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“It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming!” — Nobel Prize holder Charles Townes on design thought and anti-evolutionism, in light of Michael Shermer in Sci Am on “the standard scientific theory” of evolution

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What on earth does the title of a famous Good Friday Sermon have to do with the ID controversy? (Even, come Easter Sunday morning . . . )

A lot.


As I was reading and thinking about Dr Torley’s latest amazing UD series and some of UD’s ever so fascinating comments [one of the best features of UD is comments], I was led to look at the Dr Townes story, and related matters.

One of the findings is how Dr Townes, a Nobel Prize holder for physics, turns out to be a cosmological design thinker who actually supports intelligent design in an evolutionary framework [i.e. pretty similar to Wallace, co-founder of modern evolutionary theory], but sees ID as anti-evolutionism.

It’s worth pausing to clip an article in which he was interviewed, after all, this is a Nobel Prize holder in the senior science speaking out in support of design theory:

[Townes:] Science and religion have had a long interaction: some of it has been good and some of it hasn’t. As Western science grew, Newtonian mechanics had scientists thinking that everything is predictable, meaning there’s no room for God – so-called determinism. Religious people didn’t want to agree with that. Then Darwin came along, and they really didn’t want to agree with what he was saying, because it seemed to negate the idea of a creator. So there was a real clash for a while between science and religions.

But science has been digging deeper and deeper, and as it has done so, particularly in the basic sciences like physics and astronomy, we have begun to understand more. We have found that the world is not deterministic: quantum mechanics has revolutionized physics by showing that things are not completely predictable. That doesn’t mean that we’ve found just where God comes in, but we know now that things are not as predictable as we thought and that there are things we don’t understand. For example, we don’t know what some 95 percent of the matter in the universe is: we can’t see it – it’s neither atom nor molecule, apparently. We think we can prove it’s there, we see its effect on gravity, but we don’t know what and where it is, other than broadly scattered around the universe. And that’s very strange . . . .

People are misusing the term intelligent design to think that everything is frozen by that one act of creation and that there’s no evolution, no changes. It’s totally illogical in my view. Intelligent design, as one sees it from a scientific point of view, seems to be quite real. This is a very special universe: it’s remarkable that it came out just this way. If the laws of physics weren’t just the way they are, we couldn’t be here at all. The sun couldn’t be there, the laws of gravity and nuclear laws and magnetic theory, quantum mechanics, and so on have to be just the way they are for us to be here.

Some scientists argue that “well, there’s an enormous number of universes and each one is a little different. This one just happened to turn out right.” Well, that’s a postulate, and it’s a pretty fantastic postulate – it assumes there really are an enormous number of universes and that the laws could be different for each of them. The other possibility is that ours was planned, and that’s why it has come out so specially. Now, that design could include evolution perfectly well. It’s very clear that there is evolution, and it’s important. Evolution is here, and intelligent design is here, and they’re both consistent . . . .

People who want to exclude evolution on the basis of intelligent design, I guess they’re saying, “Everything is made at once and then nothing can change.” But there’s no reason the universe can’t allow for changes and plan for them, too.People who are anti-evolution are working very hard for some excuse to be against it. I think that whole argument is a stupid one. Maybe that’s a bad word to use in public, but it’s just a shame that the argument is coming up that way, because it’s very misleading. [” ‘Explore as much as we can’: Nobel Prize winner Charles Townes on evolution, intelligent design, and the meaning of life,”  Bonnie Azab Powell, NewsCenter, Univ of California, Berkely,  17 June 2005]

It’s also worth looking at his Wiki bio, to see how they predictably duck the issue:

Science and religion

A member of the United Church of Christ, Townes considers that “science and religion [are] quite parallel, much more similar than most people think and that in the long run, they must converge”.[2] In 2005, he was awarded the Templeton Prize for “Progress Toward Research or Discoveries about Spiritual Realities.”

We all know how the debate over design is being misframed, but, I thought, why is that so.

A bit of puttering around led me to a fascinatingly and inadvertently revealing 2002 article by Michael Shermer of Skeptic Mag, writing in Sci Am, under the rubric: “The Gradual Illumination of the Mind: The advance of science, not the demotion of religion, will best counter the influence of creationism.”

The money extract is:

In one of the most existentially penetrating statements ever made by a scientist, Richard Dawkins concluded that “the universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.” [–> Do we not see here the naked amorality of the ideology of evolutionary materialism on public display, a warning for all those able to discern the implications of amorality?]

Facing such a reality [–> Notice, the echo of Lewontin, on how such ideological evolutionary materialism is “reality”], perhaps we should not be surprised at the results of a 2001 Gallup poll confirming that 45 percent of Americans believe “God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so”; 37 percent prefer a blended belief that “human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God guided this process”; and a paltry 12 percent accept the standard scientific theory that “human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God had no part in this process.” [–> notice the ideologisation of origins science, the concern that the majority of the public does not agree, and the correlation of the numbers who believe this “standard” view with the roughly 10 – 15% of the US public who would have agreed to atheism at the time? (And, yes I am freely using highlight colours and emphases to draw our attention to things we need to see and focus on. This is too important to let silly objections  block us from highlighting and thinking seriously about serious matters. And yes folks, some of the objector sites want to make that a point of dismissive attack! One objector actually went as far as putting he word colours in rainbow colours . . . )]

I replied, and I think  it is worth headlining as a UD post, as the just above clip is ever so revealing on what is still going on in the name of science and science education, as well as what so often happens to those who blow the whistle on this ideological imposition.

>>. . . demonstrably, this is an a priori Lewontinian ideological, philosophical materialistic view imposed on the science, not a properly objective scientific view. So, if “evolution” is so understood/defined by many who are spokesmen for “Science,” who can then properly object that many people will for good reason reject this imposed materialist ideology and so find themselves labelled “anti-evolution,” if that is the “standard” scientific definition.

It is time to cleanse the halls of science of materialist ideological hucksters posing as leaders of science and enlighteners of the public in the name of science!

(And yes, I am quite deliberately echoing a pivotal event of Passion Week; the decisive confrontation with the elites of the time, who had taken respected institutions and manipulated them to serve their agendas. In short, part of the legacy of Jesus, is that he is a prophetic voice against the corruption of hallowed institutions, and the sort of behind closed doors manipulations and scheming that are then often used in whistleblower retaliation. And yes, the events of Good Friday as we just remembered them, are the ultimate case of whistleblower retaliation. Of course, that was Friday, but Sunday was coming. And, every hated cross on every spire that some are so eager to take down is a reminder of what so often happens to whistleblowers on Friday; but Sunday always comes in the end.)

It’s Friday, but Sunday is coming!>> END

Hi kairosfocus, The precedence of mind (we won't bully them by coining and introducing a term, such as 'mind-soul complex...') over matter rather ties in, it seems to me, with my contention that physics indicates that light, the Absolute, is the reference frame of space-time, rather than space-time being the primordial reference-frame of everything else. Axel
Hi Axel: Been busy elsewhere. Something is cooking, as we can see from two books at OUP: Nagel:
Mind and Cosmos Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False Thomas Nagel OUP USA [upcoming Nov 2012] . . . . In Mind and Cosmos Thomas Nagel argues that the widely accepted world view of materialist naturalism is untenable. The mind-body problem cannot be confined to the relation between animal minds and animal bodies. If materialism cannot accommodate consciousness and other mind-related aspects of reality, then we must abandon a purely materialist understanding of nature in general, extending to biology, evolutionary theory, and cosmology . . . An adequate conception of nature would have to explain the appearance in the universe of materially irreducible conscious minds, as such. No such explanation is available, and the physical sciences, including molecular biology, cannot be expected to provide one.
--> Author of What it is like to be a bat? --> HT, CH. Plantinga:
Where the Conflict Really Lies Science, Religion, and Naturalism Alvin Plantinga [Feb 2012, sold out] . . . . Plantinga examines where this conflict is supposed to exist -- evolution, evolutionary psychology, analysis of scripture, scientific study of religion -- as well as claims by Dan Dennett, Richard Dawkins, and Philip Kitcher that evolution and theistic belief cannot co-exist. Plantinga makes a case that their arguments are not only inconclusive but that the supposed conflicts themselves are superficial, due to the methodological naturalism used by science. On the other hand, science can actually offer support to theistic doctrines, and Plantinga uses the notion of biological and cosmological "fine-tuning" in support of this idea. Plantinga argues that we might think about arguments in science and religion in a new way -- as different forms of discourse that try to persuade people to look at questions from a perspective such that they can see that something is true. In this way, there is a deep and massive consonance between theism and the scientific enterprise.
--> The guy who decisively answered the logical form of the problem of evil When you got two philosophers at that level on your case at the same time, in Oxford U Press, that is a serious sign that the tide is shifting decisively. KF kairosfocus
What may be necessary to definitively destroy the patent absurdity of materialism as the received wisdom (any kind of wisdom) would be a coming together of some of the most distinguished of all living IDers to make the point that the logic of mathematics is not negotiable. And that, consequently, not only would it have been impossible for chance to be the agent of Creation, as adduced by its proponents, but it is, as pointed out by Pauli, a deeply dishonest and vapid argument, intellectually: “In discussions with biologists I met large difficulties when they apply the concept of ‘natural selection’ in a rather wide field, without being able to estimate the probability of the occurrence in an empirically given time of just those events, which have been important for the biological evolution. Treating the empirical time scale of the evolution theoretically as infinity they have then an easy game, apparently to avoid the concept of purposesiveness. While they pretend to stay in this way completely ‘scientific’ and ‘rational’, they become actually very irrational, particularly because they use the word ‘chance’, not any longer combined with estimations of a mathematically defined probability, in its application to very rare single events more or less synonymous with the old word ‘miracle’.” Fred Hoyle apparently went a considerable way towards remedying this "sleight of mind", with his probability (impossibility) calculation, cited in vjtorley's article here, today, Seven Nobel laureates in science.... 'In his 1982/1984 book Evolution from Space (co-authored with Chandra Wickramasinghe), Hoyle calculated that the chance of obtaining the required set of enzymes for even the simplest living cell was one in 10^40,000. Since the number of atoms in the known universe is infinitesimally tiny by comparison (10^80), Hoyle argued that even with a whole universe full of primordial soup, blind processes would have little chance of producing life. He claimed: “The notion that not only the biopolymer but the operating program of a living cell could be arrived at by chance in a primordial organic soup here on the Earth is evidently nonsense of a high order.”' In the final paragraph of Torley's article on Hoyle, Torley points out that Hoyle's pivotal point of mathematics has, indeed, been confirmed by the Australian biologist, Stephen Jones, who defended Hoyle's "tornado in a junk-yard" assertion: "Regarding the charge that Hoyle was misinformed on matters relating to biology, when putting forward his “tornado-in-a-junkyard” argument, the Australian biologist Stephen Jones has defended Hoyle’s competence in an article on his blog, CreationEvolutionDesign, entitled, Re: Fred Hoyle about the 747, the tornado and the junkyard (October 17, 2008). I would like to point out, however, that much more up-to-date calculations of the likelihood of a functional protein originating by chance are now available, thanks to the pioneering work of Dr. Douglas Axe. These results, which I shall discuss in a future post, bear out the broad thrust of Hoyle’s probability estimates, and show that even the formation of a single protein on the primordial Earth – let alone a living cell – would have been astronomically improbable, and tantamount to a miracle." And while on the subject of the materialists' desperation to quash any theistic assumption from scientific consideration, surely the proven precedence of mind over matter in physics points unequivocally to a personal God. Axel
F/N: The title of Shermer's Sci Am article, "The Gradual Illumination of the Mind," seems to be an allusion to a revealing October 13th, 1880 letter by Darwin:
. . . though I am a strong advocate for free thought [--> NB: free-thought is an old synonym for skepticism, agnosticism or atheism] on all subjects, yet it appears to me (whether rightly or wrongly) that direct arguments against christianity & theism produce hardly any effect on the public; & freedom of thought is best promoted by the gradual illumination of men’s minds, which follows from the advance of science. It has, therefore, been always my object to avoid writing on religion, & I have confined myself to science. I may, however, have been unduly biassed by the pain which it would give some members of my family [--> NB: especially his wife, Emma], if I aided in any way direct attacks on religion.
Looks, sadly, more like we are having ideological en-darken-ment to me. KF kairosfocus

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