The controversy surrounding the origin of the universe, earth, and all living things is an ongoing debate in the public sphere. In Gaining the High Ground over Evolutionism, author Robert J. O’Keefe presents analysis leading to the realization that to obtain knowledge of origin is also to discover the origin of knowledge.
Gaining the High Ground over Evolutionism recognizes the ideological nature of the topic of origin. It steps out of the realm of science and begins to deal with the question by reviewing the scientific revolution and its implications in Western thought, studying the interpretation of Genesis 1, and describing relevant aspects of the history of geology, biology, and astronomy.
O’Keefe summarizes science as a means of gaining knowledge and discusses the scientific method as it is applied to natural history. He examines how the court system has dealt with the controversy; draws points from C. S. Lewis’s argument against naturalism; and then confronts the ideology behind evolutionary science, the philosophy of naturalism, presenting what he sees are the best arguments against it. Finally, he summons back the grounds for the authority of the Bible and discusses the partnership of reason and faith.
Expanding the scope of inquiry beyond the confines of science, O’Keefe shows that the idea of a creator needs to be attended with more seriousness than post-Enlightenment science and philosophy have ever thought necessary.
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Gaining the High Ground over Evolutionism
By Robert J. O'Keefe
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2012 Robert J. O'Keefe
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Chapter OneScience 1
It requires a very unusual mind to undertake the analysis of the obvious. —Alfred North Whitehead
Yes, science has enabled us to understand the natural world, how it operates, and how to exploit that knowledge to our advantage. It has also produced a comprehension of how the natural world came into existence. Because science is so often at the center of controversy over the origin of the universe, earth, and all living things, it is worthwhile to take a look at its history. Science has not always been the lens through which the natural world is known. Among historians, the beginning of modern science has come to be known as the scientific revolution, not because it involved wars and assassinations but because it produced such a revolutionary transformation of Western thought. That transformation of thought is the topic of interest in this chapter.
Historians generally place the scientific revolution within the seventeenth century. It began to emerge shortly after the Renaissance, that period of European history occupying the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, typically marking the end of the Middle Ages and the beginning of modern ages.
What Set the Stage
The Renaissance was characterized by a notable increase in the rate of discovery, creativity, and invention. It inspired an accelerated rate of learning and accumulation of knowledge that has continued to the present day. The Age of Discovery and the Protestant Reformation were occurring during that time. The Age of Discovery refers to when mariners began to chart and navigate trade routes from Europe to India, China, and the East. Navigation on the open seas became practical once the Chinese invention of the magnetic compass was improved to the point of being a reliable navigation instrument. Exploration with intent to find an alternate route to the East led to the first circumnavigation of the globe in 1521 by Ferdinand Magellan (1480–1521). Advances in geographical reach accompanying commerce and exploration brought an expanding knowledge of the world and an increasing awareness of other civilizations.
When Martin Luther (1483–1546) attached ninety-five theses to the door of a church building in Germany in 1517, he inadvertently kicked off another revolution of sorts known as the Protestant Reformation. The Counter-Reformation, Roman Catholicism's reply to the various Protestant movements that broke out, occupied the second half of the sixteenth century. Fueled by economic and political agendas, the Reformation and Counter-Reformation eventually led to a great deal of religious strife, sectarian conflict, and religious wars, the Thirty Years' War (1618–48) in particular. An irreversible fragmentation of what was perceived to be religious authority in Western Europe had occurred.
The Chinese inventions of paper and printing led to the invention of moveable type in about the year 1450. The consequent mass production of books in common languages meant that knowledge was no longer the exclusive domain of a select few schooled in Latin. Besides the expansion of knowledge, the Renaissance period is also noted for achievements in art, music, architecture, and literature. Moreover, the past preoccupation with theology and the providential acts of God toward mankind was beginning to be replaced with things mankind could do in service to mankind. This trend is known among historians as Renaissance humanism. These factors—exploration of the world, fragmentation of religious authority, widespread dissemination of knowledge, and the increasing realization of mankind's creative and intellectual capabilities—as well as many other factors not mentioned made for the environment in which the scientific revolution began to take root.
If the immediate historical context of the scientific revolution contained factors influential to its beginning, other earlier developments, particularly in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, could be said to be at least as important, if not more so. The writings of the ancient Greek philosophers Plato and Aristotle were translated from Greek to Arabic in the eighth century, and copies were eventually brought to Western Europe. The ancient texts were retranslated from Arabic to Latin, and later, they were translated directly to Latin from the Greek manuscripts. They inspired a pre-Renaissance renaissance in learning during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, and universities devoted to the study of these texts were founded at that time.
Accompanying the infusion of ancient Greek philosophy, a fundamental advancement in reasoning helped to free knowledge from reliance on received traditions. This advancement was inspired by the manner of the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates. Socrates went about challenging commonly held beliefs and assumptions by asking questions intended to reveal logical consequences that often showed such beliefs and assumptions to be faulty. Socrates's tactic is generally known as the dialectic method of reasoning. In the late Middle Ages, an adaptation of the dialectic method subjected knowledge to objective testing by demanding consideration of both arguments and counterarguments for a given proposition. A proposition could be sustained or defeated by the strength of an argument, or a synthesis could be formed wherein apparent contradictions between opposing propositions would be reconciled, the synthesis often leading to new knowledge. Confidence in the certainty of knowledge was increased when further grounds for it could be found beyond solely the authority of a source. This more systematic approach to knowledge was being applied to disputes over matters of law, philosophy, and theology in the late Middle Ages. Philosophical and theological inquiries were also granted a measure of independence, at least in principle, from the pressure to serve religious and political objectives. The universities were places where such inquiry and associated discourse could proceed autonomously from church and state authorities.
Various fields of study inherited from the ancient Greeks and revived in the universities of the late Middle Ages included several readily recognizable branches of science: astronomy, chemistry, physics, optics, anatomy, and physiology. However, we must realize that science was not a distinctly recognized category of thought until the nineteenth century. Scientists were not scientists but natural philosophers; science was not called science but natural philosophy. That which sought to describe and explain the natural world was regarded as a philosophical pursuit. It was not the same as the practice of science we know today. Natural philosophy was not far from natural theology, which sought to learn about God from nature and from whatever inherent knowledge of God might exist already in the mind of man. For all practical purposes, during the time period of the scientific revolution, natural theology and natural philosophy were synonymous terms.
Modern Science Arrives
The world upon which the Renaissance dawned had inherited the ancient Greek philosophy of Aristotle (384–322 BC). Natural philosophy was inspired by the legacy of Aristotle, and Aristotle applied logic to understand the nature of things. But his philosophy, while rational, was influenced more by ideals than reality; he was not concerned with observations to the degree of incisiveness demanded in science today, and neither was he concerned with experiments or mathematical descriptions. This is why natural philosophy was not the same as today's science. It was neither empirical nor mathematical. Aristotle thought in terms of there being four causes in operation in the world:
Material cause of composition (i.e., a house is made of wood, stone, and other materials).
Formal cause of form, design, or plan (i.e., a house's blueprint).
Immediate cause as a precipitating event (i.e., the builders).
Final cause of purpose or what use something was intended for (i.e., a house as a building to dwell in).
But of Aristotle's four categories of causes, only immediate cause (i.e., the builders) was retained by the natural philosophers. In the natural world, these immediate causes were various forms of energy (or forces) acting upon objects. Though unseen, the existence of such forces was predicated on the ancient Greek philosophical idea that the natural world is ruled by a rational ordering of cause and effect, that every effect is a consequence of preceding causes. The emphasis on immediate cause and the exclusion of purpose and design became known as the mechanical philosophy. Presumably, narrowing the scope of inquiry in this manner was a consequence of the fact that the purpose and design of naturally occurring objects is not very discernible from the objects themselves. So the mechanical philosophy restricted the field of causative principles to the motions of objects, their actions and reactions. This trend in natural philosophy was most attributable to the philosophers Rene Descartes (1596–1650) and Thomas Hobbes (1588–1679).
Besides the mechanical philosophy, at least two other developments are seen by historians as essential to understanding the progress of science in the seventeenth century. The linkage of mathematics to natural phenomena was one. Mathematics had long existed, and so had natural philosophy, but that the two might be somehow connected was not a topic of consideration during the Middle Ages. Mathematics and natural philosophy were separate and unconnected disciplines in the universities. Mathematics was necessary for practical uses: constructing buildings, making mechanical devices like clocks, predicting the motion of planets, and in navigation, art, and music. Natural philosophy was concerned with form and function in the natural world. The separation between natural philosophy and mathematics was particularly apparent in how the motions of planets were described. The calculations that best described the motions of planets were not reconcilable with the way natural philosophers, inspired as they were by Aristotle, understood the ordering of the universe. Aristotle had imagined that the universe was formed of perfect spheres in perfectly circular orbits. But the observed motions of the planets were not at all circular. The mathematics of planetary motion was based on a complex artificial model of the universe that worked for the purposes of calculations. This model was inconsistent with the Aristotelian view, which was thought to be the correct view. That mathematics might describe the way the natural universe really worked was a radical idea. Nicolaus Copernicus (1473–1543) in his 1543 De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestrium (On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres) had first understood this—that mathematics must truly describe how the universe is configured. This idea led him to the realization that the arrangement of the known universe must be drastically different than what had always been assumed.
A second essential development was a requirement for observation and experiment to verify (in rigorous fashion) any claim to have obtained knowledge about the natural world. Experimentation is a subset of observation, a means to force nature to reveal characteristics that would not otherwise be observed. Francis Bacon (1561–1626) was the chief advocate of what has come to be known as the experimental or scientific method. As described in his 1620 Novum Organum (The New Instrument), the method was characterized by first the acquisition of facts from observations or experiments and then the generalization or induction from those facts to unifying concepts, natural laws, or theories about nature. This is the root of the ideal of the scientific method we know today. It was promoted as a way of ensuring the empirical grounding of knowledge (i.e., that knowledge was not just a clever scheme of the mind but that it indeed represented what was true about the natural world). Much like the adaptation of the dialectic method that subjected theological and philosophical propositions to rigorous evaluation, the experimental method made any knowledge about nature subject to rigorous verification. Bacon was highly critical of natural philosophy unsubstantiated by any empirical evidence. The experimental method also allowed for the resolution of disputes about facts of nature in a more civilized and rational manner than had often been used (and was still being used) to resolve many theological disputes.
The ideal of the experimental (or scientific) method has served well to advance the cultural authority of science. The method has been extended to include other steps involving the formulation of hypotheses and repeatable testing before hypotheses can be accepted as theories. But how strictly the ideal of the scientific method has been realized and applied in devising any particular theory of science is a matter that needs to be judged on a case-by-case basis. In contrast to the ideal of the scientific method, unifying philosophical ideas could also be and have been brought to collections of observed facts to explain and make sense of them. Unifying ideas or theories are not always derived exclusively from the facts to be explained. Uniformitarianism, an idea discussed later in this chapter, is an example of a unifying idea brought to the facts. The bringing in of other ideas as theories is actually more common than one might think. In fact, the ideal of deriving unifying concepts, theories, and laws exclusively from collections of facts is never entirely realized. This book is about an instance of other ideas brought in. We will return to discuss the scientific method in chapter 6.
In 1687, Isaac Newton (1642–1727) drove the golden spike that joined the empirical, mechanical, and mathematical trains of thought. This conjunction of thought was realized in his 1687 Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica (Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy). As an outcome of mathematical reasoning, he formulated three laws of motion: inertia, acceleration, and equal and opposite reaction, and a fourth law, the law of universal gravitation. Newton, in successfully describing these laws of motion and gravitation mathematically, is considered to have thereby completed the linkage between mathematics and natural phenomena understood by Copernicus, and further developed by Johannes Kepler (1571–1630), Galileo (1564–1642), and Rene Descartes. Mathematically described and empirically verified by subsequent observation and successful prediction of the behavior of objects in motion, Newton's achievements sealed the gains of the scientific revolution.
At the same time that the field of inquiry into the natural world was being limited to immediate mechanical causes, there was a demand for empirical verification of knowledge about nature and a discovery that nature conforms to mathematical logic. These two developments within natural philosophy are what made "science" the science we know and value today. They were achieved over nearly a century and a half through the accumulated work of a number of individuals. But the transition that distanced science from natural theology also took time. It is a matter of historical record that occult influences on mechanical philosophy, which was then becoming science, and debate over mechanical philosophy's theological implications were substantial throughout the time span of the scientific revolution.
But How Scientific Was It?
As strange as it may seem by today's understanding of science, the idea that supernatural forces operate within nature played a role in the development of science. Interest in the occult and in magical power was increasing during the Renaissance. Occult practices involved the manipulation of supernatural powers acting on the material world to achieve desired effects. The mechanical philosophy was concerned with understanding cause and effect in the natural world, but it was also concerned, just as occult practices were, with how such knowledge could be put into practical service by intervening in and exploiting the properties of objects.
The invisible forces exhibited by nature or "natural magic" were seriously studied by natural philosophers. As a prime example, magnets were considered objects with magical power because they had mysterious properties. Yet their properties were very predictable. Newton understood gravity as a type of natural magic. Though forces and their effects in the natural world were at first attributed to the supernatural, they were eventually distanced from the supernatural and joined to the empirically verifiable and mathematically describable mechanical philosophy because of their observed consistencies.
Excerpted from Gaining the High Ground over Evolutionism by Robert J. O'Keefe Copyright © 2012 by Robert J. O'Keefe. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Science 1....................1
Chapter 2: Genesis....................17
Chapter 3: Geology....................27
Chapter 4: Biology....................41
Chapter 5: Astronomy and Physics....................53
Chapter 6: Science 2....................81
Chapter 7: Controversy....................87
Chapter 8: Thought....................113
Chapter 9: Philosophy 1....................123
Chapter 10: Philosophy 2....................137
Chapter 11: Revelation....................151
Chapter 12: Reason and Faith....................155
Summary and Conclusion....................163
Appendix A: Randomness or Natural Law?....................167
Appendix B: Remarks Pertaining to the Validation of Premises....................171
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I would highly recommend this book. The author does an excellent job of laying out the history of science in order to allow the reader to understand how we arrived to what we know as "science" today. The accompanying workbook is a wonderful tool to help evaluate comprehension and facilitate discussion. We use this book as part of our homeschooling curriculum and will continue to do so.
I am a 10th grade student. I read this book and completed the workbook. It was really interesting and gave me a better understanding of the beginnings of science. I would recommend this book to others.
Reading the introduction makes it clear that the author has no intention of presenting a coherent argument. From the very beginning he distorts what his opponents say and tries to put a false spin on their comments. It is so typical of the faith based mindset that they believe that deceit is acceptable in defense of their position. Some day I would like to read an honest defense of Biblical literalism that does not depend on faith (Faith is believing what you know is not true - Mark Twain), but rather uses actual facts without distortion.