Re: information creation and promissory materialism (was Especially for Bertvan)

Stephen E. Jones (
Tue, 12 Oct 1999 22:48:52 +0800


On Sun, 10 Oct 1999 11:16:23 -0700, Cliff Lundberg wrote:


>>CL>But given my belief in evolution through RM&NS, I must theorize
>>>that macroevolution occurred here, through mechanisms we
>>>haven't yet figured out.

>SJ>But this is not so good a point! This is just "promissory materialism":

CL>The other side of the coin is the small-minded vanity of saying,
>'I don't understand it, therefore it is not understandable; if I can't
>explain it, it must be supernatural.'

No. The boot's on the other foot. Nowadays it is the *materialist-
naturalist* who is "saying, 'I don't understand it", but I know it *will be*
"understandable" naturalistically"; and "I can't explain it", but "it" *cannot*
"be supernatural."

This might have been reasonable 100, or even 50, or even 25 years ago,
when materialistic-naturalistic science could, on the basis of its initial
successes in explaining *some* things naturalistically which were thought
to be supernatural, claim that it would eventually be able to explain
*everything* naturalistically.

And Christian theology, while it might have believed that the materialist-
naturalists "promissory materialism" would eventually fail, could not really
*prove* it would fail, and it looked like obscurantism when theology
suggested it.

But today, 140 years after the Darwinian revolution, it is becoming
apparent that materialism-naturalism *has* had only *limited* success.
Major intractable problems *still* remain (e.g. the origin and fine-tuning of
the universe, the origin of life, the origin of life's complex designs, the
origin and nature of consciousness, etc.).

The Darwinian paradigm, which was supposed to be the complete
replacement of design, has failed in its quest and even leading biologists
reject it or give it only lip-service.

In fact it is now looking that some of these problems will *never* be
solved, because funding is drying up and new researchers don't want to
waste their career on an intractable problem. On the other List I am on,
someone who attended the last International Origin of Life (ISSOL)
Conference remarked how the numbers were down and there were less
young faces.

The problem now, 140 years after the Darwinian revolution, in field after
field, is not what we don't know, but what we *do* know:

"One characteristic feature of the above critique needs to be emphasized.
We have not simply picked out a number of details within chemical
evolution theory that are weak, or without adequate explanation *for the
moment*. For the most part this critique is based on crucial weaknesses
intrinsic to the theory itself. Often it is contended that criticism focuses on
present ignorance "Give us more time to solve the problems," is the plea.
After all, the pursuit of abiogenesis is young as a scientific enterprise. It
will be claimed that many of these problems are mere state-of-the-art gaps.
And, surely some of them are. Notice, however, that the sharp edge of this
critique is not what we *do not* know, but what we *do* know. Many
facts have come to light in the past three decades of experimental inquiry
into life's beginning. With each passing year the criticism has gotten
stronger. The advance of science itself is what is challenging the nation that
life arose on earth by spontaneous (in a thermodynamic sense) chemical
reactions." (Thaxton C.B., Bradley W.L. & Olsen R.L., "The Mystery of
Life's Origin", 1992, p185. Emphasis in original.)

On Sun, 10 Oct 1999 16:31:17 EDT, wrote:

BV>How about an overblown ego which insists "If it exists, there is a
>naturalisitic explanation which I can understand."?

I do not claim that the problem is "an overblown ego", although human
pride at no longer being No. 1 is doubtless a factor in rejecting ID. My
claim is the problem is an "overblown" *philosophy* which thinks it can,
like King Canute, rule out in advance what can have happened!

BV>Why can't science await
>a truly credible explanation before criticizing other people's expectations?

The answer is because modern science has become thoroughly saturated
with a philosophy of materialism-naturalism, which *must* criticise other
people's expectations *in advance* when those expectations are not

According to this apriori philosophy there simply *cannot* be "a truly
credible" scientific explanation" which is not materialistic and naturalistic:

"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 counterintuitive, no matter how
mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we
cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door. (Lewontin R., "Billions and
Billions of Demons", review of "The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a
Candle in the Dark" by Carl Sagan, New York Review, January 9, 1997,

BV>Both sides could be accused of following a God of the gaps.

Some theists might justly be accused of following a God of the gaps, but
I have never heard of one who believed that God was only revealed in the
gaps in our knowledge.

But materialists-naturalists who claim that science will eventually fill any
gaps in are really believing in a "science of the gaps":

"Some claim that we can never conclude that an event is a miracle because
science may find a natural cause for the event in the future and this
principle (that science ought only to search for natural causes) is the very
foundation of scientific advance. I have already shown some reasons why I
think methodological naturalism is not required for doing science, so I will
not rehearse those reasons here. Moreover, I think that this position is a
question-begging, science-of-the-gaps argument to the effect that since
natural causes have been found for a number of phenomena, then natural
causes will be found for all of them. I see no reason, however, to accept
this argument and the attitude toward miracles that it exemplifies. If we
have good theological, philosophical or scientific grounds for suspecting
that some phenomenon is the result of a primary causal act of God (theistic
scientists do not appeal to primary causes willy-nilly), then I do not see
why we cannot do research in light of this conviction and, in principle,
obtain confirmation for it in a specific case like the origin of life."
(Moreland J.P., in Geivett R.D. & Habermas G.R., eds., "In Defense of
Miracles", 1997, p145).

BV>As naturalistic
>explanations are found, theists must revise their religion (not a bad
>system), and as naturalistic explanations reveal more complexity and
>unexplained phenomina, science must revise it's theories. (The same excellent
>system some theists use.)

Generally agree. But despite the propaganda, it is not always "religion"
which has to change to accommodate science. As I posted recently, the Big
Bang is an example where science had to admit that the Christian
theologians who believed the Bible were right all along:

"A sound explanation may exist for the explosive birth of our Universe; but
if it does, science cannot find out what the explanation is. The scientist's
pursuit of the past ends in the moment of creation. This is an exceedingly
strange development, unexpected by all but the theologians. They have
always accepted the word of the Bible: In the beginning God created
heaven and earth... Now we would like to pursue that inquiry farther back
in time, but the barrier to further progress seems insurmountable. It is not a
matter of another year, another decade of work, another measurement, or
another theory; at this moment it seems as though science will never be
able to raise the curtain on the mystery of creation. For the scientist who
has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad
dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer
the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a
band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries." Jastrow R.,
"God and the Astronomers", 1992, pp106-107).

BV>Only an agnostic suspects neither side will reach any final, ultimate

Bertvan here commits a fallacy. *Neither* "science" nor "religion" claims
that its side will reach "final, ultimate truth". The *real* question is about
getting relatively *closer* to the "final, ultimate truth".

But there is an asymmetry here. If the "final, ultimate truth", is that the
materialist is right and the "final, ultimate truth" is that there is nothing but
matter in mindless motion and undirected, impersonal physical forces, then
it doesn't really matter much about getting closer to the ultimate truth. In
that case the universe would be ultimately meaningless and life on Earth a
fortuitous accident, which will inevitably be snuffed out never to return at
the next turn of the cosmic wheel of fortune.

But if the materialist is wrong and the "final, ultimate truth", is that there is
in fact an Intelligent Designer who brought into being the universe, life and
human consciousness, and who has revealed Himself to man through the
Bible, then it most certainly *does* matter about getting closer to that
"final, ultimate truth"!


"Now, my own suspicion is that the universe is not only queerer than we
suppose, but queerer than we *can* suppose. I have read and heard many
attempts at a systematic account of it, from materialism and theosophy to
the Christian system or that of Kant, and I have always felt that they were
much too simple. I suspect that there are more things in heaven and earth
than are dreamed of, or can be dreamed of, in any philosophy." (Haldane
J.B.S., "Possible Worlds: And Other Essays", [1927], Chatto and Windus:
London, 1932, reprint, p286. Emphasis in the original.)
Stephen E. Jones | |