Monday, April 20, 2009

470)'Scientism' infects Darwinian debates: An unflinching belief that science can explain everything about evolution becomes its own ideology

"Science is a wonderful, powerful tool and research budgets are essential. But Science is only the beginning in the new age we are entering. Islam does not perceive the world as two seperate domains of mind and spirit, science and belief. Science and the search for knowledge are an expression of man's designated role in the universe, but they do not define that role totally....."(Aga Khan IV, McMaster University Convocation, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, May 15th 1987)

"Our religious leadership must be acutely aware of secular trends, including those generated by this age of science and technology. Equally, our academic or secular elite must be deeply aware of Muslim history, of the scale and depth of leadership exercised by the Islamic empire of the past in all fields"(Aga Khan IV, 6th February 1970, Hyderabad, Pakistan)

"Indeed, one strength of Islam has always lain in its belief that creation is not static but continuous, that through scientific and other endeavours, God has opened and continues to open new windows for us to see the marvels of His creation"(Aga Khan IV, Aga Khan University, 16 March 1983, Karachi, Pakistan)

The above are 3 quotes and excerpts taken from Blogpost Four Hundred, a collection of around 100 quotes on the subjects of Knowledge, Intellect, Creation, Science and Religion:

'Scientism' infects Darwinian debates

An unflinching belief that science can explain everything about evolution becomes its own ideology

By Douglas Todd, Vancouver
Sun April 4, 2009

There are two major obstacles to a rich public discussion on Charles Darwin's theory of evolution and what it means to all of us.

The most obvious obstacle is religious literalism, which leads to Creationism. It's the belief the Bible or other ancient sacred texts offer the first and last word on how humans came into existence.

The second major barrier to a rewarding public conversation about the impact of evolution on the way we understand the world is not named nearly as much.

It is "scientism."

Scientism is the belief that the sciences have no boundaries and will, in the end, be able to explain everything in the universe. Scientism can, like religious literalism, become its own ideology.

The Encyclopedia of Science, Technology and Ethics defines scientism as "an exaggerated trust in the efficacy of natural science to be applied to all areas of investigation (as in philosophy, the social sciences and the humanities)."

Those who unknowingly fall into the trap of scientism act as if hard science is the only way of knowing reality. If something can't be "proved" through the scientific method, through observable and measurable evidence, they say it's irrelevant.

Scientism is terribly limiting of human understanding. It leaves little or no place for the insights of the arts, philosophy, psychology, literature, mythology, dreams, music, the emotions or spirituality.

In general, scientism leaves little or no place for the imagination, which Albert Einstein, after all, said is "everything."

Many people have been falling into the trap of scientism this year as commentators, including myself, have examined the legacy of Darwin, whose book, On the Origin of Species, was published 150 years ago.

While I am not at all persuaded by Creationists who believe the Earth is less than 10,000 years old, I also have trouble with those who claim science can only support the atheistic proposal that evolution is a result of pure chance.

Such people maintain orthodox science cannot contemplate the possibility that the evolutionary process may include elements of purpose. This is an example of scientism.

One of the scientists who appears to illustrate this view is Patrick Walden, who works at the TRIUMF Cyclotron Laboratory on the University of B.C. campus.

Walden had a punchy opinion piece published in Monday's Vancouver Sun in which he began by applauding my proposal that public schools and universities expose more students to Darwin's evolutionary theory.

While I greatly appreciate Walden's willingness to step out of the confines of academia and take on the role of public intellectual, I disagree with the second part of his commentary.

Walden was bothered by my recommendation that the education system and the media help the public learn there is more than one operative theory of evolution -- that there are at least 12.
Walden assumed I was challenging the general validity of Darwin's theory of evolution. I wasn't.
I think the proposal that humans evolved over billions of years from simpler life forms is a no-brainer.

However, I don't believe either Darwin or neo-Darwinists have yet devised a complete picture of how evolution happens, or what drives it.

I detected more than a hint of scientism when Walden declared that neo-Darwinism (which he called "the modern evolutionary synthesis") is the only theory accepted by respectable scientists.

Walden said four of the other scientific theories of evolution outlined by Phipps in his article in EnlightenNext journal, including biologist's Lynn Margulis theory of cooperation, are mere "additions" to neo-Darwinism.

Beyond that, Walden said the other seven proposed theories of evolution, some of which included philosophical and spiritual perspectives, are nothing more than "pseudo-scientific speculation." As such, he said, "they are nonsense."

In other words, Walden, whose viewpoint represents that of many scientists, appears to believe that any discussion of evolution that does not uphold chance as the only driving force is ridiculous.

This is blinkered.

It defaults to atheism. And it assumes incorrectly that what we believe, and the way we live, is always based on provable "facts," which do not include conjecture, speculation or imagination.
Science has always had a speculative component, as we see with theories about quantum physics and the Big Bang and evolution.

Arguing that any theory about what drives evolution that is not essentially neo-Darwinistic is "nonsense" reflects blindness to the insights that have been offered by philosophy, cosmology and metaphysics, let alone the arts.

In addition to suggesting Walden's approach reflects scientism, I would also say it is a manifestation of "disciplinolatry," which is the conviction that one academic discipline contains everything that needs to be known about a subject.

Walden attempts to mock the idea that philosophy and even spirituality could be considered when trying to understand what fuels evolution. He acts as if I am arguing for Madame Blavatsky's 19th-century esoteric theories (and her anti-Semitic views) to replace Darwin in public school science classes.

By creating this red herring, Walden ignores the great 20th-century thinkers who have embraced evolutionary theory while offering innovative non-atheistic understandings about how it happens.

They include Alfred North Whitehead, Charles Hartshorne, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Marshal McLuhan, John Cobb, Ken Wilber, Charles Birch and countless other scientists and philosophers who are not as easy to write off as the eccentric Blavatsky.

The truth is that many scientists are slowly becoming more open to at least discussing the possibility that elements of purpose, not just chance, are inherent in the evolutionary process.
They include the noted biologist Lynn Margulis, the first wife of the late astronomer Carl Sagan, and their science writer son, Dorion Sagan.

Walden appears to think highly of Margulis as an evolutionary theorist. But he fails to appreciate Margulis is willing to expand her mind beyond scientism.

Margulis and Sagan took part this year in an interdisciplinary conference on evolution with philosophers, scientists and theologians at the Vatican.

They have also contributed to books with spiritually inclined scientists and philosophers, including Back to Darwin: A Richer Account of Evolution (Eerdmans), edited by John Cobb.

Back to Darwin says the lively exchange Margulis and Sagan join in on in the book "presents a holistic case for evolution that both theists and nontheists can accept."

I would like to think Margulis and Sagan would also be willing to have some of the 12 theories of evolution discussed in public schools -- if not in biology classes, at least in courses on the history of science or the philosophy of science, as well as in classes on philosophy, world religions and metaphysics.

The general theory of evolution has been widely accepted by both atheists and thinkers with spiritual sensitivities.

Everyone would agree, however, that evolution is also a theory that is incomplete.

When more evolutionary scientists open up to the insights of philosophers and those from other disciplines, I believe their beloved theory will itself evolve. It will become more complex and more elegant.

Easy Nash

Easy NashThe Qur'an itself repeatedly recommends Muslims to become better educated in order better to understand God's creation: Aga Khan IV(2007)
The Quran tells us that signs of Allah's Sovereignty are found in the contemplation of His Creation: Aga Khan IV(2007)
This notion of the capacity of the human intellect to understand and to admire the creation of Allah will bring you happiness in your everyday lives: Aga Khan IV(2007)
Islam, eminently logical, placing the greatest emphasis on knowledge, purports to understand God's creation: Aga Khan IV(2006)
The Holy Qu'ran's encouragement to study nature and the physical world around us gave the original impetus to scientific enquiry among Muslims: Aga Khan IV(1985)
The first and only thing created by God was the Intellect(Aql): Prophet Muhammad(circa 632CE)