Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Darwin vs Intelligent Design Update

                                      Darwin vs Intelligent Design Update
        In a recent edition of the morning paper, they excerpted some statements from Judge Jones’ ruling against intelligent design.  I think it is worth examining some of the statements he made in his decision.
         “Just because scientists cannot explain today how biological systems evolved does not mean that they cannot, and will not, be able to explain them tomorrow.”  This is not the statement of one who is willing to let ideas collide in a public forum.  This statement is an affirmation of faith and is just as religious in nature as any statement made by proponents of “intelligent design”.  What the judge is saying is that he is so convinced in the truth of his faith that competing ideas do not even deserve a hearing.
          Since the scientific revolution of the 16th and 17th centuries, “science has been limited to the search for natural causes to explain natural phenomena”.  In fact , science explains nothing.  Where it has been successful is in the prediction and control of natural phenomena.  We have made amazing strides in technology, we can harness the atom, we can produce electricity, and manufacture all kinds of interesting toys like the computer on which I am writing this.  Try asking a physicist “just exactly what is electricity?”  The answer is nobody knows. We can use it, we can make it, we can distribute it, but exactly what it is from “a thing in itself” standpoint is unknown.  In fact, there is not one major scientific theory from the Big Bang, to relativity theory, to quantum theory that does not contain serious flaws and internal contradictions.  Scientific discovery has great utilitarian value and offers explanations of natural phenomena that are more accurate than “the gods are mad at us”, but does not come close to answering fundamental questions about the nature of existence.  In fact, the more science “learns” about the nature of reality, the more it presents us with paradoxes and other unresolvable inconsistencies.
        So when we read about the ongoing debate between Darwin and intelligent design, just what are the underlying issues at stake?
        Right now there are two mutually exclusive philosophies fighting for the “hearts and minds” of Americans and “the West” in general.  One is existentialism.  This is the notion that existence is the product of a random act and is essentially meaningless.  Whatever meaning we impute to existence is purely a matter of perception and our need to form some kind of order from the chaos around us.  Such concepts as truth, justice, beauty etc. have no independent existence apart from our perception of them.  In its extreme form we have solipsism , whereby nothing exists independently of our perceptions.  It also obviously leads to cultural and moral relativism.
         The opposite of existentialism is teleology.  This is the view that the creation of the universe was not a random act, that in fact the universe has meaning, and that truth and justice are independent principles that exist separate and apart from our perception of them.  This leads to notions of moral absolutism.
          What is currently of interest is that the proponents of the existential viewpoint are now telling us that teleology and science are “incompatible”.  This is interesting because at one time the “Theory of Evolution” was once considered to be evidence for teleology.  It is obvious to almost everyone that any number of methods can be used to order living things into a hierarchy progressing from low to high and it appears that evolution always moves in this direction.  (If the existential view is correct, one would expect to find examples of “devolution” whereby a more highly evolved life form whose ecological niche is threatened devolves into a simpler, but more robust form.)  Since either one of these views can serve as a basis for scientific inquiry, the question is why those who adhere to the existential view have become so determined to denounce and denigrate the teleological view?  Teleological views can no longer be discussed in public schools, they are denounced as unscientific, and are considered unworthy of being debated.  I believe the answer lies in the current changes taking place in American politics and society.
        Over the years, the United States has been evolving into a society where more and more of the political power and economic wealth of the society is being concentrated into the hands of fewer and fewer people.  Already, large numbers of people have become dependent on either the government or a large corporation for their economic and emotional well-being.  In order for the few to control the many, it seems they are now making plans for these same institutions to be the font of moral and spiritual guidance.  If one takes the existential view, there really is no alternative to counterbalance the moral authority of the state.  The teleological view represents an alternative to the power of the state and provides people with the moral courage to resist totalitarianism.  It appears that the methodology chosen to eliminate the teleological view is a combination of ridicule, anti-intellectualism, and the judiciary.
        If you are wondering what kind of world we are fashioning for ourselves, there are two societies in recent memory where the existential view prevailed to the point where people became dependent on the state for moral and spiritual guidance; Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia.                                     

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