The Anthropocene: Are Humans Really in Charge?

Humans have for centuries contemplated the “super natural” forces that control human history.  Some decided that what explains human behavior is the force of original sin, which humans can’t escape and which drive them to evil deeds.  For though the world and humans created by God were declared “very good” in the Scriptures (Genesis 1), it was obvious that sin also abounded among us creatures.

Later in history those who rejected spiritual explanations, formed their own ideas about the forces governing humans – evolution and genetics.  These are “natural” forces but super in that they affect all of life and some felt they can’t be resisted, so they predestine humans just as much as some believed original sin did.  So many forces predetermining human behavior.

Today, even science seems to be coming to grips with a notion that humans might have a lot more power in them than science ever acknowledged.  For now, scientists are coming to recognize that something is happening in evolution – humans are no longer merely controlled by it, but are shaping it, not only in themselves but throughout the world.    In the article “The Anthropocene Should Bring Awe-and Act As a Warning” written by Justin Worland (TIME magazine, Sep 12, 2016), we read:

As Geological epochs have come and gone throughout Earth’s vast history, shifts have often correlated with large-scale global changes like ice ages and mass extinctions. An asteroid hits the planet, wiping out the dinosaurs, and the Cretaceous period becomes the Tertiary. Until now, life on Earth–including us late-arriving Homo sapiens–was along for the ride. But on Aug. 29, some scientists at a meeting of the International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS) in South Africa said human activity has grown so powerful that it is forcing a change of the geological calendar: Earth has entered a new epoch, called the Anthropocene, defined by humans and our effect on the planet.

For 12,000 years, we lived through an epoch known as the Holocene, which provided a stable and relatively warm climate that allowed humans to develop everything from agriculture to atomic power. But that success remade the planet we live on through widespread deforestation, overfishing of the oceans, the extinction of countless species and the altering of the planet’s climate through the emission of greenhouse gases. Most telling is the spread of radioactive material across Earth since 1950 as a result of the testing of nuclear bombs. Humans brought an end to the Holocene quickly–no other geological epoch lasted fewer than several million years.

The random process of evolution may be changing as humans have a mind of their own and have proven they can consciously (and sometimes conscientiously) change the planet.  Evolution, from the scientific view, is no longer a random process, subject to random forces, but is being influenced, and even shaped by, conscious human choices.  Evolution is thought to have brought into being, sentient humans, who are conscious and capable of choice, capable of shaping their future, as well as the process of evolution.  Perhaps the anthropic principle will take on new meaning as science acknowledges the truth of what is transpiring in the physical universe.  The observers of the universe are no longer merely observing for they are shaping the world, for good or ill.  Worland concludes:

The IUGS gets the final vote on the geological calendar, and while scientists in its working group on the Anthropocene overwhelmingly recommended the new designation at the South Africa meeting, it has yet to be confirmed. But momentum has been building behind the Anthropocene for some time. Paul Crutzen, a Nobel Prize–winning chemist, first described this human-influenced era more than a decade ago with a focus on climate change. The downside of human influence should be obvious–we’re not just changing our planet but destroying it. Yet there’s a silver lining. If we are powerful enough to cause these problems, we might also solve them. “Unless there is a global catastrophe,” Crutzen wrote in the journal Nature, “mankind will remain a major environmental force for many millennia. A daunting task lies ahead.”

If humans can consciously shape the world in which they live, won’t they need more than ever to also think about conscience, right and wrong, good and evil?  We don’t have to move blindly into the Anthropocene.  We can choose our future.  We need wisdom more than ever, and an understanding of humanity that includes free will, conscience and responsibility for all we do.

Maybe, more now than ever, we do need to consider the wisdom of God, for perhaps we are not the only beings capable of creating the future.  We didn’t bring ourselves into existence, we only recently began to consciously shape our history and planet, we really have a lot to learn.

Signs of Design

Darwins DoubtThis is the third and final blog in a series looking at the book  Darwin’s Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design by Stephen C. Meyer.   The first blog is DARWIN’S DOUBT and Intelligent Design.  The previous blog is The Science that Doubts Darwin.

Stephen Meyer presents in his book the science that doubts Darwin – this is not scientific evidence he has manufactured, but evidence that scientists committed to Darwinian evolution have brought forth which challenges some aspect of the current theory.   He presents this science to call into question the materialistic basis of the science itself and then offers Intelligent Design as a solution to issues which Darwinism itself cannot right now answer.  Evolutionary scientists have debated the evidence and the questions raised but most so far have not seen his solution – Intelligent Design – as truly solving any problematic issue that science raises. Most scientists do not see materialism as being the problem which needs to be solved.

So whereas evolutionary scientists and Intelligent Design defenders might both point to problems with aspects of Evolutionary Theory and the extant evidence in the fossil record, they are miles apart in the philosophical issues which Meyer in the last part of his book presents as an argument for Intelligent Design.  Meyer attempts to use the fact that some scientists question some aspects of Evolutionary Theory to suggest that there are major cracks in the Theory and its collapse is inevitable.  But as far as I can tell despite recognizing some problems with the Theory, most scientists accept it as the best approximation of reality that humankind has been able to develop to this point.   Meyer is a Philosopher of Science, and in this part of the book he deals more with the philosophy of science, trying to show why he believes Intelligent Design is science based on scientific principles, reasoning and logic.

Meyer’s criticism of science is exactly that it has made a philosophical commitment to atheistic materialism; this is a philosophical commitment not a scientific law.

“In this case, however, those wearing the mental blinders have elevated an unwillingness to consider certain explanations to a principle of scientific method. That principle is called “methodological naturalism” or “methodological materialism.” Methodological naturalism asserts that to qualify as scientific, a theory must explain phenomena and events in nature—even events such as the origin of the universe and life or phenomena such as human consciousness—by reference to strictly material causes. According to this principle, scientists may not invoke the activity of a mind or, as one philosopher of science puts it, any “creative intelligence.”   (Kindle Loc. 7125-29)

Meyer criticizes what he sees as rationally inconsistent the scientific commitment to materialism even when he feels the scientific evidence might suggest an intelligent design in the universe.  However, believers adhere to faith in God even in the face of contrary evidence, inexplicable events, failure of the faithful to live up to the ideal, or the silence of God in face of pleas for Him to intervene in certain situations.  There is no basic difference in how we adhere to what we believe.  Meyer is firm in his conviction however that scientists are wrong to  be so steadfast to their philosophical position:

“In 1997, in an article in the New York Review of Books, Harvard geneticist Richard Lewontin made explicit a similar commitment to a strictly materialistic explanation—whatever the evidence might seem to indicate. As he explained in a now often quoted passage:

We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.

The commitment to methodological naturalism that Lewontin describes, as well as the behavior of scientists in cases such as Sternberg’s, leave no doubt that many in science simply will not consider the design hypothesis as an explanation for the Cambrian explosion or any other event in the history of life, whatever the evidence. To do so would be to violate the “rules of science” as they understand them.”  (Kindle Loc. 7170-83)

It may be a point of frustration for believers that some scientists are committed philosophically to materialism.  But our task remains the same: to witness to what we believe is true and through our lives to offer some compelling reason for non-believers to reconsider their position and to at least consider the possibility that there is a God who created the universe.   We have to show by our own lives that belief in God contributes positively to our daily existence and to the wellbeing of the world.  Meyer makes his case as to why he believes Intelligent Design is consistent with the principles of natural science.  It is a position which many believers can sympathize with as we already accept the notion that there is a Creator God.  But, the real test case is whether those committed to scientific materialism come to see in his arguments reason to at least consider the possibility of design in the universe and a Designer who place it there.


Meyer pushes his argument that intelligent design logically is as scientific as materialistic evolution:

“There is another compelling, if convention-dependent, reason to regard intelligent design as a scientific theory. The inference to intelligent design is based upon the same method of historical scientific reasoning and the same uniformitarian principles that Charles Darwin used in On the Origin of Species. The similarity in logical structure runs quite deep. Both the argument for intelligent design and the Darwinian argument for descent with modification were formulated as abductive inferences to the best explanation. Both theories address characteristically historical questions; both employ typically historical forms of explanation and testing; and both have metaphysical implications. Insofar as we regard Darwin’s theory as a scientific theory, it seems appropriate to designate the theory of intelligent design as a scientific theory as well. Indeed, neo-Darwinism and the theory of intelligent design are not two different kinds of inquiry, as some critics have asserted. They are two different answers—formulated using a similar logic and method of reasoning—to the same question: “What caused biological forms and the appearance of design to arise in the history of life?” It stands to reason that if we regard one theory, neo-Darwinism or intelligent design, as scientific, we should regard the other as the same. Of course, whether either theory is true or not is another matter. An idea may be scientific and incorrect. In the history of science, many theories have proven to be so.”  (Kindle Loc. 7293-7305)

Meyer makes some good points and logical sense.  But then I am already a believer in God, and his reasoning does not really change my thinking nor does it cause me any cognitive dissonance.  All thinking believers are faced with the fact that science and scientific materialism are not only competitors to the Christian faith but pose serious challenges to our understanding of truth and the Scriptures.  Personally, I find the arguments of theistic evolutionists to be more satisfying than Intelligent Design.  But theistic evolution is also more comfortable with the fact that science and faith approach the world and truth from different philosophical perspectives and we may never be able to reconcile the two perspectives.  Intelligent Design adherents seem more intent on trying to insist that faith and science, or sometimes more specifically that a literalist reading of Genesis and science are completely compatible.  I am not a biblical literalist, and am at home in a world in which the assumptions and goals of materialistic science and Christianity are simply different and on some points irreconcilable.  I don’t believe the Genesis account of creation is science in the modern sense nor do I think it ever was intended to be that.  But the fact that there is scientific truth which is not found in the Bible or even challenges Biblical claims does not to me disprove the existence of God.   I think what science does effectively challenge is a literalist reading of Genesis and some simplistic beliefs about God.  But even in the Bible itself we find people inspired by the Holy Spirit struggling to find God in the midst of historical reality and truth: “How long, O Lord..?”  “Why do you remain silent, O Lord?” Faith in God does not always make coping with life easier or more simplistic.   In can complicate life when we wrestle to figure out where God is when we need Him.

To me science is interested in researching and explaining the empirical creation.  Christianity, like most religions, is claiming that there is a non-material/spiritual world/realm as well.  Believers are interested in the material creation as it is made by God to be good/beautiful and to be united to divinity. This last aspect is not the interest of science.  Science digs ever deeper into the depths of material creation, but I would say ignores the spiritual realm.  I believe a human (and to be human) is more than biology and chemistry.  To reduce humans to physics is in fact reductionism for it does not tell the whole story of being human.   I think conscience and consciousness and free will do exist and they are every bit as important to understanding a human and what it means to be human as is biology, chemistry and physics.  Christianity is trying to make sense of the world by bringing its ideas of the soul, God, the immaterial world, and the spiritual into its understanding of material creation.  We believe the created world is far richer and deeper then the limits of its empirical nature imply.   Because we believe there is meaning to life and that it means something to be human, we look to answers beyond the limits of science and the material world.

Science based in materialism does have fundamentally different assumptions about creation than does faith, based in the accepted testimony of believers.   Believers seek meaning and purpose which science cannot reveal.   Science would be interested in design in the universe if it led to further understanding the material world.   But when one tries to take the empirical world and show that it points to a non-material creator, science loses interest.  And if the scientists are committed to atheistic materialism, they are going to see references to Intelligent Design as simply a ploy to get them to believe in the non-material world, but not truly science.

Meyer’s books was the best I’ve read defending the tenets of Intelligent Design, but it does not make me abandon theistic evolution in favor of Intelligent Design.  I think his effort is really geared at those whose faith is shaken by the claims of science and who want it to be true that science and religion are teaching the same truth and therefore cannot disagree.  The scientists who criticize his efforts as a veiled way to reintroduce religious beliefs back into the work of science probably have good cause to think what they do.   The evolutionary scientists who have criticized aspects of the theory of evolution show that they are not afraid to challenge the theory and they are interested in establishing the truth about the empirical world to the best of the ability of scientific materialism.  Their unwillingness to consider Intelligent Design tells me that they remain unconvinced that ID can help them out of any dilemmas caused by the fossil evidence.  While some scientists have a hostility to religion, it still falls on us believers to offer clear and compelling reasons to the non-believers as to what blessing faith brings.  Those who are trying to reconcile their faith with science may find Intelligent Design to be helpful.  Other believers may find theistic evolution to satisfy the two realms of understanding the universe – a spiritual and an empirical.  The fruit of Meyer’s efforts is not going to be whether believers find his arguments convincing, but whether non-believing scientists feel compelled to reconsider their commitment to scientific materialism and methodological naturalism.  Even most of those who have questioned certain tenets of the neo-Darwinian Theory have remained faithful to its basic principles and have not been convinced that accepting design in the universe changes anything.

Intelligent Design is an argument that appeals to some believers trying to build a bridge between biblical faith and scientific materialism.  Unfortunately for the most part those on the materialism side of that chasm have not been been swayed in their thinking and aren’t willing to walk on that bridge which they feel has no real foundation under it.

The Science that Doubts Darwin

Darwins DoubtThis is the second blog in a series looking at the book  Darwin’s Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design by Stephen C. Meyer.   The first blog is DARWIN’S DOUBT and Intelligent Design.

Meyer presents in great detail the scientific problems with the theory of Darwinian Evolution.  In fact, several prominent scientists have expressed their own doubts about the Theory of Evolution based upon its inability to explain what we know about  biology or based upon its failure to account for the known fossil record.  Where Meyer diverges from the majority of these scientists who question the Theory of Evolution is they continue to search for explanations only in material causes, while he has accepted the notion that there is design or intention built into biology and which can be observed through the long history of the development of life on earth.   Below are a select few of the scientific reasons he offers which call into question the Theory of Evolution as it is commonly taught.  He is piggybacking on the work of various scientists who have put forth questions about whether the current theory of evolution can in fact account for the known evolutionary evidence.  He is bringing all of the various questions together to make his case stronger.  Keep in mind that  scientists committed to current evolutionary theory are also familiar with these objections, but have not concluded that the current theory needs to be abandoned.  They tend to believe that eventually the theory and evidence will compliment each other by altering the theory not by completely abandoning it.

One problem for Darwinian evolution is how to account for the appearance in cells of the mechanisms that allow cells to function both individually and as part of an organ or organism.  To date, according to Meyer, science cannot explain how the sequencing of characters might have occurred.

“The type of information present in living cells—that is, ‘specified’ information in which the sequence of characters matters to the function of the sequence as a whole—has generated an acute mystery. No undirected physical or chemical process has demonstrated the capacity to produce specified information starting ‘from purely physical or chemical’ precursors. For this reason, chemical evolutionary theories have failed to solve the mystery of the origin of first life—a claim that few mainstream evolutionary theorists now dispute.”  (Kindle Loc. 63-67)

The origins of life itself from inanimate materials is for Meyer a key problem with Darwinian evolution.  He is convinced that accepting the notion of Intelligent Design can explain how life could have emerged – it was intended to emerge.  For materialists of course his argument is a “God of the gaps” idea which science will eventually overcome:  we simply do not know YET how they happened but we will eventually be able to offer a materialist explanation for how they happened.  Meyer, however, argues:

“To those unfamiliar with the particular problems faced by scientists trying to explain the origin of life, it might not seem obvious why invoking natural selection does not help to explain the origin of the first life. After all, if natural selection and random mutations can generate new information in living organisms, why can it also not do so in a prebiotic environment? But the distinction between a biological and prebiotic context was crucially important to my argument. Natural selection assumes the existence of living organisms with a capacity to reproduce. Yet self-replication in all extant cells depends upon information-rich proteins and nucleic acids (DNA and RNA), and the origin of such information-rich molecules is precisely what origin-of-life research needs to explain. That’s why Theodosius Dobzhansky, one of the founders of the modern neo-Darwinian synthesis, can state flatly, ‘Pre-biological natural selection is a contradiction in terms.’ Or, as Nobel Prize–winning molecular biologist and origin-of-life researcher Christian de Duve explains, theories of prebiotic natural selection fail because they ‘need information which implies they have to presuppose what is to be explained in the first place.’ Clearly, it is not sufficient to invoke a process that commences only once life has begun, or once biological information has arisen, to explain the origin of life or the origin of the information necessary to produce it.”  (Kindle Loc. 104-15)

“To those unfamiliar with the particular problems…”   Meyer presents a great deal of scientific evidence, but it appears his target audience is not scientists, but the non-scientist.  So those hoping that science might support their faith, might find Meyer’s arguments convincing.  I, for one, am a non-scientist.  I think he does a great job presenting the known scientific information.  However, the strength of his argument is better measured by whether scientists themselves, who already are familiar with the scientific challenges to Darwinian Theory, conclude that Meyer is correct and that Intelligent Design is the solution to the Theories problems.   So far, though perhaps a growing number of scientists admit to problems with evolutionary theory, few have abandoned it in favor of Intelligent Design.

To summarize, Meyer writes:

“As an increasing number of evolutionary biologists have noted, natural selection explains ‘only the survival of the fittest, not the arrival of the fittest.’”    (Kindle Loc. 156-57)

Meyer looks at a number of scientific papers which dispute his claims, says they do not disprove what he is arguing.

“Upon closer examination, however, none of these papers demonstrate how mutations and natural selection could find truly novel genes or proteins in sequence space in the first place; nor do they show that it is reasonably probable (or plausible) that these mechanisms would do so in the time available. These papers assume the existence of significant amounts of preexisting genetic information (indeed, many whole and unique genes) and then suggest various mechanisms that might have slightly altered or fused these genes together into larger composites. At best, these scenarios ‘trace’ the history of preexisting genes, rather than explain the origin of the original genes themselves (see Fig. 11.2). This kind of scenario building can suggest potentially fruitful avenues of research. But an obvious error comes in mistaking a hypothetical scenario for either a demonstration of fact or an adequate explanation. None of the scenarios that the Long paper cites demonstrate the mathematical or experimental plausibility of the mutational mechanisms they assert as explanations for the origin of genes. Nor do they directly observe the presumed mutational processes in action. At best, they provide hypothetical, after-the-fact reconstructions of a few events out of a sequence of many supposed events, starting with the existence of a presumed common ancestor gene. But that gene itself does not represent a hard data point. It is inferred to have existed on the basis of the similarity of two or more other existing genes, which are the only actual pieces of observational evidence upon which these often elaborate scenarios are based.”  (Kindle Loc. 3948-60)

Meyer thinks the rich information we now have about DNA in fact shows that how DNA works and is made cannot be accounted for by Darwinian evolution.  There is no mechanism that can account for how life emerged or how macro evolution can occur.  For basically the current science shows that genetic mutation usually ends in death, not in the development of new forms of life.

doublehelix“If mutating the genes that regulate body-plan construction destroy animal forms as they develop from an embryonic state, then how do mutations and selection build animal body plans in the first place? The neo-Darwinian mechanism has failed to explain the generation of new genes and proteins needed for building the new animal forms that arose in the Cambrian explosion. But even if mutation and selection could generate fundamentally new genes and proteins, a more formidable problem remains. To build a new animal and establish its body plan, proteins need to be organized into higher-level structures. In other words, once new proteins arise, something must arrange them to play their parts in distinctive cell types. These distinctive cell types must, in turn, be organized to form distinctive tissues, organs, and body plans. This process of organization occurs during embryological development. Thus, to explain how animals are actually built from smaller protein components, scientists must understand the process of embryological development.”  (Kindle Loc. 4815-22)

Additionally genetic science has shown that genetic development is far more complicated than first imagined by science.  The development of life is not as simple as information processing by genes for there exist multiple layers involved in the genetic process.

“But building a new body plan requires more than just genetic information. It requires both genetic and epigenetic information—information by definition that is not stored in DNA and thus cannot be generated by mutations to the DNA. It follows that the mechanism of natural selection acting on random mutations in DNA cannot by itself generate novel body plans, such as those that first arose in the Cambrian explosion.”  (Kindle Loc. 5269-72)

“The neo-Darwinian mechanism does not account for either the origin of the genetic or the epigenetic information necessary to produce new forms of life. Consequently, the problems posed to the theory by the Cambrian explosion remain unsolved.”  (Kindle Loc. 5359-61)

Meyer summarizes his arguments:

“Clearly, standard evolutionary theory has reached an impasse. Neither neo-Darwinism nor a host of more recent proposals (punctuated equilibrium, self-organization, evolutionary developmental biology, neutral evolution, epigenetic inheritance, natural genetic engineering) have succeeded in explaining the origin of the novel animal forms that arose in the Cambrian period. Yet all these evolutionary theories have two things in common: they rely on strictly material processes, and they also have failed to identify a cause capable of generating the information necessary to produce new forms of life. .”  (Kindle Loc. 6289-93)

For Meyer the great test case which Darwinian theory fails is the sudden appearance of so many new life forms in what is called the Cambrian explosion.

Dinosaur fossil skull
Dinosaur fossil skull

“The features of the Cambrian event point decisively in another direction—not to some as-yet-undiscovered materialistic process that merely mimics the powers of a designing mind, but instead to an actual intelligent cause. When we encounter objects that manifest any of the key features present in the Cambrian animals, or events that exhibit the patterns present in the Cambrian fossil record, and we know how these features and patterns arose, invariably we find that intelligent design played a causal role in their origin. Thus, when we encounter these same features in the Cambrian event, we may infer—based upon established cause-and-effect relationships and uniformitarian principles—that the same kind of cause operated in the history of life. In other words, intelligent design constitutes the best, most causally adequate explanation for the origin of information and circuitry necessary to build the Cambrian animals. It also provides the best explanation for the top-down, explosive, and discontinuous pattern of appearance of the Cambrian animals in the fossil record.”  (Kindle Loc. 7085-92)

For Meyer the problem science faces is not that it lacks theories or data, but rather that it is philosophically limited by and blinded by its commitment to atheistic materialism.   Science has bound itself to showing the material cause for everything in the universe, and thus cannot admit to what it cannot explain, nor can it allow itself to think outside this restrictive box.  So it continues to search for theories and explanations which ignore some of what the known evidence points to – that there is design in the biological life of our planet.  However one may account for it, design is built into life.

Scientific materialism on the other hand is interested in a different set of questions.  It might be similar to finding an ancient music score.  We see the signs and symbols telling the ancients how to play the music.  Yet we have no idea how to translate the written symbols into sound.    Science is more interested in what the symbols tells us that can then be translated into music.  What should the music soundlike?  Intelligent Design says the music is proof of a composer, but for science that doesn’t help us know how to play the music, how to read and interpret the score.  This is where there is a huge chasm between what Meyer is arguing versus what science seems interested in.   Even if we has the musical score there is a vast difference between seeing it on paper and hearing a symphony orchestra performing it.

Next:  Signs of Design

Conscious Choices in Evolution

A challenge both to the absoluteness of natural selection and the complete randomness in evolution is being raised by science itself.  The science of epigenetics and technophysio evolution show – we are no longer completely predestined by nature or genetics.  This is the current thinking of science itself.  Consider the comments in Steven Kotler’s Evolution Full Tilt   by in the March 2013 issue of Discover Magazine.

“… with the burgeoning new field of epigenetics – the study of how the external environment can alter our genes throughout life, and even be passed on to future generations.  Today researchers in this well-established field have shown that natural selection is not the only force producing heritable change.”

“’Over the past 300 years,’ Fogel (Robert Fogel, University of Chicago economist) says, ‘humans have increased their average body size by over 50 percent, average longevity by more than 100 percent, and greatly improved the robustness and capacity of vital organ systems.     From an evolutionary perspective, 300 years is an eyeblink.  A sneeze.  Not nearly enough time for these sorts of radical improvements.  …  ‘In the past hundred years,’ Fogel says, ‘ humans have gained an unprecedented degree of control over their environment, a degree of control so great that it sets them apart not only from all other species, but from all previous generations of Homo sapiens.’   Fogel’s core idea, which he calls technophysio evolution…   In short, technology Is impacting genetics.”

The issue is that the emergence of human consciousness means humans are no longer merely the victims of evolutionary change but rather have begun to influence and even control evolution – their own as well as that of other species.  No longer is evolution and natural selection a random process for now it can be guided toward chosen and designed ends.

“Over the past few centuries, and accelerating ever more quickly in the past 50 years, a steady stream of human innovations has begun to drastically speed up processes that were, until very recently, the sole province of nature.  In short, it appears that our technology has created ways of accelerating change (genetic engineering, for instance) and new habitats (like the modern city), essentially fracturing our biology and transforming our future as a species.”

“Think about this: Humans are a 200,000-year-old species.  When we first emerged our life span was 20 years.  By the turn of the 20th Century it had become 44 years.  We advanced by 24 over the course of 200,000 years.  But today, it’s 80 years.  These simple improvements doubled our longevity in a century.”

A totally random universe with no overall evolutionary direction or purpose can no longer be claimed with the rise of human consciousness which has opened the door to intentional evolution.

“But many of the technologies that are now advancing most rapidly are ones that cut out the middleman – that Darwinian mediator, natural selection – allowing us to take direct control of our internal environment and push it forward, even when the niches is unchanged.”

And as science is showing it is not only scientific and technological advances which are now influencing and even controlling evolution.  For studies show that even the existence of cities and the economic choices of humans are impacting the human species in evolutionary terms.  Economist John Komlos acknowledges:

“Technophysio evolution shows that economics has an impact at the cellular level – that it goes bone deep.”

All of these advances in understanding the many forces, including human choice which effect evolution certainly will also change the nature of debate between those who believe in evolution and those who accept the hand of God in shaping evolution.  We can now see from science that intention is an evolutionary force.

But as Kotler shows the realization that humans do in fact effect evolution and put intention as a factor in what is shaping our planet leads to other conclusions, some of which will not sit well with many folk.  Juan Enriquez, the CEO of Biotechnomy claims:

“’We’re now no more than a generation or two away from the emergence of an entirely new kind of hominid, Homo evolutus: a hominid that takes direct and deliberate control over its own evolution and the evolution of other species.’”

Kotler dismisses the fears of science fiction accounts that human intervention in genetic engineering will lead to eugenics.

“The standard science fiction version of what happens after we take control of our evolution usually runs along eugenic lines, leading toward efforts to build a master race.  But the real situation is nowhere near so straightforward.  Unintentional consequences are everywhere.  Seemingly unambiguous goals – like trying to make people more intelligent – not only involve millions of genes, raising the specter of easy error, but might involve conditional relationships: For instance, our intelligence might be tied to memory in ways we can’t yet decode, so trying to improve one ability might inadvertently impede the other.    Moreover, without some form of top-down control, there is little to suggest that human desires will be uniform enough even to agree on what a master race should be like.”

But society without a moral compass to guide its thinking on such issues will be at the mercy of those in power and those with money.  We already know what dictators are willing to do for and against populations.  What will stop the ruthless and rogue country from using such technology to change the world forever?

Kotler for example writes about what he sees as the plus of the genetics knowledge we now possess:

“When I was a child, Down syndrome was a real problem.  Today roughly 90 percent of all fetuses with Down syndrome are terminated.  Play these patterns forward, and we aren’t long from the day when we’re engineering our children: choosing skin color, eye color, personality traits.  How long after that until parents are saying, ‘I bought you the best brain money can buy – now why don’t you use it?’”

Kotler obviously views the Down syndrome person as neither human nor deserving of life.  He embraces the technology and morality which says it is OK to abort into oblivion any peoples we deem undeserving of life.  “Errors” in genetics mean such people do not deserve to live.  For Kotler aborting such persons is clearly a plus in a world which values people only in economic terms.  reaganHe apparently would be comfortable with terminating other undesirables as well – it does not matter who deems them so or by what criterion –  even if it is only something trivial such as eye color which determines who lives and who dies.

Our children become in this view products of our whims and thus we can create and destroy them at will since they are no more meaningful than snowmen we might build or the castles we make in the sand on beaches.   The understanding of human consciousness certainly puts a challenge to those who believe a blind and random universe is the only power controlling human destiny and evolution.  It also opens the door to displacing God not be atheism but by a human rationalism which is governed by the blindness of human hubris.

Blog Series Now available as PDFs

Two recent blog series are now available as PDFs.

The series which began with Science and the Church: Are the Facts in? which explored ideas regarding the theory of evolution and the church is now available as a PDF at  The Mystery of Ourselves (PDF).     This series focuses on the comments of Dr. Gayle Woloschak in her article “The Compatability of the Principles of Biological Evolution with Orthodoxy” in the ST. VLADIMIR’S THEOLOGICAL QUARTERLY, Vol 55, No. 2, 2011, and on the claims of James Le Fanu in  his book,  Why Us?: How Science Rediscovered the Mystery of Ourselves.

The other blog series now available as a PDF considered some of the changes taking place in American law that is causing civil authorities to hold criminally accountable bishops in hierarchical church organizations who fail to do due diligence in pursuing allegations of clergy sexual misconduct against their diocesan clergy.  That series began with the blog State Wants to Hold Bishop Accountable for Priests Misdeeds.  No longer will states allow bishops to hide behind some “ministerial exclusion” principle if they fail to do due diligence in investigating allegations of clergy sexual misconduct.   That series is available as a PDF at The State and the Church and Sexual Abuse (PDF).

You can view a list of other blog series available as PDFs at Blog Series Available as PDFs

The Mystery of Ourselves: A conclusion

This is the 7th and final blog in this series which began with the blog  Science and the Church:  Are the Facts In?.   In this series we considered ideas about truth, evolution and the Church.  The blog preceding this one is Being Human: The Relationship between Mind and Brain (II).     We looked at the works of two authors commenting especially on evolution.   First,  Dr. Gayle Woloschak in her article “The Compatability of the Principles of Biological Evolution with Orthodoxy” in the ST. VLADIMIR’S THEOLOGICAL QUARTERLY, Vol 55, No. 2, 2011.   Second we considered the claims of James Le Fanu in  his book,  Why Us?: How Science Rediscovered the Mystery of Ourselves.

Creation of Adam

While some believers are very troubled by the science of evolution, obviously others are not.  A number of evolutionary scientists are theists and many committed Christians accept the claims of evolutionary science.  Evolution is a threat to those who insist on reading Genesis absolutely literal and as if Genesis was written as a modern science textbook.

Many Christians are not limited by literalism and read Genesis as speaking more about what it means to be human than as a history of the first human being.  Genesis is about us; it is our story and explains our experience of the material world, including such issues as mortality.   Genesis is doctrine in the guise of narrative as St. Gregory of Nyssa said.  It can be read as holy story one which reveals the meaning of being human: a meaning which is found in and determined by our Creator.  It is a narrative that connects mortal materialistic creation to divinity and eternity.

Le Fanu believes that humans are a most wondrous creature –  not that all of creation or all other creatures are not wondrous.   Humans however have been endowed by God with certain characteristics which give them a special role in creation, a role with the responsibility of stewardship to God in caring for the planet and the creatures with whom we share this earth.  Le Fanu contrasts other creatures with us humans:

“We can imagine things to be different from how they are, and plan for our futures. They cannot. We know our beginnings and our end, and recognising the fact of our mortality, are impelled to seek explanations for our brief sojourn on earth. They do not. We inhabit the spiritual domain centred on the self, the soul, the ‘I’, with its several distinct interconnected parts which, being non-material, and thus not constrained by the material laws governing the workings of the brain, is free to choose one thought over another or one course of action over another. And that inextricable connection between the non-material self and freedom is the defining feature of man’s exceptionality, for we, unlike our primate cousins, are free to forge our own destinies to become that distinct, unique person responsible for our actions of which all human societies are composed, and from which virtually everything we value flows.”  (Kindle Loc. 4241-47)

Science, biology, evolution are indeed concerned with the material nature of humans.  We are material beings, and to this extent we Christians too are materialists.  So is God who becomes incarnate as a man in order to unite all humans to Himself.  We are not only material, we are created in the Maker’s image and likeness.  We have the breathe/spirit of God enlivening us.  We have been endowed by our Creator with intelligence, creativity and procreative abilities which allow us to work together with God as co-creators of the present and the future.  We are able to be aware of things greater than our limited self.  We have a conscience awareness of ourselves and our surroundings.  We can imagine a future.  We understand that death is a limitation placed upon us.  We believe in God’s power to overcome death.  We can aspire to things of God and of eternity, far beyond the limits of material creation.  God is able to inspire in us the knowledge of and desire for the divine life.

For a wonderful visual presentation and commentary on the wonders of human development from conception see  Alexander Tsiaras: Conception to Birth.

For a link to this blog series as one PDF go to Blog Series (PDF).

Being Human: The Relationship between Mind and Brain (II)

This is the 6th Blog in this series which began with Science and the Church:  Are the Facts In?  The previous blog is Being Human: The Relationship between Mind and Brain.  We are now considering some of the ideas and claims of James Le Fanu (Why Us?: How Science Rediscovered the Mystery of Ourselves) that deal with the human brain and the ways in which scientific materialism in and of themselves cannot account for what it means to be human and how the brain in fact works.

Le Fanu postulates that in fact thoughts are non-material and yet have physical effects.   This goes against the grain of those scientists who are committed to atheistic materialism and who deny that the non-material can have any effect on the world and thus must deny free will which is a non-material force.

“Science holds that nothing can happen that is not governed by the natural laws of material causation. Thoughts are non-material, therefore by definition they can’t cause anything to happen. Hence, my supposition that I am free to choose one course of action over another must be an illusion generated by the physical activity of the brain to create the impression that it is my non-material ‘self, it is ‘I’, who is making the decision.”   (Kindle  Loc. 3654-57)

John 15:16

Some scientists do claim that there is no such thing as free will since all thoughts and emotions are the direct result of chemical processes in the human brain or other organs.   Le Fanu does not accept this assertion and upholds a notion that thinking is real, cannot be completely explained by chemical/electrical impulses in the brain and that these non-material thoughts do in fact effect not only ourselves but the rest of the world as well.

“But to accept the supposition that non-material thoughts (the desire to cross the road) can have physical effects (causing the legs to move) would be to introduce into our understanding of the natural world some non-material force that stands outside, and is not governed by, the principles of lawful material causation. This dilemma can be resolved only in materialist terms by supposing that the decision (for example) when to cross the road is not freely taken, but is determined by the electrical activity of our brain.”   (Kindle Loc. 3014-17)

Such determinism has been part of human thinking for centuries.  It is not the thinking in Orthodox tradition however which does accept the notion of free will.  Some Christians, especially Calvinists, completely believe in predestination – God determines everything in the universe.  Atheistic scientists reject God and accept notions of total determinism –  human thought is merely the product of electrical impulses running through the brain cells and thus follows the materialistic law of cause and effect.   Thinking is thus totally materialistically caused and thus there is no such thing as free will.  Orthodoxy has traditionally rejected such determinism and has accepted the notion that we do have the ability to make choices, for good and for ill.  There really is a thing called the “self” and the self makes real choices which shape the future.  [It is interesting to note that Einstein was a determinist as well and this is why he had such great problems with quantum mechanics which allow for uncertainty and indeterminism.]

Le Fanu says that despite the denial of a few prominent scientists the evidence shows that non-material processes (thinking for example) do have an effect in the world.   Everything does not follow a perfect cause and effect pattern set off by random events.   Rather, humans are able to make choices and influence their future.   A purely materialistically based approach to humanity does not take into full account what it is to be human.  Le Fanu says there is an existing mystery involving humanity, and conscious awareness and thought is part of that mystery and is as real as any physical property.

“Collectively the findings of these studies strongly support the view that the subjective nature of mental processes (e.g. thoughts, feelings, beliefs) significantly influence the various levels of brain functioning. Beliefs and expectations can markedly modulate neurophysiological and neurochemical activity in brain regions involved in perception, movement, pain and various aspects of emotional process.”   (Kindle  Loc. 3715-18)  

The non-material, so scientific studies have shown, thus exists and is able to influence the material world.  This is a basic assumption of believers and Le Fanu thinks the scientific evidence proves the point.  Secular scientists reduce being human to material impulses that ultimately have no true meaning.   We simply do what our bodies’ chemistry and electronic impulses tell us to do.  While that view is held by some scientists it is not the thinking of most theistic Christians who accept free will.

“‘You, your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behaviour of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules.’”  (Kindle Loc. 3027-28)

While the above sentence might appear to be true to those who cannot accept the role of a Creator God, for believers there is something backwards in the thinking.  “I” am not created by cellular electrical impulses, rather the behavior of the nerve cells and molecules is “me” working out my will through the cells and electrical impulses.  “I” am willing my material body to behave in a certain way.   The “self” is inseparably linked to its material brain.  Both brain and mind emerge together and in their interconnectivity the self is born.   We do not have in this world a “self” apart from our corporeal existence.  The self which is non-material is based in the very material nature of the brain and the non-material self effects the brain, allowing us to do things, seeing for example.  The eye works in a most mysterious way to allow us to see colors.

 “… yet the particles of light impacting on the retina are colourless, just as the waves of sound impacting on the eardrum are silent, and scent molecules have no smell. They are all invisible, weightless, subatomic particles of matter travelling through space. It is the brain that impresses the colours, sounds and smells upon them. ‘For the [light] rays, to speak properly, are not coloured,’ wrote the great Isaac Newton.”  (Kindle Loc. 3358-61)     

The brain is interpreting the impulses the body receives.  The brain which mysteriously and even organically is linked with the self imposes meaning on the material and immaterial worlds.

“The first mystery is how the fundamentally similar neuronal circuits in Rachel Carson’s brain conjure from the barrage of colourless photons and soundless pressure waves impinging on her senses that vividly unique and unified sensation of that ‘wild night all around us’…”  (Kindle Loc. 3783-85)

Thus our brains, quite material in their existence open up to us to perceive, remember and organize both the physical and non-materials experiences we have in the world.  Le Fanu sees this as part of the great mystery which is ourselves.  We discover through science that we are not merely physical beings, but have a true non-material dimension which introduces into our study of human beings notions of the self, the soul, the mind, the heart.

Next:  The Mystery of Ourselves: A conclusion

Being Human: The Relationship between Mind and Brain

This is the 6th Blog in this series which began with Science and the Church:  Are the Facts In?  The previous blog is The Genetic Side of Being Human (II).  We are now considering  some of the ideas and claims of James Le Fanu in  his book,  Why Us?: How Science Rediscovered the Mystery of Ourselves.

Le Fanu accepts many parts of the theory of evolution but remains unconvinced that the theory of evolution alone can adequately explain many of the developments that are said to be part of human evolution or which can be seen in the historical record (for example, the historical record shows a sudden extinction of many species and the unexpected explosion of new species rather than the theory expected gradual appearance of new species over time).

Any one thing which happens in the evolution of a species requires many other evolutionary changes as well.  For example in humans, the large brain requires that a mother’s pelvis and birthing canal must be capable of giving birth to a baby with such a  shaped head AND it requires that much of the brain’s development occurs after birth so that human babies are born almost totally helpless as compared to other primate babies.  Thus the evolution of a larger brain requires the evolution of the pelvic region of human women, the evolution of a bone structure to support the top heavy head over a bipedal body, and the delay of the brain’s development until after birth.   Many “which came first, the chicken or the egg?” type dilemmas for evolution theorists to explain.

“Similarly, the elusive workings of the human brain would seem to defy any simple evolutionary explanation.”  (Kindle Loc. 770-71)

It is the brain itself which captured much attention from Le Fanu as he considered the mystery of what it is to be human.  The relationship between the brain cells and conscious thought for example are not yet resolved.   Here again he thinks despite huge advances in scientific knowledge about the brain, there are huge gaps in our understanding which speak to the limits of science and the profound mystery of being human.

“‘We seem as far from understanding [the brain] as we were a century ago. Nobody understands how decisions are made or how imagination is set free.’”  (Kindle Loc. 458-59)

Though new methods of doing brain scans have made visible to us areas of the brain involved in various mental activities, how these processes actually work is not totally known.   Brain functions can be spread through large portions of the brain and how the various areas of the brain work together and the fact that even “silent” portions of the brain are essential for these functions is little understood today.   In addition how DNA works to make the brain what it is remains a mystery.

“…  the dominant features of the brain remain its ‘silent’ areas, with their capacity to integrate and unify thoughts, sensations and emotions into a continuous stream of conscious awareness.”  (Kindle  Loc. 3732-34)

Le Fanu says it is the existence of continuous conscious awareness – a real fact of being human which though related to the material brain is not coterminous with the brain –  which speaks to us of a non-materials aspect of our being (see also my blog Is This Your Brain on God?).

“… unprepossessing three pounds of brain tissue confined within our skulls, like a vast intellectual black hole absorbs the most searching forms of scientific investigation.”  (Kindle  Loc. 3747-48)

The brain is able to deal with information and abstract concepts – non-material reality.  The human is capable of successfully relating to this non-material reality of information, knowledge and emotions, which for Le Fanu is evidence of why evolutionary theory based solely in materialism is inadequate for understanding what it is to be human.  One needs to look beyond materialism to begin to grasp the truth about life and humanity

“… first, how just a few thousand genes might instruct the arrangement of those billions of neurons with their ‘hardwired’ faculties of language and mathematics; and second, the physical basis of that all-encompassing property of neuroplasticity by which the brain incorporates into itself the experiences of a lifetime.”  (Kindle Loc. 3738-40)

The mystery of being human will not, according to Le Fanu be resolved by scientific materialism, because part of being human involves non-material characteristics – consciousness and conscience, processing information and knowledge, experiencing the world through emotions.

“… the central enigma is clear enough: how to reconcile what the brain is with what it does?”   (Kindle  Loc. 2984-85)

The relationship between mind and brain is a mystery that Le Fanu thinks materialistic science cannot resolve because it introduces the non-material reality into scientific study  and science says it is limited to physical realities.

Of course the secular scientist will object that this is nothing but another “god of the gaps” objection which will be over come in time.    Or perhaps it really does point to a truth about being human – the non-material aspects of human existence are every bit as real as the material.

Next: Being Human: The Relationship between Mind and Brain (II)

The Genetic Side of Being Human (II)

This is the 5th Blog in this series which began with Science and the Church:  Are the Facts In?  The previous blog is The Genetic Side of Being Human.  We are now considering  some of the ideas and claims of James Le Fanu in  his book,  Why Us?: How Science Rediscovered the Mystery of Ourselves.    In the previous blog we encountered part of Le Fanu’s objection to trying to understand humans only through evolution:  there is still great mystery it what it means to be human, many would say a purely chemical/protein/DNA analysis of humans does not come close to describing what it is to be human, and evolution itself cannot completely account for the complexities in human development.

As one example of a question for which current evolutionary theory cannot give a full explanation is the appearance of specific species on the planet.

“Further, the suddenness of the cultural explosion that signalled the arrival of Cromagnon man argues against a progressive, gradualist evolutionary transformation. It suggests rather some dramatic event – as if a switch were thrown, the curtain rose, and there was man …”  (Kindle Loc. 766-68)

The sudden disappearance of species and the sudden appearance of new species has been raised as a question by many scientists themselves.  (see for example the comments of evolutionist Lynn Margulis in my blog An Evolutionary Alternative).   The historical record shows these “explosions” of new species, not a long and slow evolutionary change.   So on this count Le Fanu is offering a critique of evolutionary theory shared by some prominent evolutionary thinkers.   His thinking follows similar criticisms of evolutionary theory raised by Michael Behe and others, namely that some things which appear in a species are meaningful only in their developed complex form and it would be hard to account for their appearance through a gradual process of development since the individual parts would serve no purpose alone – they are irreducibly complex.

“…might seem plausible, in the way of all evolutionary explanations, and would indeed be reasonable if language simply ‘facilitated the exchange of information’. But, as Chomsky pointed out so persuasively, language is also an autonomous, independent set of rules and meanings that impose order, make sense of the world ‘out there’. Rules and meanings cannot evolve from the simple to the complex, they just ‘are’. The structure of sentences is either meaningful or meaningless. The naming of an object is either ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. An elephant is an elephant, and not an anteater. Hence Chomsky insisted, against Pinker, that those seeking a scientific explanation for language could, if they so wished, describe it as having evolved ‘so long as they realise that there is no substance for this assertion, that it amounts to nothing more than a belief. This, of course, is no trivial controversy, for language is so intimately caught up in every aspect of ‘being human’ that to concede that it falls outside the conventional rubric of evolutionary explanation would be to concede that so does man.”  (Kindle Loc. 959-66)

Le Fanu believes that there are real developments in humans and really all species that cannot be reduced to scientific materialistic explanations.  There are forces that work on us and in us – thought processes, the development of language which Le Fanu thinks points to elements in our human development that cannot be explained by materialist science alone.  In this he questions whether the study of DNA could ever explain all there is to know about being human.  Le Fanu thinks that focus is too narrow and misses important elements about what it means to be human.

“‘No one has ever been able to relate any aspect of human social behaviour to any particular gene or set of genes,’ observes the geneticist Richard Lewontin. ‘Thus all statements about the genetic basis of human social traits are purely speculative.’”  (Kindle Loc. 2918-19)

Le Fanu points out that certain aspects of evolutionary theory which are supposed to be based only in scientific materialism are in fact based in the beliefs and speculations of certain scientists who have committed themselves to atheistic materials and so who cannot allow certain observations about the non-material forces impacted not only humans but all species on this planet.

Finally Le Fanu challenges some of the basic assumptions of Darwin based on observations of humanity and even of other species.

“‘All nature is at war, one organism with another,’ claimed Darwin – but it is not so, for the most striking feature of the natural world is not the competitive struggle for existence, but its antithesis – cooperation.”  (Kindle Loc. 4282-83)

Thus for Le Fanu, evolutionary theory which assumes scientific materialism cannot fully deal with the the universe that we know and in particular with our own experience as humans with one another and with the planet as a whole.

Next:  Being Human: The Relationship between Mind and Brain

The Mystery of Ourselves

This is the 3rd Blog in this series which began with Science and the Church:  Are the Facts In?  In the previous blog, Christianity and Science, we looked at some of the comments of Dr. Gayle Woloschak in her article “The Compatability of the Principles of Biological Evolution with Orthodoxy” in the ST. VLADIMIR’S THEOLOGICAL QUARTERLY, Vol 55, No. 2, 2011.   With this blog we begin our look at some of the claims of James Le Fanu in  his book,  Why Us?: How Science Rediscovered the Mystery of Ourselves.   Part of Le Fanu’s criticism of science is that it is so focused on materialism that it misses the greater mysteries which are visible in the science itself.

“We have lost that sense of living in an enchanted world. We might now, thanks to science, comprehend the universe of which we are a part, only to discover that its properties, as evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins puts it, ‘are precisely those we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good – nothing but blind, pitiless indifference’. We have lost, too, sight of the most significant factor of all – the exceptionality of the human mind.”   (Kindle Highlight Loc. 4195-98)

Some scientists who reject the idea of a Creator are hostile to Le Fanu’s thoughts as they are to theists who embrace many of the claims of science.   I, however, do not think that believers should feel so threatened by atheistic science.  According to modern physics, a little less than 5% of the universe is made up of matter,  about 25% is dark matter, and about 70% is dark energy.  So when we are looking at biology, we are to begin with looking only at that 5% of the universe which constitutes matter that we can study through the biological sciences.  And then we realize that the total percent of the matter in the universe which is properly the realm of biology and evolution is a much smaller portion of the total matter in the universe.  On the grand scale of things any theory of evolution is talking about a disproportionately tiny part of the known universe.   So for all the bluster evolutionary theorists like to muster against theists, they are talking about a small fraction of the universe anyway.  Theists are holding to ideas that take the entire universe into consideration not just that that miniscule portion of our planet that is the limit of evolutionary science.  Evolution at best describes a small fraction of the entire matter of the universe.  Of course it is the matter that is important to us, because it is our story and our history which is being discussed.  But for those who embrace scientific theism, there is a whole lot more to the universe than is being described or accounted for by evolution.  As Harvard science professor Lisa Randall says in her article on dark energy and matter, “If the history of science has taught us anything, it should be the shortsightedness of believing that what we see is all there is.”  (DISCOVER, November 2011, p 59)

Nevertheless, the fight between faith and reason, science and religion is mostly led on the religious side by fundamentalists and biblical literalists  as is obvious in such articles as the 17 October 2011 NY Times  The Evangelical Rejection of Reason by Christian authors and college professors Karl W. Giberson and Randall J. Stephens.  They belong to an evangelical tradition but distance themselves from those fundamentalists who reject science and reason.

“Americans have always trusted in God, and even today atheism is little more than a quiet voice on the margins. Faith, working calmly in the lives of Americans from George Washington to Barack Obama, has motivated some of America’s finest moments. But when the faith of so many Americans becomes an occasion to embrace discredited, ridiculous and even dangerous ideas, we must not be afraid to speak out, even if it means criticizing fellow Christians.”

So while the anti-scientific and anti-reason rhetoric belongs mostly to fundamentalists and literalists, the rest of Christianity cannot just look askance and avoid the discussion.   We have a responsibility to make the effort to bridge the gap between those who claim to embrace Christianity but who fear and oppose the claims of science.  It is the same science which made computing possible which measures the age of the universe.  While some people’s faith rests on the claim that Genesis is literally true, Genesis itself was not written to be a modern scientific study.   Namely, it doesn’t present claims that can be verified by tests of falsification.   It is a document that rests on faith, and doesn’t itself require that it be read literally.

James Le Fanu takes on the atheistic claims of some scientists and basically charges that some scientists have lost sight of their objectivity and the limits of science.  These scientists make atheistic assumptions about the universe and then try to conform the facts and reality to their assumptions, which is the opposite of the intellectual rigor which the falsification process in science demands.  Rather scientists should follow the facts to whatever truths can be derived from them.

“But that Fall of Man, toppled at last from his pedestal to confront the meaninglessness of his existence, has resulted, as we have seen, first in the most grievous social policies and, second, in his being deprived of his freedom, to become no more than a plaything of his genes. The source of all this mischief lies in the necessity to portray man not as he is, but as he has to be in order to incorporate him into an evolutionary theory that requires him to be different ‘only in degree but not in kind’ from his primate cousins.”  (Kindle Highlight Loc. 2947-50)

So Le Fanu claims to set out what man is, not what evolutionary theory needs him to be, and thus he reads the scientific evidence in a way different from the atheist.

Next:  The Genetic Side of Being Human