Sunday, March 26, 2017

The Naive Faith of The High Priests Of Atheist Scientism

Rereading that essay excerpted below, I have to remark on the amazing naivety of Richard Dawkins contained in the idea that his question would be asked by an alien to measure the level of human intellectual development, "Do you understand natural selection?"

The assumptions contained in that scenario attributing that question to intelligent extra-terrestrial beings are, rather, a good indication of the thinking of Dawkins than any non-human intelligence.  Consider the range of baseless assumptions contained in it.

- First, that evolution (or life) as known on Earth exists everywhere or even anywhere else in the universe.

- Second, that any evolution might be through Dawkins' conception of natural selection (naive, even according to many Earth bound scientists) would be relevant to any or all evolution of life everywhere in the universe.

- Third, that any extra-terrestrial life forms would have come up with something like the theory of Natural Selection to explain their own evolution.

- Fourth, that even if they had come up with exactly Dawkins' naive neo-Darwinian framework to explain evolution that its explanatory sufficiency would endure to the stage of development they would be at to be in a position to be here making such an evaluation of life on Earth.

- Fifth, that they would agree that natural selection was an adequate or even valid explanation of evolution on Earth when there are already, at our, presumably, comparatively primitive level of development, other explanations that are non-selective and are believed by some scientists to be more powerful explanations than Dawkins' naive concept of natural selection.   You might want to look up what one of Carl Sagan's earlier wives, the late Lynn Margulis had to say about such stuff. Or not.  I'll point out that it's likely that the usefulness of Margulis' work will very likely survive longer than anything Dawkins or, I'd guess, Carl Sagan contributed.*

I invite anyone to add to that list.

Yet that kind of faith is endemic to the culture of neo-atheism.  Such stunningly, absurdly naive, entirely evidence-free statements by these sciency atheists is taken by the even more naive as being in some way meaningful.

Just about whenever the discovery of an allegedly earth-like planet is announced any number of such statements are made.  They often riff off of stuff that Carl Sagan said, based on his entirely evidence-free contention that the chemistry of the universe means that there is extraterrestrial life and that there will be an evolutionary guarantee that such life is intelligent and, so, will develop technology and science.   Considering that such statements as the relatively recent and quite controversial** contention taken among contemporary scientists of his former wife, Lynn Margulis and some others that non-human life was conscious and many of his fellow-atheists that human beings aren't really conscious, you wonder how they could come to that conclusion.  But, then, being an atheist-scientist-skeptic is all about having it both ways at different times.

I remember a blog atheist throwing a quote from Sagan at me, the gist of which is that the day that extra-terrestrial life is found is the final nail in the coffin of religion.  They seem to all be searching for that golden spike to put in that coffin.  My question was what if that extra-terrestrial intelligence, presumably superior to our intelligence if they get here, what if they are religious believers?  Which doesn't seem to have occurred to them as a possibility.

What's clear is that, as of this morning of March 26, 2017, all of the extra-terrestrials that these people gab about with such confidence are all in their heads, fulfilling their own cherished hopes.  I would say that a lot of what is imagined and even presented as science in current biology is also all in their heads since so much of it, its behavior, its (not really there according to their own orthodoxy) consciousness is now and forever to be entirely unevidenced at all, not to mention in any form which can be subjected to the real methods of real science.

*  A few years back, attending the funeral of one of my friends, a research biologist, her doctoral advisor said in the eulogy that her masters thesis was so good that it was still being cited thirty years after she published it.  Much of scientific truth has a shelf-life.  Especially as what is studied gets more complex.

** For example:  There are still scientific sceptics about animal consciousness. In his book, Crick wrote “it is sentimental to idealize animals” and that for many animals life in captivity is better, longer and less brutal than life in the wild.

Similar views still prevail in some quarters. In her recent book Why Animals Matter: Animal consciousness, animal welfare, and human well-being, Marian Stamp Dawkins at the University of Oxford claims we still don’t really know if other animals are conscious and that we should “remain skeptical and agnostic… Militantly agnostic if necessary.”

Dawkins inexplicably ignores the data that those at the meeting used to formulate their declaration, and goes so far as to claim that it is actually harmful to animals to base welfare decisions on their being conscious.

Obviously what such materialists choose to be "militantly agnostic" about is a matter of ideological convenience.

P, S, I love this question and answer by Margulis from that link above:

You have attacked population genetics—the foundation of much current evolutionary research—as “numerology.” What do you mean by that term?

- When evolutionary biologists use computer modeling to find out how many mutations you need to get from one species to another, it’s not mathematics—it’s numerology. They are limiting the field of study to something that’s manageable and ignoring what’s most important. They tend to know nothing about atmospheric chemistry and the influence it has on the organisms or the influence that the organisms have on the chemistry. They know nothing about biological systems like physiology, ecology, and biochemistry. Darwin was saying that changes accumulate through time, but population geneticists are describing mixtures that are temporary. Whatever is brought together by sex is broken up in the next generation by the same process. Evolutionary biology has been taken over by population geneticists. They are reductionists ad absurdum.  Population geneticist Richard Lewontin gave a talk here at UMass Amherst about six years ago, and he mathematized all of it—changes in the population, random mutation, sexual selection, cost and benefit. At the end of his talk he said, “You know, we’ve tried to test these ideas in the field and the lab, and there are really no measurements that match the quantities I’ve told you about.” This just appalled me. So I said, “Richard Lewontin, you are a great lecturer to have the courage to say it’s gotten you nowhere. But then why do you continue to do this work?” And he looked around and said, “It’s the only thing I know how to do, and if I don’t do it I won’t get my grant money.” So he’s an honest man, and that’s an honest answer.


  1. In other words, in response to that Lewontin anecdote: the light is so much better under the streetlamp!

    Kind of undercuts the whole idea that math is the universal language of the universe, too, doesn't it?

    Thinking is hard! It's hard!!! (Robot Chicken, the late lamented Adult Swim show, used that line in a parody of an MTV reality show, to underline what airheads the main characters of the show were. Sadly it never became enough of a meme to stand on its own, but I think of it a lot when I read about "controversies" like this.)

    1. I like Lewontin because he's honest about such things.

      He doesn't seem to be the kind of naive reductionist, who believes that the same reductionist and mathematical models that work in quantum physics and even up into some relatively simple chemistry work for all aspects of reality but he obviously knows that's how the science game is played, even past the point where he can stomach pretending he doesn't now its unknowable efficacy.

      I respect his honesty and his rigorous thinking which is far better than most.

  2. "I remember a blog atheist throwing a quote from Sagan at me, the gist of which is that the day that extra-terrestrial life is found is the final nail in the coffin of religion."

    Well, maybe for a fundamentalist; but not for the Jesuit who first proposed the Big Bang Theory.

    Sagan was SUCH a putz.