Friday, June 4, 2010

Origins Science in Society

FOCUS: Origins science exists in a community context, and potentially affects us all, especially through its impacts on worldviews, moral values, education and general government policy. Accordingly, through a survey from Plato to modern cases such as in Kansas, this issue will be outlined. Policy proposals will be put on the table, and conclusions will be drawn. The course proper culminates in a call to action, and the next focus will be points for discussion and assignments.



(a) Plato (c. 360 BC) on the challenge of rootedness

--> Plato's expose of evolutionary materialism in The Laws, Bk X

--> Plato's rebuttal to evolutionary materialism & cosmological inference

--> Plato's self-moved initiating cause

(b) On morality, public policy and the challenge of reformation

(c) The case of Education

--> Plato's parable of the cave & the corrective role of education

--> Origins Science education in Kansas and Tennessee

--> William Jennings Bryan's actual argument

Darrow, the Loeb-Leopold nihilist murder case and evolutionary materialist amorality

--> The duel in the shade & its misrepresentation in Inherit the Wind

--> Education policy issues



IOSE self-check and discussion/ assignment questions

Origins science is a major face of science in society, because (in one sense or another) it speaks to our roots: where we have come from, how, and what we therefore are. So, although we must also never forget what Dr Michael Behe of Lehigh University terms "the distinction between an implication of a theory and the theory itself," we cannot properly survey origins science without addressing this final aspect, and in so doing we must recognise its controversial character

The involved issues are deeply tinged with worldviews questions, so, origins science also affects education and general policy (including law). It therefore comes into contact with the ever- controversial religious and philosophical  aspects of society and how associated worldview commitments intersect with education, the public interest and policy-making. (Cf Kuhn's short critique here.) So, we need to look at some major points of intersection between origins science studies and society; and, to suggest ways forward based on the insights we discover. 

(a) Plato (c. 360 BC) on the challenge of rootedness

As we saw in Part I above, evolutionary materialism is not a new philosophy. So, in Bk X of his dialogue, The Laws (between Cleinias of Crete, Megillus and the Athenian Stranger), Plato – apparently thinking of Alcibiades and others like him -- raised and responded to some of the challenges avant garde materialism poses for the moral order of society. 

Now, we may well be tempted to avoid wading though "boring" ancient texts (often, assuming with Henry Ford, that "History is bunk"; actually, instead, Santayana is right: "[[t]hose who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it"), but it is well worth the time to pause for a few minutes and see how the issues raised by and societal implications of evolutionary materialism were first critically assessed by a founding intellectual giant of our civilisation, over 2,300 years ago.

Right from the start, Plato's Athenian Stranger cuts to the heart of the issue:

Ath. At Athens there are tales preserved in writing which the virtue of your state, as I am informed, refuses to admit. They speak of the Gods in prose as well as verse, and the oldest of them tell of the origin of the heavens and of the world, and not far from the beginning of their story they proceed to narrate the birth of the Gods, and how after they were born they behaved to one another. Whether these stories have in other ways a good or a bad influence, I should not like to be severe upon them, because they are ancient; but, looking at them with reference to the duties of children to their parents, I cannot praise them, or think that they are useful, or at all true. [[Notice Plato's own carefully stated skepticisms and moral concerns regarding classical paganism.] Of the words of the ancients I have nothing more to say; and I should wish to say of them only what is pleasing to the Gods. But as to our younger generation and their wisdom, I cannot let them off when they do mischief. For do but mark the effect of their words: when you and I argue for the existence of the Gods, and produce the sun, moon, stars, and earth, claiming for them a divine being, if we would listen to the aforesaid philosophers we should say that they are earth and stones only, which can have no care at all of human affairs, and that all religion is a cooking up of words and a make-believe.

After some interaction during which he presents perhaps the first documented analysis of causal forces based on chance, necessity and art, the Stranger continues:

[[The avant garde philosophers, teachers and artists c. 400 BC] say that the greatest and fairest things are the work of nature and of chance, the lesser of art [[ i.e. techne], which, receiving from nature the greater and primeval creations, moulds and fashions all those lesser works which are generally termed artificial . . . They say that fire and water, and earth and air [[i.e the classical "material" elements of the cosmos], all exist by nature and chance, and none of them by art, and that as to the bodies which come next in order-earth, and sun, and moon, and stars-they have been created by means of these absolutely inanimate existences. The elements are severally moved by chance and some inherent force according to certain affinities among them-of hot with cold, or of dry with moist, or of soft with hard, and according to all the other accidental admixtures of opposites which have been formed by necessity. After this fashion and in this manner the whole heaven has been created, and all that is in the heaven, as well as animals and all plants, and all the seasons come from these elements, not by the action of mind, as they say, or of any God, or from art, but as I was saying, by nature and chance only . . . . 

[[T]hese people would say that the Gods exist not by nature, but by art, and by the laws of states, which are different in different places, according to the agreement of those who make them; and that the honourable is one thing by nature and another thing by law, and that the principles of justice have no existence at all in nature, but that mankind are always disputing about them and altering them; and that the alterations which are made by art and by law have no basis in nature, but are of authority for the moment and at the time at which they are made.- [[Relativism, too, is not new; complete with its radical amorality rooted in a worldview that has no foundational IS that can ground OUGHT. (Cf. here for Locke's views and sources on a very different base for grounding liberty as opposed to license and resulting anarchistic "every man does what is right in his own eyes" chaos leading to tyranny.)] These, my friends, are the sayings of wise men, poets and prose writers, which find a way into the minds of youth. They are told by them that the highest right is might [[ Evolutionary materialism leads to the promotion of amorality], and in this way the young fall into impieties, under the idea that the Gods are not such as the law bids them imagine; and hence arise factions [[Evolutionary materialism-motivated amorality "naturally" leads to continual contentions and power struggles; cf. dramatisation here],  these philosophers inviting them to lead a true life according to nature, that is, to live in real dominion over others [[such amoral factions, if they gain power, "naturally" tend towards ruthless tyranny; here, too, Plato hints at the career of Alcibiades], and not in legal subjection to them . . . . [[I]f impious discourses were not scattered, as I may say, throughout the world, there would have been no need for any vindication of the existence of the Gods-but seeing that they are spread far and wide, such arguments are needed; and who should come to the rescue of the greatest laws, when they are being undermined by bad men, but the legislator himself? . . .[[Jowett translation. Emphases and explanatory parentheses added.]

Now, we may need to remind ourselves: this is not a scientific work, but a philosophical one. And, plainly, the root moral issues raised by evolutionary materialism have long since been identified, itemised and challenged in turn. For instance, Plato has the Stranger then answer the evolutionary materialist case:

Ath. Then, by Heaven, we have discovered the source of this vain opinion of all those physical investigators; and I would have you examine their arguments with the utmost care, for their impiety is a very serious matter; they not only make a bad and mistaken use of argument, but they lead away the minds of others: that is my opinion of them.

Cle. You are right; but I should like to know how this happens. 

Ath. I fear that the argument may seem singular. 

Cle. Do not hesitate, Stranger; I see that you are afraid of such a discussion carrying you beyond the limits of legislation. But if there be no other way of showing our agreement in the belief that there are Gods, of whom the law is said now to approve, let us take this way, my good sir.

Ath. Then I suppose that I must repeat the singular argument of those who manufacture the soul according to their own impious notions;
they affirm that which is the first cause of the generation and destruction of all things, to be not first, but last, and that which is last to be first, and hence they have fallen into error about the true nature of the Gods.

Cle. Still I do not understand you. 

Nearly all of them, my friends, seem to be ignorant of the nature and power of the soul [[ = psuche], especially in what relates to her origin: they do not know that she is among the first of things, and before all bodies, and is the chief author of their changes and transpositions. And if this is true, and if the soul is older than the body, must not the things which are of the soul's kindred be of necessity prior to those which appertain to the body?

Cle. Certainly. 

Then thought and attention and mind and art and law will be prior to that which is hard and soft and heavy and light; and the great and primitive works and actions will be works of art; they will be the first, and after them will come nature and works of nature, which however is a wrong term for men to apply to them; these will follow, and will be under the government of art and mind.

Cle. But why is the word "nature" wrong? 

Ath. Because those who use the term mean to say that nature is the first creative power;
but if the soul turn out to be the primeval element, and not fire or air, then in the truest sense and beyond other things the soul may be said to exist by nature; and this would be true if you proved that the soul is older than the body, but not otherwise.

[[ . . . .]

Ath. . . . when one thing changes another, and that another, of such will there be any primary changing element? How can a thing which is moved by another ever be the beginning of change? Impossible. But when the self-moved changes other, and that again other, and thus thousands upon tens of thousands of bodies are set in motion, must not the beginning of all this motion be the change of the self-moving principle? . . . . self-motion being the origin of all motions, and the first which arises among things at rest as well as among things in motion, is the eldest and mightiest principle of change, and that which is changed by another and yet moves other is second. 

[[ . . . .]

Ath. If we were to see this power existing in any earthy, watery, or fiery substance, simple or compound-how should we describe it?

Cle. You mean to ask whether we should call such a self-moving power life?

Ath. I do. 

Cle. Certainly we should. 

And when we see soul in anything, must we not do the same-must we not admit that this is life?

[[ . . . . ]

Cle. You mean to say that the essence which is defined as the self-moved is the same with that which has the name soul?

Ath. Yes; and if this is true, do we still maintain that there is anything wanting in the proof that the soul is the first origin and moving power of all that is, or has become, or will be, and their contraries, when she has been clearly shown to be the source of change and motion in all things? 

Cle. Certainly not; the soul as being the source of motion, has been most satisfactorily shown to be the oldest of all things.

Ath. And is not that motion which is produced in another, by reason of another, but never has any self-moving power at all, being in truth the change of an inanimate body, to be reckoned second, or by any lower number which you may prefer?  

Cle. Exactly.  

Ath. Then we are right, and speak the most perfect and absolute truth, when we say that the soul is prior to the body, and that the body is second and comes afterwards, and is born to obey the soul, which is the ruler?

[[ . . . . ]

Ath. If, my friend, we say that the whole path and movement of heaven, and of all that is therein, is by nature akin to the movement and revolution and calculation of mind, and proceeds by kindred laws, then, as is plain, we must say that the best soul takes care of the world and guides it along the good path. [[Plato here explicitly sets up an inference to design (by a good soul) from the intelligible order of the cosmos.]
In short, Plato answers the evolutionary materialist case by making a cosmological inference to design, including in his argument the human experience of being a conscious, minded en-souled creature. On that premise he intends to found public morality, (cf. here on some of the more important gaps in that generic source . . . ), thence an objective basis for just law.

Such a conclusion and policy programme, we may indeed choose to reject, but we cannot justly ignore nor censor it out of our considerations by a priori imposition of materialism.

(b) On morality, public policy and the challenge of reformation

In a secularist world of “is-ness only, please” it can plainly be difficult to ground any morally tinged policy that is repugnant to those who hold power or dominate the media. For, if mere might does not make right, then policy and law must in the end have a moral basis. And, historically, that is how longstanding evils such as slavery were in the end reformed. Indeed the 2nd paragraph of the 1776 US Declaration of Independence reminds us of how the modern idea of democratic self-government of and by a free people was grounded:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security . . . .

But, as the elites of our culture increasingly become materialistic, oughtness as a binding moral force, has now been swallowed up by culture-, institution- or even individual- relative balances of power and tastes, preferences and values. But, such are of no greater weight than the dead weight of tradition or of the perceived wisdom of the dominant factions or individuals in a community, institution or situation. And so, ethics has been swallowed up by politics and power balances. 

Which, is precisely the problem: the characteristic "prophetic" plea of morality is for the oppressed weak in the face of the ethical blindness, arrogance and abusive misbehaviour of the strong. Plato therefore predicted/observed that such a materialistic view of the world tends to remove key social, institutional and rational barriers to amorality and license -- living as "a law unto oneself" -- that can easily lead to chaos, tyranny, injustice and oppression as the strong "naturally" domineer over and despise the weak.

And, not without some historical merit; starting with the case of Alcibiades.

The problem, then, is real, and serious; especially when in our day, "Science" has become the chief authority and gate-keeper on what we view as knowledge at the same time that its key institutions are increasingly dominated by evolutionary materialistic thought. So, while it is relatively easy to show that the claims of say a Lewontin -- e.g. the mistaken, ill-instructed philosophical assertion that materialism- dominated science is "the only begetter of truth" -- are often ill-founded and ill-informed, that may not be sufficient to redress an adverse balance of power.

It is also worthwhile to pause and note that for some, who take our intuitions of good, evil and moral obligation seriously as directly accessible knowledge, the mere fact that evolutionary materialism would deny the possibility of such intuitions being knowledge in any strong sense is enough to settle the matter.

For such individuals, the greater certainty of knowledge directly based on our conscious experience of the world as thinking, en-conscienced creatures suffices to show that materialistic views of the world MUST be wrong; regardless of the merits or demerits and debates on the claimed weight of scientific evidence about the state of the world in the unobserved remote past.

However one may be inclined regarding such radical views of the matter, it is plain that Ms Elizabeth Anscombe and -- behind her -- Plato are right: unless there is a well-warranted grounding "is" that does properly entail the "ought," giving morality the force of transcendent law, the ought is always vulnerable to challenge in a world dominated by "is only, please." Especially if that "is" is driven by Lewontinian a priori materialism.

(c) The case of Education

As Plato noted in The Laws, education is a key flash-point in the above civilisational struggle.

In another of his works, The Republic, he also highlighted the difficulties and possible dangers of corrective education in a world dominated by a false myth, through his famous Parable of the Cave. For, he envisions a group of men, held prisoner from infancy in a cave, and so fastened that they can only look on an opposite wall. Behind them, by walking along a roadway and sticking up images above a wall, with a fire behind, a shadow-show is projected unto the wall:

Fig. G.20: Plato's Cave (Source: University of Fort Hare, SA, Phil. Dept.)

This shadow show the prisoners confuse for the “real” world. Then, one breaks free and, with pain for the glare in his eyes, sees the parapet, the puppets and the fire behind. Then, he is forced up out of the cave and by degrees comes to grip with reality. Taking pity on his fellows, he returns, to inform and help liberate them. But, he is challenged, so -- even while he stumbles to adjust to the darkness that the denizens imagine is light -- he now has to defend himself. The fellow prisoners conclude that on being led out of the cave he was harmed and turned into a fool, and threaten to kill any who would set another one free. As a video:


This parable has many interpretations and levels of application ( --> try, multiplying it by his parable of the mutinous ship of state with a half-blind, half-deaf owner-captain befuddled by the sailors in mutiny and then reflect on Luke's real world account of march of folly ending in shipwreck in Ac 27); but the simple one of liberation from false enlightenment as a task and challenge for education is the most relevant for our purposes. Even for that, we can easily see that diverse sides of the origins science issue would cast themselves as the true liberators. But, the most direct lesson is plain: we should not be guilty of misleading and manipulating those who look to us for enlightenment and knowledge through half-truths or outright falsehoods.

That becomes immediately troubling once we look at the a priori materialism that we have had to discuss, and at the icons often used to teach evolutionary materialism. That concern deepens when we see the retort of the US National Academy of Science and the National Science Teachers Association [[NSTA] to an attempt by the Kansas State Education Board in 2005 to correct a radical redefinition of science that would have imposed Lewontinian a priori materialism: 

2001 novel definition then in force: “Science is the human activity of seeking natural explanations of the world around us.”

2005, proposed corrective: “Science is a systematic method of continuing investigation, that uses observation, hypothesis testing, measurement, experimentation, logical argument and theory building, to lead to more adequate explanations of natural phenomena.”

NAS-NSTA retort: “. . . the members of the Kansas State Board of Education who produced Draft 2-d of the KSES [[Kansas Science Education Standards] have deleted text defining science as a search for natural explanations of observable phenomena, blurring the line between scientific and other ways of   understanding.  Emphasizing controversy in the theory of evolution -- when in fact all modern theories of science are continually tested and verified -- and distorting the definition of science are inconsistent with our Standards and a disservice to the students of Kansas. Regretfully, many of the statements made in the KSES related to the nature of science and evolution also violate the document’s mission and vision.  Kansas students will not be well-prepared for the rigors of higher education or the demands of an increasingly complex and technologically-driven world if their science education is based on these standards.  Instead, they will put the students of Kansas at a competitive disadvantage as they take their place in the world.” [[Sources: definitions, excerpt of retort. Emphases and explanatory parentheses added.]

On the face of it, however, (1) students exposed to a longstanding traditional schools-level concept of what science is -- as can easily be seen in high quality dictionaries -- will be at no serious conceptual disadvantage to those exposed only to a radically materialistic Lewontinian redefinition. Similarly, (2) origins sciences that seek to reconstruct a remote and unobserved past (which makes empirical testing and potential falsification difficult challenges at best) simply cannot be at the same level of warrant as theories that are supported by direct observation. And, (3) because of this factor and its associated connexions to worldviews and longstanding ethical concerns, [[Neo-]Darwinian Macro- Evolutionary theory has long been controversial. So, (4) the NAS-NSTA assertions about students exposed to traditional views on what science is and shown that such a controversy exists, sadly, amount to little more than a veiled threat in defense of materialist indoctrination being done in the name of science education.(Cf. also Kuhn, here.)

But, a typical reply -- often based on uncritical viewing of the 1950's movie Inherit the Wind -- is that the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial shows what happened when the shoe was on the other foot. So we need to take a little closer look at this case, as it is instructive in perhaps surprising ways, through also rather saddening:

i --> In response to a wave of origins science education debates and textbooks such as Hunter's Civic Biology (which as “Civic” suggests supported Eugenics and related ideas) in the 1920's, several American states banned the teaching of evolution in taxpayer funded state institutions.

ii --> The basis of this response can be seen from an observation made by William Jennings Bryan in his 1921 book, The Menace of Darwinism:

The question in dispute is whether atheists and agnostics have a right to teach irreligion in public schools — whether teachers drawing salaries from the public treasury shall be permitted to undermine belief in God, the Bible, and Christ by teaching not scientific truth but unproven and unsupported guesses which cannot be true unless the Bible is false  [[pp. 5 - 6] . . . .

 On page 180 of ''Descent of Man" (Hurst & Company, Edition 1874), Darwin says: "Our most ancient progenitors in the kingdom of the Vertebrata, at which we are able to obtain an obscure glance, apparently consisted of a group of marine animals, resembling the larvae of the existing Ascidians." Then he suggests a line of de-scent leading to the monkey . . . His second sentence (fol-lowing the sentence quoted) turns upon the word "probably" . . . His works are full of words indicating uncertainty. The phrase "we may well suppose," occurs over eight hundred times in his two principal works. (See Herald & Presbyter, November 22, 1914.) The eminent scientist is guess-ing . . . .

Darwin does not use facts ; he uses conclusions drawn from similarities. He builds upon presumptions, probabilities and infer-ences, and asks the acceptance of his hypothesis "not-withstanding the fact that connecting links have not hitherto been discovered" (page 162). He advances an hypothesis which, if true, would find support on every foot of the earth's surface, but which, as a mat-ter of fact finds support nowhere . . . .

Science has rendered invaluable service to society; her achievements are innumerable—and the hypotheses of scientists should be considered with an open mind. Their theories should be carefully examined and their arguments fairly weighed, but the scientist cannot compel acceptance of any argument he advances, ex-cept as, judged upon its merits, it is convincing. Man is infinitely more than science; science, as well as the Sabbath, was made for man . . . [[pp. 19 – 22; emphases added.]

iii --> The Butler Act of Tennessee therefore stipulated that evolutionary teachings -- though labelled "Science" -- should be treated as a sectarian, speculative, controversial skeptical position; one directly comparable to the distinctive and similarly controversial particular dogmas of religious denominations (as opposed to the then prevailing generic Bible-based Christian theistic consensus), and so it should not be state-funded in schools:

. . . it shall be unlawful for any teacher in any . . . public schools of the State which are supported in whole or in part by the public school funds of the State, to teach any theory that denies the story of the Divine Creation of man as taught in the Bible, and to teach instead that man has descended from a lower order of animals.

iv --> The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sought a test case to challenge such laws, and in co-operation with a local business circle in Dayton Tennessee who hoped to gain publicity for their town, Mr John Scopes agreed to stand trial on the charge of having taught the evolution of man from primates [[“monkeys” or “apes” in popular language], based on Hunter's Civic Biology.

v --> Mr Scopes engaged lawyer and public skeptic Clarence Darrow, who had just won the highly publicised Loeb and Leopold Nietzschean “Superman” murder case in part on the closing argument that:
. . . They [[Loeb and Leopold] wanted to commit a perfect crime . . . . Do you mean to tell me that Dickie Loeb had any more to do with his making than any other product of heredity that is born upon the earth? . . . .
He grew up in this way. He became enamored of the philosophy of Nietzsche. Your Honor, I have read almost everything that Nietzsche ever wrote. He was a man of a wonderful intellect; the most original philosopher of the last century. Nietzsche believed that some time the superman would be born, that evolution was working toward the superman. He wrote one book, Beyond Good and Evil, which was a criticism of all moral codes as the world understands them; a treatise holding that the intelligent man is beyond good and evil, that the laws for good and the laws for evil do not apply to those who approach the superman. [[Shades of Plato's critique . . . ] He wrote on the will to power. Nathan Leopold is not the only boy who has read Nietzsche. He may be the only one who was influenced in the way that he was influenced . . . 

vi --> This was not quite true. For, we may read later on  in The Menace of Darwinism, by Bryan (NB: who appeared for the state in the trial):

Darwinism leads to a denial of God. Nietzsche carried Darwinism to its logical conclusion and it made him the most extreme of anti-Christians . . . . As the [[First World] war [[of 1914 - 1918] progressed I [[Bryan was from 1913 - 1915 the 41st US Secretary of State, under President Wilson] became more and more impressed with the conviction that the German propa-ganda rested upon a materialistic foundation. I se-cured the writings of Nietzsche and found in them a defense, made in advance, of all the cruelties and atrocities practiced by the militarists of Germany. [[It didn't start with the Nazis!] Nietzsche tried to substitute the worship of the "Su-perman" for the worship of God. He not only re-jected the Creator, but he rejected all moral standards. He praised war and eulogized hatred because it led to war. He denounced sympathy and pity as attributes unworthy of man. He believed that the teachings of Christ made degenerates and, logical to the end, he regarded Democracy as the refuge of weaklings. He saw in man nothing but an animal and in that animal the highest virtue he recognized was "The Will to Power"—a will which should know no let or hin-drance, no restraint or limitation . . . . His philosophy, if it is worthy the name of philos-ophy, is the ripened fruit of Darwinism — and a tree is known by its fruit . . . .

The corroding influence of Darwinism has spread as the doctrine has been increasingly accepted. In the American preface to "The Glass of Fashion" these words are to be found: "Darwinism not only justifies the sensualist at the trough and Fashion at her glass; it justifies Prussianism at the cannon's mouth and Bol-shevism at the prison-door. If Darwinism be true, if Mind is to be driven out of the universe and accident accepted as a sufficient cause for all the majesty and glory of physical nature, then there is no crime or vio-lence, however abominable in its circumstances and however cruel in its execution, which cannot be justi-fied by success, and no triviality, no absurdity of Fash-ion which deserves a censure: more — there is no act of disinterested love and tenderness, no deed of self- sac-rifice and mercy, no aspiration after beauty and excel-lence, for which a single reason can be adduced in logic." [[pp. 52 - 54. Emphases and explanatory parentheses added.]

vii --> That would have made for a devastating comeback in the “duel” between these lawyers (who had agreed to call one another as witnesses), but Darrow used legal tactics to block that from happening, and the disgusted judge cut off further debate the next morning:

Fig G.21: The “duel” in the shade (held on the afternoon of a rather hot day), showing Darrow (standing) interrogating Bryan (seated, facing him), with court recorders noting the transcript and with police, reporters and the crowd looking on. [[A transcript of the exchange is here. Cf the report on the 1931 Darrow-Chesterton New York City debate, here, to see what happened when Darrow had to debate on a more level playing field, a few years later.] (Source: Bradbury, under fair use.)

viii --> In his closing summation (also not delivered due to the same tactics), Bryan would have pointed out that: 

A criminal is not relieved from responsibility merely because he found Nietzsche's philosophy in a library which ought not to contain it. Neither is the university guiltless if it permits such corrupting nourishment to be fed to the souls that are entrusted to its care . . . . [[Again, strongly echoing Plato's analysis; and also his recommendations.]

Mr. Darrow said: "I say to you seriously that the parents of Dicky Loeb are more responsible than he, and yet few boys had better parents." Again he says: "I know that one of two things happened to this boy; that this terrible crime was inherent in his organism and came from some ancestor, or that it came through his education and his training after he was born." . . . . He says "I do not know what remote ancestor may have sent down the seed that corrupted him, and I do not know through how many ancestors it may have passed until it reached Dicky Loeb. All I know is, it is true, and there is not a biologist in the world who will not say I am right."

Psychologists who build upon the evolutionary hypothesis teach that man is nothing but a bundle of characteristics inherited from brute ancestors. That is the philosophy which Mr. Darrow applied in this celebrated criminal case. "Some remote ancestor" - he does not know how remote - "sent down the seed that corrupted him." You cannot punish the ancestor - he is not only dead but, according to the evolutionists, he was a brute and may have lived a million years ago. And he says that all the biologists agree with him. No wonder so small a percentage of the biologists, according to Leuba, believe in a personal God.

This is the quintessence of evolution, distilled for us by one who follows that doctrine to its logical conclusion.

ix --> But, five days after the trial, Bryan was dead from complications of untreated diabetes, and the general impression we have of the trial is strongly shaped by the anti-Fundamentalist themes and regrettable distortions in the Movie (and associated plays), Inherit the Wind.; as well as in the popular mind. (For instance, a: it is unlikely that Mr Scopes actually taught evolution, b: he was not held in gaol, so c: he was not mobbed therein; d: Mr Darrow was welcomed and treated courteously by the businessmen hoping to promote their town through the trial; e: the movie dialogue distorts the trial transcript to make Mr Bryan into a strawman, f: nor did he go insane and die in a fit at the conclusion of the trial. To cap off, g: Mr Bryan offered to pay Mr Scopes' mandatory fine, US$ 100. It should also be noted, again, that Hunter's Civic Biology -- the textbook in question -- advocated eugenics, in the name of science.)

We clearly need to address several pointed education and policy issues that the Scopes trial and its aftermath highlighted, issues that are still with us today, over eighty years later:

(1) Educators, students and the public alike need to be aware that science, at its best, is: an unfettered (but ethically and intellectually responsible) progressive pursuit of the truth about our world, based on empirical observations and facts, experiment, logical-mathematical analysis and discussion among the informed.

(2) We should also recognise that since origins sciences are about a remote, unobserved past, their explanations, models and theories are necessarily more limited in scope, tested reliability and degree of warrant than the results of operations sciences that can directly access empirical facts through current experiments and observations.

(3) Similarly, since origins studies are about the roots of our existence and nature, it is to be expected that these studies will have significant impacts on and associated controversies linked to major worldview alternatives.

(4) A major objective of origins science studies should therefore be not only to survey dominant schools of thought the relevant facts, concepts and explanatory models and theories, but -- in light of relevant scientific and philosophical critiques of those schools -- to explore the nature, strengths, limitations and significance of science for the individual and for the society, in as balanced and objective a way as possible.

(5) Given the history of contentions, polarisation, misinformation, distortion, misrepresentation and ideologisation of topics related to origins science, it would also be helpful to provide a balancing corrective on pivotal incidents in the scientific, policy level and general public debates.

(6) Similarly, painful through it is to do so, the history of major abuses linked to ideologised origins sciences -- which beyond reasonable doubt include some of the worst abuses of science in all history -- should be explored, and used to motivate reflection on key questions of scientific and general ethics, to help equip future citizens and policy-makers to make better decisions in light of that history. (And, such should not be done in a way that seeks to shift or dilute blame through diversionary finger-pointing; though it is appropriate to point out with examples that as a rule the worst abuses in history have been done in the name of good, and that typically many factors and individuals contribute to the worst evils of any given age.)

(7) Finally, it is clear that origins science issues form an inextricably intertwined whole. Accordingly, while such studies will inevitably focus on the particular relevant aspect -- whether astronomical, geo-chemical, biological, or psychological/cognitive etc. -- curricula should provide at least brief surveys of the whole framework, so that students and educators may place their particular focal studies in context.

Thus, the education paradigm case provides a microcosm of the challenges our civilisation faces as we address the controversies that surround origins science.


REMARKS: This general survey unit has sought to summarise and introduce the study of origins science, for general and high school level audiences. In so doing, it has introduced the underlying history of ideas and alternatives, and has looked at cosmology, origin of life, origin of bio-diversity, origin of mind, and at the impacts of origins science in society. The approach has been to undertake a critically minded, balancing survey of key points and themes linked to scientific studies of origins. In following units, these themes will be explored in greater details, at a reference/ College level. 


The focus of this course, as declared in the initial synopsis, has been:

Providing an independent, community-based open-access critical survey seminar/course on origins science that summarises major points and perspectives, presents key alternatives and provides a balancing overview. This, so that participants will be able to analyse and discuss the decisive scientific facts, theories, ideas, issues and alternatives on origins in an informed, objective way that makes use of credible, empirically based distinctives of natural and artificial causes, especially specified complexity. Thus, they will be better equipped to draw balanced conclusions, do further studies and act as responsibly informed, critically aware citizens in light of their findings.
This, we have attempted to do, at general/ high school and early college/reference levels. And, while no exercise of this nature will be perfect, our effort has not been without some success, whatever the flaws that remain are. (Participants and onlookers are invited to contribute so that we may improve the course.) Enough has been shown for it to be clear that:
1 --> Origins science is very important, not only as a scientific and educational matter, but (as Plato pointed out long ago) for the way we set about governing society. So we have needed to get it right, and we have needed to get a right estimate of its degree of warrant.
2 --> Unfortunately, it has been ideologised in recent decades, through the rise of methodological naturalism as an authoritarian imposition on science by the evolutionary materialistic establishment. This has been manifested in the unwarranted, question begging redefinition of science as seeking “natural[[istic] explanations.”
3 --> This, we have sought to correct, though discussing the current and classical philosophical background, then exploring the various fields of origins science, while bringing to bear the significance of functionally specific complex organisation and associated information; inviting participants to draw their own conclusions.
4 --> Along the way, we have had occasion to explore some of the more interesting and overlooked byways of science, which we trust has been enjoyable and illuminating in its own right. Also, through the integrative nature of the subject, we have seen how a great many fields of science work together, sometimes at cross-purposes, sometimes throwing light one upon the other.
5 --> So, a first achievement of this course is to help us develop a scientifically literate understanding of our world and its roots, while helping us integrate scientific insights from many disciplines; giving breadths and synopsis to our understanding of science.
6 --> Similarly, by addressing relevant history, ethics, philosophy and policy issues, we have also been able to learn a bit on the significance of science for citizenship and leadership in our new Millennium.
7 --> Last, but not least, through engaging in real-world investigation, analysis and presentation, we have -- at least at a popular science level -- equipped ourselves with key scientific and related techniques.
It is also helpful to present an outlook.

That starts from recognising that what is needed — on both sides of currently raging origins science debates — is to build a reasonably well warranted empirically based explanation for the origin of certain phenomena that in our direct observation are consistently associated with the action of intelligence. (For instance digitally coded, algorithmic,  functionally specific complex information.)

ID holds that — on the principle that the best explanation of what happened in the deep past that we cannot directly observe is the causal factors seen in such reliable patterns in the present — the best explanation of the FSCI in the cell  is directed contingency, i.e. design. (This applies the universality/uniformitarian concept suggested by Newton when he suggested that the same laws that governed our solar system govern remote stars. It was then extended to time by Lyell and Darwin, who sought to extend the explanatory reach of scientific theories from the present into the deep past beyond direct observations.)

This is clean, simple and easily tested against experiment. To falsify it is quite simple in principle: just produce a known, directly observed case where credibly undirected stochastic contingency and/or blind mechanical necessity have produced such FSCI and the ID claim breaks down beyond repair. (Mind you, on the same statistical grounds that warrant the statistical form of the second law of thermodynamics, that will be predictably hard; indeed, ID suggests that such exceptions will be empirically unobservable on the gamut of our known cosmos.)

Darwinian evolution, and wider evolutionary materialism are committed to the contrary proposition that undirected chance and necessity are fully and with reasonable likelihood, capable of producing such.

But, to date, its supporters have never been able to produce a case in our observation that stood up to a serious scrutiny. Indeed, instead, as we have seen from Lewontin in his well-known NYRB review article of 1997 (after making some fairly unfortunate remarks that appeal to the notion that those who disagree with the evolutionary materialist "consensus" are ignorant, stupid, insane or wicked -- yes, we know enough to understand the subtext when one gives the "typical" example of an ill-informed woman who dismissed the Moon landings since she cannot even get Dallas on her TV, much less the Moon):
It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us 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 . . .

The dismissive appeal to the rhetorically loaded, fallacious contrast natural[[istic] vs. supernatural, is little more than an atmosphere-poisoning  distraction from the alternative long since put on the table by Plato: natural vs. ART-ificial, where the latter may be recognised from empirically reliable signs of purposeful directed contingency, such as coded, algorithmically functionally specific, complex information.

So, on unfettered inference to best explanation, the answer is pretty obvious: digitally coded, flexibly programmed algorithmic information systems with associated organised co-ordinated, synchronised implementing machinery are best explained as artifacts.

Even, if such a digital information processing system just happens to sit in the heart of the living cell and uses molecular nanomachines.

But, that unfettered-ness is exactly what is not being allowed to speak. As Lewontin and others summarise, there is an a priori commitment to “natural explanations,” and there is an associated active attempt to redefine science as explaining only on such patterns of chance and mechanical necessity.

So, there is a worldviews-clash tinged ideological struggle in science.

History tells us that such struggles do not fade away quietly if much is at stake. What will probably happen is that sometime within the next 20 years or so, there will be one cover-up, one censorship, one expulsion too many, and bang the light will go off.  Support for the currently reigning evolutionary materialist paradigm will collapse in the tax-paying public, and the paradigm will dry up, with die-hards fighting bitterly for turf and perks at the public trough, tooth and nail every inch of the way.

Therefore, the real challenge for design thinkers seems to be to hold up the mirror of soundness and truth to the reigning a priori materialism paradigm, while building a new one among those sufficiently open-minded to see its true degree of warrant.  Evolutionary materialistic thinkers face a related problem: in absence of actual directly observed evidence that the design inference is fatally flawed, is it justifiable to manipulate rules, institutional power and public perceptions to protect a paradigm under challenge?

The trend is clear, and sooner rather than later, the public will wake up, wise up and rise up, saying enough is enough.

So, now, we need to think for ourselves, analyse, and act in good time for the good.