The Weiler Psi

Parapsychology Journalism: The People, The Theory, The Science, The Skeptics

The Science Dilemma: Debating Evolution vs. Creationism


Recently there was a televised debate between Bill Nye (the science guy) arguing for evolution and Ken Ham, arguing for young earth creationism.  It was a long debate, clocking in at 2hrs, 45 min.  (It actually starts about 17 minutes into the video.)  In Ken Ham’s opening statement, he immediately makes the point, correctly, that creationists can be scientists.  Of course they can.  He then points out, correctly, that science has been hijacked by secularists to force the belief of naturalism on students and he divides science into the categories of historical and observational in order to show that the evolutionists are inventing natural history.  He also, unfortunately, goes off the rails by presuming the bible to be a reliable scientific textbook.  It is that flaw, of course, that crushes Ham’s argument and Nye was smart enough to jump on that.

It’s a shame really, that Ham relied on the bible, because he had some very salient points to make that were completely overshadowed by this.  One such point he made was that we can’t really know the past since we can only observe clues from the present and derive a theory from those clues.  He also makes the point that both he and Nye agree on the data, but not on the interpretation of that data.  These are both really good starting points for a very interesting discussion.  In addition, he posed a couple of good questions:

How do you account for the laws of logic and the laws of nature from a naturalistic worldview that excludes the existence of God? (31:48)

This is probably the most serious flaw of evolutionary theory.  It’s not possible to disentangle information and consciousness from biological systems.  Point for Ham.  Another question he poses:

Can you name one piece of technology that could only have been developed starting with a belief in molecules-to-man evolution?

He’s addressing the claim that science has developed technology and technology is all around us, and the same science has produced the theory of evolution, so therefore we should take it more seriously.  Ham is making the point that technology is a separate issue from evolution.  He’s right about that.

Ham goes on to frame the arguments as a battle over different world views and re-emphasizes interpretation as a key to understanding the differences in their respective positions.  It’s a perfectly legitimate line of reasoning.

Ham’s arguments were clear and well thought out and he approached objections head on, never shying away from the more controversial aspects of his presentation.  Now I don’t buy young earth creationism for an instant and I don’t regard the bible as a literal historical document, but I am willing to let others have their say and I do admire a well thought out, coherent argument.  Ham approached his viewpoint from a very matter of fact perspective and he made it very clear where he and Nye parted ways.  I didn’t agree with him, but I definitely respected his approach.

Here’s the thing: by disagreeing completely with the standard evolutionary model, Ham is looking at the evidence in a different light and exposing the gaps.  It doesn’t make his model right, but he does provide an effective criticism of evolutionary science in the process.  For instance, Ham makes the case that the evolutionary assumption that one species evolves into another has never been observed and may be pure fiction.  He’s absolutely correct in pointing this out.  Although I don’t agree with the alternate model he came up with as an explanation, he has to be given his due in pointing out this flaw.  We’ve observed adaptations within a species, but not wholesale changes.  The evidence that we have might lead to a different conclusion if it’s interpreted differently.

Ham zeroed in on the weak link in the evolutionary model: there’s a belief aspect to it.  By dividing science into historical and observational aspects, he was able to show where evidence leaves off and theory begins.  And if you take that theory for truth, you’re operating from belief, not science.

Bill Nye in turn, went after the weak link in the young earth model: namely, the assertion that the earth is only a few thousand years old.  Doing this allowed Nye to play to his strength and take advantage of easy-to-understand obvious evidence to make his case.  It was a wise choice because it would have been much harder to prove that evolution is true.  Had he been going up against intelligent design theorists who were not trying to shoehorn science into an ancient religious text he would have had a much harder time of it.

The whole evolution vs. creationism debate misses the mark entirely.  Evolution is a theory.  It is the best available theory that we have at the moment and as such it is nothing more than a creation story we have put together to explain the evidence we have thus far encountered.  We might have completely misunderstood the evidence we have seen so far, or more likely, we have somewhat misinterpreted it.  Evolutionary theory is already nearly unrecognizable from its early forms.  It will change some more and perhaps someday will morph something else until it is nothing like what it is today.  That is the nature of science.  Theories change as more evidence accumulates.  The elephant in the room for evolution is consciousness.  We don’t understand it and areas like epigenetics are demonstrating that consciousness plays a role in evolution.  It is a certainty that our theories of evolution will change a great deal as we understand this area better.

Young earth creationism doesn’t conform to the existing evidence but that doesn’t mean that the challenges to evolution  don’t deserve serious consideration because they expose many of the questions that evolutionists cannot answer.  Whatever you think of young earth creationism, Ham is playing a perfectly legitimate scientific role in critiquing accepted mainstream theory.  The problem is that this discussion has morphed into an ideological battle that the young earth creationist have created.  By battling evolution with a competing theory based on religion the debate has been polarized.  The creationists have hardened the position of their opponents and helped turn evolution into its own creation story.

The amazing thing about real science is that you can make up your own mind based on the evidence which is not hard to find.  Your opinion, of course, will only be as valuable as the extent of your knowledge, but anyone can look at any data and educate themselves on how to understand it.  It is helpful to have experts of course, but thinking scientifically is not the domain of a chosen few.  Science is a process, not a set of theories and it’s ok, and even necessary for people to disagree about what the evidence means, up to a point.  I personally think that exposing students to competing theories that both have merit and laying out the evidence for each of them is more valuable for understanding how science really works than just picking a mainstream theory and showing evidence for that.    Science is inherently messy and showing the disagreement more closely reflects how it really works.

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49 comments on “The Science Dilemma: Debating Evolution vs. Creationism

  1. tina Pro
    February 21, 2014

    I wish to share this quote:Art KATZ quote

    Racism is rooted in the theory of evolution. The significance of the advent of evolution through Darwin, what that meant when it struck the civilised christian world at the end of the nineteenth century and the commencement of the 20th. This brilliant concept of evolution as an explanation for the world and for creation through a process of selection, higher forms and weaker forms. The tantalising, beguiling tempting seduction for the human mind, to think in terms of evolution completely repudiates the explanation of creation given in scripture. The church has been eating from the wrong tree. It has not recognised the demonic assault that the theory of evolution has on us today. If you agree with the theory of evolution then you must accept such a thing as a superior race.

    • carl
      February 23, 2014

      Hello tina Pro: Not sure that I agree that racism is rooted in the TOE. Or perhaps you mean that the TOE was used to further support racism? When I use the word “racism,” I refer to something structural and institutional; i.e., if A has biases and prejudices towards B then bigotry and prejudice exits (and this can lead to fatal results); but if the society does not legally and socially support A’s biases and prejudices toward B then, officially, there is no racism (we knows it’s not as cut-and-dry as this, but I think the point is made).

      The history of modern slavery (beginning in the latter part of the 15th century), as it got bigger and bigger, shows the development (evolution, if you will) of the theories that justified slavery (I like to think of the era of the modern slave trade as the Internet of its day, i.e. it was huge and touched so many aspects of life and classes of people) (e.g., John Locke, one of the great thinkers on human liberty, who wrote about the natural right of people to be free, not only invested in the slave trade but wrote a document called the Fundamental Constitution of the Carolina, which granted absolute power over slaves). Portuguese and Spanish royalty, in their pursuit of gold and other riches, would secure contracts authorized by the Pope to exploit/develop specific geographic areas. Even in these early days, however, the Catholic Church didn’t allow the enslavement of Christians; but all this meant was that the Spanish couldn’t enslave the Portuguese or French et cetera … and if an African or indigenous person were enslaved, conversion to Christianity certainly wasn’t going to get one freed … I often hear people like to say that we can’t use modern sensibilities to criticize people who owned slaves or financed slavery or whatever, but I think it’s always been clear that being a slave is a disadvantageous position to occupy. Because people have always understood that it’s better to not be owned by someone that it is to be owned, as the modern slave trade grew in size and scope the rationale for it also grew … and as the thinking about human existence got more sophisticated, the rationale for slavery got more sophisticated. The TOE became another arrow in the quiver of those who wanted to justify racism/inequality/et cetera, but long before the TOE, the foundations of racism had been laid.

      My apologies if I’m way off topic 🙂

    • zebzaman
      April 4, 2014

      Tina, you are saying that TOE leads to what is called Social Darwinism, and for sure it was used in that way by the “Third Reich” of the Nazis. However, they invented nonsense science, and it has very little to do with what Darwin’s thought and theory was. For myself, I can only say that TOE has the absolute opposite effect to promote racism. Once I heard in Biology that all of us, not just all of us people, but all living beings on earth share the same genetic code – hey, we are one family! All of life on earth. We have over95% of genetic code in common with Apes, and all human people differ really only a tiny bit. Also, if you goback,two parents, 4 grandparents,8 greatgrand, 16 greatgreatgrand and so on, after as littleas 500 years you have more ancestors then people lived in you larger region.Go back another 500 years …. well,soon we are literally one family. Closely related. How can that possibly make me racist?

  2. Rabbitdawg
    February 20, 2014

    Here’s a great link to a fascinating straight-science article in Aeon magazine that clearly presents major problems with the idea of the “selfish” gene:
    http://aeon.co/magazine/nature-and-cosmos/why-its-time-to-lay-the-selfish-gene-to-rest/

    • Jordan Wm. Burrill
      February 21, 2014

      Hey Rabbitdawg!
      Thanks! An intriguing and thoughtful essay!
      It seems that another neo-Darwinistic paradigm is about to bit the dust.
      Cheers!

      • donsalmon
        February 21, 2014

        Rabbitdawg! I think we’ve met before on the net. Welcome (I think this is the longest set of replies I’ve ever seen to one of Craig’s posts).

        • craigweiler
          February 21, 2014

          Hi Don,
          This does have a lot of comments, but I have a few of posts for psychic people that have been around a number of years. They have over twice as many comments more.

  3. Jordan Wm. Burrill
    February 19, 2014

    Hi Folks!
    This IS a most interesting topic – from my sometimes unfortunate experience with it. When I was forced to jettison (because of too many paradigm ‘train-wrecks’), my religious belief model of Christianity – I was rejected and judged as a ‘back slider’ by my so-called ‘Christian’ friends and even my own sister and her family.
    This was not because I had become a ‘bad’ person, nor stopped including a Divine or creator (from my own OBE explorations). It was really because I had made THEM ‘feel’ uncomfortable in their beliefs – by explaining the personal experiential evidence that I was using to build a more accurate reality model.They objected to the new approach of using my experience and pointed out inconsistencies in their belief model. It was O:K for them to criticize my approach, but they freaked when I gently pointed out the illogic, inconsistencies, contradictions and blind faith (no evidence), that their beliefs were being used to ‘feel’ safe, secure and having a sense of status.
    I remember one particular example that is telling. According to ‘Bible believing’ Creationists, (not intelligent design researchers), the earth is only about six thousand years old (never claimed anywhere in the ‘Bible’). A supposed example of the unreliable nature of science of geology; is an example of a human footprint in the same strata and proximity as a ‘dinosaur’ footprint. Well, when I pointed out to my sister that this ‘dinosaur’ footprint (for several reasons), could easily be that of a number of extinct, giant (over eight feet tall !), carnivorous, flightless birds that were around until about fifteen to twenty thousand years ago. Well, She hung up on me and hasn’t spoken to me for four years, now!
    As an interesting note; there is a mathematician and cosmologist (Gerald L. Schroder, PhD. from MIT), that accepts this supposed six thousand year date. He uses the mathematics of cosmic inflation theory and the resulting time dilation to show that it could well be six thousand years (from the creator’s end or the process), but around fourteen-plus billion years on our end of the process. An interesting idea, but I certainly can’t do this level of math – can you? So, I have to take a wait and see position and actually, what real difference does it make?
    (No, I’m not quoting ‘Mother Hillary’).

    I’ll shut up now! Cheers To All!

  4. Dan Neiman
    February 12, 2014

    If you want good scientific critiques of modern evolutionary theory you need to check out http://www.evolutionnews.org/
    I recommend starting here: http://www.evolutionnews.org/2014/02/whats_wrong_wit081811.html

    • craigweiler
      February 12, 2014

      Those are excellent links. Thank you.

      • billy_mavreas (@billy_mavreas)
        February 13, 2014

        that website leads back to The Discovery Institute, an organization with a stated religious agenda. i’d much rather see critiques of darwinism & the current conception of evolution from a secular perspective, one that simply points out problematics with the theory and doesn’t mask a religious perspective.

        • craigweiler
          February 13, 2014

          Everyone has an agenda and belief systems to go along with it. The trick is to get everyone in the same room to hash out what the evidence actually means by looking at it from different angles.

          The criticisms were well documented and thought out.

          • Howell Michael
            February 19, 2014

            The essence of the debate is consciousness? or did physical reality create consciousness. Using Occam’s Razor, I(I can only conclude that consciousness created reality, entropy bars any other result

            • donsalmon
              February 19, 2014

              Hi Howell – this is a great point. Can you spell out in a bit more detail the reasoning that gets you to that conclusion? I agree, but I’m curious how you arrived at this conclusion. Thanks.

        • donsalmon
          February 13, 2014

          you might want to look at Nagel’s “Mind and Cosmos”, since Nagel is an atheist who admits he fervently hopes that God doens’t exist and plays no part in evolution! Yet he is strongly critical of the standard neo-darwinian view of evolution, and believes consciousness and/or intelligence of some kind has an important role in evolution.

        • Dan Neiman
          February 13, 2014

          If you read the articles and critiques, they are very scientific, citing peer reviewed literature and journals. They never promote the bible or use it in their critiques. Many religious individuals probably are affiliated with Discovery Institute and promote it, but the quality of their work is good and based on science.

          • billy_mavreas (@billy_mavreas)
            February 13, 2014

            thanks dan, (and thanks don & craig).
            i have ended up on the evolution news site several times and have read articles therein. i simply got cold feet when all roads led to a seemingly parent website. i’ve also had a hard time finding any other website with so many articles on this topic. i can’t possibly imagine that present day darwinists are not discussing the issues of the theory.
            i’ll check out the nagel book, i’ve read a few reviews of it and some of the discussion surrounding it and it seems delicious reading.

    • Rutt
      February 18, 2014

      Hm. According to the sources in Internet Mr. Rupert Sheldrake manages Yahoo Group Telepathy. And in one message (Subject: Mix)here are placed of Telepathy’s proofs from the times before 2000’th. The proofs, which ABSOLUTELY can not be disqualified.

      • donsalmon
        February 18, 2014

        ?? I’m not I understand you – are you supporting or criticizing Sheldrake here?

  5. Tom Butler
    February 11, 2014

    Craig, your observation that the subject has become polarized is important. That polarization has effectively pushed alternative theories aside for now.

    Change in nature is typically gradual with the occasional threshold-style punctuation. The history of life on earth is like that. As Lamarck pointed out, and now Sheldrake, it can be argued that evolution is informed by the past. However, the occasional catastrophic event appears to have stirred the process to abruptly make way for new adaptations.

    But there is a more persistent influence. In the study of psi functioning and transcommunication, especially Instrumental TransCommunication (ITC), we see that intention is capable of psychokinetically influencing physical processes. This subtle energy influence of physical processes is well established and there is no real reason to think it has not been a influence in evolution. That would be the evolutionary influence of creativity described by Sheldrake.

    All that is required to produce the punctuation in a punctuated gradualism theory of evolution is the influence of an intelligent influence on one of the many chemical process organized by DNA. I believe existing psi research can be applied to the evidence of biological evolution to show this connection. That is a kind of intelligent design that makes sense to me but one that is very different from the young earth creationist theory.

    Of course, I realize there is a need for more mainstream acceptance of psi functioning and the remaining argument of who is supplying the intelligence, but at least all of this is testable.

    • donsalmon
      February 12, 2014

      This is a great point, Tom. When Jan (my wife) and I were working on our yoga psychology book, we were looking at evolutionary theories that took psi into account. Here’s a short description of Amit Goswami’s proposed mechanism (if you know his work, you won’t be surprised to see it involves quantum processes!). Although there’s no direct mention of psi, if you combine this with Carpenter’s First Sight theory, and accept the idea of a psi field (I know Mark, that’s asking a lot of skeptics, but I’m talking to the others here:>)) I think there’s a lot here that could be used to develop a much richer evolutionary theory that incorporates psi, consciousness, etc.

      ****
      (from appendix A, Yoga Psychology and the Transformation of Consciousness: Seeing Through the Eyes of Infinity)

      Physicist Amit Goswami suggests that consciousness may make use of quantum processes to bring about the kind of creative mutations that lead to the appearance of new species. When it comes to helping a species become more stable within its environment, Goswami maintains that Darwinian natural selection plays an important role. However, he suggests that at the same time this process of stabilization is going on, potential mutations are accumulating in the form of quantum possibilities. These are passed down, in their potential form, to subsequent generations. When a change in the environment calls for it, a number of the potential mutations are then “chosen” to manifest simultaneously, resulting in a new species that will be suited to the new environment.

      Aware that this makes no sense in the context of a purely materialistic perspective, Goswami proposes that the quantum possibilities for potential mutations are held in a non-physical field. Both Ervin Laszlo and Daniel Benor propose kindred theories suggesting that non-material fields of subtle energy are in part responsible for adaptive mutations. All three agree that consciousness appears to play a fundamental role in the evolutionary process.

      *******

      Also (for anybody who is a voracious reader!) I’ve written at some length on the whole notion of science and explanation in the integral world article “Shaving Science With Ockham’s Razor”.

      If you want the short version, here it is:

      1. Without realizing it, most mainstream scientists incorporate all kinds of physicalist/fundamaterialist assumptions into their work.
      2. The “Shaving Science” article is not proposing an alternate metaphysical view, but rather, simply suggesting scientists become aware of their physicalist assumptions, and recognize they are just that – assumptions, not “evidence” or “reality.”

      • Tom Butler
        February 12, 2014

        Don, where can I find the “Shaving Science With Ockham’s Razor” article?

        I am not sure about some applications of quantum theory, but recently, I have been attempting to incorporate current thought concerning how psi/intention might influence quantum processes as a candidate theory for how ITC features are formed.In this case, broad-spectrum random energy contains many possibilities at any instant. Intention might be used to either select the necessary state (dx/dt) by “collapsing” the available possibility or act as a kernel for stochastic amplification.

        These are just theories to explain what is experienced but the bottom line is that the last theories currently standing to explain the physical aspect of ITC all involve the influence of intentionality on physical processes–intended order.

        Fun Stuff!

        Tom

        • donsalmon
          February 12, 2014

          Hi Tom, thanks for asking. You can find it here: http://www.integralworld.net/salmon3.html

          By the way I looked at your website. Very interesting.

          You might also be interested in my blog posts at http://www.ipi.org.in (click blogs!)

          And finally (sorry if I’m plugging this too much, but Jan and I are excited about it) you can find more practical info and exercises that will enhance psychic ability (though shhhhhhhhhhhh – we don’t say that on the site!!!) at http://www.remember-to-breathe.org – don’t tell anybody it will help with psychic abilities:>)))

          wait, I”m getting a premonition – I see someone telling someone about remote viewing and our site – darn!

  6. WP
    February 11, 2014

    Excellent post, Craig. And @donsalmon, your replies are brilliant. I will reiterate Craig: Spot on!

    • craigweiler
      February 11, 2014

      Thank you!

  7. Julia Mae
    February 11, 2014

    I am a retired fossil preparator with a background in paleoanthropology. I am also a Catholic and a psychic medium. A lot of these things seem mutually exclusive. None are. If anyone argues for evolution with the caveat that it must exclude God, they are making an argument outside of science. If anyone argues for God with the caveat only certain kinds of things were created but not processes, like change over time in biological species, they are limiting God and therefore, worshiping a book. That would define them as pagans, I suppose.

    If there is evil with intent, then surely it serves that to promote the idea that truth is ever an enemy of fact or that humans should be at odds over ideas.

    • donsalmon
      February 11, 2014

      Hi Julia:

      That sounds spot on to me. If you have a chance, could you look at my reply to Mark and tell me if it makes sense?

      Thanks so much.

  8. George Williams
    February 11, 2014

    Thomas Nagel’s recent book Mind and Cosmos criticized mainstream theories of evolution because they cannot incorporate consciousness. Of course mainstream biologists pounced very strongly. Their emotional and hostile response was very interesting in an of itself.

    Yes, usually in the media, the debate is depicted between advocates for science and evidence and Bible thumpers who take the Bible literally. Sadly, this does not advance the discussion much.

    • craigweiler
      February 11, 2014

      You got that right.

  9. Jordan Wm. Burrill
    February 11, 2014

    Hi Craig!
    Thanks for opening this debate up for comments. Religions (as belief models), must be defended with rationalities or logic. Building reality models on beliefs (which are ultimately, self-referential), lead to the many paradigm ‘train-wrecks’ of cognitive dissonance (‘God smacks’). These caused me to re-evaluate how I build model systems. Trying to build a model of reality on any book of inspired ‘glimpses’, is a misuse of that book. The timeless truths are lost, submerged under the twisted misuse. A Divinity can only pass on important information to an infant species in the reference frames that this infant species can relate to. The infant species must have a temporal, but usable frame of reference (from the Divinity), in which to assimilate the information. A temporal context is never intended to be interpreted (thousands of years away from its origin), as a rigid, fixed, imperial statement of fact. Otherwise dogma is the result – a belief that is out of time and frame of reference.
    In any age, new understanding must come directly from new, current ‘downloads’ from the (always current), Divine creator – to use with current reference frames that WE will ‘relate’ to.
    So, while we are playing with our fascinating, little toes in our cribs – let’s learn to ask and ‘listen’ for answers from our Creator, for today!
    I am now addressing this very question at my Face Book page under the tittle: “Skid Marks” and “Skid Marks, Lesson 1”.
    Best Wishes To All!

    • craigweiler
      February 11, 2014

      I agree about having proper context. I think that is spot on.

  10. Mark
    February 11, 2014

    Being an atheist who believes in psi and hates the pseudoskeptic movement I am in an odd position. I hate to sound like I’m on Nye’s side, because I can’t stand the man, but I do have some issues with this post. Most of them seem to surround stuff that Ham said. I admit that I did not listen to the debate, nor do I have much interest in it, so I might be missing some of the context. I am bothered by this statement, I think, the most:

    “How do you account for the laws of logic and the laws of nature from a naturalistic worldview that excludes the existence of God?”

    Huh? Why should anyone have to “account for the laws of logic and the laws of nature?” I don’t get it. I’m a little suspicious that this question might just be based on a bad premise.

    • craigweiler
      February 11, 2014

      I think that what Ham was getting at is that there is order that is independent of a completely mechanistic worldview.

      He’s coming at the consciousness problem, but unfortunately through the filter of religion. At least that’s how I interpreted it.

    • donsalmon
      February 11, 2014

      Hi Mark:

      Regarding your question about why we have to account for laws of logic or nature: Let’s both assume a purely agnostic position, so we start out in the same place.

      Now, consider Steven Weinberg’s conclusion to his essay, “Does Science Explain Everything? Anything?”

      He concludes – though with a lot of footdragging and unnecessary hesitation – with an idea that, if you think about it for a minute, is the most obvious, simple thing imaginable, but a concept few consider with any depth:

      1. All of scientific explanation rests upon “laws of nature” – or if you prefer a less theologically loaded term (since the original notion of “laws” of nature was based on the idea that God created those laws) – observed patterns.
      2. Virtually every scientist who has thought even a little about the matter, as Weinberg reluctantly admits, acknowledges that those patterns cannot be explained by any scientific experiment, because any possible experiment is based on those patterns.

      Get it? Any ultimate scientific explanation is a tautology. To put it in childish terms:

      A. Why does the apple fall?
      B. Because of gravity.
      C. What is gravity?
      D. It is something that we speculated must exist, based on observations we have made of patterns we have studied.
      E. Why do those patterns exist?
      F. ???

      For virtually every scientific discovery (how subatomic particles interact, how evolution occurs, how cortisol is produced in the brain, how medications work, etc etc, you always end up at F – we use the patterns we have observed in ourselves and in the universe (is there an inseparable divide between ourselves and the universe? that’s another good question!) to explain other phenomena, but neither the origin nor whatever it is the maintains those patterns are susceptible to a purely scientific/empirical investigation.

      This basically goes back to Aristotle’s distinction between final and proximate causes. Polkinghorne gives a nice everyday example of different levels of causation that is slightly different from Aristotle’s:

      1. Why does water boil?
      2. you can give a purely material explanation, and say it involves the movement of gases.
      3. Or, you can give a non material explanation: Because I wanted a cup of tea.

      Neither explanation cancels out the other. Yes, you can say it was a purely material movement in the brain that produced the desire to have some tea, but you can’t decide between the material and non material explanation by means of a scientific experiment (at least, not the way science is done nowadays.

      Remember, we’re remaining agnostic, I’m not taking sides here as to whether the material or non material explanation is “better.” I’m only saying you can’t use modern, acceptable scientific methods to decide between the two.

      The same applies to evolution. if consciousness is a causal factor in evolution, we could not possibly know it using our present methodology, because we have no tools to determine whether consciousness even exists outside our own individualized awareness. Consciousness could in fact be a causal factor at every step of the way.

      But – and here’s the reconciliation between material and non material views of evolution – it doesn’t in any way contradict materialist views of evolution to say consciousness is involved at every step. You could even find some purely materialistic quantum explanation for not just change within species but change from one species to another, and you still wouldn’t in the least bit have eliminated consciousness as a causal factor.

      As long as you choose only to look at material causation, you could potentially have a purely materilistic cause for everything, including near death expeirences, reincarnation, and all psychic phenomena.

      The problem will be, as Craig I think has quite deftly shown (though he hasn’t put it in these words) is that you are going to be caught up in creating such wild, overly complex Ptolemaic epicycles in your drive to create a purely material explanation for everything, at some point you just have to give up and use common sense (which is not very common) and realize, just as I intend to get a pot of tea, and that intention is as real as the floor under my feet, so it may be just easier to consier that this vast universe of extraordinary beauty and order just may be grounded in soething sentient and intelligent rather than something dead, wholly unconscious and stupid!

      • Mark
        February 11, 2014

        Well, I appreciate you trying, donsalmon. I really do. However, I’m afraid that you went off on a red herring. I don’t agree with everything that you posted, but that doesn’t really matter. I’ve been saying, for a while, now, that we should lessen the weight that we give to the scientific method and that which scientists say. We should still respect them, just not as much as some do, now. I have also said that we should keep open to the possibility that there are some questions that will never be answerable by science, or that other questions may be answerable by science, but that other reasoning methods will work better. For these kinds of questions we may need to use different, non-scientific (perhaps even pseudoscientific) reasoning. As far as I can see, none of that, nor anything that you posted, with all due respect, changes the fact that I don’t understand why we need to account for the laws of logic and nature. Craig, if I understand him, seems to think that Ham meant something different than what I thought, originally. That is possible. I admitted that I did not watch it, and probably will not. However, if Ham meant what I originally thought he meant, then, I’m sorry, but I still do not understand.

        • donsalmon
          February 11, 2014

          I’m sorry, I don’t understand. The reference to laws of nature was primarily to show that there is no possibility of presenting scientific evidence that consciousness is not a causal factor in nature. The only usefulness of mentioning LON is to point out that if they are ultimately the basis for all explanation and there’s no way to explain them, then you can’t rule out consciousness as causal.

          I don’t see anything in what you said that contradicted that. But I may be missing something. This line of reasoning has been used for several thousand years (Advaitans and even more extreme, the madhayamaka school of Buddhists) to show the emptiness of materialist or objectivist explanations, and I’m not aware that anybody has refuted it. If you can, I’d be very interested in hearing it (I’m sure someone would find it easy to refute my version of it, since I”m sure there are holes in it. but i’d like to hear it addressed directly. I may simply not be able to understand your point, but so far, I don’t see that you have addressed what I wrote. If you can take apart the paragraph at the beginning of this reply, it would be very helpful. Thank you).

        • donsalmon
          February 11, 2014

          actually, to add a brief extra comment, I thoroughly agree that to address consciousness, we need to use a completely different method from the ones that are used now. I’ve written at length about this over at the blog section at http://www.ipi.org.in, particularly the post “yoga and science”.

          So in that respect, we’re in complete agreement. In fact, if you agree that consciousness in the way that Nagel refers to it, as an experience rather than an objective phenomenon, cannot be studied using objectivist, quantitative scientific methods, then the whole LON question is irrelevant because we agree on the main point.

          • Mark
            February 11, 2014

            You’re right that I didn’t address what you posted, because I did not understand how it addressed what I posted, originally. I thought it was a red herring. I just started out saying that I don’t understand why Ham would ask Nye how he would “account for” the laws of logic and nature. Why should we have to “account for” these laws? Do I even understand what Ham means when he says “account for?” I don’t know.

        • Julia Mae
          February 12, 2014

          “Pseudoscientific” is relative, isn’t it? When Newton proposed universal laws of gravity, he was accused by the scientific community of “bowing to mysticism.” All science that advances our understanding of the way things work is, almost by definition, “fringe science.” It must go beyond. Which is actually a simple logical construct, not a radical idea. And all mysticism must understand the difference between the universal experience of the way things work and how that is conceptualized in a physical brain subject to environmental influence.

          Why do we need to account for the laws of logic and nature? Because they aren’t. The laws of nature are only what we have defined. “Nature” is a fairly slippery concept, itself. What laws are Universal? “Universe” means “everything.” I take it literally, it includes that state of consciousness of people not in Time/Space some call the Other Side. It includes the extra dimensions becoming laws of theoretical physics. Heaven, quite possibly, resides as Dark Matter.

          To learn more, understand more, we have to go beyond, like Newton did. Then the laws change. Unless we understand that we made up those laws, we will be bound and not be able to see and understand. IMO, of course.

          • donsalmon
            February 12, 2014

            “Because they aren’t”. I love it. Beautiful response, Julia, thank you.

            • Mark
              February 12, 2014

              I think I’m going to hang up this conversation. One way or another, this will be my last post on this thread. I just want to state, for the record, that my belief is that there IS a difference between saying that God is and saying that the laws of nature and logic are, and that this difference DOES have practical implications.

          • Mark
            February 12, 2014

            Thanks for replying to me, Julia Mae. I think that I’m beginning to understand, a little better. I think that I just have a fundamental disagreement with you guys. I believe that the laws of nature and logic ARE. I believe that we are not creating them, but merely discovering those laws that are already there. I will agree with you, however, that the term “pseudoscientific” is subjective.

            • donsalmon
              February 12, 2014

              Mark, how is believing that laws of nature “are” any different from believing God is!

              What difference does it make in your belief system if I say “the laws of nature ARE” and “God set in motion and in every moment sustains the laws of nature.”

              I assume it makes no practical difference whatsoever. So I don’t see why it’s hard to see that simply asserting that there are laws of nature and we have no idea how they came to be or why they continue to be lends any credibility to the idea that science explains anything (remember, this is not just me, a mere psychologist with no physics or cosmology up my sleeve, but it is the conclusion of Steven Weinberg, thought by many to be a “great thinker” among scientists).

            • Tom Butler
              February 12, 2014

              Mark, I appreciate your effort to differentiate belief from … it is hard to find a safe word for that which is thought to be immutable principle.

              Julia has a good point about truth being relative. Considering the dominant view of reality, it is practical to differentiate physical or universal from “The Other Side.” I sometimes say “physical space” and “etheric space” for convenience because I write about etheric space as a tangible aspect of reality–just not physical and apparently more susceptible to the influence of visualization and intention.

              We speak in terms of fact based on what is established in mainstream thought and in relationship with emerging thought. Some of emerging thought is likely part of tomorrow’s body of fact. Conversely, much of what is considered truth today (ie: mind is a product of brain) will at least be modified as emerging thought becomes mainstream.

              I am not comfortable with “law” but do use “principle” to describe influences governing processes in nature. I have found that it is important to restrict the idea of “imitable principle” to the most fundamental concepts such as attention and understanding. Even that only makes sense in the context of a system of thought. (http://atransc.org/theory/principles.htm) You might have a very different system of thought that addresses the same concept in different terms and with different granularity.

              It is for us to find ways to normalize those descriptions into a common language.

    • Jordan Wm. Burrill
      February 19, 2014

      Hi Mark!
      I think that your position (dilemma ?), is an excellent idea for a new thread.
      What do you think Craig?

      Cheers!

  11. donsalmon
    February 11, 2014

    Hi Craig:

    Excellent column. Best line: “The elephant in the room for evolution is consciousness.” I might have restated it, “The elephant in the room is the evolution OF consciousness” An increasing number of biologists are willing to entertain the idea of consciousness (perhaps better referred to as sentience to distinguish it from human self consciousness) existing even in one celled organisms, as one Japanese researcher found in the humble amoeba.

    Even Freeman Dyson, one of the finest physicists of the 20th century, suggested that something like “mind” was evident in subatomic particles, which evidence some kind of ‘choice” though hardly what we self-conscious humans think of as “will” or “volition.

    Well, once you let the elephant in – once yo consider the presence of consciousness (for example, as the increasing number of scientists who are partial to the idea of pan psychism), you have to start asking whether consciousness plays a causal role in evolution – and in fact, whether it plays a causal role in the emergence of the physical universe, billions of years prior to the existence of life on earth.

    And once you do that, everything changes. Suddenly psi makes perfect sense, since consciousness in its essence, as far as has been seen by contemplatives throughout history, does not have a clearly definable boundary. If consciousness is everywhere (or even better, if it is ultimately beyond space and time altogether) then any creature within time and space should have – potentially – the ability to connect with any other point in time space, either to gain information or even to influence it (regarding the “big 4” of current psi research, gaining information would include precognition, telepathy and remote viewing; influence would relate to psychokinesis; and precognition would not be a problem since consciousness is ultimately beyond time and space, there’s no reason – IF you have the capacity to contact that timeless, spaceless consciousness – why consciuosness can’t connect with what is in the “future”).

    Thanks again for a wonderful column.

    • craigweiler
      February 11, 2014

      And thank you!

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This entry was posted on February 11, 2014 by in Alternative Science, Consciousness, Philosophy and tagged , , , , .
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