Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Why Did Humans Evolve in Such a Way as to Produce Scientists Who Are So Unaware of Their Presuppositions?

The New York Times magazine has an article that explores why religion might have evolved. It is so jam packed with unstated assumptions and metaphysical presuppositions that my head was spinning. I can only wonder at how the writer and so many alleged scientists can pursue a subject with so little awareness of their own unproven, unscientific assumptions. Can this really be called science?

Here is a sample:
Today, the effort has gained momentum, as scientists search for an evolutionary explanation for why belief in God exists — not whether God exists, which is a matter for philosophers and theologians, but why the belief does.

Got that? Searching for an evolutionary explanation for why belief in God exists has nothing to do with whether God exists. Can the writer be so dense? Such a search assumes either that God does not exist, or that he acts or does not act in very specific ways. Such assumptions are entirely outside the realm of science and are utterly unscientific.

It is perfectly fine to explore these questions. However, this article is shockingly naive with respect to the unscientific assumptions underlying the pursuit.

If you read the article, I encourage you to ask yourself the following:

Is this science or pseudoscience? Why?

Are the theories put forth falsifiable?

Do the studies discussed in the article lead logically to the conclusions asserted by those quoted?

Here is another gem:
Jesse Bering and David Bjorklund, the psychologists who conducted the study, used finger puppets to act out the story of a mouse, hungry and lost, who is spotted by an alligator. “Well, it looks like Brown Mouse got eaten by Mr. Alligator,” the narrator says at the end. “Brown Mouse is not alive anymore.”

Afterward, Bering and Bjorklund asked their subjects, ages 4 to 12, what it meant for Brown Mouse to be “not alive anymore.” Is he still hungry? Is he still sleepy? Does he still want to go home? Most said the mouse no longer needed to eat or drink. But a large proportion, especially the younger ones, said that he still had thoughts, still loved his mother and still liked cheese. The children understood what it meant for the mouse’s body to cease to function, but many believed that something about the mouse was still alive.

“Our psychological architecture makes us think in particular ways,” says Bering, now at Queens University in Belfast, Northern Ireland. “In this study, it seems, the reason afterlife beliefs are so prevalent is that underlying them is our inability to simulate our nonexistence.”

Oh, really? Is it empirical evidence from the study that leads to this conclusion? Of course not.

The article is full of conclusions that laughably go miles beyond what the results of the studies justify. They seem to be about 5% empiricism and 95% speculation driven by a priori metaphysical assumptions. This is shoddy science, if it can be called science at all.

By the way, this has been the most emailed article at the Times for two days running. The public is fascinated with such topics and I think that curiosity about Darwinism and Design Theory is only going to grow. This bodes well for Darwinian skeptics and intelligent design proponents since an informed population is certainly one more likely to be skeptical of the overstated claims of Darwinian theory.

Here is a idea: try reading this previous post, and then guess which worldview category each of the sceintists mentioned in the article fit into.


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