SCIENCE AND THE VIEW OF MAN --
CAN WE TAKE A VACATION FROM OUR BELIEFS?*
There is no doubt that 20th century pragmatism, relativity and probabalistic tendencies have led to intellectual nihilism and paralysis. The excessive deterministic attitudes of the preceding epoch led to a similar stagnation. The Christian world view strives to resolve both of these two periods of intellectual death. No scientific experimentation can lay claim to ultimate or absolute truth of anything. If there are to be such “claims” they must be derived from the Judaeo/Christian God--the creator of the universe. There is no known experiment that will determine the geometry of space. All scientific concepts, e.g., space, time and mass--derive their meaning from presuppositions of a specific theory. We do not know what they are in any ultimate sense. We have only standards that are unambiguously defined within the framework of a given theory. It is the theory that determines this meaning. Within any theory absolutes are only absolute by definition.
Mathematics, geometry, physics, music, dance, literature, and all expressions and endeavor, are all equal representations and equal aspects of reality. This represents our post modern “inclusive reality.” We have yet to engage for understanding the protean dynamics of creation itself. Our postmodern pantheistic malaise was expressed long ago by Hegel. “It can be said of world history that it is the description of the “geist” as it works out the knowledge of that which it is in itself.” (Hegel, The Philosophy of History (Modern Library, p. 11) Within this pantheistic frame of reference, no historical “person” or “event” can be normative for all of history. Here is the funeral oration of the Judaeo/Christian faith and its exclusivistic claims. We are now citizens of the all inclusive World of Cultural and Epistemological Relativism. In our global village only tribal power encounters remain in the 21st century.
Life in the western world has been distinguished by uncertainty and incessant change ever since the Renaissance. Changes in styles, in culture, in social and political institutions, even churches and creeds, have made lives of everyone in our civilization hurried, nervous and insecure.
From the Enlightenment and French Revolution the goals of totalitarians promised only one final change: a change to end change. The self-styled intellectual elite sought to convince the French that their forebears were brutes and their religion a sham. It smeared the unifying symbols of the nation, the monarchy with scandal and rendered it meaningless. When the achieved reform swept the courts aside and ruled by decree, it removed the old elite and mandated terror. In due time, terror was used against anyone capable of resistance, physically or intellectually. Ultimately, the revolution finally reached the stage of total conscription, forced labor and tyranny. This stage was also reached by the USSR, Castro’s Cuba, the People’s Republic of China and the American equivalent via secular humanism.
In the American Revolution, the ink was hardly dry after the defeat of the British before our first government fell into ruinous inflation. However, the Republic survived and the States added a Bill of Rights. From the early days officials began to stretch its limits. The government again altered by Woodrow Wilson in World War I; this proved the accuracy of John Adams’ observation of “the old trick, in which an emergency is used to promise absolution.” Despite partial recovery, during the depression of Franklin D. Roosevelt in time his socialist decrees became permanent and were expanded during World War II into the socialism of our present culture. The result is that we have had several governments while retaining the facade of one. Our present structure is too large, too expensive, too baroque, and too complicated.
It is also in deep unadmitted trouble. No nation has ever survived defeat in war (Vietnam) and inflation. America has fallen into both pits, standing apparently strong and immune from all precedents. Inflation rages (1984 and 1995-1998), the military is disheveled (especially during the Bill Clinton era), our internal positions are precarious, domestic disorder reigns, respect for the courts and the government (politicians in general) in ill repute, crime is rampant, immorality of CEO’s in mega industries, morale is at a low ebb, taxes increase both locally and federally and show no signs of abating. Those who do not resist change become its victims. Christians must strive to produce constructive rather than destructive change. We must no longer fall prey to disorderly change.
In our modern and postmodern eras, Humanism has been the major and driving force in social change--with a missionary fervor rivaling Christianity and Islam. Humanism has captured men in institutions all over the world and much in our world today is a product of humanism whose anti Christian voice is expressed in Multiculturalism/Diversity/Tolerance in Education and Media. If you are against the Secular Humanist you must conform to their stereotype in our “Nation of Victims” where no one is personally responsible anymore for anti social behavior! (This influence has reached its peak of influence in the legal system, the courts, and sociology of law in the law schools.
The Myth of Neutrality
The Humanist Manifesto I and II stated certain religious presuppositions: (1) Humanism rejects the Christian idea of man’s sin and responsibility to God’s holiness and grace for redemption. This influence runs deep in our postmodern educational maze. There is a radical disparity in educational philosophy. Humanism’s influence dominates the National Education Association (NEA) (Outcome Based Education, Multiculturalism, see the commentary SCANS from the government printing house); (2) Humanists believe in an eternal universe, totally self regulating. Each position rests on a faith presupposition rather than either Humanism or Christianity being “neutral.” (3) Humanists deny God’s sovereign control over the universe and affirm man’s total control. Humanism justifies anarchy and made the state the agency and ultimate power. (4) Humanism declares that man is the source of Law, not God. Law is thus an expression of man’s sovereignty over all social structures. This precludes anti Humanism, but not Christianity. The Law code and moral codes of Humanism express the Sociology of Law Thesis. (5) Humanism affirms “In Man We Trust.” Progress is possible only by man’s trust in reason, agencies and activities. In postmodern culture, God is marginalized and churches are often weak because they are only occasionally Christian. Man lives in a theological cafeteria, where personal preference is maintained. Humanism dominates science, the family, the state, education, music, and art (a curious divorce of beauty from truth).
There has been perpetual conflict between Science, Philosophy and Theology! The nature of postmodern science involves a negative decision, a basic renunciation. Constructive encounter between Science and Christianity requires an intellectual awareness of the inherent limitation of the scientific enterprise. We must enter an ever so brief encounter between science and the questions left unanswered by the mode of knowledge acquisition about reality (see J. Piaget, Introduction to Genetic Epistemology (Paris: University of France, Vol. I, p. 9); and Bube’s Patterns of Science and The Christian Faith).
Man is a living organism. The physical scientist knows nothing of the evolution of the laws of the physical sciences. Life is not a tale told by an idiot because no idiot is sufficiently irrational to think up such a tale. In 1929, H.G. Wells, Julian Huxley, G.P. Wells published the work, The Science of Life. The work, a 1500 page book attempting to set forth the state of biology at the time of writing, provided no direction for understanding the center of intellectual gravity. The work contained nothing regarding the gene (the science of genetics was not available in 1929; compare M. Behe’s Darwin’s Black Box and Philip Johnson’s Defeating Darwinism (By Opening Minds) and also his book, Darwin on Trial and his Reason in The Balance, the case against naturalism in science, law and education (InterVarsity Press, 1995). See especially the text from the 1995 Statement of The National Association of Biology Teachers, NABT, 11258 Roger Bacon Drive # 19, Reston, VA 22090; the text appears in The Voice for Evolution (Berkeley, CA: National Center for Science Education, 1995, pp. 140-144); compare with George Gaylord Simpson, The Meaning of Evolution, revised edition (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1967, pp. 344-345); Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee, Inherit The Wind (Random House, 1955). The movie presented Bert Cates teaching Darwin’s The Descent of Man. Its racism and sexism is politically incorrect in our post modern culture. The most complete study of the Scopes Trial is Edward J. Lawson’s Summer for The Gods: The Scopes Trail and The Continuing Evolution Debate (NY: Basic Books, 1977) - compare Carol Iannone, “The Truth About Inherit The Wind” First Things /Feb. 1997, p. 28, article available on the web at http:1NWW.firsthings.com.)
In all the history of the development of biological categories, the question of the gene is paramount. Living organisms reproduce themselves and regulate themselves. The two most significant factors are: (1) Auto regulations and (2) Self-perpetuating function. How can this blob of jelly and its gritty little inclusions of solid matter contain the ability to maintain itself in the face of a universe of destructive forces. But the property of self-duplication is the most mysterious ability of all! What is the source of the designed order of the highly complex building blocks of all reality? What is the source of a cell’s reproductive capacity--out of its whirling atoms and molecules, every biochemical system and self-regulating mechanism, every ingredient we have yet to discover is “somehow” reduplicated in ultimate detail. It entails that the cell will be of the species of its parent: an amoeba will not produce a paramecium. This is an example of marvelous rational designs. Given the particles of life, the proteins and sugars, enzymes and small organoids that must float in the protoplasm, the surface membranes and nucleus, how “could” one arrange them, if one had to, so that they could do this for themselves?
Deep within the flux of cellular reproduction lies the dominion of heredity, where the past, present, and future are joined in physical dimensions (cf. Time does not “cause” anything, e.g. The Periodic Chart and the Gene Code discovery). Scientists have been decoding reality from Mendel and Glas to Crick and Monad. Like all great scientific theory, Mendel’s work fused together in one magnificent idea an enormous amount of “useless data.” Mendel’s work made him immortal. He counted the percentages of Tall and Short in one generation and was perhaps the first one to approach the problem of heredity by mathematical equations in a large number of trials. His conclusions pointed to a separateness or “atomicity” of the heritable traits and suggest the following hypothesis: characteristics are due to something that determines these traits. This something is actually transmitted from parent to offspring. These hereditary determinants must be physical particles to retain their identity and integrity during the process of fertilization. These biochemical building blocks were first called “genes” in 1909 by the Danish botanist William Johannsen. This theory was confirmed in other plants and insects. The structure of the genes are called chromosomes (via microscopic observation sounds strangely opposed to post modernism’s “construction of all reality”).
The central problem is: How can genetic permanence and biological variation be reconciled? When a gene mutates it is permanently changed. The offspring receive the mutant gene and transmit it to all subsequent generations. (1) Many mutations are lethal in that they prevent reproduction and thus, extinguish themselves; (2) Second, many mutant genes are recessive and hence, do not express themselves phenotypically; (3) The visible results of many nonlethal mutations are so subtle they are lost in the welter of non-hereditary varieties. H.J. Muller’s contribution (1920) was the discovery that incidence of mutations can be artificially increased by exposing the egg cells or spermatozoa to x-ray irradiation; the higher the dose the greater the frequency of induced mutations. Here was the tool genetics was waiting for. It was now possible to “tinker” with the gene on a wholesale basis (e.g. Corn, beans, an agricultural revolution). This development also entails the role of bacteria have come to play in modern/post modern theoretical biology. (Does bacteria suggest “evolution”?) If evolution happened, it happened only once. Evolutionary theories can observe but not experiment! Only genes resistant to adversity can survive. If antibiotics are added to a culture, the organisms will be killed. Broadly speaking, we see the gene as a hypothetical physical particle whose ordinarily stable complex organization can be disrupted by x-irradiation and whose properties can be known only by the consequences of its action; another crucial issue is--how the virus makes the cell make virus? What are viruses and what do they have to tell us about the nature of life? From Pasteur’s thesis of “spontaneous generation” to the question of how diseases were caused by microbes, i.e., pathogenic bacteria, is virus a living organism? This remains the only property which can be labeled the virus the only meaning of its identification. This is a matter of fact still true in 2002.
How can an entity only ten millimicrons in diameter, smaller in fact than certain protein molecules, could posses attributes of life such as reproduction as long ago as the 1953 Cold Spring Harbor virus meeting. Robby Williams remarked: “It now appears that many of our morphological notions derived from electron microscopy, are due for considerable revision.” (Cf. Does virus reproduction exist? Is there a distinction between reproduction and replication? Where is the meeting of virus, genes, information and chemistry?) We may regard all biological traits as visible results of the functioning of one or another such sequence of enzymatic reaction.
Developments in the life sciences began as a simple question: What is the gene made of chemically or, more precisely, what is the chromosome made of, since genes are worrisome postulations and chromosomes are visible structures? Science has known for sometime that chromosomes extracted from the cell nucleus which, being acidic, was ingeniously names nucleic acid Here we enter the brave new world of DNA (desoxyribonucleic acid). DNA appears to be a long chain of repeating units. An avalanche of questions followed these discoveries-- where does DNA fit into the chromosome? Does DNA carry the information of heredity? IF a cell makes its own DNA in the course of reproducing itself, what insures that the new DNA will carry forward the hereditary code? How far does a molecule duplicate itself? These developments impact the inseparability of biology, chemistry and physics. For DNA is a chemical compound carrying genetic information somewhere within its physical structure. The dye was now cast for a unified attack on one of the greatest enigmas of science. Science is still investigating the questions raised. These great scientific advances have occurred since 1950. WE now enter a new narrative displacement in the history of science. This most simplified survey strongly suggests that science decodes reality; it does not encode it. The essence of post modernism is that all knowledge is socially constructed (see my essay, “The Sociology of Knowledge Thesis”).
In 1953 Watson and Crick examined a preparation of isolated DNA by the method of x-ray diffraction, a technic so brilliantly applied by Linus Pauline to the study of the structure of proteins and other giant molecules. It was found that the long DNA molecule is not a mere string of nucleotides but a highly organized structure shaped like a spring or helix. The exciting part of their discovery, however, was that the winding of the spring involved two strands, not one. In other words, the two parallel nucleotide chains were together wound around an empty cylindrical space. It was also concluded that any given order of nitrogenous bases in one strand determined the order in the other strand, since the limited space available in the tightly joined structure meant that only certain pairs of bases could exist side by side.
In 1955, a bacterial enzyme was discovered in the laboratory of Senero Ochoa which, when placed in a test tube with some free nucleotides like them, together formed a giant molecule chemically indistinguishable from RNA. A similar enzyme for “synthetic” DNA was discovered a year later by Arthur Kornberg, and in 1956 Schramm in Tubingen and Fraenkel and Conrat, working in Berkeley, discovered that free RNA, isolated from tobacco mosaic virus, could alone infect tobacco leaves, showing that the protein component of the virus was not essential for replication. Now capable of synthesizing a RNA-like molecule which lacks only a specific basic order and is thus noninfective, the biochemist stands ready to give the virologist, whose specific RNA replicating system provides a means of testing the success of attempts, to bring order into the present disorder of the synthetic nucleotide chain.
How Did Life Begin?
If life is reducible to molecular dimensions and a collection of atoms is a self-replicating order, perhaps we might inquire how life begins in the first place! If physics precludes that the universe is eternal, then life had to have a beginning also. Once again, we must declare that the laws of physics knows no naturalistic origin of Laws which express order and design! If the developments in biochemistry fuse with physics, chemistry, biology, etc., perhaps Michael Behe (author of Darwin’s Black Box) is correct when he says that genetically, order moves from complex to simple, not simple to complex! There is no astrophysical evidence to support the BIG BANG Steady State Theory of Cosmology. Simple chemical molecules by process of “evolution” gradually become more complex until finally, by choice, a combination occurred which, like DNA, could effect its own reduplication. The crucial weakness of this scenario is that DNA can duplicate itself only when the catalytic machinery of a fully formed cell is available to provide the building blocks for the daughter DNA. The first DNA-like molecule would have no such servants, since enzymes and cells are of biological origin and we are speaking here of the first organism. All postmodern research is seeking to get out of this difficulty.
Post modern science talks about billions of years for these processes to have occurred. We can know (1) what the earth was like at that time (e.g.. time does not “cause” anything--see my essay, “Narrative Changes in Time”). (2) These judgments rest on constructed hypotheses that cannot be directly verified. (3) The truth claim rests solely on the mathematization of theory construction. Post modernism maintains that reality--language, mathematics, logic, etc., are socially constructed, i.e., they do not represent reality as it is simply because this is unavailable. (4) There is an enormous gap between stating what ‘might have happened’ and ‘what did happen.” These are enormous difficulties for all naturalistic evolutionary effort at explanation! But what is the option in light of a finite universe? These are just some of the enormous problems raised by all naturalistic efforts at the explanation of the origin and nature of the universe, life, intelligence, consciousness, etc.
Science has no specific evidence concerning terrestrial time, waters, life, sex, intelligence, or consciousness, yet geophysics, astrophysics, optics (macro/micro dimensions of the universe), Geology, Biology, Botany, Anthropology, Sociology, Economics, Politics, etc. (Note that these sciences developed much later than astrophysics) all assume this paradigm. The strata, rocks and sediment (pre-cambrian, geological evidence ) and the chemical building blocks are all reality and have no direct evidence of physical or chemical evolution; it is only deduction from presuppositional, naturalistic models).
Even thermodynamics and chemical kinetics only suggest feasible explanatory systems, once the building blocks of reality are in place (Periodic Chart? Gene Code). But how does this provide an intrinsic harmony (design, purpose) of the building blocks, if all reality is grounded in the building blocks? What is the evolutionary explanation of the origin of hydrogen, oxygen, phosphorus, carbons and all substances intrinsically woven into the fabric of life? If the earth’s sun were a trillionth of a second closer or farther away from the earth, it would freeze or burn up. This superficially appears like design for life on the earth! All these developments have functioned within the laws of chemical reactions, equilibriums, entropy, and free energy (Einstein’s formula of E+ML squared),
Living organisms are not nucleic acid, however, and we must make a real effort to bear this in mind. There are genes, enzymes, but it is organism that lives in the world, that walks, talks, asks the question, why?, and grows and dies and writes books. The organism is an organization of materials and functions that are dedicated to the preservation of itself and its species. Preservation entails a level of organization, a pattern that characterizes all living things. Thus, the cell is an organized entity at one level of complexity. It lives in a community of other cells, joining them in certain projects, competing with them for food, and either dying or dividing to form new offspring.
The exquisite precision of life’s mechanism of self-regulation has impressed and inspired biologists for centuries. The status quo must be preserved, and especially is this true for the chemical composition of living system. Homeostatic mechanism somehow must retain the power of choices over what goes and what stays. (Cf. This is Darwinian “Survival of The Fittest” Naturalistic Evolutionary Reductionism)
How can a single amorphism “precursor cell” give rise to innumerable offspring, not only infinite in variety but also rigidly on schedule? Chrysanthemum seeds contain for autumn, not spring blossoms, and a single sperm fertilized in a human ovum carries on its schedule one set of teeth and in six years and nine months will be replaced. Since the fourth century B.C., this problem has been debated by the advocates of two theories. One group held that the “precursor cell”, the fertilized egg, contained all parts of the future organism in miniature and given time these would grow to adult size. Boal-directed behavior has nothing mystical about it; it is a property of matured systems that is susceptible to analysis. In post modern biology, we have not advanced beyond Du Noiy’s Human Destiny “. . . it is totally impossible to account scientifically for all phenomena pertaining to life.”
Men must meet science in the common future! The past is gone and the present constantly changes, leaving only the future to address post modern ideas of Biology. Some of the issues in the academy of Biological research are: (1) Biogenesis and “Evolution”; (2) Biological inheritance, nucleic acids; (3) The “Genetic Theory” of Evolution by natural selection; (4) Lamarckism; (5) Exosomatic-Psychological-Evolution; (6) Eugenics, (7) Demography; (8) Development; (9) Bodily Constituents; (10) Microbiology; (11) Molecular Biology; (12) Cancer; (13) Cells and tissues; (14) Circulatory systems; (15) Co-ordination systems, hormones and nerves; (16) Sense organs; (17) Animal behavior compared with human behavior; (18) Senescience (theories of the ageing process have been discussed by P.B. Medawar in The Uniqueness of The Individual (London: Methuen, 1957); and A Comfort in The Biology of Senescience (London: Routledge, Kegan Paul, 1956); (19) The Biological Time Bomb Exploded; (20) Reducibility and Emergence; (21) God and Genetics (see esp. Michael Behe’s Darwin’s Black Box).
Plants (science of Botany) has made highly important contributions to Physics--Brownian movement and osmatic pressure are evidence of this--while the fundamental ideas of modern Biology are mainly the work of Zoologists and Microbiologists.
The philosophical mode of this work is an expression of the author’s impatience with postmodern irrationalism. In a later section of this work we shall sketch the influence of Popper, Polanyi, Feyerabend and Kuhn in our 21st century debate between the nature of the scientific endeavor and the feasibility of the Christian faith in “The Faith/Science Debate” (i.e., the anti scientific perspective in which post modern scientific discussion is being made).
(James D. Strauss, Professor Emeritus, Lincoln Christian Seminary, Lincoln, IL 62656)