God new evidence

GOD: new evidence


Darwin's 'horrid doubt'

(Beyond Ourselves #11)

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Many people don't know that Charles Darwin had doubts which undermined his own theory. It left him wondering if we can trust our thoughts. He said this:

'The horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, which has developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would anyone trust the convictions of a monkey’s mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?’

If evolution is true, our thoughts may be good for helping us to survive and reproduce, but there is no guarantee that they will be any good at finding the truth.

In fact, for the naturalist (who believes there is nothing except the physical world), things get worse. J B S Haldane was a famous British geneticist and evolutionary biologist. He said this:

‘If materialism is true, it seems to me that we cannot know that it is true. If my opinions are simply the result of the chemical processes going on in my brain, they are determined by the laws of chemistry, not those of logic.’

If naturalism is true, the thoughts in your brain are caused by atoms and molecules interacting – by chemicals and electric currents. But if they are caused like this, why should they be true?

So naturalism is self-contradictory: if it is true, we have no good reason to think that it is true:

'Materialism reduces thinking to biochemical processes in the brain, akin to the chemical reactions in digestion. But digestion is not something that can be true or false. It is just a biological fact. If thinking is reduced to brain processes, then our ideas are not true or false either. But in that case, how can the materialist know that materiaism is true?' - Nancy Pearcey

Interestingly, Pearcey points out that Darwin himself never applied his doubts to his own theory. He only applied them when it came to believing in God:

'Surprisingly, however, Darwin never confronted this internal contradiction in this theory. Why not? Because he exprssed his "horrid doubt" selectively – only when considering the case for a Creator.

From time to time, Darwin admitted that he still found the idea of God persuasive. He once confessed his "inward conviction… that the Universe is not the result of chance." It was in the next sentence that he expressed his "horrid doubt." So the "conviction" he mistrusted was his lingering conviction that the universe is not the result of chance… In short, it was on occasions when Darwin's mind led him to a theistic conclusion that he dismissed the mind as untrustworthy. He failed to recognise that, to be logically consistent, he needed to apply the same skepticism to his own theory.' ('Finding Truth' p. 194-5)

So Darwin was a remarkably selective skeptic. You could almost say that he was inconsistent...

Image of Down House courtesy of Glyn Baker on Geograph.

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