Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Council of Europe Report Attacks Intelligent Design and Creationism

On June 8, 2007, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe released a report by its Committee on Culture, Science and Education entitled “The Dangers of Creationism in Education.” The report is nothing less than shocking in its propagandistic approach to creationism. In the first numbered paragraph it says, “The Parliamentary Assembly is worried about the possible ill effects of the spread of creationist theories…creationism could become a threat to human rights…” This is absurd. Belief that human beings are created by God and that God has endowed them with unalienable rights is the basis of human rights themselves. If human beings are on a continuum with animals and inanimate objects, there is no reason for assuming that human beings have or should have any special rights or privileges. If the materialist view of humanity were correct, then human rights would all be the positive creations of government made by force and cooperation rather than having any link to an inherent dignity of human beings, let alone the idea that human beings have inherent dignity because they are made in the image of God. Far from creationism being a threat to human rights, it is a belief in radical materialism that is a threat to human rights. There is no rational way to say no to human rights violations from a purely materialist point of view. As Dostoyevsky said long ago, if there is no God, everything is permissible. Nietzsche argued if we no longer accept the existence of the authority of God, then those who try to make claims for objective moralities are merely delaying the inevitable—the realization that only the individual will to power accounts for anything. The Council of Europe is apparently not aware of the realities of the past 200 years or more of political philosophy and seeks to wed a scientific materialist understanding of the universe to a theory of human rights that is incompatible with such a point of view. Then such an approach gives you the ability to eliminate the rights you don’t like and to create new so-called rights freely and without limitation.

In the fourth paragraph the report says, “Creationists question the scientific character of certain items of knowledge and argue that the theory of evolution is only one interpretation among others.” This again is a biased statement by claiming that the theoretical aspects of evolutionary theory and the alleged data of evolutionary theory are “items of knowledge” rather than theoretical constructs or points of data. The whole problem with evolution is that it has become the modern equivalent of the earth-centered view of the solar system. In the Renaissance, astronomers who had more faith in Aristotle than in their observations continued to insist that the earth was at the center of the solar system. In order to explain observations, they had to have the planets and other heavenly bodies move in epicycles—little circles within the scope of their orbits. Of course today we realize that such movements would clearly violate all of the laws of physics and are a ridiculous explanation. But the epicycles as charted fit the movement of the planets and “explain” their movement from a scientific point of view. The difficulty is that true explanations and data are two different things.

Based on a similar faith in the materialist principle, the idea that everything must exist without any volitional or divine intervention—scientists continue to insist that the world and everything in it must have evolved. They insist that the similarity in structure, design and purpose must mean common ancestry and genetic origin. But this assumption is in no way necessarily true. While we have data confirming microevolution within species, there is no clear data demonstrating evolution on trans-species lines. The Cambrian Explosion clearly defies evolution. There was not enough time for the chance development of the species we see appear at that point in the fossil record. Of course there is also the bigger problem of life coming from non-life and the still bigger problem of why something should exist rather than nothing, or a cold, empty universe of exhausted dust rather than the active energy-filled universe we have today. If material were all that existed and if it had existed for an infinite period of time, it would have already wound down pursuant to the action of the laws of thermodynamics. Having a start to time only begs the question of the origin of the time/space continuum or the “cosmic egg” that leads to its existence. By contrast, God as described by orthodox Christian theology, is the kind of thing that can exist forever since He has no temporal limitations. From what we know of physics today, material universes are not the sort of thing that can exist on their own over infinite stretches of time. The experiments performed today to try to confirm evolution merely show that there is not adequate time for development through chance and natural selection as hypothesized. Looking at all of this data, it is the evolutionist and materialist who are living by faith rather than those who admit that the theory is open to question.

Why is evolution so important to people? Because if there was a God we would have to respond to His existence. The materialist view of science is convenient because it tries to give us a way to deal with reality that ignores the entire God question and thereby leaves man to be his own god. If this is the real motivation behind scientific materialism and the faith perspective on evolution, then it should not be privileged above other theories, philosophical or theological. It is really just another kind of faith or theology.

In addition, the whole approach taken by the European report seeks to compartmentalize fields of knowledge. This is often what is done by those who make evolution an item of faith. They preserve it by compartmentalizing science as a field of human endeavor that does not seek for truth with carte blanche but rather seeks only for materialist explanations of materialist data. But such a structuring of fields of knowledge begs the question. This would be like a crime investigator who insists that all murders are suicides or an investigator of animal behavior that insists that all behaviors be explained by nurture rather than nature or visa versa. Structuring a discipline so as to exclude parts of the truth you don’t want to deal with is a sure way to end up in error rather than a sure way to develop truth.

In paragraph eight, the Assembly says “The Assembly has constantly insisted that science is of fundamental importance. Science has made possible considerable improvements in living and working conditions and is a significant factor in economic, technological, and social development. The theory of evolution has nothing to do with divine revelation but is built on facts.” This paragraph again begs the question. It assumes that evolution is “built on facts” and that divine revelation is not. As I have discussed above and as many people in the intelligent design movement have pointed out, evolution is not built on facts but rather upon a large amount of wishful thinking and faith applied to a small amount of data. Science itself, as we know it today, was really made possible by the rise of Christianity. In the pagan world, the universe was seen as unpredictable. It is only because Christians believe that God was rational, organized, ordered and predictable that it was hypothesized that the universe was likewise organized and predictable, acting in accord with divine laws. Science began in the search for discovering divine laws that governed the behavior of matter and the world around us. The whole process of science involves the hypothesis that there are governing principles behind the universe and that these governing principles are elegant in nature, predictable, and discoverable. In contrast, materialism holds no such promise. If we have no souls but our brains are merely the interaction of chemical stimuli, there is no reason to suppose that our suppositions about the principles governing the universe would in any way be rational or accurate. Instead, they are merely the result of the jumbled chemical reactions in our randomly constructed brains. There is no reason to suppose that we could make order out of the universe or that our perceptions could be regarded as reliable. Materialists have happily borrowed from the Christian theistic world though in assuming many truths of Christianity to be true for the purpose of continuing scientific “advancement.” Of course the whole notion of advancement or improvement requires an external standard—one that was not created by materialism alone. The notion of “evolutionary progress” requires some objective standard by which the progress can be judged. Mere change is not inherently “progressive.” Who is to say that a land mass full of dinosaurs is more valuable than an ocean full of trilobites? Making evolution “normative” is imposing human will on it and making a “spiritual” judgment, not a mere application of conclusions to data. Even the judgments made by the European Parliamentary Assembly that some things are bad and other things are dangerous is nonsensical if a radically materialist view of the universe is true. Rather than the objective rational people the European Parliamentary Assembly makes themselves out to be, they are very much like the Aristotelian “experts” who became angry with Galileo and Copernicus. It’s about time for them to recognize that Occam’s razor cuts both ways and there is no reason to have faith in Occam unless there is a reason to have faith in a creator of universal principles and truths.

In paragraph nine of the report, the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly engages in an ad homonym argument about the quality of reasoning by individual creationists or groups. Of course whether or not individual Creationists methods are good or whether they present them in an honest way does not reflect on whether or not they are correct.

In paragraph 11, the European Assembly indicates that advances in medical research will be retarded if there is not belief in evolution because such advances are “impossible if every principle of evolution is denied. One cannot be fully aware of the risks involved in the significant decline in biodiversity and climate change if the mechanisms of evolution are not understood.” To begin with, the council is distorting its opponents here as well as making another unwarranted assumption. No one questions microevolution. Creationists and those in favor of intelligent design do not question that bacteria or viruses change over time. No one questions the microevolution that is studied in combating infectious diseases. As for the value of biodiversity or the dangers of climate change, this again can only be true if one believes in something beyond materialism. There is no inherent value in biodiversity or preserving the human species from a radically materialist point of view.

In paragraph 11, the report also indicates that the questioning of the “scientific approach,” by which they must mean their own materialist approach, is “liable to encourage the development of all manner of fundamentalism and extremism, synonymous with attacks of utmost virulence on human rights. The total rejection of science is definitely one of the most serious threats to human rights and civic rights.” This is simply absurd. Science in its materialistic and raw form was certainly not known to the Stalinists or to the Nazis. Over 80 million people were killed in the last century due to the machinations of regimes that believed in scientific materialism and a “scientific approach.” For some reason, science did not cause either the Communists or the fascists to value humanity or human rights. C.S. Lewis has written extensively on the dangers to human rights from a purely scientific approach to such matters as criminal punishment and education.

While there are risks in false belief systems such as radical Islam, in paragraph 12 the report claims that the opponents of evolutionary theory are “extreme right wing” and that they intend to eliminate democracy. Again, both of these charges are comical. The extreme right wing—represented by philosophers like Nietzsche and Heidegger, has never been friendly to God or to Christianity. The far right merely sought to use Christianity as their tool but not to allow its orthodox teachings to spread since those teachings questioned the morality of the will to power. Far from seeking to replace democracy, it is Christianity that advocated democracy and made it possible in the West. Aside from the aberrant problems of the papacy and nation-states influenced by strong central rulers like Henry VIII of England and Louie XIV of France, the actual history of the influence of Christianity is a constant insistence on greater democracy and republican principles of government. It is Christianity that believes that because all human beings are sinful, you cannot trust any single human being to be a “philosopher king.” Evolution would tend to teach exactly the opposite. Rather than letting everyone vote, we should find the most highly evolved mind among us and put him or her in charge. Democracy is supported by the principles of Christianity. Reformed Christianity, in particular, is akin to democratic principles. The idea of the priesthood of all believers is intrinsically democratic in its implications.

The report also mischaracterizes the opinions of mainstream religious leaders. Paragraph 13 reads: “All leading representatives of the main monotheistic religions have adopted a more moderate attitude.” It cites the pope as an example. While many Christians are willing to consider evolution and do not insist on banning the teaching of evolution, it cannot be said that “all” major Christian leaders are pro-evolution. Certainly it cannot be said of major Islamic leaders (but I can understand why the Europeans would be afraid of them). The real issue in the question of strict evolutionary theory vs. intelligent design is not the question of whether God uses evolutionary means, which is what I think the pope would accept—but rather the question of whether or not things evolved without any divine intervention at all. Also at stake here is the philosophical approach of radical political liberalism insisting on a purely materialistic approach to certain disciplines while allowing people religious views only in their private lives.

In paragraph 14, the report concludes that “teaching of all phenomena concerning evolution as fundamental scientific theory is ‘therefore crucial’ to the future of our societies and our democracies.” But it gives no valid reasons for why this is true other than the begging the question type of statements made earlier. It again cites examples of microevolution as proof rather than dealing in any way with the bigger philosophical issues of macroevolution.

In paragraph 18, the Parliamentary Assembly therefore encourages the member states of the Council of Europe to take sides in this argument against creationism in all its forms including intelligent design, and to promote “the teaching of evolution by natural selection as a fundamental scientific theory in the school curriculum.” I think that this actually is a form of established religion and is a recipe for the minor persecution of Christians who do not accept the materialist agenda. The balance of the report attempts to make arguments in favor of evolution, but leaves out any of the problematic areas of inquiry. It then presents a cartoonish understanding of other theories and neglects a genuine presentation of the intelligent design position. While I can understand the Europeans’ concern about radical Islam and how they may be seeking to take over Europe, rejecting truth in the area of origins is not a recipe for stopping the Islamists, but rather a recipe for the radical materialism that has made the growth of Islam and the weakness of Europe possible.

1 comment:

Sacchiel said...

After the Council rejected this current draft for its "lack of reflection", the main proponent lamented, “We are witnessing a change of direction for a return to the Middle Ages, and too many members of this Assembly can’t see it”.

Good essay Dean!