When, How, and Why - Logic in Science went Completely Awry
by Don Cruse
The centuries-old debate between science and religion is often presented as being a contest between 'faith and reason,' with science assuming the rational high ground. This dichotomy is felt by many scientists to go to the heart of what is at stake in the ongoing battle pitting Darwinism against Creationism in American public schools. Science must prevail at all costs, otherwise rationality is done for - or so the argument goes. Is this argument true? Does simple rationality in fact favour Darwinism? If this were the case, it ought to be rather easy to defend Darwin on any front. I ask my readers to consider this question again, after reading this short treatise.
In the realm of evolutionary theory there are indeed serious grounds to doubt that science has any right to the rational high ground it claims. Even setting aside all of the vexed and complex biological issues, and those concerning the creative efficacy of chance, randomness etc., there is still one overwhelming and long-ignored factor, touching directly on logic, which has the power to overturn Darwin's theory almost at a single stroke, but that on first sight will leave nothing in its place. I wish to draw attention to it here, first because it is an issue of rationality pure and simple, and also because no matter how dire its consequences it needs to be heard. I refer to the theory's use of intentional language, the language of mental activity, of human design, of machinery, artifice and engineering, which from the outset has played a crucial role in establishing the popular credibility of Darwin's theory, and is innocuously present in nearly all the subsequent argument in its defense.
It is the mainstay of Darwin's argument that all causes in nature are physical causes, and that spiritual causes, the existence of which is considered doubtful, need not, indeed must not, be taken into account in explaining how the evolutionary process works. In his efforts to explain how this purely physical process might work, however, Darwin made intensive use of metaphor; i.e. he repeatedly used the language of human creativity, words like 'design,' 'select,' 'engineer', 'manufacture' and countless others, and in this way he called upon human creativity to aid him in his attempts to explain how he believed nature's mindless creativity worked. He was at first troubled by this. He recognized that the pivotal use of the intentional word 'selection,' in such a theory, was wrong. He called it a "false term," but he argued that it was "necessary for brevity." and therefore merely a form of shorthand. In making this claim, however, he overlooked the absence of any equivalent non-metaphorical longhand, an absence that science continues to ignore. This raises the real possibility that Darwin's considerable use of metaphor was simply an unconscious way of substituting, in his own mind and that of his readers, human creativity for the spiritual creativity which his theory sought to eliminate.
If such a substitution actually took place in our minds, would it be be a trivial matter? Only if rationality itself is deemed trivial, because its undeniable effect is to reverse the direction of Darwin's materialistic logic! Consciousness not matter then becomes evolution's actual source. Darwin's gift to science was a seemingly workable theory describing how a completely unintelligent process goes on in nature, creating all the wonders of life; a process in which spiritual/mental creativity was said to have played no part. Yet from the outset, by his choice of language, he had introduced human creativity as a causal element into his theory, unconsciously of course (it would have been foolish to suggest that mankind created nature); but in such a way that it fully substituted, in his arguments, for the presumed absence of spiritual causes in nature. What are the implications of this? To rule out God the Designer is one thing, but to then keep the language of design is quite another, because in such a context it effectively puts man in God's place. There was no conscious recognition on Darwin's part, or on the part of most of his contemporaries, that such a substitution might have taken place, or that it was this substitution alone that made his theory even plausible. That this was and is demonstrably the case, however, was almost inadvertently admitted only quite recently, by Daniel C. Dennett, when he unequivocally stated that the use of intentional idioms in defense of Darwinism is "inescapable," but that we only use them "as if" they were true, knowing all the time that they are not. If a logician were to claim that it was necessary, in proving the truth of thesis 'A,' (materialism) to use the principal argument taken from its antithesis 'B,' (spiritual/mental causes) because otherwise he could not prove the truth of 'A,' then I suspect his credentials would become the subject of heated debate. Yet this is the claim that science must make if it is to justify the logic of Darwinism. Can science's claim be held to lower standards than apply to individuals?
This all means that even had Darwin been fully aware of this problem, he could not have removed human creativity from his theory and still be left with anything remotely plausible. Design is really there in nature, and he needed human intentionality, unconsciously relied on, in order to appear to explain it. Real design, however, requires a real designer. His theory gets around this by claiming that there is no purposeful design in nature; he then uses the word 'natural' to modify the language of purposeful design, in a specious but impossible (unsuccessful) attempt to deny its purposefulness. In later years many defenders of his theory sought to bulwark this obvious weakness by talking glibly about 'Designer-less design.' The very word 'design,' however, always implies a purpose. Human designers never work without a purpose, no matter how whimsical it may be. So there can no more be Designer-less design than there can be purposeless purpose. Both are oxymoronic phrases that have no place in science.
The use of metaphor lies at the heart of what we call 'meaning,' and to use it as Darwin did to argue for the existence of a meaningless universe amounts to a kind of abuse. He was not being consciously dishonest, but he was certainly being linguistically naive. His theory is not an account of what a supposedly meaningless nature can accomplish unaided. At best it is an account of how nature might work if it possessed at least some of the basic attributes of human creativity. Spiritual creativity is rejected in Darwin's theory, and human creativity is inadvertently universalized and put in its place. That a theory so flawed could have been so widely accepted, must surely count as one of the great mysteries in the history of knowledge.
Nature appears to exhibit a creativity far greater than anything the human mind could accomplish, and we have, as yet, no rationally sound theory to account for it. The issues that I set aside earlier, if examined in an unbiased manner, may help us to develop one. Biblical Creationism, in my view, is not the answer, because it leads either to a dualism or to a Monism of faith. I would even suggest that a wise Providence made use of Darwinism as a means to sever the connection between science and dogmatic religion, and so give to science a much needed autonomy. Perhaps we all needed to be temporarily blind to a logical untruth, in order to effectively sever science from theology. To now recognize that mistake does not mean that science must lose that independence. It could, however, along with resolving the problem of quantum paradox, call for the formal reversal of causal logic in science, and the consequent development of a Science of the Spirit, after which gradual progress towards a true theory of origins should prove possible.
The essence of science is research, and the late Colin Paterson, Senior Paleontologist at the British Museum of Natural History, put on record in 1981 his agreement with the historian Gillespie's statement that Darwinism is "not a research-governing theory, since its power to explain is only verbal, but an anti-theory, a void that has the function of knowledge, but conveys none." Patterson goes on to assert that Gillespie still "takes it for granted that a rationalist view of nature has replaced an irrational one" and he continues, "I myself took that view up until about 18 months ago. And then I woke up and I realized that all my life I had been duped into taking evolutionism as revealed truth in some way." These quotes are taken from a talk he gave to the American Natural History Museum's systematics group, and they reveal an honest man's realization that he had allowed himself to be "duped" into thinking that Darwinism was a rational theory, when in fact it is not. I regret the need to say it, but this is the position all of us are in. Darwin's theory is not the major scientific accomplishment it is claimed to be. It is merely a verbal construction, based upon clearly demonstrable errors in linguistic logic, which has "no research value whatever." It is what happens when a lack of diligence in the use of language causes logic itself to go very badly awry.
Could it have happened otherwise? Might Darwin have written a different book, based upon a Monism of Mind rather than of matter? No, I don't think that this was anywhere within his reach, and if he had attempted it science, which was then determined to be materialistic, would have rejected it. So we are looking at a kind of historic necessity. This does not alter the fact, however, that evolutionary theory as it now stands is profoundly irrational.
Rationality is, or rather should be, science's most prized possession, yet on close examination its vaunted theory of origins can be shown to be irrational through and through. This is the case for what seem to be sound historic reasons, because science first chose a Monism of matter (materialism) over a Monism of Mind. So long as science confined itself to physics and chemistry, this choice did not matter a great deal, although it did eventually lead us into the realm of quantum paradox. It led Darwin, however, to attempt to claim that design in nature had no Designer, and to make contradictory use of the language of design in his attempt to establish this. In so doing he inadvertently pulled science down into a nearly bottomless irrational quagmire, from which it must now extract itself. This it can never do with dualistic half measures, all of which must result in fundamental contradiction. To restore rationality to this realm of enquiry will require an unconditional, total reversal in the assumed direction of causal logic in nature. Many of the great thinkers of the past can help us to accomplish this; among them I suggest Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Rudolf Steiner.
Science is as fallible as any human activity, and in the past the misuse of language has caused it much grief; a fact referred to by Thomas Sprat in his seminal 18th century work A History of the Royal Society:
Who can behold, without indignation, how many mists and uncertainties, these specious tropes and Figures have brought into our knowledge?
1. Daniel C. Dennett, The Intentional Stance, MIT Press, Cambridge, 1987, p.314. 2. See Amit Goswami, The Self Aware Universe: how consciousness creates the material world, Pequin/Putman 1995. 3. See my articles 'Issac Newton and Harry Potter', in the latest issue of New View, and together with 'Noam Chomsky and the Universal Grammar' in Trans-Intelligence issue No. 10, March 2001 4. Gillespie's Charles Darwin and the Problem of Creation, Chicago University Press
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