Showing posts with label Evolutionary Materialism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Evolutionary Materialism. Show all posts

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Armed and Dangerous

In the ancient world, it was understood that the ordinary condition of people was one of delusion. In the wisdom traditions, this was encoded in various symbolic terms and allegories  -  but the underlying idea was that 'man is a stranger to himself' and lived in an unreal world of dreams and fantasies, which he mistakes for reality (for example, the Allegory of the Cave, in The Republic). And even though a person might have had great learning, skill and fortune, as long as s/he remained in 'ignorance', in this philosophical sense, this remained the case.

It seems to me that most of what passes for philosophy in this day and age is simply a way of rationalizing this state of affairs. Materialism, which is basically the rejection of any real philosophy, is the determination that the world of appearance is the only world, the real world, and that the conscious ego and the forces it can master is the real self. Any notion of a truth that has to be striven for or aspired to through self abnegation and renunciation is laughingly dismissed.

Those who propose this are what the gnostics call the 'somatics' or 'hylics'. They are the common man, the puttajana, the unreformed, the mass of people. The aim of post-Enlightenment philosophy seems to be making the world safe for the ignorant: enabling you to stay in your slumber of delusion, while enjoying the illusory pleasures that it provides to the utmost degree. Of course, this situation is completely unsustainable, and the source of a great deal of our current crises, large and small. But you can't explain this to anyone - because they don't really grasp what it is that they don't understand! Any attempt to explain it meets a barrage of fire which is designed to preserve the egoic illusion. And as this egoic illusion is now equipped with weapons of absolutely unprecedented potency, the world is indeed on a knife edge. We have generations of people who have no real idea of the distinctive nature of wisdom, yet who have the most advanced technology the world has ever seen.

One grand irony in all this is that science itself has actually seen through the delusion of materialism. Science has dissolved matter into probability waves, and realized that 'the observer' occupies the pivotal role in the creation of the world of appearances. So this materialism is no longer even really supported by the science that it trumpets to everyone. But try telling that to anyone - it is taboo, forbidden. The lords of this world won't allow it. So, the problem then becomes that materialist philosophy doesn't comprehend what it is ignorant of. As far as it is concerned, there is only scientific knowledge, even though it is by now obvious that the world itself, the entire arena of scientific discovery, does not contain its own ground or its own origin. The profound nature of this shortfall is not admitted, however. The best we have is 'fallabalistic and approximative hyptheses' which will forever be subject to falsification.

So in this mentality, the very absence of wisdom, in the sense of the vision of the eternal, is now called 'wisdom'. We are told to 'live in the moment' - quite a different thing to the 'eternal now' of the sage - because life is only a moment, a flash of light in the eternal blackness of the material universe. But those who propound this teaching have no idea of what it is they are criticizing, having never gone through the dedication and effort required to actually ask the question about the nature of ultimate reality properly. So they are teaching ignorance as wisdom. That is the nature of the age we live in.

It is interesting that I find the following statement in two completely different sources. The first is by A W Tozer, an American evangelical, but a very unusual and insightful one, in my opinion:

There are two spirits abroad in the earth: the spirit that works in the children of disobedience and the Spirit of God. These two can never be reconciled in time or in eternity. The spirit that dwells in the once-born is forever opposed to the Spirit that inhabits the heart of the twice-born. This hostility began somewhere in the remote past before the creation of man and continues to this day. The modern effort to bring peace between these two spirits is not only futile but contrary to the moral laws of the universe.

A W Tozer, The Once-Born and the Twice-Born.

Then I found this statement on a Sikh website:

It is repeatedly indicated in the Gurbani that there are only two different groups of people living together on earth: Gurmukhs (followers of Divine Hukam, Truth (ਸਚ), Wisdom of the Gurbani ...) and Manmukhs (deniers or opposers of Divine Hukam, Truth (ਸਚ), Wisdom of the Gurbani ...).

Thursday, January 26, 2012

My Problem with Evolutionary Materialism

I have no argument with the facts of evolution, but with the meaning imputed to those facts.

The problem is not that I think evolution didn’t occur, or that life did not evolve pretty much as the scientific account says that it has. You can't argue with the fossil record.  So I have no sympathy whatever with religious fundamentalism. But I think that Darwinism has developed into a fundamentalist orthodoxy in its own right. The problem is evolutionary materialism, insofar as this purports to be an account of ‘who we are’ and then proceeds to explain this in terms of purely natural or material processes, knowable in principle by scientific means. I have debated this a number of times on the Forum, but many people just don't understand that life is something other than physics and chemistry.

Here is a question I would like to pose to those who propose abiogenesis, the idea that life spontaneously arises as the result of purely material causes. Generally if you ask a person who holds this view why such a thing occurred, the answer must surely be that it occurred 'for no reason'. If there is a 'why' then there is an implied telos, some purpose for which this occurred. Of course, the whole point of the purely physicalist account is to demonstrate that such things happen for no purpose. There is no purpose for anything to occur, other than direct material causation. So the implicit contradiction within any theory of abiogenesis is that it seems to be trying to answer the question as to 'why did life occur', while at the same time denying that there is really any reason for it!  Because to ask the 'why' of life is to leave science and to venture into philosophy and religion. This is why Dawkins, for example, must always denigrate any notion of 'purpose'. So the very attempt to 'explain' the origin of life in a scientific sense, simply is an exercise self-contradiction. It is the exact point where scientific research morphes into materialist ideology - where evolution becomes a secular religion.

Quite apart from the gross fallacies of creationism on the one side, and crude materialism on the other, there is another undercurrent in this whole debate. This can be understood in terms of historical positivism. This is the idea which began to emerge in the Enlightenment, that mankind was developing from 'primitive superstition' to 'science'. It was given voice by Auguste Comte, who indeed coined the very term 'positivism', which was said to denote the 'positive sciences', to distinguish them from 'the obscurities of metaphysics'. So in this sense, evolutionary thought was understood as 'progressive': not in the sense of unfolding consciousness, but in the sense of scientific progress, the movement from religion to science as the guiding light of mankind. But on a deeper level still, this entire vision was borne out of the Christian notion of the aeon, but here with 'enlightened reason' occupying the throne of Christ. This can be seen in the pronouncements of the scientific ideologues who enthusiastically proclaim that 'the Cosmos is all there is' - and Science the only road to understanding it. It is a quasi-religious instinct, but one whose roots are not recognized - and the basis of the 'religion of scientism'.

So, while it might be true that one ought not to teach creationism, one also ought not to teach materialism, which amounts to an anti-religious ideology in its own right. There is plenty about the theory of evolution that can be taught and that will require years of study to understand and master. And of course, the implications of evolutionary theory extend to the whole field of biology insofar as evolutionary science provides the over-arching narrative of the biological sciences. But the fact that there are questions it cannot ask, and can't hope to answer, does not mean that those questions do not exist, or that they don't have answers. And to say that they don't have answers, or that questions of this kind are meaningless, is to encroach into territory where the biological sciences have no authority whatever.

There is an article in New Scientist about whether evolution is progressive. To Bergson, Tielhard du Cardin, Aurobindo, and to many others, it seems obvious that evolution engenders progressively more elaborated and complex creatures over time. This is not allowed by current evolutionary theory, however. It is regarded as 'orthogenesis' or 'vitalism', which are both taboo in the scientific mainstream.  But, if you think about it, the fact that even such arguments as these are regarded as somehow 'theistic' shows the narrowness of the materialist view of the question. It must systematically exclude anything that cannot be conceived in terms other than proximate and material causes - and obviously, again, the idea of the progressive nature of evolution cannot be couched in those terms.

For the 'evolution debate' to progress, there needs to be acknowledgement on both sides. I don't believe anyone that argues about the fossil evidence or the age of the Earth has any credibility whatever. But those who argue that the material facts 'prove' one thing or another about questions that are deeply philosophical or spiritual are equally pernicious, or even more so, because one would think they were more intelligent. (They're supposed to be responsible adults!)  But, as noted below, many of them don't understand what it is that they don't understand, and it simply cannot be explained to them.