Just about any TV programme featuring David Attenborough and many other series on nature are hugely popular. But in this country, they have been saturated with evolution – allowing no other view on origins a look-in. Yet the case for evolution is far from established – despite the confident claims of presenters.
‘Evolutionism’ is as much a ‘faith’ as any religion, says author and lecturer Joe Boot.
I well remember my school days and the content of my ‘scientific education’. Certainly the overriding impression was that macro-evolution (grand scale evolution) was the epitome of good science.
In fact, evolution from my geology teacher was synonymous with science itself. No alternative theory was ever put to us and any other suggestion was met with scorn.
I have spoken to many people – from teenagers upwards – and discovered that my own experience in this is commonplace.
Even in many academic circles where we congratulate ourselves on our educational freedom, evolution is all too often assumed to be true and people are consistently kept in ignorance by a biased scientific establishment. Yet Darwinian evolution in all its current modes is only a hypothesis and one which is in considerable scientific trouble.
All scientific theories by definition must be tentative and always open to change as new evidence comes to light. If the scientific community makes a theory into a self-evident ‘truth’ it then becomes anti-science and a fixed box into which all evidence must be fitted. Was my geology teacher right? Is evolution basically synonymous with pure science? Now some scientists will argue that as a scientific hypothesis, evolution is conceivable, but the idea that it is one of the established truths of science (if there is such a thing) is simply not true.
Science itself operates in two broad categories – operational science and historical science. The first concerns our present technological progress, where we increase our understanding of how to manipulate certain material elements for our own use, for example, silicon chips. However, historical science, which hypothesises about the past, is a different thing altogether. The two types of science cannot be regarded in the same way.
Technology is rigorously tested
As an example, we do not blast people into space based on a ‘strained hypothesis’ that the rockets will work properly. The technology is rigorously tested and proven. But how the universe began, the origin of our space-time continuum and how people came to be on the planet Earth is not testable in the same way.
We cannot experimentally test or observe the mechanism, or the power that brought the universe into existence. Much of the popular confusion with regard to ‘science’ lies in confusing these two areas of investigation and giving them the same weight.
My mobile phone ‘works’ brilliantly we say, as does my email and palmtop (most of the time!). So when the BBC screens ‘Walking With Dinosaurs’ and talks as though it’s a known fact that the earth is billions of years old, during which time life spontaneously evolved from a primordial soup, we assume that these assertions must ‘work’ equally well scientifically – but they don’t!
As these assumptions are so frequently heard they appear to be authoritative. Add to that the deep voice of the narrator and the impressive computer graphics and we are convinced. Yet the evidence simply does not establish these claims.
Scientific knowledge has very real limits. The things we state with confidence because they are accepted today, may not be tomorrow. Science is essentially a tool for acquiring knowledge about realities. It seeks to investigate, as best it can, what exists, and arrive at objective facts based on observation.
Every theory in science requires basic assumptions that cannot be proved, and all investigation proceeds from these assumptions. These are metaphysical (beyond physics) assumptions – or ‘beliefs’ – and we must all ‘believe’ certain things before we can speak of science. For example, the ‘belief’ that the universe can be understood.
All of our ‘science’ proceeds from assumptions that seem plausible to us. Empirical science therefore, has nothing ‘absolute’ about it and we would do well to remember that. In the light of this my well-meaning schoolteacher who equated evolution with science itself profoundly misunderstood the nature of scientific knowledge.
The idea that physical evidence speaks for itself is a fallacy. It must be interpreted according to a framework or worldview. Within this framework we theorise about the past and seek to gather evidence that will support a given theory.
The evolutionist’s worldview assumes that everything in the universe can be explained through a closed system of material causes and effects, without reference to any creator or intelligence. The data collected through scientific enquiry is therefore filtered through this lens. But someone else may analyse the observational evidence and conclude that it is most logical to see a creator behind the universe – because there has to be a first cause. Nothing can ‘create itself’. So there must be a creator.
So we see that underlying this question of random evolution is a philosophical ‘belief’ that must be acknowledged. Is the evidence being assessed reliably to test these two frameworks? Are non-evolutionary models given a fair hearing?
Science writer Boyce Rensberger admits, “The fact is that scientists are not really as objective and dispassionate in their work as they would like to think. Most scientists get their idea about how the world works not through a rigorously logical process but through hunches and wild guesses.”
This is to be expected. Scientists are only human after all – and sometimes a hunch pays off. But are ‘hunches’ admitted to by the scientific community when questioned about their guarded theory of evolution? Generally speaking, absolutely not!
Evolution is often assumed as self-evident without so much as a footnote concerning its flaws. But in a refreshing moment of intellectual honesty, geneticist Professor Richard Lewontin wrote the following:
“We take the side of science (naturalistic) in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfil many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated ‘just so’ stories, because we have an a priori commitment to materialism.
“It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but on the contrary, that we are forced to by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counterintuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is an absolute for we cannot allow a divine foot in the door.”
This is an astonishing admission. But from a leading evolutionary scientist it makes absolutely clear what many philosophers, scientists and lay persons have been saying for years – evolution is an entrenched dogma that has been so jealously guarded that it is practically immune to all criticism, scientific or otherwise.
The supposed scientific key to the origin of man and the universe has become itself anti-science. Consider the words of the late anthropologist Dr Arthur C Custance, author of the ten- volumed ‘The Doorway Papers’, Fellow of the Royal Anthropological Institute and Member of the New York Academy of Sciences: “Virtually all the fundamentals of the orthodox evolutionary faith have shown themselves to be either of extremely doubtful validity or simply contrary to fact… so basic are these erroneous assumptions that the whole theory is now largely maintained in spite of rather than because of the evidence…
“As a consequence for a great majority of students, and for ‘the public’, it has ceased to be a subject of debate. Because it is both incapable of proof and yet may not be questioned, it is virtually untouched by data which challenge it in any way. It has become in the strictest sense irrational…
“Information or concepts which challenge the theory are almost never given a fair hearing. Evolutionary philosophy has indeed become a state of mind – one might almost say a kind of mental prison – rather than a scientific attitude… To equate one particular interpretation of the data with the data itself is evidence of mental confusion.”
Anyone taking the time to look into this matter in any detail will quickly discover that at the very least ‘evolutionism’ is as much a ‘faith’ as any so-called religious position. The main difference being that evolutionism puts a blind faith in chance, granting creative power to time itself, while others look at the evidence and see design behind the universe. Reason is surely not on the side of blind faith.