October 12, 2019

Cliff's Edge--Design, Purpose, Teleology—Obviously

I’m sorry, but one of the foundational, if not the foundational, premises of modern science, especially the life sciences (biology, botany, genetics, physiology, biochemistry), is wrong, ludicrously wrong. No matter how obviously design, purpose, and teleology (the idea of something being purposely designed with an end-goal in mind) permeate all life, especially human life, we are assured, dogmatically and vociferously assured by the “best and the brightest”—uttering sacred oaths about how science must work–that no designed and purposeful end goals exist in life, at all.  There cannot be, because by the man-made definition of science itself, all life must be the result of only the natural laws of chemistry and physics, which contain no purposes, goal or intentions within themselves.  Because it’s the only conclusion that science allows for, it’s the only conclusion that science comes to, no matter how preposterous. 

 As biologist Richard Lewontin famously (or infamously) wrote: “Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs… in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment… to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated.  Moreover,that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine foot in the door.”

Of course you can’t, which is exactly why science falsely asserts that everything—from the colors of a butterfly’s wings, to blood clotting, to human consciousness—arose only from random mutation and natural selection.  (And, if I may humbly digress and ask: What in the mindless, purposeless material world posited by science causes nature to “naturally select” anything, much less survival? Does not the word “select” itself imply choice, goals, purpose?  What would make any life form, from a one-celled thingamajig on upward, try to survive?  In a purely materialistic world, what prefers life or survival over non-life or non-survival? What would move it in that direction?  Goal and purpose are so obviously part of nature that even the idea of natural selection can’t escape them.)

Anyway, back to the obvious error that everything—from the colors of a butterfly’s wings, to blood clotting, to human consciousness—arose without any design or purpose at all.  Google, for instance, “blood clotting mechanisms.”Read about the incredibly fine-tuned and complex process of turning prothrombinase to prothrombin to thrombin, which then converts fibrinogen into fibrin, all with the goal of closing a wound. (Oh, I forget, we’re not supposed to talk about goals!) As you read, you will see that the dogmatic insistence that none of this was planned, that there was no design and no intentional direction other than the blind forces that somehow would cause these chemicals to create a clot that leads to our survival is a frightening testimony to the deceptive power of myth.

The human ability to believe nonsense is stunning, and nothing new, either. Isaiah, for instance, mocked those who used wood for various mundane purposes, and then made idols out of what was left:

He burns half of it in the fire;

With this half he eats meat;

He roasts a roast, and is satisfied.

He even warms himself and says,

“Ah! I am warm,

I have seen the fire.”

And the rest of it he makes into a god,

His carved image.

He falls down before it and worships it,

Prays to it and says,

“Deliver me, for you are my god!”  (Isaiah 44: 16,17).

Silly, but not half as silly as denying design, purpose, and teleology in nature when design, purpose, and teleology are, obviously, there—no matter how many peer-reviewed papers in prestigious scientific journals, making all sorts of  bold assertions (or, to quote Lewontin, “unsubstantiated just-so stories”) about events supposedly taking place 100 million years ago, declare that they’re not. 

“We humans,” wrote American physicist Sean Carroll, “are blobs of organized mud.” Ok, but who organized the mud, Sean?  Blind, cold, impersonal natural forces, he claims—what else? Yet Dr. Carroll does admit that it is “a bit of a leap, in the face of all of our commonsense experience, to think that life can simply start up out of non-life, or that our experience of consciousness needs no more ingredients than atoms obeying the laws of physics.”

Ya think?

 It’s as much of a leap, if not more, than to believe that the same tree you heat your porridge with can later be molded into a god.  Idolatry, whether in 7th century BC Judah or 21st century America, hasn’t lost its power to deceive, and nothing reveals that deceptive power more than science’s rejection of design, purpose, and teleology in all living things when, obviously, design, purpose, and teleology pervade all living things.