Philosophy Science

Touchstone: Scientism’s Progress Narrative FAIL

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Jonathan Witt here:

For instance, through much of the nineteenth century, the scientific consensus was that microscopic life was relatively simple, little more than microscopic sacks of Jell-O. The scientific community also accepted the idea of spontaneous generation—that creatures sprang to life spontaneously out of things like dew and rotting meat. Taken together, these pieces of conventional scientific wisdom suggested that the origin of the first living cell deep in the past was hardly worthy of the term mystery—a material explanation seemed obvious.

But in 1861 Louis Pasteur conducted a series of experiments that discredited the notion of spontaneous generation. And in the next century, scientists began amassing evidence of just how complex even the simplest cell is. Today we know that cells are microminiaturized factories of astonishing sophistication and that, even more to the point, such sophistication is essential for them to be able to survive and reproduce. Matheson himself conceded in his debate with Meyer that no adequate material explanation has been found for the origin of the cell.

In sum: We have come to learn that spontaneous generation was a fantasy. We have discovered that even the simplest cells are highly sophisticated and information-rich organisms. And the only cause we have ever witnessed actually producing novel information is intelligent design. Thus, modern scientific observations have collapsed a long-standing material explanation for the origin of life and simultaneously strengthened the competing design explanation. This development runs directly counter to scientism’s grand narrative.

The usual rejoinder of the Darwin follower, the Christians for Darwin, multiverser and the new atheist is that if we give up on scientism (= someday, somehow we will be able to explain all this away), we are giving up on science.

Which amounts to saying that all they ever knew of science is scientism. Let the record show that.

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13 Replies to “Touchstone: Scientism’s Progress Narrative FAIL

  1. 1
    Jim Smith says:

    The article is available on-line:
    http://www.touchstonemag.com/a.....8-02-040-f

  2. 2
    mahuna says:

    “if we give up on scientism (= someday, somehow we will be able to explain all this away), we are giving up on science.”

    This is silly. Science is about observing events, proposing theories to explain those events, testing the theories as best we can, looking for more data, and then revising the theories to best reflect what we understand. The very LAST thing any scientist would want to do is close off research and debate and new theories because someone believes that we have reached some perfect understanding of what’s going on. Closing debate, as the Communists have frequently done on politics and economics, is about enshrining religious dogma and denouncing heresy.

    It is perfectly reasonable for a scientist to accept Intelligent Design today, conduct some experiments, and then conclude that Darwin was right tomorrow or next week or next year. Why is there such urgency about ending the investigation and discussion?

  3. 3
    Seversky says:

    Spontaneous generation (SG) was a reasonable hypothesis given the limited knowledge of the natural world that existed at the time. The scientists – or, more accurately, natural philosophers – of the time did the best with what they had. There’s no reason to look down our noses at them for not knowing what we now know.

    SG was slowly displaced as a theory by the work of a number of researchers of whom the most prominent were Louis Pasteur and John Tyndall. I need hardly point out that their succeeding explanations were good, solid materialist ones built on good, solid scientific research.

    And while Darwin did not have access to current knowledge about the complex structure of the cell – and it is hardly fair of Witt to imply that Darwin somehow failed in not knowing what we now know – there are passages in his work which show he realized that living things were more complex than he had yet been able to fathom.

  4. 4
    Mapou says:

    mahuna:

    It is perfectly reasonable for a scientist to accept Intelligent Design today, conduct some experiments, and then conclude that Darwin was right tomorrow or next week or next year. Why is there such urgency about ending the investigation and discussion?

    LOL. You people are such expert weavers of lies and deception, I’m having a hard time believing that you are really humans. I don’t think our species is this devious. I can only conclude that you are under the influence of invisible maleficent forces, aliens, demons or what have you. 😀

    “Why is there such urgency about ending the investigation and discussion”, eh?

    This is phreaking amazing. And here I was, wrongly thinking that this is precisely the sort of question that IDers would throw at Darwinists. Mahuna somehow managed to turn the donkey around. IDers are asking, why are you excluding all explanations except naturalistic ones?

    No one and no group has the right to exclude anything until they can answer this question: what is the nature of nature? If you can’t answer this simple question, you are in no position to dictate to others what is naturalistic and what isn’t. Who died and left you in charge?

  5. 5
    rvb8 says:

    Mapou, ‘invisible maleficent forces’? Isn’t that your specialty? As an atheist that possibility is ruled out as we accept that forces beyond nature are untestable and therefore undetectable. But you continue in your fertile efforts to detect the undetectable, we’ll see which avenue proves most productive.

  6. 6
    Mapou says:

    rvb8:

    Mapou, ‘invisible maleficent forces’? Isn’t that your specialty? As an atheist that possibility is ruled out as we accept that forces beyond nature are untestable and therefore undetectable. But you continue in your fertile efforts to detect the undetectable, we’ll see which avenue proves most productive.

    Just tell us the true nature of nature and then, maybe, you might have a leg to stand on. And I don’t mean a definition. I mean a logical explanation that makes sense. Until then, you’re just milking a barren heifer, like a fool.

    As far as untestable forces are concerned, consider that it is your voodoo science that is full of those. Let’s see now: 11 dimensions of string theory, machine consciousness, space, time, spacetime, curved spacetime, dark matter, dark energy, macro evolution by “natural” means, time travel (ask Hawking), multiple universes, cats that are both dead and alive, dirt that gives rise to living organisms just by accident, matter that creates itself from nothing, etc. There are many more superstitious gems where those came from.

    Now, if you potato heads can hypothesize about the existence of things that cannot be observed directly, so can everybody else. Science don’t belong to y’all. Who died and left you in charge?

  7. 7
    Me_Think says:

    The usual rejoinder of the Darwin follower, the Christians for Darwin, multiverser and the new atheist is that if we give up on scientism (= someday, somehow we will be able to explain all this away), we are giving up on science.

    Who cares about their opinion? You should be asking What would ISIS say ?

  8. 8
    Box says:

    Jonathan Witt:
    Today we know that cells are microminiaturized factories of astonishing sophistication and that, even more to the point, such sophistication is essential for them to be able to survive and reproduce. Matheson himself conceded in his debate with Meyer that no adequate material explanation has been found for the origin of the cell.

    Why is that considered “conceding” anything? That no adequate material explanation has been found is simply a matter of fact. Another matter of fact is that no material explanation for the origin of the cell is conceivable.

    Arminius Mignea || powerpoint slides:

    Any OOL credible explanation should provide answers to the following questions:

    How the self describing information (of so many varieties) residing in the SSR originated?
    How the energy generation and transport function originated?
    How the material identification function and the material extraction function originated?
    How the fabrication function originated
    How the transport and manipulation functions originated?
    How the coordinated control of various functions originated?
    How the whole sophisticated design of the SSR originated?

  9. 9
    mike1962 says:

    Seversky: “Spontaneous generation (SG) was a reasonable hypothesis given the limited knowledge of the natural world that existed at the time.”

    There was never a shred of evidence that would have made that a reasonable hypothesis. It was sheer unadulterated ideology that made it “reasonable.” Just like today how the same ideology fills in all the gaping holes within the Modern Synthesis to keep the narrative alive and the just-so stories coming and sounding “reasonable” to the undiscriminating.

  10. 10
    goodusername says:

    mike1962,

    There was never a shred of evidence that would have made that a reasonable hypothesis.

    Both sides of the debate had interesting experimental evidence on their side. Those that believed in spontaneous generation had, for instance, the experiments of Needham and Bastian. Lord Kelvin was undecided on the issue until being convinced that spontaneous generation was false by T. H. Huxley: “I confess to being deeply impressed by the evidence put before us by Professor Huxley, and I am ready to adopt, as an article of scientific faith, true through all space and all time, that life proceeds from life, and from nothing but life.

    I’m not sure what kind of ideology you believe its proponents had.

  11. 11
    mike1962 says:

    goodusername: Lord Kelvin was undecided on the issue until being convinced that spontaneous generation was false by T. H. Huxley:

    Which supports my point, actually.

  12. 12
    Jim Smith says:

    More reasons not to believe promissory materialism … the history of science has plenty of examples where the materialist prejudice did not hold up under the progress of science:

    According to the modern view, ie Darwinian theory, the human mind evolved for survival not truth which means it is not rational to believe anything … including materialism.

    Junk DNA did not remain junk for long, the latest research is finding more and more functions for non-coding DNA.

    Despite fierce resistance at the time, the geological evidence for catastrophic floods reminiscent of the biblical flood story, has been accepted by science to represent catastrophic floods.

  13. 13
    goodusername says:

    mike1962,

    Which supports my point, actually.

    If “there was never a shred of evidence that would have made that a reasonable hypothesis” than I hardly see how someone as knowledgeable as Lord Kelvin (it was a subject he was interested in) could see spontaneous generation as reasonable as late as 1871. This was years after Pasteur’s experiment. It was a far more reasonable hypothesis decades earlier. By the mid 19th century the experimental evidence was pretty clearly on the side of those opposed to SG, but prior to the 19th century I’d say it was pretty even.

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