Darwin’s Devious Metaphors
Part II - The Solution
The major logical error described in the first part of this essay may well have been a historically necessary one, as I am inclined to believe was the case, in that nothing less than this could have served to free a fledgling science from the millennium-long grip of religious dogma. But whether or not this was the case, it is surely past time that we saw through this entire episode, leaving perhaps the now barren science/religion conflict behind us in the process. But then where do we go?
The science/religion dichotomy is based upon an irrational dualism, one in which natural law is seen to work from one direction, i.e., from the bottom upwards (materialism), and religion, through divine intervention, is thought to work from the opposite direction, from the top down and with the help of miracles. What if this is not the case and all forms of primary causality (natural creativity)—including natural law—do in fact work non-miraculously from the top down and not from the bottom up?
If this were the reality that we had to understand, then in order to do so we would first need to abandon (on grounds of profound irrationality if no other) both religious dualism and material monism (materialism), and replace them with a monism of mind or spirit, an argument for which might well take the shape of a ‘monism of thought’ like that which is to be found in http://www.rsarchive.org/Books/GA004/TPOF/ The Philosophy of Freedom, the principal philosophical work of the Austrian seer/scientist Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925).
Then perhaps we would begin to understand the deeper significance of the words written about Steiner by http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russell_Davenport Russell Davenport, former Managing Editor of Fortune Magazine, in his 1950’s book The Dignity of Man:
That the academic world has managed to dismiss Rudolf Steiner’s works as inconsequential and irrelevant, is one of the intellectual wonders of the twentieth century. Anyone who is willing to study these vast works with an open mind (let us say a hundred of his titles) will find themselves confronted with one of the greatest thinkers of all time, whose grasp of modern science is equaled only by his profound learning in the ancient ones. Steiner was no more of a mystic than Albert Einstein; he was a scientist, rather—but a scientist who dared enter into the mysteries of life.
In Darwin’s work, because of the error in logic discussed here, human dignity was temporarily lost to science, because in it mankind and indeed all of living nature are reduced to the status of a meaningless cosmic accident. In Rudolf Steiner’s work, however, human dignity as well as nature’s immense complexity are on their way to being discovered anew as having a spiritual source, not as faith this time but as knowledge, although this realization itself requires that we overcome our many ingrained religious and scientific prejudices for long enough to begin to take that work seriously and learn how to extend the reach of science into the spiritual realm
Steiner’s teaching, based as it is on the role of moral-imagination, was profoundly Christian and also deeply humanistic in that today the divine world manifests itself on earth chiefly through human freedom, expressed in both thought and deed. Steiner’s work was deeply appreciated, for example, by the great Christian scholar and humanitarian Albert Schweitzer, who when writing from Lamberene on the one-hundredth anniversary of his birth, said this about him:
Since my meeting with Rudolf Steiner I have remained aware of his significance, and I have rejoiced at the achievements which his great personality and his profound humanity have brought about in the world.
It is reasonable to suggest, therefore, that as the twenty-first century progresses, with the help of gifted spiritual thinkers of the calibre of Rudolf Steiner, and those that are still to come, biology will gradually catch up with physics and will awaken to the now inevitable conclusion, as expressed in the words of Sir Arthur Eddington, that “The stuff of the world is mind-stuff”. This will be an enormous wrench; however, it will have the same kind of impact on established human thought that the Copernican revolution once had, as Johann Wolfgang von Goethe described it:
Perhaps a greater demand has never been made upon mankind; for by this admission [that the earth is not the centre of the universe], how much else did not collapse in dust and smoke: a second paradise, a world of innocence, poetry, and piety, the faith; no wonder men had no stomach for all this, that they ranged themselves in every way against such a doctrine…
Science and Religion
Stephen J. Gould has argued that there is no necessary conflict between science and religion, that they are merely talking about different things. That may be, but there is no denying that Darwinism has all but vanquished the Creator God from modern religious discourse, leaving only the Saviour God for those who still believe. A development in the reverse direction, which I see to be inevitable, might well increase our respect for the subject matter of religion, but it would not mean that science must return to its traditional religious roots. Too much time has passed for that to happen, during which science has made enormous progress in other realms of knowledge, realms in which there is no immediate conflict in causal logic, like that discussed in Part 1. In order to solve the problem of origins, however, science must, for the first time in nearly two centuries, again begin to take the possibility of spiritual causes in nature seriously. This will require that the concept of ‘empiricism’ be expanded beyond the realm of sense observation to include observations made in the realm of ‘Ideas,’ as it was in the work of http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/goethe.htm Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the great German poet/scientist, whose cognitive genius gave the world the basis for a non-materialistic epistemology, based on the realization that both sense perception and imaginative thought, if properly disciplined, can lead to scientific objectivity.
If science, in order to exclude the possibility of spiritual causes in nature, must indulge in the kind of hidden irrationality outlined in this essay, then its claim to represent a genuine search for truth is completely negated. Unfortunately, in both science and religion, there is always the strong and very human tendency for us to believe only what we want to believe, regardless of any and all evidence to the contrary, which is why real human progress takes so very long. The Darwinian theory was here an exception, in that it spread very rapidly, because science desperately needed what he had to offer; but even if we choose to ignore its irrationality it remains only a small step towards a deeper truth, a step that is perhaps chiefly significant in that it has served historically to emancipate science from dogmatic religion. Does this mean that religion is finished? The http://www.owenbarfield.com/ late Owen Barfield, a lifelong friend of http://cslewis.drzeus.net/ C.S. Lewis, and often called ‘the first and last of the inklings,’ and who was also known as a strong supporter of the work of Rudolf Steiner, has observed that:
“There will be a revival of Christianity when it becomes impossible to write a popular manual of science without referring to the incarnation of the Word.”
He is speaking here, of course, not of a revival of orthodox Christian belief, which can be quite superficial, but of something much deeper, namely a rebirth of spiritual knowledge (gnosis) which will certainly happen once a widespread acceptance of the errors in logic outlined above have made it impossible for scientists to maintain with any honesty a materialistic foundation for their striving—the principal support for which today is to be found not in empiricism itself, but in Darwin’s theory.
Put these matters all together and it will become apparent that what the future asks of us is neither a return to (nor the continuation of) faith in orthodox religion, nor the continuation of a logically false materialistic science, because both of these worldviews now face an inevitable decline. Nor will any mere truce between these two almost spent worldviews help us—as proposed, for example, in Stephen Jay Gould’s NOMA (non-overlapping magisteria)—rather we need the development of a logically and epistemologically sound New Gnosis, not unlike that foreseen in the recently published work Cosmos and Psyche: Intimations of a New World View, by the American cultural historian Richard Tarnas, who is yet another supporter of Rudolf Steiner’s vast work. This book offers a fascinating continuation of the themes that Tarnas first developed in his much-praised earlier work The Passion of the Western Mind.
Darwin was indeed a great naturalist and a keen observer of nature, but as the above evidence shows, when it came to the push he was not a very clear thinker. To be a great scientist empiricism is only half the battle and one must never ignore the demands of logic; or push them aside to make what appears to be a more attractive case, no matter how inconvenient this may prove. That other thinkers have uncritically followed Darwin’s lead in this shows only how very subtle this linguistic error was, and still is, and perhaps also how historically important it was for the overall evolution of human consciousness that at that 19th century juncture science should find a way to fully emancipate itself from religion, a step that once decisively taken, even with the aid of false logic, can never really be undone. Religion must now learn to follow the example set by the best in science, i.e., by abandoning dogma in favour of the scientific method, and science in its turn must abandon materialism and learn to inwardly address the spirit, not now as the object of faith, but of research. Which means that the future of both science and religion now rests squarely on the gradual but very determined development of a science of the spirit, of a New Gnosis.
© Don Cruse