The Problem of the Shifting Scientist

Richard Dawkins is known for consistently repeating one his favorite comments:

Because of the beautiful coherency of natural selection to explain the mechanism by which evolution has occurred, we now  no longer need to believe that a god is necessary for creation and life.

Anyone who has heard him say this can even now hear his smug British accent speaking the words with a satisfied smirk on his face as if there could not possibly be an answer to the comment. The case is closed. Let us quickly forget the 2000 years of Christian history so we can move on finally into the brave new world. The last domino of Christianity has now fallen and now there is absolutely no reason for a god.

I won’t even bother to point out the poor theology which assumes in ignorance that Christians think all God did was create and so once we explain creation there is no reason for God. Nor will I point out that all evolution does is explain how a creation that has already been created may work, but still does nothing to explain how the creation came about in the first place. None of that is important to me for it would simply be answering Dr. Dawkins according to his folly.

I am often afraid that many Christians, especially apologists, actually accept Dawkins’ first premise while denying the conclusion. They do this by basically saying: “You’re right Mr. Dawkins, we don’t need God to explain creation, but we still need to explain the existence of morality.” This is to merely answer on his own terms and in his own folly.

Why even give him the right to dictate the rules of the game? I can understand using this argument for morality as one of the tools in the bag, a tool brought out for a moment to strengthen a case already strong, but for many this is the last domino and the whole case. All this does is set up the next generation of scientists to show how morality is an obvious by-product of evolution and thus there is no reason for a god. Once that domino has fallen where will you flee to next since you have already allowed the modernist to dictate to you how the game will be played, what the nature of the game is, and what the rules are by which it will be played?

Nevertheless, I prefer a more Chestertonian approach. I call their bluff. I do exactly what they always try to do to Christians. Atheists and modernists are smart. They don’t come into a debate or conversation accepting our terminology. They don’t let us bring up theology or the Scripture or Church history. They don’t dialogue about these things. What good would it do them? They know the moment they start allowing us to speak our own language they are already giving up the field of battle. Instead they question us at our very heart assumptions. They question even the validity of the Scriptures; they deny the legitimacy of theology as a true science; and they darken and pollute Church history to make it ridiculous and irrelevant, if not even dangerous and the very thing we are trying to get rid of.

So why don’t we question their assumptions? Why do we allow them to use their own language?

Let us take this quote by Dawkins as an example of what I am speaking. Once again the quote is:

Because of the beautiful coherency of natural selection to explain the mechanism by which evolution has occurred we now no longer need to believe that a god is necessary for creation and life.

Now look at what Mr. Dawkins is saying. He is saying that because natural selection has shown how evolution took place, then it follows that God is not necessary to create the diversity of biological life that we find on this planet. So here we must ask ourselves, what is Mr. Dawkins putting his faith in? Let us attempt to break it down somewhat:

Mr. Dawkins believes in evolution as something that explains our reality in such a coherent and satisfying way that it can become the source for any answers that humans could ask that really need answering.

He believes in evolution because natural selection, as the mechanism of evolution, can account for the diversity of life and thus it gives the inner workings of evolution and the framework in which other fields can be anchored. This means that whatever the brain does (neurology) it does in obedience to natural selection; whatever the genes do they do in obedience to natural selection; what the whole being does, whether animal or human, it does in obedience to natural selection. It would even follow that somehow this would also stretch out into astronomy, chemical evolution, geology etc. For underlying nature would be this grand force of evolution whose handmaiden is natural selection. Therefore, instead of the God of the Christians commanding all things to become what they are, it is evolution which gives the law of natural selection, and it is this law which all things must obey.

However this must be broken down further. For isn’t Mr. Dawkins assuming much more? It is obvious that he is assuming that science can give us all the answers we need, and anything that science cannot address is not worth addressing. This, a form of positivism (which by the way not all scientists assume) is quite understandable from a logical perspective. Who can blame a man for believing that all he has to believe in is what is in front of him. But then again, why doesn’t a man like Mr. Dawkins worship his nose, for certainly this is in front of him everywhere he goes?

Back to my point. There is a fundamental problem however with Mr. Dawkins’ trust in science and it is basically this:

Science is continually changing and progressing.

Mr. Dawkins is fond of mentioning how stupid the ancients were for believing the earth was flat, that the sun revolved around the earth, that the earth was the center of the universe, and all the other ancient beliefs which have been discredited by science. But here Mr. Dawkins seems to run into a problem. If he is able to look back at people who lived hundreds of years ago and put his nose (the one he should worship) up in the air at them as he mocks them, what makes him think that hundreds of years in the future Dawkins-like men will not be laughing at his beliefs? How can anyone be sure that hundreds of years from now some scientists sitting in a floating laboratory will not be sitting around a table and laughing heartily as they say:

And those fools actually believed we descended from ape-like creatures…(Laugh)… They… actually believed in natural selection… and they thought this explained the complexities of evolution and the diversity of…(laughs) biological life.

This is the fundamental problem with people whose faith is in science. Science is a forever changing book. You may live your whole life fully believing in a certain theory. You may base much thought, work, and writing on this theory. And then the day after you die, the next scientist looking for notoriety proves the whole theory was wrong and the evidence points in another direction.

Now I am not saying I do not accept natural selection as a reasonable explanation of the evidence of evolution. But the ancients had good cause for accepting much of what they believed too. Natural selection may very well be an accurate theory. But it may just as well not be. And really none of us can ever say for sure that generations from now it will still be accepted.

In fact, amazingly, in the past few years the theory of natural selection has actually began to be questioned by real scientists. This theory has held the throne for generations now, but finally it has begun to come under some slight scrutiny. Please read this link to an article which shows what I am talking about:

http://www.newsmax.com/TheWire/charles-darwin-wrong-tree-life/2013/05/16/id/504806

What the article is saying is that the concept of the Tree of Life is too simplistic. How many of us remember how we were taught in our textbooks that all the animal world looks like one big family tree? In fact, I was at the Dallas Science Museum the other day and saw a big poster of the Tree of Life on the wall showing all the children “the fact” of how all the animal world evolved from lesser forms of life through a simple progressive process where a dog-like creature after some time developed into a more dog-like creature, and finally into a wolf-like creature, and then into all the diverse dog species in our beautiful world. Well guess what, this “truth” that we were taught in our textbooks and now at this museum, may not be an accurate representation of reality.

I can’t help but notice how these scientists that are saying this sound much like Dawkins when he ridicules the ancients. Dawkins says:

Those people were too simplistic and ignorant.

The scientists in the article say:

The Tree of Life is too simplistic and we are learning that it is much more complicated than that.

Now the Tree of Life is a product of the belief in natural selection. In fact, Darwin’s very thesis was that lower forms of similar life evolved into higher forms of similar life. But now they are realizing (at least for now) there was cross breeding and that it is not that simple. This does not discredit natural selection or evolution but it does show how unstable the scientific realm is even though it paints itself as very stable, authoritative and all-knowing. Think of all the people who lived their entire lives believing that the Tree of Life was a true representative of reality? Those barbarians, how could they have been so ignorant? 😉

The most important part of the article however is the last paragraph. It states:

“The tree of life is being politely buried,” said Michael Rose, an evolutionary biologist at the University of California, Irvine. “What’s less accepted is that our whole fundamental view of biology needs to change.”

Our whole fundamental view of biology needs to change? This guy must be a creationist or one of those Intelligent Designers. Oh, wait a minute, it says he is an evolutionary biologist. Right now this is not accepted. It takes awhile to remove a prejudice. That is why they have to “politely bury” the Tree of Life. They may someday be politely burying natural selection for all we know. And if the whole view of biology does change, what will in change into? Only another unstable view that will be discredited by the next batch of scientists who want to make money, history, and a legacy.

That is the nature of science. And thus, it is very contradictory for Mr. Dawkins to speak so certain about a scientific view when the whole nature of science is to be uncertain so that you may keep your scientific curiosity sharp and fresh. Science is progressive (this does not mean it always progresses upward-think of the ugly era of eugenics), unstable, and always changing. Just look at the field of physics and you’ll see what I mean. Laws that were held for generations have had to be altered and even discredited. This is simply the nature of the beast.

And thus, if tomorrow natural selection were discredited, Mr. Dawkins’ whole system and faith would shatter and collapse from under him. His entire lifework would be mocked and held as irrelevant; and he would be laughed at the same way he now laughs at those poor ancients before him who held such ignorant notions. There is no escaping this for him. One day he too will be an ancient, and what is certain is that some future scientist will look down his nose at him. It’s amazing he doesn’t make this connection.

And yet, through all this, the Christian faith will thrive and continue as it has through all the false beliefs of mankind for thousands of years. For it believes in the Unchanging God, and in the Christ who is the same yesterday, today, and forever. We are able to look up and not down our noses, for from the heavens we know He will return again the way he once ascended. As for Mr. Dawkins, he would be better off worshiping his nose, because at least he’ll get to take his nose with him wherever he goes.

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3 comments on “The Problem of the Shifting Scientist

  1. Erik Andrulis says:

    Richard may be eloquent, but eloquence does not explain why things are the way they are and not the other way. And natural selection doesn’t do that either.

    As an honest scientist, I know that natural selection is incomplete. Being incomplete, it is incorrect, that is, the wrong theory about the nature, origin, and existence of life. That’s why I composed a complete theory.

    • Isaac says:

      Erik,
      I would be interested to hear your theory, and I am glad that you are an honest scientist who can see through the rhetoric of a man like Dawkins. There are many amateur scientists, and laypeople that cannot see through it.

      However, I would also say that you may have slightly mistook the point of the post. I was merely using Dawkins as an example, and I could have just as well used another scientist and his hobby horse.

      The point I was making in the post is that even if we do not realize it, we are in the same place as the ancients were in our search for knowledge. We may have progressed in certain areas, and I would argue we have also digressed in very important ones, but we cannot escape that one day we will be ancients to the future generations. And if they carry the same attitude we do toward the past endeavors for knowledge, they will likely discredit much of what we have thought was true and real.

      Thus, to be certain that we have reached some point of knowledge is to ignore the very nature of modern science and of past history which shows that each era tends toward discrediting large parts of the past eras’ knowledge.

      This is actually different then the way the ancients did it, particularly in the Christian era. They tended to respect the fathers who came before them and tried to build on their knowledge. Sometimes they may have discredit certain things that the fathers said, but this discrediting was not a fundamental principle of their search for knowledge, but rather a byproduct of certain new discoveries and advances.

      The truth is, the whole modern era for over 500 years has never gotten past Descartes. For Descartes laid down the criterion of absolute certainty, and the moderns latched onto it, ending in an epistemological crisis that is finally culminating in postmodernism’s persistent agnosticism toward all things theoretical.

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