A couple of recent popular science articles really seem to have got the creationists going.
First there was the New Scientist article Creationists declare war over the brain describing the attacks made by people like Jeffrey Schwartz and Mario Beauregard on current research into the human brain and consciousness. These people are upset by what they perceive as a “materialistic” approach and wish to impose a “non-materialist causation” on science. The commonalty of their arguments with those of the intelligent design/creationist proponents and the Wedge strategists organised around the Discovery Institute identify this research area as another battleground in the “culture wars.”
The other was the Nature article by Pascal Boyer (Religion: Bound to Believe?). One might have thought that creationists would have welcomed this because he suggested that humans are predisposed to religious and superstitious beliefs because of cognitive traits acquired during our evolution. But no, they seem to be insulted by the very idea that the origins of such beliefs could be investigated scientifically. The Discovery Institute even demanded that “religious disbelief” should be investigated “in terms of cognitive malfunction.” I guess that is the sort of interpretation we should expect from people who try to force evidence into a pre-conceived conclusion.
(By the way – I highly recommend Pascal Boyer’s book Religion Explained for an extensive coverage of this area)
What is the alternative to science?
These sort of people rave on about the evils of the “materialist paradigm” and claim that it “is breaking down.” Of course, “materialism” is never defined (except that it is somehow evil) and whenever these people are seriously confronted with designing scientific research into their ideas they are inevitably forced to apply the very “scientific materialism” they hate. This is because the essence of science is evidence and that any scientific idea or theory must be tested against reality.
So, no – there is no evidence of breakdown of the scientific method. Nor has any other method been suggested which is more capable of investigating the brain, mind and consciousness. Or better able to investigate the evolutionary origins of belief and superstition.
On the other hand, words like “materialism” and “paradigm” are useful in discrediting science to the scientifically illiterate. It is a simple destructive strategy because no alternative is seriously offered. Well, none that I think could really appeal to an honest and sane person. However, what about this alternative demanded by “Creation-Evolution Headlines” in their article “Minding the Brain, or Braining the Mind?”
“What it boils down to is this: naturalism is anything and everything that allows a scientist (or a party animal on drugs) to avoid responsibility to their Maker. That’s the real argument from ignorance. They can believe in space aliens or unobservable multiverses – anything, no matter how crazy, as long as they never have to bow the knee and confess, “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power, for Thou hast created all things, and by Thy will they exist, and were created” (Revelation 4:11).”
So is this what these opponents of science are seriously suggesting as an alternative? That we should bow our knees and confess? Ignore reality? Refuse to test ideas against reality and just accept the story that they, and only they, have been privileged to receive in their discussion with their god?
*Cartoon from Atheist Cartoons.