In a comment to PaV’s recent post about the insurmountable problem the Cambrian Explosion presents for Darwinism, materialist fundamentalist Seversky writes:
the Cambrian Explosion is no longer such a problem for Darwin’s theory
Of course this is nonsense of a high order, which has been refuted 10,000 times including in the very post Sev was commenting on. My point in this post is not to add a 10,001st refutation. Rather, I will discuss how fundamentalists of whatever stripe are able to insulate themselves from what non-fundamentalists would consider glaringly obvious conclusions from the observed data.
Consider two examples:
1. Seversky’s assertion above
2. A Christian fundamentalist who asserts the universe is just a few thousand years old
Neither Sev nor the young earth creationist (“YEC”) care that their assertion is wildly inconsistent with the observed data. Why is that? The answer is really quite simple:
With both, their religious commitments trump the observations.
The YEC’s commitment to a particular interpretation of the Bible compels him to view all evidence through that lens, and if the evidence (from distant starlight for example) seems to contradict the conclusion his religious commitment compels, then so much the worse for the evidence. He will explain (read “explain away”) the evidence that contradicts his conclusion, and he cares not one wit that his explanation is not plausible to anyone who does not share his religious commitments.
Sev’s commitment to a different religious view, namely, metaphysical materialism, compels him to do the same sort of thing. Sev is serenely indifferent to the fact that his assertion is wildly inconsistent with obvious facts. Sev is following in the footsteps of a long line of Darwinian fundamentalists. Robert F. Shedinger recounts how this phenomenon has played out from the very beginning of the Darwinian project:
It is well known that August Weismann became one of the strongest early supporters of Darwin, viewing natural selection as the sole mechanism of evolutionary change (against Darwin who retained a role for Lamarckian mechanisms). But what led to Weismann’s support of natural selection? In an article published in a 1909 anthology marking the 50th anniversary of the Origin of Species, Weismann surprisingly states that his support for natural selection is not based on evidence but on what he calls “quite other grounds.” Later in the essay, these “quite other grounds” become apparent. As Weismann writes, “We must accept it (natural selection) because the phenomena of evolution and adaptation must have a natural basis.” But Weismann freely admits that he cannot bring forth a formal proof of it or calculate the size of variations and their selection-value. He has clearly assumed natural selection for ideological reasons. Evolution must have a naturalistic basis.
There you have it. The religion comes first; the evidence comes second, if it comes at all. For a Darwinian fundamentalist like Sev, Darwinism is simply a logical deduction from his religious commitments. For a YEC, a universe that is only a few thousand years old is simply a logical deduction from his religious commitments.
Sev’s logical deduction allows him to say “the Cambrian Explosion is no longer such a problem for Darwin’s theory.”
The YEC’s logical deduction allows him to say “starlight from the most distant stars is only a few thousand years old.”
And if the rest of us respond to such assertions with palms to our collective foreheads? SEV and the YEC would say that is only to be expected. Since we are wrong about the religion, it not surprising that we are wrong about other things too.
UPDATE: After I posted this it occurred to me that in fairness I should point out that for all their similarities, there is one huge difference between Sev and a Christian fundamentalist. The Christian readily acknowledges his faith commitments and the influence those commitments have on his worldview. In my experience, materialist fundamentalists like Sev are insufficiently self-aware to understand that they even have faith commitments, much less the effect their faith commitments have on the way they filter the data.
SECOND UPDATE: Upon further reflection it occurred to me that some people might read this post as bashing fundamentalists. Allow me to assure you that it is not intended as such. Some of the people dearest to me in the world are fundamentalists. See here for my take on the YEC position. The fundamentalist position (either materialist or Christian) is not necessarily false. Perhaps God really did create the universe with only apparent age. Perhaps the universe sprang into existence spontaneously from nothing. I cannot prove that neither thing happened (though the YEC position does have the advantage of not being logically incoherent and undermining free will and reason itself). My point is a modest one. Given fundamentalist metaphysical premises, fundamentalist conclusions are compelled. And to most fundamentalists (all?), their metaphysical premises trump mere observations.