Intelligent Design

How Materialist Fundamentalists Are Like Christian Fundamentalists

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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.

17 Replies to “How Materialist Fundamentalists Are Like Christian Fundamentalists

  1. 1
    Charles Birch says:

    As a layman, I’m not able to understand much of the biological and biochemical evidence on either side of the debate.

    But what I’m baffled by, is this NEED to cling to Darwinian theory as if the very survival of humanity depends upon its acceptance.

    Scientific theories are MODELS of reality; they’re not religious dogma. They’re simply the best working model we have AT THE MOMENT.

    Science history shows that our models are either seriously incomplete, or flat-out wrong, much of the time. What’s the problem with Darwinism being subjected to major overhaul, or even outright dismissal, if accumulating evidence demands it?

    I’ve come to the conclusion that humans need a ‘creation myth’ for their psychological wellbeing; for a sense of how they relate to reality. When Literalist Christianity began to lose its grip, it was defended (and to some extent, is still being defended) to the last.

    But human nature abhors a vacuum, so a new Creation Myth – Darwinism – stepped in to replace it.

    It now appears that Darwinism is increasingly unable to explain the origin and development of life. I think this causes severe psychological distress for many people, especially those who see only a black-and-white choice between Darwinian Theory or a return to Religious Fundamentalism. To these individuals, it seems that if Darwinism fails, we will be back to the Dark Ages of Literalist Religion.

    But WHY?

    I just don’t get it. If Darwinism is failing as a model, we just need a BETTER MODEL – even if that model seems weird or counterintuitive; if it explains the data better, then it’s a better model.

    Who knows? Maybe reality is a simulation (cf. Fredkin, Whitworth, Campbell et. al.); maybe a directed consciousness rather than RM+NS is orchestrating events (Sheldrake et. al.); maybe something altogether different.

    I actually find this EXCITING rather than threatening! At every phase of our scientific discovery, reality has proven to be bigger, more magical, more counterintuitive than we imagine – or, to quote J.B.S. Haldane, “stranger than we CAN imagine”!

  2. 2
    Brother Brian says:

    CB

    But what I’m baffled by, is this NEED to cling to Darwinian theory as if the very survival of humanity depends upon its acceptance.

    But nobody has clung to Darwinian theory. Since Darwin’s time the theory has been modified to account for DNA and genetics, neutral theory, HGT, insertions, transpositions, epigenetics and hundreds of other discoveries. And I am sure that it will continue to be modified into the foreseeable future. That is how good science proceeds.

    Maybe ID will prove to be the best explanation, but not until some mechanisms for actualizing these designs are proposed and tested.

  3. 3
    Barry Arrington says:

    Brother Brian

    But nobody has clung to Darwinian theory.

    Another fundamentalist pronouncement. Thank you BB for illustrating my post in the combox to the post.

  4. 4
    Barry Arrington says:

    Brother Brian

    Maybe ID will prove to be the best explanation, but not until some mechanisms for actualizing these designs are proposed and tested.

    I am sure you will agree that the sentence I just quoted was designed by an intelligent agent. If 100 years from now someone stumbled across your post and believed that “design” was the best explanation for its existence, what “mechanisms for actualizing the[] design[]” would he have to propose and test?

  5. 5
    Charles Birch says:

    BB:

    “The theory has been modified to account for DNA and genetics, neutral theory, HGT, insertions, transpositions, epigenetics and hundreds of other discoveries. And I am sure that it will continue to be modified into the foreseeable future.”

    No doubt it will. The question is, will the overall theory remain robust enough to continue as our best model? Claudius Ptolemy’s geocentric model of the cosmos dealt with anomalies by creating an ongoing series of ‘modifications’ in the form of epicycles. These kept everybody happy for a long time; convinced that the central tenets of their model were still correct. Then, within a few decades, Copernicus, Galileo and Kepler blew the whole model out of the water.

    Maybe Darwinism WILL remain the best model indefinitely; or maybe it will suffer the same fate as geocentric cosmology – which was also upheld as ‘settled science’ for generations. It seemed so obvious, it seemed to fit all the data (a few epicycle twiddles ironed out the bits that didn’t fit), yet it was completely wrong.

    Time will tell. I will watch developments with interest.

  6. 6
    PaV says:

    Brother Brian:

    “The theory has been modified to account for DNA and genetics, neutral theory, HGT, insertions, transpositions, epigenetics and hundreds of other discoveries. And I am sure that it will continue to be modified into the foreseeable future.”

    Indeed, this is true. So true, in fact, that I’ve called Darwinism/evolutionary theory the “Blob”–as in the movie: the Blob absorbs all with which it comes into contact.

    All you have to do, as a Darwinist, is come up with a “Just-So” story. “I can imagine . . . ” Darwin says. Yes, we can all imagine; but that doesn’t make anything so. I can imagine a flying pig; that doesn’t make them appear in real life. So, Neutral Theory, rejected because it contradicted Darwinian theory (Modern Synthesis), is now extolled as the answer to how all the interspecific changes we know about came into existence. Again, the “Blob.”

  7. 7
    ET says:

    Brother Brain:

    But nobody has clung to Darwinian theory.

    All evidence to the contrary, of course. Darwin posited design without a designer. And every mainstream evolutionary scenario since has clung to that main premise. So yes, we now know more about the mechanisms but they are still posited to be blind and mindless, just as Darwin first stated.

    So clearly Brian doesn’t grasp reality.

    Maybe ID will prove to be the best explanation, but not until some mechanisms for actualizing these designs are proposed and tested.

    LoL! Your side doesn’t have any mechanisms that have been tested to show they can produce what we observe. And your side is the mechanistic scenario.

    ID is NOT about any specific mechanisms. We don’t even ask about the specific mechanism until AFTER design has been determined to exist. And with archaeology many artifacts are absent a mechanism. We study the design to hopefully understand the mechanism.

  8. 8
    SmartAZ says:

    It is awfully dreary when someone puts people in named classifications, as if nobody could change and you can only insult and reject them. This is not a useful form of discourse.

  9. 9
    AaronS1978 says:

    Honestly smartaz This is why I didn’t post on this particular OP. And I really do respect everybody on this website Barry Arrington and most of everyone else just not this

    Seversky has some very misplaced points of view, like his blind hate for Christians, but this is not better

  10. 10
    AaronS1978 says:

    Now without jabbing at Seversky I do agree that certain atheists are Indistinguishable from a raging Southern Baptist minister. For shits and grins a while back I took one of Richard Dawkins speeches
    And dubbed the words Darwinism and evolution with the words God and Jesus, I got a big kick out of it but it was very eye-opening to

  11. 11
    tjguy says:

    @2 Brother Brian
    “The theory has been modified to account for DNA and genetics, neutral theory, HGT, insertions, transpositions, epigenetics and hundreds of other discoveries. And I am sure that it will continue to be modified into the foreseeable future.”

    The only thing this shows is that it has been wrong all along. Why should we think that the currently in vogue hypothesis is any better than the past 100 that have had to be “modified” to account for evidence that contradicted it? Evolution is impossible to falsify for this very reason. Any contradictory evidence is just explained away by some kind of a theory modification.

    Now, were any of these “modifications” actually tested? Perhaps some were and have stood the test of time, but many of them are just stories invented to hopefully/possibly explain the unexpected contrary evidence.

    Almost every space mission has run into unexpected evidence that shows the current thinking is wrong. Young planets, young features, etc. And they have been searching for the elusive dark matter for how long now? Why not just allow the evidence to falsify the theory? For all practical purposes, that is what has happened, but the Materialist continues to hold out hope against hope for some future discovery that will validate their faith. What if dark matter just does not exist? Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that it does not exist. What will it take for science to recognize that fact? Will they ever admit that or will they continue to hold out hope for some future discovery? You can’t prove a negative – ie God doesn’t exist. or Dark matter doesn’t exist. But Materialists believe that God does not exist. Why do they believe that dark matter does exist when there is no evidence for it outside of their “theory/hypothesis”? Perhaps the problem is the hypothesis, not the elusiveness of dark matter? I think we need to be open to that possibility rather than remain faithful to the theory at all costs. I think this issue even effects IDers because of their strong faith in the Big Bang – a theory that depends heavily on the existence of dark matter as well as other undiscovered things.

    Anyway, I think we need to be open to the possibility that dark matter does not exist.

    Belief in dark matter is propelled by theory, not evidence.

    https://crev.info/2019/07/belief-in-dark-matter/

  12. 12
    BobRyan says:

    This is true. There is very little to separate Darwinists from young Earthers. In both instances, the evidence does not support the belief. In both instances, evidence is twisted and bastardized to fit their emotional attachments. Both should be asked for the evidence.

  13. 13
    Barry Arrington says:

    SmartAZ

    It is awfully dreary when someone puts people in named classifications

    How dare you classify me as someone who puts people in classifications! How dreary.

  14. 14
    drc466 says:

    So, allow me to provide an opinion from the YEC perspective.
    To expand on the Update to the OP, YEC not only acknowledges that our beliefs are based on a fundamentalist reading of a religious document, we also readily acknowledge that the most straight-forward examination of all available empirical evidence exposes two basic contradictions to a YEC interpretation: distant starlight and radioactive decay. As fundamentalists, like fundamentalist Darwinians, we seek to provide theoretical explanations for the discordant data (e.g. “white-hole cosmogeny”). Unlike fundamentalist Darwinians, we do not try to pretend such discordancies don’t even exist, or that YEC is “as much a law as the law of gravity”.
    Somewhat OT: And, yes, our belief system isn’t particularly bothered by these two discrepancies, for the simple reason that all available empirical evidence does not lead to a single consistent conclusion from the data. Quick: on a piece of paper, list all of the empirical evidence that gives you a result of 4.5by for earth (and the solar system)’s age, and all of the empirical evidence that gives you a result of approx 14by for the universe. Now list all the other measures of age that don’t match. If you’re being honest: which list is longer?
    The good part about being YEC is that, unlike materialist evolutionists, as new discoveries are made, from biology to cosmology, we see more evidence for our position, rather than having to add epicycles like dark matter, punc eq, neutral theory, iron-bonding, oort clouds, etc., etc. Junk DNA? nope. Vestigial Organs? nope. Young active planets? yup. Living fossils? yup. Original biomatter in “ancient” life? yup. Massively complex genetics? yup. Genetic burden? yup. And so on. Contrary to popular misconception and Evolutionist propaganda, we don’t have to “bastardize” evidence, nor do we object to any type of scientific exploration and experimentation, as they solidify our position, not falsify it. Think about it – what was the last time you actually heard about a discovery that evolutionists trumpeted as “falsifying creationism!”? Getting fewer and farther between, aren’t they? When was the last time you read a book against creationism that didn’t come down to, “well, God wouldn’t have done it that way!”. Now you just get to hear about “third ways”, and “biofilms”, and “expanded Cambrian age”, and other attempts to explain why empirical evidence doesn’t somehow contradict Evolution.
    Personal anecdote: I’m old enough to remember debating evolutionists on a Compuserve topic board back in the late ’80s. 30 years later, the objections to YEC are still the same (distant starlight/radioactive decay), while our increase in knowledge and experimentation has only strengthened the YEC position. Can’t wait to see what the next 30 years brings!
    P.S. Just out of curiosity – if anyone has empirical evidence that inherently disputes the YEC view beyond the two listed above, I’d be interested to hear it. I might be forgetting something.

  15. 15
    ET says:

    Day-age Creation is also based on a fundamentalist reading of religious documents.

    What evidence supports a 6,000 year old earth? What evidence supports a 12,000 year old earth? Or better yet, what does YEC say is the age of the earth?

  16. 16
    ET says:

    FYI- Dr. Humphries “Starlight and Time” does an excellent job at explaining/ accounting for an old universe with a relatively very, very young Earth. So distant starlight has been dealt with, scientifically, with respect to YEC.

    But there are still issues with a 6,000-12,000 year old earth, ie the timeframe claimed by YEC.

  17. 17
    drc466 says:

    ET – You are absolutely correct, only a literal interpretation of Genesis would lead one to a belief in a 6-12Ky old earth. And, as indicated, on the face of it distant starlight/radioactive decay are significant problems for that view. You could possibly add ice cores and other such measurements as well – if you are also willing to admit that those calculations of age include arbitrary assumptions and don’t get you anywhere near 4.5By. However, a straightforward reading of creation + global flood fits pretty nicely with the available empirical evidence regarding the recorded history of humanity, the features of the earth, the fossil record, the presence of C14, etc.
    My point was mostly that YEC recognizes and admits the conflicting evidence, and works on providing theoretical explanations for it. Whereas you’ll never get an Evolutionist true believer to admit that the young sun, C14 everywhere, original biomass, active planet, missing links in the fossil record, Cambrian explosion, convergent evolution, impossibility of abiogenesis, etc., etc. are problems. Most of the time they’ll try to explain how a) doesn’t exist you’re making it up, or b) I’ve got a great just-so story for that, and c) really, it all supports the Theory!

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