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The scientist delusion

David Goldston (extensively edited)

“Scientists tend to underestimate the public receptivity to science, and the battles ahead.

Intelligent-design advocates try to sell their wares as science rather than religion partly as a legal gambit, but also because science and scientists are held in high esteem.

Scientists do not face a public inherently hostile to science even among fundamentalists, and should address the public with respect rather than contempt.

Although a remarkably high percentage of Americans do not believe that humans evolved from earlier life forms, it’s not clear whether this is just a casual way of saying they viscerally reject the notion of a random Universe.

Evolution is largely a symbolic issue to the public, and may be a poor measure of how religious attitudes affect the reception of science more generally. 

Battles over evolution arise most intensely when the culture is changing in ways that many find confusing and disconcerting.

Scientific discovery can genuinely undermine religious beliefs. Discoveries in genetics and neuroscience are verging on drawing the ultimate materialist picture of  humans as nothing more than proteins and electrical impulses, all machine and no ghost. This view will complicate questions about the nature of individual responsibility and morality.

The conundrums may leave even atheists longing for some theological guidance on how to decide what is moral.”

NATURE Vol 452 6 March 2008

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19 Responses to The scientist delusion

  1. Looks like all of life’s mysteries have been solved. Nothing more to be puzzled about. It is all “proteins and electrical impulses” nothing more, and if you cannot understand that, then you are truly an idiot.

    Excuse my sarcasm.

  2. The ultimate materialist picture? Written like a man unaware of the philosophical issues involved, as well as the (extraordinarily diverse) theological views of the soul. All that before realizing that even the science isn’t so clear-cut, either on ‘mere electrical impulses’ (What, the nature of consciousness isn’t an open and deep issue? What organizes those electrical impulses? Etc) or proteins (Does he realize that gene-centric views of evolution are not only controversial, but are mere models within a single discipline?).

  3. “Scientific discovery can genuinely undermine religious beliefs. Discoveries in genetics and neuroscience are verging on drawing the ultimate materialist picture of humans as nothing more than proteins and electrical impulses, all machine and no ghost. This view will complicate questions about the nature of individual responsibility and morality.”

    Nonsense, even if we did know exactly how the brain functioned it would require prior intelligence to under this and utilize the knowledge. The point is that without understanding where we came from we really don’t understand anything at all. Or as Kurt Gödel put it

    “The formation in geological time of the human body by the laws of physics (or any other laws of similar nature), starting from a random distribution of elementary particles and the field is as unlikely as the separation of the atmosphere into its components. The complexity of the living things has to be present within the material [from which they are derived] or in the laws [governing their formation]”

    Now Mr. Scientist tell us where the law came from?– Or the matter and its specified properties.

    Not only that, but to make matter worse- where does the freedom from laws come from? As regards responsibility the free will of the human mind – or its inherent unpredictability – will never be fully controlled and understood because of Heisenberg’s uncertainty principal.

    Plenty of books have been written discussing Heisenberg’s principal and its relation to free will , the mind, the soul and theology.

    If scientists want to pick up a little religion all they have to do is open their eyes. And yes, were still waiting.

  4. But then again as David Berlinski is quick to point out, physics is not the end all be all regarding the religion/science debate anyway.

    “If you ask me who is more credulous, the more suggestible, the dopier, the more perfectly prepared to convey absurdity to an almost inconceivable pitch of personal enthusiasm – a well trained Jesuit or a P.H.D. in quantum physics, I’ll go with the physicist every time.”

    Science will say anything if it mean more attention and grant money. In fact I view the current nature of mainstream science as trying to pass itself off “as a religion.” Sadly its more like a tabloid version of the latest news. A whole lot of speculation and outragous claims (like those mentioned above) shouldn’t pass for science.

  5. Goldston: “Scientific discovery can genuinely undermine religious beliefs.”

    Talking about hedging your bets! I would have prefered, “Scientific discovery has undermined {insert religion here}”.

    Now I am not a historian, but I have heard that the Copernican revolution did something or other to the Catholic Church — something about geo- and helio-centrism. Certainly some beliefs held by those who would have called themselves religious were rightly called into question. On the other hand, the term “undermined” has a certain connotation (to me, at any rate) that it is a central tenet, a bulwark, or a fundamental that is being fatally weakened and then brought down.

    If so, how did the Catholic Church manage to survive Copernicus?

    As for, “genetics and neuroscience are verging on drawing the ultimate materialist picture of humans”,

    Congratulations for “verging”! Get back to me when the picture is drawn. Oh, and let me know what Turing and Godel had to say about the composition of the artwork.

  6. Time to deploy the Argument from Reason: if you are going to say we are undesigned and our brains our just atoms bouncing around, you have no basis (none) for trusting your own rationality.

    Design isn’t just something you discover in nature. It is an axiom. If you deny design you must wave goodbye to rationality.

  7. I know I’ve been calling for more applied ID research in the past, but I may have to revise that. It seems that if the premier research magazines are so completely wedded to evil materialism, then there really is no hope of changing their minds. What if learning science really is, by definition, something that leads us away from God? What if it is only those with the strongest moral courage that are able to maintain their faith after learning this stuff (the Dembskis and Behes of the world, for example)?

    We as taxpayers should demand that we shutter the whole enterprise. We’ve learned everything we can that won’t lead us to evil. Let’s stop the scientists entirely.

    I’m sorry, but this post has me depressed.

  8. I’m getting sick of “scientists” using historically reputable scientific literature, such as Science and Nature, to advance their narrow minded world view. These journals are hurting themselves because they are alienating scientists who just want to practice science and not attach all this baggage.

  9. From the columns of Nature? Indeed, what else do you expect but rabid materialist codswallop pandered off as something smart?

    So it came about from 1860 onward that new believers became in a sense mentally ill, or, more precisely, either you became mentally ill or you quitted the subject of biology, as I had done in my early teens. The trouble for young biologists was that, with everyone around them ill, it became impossible for them to think they were well unless they were ill, which again is a situation you can read all about in the columns of Nature.”

    (Hoyle, F., “Mathematics of Evolution,” [1987], Acorn Enterprises: Memphis TN, 1999, pp.3-4). It appears nothing has changed since Hoyle wrote those words.

    Now Francis Crick wrote,

    “You are nothing but a pack of neurons”

    , – The Astonishing Hypothesis: The Scientific Search for the Soul.

    Now the question to be posed here is this, How does a pack of neurons own the truth about reality? In other words, that pack of neurons that tells us we are but a pack of neurons is credible to reality upon what basis?

    And if Crick himself was just a pack of neurons, not under the control of a real will nor under the control of real reason, then why should anyone believe anything that pack of neurons claiming? Again, what then is the basis of any claims to knowledge of reality whatsoever, under such a self-defeating postulation?

    This isn’t hard. So it remains to resolve the following enigma, “Why is it so hard for materialists to see the blatant contradiction underlying their own idiocies?”.

    “The speculations of the Origin of Species turned out to be wrong, as we
    have seen in this chapter. It is ironic that the scientific facts throw Darwin out, but leave William Paley, a figure of fun to the scientific world for more than a century, still in the tournament with a chance of being the ultimate winner.”

    (Hoyle, F. & Wickramasinghe, N.C.., “The evolutionary record leaks like a sieve,” in “Evolution from Space,” [1981], Paladin: London, 1983, reprint, pp.101-102)

    Unfortunately, Hoyle’s “evolution from space” paradigm fairs no better since it merely pushes the origins issue back a step, i.e. How did alien life (presumably DNA/RNA based) come about?

    Conclusion? The hard nosed materialist/atheist will believe anything, no matter how patently absurd (“We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs…because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism” – Lewontin) rather than face the devastating (to their whole world-view) reality of a Supreme Being and the personal accountability that comes with it.

  10. I’ve begun thinking in the past few years that the best thing that could happen to “science” these days would be a complete public repulsion in reaction to the kind of dreck we so often read in Nature, National Geo., etc..

    Darwinism, Anthropogenic global warming, … I’m sure we could find dozens more junk theories being pushed on the public through materialist mass media thugs pushing methodological naturalism’s science stopping version of reality.

    Materialism isn’t even rational! If the public at large knew and understood all the pure crap they’ve been fed by the scientific community they would indeed revolt.

    And that would possibly be the first step in curing the nefarious infectious disease.

  11. Yes, but what happened to The Spiritual Brain that will help win this debate?

    Perhaps we just need to switch our schema or paradigm. Let us suppose that information, in its Platonic form, is immaterial. But, in this plain of reality, it can only manifest itself through the material. Is this not the old Descartes duality concept. Sort of the idea that software must be processed on a hardware platform to actually do anything.

    So, we all learn more and more about the hardware, and every instance of the immaterial now has a material counterpart or action. And the materialists point to this discovery as proof that material is all sufficient to explain everything. But in reality, their achievements are limited to identifying material processes or locations where every thought takes place, e.g., brain scans. In other words, just because we might someday read the brain “comprehensively” through technology does not mean that we have then proven that the mind is nothing but chemical and electrical activity.

    So, does identifying a material component to every single piece of our measurable existence suddenly disprove the existence of the immaterial? Or am I overly simplistic and missing something?

  12. It’s all about cause and effect. Organized information is an effect not caused by the laws of the material components (units) which are only used to transfer the information.

    What causes information? Intelligence does, but it is also founded upon information.

    What kind of a loop does this leave us in?

    Where do we go from here? Do we posit a fundamental layer of intelligence/information based on the observed connection between the two, or do we posit a non-explanatory “chance of the gaps” which goes against any law of conservation of information and thermodynamics.

    (2LOT = closed system tends to entropy. This corresponds to maximum probability in terms of information. The only way to get a non-lawful (and thus improbable) informational organization is to open the system to other non-lawful informational organization with at least the same improbability. Thus, information is conserved.)

    IOW, information comes from a system which contains at least the same improbability of information, intelligence (as a highly improbable network of information processing) comes from intelligence, etc.

  13. 13

    David Goldston said,

    Scientists do not face a public inherently hostile to science even among fundamentalists, and should address the public with respect rather than contempt.

    Right. Critics of Darwinism are labeled “anti-science” by the Darwinists. And the Darwinists make straw-man comparisons of doubting Darwin and doubting gravity and the roundness of the earth.

  14. “science and scientists are held in high esteem” — Yes, but not evolutionary “science” of origins. This is a “science of imagination”, by those who “scientists” deluded in their fanciful stories-telling.

    Reject the scientists and the science of imagination.

  15. Oh, I get it: modern science turns on religion with a vengeace–and then blaims religion for doubting its good intentions!

    Could this really be the first time Goldston has noticed some conflict between religion and the aggressive atheism seen in modern science? “Scientific discovery can genuinely undermine religious belief”? Does the name Huxley ring a bell?

    Goldston pretends to wonder “whither?” so he can portray the modernist worldview as a fait accompli. News flash for Priest Goldston: that worldview is in the process of being annihilated by discoveries in the basic sciences. There’s a reason why modernism now refers to itself as postmodernism. He is in the rear guard, and his destruction has come upon him.

    Thr poor fellow sounds mildly depressed, like the robot in “Hitchkiker’s Guide.” And who can blame him? The sunny optimism of Darwin and his friends about the redemptive power of materialsm now seems hopelessly out of date in light of the horrific grey century it helped to produce.

    But don’t despair, fellow traveler. Hope itself is not extinguished. Darwinism is now known to be highly improbable. Its illusion of absolute certainty has been shattered, opening the door to a new kind of science and a restoration of the mystery and awe that can no longer be found in such ponderous tomes as “Nature” or the soporific prattling of its blue-lipped dogmatists.

    Darwinism is dead. Science lives.

  16. “nothing more than proteins and electrical impulses, all machine”

    Even if life is “all machine” it does not mean there is no Designer, no Meaning, no Purpose. In fact, all known machines are designed and have a purpose.

    If the first organisms enabled further, oxygen dependant forms of life, to become possible; even if these first organisms are very complex solar powered oxygen generators, they still are designed and they still have a very clear purpose.

    Science elucidates mechanism and does not extinguish purpose or meaning.

  17. 17

    In Genesis in Space and Time, Francis Schaeffer, a good and Godly man reflected upon the origins of man.

    The simple fact is that day in Hebrew (just as in English) is used in three separate senses: to mean (1) twenty-four hours, (2) the period of light during the twenty-four hours, and (3) an indeterminate period of time.
    (4) An era or age
    Therefore, we must leave open the exact length of time indicated by day in Genesis.

  18. 18
    PannenbergOmega

    In my personal theology, I accept unapolegetically the day-age theory of creation. Though I do not particularly care for Hugh Ross’s theodicy. So I accept the idea that when Adam fell, the effects of the fall worked backward in time. In addition to the present and future.

  19. Cheer up, everyone. Anyone who believes the public is in awe of scientists isn’t living in the real world. No amount of advertisements showing scientists in white coats, holding up test tubes, is going to convince anyone but – to quote Watson – the scientists’ own mothers that they’re not ever so sightly loopy.

    “One could not be a successful scientist without realizing that, in contrast to the popular conception supported by newspapers and mothers of scientists, a goodly number of scientists are not only narrow-minded and dull, but also just stupid.” — J. D. Watson “The Double Helix”

    Watson speaks of ‘the popular conception’, but shows he’s on the right track immediately by alluding to the force-fed narrative of the newspapers. That little ‘secular fundie’ echo-chamber exerts a powerful influence over its prisoners.

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