Evolution and Cosmic Purpose    

Latest post

The Culture Wars

The "Culture Wars" are a clash between modern secular freedoms and traditional religious restraints.

On one side of the debate are those who believe that politics and morality should be informed by knowledge and experience. Ideas about right and wrong must be allowed to change over time to adapt to the prevailing social, technological, and economic conditions. These ideas can be safely decided by a majority of people living in democratic political systems.

On the other side of the debate are those who insist on maintaining the traditional religious values that have guided the growth of civilization for thousands of years. They believe that traditional family values are the glue that holds civilizations together. They say that the loosening of these morals, along with the loss of faith in religion, is leading to a breakdown of society.

Complicating this debate is the "clash of civilizations" caused by differences in the religious beliefs and moral systems of different civilizations around the world.

There is only one way to bring peace to this conflict. Social harmony comes through common understanding. And achieving a common understanding is going to take a radical new approach to educating people about the underlying principles of science, philosophy, and religion.

Intelligent Design

Our world is going through a slow and painful transition period as religious myths are gradually being shrugged off in favor of scientific facts. The followers of traditional religion feel threatened by this change. Their ancient myths can no longer compete with modern scientific discoveries in the minds of educated people.

When people start to doubt even a single sentence of their holy book then the whole book becomes a target for criticism. Christian fundamentalists keep their faith strong by insisting that the world was created exactly according to the biblical myth – hand crafted by God in six days with humankind descending from Adam and Eve.

While fundamentalist Christians remain on a mental holiday in their biblical dreamworld, liberal Christians have been struggling to find an acceptable compromise between science and religion. For a long time now, many liberal Christians have accepted that the six days of creation are a metaphor for the billions of years over which the solar system formed and life evolved on earth. The Garden of Eden was seen as representing a time when our ancestors lived naked amongst the trees, at one with nature.

The issue of exactly how the story of our creation unfolded, and how much of a hand God had to play in it, was not seriously explored by the mainstream Christian churches. Some things were better left unsaid to avoid open confrontation with fundamentalists and scientists. Avoiding the issue was the key to Christianity’s survival.

However, Christianity’s problems have only continued to worsen over the decades as the ongoing process of scientific discovery has hardened evolutionary biology into a rock solid science. There is now no doubt that human beings evolved from self-replicating organic molecules through the process of random mutation and natural selection. Evolution occurred naturally, with no role for an interventionist God.

In many ways, Intelligent Design was Christianity’s last hope to save a place in the story for God. Intelligent Design theorists claim that life is too biologically complex to have evolved without God’s help. They say that biochemistry reveals a cellular world of such precisely tailored molecules and such staggering complexity that the probability of something so precise and so complex being the result of pure chance is almost zero. They say that the only way to explain life’s complexity is by assuming an intelligent designer. And they believe that this proves the existence of God.

Advocates of Intelligent Design maintain that their ideas are scientifically valid. All of their hopes are pinned on discovering scientific evidence and developing scientific theories that sound so convincing that they forever cast doubt on whether certain biological features could have evolved naturally.

The Intelligent Design movement has been phenomenally successful at gaining publicity by giving hope to creationists while striking fear into the hearts of evolutionists. Their ideas have attracted widespread support from within the Christian community, particularly among those who do not even understand the issues.

Opponents of Intelligent Design accuse it of being nothing more than an aggressive new form of creationism, invented by religious organizations, pretending to be science, intended to discredit natural evolution in the minds of the impressionable majority.

It makes sense that religious organizations would be tempted to try this tactic. Opinion polls suggest that natural evolution is unpopular. The majority of people are sympathetic to the idea of God playing a more interventionist role in the appearance of humankind.

And the idea is political dynamite. The conservatives have already used Intelligent Design to play upon public sympathies and gain extra votes by tentatively agreeing to support the teaching of it in school classrooms.

But the frenzy is already starting to die down. There is now growing pressure on the Intelligent Design theorists to show the world that they really do know something that we do not. Intelligent Design is being unmasked to the public as a scientific fraud, and enthusiasm for it is starting to fizzle.

Fundamentalist and liberal Christians alike are beginning to abandon it. Even the politically conservative corporate media has decided that the idea is no longer politically advantageous and are turning against it. And now after being decisively defeated in the courtroom, the Intelligent Design fiasco is well on its way to becoming yesterday's news.

Templeton Foundation

In the early days of the Internet, when I was searching for information to guide the further development of my ideas, I discovered the Templeton Foundation website.

Sir John Templeton is a retired billionaire who established his foundation in 1987 in an effort to encourage a healthier dialog between science and religion. His foundation offers grants and prizes worth millions of dollars every year.

They grant money to universities, hoping to encourage skeptical academics to at least consider the possibility that life might have some kind of purpose. And they arrange seminars and develop relationships with religious organizations, hoping to encourage priests and theologians to learn about and accept scientific understandings.

A huge percentage of the world’s population linger somewhere in the void between cold hard science and blind religious faith. Not knowing which way to turn, they spend much of their lives seeking ways to reconcile day-to-day realities with spiritual ideals.

Although fulfilling people’s spiritual needs is one of the most profitable industries in the world, those who want a truly scientific spirituality still have no sensible representatives and almost no rational voice in the mass media or on the Internet. Templeton was one of the few organizations that seemed to be moving towards an agreeable solution.

Unfortunately, times are changing. As the reigns of the Templeton Foundation pass from the aging freethinking Sir John to his politically conservative Presbyterian son, John Junior, the Templeton Foundation seems to be metamorphisizing into another well-funded conservative religious think tank. They now function like a support network for Christian scientists. The language on their website appears to be increasingly mystical and unscientific. They have even been accused of supporting Intelligent Design.

In 2001, the prestigious million dollar ‘Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion’ was renamed ‘The Templeton Prize for Progress Toward Research or Discoveries about Spiritual Realities’.

The Templeton Foundation is no longer promoting rational religious reform but rather trying to scientifically substantiate religious irrationality. I hope the Pope doesn’t win the prize anytime soon.

Evolutionary Atheism

In the debate against Intelligent Design and other forms of creationism, the most visible representatives of natural evolution are also some of the most vocal advocates of atheism. This is not surprising, as surveys show that almost all evolutionary biologists are atheists.

The most legendary of these is Richard Dawkins, whose books about evolution have helped millions of people to better understand the theory and its evidence. However, Dawkins would be the first to admit that his primary motivation has always been to use the theory of evolution to try to disprove the existence of God. He writes about evolution and atheism as though they are inseparable, and because of this, he is often accused of causing millions of people to reject evolution, thereby encouraging creationism and helping to escalate social division.

These days, the most visible representatives of natural evolution on the Internet are the evolutionary biologists who contribute to the Talk Origins website and the Panda's Thumb blogsite. Many of these eminent scientists have their own blogs in which they argue over the finer points of evolutionary theory and pat each other on the back for being so clever. However, despite frequently claiming that evolution does not necessarily disprove the existence of God, when you look closely at some of the statements on their websites, it is often difficult to tell whether they are promoting evolution or preaching atheism.

Evolutionary atheists say that the randomness of natural evolution proves that the rise of intelligent life on earth was nothing more than an unintended accident of nature. This sounds reasonable enough. However, it can also be argued that evolutionary competition drives the selection of sharper senses and other beneficial traits, making the rise of intelligent life almost inevitable. Evolutionary atheists respond to this with a wide range of counterclaims, most of which are mere word tricks or are otherwise based on flawed logic. In any case, when pushed to this level of debate, they have nothing that will ever convince the god-fearing masses to accept their particular brand of evolution.

The evolutionary atheist position is weak and unpopular, its advocates are disorganized, their arguments are immature and undeveloped, and they lack any solid political support, even within the universities. Worst of all, they seem to be losing an unlosable public relations battle against an obvious myth. For the sake of defeating the creationists, the evolutionary biologists should stay out of metaphysics and focus on one fight at a time. Concentrate on explaining natural evolution instead of selling atheism.

With the vast majority of the world's population believing that our existence has some kind of cosmic significance, the evolutionary biologists would have much more success trying to convince people to accept a religion-friendly interpretation of evolution rather than trying to convert them to evolutionary atheism. After all, it is actually possible to explain natural evolution in a way that satisfies those who believe that our existence is orderly and purposeful as well as those who believe that it is random and purposeless.

By preaching that natural evolution proves that there is no purpose to our existence, the evolutionary biologists are only inciting a greater fear of science and evolution, and making it easier for political opportunists to exploit the debate. Maybe the theory of evolution needs new representation.

The God Delusion

The Bible may have been a suitable guidebook for people in ancient times, but with the exception of a few fundamentalists, most Christians today would have to concede that the Bible by itself is no longer a sufficient source of answers, especially when faced with new issues that have only recently arisen in our rapidly changing modern high-tech world.

It might be said that even in ancient times, the Bible by itself wasn't sufficient, and that it needed the writings of Augustine and Aquinas to interpret its ambiguities. Few Christians would disagree that in modern times, people need additional sources of wisdom beyond the Bible from other 'sacred' texts, like the constitution of the United States, which defines things that the Bible forgot, like a democratic political system with a declaration of fundamental human rights.

The Bible is gradually losing its relevance. The percentage of people in developed countries who believe in Christianity is falling. And despite the illusion of a recent resurgence, unless something miraculous happens, Christianity will soon become a minority cult. And just like the collapse of other influential ideologies a few decades ago, it might happen more quickly than any of us anticipate. Allow me to indulge in a little bit of speculation.

Just five years ago, religion was not being seriously debated in the mainstream media. People's beliefs were seen as something personal and our democratic society was largely tolerant of all religious beliefs. However, since September 11 and the rise to power of the religious right in America, religion has become the most hotly debated cultural and political issue of our time.

Taking advantage of the current climate of conservative religious fanaticism, hardline atheists like Richard Dawkins are launching an aggressive assault on Christianity. Dawkins and his supporters argue that religion has grown dangerous and should therefore be actively opposed by the scientific community and by other intellectuals sympathetic to the atheist cause.

Maybe by raising the intensity of the debate to this new level, the hardline atheists will help to bring about some progressive religious reform. However, by blindly savaging the Christian myth without properly contemplating what will be left in a post-Christian world, the atheist campaigners may be diving into something they don't fully understand and are not prepared for.

Will the hardline atheist worldview presented by Dawkins in his recent book "The God Delusion" be persuasive enough to fill the inevitable moral and metaphysical void? The answer is no, it will not be.

Dawkins offers no real meaning or purpose to life other than some contrived sense of wonderment at the beauty of nature, he relies on a baseless poetry of humanist ethical ideals as the foundation of a moral education, and he depends heavily on ambiguous words like "reason" to make up the shortfall.

We are about to see a major ideological struggle between hardline atheism, hardcore agnosticism, and every imaginable flavor of incomprehensible secular philosophy and nutcase pseudo-spirituality. They will all be battling it out over the Internet and in the mass media; competing to claim the scorched earth left behind by the eventual collapse of mainstream religion.

A similar thing happened in Rome around 2000 years ago. For those who have not worked it out yet, this website argues for a hardcore agnostic position, which is philosophically incompatible with hardline atheism.

Click here to read a detailed summary and review of The God Delusion

Cosmological Evolution

Some scientifically-minded people believe that the forces of nature in this universe are so finely tuned for the existence of stars and planets and the evolution of life that they must have progressed into their current configuration through some kind of evolutionary fine-tuning process. One of the more popular theories is known as "cosmological natural selection".

In simple words, this theory suggests that black holes give birth to baby universes, and each baby universe has slightly different laws of nature from its parent. In this way, universes are continuously created and continue to evolve. Universes that are large and stable and generate more black holes will produce more offspring and will therefore become more numerous. The result of this process is a universe like ours.

The problem with this theory is that it has no evidence, the mathematics is shaky, and it rests upon many questionable assumptions. For example, we do not know if other universes exist and we do not know what happens inside black holes. The theory also assumes that some basic laws of nature never change but it does not explain where these laws came from.

Until there is some evidence or mathematical proof to support the theory of cosmological natural selection, it can only really be considered to be one of a number of competing creation myths.

In any case, when you remove all of the speculations, the theory reduces down to a standard multiverse theory which says that "our universe is just one of an infinite number of random variations. And it came into existence as a result of thoughtless and purposeless processes".

Evolutionary Metaphysics

The Academy of Evolutionary Metaphysics is now officially online.

The purpose of the Academy of Evolutionary Metaphysics is to uphold a strict set of philosophical principles regarding our existence and to encourage further inquiry into these principles.

We believe that everything in the universe, every particle of matter and wave of energy, is bound to follow the laws of nature, and these laws can never be broken. By carefully studying every aspect of the universe using proven scientific methods, scientific researchers can continue to determine what these laws are.

However, there are some things that science may never be able to tell us. We might never know the reason why these laws exist, or the reason why the universe exists. There may be plenty of popular theories, but without any conclusive evidence, these kinds of questions will probably always be open to speculation.

Mistaken and fabricated claims about divine intervention have been a common feature of human society since before recorded history. Any such event would be a violation of the laws of nature, and so any reports of divine intervention can easily be dismissed as nothing more than superstitious myths.

Although we can confidently dismiss the existence of an interventionist God, there is insufficient evidence to dismiss the possibility that there might have been some other kind of unknown and possibly unknowable purposeful cosmic process behind the formation of the universe and the evolution of a humanlike consciousness.

Although there may be no reason for the existence of this universe and no intention behind the evolution of intelligent life, it is also possible that life has meaning and consciousness has some kind of cosmic purpose. But without any conclusive evidence, to either believe or disbelieve that consciousness has a higher purpose would be unscientific.

The unquestionably scientific approach would be to consider both possibilities, and to thoroughly examine them both to their eventual conclusions. Carrying out such a study without any political bias or religious agenda and without compromising scientific objectivity is the work of a field of philosophical enquiry called Evolutionary Metaphysics.

The main goal of Evolutionary Metaphysics is to study the relationship between the biological evolution of humankind, the historic struggle for wealth and political power, and the development of advanced technology, in the hope of developing explanations that will inspire the general population to think more deeply about whether or not consciousness evolved to fulfill any kind of cosmic purpose.

Previous Posts
Related Links