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Notes for a discussion on evolution.

Overheard today at work: “Look at these. Aren’t they beautiful? I don’t see how anyone can believe in evolution.” The speaker displayed a set of astronomical photographs she was duplicating on the color copier for her child’s science lesson.

While this statement betrays a lack of rigorous analysis on the part of the speaker, the sentiment is important, and telling.

  • Assertion: The average lay Christian’s intuitive rejection of evolution as a viable creation story has little to do with the content of evolutionary theory, and more exactly rejects the worldview of empiricist materialism which is inevitably smuggled in along with the body of the theory.

  • With this assertion, I do not intend to directly engage the battlements and defenses and siege mentality of the evolution-versus-creationism argument. Rather, I wish to undermine the foundation of the argument itself.

  • This is why I specify “the average lay Christian’s intuitive rejection”. The position is not based on careful study or detailed knowledge, but on a gut instinct, an instinctual outflowing from an a priori source against a position that is sensed to be untenable, all a posteriori reasoning and argument being beside the point, merely latecomers trying to explain an event that has already happened.

  • In the case of the overheard speaker, the “evolutionary” argument (really, the empirical materialist edifice) is rejected because it is an ugly thing trying to explain away a world of beauty and wonder.

  • The “theory of evolution” so envisioned is ugly because, unaccountably, its practitioners insists that because the evidence points to a certain sequence of events, those events must be random and meaningless, or “natural”, and there must be no God or other Primary Actor.

  • The theory of evolution is a scientific theory. The opinion that a sequence of events is random and meaningless is a metaphysical narrative.

  • To say that something is random is really saying that you do not understand that thing.

  • Scientific theories are stories arrived at by careful application of the scientific method.

  • The scientific method is a weapon developed to combat and subdue natural phenomena, wily prey indeed. It is a sharp tool for a narrow application.

  • If you are holding a hammer in your hand, every problem starts to look like a nail. Likewise for wielders of knives.

  • Metaphysical narratives, or metanarratives for short, are the stories that we tell ourselves to try and make sense of the world around us.

  • The “theory of evolution” is ugly because its loudest practitioners have conflated their scientific theories with their pet metanarratives.

  • Attempts to “combat” evolution on its home turf, namely, scientific creationism and intelligent design, have failed because they have accepted the terms and conventions of their foe and operate under the assumptions of a empirical materialist metanarrative, assumptions which spell instant death for any concept which makes room for faith and deity.

  • God has not yet sat still long enough to be observed and quantified by objective observers from the academy, nor do I anticipate his future compliance.

  • The Enlightenment philosophers were wrong. There are absolute limits to what humans can know and understand. If you doubt this, Kurt Gödel and Mr. Heisenberg are waiting in the corner to disabuse you of this notion.

  • For fun, just lock an empirical materialist in a room with David Hume for a few hours. We’ll see who comes out with his worldview intact and free of bruising. (Update 12 Dec 2005: this doesn’t necessarily make sense if you only think of Hume as one of the original Empiricists and a Skeptic; I refer in particular to the Problem of Causation–Hume’s extreme solution seems to me to undermine the entire project of empirical materialism, or any project that seeks to build up certain knowledge about the world. Yet, within the empirical worldview, it’s the only thing that makes sense. Uhh, guys, have you thought through the full implications of what you’re pushing?) (Update 13 Oct 2008: Updated the link to the Problem of Causation.)

  • Yes, God created the universe. Okay, everything began with a Big Bang. Fine, I’ll allow that the Earth is borne upon the back of a giant turtle. But, I ask you, what bears up the turtle?

  • As limited and confining as we may find them, we cannot leave the metanarratives, because beyond them lies only an impenetrable darkness. Be ye warned: there be dragons and madness.

  • Incidentally, this rather neatly explains the phenomenon of postmodernism (which can be briefly defined as incredulity towards metanarratives). It’s cabin fever, plain and simple.

  • Remember our overheard speaker, the average lay Christian with an intuition? Explain her intuition. From whence does it come?

  • Someone answering from within the Christian metanarrative might offer that the Holy Spirit inspired her to this destination. This is a self-consistent answer within most regions of the metanarrative.

  • Practitioners of the empirical materialist metanarrative will often argue that the speaker is ignorant or at best naive, a lesser being on the great ladder of gnostic meritocracy. Ah, ah, ah. That’s an ad hominem attack. Try again, or at least answer this: how does a metanarrative limited entirely to the a posteriori experience begin to try to explain an a priori phenomenon?

  • For myself, I’ll throw my hat in with the Christian metanarrative. It feels right, and I can groove with it. If the evolutionary theorists will get down of their high(ly evolved) horses, they might be able to groove along. If you come, bring your scientific method along, because there are still dragons out there, and it might come in handy.

Anyone out there have any thoughts, comments, or emendations? Please, don’t be silent on this one. This has not been intended as a logical proof or refutation, merely a rough exploration, a brief sortie into the realm of the possible, and I’m open to suggestions and honest discussion.

Updated a few minutes later: I realized some of my language was a little vague and inconsistent. Specifically, I’ve settled on the terms “empiricist materialism” and “empirical materialist” to describe the worldview of my shadowy opponents. I’ve also added some links to the wikipedia to further define myself.

Oh, and I added the point about “random” being a euphemism for “not understood”.

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