Sunday, May 25, 2008

Darwin's Rottweiler

STATISTICS show that about a third of humanity adheres to Christianity (2.1 billion), next comes Islam with 1.5 billion adherents. A surprisingly strong third with 1.1 billion are "Secularists/Nonreligious/Agnostic/Atheist". The reigning etiquette since Galileo's time, (claims Blackshama in the last Comment Thread), has been for scientists to stay out of Theology and for theologians to stay out of Science. Under this dispensation, there is a kind of detente between Science and Religion where each side pretends that the questions addressed by the other are not of any abiding interest, that each is exploring a different region of the Universe, or some different aspect of reality between which there are not supposed to be any conceptual or fundamental contradictions resulting from the answers each side develops.
For a while a kind of uneasy truce is possible, sometimes under the auspices of Deism, which holds that God created the Universe and established its Laws, but once having set it in motion, He does not interfere with History. Thus scientists can go on exploring the "natural world" as long as they leave enough breathing room for theologians to happily inhabit supernatural or praeternatural realms and Religion be safe from Science, like different departments in a large and generous University.

But as genres of human rhetoric, I think that both Science and Religion fall into the category of ULTIMATE EXPLANATIONS of reality and inevitably there is bound to be trouble since the answers have been in wild contradiction to one another, leading to entirely incompatible explanations about everything, and having practical, political and social consequences when such matters affect public policy. These are manifested in the reality of Philippine life in the weighty matters of overpopulation, public education, social justice and even in the popular morals and ethics promoted and tolerated by established religion.

The end of the era of polite detente between Science and Religion is marked by the emergence of a New Atheism, in a crusade led by RICHARD DAWKINS, the evolutionary biologist and Oxford University's Professor for the Public Understanding of Science who wants atheists to "come out of the closet" and stand up to "the religious lobbies."

Statistics have it that about 75% of Americans believe in a personal God, while the exact same proportion of Britons do not, with similar results for Western Europe. He addresses this observation the BBC documentary The Blind Watch Maker by Richard Dawkins...
It was Oxford theologian Alistair MacGrath who first called RICHARD DAWKINS "Darwin's Rottweiler"- for his vigorous defense of scientific orthodoxy and a remarkably pugnacious brand of atheism lately celebrated in the publishing success of The God Delusion (1.5 million copies sold in over 31 languages) -- by far his most popular book. In it, Dawkins pointedly describes religious faith as "a persistent false belief held in the face of strong, contradictory evidence." Dawkins is the author of The Selfish Gene in which he coins the celebrated and controversial term "meme" to refer to viral ideas that hijack human brains.

As Charles Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University, evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins has been leading a global crusade to get atheists "to come out of the closet" (much as the Gay Pride movement did a generation or so ago) about their nonreligious beliefs and actively challenge the religious lobbies in the public sphere over substantial cultural and educational issues. I've been following his recent exploits asynchronously through the wonders of podcasting.

UPDATES:
ART PANGANIBAN agonizes over Separation of Powers!
"I firmly believe that maintaining public trust in the Supreme Court’s independence and integrity is by far the most important judicial reform. What does it profit the Court to gain all the money it desires if it loses its credibility?
Do tell!

47 comments:

ricelander said...

Dean,
How about you? How do you classify yourself? Agnostic, christian catholic, religious, secularist?

I just wonder how a physicist like your view God. Physics they say is the philosophy of the natural sciences.

SPLICE AND DICE said...

Dawkins has this to say:

"It's an interesting thought that in some remote time in the future, people may look back on the 20th and 21st centuries as a watershed in evolution -- the time when evolution stopped being an undirected force and became a design force."

and that

"I think it well may be that we're living in a time when evolution is suddenly starting to become intelligently designed."

Are we in for a ride towards 'perfection'?

blackshama said...

DJB

I have posted my reply to your blog post in blackshama.blogspot.com.

Splice and dice:

Did Dawkins really say that? He must be God!

SPLICE AND DICE said...

@Blackshama

He did, in an interview.

He must be God? Which God? The God of Roman Caholics? Of Muslims? Of whom?

What God?

mesiamd said...

So long as science and religion can't unravel more than what they can explain at present, the truce between the seemingly opposing ideas will continue.

There are many learned people out there who stay out of the controversy because the "evidence isn't simply enough" from science to be finally conclusive about God. One reason why many scientists are silent about religion they believe is because they have little time to seriously think about it. Is this the reason why Dawkins need a campaign against religion to sell his views?

Science, for all it's allure, wonder, and promises, has only partially unravelled. Does it need God's help to liberate itself from its cocoon?

Puny to solve the world's vexing dilemmas, science might not be enough to understand the encompassing idea of God ( omniscient and all-powerful) who'll surely outlive all of us. God will surely calm us, silence our doubts when our DNAs breakdown, fracture, and disintegrate with the elements.

blackshama said...

Splice and Dice:

The God of Richard Dawkins, who else?

Dawkins and God are one!

SPLICE AND DICE said...

And what could the 'Holy Trinity' be like? Or look like?

Jesus H. Christ! Who gets to be the Son?

Anywho, Dawkins must truly be omniscient and omnipotent enough to know all these things. He's God anyway. To argue against him in cyberspace would make us all look like a bunch of virtual heretics.

blackshama said...

Daniel Dennett as the Holy Spirit?
Michael Shermer as Christ?
Richard Dawkins as the Father?

Dennett is quite a hard read but isn't polemical. Shermer is a good read but he claims to be a "non theist humanist" Dawkins is threatening us nonbelievers with atheistic brimstone almost exactly what God in the Old Testament is believed to have done!

But that's where the comparison ends. None of the three academics mentioned have been crucified. They all have tenure! They probably will reach prof emeriti heaven!

Shermer's masterful analysis of the philosophy of Alfred Russel Wallace remains unparralled. I cited his work in my own PhD thesis on biogeography.

If there are Bible Christians, Opus Dei and other conservative Catholics reading my reply-in-post, they would all be shaking in their boots! LOL!

SPLICE AND DICE said...

Would they look like this?

Which brings me to my next question:

Who's Shermer's Virgin Mom?

cvj said...

Some religions will be able to coexist better with the ongoing process of scientific discovery than others. I think Christian sects that profess belief in the literal interpretation of the Bible will fare worse than the Roman Catholics which will in turn fare worse than Islam. IMHO, Buddhism which has no concept of 'God' will be the most science-friendly.

I wonder if discoveries in physics and cosmology would spawn of a new religion. BTW, i'm also interested in the answer to ricelander's question. Let's hold a 'coming out' party.

Jego said...

Religion and science are not incompatible. It is religion and philosophical materialism that have irreconcilable differences.

Science != philosophical materialism

After all, as blackshama has repeatedly pointed out, it is the assumption that nature has laws that we can understand, which came out of the western Christian tradition, that gave birth to modern science.

Dawkins is a fundamentalist materialist, but an amateur philosopher, that's why he keeps saying things that are bonkers, and he has to spin out of them later. I think Dennett is the Sith Lord and Dawkins is his apprentice.

Jego said...

I wonder if discoveries in physics and cosmology would spawn of a new religion.

That would most likely be the case. Getting rid of God won't lead to atheism. It will lead to some sort of new age paganism. However, physics and cosmology have nothing to say about morality -- you cant derive 'ought' from 'is' -- and so probably would have to co-opt it from traditional religions.

cvj said...

Jeg, i don't know about 'incompatible' but the existing Religions and Science are incommensurable as far as the nature of reality is concerned.

Jego said...

Religions and Science are incommensurable as far as the nature of reality is concerned.

Yes. The nature of reality is one of science's subjects of study. Quantum theory in particular. It's interesting that at the most fundamental level, reality is inscrutable; mysterious even. It even looks as if new particles are being created by the very act of looking for them.

I dont think religion has anything to say about the nature of reality other than the fact that God (in the case of the monotheisms) did it and God created the laws that it follows. In any case, religion offers no systematic method for studying the laws of nature.

If the definition of science is changed to "the systematic study of how God did things in nature," it will not change a single scientific finding since the 'invention' of science.

cvj said...

Jeg, the incommensurable portion includes such things as the belief in the Soul (that survives the body's death) and eternal life. These have no scientific basis, at least so far. (I do have some speculations on this though.)

ricelander said...

What's the nature of reality? Interesting subject . But where's the host eh?

Has anyone here experienced vivid dreaming? It's a dream but it's one where everything feels and looks as real as the reality we know when awake. I think, it's a hint as far as the nature of reality is concerned. In one of those dreams, i got hold of a leaf from a mango tree. I knew I was dreaming. I held it in front of me with the wonderment of a child. Scrutinized it like anything as object of curiosity, but with the knowledge, it's all a dream. The color, the veins, the texture, the edges, the feel and all, it's all so real. When I woke up, i was embracing my pillow so i began squeezing it like it's the first time i ever got hold of one and inspected the nature of its existence, hah... if this is reality i thought why? maybe in some state i'm asleep and someone's administering me a dream/virtual reality. Shades of Matrix hahaha.

This is getting so serious guys... but where's the host.

SPLICE AND DICE said...

@ Ricelander

It reminds me of a Chuang Tzu quote.

SPLICE AND DICE said...

@cvj

"the incommensurable portion includes such things as the belief in the Soul (that survives the body's death) and eternal life. These have no scientific basis, at least so far."

I don't exactly know if this will help, but this book appears to claim something that might interest you.

And Richard Dawkins is even mentioned there!

cvj said...

Splice and Dice, thanks! Although i have reservations with the author's argument by contradiction approch on proving the existence of free will (as explained by the Book Review), i think his citing of Roger Penrose is interesting. (I have a copy of Penrose' The Emperor's New Mind which i have not yet read but which asserts that quantum operations are involved in the act of thinking.)

cvj said...

Ricelander, yeah i've had those episodes as well. I remember when i was in high school i had lucid dreams two or three days in a row.

The Nashman said...

Incidentally, the Vatican has acknowledged that Islam has surpassed Roman Catholicism as the world's larges religion. (Islam at 19% and RC at 17% of the world population.)

This is good! At least the family planning and contraceptive methods are working. More RCs are using condoms than ever due to better information and education. Now, if only to convince our Muslim brothers to stop marrying early...

Anonymous said...

on science and religion, hans kung has interesting viewpoint in his book, "the beginning of all things."

another prolific writer (atheist turned believer) is natural theologian alister mcgrath who takes issues with dawkins, as well as francis collins, with "the language of god: a scientist presents evidence for belief." collins is top researcher on genome project.

so where's the host? still in the closet?

ricelander said...

Splice and Dice, that's a nice quote.

cvj, yup, that's the better term: lucid dreaming.

Here I wonder, if such vivid realism could manifest in a dream and all there is to it is the brain in a state of image generation, what is there in this reality that we perceive in our awakened state. Is there such a thing as objective reality? Or is it just consciousness?

Someone said: reality is an illusion, only more persistent. Was it Einstein?

cvj said...

ricelander, biologists Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela coined the term autopoeisis to describe how an organism perceives the kind of reality that it is able to see. (For example, since it is color blind, reality to the dog is that the world is black and white.) To a frog (which Maturana and Varela studied), the world is perceived differently so reality for it would be different. That's why N. Katherine Hayles (if i remember correctly) believes that we should distinguish the 'reality' that we see from the unmediated flux unfiltered by our senses. Reality cannot be separated from the Observer.

cvj said...

What is perceived by consciousness is only a limited slice of reality since it only has a processing capacity of 30 bits per second. What our body can sense, and what enters our subconscious is, if i'm not mistaken, 300 Megabits per second worth of information. That explains the half a second delay that i mentioned in my comment to DJB's previous blog entry.

Anonymous said...

cvj,

that is PERCEPTION of reality, which is apart from the objective reality. which implies that reality can be distanced from the observer. otherwise, we won't have mental cases.

ricelander said...

It's an old quarrel I suppose. Here is one side arguing there is objective reality separate from an observer. Another side telling us reality as all illusion, just a product of consciousness.

When I am feeling down, I take the latter side hahaha. I would feel better.

But then if we go down to the most fundamental composition of matter, at the subatomic level, we are surprised that there is none of the "solid" appearance we commonly know of matter. What is there are particles moving at random, in and out of existence. I am expressing my views as a layman, so maybe a physicist should take over from here.

Jego said...

Although i have reservations with the author's argument by contradiction approch...

You ought to take a look at Dawkins's irrefutable -- according to him and his Sith Lord -- argument on why there is probably no God in Chapter 4 (IIRC) of God Delusion. It's almost embarrassing.

Anonymous said...

ricelander,

the fundamental composition has to be accepted first as an objective reality of the nature of matter. how we describe them to behave is how we perceive them to behave, but their behavior has to be consistent to be 'common sensically' perceived.

cvj said...

Anonymous, no doubt that there is something out there that has an independent existence from us which is what i referred to as the unmediated flux. However, what we define as 'reality' needs to first have been perceived (or inferred) by an Observer. As Maturana said "Everything said is said by an observer". We can tell if a person is insane if he/she perceives reality differently from other fellow Observers. If all of us happen to be infected with a virus that causes insanity, then the category 'insane' will disappear.

cvj said...

Jeg, ok i'll look Dawkins up but for some reason, i find him boring.

blackshama said...

The natural sciences is still based on the principle that there is an objective reality separate from that of the observer.

Would you believe that the autopoeisis hypothesis is the subject of Randy David's commencement speech to the 2008graduates of the UP College of Science?

Well it bored the scientist-professors (especially the physical sciences types) on stage!

Nonetheless autopoeisis is something that biodiversity scientists should consider. We measure biodiversity in all its aspects as our own constructs. Nothing demonstrates this as clearly as our concept of habitat diversity. Who defines habitat,the ecologist-observer or the organism who lives in it?

Biogeographers have observed that an organism may really be the one that perceives and defines habitat,not the ecologists. This is true for birds given that a single species may well live in the same rainforest type let's say a continental area and an island area. The bird will occupy several habitats (as perceived by the ecologist) in the continent while it occupies a single habitat on the island. The birds define their habitat not us.

cvj said...

Blackshama, from what i read, autopoeisis originated from biology, i.e. Maturana and Varela's study of frog's eyes. It was only later that Luhman adapted it in his systems theoretic approach to Sociology. Autopoesis sidesteps the question of whether or not there is an external reality by replacing the distinction of subject/object with that of systems/environment.

ricelander said...

"the fundamental composition has to be accepted first as an objective reality of the nature of matter. how we describe them to behave is how we perceive them to behave, but their behavior has to be consistent to be 'common sensically' perceived."

I'm not sure if I got you right, anonymous, but if it 'has to be accepted first' who is he to declare that acceptance. What I know is at the subatomic level, nature behaves not consistently but in a strange,bizarre way.

Jaywakker said...

At the rate Gloria Arroyo brags errr invoke god on her destiny I definitely will prefer an atheist humanist president, the kind that Richard Dawkins wants to come out.

blackshama said...

Jaywalker

Who or what is Gloria Arroyo's God?

blackshama said...

Jaywalker

Who or what is Gloria Arroyo's God?

cvj said...

Gloria Arroyo (and Mike Arroyo) is a professed Roman Catholic. She has the support of many Roman Catholic Bishops.

blackshama said...

I reckon she worships power like those Roman Catholic bishops that support her.

Not to worry, many PhDs do the same!

Jego said...

At the rate Gloria Arroyo brags errr invoke god on her destiny I definitely will prefer an atheist humanist president, the kind that Richard Dawkins wants to come out.

I agree, jaywakker. Except for the kind that Dawkins wants to come out part. From what I read, it seems he wants some kind of left-wing fascist socialist atheist humanist president to come out. His president is more likely to use the power of government to stamp religion out of the public sphere.

Personally I'd rather have an atheist humanist libertarian president than a GMA type.

Jaywalker said...

Sorry, I didn't realize there were some reactions to my comment. Anyway Blackshana's question was already answered and I believe based on the level of frustration in this thread if it can be used as a basis it only shows that the pathetic GMA's administration has reached the lowest level that we are willing to have an atheist president, hehehe.

Jego said...

Having just come from China, I searched for Darwin's impact on China. I found this, a book called China and Charles Darwin by James Reeve Pusey, and supports my earlier comment that you shouldnt take something specific to biology and use it for something else.

Although Charles Darwin never visited China, his ideas landed there with force. Darwinism was the first great Western theory to make an impact on the Chinese and, from 1895 until at least 1921, when Marxism gained a formal foothold, it was the dominant Western "ism" influencing Chinese politics and thought. The authority of Darwin, sometimes misinterpreted, influenced reformers and revolutionaries and paved the way for Chinese Marxism and the thought of Mao Tse-tung.

But as this shows, unlike Dawkins and his posse, Chinese scientists arent dogmatic about Darwin, following the evidence instead.

When this conclusion upsets American scientists, he wryly comments: 'In China we can criticize Darwin but not the government. In America you can criticize the government but not Darwin.'

blackshama said...

You can partly blame Teilhard de Chardin SJ for Darwinism in China.

Obviously Marxism like Nazism has misinterpreted Darwinian evolution.

But Marxism is dogma, Darwinism is not. Chinese scientists are on the right track.

I don't agree with this

"'In China we can criticize Darwin but not the government. In America you can criticize the government but not Darwin."

George W Bush has publicly criticized Darwin.

But the caveat is if you criticize Darwin without basis, you may end up like a fool.

Anonymous said...

still we have not heard from the host? is he acting like the blind watchmaker, setting the forum but never participating in the exchanges? or is he still stuck inside the closet?

Anonymous said...

ricelander,

what i meant is that our perception of things can only approximate the objective reality as closely only if we have a consensus of the verifiable and the scientific. still the objective reality is out there to be fully understood but not quite. and if so, it's all part of a grand design.

Jego said...

Obviously Marxism like Nazism has misinterpreted Darwinian evolution.

Yes. So has the idea of the meme. But in fairness to the meme, no one has ordered the deaths of millions because of it. Hitler for example declared the Aryans the master race, not Nazism as the master meme. (However, the Communists might have considered their ideology the master meme.) :-D

Incidentally, the full title of Darwin's book is On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. His son was a prime mover in the eugenics movement, which aimed to make the human race better by preventing 'inferior' humans from reproducing. I suppose he thought he was part of the 'favoured race'.

SPLICE AND DICE said...

Quite a very engaging discussion here. I'm just wondering, though.

Where's the host?