Creation Myths of the Tenured
Prior to this there was existence, but so what? There was life, but who cares? With no one to consciously experience it, what was the point? Without self-conscious observers, the whole cosmos could bang into being and contract into nothingness, and it would be no different than the proverbial tree falling in the forest with no one there to hear it.
One of the reasons why this is such a lonely and unpopular blog is that it takes both science and religion seriously. Most science and religion are unserious, but especially -- one might say intrinsically -- when they exclude each other.
A religion that cannot encompass science is not worthy the name, while a science that cannot be reconciled with religion is not fit for human beings. And I mean this literally, in that it will be a science that applies to a different species, not the one that is made to know love, truth, beauty, existence, and the Absolute. Science must begin and end in this principle -- which is to say, the Principle -- or it is just a diversion. Nevertheless, Stupidity appropriates what science invents with diabolical facility (Aphorisms of Don Colacho).
In taking science seriously, we must obviously take "evolution" seriously. I place the word in quotation marks not because I don't believe in it, but for reasons we have discussed at length in the past (cf. here or there). Evolution was around long prior to Darwin, and the word didn't even appear in the first five editions of The Origin of Species. It was only inserted later, after which time evolution and Darwinism (natural selection) became conflated, even though they are in many ways at antipodes. In other words, evolution disproves Darwinism, and vice versa, despite the semantic and metaphysical games materialists deploy to try to reconcile the two.
In our effort to demonstrate the essential unity of religion and science, we specifically want to avoid the superficial and metaphysically incoherent approach of the materialists, which essentially reduces to magic -- no different than the young earth creationist who sees God as a kind of magician. But creation is not magic; rather, it is thoroughly rooted in, and infused with, order and Reason. Yes, there are myths that describe creation as if it were a giant magic act, but the purpose of myth is to awaken Truth within, not to force consent from without.
This is something that used to be taken for granted by theologians, but as they have become increasingly intimidated by the findings of modern science, it seems that they have retreated further into a protective bubble of faith in the incredible -- or faith in things that are not worthy of the intrinsic dignity and nobility of man's seeking Intellect. The Intellect is noble precisely because it may know truth, so that anything short of an integral and total truth undercuts man at the root. It's an insult, really.
In The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves, Ridley tries to account for the evolution of man in wholly naturalistic terms. In one sense, he recognizes a fatal problem with the Darwinian account, in that there is an insurmountable gap between our finite genes and our infinite capabilities.
In other words, we know that human beings were genetically "complete" (which itself is an absurd word to apply to natural selection, since nothing can be complete or incomplete) long before the appearance of what we would call humanness.
Furthermore, the suddenness (especially in Darwinian terms) of man's psychospiritual transformation also surpasses anything natural selection can explain. It can try, but to say that a random genetic mutation accounts for the human capacity to know truth and beauty makes no sense whatsoever.
Anyway, at least Ridley is honest in acknowledging the problem, although he doesn't exactly name it or draw out its full implications. But the problem is this: that there is a literally infinite gap between man and animal (even though there is an obvious continuity as well), just as there is an infinite gap between nothing and existence or matter and life.
One can say that this gap is infinite because man intuits the Absolute, or one can say that man intuits the Absolute because of this infinite gap. Either way, once man consciously enters the sensorium of time and space, he is implicitly aware of both Absolute and Infinite, and therefore Love, Truth, Justice, Beauty, Virtue, and Eternity. These are the things that define man, not his genome.
Ridley notes an important fact that I discussed in my book, which is that early hominids remained trapped in their niche for "more than a thousand millennia." They basically produced a single tool, the stone hand axe.
Clearly, "the creatures that made this thing were very content with it," in that it changed very little during the course of a million years, across three continents. As I mentioned in the book, it's almost as if this tool were analogous to a bird's nest or a spider's web, i.e., something we were genetically programmed to produce.
As long as 600,000 ago, there were hominids with brains nearly as large as ours, and yet, with no discernible payoff: "they did not experience anything remotely resembling cultural progress. They just did what they did very well. They did not change."
But again, this is normative for Darwinism. Once a creature successfully adapts to its environmental niche, there is no pressure to change. As we mentioned yesterday, "natural selection is a conservative force. It spends more of its time keeping species the same than changing them" (Ridley).
And just what kind of "pressure" could force an ape to suddenly become Buddha, or Beethoven, or Shakespeare, anyway? What, is evolution the mother of all Jewish mothers? (Hmm, before you dismiss that outright....) Yes, there was a pressure, but as we shall see, it was from above, not below. But we're getting ahead of ourselves.
So quite suddenly "there appeared on earth a new kind of hominid, one that refused to play by the rules. Without any change in its body, without any succession of species, it just kept changing its habits. For the first time, its technology changed faster than its anatomy. There was an evolutionary novelty, and you are it" (Ridley).
Yes, we are without a doubt an evolutionary novelty. But are we a Darwinian novelty, which is to say, a random accident? I don't think so. In fact, a wholly contingent being could never know truth anyway, let alone its own truth.
To be continued....