More than 30 years of experimentation on the origin of life in the fields of chemical and molecular evolution have led to a better perception of the immensity of the problem of the origin of life on Earth rather than to its solution. At present all discussions on principal theories and experiments in the field end either in stalemate or in a confession of ignorance.
Hubble’s observations suggested that there was a time, called the big bang, when the universe was infinitesimally small and infinitely dense. Under such conditions all the laws of science, and therefore all ability to predict the future, would break down. If there were events earlier than this time, then they could not affect what happens at the present time. Their existence can be ignored because it would have no observational consequences. One may say that time had a beginning at the big bang, in the sense that earlier times simply would not be defined. It should be emphasized that this beginning in time is very different from those that had been considered previously. In an unchanging universe a beginning in time is something that has to be imposed by some being outside the universe; there is no physical necessity for a beginning. One can imagine that God created the universe at literally any time in the past. On the other hand, if the universe is expanding, there may be physical reasons why there had to be a beginning. One could imagine that God created the universe at the instant of the big bang, or even afterwards in just such a way as to make it look as though there had been a big bang, but it would be meaningless to suppose that it was created before the big bang. An expanding universe does not preclude a creator, but it does place limits on when he might have carried out his job!
The idea that space and time may form a closed surface without boundary also has profound implications for the role of God in the affairs of the universe. With the success of scientific theories in describing events, most people have come to believe that God allows the universe to evolve according to a set of laws and does not intervene in the universe to break these laws. However, the laws do not tell us what the universe should have looked like when it started — it would still be up to God to wind up the clockwork and choose how to start it off. So long as the universe had a beginning, we could suppose it had a creator. But if the universe is really completely self-contained, having no boundary or edge, it would have neither beginning nor end: it would simply be. What place, then, for a creator?
Twenty-five years after N. R. Hanson, T. S. Kuhn, and so many other historians and philosophers began to map out the intricate interpenetrations of fact and theory, and of science and society, the rationale for such a simplistic one-way flow from observation to theory has become entirely bankrupt. Science may differ from other intellectual activity in its focus upon the construction and operation of natural objects. But scientists are not robotic inducing machines that infer structures of explanation only from regularities observed in natural phenomena (assuming, as I doubt, that such a style of reasoning could ever achieve success in principle). Scientists are human beings, immersed in culture, and struggling with all the curious tools of inference that mind permits — from metaphor and analogy to all the flights of fruitful imagination that C. S. Pierce called ‘abduction.’ Prevailing culture is not always the enemy identified by whiggish historyin this case the theological restrictions on time that led early geologists to miracle-mongering in the catastrophist mode. Culture can potentiate as well as constrainas in Darwin’s translation of Adam Smith’s laissez-faire economic models into biology as the theory of natural selection. In any case, objective minds to not exist outside culture, so we must make the best of our ineluctable embedding.
The reasons for rejecting Darwin’s proposal were many, but first of all that many innovations cannot possibly come into existence through accumulation of many small steps, and even if they can, natural selection cannot accomplish it, because incipient and intermediate stages are not advantageous.
Micromutations do occur, but the theory that these alone can account for evolutionary change is either falsified, or else it is an unfalsifiable, hence metaphysical theory. I suppose that nobody will deny that it is a great misfortune if an entire branch of science becomes addicted to a false theory. But this is what has happened in biology: … I believe that one day the Darwinian myth will be ranked the greatest deceit in the history of science. When this happens many people will pose the question: How did this ever happen?
Both astrophysicists and microphysicists have lately been discovering that the series of events that produced our universe had to happen in a rather precise way—at least, they had to happen that way if they were to produce life as we know it. Some might find this fact unremarkable. After all, we are here, and it is hardly surprising that the universe is of such kind as to have produced us. It is simply a tautology to say that people who find themselves in a universe live in a universe where human life is possible. Nevertheless, given the innumerable other things that could have happened, we have reason to be impressed by the astonishing fact of our existence. Like the man who survives execution by a 1,000-gun firing squad, we are entitled to suspect that there is some reason we are here, that perhaps there is a Friend behind the blast.
It is still, as it was in Darwin’s day, overwhelmingly true that the first representatives of all the major classes of organisms known to biology are already highly characteristic of their class when they make their initial appearance in the fossil record. This phenomenon is particularly obvious in the case of the invertebrate fossil record. At its first appearance in the ancient paleozoic seas, invertebrate life was already divided into practically all the major groups with which we are familiar today.
Since the publication in 1896 of Andrew Dickson White’s classic History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom, no comprehensive history of the subject has appeared in the English language. Although many twentieth-century historians have written on the relationship between Christianity and science, and in the process have called into question many of White’s conclusions, the image of warfare lingers in the public mind. To provide an up-to-date alternative, based on the best available scholarship and written in nontechnical language, the editors of this volume have assembled an international group of distinguished historians. In eighteen essays prepared especially for this book, these authors cover the period from the early Christian church to the twentieth century, offering fresh appraisals of such encounters as the trial of Galileo, the formulation of the Newtonian worldview, the coming of Darwinism, and the ongoing controversies over "scientific creationism." They explore not only the impact of religion on science, but also the influence of science and religion. This landmark volume promises not only to silence the persistent rumors of war between Christianity and science, but also serve as the point of departure for new explorations of their relationship, Scholars and general readers alike will find it provocative and readable. ~ Product Description
The interaction of the waves and pebbles in this case is a perfectly orderly process, even if our comprehension of that order can only be statistically expressed. Moreover, we know for sure that Dawkins himself knows this to be so. Is there here, then, only a slip of the pen, perhaps overlooked because of something which the author can assume to be obvious? No, I don’t think so. Rather, he is succumbing to the pull of his ultimate vision. He is in the grip of the romanticism of evolution as a sweeping ontological principle, essentially incorporating the mystical vision of an Urgrund of chaos and nothingness giving birth of itself to the physical universe. Which is all very fine as an aesthetic approach to the cosmos, and appears to be vaguely comforting to some atheistic cosmologists, perhaps because of the great wonder of it all. (Carl Sagan says “billions and billions and billions…” in the same tone, and with the same glazed expression, that others chant of Krishna or Christ. The public television science series are often quite remarkable in the amount of ritualism they contain.) But it has nothing at all to do with “evidence of a universe without design.”
Nearly all peoples have developed their own creation myth, and the Genesis story is just the one that happened to have been adopted by one particular tribe of Middle Eastern herders. It has no more special status than the belief of a particular West African tribe that the world was created from the excrement of ants. All these myths have in common that they depend upon the deliberate intentions of some kind of supernatural being.
Whatever the motive, the consequence is that if a reputable scholar breathes so much as a hint of criticism of some detail of current Darwinian theory, the fact is eagerly seized on and blown up out of all proportion. So strong is this eagerness, it is as though there were a powerful amplifier, with a finely tuned microphone selectively listening out for anything that sounds the tiniest bit like opposition to Darwinism. This is most unfortunate, for serious argument and criticism is a vitally important part of any science, and it would be tragic if scholars felt the need to muzzle themselves because of the microphones. Needless to say the amplifier, though powerful, is not hi-fi: there is plenty of distortion! A scientist who cautiously whispers some slight misgiving about a current nuance of Darwinism is liable to hear his distorted and barely recognizable words booming and echoing through the eagerly waiting loudspeakers.
We cannot disprove beliefs like these, especially if it is assumed that God took care that his interventions always closely mimicked what would be expected from evolution by natural selection. All that we can say about such beliefs is, firstly, that they are superfluous and, secondly, that they assume the existence of the main thing we want to explain, namely organized complexity. The one thing that makes evolution such a neat theory is that it explains how organized complexity can arise out of primeval simplicity.
If we want to postulate a deity capable of engineering all the organized complexity in the world, either instantaneously or by guiding evolution, that deity must already have been vastly complex in the first place. The creationist, whether a naive Bible-thumper or an educated bishop, simply postulates an already existing being of prodigious intelligence and complexity. If we are going to allow ourselves the luxury of postulating organized complexity without offering an explanation, we might as well make a job of it and simply postulate the existence of life as we know it!
There is a crucial difference between these two cases. All other integrations into a super-science, of sciences dealing with entities and properties apparently qualitatively very distinct, was achieved by saying that really some of the entities and properties were not as they appeared to be; by making a distinction between the underlying (not immediately observable) entities and properties and the phenomenal properties to which they give rise. Thermodynamics was conceived with the laws of temperature exchange; and temperature was supposed to be a property inherent in an object. The felt hotness of a hot body is indeed qualitatively distinct from particle velocities and collisions. The reduction was achieved by distinguishing between the underlying cause of the hotness (the motion of the molecules) and the sensations which the motion of molecules cause in observers. The former falls naturally within the scope of statistical mechanics — for molecules are particles; the entities and properties are not now of distinct kinds. But this reduction has been achieved at the price of separating off the phenomenal from its causes, and only explaining the latter.
In recent times, the bulk of eminent physicists and a number of eminent biologists have made pronouncements stating that recent advances in science have disproved the older materialism, and have tended to reestablish the truths of religion. The statements of the scientists have as a rule been somewhat tentative and indefinite, but the theologians have seized upon them and extended them, while the newspapers in turn have reported the more sensational accounts of the theologians, so that the general public has derived the impression that physics confirms practically the whole of the Book of Genesis. I do not myself think that the moral to be drawn from modern science is at all what the general public has thus been led to suppose. In the first
place, the men of science have not said nearly as much as they are thought to have said, and in the second place what they have said in the way of support for traditional religious beliefs has been said by them not in their cautious, scientific capacity, but rather in their capacity of good citizens, anxious to defend virtue and property.
Paleontology is now looking at what is actually finds, not what it is told that it is supposed to find. As is now well known, most fossil species appear instantaneously in the fossil record, persist for some millions of years virtually unchanged, only to disappear abruptly — the “punctuated equilibrium” pattern of Eldredge and Gould.
Darwin offered strong, if grudging, praise and took Mivart far more seriously than any other critic…Mivart gathered, and illustrated with admirable art and force” (Darwin’s words), all objections to the theory of natural selection — “a formidable array” (Darwin’s words again). Yet one particular theme, urged with special attention by Mivart, stood out as the centerpiece of his criticism. It remains today the primary stumbling block among thoughtful and friendly scrutinizers of Darwinism. No other criticism seems so troubling, so obviously and evidently “right” (against a Darwinian claim that seems intuitively paradoxical and improbable). Mivart awarded this criticism a separate chapter in his book, right after the introduction. He also gave it a name, remembered ever since. He called it “The Incompetency of ‘Natural Selection’ to account for the Incipient Stages of Useful Structures.” If this phrase sounds like a mouthful, consider the easy translation: we can readily understand how complex and full developed structures work and owe their maintenance and preservation to natural selection — a wing, an eye, the resemblance of a bittern to a branch or of an insect to a stick or dead leaf. But how do you get from nothing to such an elaborate something if evolution must proceed through a long sequence of intermediate stages, each favored by natural selection? You can’t fly with 2% of a wing or gain much protection from an iota’s similarity with a potentially concealing piece of vegetation. How, in other words, can natural selection explain these incipient stages of structures that can only be used (as we now observe them) in much more elaborated form?”
We are, in the most profound sense, children of the Cosmos. Think of the Sun’s heat on your upturned face on a cloudless summer’s day; think how dangerous it is to gaze at the Sun directly. From 150 million kilometers away, we recognize its power. What would we feel on its seething self-luminous surface, or immersed in its heat of nuclear fire. The sun warms us and feeds us and permits us to see. It fecundated the Earth. It is powerful beyond human experience. Birds greet the sunrise with an audible ecstasy. Even some one-celled organisms know to swim to the light. Our ancestors worshiped the Sun, and they were far from foolish. And yet the Sun is an ordinary, even a mediocre star. If we must worship a power greater than ourselves, does it not make sense to revere the Sun and stars? Hidden within every astronomical investigation, sometimes so deeply buried that the researcher himself is unaware of its presence, lies a kernel of awe.
Ultimately the Darwinian theory of evolution is no more nor less than the great cosmogenic myth of the twentieth century. Like the Genesis based cosmology which it replaced, and like the creation myths of ancient man, it satisfies the same deep psychological need for an all embracing explanation for the origin of the world which has motivated all the cosmogenic myth makers of the past, from the shamans of primitive peoples to the ideologues of the medieval church. The truth is that despite the prestige of evolutionary theory and the tremendous intellectual effort directed towards reducing living systems to the confines of Darwinian thought, nature refuses to be imprisoned. In the final analysis we still know very little about how new forms of life arise. The “mystery of mysteries” — the origin of new beings on earth — is still largely as enigmatic as when Darwin set sail on the Beagle.
Another point important to recognize is that the creation was ‘mature’ from its birth. It did not have to grow or develop from simple beginnings. God formed it full-grown in every respect, including even Adam and Eve as mature individuals when they were first formed. The whole universe had an ‘appearance of age’ right from the start. It could not have been otherwise for true creation to have taken place. ‘Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them’. (Genesis 2:1).
The American creationist movement has entirely bypassed the scientific forum and has concentrated instead on political lobbying and on taking its case to a fair-minded electorate… The reason for this strategy is overwhelmingly apparent: no scientific case can be made for the theories they advance.
The fact of the matter is that the fossil record not only documents evolution, but that it was the fossil record itself which forced natural scientists to abandon their idea of the fixity of species and look instead for a plausible mechanism of change, a mechanism of evolution. The fossil record not only demonstrates evolution in extravagant detail, but it dashes all claims of the scientific creationists concerning the origin of living organisms.
The theorist who maintains that science is the be-all and end-all — that what is not in science books is not worth knowing — is an ideologist with a peculiar and distorted doctrine of his own. For him, science is no longer a sector of the cognitive enterprise but an all-inclusive world-view. This is the doctrine not of science but of scientism. To take this stance is not to celebrate science but to distort it by casting the mantle of its authority over issues it was never meant to address.