to enter the universities as participants in the search for truth, not as outsiders who have no choice but to submit to materialist rules.


Without the staunch, biased, and "true by definition" rules sanctioned by Darwinistic materialism-only philosophy, Johnson states that students might have the exciting opportunity to ask the following questions:


Why should the life of the mind exclude the possibility that a mind is behind our existence?

Why should we assume that modern materialist philosophies are the wave of the future instead of a holdover from the nineteenth century?

If information is something fundamentally different from matter, what is the ultimate source of the information?

Will science be harmed if it gives up its ambition to explain everything, or has that ambition only harmed science by tempting scientists to resort to unsound methods?

If materialism is not an adequate starting point for rationality, what alternatives are there?

*******

* [Naturalism and materialism mean essentially the same thing for present purposes, and so I use the terms interchangeably. Naturalism means that nature is all there is; materialism means that matter (i.e., the fundamental particles that make up both matter and energy) is all there is. Because evolutionary naturalists insist that nature is made up of those particles, there is no difference between naturalism and materialism.]

21 comments:

Ubersehen said...

Naturalism and materialism mean essentially the same thing for present purposes, and so I use the terms interchangeably.

"Scientific materialism

Scientific materialism or methodological materialism are interchangeable dysphemisms for methodological naturalism (sometimes: scientific naturalism). The term is used to imply that scientists collude to force a materialist (or rationalist) worldview onto people.

The term is usually only used by critics of the scientific discipline, such as the proponents of intelligent design or creationism who make the teleological assumption of purpose or meaning in nature, and want science to be redefined to include supernatural explanations of natural phenomena.

The term has become somewhat more common as laymen are introduced to the creation–evolution controversy through the Discovery Institute's framing of the language. Philosophers and scientists never use the term, because it is vaguely defined. It conflicts with established language in an already-complex philosophical topic and thus causes confusion. It is intended to introduce the ambiguity and negative connotations relevant to creationist criticisms of naturalism.
" (emphasis mine)

- from Wikipedia - Naturalism (philosophy)

Jody said...

Some challengers who frequent this blog might claim that the two are not going in different directions. But I see this as something that cannot forever be denied.

As one of those challengers, I'll ask you again: please provide your evidence for the supernatural. You continue to make the claim that it's fairly easy to see the supernatural at work in the world. Just provide some proof for what you are advocating.

Dani said...

Hi Christine - I put together a post that provides "evidence" of God's supernatural existence. It should be interesting to see how people will still utterly deny this fact.
Where's the Proof?

Isn't it amusing how people like Ubersehen will believe sources like Wikipedia or TalkOrgins as absolute fact even though they were written by men - but still outright reject the Word of God.

Richard Dawkins said...

The only amusing facet is that you continue to challenge, and counter-challenge each others' entrenched, intransigent position, fruitlessly, and without semblance of middle-ground. Agreeing to disagree is the only rational tack, as no comprehensive, unequivocal arguments are capable of being applied, leaving only the undoubtedly one-sided balance of probability which discounts Christianity or any other superstitious amalgam of beliefs, wholeheartedly.

GMpilot said...

Christine: Is Nature All There Is?

Yes.

Another word for “supernatural” is “unnatural”. Show me something unnatural.
A stream running uphill, for example, or objects that don’t fall to the ground when dropped.

IDists fight their battles for acceptance in the court of public opinion, because they know if they fight it on its scientific merits, they would lose. Their only aim, it seems, is not to provide an alternative to evolution, but to prove evolution wrong.
How do you surmise that this “Designer” is both intelligent and benevolent? We often have impacted wisdom teeth because our Designer packed 32 teeth into a jaw that isn’t large enough to hold them; our offspring similarly have to travel down a birth canal which is often too small for the child to pass through. Our most vulnerable body parts have little or no protection, and we are neither swift enough nor strong enough to resist any animal larger than ourselves.
Seems to me like this Designer was learning as he went along—which is hardly the image you wish to convey.
You quote Philip Johnson as saying, ”If the materialist domination of the intellectual world is seriously called into question, it will be possible for the next generation of Christians to enter the universities as participants in the search for truth, not as outsiders who have no choice but to submit to materialist rules.
Well, “If you wanna play da game, you gotta follow da rules.” I’m sure your ball-playing son knows that. If you don’t wish to follow ’materialist’ rules, explain what ‘immaterialist’ rules are, why they need to be followed, what results you expect to achieve from following them, and demonstrate those results. So far, this has not been done.
O poor beleaguered Christian! Refusing to follow the rules, and crying for your SkyFather because nobody wants to play with you!

limpy99 said...

Christine, Christian students can still go to universities anywhere and ask those exciting questions that Johnson implies they can't ask now. All they have to do is major in philosophy. Of course, a degree in philosophy may not get them a job later on, but those are the breaks.

Christinewjc said...

I found this article called Software Architect Examines Technology Essay About Evolutionary Algorithms quite interesting!

I then followed the link back to Witt's original article and found this:



>Evolutionary Algorithms: In Search of an "Existence Proof"
Jonathan Witt
A new essay by Steve Jurvetson in MIT'sTechnology Review asks, "How would we build a really complex system -- such as a general artificial intelligence (AI) that exceeded human intelligence?"

He then suggests three possibilities: "Some technologists advocate design; others prefer evolutionary search algorithms. Still others would conflate the two, hoping to incorporate the best of both while avoiding their limitations."

By evolutionary search algorithms, he means a process like Darwinian evolution, in which natural selection seizes beneficial random variations and passes them along to future generations in such a way that these beneficial variations gradually accumulate into ever more sophisticated designs.

Jurvetson notes that whereas human designed systems "tend to break easily and have conquered only simple problems so far," the typical biological system is, by comparison, "robust, resilient and well adapted to its environment."

The choice then sounds like a no-brainer: use evolutionary search algorithms: they yield better designs. There's just one problem, and it's the "elephant in the room" of modern evolutionary theory. Jurvetson deserves credit for pointing it out in such plain language.

"In fact, biological evolution provides the only "existence proof" that an algorithm can produce complexity transcending that of its antecedents."

Why is this an elephant rather than a mouse?

Because no one has ever witnessed biological evolution actually doing this, which means that there are no existence proofs "that an algorithm can produce complexity transcending that of its antecedents." That's not just a problem for Darwinism but for all origins models rooted in the belief that organized and functional complexity can evolve from simplicity without intelligent guidance."

[Go to second link for rest of article]

Christinewjc said...

Ubersehen,

Notice that Johnson said, "for present purposes, and so I use the terms interchangeably."

The quote: "The term is usually only used by critics of the scientific discipline, such as the proponents of intelligent design or creationism who make the teleological assumption of purpose or meaning in nature, and want science to be redefined to include supernatural explanations of natural phenomena." may be true in some instances, but in the case for detecting design, it could also mean other than supernatural explanations. No one seemed to mind when Carl Sagan spoke of aliens possibly being involved in the subject. And, how would we know if they were "supernatural" or just like us with a special creative power currently unknown to us but "evolutionary" to them?

I know. I'm talking "nonsense" to you. But the possibility for falsification in the "supernatural trend given to design theory" does, in fact, exist if we were to take Sagan's views into account. People didn't call him "stupid," "ignorant," "a crazy creationist," or "IDiot" for his view of the possibility of alien existence. So why can't Creationists and/or IDeists get at least some respect?

Oh yeah...I forgot...as long as that possibility "of the Divine foot in the door" is out there, it scares the crap out of the atheistic evolutionists. So what's left but to ridicule??

Christinewjc said...

Dawkins said, "leaving only the undoubtedly one-sided balance of probability which discounts Christianity or any other superstitious amalgam of beliefs, wholeheartedly.

Now that doesn't sound "middle-groundish" to me. You must have meant that part to mean in your opinion...

Boo said...

"I know. I'm talking "nonsense" to you. But the possibility for falsification in the "supernatural trend given to design theory" does, in fact, exist if we were to take Sagan's views into account. People didn't call him "stupid," "ignorant," "a crazy creationist," or "IDiot" for his view of the possibility of alien existence. So why can't Creationists and/or IDeists get at least some respect?"

Why can't one get some respect for grounding a theory in space aliens? Beats me.

Christinewjc said...

Jody,

How about some proof that you exist with blinders on?

1Cr 2:14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know [them], because they are spiritually discerned.

And why is it that you will "receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God" continually until, as Jesus said, "you must born again?"

Eph 4:24 And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.


Col 3:10 And have put on the new [man], which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him:

Then you will see with new eyes.

Eph 3:9 And to make all [men] see what [is] the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:

You cannot discern and recognize the truth of:

Gen 1:27 So God created man in his [own] image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

You are still under the wrath of God:

Romans 1:18-23
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man--and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.

Darwinism is a form of "worshiping the created rather than the Creator."

Romans 1:28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting;

Jody, just like the cosmonaut who went into outer space, you can choose to believe as he did when he said, "God is no where to be seen." Whereas, one American astronaut while looking out the window of his space vehicle said, "I see God everywhere."

GODISNOWHERE can be divided in two ways:

God is no where.

God is now here.

The phrase you choose reveals where and for Whom/what your faith truly exists and relies upon.

Christinewjc said...

Boo,

Are you claiming that Sagan didn't have respect for (or, despite) his beliefs?

Christinewjc said...

Limpy99,

There are Christian universities (Biola, for example) that provides a new masters program in a degree that combines "Science and Philosophy." Of course, being a Christian university, they aren't afraid of discussions that may arise which include that "Divine Foot in the door" like a secular university would.

Horrors! I can see it now...someone might say the word "God"! Call the ACLU!

Reminds me of this ACLU cartoon!

Christinewjc said...

Hi Dani,

Thanks for the link to your post. I think that we both realize that the non-believers will continue to "talk past" what we are trying to convey to them. They have their non-spiritual blinders on and until they are willing to take them off, they will continue on in their reprobate minds into secular humanistic oblivion...

Christinewjc said...

Ha! I read this "letter to the editor" response today:

"If evolution is so true, how are their still apes?! Why have they not become people yet? Kooky. To "If God is such a genius", religion is built on faith in your creator not because he has shown you physical proof.

Satan has power over the earthly domain, which is why "enlightenment" has been his greatest invention. The more "intelligent" people become, the more cruel and miserable the world becomes. Coincidence?"

Christinewjc said...

I like this letter:

"Evolution ignores science


Evolutionists and the courts claim that evolution is scientific and is founded on natural laws; it is neither!

To be scientific the standard has been for a long time that something must be observable, testable and repeatable. Evolution ignores this and fails all three qualifications.

It is impossible for evolution to follow natural laws, because there were no natural laws at the beginning of the universe and, thus, evolution fails again. Its own origin could not be based on natural laws that did not exist at the time.

Evolution ignores the laws of probability and the fact that not even one of hundreds of individual physical requirements for life are probable.

Evolution tells us that life became more complex, but the laws of thermodynamics tells us matter cannot create itself and that everything is running down. See Psalm 102:22-25 ("wax old like a garment"). On the contrary, evolution ignores science and proceeds in the opposite direction.

"All origin of life schemes (i.e., Miller/Urey) are contrary to proven principles of chemical thermodynamics and kinetics" (according to D.E. Hull in "Nature" 186:693).

The blind cannot be forced to see or the deaf to hear, for "In the beginning, God ..."

DR. IRVIN FORBING

Boo said...

"It is impossible for evolution to follow natural laws, because there were no natural laws at the beginning of the universe and, thus, evolution fails again. Its own origin could not be based on natural laws that did not exist at the time."

Evolution is a biological process that has nothing to do with the beginning of the universe. It helps to actually know what evolution is before you critique it.

"Evolution ignores the laws of probability and the fact that not even one of hundreds of individual physical requirements for life are probable."

It's unclear exactly what kind of "physical requirements" he's talking about, but evolution is a biological process that has nothing to do with the physical conditions that allow life to begin. See above.

"Evolution tells us that life became more complex, but the laws of thermodynamics tells us matter cannot create itself and that everything is running down. See Psalm 102:22-25 ("wax old like a garment"). On the contrary, evolution ignores science and proceeds in the opposite direction."

Evolution is a biological process that has nothing to do with how matter was created. See above again. Evolution as a biological process does not contradict the laws of thermodynamics because the laws of thermodynamics allow for localized decreases in entropy (such as the earth receiving energy from the sun) so long as the overall entropy of the system as a whole (the universe) is increasing.

"DR. IRVIN FORBING"

I'm going to make a wild guess that his doctorate is not in a scientific discipline. If it is, his university should ask him to return it.

Boo said...

"Are you claiming that Sagan didn't have respect for (or, despite) his beliefs?"

It would be nice if you could source the claim, but I would have to conclude that yes, most people wouldn't respect that particular belief very much even if the respected Sagan.

Bob said...

Uber-
I just wanted to reply to some of the things that you said on the other thread.

Firstly: I asked you to define science you stated in response specifically to this:

"Natural science is really quite clearly defined. It's a recognized creationist tactic, however, to attempt to introduce doubt into the minds of average citizens to make them think that there is some kind of controversy.

To rephrase this, there may be some controversy as to the meaning of science between creationists, but there is no significant controversy of the kind you're implying as to the meaning of science between scientists."

Um, I don't see a definition of science here. Your just complaining that creationists try to play with words and shift meanings, well give me the meaning I'm a 3rd grader teach me! All your saying is that the scientists know what science is there is no controversy except among you hard headed creationists...sorry that doesn't help. What is science? How is it destinguished from non-science. WE NEED to know this if your going to write CS and ID off an non-science, in order to do that we need a definition of science.

Second, I was talking about how methodological naturalism is imposed on science thus anything outside of the naturalism arena is ruled out as unscientific. You said:
"If you'll read the essay I posted above (or even some parts of it), you'll understand that atheists do not impose methodological naturalism on the scientific endeavour, it is the scientific endeavour that requires methodological naturalism from anyone attempting to take part, not just atheists."

YET EARLIER YOU SAID:
"Because scientific research is the study of the natural world, methodological naturalism is the only way to go about it. As Steven Schafersman put it; “Science, an inanimate discipline, demands methodological naturalism from its practitioners for science to work properly, and science could care less whether metaphysical naturalism (the a priori dogma you mentioned) is true or not, or whether its practitioners believe it or not.”

Which is it? You say atheists do NOT impose naturalism into the scientific endeavor yet in the same reply you say that naturalism is the only route to do the scientific endeavor...you seem confused.

I think I would agree that science in itself is in a sense naturalistic in that it seeks to explore and define the laws in the world which God has made. Isaac Newton saw science in this light as did Pascal, and Pasture. These men saw no problem in viewing science in a highly theistic light, Pasture actually was very critical of Darwin's ideas, and lamented that they were so quickly accepted without solid proof.

So in this sense I think science is naturalistic, namely in that it does not explore the metaphysical but is limited to the physical. Thus, my beef is with statements like GG Simpson's at the top of this post by Christine, I think he is overstepping his bounds and he is not being scientific.

Bob said...

UBER,
oops, I see what you were trying to say about imposing naturalism, you are not confused. But I think that naturalism is imposed in the sese that I said men like simpson and Dawkins can make wild statements against theism and we are supposed to see science as objective and religously neutral. This is problematic because if science is inherantly naturalistic then it can not make absolute metaphysical statements, yet these guys say these things all the time.

This is in contrast to Newton and Pascal, who did the scientific endeavor as theists. But hey I'll read the article you linked earlier.

Jody said...

How about some proof that you exist with blinders on?

While your Biblical copying skills are impressive, you still didn't answer the question I put to you.

Please provide your evidence for the supernatural, especially as it applies to evolution. You maintain this is easy to do. You shouldn't have any problems.