FOCUS: Perhaps the most direct challenge that the evolutionary materialist paradigm faces is to account for mind, morality and "mannishness" more generally. As a result, we see the impact of Chalmers' unresolved hard problem of consciousness, to account for "why we have qualitative phenomenal experiences" such as being aware of being appeared to red-ly on seeing a red ball. The Derek Smith two-level controller cybernetic model provides a useful context for thinking about mindedness, and sets the context in which other aspects of our existence as minded and morally governed creatures can be explored. These issues set up the next stage, the exploration of origins science in society.
(a) What is “mind”?
--> the hard problem of consciousness
--> defining/describing "mind"
(b) The Darwinian view
(c) Of neurons, brains and minds
--> the Derek Smith cybernetic model
--> self -referentiality and materialist models of mind
--> Haldane's chemical vs logical soundness dilemma (with u/d from DI's Nancy Pearcey)
(d) Evolutionary materialism, morality and the is-ought gap
--> Will Hawthorne on the inherent amorality of evolutionary materialistic naturalism
--> The Euthyphro dilemma, Locke, Hooker and a sounder base for morality and liberty
NEXT: Origins Science in Society
The first and most directly evident fact of “man-nishness” is that we are individual, conscious, intelligent, purposeful, designing, minded beings; with consciences. Thus, Aristotle long ago observed that rational animality is the essence of being human. So, not only must we be able to credibly account for our anatomical similarity to the mammalian primates (including the commonly made claim that our genes show a "98%" overlap with those of the chimpanzees), but also for the things that seem to make us unique: that pattern of conscious, language-using abstract reasoning, intuitiveness and sense of obligation to the truth and the right that embraces both the intellectual and the moral.
The word "dumb" offers a key clue: man is the user of words, those symbolic sounds and pen-strokes that are so important in both practical survival and abstract thought. So, no scientific account of man can be correct or credible, if it cannot coherently and satisfactorily account for not just the bodily facts of man, but the common evidence of our inner life. For, we are only aware of and can only analyse and argue about our bodily existence and the external world through the instrumentality of our inner life of the mind. In this sense, Descartes' "I think, so I exist," is undeniably and self-evidently true.
This leads to what David Chalmers (1995) called The Hard Problem of Consciousness. As one might outline:
Let us note a key phrase: "the modern materialistic conception of natural phenomen[[a]." That is, we again see the evolutionary materialistic presumption at work. As the University of California's Center for Evolutionary Psychology at Santa Barbera posits:
But, the matter is not so simple as that, for as another generic source aptly summarises, there are many issues on mind and its relation to body, issues that (whether labelled science or not) are plainly directly relevant to any origins science project to account for the origin of man:
3 --> A central challenge for any such alternative model, is whether it can produce empirically testable hypotheses, a key touchstone of science.
4 --> Equally, the materialistic approach must face the challenge as to whether its favoured methodological naturalism imposes an undue censorship that hobbles science from being able to be an unfettered (but intellectually and ethically responsible) pursuit of the truth about our world.
5 --> Similarly, we now must ask: what does (or should) "empirical" mean? And, does thoughtful reflection on our common inner life experience count as empirical evidence? Why, or why not?
6 --> If not, how can we then use the deliverances of said inner life as we undertake scientific activities, which, are plainly an intellectual – i.e. minded – exercise?
Darwin extends the basic argument of Origin to the origin of man. In so doing, he strongly (albeit implicitly) couples the brain size and shape of man to both mental faculties and to those of our presumed nearest cousins, the primates. This is suggested by the following relationship that may be seen from contemporary primates:
Fig. G.15: Skulls and typical brain sizes of man and primates. [[For comparison, brain tissue will be about as dense as water: ~ 1g/cc. A typical modern human skull has a typical brain capacity 1,350 - 1,400 cc; but ranges ~ 950 – 2000 cc.] (Courtesy: New World Encyclopedia; CCL Author: Christopher Walsh, Harvard Medical School.)
Darwin's theory also set off the quest for fossil ancestors of man, ranging from Neandertal man, to Java Man, to Piltdown Man, to Nebraska Man, to the Taung Child and Peking Man and so forth; on to the overall picture we may see in -- for instance -- the following modern scheme:
Fig G.16: One model of the Human Evolutionary Tree, illustrating continental dispersion of categorised fossils (Courtesy: Wikipedia; CCL Authors: Reed DL, Smith VS, Hammond SL, Rogers AR, Clayton DH; Appears in PLoS Biology Vol. 2, No. 11, e340 doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0020340)
Fig G.17: A Chart of the current view on the wider taxonomical "family tree" of man [[NB: the "tribal" sub-grouping Hominini, enclosing man and Chimpanzees.] (Courtesy: Wikimedia)
This critical video summary will help us understand the issues that lurk behind the confident way fossil evidence and proposed human ancestral "trees" are often presented:
Fig, G.17(a): A Critical video summary of the proposed human ancestral tree (Source: Edinburgh Creation Group)
Also, as a Nature News article reported in 2004 on the comparison of chimp chromosome 22 with the comparable human chromosome 21:
The chimpanzee is our closest living relative. The morphological differences between the two species are so large that there is no problem in distinguishing between them. However, the nucleotide difference between the two species is surprisingly small. The early genome comparison by DNA hybridization techniques suggested a nucleotide difference of 1-2%. Recently, direct nucleotide sequencing confirmed this estimate. These findings generated the common belief that the human is extremely close to the chimpanzee at the genetic level. However, if one looks at proteins, which are mainly responsible for phenotypic differences, the picture is quite different, and about 80% of proteins are different between the two species. Still, the number of proteins responsible for the phenotypic differences may be smaller since not all genes are directly responsible for phenotypic characters. [[Glazko G, Veeramachaneni V, Nei M, & Makałowski W. "Eighty percent of proteins are different between humans and chimpanzees," Gene. 2005 Feb 14; 346:215-9. Abstract. (HT: BA 77) ]
We already knew that around 98.5% of the base pairs that make up our DNA are the same as those in chimps. So the old idea was that all the things that differentiate us from apes, such as highly developed cognitive functions, walking upright and the use of complex language, should come from the other 1.5%.So, first, it is aligned segments that are often compared and it was assumed that most of the differences would be in what used to be considered "junk DNA." But when protein coding segments were closely examined, significant differences appeared. Thus, the 2% difference figure is plainly misleading if it is given without this context.
Scientists had hoped this would mean the key genetic changes that enabled such traits to evolve would be easy to find. But the latest evidence suggests that the journey from ape to human was much more complex.
Todd Taylor at the Riken Genomic Sciences Center in Yokohama, Japan, and his colleagues have read the DNA sequence of chimpanzee chromosome 22, and compared it to its human counterpart, chromosome 21. Although a draft sequence of the chimp genome has been available since August 2003, this is the first sequence of a whole chimp chromosome that is accurate enough for researchers to be sure that any differences between the two species are real, and not just data errors . . . .
The sequences of chimp chromosome 22 and human chromosome 21 are roughly equivalent. Out of the bits that line up, 1.44% of the individual base pairs were different, settling a debate based on previous, less accurate studies.
However, the researchers were in for a surprise. Because chimps and humans appear broadly similar, some have assumed that most of the differences would occur in the large regions of DNA that do not appear to have any obvious function. But that was not the case. The researchers report in Nature1that many of the differences were within genes, the regions of DNA that code for proteins. 83% of the 231 genes compared had differences that affected the amino acid sequence of the protein they encoded. And 20% showed "significant structural changes".
In addition, there were nearly 68,000 regions that were either extra or missing between the two sequences, accounting for around 5% of the chromosome. "We already knew that at the DNA level we are similar to chimpanzees," says Taylor. "But we have seen a much higher percentage of change than people speculated."
The researchers also carried out some experiments to look at when and how strongly the genes are switched on. 20% of the genes showed significant differences in their pattern of activity . . . . The researchers have already identified two genes called NCAM2 and GRIK1, the human versions of which contain large sections that are missing in the chimp. Both genes are known to be involved in neural function. [[ "Chimp chromosome creates puzzles," Nature News, 27 May 2004. HT: BA 77]
Moreover, even if it were true, the “98%” figure would boil down to saying that we are made up from much the same molecular “bricks” as chimps are. But also, our molecular bricks are fairly similar to those of a carp or a banana or a yeast, with sequence similarities often up to 80% or more and fairly minor differences otherwise. So, are we ~ 70 - 80% carp or banana or yeast etc?
And, what is not being counted is plainly sufficient to account, for instance, for the fact that we are physically equipped to use abstract, voiced, verbal language. Chimps -- experiments to get them to use symbolic buttons notwithstanding -- are not.
Fig. G.18(a): The neuron (or, nerve cell), showing main components, input and output linkages (i.e. synapses) (Courtesy: Wikimedia)
Fig. G.18(b): Integration of Neurons in layered networks and the brain, the body's controller, n.b. motor area. (Credits: Jedismed, Riken, HSS, India)
Fig. G.18(c): A model of the structure of a neural network, showing how a neuron can act as a multiple input, multiple output gate, with weighted sum inputs tripping a threshold of action that then feeds other gates in complex networks. As powerful as such a gate architecture obviously is, it is equivalent to an algorithm that is limited by the classic Garbage In, Garbage Out . . . GIGO . . . principle.
Neurons (as figs G.18(a) - (c) show, are interconnected in neural networks, and onward to form the brain and wider nervous system. As Christos Stergiou and Dimitrios Siganos summarise:
Fig. G.19: The Derek Smith Cybernetic Loop Model for a robot (or "bio-robot") [[as simplified] (Adapted, Derek Smith.)
3 --> A key feature is that there is efference copy control action. That is, the projected path is first stored, so that what is actually controlled is the difference between the ideal path and the actual path as sensed.
4 --> In support of such efference copy action, there are arrays of internal sensors – termed proprioceptors -- that report relative states and/or positions of the parts of the controlled system. [[So, the robot senses and "knows" its stance, internal state, posture and path across time as it carries out an action. That is rather like how expert athletes “visualise” and “sense” a “perfect” performance, then carry it out. Similarly, it is related to how “muscular memory” of skills like riding a bicycle, is “permanent.”])
5 --> So, we see a two-tier controller: one to set up and supervise the actual path, the other to control it relative to the ideal. This means that the two tier controller model provides a model framework for addressing the minds and bodies problem.
Boiled down to essentials, a nervous system enables the organism to succeed in . . . feeding, fleeing, fighting, and reproducing. The principal chore of nervous systems is to get the body parts where they should be in order that the organism may survive . . . . Improvements in sensorimotor control confer an evolutionary advantage: a fancier style of representing is advantageous so long as it is geared to the organism's way of life and enhances the organism's chances of survival [[Churchland's emphasis]. Truth, whatever that is [[ --> let's try, from Aristotle in Metaphysics, 1011b: "that which says of what is that it is, and of what is not that it is not" . . . ], definitely takes the hindmost. (Plantinga also adds this from Darwin: "the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man's mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would any one trust in the convictions of a monkey's mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?" [[Cf. here on issues of warrant, knowledge and truth.])
7 --> Now, if the materialistic view is true, it will be possible to soundly and confidently build the supervisory level controller out of the neural networks that are available; but if it is false, then it may overlook other possible elementary constituents of reality and their inner properties.
It must be confessed, however, that perception, and that which depends upon it, are inexplicable by mechanical causes, that is to say, by figures and motions. Supposing that there were a machine whose structure produced thought, sensation, and perception, we could conceive of it as increased in size with the same proportions until one was able to enter into its interior, as he would into a mill. Now, on going into it he would find only pieces working upon one another, but never would he find anything to explain perception [[i.e. abstract conception]. It is accordingly in the simple substance, and not in the compound nor in a machine that the perception is to be sought . . .
9 --> By contrast, mind-body dualists such as Liebnitz, are often dismissively said to be proposing an unobservable "ghost in the machine," for which there is said to be no reason to see how it can interact with the brain-body closed loop system.
10 --> However, if the proposed immaterial mind acts the part of a supervisory controller in the Smith cybernetic loop, it may act informationally (and so also conceptually) on the "bio-robot" of the brain-body cybernetic system. Thus, the logical or imaginative, creative process can intervene in the brain-body cybernetic system informationally, conceptually and logically, not by mere mechanical cause-effect chains.
11 --> In other words: Liebnitz's wheels simply grind the one against the other in a causal chain; by themselves, they do not originate their organisation nor do they logically infer consequences of premises, etc.
12 --> Some materialists then suggest that consciousness is an “emergent” property of matter in the brain in action; one dependent on that matter for its existence and behaviour. But, "emergence" is itself immediately problematic: is "emergence" a euphemism for "Voila: poof!" . . . i.e "magic"?
13 --> Some materialists go further and suggest that mind is more or less a delusion. For instance, Sir Francis Crick is on record, in his 1994 The Astonishing Hypothesis:
14 --> Philip Johnson has replied that Sir Francis should have therefore been willing to preface his works thusly: "I, Francis Crick, my opinions and my science, and even the thoughts expressed in this book, consist of nothing more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules." Johnson then acidly commented: “[[t]he plausibility of materialistic determinism requires that an implicit exception be made for the theorist.” [[Reason in the Balance, 1995.]
15 --> In short, it is at least arguable that self-referential absurdity is the dagger pointing to the heart of evolutionary materialistic models of mind and its origin. An audio clip by William Lane Craig that summarises Plantinga's argument on this in a nutshell, is useful:
. . . In short, there is a very good reason we are cautioned about how easily self-referential statements can become self-refuting, like a snake attacking and swallowing itself tail-first. Any human scheme of thought that undermines responsible [thus, morally governed] rational freedom undermines itself fatally. We thus see inadvertent, inherent self-falsification of evolutionary materialism. But, “inadvertent” counts: it can be hard to recognise and acknowledge the logically fatal nature of the result. Of course, that subjective challenge does not change the objective result: self-referential incoherence and irretrievable self-falsification.
This issue can be addressed at a more sophisticated level [[cf. Hasker in The Emergent Self (Cornell University Press, 2001), from p 64 on, e.g. here as well as Reppert here and Plantinga here (briefer) & here (noting updates in the 2011 book, The Nature of Nature)], but without losing its general force, it can also be drawn out a bit in a fairly simple way:
a: Evolutionary materialism argues that the cosmos is the product of chance interactions of matter and energy, within the constraint of the laws of nature; from hydrogen to humans by undirected chance and necessity.
b: Therefore, all phenomena in the universe, without residue, are determined by the working of purposeless laws of chance and/or mechanical necessity acting on material objects, under the direct or indirect control of happenstance initial circumstances.
(This is physicalism. This view covers both the forms where (a) the mind and the brain are seen as one and the same thing, and those where (b) somehow mind emerges from and/or "supervenes" on brain, perhaps as a result of sophisticated and complex software looping. The key point, though is as already noted: physical causal closure -- the phenomena that play out across time, without residue, are in principle deducible or at least explainable up to various random statistical distributions and/or mechanical laws, from prior physical states. Such physical causal closure, clearly, implicitly discounts or even dismisses the causal effect of concept formation and reasoning then responsibly deciding, in favour of specifically physical interactions in the brain-body control loop; indeed, some mock the idea of -- in their view -- an "obviously" imaginary "ghost" in the meat-machine. [[There is also some evidence from simulation exercises, that accuracy of even sensory perceptions may lose out to utilitarian but inaccurate ones in an evolutionary competition. "It works" does not warrant the inference to "it is true."] )
c: But human thought, clearly a phenomenon in the universe, must now fit into this meat-machine picture. So, we rapidly arrive at Crick's claim in his The Astonishing Hypothesis (1994): what we subjectively experience as "thoughts," "reasoning" and "conclusions" can only be understood materialistically as the unintended by-products of the blind natural forces which cause and control the electro-chemical events going on in neural networks in our brains that (as the Smith Model illustrates) serve as cybernetic controllers for our bodies.
d: These underlying driving forces are viewed as being ultimately physical, but are taken to be partly mediated through a complex pattern of genetic inheritance shaped by forces of selection [["nature"] and psycho-social conditioning [["nurture"], within the framework of human culture [[i.e. socio-cultural conditioning and resulting/associated relativism]. And, remember, the focal issue to such minds -- notice, this is a conceptual analysis made and believed by the materialists! -- is the physical causal chains in a control loop, not the internalised "mouth-noises" that may somehow sit on them and come along for the ride.
(Save, insofar as such "mouth noises" somehow associate with or become embedded as physically instantiated signals or maybe codes in such a loop. [[How signals, languages and codes originate and function in systems in our observation of such origin -- i.e by design -- tends to be pushed to the back-burner and conveniently forgotten. So does the point that a signal or code takes its significance precisely from being an intelligently focused on, observed or chosen and significant alternative from a range of possibilities that then can guide decisive action.])
e: For instance, Marxists commonly derided opponents for their “bourgeois class conditioning” — but what of the effect of their own class origins? Freudians frequently dismissed qualms about their loosening of moral restraints by alluding to the impact of strict potty training on their “up-tight” critics — but doesn’t this cut both ways? Should we not ask a Behaviourist whether s/he is little more than yet another operantly conditioned rat trapped in the cosmic maze? And -- as we saw above -- would the writings of a Crick be any more than the firing of neurons in networks in his own brain?
f: For further instance, we may take the favourite whipping-boy of materialists: religion. Notoriously, they often hold that belief in God is not merely cognitive, conceptual error, but delusion. Borderline lunacy, in short. But, if such a patent "delusion" is so utterly widespread, even among the highly educated, then it "must" -- by the principles of evolution -- somehow be adaptive to survival, whether in nature or in society. And so, this would be a major illustration of the unreliability of our conceptual reasoning ability, on the assumption of evolutionary materialism.
g: Turning the materialist dismissal of theism around, evolutionary materialism itself would be in the same leaky boat. For, the sauce for the goose is notoriously just as good a sauce for the gander, too.
h: That is, on its own premises [[and following Dawkins in A Devil's Chaplain, 2004, p. 46], the cause of the belief system of evolutionary materialism, "must" also be reducible to forces of blind chance and mechanical necessity that are sufficiently adaptive to spread this "meme" in populations of jumped- up apes from the savannahs of East Africa scrambling for survival in a Malthusian world of struggle for existence. Reppert brings the underlying point sharply home, in commenting on the "internalised mouth-noise signals riding on the physical cause-effect chain in a cybernetic loop" view:
. . . let us suppose that brain state A, which is token identical to the thought that all men are mortal, and brain state B, which is token identical to the thought that Socrates is a man, together cause the belief that Socrates is mortal. It isn’t enough for rational inference that these events be those beliefs, it is also necessary that the causal transaction be in virtue of the content of those thoughts . . . [[But] if naturalism is true, then the propositional content is irrelevant to the causal transaction that produces the conclusion, and [[so] we do not have a case of rational inference. In rational inference, as Lewis puts it, one thought causes another thought not by being, but by being seen to be, the ground for it. But causal transactions in the brain occur in virtue of the brain’s being in a particular type of state that is relevant to physical causal transactions. [[Emphases added. Also cf. Reppert's summary of Barefoot's argument here.]
i: The famous geneticist and evolutionary biologist (as well as Socialist) J. B. S. Haldane made much the same point in a famous 1932 remark:
"It seems to me immensely unlikely that mind is a mere by-product of matter. For if my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true. They may be sound chemically, but that does not make them sound logically. And hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms. In order to escape from this necessity of sawing away the branch on which I am sitting, so to speak, I am compelled to believe that mind is not wholly conditioned by matter.” [["When I am dead," in Possible Worlds: And Other Essays , Chatto and Windus: London, 1932, reprint, p.209. (Highlight and emphases added.)]
. . . DI Fellow, Nancy Pearcey brings this right up to date (HT: ENV) in a current book, Finding Truth:
A major way to test a philosophy or worldview is to ask: Is it logically consistent? Internal contradictions are fatal to any worldview because contradictory statements are necessarily false. "This circle is square" is contradictory, so it has to be false. An especially damaging form of contradiction is self-referential absurdity -- which means a theory sets up a definition of truth that it itself fails to meet. Therefore it refutes itself . . . .
An example of self-referential absurdity is a theory called evolutionary epistemology, a naturalistic approach that applies evolution to the process of knowing. The theory proposes that the human mind is a product of natural selection. The implication is that the ideas in our minds were selected for their survival value, not for their truth-value.
But what if we apply that theory to itself? Then it, too, was selected for survival, not truth -- which discredits its own claim to truth. Evolutionary epistemology commits suicide.
Astonishingly, many prominent thinkers have embraced the theory without detecting the logical contradiction. Philosopher John Gray writes, "If Darwin's theory of natural selection is true,... the human mind serves evolutionary success, not truth." What is the contradiction in that statement?
Gray has essentially said, if Darwin's theory is true, then it "serves evolutionary success, not truth." In other words, if Darwin's theory is true, then it is not true.
Self-referential absurdity is akin to the well-known liar's paradox: "This statement is a lie." If the statement is true, then (as it says) it is not true, but a lie.
Another example comes from Francis Crick. In The Astonishing Hypothesis, he writes, "Our highly developed brains, after all, were not evolved under the pressure of discovering scientific truths but only to enable us to be clever enough to survive." But that means Crick's own theory is not a "scientific truth." Applied to itself, the theory commits suicide.
Of course, the sheer pressure to survive is likely to produce some correct ideas. A zebra that thinks lions are friendly will not live long. But false ideas may be useful for survival. Evolutionists admit as much: Eric Baum says, "Sometimes you are more likely to survive and propagate if you believe a falsehood than if you believe the truth." Steven Pinker writes, "Our brains were shaped for fitness, not for truth. Sometimes the truth is adaptive, but sometimes it is not." The upshot is that survival is no guarantee of truth. If survival is the only standard, we can never know which ideas are true and which are adaptive but false.
To make the dilemma even more puzzling, evolutionists tell us that natural selection has produced all sorts of false concepts in the human mind. Many evolutionary materialists maintain that free will is an illusion, consciousness is an illusion, even our sense of self is an illusion -- and that all these false ideas were selected for their survival value.
So how can we know whether the theory of evolution itself is one of those false ideas? The theory undercuts itself.
A few thinkers, to their credit, recognize the problem. Literary critic Leon Wieseltier writes, "If reason is a product of natural selection, then how much confidence can we have in a rational argument for natural selection? ... Evolutionary biology cannot invoke the power of reason even as it destroys it."
On a similar note, philosopher Thomas Nagel asks, "Is the [evolutionary] hypothesis really compatible with the continued confidence in reason as a source of knowledge?" His answer is no: "I have to be able to believe ... that I follow the rules of logic because they are correct -- not merely because I am biologically programmed to do so." Hence, "insofar as the evolutionary hypothesis itself depends on reason, it would be self-undermining."
. . . also tellingly highlighting Darwin's selective skepticism:
People are sometimes under the impression that Darwin himself recognized the problem. They typically cite Darwin's famous "horrid doubt" passage where he questions whether the human mind can be trustworthy if it is a product of evolution: "With me, the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man's mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy."
But, of course, Darwin's theory itself was a "conviction of man's mind." So why should it be "at all trustworthy"?
Surprisingly, however, Darwin never confronted this internal contradiction in this theory. Why not? Because he expressed his "horrid doubt" selectively -- only when considering the case for a Creator.
From time to time, Darwin admitted that he still found the idea of God persuasive. He once confessed his "inward conviction ... that the Universe is not the result of chance." It was in the next sentence that he expressed his "horrid doubt." So the "conviction" he mistrusted was his lingering conviction that the universe is not the result of chance.
In another passage Darwin admitted, "I feel compelled to look to a First Cause having an intelligent mind in some degree analogous to that of man." Again, however, he immediately veered off into skepticism: "But then arises the doubt -- can the mind of man, which has, as I fully believe, been developed from a mind as low as that possessed by the lowest animal, be trusted when it draws such grand conclusions?"
That is, can it be trusted when it draws "grand conclusions" about a First Cause? Perhaps the concept of God is merely an instinct programmed into us by natural selection, Darwin added, like a monkey's "instinctive fear and hatred of a snake."
In short, it was on occasions when Darwin's mind led him to a theistic conclusion that he dismissed the mind as untrustworthy. He failed to recognize that, to be logically consistent, he needed to apply the same skepticism to his own theory . . . .
Applied consistently, Darwinism undercuts not only itself but also the entire scientific enterprise. Kenan Malik, a writer trained in neurobiology, writes, "If our cognitive capacities were simply evolved dispositions, there would be no way of knowing which of these capacities lead to true beliefs and which to false ones." Thus "to view humans as little more than sophisticated animals ...undermines confidence in the scientific method."
Just so. Science itself is at stake. John Lennox, professor of mathematics at the University of Oxford, writes that according to atheism, "the mind that does science ... is the end product of a mindless unguided process. Now, if you knew your computer was the product of a mindless unguided process, you wouldn't trust it. So, to me atheism undermines the rationality I need to do science."
Of course, the atheist pursuing his research has no choice but to rely on rationality, just as everyone else does. The point is that he has no philosophical basis for doing so. Only those who affirm a rational Creator have a basis for trusting human rationality.
The reason so few atheists and materialists seem to recognize the problem is that, like Darwin, they apply their skepticism selectively . . .
Where also it is worth further drawing out Pearcey's cite from John Gray, a British academic and writer, in his Straw Dogs (2002), pp. 26 - 27, as further bringing out the self-referential absurdity of trying to root the human mind in materialistic evolutionism and linked scientism (the notion that Science -- usually, as conceived in evolutionary materialistic terms -- monopolises (or effectively monopolises) knowledge, truth and rationality):
Modern humanism is the faith that through science humankind can know the truth – and so be free. But if Darwin’s theory of natural selection is true this is impossible. The human mind serves evolutionary success, not truth. To think otherwise is to resurrect the pre-Darwinian error that humans are different from all other animals.and:
[O]nly someone miraculously ignorant of history could believe that competition among ideas could result in the triumph of truth. Certainly ideas compete with one another but the winners are normally those with power and human folly on their side. Truth has no systematic evolutionary advantage over error.
Where, it bears repeating how -- as Plantinga observed -- Patricia Churchland (a philosopher writing on cognitive issues) said much the same:
Boiled down to essentials, a nervous system enables the organism to succeed in the four F’s: feeding, fleeing, fighting, and reproducing. The principle chore of nervous systems is to get the body parts where they should be in order that the organism may survive. . . . . Improvements in sensorimotor control confer an evolutionary advantage: a fancier style of representing is advantageous so long as it is geared to the organism’s way of life and enhances the organism’s chances of survival. Truth, whatever that is [--> try, "that which says of what is, that it is; and of what is not, that it is not" per Aristotle, Metaphysics 1011b], definitely takes the hindmost. [Epistemology in the age of Neuroscience, p. 549. This is a semi-famous quote.]
In response in Warrant and Proper Function, Plantinga contrasts:
The traditional theist . . . has no corresponding reason for doubting that it is a purpose of our cognitive systems to produce true beliefs, nor any reason for thinking the probability of a belief’s being true, given that it is a product of his cognitive faculties, is low or inscrutable. He may indeed endorse some form of evolution; but if he does, it will be a form of evolution guided and orchestrated by God. And qua traditional theist — qua Jewish, Moslem, or Christian theist – he believes that God is the premier knower and has created us human beings in his image, an important part of which involves his endowing them with a reflection of his powers as a knower [-> i.e., imago dei].
j: Therefore, though materialists will often try to pointedly ignore or angrily brush aside the issue, we may freely argue: if such evolutionary materialism is true, then (i) our consciousness, (ii) the "thoughts" we have, (iii) the conceptualised beliefs we hold, (iv) the reasonings we attempt based on such and (v) the "conclusions" and "choices" (a.k.a. "decisions") we reach -- without residue -- must be produced and controlled by blind forces of chance happenstance and mechanical necessity that are irrelevant to "mere" ill-defined abstractions such as: purpose or truth, or even logical validity.
(NB: The conclusions of such "arguments" may still happen to be true, by astonishingly lucky coincidence — but we have no rational grounds for relying on the “reasoning” that has led us to feel that we have “proved” or "warranted" them. It seems that rationality itself has thus been undermined fatally on evolutionary materialistic premises. Including that of Crick et al. Through, self-reference leading to incoherence and utter inability to provide a cogent explanation of our commonplace, first-person experience of reasoning and rational warrant for beliefs, conclusions and chosen paths of action. Reduction to absurdity and explanatory failure in short.)k: And, if materialists then object: “But, we can always apply scientific tests, through observation, experiment and measurement,” then we must immediately note that -- as the fate of Newtonian Dynamics between 1880 and 1930 shows -- empirical support is not equivalent to establishing the truth of a scientific theory. For, at any time, one newly discovered countering fact can in principle overturn the hitherto most reliable of theories. (And as well, we must not lose sight of this: in science, one is relying on the legitimacy of the reasoning process to make the case that scientific evidence provides reasonable albeit provisional warrant for one's beliefs etc. Scientific reasoning is not independent of reasoning.)
l: Worse, in the case of origins science theories, we simply were not there to directly observe the facts of the remote past, so origins sciences are even more strongly controlled by assumptions and inferences than are operational scientific theories. So, we contrast the way that direct observations of falling apples and orbiting planets allow us to test our theories of gravity.
m: Moreover, as Harvard biologist Richard Lewontin reminds us all in his infamous January 29, 1997 New York Review of Books article, "Billions and billions of demons," it is now notorious that:
. . . It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel [[materialistic scientists] to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door. [[And if you have been led to imagine that the immediately following words justify the above, kindly cf. the more complete clip and notes here.]
n: Such a priori assumptions of materialism are patently question-begging, mind-closing and fallacious.
o: More important, to demonstrate that empirical tests provide empirical support to the materialists' theories would require the use of the very process of reasoning and inference which they have discredited.
p: Thus, evolutionary materialism arguably reduces reason itself to the status of illusion. But, as we have seen: immediately, that must include “Materialism.”
q: In the end, it is thus quite hard to escape the conclusion that materialism is based on self-defeating, question-begging logic.
16 --> Notwithstanding such sharp exchanges, through the Derek Smith model we have potentially fruitful frameworks of thought on which we can investigate the nature of mind and its interaction with the body and brain.r: So, while materialists -- just like the rest of us -- in practice routinely rely on the credibility of reasoning and despite all the confidence they may project, they at best struggle to warrant such a tacitly accepted credibility of mind and of concepts and reasoned out conclusions relative to the core claims of their worldview. (And, sadly: too often, they tend to pointedly ignore or rhetorically brush aside the issue.)
Thus, we now consider:
If you doubt this conclusion, let us hear it from Michael Ruse & E. O. Wilson in their 1991 essay, “The Evolution of Ethics”:
The time has come to take seriously the fact [[--> This is a gross error at the outset, as macro-evolution is a theory (an explanation) about the unobserved past of origins and so cannot be a fact on the level of the observed roundness of the earth or the orbiting of planets around the sun etc.] that we humans are modified monkeys, not the favored Creation of a Benevolent God on the Sixth Day . . . We must think again especially about our so-called ‘ethical principles.’ The question is not whether biology—specifically, our evolution—is connected with ethics, but how. As evolutionists, we see that no justification of the traditional kind is possible. Morality, or more strictly our belief in morality, is merely an adaptation put in place to further our reproductive ends. Hence the basis of ethics does not lie in God’s will … In an important sense, ethics as we understand it is an illusion fobbed off on us by our genes to get us to cooperate. It is without external grounding… Ethics is illusory inasmuch as it persuades us that it has an objective reference. This is the crux of the biological position. Once it is grasped, everything falls into place.
[[Michael Ruse & E. O. Wilson, “The Evolution of Ethics,” Religion and the Natural Sciences: The Range of Engagement, , ed. J. E. Hutchingson, Orlando, Fl.:Harcourt and Brace, 1991. (NB: Cf. a separate discussion on the grounding of worldviews and ethics here on, which includes a specific discussion of the grounding of ethics and goes on to Biblical theism; having first addressed the roots of the modern evolutionary materialist mindset and its pretensions to the mantle of science. Also cf. here on in the next unit in this course, IOSE, for Plato's warning in The Laws, Bk X, on social consequences of the rise of such a view as the philosophy of the avant garde in a community.]
No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man's and yet as mortal as his own; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinised and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinise the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water . . . Yet across the gulf of space, minds that are to our minds as ours are to those of the beasts that perish, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded this earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us . . . . looking across space with instruments, and intelligences such as we have scarcely dreamed of, they see, at its nearest distance only 35,000,000 of miles sunward of them, a morning star of hope, our own warmer planet, green with vegetation and grey with water, with a cloudy atmosphere eloquent of fertility, with glimpses through its drifting cloud wisps of broad stretches of populous country and narrow, navy-crowded seas.
And we men, the creatures who inhabit this earth, must be to them at least as alien and lowly as are the monkeys and lemurs to us. The intellectual side of man already admits that life is an incessant struggle for existence, and it would seem that this too is the belief of the minds upon Mars. Their world is far gone in its cooling and this world is still crowded with life, but crowded only with what they regard as inferior animals. To carry warfare sunward is, indeed, their only escape from the destruction that, generation after generation, creeps upon them.
And before we judge of them too harshly we must remember what ruthless and utter destruction our own species has wrought, not only upon animals, such as the vanished bison and the dodo, but upon its inferior races. The Tasmanians, in spite of their human likeness, were entirely swept out of existence in a war of extermination waged by European immigrants, in the space of fifty years. Are we such apostles of mercy as to complain if the Martians warred in the same spirit?
The utter absurdity of such behaviour was long since aptly brought out by the elder John:
1 Jn 3:7Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. He who does what is right is righteous, just as [[God] is righteous . . . . 11This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. 12Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother's were righteous . . . 14We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death. 15Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him.
Will Hawthorne draws out some sobering conclusions from that, echoing the concerns on amorality that Plato made in his The Laws, Bk X (as was already mentioned in the Introduction and Summary):
Assume (per impossibile) that atheistic naturalism [[= evolutionary materialism] is true. Assume, furthermore, that one can't infer an 'ought' from an 'is' [[the 'is' being in this context physicalist: matter-energy, space- time, chance and mechanical forces]. (Richard Dawkins and many other atheists should grant both of these assumptions.)
Given our second assumption, there is no description of anything in the natural world from which we can infer an 'ought'. And given our first assumption, there is nothing that exists over and above the natural world; the natural world is all that there is. It follows logically that, for any action you care to pick, there's no description of anything in the natural world from which we can infer that one ought to refrain from performing that action.
Add a further uncontroversial assumption: an action is permissible if and only if it's not the case that one ought to refrain from performing that action . . . [[We see] therefore, for any action you care to pick, it's permissible to perform that action. If you'd like, you can take this as the meat behind the slogan 'if atheism is true, all things are permitted'.
For example if atheism is true, every action Hitler performed was permissible. Many atheists don't like this consequence of their worldview. But they cannot escape it and insist that they are being logical at the same time.
Now, we all know that at least some actions are really not permissible (for example, racist actions). Since the conclusion of the argument denies this, there must be a problem somewhere in the argument. Could the argument be invalid? No. The argument has not violated a single rule of logic and all inferences were made explicit.
Thus we are forced to deny the truth of one of the assumptions we started out with. That means we either deny atheistic naturalism or (the more intuitively appealing) principle that one can't infer 'ought' from [[a material] 'is'. [[Emphases and paragraphing added.]Also, we must make a painful footnote on Darwin himself. For, it is indisputable on the facts of Chs 5 - 7 of Descent of Man, that Darwin was indeed one of the first Social Darwinists; e.g. arguing that natural selection explains how Saxons [[= Englishmen] dominate Celts [[= Irish] and Scots. Similarly, in a July 3, 1881 letter to William Graham, he cited how natural selection explained how Europeans beat the Turks “hollow” in previous centuries of struggle. Worst of all, in Ch 6 of Descent, he coolly predicted that by natural selection the more advanced races would wipe out the “inferior” ones such as Negroes and Australians in the centuries to come. (Nor will angry dismissals and distractive retorts or attempts to assert immoral equivalency etc. change such painful facts.)
As a result, objective morality is grounded in the roots of our nature and in the moral Creator behind those roots. Richard Hooker, in his Ecclesiastical Polity sums this view up in a key passage cited by Locke in his Second Treatise on Civil Government, Ch 2 Sect. 5, to justify liberty and justice in government: