Naturalism Extends Into All Realms of Scholarship

first_imgDefenders of evolutionary theory typically argue that their ideas are merely scientific approaches to explaining biological objects.  Why, then, are evolutionary approaches extended to intangible realms, like psychology, ethics, criminal law, politics, religion, character and morals?  Here are some recent examples to think about:Evolution and the Criminal Mind:  In a paper this month in the Public Library of Science: Biology, four evolutionists gave naturalistic views on “Law, Responsibility, and the Brain.”  They said we need to examine the violent behavior of our alleged hominid ancestors to understand the criminal mind.  They also asked, “Should we rethink free will?”  One would think such subjects belong to the realms of moral philosophy and theology.  While they agreed that “Violent and anti-social behaviours undoubtedly arise from a symphony of factors,” they admitted only naturalistic approaches: “Optimal understanding will require cooperation among many disciplines such as economics, sociology, psychology, evolutionary biology, cellular physiology, and neuroscience.”  Preachers and philosophers apparently do not have any opinion worth thinking about—if, indeed, thinking is even possible in a world reduced to particles.Matter over Mind:  In an essay in the same issue of PLoS Biology, Kevin J. Mitchell (Trinity College, Dublin) got physical in his essay, “The Genetics of Brain Wiring: From Molecule to Mind.”  That his conception of mind did not extend beyond the material world is clear in his conclusion, “Putting It All Together” –The challenge for the fields of neurodevelopmental and psychiatric genetics is to develop methods to take these factors into account in attempting to map from genotype to anatomical and physiological phenotypes and beyond to behaviour and cognition.  Modelling this complexity may require both new mathematical methods and more detailed empirical data derived from studies of model organisms.  Whichever approaches are taken, it is clear that to understand the origins of individual differences in psychological traits we must keep developmental trajectories, and not just phenotypic end points, in mind.Yet one might ask, is there a mind in which to keep such abstractions?Language:  The ability to speak in abstract terms using verbal constructs is no longer a human distinctive.  In the evolutionary view, it’s only a matter of degree.  A duo from Emory University studied chimpanzee gestures for clues to a natural story of language.  Publishing in PNAS, they began and ended with Darwinian explanations: “The natural communication of apes may hold clues about language origins, especially because apes frequently gesture with limbs and hands, a mode of communication thought to have been the starting point of human language evolution.”  Popular news sources, like Live Science and MSNBC, quickly featured this speculation as a scientific “finding.”  Ker Than titled the story, “Apes Point to Origins of Human Language.”  It came complete with photo of a gesturing chimp.  No alternative viewpoints that would question naturalism were considered.Natural Politics:  Not even political science is exempt from the naturalistic approach to the world.  Two Princeton economists writing in PNAS discussed “Political Polarization” with a Bayesian (i.e., mathematical) model of how groups tend to polarize on issues.  The content of the debates and the weight of arguments were not elements in the equation: “We offer an explanation of such polarization, based on a natural bimodality of preferences in political and economic contexts and consistent with Bayesian rationality.”  The paper is full of calculus and graphs and models that predict degrees of polarization based on bimodal inputs.  What kind of political issues fall under the spell of their equations?  “Current examples are policies concerning discrimination, immigration, gender, religion, welfare state, human rights, terrorism, civil wars, national sovereignty, and nuclear armament.”Though this last paper is not overtly Darwinian, and does employ concepts of the subjects’ world view and opinions, it treats human subjects as mathematical objects that follow natural laws.  The degree of detail with which the authors manipulated human subjects as elements of differential equations is striking.  It raises profound questions about the extent to which such domains fall within natural science: e.g., are populations of rational agents determined by natural law, and if so, are they really rational agents?  And one would be hard pressed to imagine these scientists giving a naturalistic answer to this question: “On what basis are you assuming that reduction of polarization is a good thing?”  If their model is valid, it should be possible to debate that question and plug its variables right back into the equation to arrive at a degree of polarization, then iterate the process ad infinitum to the vanishing point of the point: i.e., ultimate pointlessness.No one asks the questions that deflate these naturalistic studies and make them shoot their own feet.  Each one of these studies is self-refuting and thereby pointless.  If responsibility is an evolutionary by-product, it is not really responsibility.  If crime is an evolutionary by-product, it is not really crime.  If language is glorified ape gesturing, it is not really language.  And if voters are pawns of mathematical functions, they are not really informed, thoughtful voters.    Overarching above all these conundrums is the meta-conundrum that pulls down the curtain on the whole charade: each of these scientists, according to their own presuppositions, is also a pawn of evolutionary forces.  Nothing they say, therefore, has any validity.  If they are thinking they need to rethink free will, they are not really thinking!  They are not free to think.  Their own thoughts are determined by their evolutionary past.  This is so obvious, why doesn’t anyone ever call their bluff?  On their own assumptions, you can dismiss everything they said.There is nothing stopping a trickster from turning these same tactics against them.  Let’s say, for instance, that David Horowitz were to hire a skilled mathematician to construct a mathematical model of liberalism in academia.  A conservative sociologist could play the game, too.  They could produce an impressive-looking paper, loaded with graphs and equations, showing the tendency for academics to slide into liberalism as a function of time and peer pressure.  They could even formulate a new natural law: the second law of intellectual thermodynamics.  If they had enough connections to get this published in a major journal, would it not make as much sense as the paper on political polarization?What on earth is a paper on poli-sci doing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences?  What are biologists doing trying to reduce responsibility and the mind and religion to molecular interactions?  Even if their models occasionally correspond with observations, that would not ipso facto validate them.  The cliche fits: even a broken clock can be right twice a day.  There are things about intelligent agents and their behaviors that science cannot address with laws and equations.  You can’t treat human beings like lab rats (the ratomorphic fallacy).  And we cannot let pointy-headed academics with a bad case of the Yoda Complex (03/21/2007, 09/25/2006) get away with folly in the name of science, using their minds to claim that minds don’t exist.    When a materialist makes material claims, ask them those four little words, How do you know?  If the mind is the result of contingent or determined natural processes, then so are any thoughts about it.  This undermines any truth claims—including those of these papers.  We must not permit the evolutionists to stand outside their heads, looking down on the rest of us, telling us how WE evolved.  They must get into the game.  But a little reflection shows why they cannot do that.  When they enter the game, the game is over.  Without an Umpire, without rules, without standards, without truth, and without morals, it’s not a game.  It’s chaos.(Visited 6 times, 1 visits today)FacebookTwitterPinterestSave分享0last_img

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