Science v. Religion
In college in 1983, my friend Victor and I were dining with a friend of Victor's over lunch in the cafeteria of the John Muir campus.
I mentioned that biblical literalists, believing in a talking snake, a
flood, and a six thousand year old universe, are at a loss to explain the
age of the earth as being far greater than six thousand years old.
I said the biblical literalists, at a loss, say God must have created the world with "old rocks."
Victor's friend said, "No, they say the devil invented carbon-dating..."
Victor, amused, said, "It seems like they (the biblical literalists) make the devil to be cleverer than God. I mean, all God did was 'create the world,' whereas the devil goes around inventing carbon-dating..."
The prevailing view today is that science and religion are incompatible.
Religion, we are told, is the shadow of the past: the last vestige of a dark, gloomy age, in which the masses were subjected to the fear of spirits, ghosts, devils, God, and other imaginary beings by ecclesiastical authorities seeking to maintain political control.
Science, however, supposedly provides humanity with empirically verifiable knowledge -- understanding the world through quantifiable observation, analysis, reduction and reason.
Current theories in astrophysics cannot account for the formation of galaxies. General relativity contradicts quantum mechanics: these theories cannot be integrated on a sound mathematical basis.
The equations needed to explain planets condensing from clouds of gas and dust have not yet been solved, and the origin of the solar system itself remains a mystery.
Evolution is mostly speculation. The physical evidence from the past is fragmentary; of the one billion species believed to have existed, 99 percent did not leave fossils. In the deliberate breeding of species, there are limits to the changes one can make.
When pushed beyond a limit, species become sterile and die out or revert to their standard design. We can induce changes in existing forms via breeding, but cannot generate new complex structures.
If this cannot happen by man’s conscious efforts, why should it happen by blind natural processes? No satisfactory evolutionary models have ever been made.
Charles Darwin is credited with first proposing a plausible physical mechanism that would explain the variety of life forms we observe in the world around us. Evolution, as he explained it, is based on the principles of variation and natural selection. When members of a species reproduce, he reasoned, there is variation among individual representatives of the species. Some of these are better equipped to survive in their particular environment, and therefore their qualities are selected and passed on to their descendants. Over the passage of time, these changes in organisms are sufficient, according to evolutionary theory, to result in changes of species.
In his theory, Darwin proposed a plausible natural mechanism that could account for how all living forms could have originated from the simplest of microbes through natural evolution over hundreds of millions of years: Darwin claimed that species are infinitely mutable and can change unlimitedly through the interplay of natural variation sifted by natural selection.
By "species" Darwin meant that members of the same species must be able to procreate fertile offspring; if they can't, they belong to different species. Species can again be divided into varieties, also known as races or sorts. Unlike species, however, there are no strong demarcations between varieties; they can cross-beed freely and produce fertile offspring and new varieties that are still within the same species.
The crux of Darwin's argument was that varieties can gradually become species through breeding:
"Nevertheless, according to my view, varieties are species in the process of transformation, or, are, as I have called them, incipient species. How, then, does the lesser difference between varieties become augmented into the greater difference between species? That this does habitually happen, we must infer from most of the innumerable species throughout nature presenting well-marked differences; whereas varieties, the supposed prototypes and parents of future well-marked species, present slight and ill-defined differences."
You'll note that Darwin merely "inferred." Why did he only infer? Because he had never observed varieties become species. Thus he had to settle with something less: he pointed to man's artificial breeding of plants and animals and implied that if artificial selection can cause such sweeping changes in a species after only a few generations, conceivably nature could have accomplished incredible feats after eons of natural selection. Darwin spent the first two chapters in his book making this argument.
Yet Darwin's pleading is unconvincing. All research, both before and after his time, points to nature having limits on how far a species can change. Breeding can mix only preexisting characteristics. Breeding dos can produce dogs of different sizes and color. Still, they remain dogs, and never become cats, no matter for how long we try. Breeding simply shuffles and recombines already existing traits.
According to zoologist Pierre Grasse:
"In spite of the intense pressure generated by artificial selection over whole millennia, no new species are born. A comparative study of sera, hemoglobins, blood proteins, infertility, etc., proves that the strains remain within the same specific definition. This is not a matter of opinion or subjective classification, but a measurable reality. The fact is that selection gives tangible form to and gathers together all the varieties a genome is capable of producing, but does not constitute an innovative evolutionary process."
It is important to remember that natural selection is not a creative process. It can only eliminate and not create new variations in a species. Darwin noted,"Unless profitable variations do occur, natural selection can do nothing."
Besides natural selection, Darwin needed a new source of variations. He believed this source to be external influences such as food and environment. Or how organs are used or not used could cause changes in an organism that are passed on to the next generations.
"From the facts alluded to in the first chapter, I think there can be little doubt that use in our domestic animals strengthens and enlarges certain parts, and disuse diminishes them; and that such modifications are inherited."
Darwin had this idea from Lamarck, a French naturalist who had suggested that giraffes had evolved when their ancestors had gotten longer necks by stretching to eat the leaves other animals could not reach and, as a result, had produced calves with longer necks.
But all evidence has shown that pangenesis doesn't happen. Acquired traits are not inherited. We may lift weights until we develop muscles like steel, but our children will not be born with larger muscles. In some cultures, women enhance their beauty by enlarging their lips or earlobes, yet their newborn daughters look like girls in any other culture.
A light-skinned person who always gets tanned in the sun does not give birth to darker babies. A species exposed to the cold doesn't develop fur, fat layers, and a higher metabolism and pass on these traits to its offspring. Natural selection simply eliminates those individuals that don't already have the favorable traits.
In other words, Darwin was completely mistaken about inheritance The actual laws of inheritance, which were discovered around Darwin's time by an Austrian monk, Gregor Mendel, turned out to be completely contrary to what Darwin had wanted them to be. Mendel showed that inheritance involves only the passing of constant factors from one generation to the next, and that external factors do not affect inheritance.
A process of inheritance that doesn't happen is not, of course, evidence of evolution.
In their presentations to the public, evolutionists are quick to wrap themselves in the mantle of scientific objectivity and reason. They claim to be just examining the facts as they present themselves, and if the facts indicate conclusions different from the ones they currently hold, they profess to be quite prepared to change their theories. But they decline to do so because they see "overwhelming" evidence in their favor. As paleontologist Niles Eldredge, a major spokesman of evolutionary thought, says, "Evolution is a fact as much as the idea that the earth is shaped like a ball."
But let's see if the evidence really is so overwhelming that evolution is a fact in the same way that the earth is round is a fact.
Actually the physical evidence of the past is quite fragmentary, and therefore the scientists rely mainly upon theoretical speculation. Thus in absence of solid conformation we should remain open to examining a number of different theories. At this point evolution does not have an exclusive claim to being the sole explanation of the variety of species.
Not only is there a startling lack of observational evidence confirming the theory of evolution, but the theory itself is not soundly formulated enough to warrant any attempt at confirmation. A major feature of a valid scientific theory is that it offers accurate predictions; so from the theoretical basis of evolution one should be able to deduce certain things about the observable world What do the evolutionists predict? The prominent evolutionist Niles Eldredge, in attempting to answer the challenge, came up with two predictions: there should be a hierarchy of biological forms and a sequence of fossils arranged in an ascending order of development in the strata of the earth.
It's understandable evolutionists would like their theory to predict hierarchies of forms, because we all know they exist. But a hypothesis involving design would predict the same thing. For example, in creating an essay, an author often begins by writing an outline of ideas arranged in hierarchical order. Hierarchies are a natural product of the mind. In vehicles designed by engineers we can also see a hierarchy of mechanical forms: automobiles of various sorts, trucks, tanks, boats, submarines, airplanes, etc.
But we would be in error to suppose that they evolved from one another. Although the machines can be arranged in hierarchies, they are all separately designed and manufactured. So hierarchies of form are not proof that one form evolved from another by physical reproductive processes. They could just as well be accepted as proof of a designing intelligence.
Evolutionists also predict a sequence of fossils. But does the theory really predict in advance the actual sequence, or does it merely come after the fact? Imagine a hypothetical evolutionist from another planet arriving on earth during the Precambrian epoch, a time when it is supposed only some primeval algae and bacteria existed. Could he have predicted in advance that variation and natural selection would go on to produce spiders and oysters? Why not just better algae and bacteria? Evolutionary theory can offer no reason why if life started with a single cell we now have elephants and mosquitos. Scientists can only point to the species now existing and claim "they evolved." They cannot predict any specific organism or class of organisms. They might say that their theory does support a broad trend from simple organisms to ones more complex, but this claim is excessively vague and does not exclude other possible explanations.
But the explanations they propose in terms of natural laws are themselves unscientific because no one has yet constructed models showing even approximately the stages in the evolution of organisms. They have discovered that physical bodies are complex molecular machines and maintain that these complex machines develop by modifications from other complex molecular machines. Therefore they should be able to provide models sowing how the transformations take place, in detail.
In what way, for example, did certain eels develop the capacity for delivering powerful electric shocks? A mere wave of the hand will not suffice -- detailed models of the step-by-step changes should be supplied. Without such models the theory of evolution remains a vague idea outside the realm of true science. If evolutionists say that this is too great a task, then they should give up their claim that they know and have proved that organisms descend from other organisms by modification. They should simply say that they do not yet know or understand why we have the types of living beings now existing.
A scientific evolutionary model should take genetics into account by showing in a systematic step-by-step way how genes determine physical forms of organisms. If a satisfactory model is ever developed, it might then be possible to develop rigorous scientific explanations of the transformation of one species to another.
For example, scientists say that by genetic mutations, prehistoric fish transformed into amphibians. But if they don't even know how you get the form of the fish from its own genetic material, anything they say about the fish form changing into an amphibian form is bound to be highly speculative -- practically speaking, an imagination.
To put the theory of evolution on firm ground, mathematical models of how genes translate into physical forms are absolutely essential. Without such models there are only vague hand waving stories about evolution. These stories can't provide any firm, testable predictions, and when they are applied after the fact to observations, they are so flexible that they can't be adapted to any set data imaginable. In contrast, a mathematical model gives definite predictions that can be compared with evidence and thus be proved or disproved.
If such models did exist, it might be possible to use sufficiently powerful computers to determine what might happen when a specific set of genetic information is randomly modified in concert with certain selective rules. If these modifications predicted in the model actually resulted in physical changes that correspond to observed relationships among species, then we could say evolution has been raised to the level of a science.
But this is not the case. As of yet there exist no models making definite predictions about evolution. In fact, the evolutionists are not certain what they would like to predict. Contradictions abound.
To appreciate this significance, let's consider the science of ballistics. If on the basis of ballistics an artillery officer could not tell his commanders what would happen if he doubled the amount of explosive used to fire the shells, then we would have to conclude that sort of ballistics doesn't deserve to be called a science. By the same logic, the current theories of evolution definitely have their shortcomings, as theories go. In fact, we would have to say it is not a question of whether or not a particular theory of evolution is correct, but whether there exists a theory at all.
A serious challenge to those seeking support for evolution in the fossil record is that the record itself is extremely incomplete. Only a fraction of the species thought to have existed are represented. David M. Raup, curator of Chicago's Field Museum, and Steven Stanley, a paleontologist at John Hopkins University, count about 130,000 fossil species in the collections of the world's museums, compared to an estimated 1.5 million living species. They calculate that one billion species have lived since the Cambrian era, and of these over 99.9 percent did not leave fossils. It's hard to see how evolutionists can dare speak with certainty about the supposed relationships of descendants among species over billions of years.
Even among the fossils already discovered are a great many anomalies that contradict the currently held theory of evolution. Evidence favoring the established view is accepted even though shaky, and evidence opposing the established view tends to be rejected even though done on shaky grounds. All of these factors make it hard to establish the truth about the origin and ancient history of man by the empirical process of paleontology. If anything at all, however, can be deduced from the evidence presently available, it is that, contrary to the picture presented in all standard textbooks and popular accounts, it is completely misleading to present the current evolutionary scenario as established fact.
In an article on animal rights entitled "Just Like Us?" appearing in the August 1988 issue of Harper's, Ingrid Newkirk, Executive Director of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) said:
"You cannot find a relevant attribute in human beings that doesn't exist in animals as well. Darwin said that the only difference between humans and other animals was a difference of degree, not kind. If you ground any concept of human rights in a particular attribute, then animals will have to be included. Animals have rights."
Many in the animal rights movement still base their ethical system upon the Darwinian theory of evolution. This must change, as Darwin's theory is being demolished. Michael Cremo & Richard Thompson's Forbidden Archaeology (1993) is a step in that direction. This controversial book shocked the scientific community and became an underground classic.
The book's premise is that evolutionary prejudices held by powerful groups of scientists act as a "knowledge filter" which has eliminated evidence challenging accepted views, and left us with a radically altered understanding of human origins and antiquity.
Forbidden Archaeology shocked the scientific world with its evidence for extreme human antiquity. It documented hundreds of anomalies in the archaeological record that contradicted the prevailing theory and showed how this massive amount of evidence was systematically "filtered" out. This is how mainstream science reacts (almost like a religion) to any challenge to its deeply held beliefs.
According to Madhavendra Puri dasa (Steve Bernath) of the Bhaktivedanta Institute, the Vaishnavaite-Hindu objection to natural selection is that Darwin posited a mechanism to explain the varieties of species through blind natural processes without any intelligent direction or design.
I don't have a problem with evolution being taught in the public schools, as long as opponents of evolution merely poke holes in it, demonstrating that it is merely a theory which can account for some observable phenomena but not others, that the entire fossil record suggests a different take on the origins of mankind (I would refer you to Cremo & Thompson's Forbidden Archaeology in this area), and that Intelligent Design does not directly prove but merely infers that the existence of a higher power or powers is a logical possibility.
In biology, Hoyle and Wickramasinghe calculated the probability of proteins forming from the random interaction of amino acids -- the building blocks of life. They found the odds were one out of ten to the 40,000th power. Given these extreme odds, it is hard to imagine the self-organization of matter without the deliberate intervention of some kind of higher power(s) or intelligence(s).
ALL life is thus precious and sacred.
Dr. Francis Crick has admitted, "the origin of life appears at the moment to be almost a miracle."
Future scientists and science teachers would do well to approach the study of the phenomenal world with this kind of awe and reverence and respect for all life.
It has been reported that Charles Darwin, an agnostic, upon formulating his theory of evolution and thus recognizing the kinship of all life, became a vegetarian. Animal activists need not despair if Darwin's theory is demolished... there are other ways we humans can see the obvious kinship between ourselves and other species:
a) Humans and animals share a common Creator.
"Holy people are most loving and gentle in their dealings with their fellows, and even with the lower animals: for this reason it was said that ‘A righteous man is merciful to the life of his beast,’" explained St. John Chrysostom (AD 347-407). "Surely we ought to show kindness and gentleness to animals for many reasons and chiefly because they are of the same origin as ourselves."
"....the continuing, spiritual development of the human race necessitates the development of a moral and ethical code which recognizes that animals are sentient beings like ourselves; that they too, experience the fear and pain, the joy and happiness that life offers. And that they were given life by the same God who created them for their own sakes—not as commodities to satisfy the whims and the will of human beings," wrote the late Reverend Janet Regina Hyland, in her foreword to my 2003 book, They Shall Not Hurt Or Destroy.
b) Animals and humans suffer and die alike. Animals feel pain.
St. Ciaran of Ossory noted in the 5th century that animals have intrinsic rights because of their capacity to feel pleasure and pain.
"Our society is now in the throes of rethinking and expanding the entire idea of rights. In only the past ten years we've seen a blur of changes in our legal and social attitudes towards the rights of racial and ethnic minorities, women, the aged, children, homosexuals, and the mentally and physically handicapped.
"The issue isn't one of equality per se. The law cannot erase the real differences between people. The issue is one of equal treatment regardless of what outward differences divide us.
"This reassessment, whether the resultant social upheaval and changes please you or not, is the result of both new scientific and social discoveries and a rededication to old ideas. (Women and racial minorities have, after all, been demanding equal treatment for centuries.)
"We used to lock the retarded and insane away, believing them to be without rights or consideration. Now, ideally, we train the retarded and allow them to participate in society at their own pace. We offer medical treatment and counseling to the mentally ill and the troubled, realizing at last that even insanity is a meaningless term.
"Our laws, if not our social consciousness, no longer excuse the mistreatment of humans because they're 'only slaves' or 'feebleminded' or 'the weaker sex.' The notion of human rights --at least the right to be free of pain and deliberate mistreatment -- has come to be based on something more than what an elite describes as normal or acceptable.
"But if we’re finally discarding the notion that rights can be doled out on the basis of one’s having the right skin color or sex or IQ, are we willing to discard the notion that one must be human to receive equal consideration? Ready or not, science may now be forcing our hand.
"In the late 1960s, researchers began experiments designed to teach chimpanzees the American Sign Language for the Deaf...Should we deny compassion to any creature just because it's less able to express its feelings in terms we can understand?
"Advances in medical technology have forced us to look hard at our traditional definitions of life and death. Doctors are now able to keep people alive by using sophisticated life-support systems and so-called heroic measures. Many lives have been saved through these means, but many legal and ethical complications have also been created.
"We no longer speak of death as merely the absence of a heartbeat. We use terms like brain death -- the point at which consciousness and awareness cease and are incapable of recovery. We are learning that a beating heart and inflated lungs alone do not constitute a meaningful existence
"Legal precedents have already been established to allow doctors to disconnect life support systems once it becomes apparent that a patient's brain activity has stopped and is irretrievable. Notice that our courts, doctors, and the rational public do not (thank goodness) measure the value of life on the basis of the patient's skin color, IQ, bank account, or social status. We concern ourselves with specific questions: can the person respond to meaningful stimuli? Is the person aware? Can he or she feel pain?
"Leaving aside the controversy over euthanasia and medical ethics, let's assume that we agree on one premise: once awareness vanishes and is irretrievable, the body kept functioning indefinitely solely by machines and external manipulation is a mere husk.
"Whether it's legal or moral to pull the plug in such a situation is not the question here. Our discussion must focus only on one point -- that the fundamental characteristic of sentient beings is their capacity for awareness and expression. As long as a human shows the slightest ability to register emotions, our traditions and laws work to protect that individual’s interests.
"And what of nonhumans with interests? While you may argue, however illogically, that animals have no legal status, you cannot reasonably deny that animals are capable of feeling and awareness.
They feel pain...can we refuse to consider a creatures suffering merely because it belongs to another species?"
The Vegetarian Alternative
c) Belief in the transmigration of souls, metempsychosis, also known as reincarnation.
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada's more egalitarian teachings transcended racism, sexism, nationalism, caste-ism, and speciesism. When asked to speak at the University of Nairobi in Kenya in September 1972, Srila Prabhupada addressed an overflow crowd of students and government officials at the campus' Taifla (Independence) Hall. In his lecture, he advised the citizens of the developing nation of Kenya to pursue spiritual development, rather than economic development:
"When a suit becomes old, we give it up and accept another suit; similarly the soul is changing dresses according to desire...This godly particle, the soul, or the living force, is transmigrating from aquatics to trees and plants and then from trees and plants to insect life, then to reptile life, then to the bodies of birds and beasts.
"Darwin's theory of evolution is but a partial explanation of the transmigration of the soul. Darwin has simply taken information from Vedic literature, but he has no conception of the soul. The difference is that the soul is transmigrating from aquatic life to plants and trees, then to insect life, then to bird life, then animal life, then human life, and within human life he moves from uncivilized life to civilized life, etc.
"The civilized life of a human being represents the culmination of evolution. Here is a junction: from this point we can again slide down into the cyclic process of evolution, or we can elevate to a godly life. The choice is up to us. This is indicated in the Bhagavad-gita... We are part and parcel of God, but somehow we have fallen into this material existence; now we have to evolve in such a way that we can go back home, back to Godhead. That is the highest perfection.
"...Just as God has no birth or death, we spirit souls can have neither birth nor death, but because we think, 'I am this body,' we consider that we are born and that we die. Such thinking is called maya, or illusion...When one realizes aham brahmasmi, 'I am not this body; I am spirit soul..The so-called universal brotherhood or unity that the United Nations is trying to achieve is possible only when you have come to the spiritual platform... the aim of human life."