Friday, April 07, 2006

As a matter of fact, I have faith in both ID and Evolution.

Was Darwin Wrong? @ National Geographic Magazine:

"Evolution by natural selection, the central concept of the life's work of Charles Darwin, is a theory. It's a theory about the origin of adaptation, complexity, and diversity among Earth's living creatures. If you are skeptical by nature, unfamiliar with the terminology of science, and unaware of the overwhelming evidence, you might even be tempted to say that it's 'just' a theory. In the same sense, relativity as described by Albert Einstein is 'just' a theory. The notion that Earth orbits around the sun rather than vice versa, offered by Copernicus in 1543, is a theory. Continental drift is a theory. The existence, structure, and dynamics of atoms? Atomic theory. Even electricity is a theoretical construct, involving electrons, which are tiny units of charged mass that no one has ever seen. Each of these theories is an explanation that has been confirmed to such a degree, by observation and experiment, that knowledgeable experts accept it as fact. That's what scientists mean when they talk about a theory: not a dreamy and unreliable speculation, but an explanatory statement that fits the evidence. They embrace such an explanation confidently but provisionally—taking it as their best available view of reality, at least until some severely conflicting data or some better explanation might come along."
This is a succinct explanation of the Scientific Method, and how it forms theoretical structures that do not need to be "absolutely correct" to be utterly reliable in terms of practical application.

As the article points out later on, our entire concept of electricity is "just a theory," and a disturbingly vague one in places. But based on that theory, which any physicist will tell you is incomplete with any number of fascinating unanswered questions, is still a theory that you, personally, can bet your life on.

You make that bet every day, every time to flip a switch and turn on a light.

That is what a "scientific theory" is. Something with enough proof to it that it can be relied upon as a solid foundation for further, deeper truths to be piled up on - and consumer goodies that most of us comprehend only well enough to flip the switch.

Now, by contrast, the story of Creation in the Bible must simply be accepted or rejected - according to some - as the literal truth. Others, a little more flexible of mind, feel that God may have chosen to cloak His hand in the appearance of evolution.

Others feel that reality is too complex for random chance to account for it, and offer the hypothesis of an Intelligent Designer. It's an interesting hypothesis, but it's not a theory supported by evidence. Indeed, it hasn't the predictive value of a scientifically valid hypothesis, which includes some idea of how the concept could be disproven. How does one disprove the existence of God?

But that is what the fear of science relates to. That people, given sufficient book-larnin', may drift away from the "faith of their fathers." And indeed, they tend to do just that, in a way that's directly proportional to that faith's inability to deal with inarguable evidence that contradicts important dogmatic statements of faith.

I'm a man of both worlds; I'm very much impressed by objective evidence, but at the same time, my personal reality is profoundly subjective. I know that there are many more sorts of "real" than either conventional Christian or conventionally Scientific viewpoints can comfortably accommodate.

I'm in possession of many, personally reliable theories of how my mind operates, for instance, that are either impossible to falsify, or validate by means of any particular religious or spiritual viewpoint. But so long as they continue to be reliable and aid me in interacting usefully with other people, as they do, and predicting where to find new and useful insights, as they do, I consider them true enough. I have to have such theories; as a multiple personality, functioning in a world, that to the extent that it considers me at all, considers me and myselves to be either delusions or demonic possessors of an Innocent Soul, I need better tools than either have to offer me. Because, well, I'd like to continue BEING me. All of us would. And accepting either conventional Scientific Authority on the matter or Conventional Religious Authority leads to personal extinction for all but one of us.

This seems unpleasant, unwise, and it also seems to us that beliefs that allow one to justify destroying the personality of another in order to uphold a belief of any sort to indicate a tiny, barely visible insecurity in the validity of a belief that one has invested far too much into.

In many ways, this argument is not about truth; it's about who will get to be the arbiter of truth; who will be the final Authority on Who God Is and What We Are Supposed to Do About It.

As a Living Threat to the Established Order of Things in the eyes of some who you should probably ignore as strongly as I do, I have some experience in decoding this sort of babble.

"Intelligent Design" is an religionist’s "hail Mary" to avoid what they see as the deadly threat of Evolution as an alternate explanation for the Creation of All, and thus, the derivation of the Authority of religion to define who, how, and why it all came to be.

I find such worries to be evidence of a profound lack of faith, and moreover, direct evidence of any personal spiritual contact with Anyone, God, or spiritual presence of enough awareness to serve as a signpost in God's direction.

My personal viewpoint is this: That depends utterly on the individual, their abilities and their natures. A religion that insists that all spiritual experience must be identical ignores the vast variety of nature and the myriad ways that other creatures interact, and the varied ways that otherwise similar creatures interact with each other and us.

Consider, if you will; dogs and cats.

Imagine the theological debates they could have over the inherent Divinity of Man.

One thing I do know; if all of nature and visible creation shows a consistent pattern, it's folly to assume that we are somehow a special exception, despite all evidence that we are as bound by our own natures as are cats and dogs.

Many things are unexplained by Science, and currently remain theoretically inexplicable. Religion claims to have All the Answers - which may suffice for some, but relies on "because I say so" as the source of that authority.

I will say only this: by accepting that science cannot explain my spiritual experiences, and by accepting that religion will reject them as false to their dogma, I'm unhandicapped by the unspoken assumptions of either.

And meanwhile, scientists are straining their own credulity as they discover that, among other things, reality seems to depend upon perception; that causality can be affected by prayer - leading them to the understanding that we may someday be able to create realty by spells and prayers in a deliberate manner, like the Mages of legend. We have learned that time is an illusory concept, and we have also learned that life is not only common, but may potentially exist wherever it's even barely possible.

Meanwhile, traditional Protestant religion states that God is, everywhere, at all times, from the beginning, now and forever, permeating all things and all beings; all knowing, all perceiving.

Physics is starting to get to levels of reality that suggest a mechanism for that and which may imply that the universe itself, every single, individual particle of it, may well compose a single vast intelligence. Or could. You can hear them talking around the idea, not thinking of the implications with as much fervor as Intelligent Design is an effort to not think of the implications of religion.

For myself, I quote the "Man from Mars" in Robert A. Hienlien's "Stranger in a Strange Land."

"Thou art God."

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