Can Naturalism Design Anything?
Philip Ball in the Sept. 23 issue of Nature1 gave a title to a news feature that might catch a reader off guard and think he is allowing the Intelligent Design Movement to have a voice in a scientific debate: “Enzymes: By chance, or by design?” Upon further reading, however, it is clear the debate is between materialists and materialists. He has no Intelligent Designer in mind but natural selection.
Most biologists would scoff at the idea that their subject is simply applied quantum mechanics. But for some enzymes – the catalysts of biology – quantum effects may be an important part of the way they work [see 09/16/2004 headline]. This revelation has left chemists and biologists arguing about whether enzymes have evolved to do this, or whether the effect would happen regardless of the enzymes’ activity. (Emphasis added in all quotes.)
So a personal Designer or God is the last thing on Ball’s mind, despite the title. His debate is whether enzymes take advantage of quantum mechanical efficiencies by chance, or whether natural selection designed them to do so. “The debate shows little sign of being resolved quickly. And until it is, we must remain uncertain about the limits of nature’s ingenuity,” he concludes.
1Philip Ball, “Enzymes: By chance, or by design?”, Nature 431, 396 – 397 (23 September 2004); doi:10.1038/431396a.
It’s a sign someone is so drunk on his worldview that he has lost touch with reality when he incorporates the lingo of his opponents and fails to see the contradiction. Ball cannot use the word design, nor the word ingenuity. He is a naturalist, a materialist, and the realm of ideas cannot be circumscribed by material substances and remain ideas.
Like Ball, the astronomer Robert Jastrow is also a materialist. Jastrow defined materialism in the Q&A section of the new film The Privileged Planet (see 09/01/2004 headline) as follows: “I believe the world consists entirely of material substances, and when you specify those substances, the atoms and molecules, and the laws by which they interact, you’ve done it all; there isn’t anything more to be said or to enter into your model of the universe.”
A materialist is forced to explain the illusion of ideas in terms of atoms and forces, like trying to explain love in terms of the photons that reach a man’s retina when he sees a woman, and the neural responses and biochemical reactions that result. But this approach commits the self-referential fallacy. C. S. Lewis pointed out that if love can be explained via brain biochemistry, so can explanations. Therefore, one has no way to judge whether his explanation is true, because the idea of truth is merely a complex interaction of molecules (see 06/16/2004 and 06/03/2004 headlines).
Evolutionists commit this fallacy all the time. They shift seamlessly between strict materialism and pantheism. Pantheism is merely a cloak for materialism; it allows a materialist to personify nature and equivocate with terms like design and ingenuity, when such terms fall within the realm of ideas. Evolutionists cannot see that they are assigning the attributes of deity to material substances: intelligent design, wisdom, and autonomous self-existence. To be consistent, they could never assume that natural selection designs anything with uncanny ingenuity. When they do, they illogically make nature into a god.
Jastrow saw this. He began with the quote shown on the top right of this page, then said “I’m what’s called in philosophy a materialist” and defined it as quoted above. Then he continued: “That’s what my science tells me, and I’ve been a scientist all my life, but I find it unsatisfactory; in fact, it makes me uneasy. I feel that I’m missing something.” Jastrow, author of God and the Astronomers, a book that illustrated the discomfort other materialist astronomers felt when confronted with evidence for a beginning to the universe, is now an elderly man. Sadly, having rejected the only answer that fits the evidence – supernaturalism – he ended his comments, “but I will not find out what I’m missing within my lifetime.” Would that he had followed C. S. Lewis’s logic, that a longing for meaning that cannot be satisfied by anything in this world must have an object beyond it. At least Jastrow feels the hangover. Ball is apparently too drunk on materialism to feel anything.