Re: information creation and promissory materialism (was

Cliff Lundberg (cliff@noe.com)
Wed, 13 Oct 1999 03:56:50 -0700

Stephen E. Jones wrote:

>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."

Maybe it all depends on what the 'it' is. Whether the unexplainable 'it'
is existence itself or consciousness or anything else of such generality,
or whether some particular biological event within our world seems
equally miraculous. The evolutionist is content to leave ultimate truths
to ultimate realms and ultimate perspectives, while puzzling out what
goes on in the garden around us.

Who are these *materialist-naturalists*? I have to question this business
of applying a label to people who do not apply the label to themselves.
I am sure that an evolutionist would be happy to call Stephen a YEC or
a TE or whatever he wishes to be called, and would not be inclined to
use any other terms to describe him.

I don't know any 'materialists'. I know scientists who don't think about
religion; they are caught up in their work and don't bother with 'materialistic
philosophy'. In philosophy, one sees since antiquity swings between
materialistic and idealistic approaches. It is well known that materialism
as a philosophy is metaphysics; there is no scientific basis for a belief
in a substance underlying all reality. I guess creationists use the term
because it connotes crudeness, just as they like the term 'Neo-Darwinist'
because anything with 'neo-' or 'proto-' or 'crypto-' etc prefixed sounds
a little flaky. It boils down to meaningless name-calling.

>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.

What kind of philosophy is based on *timing*? Based on the latest news?
That is silly. Anyway, one could argue that 19th Century evolutionary
biology was based almost purely on philosophy, and that substantive
findings only came later.

>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.).

Science will always be '*limited*', limited in scope, and limited heuristically
or epistemologically. There is no reason for religionists to be jealous of
science, as their concerns are beyond those of science, in the realms of
values and philosophical foundations.

>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.

It really isn't right to set Darwinism up as the *origin* of all evil. Many
intellectuals were anti-clerical well before Darwin came along. They were
eager to support anything that supported them. Without this pre-existing
fertile ground, Darwin's theory would never have sparked an upheaval.

>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.

There is a lot of truth in this. Evolutionary biology is not an exciting
field. It is no place for an ambitious scientist. It is a field that is sorely
in need of breakthroughs. It will not be advanced by more and more
detailed study of the same old fossils under the same old paradigms.

>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:

What we *do* know is indeed a problem, if it becomes all-encompassing
canon.

>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:

You'll be able to say something similar when the macroevolutionary
events that triggered the Cambrian explosion are elucidated: that the
author of Genesis had more naturalistic insight than the gradualist
'Neo-Darwinists' give him credit for.

--
Cliff Lundberg  ~  San Francisco  ~  cliff@noe.com