Most people arriving here will assume I am a Christian or at least a theist. I am not. I am also not an agnostic. To be an agnostic is to be a doubter. But to doubt you must have a certain amount of information. A computer with insufficient data is not agnostic, for instance. A computer does not doubt, it reserves judgment. It refuses to give a conclusion when a conclusion is not in the numbers.
Doesn't it? I suspect that the other three horsemen would have preferred he hadn't said that. Why? Because proof of a superior civilization using the Earth as a dumping ground would be proof of gods, heaven, hell, judgment, and a host of other things. If the Earth is a dumping ground for the unfit, that makes it hell, or very close, and makes the planet of the superior civilization heaven, or very close. It makes the superior civilization a race of gods, since they have powers we do not, are unknown to us, and have long evaded our detection. And to find us unfit, they must judge us, almost as a god does. Since we are born here, not transported bodily here in later life, we are either damned as spirits, which would prove a soul, or we are damned by the lives of our ancestors, which would prove a “sins of the fathers” theory. Regardless, it is clear that Hitchens, no matter his opinion of Christians, has a heavy Biblical residue. Also notice that he believes all this without proof, and without apology for his lack of proof. Clearly, he is allowed to believe what he wants to, while other people can't, even when his beliefs are shadows of theirs. Why he is allowed when they aren't is not so clear, but we may conjecture that it is because he is a loudmouthed bully.
I would also point out that, in his name dropping above, Hitchens has unawares listed four men who were or are not atheists or anti-theists, although his context implies the reverse. All four would agree with my own thesis, and Huxley, the most dogmatic of them, stated that he had “the greatest possible antipathy to all the atheistic and infidel schools.” Einstein, even more famous than Darwin now, is well known for his spiritualism, and he would not have agreed with the crushing cynicism of this quote, much less the drift of Hitchens' greater arguments for atheism or anti-theism.
In his book God is not Great, one of Hitchens' central theses is that religions are contemptuous of free inquiry, intolerant, irrational, and coercive to children. All true, but outside of religions, these things hold as well. These faults are not limited to religious people. Almost all people are contemptuous of free inquiry, intolerant, irrational, and coercive, including of course Christopher Hitchens. Atheists and scientists are often or always irrational and intolerant, and extremely coercive. Why else attack another man's god? Modern science pretends to be free, but it isn't even close. All the contemporary theories are heavily fortified and policed, and they are famous for immediately blacklisting anyone who asks intelligent questions. Modern science consists of only two categories: those who agree with every word of the standard models, and cranks. Science in all fields has ossified into dogma, which is why it has stopped advancing. Physics, for example, hasn't made a jot of theoretical headway in almost a century. It has spent the last eight or nine decades loading the old theories down with mathematical formalisms and other jargon, and building the walls as high as possible. I know this firsthand.
Another thesis in Hitchens' book is that religion is bad for your health, since it is sometimes hostile to modern medicine. Ironic this, coming from a fat drunk who smokes two packs a day. Beyond that, we hope Hitchens got some money from big pharma for his plug. He doesn't mention all the health problems caused by overdrugging the modern person, or the cocktail of chemicals this person swims in daily, from the pollution of air, water and food by science, industry, and military. He apparently expects us to believe that modern health problems are caused mainly by a few “religious nuts” refusing treatment, rather than by a purposeful or negligent general poisoning of the entire population by mercury, lead, fluoride, carbon monoxide, diesel, benzine, PVC, dioxin, Roundup, sulfur dioxide, nitric oxide, and so on.
Hitchens then claims, quoting Laplace, that “He didn't need religion to explain things and neither do we.” Implying that either he or Laplace can answer all the big questions. You don't have to read all of Laplace or Hitchens to see if they can. I will tell you: they don't even try to answer most of the big questions. We know that Hitchens is no theorist or mathematician, so we can ignore him. But Laplace was also no theorist. He was mainly a mathematician, and most of the work he did was in mucking up classical mechanics with more lengthy and obscuring math. His most famous work was in celestial mechanics, where he recast the formulations of Kepler and Newton into differential equations and pushed them in various ways. He claimed to solve old problems with orbits (of Saturn and Jupiter) in this way, although I myself have shown he did not do this. All he did is cover up the real holes in Kepler and Newton, hiding the mistakes under his more lengthy computations. Laplace's work is one of the main historical reasons that celestial mechanics has remained flawed up to the present time.
So Laplace was wrong about even these very limited mechanical problems. About god, he has nothing important to say, as we would expect. I don't know anyone in history who has had anything important to say about god, since we may be quite certain that no one, atheist or theist, knows what they are talking about when they start talking about god or gods, either for or against.
Hitchens also claims that the Old Testament is an unnecessary nightmare. Again, true, but atheists like Hitchens have replaced it with their own nightmare. Modern society is a different nightmare, one we may not dismiss as fiction since we see it for ourselves. Hitchens says himself, in his recent diatribes against funny women, that life is a joke, a bitch, a mess, and so on, but the mess is no longer mainly one of religion. Religion is no longer in charge. Industry is in charge, propelled by corrupt science. If god is dead among the intelligent and elite, as he claims and as I accept, then he cannot lay the modern nightmare at the feet of the Abrahamic religions.
Atheists always take negative proof against a religion as positive proof for themselves, but this is both lazy and false. We see this with Darwinism, DNA, carbon dating, and so on and on. We have proved that the Earth was not created in 4004BC, so we have disproved a certain claim of certain Christians. So what? It isn't much. We have evidence the Earth is more like 4.5 billion years old, but it is not clear how this number, even if it is totally accurate, precludes gods or creation. An Earth that was infinitely old would logically preclude gods or creation, but an Earth with a beginning yields just as well to the story of Genesis as the younger Earth. To be clear, I don't believe in a single solitary claim of Genesis or the rest of the Bible, so do not mistake my argument. But a very old Earth does not score any points for atheists, either. Nebular models and solar disks and gravitational collapses are just as squishy and hypothetical as Genesis, and the origin of life from atoms bumping like poolballs is even more tenuous. Nor does replacing poolball mechanics with probabilities and gauge fields and tensors impress me. None of the new math has come near answering the old questions: we have simply been forbidden from asking them anymore.
Scientists will say that the current models are superior to Genesis, at any rate, since one who accepts Genesis doesn't continue to ask how the Earth evolved. This much is true. Good scientists continue to study, while religious people and bad scientists do not. But this paper is not about good scientists, it is about bloated atheists and bad scientists, the sort that think they already know how things are. They have barebones models of the early Earth, models less than a century old and ever-changing, and they think they can claim with certainty how things are, who exists and who does not, how things got here and where they are going. They think a theory of how things evolved is equivalent to a theory of how things were created. They think a model of a complex twisting molecule is the same as a blueprint for life or a explanation of self-locomotion or a proof of phylogeny. They think that four-vector fields and non-abelian gauge groups and statistical analysis explain existence, complexity, solidity, and change.
To be specific, let us look first at DNA. The princes of DNA like James Watson are among the ugliest scientists that ever existed. Watson is a strange atheist, in that he obviously finds himself to be godlike. But let us look at the actual content of his work. DNA is used by the cells as a source of information. It tells them how to build other parts of the cell as well as the greater body of the organism. But if we look closer, we find very great mysteries, ones that are never mentioned. For a start, the DNA strand itself is built and replicated by enzymes. These enzymes can cut the strand as well as move around the sugars and phosphates that make up the strand. Problem is, to do this, the enzymes must have self-locomotion and a sort of intelligence. The DNA tells the cell what to do, but what tells the enzymes what to do? We have a reductio at precisely this point. We are told that the body and cells do what they do because the DNA instructs them to do it, but why and how do the enzymes do what they do? There is no room for a blueprint inside the tiny enzyme. What propels it? Even more to the point, what propels it in the proper direction, at the proper time, to do the proper thing? I am not proposing that a god tells them, by whispering in their tiny ears, I am just showing that the discovery of DNA is no great step to understanding the origins of life. DNA is just a code, but it takes a sort of intelligence to create a code, another one to replicate it, and a third to decipher it. For this reason, DNA can in no way be a source of intelligence at any level, either cellular or human.
That is why I fail to see how Watson's work as a scientist supports his certainty as an atheist. The discovery of DNA does not even push us a tiny step closer to atheism. A code, any code, is indication of neither theism nor atheism. A code is only a code, and unless some information about gods is encoded directly on the strand, we have proof of nothing. Codes can be manufactured, we know that. Codes may also be natural, although that is only a conjecture at this time. To believe in manufactured codes is easy, since we can manufacture them ourselves. To believe in natural codes is not as easy, since we must be shown how a code can generate itself.
In fact, this is probably the strongest real argument of the theist. The theist states that, intuitively, the self-generated code is impossible to imagine. This intuition is not a proof of course, or even a strong indication, but as a bald postulate, the idea is as solid as any other. How can electrons and protons and mesons and so on, rushing around in gravitational and E/M fields, accidentally stick together or form structures, just as a matter of statistics, forming codes that other accidental conglomerations have a use for? Such a theory is just as fantastic as any other religious assertion, surely. The theist proposes these structures are not accidents, while the atheist demands that they must be. It is fantastic if they are and fantastic if they are not. It is beyond comprehension, proof, or all argument either way. The argument is ultimately beyond all math and logic, because all math and logic must begin with a postulate. This postulate of accident or no accident is the first postulate of all physical theory. It requires an unfounded belief either way.
Now let us move on to Darwinism or evolution. Evolution provides a mechanism for species change, via mutation and selection. This mechanism is both ingenious and well-supported. One must be impressed with Anaximander and Chambers and Wallace and Darwin and all the others who thought of it. The problem is, it is not a complete theory of life on Earth, even as a skeleton. It cannot explain even the broader points of speciation, since it cannot explain how equal environments create unequal selection. To take one example, the Serengeti is a pretty consistent environment. The lions and giraffes and zebras and so on live in the same grass, in the same air, drink the same water, under the same trees. What, precisely, caused them to evolve so differently, not as individuals, but as species? Mutation happens to individuals, not to species. A mutation happens to a gene, which is expressed in a specific offspring or set of offspring. These offspring, if superior, then deliver the gene to the whole herd over time, which then disseminates it further. So far, so good. But return to the individual offspring. Say we are evolving a giraffe by this method. The required mutation is then a long neck. But this mutation is only useful to a creature that is already a giraffe or pre-giraffe. The mutation will not help a pre-lion or a pre-zebra, since the lion eats meat, not leaves, and the long neck would just slow the zebra down. The mutation is useful only to an animal that is already living under trees, already trying to reach higher leaves. But if it could not reach the leaves before the mutation, why was it there? Was it just hanging around, looking up at those unused leaves, waiting for a mutation? The combination of specific mutation and specific environment is so unlikely that even great time cannot explain it.
What about the orchid with a four-inch tube, which requires a fly with a four-inch nose to pollinate it? The mutations cannot take great time to sync up, they must do so immediately or one or both species will fail. If the flower mutates to a five inch tube first, the fly cannot reach the nectar and quits visiting it. If the fly mutates to a five inch nose first, the pollen is not deposited on him, and the flower again fails. Neither species can wait around for accidental mutations of just the right sort. They must evolve together, and this is so unlikely as a matter of mutation statistics that it must show up the theory as a whole.
This is not to say that natural selection is wrong, but it is far from complete. Even the selection itself is not understood. Arthur Koestler pointed out that natural selection is very near a tautology, and his argument is hard to counter. Useful traits are useful because they are selected, and they are selected because they are useful. Not a theory with a lot of content. For instance, since it is the environment that selects the useful mutations, we must assume that the environment likes the mutated organism more than the pre-mutated organism. The new organism is “stronger” or “fitter”, which must mean it is better adapted to the current environment. If so, why did the environment put up with the weaker pre-mutation organism? As we keep turning back the clock, we get to organisms that are less and less fit, but still viable. By this way of looking at it, history should be a straight chronological progression from less fit to more fit (minus environmental cataclysms). Is this what we see in the fossil record? Not really. It is not clear that later species are more perfect than earlier species. We can't see what criteria nature is using. You see, we have no method for determining “fitness” except survival. “This individual or species survived, therefore nature must have preferred it, therefore it must be more perfect.” It is circular. If you don't know nature's criteria, then you don't really know much about selection. You only give a name to a mechanism. As Osborn put it long ago, “The causes of the evolution of life are as mysterious as the law of evolution is certain.”
Another problem is the loss of sexual selection. Although Darwin devoted an entire book to it (The Descent of Man, 1871), sexual selection has since been mostly re-absorbed into natural selection. Wallace disagreed with sexual selection, especially the power of choice of females, and important experiments have shown that females of many species cannot differentiate between “plumaged” and non-plumaged males. This begs for another scientific explanation of bright colors and ornaments seen in nature, an explanation that has not yet arrived. Rather than become more rigorous, modern evolutionary theory has become less rigorous, and negative data is often buried or lost.
We see this again with the lack of new species and the gaps between species. Although Darwin claimed that nature made no jumps (natura non facit saltum), we do not see a continuous progression of states between species, either in life or in the fossil record. Nor have we been able to create a new species either by push breeding or by accelerating mutations by X-rays or other means. Recently (2002), in experiments with yeast, scientists were able to create a new species by cross-breeding two species of yeast. When the new individual auto-fertilized itself, it was able to continue the new species. The problem here is that no higher organisms can auto-fertilize. Even the new yeast could not propagate with other members of its parent species, and cross-bred higher forms are almost always infertile. If they can breed with the parent stock, they are not a new species, by definition. If they can't, they die out. It would require two simultaneous cross-breedings of precisely the same sort, creating two members of the new species, each of the opposite sex, and both fertile. This hasn't been achieved in breeding experiments, which are controlled, and it is exponentially more unlikely to happen in nature, where multiple viable cross-breedings would have to take place at precisely the same time and place, purely by chance. So this experiment is limited to yeasts and other auto-fertilizers, and cannot be a general proof of evolution.
This non facit saltum problem then leads us to the Cambrian explosion, which Darwin found to be a major problem, and which is still a major problem. Evolutionists like Dawkins pretend to a surety they don't have, and we see this again with the Burgess shale, which was not studied closely until the 1970's. Much of our best data is very young, that is to say, and we need far more data than we have. We are only beginning to be able to theorize intelligently, and I would say that very much of current theory is just speculation. As with black holes, our theory has so far outstripped our data. People have written books they basically had no right to be writing.
To get a taste of this, you only have to read the page at Wikipedia on the Cambrian explosion. Even now, we have far more theories than we have data, and those who had thought evolution had been set in stone since the time of Darwin will be shocked to find the theory is still so embryonic to this day. We actually know almost nothing about how the Earth has evolved, either regarding geology or speciation or anything else.
Again, I am not proposing that evolution is wrong or suggesting a return to any form of intelligent design. I am not proposing that God or any gods caused the Cambrian explosion, created plumage for strictly aesthetic reasons or their own pleasure, or that God or gods create or accelerate new species after a cataclysm. I am not proposing that God or gods monitor the progress of every bird and flower, to keep them in proper relative form. I am simply pointing out that our science in all fields and subfields is very incomplete, not to say underdeveloped, and that scientists, and therefore atheists, should be less strident. Religious people are often or usually very ignorant, it is true, but scientists are only marginally less ignorant. Even the smartest of us know almost nothing about the universe.
But the greatest problem with evolution is contained in its name. It is a theory of evolution, not of creation or birth or incipience. It proposes a mechanism for how life changes, not how it begins. To be a variant answer to Genesis, it would have to propose a mechanism for the beginnings of life, and this it does not even pretend to do. The Earth is not infinitely old, therefore there must have been some beginning to life. Short of spores arriving from outerspace or a miraculous lightning strike, we still have no viable theory for this. We have not been able to bombard inorganic molecules with cosmic rays or any other field that has turned it into living matter. We have not been able to build even a protozoan or a virus or an enzyme from the ground up, from atoms or elements, or to diagram how nature did it. We don't know how the mitochondria got into the cell or why, or where they were before the cell. For all these reasons and many others, it is strictly illogical for the scientists to force evolution upon religious people as a counter-explanation to their own creation myths. Since evolution has never been an explanation of creation, evolution is not in necessary conflict with any creation theory. Creationists, although often annoying, are not preventing anyone from studying the origins of life on this planet. Their meddling with grade school textbooks in the red states is often absurd, but this has not, and could not, affect research at the graduate and post-graduate levels in the various disciplines, where it actually gets done. We are not losing large numbers of potential scientists to fundamentalist Christian families, and we may not be losing any. Science cannot force families to raise their children on accepted principles without becoming even more fascist than it already is. Biologists, chemists, physicists, engineers, and geologists should simply pursue their work and leave the religious people to their own devices. Until the Christians invade the science departments, it is simply unnecessary to debate them or berate them.
Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins and others often pretend that they are only in a defensive posture, and that their attacks upon religion are only counter-attacks, but I don't buy it. Although I was born and raised in the Bible Belt, I have always felt more pressed by the dogma of modern science than the dogma of modern religion. I have felt more keenly and more often the peer pressure and judgment of zealous and protective scientists than the scorn of fundamentalist preachers. It is easy for those who wish to avoid the prayer meetings and the proselytizing. In the universities these people play a small role. Not so the scientific fundamentalists who run the academic world with an iron fist. In the science departments you are expected to “shut up and calculate.” One serious question makes you a pest and two serious questions makes you a dangerous person. A truly sharp mind is not an asset, it is threat to the careers of your professors. They want students that are sharp enough to assist them in their research, but not sharp enough to see through them and their equations. And if a student can see through the equations of their heroes (like Laplace), alarm bells go off all over the academic world. Science is not looking for the next Newton, it is looking to get funded again next year.
Just as it isn't really medical refuseniks who are the threat to health in the modern world, it isn't the fundamentalist Christians who are the real threat to science. It is entrenched scientists who are the threat to scientific advancement. It is entrenched physicists who blockade progress in physics, entrenched mathematicians who blockade progress in math, and so on. Christians simply don't have the power or the position or the authority to block anything at the university or institutional level. Only a few tenured professors who have published widely have that power, and they know how to use it. It is not the page on Jesus or Moses or Yahweh or Mohammed at Wikipedia that stops all progress in particle physics, it is the pages on particle physics that do that. And the page on particle physics is there to do just that. Wikipedia was created for just that purpose, and that page was created for just that purpose. It was written by insiders to sell their theories to the public. Like the theory of evolution, each scientific theory in each field is sold as true and complete and verified, although it never is. Each theory is an embryonic theory, full of holes, and verified only in small part, if at all. Each theory is full of contradictions and paradoxes and inconsistencies, and, as written at Wikipedia, each theory is padded and fluffed with false or fake equations and outright lies. But of course you aren't told any of this.
And that brings us to the last fault of the prominent atheists. Atheists like Christopher Hitchens and Penn Jillette and Richard Dawkins and Ricky Gervais always perch assuredly on top of the work of scientists, without knowing anything about that work except its fame. The perfect example of this is the oft-mentioned Stephen Hawking. These atheists rarely ever quote him, since he is mostly unquotable; they simply point to him as an ally, an ally no one (they think) can contradict, since no one can understand him. He seems like a firm footing because he is universally thought to be smart. But I would be willing to bet that few of these atheists have read Hawking, and that none of them have read beyond his coffee-table books or can explain his theories sensibly (or even insensibly, as he does). Like most modern pseudo-intellectuals on both sides of every fence, they know nothing concrete about Relativity, QED, quarks, string theory or anything else, but this does not stop them from name dropping and using these theories as ballast. They can't have read Hawking closely, even beyond the equations, because they seem unaware that he has distanced himself from atheism. Few of the great scientists or mathematicians that atheists perch upon were actually atheists. Newton was not an atheist, nor were Kepler or Euler or even Laplace. As I showed above, Hitchens perches heavily upon Laplace, even quoting him. But it turns out that Laplace cannot be confirmed to have said this at all. The quote Hitchens uses can be traced only back to E. T. Bell in 1937, who provided no source.* The famous scientists were most often real scientists (until recently), which means they could probably see that atheism was not a scientific stance.
In summation, the scientists should stick to science and the critics should stick to what they know: politics and pop culture. Richard Dawkins, for instance, has more than enough to do in filling the holes of evolution. He does not need to waste time debating charlatans and mental midgets in Kansas and Montana. The young-Earth creationist view that he has spent so much time ridiculing was not making any headway before he came along, and if it is now finding a small foothold in the small towns, it may because he has helped publicize it. As for the atheists of all sorts and levels, scientist and layman, they should apply the same standards they apply to creationists to themselves. They should be entirely more parsimonious in their use of the words “knowledge” and “certainty”. They should recognize that their elevation above the ignorant masses is not nearly as great as they imagine, since their theories are slender reeds, not marble columns. Finally, they should recognize that atheism is a belief just as firmly planted in irrationality, in ego and desire, as theism. Atheism has no proof and no possible proof. It is unscientific. Like all human beliefs, it is a hunch based on a tissue, a guess based on a smear, a conjecture based on a passing mist.
*http://www.commentarymagazine.com/blogs/index.php/johnson/551. It required the help of one of Hitchens' new allies at the neoconservative Commentary magazine, Daniel Johnson, to bring this to our attention.
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