To say, “The universe requires a Creator.” Is an act of faith, because all other possible explanations have not nor ever can be explored. All absolutes must be taken by faith, regardless of whether they are true. Likewise to say, “The universe does not require a Creator,” is an act of faith, because explanations for everything have not nor ever can be explored. It is an absolute that must be taken by faith, regardless of whether it is true. To say, “There are no absolutes,” is simply an act of ignorance. The statement itself is nonsensical, because one cannot make an absolute statement that absolutes don’t exist. It is like saying, “My brother is an only child.” The implication is that there are absolutes, because endorsement of their existence is the only statement that can be made with impunity.
Archive for August, 2007
“Two world views are in conflict.. two philosophies of life.. one of these two worlds must break asunder.”
There are actually two groups of people in the world: Those who divide people into two groups of people and those who don’t.
I have read that Adolph Hitler made the top statement, but I have only documented the attribution as far as the Axis Powers, in a 1942 publication. In any case, it is a common position predicted by social identity theory. One premise of this sociological theory is that we all tend to consider ourselves to be in the “in group,” and everyone else is in the “out group.” Further we tend to consider all out group members to be alike, hence two groups. As an example, evolutionists seldom distinguish between creationists and intelligent design theorists. Likewise creationists often represent the masses as having only two world views, one Christian and one pagan. The result in both cases is that they can be blind-sides by the variety of attacks by those opposing their view. Evolutionists can pigeonhole scientists as religious and abandoning science, simply because they voice legitimate objection to Darwinian evolution. Some atheists do that. But likewise Christians may think they see softening in the opposition, just because they introduce “spiritualism” into the debate. Ernst Haeckel, whom Darwin cited for his now controversial illustrations of evolution using embryos, professed and promoted Monism (see Politics under Haeckel), an Eastern religious thought. Alfred Russel Wallace, who simultaneously published an almost identical theory of evolution with Darwin, became a mystic in later years. Darwin’s response to this was “I hope you have not murdered too completely your own & my child.” Even though Darwin was displeased with Wallace’s introduction of spiritualism into his theory of evolution, that does not mean that Wallace was any closer to a Christian Worldview. There was still a strict avoidance of direction by a Designer.
“A man who has no assured and ever-present belief in the existence of a personal God, or of a future existence with retribution and reward, can have for his rule of life as far as I can see, only to follow those impulses and instincts which seem to him the best ones.”
Autobiography of Charles Darwin. As compiled and edited by his granddaughter, Emma Nora (Darwin) Barlow, p.94.
If each individual would do what is best in their own eyes, guess who’s interest each person would consider best. Their own. Darwin’s astute observation can be further delineated by Emile Durkheim‘s that society is the ultimate constraint to mankind’s behavior. With this, the best that a godless mankind can be hoped for is Machiavellian: Everyone will do what is in their own best interest, which may include convincing others that one is doing what is best for others. Note this is not necessarily the same as doing what is best for others as individuals or society at large. If lying and false impressions achieves that, so be it. The net? Society and mankind (and ultimately the individual) loses if their is no perception of supernatural accountability beyond himself. So the answer for the faithless person is to convince everyone else that he or she believes in god and that everyone else should believe in god, for their own sake. I’m afraid there is a lot of that going on out there.
But let me take a deeper track: What about the truth? Does it make sense for a biology to evolve without god in a way that requires a belief in god by its highest form in order to function at its best? The answer to me seems simple: No.
David Barash produced an interesting article for the April 20, 2007 issue of the Chronicle Review of the Chronicle of Higher Education. The DNA of Religious Faith explores the developing literature on the biological origins of religion. His article is well researched for recent works.
Though he cites several publications in the most recent decade that attempt to explain why people are religious, the idea of explaining away the spiritual is not new. He could have as easily mentioned Emile Durkheim’s Elementary Forms of the Religious Life (1912), in which he elaborates on a concept that the soul is literally the result of social demands on the individual to conform to regulation. Or how about the way George Herbert Mead took hundreds of pages in Mind, Self, and Society (1934) to explain that our consciousness of self, and thus our uniquely human condition, developed from social interactions that forced us to distinguish ourselves from the masses. He also saw this integrally linked to the development of language, which he pictured as developing from reflexive gestures and sounds of animals. So, though there may be something new in our biology technologies, there is nothing new in the idea of trying to explain away God or the soul. Though the logic may be complex, convoluted, and without empirical evidence, the very idea that learned people could and would do this rocked me during my PhD program. No more. Anything and everything observable can be explained in multiple ways that are logical, yet each explanation is mutually exclusive of the other, e.g., the sun moves around the earth and the earth moves around the sun. In other words, there always exists a completely logical explanation that is untrue. It just may not be the most parsimonious explanation.
Even though Barash assumes a satisfactory material explanation may be found some day, he makes some very revealing observations, including the following quote:
“It is both a fertile field and a frustrating one. On the one hand, religious belief of one sort or another seems ubiquitous, suggesting that it might well have emerged, somehow, from universal human nature, the common evolutionary background shared by all humans. On the other hand, it often appears that religious practice is fitness-reducing rather than enhancing — and, if so, that genetically mediated tendencies toward religion should have been selected against. Think of the frequent advocacy of sexual restraint, of tithing, of self-abnegating moral duty and other seeming diminutions of personal fitness, along with the characteristic denial of the “evidence of our senses” in favor of faith in things asserted but not clearly demonstrated. What fitness-enhancing benefits of religion might compensate for those costs?”
This confession of the difficulties of explaining away God and religion are well said. “Survival of the fittest” comes up quite short when applied to religion. Barash does a good review of ideas posited for religion’s biological origins, but then does just as good a job presenting the difficulties of each attempt. He concludes “sadly, that a convincing evolutionary explanation for the origin of religion has yet to be formulated. In any event, such an account, were it to arise, would doubtless be unconvincing to believers because, whatever it postulated, it would not conclude that religious belief arose because (1) it simply represents an accurate perception of God, comparable to identifying food, a predator, or a prospective mate; or (2) it was installed in the human mind and/or genome by God, presumably for his glory and our counterevidentiary enlightenment.”
Perhaps Barash meant this last statement to emphasize the unreasonableness of “believers” to accept scientific explanations, but he has also pointed out the blinders on most scientific research. Why is he so confident that scientists will indeed NOT sometime in the future conclude that the “ubiquitous” nature of religion is due to a real God? Because the idea is off limits. It cannot be considered, no matter what the evidence indicates. Now who is being unreasonable? Any pursuit of knowledge that a priori assumes that certain possible answers are off limits is by definition pursuing a question outside its defined boundaries to explain.