The Scientist Shall Live By Faith - Part Two

Michael Ruse now tells us why, although science used to include guys like Isaac Newton, they now no longer qualify:

“However, what scientists have found through the years since the scientific revolution – we find that we don’t need to make those sorts of [supernaturalist] assumptions. And I’m saying that when we come to evolutionary biology we’re still at that point. The problem with what Steve does [is] he picks out this one issue of the Cambrian explosion and says, ‘Let’s talk about that.’ But, of course, no evolutionary biologist is starting with the Cambrian explosion. They’re starting with the overall picture, where we know lots of cases where things look quite remarkable—I mean, how did anything start to fly? How did whales come? But, of course, thanks to the fossil record and other things like that, we now know a great deal more about that. So we’re coming in with that background. Then we come to a puzzle like the Cambrian explosion. We don’t say, “Oh, gosh. This is tremendously difficult. Let’s bring in miracles. Let’s bring in God”—that, of course, is what Steve is doing. So the point is scientists say we don’t need that hypothesis, at least not for a long while. And we’re slowly starting to piece together this story. Don’t give up now. And certainly, don’t bring in God. That’s not doing science. That’s not even pseudo-science. That’s religion.”

Once again, he closes with maximal rhetorical flourish: Not science! Not even counterfeit science! Religion! This flourish has become something reflexive among the Neo-Darwinians, the point of which is to distract you from looking too deeply into the matter. Because what Michael Ruse just admitted is, given Neo-Darwinism’s own rhetoric, embarrassing.

Admission One: Science=Naturalism is a pragmatic preference inspired by past success. What is left unexplained is why Ruse is confident of continued future success. Some notion of the inevitability of scientific progress is underwriting this confidence, a notion that is not itself a product of science.

Admission Two: Naturalism has not (as yet) explained the Cambrian explosion. I believe Stephen Meyer is owed an apology, frankly, at the dismissive treatment he has received, when Ruse admits that Meyer has, in fact, pointed to a real, not imaginary problem for the Neo-Darwinian consensus.

Admission Three: Michael Ruse lives, above all, by faith. He is certain that naturalism will someday, somehow, explain adequately the problem of the Cambrian explosion. But, we must note, he has no empirical or scientific reason to believe this.

At the end of the day, Ruse wants to define science as that which is naturalistic because historically it has “worked.” (I think there is plenty debatable even there: finding “natural” cause and effect in nature is not precisely the same thing as a commitment to philosophic naturalism, a conflation he all-too-easily makes.) Therefore, we must continue with pure naturalism. In this he assumes that because natural explanations have worked for some (even a lot of) phenomena, it is under some kind of compulsion or necessity to explain all phenomena, including the troublesome “information rich” ones.  “Certainly,” he thunders, “don’t bring in God!” He is desperately trying to get an a posteriori conclusion (it has worked) to render an a priori judgment (it must work). He wants the “is” or “has been” to become an ought. It is as Lewis observed in the Abolition of Man: “The Innovator is trying to get a conclusion in the imperative mood out of premises in the indicative mood: and though he continues trying to all eternity he cannot succeed, for the thing is impossible.”

Finally, I’ll bet Ruse wishes he could take these words back: “We don’t need [the God] hypothesis, at least not for a long while.” So he leaves open the possibility that maybe, just maybe, naturalism will fail us in the end. I have no idea who he thinks he is, decreeing for us the “time” when it will be allowable to consider a guiding intelligence.

But how dare Stephen Meyer explore that possibility before Michael Ruse has granted him permission?

Brian Mattson