Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Prof Cox's limited worldview (updated 1 Feb 2013)

The new BBC series Wonders of Life  (BBC2, 27 January 2013), presented by Professor Brian Cox, implied in its first episode the standard world view of some evolutionary biologists and cosmologists:

  • Life consists of ‘nothing but’ a chemical process and arrangement for converting one form of energy into another. It is no different in kind from an internal combustion engine converting chemical energy into mechanical movement and waste heat

  • All consciousness, thought and mental experience are ‘nothing but’ evolutionary accidents and therefore without meaning (presumably this means that everything anyone has ever said is without meaning, significance or truth; this would include the words of Prof Cox)

  • The evolution of life, and before that the unfolding of the universe from the quantum event horizon to the formation of the Earth, is entirely without purpose, despite the fact that the physics is preternaturally fine tuned for the emergence of life , as Cox admitted at the end

Many would say that such a worldview is self-contradictory and without any evidential foundation. It is certainly metaphysics rather than science. Yet the BBC still appears to be in the grip of a naturalist mafia that adheres to such a view and presents it  as scientific fact, in the same vein as Einstein's empirically verified equations, rather than as an empirically shaky working hypothesis.

I believe these people are driven by a fear of young earth creationists who they think will invoke god as the direct causative agent of all phenomena. This is an understandable but exaggerated concern. Plenty of scientists prior to modern geology and palaeontology made powerful discoveries yet some of those must have been young earthers, since geological and fossil evidence for an old earth (4.3 billion years) has only been available and understandable for the last couple of centuries.
In essence we are all creationists. It is entirely rational to believe that the universe, including our home planet, was created; but most of us believe it all started 13.7 billion years ago.  The weight of evidence and rational thought points to a creation event.  If you think that a rational God did not create the universe, or that there is no god, you have to come up with something else and deal with the likelihood that the universe does not operate in a rational way.

 Monotheism does not mean ascribing any natural phenomenon to a miraculous intervention. Paganism would ascribe everything to a chaotic multitude of gods invented by people, a view which would have prevented the emergence of scientific knowledge.

So how could Brian Cox have presented this programme without annoying those viewers who, like me, do regard themselves as more than bags of chemicals?

All he had to do was admit that theistic beliefs are entirely compatible with scientific enquiry and model building and that there are rational reasons in support of that worldview. For me, a programme conceding at the outset that many viewers are justified in believing that science is only part of reality would have made this expert documentary inspirational rather than visually engaging and informative at a scientific level but offensive to many people’s intuitive feel for the real world.

This was only the first of 5 in a series and it may be that the omission is corrected in future episodes. This would be as welcome as it would be surprising.

See also this Scientific American blog
Is scientific materialism almost certainly false?
which appeared only about 12 hours after writing the above. This reassures me that it won't be long before the BBC science editors will be forced to break out of the epistemological strait jacket which removes the wonder and reality from much of their reporting. As a Christian I find the new emerging worldview refreshing and supportive of my faith but if you are an atheist please note that some leading thinkers who have more or less disproved materialism are still adherring to atheism, although how they can do so mystifies me. 

 See also these posts;

The end of eternity (updated 30 Jan 2013)

Consciousness without a brain

Are some scientists from the planet Vulcan?

Author, 2077 AD
Reach me at cosmik.jo@gmail