Saturday, July 11, 2015

The Origins of Life, by Robert Hazen

This is the new noon time series for work.  We are on the second lecture, which purportedly dealt with the classical notions of the origin of life that would be deemed "scientific".  Professor Hazen mentions Democritus in passing, whose atomic atheism is well known, but fails to note the crucial point (from Aristotle's On The Heavens) that Democritus was a Flat Earther.  The reason this is significant is that Professor Hazen implies that Democritus was operating independently of the religious views of the time, but the religious view held by the astrologers was that the earth was spherical.  In this the astrologers were obsessed with hard evidence, mathematics and theory and would exceed all others in their scientific detail for a thousand more years.  Democritus was almost undoubtedly developing his views with little serious reflection.  Instead, he was simply reacting to other views that he found unacceptable for theological reasons, although the pretense of science needed to be maintained, so this fundamental reactionary principle could not be admitted to.  Likewise, much of what academia puts out today is also "science" and "ethics" by reaction that is devoid of any inherent substance.

The much larger oversight in Hazen's discussion, however, was the Epicureans.  Their view of spontaneous generation by the interaction of countless atom types over an infinity of time and space was more developed than all the other classical philosophers that we know about combined.  As I have noted elsewhere, however, the modern intellectual has extreme difficulty facing the Epicureans, since their abuse of science in the name of science exceeded all others, and the result of their "philosophy" was endless sophistry and moral license.  To study the Epicureans fairly, the modernist finds a creature too much like himself staring back.

An important part of this introduction is the relationship of science to theology in origins.  Hazen cites Aristotle as an example of the science only view, but this fails because Aristotle in his Physics puts theology as a key part of any philosophy and would never have accepted such a distinction.  For origins, we are really only given two options:  There is Creation, and there is Spontaneous Generation.  There are no other alternatives, so that even space aliens planting life on Earth would simply move the question back further to the origin of the space aliens.  

With that in mind, Creation has generally been rejected on, um, theological grounds.  That is, intellectuals (and modernist theologians) find the notion of a God who is outside of nature and could or would do such creative acts offensive to their chosen theological notions.  Likewise, Spontaneous Generation was rejected on scientific grounds.  That is, if we mix silicon crystals, copper, lithium and glass into a blender, and run it for a trillion years, we are never going to get out a working iPhone.  The simplest biological life forms are simply many orders of magnitude more complex than could possibly occur unless there were an infinity of universes.  And even here, we are operating on speculation.  

But then we have the modern intellectual, who proceeds under the theological premise that everything he believes is automatically "scientific" since it does not explicitly invoke God.  He must return to Spontaneous Generation, because his theology compels it, yet he must likewise insist that it is science only that drives him to this, since his theology does not permit him to admit that he is motivated purely by theology.  This series will be fun!


Rummuser said...

Hindus as you know them, who I call by their proper name, Sanatana Dharmis, have no problems whatsoever in accepting the theory of evolution as being a very a valid possibility. And like they accept all other possibilities as also being maya, this too will go under that wrap!

Rummuser said...

On the question of the origins of life too they will have not problems with spontaneous creation.

Looney said...

Rummuser, we must keep in mind that the "theory of evolution" doesn't exist, thus, I don't believe there is a single Hindu who has ever believed it. What they believe is that there exists a "theory of evolution" that explains everything, but no one ever identified what that "theory" is! In the end, the theory that explains everything but can't be defined will necessarily take in many of the features of a creationist god, giving some illusion of convergence!