Squaring the Culture




"...and I will make justice the plumb line, and righteousness the level;
then hail will sweep away the refuge of lies,
and the waters will overflow the secret place."
Isaiah 28:17

02/12/2009 (3:54 pm)

Newton Day in America

Feb 12 used to be celebrated in America as Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, but that’s become passé. In its place, some schools and communities have designated Feb 12 as, in their description, “a global celebration of science and reason.” Amen, say I; science is a good thing, and reason a better one. I’m a Christian; to me, both science and reason reflect the glory of God, and I have a personal commitment to improve my grasp of both.

So, encouraged by the sentiment and recognizing the positive impact science has made on Western civilization, I drew on my knowledge of science history and selected a few of the true founders of Western science whom we really should celebrate.

Nicolaus Copernicus was probably the earliest of the scientists I selected, being the author of the heliocentric theory of the solar system — the first notion that the earth was not, in fact, at the center of the universe. I suppose I could have mentioned early, influential Western logicians, like St. Augustine (4th century) who was probably first to develop an objective point of view outside of himself, or Thomas Aquinas (13th century) who is widely regarded as the father of modern philosophy, but since logic and philosophy are not so uniquely Western as science, I’ll let it pass.

The real giant of modern Western science, in my mind, is Sir Isaac Newton, whose articulation of the laws of gravitation and motion, and subsequent derivation of Kepler’s laws of planetary motion from those laws, demonstrated that the heavens and the earth all obeyed the same physical laws. While we’re celebrating his contribution, though, we should probably remember Kepler who went before him, and also Galileo Galilei, whose painstaking observation Stephen Hawking believes contributed more to the creation of the modern, natural sciences than anybody else.

So, why are we not celebrating Newton Day, Galileo Day, Kepler Day, Copernicus Day, or Augustine Day?

It’s because the day we’re being told to celebrate is actually a religious observance by a non-theistic religion, and what they’re celebrating is neither science nor reason. What they’re celebrating, in fact, is what they perceive as a victory over other religions, and the event that finally allowed them to get the upper hand in a cultural battle in which they had formerly been regarded (correctly, in my view) as backwards, irrational, untrustworthy, and fighting against the preponderance of rational thought. That event was the publication of The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin.

Darwin, as a scientist, is problematic. There’s no question that he began a branch of inquiry into which a great deal of research has been committed since the publication of his seminal work in 1859. There’s likewise no question that his work was considered a landmark in biology and philosophy. However, I think it was microbiologist Michael Behe, in his book Darwin’s Black Box, who observed that while most biology textbooks name Darwin’s work as the very basis of modern biology, in actual fact after naming Darwin the rest of the topics in those textbooks contain nothing that relies on Darwin’s work in any meaningful way. (Sadly, my copy of Darwin’s Black Box is in Pittsburgh, 650 miles away, so I cannot verify the quotation.) Behe’s own field of microbiology is more the result of improved microscopy, and these days draws most heavily on fields like electrical and mechanical engineering to describe what they’re finding inside the cell, and on the pioneering work of Crick and Watson regarding DNA, than it is the result of anything Darwin wrote. More often, Darwin gets used outside the narrow field of evolutionary biology when science popularizers take the painstaking findings of laboratory technicians and apply Darwinian notions to them, using high-flown phrases to speculate about what sorts of forces caused this immensely complex system to evolve.

Back in June of 2008, I posted Prof. John West’s slide show from last year’s Darwin Day celebration, showing the clear link between Darwin’s Descent of Man and all subsequent implementations of Eugenics as a science, up to and including Hitler’s Master Race policies, and even beyond that to modern declarations of the meaninglessness and worthlessness of Man as a species. Darwin’s work, unfortunately, was the foundation of more than just a branch of inquiry; it may be regarded as the source from which sprang some of the most dehumanizing acts in history.

However, it is Darwin that makes it possible for atheists to claim the imprimatur of the god named Science, and calling on that god, they anoint themselves the High Priests of Reason. Thus, they not only bypass the true founding giants of Western science (nearly all of whom were devout and practicing theists, by the bye,) but they shuffle the more embarrassing applications of Darwin’s work under the carpet, and express genuine outrage, even contempt, if one dares to bring them up.

This is why the organizations sponsoring Darwin Day events are not the local science geeks that do clever science fair projects for the American Junior Academy of Sciences, nor major scientific research laboratories, but rather organizations like the American Humanist Association (which hosts the Darwin Day Celebration web site) and the Stanford Humanists (who, along with the Humanist Community, held the first Darwin Day celebration in 1995.) And this is why they celebrate the problematic Darwin, and not the inarguably great Newton, Galileo, or Copernicus.

One dead giveaway is that their mission statement commits them to celebrating “Science and Humanity.” While I object to neither science nor humanity, the formulation that celebrates this pair is not science, but a particular dogmatic philosophy that likes to call itself “science,” appropriating a term that means something else to mask their clearly religious orientation. They claim that science and reason have lifted humanity from the degradation of ignorance and religion (a redundant phrase in their view) and enabled them to make of themselves whatever they choose. They insist that they’re not religious because they don’t believe in a god of any kind, but “theism” is not a useful definition of religion: there are major, recognized world religions that contain both many gods (Hinduism, Shintoism, Buddhism) and no gods (Confucianism and Taoism.) A better definition of religion would be “a dogmatic set of cohesive ideas purporting to explain the nature and purpose of the universe, and from that to derive how Man should live.” By that robust definition, Humanism is clearly a religion, as are versions of Strong Atheism (the positive belief that there is no god or gods, as opposed to weak atheism, which just ignores the god question altogether) and many major philosophical schools, like Rationalism, Existentialism, Nihilism, etc.

Now, I have no objection to Humanists declaring a holiday to celebrate their religion. I encourage it, in fact; a lot of issues would become clearer if these folks would drop their disingenuous obfuscations and acknowledge that they really are as much a religion as the Christianity they despise. It would become immediately apparent, for example, that it’s impossible to formulate a theory of education without some recourse to religion, and dispel that utter, intellectually dishonest horse hockey that the “separation of church and state” requires that secularism become the default philosophy of public schools. By all means, let them celebrate.

However, I’ll be damned if I’m going to celebrate their religion with them. I’m a Christian. I regard their religion as one of the world’s major sources of violence and dehumanization. And I’ll be damned even deeper in hell if I stand by idly while they foist their religious nonsense on public schools in the name of “science.”

Newton Day. I don’t know if it’s a good replacement for Lincoln’s Birthday, but it’s not a bad idea. Augustine Day. All Scientists Day. Heck, yeah, I’m all for it. But not Darwin Day. Darwin was a smart man, but there are far better scientists to recognize, and let’s speak the truth plainly: the people who claim that Darwin Day is a celebration of science, and not a celebration of the philosophy of Scientific Materialism or the religion of Humanism, are lying through their damned teeth.

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11 Comments »

February 12, 2009 @ 4:57 pm #

[...] post by Plumb Bob Blog and software by Elliott Back Categories: Uncategorized Posted By: Last Edit: 12 Feb 2009 [...]

February 12, 2009 @ 5:50 pm #

Loved it Phil – even if it didn’t read it before it was posted! :)

Good stuff.

February 12, 2009 @ 7:49 pm #

[...] clipped from http://www.plumbbobblog.com [...]

February 12, 2009 @ 11:01 pm #

[...] BRYON’S WEBLOG created an interesting post today on Newton Day in AmericaHere’s a short outline…science is a good thing, and reason a better one. I’m a BChristian/B; to… [...]

February 18, 2009 @ 11:33 am #

I completely agree with your view, that Newton should be regarded as greater scientist than Darwin. Darwin being more of a materialist philosopher, in my view.

However, you do Newton a great disservice by portraying him as a conventional “Christian”:

Newton clearly rejected the Trinity as an idolatrous falsehood, and a corruption of Scripture.
There are also clear indications that he rejected the soul as being separate from the material body(similar to most modern Neuroscience) and thus in logical conclusion didn’t believe in the existence of Hell, only that the soul ceased to exist in death. (He did believe that God would reward his faithful with eternal life in the traditional sense though)

If becoming public knowledge, both these beliefs would have destroyed his career and possibly gotten him burned at the stake, even in England) So he wisely chose to keep his private views out of the public eye regarding this.

February 18, 2009 @ 12:34 pm #

I do not portray Newton as a conventional Christian. You’re reading things that are not there.

I mention that “nearly all” foundational scientists were “devout, practicing theists.” I did not name Newton specifically, and not all theists are Christians, let alone conventional ones. Even if I had named him, mine would be an accurate description of Newton; Newton actually wrote more theology than he did mathematics or physics, from which I infer he was devout about what he believed, whether it was orthodox or not.

Aside from that, thanks for the support.

February 23, 2009 @ 8:23 pm #

[...] made it clear that I’m not a huge fan of Darwin Day, but I do acknowledge that Charles Darwin made a significant contribution to the field of biology, [...]

February 25, 2009 @ 3:55 pm #

Let me first apologize for claiming that you seek to portray Newton as confirming your own faith.

Secondly I commend you for a well crafted polemic directed at the materialistic scientism, promoted today by Darwin’s disciples. Being a physical scientist myself, I am well aware of the near- impossibility of doing science while maintaining creationist views in all biology today.

Darwin did undoubtedly discover and emphasize important facts about the biological world: The common tree of life, and the greater “Survival of the fittest” among the variations in a population, being well supported by evidence.
To deduce from this that all complexity in the natural world arises from random mutations guided by the above selection principle is a leap-of-faith, however. This has been made even more implausible as the complexities of molecular machines have become apparent.
Evolutionary biology thus is both dogmatic in outlook, and does hinge on the above faith. So I believe it is fair to call (at least part of it) a new religion.

Why then was Darwin motivated to present his theory, which most promiment atheists hail for giving them intellectual opportunity to disregard the question of Creation?

First, and foremost, Darwin was revolted by the teaching of Hell, secondly by the conduct through history, of many of those professing Christianity, and third, of the consequences for his own family of inbreeding (he married his own cousin)
In fact, you hammer the nail straigh on, when you say that religion is:

a dogmatic set of cohesive ideas purporting to explain the nature and purpose of the universe, and from that to derive how Man should live.”

By this definition, both Communism/Marxism/Maoism and Nazism were religions.
Viewing history, it can be held with some strength, that most if not all of the larger atrocities committed by man against his fellow on this Earth has been motivated by false religion, so called “Cristians” being among the foremost examples.
In this, I fully understand Darwin. He wanted to move away from all that, but ironically ended up fomenting a religion of his own.

You state, probably only as a figure of speech:

However, I’ll be damned if I’m going to celebrate their religion with them. I’m a Christian. I regard their religion as one of the world’s major sources of violence and dehumanization. And I’ll be damned even deeper in hell if I stand by idly while they foist their religious nonsense on public schools in the name of “science.”

If you by this, affirm the existence of Hell as eternal existence in torment for the wicked. You play right into the hands of the Evolutionists you want to defeat. Nowhere in the Bible is such a teaching articulated. As you surely know phrases are found such as: “Love your enemies. Pray for those persecuting you, that you may prove yourself sons of your Father in Heaven”(Matt 5:44, see also 1. John 4:8 and Eccl 9:5-10)
The teaching of Eternal Hellfire makes God morally equivalent with the purest evil.
If such illogical and contradictory renditions of Scripture continue being preached, then I wonder if not more people will turn toward Evolutionary nihilism as the better, more fulfilling alternative. (I for one could not enjoy a life in Paradise knowing that millions of evildoers simulatenously suffered eternal torment) Let it be sufficient, that unrepentant evildoers face annihilation.

Regards
Bjorn

February 25, 2009 @ 6:32 pm #

Hi, Bjorn,

No worries about misreading my intentions regarding Newton.

I think your description of modern biology is accurate, and I agree that Scientific Materialism, which I call out in this piece, does not coincide 100% with evolutionary biology. It’s common among biologists, but not universal, and it does not invalidate evolutionary biology as a field of study (one can be both a materialist and a decent biologist.) And I do recognize that Darwin made a contribution.

Regarding this:

Viewing history, it can be held with some strength, that most if not all of the larger atrocities committed by man against his fellow on this Earth has been motivated by false religion, so called “Cristians” (sic) being among the foremost examples. In this, I fully understand Darwin. He wanted to move away from all that, but ironically ended up fomenting a religion of his own.

…the interesting problem occurs when people, noting the frequent appearance of religious systems among causes of atrocities, conclude “Well, we should just do away with religion, then.” It’s sort of like saying “Wars are fought over land used for the production of food, so we should do away with eating.” It won’t work, because human beings are inherently religious creatures, just as we are inherently eating creatures. We always attempt to discover who or what we are, why we’re here, and what we should be doing. It’s part of our nature. Consequently, any attempt to solve human behavior by “getting rid of religion” is doomed to the failure you describe, simply because when you do away with whatever you call religion, man simply goes back to religious behavior (which is his nature) under some other name. I’m afraid Dawkins, Hitchens, Onfray, Harris, and Dennett are all doomed to the same ironic failure.

You should note, however, that the appearance of religious systems tends to get overstated as a cause of atrocities. Vox Day (his real name is Theodore Beale,) in his deconstruction of the popular anti-religion of the New Atheists entitled The Irrational Atheist, reviews a catalog of wars fought throughout history and discovers that fewer than 10% were fought for religious purposes, and even fewer if you discount the veiled political purposes of some of the Crusades. While I suspect this statistic changes somewhat if we use my definition of religion, and while wars are not the only form of atrocity, it’s the case that the modern, atheistic religions seem to stand head and shoulders above the others in the “murder” category, and after that, Islam comes trotting in behind as a distant second. Christianity as a source of atrocity is really a spindly, pale-faced wimp compared to those others, and can balance the charges against the claim of having constructed the greatest civilization in the history of man. The content of the religion really does matter.

Finally,

…the existence of Hell as eternal existence in torment for the wicked… Nowhere in the Bible is such a teaching articulated… The teaching of Eternal Hellfire makes God morally equivalent with the purest evil.

I really didn’t intend to get into that topic at all. I do believe the orthodox doctrine of hell, but the figure of speech where I use it was peripheral to the points being made, so it would be better if we didn’t get into it. In fact, I’ve almost entirely avoided issues of Christian doctrine on this blog. But you brought it up, so…

It’s not simple to explain hell because there are a lot of difficult theological concepts that are necessary as a foundation before one really understands what hell is and why it has to exist. I’ll give you the conclusion without the body: hell is, in fact, the most merciful thing God can possibly do for those who have spent their entire lives training themselves to despise Him, live entirely on their own devices, and enjoy worthless things (like their own egos.) The alternative is an eternity in an intimacy closer than anything you can imagine, with Someone with whom the damned would find intimacy abhorrent. You may recognize that last sentence as very, very close to the definition of “rape;” God is not a rapist, and will not force the intimacy of heaven on those who would regard it so. Thus, the chief characteristic of hell is the very thing the damned want most: an existence without God. The torment is all self-inflicted, and the venue is self-chosen. There is no logical alternative to hell for those who have chosen thus.

There’s plenty of scripture supporting the orthodox doctrine of hell; Jesus actually speaks more about hell than He does about love. His language regarding the disposition of the wicked refers to them in terms usually used for garbage, and the place to which he says they’ll be relegated, on many occasions, is the name of Jerusalem’s local trash heap. He also refers to it as “outer darkness,” and the apostles use such terms as “lake of fire,” which is probably metaphor but is terribly descriptive nonetheless. I can see saying “many Christians interpret Jesus’ words wrongly regarding hell,” which is probably true, but I can’t see saying “Nowhere in the Bible is such a teaching articulated.” That’s just not so.

Thanks for your comments.

October 14, 2009 @ 2:35 pm #

[...] produced a decent definition of “religion” in my post on Darwin Day this year: …“theism” is not a useful definition of religion: there are major, recognized world [...]

April 19, 2010 @ 1:17 pm #

[...] a statement is religious is evident simply by examining a sound definition of religion discussed elsewhere on this blog. To recap: …“theism” is not a useful definition of religion: there are major, recognized [...]

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