Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Doubting Darwin: A Surprisingly Fair Article

I just found a couple of interesting articles.

First, last week, NPR published a piece called Doubting Darwin: Debate Over The Mind's Evolution
. Overall, it's a pretty fair article revealing the differing views of 2 neuroscientists (one who's a materialist, and one who isn't).

The piece also included a link to the Discovery Institute's blog, Evolution News and Views
. I just boomarked it, and I think I'll be visiting it frequently.


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Marx, Freud, and Darwin: Feel-Good Science

I know that I'm delinquent when it comes to explaining my scientific and philosophical problems with Darwinism (although you can get a flavor for my concerns in Chapter 9 of The Mustard Seed). But for now, I'd like to share with you a thought I had about Darwinism, and its relationship to 2 other scientific theories of the past: Karl Marx's economic theory and Sigmund Freud's theory about human personality and development.

Darwin, Marx, and Freud were 3 of the intellectual titans of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Their ideas about humanity and society and how to
improve humanity and society utterly dominated Western civilization in their own lifetime, and continued to influence many generations thereafter.

Unfortunately for Marx and Freud, time has not been kind to their theories. Although Freud is widely credited as the "father of psycoanalysis," it didn't take long for scientists who followed in Freud's footsteps (such as Jung and Adler) to realize that Freud's theories about Oedipus complexes, superegos, and oral personalities (which Freud insisted were facts) were totally false. Today, almost no serious psychologist takes Freud's ideas seriously - even though they were highly influential on Western culture, even up until recently.

As for Marx, time has been equally cruel. The intellectual father of socialism, his ideas were practiced in Russia, China, and numerous other countries in the 20st century, but the economic failures of those countries (especially when contrasted with the prosperity of the free market democracies of the West) revealed the futility of Marx's brainchild. Today, Marx is treated as a crackpot - even by those who are still sympathetic to socialist ideas.

While we can make fun of Marx and Freud today, we need to remember that these 2 men were treated as geniuses and prophets in their own time. Why? I'll offer two explanations. First, Marx and Freud dressed up their ideologies as "science," and back then - just like today - when you call something "science" it automatically is seen as credible, rational, and progressive.

Second, and perhaps more importantly, Marx and Freud offered what you might call "feel-good ideologies." When Freud said that people should freely express their urges - especially their sexual urges - because "repression" causes "neurosis," that was precisely what a lot of people wanted to hear. After all, for most people, the concept of "free sex" doesn't require a lot of persuasion. Same deal with Marx. When Marx said that prosperity would come from workers seizing the commanding heights of the economy through theft and violence - instead of actually earning their wages in a traditional free market - that was EXACTLY what a lot of people wanted to hear; it catered to their fantasies and feelings of self-importance; they ate it up.

There's one caveat, however: even if Marx and Freud cloaked their ideologies as "science," and a "feel-good science" to boot, it doesn't explain one important problem: any objective person - whether they're a scientist or a layman - who bothered to actually READ the ideas of Marx and Freud, would eventually realize that it was total B.S - at least from a scientific perspective. Any objective person would realize this was never a science; it was ALWAYS an ideology. And perhaps that's the point!

Which brings us to Mr. Darwin.

Unlike Marx and Freud, Mr. Darwin is still respected and adored today - perhaps now more than ever. Just like his 2 pals, Darwin's ideas are not only viewed as scientific "truth," but the implications of that "truth" is permeating the culture at large - as we see in the greater acceptance of "Social Darwinism" as a valid form of ethics, etc.

But as I've said before, anyone who chooses to look at Darwinism head-on realizes that "The Theory of Evolution" is full of holes. And we're not just talking small holes; we're talking huge, huge holes. I'm not going to explain those holes today (I'll do that another time). Rather, I'm going to explain why Darwinism is so successful and dominant in our society today.

First, Darwinism is the best scientific theory for the development of life if you start off -
a priori - with the presumption that God does NOT exist. In other words, if you're an atheist, and you want to promote atheism, the Darwinist idea of "random chance" is the most acceptable theory. But this begs the question: why do we have to assume - right at the start - that God doesn't exist? After all, if we choose to follow the facts OBJECTIVELY - with no consideration of whether God exists or does NOT exist - then, like I said above, Darwinism is a flawed theory. And knowing that, why does the scientific establishment react with such horror, scorn, and vengeance towards anyone who offers Intelligent Design as a potential alternative?

To answer that, I have to go back to my earlier point about Marx and Freud: their theories weren't just "science;" it was also "feel-good science." And for the scientific establishment, Darwinism "feels good" because it is atheist; it validates their atheist perspective. They don't want there to be a God. They are extremely uncomfortable with the concept of God. They want to banish God - whether He deserves that banishment or not.

Will Darwin eventually join Marx and Freud on the ash-heap of intellectual history? Well, not exactly. For starters, there is some practical use to the "theory of natural selection" as it pertains to "micro-evolution," so Darwin has that going for him. Plus, like Freud, Darwin will always be credited for founding a major branch of science (even if that science eventually discredits the work of its founder). But yes, eventually truth will catch up to the Darwininists. You can't kill the truth; you can bury it. You can muzzle it. You can choke it. You can even crucifity it. But you can never destroy it. It is the only thing that truly lasts.


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Darwinism and The Great Depression Ahead

When it comes to analyzing the economy, my favorite website is The Daily Reckoning, which is written by 2 financial advisers, Bill Bonner and Addison Wiggin. I've read 4 of their books: Finanical Reckoning Day, Empire of Debt, The Demise of the Dollar, and Mobs, Markets, and Messiahs. If you're interested in signing up for their newsletter, click here.

In any case, I was reading the Feb. 16 edition of The Daily Reckoning Newsletter, and happened to discover a brief, somewhat out-of-place diatribe against Darwinism. See below...

Darwin seemed to have no natural enemies last week. It was the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth. His theory was blessed in every account we saw. Everyone was on his side. As a result his ideas reproduced and multiplied until they were in practically every newspaper.
Commentators saw Darwinism at work everywhere. In the current worldwide financial meltdown, for example, they thought they saw not the beneficent ‘invisible hand’ of Adam Smith, but the bloody claw of natural selection. “It’s the survival of the fittest at work,” said one opinionist.

Ideas, like rats, need predators. Otherwise, they get out of hand. Seeing none to cull the weak parts of Darwin’s pensee, we will do it ourselves.

There are two parts to Darwinism as it is popularly understood. One part is based on observation – at which Darwin was a master. The other is extrapolation – not so much on Darwin’s part, but his followers. The problem is that the part that is probably correct is child-like and obvious. And the part that is more grown up is nothing more than empty guesswork. He notes that some animals are better suited to their environments than others. If a polar bear were suddenly born to a hog here in Nicaragua, it probably wouldn’t last long. On the other hand, if a mutation produced a naked polar bear at the North Pole, it wouldn’t stand much of a chance either. Both would probably perish, leaving no heirs or assigns…and thus removing from the gene pool whatever crazy aberration that created them. Some things survive and reproduce; some don’t. The essence of Darwinism is nothing more than that simple-minded observation, as near as we can tell.

But the application of this notion far and wide is a threat to the intellectual eco-system. Because of it, people think they know a lot more than they actually know. To the question, why is the polar bear white, rather than black, they have a ready answer: because evolution made him white. But this is no answer at all…it just postpones thinking until the next question: why did evolution make him that way?

Then, the guesses begin: because he can blend into the snowy background and sneak up on seals. Oh. They tell us, for example, that he covers his nose – which is black – with his paw, so he can get closer without being spotted.

Smart bear. But you’d think if evolution could turn his whole body black it could whitewash his nose too. And what about the seals? Are they morons? You’d think those that couldn’t tell the difference between a bear with his paw over his nose and an iceberg would have been weeded out by now. Besides, why aren’t seals white?

Of course, the biologists and know-it-alls have their answers, but they are just putting 2 and 2 together in the clumsiest way. They really don’t know why polar bears are white. All they know is that nature hasn’t exterminated the white polar bears – yet.

Many of these deep thinkers also believe that Darwin proved that God didn’t create man. Instead, man arose by the process of evolution, they say, one accidental step at a time. Man is the product of pure chance, they claim. As if God couldn’t make it look like an accident, if He wanted!

Clearly, there are better criticisms of Darwinism than this one, but I still enjoyed reading it because it reinforces one of the points that I've consistently made in my private political discussions - that all of these so-called "experts" don't know as much as they think they do, and what they do know is heavily clouded by their ideological biases. This is true whether it comes to politicians, economists, or scientists. And for that reason, citizens like you and me have a right to question the conventional wisdom and reach our own conclusions.


Wednesday, February 4, 2009

"Wo Wo Wo Feelings"

My last post about the "relationship between reason and emotion" reminded me of this essay by National Review's John Derbyshire about the link between religion and "wo wo wo feelings."

I think Mr. Derbsyhire is spot-on.

Reason and Emotion: An Analogy

Last week, I had a conversation with a few of my friends about the relationship between “reason” and “emotion” in a person’s life. Clearly, that relationship is a major theme in my novel, The Mustard Seed. The main character, Brian Raines, adopts a philosophy in which “Reason is the highest domain of the mind” which must always “stay on its throne and resist the emotions that swirl beneath it – ready to topple her at any moment… Feelings are a part of life – but they’re ultimately unreliable. And a life philosophy that is based on feelings is equally unreliable. What is reliable? Reason. Intelligence. Judgment. The power of the mind. The individual mind (Chapters 9, 12, and 13).”

Having said all that, I still “feel” the need to explain things a bit more. I certainly do not want to suggest that people should strive to eliminate their emotions. Even if that was the goal, it would be impossible to achieve. Quite simply, human beings live their lives through emotions: Joy, sadness, anger, confusion, peace, etc. Our inner world isn’t a set of mathematical equations; it is a rich tapestry of variable emotions. The question isn’t: How do we eliminate emotions? Rather, it’s “how do you create a mental state in which we feel the appropriate emotions – i.e., feeling “angry” when it’s appropriate to feel “angry;” feeling “sad” when it’s appropriate to feel “sad” – with the goal, of course (to the extent that it’s achievable), to maximize positive feelings, and minimize negative emotions.

In my humble opinion, that is where “reason” comes in. Reason creates a mental framework for disciplining and enriching our emotions. By keeping us focused on “Reality” and “mastering Reality,” prizing reason – rather than whatever “we feel” at any given moment – is the key to personal happiness and success, and helps avoid the pitfalls of emotionalism, mysticism, and blind faith.

I created an analogy that I’d like to try out on you: Imagine a place to live. Emotions are the fabric of life. Therefore, they are like furniture and other “stuff” you’d find in any common home. They come in various qualities and quantities – and each room has its own theme, and even the rooms themselves may change from time to time. So where does reason fit into this scheme? Reason is the foundation; the actual architecture of the home – the steel, wood, brick, and mortar. It creates a safe, solid place to experience emotion.

A person who deliberately stunts their reason is like a homeless person – they might own valuable “stuff,” but without an actual house to put them in, their ability to accumulate stuff – especially good stuff – is very limited. Furthermore, when a storm comes, they are vulnerable to losing their “stuff.” Especially when it comes to matters of faith, a powerful “emotional storm” (like the death of a friend) can destroy all of your “stuff” and leave you literally with nothing.

Only an actual house – reason – can provide a safe place for faith – true ­faith – in the 21st century.