Philosopher Neil Thomas points out how neuroscience today has undermined a purely materialist account of the mind — an unexpected role but that’s what happened.
Thomas: Recent advances in biological science, a subject formerly proclaimed to be corrosive of metaphysical beliefs have somewhat unexpectedly become a stimulus to the emergence of new advances which endorse many of the older observations of natural theology. As astronomer Paul Davies remarked some four decades ago, “It may seem bizarre, but in my opinion science offers a surer path to God than religion.”
Neil Thomas: Without an “abiogenetic moment” Darwin’s entire theory of evolution via natural selection falls flat.
Here’s a thought: If your origin of life theory works, can we reverse engineer the conditions to produce life from non-life today? If we can’t, that doesn’t prove your theory false. After all, it is very difficult to demonstrate that something “couldn’t have” happened under any circumstances whatever. But you must now rejoin the queue in your previous place…
Neil Thomas: Surprising as it may seem today, Darwin was seen by Kingsley and others as making a contribution to theological understanding every bit as important as his contribution to biology.
Imagine any of that being tolerated today. Even Alfred Russel Wallace, co-theorist of natural selection was sidelined for doubts about atheist materialism.
Darwinism was never very good at explaining the world of nature as such. It provided a fashionable basis for atheism in a world otherwise dominated by finely tuned laws. Thomas provides a fine tour of the nineteenth century in which that was just the thing many were looking for.
Thomas: The shaky logical basis of Darwin’s thinking has not gone entirely unremarked. The notion of a supposedly unintelligent yet remarkably independent “self-evolving” biosphere (like the postulation of a self-creating cosmos) presents, when dispassionately considered, an offense to logic great enough to invite attempts to square the circle.
It’s a religion without the transcendent hitch. That’s the main reason that so many people today are impervious to the fact that illustrations of Darwinism are often just nonsense barked in Darwin’s name.
Anyone familiar with popular science writing on evolution will see what Thomas means here. Darwinism is introduced as a hypothesis/theory but then treated as a dogma/article of faith — and (this is emotionally very important) a way of segregating the Smart People from the Yobs and Yayhoos. Appeals to science-based analysis fall on deaf ears because the dogma has become what “science” now means.
The thing about such models is that they receive a great deal of social support and a person who diligently enquires into the evidence, exposing defects, is treated with — at best — suspicion. Not a healthy situation for honest inquiry.
One way of looking at it: Darwinism enabled thinkers to retain the thought of Epicurus and Lucretius when, in general, the thinkers themselves were forgotten.
Here’s a question: Given what we (hope we) know today about the origin and development of life forms, would anyone today propose neo-Darwinism (natural selection) in any of its forms as an explanation – if they hadn’t already had to accept it anyway in order to get to where they are today?
One wonders what sharp 18-century thinkers – the type of people who wrote the U.S. Constitution, for example – would have made of the multiverse, string theory, or the notion that human consciousness arose as an aid to hunting in groups.
Thomas: “Here I will make the attempt to drill down even further to the root causes of what appeared to be the Western world’s unprecedented rejection of tried-and-tested philosophers and scientists such as Aristotle, Cicero, Plato, and the physician Galen in a strange capitulation to “out there” philosophic fantasists like Epicurus and his Roman disciple, Lucretius.” Darwin came along and made it all sound like… modern science!