Thursday, September 15, 2011

A Paycheck from Peoria

Them evolutionists got me upset.

It's not because they're all atheists and materialists and other things that disagree with me. I don't mind disagreements in the form of rational arguments. In fact, my addiction to rational argument is only slightly less strong than my addiction to sarcasm, which is proportionally less strong than my preferred brew of coffee. If reductionary evolutionists argued rationally for their beliefs—if they took pot shots at the Five Ways, for example—I might still have bones to pick with them, but the picking would be pleasant. But reductionary evolutionists don't much care for philosophical argument.
(Yes, click the link. No, those are not reductionary evolutionists. No, it's not relevant, except for 1:40-1:56. What, you wanted me to find just that exact sixteen seconds on YouTube? Sheesh . . .)

Reductionary evolutionists set out not to slay the dragons of faith but to explain how the dragons arose. Their sort of science shows that I believe in God because such a belief helps me to avoid danger. It shows that I obey a moral code because it profits me. It shows that I fall in love because I and the object of my affection are genetically well-matched. My face expresses emotion because communication promotes cooperation. My boredom is the key to my productivity. My impatience, affection, curiosity, loyalty, anger, pride, fear, sorrow—all my sins and all my good qualities—all my actions—myself—exist only because somewhere back in prehistory, an ancestor of mine had those qualities, and lived longer because of them and, having lived longer than his contemporaries, begat children, and passed his inclinations on at last to me.

It seems unreasonable to resent this picture. Within its frame I can survey the world, a small one after all, safe in the knowledge that it has no meaning except the meaning I may choose (or not) to give it, and sure that it makes no demands of me beyond those imaginary demands which I care to accept, or those biological demands that prove too strong for me to conveniently resist. I am monarch of all I survey. Like mythical old Adam, I stand in front of a universe waiting to be named—waiting, almost, to be created; and yet I create myself. It is a scene rich in potential. I ought not to resent it—but I do.

Probably, the evolutionists of the world have an explanation for my resentment, as they have for all emotions. Resentment has a stabilizing tendency; it protects us from being put upon by others, and acts as a counterbalance to that pure altruism which if unchecked might prove to be too much of a good thing. I have another explanation for my resentment, but I will leave it for a later post.

My real quarrel with evolutionary reductionism has to do with neither art nor emotions but with reason. The evolutionist seems to believe that the old questions of God's existence and the concomitant issues of human nature and morality have all found their final answer in the science. To put it briefly: we have explained how these things and feelings came to be without bringing in God. Therefore, God is unnecessary. Therefore, God does not exist.

Does anyone else see the flaw in the logic? Set aside the metaphysical ignorance displayed by those who routinely misunderstand the argument for a first mover. (That is, set aside the fact that evolutionary reductionism's first premise is false.) Even if it were true that God were unnecessary, that would not prove that he did not exist, any more than the unnecessary nature of the appendix and other vestigial organs proves their non-existence. It would make God a different sort of thing ("necessary being" would no longer be an accurate description of him) but it would not automatically disprove many of the qualities traditionally attributed to him, such as omniscience, benevolence, extra-temporality, etc.

If I were to find that my paycheck, supposed for the past twenty years to have been coming from my employers, is actually a carefully forged withdrawal from my wealthy aunt's bank account in Peoria—does that prove that my employer does not exist? It might prove my employer to be a different sort of entity than I had imagined him to be. (It says things about my aunt too.) It says things about my situation (Why am I working for these dudes if they're not paying?) and my mental endowments (What kind of chump was I not to figure this out before?). It does not prove that my employer is not real.

Of course, if the only grounds for assuming my employer existed were my paychecks and my work—no doubt a Jabez Wilson sort of job—then I might begin rightly to doubt my employer's existence. If the only grounds for belief in God were arguments from design, I might rightly begin to doubt God's existence. (See the sad story of Michael Behe's son Leo.) But while design arguments can be useful, the real arguments for God's existence are much deeper and more abstract and more difficult—though also ultimately, for those who can grasp them, safer.

Scientists prefer the simple, elegant, one-answer solution; and evolution in the hands of an adept reductive evolutionist can look like such a solution. Anyone who looks at the real world, however, knows that ours is not an elegant universe. It is a world of mislaid parts, repeats, coincidences, and accidents: a land of quirks as well as quarks. This messiness has been used as evidence that design arguments are fundamentally flawed; after all, what rational creator would be so frivolous, so wasteful, so readily seduced by the superfluous? Indeed, a machinist creator would not be. But all artists are lovers of superfluity.

Of course, nothing I've said here proves that God does exist; it only goes to show that the logic of evolutionary reductionism is flawed. The resistance to a multi-causal universe, the affection for simplicity displayed by so many scientists, is nothing more than that—an affection. No doubt it was useful for surviving those old days in the bush to assume that the simplest explanations were the right ones. No doubt it was convenient. Unfortunately, just being convenient don't make a thing so. It behooves anyone who cares about truth to remember that the more we look at the world the more we find that Life and reality are, like our little-l lives, complicated.

1 comment:

  1. I think you point toward the basic problem many of these reductionists have in your third-to-last paragraph:
    They refuse to admit the existence of what they cannot imagine. By this method the soul becomes the body, final cause becomes material or formal, virtues become emotions, metaphysics becomes physics, and God becomes man.