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Notes on 'Evolution as Dogma: The Establishment of Naturalism'

originally posted 02.26.2004, but revised slightly on 08.04.2006 by James Beck

Does Evolution remove the need for a god?

I started reading the article, Evolution as Dogma, and was generally agreeing with what the author had to say until I got to the middle. The first part of this essay will counter statements I found to be incorrect. The second part will deal with the concept of God having no ability to be a part of the Evolutionary theories, and is the part you should jump down to if you don't want to read this whole thing.

Part 1

Starting with quotes pulled from Evolution as Dogma: The Establishment of Naturalism, we begin.

This naturalist version of balanced treatment is not a genuine attempt at a fair accommodation of competing worldviews, but a rhetorical maneuver. It enables naturalists effectively to label their own product as fact and its rival as fantasy, without having to back up the decision with evidence.

Of course, Naturalists do not label their own product as fact. Science is not fact; it is a process to gather evidence that supports theories. The important part of science is the process. A reasonable portion of what is taught in science class, is the outcome of a process carried about by scientists; to function (I assume) as examples of the process. Natural selection (and its secondary theory, evolution of man) is taught in schools not to give students an answer to the question 'How was our world created?', but rather 'How did someone come up with this theory, and how should you go about creating theories of your own?' In other words, ‘How does this process lead to a logically valid conclusion, based on the evidence?’

Science is not fact; it is a process to gather evidence that supports theories.

The creationist theory, on the other hand, was not derived by a logical or scientific (as it is defined by a scientist) process, but rather by a belief (however powerful or true) made on the basis of several strangely socially valid assumptions. 1. The creationist story in the Bible is literal. 2. The creationist interpretation of the story is the Truth, and all others are faulty. Which brings us to 3. Creationists have more validity in THEIR interpretation, than to any other interpretation, despite the lack of any evidence at all that they are more correct.

I find it very hard to come to terms with these three assumptions. The creationist story may be true, but it may also be true that God created the world last week, and made us all believe that we have been living for much longer. It’s really a non-argument. And to say that the decision to teach science with evolution was done “without having to back up the decision with evidence”, is ludicrous. The authors own article is riddled with such evidence. It’s not proof, of course, but it can certainly not be considered anything less than evidence.

Lewontin's basic point is valid. The "fact of evolution" is an instrument of cultural domination and it is only to be expected that people who are being consigned to the dustbin of history should make some protest.

Holy crap, you gotta be kidding me. The author seems to be suggesting that two cultural sides have been taken: those that believe in evolution, and those that believe in Creationism. He then says that belief in evolution is dominating because it is a tool used to dominate. Why?

Lewontin thus saw creationism as falsified not so much by any discoveries of modern science as by universal human experience, a thesis that does little to explain either why so absurd a notion has attracted so many adherents or why we should expect it to lose ground in the near future.

The ability of a theory based in belief to create a following, is nothing new. A cult collects members by creating a believable story. A cult has only a limited number of members, since the number of members must be proportional to the ability of the story to be interpreted as truth. An obviously false ‘Christian’ story that blatantly contradicts the Bible would receive only a few believers. A false ‘Christian’ story contradicted only by deep knowledge of the Christian faith, would receive many more; but only those who were ignorant of their own faith, or who did not have the ability to comprehend the faith. A similar behavior is true of the Creationist story, since those who believe it are ignorant of the laws of nature, or do not have the ability to comprehend them. It is a very believable view of the world that is impossible to disprove with the Christian faith; a strong indication that Christians themselves are the most susceptible to the belief of the Creationist story.

It is very difficult (but perhaps not impossible) to show scientific evidence for the fallacy of the Creationist story. Unfortunately, in order to convince a Creationist that such evidence exists to make the Creationist laughable (not disproven, just a silly notion to take seriously), considerable study must be undertaken by the Creationist. Science theory and techniques are very generally learned by a college graduate in 4 years. It takes a specific focus, and many more years of study, before they are truly understood in practice. I suggest that the majority of creationists are not doctors of biology.

And after all the highly improbable arguments that dismiss the value of evidence for evolutionary theory, Creationists are still not disproving evolutionary theories. They are simply saying evolutionary theory does not describe how our world was created. Instead, the world was created exactly the way it is written in the 2004 version of the NIV Bible.

That says nothing. It proves nothing. The only evidence for such a theory is built under the assumptions I listed above; it sits squarely on the shoulders of no process other than anyone reading the first few chapters of Genesis. That is hardly anything with substance enough for submission into a classroom outline. What would that teach?

The Creationist theory will loose ground if one or both of two possibilities occurs. 1. More people become educated about scientific process. If someone studies the process for collecting the data that says some bones are far older than 6,000 years, and understands how it works, they will not believe in Creationism. If this was the case, the process for said bone analysis would have been disproved, because the Creationist Believer would have found a flaw in the process. No such flaw has been found, to my knowledge. And as evidence for the validity of my knowledge, scientists continue to use the process. The second possibility for the dismissal of the Creationist theory is that more evidence is found that strongly rebukes the idea that life was formed only within the last 6,000 years. The evidence must be easily understood by, as the article terms them, “rural people”, but more accurately, ‘people who put more weight on belief than on scientific principal’.

Persons who want naturalistic evolution to be accepted as unquestioned fact…

That is not the goal of a person who wishes naturalistic evolution to be taught and understood. Again, science is never unquestioned fact; ever.

First […] they insist as a matter of first principle that no consideration whatever be given to the possibility that mind or spirit preceded matter.

‘Matter’ is verifiable by another party. Mind and spirit, as far as we understand how to interpret them, is not. If a creationist were to develop a method for finding the ‘real’ age of a very old bone, it could be verified by testing it on a bone of a known age. The process could be used by anyone, in any part of the world, with any religion, and the results would be the same. Not true with a belief.

Second, they can impose a rule of procedure that disqualifies purely negative argument, so that a theory which obtains some very modest degree of empirical support can become immune to disproof until and unless it is supplanted by a better naturalistic theory.

Is the author suggesting that a valid argument for the theory “Ducks go quack”, is “No they don’t, because I believe they don’t.”?

Is anyone else laughing?

It is as if a judge were to tell a defendant that he may not establish his innocence unless he can produce a suitable substitute to be charged with the crime.

This is wrong. Even if I allow the obviously intentional negative connotations of this analogy, it would truthfully not be stated as the author has done. A correct version could state: “It is as if a judge were to tell a defendant, charged with a crime due to some reasonable evidence, that he may not be judged innocent unless either the evidence were proven faulty, or a substitute that carries far greater evidence were to be found.” As of yet, Creationists have not disproved evidence for the evolutionary theory. So unless they can provide good evidence for their own theory, their theory must not be allowed to replace the current evolutionary theory.

That scientists can learn a good deal about the behavior of electrons and bacteria does not prove that they know how electrons or bacteria came into existence in the first place.

The two are related in that the process used to discover the behavior of electrons and bacteria are the same used to examine the way in which the living behaves. It is very important to understand that the theory of evolution is only that: a theory. It is not a proof, nor is it a fact. The existence of natural selection is fact (it can be proven logically), but that does not mean that natural selection was the way in which the world came to be; only that it exists in the world at the current time. Evolution generally states that natural selection was the instrument with which current living things came to be. Again, it is not a proof. It is only a theory.

Part 2

Lastly, some kind of comment must be made on the nature of the article in its entirety. There is more than one occasion in which the author states “A "creationist" is not necessarily a biblical literalist, but rather any person who believes that God creates.” He makes a point that goes something like this: A person who believes in evolution must not believe that God had anything to do with it, because “evolution… …is a grand metaphysical system that contradicts any meaningful notion of creation, because it leaves the Creator with nothing to do”.

Evolution theory does not remove God from creation!

It is a curious claim. Let us suppose that we have been blinded in such a way that the only thing we can see is a nail balanced on its end in a piece of wood, and the end of a hammer positioned above the nail. The nail has not pierced the wood, but only rests on it. Suddenly, the hammer falls and knocks the nail into the wood. We see this happen time and time again. From what we can tell, falling hammers cause nails to go into wood. A few days pass, and we shockingly discover that we are a nail! In fact, we are buried in the wood! So what is our logical conclusion? We have come to be in the wood, because the hammer has fallen on our heads and knocked us into the wood.

It is the ignorant view that the hammer falling on nails must be the entirety of the world, and that there is no room for an Operator of the hammer. We have no capability, no sight; no sense, to detect that such an Operator exists, but as you and I know, having ourselves been operators of the hammer, how such an interaction can be (must be) a part of the process. The theory from the point of view of the nail is still correct; it’s just not complete. It doesn’t really have to be.

Evolution and God can coexist. The Darwinists who claim that there is no room for God in their theories, are wrong. There is no need to include God in the theories for scientific purposes because we have no reasonable ability to scientifically communicate with God. It doesn’t matter if God exists. The theory is still valid without adding a description of God’s influence.

No scientific theory can ever say that the hand of God is not necessary.

Since evidence of God’s existence can not be found in science (Yet? Will we ever?), we have to look to a different kind of human ability to interact with God. We call this interaction faith. We call it “feeling the power of God”. We call it “God touched my heart” and “I heard God tell me something. I don’t know how, but I know it was Him.” Christians do not have to disregard the theories that science produces because the theories can never disprove His existence. Christians have their own evidence for his existence. It is not something provable with science, but it doesn’t have to be. We as Christians don’t care to have science prove our faith: we already know it. Frankly, if someone claims to have disproved the existence of God, I won’t pay them any attention. I have gone through years of my life, having concluded that there was no reason to believe in God. It was only when I saw how much the belief in God meant to a friend that I noticed how my life had changed for the worse. So I started looking for a way to interact with God again. And I found it. I am a happier person because of it, and I am more than content; I am ecstatic with my life.

God might not exist. But there are events in my life that I choose to view as evidence for His existence. It is a different kind of evidence than is acceptable under the realm of Science. It is evidence that may very well be coincidence, and false. But I don’t care. No one can prove the existence of God, and no one can disprove it. No scientific theory can ever say that the hand of God is not necessary. And that is good enough for me.