This article is part of a series of articles on the subject of evolution, ethics and spirituality:
One can certainly understand the great philosopher Daniel Dennett when he says:
If I were to give an award for the single best idea anyone has ever had, I’d give it to Darwin, ahead of Newton and Einstein and everyone else. In a single stroke, the idea of evolution by natural selection unifies the realm of life, meaning, and purpose with the realm of space and time, cause and effect, mechanism and physical law. (Dennett, 1995, p. 21).
I would certainly extend that prize to Alfred Russel Wallace too, after all, both were simultaneous discoverers of natural selection, even though Wallace considered evolution through natural selection Darwinian, as he eloquently put it in the title of one of his books, Darwinism (1889).
I share that enthusiasm. As a matter of fact, behind my car I have an Icthus with the name "Jesus", and a modified Icthus with the name "Darwin". Of course, I’m thankful that I live in Puerto Rico in an academic environment, not in the south of the U.S., from where Reverend Michael Dowd reports there were some interesting gestures made by people when they saw something similar on the side of the van.
Yet, how far should this enthusiasm go? The three big proponents of the "meme" view of culture happen to subscribe to something called Universal Darwinism. Susan Blackmore (1999) defines it this way:
the application of Darwinian thinking way beyond the confines of biological evolution (p. 5).
The American philosopher Daniel Dennett (1995) has described the whole evolutionary process as an algorithm, that is, a mindless procedure which, when followed, must produce an outcome. . . . [Darwin’s] logic would apply equally to any system in which there was heredity, variation, and selection. This, again, is the idea of Universal Darwinism. (p. 10).
That is what Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, and Susan Blackmore are trying to do with the concept of memes. As explained in the previous post, this seems all nice and dandy, but there are some problems.
The Problem with Selfish Genes and Selfish Memes
David Sloan Wilson is less known by the public, but he is a great authority on the theory of evolution. Like Dawkins, Dennett, and Blackmore, he believes that religion is the result of evolutionary processes. Unlike them, though, he believes that religions evolved for useful purposes and are still useful, regardless of whether they are true or not. For this reason, he is managing the Evolutionary Religious Studies. But, more to the point, he and the famous Edward O. Wilson (another famous evolutionist) support a Neo-Darwinian view of things that is not at all like what Dawkins and company have in mind.
For Dawkins, and for some other scientists, the selection happens primarily at the genetic level. Genes are the ones which are competing with one another in the struggle for life, they want to "survive" using us as their means of reproduction and survival. This is his selfish-gene metaphor formulated for the first time by Richard Dawkins in 1976. David Sloan Wilson, on the other hand, believes that selection happens in groups, in fact, many group levels. This is the multilevel group selection. He explains his theory in these blog posts (I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X, XI, XII, XIII, XIV, XIV(2), XV, XVI, XVII, XVIII, XIX). His fights with Dawkins in this area are well known (as it is illustrated by his "Open Letter to Richard Dawkins").
Basically, the "selfish-gene" skeptics simply cannot accept, as Dawkins does, that the struggle for life can be reduced to genes. We should see, instead, the more complicated ways of surviving which organisms have developed. First, natural selection operates at an organic level, the individual organism as a whole. Second, not even that individual is alone, but forms part of a group or a species. Its selection depends greatly on the group, and how this group of organisms interact with other groups of organisms at many levels. One of the most important mechanisms of group survival is its sexual activity and reproduction success. Other mechanisms seem to include altruistic behavior to guarantee the common good, which maximizes a species’ success. In a future blog post I shall argue that this is not altruism properly speaking, but solidarity (i.e. a social behavior where something is given in exchange for something else). This scheme of solidarity might include selfless acts within the group, but in the end it is for everyone’s benefit.
Why is this important? Mainly because it demystifies a lot of the "selfish-gene" metaphor within science, and, by extension the "selfish-meme" metaphor. As some experiments seem to suggest, there is empirical evidence that the multilevel group selection seems to be a better model with which to understand group behavior. Wilson wants to extend this view to a cultural level. Just as he rejects "selfish-genes", it can be said that he rejects "selfish-memes" (and I am afraid that he doesn’t believe in memes all that much after all). The reason why he studies religion so extensively is to show that, contrary to what Dawkins is arguing, it is far from being a "virus of the mind". Religion is useful to help us succeed as a species. Again, the issue of truth is not in question at this level, only the aspect of the role it plays in society, its ability to group people and establish a solidarity (or in his words "altruistic" behavior) for everyone’s benefit within that group. Wilson has argued this very good point in his book Darwin’s Cathedral.
When Memes are Scientifically Useless
Of course, regarding memes themselves, we should ask two very important questions:
- Are memes subject to empirical inquiry?
- Is the concept of memes useful for various scientific disciplines?
Let’s explore the first. It is very difficult (almost impossible) to establish memes as subject of empirical inquiry. Memes are entities that inhabit their creators’ minds. They are culturally shared, which means that they jump from mind to mind, replicating in a Neo-Darwinian manner. Since it is a cultural replicator, a meme is itself invisible. Therefore, it is in principle not observable.
This does not mean that all unobservable things are untrue. We cannot observe the center of the black hole, but we can infer it from the theories we have available regarding their existence in space-time along with several observations in the universe that seem to indicate that black holes exist. Theories on black holes predict the outcome of certain effects, which can be correlated with several phenomena we have seen out there. We can infer a cause by its effect, as long as we have a theory to interpret those "effects". Some scientists want to approach to memes this way. They predict that memes can activate several parts of our brains, and the same meme will activate that same part of the brain. That will prove to be difficult, because one sole part of the brain may be activated by a barrage of causes, which is the reason why neuroscience is still a very difficult subject, and the brain the most mysterious composite organ in nature.
But what makes this a bit more difficult is that memes, as portrayed by Dawkins, is strongly analogous to a gene. However, a gene can be observed, detected, and even isolated. There are many cases where we don’t know exactly where that unit ends or begins, but it’s there! Yet, as Susan Blackmore (1999) herself seems to recognize, a meme is not a unit as a gene is (pp. 53-57), she even says that there is no right answer for what a meme unit is (p. 54), and even with that, Blackmore says that this limitation itself is not a problem! (p. 53) This is so true, that even Richard Dawkins states in the foreword to Blackmore’s book (Blackmore, 1999):
Another objection is that we don’t know what memes are made of, or where they reside. Memes have not yet found their Watson and Crick; they even lack their Mendel. Whereas genes are to be found in precise locations on chromosomes, memes presumably exist in brains, and we have even less chance of seeing one than seeing a gene (through the neurobiologist Juan Delius has pictured his conjecture of what a meme might look like) (p. xii).
Apparently, Blackmore does not consider as problems the fact that we don’t even know which are the mechanisms for "copying and storing" memes (supposedly both happen in our brains) (pp. 56-58).
The fundamental problem with memes was pointed out by chemist and theologian, Alister McGrath (aka "Dawkins’ famous foe"): the concept of memes relies heavily in an analogy. As he rightfully points out, analogies can be helpful, but if you rely too much on them, they become a problem. Dawkins should be familiar with such problems, since he has had to explain the metaphor of the selfish-gene for the nth time to many people who don’t seem to understand it (McGrath, 2007, pp. 131-133). As McGrath correctly points out:
All human cultures possess a means by which information may be transmitted within existing populations and to subsequent generations — such as books, rituals, institutions, and oral traditions. The notion of a "meme" is functionally redundant, forcing its defenders to make a case by analogy with the gene — yet to downplay the empirically determined biological, chemical, and physical parameters of the gene, which are now an essential aspect of molecular genetics. The plausibility of the meme is thus grounded in a questionable analogical argument, not in overwhelming evidence and observation (McGrath, 2007, p. 133).
What about its use? Is it useful in any scientific field? Not yet! To say that aspects of culture or memes replicate is to state a truism about culture in Neo-Darwinian language. Beyond that, memetics has not helped understand any better the following fields: neurology, sociobiology, cognitive science, anthropology, religious studies, history, politics, economics, literature, psychology, and so on. Anthropology has better explanatory models to explain social behavior, and cognitive science has greatly contributed to understanding culture, as Steven Pinker has shown in his masterpiece The Blank Slate. Yet, it is not obvious at all how memetics contributes to understanding anything.
Even with McGrath’s admiration for books such as The Selfish Gene, and how ingenious Dawkins’ idea of the "meme" is, he (and his wife) cannot help but to point out what is pseudo-scientific about memetics:
The issue … is whether the meme can be considered to be a viable scientific hypothesis when there is no clear operational definition of a meme, no testable model for how memes influence culture and why standard selection models are not adequate, a general tendency to ignore the sophisticated social science models of information transfer already in place, and a high degree of circularity in the explanation of the power of memes (McGrath & McGrath, 2007, pp. 71-72).
In Darwin’s Dangerous Idea (Dennett, 1995), Dennett advocates for the use of the concept of "meme" for science, he explores the similarities and differences between genes and memes (pp. 352-360). However, he still cannot establish its scientificity.
Memes Jumping Around All Over the Place! No Reason for It, and No Reason Along with It
There is a question on whether memes are Darwinian or Lamarckian. As we all know, Jean-Baptiste Lamarck formulated a theory of evolution, long before Darwin, which established the idea that animals evolved to enhance themselves for survival. For instance, an ancient giraffe would have had a very short neck, but its neck "stretched" throughout an evolutionary process to reach the leaves at the top of the trees. Darwin, on the other hand, proposed that natural selection is the one that made this "stretch" possible. This is a blind process where those giraffes with longer necks did survive better and reproduce more than those with short necks (they died out). Are memes Lamarckian or Darwinian. Blackmore, once again, seems to favor a Darwinian view of memes, even though she recognizes that as it is right now, perhaps this issue is undecided. And once again, she says that this is not a problem for memetics at all! (Blackmore, 1999, pp. 59-62) ~ Shaking my head ~
It seems that Dennett (1995) also favors the view that memes are Darwinian. Of course, this has its consequences regarding why I believe that, contrary to what he states in his book (pp. 361-369), memes are not philosophically important. The main objection to Dennett’s line of reasoning was voiced by Anthony O’Hear, a philosopher I have really big disagreements with, but not regarding this specific subject. His worry is Dennett’s line about his denial about the existence of a "reflective mind", instead he formulates the idea of a meme-created mind (O’Hear, 1997, p. 157). In Dennett’s own words:
… if it is true that human minds are themselves to a very great degree the creations of memes, then we cannot sustain the polarity vision we considered earlier; it cannot be "memes versus us," because earlier infestations of memes have already played a major role in determining who or what are we. The "independent" mind struggling to protect itself from alien and dangerous memes is a myth (Dennett, 1995, p. 365).
O’Hear points out that for Dennett, even the ordinary concept of consciousness is a myth. He also criticizes Dennett for establishing the power-relationship of memes (i.e. if we criticize some beliefs on the stance of others, then that happens because some memes are more powerful than others in our minds) (O’Hear, 1997, p. 157).
I have no problem with the idea that the interaction of mental modules can originate the "self" (i.e. consciousness as we intuitively know it). This has been worked out by Ramachandran’s own theory of the brain (or the mind), and Steven Pinker’s view on the mind as he expressed it in How the Mind Works. These two theories have aspects that are incompatible with each other, but for the sake of the argument, it can go either way. Also, I can fully accept that Pinker’s and Michael Gazzaniga’s view that only in society we can establish a mental notion of "self". It is another thing altogether to claim that the concept of self comes from memes. If anything cognitive scientists have shown (along with anthropology) is that much of our process of conceptuation can be social, but it is also biological in origin. Blackmore does not seem to think that this is a problem, but it is. The fact that there are human universals, that our brains have naturally developed concepts (such as the concept of tools), our ability to see color, etc., means that these are not of memetic origins (memes that suddenly jumped in our heads). These are cultural aspects of human society that seem to be biological in origin, and brought forth through human interaction. Ramachandran explores all of this in his books, as we have explained in our earlier blog posts.
Perhaps more serious regarding this view of memes is that it denies humans’ rational agency, even our ability to make ethical decisions. If we are governed by memes, all important ethical concepts are not there because they are necessary to make good decisions regarding ourselves and society, but because they are "memes trying to survive in our brain … and we cannot escape them". Even the notion that we can make decisions is itself a meme. This would represent a challenge to Dawkins, Dennett and Blackmore, who are in the "New Atheism" arena: Isn’t agnosticism and atheism memes themselves? Why should these positions have more value than religious memes? Isn’t this just a battle about memes which use us as their carriers? What would be the value of being an agnostic or atheist anyway in this case?
When talking about the "selfish-gene" we know that at least genes exist, and that the "selfish" part is just a metaphor. Memes seem to be unreal, they are at best an analogy, the term "selfish" is metaphoric. Wouldn’t that make the term "selfish-meme" a second degree literary device? I’m sure it’s not science!
It’s such a paradox that eminent advocates of rationality today, when pushed logically regarding memetics, deny reason in the end.
Religion: A Virus of the Mind?
Now, I fail to see the relevance of memes altogether if it is not to criticize religion. The term "virus of the mind" was invented for this sole purpose. Religion, for them, is intrinsically bad. It can lead to some good, but as Dawkins clearly states in The God Delusion, it is in average destructive to humanity. Yet, this presents us another very big problem with memes and a subset of these as "viruses of the mind". This was eloquently put by Alister McGrath in a conference for Christians in Science, a group of Christian scientists in the U.K.: "Are all memes viruses of the mind or just those that Dawkins doesn’t like?" This is a very serious question, because it uncovers the deep problems on how ever one determines that memes are viruses or not. This is not clear at all in memetics. This is so not clear, that one of the vocal proponents of the "virus of the mind" thesis, Susan Blackmore, recently retracted from this view.
On the other hand, with his book Breaking the Spell, Dennett tries to be in a way friendly to religion, in the sense of actually exploring it, trying to understand it. However, he still advocates "memes" to explain why humans meet in the Vatican or the Ganges river: it is like an ant’s brain when infected by organisms which make it behave in weird ways to commit suicide. He sums up his statement in this video.
Yet, this view of religion disregards the fact that sometimes radicalism in religious groups happen when the material conditions of the places these prosper are often poor, or submerged in conflict. Usually the enhancement of human life quality can make religion (and other cultural manifestations) less radical and much less harmful. I do agree with Dennett, though, that children should know about other religions and the factual truths about them. However, the proposal is far from having problems, but that is another subject for another time.
So, the question is: Is the term "virus of the mind" scientifically valid? Absolutely not.
Conclusion: "Temes"??? Not Again!!!
Did you think that these criticisms which show that memetics is pseudo-science would stop their proponents from presenting them as scientific ideas? Nope. In fact, as I loved the Evolution PBS TV series, I hated the part that had to do with memes, as if memetics were a scientific discipline.
The enthusiasm has not gone away either. Susan Blackmore is so excited with genes and memes, that she found other entities which use us to preserve themselves. She calls them "temes" ("te" for "technology").
Of course, after I saw this video, I rolled my eyes. That’s all I’m going to say about that. I love Susan Blackmore, but please … !
Blackmore, S. (2000). The meme machine. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Burne, D. (2002). Evolución: una guía básica sobre cómo se adaptan y subsisten los seres vivos. México: Editorial Planeta.
Dawkins, R. (2006). The God delusion. US: Bantam.
Dawkins, R. (2008). The extended phenotype: the long reach of the gene. Oxford: Oxford University Press. (Originally published in 1982).
Dawkins, R. (2009). The selfish gene. Oxford: Oxford University Press. (Originally published in 1976).
Dennett, D. C. (1991). Consciousness explained. NY: Back Bay Books.
Dennett, D. C. (1995). Darwin’s dangerous idea: evolution and the meanings of life. NY: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks.
Dennett, D. C. (2006). Breaking the spell: religion as a natural phenomenon. US: Viking.
McGrath, A. (2007). Dawkins’ God: genes, memes, and the meaning of life. US: Blackwell.
McGrath, A. & McGrath, J. C. (2007). The Dawkins’ delusion? Atheist fundamentalism and the denial of the divine. IL: IVP Books.
O’Hear, A. (1997). Beyond evolution: human nature and the limits of evolutionary explanation. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Wilson, D. S. (2002). Darwin’s cathedral: evolution, religion, and the nature of society. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
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En mis cursos de ética (FILO 4021) suelo comenzar con una discusión en torno a la pregunta de por qué los seres humanos somos seres morales, es decir, seres capaces de tomar decisiones teniendo como criterio los valores de bien, mal y deber. El semestre pasado comencé a elaborar una lectura en torno al tema y la repartí a mis estudiantes.
Aproveché la época de vacaciones navideñas para seguir editándola. La he corregido, la he puesto al día y he añadido alguna información que sé que será de interés para el estudiante que quiera leer más sobre el tema, que a la vez es pertinente para el tema de la moralidad.
He liberado este material bajo dos licencias:
- Licencia Creative Commons Atribución-CompartirIgual 3.0 Puerto Rico
- GNU Free Documentation License v. 1.3
Ambas licencias cumplen plenamente con las definiciones de obra cultural libre y de conocimiento abierto. También ambas licencias prohiben el uso de restricciones digitales o cualquier tecnología que restrinja al lector la reproducción o modificación del documento.
Pueden bajar el documento en tres formatos:
This article is part of a series of articles on the subject of evolution, ethics and spirituality:
Abstract Cultural Reality
When Karl Marx Changed his Mind …
There is perhaps no other person in history who is more loved and at the same time hated and feared as Karl Marx. Sometimes he is loved for the right reasons, and sometimes for the wrong reasons. Those who hate him do so usually (not always) on mischaracterizations and misunderstandings, more often fueled by ideological considerations. Sometimes those who love him have a very distorted view of his philosophical and economic views, and many of those who hate him do also. Usually both parties have a very cartoonish view of his ideas, sometimes exaggerated either to favor some left-wing views, or some right-wing views.
But let’s be fair to him. In my opinion, Marx is one of the most important economists in history. You may love him, you may hate him, but there is something you cannot do, and that is to ignore him. As philosopher, though, he was not very good. He did understand Hegel’s philosophy and applied a modified and radicalized form of his dialectics, but one thing is understanding and applying a philosophy, and another is to do philosophy. According to a 2005 BBC Radio poll carried out in Great Britain, the public was asked who was the greatest philosopher of all time. Here are the three winners:
Karl Marx — 28%
David Hume — 12.7%
Ludwig Wittgenstein – 6.8%
The rest of the philosophers had lower percentages. The Economist magazine asked people to favor Hume, but Marx won nonetheless. I think that this is one of those cases where whoever wins in a poll is clearly wrong. Actually, Hume and Wittgenstein were better philosophers than Marx. (I have to say, though, that I strongly suspect that The Economist campaigned for Hume for reasons which have nothing to do with Hume’s merits as philosopher). For me, the five best philosophers of all time are Plato, Aristotle, David Hume, Immanuel Kant, Edmund Husserl. Now, if you asked me who are the three greatest economists of all time, I’ll say: Adam Smith, Karl Marx and John Manyard Keynes. If you push me a bit, I would say that the first two are the two greatest.
Now let me clarify that I’m not saying that his philosophical background was not important in his economic views. Without it, an economic gem such as his greatest work, Capital, would not have been possible. Most people I hear on TV or radio criticizing Marxian views in Capital have either not read it, or not understood it fully. The problem is that much of these people have very poor philosophical formation or background.
Ever since Marx underwent his philosophical formation, he was not only an atheist, but a rabid materialist. His doctoral disertation was on Democritus and Epicurus, atomistic metaphysical theory, which established that all that exists is material. In his youth, we have his comments on Hegel and his criticisms of his spiritualistic and phenomenological works. In the economic and philosophical manuscripts (1844), Marx held a very rabid materialistic view of the world. He did think that everything in society was uniquely determined by the economy, and that human ideologies only exist to legitimize a situation where the burgoisie as a social class will benefit from it. As a result, he rejected all political economists. For Adam Smith, for instance, profit (or what Marx would call the surplus value) is the result of adding value to a commodity because of the labor activity. Marx’s response: Nonsense! Categories such as "exchange-value", "accumulated value", its measure, etc. are all abstractions, they are fictions! They are not real! These are pure ideological categories which serve to benefit the burgoisie! The surplus-value is nothing more than a way that the burgois cheats: he adds value to a price and THAT is how he obtains all the material wealth. Piece of cake!
Yet, several years later, Marx wrote a series of works including two classic works such as Salary, price, and profit, and Marx’s masterpiece Capital. If you see Marx as a rabid materialist you would say: "Ah! When I open these books to read them, he is just going to reject all sorts of categories of economic theory and state that we should only fix our eyes in material reality!" But, when you actually start to read these works, you realize something astonishing. He embraces these abstract categories! How strange! What the heck would change his mind?
For starters, it is impossible for the surplus-value to be a sort of cheating by the burgoisie class. The reason is that if it were true, we could not explain why much the owners of the means of production (the burgoisie) get rich in the first place. If what Marx said earlier were true, all of the cheating in the market would cancel all attempts for any sort of profit. Second, for any scientific theory to be possible, you have no choice but to abstract and find all categories ruling your object of study.
And when you start reading Capital, something more astonishing appears. In his dialectical analysis of capitalism you realize that this is a doctrine by Marx: all commodities have exchange value, which is equivalent to socially necessary labor time, when abstract labor is being accumulated in the commodity, and so on. His dialectics is sufficiently rich to link all of these abstractions to concrete features or objects (use value, concrete labor, etc.) But for Marx, all of these abstract categories are no longer fictions, they are objective. Marx still rejects much of what classical economists said, but validated the scientific categories they used. The basic difference between classical economists and Marx is that the former said "if you only follow our instructions, the economy will be OK". The latter researched enough to say: "Naaaah! Even if the economy behaved as you say, there would still be problems, and here is the reason why … read my work Capital." And what about the surplus-value? It is simply the wealth created by the labor force that is not paid to the proletariat as salary. That’s about it!
Also Marx recognized that this is not the only abstraction that is objective. He also recognized a sort of cultural realm, which is not uniquely determined by the economy (relations of production), but that also has a life of its own. He still believed that the economy predominated ultimately on culture, but he also recognized that culture can affect the relations of production, and social class structures. Not everything in culture addresses the economy. St. Thomas Aquinas’ question of how many angels can dance on the head of a pin was intrinsically a theological question, not economic. Whether induction is the appropriate approach for science is a philosophical question on science, it is not an economic question on science. So, the economy predominates, but it is not everything. Culture, that abstract realm shared by many human minds, is also objective.
When Karl Popper accepted the Existence of Another World, He became Darwinian
Now, there was a real philosopher, not an economist, who also happened to have the name "Karl". He was called Karl R. Popper, perhaps one of the greatest philosophers of the twentieth century. He is famous for many things. First, he was one factor in the end of a philosophical movement called logical empiricism, especially with his criticism against induction in general and their demarcation criterion for science. And yes, he is also known for upsetting scientists’ stomachs by criticizing induction and claiming that it doesn’t exist! I happen to agree with him though, and I explained earlier why. He is also known for his devastating critique of Plato, Hegel and Marx, especially in his work: The Open Society and its Enemies. I happen to agree with his notion of open society, especially as one of the most important philosophical foundations for free software, but I disagree with many (not all) of his statements against Plato, Aristotle, Hegel, and Marx. I think that he is one of those philosophers who try, in some subtle way, to present other philosophers disfavorably to see himself as superior.
However, what is less known about him is his World 3 philosophical view. He based his theory in part on Hegel’s philosophy, but mostly on Frege’s semantic views. Frege was a Platonist, and he believed that we should identiy three different realms if we want to preserve the objectivity of truth and the objective validity of mathematics and logic:
- First Realm: The physical realm, i.e. the material world as a whole.
- Second Realm: This is the realm of subjective thinking activity and mental representations. This is the realm of what cannot be shared among minds.
- Third Realm: The realm of objective abstract reality that can be shared by all minds, but is independent of our minds.
Popper would make the same distinction calling each of these "World 1", "World 2", and "World 3" respectively. However, he made a very important modification to Frege’s "third realm". For Popper, "World 3" is not an independent realm of abstract objects, but autonomous from the human mind. He is proposing a very constructivist point of view of this abstract realm. Everything in World 3 is created by the human mind, but that doesn’t mean that we can do with them as we will. Quite the contrary! For instance, we originated numbers, and we forged the concept of "prime numbers". As we know, prime numbers are those which are not the result of multiplication of other numbers other than 1 (except the number 1): 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13 … Once we create this category, we cannot will that number 4 be a prime number, or that number 11 be a non-prime number. In this sense, numbers and concepts (categories) escape our will. In a sense they become knowledge without a knower.
This paves the way to an interesting fact about these abstract content. First, World 3 elements only exist if there is a potential for grasping them. Unlike a platonist like Frege, who considered abstract content to be eternal, Popper argued that the existence of this abstract reality is only subject to the fact that there is content embedded in books, tapes, etc. so that intelligent beings can grasp them. If they disappear, or are destroyed, so is destroyed the content along with them.
But more interesting still is that World 3 has a sort of life of its own, which does not depend on any rational mind (World 2). First, we must recognize that there is an interaction between the three worlds. Situations in life (World 1), make us think and reflect (World 2), and through a thinking process (World 2), we reach a conclusion (World 3). Also, this conclusion (World 3) can be applied to the physical world (World 1), because of us, the thinking agents (World 2). So our minds mediate between the physical world and the world of abstract content, or in Poppers language: World 1 and World 3 interact through World 2.
To understand better this interaction, we have to understand how our mind works. Mostly as a result of evolution, the way we respond to the world depends on the stimuli which comes from it. This is because animals’ minds in general are "programmed" to respond in a certain way given a certain stimulus. In humans’ mental processes this is far more complex, since what stimulates us as thinking beings are not just pure stimuli from the world, but problems. For instance, a problem could be the scarcity of food in a certain country, or the problem of how planets revolve around the sun. According to Popper, we propose solutions to these problems, then there is a process of discussion about these solutions, and finally we carry them out or assume one of these solutions as the best. We must notice, though, that from this new solution, new problems arise. The process can be described this way:
Where P1 and P2 correspond to the first problem and the new problem respectively, "TT" represents the propose theory or solution to the problem, and EE means elimination of errors. Of course, this is too simplistic, we could use a more accurate scheme to describe the sociological process of problem-solving.
Where CED is "critical exhaustive discussion" about the different given solutions. Even when this is closer to what really happens, it is still too simple, but at least we get the gist of what he is trying to say.
Yet, the fact that every solution yields another problem means that in all fields of endeavor, scientific theorizing, religious beliefs, etc., the process of problem-solving goes more like this.
There can be many solutions to a problem, or many problems generated by a solution, and this makes possible a diversity of ways of thinking, solving, or dealing with problems. Science operates this way. You can see how fields multiply as they specialize in different genres of problems about the world. The same has happened to religions, and other fields and practices in humanity.
Let us remember that these are abstract problems, and we give abstract solutions to solve them. Marx (in a limited way) would recognize that in many ways, the economy depends greatly on abstract and objective categories that shape the way wealth is distributed. Popper’s claim is no different, although not limited to the economy as ultimate determinant of society’s structure and culture: this ever-growing abstract knowledge is also objective. Knowers, in many cases, cannot will to change the truth or the true consequences of a statement if they want to. I can posit a series of geometrical axioms on triangles, and from them I can derive theorems such as the Pythagorean theorems, or I can derive the theorem that says that the addition of the angles of the triangle are 180?. But once I construct the abstract concept of a triangle (as understood by Euclidean geometry) I cannot will that the Pythagorean theorem be false, or that the addition of its angles are 250?, even if I wish it. Much of the solutions proposed by people, and much of the problems that arise from them are unintended consequences already existing in World 3, and that thinkers (World 2) need to discover. We know that pi is the ratio between a circle’s circumference and the diameter, and the result is an irrational number, the decimal expression is infinite. Maybe we still don’t know what is the trillionth digit of the number pi, but in a sense it is there, it exists somehow in World 3, and we must somehow discover it.
Now, look at that last diagram I placed. Doesn’t it look familiar? It looks a lot like these drawings.
The first illustration above is a historic page. It begins by saying "I think" and proceeds to describe what the author believes the way species evolved. This page was drawn by Charles Darwin to describe speciation. Below there is a large diagram in The Origin of Species where Darwin describes how speciation took place.
Is Popper saying that knowledge evolves a la Darwin? Yes and no. Yes, the way knowledge grows seems a lot like the process of speciation that we appreciate in all living things. There is also an aspect of "extinction" of a species, a sort of "natural selection" of hypotheses and theories. For instance, when a hypothesis is refuted by evidence, usually it "dies". Sometimes a better theory comes along that ends another one in the field, in this sense the former survives and the latter becomes "extinct".
And no, in the sense that in many areas of knowledge, such as science, there can be "speciation" regarding how problems are addressed as specific fields are created, but at the same time there is a convergence of knowledge. Take physics, for instance. We used to believe that the laws governing the heavens and those governing the Earth were different, until Newton came along and joined them together with his theory of gravity. We also used to believe that electricity and magnetism were different realms, until Maxwell joined them together with electromagnetic laws. Biology, chemistry and other fields have to agree in some level with physics. Physics integrates mathematics, which is itself a very different field. World 3 keeps speciating, and yet converging in some way, and we are the agents that make this possible. The same happens with other fields.
Welcome to the world of evolutionary knowledge.
Intelligent Design Thriving on Lies and Ignorance
Do not judge, and you will not be judged; because the judgments you give
are the judgments you will get, and the standard you use will be the
standard used for you. Why do you observe the splinter in your brother’s eye
and never notice the great log in your own? . . . Hypocrite!
~ Jesus of Nazareth (Matthew 7:1-3,5a)
From Part IX on, we will focus on culture, morals and ethics in full, leaving gradually biological discussions behind. However, these series would be incomplete without a final note on Creationism and Intelligent Design (ID) movement in general. Unlike other articles, this one is explicitly made to condemn much of their views and accusations to those scientists, philosophers, religious people and even Charles Darwin himself.
If there are people who wish to believe as a matter of faith that the world was created in six days, or that humanity came from wet dirt, and so on, it is definitely their right to do so. However, they have no right to two things:
- Say that an opinion or group of statements which clearly do not constitute a proper scientific theory is science;
- Try to teach such opinion or group of statements as science
Religious thinking can be good if it moves people to search for the truth in honesty. Contrary to the views held by the so-called four "horsemen" of New Atheism (Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens), religion can move people to search for the truth, but this will only do if it is done under a specific framework, where religion can invite rational discussions about a variety of subjects, and does not interpret its Sacred texts as being literally true (i.e. literalism). Our Lord explicitly condemned the approach of placing the letter of the Law over other people’s dignity and the truth. As Hans Küng rightfully points out, He relativized Sacred Scripture in order to follow what is objectively good for individuals and society (Matthew 5:17-48; 19:1-30; 23:1-36; Mark 2:23-27). This is an example followed by St. Paul later when he converted from a zealous Jew to become the sort of Christian who opened the door to much tolerance (not completely) for the benefit of gentility, women, slaves, and others (see my articles about this specific subject: part 1, part 2, part 3).
A religion or spiritual path which leads to our own growth must have a component of what Scott Peck called "dedication to reality". In the religious arena, this translates to the practice of putting our faith to the test. If you suppose that every single word in the Bible is true verbatim, then you must subject it to be tested through both logic and empirical evidence. Literalist views of the Bible fail altogether in both aspects, because the Bible is a book that contradicts itself very much, and at the same time some of its claims (not everything) have been shown to be archaeologically or historically false.
The approach made by many Christians since Christianity’s infancy and even earlier (with Judaism) is to not treat Genesis literally. We have a very nice tradition that dates back as early as the beginning of the first century A.D. with the Jewish philosopher Philo of Alexandria, who stated clearly that the nature of the stories in Genesis should lead any thinking mind to recognize that the story of creation cannot be taken literally. This is a tradition followed by many Christian thinkers, especially the most eminent cases of Saint Augustine of Hippo and Saint Thomas Aquinas. Even Pope John Paul II treated both stories of creation (Gen. 1:1-2:4a; Gen. 2:4b ff.) as being myths, which were directed to people who had no scientific framework to understand what we are able to comprehend today. And he is not the only one to have this opinion, because in many Christian denominations there are people who have completely embraced this idea. There are many theologians and scientists who have proposed viable alternatives to understand creation from an evolutionary standpoint: Kenneth Miller, Michael Dowd, John Haught, Francis Collins, Alister McGrath, Darrel R. Falk, Karl W. Giberson, Hans Küng, Denis Edwards, and John Polkinghorne, just to mention a few. There are many Christian organizations made up of scientists around the world who clearly embrace evolution and reconcile it with Christian faith, such as the BioLogos Foundation, the American Scientific Affiliation, and Chistians in Science. Even atheists such as Michael Ruse reject the assertion made by the so-called "new-atheists" that a Christian cannot be an honest Neo-Darwinian. Even when he identifies several problems with Christian theology, Ruse’s conclusion is that Neo-Darwinians can be Christians and vice-versa. Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum, who are openly atheists or agnostics, also attack the so called "new-atheists" for their statement that an honest Darwinist should reject any faith in God, or any form of theological understanding of evolution. Other evolutionists like Douglas J. Futuyma and Charles Susanne have pointed out that the acceptance of evolution does not imply much about the belief in God, and we cannot state that such a belief is incompatible with many religious views. The literal refutation of Genesis, along with scientific discoveries and spiritual insight help us grow spiritually in any religious tradition. To adopt literalism is to cripple our spirit. Like Michael Dowd says, evolution will lead religious and spiritual traditions to their glory if they accept the "Gospel according to St. Charles [Darwin]".
Dedication to reality implies dedication to the truth. Reality and truth are correlates, since truths tell us many aspects about reality. To abandon dedication to reality, and all commitment to reason in order to embrace Biblical literalism inevitably leads to three things: lies, ignorance and fallacies. Unfortunately, these are what we see in Creationism and the Intelligent Design movements.
Hoaxes and Mistakes in Science
Before judging Creationism and ID, let us look first at "the log in our own eye" before looking at the splinter in both of these movements.
Certainly there have been many frauds hoaxes in science since it started existence. Creationists and ID advocates love to throw them at the face of us who favor evolution. For instance, the Piltdown Man fraud, where supposedly fragments of an "unknown early human" skull and jawbone were discovered in 1915. Supposedly this was a "missing link" between man and earlier forms of primates. For many years it was used as evidence of evolution, but in 1953 it was discovered to be a hoax: they were the lower jawbone of an orangutan placed as pieces of a fully developed modern human bone.
There have been many similar forgeries, hoaxes and cases of misidentification. Here are some of them:
- Piltdown Man: forgery created in 1915, discovered as forgery in 1953
- Nebraska Man: discovered in 1917, it was a case of misidentification demystified in 1925.
- Rhodesian Man: discovered in 1921 is another case of misidentification where the human jaw, sacrum, tibia and bones were wrongly used for a skull of a Neanderthal (Homo neanderthalensis); demystified in 1974.
This is not limited to frauds regarding the so-called "missing link" between "apes and humans". As I have said in Part IV of this series, there cannot be any missing link between apes and humans, because we didn’t come from apes, nor monkeys, nor chimpanzees. Neither Darwin nor any other evolutionist ever talked about apes being ancestors of humans. Secondly, we have enough substantial evidence that there are no missing links between earlier forms of primates and humans. We could discover additional fossils which can help us establish a more complete picture of the jigsaw puzzle of evolutionary ancestry, but as far as it goes there are next to no gaps left to fill.
However, there have been other cases of misidentification, for example, in the case of the Burgess Shale:
- The Anomalocaris saron was mistaken for an odd species of shrimp.
- The mouth of an Anomalocaris was mistaken for a jellyfish.
The fraud and mistaken-identity arena is not limited to fossil discoveries either. It can extend to embryos. For example, Ernst Haeckel is famous for having drawn embryos he said he studied and used them as a proof of evolution. Today, even some biology books point to him as the real discoverer of the structure of embryos as evidence for evolution. Unfortunately, much of these drawings have been shown to be evident fraud, and that some of the embryos he drew were not the ones he claimed to have studied (see Richardson (1998)).
There are other experiments whose importance have been completely overblown, especially when it comes to the subject of abiogenesis. This is a separate question in relation to Neo-Darwinian evolution, since the evolution only explains how organisms change and evolve, while abiogenesis is merely concerned about how life began. For example, Alexander Oparin formulated the theory of the primeval organic soup from which life is supposed to have come to be. Many years later, Stanley Miller used Oparin’s theory, included energy (in the form of electricity), and this organic soup generated aminoacids, which are the building blocks of life. This experiment had strong implications regarding life’s origins. However, a careful scientific analysis did show that the combination of substances of the primeval soup were wrong, because apparently it did not agree with what has been found archaeologically, and seem not to correspond with the original environment of more than three billion years ago.
Mistakes happen in science! Sometimes intentional, sometimes not! However, we must be careful before condemning all of science as a faulty enterprise, and all its knowledge as invalid. Contrary to claims being made by many religious people, science is a humble discipline in general. Science does assume that mistakes and frauds are going to happen from time to time. Mistakes, whether intentional or not, are part of human nature, is part of what we are. However, science has created self-correcting mechanisms which enable it to discover in the end some set of "evidence" as fraud, hoax, forgery, misidentification, mistake or error. The people who discovered that the Piltdown Man was a hoax were scientists, and in fact evolutionists: especially Gerrit Smith Miller, Jr. and Franz Weidenreich. The same thing happened with the Burgess Shale discoveries, and many other cases. Why? Because natural science is based on logic and evidence.
Despite these hoaxes and mistakes, there is a vast amount of evidence … genuine, solid, corroborated, no-fooling evidence … of the evolution of our species. Most, if not all, of the intermediaries between Austhralopitecus afarensis and Homo sapiens sapiens have been accounted for in the fossil record. There are vast amounts of discoveries that show how amphibians developed limbs from fins (I discussed some of that in Part IV of our series), we even have enough fossil record that shows how whales evolved from land mammals (see Prothero (2007) and Coyne (2009)). We have SO much more that paleontology has discovered which is completely ignored by the media and, needless to say, people.
Even when Haeckel’s drawings were hoaxes, the rest of embryonic research has been genuine and true, and is a strong evidence for evolution. It is not as Answers in Genesis says, that if evolution were true then the embryos of millions of years ago should be significantly different from ours. Quite the contrary! Evolutionists say that if we have fish as the ancestors of all vertebrates, then the initial stages of amphybians’, reptiles’, birds’, and mammals’ embryonic development should look like fish, with much of the same fish structures (similar but not identical). As the embryo keeps developing, then the marked differences between animals begin to emerge. As it turns out, embryological research have spectacularly confirmed this hypothesis. The study of embryos have confirmed that due to this fish-like embryological process, we have hiccups, we have hernia (if males make too much effort), we have limbs, and many other features which have been shown to evolve from fish. The statement made by Answers in Genesis is nothing more than a misrepresentation by conservative and fundamentalist Christian groups. This is strange case where despite the forgery, Haeckel’s proposal was indeed correct.
Unfortunately, the public is completely ignorant about the continued research on abiogenesis, making many important discoveries regarding the possibilities of the origin of life. Stanley Miller’s team has considered not only the aminoacids being made in their lab (a total of 13 of 25 that are necessary for life), but also those that come from meteors. During the Earth’s formation, there was some heavy pounding of meteors for billions of years. Miller’s team and other groups have continued to experiment with other compounds in order to discover which combination of substances led to the origins of life.
What is mainstream’s Christianity (especially the conservative and fundamentalist sectors) contribution to science? Answer: Nothing. Their contribution has been limited to yelling: "Hooray! Hooray! The Piltdown Man is a forgery! Haeckel was a hoaxer! Hooray!" However, they have not made any research nor made any experiment to show that their statements are true.
In fact, the problem with much of the elite within the Creationist and ID movements is that they deceive, ignore evidence (and even hide it from the public), and worse … convince a whole lot of people that what they say is true. This is not humility, it is arrogance.
Back to the Dover Case …
(I Give the Background of the Dover Case in Part III of These Series)
Judge Jones III was FURIOUS! He never expected this from Christians who are supposed to not lie under oath. However, there they were. Both of the most vocal proponents of Creationism in the Dover School Board of Education were caught lying. When he wrote down his decision, Judge Jones called them liars four times (see pp. 46, 105, 115, 137). We could quote one of those times:
The citizens of the Dover area were poorly served by the members of the Board who voted for the ID Policy. It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID Policy (p. 137).
Now, if a Federal judge uses such strong language to refer to these very "good" Christian people, we have to look at what they did.
For instance, Bill Buckingham, former police man, and member of the Dover School Board, is Creationist by conviction, and he was vocal about it. However, in the Dover case, he conceded the teaching of ID as an alternative to Neo-Darwinism, in order to at least show that Darwin’s theory of evolution is not the only valid theory in science.
Judge Jones wanted to examine the motivations behind the Dover School Board for accepting On Pandas and People as an acceptable biology text book. He was asked in court by the Plaintiff’s lawyer if his motivation was religious. Buckingham claimed it was not, because ID (as taught in Pandas) was not conventional Creationism, but another "valid" scientific theory which happens to consider the existence of an intelligent designer. The attorney asked him to look at a video of his statements on the news, and this is what he saw:
He claimed that he made a human mistake, because he was nervous about the camera being in front of him. Ah! Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt. But …
… there was still another problem. Both Buckingham and another member of the Board, Alan Bonsel, in their sworn depositions, made a statement that they had absolutely no idea who donated the books of Pandas which appeared in the Dover school to be handed to science students. Later, on trial, Buckingham changed his story, and said that he asked the members of the church he belonged to about $1,100 to buy Pandas. He received some money through donation, he deposited the money and made a check ($860) and gave it to whoever wanted to buy the books. He claims now that he was told in his church that the check was going to be given to a "businessman" to buy the books for the school … but that he had absolutely no idea who that person was. However, in the trial he admitted he gave that check to Alan Bonsel, and it was Bonsel’s father who bought the books.
When Alan Bonsel went to testify, he stood by his deposition stating that he had absolutely no idea where the money came from. The Plaintiff’s attorney showed him a canceled $860 check endorsed by Bonsel himself. After showing him the check, and making him admit that Buckingham gave him the check, the attorney asked him: "Do you wish to reconsider your deposition statement that you had no idea where the check came from?" Then Bonsel tried to make the statement that what he meant in his deposition was that he did not know who exactly were the Church donors who placed the cash in the basket, therefore "he did not know where the money came from".
Judge Jones’ face was red with righteous rage and interrupted him saying something like this: "Stop! Hang on a minute! Don’t insult the intelligence of this court by pretending that by saying that you had no idea where the money came from it means that Buckingham and you solicited it, collected it, bundled it, and transmitted it!"
But this was not the only questionable aspect of ID defenders. As we said in Part III, one of the leading advocates for ID, Michael Behe, testified in court in order to defend his "irreducible complexity" proposal. As we saw in Part III of these series, he used the three icons of ID: the bacterial flagellum, the blood clot cascade, and the immune system. We showed the refutation of the claim of irreducible complexity in the cases of the bacterial flagellum and the blood clot cascade, but … what happened with the refutation of irreducible complexity in the case of the immune system?
In his book, Darwin’s Black Box, Behe argues that there is simply no scientific research published regarding the evolution of the immune system. The Plaintiff’s attorney asked precisely Behe about this fact. He placed in front of Dr. Behe a journal with an article on the evolution of the immune system and asked him if he read it before. He said no. Then he reached for another journal with another article about the same subject, he said no. Then he reached for another journal with another article, he said yes. Then he reached for other journals and academic books about the subject, until it piled up in front of Behe. The attorney said that it seemed incredible that he could claim that there has been no research published regarding the evolution of the immune system, yet, there they were! Behe’s response left Judge Jones perplexed. Behe said: "Yes! They are here! But they are still not enough!" The judge rightfully was surprised at the degree, not only of the complete lack of research he made in his book regarding his claim that science cannot account for the evolution of the immune system, but also that he was willing to ignore evidence to that effect. Today, much of the studies are focused on the way the immune system self-assembles as key to understand how it evolved. This self-assembly process is explained online by Kathryn Applegate, who has a PhD in computational biology: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.
Behe’s move is not exlusive to him alone. For all practical purposes it permeates all of Creationism and ID. They usually project their own defect on those who favor Neo-Darwinian evolution. Projection is nothing but the evidence of their own lack of scientific standards.
One of the most eminent examples can be seen in On Pandas and People. If you read the book, you notice that it compares two animals: the Eusthenopteron, which is considered a fish, and the Ichthyostega, which is considered an amphibian (p. 103). Then it falsely states that, between both, there are no intermediary species, and that there are evolutionary gaps between them, inferring that the Ichthyostega could have not evolved from fish, especially if you compare their the fins of the Eusthenopteron to Ichthyostega’s limb. Yet, by the time this book was published, there were already two transitional forms between them such as the Panderichthys and the Acanthostega (see Part IV of these series for an illustration on the evolution of these limbs). As a matter of fact, many years after Pandas was published, and during the Dover trial, Neil Shubin discovered the Tiktaalkik which is an intermediary between the Panderichthys and the Acanthostega (see Part IV of these series).
(From Boisvert, et al., 2008
a. Euthenopteron, b. Panderichthys, c. Tiktaalik, d. Acanthostega)
Hiding information from students is not good science, nor does it do any service to the truth. And this was not the only misleading statement. Pandas uses the concept of irreducible complexity, and showed the examples of the blood-clot cascade as evidence for it. It also used the same definition of Creationism used in earlier versions of the book. Pandas was removed from school curriculum as a biology textbook precisely because it purposely misled students. Too bad, so sad, but Pandas and other ID books should never be taught in schools as part of a science curriculum. It should be forbidden from science class by all means.
The same can be said about other claims, such as the one that says that no speciation a la Darwin has ever been observed. Of course, the grossest and caricaturish sort of this statement (a strawman) is when they say that you have never seen a duck begetting an alligator, nor a chimpanzee begetting humans. This is an invalid response, because no one who favors evolution has ever made such a claim, not even Darwin.
Regarding speciation though, we have been able to observe instances where this clearly happens or is in the process of happening. Since we don’t have millions of years for our disposal (due to our relatively short lifetimes), we cannot see how a giraffe, for instance, will evolve into something else. However, we can observe bacteria evolving into new species in lab. This is due to the fact that bacteria reproduce pretty fast. This has been done successfully with E. coli, as it has been worked out by Richard Lenski and his student Zachary Blount, who have been able to observe how bacteria evolve different ways to "solve" a problem of lack of food. These solutions are genetic mutations which, through natural selection, are able to succeed over others which didn’t have those specific mutations. Since these bacteria evolve in such a way in which parts of their genetic code interchanged between them leads to no reproduction (i.e. sexual reproduction), they can be considered new species. What is more amazing is that this was done using a procedure to isolate bacteria, and sometimes some isolated colonies of bacteria would evolve "finding" the same solution (see Blount et al. (2008), see also Dawkins (2009) for a less technical exposition and explanation of this experiment).
We have also seen speciation in some species of insects. Dianne Dodd has carried out experiments with fruit flies, isolating their populations through many generations, and when they are mixed, these populations can no longer reproduce with each other … hence speciation (see Dodd (1989)). There are other experiments which have been carried out with similar results: see Rice & Hostert (1993), Rice & Hostert (1993), Kikpatrick & Ravigné (2002), just to mention a few.
In nature, we even observe this process happening. For example, we have seen this in the case of walking-sticks in southern California which speciate due to their adaptation to new environments (See Nosil & Sandoval (2008), and here is the link to the article). It has even been seen in the case of salamanders (Niemiller (2008)) and mice (Britton-Davidian, et al. (2000))!
So the assertion that no speciation has ever been observed in nature or in lab is simply false. Why do Creationists and ID advocates keep saying that there is no evidence?! As Our Lord would say: "There is no worst blind person than he who doesn’t want to see. If you have ears to listen, then listen."
Being a True Follower of Christ and Being Honest
Despite everything I have shown, I don’t want to claim that all Creationists or ID advocates are dishonest people. I would say that the vast majority of those who follow these movements are honest people who have been misled. Their biology education is usually lousy, or they have been misled mostly by Church pastors, priests or other religious authorities.
I also want to point out that not even many of the people leading the ID movement are dishonest. For instance, it is hard for me to claim that Stephen Meyer, Michael Behe and William Dembski are dishonest. However, I do claim that their reasoning is full of philosophical and scientific gaps. None of their proposals have been accepted by mainstream science, precisely because the introduction of a supernatural force or entity into biological process lacks any explanatory value from a scientific standpoint. Dembski’s "no-free lunch" and the so-called "Fourth Law of Thermodynamics" have no scientific value or use whatsoever. Behe continues to promote irreducible complexity even when it has been completely refuted by science. Meyer still cannot grasp the concept of non-sequitur when he states that if something living seems designed, most probably it is because it has been intelligently designed. By doing this, they find sympathy in substantial amount of people whose agenda has nothing to do with their ID views. Bill Buckingham and Alan Bonsel are strict Creationists, they really believe that the Earth was created in six days. This is not a belief shared by Meyer, or Behe, or Dembski. On the other hand, Buckingham and Bonsel used ID precisely to further their agenda.
The lack of scientific standards of the ID think-tank, especially the Discovery Institute, opens a can of worms for science. In Dover, Behe asserted again and again that he favored a very loose definition of science that would admit astrology. The same reasoning could apply to magic, or Crowleian witchcraft, New Age spiritualism, etc. as being science. Once you let the supernatural in scientific explanations, you are destroying what makes science valuable: providing natural explanations for natural phenomena. Even Philip Johnson, the founder of the Discovery Institute and the founder of the ID movement recognizes this fact:
I . . . don’t think that there is really a theory of intelligent design at the present time to propose as a comparable alternative to Darwinian theory, which is, whatever errors it might contain, a fully worked out scheme. There is no intelligent design theory that is comparable. Working out a positive theory is the job of the scientific people that we have affiliated with the movement. Some of them are quite convinced that it is doable, but that is for them to prove. . . . No product is ready for competition in the educational world. ~ Berkeley Science Review (Spring 2006), my bold.
FollowingChrist means to follow the Way, the Truth and the Life. When Bill Buckingham addressed his Church, explicitly told its members to donate funds to buy Pandas, and said that Jesus Christ was crucified two thousand years ago, and that they should show they follow Christ by donating to buy these books. Not only it is a direct violation of the second commandment (thou shalt not take God’s name in vain), but also distorts the purpose of the Cross to mean that we serve Christ by buying books which purposely ignore facts, lying under oath, and misunderstanding what finding truth through science is all about. I wonder how Our Lord would say if He saw His followers acting like that.
But they are not the only liars. Despite that a lot of Creationists and people in the ID movement are honest people, others purposely keep lying to the public, even hiding evidence. One of them, I’m sad to say, is Ben Stein … and his movie Expelled! This will be the subject of my next post.
I only wanted to finish this first blog post of Part VIII by answering one question Dan Dennett asked theologian John Haught one time: shouldn’t ministers, priests, and religious authorities be held accountable each time they mislead people by saying that Creationism and ID are science, and evolution is not? The answer is "yes", they should be accountable.
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