After the Impossible Hurdle
Evolution is the atheists’ way out. It is his escape clause from having to face the God who created him. People like Richard Dawkins may convince themselves that it makes atheism intellectually respectable, but they must first convince themselves that naturalism is intellectually respectable.
The problem here is that, as in many walks of life, it is possible to arrange our arguments selectively and with rhetorical conviction while ignoring the issues, even the most obvious ones. So if we begin to stack up the problems: – something does not come from nothing; life does not come from non-life; the mathematics of sequence space (not enough time); the contradiction of using target-oriented computer programs to “simulate” discrete non-targeted chance scenarios; the logical fallacies (question-begging, composition, reification), etc., these problems make the intellectual satisfaction appear rather hollow.
But after such matters as these are engaged, there are still more difficulties. One such is irreducible complexity. First posited by biochemist Michael Behe, and, despite rumours to the contrary, not close to being refuted, this observational theory says that function in highly complex systems requires that all the necessary parts are in position and ready to work for the system itself to be what it is. In Behe’s Darwin’s Black Box, he has looked at the incredibly complex engines in the cells and he has shown that the different features of the cell must all have been there at the same time, already manufactured, and ready to do their jobs. The blind non-teleological forces of evolution cannot explain either the design of these complex and minuscule machines, nor can it explain the simultaneity of these parts; each one functioning the way that it should function. Behe uses a by now well known illustration:
Irreducible complexity’ is just a fancy phrase I use to mean a single system that is composed of several interacting parts, where the removal of any one of the parts causes the system to cease functioning. For example, the mousetrap has to have a platform, a catch, a holding bar, a spring, and a hammer in order to function as a mousetrap. – Michael Behe in William Dembski & James Kushiner, eds., Signs of Intelligence, 93
Evolutionists have claimed that since some individual features in these systems are found to do work in other systems, that means evolution could have picked up and selected them to include in a future system. But not only does this fail to address the “irreducible” part of Behe’s argument (as noted by him in an appendix to the 10th Anniversary edition of his book), it also lends evolution a prescience it actually does not have – again showing the proclivity of evolutionists for extrapolation and reification.
Although I am no fan aficionado of Bruce Lipton’s metaphysics, as a pioneer in the study of cell membranes, Lipton discovered that when he placed the same cells in differing environments the cells would develop into different things; flesh, bone, etc. What he found was that it was the membrane which would “tell” the cell what to become!
Doing what comes Naturalistically
As many a scientist will tell you, true science must – I say must – proceed along naturalistic lines. We must seek for natural explanations in the natural world for the phenomena we come across.
Now, on the face of it, the only thing which could be criticized in that sentiment is its doctrinaire flavor. The problem with it is that there are many phenomena which cannot be satisfactorily explained as arising naturally even though they are amenable to observation and experimentation. The method of science should not exclude a priori non-naturalistic explanations, because not invoking God as the Creator and Designer of nature moves the naturalist beyond experimentation and hypothesis testing into metaphysical dogmatism and its resulting blindness. Phillip Johnson well describes the metaphysical fog which methodological naturalism encourages:
Philosophical naturalism is so deeply ingrained in the thinking of many educated people today, including theologians, that they find it difficult even to imagine any other way of looking at things… Even if they do develop doubts about whether such modest forces can account for large-scale change, their naturalism is undisturbed. Since there is nothing outside of nature, and since something must have produced all the kinds of organisms that exist, a satisfactory naturalistic mechanism must be awaiting discovery. – Phillip E. Johnson, “Evolution as Dogma”, in Uncommon Dissent, William A. Dembski, editor, 30.
Under these conditions it is impossible to do what Kepler or Newton or Maxwell or Faraday did, and do good science while leaving a route open where the facts can lead to God (if Carl Sagan believed the facts could lead to aliens why could they not lead to God?). It is exactly this cognitive rut which one so often sees in the reviews of creationist and I.D. books by methodological naturalists of all stripes. The charges, “they don’t understand evolution”, or “this writer doesn’t know how stages of bone-growth [or whatever] follow evolutionary pathways”, etc, show up this often unnoticed slavery of thought. These people cannot conceive of a situation where evolution is wrong or where philosophical naturalism does not equate to doing science.
In his thought-provoking book Science’s Blind Spot, Cornelius Hunter demonstrates that it was aberrant theological assumptions, fueled by natural theology, that installed and sustained the illegitimate reign of naturalism over science in the first place. It was the dysteleology in the world; the imperfections and extinctions, which God had to be protected from. God, it was thought, would not have made the world less than perfect. Therefore, to invoke God would be to connect Him uncomfortably to the “wrongness” of nature. The deistic strain in such thinking should not be lost. Whatever, this was not good theology. As a result of the hardening of this resolve a questionable philosophical tenet has been turned into an established rule of science.
Across the various fields of study, the common requirement is that explanations be naturalistic. And in this grand paradigm there is a grand blind spot. Problems are never interpreted as problems with the paradigm. No matter how implausible, when explanations do not fit the data very well, they are said to be research problems. They must be, for there is no option for considering that a problem might be better handled by another paradigm. – Cornelius G. Hunter, Science’s Blind Spot: The Unseen Religion of Scientific Naturalism, 46
Yet scientific naturalism, Hunter goes on to say,
is not a discovery of science – it is a presupposition of science as currently practiced. – Ibid, 47
And it is a presupposition which, though it now maintains the naturalistic paradigm, cannot in fact support the the scientific enterprise as a meaningful endeavor. In fact, it is the materialist outlook on life and mind that poses perhaps the biggest obstacle to any sound philosophy of science.
In contrast, the Biblical Worldview provides a basis for the uniformity of nature in God’s unchanging character and His covenant with Noah. But it also insists the the existence of the supernatural (God) is the precondition of the natural; that reason must precede unreason because the reverse scenario is impossible, and so non-demonstrable. It has never been experienced by anyone anywhere. This has to do with the laws of information which I shall discuss in the last post. So, something does not come from nothing (law of causality); matter is not eternal (first 2 laws of thermodynamics); life does not come from non-life (law of biogenesis); amino acids cannot thrive in a reduced (oxygen free) atmosphere (2nd law of thermodynamics), but neither can they thrive in a water-based environment (law of hydrolysis). Finally, (though more could be added) reason implies information which cannot come from mindless particles (laws of information). These are laws because they have never been countermanded in our experience.