Univironmental Determinism, Evolution Deniers, and the Big Bang Theory

Even though the suppositions underlying the Big Bang Theory are taken straight out of Genesis, many creationists nevertheless find the theory abhorrent. They don’t mind things popping out of nothing, but they assume that it had to be with the help of an imaginary friend. As Jerry Coyne mentions in his post below, belief in naturalistic evolution in the US is still only about 15%:

Not only that, note that the liberal religious position has recently lost 6%, while the strictly creationist position has gained 6%. Remarkably, this is in spite of the rise of the unaffiliated, which is an inverse function of age:

Why these two polls don’t agree is somewhat of a mystery, although, as Jerry points out, the summary written for the Gallup poll “is somewhat of a sop to evolution-deniers, unworthy of a respectable poll.” The Gallup poll, of course, concerns only biological evolution. You can imagine what the results would be for univironmental determinism, which after all, states that “what happens to a portion of the universe is determined by the infinite matter within and without.” Coyne’s charge is to teach evolution to the mostly devout college students. He has enough trouble with the biological; he doesn’t need to introduce the univironmental. Besides, like most other neo-Darwinists, he is a great supporter of the Big Bang Theory. It does purport to have an evolutionary component after all. Neo-Darwinists generally take offense at any disparagement of the BBT, automatically assuming that anyone in opposition must be anti-science at the least or a creationist at the most. Few seem to realize that the assumption opposing creation is conservation, not evolution. I guess that biologists need more education in thermodynamics, whose first law is the Fifth Assumption of Science, conservation (Matter and the motion of matter can be neither created nor destroyed).  


Westmiller said...

It may be true that many atheists, like Coyne, believe in Neo-Darwinian biological evolution and also support the Big Bang Theory, but the two have no necessary relationship ... except for both being secular.
I know a lot of advocates who think the "something from nothing" physics theories displace the deist God, making belief in Him totally unnecessary. I think that's a foolish argument.

Glenn Borchardt said...


You are correct about the neo-Darwinists. In habitually defending the theory from the creationists, they see evolution and creation as opposites. They do not see conservation (Matter and the motion of matter can be neither created nor destroyed) as the logical opposite of creation, as we do. In fact, they would not agree that they use fundamental assumptions (or even that they harbor unconscious presuppositions). They also would not agree that fundamental assumptions are either deterministic or indeterministic. Evolution is not the opposite of creation. Evolution is motion. Motion has no opposite.

You are also right that the something from nothing theories (cosmogonies) do not replace ideas of god. Both ideas are indeterministic—suited more for the idea of an imagined heaven, but not suited to doing science.

joogabah said...

I think at least some of the resistance to evolution from religious folk stems from the antisocial use of Darwinism by Herbert Spencer and by eugenicists who diminish the value of those they consider genetically inferior. Without this perspective, you lose sight of the moral argument against belief in evolution: that it can seriously degrade the way humans relate. Even though natural selection is true, the reaction to it by some adherents is problematic, especially in a capitalist, hyper-competitive social environment. Do you really like "The Selfish Gene"? Bleagh.

Glenn Borchardt said...

Thanks for the comment. The vast reservoir of resistance to evolution remains the indeterminism essential to religion. You are right, though, that many confused agnostics and other “half-way to crazy town” folks probably have been swayed against it by the eugenics episode. However, I doubt that sordid affair is even known by most young people. Your assessment of “The Selfish Gene” is right on. The title alone is a major tipoff. I criticized the book in a brief paragraph in TSW (p. 247):

“Hereditarians insist nonetheless that intelligence is something intrinsic to the microcosm itself. Like the indeterminists who searched for the “vital element” in the cell, hereditarians now search for intelligence in the gene. Heavy theoretical concentration on the gene seems to make one forget that genes are only a small part of the human microcosm and that the environment of the gene and environment of the human are two different things.

The result can be not only a severe case of mixed microcosms, but also an absurd reduction such as that portrayed by Richard Dawkins in his book aptly titled The Selfish Gene. The gist of this vulgarity was the proclamation that we are “gene machines,” existing at the behest of our DNA. In Dawkins’s view, the natural situation is pretty grim because these genes don’t have an altruistic bone in their bodies. The only ground for optimism exists, according to Dawkins, in the possibility of a renewed fight against matter. “We, alone on earth can rebel against the tyranny of the selfish replicators.” Let’s all hope we win!”

The book was a classic example of today’s “systems thinking” in which the analyst overemphasizes the system and neglects the environment: a microcosmic error of epic proportions. Dawkins, of course, went on to become a major spokesperson for neo-Darwinism and the “New Atheism.” So far as I know, he has not repented his “selfish” sins. After all, his microcosmic error was well received with open arms by the current scientific worldview, systems philosophy. His book is a notorious example of what a best seller says about its audience. The microcosm of the book must have the same prejudices as its macrocosm. I heartily second your “Bleagh!”

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