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From the American Scientist’s bookshelf: An education of sorts

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From the American Scientist’s bookshelf: What more do you need to know about what Darwinism really means to its supporters?

A friend directs me to the American Scientist mag’s bookshelf, which features a number of recent books addressing the intelligent design controversy from a materialist perspective – the reviews are an education in themselves:

Richard Bellon, a books columnist at American Scientist writes , about Michael Ruse’s Darwinism and Its Discontents

The secular skeptics of natural selection form a more heterogeneous group, and, perhaps inevitably, Ruse’s engagement with them lacks the momentum that drives his discussion of creationism. In many cases, as Ruse concedes, critics are responding, understandably if unfortunately, not to Darwin’s core ideas but to the ideological uses to which evolution has been put: “Some dreadful stuff has been fobbed off under the umbrella of evolution, and even when it is not that dreadful, some very shaky assumptions have been incorporated.” His strategy relies on demonstrating that Darwinism, properly understood, does not really stand behind any of the often-noxious philosophies that have claimed its authority. Despite well-documented abuses, Ruse argues persuasively that “there is no good reason to think that . . . the professional side of modern Darwinism . . . is simply an excuse for promulgating the values of modern (or past) society.

That, of course, is nonsense. Modern Darwinism is about materialism – the idea that the mind is an illusion and humans are just big-brained apes. That is the point of it all, rammed home in so many “cutting edge” books, breathless articles, glitzy TV programs, and dodgy textbooks.

As another American Scientist reviewer Robert J Richards, patiently explains, dismissing Francis Collins’ entirely dismissible Language of God ,

Despite Collins’s irenic efforts, the well-confirmed results of modern evolutionary theory and genetics do endanger the faith of the religiously minded. Or at least these results should make their religious convictions more precarious.

Collins maintains, as did Darwin, that the moral impulse is an essential component of our humanity. Yet if our various other human traits—reason, personality, emotional responses and so on—have arisen over the millennia through natural selection (which Collins believes to be the case), why is it that only our moral traits require divine intervention? Does not the ability to do science, to create art and to appreciate the beauty of nature also constitute what it means to be human? If these abilities have evolved, why not also moral judgment?

In other words, all those liberal clergy signing the Darwin pledge (I do! I do! I do! believe in Darwin) and even preach on the subject are useful idiots – at best.

And, of course, there is Michael Shermer, an ex-evangelical, explaining to evangelicals why they should embrace Darwinist materialism. Reviewer James Robert Brown notes,

Shermer is quite aware that he’s in a battle over culture as well as science, so he often tries to soothe the ruffled feathers of Christians, though not with complete success. After attacking intelligent design as utterly silly, he sympathetically quotes the theologian Paul Tillich: “God does not exist. He is being itself beyond essence and existence. Therefore to argue that God exists is to deny him.” This statement strikes me as bordering on nonsense, and it almost inclines me to sympathize with fundamentalists appalled with the blither that often passes for liberal theology.

Well, in my view, anyone who is not appalled by the blither is either clueless or looking for a safe way to sell out.

I've been arguing with my mother about (macro)evolution for nearly 30 years but a year ago I finally said something that dented her certainties. I pointed out that there are sciences that investigate how processes in the natural world are currently working (nomothetic sciences) and that scientists who do that work must, by definition, interpret their data within a naturalistic framework simply because how nature normally operates is what they're investigating. However, there are also areas of study (historical sciences or, maybe, metasciences) that make use of knowledge gained from studies of how natural processes usually work now in an attempt to explain how some particular past event might have happened. In that situation the researcher is under no obligation whatsoever to assume that the particular event must have happened naturalistically because they are not actually doing nomothetic science, they are merely talking about the results of nomothetic scientific research. Imagine a man who became a nuisance to local politicians and religious bigwigs. Between them they orchestrated his execution and had his body sealed up in a tomb but a few days later the tomb was empty and the man's friends were telling everyone he had returned to life. They had seen him, talked to him and touched him. Eventually all of the man's friends were either executed or imprisoned. They could have avoided all that by recanting but they were so convinced that he had been raised from the dead that they chose not to do it. Naturalism has no explanation for that specific historical event. If you have a metaphysical committment to naturalism you'll say the resurrection is impossible. There was either no death or there was no resurrection. But none of us are obliged to accept that naturalism explains absolutely everything that has happened in the past. In the case of this man's death and resurrection (as with the case of the origin and diversification of life) we are entitled to look at all the evidence and make an inference to the best explanation. If the best explanation is that nature is not all there is then so be it. And naturalists should stop trying to impose their religion on the rest of us. Janice
I once sat through a prayer service of several local clergy in which the pastor at the Dutch Reformed Church told us after a long drawn out something, I won't call it a sermon, that he actually believed in God. My jaw dropped in amazement that such an admission was felt necessary to explain his position to those in attendance but after watching these pastors or clerics, from just about every denomination, rush to join the atheist organizers of Darwin Day, nothing amazes me any more. jerry
[...] UD starts sermonizing about a Ruse review, but the issue isn’t materialism. The problem is simple: natural selection isn’t adequate as a theoretical foundation. That’s all. Natural selection is the ideology. [...] Darwiniana » Natural selection as ideology

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