Tuesday, January 03, 2006
Why Non-Scientists are Skeptical of Scientist's Findings on Evolution
The first thing to look at is Philip Johnson's examination of this issue in The Unravelling of Scientific Materialism.
When scientists acknowledge the fact that they cannot even consider the idea of God working, and then somehow claim that they have found evidence of God not working, it is obvious to those listening that there is an error in judgment. Any time I write a paper (although I am not in research, I do write technical tutorials) I try to have someone examine it who is not technical, for the simple reason that I am too close to the subject to see my own biases and distortions. In fact, I usually let my Dad read them, who has not done programming since college, to look over them, precisely because he is not part of the whole rigamorole.
And I think this is what has happened with evolutionary science. They get caught up in this whole way of thinking, and then cannot look back in an objective way and examine what they are doing. They don't see that by excluding an entire method of causality (intelligent causation) they have unnecessarily restricted themselves in what kinds of explanations are allowed.
For example, if I have a stone that is on the floor, and I leave for an hour, and come back, and it's on the table. If I don't acknowledge that an intelligent agent may have moved the stone, I have to come up with some sort of idea of wind gusts that moved the stone from the floor to the table. I will then become _convinced_ about these short-acting, high-velocity, spontaneous winds, simply because I _know_ that the rock moved, and I have a priori decided not to include intelligent causation.
In the words of Behe:
Still, some critics claim that science by definition can't accept design, while others argue that science should keep looking for another explanation in case one is out there. But we can't settle questions about reality with definitions, nor does it seem useful to search relentlessly for a non-design explanation of Mount Rushmore. Besides, whatever special restrictions scientists adopt for themselves don't bind the public, which polls show, overwhelmingly, and sensibly, thinks that life was designed. And so do many scientists who see roles for both the messiness of evolution and the elegance of design.
The question is, can God's action be allowed to be considered by science? I don't claim to know the answer to this question definitively, but we should look at the consequences of answering the question either way.
If "yes", then we need to have explanations of why the similarities of organisms are the result of common descent rather than common design. We need to know why the idea of non-interventionistic abiogenesis makes more sense than the nearly global idea that life came from God. We need to have an open dialog as to why happenstance changes make better sense of life than design. In fact, this has happened once in recent history. Of course, the creationists did too well, and since then Dawkins now has a policy of not debating creationists, the AAAS reported inaccurately the outcome of the debate, and the Oxford Union misplaced all records of the debate. The creationists did not win, mind you, but they did very well considering that the debate was held at Oxford, not exactly a bastion of creationism (the vote was 115 to 198 -- the AAAS reported it as 15 to 198). So, if it is "yes", then we need to have more open debates, and there is no reason they shouldn't be nationalized. (by the way, if anyone would like a copy of the audio of the debate, post your email address here and we can arrange it -- I have an agreement with the copyright holder to do this)
Let's now consider the "no" answer. If science has a methodological predisposition saying that it can't consider God, then theologians have a right and responsibility to say that it therefore cannot say anything remotely definitive about what happened in the past. They are flying blind, purposefully ignorant of an entire area of causation, attempting to come up with explanations that simply ignore what theology tells us. It would be the same as trying to construct chemistry without thermodynamics.
This is why the public doesn't trust science in this area. Science is making bold claims resting on unproved presuppositions. Certainly the scientists know more than the public about their area, but the scientists are also claiming to know more about God's actions than the theologians! Why is one alright and not the other? If science wants to methodologically exclude a method of causation, why should anyone take it seriously in how accurately it depicts past events? I can try, as an exercise, to create a view of the past that ignores certain parts of reality, but I can't then take that to be a true history of the earth. It would simply be an interesting, yet counterfactual, view of history.
"The question is, can God's action be allowed to be considered by science? I don't claim to know the answer to this question definitively, but we should look at the consequences of answering the question either way."
I agree that we must look at this question both ways, but I do think that we can come to a more definitive conclusion than you appear to have. You said:
"Science is making bold claims resting on unproved presuppositions."
Not everything scientists say represents "science", as I pointed out. The philosophy of science presupposes that matter is all there is, *for the purpose of falsifiability and experiment*. If we did not presuppose this, we could speculate that angels cause the transformation of Pb to Au (or a *real* chemical transformation, like CO2 to HCO3-). None of our instruments, technology, physics, etc., allow us to do *anything* that isn't material. We would then run into a brick wall. The presuppositions aren't "proven", but they are solid and logical for the purpose (methodology). They have also withstood enormous scrutiny...but I'll get back to that.
"If science wants to methodologically exclude a method of causation"
This is all the same line of reasoning. If science has the *ability* to include nonmaterial (supernatural) causation, please feel free to tell me how. If it is nonmaterial, it is metaphysical/theological/philosophical. That doesn't mean it isn't *true*, it just means it isn't *science*. People want the validation and authority of science attached to their favorite form of metaphysics.
"I can try, as an exercise, to create a view of the past that ignores certain parts of reality"
The real world is made of matter. We all agree on that. The existence of an immaterial, "spiritual" world has not been demonstrated, cannot be supported by physical evidence, and is beyond the scope of science. Thus science does not "ignore" it so much as it is powerless to support it. Most people apply a posteriori the logic that since science has so powerfully demonstrated so many natural causes for natural phenomena, there may be no need for supernatural causes, or supernatural phenomena, and those may simply represent gaps in our knowledge. Ockham's razor.