The Psychology of Blinding Obedience to a Paradigm
|December 7, 2008||Posted by Barry Arrington under Intelligent Design|
In church on Sunday the sermon was about Jesus’ raising Lazarus from the dead. What does this have to do with the ID/Darwinism debate? Nothing, of course. But the story does contain a remarkable illustration of what I will call the “psychology of blinding obedience to a paradigm.”
The central claim of ID can be illumined by a very simple illustration from the movie 2001, a Space Odyssey. After the opening sequences, the plot of the movie shifts to a scientist journeying to the moon to investigate an “anomaly” that has been discovered buried under the moon’s surface. Here is a picture of the anomaly. The scientists immediately reach an obvious conclusion – the anomaly was created by an intelligent being. In other words, they make a “design inference.” Why do they make such an inference? Because the anomaly exhibits complex specified information (“CSI”) that cannot reasonably be attributed to chance, mechanical necessity or both acting together. Therefore, the commonsense conclusion reached by the scientists is that “act of an intelligent agent” is the most reasonable explanation for the existence of the anomaly.
NASA plans to resume its moon missions in the mid teens. Now suppose that the next time we visit the moon, an astronaut actually finds an “anomaly” like the one in the film. Can there be any doubt that scientists would make the same design inference? Would such an inference be even the least bit controversial? Obviously not.
Lets return to earth. If you have not already done so, click on the video in the upper right of UD’s home page. This is an excerpt from “Expelled” called “Complexity of the Cell.” After watching this video you can see why the cell has been called a “nano-city.” It has a library (DNA molecules); it has streets; it has walls that open and close; it has specialized molecules that move other molecules up and down the streets as required. And the marvelous thing about all of this is that it is completely automated. The cell is, quite simply, a marvel of nano-technology that exhibits CSI vastly greater than the “anomaly” in 2001, a Space Odyssey.
There is no known natural source of CSI. In fact, all of the CSI that anyone has ever observed has been the product of purposeful actions by intelligent agents. Accordingly, ID proponents make an inference – that the CSI in a cell is also the result of purposeful acts by an intelligent agent. But unlike the anomaly on the moon, this seemingly commonsense inference is not only controversial, it is vehemently denied by the proponents of neo-Darwinian Evolution (“NDE”). Proponents of NDE vociferously and repeatedly claim that there is “overwhelming evidence” proving that Darwinian processes can account for dramatic additions to CSI. Well, I have been following this debate for a few years now, and I am still waiting to see that evidence.
And that takes us back to our starting point. Consider the last two verses of the Lazarus story (John 11:45-46). Jesus has just raised from the dead a man who has been in his grave for four days, and in these two verses John tells us that after seeing this miracle many believed Jesus’ claims, but – and here is the remarkable part – many did not. This last group included agents of the religious leaders who were plotting Jesus’ death, and instead of believing in Jesus, these agents went back to their masters and made their reports.
What can we learn about human psychology from this story? Unfortunately, some people will always be subject to the “psychology of blinding obedience to a paradigm.” In the Lazarus story the agents of the religious leaders had a stake in the continuance of the existing religious paradigm. Whether their stake in the status quo was financial or psychological or some other stake, we are not told, but one thing is clear – their stake shackled them to a blinding obedience to the existing paradigm. They were blinded even to the evidence of one of the greatest miracles that had ever been reported up until that time – a man four days in the grave raised from the dead. Because of their blindness, they literally could not see either the flaws in the status quo they were defending or the benefits of the alternative being offered.
Here at UD we see the same phenomenon in operation day after day in the ID/Darwinism debate. I am continually amazed that seemingly intelligent people, who for all I know are acting in complete good faith, simply cannot grasp even elementary principles of reasoning if to do so would require them to question the NDE orthodoxy.
For example, in a recent post I used the example of Mt. Rushmore to illustrate a known instance of intelligent design. I asked my readers to consider an investigator who knows nothing about the origin of the faces on the mountain other than their bare existence (perhaps an investigator from the far distant future after an apocalypse has erased all other records of human activity). The investigator might conclude that the faces on the mountain were the product of chance and necessity, i.e., wind and rain and other environmental factors against all odds combined to form the exact replicas of the faces of four men. Or the investigator could conclude from the obvious CSI exhibited by the carvings that they are the product of the purposeful efforts of an intelligent agent.
I then asked my readers to consider a cell, which exhibits VASTLY MORE CSI than Mt. Rushmore. An investigator could conclude that the CSI of a cell – this marvel of nano-technology – is the product of random replication errors (i.e., chance) culled by natural selection (i.e., mechanical necessity). Or, as in the Mt. Rushmore example, the investigator could conclude that the CSI was the product of the purposeful efforts of an intelligent agent.
Which is the more reasonable explanation for the CSI in the cell, I asked my readers. One Darwinist, an obviously intelligent person acting in what I trust was perfect good faith responded: “we have a plausible materialist explanation for the apparent design of life, whereas we don’t have such an explanation for Mt. Rushmore.”
It apparently never occurred to this commenter that whether the materialist explanation for the design life is more plausible than a materialist explanation for the design of Mt. Rushmore is precisely the issue in question. And the bald unsupported assertion that one explanation is more plausible than the other solves nothing. In other words, it did not occur to the commenter that his explanation was satisfying to him only because he assumed his conclusion simply had to be true.
I would have thought that our commenter’s failure to grasp elementary principles of logic was an anomaly if I had not seen Darwinists make the same type of error over and over again these last few years. The point of this post is that I no longer believe these people are stupid, and I am trying (yes, appearances to the contrary notwithstanding, I really am trying) to be more patient with them. I trust my fellow authors and the pro-ID commenters on these pages will join with me in this endeavor. I am not talking about obvious trolls. That is another category altogether, and we will continue to deal with them ruthlessly. But with respect to people of demonstrated intelligence and good faith who, because of the “psychology of blinding obedience to a paradigm” cannot seem to grasp simple concepts, let’s try to be a little more patient and, if anything, pity those who have imprisoned themselves in self-constructed psychological towers.