Tuesday, June 27, 2006

"Scientists urge evolution lessons"

See the article Scientists urge evolution lessons over at the BBC.
The world's top scientists have joined forces to call for "evidence-based" teaching of evolution in schools.

A statement signed by 67 national science academies says evidence on the origins of life is being "concealed, denied, or confused" in some classes.

It lists key facts on evolution that "scientific evidence has never contradicted".
The evolution debate is polarized into two completely incompatible points of view, which is not helpful, since it tends to force people to go on one side or the other. The politics of the teaching of evolution is therefore quite ugly. Science and religion are seen as mutually incompatible and everyone must choose one or the other.

One one hand we have the extreme fundamentalistic view, which sometimes sees the world as being very young, with one date being the overly-specific 10 a.m., on Thursday, October 26th, 6006 B.C. which comes from the Anglican Archbishop James Ussher. This view sees evidence such as fossils and light from distant galaxies being inherently deceitful. Most antievolutionist opinions tend to be quite skeptical of reason. A moderate "Intelligent Design" or ID theory isn't the same thing as Aquinas' Proof of the existence of God from the order (or design) In nature. It reportedly tends to be a type of "God of the gaps" argument, that grants to God only those actions that are not scientifically explainable.

On the contrary, the modern scientific view, supported by the liberal establishment, posits purely natural and material forces guiding evolution, with any change occurring purely by chance. This usually is atheistic and naturalistic (that is, denying the world of the spirit, so is a type of monism).

The trouble with a "God of the gaps" argument is that it concedes the working of Divine Providence in favor of the purely materialistic scientific explanations. Here Faith and Reason are strictly opposed: if reason explains something, then that is out of the realm of faith. But this is a recent theory, and unfortunately is a theory accepted by much of Reformation religion. The older, traditional argument is found in Catholicism, and indeed, in many major religions and systems of thought predating the Enlightenment: the traditional idea of the Natural Law does not concede anything to materialistic atheism.

The currently fashionable Postmodern philosophy denies reason and truth, but is a strong proponent of the teaching of evolution. Logically, they wouldn't say that it is true but will support it for these reasons: it promotes atheism, it makes life appear meaningless, and it allows immorality, especially sexual immorality. You can act like an ape if you are an ape.

Fundamentalism and Liberalism are similar since they both set up an opposition between grace and nature, which is why the debate is framed in terms of religion versus science. Both theories tend towards monism. The traditional Catholic view is that grace builds on nature, and that nature has been created very good. In this view, there is no opposition between grace and nature, religion and science, or faith and reason. Nearly one hundred years ago, G. K. Chesterton said it well in his book Orthodoxy:
Evolution is a good example of that modern intelligence which, if it destroys anything, destroys itself. Evolution is either an innocent scientific description of how certain earthly things came about; or, if it is anything more than this, it is an attack upon thought itself. If evolution destroys anything, it does not destroy religion but rationalism. If evolution simply means that a positive thing called an ape turned very slowly into a positive thing called a man, then it is stingless for the most orthodox; for a personal God might just as well do things slowly as quickly, especially if, like the Christian God, he were outside time. But if it means anything more, it means that there is no such thing as an ape to change, and no such thing as a man for him to change into. It means that there is no such thing as a thing. At best, there is only one thing, and that is a flux of everything and anything. This is an attack not upon the faith, but upon the mind; you cannot think if there are no things to think about. You cannot think if you are not separate from the subject of thought. Descartes said, "I think; therefore I am." The philosophic evolutionist reverses and negatives the epigram. He says, "I am not; therefore I cannot think."
Not surprisingly, the idea of evolution has never been much of a problem among Catholics; instead, it is the meaning attached to evolution that is important. Far from being a new theory, evolution was proposed at least 2500 years ago, and has cropped up in numerous forms over the centuries; the arguments for and against it have therefore been well established since antiquity.

Traditional Catholic teaching says that "science is the virtue of conforming the intellect to reality". The modern idea of science is sharply limited to only that kind of knowledge that can be derived from the scientific method of repeated measurements. The modern definition is a very narrow slice of the traditional definition, although it must be said that it is a very well developed slice.

Likewise, the modern theory of evolution is a narrow subset of the traditional theory of change and development; it's merely a special case of a broader theory. That biological organisms change under their own nature is the dogma of atheistic evolution, but it is an acceptable part of the traditional theory, which includes more. A traditionalist can believe or disbelieve in God or science whenever he feels like it, while a modernist must always believe in science.

This is very much the case in other subjects: modern poetry does not rhyme, and contemporary rap music always rhymes. But the older traditional theory of poesy allowed both rhyme and its lack. Classical architecture allows for order, symmetry, and proportion, and would allow exceptions: modern architecture only allows the exceptions. All of the modern arts are a strict (and very narrow) subset of the traditional arts. Modern morality and liberal religion use only subsets of the traditional forms. So Modernism is a narrowing of culture.

A big problem is the blurring of the distinctions between evolution, intelligent design, and development.

Many arguments for evolution are, in fact, intelligent design arguments. We used to go about in dugout canoes, now we have luxury cruise ships; the Wright Brothers' flyer is now a widebody airline jet. But these are all human designs! Likewise for animal breeding, which is very a much an intelligent human design activity.

The development of an acorn to an oak tree is sometimes portrayed as 'evolution', as is the transformation of animals in the children's game Pokémon. But both of these are development, and are goal-driven development at that: they don't happen by accident and indeed are highly predictable.

There is a third, elite, group in the evolution debate. They confuse evolution with human intelligent design, and plan to seize "evolution" from nature and make it a tool of man. These "visionaries", "thinkers", and "gurus" are transhumanists who wish to conquer human nature and put it under the control of technology. Already abortion is used to eliminate certain genetic diseases, including most notably the "disease" of being a female. According to this article:
"Two choices lie ahead. One is between directed human evolution and the natural kind, the other is whether to allow or promote speciation."
This is human intelligent design under the guise of evolution. "True evolution" of any kind takes millions of years according to scientists; what these folks are actually proposing is forced breeding. Promoting speciation? Whatever for? We live in an era when some propose that human rights be given to apes, Perhaps soon some humans will lose that status and instead be reduced to slavery. It's happened before.

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