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Monod’s “objectivity” (= naturalistic scientism) and begging big questions

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Jacques Monod won a Nobel Prize in 1965 for work on the mechanism of genetic replication and protein synthesis. By 1970 – 71, he published a pivotal book, known in English as Chance and Necessity, which is a part of the context in which Design Thinkers have argued that no, intelligently directed configuration, design, is a third relevant factor.

In writing about naturalistic origins of life, in Chance and Necessity, Monod proposed that life is the result of chance and necessity. This reflects the naturalistic attitude noted in our headline, and is tied to the a priori rejection of design as a possibility; yes, an assumption held to be pivotal to scientific “objectivity.”

Clipping:

[T]he basic premise of the scientific method, . . . [is] that nature is objective and not projective [= a project of an agent]. Hence it is through reference to our own activity, con-scious and projective, intentional and purposive-it is as | makers of artifacts-that we judge of a given object’s
“naturalness” or “artificialness.” [pp. 3 – 4]  . . . . [T]he postulate of objectivity is consubstantial with science: it has guided the whole of its prodigious develop-ment for three centuries. There is no way to be rid of it, even tentatively or in a limited area, without departing from the domain of science itself. [p. 21]

Further to such, in a 1971 television interview, he asserted — tellingly — as follows:

[T]he scientific attitude implies what I call the postulate of objectivity—that is to say, the fundamental postulate that there is no plan, that there is no intention in the universe. Now, this is basically incompatible with virtually all the religious or metaphysical systems whatever, all of which try to show that there is some sort of harmony between man and the universe and that man is a product—predictable if not indispensable—of the evolution of the universe.— Jacques Monod [Quoted in John C. Hess, ‘French Nobel Biologist Says World Based On Chance’, New York Times (15 Mar 1971), p. 6. Cited in Herbert Marcuse, Counter-Revolution and Revolt (1972), p. 66.]

This is so pivotal, that we will use an infographic of the money shot clip:

This should ring alarm bells, as a case of grand worldviews level question begging that, ahead of investigations, imposes naturalistic, evolutionary materialistic scientism — atheism dressed up in the lab coat — as the very definition of scientific objectivity. Which, is of course, anything but objective.

The late Philip Johnson’s reply to Richard Lewontin’s 1997 NYRB article, Billions and Billions of Demons, is apt:

For scientific materialists the materialism comes first; the science comes thereafter. [Emphasis original] We might more accurately term them “materialists employing science.” And if materialism is true, then some materialistic theory of evolution has to be true simply as a matter of logical deduction, regardless of the evidence.

That theory will necessarily be at least roughly like neo-Darwinism, in that it will have to involve some combination of random changes and law-like processes capable of producing complicated organisms that (in Dawkins’ words) “give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.” . . . .

The debate about creation and evolution is not deadlocked . . . Biblical literalism is not the issue. The issue is whether materialism and rationality are the same thing. Darwinism is based on an a priori commitment to materialism, not on a philosophically neutral assessment of the evidence. Separate the philosophy from the science, and the proud tower collapses. [Emphasis added.] [The Unraveling of Scientific Materialism, First Things, 77 (Nov. 1997), pp. 22 – 25.]

Let us ponder the matter. END

PS: For record, let me note on what the design inference (summarised in a per aspect explanatory filter) actually does:

As in, no, it does not impose design as a default inference, indeed, there are two defaults that capture chance and/or necessity.

34 Replies to “Monod’s “objectivity” (= naturalistic scientism) and begging big questions

  1. 1
    kairosfocus says:

    Monod’s “objectivity” (= naturalistic scientism) and begging big questions:

    What are we to make of Monod’s remarks that:

    [T]he scientific attitude implies what I call the postulate of objectivity—that is to say, the fundamental postulate that there is no plan, that there is no intention in the universe. Now, this is basically incompatible with virtually all the religious or metaphysical systems whatever, all of which try to show that there is some sort of harmony between man and the universe and that man is a product—predictable if not indispensable—of the evolution of the universe.— Jacques Monod [Quoted in John C. Hess, ‘French Nobel Biologist Says World Based On Chance’, New York Times (15 Mar 1971), p. 6. Cited in Herbert Marcuse, Counter-Revolution and Revolt (1972), p. 66.]

    And yes, it looks like Lewontin did indeed speak for powerful factions of the scientific elites in his notorious cat out of the bag remarks of 1997.

    KF

  2. 2
    john_a_designer says:

    “Necessity” is the problem (a very big problem) with Monod’s argument. It’s a loaded term. What does he mean by necessity?

  3. 3
    kairosfocus says:

    JaD, he has in mind physical, mechanical, blind necessity, similar to how a heavy object falls in accord with definite laws and circumstances, the sort of thing captured in differential and difference equations without a significant stochastic component. Where, of course, the general case is non-linear. KF

  4. 4
    john_a_designer says:

    Yes, I understand that. In other words, necessity equals space-time + matter-energy which are governed by specific physical laws and constants which in turn, at least according to Monod, are sufficient (along, of course, with “chance”) enough to explain the universe and everything else that is part of it. How does he know that? Has he been able to prove any of it?

  5. 5
    Axel says:

    Going back to Darwin, himself, they don’t seem to feel under any obligation to draw absolutely cardinal, ineluctable inferences, they themselves had posited as such.

    I am thinking of Darwin’s remark that if such and such should prove not to occur (or to be the case), then his whole construct relating to evolution, qua development beyond minor and often temporary changes, would entirely collapse. I wonder if any of you can discern what I am gibbering about, from my inchoate recollection of it.

    I believe that in fact Darwin’s ‘all or nothing’ provision did in fact prove catastrophic to his prize, imaginative discursion. And yet such has been the rabid momentum behind the promotion of Darwinism, driven by the wilfully undiscriminating atheists, that the Evolutionary catastrophe was just ‘swept under the carpet’ with relative ease (no doubt, delighted to enjoy the rather grander society of ‘infinity’).

  6. 6
    kairosfocus says:

    JaD, the position is subtler. Namely that theirs is the view of a rational, empirical evidence oriented person, one inclined to value science. Since we are dealing with power wielders, they are able — and are often willing — to impose their view by institutional and financial power and influence. Never mind, that it is readily shown to be incoherent, self referentially absurd, so self-falsifying. We are in a Plato’s cave game here. KF

  7. 7
    kairosfocus says:

    Axel, he so loaded the burden of proof that it could not reasonably be met:

    “If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down. But I can find no such case.”

    ? Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species

    Yup, ‘cos you set a standard of warrant no empirical evidence could meet and few deductive arguments.

    Sophisticated question begging.

    KF

  8. 8
    Axel says:

    Thank you, KF.

  9. 9
    john_a_designer says:

    KF,

    JaD, the position is subtler.

    Subtler?

    I hardly call his position in any sense of the word “subtle.” Again according to Monod, “[T]he scientific attitude implies what I call the postulate of objectivity—that is to say, the fundamental postulate that there is no plan, that there is no intention in the universe.”

    According to the dictionary, a postulate is “a thing suggested or assumed as true as the basis for reasoning, discussion, or belief.” In other words, a postulate is supposed to be a tentative assumption. However, the way materialists like Monod, Lewontin or Sagan… etc. etc. etc. argue is anything but tentative but rather it’s a good example of metaphysical dogmatism that’s as extreme as any kind of religious fundamentalism. They are merely arguing that “scientific materialism” is true because that’s what they believe.

  10. 10
    kairosfocus says:

    JaD, ah, but that is not so obvious when a Nobel Prize winner speaks in the name of Big-S Science and gives one of the secrets of its success.As in, you are fighting the infamous war against science if you challenge this ideological imposition dressed up in a lab coat. KF

  11. 11
    kairosfocus says:

    JaD, also, recall, this was the 1970’s, where there were but few choices in accessing “credible” information and to appear on TV was a major event. Judging by current goings on, some power brokers long for those days, when information was a closely guarded and managed commodity provided by effectively an oligopoly. The thing is, now that we have been through a breaking of the monopoly, and have seen how abusive the power centres can be, the degree of naive trust in prestige sources that once was, is gone. We can sensationalise and twist a story or an issue today, gulling a great many people, but then one day things crash and credibility is gone. As that happens — it is ongoing as we speak — we see balkanisation and ever deepening polarisation leading to deepening civil strife. If we do not break this trend now, there will be a serious fee for the ferryman on the Styx. KF

  12. 12
    john_a_designer says:

    I am disagreeing with your choice of words. Whatever the argument(s) that Monod et al. were making, it was not “subtle”. Not then and certainly not now. Rather it was deceptive, dishonest and delusional. I would argue that it’s more delusional than anything else because it’s very obvious that “scientific materialists” like Monod actually believed their own intellectually unwarranted and dishonest thinking.

  13. 13
    kairosfocus says:

    JaD,

    I hear you. You have had practice in thinking “Worldviewishly” as Francis Schaeffer used to say. Also, you are operating from a different paradigm, in which the possibility and credibility of a different approach are established. Thus, you can see clearly.

    CED:

    subtle (?s?t?l)
    adj
    1. not immediately obvious or comprehensible
    2. difficult to detect or analyse
    , often through being delicate or highly refined: a subtle scent.
    3. showing or making or capable of showing or making fine distinctions of meaning
    4. marked by or requiring mental acuteness or ingenuity; discriminating
    5. delicate or faint: a subtle shade.
    6. cunning or wily: a subtle rogue.
    7. operating or executed in secret: a subtle intrigue.
    [C14: from Old French soutil, from Latin subt?lis finely woven]
    ?subtleness n
    ?subtly adv
    Collins English Dictionary

    What happens to you when Big-S “Science” (i.e. Scientism) is presented to you, from earliest days, as the gold standard of sound thinking and it even stands in for knowledge and rationality? Then, notice how a leading scientist, figuratively wearing a Nobel Prize medal, tells you that X is the heart of scientific objectivity?

    What will now happen when someone stands outside that marvellous a priori materialism circle? Will not such a person seem to be ignorant, stupid, insane or wicked? Do you think that those swimming in the milieu of scientism will even notice that the challenger may have good footing to stand on?

    How hard do you think it might be to break out of the circle, will it not seem like what happens when a fish is removed from its natural element? Will not such a person fight to get back to what is thought to be safety? Will it not be the case, that those who are trying to pull one out of life-giving water [as it is thought] are threats or even enemies?

    I suspect, this may well be a good part of the story as to why we have so often seen a deep and unyielding hostility.

    So, yes, there is in my view a lot of subtlety at work here, in several mutually reinforcing senses of that term.

    And, that is what we are up against.

    KF

  14. 14
    kairosfocus says:

    PS: I recently ran across a discussion. As a boy, an author had been given a book guiding to trees in California. He was struck by the highly unusual Joshua Tree, which was not native to that part. He thought, where will I see one? Then, he went out in his neighbourhood, where he had spent his life to that point. To his amazement, he saw tree after tree, estimating that 80% of lots in his neighbourhood had such trees. But, until he had the concept to notice, he had not realised it.

    PPS: So, now, armed with Monod, let us now hear again what Lewontin had to say, with fresh ears:

    . . . to put a correct [–> Just who here presume to cornering the market on truth and so demand authority to impose?] view of the universe into people’s heads

    [==> as in, “we” the radically secularist elites have cornered the market on truth, warrant and knowledge, making “our” “consensus” the yardstick of truth . . . where of course “view” is patently short for WORLDVIEW . . . and linked cultural agenda . . . ]

    we must first get an incorrect view out [–> as in, if you disagree with “us” of the secularist elite you are wrong, irrational and so dangerous you must be stopped, even at the price of manipulative indoctrination of hoi polloi] . . . the problem is to get them [= hoi polloi] to reject irrational and supernatural explanations of the world [–> “explanations of the world” is yet another synonym for WORLDVIEWS; the despised “demon[ic]” “supernatural” being of course an index of animus towards ethical theism and particularly the Judaeo-Christian faith tradition], the demons that exist only in their imaginations,

    [ –> as in, to think in terms of ethical theism is to be delusional, justifying “our” elitist and establishment-controlling interventions of power to “fix” the widespread mental disease]

    and to accept a social and intellectual apparatus, Science, as the only begetter of truth

    [–> NB: this is a knowledge claim about knowledge and its possible sources, i.e. it is a claim in philosophy not science; it is thus self-refuting]

    . . . . To Sagan, as to all but a few other scientists [–> “we” are the dominant elites], it is self-evident

    [–> actually, science and its knowledge claims are plainly not immediately and necessarily true on pain of absurdity, to one who understands them; this is another logical error, begging the question , confused for real self-evidence; whereby a claim shows itself not just true but true on pain of patent absurdity if one tries to deny it . . . and in fact it is evolutionary materialism that is readily shown to be self-refuting]

    that the practices of science provide the surest method of putting us in contact with physical reality [–> = all of reality to the evolutionary materialist], and that, in contrast, the demon-haunted world rests on a set of beliefs and behaviors that fail every reasonable test [–> i.e. an assertion that tellingly reveals a hostile mindset, not a warranted claim] . . . .

    It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us [= the evo-mat establishment] to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes [–> another major begging of the question . . . ] to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute [–> i.e. here we see the fallacious, indoctrinated, ideological, closed mind . . . ], for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door . . . [–> irreconcilable hostility to ethical theism, already caricatured as believing delusionally in imaginary demons]. [Lewontin, Billions and billions of Demons, NYRB Jan 1997,cf. here. And, if you imagine this is “quote-mined” I invite you to read the fuller annotated citation here.]

    Food for thought.

  15. 15
    Truthfreedom says:

    KF

    What happens to you when Big-S “Science” (i.e. Scientism) is presented to you, from earliest days, as the gold standard of sound thinking and it even stands in for knowledge and rationality? Then, notice how a leading scientist, figuratively wearing a Nobel Prize medal, tells you that X is the heart of scientific objectivity?

    It is another form of fundamentalist priesthood.
    Scientismists (atheists) follow religious patterns to a tee.

    What will now happen when someone stands outside that marvellous a priori materialism circle? Will not such a person seem to be ignorant, stupid, insane or wicked?

    Materialists are experts at bullying.

  16. 16
    kairosfocus says:

    TF, “fundamentalism” is a kidnapped word, twisted into a propagandised meaning. That said, there is a point. Dominant ideologies are too often manipulative and backed by power tactics [such as spiral of silence and — linked — imposing groupthink”], rather than genuinely winning the comparative difficulties challenge. This is why it is vital to highlight core assumptions of scientism, pointing out also its prevalence. Where, it is deeply involved in naturalism . . . evolutionary materialistic scientism . . . as a worldview. In that context, it is pivotal for us to further draw out that such is irretrievably self-referentially incoherent, e.g. ponder Haldane’s warning:

    “It seems to me immensely unlikely that mind is a mere by-product of matter. For if my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true. They may be sound chemically, but that does not make them sound logically. And hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms. In order to escape from this necessity of sawing away the branch on which I am sitting, so to speak, I am compelled to believe that mind is not wholly conditioned by matter.” [“When I am dead,” in Possible Worlds: And Other Essays [1927], Chatto and Windus: London, 1932, reprint, p.209. Cf. here on (and esp here) on the self-refutation by self-falsifying self referential incoherence and on linked amorality.]

    Much more can be said, but we need to understand that it has to be firmly established that this ideology is a real issue not a strawman caricature or idiosyncrasy of a few fringe folks. Ironically, precisely because Lewontin so powerfully though inadvertently exposed it, if one cites him as a key case, one will be pounced on as wrenching and setting up strawman caricatures etc. It is interesting to see the absence of voices from the penumbra of attack sites here. KF

  17. 17
    kairosfocus says:

    PS: Notice too the US Science Teachers Association:

    All those involved with science teaching and learning should have a common, accurate view of the nature of science. [–> yes but a question-begging ideological imposition is not an accurate view] Science is characterized by the systematic gathering of information through various forms of direct and indirect observations and the testing of this information by methods including, but not limited to, experimentation [–> correct so far]. The principal product of science is knowledge in the form of naturalistic concepts [–> evolutionary materialistic scientism is imposed] and the laws and theories related to those [–> i.e. ideologically loaded, evolutionary materialistic] concepts . . . . science, along with its methods, explanations and generalizations, must be the sole focus of instruction in science classes to the exclusion of all non-scientific or pseudoscientific methods, explanations, generalizations and products [–> censorship of anything that challenges the imposition; fails to appreciate that scientific methods are studied through logic, epistemology and philosophy of science, which are philosophy not science] . . . .

    Although no single universal step-by-step scientific method captures the complexity of doing science [–> a good point, but fails to see that this brings to bear many philosophical issues], a number of shared values and perspectives characterize a scientific approach to understanding nature. Among these are a demand for naturalistic explanations [–> outright ideological imposition and censorship that fetters freedom of responsible thought] supported by empirical evidence [–> the imposition controls how evidence is interpreted and that’s why blind watchmaker mechanisms never seen to actually cause FSCO/I have default claim to explain it in the world of life] that are, at least in principle, testable against the natural world. Other shared elements include observations, rational argument [–> ideological imposition may hide under a cloak of rationality but is in fact anti-rational], inference, skepticism [–> critical awareness is responsible, selective hyperskepticism backed by ideological censorship is not], peer review [–> a circle of ideologues in agreement has no probative value] and replicability of work . . . .

    Science, by definition, is limited to naturalistic [= evolutionary materialistic scientism is imposed by definition, locking out an unfettered search for the credibly warranted truth about our world i/l/o observational evidence and linked inductive reasoning] methods and explanations and, as such [–> notice, ideological imposition by question-begging definition], is precluded from using supernatural elements [–> sets up a supernatural vs natural strawman alternative when the proper contrast since Plato in The Laws, Bk X, is natural vs artificial] in the production of scientific knowledge. [US NSTA Board, July 2000, definition of the nature of science for education purposes]

  18. 18
    kairosfocus says:

    PPS: Nancy Pearcey:

    A major way to test a philosophy or worldview is to ask: Is it logically consistent? Internal contradictions are fatal to any worldview because contradictory statements are necessarily false. “This circle is square” is contradictory, so it has to be false. An especially damaging form of contradiction is self-referential absurdity — which means a theory sets up a definition of truth that it itself fails to meet. Therefore it refutes itself . . . . An example of self-referential absurdity is a theory called evolutionary epistemology, a naturalistic approach that applies evolution to the process of knowing. The theory proposes that the human mind is a product of natural selection. The implication is that the ideas in our minds were selected for their survival value, not for their truth-value.

    But what if we apply that theory to itself? Then it, too, was selected for survival, not truth — which discredits its own claim to truth. Evolutionary epistemology commits suicide.

    Astonishingly, many prominent thinkers have embraced the theory without detecting the logical contradiction. Philosopher John Gray writes, “If Darwin’s theory of natural selection is true,… the human mind serves evolutionary success, not truth.” What is the contradiction in that statement?

    Gray has essentially said, if Darwin’s theory is true, then it “serves evolutionary success, not truth.” In other words, if Darwin’s theory is true, then it is not true.

    Self-referential absurdity is akin to the well-known liar’s paradox: “This statement is a lie.” If the statement is true, then (as it says) it is not true, but a lie.

    Another example comes from Francis Crick. In The Astonishing Hypothesis, he writes, “Our highly developed brains, after all, were not evolved under the pressure of discovering scientific truths but only to enable us to be clever enough to survive.” But that means Crick’s own theory is not a “scientific truth.” Applied to itself, the theory commits suicide.

    Of course, the sheer pressure to survive is likely to produce some correct ideas. A zebra that thinks lions are friendly will not live long. But false ideas may be useful for survival. Evolutionists admit as much: Eric Baum says, “Sometimes you are more likely to survive and propagate if you believe a falsehood than if you believe the truth.” Steven Pinker writes, “Our brains were shaped for fitness, not for truth. Sometimes the truth is adaptive, but sometimes it is not.” The upshot is that survival is no guarantee of truth. If survival is the only standard, we can never know which ideas are true and which are adaptive but false.

    To make the dilemma even more puzzling, evolutionists tell us that natural selection has produced all sorts of false concepts in the human mind. Many evolutionary materialists maintain that free will is an illusion, consciousness is an illusion, even our sense of self is an illusion — and that all these false ideas were selected for their survival value.

    [–> that is, responsible, rational freedom is undermined. Cf here William Provine in his 1998 U Tenn Darwin Day keynote:

    Naturalistic evolution has clear consequences that Charles Darwin understood perfectly. 1) No gods worth having exist; 2) no life after death exists; 3) no ultimate foundation for ethics exists; 4) no ultimate meaning in life exists; and 5) human free will is nonexistent . . . .

    The first 4 implications are so obvious to modern naturalistic evolutionists that I will spend little time defending them. Human free will, however, is another matter. Even evolutionists have trouble swallowing that implication. I will argue that humans are locally determined systems that make choices. They have, however, no free will [–> without responsible freedom, mind, reason and morality alike disintegrate into grand delusion, hence self-referential incoherence and self-refutation. But that does not make such fallacies any less effective in the hands of clever manipulators] . . . [1998 Darwin Day Keynote Address, U of Tenn — and yes, that is significant i/l/o the Scopes Trial, 1925]

    So how can we know whether the theory of evolution itself is one of those false ideas? The theory undercuts itself.

    A few thinkers, to their credit, recognize the problem. Literary critic Leon Wieseltier writes, “If reason is a product of natural selection, then how much confidence can we have in a rational argument for natural selection? … Evolutionary biology cannot invoke the power of reason even as it destroys it.”

    On a similar note, philosopher Thomas Nagel asks, “Is the [evolutionary] hypothesis really compatible with the continued confidence in reason as a source of knowledge?” His answer is no: “I have to be able to believe … that I follow the rules of logic because they are correct — not merely because I am biologically programmed to do so.” Hence, “insofar as the evolutionary hypothesis itself depends on reason, it would be self-undermining.” [ENV excerpt, Finding Truth (David C. Cook, 2015) by Nancy Pearcey.]

  19. 19
    Ed George says:

    KF

    TF, “fundamentalism” is a kidnapped word, twisted into a propagandised meaning.

    Just like the way IDists wield the term “Darwinism”.

    Fundamentalism: a movement or attitude stressing strict and literal adherence to a set of basic principles [Websters]

    I think this is how most people use the term. You may be confused with the fact that many people, myself included, believe that this approach leads to intolerance, racism, sexism, etc. It is a worldview that sees the world in blacks and whites when in reality it is shades of grey.

  20. 20
    Truthfreedom says:

    It is a worldview that sees the world in blacks and whites when in reality it is shades of grey .

    Ed George, in the darwinian/evolutive/materialist world, everything is *relative*.
    Including your opinion.

    The absolute standard is gone.

  21. 21
    john_a_designer says:

    I think a basic question we need to ask ourselves here is: what kind of questions can science (physics, biology etc.) really answer? Can it answer the questions like, (1) why is mankind, unlike other mammals, so hardwired to seek purpose and meaning? (2) Why, for example, are we driven to contemplate our purpose and meaning in the universe? (3) Does the Universe have a meaning and purpose? (4) Do people in general really think that these kind of questions are important?

    Let’s focus just on the question (#3) whether or not the universe has a meaning or purpose.

    The famous Cambridge University physicist Stephen Hawking once observed,

    “The human race is just a chemical scum on a moderate-sized planet, orbiting around a very average star in the outer suburb of one among a hundred billion galaxies.”

    (STEPHEN HAWKING, Reality on the Rocks: Beyond Our Ken, 1995)

    It appears to me that a lot of atheists agree that when you honestly look at man’s place in the universe, at least from their perspective, it’s really rather pointless. For example, in his book, The First Three Minutes: A Modern View of the Origin of the Universe, Nobel laureate Steven Weinberg writes:

    “It is almost irresistible for humans to believe that we have some special relation to the universe, that human life is not just a more-or-less farcical outcome of a chain of accidents reaching back to the first three minutes, but that we are somehow built in from the beginning… It is very hard to realize that this is all just a tiny part of an overwhelmingly hostile universe. It is even harder to realize that this present universe has evolved from an unspeakably unfamiliar early condition, and faces a future extinction of endless cold or intolerable heat. The more the universe seems comprehensible the more it seems pointless.” (p.144)

    I would suggest that Weinberg was trying to play, perhaps unwittingly, a subtle bait and switch game here. This paragraph appears at the end of a book which is purportedly a book about following the chain of scientific evidence back to the very first few minutes of the universe. I have no problem with that. Weinberg is a Nobel Prize winning physicist. By vocation he has the credentials, the knowledge and expertise to explain how the universe evolved. He is not, however, any more qualified than anybody else to tell us what it all means. And, at least in academia, such questions are the province of philosophers and theologians not physicists.

    The paragraph did not go unnoticed and Weinberg soon became aware that he had crossed an invisible boundary line into disputed territory. Fifteen years later in another book, Dreams of a Final Theory, he admits that phrase “the more the universe seems comprehensible the more it seems pointless,” had dogged him ever since. He then vainly tries to explain what he really meant.

    “I did not mean,” he writes, “that science teaches us that the universe is pointless, but that the universe itself suggests no point.” He then adds that he doesn’t see life as pointless or meaningless but that as scientists and people we can “invent a point for our lives, including trying to understand the universe.”

    He then goes on to describe the reaction of some of his colleagues to his infamous little phrase. For example, Harvard astronomer Margaret Geller, opines, “Why should it have a point? What point? It is just a physical system, what point is there?”

    Princeton astrophysicist Jim Peebles was willing to take the implications a bit further. He says, “I am willing to believe that we are flotsam and jetsam.”

    However, Weinberg writes that his favorite response came from University of Texas astronomer Gerard de Vaucouleurs who remarked that Weinberg’s phrase was actually “nostalgic.” “Indeed it was,” Weinberg concedes, “nostalgic for a world in which the heavens declared the glory of God.”

    He then goes on to explain.

    “It would be wonderful to find in the laws of nature a plan prepared by a concerned creator in which human beings played some special role. I find sadness in doubting that we will. There are some among my scientific colleagues who say that the contemplation of nature gives them all the spiritual satisfaction that others have traditionally found in a belief in an interested God. Some of them may even really feel that way. I do not. And it does not seem to me to be helpful to identify the laws of nature as Einstein did with some sort of remote and disinterested God. The more we refine our understanding of God to make the concept plausible, the more it seems to be pointless.”

    Weinberg’s sentiment is obviously atheistic. But is his atheism the result of what he has discovered out there in the universe? Or, does he see the universe the way he does because of the preconceptions that he has as an atheist? I would argue that it is the latter.

    Einstein also wrote something about the meaning of life that I think is pertinent here.

    “What is the meaning of human life, or, for that matter, of the life of any creature? To know the answer to this question means to be religious. You ask: Does it make any sense, then, to pose this question? I answer: The man who regards his fellow creatures as meaningless is not merely unhappy but hardly fit for life.”

    Notice how these atheistic scientist all feel for some reason compelled to explain, answer or try to explain away these kind of questions.

    My conclusion here is very straight forward. If an eternally existing, transcendent Mind (God) is the cause of the universe it has a purpose and meaning. On the other hand, if something mindless and impersonal is the cause the universe, as Hawking and Weinberg et al. personally believe, it is hard to say that there is any real meaning for the universe or our existence. Therefore, science despite the power of applied science (technology) to improve our lives cannot answer the BIG questions. Again, these kind of questions are at their roots philosophical and theological (metaphysical, ontological) questions.

  22. 22
    Ed George says:

    JaD

    why is mankind, unlike other mammals, so hardwired to seek purpose and meaning?

    I think that this is the most interesting question. To the best of our knowledge (and we could be wrong), no other animal has this desire. But does this desire exist because there really is purpose and meaning to the universe, or is it an unintended consequence of our higher brain functions combine with our animal egotism/self interest? I suspect the latter. But, again, I could be wrong.

  23. 23
    Ed George says:

    EF

    Ed George, in the darwinian/evolutive/materialist world, everything is *relative*.
    Including your opinion.

    The absolute standard is gone.

    Only the sixth deal in absolutes. 🙂

    And who said that Absolute Standards don’t exist?
    https://www.absolutestandards.com/

  24. 24
    john_a_designer says:

    Einstein said that scientists are poor philosophers. That perhaps explains why there are some scientists who believe that science can actually serve as a basis for a world view that can answer some of our biggest questions—at least those that are worthwhile. The late American astronomer Carl Sagan, for example, proclaimed that “the Cosmos is all that there is or ever was or ever will be.” (That is a claim that is not scientifically provable.) And, Nobel Prize winner Steven Weinberg opines that while “the worldview of science is rather chilling” there is, nevertheless, he goes on to say, “a grim satisfaction, in facing up to our condition without despair and without wishful thinking–with good humor… without God.”

    And then there is Harvard professor of psychology Steven Pinker who takes a scientifically based world view just about to its absolute limit. Pinker writes that,

    the findings of science entail that the belief systems of all the world’s traditional religions and cultures—their theories of the origins of life, humans, and societies—are factually mistaken. We know, but our ancestors did not, that humans belong to a single species of African primate that developed agriculture, government, and writing late in its history. We know that our species is a tiny twig of a genealogical tree that embraces all living things and that emerged from prebiotic chemicals almost four billion years ago. We know that we live on a planet that revolves around one of a hundred billion stars in our galaxy, which is one of a hundred billion galaxies in a 13.8-billion-year-old universe, possibly one of a vast number of universes. We know that our intuitions about space, time, matter, and causation are incommensurable with the nature of reality on scales that are very large and very small. We know that the laws governing the physical world (including accidents, disease, and other misfortunes) have no goals that pertain to human well-being. There is no such thing as fate, providence, karma, spells, curses, augury, divine retribution, or answered prayers—though the discrepancy between the laws of probability and the workings of cognition may explain why people believe there are. And we know that we did not always know these things, that the beloved convictions of every time and culture may be decisively falsified, doubtless including some we hold today.

    In other words, the worldview that guides the moral and spiritual values of an educated person today is the worldview given to us by science.

    http://www.newrepublic.com/art.....humanities

    On the other hand, there are other scientists, including some who are non-religious, even agnostic or atheistic, who see the folly of this kind of thinking. For example, Sir Peter Medawar, also a Nobel laureate, was one scientist who spoke out against this so called scientism. He wrote in his book, Advice to a Young Scientist:

    “There is no quicker way for a scientist to bring discredit upon himself and upon his profession than roundly to declare – particularly when no declaration of any kind is called for – that science knows, or soon will know, the answers to all questions worth asking, and that questions which do not admit a scientific answer are in some way non-questions or ‘pseudo-questions’ that only simpletons ask and only the gullible profess to be able to answer. … The existence of a limit to science is, however, made clear by its inability to answer childlike elementary questions having to do with first and last things – questions such as ‘How did everything begin?’; ‘What are we all here for?’;’What is the point of living?’”
    Advice to a Young Scientist, London, Harper and Row, 1979 p.31

    Also, Erwin Schrödinger, one of the early theorist of quantum physics, said something similar: “Science puts everything in a consistent order but is ghastly silent about everything that really matters to us: beauty, color, taste, pain or delight, origins, God and eternity.”

    But the inadequacy of science is not limited to questions that it cannot answer. The fact is we cannot even begin to do science unless we make some metaphysical assumptions about science. Even Einstein conceded as much but I’ll reserve that discussion for another post.

  25. 25
    Truthfreedom says:

    @ John_a_designer:
    Excellent posts!

    Regarding knowledge :
    What is Science?

    “To be able to understand scientism, we must first understand science, for there is no scientism without science.
    While science can be appropriated within a worldview as the premier and most excellent study of
    material phenomena, it does not of itself, and should not, being properly understood, lead to scientism. Scientism is a derivative inherently linked to the scientific method, but one should not be mistook for the other.
    Science is a method of inquiry, scientism is a philosophical outlook.”

    https://amtheomusings.wordpress.com/2010/01/16/the-error-of-scientism-explained/

    Scientism is a reductionist approach.

  26. 26
    kairosfocus says:

    EG, really? Darwinism is routinely used in all sorts of contexts to denote the neodarwinian synthesis and its adherents. It has also been ideologised through association with a priori evolutionary materialistic scientism, as the OP specifically highlights, from a nobel prize winner. You need to read the UD weak argument correctives. As for fundamentalism, it has become so loaded and abusive (and so far removed from its proper historical context of a theological debate with modernists c 1910 – 25) that AP in a recent style guide advised not to use the word unless a group identifies itself by that term. Your turnabout fails. KF

  27. 27
    kairosfocus says:

    JaD,

    You cite Weinberg: ” . . . the universe itself suggests no point.”

    I think that reflects the ideology stated by Monod as cited in the OP.

    On the assumptions, of course there is no point, and one is locked out of asking questions — say, about the inescapable moral government of a certain creature in the cosmos — that might point elsewhere.

    I also suggest that a cosmos set to a deeply isolated operating point that enables C Chem, aqueous medium, terrestrial planet cell based life suggests a bit of pointedness. A point adopted by the man who won the astronomical equivalent, Sir Fred Hoyle.

    He has some interesting remarks, e.g.

    >>[Sir Fred Hoyle, In a talk at Caltech c 1981 (nb. this longstanding UD post):] From 1953 onward, Willy Fowler and I have always been intrigued by the remarkable relation of the 7.65 MeV energy level in the nucleus of 12 C to the 7.12 MeV level in 16 O. If you wanted to produce carbon and oxygen in roughly equal quantities by stellar nucleosynthesis, these are the two levels you would have to fix, and your fixing would have to be just where these levels are actually found to be. Another put-up job? . . . I am inclined to think so. A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a super intellect has “monkeyed” with the physics as well as the chemistry and biology, and there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature. [F. Hoyle, Annual Review of Astronomy and Astrophysics, 20 (1982): 16.]>>

    . . . also, in the same talk at Caltech:

    >>The big problem in biology, as I see it, is to understand the origin of the information carried by the explicit structures of biomolecules. The issue isn’t so much the rather crude fact that a protein consists of a chain of amino acids linked together in a certain way, but that the explicit ordering of the amino acids endows the chain with remarkable properties, which other orderings wouldn’t give. The case of the enzymes is well known . . . If amino acids were linked at random, there would be a vast number of arrange-ments that would be useless in serving the pur-poses of a living cell. When you consider that a typical enzyme has a chain of perhaps 200 links and that there are 20 possibilities for each link,it’s easy to see that the number of useless arrangements is enormous, more than the number of atoms in all the galaxies visible in the largest telescopes. [ –> 20^200 = 1.6 * 10^260] This is for one enzyme, and there are upwards of 2000 of them, mainly serving very different purposes. So how did the situation get to where we find it to be? This is, as I see it, the biological problem – the information problem . . . .

    I was constantly plagued by the thought that the number of ways in which even a single enzyme could be wrongly constructed was greater than the number of all the atoms in the universe. So try as I would, I couldn’t convince myself that even the whole universe would be sufficient to find life by random processes – by what are called the blind forces of nature . . . . By far the simplest way to arrive at the correct sequences of amino acids in the enzymes would be by thought, not by random processes . . . .

    Now imagine yourself as a superintellect working through possibilities in polymer chemistry. Would you not be astonished that polymers based on the carbon atom turned out in your calculations to have the remarkable properties of the enzymes and other biomolecules? Would you not be bowled over in surprise to find that a living cell was a feasible construct? Would you not say to yourself, in whatever language supercalculating intellects use: Some supercalculating intellect must have designed the properties of the carbon atom, otherwise the chance of my finding such an atom through the blind forces of nature would be utterly minuscule. Of course you would, and if you were a sensible superintellect you would conclude that the carbon atom is a fix. >>

    . . . and again:

    >> I do not believe that any physicist who examined the evidence could fail to draw the inference that the laws of nuclear physics have been deliberately designed with regard to the [–> nuclear synthesis] consequences they produce within stars. [“The Universe: Past and Present Reflections.” Engineering and Science, November, 1981. pp. 8–12]>>

    KF

  28. 28
    Ed George says:

    KF

    EG, really? Darwinism is routinely used in all sorts of contexts to denote the neodarwinian synthesis and its adherents.

    I was not talking about how some people use it simply as a generic placeholder for evolution by natural selection. I was referring to the derogatory way in which many IDists use it.

    Fundamentalism has a very clear definition.

    a movement or attitude stressing strict and literal adherence to a set of basic principles

    I would say that most Christians are not fundamentalists. If anyone has highjacked the word “fundamentalist” and given it a negative image it is other Christians, not secular society.

  29. 29
    kairosfocus says:

    EG, fair comment is not derogation, and were the claims of darwinist macro evolution actually well established on actual observations, it would not matter what anyone said: the indisputable observations would be given, what they warrant would be pointed out and the Nobel prizes etc rightly won for such would be put on the table. The problem is, that is not the case, Instead, as the OP documents from a Nobel Prize winner (and as can be backed up again and again from other cases), evolutionary materialistic scientism has been ideologically imposed through grand question-begging. As that is increasingly realised, it will discredit itself, taking down the Darwinist macroevolutionary narrative with it. As, is manifestly happening. So, the challenge is back in your court: the empirical warrant for observed darwinist macro evolution by cumulative chance variation and differential reproductive success leading to descent with observed unlimited variation is ______, this won the following prizes ________ . Indeed, for several years, there has been an open challenge here at UD to provide this case. I put it to you that, absent the sort of imposition of ideological a prioris as we see in the OP, that cannot be done. By utter contrast, on trillions of actually observed cases, FSCO/I is well established as a reliable sign of design as material cause. Further to this, the reason why that is so is readily shown: search challenge to find deeply isolated islands of function in config spaces beyond 500 to 1,000 bits of possibilities, with search for a golden search facing power-set scale, exponentially harder challenges. We have every epistemic right to infer that FSCO/I is an excellent sign of design. That starts with coded information in the core of the living cell, i.e. LANGUAGE. Cosmological fine tuning that sets up a cosmos for C Chem, aqueous medium cell based life is a further case and increments of coded information to account for body plans including our own further underscore the point. KF

  30. 30
    kairosfocus says:

    PS: Fundamentalism has a readily shown historical root (as I linked above), and the longstanding media and academic malpractice and loaded misuse of the term across about a century [for instance, the reporting on the Scopes trial by Mencken et al was dishonest and the movie inherit the wind is even more dishonest, not to mention the trashing of Bryan; some court tactics used do not pass the smell test either, cf. here on] has reached such a proportion that as I noted AP issued style use guidelines to avoid the term save for groups that (for historical reasons tracing to the fundamentalist/ modernist theological debates of the early C20) specifically use the term. It is high time that that longstanding abuse and bigotry were acknowledged and turned from. If you insist on such an abusive term, it entitles us to draw some pretty strong conclusions about ideological closed mindedness and ill-founded contempt on your part. Nor does the fact that swathes of academia, the media and educated elites think that way change that sorry record. In fact, it seems clear to me that that sort of ideological thinking and projection to the despised other — “deplorables” is a current term — is a good part of the ongoing, escalating low kinetic phase of the second American civil war, now in progress as a 4th generation conflict in the face of a peasant uprising on both sides of the atlantic.

  31. 31
    john_a_designer says:

    KF,

    You cite Weinberg: ” . . . the universe itself suggests no point.”

    I think that reflects the ideology stated by Monod as cited in the OP.

    On the assumptions, of course there is no point, and one is locked out of asking questions — say, about the inescapable moral government of a certain creature in the cosmos — that might point elsewhere.

    My key point in citing Weinberg was that he was guilty of a bait and switch. Using his prominence and prestige as a scientist to address one of the big questions which science cannot really answer. Again…

    My conclusion here is very straight forward. If an eternally existing, transcendent Mind (God) is the cause of the universe it has a purpose and meaning. On the other hand, if something mindless and impersonal is the cause the universe, as Hawking and Weinberg et al. personally believe, it is hard to say that there is any real meaning for the universe or our existence. Therefore, science despite the power of applied science (technology) to improve our lives cannot answer the BIG questions. Again, these kind of questions are at their roots philosophical and theological (metaphysical, ontological) questions.

    We could add here that even though “science” can’t answer the big questions it’s perfectly legitimate to make philosophical inference from the science. However again, my point is that a scientist is not anymore qualified to make those kind of philosophical inferences than anyone else.

    But of course, the skeptic could always dismiss the BIG questions as unanswerable and therefore unimportant. That was basically Wittgenstein’s position, at least early on. In Tractatus who wrote:

    Most of the propositions and questions of philosophers arise from our failure to understand the logic of our language. (They belong to the same class as the question whether the good is more or less identical than the beautiful.) And it is not surprising that the deepest problems are in fact not problems at all.

    However, not all modern atheist philosophers agree Wittgenstein here.

    According to Camus, “There is only one really serious philosophical problem and that is suicide. Deciding whether or not life is worth living is to answer the fundamental question in philosophy. All other questions follow from that”

    Up @ #21 I asked the question: “Why is mankind, unlike other mammals, so hardwired to seek purpose and meaning?” There is no doubt that this is one of the questions that Camus was alluding to.

    About fifteen years ago the pastor of a church I was attending at the time related to us, at the beginning of his Sunday morning sermon, his account of a suicide attempt in which he was able to personally intervene and prevent. Earlier the previous week, while he was doing some routine work in his office, he heard a report over the radio that there was a woman on a nearby bridge threatening to jump to her death into the ravine below. Because the bridge was only minutes away he decided to drive over and see if he could do anything to help. After introducing himself to the police, they were willing to let him approach and talk to the woman (pastor Larsen was fairly well known in the community.) After a few long harrowing minutes he was able to quite literally talk her off the ledge.

    What did he say to her? I don’t remember exactly what he said about that. I think to protect her privacy he didn’t go into a lot of detail. Furthermore, his purpose that morning was simply to briefly give his account of what had already been reported in the news. However, as a fellow Christian I can certainly surmise the kind of things he might have said. The Christian faith has answers to feeling of meaninglessness and hopelessness. Are they the right answers? I think there is good reasons to believe that they are. On the other hand, what answers would an atheist have for this woman?

    Camus is to be commended for recognizing the question as a legitimate one. Indeed, it’s one that goes to the very heart of what it means to be human. However, tragically like Wittgenstein, Camus didn’t believe there were any real answers. The fact we’re “hardwired to seek purpose and meaning” is just an absurdity for Camus. So the options are to accept life’s absurdity (just deal with it) or jump off the bridge.

  32. 32
    kairosfocus says:

    JaD, abuse of scientific prestige is a significant, longstanding problem. So is the scientism that imagines that science dominates knowledge. A more responsible approach would recognise that there are phil considerations prior to science and foundational to its legitimacy. KF

  33. 33
    john_a_designer says:

    KF,

    JaD, abuse of scientific prestige is a significant, longstanding problem.

    Actually the terms “prominence and prestige” which I used up above @ #31 are too polite. Pretension and posturing might be closer to the truth. Arrogance and smug condescension are spot on.

    However, at least real scientists like Weinberg, Hawking and Monod really do have (or did have) some public standing. But again that standing as scientists does not qualify them more than anyone else to pontificate on the big questions which are at their heart really philosophical or theological questions.

    The real irrationality is when our regular interlocutors some of whom are for some reason obsessed with this site try over and over again to emulate Weinberg’s et al. smugness. Pretension, posturing, smugness and vacuous assertions are not logical arguments. However, they do waste everyone’s time but maybe that’s their motivation. Unfortunately that’s not good. Indeed, if it’s not nefarious it comes darn close. But maybe again I’m trying too hard to be polite.

  34. 34
    kairosfocus says:

    JaD, to someone in the grips of full blown evolutionary materialistic scientism and/or fellow travellers, there is no serious or substantial or credible body of knowledge beyond science as they see it: Big-S Science is THE ONLY begetter of truth, in Lewontin’s words. So, to them to point to “discredited” things like philosophy and theology is to put yourself outside the pale of people to be taken seriously. That’s why we see some trying to shoehorn Mathematics and Logic into the sciences, and failing. But once you have ideological lock-in, you equally have ideological lock out. Lewontin is blunter than Monod, speaking of Sagan’s demons of our imagination and the like. No wonder, there was for years a lot of pretence that we were “quote-mining” or that this was an idiosyncratic notion or the like. What is on the table now is the declaration of a Nobel Prize winner in the direct context of an epochal book, Chance and Necessity, which was a runaway work of cultural influence and IIRC a big bestseller too. For sure, for years thereafter, people were responding to it or speaking under its shadow. Indeed, the debate over the design inference on reliable observable sign is an extension of the issues put on the table by that book. Those who run with the talking points and poses of their stars, are simply foot soldiers. But, they can often inadvertently tell us a lot about the cultural consequences of the ideas that have been given power. KF

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