Monday, December 12, 2005


Evolution vs. Evolutionary Theory

As I prepared my research for my novel Wonderboy and the Black Hole of Nixvy Veck, one topic which I decided to incorporate into the narrative was Intelligent Design Theory.

ID theory, I believe, stands at the cusp of a great paradigm shift in our core philosophical commitments to science. Beginning in the Enlightenment with its overemphasis on reason, science began to reformulate itself into a worldview devoted to methodological naturalism in the 19th century, soon thereafter giving itself over to metaphysical naturalism, with its adherence to chance and necessity as legitimate modes of causation.

However, the price for such a worldview was the abandoment of the third, and perhaps most crucial, mode of causation: design. ID theory seeks to return design to its rightful place as a legitimate mode of causation and as a scientifically defensible means of examining our world.

By and large, the outcry against ID theory comes from those who do not understand it, or due to their prior philosopical commitments to naturalism, do not wish to understand it.

And to see these prior philosophical commitments in action, one need do nothing more than question the theory of evolution. Showing even the slightest skepticism against the sort of Darwinistic gradualism called for in the theory leaves one open to all sorts of ridicule and abuse. Critics of evolutionary theory are viewed as mere religious zealots and nuts.

Yet it never fails to raise the eyebrows of those around me when I say that, though I don't believe in evolutionary theory, my objection is NOT to evolution.

I have no disagreements with evolution as a scientific hypothesis. I think it's quite plausible to suppose that life on this planet has progressed in some sort of logical, sequential fashion. Life seems to have gone from a small number of simple, microscopic single-celled forms to the larger and more complex multicellular life forms in abundance today. (At least, that's the impression I get when I look at the fossil record.) Where I draw the line, though, is with this notion that chance and necessity, operating under naturalistic materialism, is sufficient to explain the entire story. When we ask the fundamental question "Where did all this come from?" I am distinctly dissatisfied with the answer "Well, it just happened--it made itself." My problem, then, is not with evolution per se, but with evolutionary theory (aka Darwinism or "the neo-Darwinian synthesis") as is currently described in most textbooks, which merely proffers the rationale that life evolves by means of natural selection (necessity) operating in tandem with random mutation (chance), when there has been no recorded instance of any new species appearing that can be demonstrated to have arisen via the natural selection/mutation criterion, no laboratory experiment confirming that life is just an accident, and the fossil record has more holes in it than the Albert Hall.

When some event happens, there are always three possible explanations: chance (it was an accident), necessity (some law of physics or nature requires it), and design (someone made it happen). For reasons that are never sufficiently explained, science has no problem formulating explanations adherent to chance and necessity, but it draws the line at design. Nope, design--so we're told--is simply out of the question.

And yet I see no physical evidence, no empirical evidence, and no kind of logical imperative excluding design as a possibility. And yet when I ask why design shouldn't even have a chance at explaining our existence, the only answer I ever get is either "Because," or else I'm told not to believe the creationists. Either way, that's hardly an answer.

Evolutionary theory, in its rigid insistence for naturalism, is a joke. Not LIKE a joke; it IS one. Namely, it's this one:

On a dark night, a man walking along street spies an old man standing under a street light apparently searching for something. The man approaches and asks "Did you lose something?" to which the old man replies, "Yeah, I lost my car keys down the block there, so I'm looking for them under this street lamp." Confused, the first man presses the issue. "But if you lost your keys down the block," he says, "why are you looking for them over here?" "Because," the old man replies, "the light is better over here."

All jokes, good or bad, try to express a certain truth. The truth to the joke about the old man looking for his car keys in a place where he has no hope of finding them is that people will look for a solution to a problem in places where there is no chance the solution will be found, and yet, for various reasons, will steadfastly keep searching without demonstrating any inclination whatsoever to try another strategy.

The lesson is that in order to find a solution to any problem, it is generally unwise to state at the outset of any investigation that one and only one course of action will be followed. Anyone who decides a priori not to look for the keys in the place where they were lost is simply undermining his own ability to find them.

The point I am making here, obviously, is that, I think modern science is much like the old man looking for his car keys a block from where he lost them because the light is better at the other end of the block. In the discussion of the single most meaningful question of all-- Where did we come from? --the solution, science says, is to be found under the light of naturalistic materialism. But, is it, really? Or are we relegating ourselves to a lifetime of scurrying about under the lamplight of materialism, while the answer to the question may lie somewhere down the block?

The difference, though, is that, unlike in the joke, we don't know for certain that the answer really lies somewhere down the block. It MIGHT be found down the block, but then again, it might not. Who is to say for sure where the answer lies? But that is entirely the point--the materialists say they do.

Prior to this influx of naturalistic materialism, which has only been with us since the mid 19th Century, the basic premise of science followed the Aristotlean view that you let the evidence lead you to your conclusions. That is--science was all about a search for truth. I would agree. So then why is a truth that limits itself to naturalism the only truth worth knowing? Why isn't truth independent of the means we use to find it? And why should truth be limited to only those answers we want to hear?

Besides, my objection with naturalism ISN'T that it won't find the answer. I am not rejecting naturalistic materialism as a means of searching, but merely as the SOLE means of searching. That is to say, I can recognize that the light of materialism is illuminative, but it seems to me that anyone who tells me that it's the only light there is doesn't have much of a grip on reality.

But still the naturalistic materialists tell us not to bother. They KNOW the answer will be found by means of a naturalistic explanation, and by no other kind. And so they keep looking for the car keys, certain that someday someone will find them. One would think that after 150 years of searching they might be willing to try something new--or at least not to deride those of us who think the search might be more effectively conducted elsewhere.

But then that leads me to two questions: what leaves the Darwinist to conclude that the answer WILL be found under the light of naturalistic materialism? And what makes him so absolutely certain about it that looking anywhere else is tantamount to lunacy? I've yet to hear a satisfactory rationale. (And instead of the usual ad hominem snide aside that maybe there's something wrong with my hearing, how 'bout you evolutionists just supply the rationale? But do it right--don't assume as axiomatic the very thing you want to establish. You can't defend naturalistic materialism by first assuming that it's valid. That requires--ironically enough--a leap of faith that I'm not quite willing to make. Yes, I said "faith." That's because Darwininsm, for all its claims at being scientific, is really a religion.)

And that leads me to a third question: if creationists--or, for that matter, anyone who can't buy the "It created itself" argument--want to go looking in areas the naturalists want to exclude, where's the harm in that? If they never find the answer, well, that's no worse track record than the materialists have demonstrated heretofore. They've been looking for the missing link for 150 years and haven't found it yet, which might suggest that maybe there's no link in the first place. But, sure, maybe the car keys WILL turn up under the light of naturalistic materialism. If so, great. And if it turns out the car keys are found under the streetlight of design--at least they'll have been found, which is, I believe, the reason why we were searching in the first place.

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