We’ve done the hard work, so pulling it all together into a single, big-picture argument is now quite easy and straightforward, as follows:
Arguments — We learned what propositions are, that they are statements that can be either true or false. We also learned that we process sets of propositions as “arguments,” which can be either deductive (guaranteed conclusions) or inductive (likely conclusions).
Basic Logic — The analysis of arguments follows certain necessary rules, which we call “inferences,” and we examined some inferences that are always good and some that are always bad. We talked about the fact that the good inference rules arise from “axioms” that cannot be questioned, because you must use them in your process of questioning them. Finally, we talked about the difference between “form” and “content,” where the formal relations are based in the inferences themselves, while the content adds in facts about the states of affairs in the world.
The Ethics of Belief — We read and discussed the seminal article by W.K. Clifford, entitled “The Ethics of Belief.” This was our springboard into the notion of “intellectual honesty,” which we have treated as a touchstone throughout this seminar. Intellectual honesty means always seeking for the best evidence regarding any propositional content in our webs of beliefs. That seeking means: trying to give an opposing view its best case; not ignoring any available evidence, not smoothing over doubts by refusing to question, actively seeking evidence that could threaten our view rather than only seeing evidence that supports it, and recognizing that there is virtually nothing that we can claim to know with absolute certainty. Thus, an intellectually honest person realizes that assessing argumentation is a lifelong process, as he/she is forever trying to assemble the best “cumulative case” arguments on any given subject.
Types of Evidence — We talked about the difference between rationalism and empiricism, and we included revelation as a type of empirical evidence. We recognized that different types of evidence are appropriate to different sorts of questions, and we talked about the ongoing effort to maintain consistency as we collate evidence of different sorts. We also introduced the crucial distinction between a priori (logically prior to experience) and a posteriori (empirical — logically derived from experience) knowledge. Finally, we recognized that the faculty of reasoning plays two roles: 1) it can produce knowledge; 2) it adjudicates among all forms of knowledge insofar as it holds knowledge to the rules of logic.
Introduction to Philosophy of Science — We introduced the relation between empirical evidence and scientific theories as being necessarily in conditional form, and we concluded that “verificationism” (with evidence in the antecedent position) was doomed due to the “underdetermination of theories by facts). Thus, along with Karl Popper, we hold that what distinguishes science from non-science is a commitment to “falsificationism,” where theories are in the antecedent positions and the modus tollens inference type can falsify a theory if the empirical evidence is not as the theory predicted. We considered the perspectives of the physicist, Richard Feynman, and we started to develop the distinction between Truth (the way things really are) and Pragmatism (what seems to work). We put the proposition on the table that science is necessarily pragmatic, so that it is not truly doing metaphysics (the study of what really exists).
Philosophy of Science Continued — We further talked about “underdeterminism,” and, considering Thomas Kuhn’s book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, we realized that the problem of underdeterminism is worse than originally thought. In fact, an infinite number of theories are consistent with any particular set of empirical evidence. We recognized that science cannot in principle be doing metaphysics and that pragmatism cannot equate to truth. Thus, science is not on nearly the lofty pedestal that most people think it is. It is best when doing engineering and at its worst when it tries to pretend that it is doing metaphysics.
Introduction to Evolutionary Theory — We introduced “Darwinism” and noted that it has two components: 1) small, random mutations providing the “new genetic information” upon which change is based; 2) natural selection “filtering” those changes to determine which will “make it” and which will fail to be reproduced.
Important Terms — We introduced and defined the terms: “materialism” and “naturalism,” and used these to compare the theory of evolution with the “Argument From Design.” Living things appear to be designed by and intelligent designer, but Richard Dawkins argues that there is only an appearance of design, as evolutionary theory purports to explain how this appearance can emerge from the evolutionary process that is unguided, uncaring, and entirely material and naturalistic.
Modern Evolutionary Theory (neo-Darwinism) — We further enhanced our understanding of contemporary evolutionary theory by discussing what the “neo” (new) is in “neo-Darwinism.” Darwin did not understand genetics, but neo-Darwinism adds to natural selection the ideas from contemporary genetics, thereby attempting to explain “new genetic information” emerging from mutations according to Mendel’s laws. This understanding was our springboard into various efforts to rigorously define “evolution.” We discovered the so-called “micro-evolution,” which is frequently referred to as “adaptation” is much rarer than evolutionists typically cite. We noted how evolutionists help themselves to definitions of “evolution” that enable them to say, “It’s happening everywhere before our very eyes,” when in fact what “is happening” cannot even strictly count as adaptation, much less genuine evolution. All that “is happening” is statistical variance regarding a given trait in a population; the actual genome of the species is not changing, so there is nothing “new” to get “filtered” by natural selection. Thus, not even the first step is taken toward the holy grail of evolutionary theory: A speciation event.
Natural Selection — We considered whether or not “survival of the fittest” amounts to a tautology (an truth of mere logical-relation, with zero real-world content), and we concluded that calling natural selection a tautology is a very weak attack on evolutionary theory. However, that said, it turns out that evolutionists have a very, very hard time defining exactly what is changing as the result of whatever “mechanism” natural selection is! They have a very hard time defining the mechanism of natural selection and what that mechanism actually works on within a species. Evolutionists are between a rock and a hard place: The rock is that they need “evolution” to mean a genuine change in the genome of a species; The hard place is that their best definition of “evolution” necessarily refers only to statistical variance in trait-distribution in a population. The two ideas are not even related, much less the same thing. So, it remains an open question whether or not there even is a “mechanism” of natural selection and whether that “mechanism,” whatever it is, has the power to produce actually genome change.
Speciation Events — This is the holy grail of evolutionary theory, which must demonstrate how the early single-celled organisms “branched” and “branched” into the vast array of “reproductively isolated” species we see today. We know that humans and elephants are “reproductively isolated” and so are clearly very different sorts of creatures! Evolutionary theory must explain (and demonstrate) how this vast difference emerged from the earliest forms of life. We looked at what taxonomic classification is and where the notion of a “species” fits into this scheme. And we noted another rock and hard place: The rock is that evolutionists need an undifferentiated gradation of life-forms, with each one clearly “flowing” into the next; The hard place is that they also need to have “hard breaks” between species, and they need to explain how these hard breaks emerged. So, they need an account of smooth genetic “flow” that results in hard species breaks. We discussed what a “species” even is, and we looked at four major “concepts” of speciation. Ultimately we settled upon the “Biological Species Concept” (BSC) as being the only one that could possibly account for the “reproductive isolation” we actually do observe in species.
Speciation Events Continued — With our BSC firmly in hand, we then ask leading evolutionist researchers what evidence and inferences they can produce that speciation occurs according to the BSC. We considered the best examples offered by the leading researchers (we are not straw-manning the evolutionist position!). So, we considered the best examples of so-called speciation that are employed in the literature, with the so-called “ring species” being the most compelling of them. What we discovered is that there is not a single example of a speciation event that withstands scrutiny and further research. The leading researchers in their various examples have all themselves repudiated their own initial research findings, and a number of them now flatly say that there is no speciation taking place “before our very eyes” at all. We simply do not observe any BSC speciation events. So, researchers say, “Speciation takes a very long time, which is why we can’t observe it. Fortunately, we see vast evidence of speciation in the fossil record.” So, we turn to the fossil record to examine the best evidence by the best researchers there.
Dawkins’ Orthodoxy vs. Gould and Eldredge — Evolutionists expected to find smooth, continuous gradations between fossilized forms. Instead, we find jumps and gaps between forms. The record has no smooth transitions, only leaps and gaps. Richard Dawkins exhibits great bravado as he minimizes the “gaps” and continues to claim that the gaps are few, that there really is a record of smooth transitions between forms. But the problem of the leaps and gaps is so fundamental and widely-known that theorists have attempted to systematically account for them. Evolutionists have given up on “filling in” the leaps and gaps, as most of the world has been “mined” for fossils, with the same exact result everywhere: leaps and gaps between forms. So, Gould and Eldredge developed the theory of “punctuated equilibrium” to explain how speciation was really taking place all along, but it was doing it in such a way that the transitional forms were not getting into the fossil record. This theory has received very mixed reviews, even among evolutionists. Furthermore, most scientists hang their hopes on a few well-known fossil “lineages,” and these are the “lineages” that make it into all the textbooks and popular accounts of evolutionary theory. So, we closely examined the best and most touted of these “lineages,” which is the so-called evolution of the whale. We found this highly-touted example to be a dismal failure, with even leading evolutionists flatly stating that the fossil record does not demonstrate whale evolution. So, the leaps and gaps remain and are a huge problem for evolutionary theory, despite Dawkins’ bravado and hand-waving on the subject.
Punctuated Equilibrium — Looking closely at the theory of punctuated equilibrium, we found serious problems with it as well. Worst is that it is a pseudo-scientific theory that cannot in principle be falsified, because its most basic foundation is to “predict” that the fossil record will present exactly zero evidence that impinges upon the theory. The theory “predicts” the very lack of evidence for evolutionary theory that we do in fact find in the fossil record. So, the theory is presumed true because there is exactly zero evidence for it! We then looked at more classic “lineages” that could possibly be consistent with punctuated equilibrium (or even evolutionary theory in general): horses, mice, cichlid fish, and so on. Just as with whales, we see no actual “lineages.” And we continue to find exactly what punctuated equilibrium “predicts,” namely exactly zero evidence in favor of the theory. So, biologists look to paleontologists for the evidence that speciation events have ever occurred, because biologists do not see speciation among actually living species. Meanwhile, paleontologists presume that the public claims of biologist are true, that “speciation is occurring everywhere before our very eyes,” because paleontologists do not see solid evidence of speciation in the fossil record. We we take a “big picture” view and consider the best evidences of both the “living and the dead,” we find that there is exactly zero evidence that speciation has ever occurred, which, ironically, is just what punctuated equilibrium “predicts.”
Scientism/Naturalism in Crisis — At this point we are able to conclude that, in Kuhnian terms, the naturalistic/materialistic account of the emergence of the species is entirely inadequate. The best evidences in favor of it fall flat, and the inferences and definitions upon which it rests are strained and inconsistent. We fail to find the evidences we are looking for when we ask evolutionists to “verify” their theory. And we find exactly the evidence we would expect to find to “falsify” evolutionary theory. In Kuhnian terms, evolutionary theory and naturalism in general are filled with “anomalies.” Does this mean that Denton is correct and that evolutionary theory is “in crisis”? The answer is “no,” because: 1) evolutionary scientists are so specialized that they lack the “big picture” needed to see just how broken the theory is; 2) evolutionists will not just abandon their commitment to naturalism, even if they come to conclude that neo-Darwinism is false. Even if neo-Darwinism comes to be seen as false, evolutionists will necessarily generate some new “paradigm” that is also naturalistic. So, all that we have accomplished thus far in our seminar shows the anomalies and inadequacies of neo-Darwinism in particular, but we cannot call that theory “falsified,” and we cannot claim that naturalism is a failure. We have only pointed out vast and serious problems for both neo-Darwinism and naturalism. To go further than that, we next need to point out phenomena in the known universe that naturalism cannot in principle account for. Only then will we be able to safely conclude that naturalistic science is not doing genuine metaphysics, which will sustain the conclusion that the best “cumulative case” favors an “supernatural” intelligent designer instead of purely naturalistic processes. To accomplish this, we turn out attention to several phenomena in the world that everybody agrees really exist, and we show how these in-principle defy any naturalistic account: Self-conscious minds, information, and various abstract objects.
Introduction to Philosophy of Mind 1 — We discussed materialistic monism vs. dualism of mind, defining terms and explaining the rationalist vs. empiricist approaches to explaining self-consciousness. We then introduced the approach taken by Immanuel Kant, which is neither rationalist nor empiricist.
Philosophy of Mind Continued 2 — We explained in some detail why both David Hume and Kant rejected rationalism, and we talked about why Kant came to believe that empirical accounts were also doomed. Kant asked the fateful question: “How is experience itself possible?” Empiricism tries to account for self-consciousness by appealing to empirical evidence. Kant asks: “How is even that evidence possible in the first place?” That question leads Kant deeper into the rabbit hole than we can fully go in this seminar, but we paint in broad strokes what Kant concluded and why. Kant ultimately proved that all of experience (including our experiences of our own self-consciousness) are possible only because there really exist “things in themselves” that we can only experience as “appearances.” These appearances are in space and/or time, and they are “formed up” by a conceptual framework that Kant calls the “Categories.” We can never experience “things in themselves,” because by the time we have any experiences of anything, these experiences are always and only of appearances, which have already been affected our imposition of space, time, and the Categories. So, all experience is of appearances! This includes our experiences of our own self-consciousness!
Philosophy of Mind Continued 3 — We now went into quite some depth about Kant’s views establishing that experience is always and only of appearances. We also introduced the notion of the particular “box” our reality necessarily looks like, and we introduced Kant’s notion of the “unity of apperception” with really is “the mind” that we each have that is necessarily composing our “box” of empirical reality. We noted that all empirical theories of mind help themselves to a unity of consciousness that they actually have no right to presume! Thus, all empirical theories of mind already rest (without realizing it) on Kant, as only Kant has explained this necessary unity of consciousness.
Philosophy of Mind Continued 4 — We went into some of Kant’s specific arguments, showing that space and time are not features of “things in themselves” but that they are the necessary features of all of our experiences and knowledge. In particular we looked at how Kant establishes that consciousness cannot be a “stream of consciousness of particular experiences,” because each particular experience would be nothing to us unless it were already “synthesized” by what Kant calls “the unity of apperception.” So a “stream of experiences” presupposes a unity of consciousness in which the experiences can even be considered as a “unified stream.” Thus, the empirical/materialistic account of consciousness falls far short, as it really just helps itself to presumptions that it cannot in principle explain. This “unity of apperception” is also the “processor” for “information” to which we turn our attention next.
Introduction to Information Theory — We looked at various definitions and accounts of what information even is. We found that the idea that information is “all of the real states of affairs in the world” cannot be correct, because that account cannot differentiate between genuine information and non-information. We noted that the SETI project makes that very distinction in its search for extraterrestrial intelligence. We then distinguished between syntax and semantics, noting that no purely syntactical account of information could suffice, because information presumes content that cannot be captured nor conveyed purely syntactically (our SSL randomness example). We discovered the genuine information is: Semantical content intentionally formed and conveyed according to syntactical rules.
Information Theory Continued — We carefully considered all three elements of information: syntax, semantics, and intentionality, showing how each one is necessary to information. We noted that for syntax to “be anything” recognizable, the person receiving the “message” must already know the “rules of the game” in which the structure of the syntax can be meaningful. We noted that intentionality must be present, as even the SETI project recognizes, as distinguishing between “noise” and a very complicated message presumed intentionality. And, finally, we discovered that semantics is a very, very thorny problem for all empirical/naturalistic accounts of information, as, ultimately, semantics depends upon the real existence of abstract objects: propositions.
Abstract Objects — There are many sorts of abstract objects, such as geometrical and mathematical objects. But we focused our attention of one form of abstract object: propositions. We discussed how meaning cannot emerge naturalistically, as empiricists presume. We distinguished between nominalism and realism regarding abstract objects and then talked about Church’s Translation Argument in which Alonzo Church argues convincingly for realism regarding propositions. Because information presupposes semantics, and semantics presupposes realism about the abstract objects that are propositions, Church compellingly proved that realism about propositions is the only way to account for the informational content of sentences we can translate between natural languages. But realism about propositions is really a supernaturalism about information, and that is perfectly consistent with Kant’s metaphysics: some propositions are “axiomatic” and are among the “Categories” Kant proved make up the “box” in which we know anything.
Conclusions — And here we are at the end of the seminar!
Neo-Darwinism could well be recognized as a falsified theory. It would be except for two main reasons: 1) Scientists are specialists, so they think that the problems with the theory they see are not indicative of the way the entire theory is (riddled with problems); 2) Kuhn is correct regarding paradigms, which is to say that scientists won’t abandon the sinking ship of neo-Darwinism without there being a “better” alternative to move over to. The scientific commitment to naturalism is both predictable and definitive of “normal science.” So we ought not to expect science to ever become “supernaturalistic” in its approach; it will and must remain naturalistic in its approach. Thus, there is in principle no “alternative paradigm” than naturalism for science. And at present, there is no naturalistic alternative paradigm to neo-Darwinism.
This means that the inadequacies we are able to see in naturalism in general and neo-Darwinism in particular cannot in principle act as falsifications from science’s point of view, nor should they. What the inadequacies should reveal, however, is that science cannot in principle do metaphysics. It can only do engineering, which is plenty impressive enough. We, however, recognize why scientists think they are doing metaphysics, and we applaud them to keep thinking that way, even though we know that they are only doing engineering. Their very “metaphysical” perspective motivates them to keep doing engineering, and we all reap the benefits of their discovering how things seem to work.
But there is indeed a deep divide between science and genuine metaphysics, and we can only use philosophy to do metaphysics. Even religion and theology are just philosophy, with divinity as its subject matter. So, in the end, to do metaphysics just is to employ the philosophical method; as thinking, discovering human beings, we have nothing else to work with!
To do metaphysics, we must establish its principles, which is precisely what Kant accomplished. Nobody before or since Kant has come up with a better account of metaphysics, and Kant flatly proved many aspects of his account. That account leads to a number of implications:
- Genuine metaphysics is constrained by a “box,” yet necessarily presupposes the existence of “things in themselves.”
- Experience itself presupposes a “unity of apperception” which can never be an object of experience, because trying to “capture” it in an experience presupposes its activities, so “it” is always “one step” ahead of every attempt to “see it for what it really is.”
- The “unity of apperception” necessarily exists, yet can never be the object of empirical study; so science can never even acknowledge it, much less explain it.
- Knowledge for us, then, is necessarily only the knowledge of appearances.
- Genuine metaphysics, then, demonstrates the real existence of entities that are supernatural by definition, and thus cannot have arisen by naturalistic processes.
- That fact explains why naturalistic processes cannot in principle account for the existence of self-consciousness, information, or abstract objects.
- What we really are as human beings necessarily rests upon the “supernatural,” which means that naturalism in metaphysics cannot be correct or adequate.
And these implications demonstrate that naturalistic science can never in principle do genuine metaphysics, nor can it ever in principle account for some well-known empirical phenomena, because the very empirical evidence it would use to explore these phenomena presupposes the non-empirical evidence that Kant established. Thus, science will never, in principle, account for the real existence of self-conscious minds, information, or abstract objects.
We are in a “box” of appearances, and among these appearances are: ourselves as thinking things, information and our processing of it, and abstract objects. The “box” itself presupposes the existence of “things in themselves” about which we can know nothing (because all of our knowledge is of appearances). The very existence of the “box” presupposes a “box maker” that is “above and beyond” our “box,” because we certainly are not “box makers!”
But if the “natural” is the contents of our “box,” then what we mean by “supernatural” just is “that which is outside our box.” Then, the “supernatural” really exists; it’s just that we can never experience it directly. We can only know how that “supernatural” appears to us.
Science, by its very nature, denies appeal to the supernatural and asserts that talking about the “box” is enough. However, we now know that the “box” presupposes things that science cannot touch nor talk about. Yet, the supernatural is the basis upon which the natural rests. And philosophical discussions about the supernatural are the only ways to address and explain why the “box” is what it is for us. Furthermore, such discussions prove what the limits of metaphysics must be: we can only know our “box,” and we can know the lines dividing our “box” from the things we can never know outside the “box” as long as we remain inside it. By denying any limits, and by denying the real existences that make up our “box,” science arrogantly goes beyond its ken and asserts metaphysical claims to which it cannot in principle be entitled.
By recognizing these facts, we can have a firm foundation for doing religious metaphysics, as we can look for religious theories that best cohere with the nature of the “box” we are in, as we see the indelible thumbprint of the “box maker” everywhere in the structure of the “box” itself. This structure was not broken in the Fall, despite the fact that the empirical world was. The structure of the “box” remains the clearest thumbprint of the Designer, and it what I believe Paul is talking about when he says in Romans 1:20 —
For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.
These “invisible attributes” can be seen in “what has been made,” namely: our “box” itself, within which all of empirical reality exists.
So, we are literally urged to explore the structure of our “box” to see God’s “invisible attributes,” His power, and, most importantly, His divine nature!
How do we understand God, according to Romans 1:20? We understand Him through looking closely at “what has been made.” We then have a basis upon which to compare various accounts of so-called revelation in the form of many different putative sacred texts. When we find a sacred text that coheres with the nature of “what has been made,” we have found one that is not “falsified by the evidence,” and such a text is worthy of our further study.
Please notice that this seminar has not established a dichotomy: Evolutionary theory vs. Christianity! The failure of current evolutionary theory will still leave scientists and other naturalistically-minded people searching for some other naturalistic account. And even those people that do see supernaturalism in “what has been made” (as they should, if they are being intellectually honest) are not immediately compelled to believe in the Bible as a sacred text. Perhaps their own (something other than Christiantiy) form of religion seems to them to cohere just fine with “what has been made” as they see it. So, the point is that it is a lengthy argumentation process, gathering and assessing a wide spectrum of evidence, to get from the failure of naturalistic accounts of origins to a well-substantiated belief in Christianity.
Let us exhibit systematic and very careful intellectual honesty in our own searching for truth and in our proselytizing others to draw them to the truth as we believe it. Remember that we all, “they” included, are trying to sort through a complicated web of beliefs, and we must never feel “comfortable” enough that we stop searching. Our “box” limits us, as we are not gods! But it is plenty vast and complicated enough to give us more than a lifetime of evidence and analysis!