Thursday, July 03, 2008

Intellectual Freedom and Evolution

Last night I saw "Expelled", a sort-of documentary put out by Ben Stein.

I will first note that many people on my facebook friends list may not like what I have to say, but I ask, if a discussion follows from this, that it be charitable, orderly, and polite.

I found the movie to be quite remarkable. I don't take everything at face value in such films because they have a point to prove and so can, even unintentionally, be very one sided. I don't think this was the case. But I don't think this movie is, per se, out to prove a point, but, I think, to hopefully open up discussion.

The issue is the notion of intelligent design and evolution. But the meta-issue, if you will, is actually intellectual freedom. If America (this is where the movie is based obviously) is a place that promotes freedom, then ought not theories have the ability and freedom to be proposed?

I think that is a fair question to ask, and I think the movie is good in showing that there isn't a discussion happening. Instead, there is power tactics being used by the prevailing view to supress the other view.

I talked with a friend of mine after the movie and I told him "you know, in the past, if an idea has lost weight, it simply falls into the dust of the history pages. No opinion is ever forced out by sheer will power, I cannot think of one example in history". I know people will throw out Galileo almost immediately. But it wasn't for his scientific views that he was repressed, though I would prefer to save this for another article.

Let us, however, take the view of heliocentrism. Once it became a proven scientific fact, the geocentric cosmology slowly whisked its way into the dust of the history books, never to be thought of as a possibility again.

This is where we get to with evolution and intelligent design. If people who hold an evolutionary view of the world are so convinced of their position, then let them have it stand the test against ID. If they are so confident in the conclusions it holds up, then they ought not to fear contrary opinions in the matter. If they are right, ID will fall into the dust of the history books with geocentrism and other such theories.

But there is a deeper issue that lies here. One of the more chilling parts of the movie is the interview with Richard Dawkins, self-appointed apologist for the evolutionary view of the world. Constantly he says he is being more frank then usual in the interview. He later says he was tricked into the interview because it was a different title at the time. Well, first, titles change ALL the time in post-production in Hollywood, that's a pretty weak claim. And besides, they are his views regardless of the movie title. But he says that ultimately, evolution has philosophical implications.

And he is right, it certainly does. This is really the issue with evolution, and with science in general. As time goes on, science is going to eventually have to deal with the fact that philosophy has a role to play to ensure that it is air-tight in its method and intelligible in its implications.

The problem that many evolutionists hold is that science ought to inform your world view, that, in a certain sense, one can say they would even say that it informs your philosophy. But this is a backwards view of science. Science is only science because of philosophy. There are certain philosophical assumptions one needs to make before entering into the scientific realm. Science assumes many things that cannot be observed by the scientific method. One of the core ones is cause and effect. An hypothesis essentially states that a certain effect is going to come about by a certain interaction of objects that is its cause. But one cannot exactly prove the nature of cause and effect. It is not measurable. So how is it that science can take the position as the formater of world views? It needs philosophy to inform it, not the other way around.

The same happens in the realm of first cause. Evolution says it cannot explain "why there is something rather then nothing" and "where everything comes from". This is not measurable according to the scientific method and therefore cannot be answered. Yet evolutionists hold the claim that there is cause and effect, and that the nature of cause and effect presume the nature of a first cause. But this first cause cannot be measured. IDers simply say "a higher form that requires no causation but is self-subsistent is the first cause". This is where the discussion ought to start, but scientists should now step out of the field of this discussion. This is not in the realm of their ability, for now we enter philosophy. Does this first cause have to be an all-powerful all-knowing God, or can it simply be the distant, un-involved First Cause of Aristotle? This is an honest question that deserves honest dialogue, one in which is outside the realm of science.

One thing that has been going on in evolutionary debate has been to determine how it is exactly life started. The problem is, scientists don't seem to truly understand cause and effect which is so central to their discussion. This is because they ought to know that there cannot be an infnite regress in causation, and that if something is to start the ball rolling on the material world, to make matter, then it has to be greater then that which it creates. But they continue down the road of infinite regress, willing to go anywhere but to God. They will go to the backs of crystals, or aliens, but one has to ask "where did the aliens come from, where did the crystals come from?" Again, this is a question they are unable to answer.

And it is not to say that evolution is wrong. I am not making any claims to that whatsoever. What I am claiming, however, is that evolution, if it desires to be respectable in its claims, must begin to understand that philosophy has a role to play. There are various forms of ID as well. I for one am unconvinced by the irreducible complexity argument. It is really, in the end, a gaps theory for science. But I am convinced that there must be a first cause. That is an intellectual assent of abstract principles outside of science because science, ultimately, cannot answer the question. How long has the Earth been here? I don't know. How long have we been here? I don't know? I would call myself to be somewhere in between. But I do continually raise greater and greater doubts with evolution because it is not able to prove anything at all. It is only able to make assumptions of what might have been based on flimsy connective claims that really fall apart quite easily. And its ability to fulfill basic philosophical criteria is increasingly weakening to the point that, if it doesn't answer these basic questions, will no longer be reasonable in any matter whatsoever.

And, in the end, evolutionists say that evolution ultimately leads to atheism, determinism, irrationality, relativism, no ethics, or anything we have come to know in Western Society. I have very good reasons to hold that as well. But I would lengthen this to unacceptable length if I were to explain that here!


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