Promissory Materialism

Writing huge checks on an overdrawn bank account


Carl: It's good to see you again, Lucy.

Lucy: Thanks, Carl. You too. Did you have a chance to read "The Credit Crunch for Materialism"?

Carl: Sure did. Will it be on the test?

Lucy: Funny! But now that you ask, it does have a lot to do with everyone's final exam. We can talk about that later.

In the meantime, I'd like to know your thoughts on misusing science to sneak the religion of Secular Humanism into public school classrooms.

Carl: Wow! Did we read the same article? Lucy, you've got some 'splainin' to do.

Lucy: OK. My point is that materialism and its cousins naturalism and physicalism are the foundational philosophies for the creation myth of Secular Humanism which, as you know, has been recognized by the Supreme Court as a religion. Now, you wouldn't want religion snuck into science classes, would you?

Carl: Admittedly not. But how is science being misused to do this?

Lucy: Let's go back to the article. In discussing materialism, Rupert Sheldrake states,

"Since the nineteenth century, its advocates have promised that science will explain everything in terms of physics and chemistry; science will show that there is no God and no purpose in the universe; it will reveal that God is a delusion inside human minds and hence in human brains; and it will prove that brains are nothing but complex machines.

Materialists are sustained by the faith that science will redeem their promises, turning their beliefs into facts. Meanwhile, they live on credit. The philosopher of science Sir Karl Popper described this faith as "promissory materialism" because it depends on promissory notes for discoveries not yet made. Despite all the achievements of science and technology, it is facing an unprecedented credit crunch."

Carl: So what's wrong with that? That's how scientific progress is made. A scientist begins with a hypothesis he or she believes to be true and then seeks to uncover "discoveries not yet made."

Lucy: I'm good with that if you're good with looking back at "discoveries not yet made" in the 19th Century. That would include the discovery that the universe began to exist in the finite past, is accelerating in its expansion and is finely-tuned to support life.

Even the agnostic astronomer, Robert Jastrow, recognized the implications of these discoveries when he wrote his book, God and the Astronomers, and admitted,

"Astronomers now find they have painted themselves into a corner because they have proven, by their own methods, that the world began abruptly in an act of creation to which you can trace the seeds of every star, every planet, every living thing in this cosmos and on the earth. And they have found that all this happened as a product of forces they cannot hope to discover. That there are what I or anyone would call supernatural forces at work is now, I think, a scientifically proven fact." (See related Jastrow quotes)

"Discoveries not made" would also include the fact that the simplest possible form of life is not only irreducibly complex, but so exceeding complex and that natural chemical reactions would cause rapid decay preventing abiogenesis (aka spontaneous generation) from occurring in the absence of pre-existing intelligence.

Then there is the matter of the Cambrian Explosion and the enormous conflicts between Darwinian theory and the natural history of life on Earth. Regarding the latter, we now know that the key features of the fossil record include sudden appearance and stasis and that the disparity of the major body plans preceded the diversity of species in complete opposition to Darwinian predictions.

It all makes you wonder, "just who put the material in materialism anyway"?

Carl: OK, OK. Just remember that Richard Dawkins convinced a lot of people that Darwinian evolution proved that you don't need God to account for the diversity of life on earth. In fact, he claimed that Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.

Lucy: Does the evolution of the Ford Mustang prove that Henry Ford never existed? Does the evolution of Microsoft Windows prove that Bill Gates didn't either? Seriously?

To an unbiased observer, the pervasive patterns of natural history are analogous to the history of modern technology. It looks a lot more like Progressive Creation than any form of unplanned and unguided or step-by-step evolutionary process. Major new designs appear abruptly followed by variations on these pre-existing themes. The Cambrian Explosion is quite real and aprovides abundant evidence that Darwin got it backwards. To claim that his theory is good and the data is bad is pseudo-science at its worst. Frankly, it makes you wonder if Dawkins isn't an intellectually fully fooled atheist.

Carl: Ouch! Dawkins is well aware of the Cambrian Explosion and even discussed it in his book, The Blind Watchmaker. I see you have it in your stack today.

Lucy: (Smiling) I never leave home without it.

Carl: And the bookmark?

Lucy: Now that you ask, I have it marking a very relevant spot where Dawkins admits that, "the Cambrian strata of rocks, vintage about 600 million years, are the oldest ones in which we find most of the major invertebrate groups. And we find many of them already in an advanced state of evolution, the very first time they appear. It is as though they were just planted there, without any evolutionary history. Needless to say, this appearance of sudden planting has delighted creationists."

It's amazing that he still prefers Darwin's tree to nature's forest in light of the fact that the creation of everything (i.e. the entire Cosmos) preceded the evolution of anything.

Remember the wisdom of renowned physicist Richard Feynman who said, "The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool."

The bottom line is that nature isn't fooled and scientists need to stop writing promissory notes to explain the data we don't have and instead explain the data we do. That includes what Stephen Jay Gould called "the ordinary rules of stability." He also told us that "stasis is data". It is also 100% natural and clearly subject to scientific investigation. Natural genetic, developmental and ecological stabilizing forces and mechanisms exist that prevent major evolutionary change from occurring on a gradual step-by-step basis and it is becoming obvious that scientists need to develop better theories to explain them rather than to explain them away.

Let me leave you with a picture of my thoughts.

Should scientists continue to assume that materialism is true and continue to expound upon the unobservable, unpredictable and unrepeatable creation myths of Secular Humanism or should they develop a Theory of Macrostasis or Theory of Conservation to explain how nature actually functions? Building theories that are based upon the solid foundation of observability, predictability and repeatability sounds a lot more rational and scientific to me. Doesn't it to you?

Nature isn't fooled by Secular Humanism's materialistic creation myth of unintelligent design and evolutionary "just-so" stories.

Think about it.

Carl: Just know that I'm not ready to abandon natural selection and probably never will be.

Lucy: Neither am I. But it is very likely that natural selection itself prevents major evolutionary change from occurring on a gradual step-by-step basis by eliminating the useless transitional and incipient stages that might otherwise have led to all of the major body plans. It is much more likely that the data of natural history is good and his theory is bad except, of course, at lower taxonomic levels. Even then, minor variations and natural selection only helps to lengthen a body plan's tenure on earth and strengthen the case for macrostasis.

Carl: Not only have you given me a lot to chew, I'm going to need a lot more coffee than I can drink today. Next time?

Lucy: You're on, Carl. Looking forward.


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