Thursday, August 16, 2007
Gilder and Me
Recently, I received my membership renewal request in the mail, and with it, a copy of an essay entitled "Evolution and Me," by one of the founding members of the Discovery Institute, George Gilder. (I note, with no little amazement, that this is MISTER George Gilder and not DOCTOR George Gilder, because he's absolutely USDA Choice-Grade Freaking Brilliant. In addition to being a founding member of DI, he has also authored several books, on topics as diverse as biology, computer theory, and macroeconomics, and currently publishes an investment newsletter. No dummy, this hombre.)
Sidebar: A common strategy of the pro-Darwin crowd is to try to paint DI as a mere bevy of Bible-thumping, evangelical Christian, Young-Earth creationists, hell-bent on stifling scientific inquiry, and eager to bring the scientific juggernaut not only to a halt, but to push it back to the Dark Ages. In Wonderboy, when San Salbedo Professor and global warming knowitall Dr. Fabari presents a lecture entitled "Barbarians at the Gate: Defending Science from Bad Science, Pseudoscience, and Creationist Pretension," he speaks specifically of DI. So George Gilder is one of the barbarians.
Bull-oney. Darwinian evolution can be questioned without citing Scripture. There's nothing in the Gospel that says we have to reject evolutionary theory. Not everyone who believes in creation believes that it took place in 4000 B.C. And it is Darwinism itself, and not the questioning of Darwinism, which stifles scientific inquiry.
That's because Darwinism is a religion. Not LIKE a religion, but a genuine, bona fide religion all its own, with its own dogma (that natural selection operating in tandem with random genetic mutation is all you ever need to turn a one-celled microorganism into a whale or a bat or a human being), its own creation myth (abiogenesis), its own message for salvation (Darwin loves you--and, yes, there's actually a book by this title; you can find it on Amazon), its own code of ethics (scientific explanation must be naturalistic), and its own god (not the God of Nature, but Nature herself). But I digress. End sidebar.
Anyway, after reading Mr. Gilder's essay (reprinted from its publication in the July 17th issue of National Review), all I can say is I was stunned. This was some top-notch writing, the kind of writing I've ached to do all my life--precise, eloquent, with color, flavor, and a jim-dandy vocabulary. As a result, three things happened:
· With no thought of my current financial state, I immediately squeezed out another $50 from my budget and renewed my membership with DI.
· I propped my elbows upon my desk, plopped my face into my hands, and cried great gloppy girly-man tears at the realization that I will never--capital N-E-V-E-R--be able to write as well as this guy does, and
· Out of sheer envy (and something of a sense of desperation), I quickly opened up a blank document and copied the essay, word for word, in the hopes that, by forcing my fat fingers to go through the motions of writing well, I might get something of Mr. Gilder's style to germinate in myself. You tell me if it worked.
I won't bother to reproduce the essay here. You can find a copy easily enough on your own. But allow me to offer this wholehearted recommendation that you give it a read. It is further support to the idea that Darwinism isn't the whole story. There are questions that naturalistic evolution doesn't--and can't--answer.
Wednesday, August 08, 2007
A Plug for Goswami
His central idea is that science has it all wrong defining reality in terms of the material world. Such a position, often revealed by the adage "Science by virtue of its own methods excludes metaphysics," is based on the deterministic postulates of classical physics, the notion that the movement of all matter can be predicted with 100% certainty provided that you know its position and velocity. Such a worldview, however, as Goswami puts it, is "an overly enthusiastic indulgence in a four-hundred-year-old revel called classical physics that was kicked off by Isaac Newton sometime around 1665. Newton's theories launched us on the course that led to the materialism that dominates Western culture." In other words, however well classical physics works on its own, we have known since the days of Heisenberg and Schrödinger (the beginning of the 20th century) that classical physics is incomplete physics, and thus materialism is hardly the whole picture. (And so the seeming commonsense claim that "everything has a perfectly reasonable explanation" is actually a bunch of hooey.)
That whole picture, rather, is what Goswami calls "monistic idealism," which is a philosophy based on what at first glance appears to be a radical idea: that the fundamental makeup of the universe is not matter but consciousness. The world of things is not simply built upon more (and smaller) things, but is instead based on ideas. This is not some wild speculation, however, but is instead a conclusion drawn from observations based on experiments in quantum physics, proposed to satisfy a number of seeming paradoxes that quantum physics demonstrates (paradoxes in the sense that classical physics can't explain them): that an object can be both a particle and a wave; that an object can be in one place and then suddenly appear in another without actually traveling through the intervening space to get there (the so-called quantum leap); that a quantum object cannot be said to manifest in ordinary space-time reality until it we first observe it (what quantum physicists call coherent superposition collapsing its wave function); and that the manifestation of a quantum object, caused by our observation, simultaneously affects its correlated twin object no matter how far apart the two objects are (the sort of instantaneous reaction in nature that Einstein says is an absolute no-no, since this would imply faster-than-light speed).
To repeat, don't have to be a quantum physicist to understand this stuff. And, like I say, if I can understand it, I figure absolutely anybody else can. PLEASE pop down to Waldenbooks or Barnes & Noble and buy a copy, or else buy one from an internet bookseller like Amazon. I promise you, it's absolutely mind-blowing.
The notion that the universe is the result of consciousness is significant in two ways. First, it demonstrates the insufficiency of purely naturalistic explanation. To say that things are made up of merely smaller things is a bit like saying the world is stacked onto the backs of turtles, each turtle resting on the back of the turtle beneath it. So, what's underneath that turtle at the bottom? Just another turtle? Doesn't that stack of turtles have to end somewhere, and if so, what's at the end if the only thing your philosophy will allow is another turtle?
Second, it supports the claim I have made that the universe cannot be explained without reference to some form of higher intelligence, and by that I mean You-Know-Who. If consciousness constitutes the basic makeup of the universe, it is impossible to explain consciousness other than to say that it is intelligent. Further, intelligence implies that the universe we observe is here for some purpose, and it is hardly unreasonable to suppose that this purpose might have something to do with us. As Goswami puts it, "If this sounds as if we are re-establishing an anthropocentric view of the universe, so be it... The cosmos was created for our sake."
Yep. For our sake, indeed.