Darwin’s Horrid Doubt

Charles Darwin argued that the species (humans among them) arose by a process of natural selection. Under this argument, an organism is a machine. It is run by genes which “desire” to reproduce themselves in the next generation. (No, genes dont really have hopes and dreams, they dont desire things. But they act as though they do. Consider Dawkins’ work. He backs this up a lot.) 

It follows (as Darwin admitted) that our lives, experiences, and subsequent actions are simply actions that aim to reproduce our genetic code. The central nervous system, advanced though it is, therefore is nothing more than a machine designed to take stimuli and order them in such a way as to reproduce our genes. 

With me, the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or are at all trustworthy. Would anyone trust the convictions of a monkey’s mind, if there are any such convictions? (Charles Darwin, Life and Letters, vol 1 written in 1881.  Interestingly this was the year before Nietzche declared that God was dead.)

This was Darwin’s horrid doubt. Under the naturalistic worldview (Darwin’s worldview), there is no reason to believe that the purpose of our CNS is to tell us accurately what is going on in the world around us, for their is no reason for us to know anything about our world. The purpose is to manipulate us into reproducing and spreading our genetic codes.  

Patricia Churchland (an influential modern philosopher who works at the University of California at San Diego) asks what the nervous system is for. She says it enables us to succeed in the four “F”s: Feeding, fighting, flighting and reproducing (sorry.). It is to get the body parts where they should be in order that the organism may survive. Evolution guarantees – if it is successful in that organism, if that organism is naturally selected – appropriate behavior, but not true beliefs. It just makes behavior appropriate for survival.

Darwin therefore doubted that our CNS could give us a reliable picture of the world around us. There is no reason for it to do so. All it does is take stimuli and spit out responses that help us survive and reproduce.

Consider this idea with cows or fish or dogs first, and not with people.

Then consider that we humans arose the exact same way. There is no reason to believe that our reasoning or perception are reliable are any more reliable than a monkey’s.

Naturalistically, then, there is a problem with epistemology. There is no reason to believe that we can actually know anything for sure. (It follows, somewhat ironically, that there is therefore no reason to believe that we can know that natural selection, evolution, etc are true.)

This is what Alvin Plantinga calls an evolutionary argument against evolution. It is based on Darwins very own “horrid doubt” (his words).  I care little however for the way it is an argument against evolution. That is merely a small, somewhat humorous, sidenote. The real concern here is what it says about naturalistic epistemology.  But that hardly has the same ring as “an evolutionary argument against evolution.”

The Christian Worldview breaks with Darwin. It holds that we are created by God in his image, and that he gave us the ability to think and reason and perceive the world around us so that we could accurately perceive Himself and worship Him. We cannot worship what we cannot know, so God has given us a way to know.

Constructing a Christian Worldview: Created

Whats in a worldview?  Everything.  Abraham Kuyper wrote:

Oh, no single piece of our mental world is to be hermetically sealed off from the rest, and there is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!’

For Kuyper, everything was under the domain of his Biblical Worldview.  For Kuyper, every single “square inch” of his life was brought under the supremacy of Christ.  That is a biblical worldview.

But how does one go about understanding life in this way.  It is not easy.  We live in a world where everything around us does not scream “Christ is everything!”  We live in a world where the religious aspect of life is relegated to the private and personal realm.  Religion becomes a collection of values.  And values are true only for the individual who upholds them.  They can’t be applied in the public realm.  Doing so would certainly offend someone.  Values are important, we are told, just not important enough to influence our lives in public.

Recently at school, a medical doctor spoke to the class about birth defects and abnormalities.  This particular doctor helps screen for such things.  And if defects are found, the pregnancy is commonly terminated.  The decision to terminate, he insisted, must not be influenced by our “values.”  Our “values” should not enter the conversation.  We should leave those at home.

I find it interesting that this is a part of his value system which he believes is OK to bring to work.  He is a post-modernist.  He doesn’t believe that there exists an objective truth or a right and wrong.  Right for one person may differ drastically than right for another person.  That’s his worldview.  And he brings it in to work everyday.  But he tells me I cannot bring mine.

Well, pardon me, but in the first place that is absurd.   No one makes an important decision after first eliminating everything they believe about life, about morality, about clean-cut issues such as murder.  No one.  And secondly, its impossible – as if any of us could really forget everything we believe, walk away to a completely neutral standpoint (as if that standpoint even exists) and make a decision from a fresh perspective.

What he told us to do was both absurd and impossible.  On top of that, he doesn’t do it.

We are faced with worldview questions everyday.  So the big question is: how do we construct this worldview.

As you may have noticed, the catchphrase of my blog (see above) is “Created, Fallen and Redeemed.”  That is a good place to start.  It applies to every person in a slightly different way.  I mean, a plumber is not really affected by the way a doctor views his life.  But at the same time, the Biblical answer to the big questions affects, on its own, every single person’s life.  So it may apply differently across the board, but it certainly doesn’t ever not apply.  (Pardon my grammar, or lack thereof.)

Created:  The place to begin is creation.  Now I don’t necessarily mean “creation” in the biblical context.  I just mean that every worldview must account for the origin of everything.  How did it all get here?  What were things orginially like before they were disordered?  Even the communist worldview answers these questions.  Communism says that once upon a time there was no land-ownership and no competition.  Everywhere there was a peaceful communal life where people thrived.

The Biblical Worldview is a little bit different.  The Bible holds that God created the world and put man in it.  Man was without sin and without problems, living in community with God.  There wasn’t sin in the original created order.  There weren’t natural disasters.  There wasn’t disease or crime or poverty.  “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31).  Indeed.  It was.

God made man in his own image.  We had (and have) an innate dignity.  There is an importance, a value, a worth to us, just because we are “us.”  Just because we are made in the image of God.  This is huge.  People are important because God made us that way and told us we are important.

Then God gave man a job.  (And when I say “man,” I just mean people.  Come on.)  Man was to fill the earth and subdue it.  We were supposed to reign over the earth.  Under God, we were supposed to reign supreme.  And we were supposed to fill the earth.  We were supposed to fill it with Image Bearers.  We were supposed to build civilizations and develop cultures, all to give glory to God.

This is what Creation means.  This is what it is all about.  God made it and he proclaimed it to be very good.  This is the basis for the Christian Worldview.  This is the foundation.  The Worldview doesn’t end here.  But it cannot start anywhere else.

Coming soon:  Constructing a Christian Worldview:  Fallen.

Published in: on September 9, 2008 at 12:59 pm  Comments (1)  
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Peppered Moths or Peppered Truth

In dealing with Worldview, one of the key concepts is Origin. Every worldview has to explain our origins. Where did everything come from? How did the earth get here? How did people get here? If a worldview is to be even remotely complete, it must answer the great question of Origins.

The dominant secular theory of our day, which is the basis for what is taught in schools, is evolution. Now the term evolution is thrown around a lot to mean many different things. That is OK as long as we know what we are talking about. But what we are talking about with respect to Origins is naturalistic Darwinistic evolution: that is that genetic mutation and natural selection are solely responsible for the variation of the different species, they are the mechanics of how we humans came to be.

Just a few weeks ago, in a conversation I had with a guy, he sited the Peppered Moths as being pretty amazing proof for evolution.

Above is a photo of a sign in the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. If it’s a little too small to read, this is what it says:

Change happens when genetic traits are passed on, in different combinations each time, from generation to generation. In the last 100 years the population of peppered moths in England went from being mostly light to mostly dark, because pollution darkened the bark of their favorite trees. There are many examples of evolution in action, but this one is often referred to because it has been so well documented. (italics added)

Here is a common picture of the moth’s on “their favorite trees.”

The argument goes that before factories were producing so much pollution, the trees were white, enabling he light colored moths to blend in. Once the factories started polluting, the trees were stained a darker color, so the moths, in turn, evolved to become much darker so that they could still conceal themselves on the trees. This a great story. The evidence seems undeniable.

It seems undeniable. Nancy Pearcy describes a bit of a discrepancy however:

In recent years, however, a small problem has come to light: Peppered moths don’t actually perch on tree trunks in the wild… How then do we explain the photographs we see in textbooks? It turns out they were staged: To create the photos, scientists glued dead moths onto the tree trunks. One scientists… acknowledged that he glued dead moths on the trees.

I know. Its crazy. But the moths are still used as proof, as evidence to convince people who know no better. Textbook writer Bob Ritter explains “The advantage of this example of natural selection is that it is extremely visible… Later on, they can look at the work critically.”

This is a classic case of pulling the wool over someone’s eyes. This case is so well documented – or mis-documented – that it must be used to prove a false theory. The problem here is that this is the evidence. Its not that this is just an illustration to prove a theory. Without the evidence, there is no theory. There is merely a failed hypothesis.

Granted, this one instance does not disprove evolution. It does however show that the evolution proponents will go to extreme lengths including lying and faking scientific evidence in order to defend their ideas of origin. And without an atheistic origin to stand on, there is no worldview to be built.

Published in: on August 30, 2008 at 12:55 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The “Manishness” of Man

When I say “Manishness” I do not mean anything concerning manliness or masculinity. And when I say “Man,” I dont mean anything that excludes women. I simply mean people. Women portray the same manishness in the same way. And every individual person does it somewhat differently. I get the term “manishness” from Francis Schaeffer in his “Escape from Reason.” He writes:

The fact that man has fallen does not mean that he has ceased to bear God’s image. He can love, though he is fallen. It would be a mistake to say that only a Christian can love. Moreover, a non-Christian painter can still paint beauty. And it is because they can still do these things that they manifest that they are God’s image-bearers or, to put it another way, they assert their unique “manishness” as men

I recently stumbled across a post written in the Rabbit Room which was titled “The Gospel According to Bruce.” He writes that Springsteen “brushes up against Truth” with his lyrics. I would have to agree.

But how does this tie into Worldview? What bearing has it to the proper understanding of life?

The Bible holds that man was made in the image of God. That gives us an innate dignity. (I say “us” because I know that there is no one reading this who isn’t included.) We are created with certain goodness, a certain worth and value that stems from our being created in God’s image.

Thats why killing a person is different than killing a cow. While it isn’t morally right to torture or mistreat a cow, it is perfectly fine to kill and eat. But that isn’t the case with men. Because of this, even instances of self-defense very often see trials. It is important to insure that a person, a man, made in the image of God, is not senselessly murdered. It is important because that man reflects the image of God. It is important because that man carries that innate dignity and worth.

Other Worldviews fail in this respect. Naturalism holds that we are accidents. No dignity there. We are merely the result of millions of years of genetic “mistakes.” Any dignity attributed to a person from that type of origin is simply an irrational and contentless leap into a modern, if not civilized, mysticism. It is not founded in rationality. It is not objectively true.

Consider it honestly. Answer the big questions of life such as the innate dignity that we know we have. This is why we are angered when people are senselessly murdered in massacres, genocides and premeditated murders. Only the Biblical Worldview that we are created by God and given worth by him in a particular time-space event holds the answer to this and the other big questions of life.

Published in: on August 25, 2008 at 3:32 pm  Comments (2)